Saturday, April 6, 2013

Drakenmount (aka Chapter Twelve, Scene One)

As I pointed out recently, I try to keep the story strictly from Balfrith's perspective, only providing the knowledge that he would have in a given circumstance. This is really just a manifestation of the writers' rule "show, don't tell". One of the exceptions to this is when I introduce a new place, such as a city. For such introductions, rather than writing a scene in which one ore more characters describes the history and character of a place to Balfrith, I have simply chosen to go with straight-up exposition. It's a faster and more efficient way to get the information passed on to the reader, and I think in this case it is alright for the narrator to simply explain things.

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Drakenmount began as a simple fishing village at the mouth of the Wyrm-tongue River, situated along its northern shore. The coastal area where it sits, within the great Bay of Thror, is a complex of fjords that begins about a day’s march southeast of the river, and stretches all the way around the opening of the bay in the northwest, thence turning northeast and continuing all the way to the Sky-fork River. As such, it encompasses almost the entire seacoast of the nation of Nifflgarde.

Because of this great stretch of fjords, there are many fishing villages along the coast, each one sheltered and protected from the others, and operating independently of one another. This is one of the main reasons that the nation of Nifflgarde, itself, evolved the way it did: from hundreds of petty kings ruling over small territories that first ignored one another, then fought with one another, then began to trade and make alliances, and finally organized under a single high king, who was elected from among their midst and acted primarily as the first peer of many. Drakenmount followed that evolution along with many other towns, but it had the advantage of a strong freshwater source in the Wyrm-tongue River, and a larger than average fjord in which to shelter. The river provided not only a constant flow of fresh water, but it became a natural center for trade up and down stream, as well as across the bay with the Dedannan people.

The flow of trade brought wealth from other parts of the region, and caused Drakenmount to grow faster than the other villages nearby, so that eventually it outstripped all other towns within a hundred miles and more. And when the first high king was elected, he put his royal seat in Drakenmount, christening it as the royal city and making it the budding nation’s capital.

Drakenmount got its name from the tallest mountain that overshadows the region, rising up almost vertically from the sea on the north side of the fjord. Its peak was originally merely misshapen, not rising smoothly to a point but almost seeming to tumble upwards from its base, forming a jumble of oddly-shaped rock at the top. From a distance, and from certain angles of approach, especially the sea, the shape suggested the head of a great dragon.

In later years, one of Nifflgarde’s early kings commissioned a sculptor to form the mountain peak into something more obviously reminiscent of its namesake. Thus began a fifty-year project, one which spanned the lives of three master sculptors, two kings, and numerous stonemasons and other workers, until finally it was completed. Now, from any distance less than twenty miles on a clear day, and from any angle, the dragon shape is fairly obvious.

Because of this project, and its impressive results, Drakenmount has been declared one of the wonders of the world of Men, and scholars and artists from all points of the map travel to this place simply to look upon it. No one is allowed to climb the mountain, though many make the pilgrimage to its base, simply to get the closest view that they can. The locals, for their part, merely smile and shake their heads. They do not understand why such a thing should be so impressive, for all it took was a focused application of effort and resources, which to them seems not such an impressive feat.

Those who understand the local mindset, actually consider that to be the most impressive thing about the Nifflgarde people. These people work harder than most, and think nothing of it, even when the results of their work draws thousands of pilgrims every year to the most obvious evidence of their strong work ethic.

Those of a more cynical persuasion merely roll their eyes, and say that the shaping of a mountain over a fifty-year period and multiple generations is actually more reflective of the sheer bloody-minded stubbornness of the Men of Nifflgarde. They are, perhaps, not entirely wrong.