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Fiction The Golden Mountain

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Scalenex, May 14, 2019.

  1. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    It's been a loooong time since I've released a longer fiction piece about my beloved Kahoun of Klodorex. I wanted my 4509th post to be auspicious and I've been sitting on this WIP for a while. Perfection is the enemy of the good. So I plan to finish this piece releasing a new piece of this story every few days. This will probably be a five parter, maybe a six parter counting the introduction.

    This is a prequel and a sequel. The main events of this story occur five years after The Fall of Turochlitan, 1725 years before the events of the Orphaned Temple City. And there might be some tiny Easter eggs to @discomute 's Turochlitan stories which are officially canon as far as I'm concerned.

    The Golden Mountain, Introduction

    4500 Years before Sotek, Mount Klodor

    “I’m glad I let you talk me into making the pilgrimage with you. This was worth the climb”

    The two winded Skinks sat down on a rock and looked down the mountain they climbed, then back up towards the peak of the mountain and stared at the giant glinting statue head.

    “It took you long enough” said a third lizard. A young Saurus named Ralesk.
    “Your legs are longer, you didn’t have to make as many steps” one of the Skinks said through a smile.
    “You are strong...for Skinks” Ralesk replied.
    “Thanks” the Skinks the reply to the barbed compliment. He turned to his companion.
    “We are standing a few yards from the spot where Lord Izzatal destroyed all those demons.”
    “I’ve seen the monument in the distance but never close like this. I can feel the power warming me. I wonder if this is what Skink priests feel this kind of power all the time.”
    “Hmm, I don’t know”

    They sat in silence for a long time before one broke out in laughter.

    “It almost looks like it is solid gold and not just gold plated.”

    The other Skink scoffed.

    “It would take all the gold in Lustria and then some to make a golden statue that big!”
    “True, only a fool would think this is solid gold.”

    3500 Years before Sotek, The Biting Bogs, High Elf survey expedition

    “I wonder what these insects eat when they can’t get elf?” one of the men said.

    A few of the men chuckled but most were too tired to laugh. Haldir knew of course these insects fed on all sorts of creatures, but most of the animals here were reptiles or amphibians. I suppose our warm mammalian blood is more nourishing than the local fare. Depressing to think about. Focus on something else.

    Haldir tried to ignore the sloshing of muddy water in his boots. He had been alternating between ankle deep and waste deep water for the past six days with no respite. He looked up at the mountain. While closer than before, their objective was still frustratingly far away, but the gold on top glittered enticingly. Haldir chose to focus on the gold.

    It took a century of thrift and deft negotiation to be the leader of this survey expedition. Then they sailed by the Mountain of Gold. By Haldir’s calculation it had to be at least several tons of gold. As leader of the crew he was entitled to a fully twenty-five percent of it. Granted it should have been much higher than a quarter, but it was not easy to find men willing to sail around Lustria and back without offering them a higher percentage. No matter.

    That much gold could buy several mansions. A hundred of the finest Ellyrian stallions, a fleet of merchant ships. Haldir pondered the happy possibilities than stopped himself. This might be more gold than all of Ulthuan possesses. This might cause a disastrous inflation harming the Ulthuan economy. Perhaps he can make an accommodation with the Phoenix King, let the emperor hold most of the gold in secrecy to be tapped in small amounts every two hundred years or so during emergencies. Haldir was willing to help the Empire of Assuryan out in this way…for a price.

    The Elf cartographer was pondering which princess he would marry when a loud splash and terrified whinny broke his reverie.

    “D’arvit what is it?”
    “Kill it! Kill it now!”

    A lot of the men were scattering but they started to rally against the massive alligator that seemingly materialized out of nowhere in the middle of their caravan.

    Elas, or possibly Jharack was whacking the scaly beast with his sword as it continued consuming its gruesome feast, seemingly indifferent to the sword blows. The Elf’s twin shouted at him.

    “Out of the way, brother!”

    Most of the men had drawn weapons by now. One took a risk and fired and arrow only to have it bounce off. Another arrow came at the beast passing uncomfortably close to Elas, also doing no damage. A few had drawn swords or spears but none seemed eager to charge the ferocious river monster.

    “Watch where you’re shooting!”

    Elas sighed and ran around for a better position and drove his spear into the alligator’s eye and pushed it deep into his brain. He turned to his twin and smirked.

    “Show off. Wait a minute.”

    Elas looked about ready to retort when the horse started to neigh weakly.

    “How is it still alive?” said another Elf.
    “It won’t be for long,” came a sullen answer

    Elas sighed and pulled the spear out of the alligator and impaled the horse's head in a similar manner to end its suffering. All the men began talking at once.

    “Well…there goes our last draft horse.”
    “Better him than one of us.”
    “We need to turn back.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Back to the ship, for sure!”

    Everyone turned to Haldir.

    “I’m the leader, and we don’t go back without the gold.”
    “With no draft horse how do you expect to haul it back?” Jahrack demanded.

    Haldir took in a deep breath and sighed audibly.

    “Even if we cannot carry all the gold we can still be as rich as princes.” Haldir implored emphatically.
    “If this Chaos-damned swamp doesn’t kill us first!” Elas retorted.
    “But we are already over halfway by my calculations…”
    “No this isn’t halfway—” Jahrek said
    “—the mountain is halfway” Elas finished.
    “But—” Haldir stammered.
    “We lost five men and four horses. Paerel, here is so sick I doubt he’ll make it to the end of the swamp before passing.” Jahrek said.

    Paarel opened his mouth to object but then closed it again with out speaking. The sick elf slumped against the man near him and looked both terrified and embarrassed. He couldn’t object even to his own death at this point.

    “We are all getting some kind of swamp sickness. You want us to cross this gods-damned swamp, climb that mountain—” Elas continued.
    “And are we going to be in any shape to fight the Lizardmen after doing all that?” his twin interrupted.
    “The Lizardmen are a myth!” Haldir shouted.
    “Then we climb down the mountain carrying hundreds of pounds of gold, then cross this gods-damned swamp again!” Jahreck resumed his speech.
    “Exactly, with hundreds of pounds of gold!” Haldir exclaimed.
    “If the swamp, mountain, or Lizardmen don’t kill us—“ Elas stated.
    “—then the survivors will be rich—” Haldir started
    “The survivors will still be forced to still sail thousands of miles around this gods-forsaken continent!” Jahrick finished.
    “Death or riches!” Haldir replied desperately glaring at both twins.

    The other Elves were turning their heads back and forth watching the debaters. At this point all three seemed too angry for words. Ailre broke the silence.

    “Sir, we have to turn back or we’ll all die. We lose too many more men and we won’t have enough men to make the ship ready. At that point gold is worth nothing”

    Haldir regained his composure and was about to say “This is insubordination” then he looked in the faces of his crew and saw their mutinous intent. “Insubordination” was putting it gently.

    “Let’s make camp. I want to take some readings to mark the mountain on the map against my star charts. Then we can turn around back to the ship. Maybe we can come back with a better organized expedition”

    Roughly 300 years after the coming Sotek, Naggaroth, Grand Cartographers’ Headquarters

    Several Dread Lords stood in a massive chamber lit by dozens of lanterns. The Elven retainers were just dismissed, this room was too important to allow slaves in. Every wall and table had an intricate mapp, chart, or globe. The Dread Lords looked apprehensively at the doors.

    They burst open and four Blackguard strode in. Three stood by the doors while the fourth paced the room, eying everyone and everything. He resumed his place with the others and addressed the nobles.

    “You stand in the presence of Malekith, true heir of mighty Anenarion, Master of Naggaroth, and the rightful Eternal Emperor of all Elves.”

    Malekith strode imperiously into the room. His baleful eyes staring from his helmet. The air hung with a pregnant pause.

    “You may speak, lords.”
    “Thank you, great one. We have wonderful news.” Lord Othorion said.

    Othorion paused for Malekith to reply, but he did not. He just glared impatiently. Othorion wished he used a less extreme word than “wonderful.”

    “Our corsairs have completed charting the Black Way.” Othorion exclaimed.

    Malekith raised an eyebrow. Darthoras interjected.

    “Lord Othorion overstated our position slightly, great one.”

    Othorion’s forehead scrunched up at the veiled insult Darthoras made, but did not interrupt.

    “We are decades away from mapping the entirety of the Black Way, great one, but we have a reliable path to easily navigate even the largest Black Arks from one ocean to the other.” This will reduce the time to voyage to Ind or Cathay by roughly half. We can also reach Lustria’s west coast as easily as the east now.”

    Malekith waited several minutes before responding.

    “I see.”

    Othorion spoke again.

    “Great One, we no longer need limit ourselves to obtaining slaves and riches from the Old World. The entire world is ours for the taking…yours for the taking!”

    Othorion gestured at the most detailed world map in the center of the room. He made a sweeping gesture across the eastern lands. Malekith obliged them and walked towards the map. Darthoras began speaking.

    “Great One, we can take the silks from Cathay, the fabled jewels of Ind, massive populations of unsuspecting humans to enslave…”

    As Lord Dathoras gestured at mapped human cities, Malekith’s eyes drifted towards the relief map of Ulthuan across the table. The time was not right to take Ulthuan… There was another long pause.

    “Great one?”

    “I do not care what you do. As long as you pay the royal tithe I care not from whence the riches come!” the Witch King snapped before storming out of the Chamber of Maps.

    The two lords waited till the footsteps of the Blackguard faded into nothing.

    Othorion pointed at the northwest corner of Lustria and gestured for Darthoras to come closer.

    “I have always been intrigued by the so called ‘Golden Mountain’.”
    Last edited: May 15, 2019 at 12:43 PM
  2. Paradoxical Pacifism

    Paradoxical Pacifism Well-Known Member

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    I like this introduction a lot. Well done!

    It seems to meticulously build tension and foreshadow conflict between the lizardmen and the other races on this Golden Mountain. That being the Lizardmen's usage of religious pilgrimage, and the other races' greedy urge for its riches.

    With that said, however, does the reader truly need to know straight away that the statue is only gold plated? This information given to the reader straight away sort of removes a lot of the drama from the other races' greed. The reader will know right away that the urges that drive them are fallacious, instead of sympathizing with what drives their respective characters.

    In that case, i would suggest focusing a lot on the dramatic irony of these warm-blooded characters.

    Considering this is 3,500 years before sotek, I assume this refers to Ulthuan instead of the Human empire? It's not made clear.

    Anyway, give us some'more pls :p
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  3. Aginor

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

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    Nice read!

    Short questions:
    How big is that statue?
    And is gold roughly of equal value/scarcity as in the real world?

    The reason I ask is: I am not sure one could ever think a statue made of one ton of pure gold looks all that impressive, size-wise.
    A ton of gold has a volume of 51 liters. A cube of 37cm length (a bit more than a foot for my American friends) would weigh a ton.

    It would also strike me as odd if there was only a few tons of gold in Ulthuan.
    Sreeves and Paradoxical Pacifism like this.
  4. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    That was the intention. At this point in history, the High Elves believed they were the only empire in the world. Lizardmen, Dwarves, Ogres were mere rumors. Skaven were less than a rumor. Humans were "known" to be barbarians living in mud huts barely better than Orcs and Goblins.

    The monument is big enough that it’s visible from over a hundred miles away on a clear day as an obvious glint at the top of the mountain. With a spyglass it looks likes a giant golden rock. Mount Klodor upon which the Monument sits on is about 5000 meters/16,000 feet tall.

    I have no idea how big that would be in mathematical terms. There is a common trope in fantasy that statues, castles, and whatnot are often unrealistically big. I'm sure it's bigger than the heads of Mount Rushmore.

    I operate on the assumption that the Warhammer World That Was has almost exactly twice the surface area of the real world. It probably has twice as much gold. Maybe more because gold is coveted by pretty much everyone. Again, treasure hoards in fantasy are often unrealistically big but that doesn't make gold any less coveted.

    Math, my one weakness! However much gold Ulthuan actually has, if the Monument of Izzatal really is solid gold, it's introduction to Ulthuan or any other economy would probably at least double the amount of gold in the country and cause major inflation.

    But I'd rather answer questions!
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  5. Aginor

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

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    Just for a very rough ballpark estimation:
    Pizarro and his criminals robbed the Incas of roughly 30 tons of gold in the 1530s, although we speak of ~22 carat gold mainly, so that stuff is made of roughly 80% actual gold atoms. That's about the quality that's used for gold coins.

    9 carat gold still looks good and has only 20% of actual gold atoms in it.
    So if the gold isn't exceptionally pure it could be reasonable to say that Lizardmen can easily be in possession of 200 tons of gold, and the same probably goes for the elves.

    We know that Spain had some financial problems when the conquistadores brought home around 20 tons of gold.

    (But take all that with a grain of salt, I am not an expert on that.)
  6. Aginor

    Aginor Fifth Spawning Staff Member

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    Oh dear, I am in a gold rush now, digging up info. :D

    A few things about gold:

    The total amount of gold that is around today is somewhere around 180,000 tons of gold.

    But keep in mind that a lot of it is mined industrially.
    In fact it seems that around 140,000 tons of that was mined after the year 1900.

    Around half of the above gold is in jewelry it seems, the rest is... somewhere else. Places like fort Knox, or just in electronic parts.

    Ancient mesoamerican and south American civilizations did not know how to gain metals from ore IIRC, their metallurgy wasn't very advanced (hence no metal swords and the like). So they only had silver and gold because it can be found in the ground in solid form (native). And of course they didn't find a lot of the gold that really is there.

    The California Gold Rush (the 49ers) yielded roughly 375 tons of gold.

    A good gold mine in medieval times produced one ton of gold per year it seems.

    The Greeks once stole around 18 tons from the Egyptians in ancient times and it was a LOT for them.

    The total yield of what the Spanish stole from all the Americas was around 150 tons, some sources say.

    Ok, enough about gold for now. :D
  7. Scalenex

    Scalenex Keeper of the Indexes Staff Member

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    Mountain of Gold, Part One

    325 years after Sotek, five years after the fall of Turochlitan

    Othorion, Dread Lord of House Rasoirhaut

    A few hundred men were left to defend the ships. They grumbled about not getting to shed blood but they were the lucky ones. They didn’t have to march through the stinking muddy jungle.
    The fool Darthoras wanted to go straight through the swamp. “It’s half the distance!” Fortunately the sorceress, Dessiele, backed up Othorian. She eviscerated an insubordinate corsair and read his entrails claiming that Khaine said the path for victory was around the swamp.

    Othorion suspected that entrails divination was a total farce. A sorceress could look at entrails and proclaim whatever sign from the gods she wants, and no one would dare question her reading lest they become the next set of entrails used. Dessiele knew marching through swamps was costly and puffed it up as prophecy to convince superstitious Dathoras. Smart woman.

    Marching through the swamp was foolish, but marching through the jungle was no simple task. The ground was muddy. The mud grasped at each man’s boot. The carts got stuck often. The humidity and the heat baked the Elves in their armor. The Cold Ones and Hydras seemed okay against both the heat and the mud. I wish we could afford more beasts.

    The trees and foliage was annoying. Eventually it was decided they would need to hack a path through to let the supply carts through. Progress was slow. Never very disciplined, even in the best of times, most of the harpies had left the main army behind days ago circling back whenever they felt like it. The Lizardmen will probably be able to march at least twice as fast as this pathetic slog we're doing. Where are they?

    A few days later, six men were lost due to the local jungle diseases. They still lived but they had become burdens and were put down. Twelve men had died when they left camp to do their business and set up a latrine near a suffocating tree that poisoned the very air. Four men were lost due to disciplinary issues. Then they finally met the enemy.

    Large shadows passed overhead. Lizardmen on large flying reptiles were scouting. Othorion halted the line and mobilized the archers. A hail of crossbow bolts brought down most of the flyers in a bloody heap. Harpies chased down the flying wounded and ripped them apart with their talons.

    Dathorias turned towards Othorion.

    “First skirmish, no losses for us. A good omen.”

    Dessiele rolled her eyes.

    “Not a good omen, this is an omen of warning. The lizards know where we are now.”

    Smart woman indeed.

    Lazho, Klodorex's High Priest of Itzl

    Horns were blaring in alarm around Klodorex and Skinks were milling about the Kahoun in all directions like an ant hill that had been kicked over.

    Two hours prior, a flock of over a dozen ugly flying humanoids flew over all the farms and settlements, but they were gone by the time, but they were long gone before the Skinks could marshal a cohort of archers or a Skink priest capable of defending the sky. Terradon riders were deployed after the creatures, but with the monsters’ head start, no one was optimistic that they would be caught. The Saurus warriors had gathered into regiments under their banners, but they had no enemies to fight.

    Lazho, high priest of Itzl was livid. He tore out of the main temple and through the Kahoun. He berated every Skink chief he could find for their slow response times.

    “What if the Skaven come back and we are this slow!”

    Many Skinks dipped their heads and turn away at this rhetorical question. His eyes lingered on an acolyte priest and he stared pointedly until he responded.

    “High one, we are still waiting for a response from the Slann. Lord Merestar has not given any directives for our patrols in five years.”
    “Lord Merestar hasn’t uttered a single word in five years.”

    A lot of onlookers stood aghast. Was Lazho daring to cast aspersions on a Slann?

    “Spoiled, you all have become spoiled! Mighty Merestar and the others have far more important things to do than coordinate our defenses! The other temple cities don’t benefit from a Slann doing everything for them. We need to take responsibility for security and that responsibility is clearly lacking.”

    For a second Lazho felt his magic coming to the surface. He seemed to grow in mass and take on a more ferocious aspect. Shape changing will not help this situation. He willed the effect to dissipate. All the Skinks in his vicinity scurried away like frightened lacrey beetles.

    There was still one more Skink chief he needed to speak to. Lazho stormed off to the eastern district he approached the Skink attending the door.

    “Bring me to the Master of the Watch!” Lazho ordered.
    “He is not back yet, sir.”
    “Where is his second?”
    “Not back yet, sir. His patrol hasn’t come back yet either”
    “Not back yet? Their last patrol was due back here back three days ago.”
    “Sometimes patrols are late, sir, you know how Tlanxa Skinks are with strict schedules.”

    Lazho desire to vent his anger at underlings gave way to genuine concern.

    “…our air patrol is late to report back, and then the Kahoun is scouted by flying Anathema...”

    Without even responding, the Lazho already departed the Terradon Quarter.

    “Scout! Gather all the scouting parties now!” he shouted to no one in particular running towards the city center.
    “Hold up Lassszho. No need to ssshout. I’ve been trying to find you for over two hourssss.”

    Lazho turned in the direction of the noise and saw a golden eye looking at him topping a vaguely Skink shaped outline in the dirt road.

    “Garesh, is that you?”

    The Chameleon Skink flinched at being addressed by name. It’s nearly impossible for a non-Chameleon Skink to address a Chameleon Skink by name, but Garesh was the only Chameleon Skink missing an eye. After the last surviving Turochlitan rebel savaged Klodorex’s Chameleon Skink population, Garesh was easy to recognize due to his missing eye.

    “Yesss, I am he.” the Chameleon added impatiently.

    Answering an obvious question. He must surely be in a hurry, if he is not chastising me, Lazho thought.

    “An army of warmbloodssss approaches through the Jungle of Green Mistssss.”

    It was a sunny day, but Lazho felt like a cloud had blotted out the sun.

    “No, they look like humans, but they have pointed earsss.”
    “That’s the Second Race, Elves.”

    “Yesss them. There are at two and a half thousand Elvesss. About half have spears and shieldssss. The other have swordsss and some kind of ranged weapon. They wear thick false scales made from dark metal. They have twenty-one Cold Ones that seem to be under their control. They have two hundred and thirty-six warm blooded quadrupeds slightly bigger than Antoks that they either ride or have pulling suppliessss. They flying creatures are hard to count as they do not stay still. Fifty to a hundred. They have six large weapons that look like giant bowssss. Worst of all is two monsters that mock holy Sotek. Anathema made up of snakes bound together in blasphemous massss of evil.”

    “How far away are they?”
    “At their pace they could be here tomorrow morning. Three days at the mossst”
    “That close! Why didn’t you spot them earlier?”

    Inaudible hissing. Lazho could tell Garesh was swallowing a statement one does not normally given to priests.

    “There are only sssix of us left and a lot of jungle to patrol. Chameleons cannot carry the entire Kahoun on our shouldersss”

    The Skink priest sighed.

    “You are right of course. I apologize. I am just frustrated that none of our other scouts caught anything earlier. I need to inform the Slann.”

    It took all his restraint not to add “for all the good it will do” to the end of his sentence.

    The two younger Slann were so used to Merestar running the city that they could barely be roused from working on celestial equations that their elders in Itza had already solved. Merestar had not even moved since the Turochlitan experiment was destroyed. Desserex was the only Slann who would even acknowledge Skinks, but he was still pondering the ramifications of his own experiment since his pet human committed suicide about a year prior.

    Time was of the essence, but the Skink attendants still made Lazho wait almost an hour before he could address Lord Desserex.

    “Lord Desserex, an army of nearly three thousand with powerful beasts and artillery is a short distance away to the west.”

    Lord Desserex blinked in reply.

    After less than five minutes took a deep breath, preparing to speak. Lazho’s heart rose in his chest.

    A fast response. Surely what Lord Desserex knows will save us!

    “Hmm….The second race approaches from the western shore. The Second Race hails from beyond Lustria’s eastern shore….”

    The Slann paused and the Skink priest tensed up.

    No, don’t say it. Please no…

    “….I must ponder this development…” came the croaky reply

    Slann can directly read the minds of their servants, but they rarely choose to do so. This was fortunate. If the Slann knew Lazho’s thoughts, the Slann might have had his guards execute him on the spot. Lazho took a deep breath of his own and chose his words carefully.

    “…Of course, my lord…I shall see to our defenses.”
    Last edited: May 16, 2019 at 7:34 PM
  8. Sreeves

    Sreeves Well-Known Member

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    Ahh, The carnivorous plant thread is kicking into action. great story, I'm loving the skink priest lazho.
  9. Paradoxical Pacifism

    Paradoxical Pacifism Well-Known Member

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    Part one needs to be edited some more. Other than that, i thoroughly enjoyed this part. builds onto the tension and provides us with a character with an interesting dilemma, Lazcho (spelling error near the start of the lizardmen part of this installment).
    Last edited: May 16, 2019 at 2:34 AM
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