Douglas Niles: Secret of Pax Tharkas

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Douglas Niles Secret of Pax Tharkas
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    Secret of Pax Tharkas
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    Английский
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Doug Niles


Secret of Pax Tharkas

PROLOGUE

Being a Proclamation of the Word of ReorxThrough the Vessel of His Most Faithful One: The King of ThorbardinHigh Thane Jungor Stonespringer

My faithful dwarf children:

Our age is full of ill omens and dire portents. Know you all that it is only the resolute faithfulness of your leaders, and your own hearts, which holds mighty Thorbardin fast to its path of righteousness. Know you all that it is our cherished blessing to keep our gates sealed against the pernicious influences, the wicked and vile practices of the world that so relentlessly decays beyond the solid walls of our mountain home.

And know you all that there are those, even here among us, sharing the sacred protection of our keep, who would seek to undo all of the protections that our proud and all-seeing god has labored so hard to render into place.

I, your humble king, take this occasion to recount these threats, both the perils and successes of the recent past, and to warn against the looming menace that threatens all of our people should we fail to heed our stern and caring deity.

The vengeance of our righteous god is already manifest in the destruction of Qualinesti, our former neighbor to the north. The land of the elves has become subject to blight, their once-great city rendered a poisonous morass-just punishment, to be sure, for that haughty and intractable race. The elves themselves are scattered and even now struggle to survive in a world where all are their enemies. Spare the elves no sympathy, my fellow dwarves, for their suffering is deserved. If Reorx has his way, we have seen the last of the elf race, which has ever been a scourge upon the surface of Krynn.

Nor need we dwarves concern ourselves any longer with the petty affairs of men, not deep in the sanctity of Thorbardin. But understand, my people, that humankind is ever a lingering threat, and the only real security, the only hope we have of avoiding inevitable contamination, is to avoid humans and treat them like the plague. Here, too, we are blessed by Reorx, for our steadfast walls and sealed gates offer us adequate protection, and no human could hope to penetrate our undermountain realm.

We are safe here from the ancient ogres, ever a danger to our race, and from the minotaurs that, Reorx in his wisdom has revealed to me, swarm the eastern lands of our continent like a pestilence of insects. Neither ogre nor minotaur can reach us in our undermountain sanctuary, and for this we owe our god, the everlasting Forge and Fire, most sublime thanks. Yes, even the wicked wyrms of dragonkind are barred from our realm, for the mountain summits, the granite walls, the great shell of Cloudseeker Peak, all will stand fast as bastions against these and other enemies.

It may be recalled by some that our Failed King, Tarn Bellowgranite, upon his exile some ten years ago, tried to terrify the dwarves of the clans with his claim of a fire dragon, somehow lingering since the Chaos War, still dwelling in the halls of the mountain city. Tarn Bellowgranite has been shown to be at best a misbegotten fool-though the proof came too late for the thousands of brave dwarves he sent to their doom in his mad quest to aid the elves of Qualinesti. The wrath of the gods smote Qualinesti, and it is to our eternal grief that the dwarf army, as well, was caught in the wholesale destruction.

That loss, that tragedy which still echoes in the silence of so many dwarven homes, is the legacy of the Failed King. His words were and are false, and his many threats-of dragon menace and internecine strife-have been seen as lies. For there is none among us, not a single dwarf of Krynn, who has seen any evidence of this fire dragon, and in those years since Tarn Bellowgranite has been banished, is there any doubt that it was a cruel hoax the Failed King tried to perpetrate on us?

No, my people, none of these dangers loom now. Yet there are new dangers that Reorx, in his benign kindness, has deigned to send me in a vision, that I might take the necessary steps to safeguard our nation. I regret to report, my beloved dwarves, that the threats which alarm Reorx have their roots not in elves and humans, nor even in rumored dragons, but lie within the hearts of dwarves themselves.

But take heart, my people, children of Reorx, for in this close threat we may indeed renew our hope of redemption. For a threat that is born of dwarfkind can be faced and defeated by dwarfkind. The struggle will require faith and courage, and everlong have we displayed those traits in abundance. It will require a discerning eye for treachery-and a determined and ruthless strategy to combat that treachery, to root out enemies within and obliterate them by whatever means necessary.

In this enterprise, we have been blessed by Reorx, for he has seen that Thorbardin is now ruled by a king and a council of thanes, who all possess the requisite wisdom and resolve to achieve ultimate victory. This is a virtual certainty.

The taint of the Failed King, it is known to all, has been cleansed from our nation. He whose name is forever accursed dwells in exile now, a pathetic recluse in the hollow shell of a place that was once the great Pax Tharkas. That barrier, erected to mark the border between Thorbardin and Qualinesti, has concluded its purpose with the destruction of the elven realm. Let it languish now as a dwelling for exiles and enemies. Though a thousand dwarves, even a small army, might shelter there, they have no means to reach Thorbardin. From the Failed King, we in Thorbardin are secure.

Many of our people will recall the Mad Prophet, Severus Stonehand: he, too, betrayed his own and because of him the Daewar clan has fallen from high favor in Thorbardin. Even as the smoke of the Chaos War still lingered in our mountain halls, the Mad Prophet gathered the dwarves of his clan-those who were foolish enough to credit and follow him-and bore them away with him to the east in his doomed quest to restore the lost might of ancient Thoradin. That undermountain realm, so it is said, is older than Thorbardin, and at its height was nearly as auspicious as our own nation.

But that height was many, many centuries ago. Even before the Cataclysm, Thoradin had waned as a power, corrupted by the Kingpriest and the multiple impurities of commerce and traffic with the disparate realms of humankind. It is only right that Reorx, when he hurled the mountain down upon the surface of Krynn, saw fit to obliterate Thoradin. Now Reorx has revealed to me the true scope of the Mad Prophet’s insanity, for the many Daewar who left Thorbardin with their leader were borne to a sea of fire, with three great mountains spuming smoke into a black sky and liquid rock pouring through the very fabric of the world. They found madness in the shell of Zhakar, and there, Reorx has shown me, they all perished. Their faithlessness in Reorx, their foolishness in adhering to false prophecy, was their undoing, and let it stand as a common lesson to all the rest of us, my people.

Nay, do not weep at their loss, my blessed fellows. Those few Daewar remaining among us owe gratitude to Reorx for their deliverance; it was their decision to stay here, within the safety of Thorbardin’s walls, that has preserved their lives to this day.

Nor is there threat to our well-being to be found in the remote fastness of Kayolin, in the north. That nation of dwarves has long been lost to us, the once-true cousins. Reorx has revealed to me that the lord of Kayolin has taken to call himself “king”-as if dwarfkind could ever have two kings! Kayolin has opened its gates to men and hill dwarves, and the inevitable bastardization cannot but weaken the pure fiber of mountain dwarf sinew, the pure stream of mountain dwarf blood. Kayolin has become a land of merchants and shopkeepers, mocking its people’s former greatness. Kayolin may be lost to us, but that is not a matter of concern; it grows weaker by the year and soon will fade as it flows forth and merges with the inconsequential world.

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