Sometimes you just need to engage in a little exposition. I'm a big fan of "show, don't tell" when it comes to writing, but it would take an entire chapter or more to write the necessary dialogs and scenes that would provide the same information that I can give in a single brief exposition. And since I'm also a big fan of keeping the plot moving forward, I will take advantage of simple exposition when I deem it appropriate. Thus it was that I wrote the following scene, in which I lay out some basic history of the city of Graystone.
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Graystone began as a castle, the manor-keep of the Duke of Graystone. The history of the family was not atypical of the older Nûmidëan nobility, in that they began as local lords, kings of a tiny kingdom on an island with many such, before they unified. The land south of the River Asca was fertile farmland, and on the north side of the river were the woods of Illithëon. In those old days, Men had not yet made any agreements with the Elefdar, and some even thought they were only a myth designed to frighten children and fools.
They harvested the trees north of the river for a long time before the Elefdar became concerned with their appetite for wood. In later days, they reached an agreement that Men would go no further north of the river than one day’s travel from the castle, and were free to harvest trees within that radius of travel. If they tried to go further, the Elefdar were free to respond as they wished, to repel such an invasion. The benefit Men gained, was that the Elefdar would continue guarding their own borders from the goblins and trolls coming out of the Red Mountains in the west. This defense protected Men as well, since the goblin-kind rarely escaped the traps and ambushes of the Elefdar.
And so the Men of Graystone prospered through their harvesting of trees in the north, and their farming in the south, and a town grew up around the castle. As they expanded their wood harvesting, Men built a bridge across the river, and expanded their town into that area as well. The Elefdar watched from a distance, and marked this development with some concern. Men assured them that they would remain within the one-day radius of travel from the castle, and they were true to their word for many years.
In later days, after the Elefdar had largely removed themselves from the affairs of Men, some foolish counsel arose among those of Graystone that the Elefdar had departed their forests and perhaps even the entire island, and therefore Men should be free to harvest whatever wood they wanted. They looked upon those trees further to the north than they had previously dared to go, and saw that they were broad, tall and straight, and would make excellent timbers for ship building, and for the construction of great halls - and that they would enrich the dealers in timber, and the duke and his family.
And so it was that the duke of Graystone declared the former agreements with the Elefdar null, and an expedition was sent north into the woods of Illithëon, to cut and harvest the great trees growing at its southern boundary. The Elefdar were swift to respond, burning the camps of the woodsmen and driving them south with only their lives, and whatever they had been able to carry with them as they fled in panic.
The Elefdar followed them all the way to the city of Graystone, slaying no one but making sure that none escaped either. The woodsmen, and the Men who lived in the northern town, were driven all the way across the river, and then the Elefdar burned the buildings on the north side of the river. Then they waited, putting up a white flag of truce to see how the duke of Graystone would respond. For they knew not whether he would take wise counsel and entreat with them, or try to attack. And they spread themselves out along the river with many scouts and fighting companies, to ensure that no surprise attack would come from further up the river or from the eastern coast.
It was several days before the duke responded, and even the Elefdar feared what his response might be, as time went by. But the duke must have learned his lesson, for he sent an emissary across the river, and they renewed their agreement of old. Men would be allowed to cross the river once more, and even to rebuild their village on the north side. But they were to harvest no more than one day’s travel from the castle, as before. And the Elefdar would continue as the guardians of the northern regions, as they had always done.
And so the city of Graystone, both north and south of the river, prospered once again, and grew, though Men were careful not to let it grow too much on the north. Only a few Men dared take up permanent residence there, mainly woodsmen and those who traded with them. As the city grew to become a great shipyard on Kingfisher Bay, many shipwrights came and settled on the north side as well, to be close to where the timbers were collected and sorted out, some for export and some for local use.
Thus it was in Balfrith’s day, a center for timber collection and export, and a shipyard for Nûmidëan vessels. And Graystone became a great city in Nûmidëa, second only to Hightower where dwelled the king.