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    The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past-My Kingdom For A Crown
    Posted on Wed, August 29, 2018 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "

    Kalrek would have the power of the Crown on his brow, the power of the public face of his kingdom in one hand, and the power of the hidden face of his kingdom in the other. That kingdom, Kalrek’s visible and hidden kingdom, would grow like an ever-expanding tunnel. It would bring him new treasures, new glory…

    …and new victims.

    He could hear Urdlen laughing again.




    Chapter Fourteen 

    My Kingdom For A Crown


    By all accounts, Trendin Bradon did his father Laessar proud. Trendin was a quick study in learning the ins and outs of the family’s gem-dealing business, and became his father’s trusted right hand. Whenever Laessar was traveling on business or otherwise indisposed, Trendin managed the company’s day to day affairs with a steady hand. Trendin also proved to have a silver tongue, skillfully negotiating mutually beneficial deals with competitors and allies alike. Laessar was immensely proud of his son’s intellect and charisma, and knew the family business would be in good hands when Trendin took over.

    Trendin didn’t feel as smart as people often told him he was, not when he couldn’t figure out how to escape the cell Kalrek had locked him in. The cell was sumptuously outfitted with tasteful decorations and furniture, plumbing and a selection of fine foods, which made the steel shackles binding Trendin stand out all the more. The cell was cunningly designed so that Trendin could move around in relative freedom, but he couldn’t reach the door of his cell, much less free himself from his chains. Trendin’s mother Marthe and his sisters Pearlinn and Topia were in cells similar to his, and they had no more hope of escaping than Trendin did.  

    Trendin jumped to his feet as the door to his cell opened and Kalrek strode in, a wide smile on his face.  

    “You’re still at it?” Kalrek said with a smile as he glanced around the cell. The walls and furniture were covered in scratches and dents that Trendin made in his attempts to find a secret door that Kalrek might not know about, or to break the chains restraining him. “Come on, you’re a bright lad. Did you really think I’d have put you in here if there was a way out?”

    Trendin responded by spitting at the older gnome, who easily dodged it.

    “Do you even know why you’re here, boy? Besides to ensure your father’s cooperation, I mean?” Kalrek said.

    Trendin didn’t reply, staring daggers at Kalrek.

    “You might as well know, since our time together will be ending soon. You see, I’ve got almost everything I need…and then you and the rest of your family won’t be of any more use to me,” Kalrek said.

    Trendin’s eyes widened despite himself, but he didn’t say anything.

    “You motivated one of my old friends, and now you’re motivating another,” Kalrek said. “Still, they’re just stepping stones to my larger goal. Before you meet Urdlen, I should at least do the courtesy of telling you what I’ve been seeking all these years.”

    Trendin tried to keep calm, but he couldn’t keep himself from shaking with rage.

    “Did Laessar ever tell you about the Crown of Arumdina, my boy?” Kalrek said.

    Trendin kept stubbornly silent, refusing to answer Kalrek’s question.

    “…I asked you a question,” Kalrek said after a moment, his eyes narrowing.

    Trendin made as if to spit at Kalrek, before the older gnome lunged forward and punched Trendin in the face with his mailed fist. The blow broke Trendin’s nose, causing blood to pour down his face. As Trendin reeled, Kalrek punched him again, knocking two of his teeth out.

    “Laessar should be ashamed of himself,” Kalrek said, scowling. “He doesn’t teach you anything about our beloved homeland, or even proper manners. I suppose I’ll have to do it in his place, then?”

    Trendin didn’t say anything, but his eyes glanced at Kalrek’s hand as it moved to the sword at Kalrek’s belt.

    “Centuries ago, the kingdom of Flinthold was one of the most powerful and prosperous gnomish kingdoms in the entire Flanaess,” Kalrek said. “It was said to be blessed by Garl Glittergold himself, and he gave the Flinthold kings an artifact called the Crown of Arumdina as a sign of his favor. The Crown got its name from the axe-shaped piece of mithril atop its monde. The mithril was said to be a piece of Arumdina itself.”

    Trendin’s eyes widened at that claim. Arumdina was the sentient, divine mithril battleaxe that was Garl Glittergold’s eternal companion. Anything that contained a piece of Arumdina would possess impressive magical power.

    “Flinthold’s future seemed bright when its kings wore the Crown. They reckoned without Flinthold’s jealous rivals, who stole the Crown and with it Garl’s favor. Without Garl’s blessings, Flinthold couldn’t truly be ruled by a king. Its rulers could only claim the titles of regents, unable to fully claim their birthrights,” Kalrek said.

    “Imagine it, lad-imagine being destined to wield glory, only to have it taken out of your reach, as you’re forced to struggle to survive. That was the lot of Flinthold and its ruling family. Indeed, Flinthold’s old monarchy faded into history by the time the Aerdy Overkings were crowned. Now, Flinthold is a pale shadow of its former self, weakened further still by the Hateful Wars, ruled by appointed regents,” Kalrek said.

    “But the people of Flinthold never forgot about the Crown,” Kalrek said, a smile crossing his face. “The priests of Garl Glittergold received visions from their god of the Crown, visions that showed it was still out there somewhere. Think of it, my boy-anyone who finds the Crown of Arumdina could lay claim to the throne of Flinthold. He could rule as king in his own right, and return Garl Glittergold’s favor to our homeland. Flinthold would relive its past glories, and shine brighter than ever!”

    “…Is that what this is all for?” Trendin said, a disgusted and incredulous look crossing his face. “Your consorting with orcs, spriggans and minotaurs? Your murdering and looting people who never crossed you? Using my father’s business to transport your blood money? All so you can finance your search for the Crown?”

    “I’m so glad I was wrong,” Kalrek said, clearly pleased with Trendin. “Laessar did educate you well. And you’re quite right, lad. I do need the wealth and prestige I’ve been gathering to support my search for the Crown. But that’s not my only goal. A worthy king needs wealth and splendor befitting his station…but he also needs followers who will support him when he takes his throne.”

    “You expect to take Flinthold’s throne with your murdering brigands beside you?” Trendin said, raising an eyebrow at Kalrek’s claim. “You think our people would accept a king that consorted with spriggans?”

    “Then again, maybe I was right the first time,” Kalrek said with a frown. “You are a fool. Did you really think I would try to take the throne that way? No, the Crown would confirm my right to rule, and my support from the people. They’ll stand with me as I lead Flinthold back to greatness, and Garl’s favor blesses us once more!”

    “But you revere Urdlen, the Crawler Below,” Trendin said. “Surely you don’t think-“

    His words were cut off with a grunt as Kalrek punched him in the face a third time.

    “No lad, you don’t think,” Kalrek said. “So few of our people do. I was wrong-you don’t deserve to know the full story after all.”

    With that, Kalrek turned and left Trendin’s cell, locking the door behind him. 


    As a child, Kalrek enjoyed the stories the Flinthold elders told of Urdlen. He also enjoyed the stories the elders told about how gnomes used illusions to protect and defend themselves. Little Kalrek wondered why the gnomes so rarely used illusions on each other, something that struck him as a waste of potential. 

    As he grew up, Kalrek witnessed it over and over among the humans, dwarves and elves he and the other gnomes interacted with. They lied to conceal unpleasant truths, they deceived to gain and keep power, they pretended to be friends with each other, only to betray their allies when the latter were no longer useful…

    Kalrek wondered why the gnomes couldn’t profit from this more than they did, especially given their skill at deception. 

    He profited very well when he betrayed Flinthold to the Steelhearts, of course. When the Steelhearts invaded Flinthold after the war, he’d have been pleased to see them loot Flinthold and cave the entire place in. It didn’t really matter to Kalrek, though-he purloined a considerable amount of wealth from the Steelhearts, using it to begin his search for the Crown.

     

    Kalrek knew his decades of work were about to pay off. His minions respected him as a warlord, and they would revere him as a king when he took Flinthold’s throne. The minions would be his secret agents, expanding his power and striking down his enemies in ways that couldn’t be traced back to him. They would be the hidden part of his kingdom.

    The public face of his kingdom would be for him to act the part of a good king, using the Crown to rebuild Flinthold’s power. Flinthold would become not just one of the greatest kingdoms in the Lortmil Mountains, but in the whole of the Flanaess. Any claims that he betrayed Flinthold to the Steelhearts would be exposed as the lies and slander they were. The Crown would be his to rightfully wear. It didn’t matter if the Crown truly brought Garl’s favor to Flinthold, or if it was only a legend. The Crown’s favor could just as easily come from Urdlen when it was rededicated to the Crawler Below.

    Kalrek would have the power of the Crown on his brow, the power of the public face of his kingdom in one hand, and the power of the hidden face of his kingdom in the other. That kingdom, Kalrek’s visible and hidden kingdom, would grow like an ever-expanding tunnel. It would bring him new treasures, new glory…

    …and new victims.

    He could hear Urdlen laughing again.


    "
     
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    Re: The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past-My Kingdom For A Crown (Score: 1)
    by choiceelctrinic on Wed, November 07, 2018
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Laessar should be ashamed of himself,” Kalrek said, scowling. “He doesn’t teach you anything about our beloved homeland, or even proper manners. I suppose I’ll have to do it in his place, then?”



    Re: The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past-My Kingdom For A Crown (Score: 1)
    by choiceelctrinic on Wed, November 14, 2018
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    That kingdom, Kalrek’s visible and hidden kingdom, would grow like an ever-expanding tunnel. It would bring him new treasures, new glory…
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