|Favorite Wonder:||Caminus Aureus|
"Riders!" The cries of the watchmen came far too late to save his camp, for the next sound Arturus Thorne heard was the thunder of hoofbeats around him. He was to his feet in an instant, with his great axe in hand, but most of his company needed far more time to ready their weapons.
The horsemen dropped nets on the dwarven watchmen as they rode past into their camp. One managed to free himself with his handaxe, but his comrades were kept busy trying to avoid being trampled as more horses poured into the camp.
The King's honor guard, famed for their lightning reflexes, had managed to ready their halberds and were forming ranks around the Arturus in the center of the camp. There were not many of them, but their weapons stopped the cavalry charge. "Thunder Company!" Arturus yelled, "Arm yourselves!" Given a few more minutes to load their weapons the main dwarven force could surely turn the tide of the ambush.
A whirring sound heralded the raiders new tactics. The riders circled the dwarven lines, loosing a swarm of bolas towards the guard and their polearms. Such a tactic would have been a mere annoyance were the Dwarves not badly outnumbered. In moments time the guard was felled and the rest of the company was held at lance point.
Arturus cursed his ill luck. A shortcut through these hills had cut their travel time in half, but meant they spent days near Hippus lands. He had hoped to compensate by traveling light and moving fast, but he saw his mistake clearly now. No one outruns the Hippus.
The leader of the raiders rode up to Arturus, pacing his horse back and forth, lance pointed menacingly. He was a tall man, with pitch black hair. His face was obscured by a mask, but he pulled it away to reveal a mouth fixed permanently into a snarl by an old scar. "The crazy Clown King paid us for some dwarven slaves, but your treasure is our spoils. Show us what's in the cart, old dwarf."
Arturus hatched a desperate plan. "I warn you, human, I am the high priest for the ancient dwarven gods. If you do not free my people, you will not see morning." He pulled the tarp away from cart, revealing a tall stone column, covered with carvings. Carefully he folded the tarp, setting it down on the ground. He stumbled in the dark as he arose, bumping into one of his young charges and palming a small pouch from his belt.
The Hippus raid leader was not convinced, nor was he happy to see the dwarves traveling without their famous gold. "If your gods cared for you they would not have given you feet which don't reach stirrups. Chain him up, boys!"
"You have been warned!" shouted Arturus, throwing up his arms dramatically. He tossed the leather pouch into the smoldering embers of their cook fire as he did so. It was invisible in the darkness. Then the black powder inside was heated by the coals, and for a moment there was no more darkness. Thunder followed the lightning, conjured not by gods on high or ancient magic, but dwarven ingenuity. The Hippus horses were startled. Some began running, and even the best trained required their rider's full attention to restrain. Arturus allies immediately took advantage of this, finally readying their muskets. More thunder rolled as the musket balls struck horses and raiders. Dwarves quickly worked to free each other from the Hippus entrapments, and soon the Hippus ambush turned into a rout.
Amidst cheering, the captain the guard came up to Arturus. "Do we turn back, my liege?" he asked.
Arturus shook his head. "No, we cannot. This is too important. But break camp, we'll get no more sleep tonight."
The rest of the journey was calm enough, though Arturus grew nervous for reasons of his own as they reached their destination. They reached the open city gates, but Arturus stopped his group. He turned, whispering, "I have no right to enter." Merchants and other travelers streamed past them into the dwarven city. He turned to the captain of the honor guard, and old friend. "Would you please let him know I am here?" He nodded solemnly and entered the city, heading for the castle.
Soon Arturus was looking into a familiar face he hadn't seen in many years. "Hello, Arturus," Kandros Fir said.
"Kandros..." Arturus didn't know where to begin. He cleared his throat gruffly. "You've done well for your people," he said, gesturing towards the city.
"Why have you come?"
"Ah, 'tis hard to say it, but I wronged you so. I was young and foolish, and resented the burden of authority. I've no right to ask your forgiveness, but you should have this." He revealed the stone pillar in the cart.
Kandros rushed to it, mouth agape as he ran his fingers over the ancient runic script. "The ancestral Fir clan history!" He knew almost every word by heart, but it filled a void in him to see the history of his people again. The last words would have been carved in his own hand, the disappearance of Luach the Wanderer. Except...
"I hope you do not object. I added the last fifty years myself. The founding of Hallowell, the battle of Destrier Hill, the goblin war, the births of Gridmok and young Kandros... you've done well for your people." Kandros rose slowly, and, at long last, embraced his old friend. The feud was over, and the Khazad would be one again, in truth as in name.