Echoes of Invasion: Dwarvish Discourse | Scene 11

After Knutan’s hall has been cleared, the dwarvish lord takes a seat upon his throne. Hepalonia steps forward to make formal introductions. Her mother taught her to be polite, after all, and this seems to actually be a setting where such a proper upbringing might matter. “Lord Knutan, greetings from the noble house of Thrandolil of Estbryn Forest. I am Hepalonia, and I present to you my cousin, Tric Manu. Thank you for sharing the gracious hospitality of your fine hall with us. What Tric Manu says is true. We were investigating some tainted water which led us here. We have concerns about the quality of the water and the stability of the bog above your demesne—and indeed the stability of your caverns themselves. We have come to seek an audience to speak with you further about it, my lord.”

Knutan waves away Heppa’s overly formal spiel. “Och, we live longer than humans, but we dae nae have all the centuries elves dae. Get tae yer point!”

“The mines are sufficiently removed from the fortress that none of this matters, my liege,” Trigadur says. “If something happens tae that set of mines, we’re just oot some trolls, and we can find another vein someplace else. The roof of this banquet hall is nae goin’ tae collapse and dump a swamp oan us. The minin’ is far enough away, as I have assured ye before, that it is nae a threat tae the fortress.”

Heppa privately wonders if that is actually true. The mines were removed from the settlement itself, but who knows what quantity of water would come down. How does he know the water would not reach here? Those are big explosions! She saw no water gates. Enough of a flood might flow through those winding passages all the way here.

Lord Knutan waves Trigadur off, just as he did Hepalonia. “Aye, I’ve heard yer numbers, Trigadur. Let me hear this oot.”

“Yes, the mining is potentially the source of bad water, a problem for people who live in the swamp and the hills and for us in the forest. But aside from all that, your people can feel the shaking here. We’ve heard this from one of your own refiners,” Tric says. “This new mining technique seems really amazing… and destructive. Do you really want to be doing that experiment this close to your own home? Where your people can feel it in their own houses? This is your birthright. Do you want to destroy it? A dam works great… until it finally bursts.” Memories of their visit to the forge are still fresh, so Tric decides to try a dwarvish analogy. “How hot is the blade that is tempered! Until you make it too hot, and it becomes brittle and shatters.”

Heppa’s self-preservation instincts kick in again, and she looks around nervously. How much of the structural integrity have they been eroding away week by week? Those archways that Daven spoke so highly of, how much vibration can they take?

“We’ve been daein’ this fer a year, my lord, and it is nae in oor hoose,” Trigadur observes.

Glammur steps up close to Knutan but does not drop their voice to a whisper. Even the guards by the doors can hear their words. “A lot is ridin’ oan yer decisions here. They are goin’ tae affect yer people fer a long time.” Glammur’s hand beats a slow, steady tattoo against the side of their leg, echoing the beating of a heart and ramping up the tension. “Ye need tae ask yerself… Is this hoo ye want tae be remembered?”

Tric is impressed at the skillful delivery. It increases the drama of the whole scene, but it also pressures Knutan into making a decision now and committing to it, rather than just brushing the whole topic away. This is a professional, he thinks, though he wonders about motivation. Does Glammur think these young elves need all the help they can get? Or are they just trying to make the overall story more interesting? Meanwhile, Heppa looks on, fascinated.

Knutan addresses his visitors. “Elves comin’ in here and advisin’ dwarves aboot hoo tae run a minin’ operation! Ye dae nae know what yer talkin’ aboot, hooever well-meanin’ ye may be. Aye, ye looked at oor forge, talked with oor refiners, but that does nae make ye an expert. Trigadur here is mah expert, and he has been assurin’ me fer the past year that this is fine. This minin’ technique is what is enablin’ us tae make so many weapons so fast. This is what is buildin’ the great prosperity of oor people. What have we ever done tae ye, that ye want tae take that away from us?”

Well… besides poison the water supply? This is doing something to us, and not just us, either! Hepalonia thinks, but she does not voice these thoughts. Tric Manu seems to be in his element here, and she does not want to undermine his approach. And indeed, her cousin cleverly addresses this issue. “I’m sure you would hate it if we started growing a forest above your cave and the tree roots grew into your forge, even though we could not see it.” He turns to her, and she realizes he is inviting her contribution.

“You may not realize the full sphere of your influence, my lord,” Hepalonia says. “This whole area is part of the watershed of the River Weldyn. The river flows north, feeding into the Great River. Plenty of people of all types live along that river system. Yes, the contamination is most concentrated here in our region, but this affects more than just people. I’ve studied the water by dowsing rod. I can tell that it is going to upset the whole ecological balance if the poisoning continues unabated. Once fish start dying off, there will be more repercussions. Algae, birds… And that is all apart from what would happen to the river if the caves collapse. You may find your own tuber crops and your own mushrooms suffering the same ill effects as some of the systems above currently are.”

Tric picks up the thread from there. “If the tainted water corrupts the River Weldyn, Wesnoth will be very upset. And this is your own home, why put it at risk? But there is another side to these hills, right? They are not too far away, and all that water just flows into the Bitter Swamp, which is just an undead cesspool as far as anyone knows. Wouldn’t it help you and us and the humans and everyone else, the crops, the fish, and your own mountain… to mine fresh veins on the other side of the hills, where all the water flows away from civilization?”

The expected rebuttal from Trigadur does not come. The head of the mining project gets lost in thought as he considers all the factors involved in setting up a new mine at a farther remove from the fortress. There would need to be a survey, and they might have to clear out trolls. Either they would need to cart everything back to the refinery at Untdunben or they would have to set up entirely new facilities. That might even justify creating a whole new settlement. Trigadur is not the type to hastily draw conclusions; he will not provide advice on this topic until he has given it thorough consideration.

The elves do get some pushback from Knutan, though. The Fortress Untdunben has been in place for centuries, and the dwarvish lord’s identity is wrapped up in it. “Na, this is oor home,” he says, stamping a foot to emphasize his connection to the settlement. “And we are proper stewards of it. Stay! Stay a few days. See what Untdunben has tae offer and witness the prosperity of oor people. Ye will see that we can nae just pack up and mine someplace else.” 

Tric accepts the offer, recognizing that it may take a little while for Knutan to expand his sense of belonging to a vaster view of the cave system. Before they are dismissed, he provides some final food for thought. “No, you don’t have to pack up. You will still be Lord of Untdunben, but you would have some sort of vassal overseeing the new settlement.”

Although Knutan is not entirely sold on all of the elves’ ideas, he does grant, “Maybe we do need tae scale back the speed of oor minin’.” He orders Trigadur to adapt to explosions just once a moon. “And run the numbers fer how far along we are oan fulfillin’ Merriver’s order. How much is this goin’ tae put us back? Maybe we can finish this order as promised and just scale back oan the next one.” The dwarvish lord also announces his intention to send in a team of civil engineers to assess the stability of the mines. He invites the elves to accompany that contingent in order to provide their unique perspective. Tric is only too happy to be considered an expert worthy of consultation, and Heppa is excited at the opportunity to learn more.

Knutan also says he will send a dwarf back up to the surface with the elves to examine things from topside. Embracing his role as emissary, Tric offers to consult with the elvish council in Estbryn Forest to see if they can contribute any capital to setting up new mines, since it is in their best interests for the operation to relocate. At the very least, he expects they will be willing to provide wood for carts or crossbeams.

After dismissing Trigadur, Knutan bids the elves goodnight and heads off to walk the ramparts. Only Glammur now remains, and they turn to the elves. “Ye twae look like ye could use a drink.”

“That would be wonderful. Thank you!” Hepalonia agrees, and Tric Manu nods wearily.

“Perhaps nae in the tavern, though. Some dwarves may still be a wee bit riled up.”

“Sometimes I have that effect on people,” Tric admits.