Kepta Valley spanned between two mountain ranges. Snow, ice, towering ledges, and faces of granite brooded near cloudlevel while the trees thickened farther down the slopes. A river gushed from the junction of three mountains to the west, feeding into a greater way whose tributaries supplied the inhabitants of Kepta with fresh water, along with irrigation, and revolutions on their mills.
In the forested foothills of Llerenos, the fourth highest mount in Kepta valley, rested the gnome kingdom of Vastway. Allied with a community of halflings who dwelt in the plains and grassier hills, the gnomes traded with their taller neighbors for food and textiles. When dwarves appeared across the valley way from the depths of Llerenos itself, gnome King Vastway the First sought trade from them as well. With the raw materials supplied by the dwarves, the gnomes soon turned bits of metal and gems into cunning devices and beautiful works of art. Halfing gardeners grew alchemical foliage in gnome lodges and used the strange illuminating crystals of the dwarves to cultivate new plants which could flourish underearth. The dwarves delved deeper and faster with the gnomic mechanical marvels aiding their mining production and strengthening their shaft supports.
With the acumen and merchant contacts of the halflings, raw materials and craftwork alike flowed from Kepta Valley for considerable amounts of gold. Vastway I, the dwarf king Propnear, and halfling Mayor Longfollow, along with landowners and members of their courts, convened the first Kepta council to swear a new alliance. As the wealth of the three groups grew, each could see the wisdom of a defense pact. Each tended to his kingdom and curtailed most non-valley folk, known as Nonva, from exploring much within the borders of their kingdoms.
Through the years, tensions arose often amongst those who would expand trade, incorporate new techniques, invite foreign scholars to help improve art and technology, and those who would prefer a more isolationistic policy. Kepta could certainly stand alone, self-sufficient in supply and determined in defense. Vastway I had witnessed the detriment of foreign invaders in the Exile three hundred years before. Others, like Pikespear Willowbank of the Longfollow Court, argued trade brought the influx of new ideas and strengthening of generations. Voices for and against filled the places of power down the decades of Kepta's governance, and many near-conflicting statutes, precepts, and provisions littered the laws to the day.
It was only with great reluctance and heavy pressure from the Southern Alliance that Kepta allowed the entry of Hilt’s clergy. A church was constructed in Longfollow. Clerics ministered to the halflings and slowly earned the good graces of the gnome monarchy. These workers of the divine power never quite impressed the wielders of the arcane, however, and continue to possess a tumultuous relationship with the gnome wizards and mages. As for the dwarves, the clergy found the underfolk welcoming but stubbornly resistant to the ways of Hilt, preferring the worship of Edro as most dwarves do.
Whether open or recalcitrant, what each ruler of Vastway could agree upon was the need for a strong, loyal agent for their royal person. Vastway I's steadfast lieutenant surrendered all twenty names for the one his liege bestowed: Kingsage. In exchange, the lieutenant and one heir in each generation would serve the king with all he or she had. If that heir were to die, then another of the family would take up the burden.
Continue reading “The Story of the Artificer – Chapter 2”