3.40 High, Ho, High, Ho

Location: Akka Mountains
Time: Sixth Age, Summer to Winter 49

It had taken him nearly two years, but finally my minion Ramssee was successfully able to progress a plan that promised entrance into the Akka Mountains.

Did that mean I would soon get my hands on The Grim?

Alas, not quite.

After King Diked’s decree annexing the lands of Akka, two things happened.

  • First off, General Alec made the prudent decision to compel the king to send a decree to the lords and landholders of Orkney, letting them know they needed to be on high alert in the event Alec called them to muster in defense of the kingdom should one of their rivals attack because they disputed the annexation claim. (1)
  • Secondly, after nearly a month of planning and resource allocation in advance of the expedition, a new problem emerged. It seemed that, while the upper class of society had all been inspired by Ramssee’s promises, it was the working class people – the ones who would be doing the actual mining operations – that remained obstinate.

The Chief Advisor had to meet with numerous craft guilds throughout the taverns of Orkney during the remainder of that summer – he listened to their concerns about ‘the land of dwarf death’ and tried to show them the appearance of compassion. Ramssee’s efforts were made a bit more difficult because he couldn’t just goad these surfs into action by using his “World Power” argument that concerned the kingdom as a whole, but instead had to use a more personal persuasion – convincing the workers that while there might be a slight risk to them with this project, the possibility of unearthing untold riches that could provide for the miners’ families for centuries to come was worth the peril. (2)

In the end, Ramssee was able to convince The Fubar Forty-Niners (3) to make the short journey to Akka’s Door. Unfortunately that little win didn’t last long because the group hesitated again and it took another personal visit by Ramssee to spur the stone cutters into actually opening up the abandoned dwarf kingdom’s now collapsed entranceway.

Eventually, after coaxing from Ramssee at every step in the mining operation, finally the mining operation began in earnest in the last week of first month of the Autumn of 49 – the viperz’ persuasion was made all the more effective by the fact that none of the miners became sick and when this news made its way back to Fubar, The Chief Advisor’s credibility skyrocketed.

Once the massive stone doors to Akka’s halls were opened (4), and teams of miners ventured inside, they were met with a glorious sight.

“The advisor spake the truth!” One of the men gasped as his eyes ogled glittering gems and gold coins strewn about in plain sight (5).

“We’re rich!” Another miner rejoiced, quickly stuffing his pockets with jewels.

“Not so fast.” The foreman warned. The man’s name was Sully and he’d been picked for his position because of his no-nonsense demeanor and ability to command the men. “Remember, all this belongs to the king and The Advisor needs ta review it all before ya get yer share. Pack what ya find in the chests.”

For the next week, the miners had no time to do any mining because the men were all busy collecting the wealth of Akka and packing it for transport back to Fubar. Meanwhile Foreman Sully wisely sent word back to The Chief Advisor requesting a military guard accompany the transport team as well as more guards to be stationed at Akka.

When he received the foreman’s request. Ramssee couldn’t have been happier to honor the request. Chuckling to himself he thought, Master Sully – you are a man of wisdom. They’ll surely be a place for you in my kingdom.

Not only did the viperz give Foreman Sully the armed guards to protect the transport caravans and the mines themselves, but (as an added measure of security), Ramssee had Orkney troops complete a pat down of every miner who entered or left Akka in order to ‘protect’ The People’s Wealth

Eventually, when people of Fubar began to see the regular transports of crates being escorted by the Orkney Army, it didn’t take long for word to be spread like wildfire through the taverns about the ‘unimaginable riches of Akka” and while the people themselves never laid eyes on that wealth, the legends about it grew and grew.

Naturally the Chief Advisor was the first to inspect everything – setting up special storerooms for all deliveries to be housed. Thus is Ramssee personally catalogue all the chests full of gold coins, the assortment of glittering gem-encrusted goblets and pots, and ornate weaponry never before seen by human eyes – many being priceless works of art. 

Some of this wealth made it’s way to the king (5) and thus did Diked Dinus began to get very rich, very fast – just like his Chief Advisor had promised him.

A very small amount of the wealth was distributed to the other lords of Orkney — for Ramssee wisely instructed the king that it was important to keep the landholders invested in the success of the Akka project in order maintain access to their manpower.

To keep the noise high among the people and grow their Orkney pride, The Chief Advisor occasionally appeared in public and passed out a few trinkets to the commoners – thus did Ramssee being to become even more popular than the king.

A tiny fraction of the tiniest fraction of the wealth collected from Akka by the miners actually made its way back to the miners. At first it was to be distributed every fortnight by Foreman Sully to his men, but when the men saw the miniscule amount they were to be paid, they complained of being cheated and accused Sully of stealing from them. As a result, Ramssee himself showed up and saw to the distributions – persuading each man that his generous share was ‘well-earned,’ that his name was ‘personally recognized at court by the king,’ and that more rewards would soon be coming his way after the ‘tedious cataloguing process was completed.’

“King Dinus and I are so very proud of you, men.” The Chief Advisor spoke to the forty-niners on his first Pay Day visit, his eyes swirling their magic. “What you’re earning here is a princely sum – more than you’d make in many years back home, right?” When the men cheered their agreement, Ramssee continued. “That’s why I’ve arranged to help you protect it. I think you’ll agree that it’s far too dangerous for anyone to keep their income here at Akka while you’re still mining, therefore we’ll hold your earnings in reserve for you at the Royal Treasury – the safest place in all of Orkney. You can thus keep working here without fear of having your earnings at risk and, at the end of year, when your term of employment is up, your wealth will be paid in a lump sum to you and your family to enjoy. How does that sound?” The miners eagerly agreed and their shouts were so loud that nobody heard The Advisor add, “Of course, any storage charges and processing fees will necessarily be deducted from your sum prior to calculating your final payment, but we’ll worry about those details later, right?”

Although most of the wealth of Akka (coins, gems, plates, etc.) were transported to Fubar every fortnight, it had long since been established that Foreman Sully was to ensure that all weapons collected at Akka were to be placed in special containers and shipped to Fubar immediately. This rule was implemented by Ramssee, ostensibly ‘for the protection of the minors,’ but in reality to ensure that The Grim did not get snatched up by some hapless miner looking for a prize to remember his efforts. Unfortunately, while countless Drokka weapons were received in Fubar, the viperz never came across any that matched the description of the Grim.

In a rather fortuitous turn of events, the Winter of 49 was especially mild in Orkney and this not only allowed the miners to continue operations, but also kept travel between Fubar and Akka open – thus it was that Ramssee took to visiting Akka more than ever. Upon ever inspection, the viperz doggedly questioned Foreman Sully about any dirks or daggers that might have been found among the armories and while many such blades were found, none of these matched The Grim’s description either.

Despite these disappointments, the situation was not something that Ramssee and Kaoz were surprised by – for The Shaitan had told them both that The Grim was likely locked away in The Deepest Depths of Akka. 

“When do you expect your teams will be able to delve into the mines?” Ramssee asked the foreman as they walked through the former throne room of Akka.

The room now largely bare after the bodies of the dead dwarves and all their possessions has long since been cleared away, yet even without the accouterments of its former glory, the room bespoke of power – for the Drokka were unparalleled stone masons and the intricate beauty of the centuries of work they’d invested into the room remained awe-inspiring.

Sully couldn’t hide a look of confusion on his face as he stood with his back to one of the massive pillars that supported the giant cavern – the column itself still showed sings of gold and gems inlaid near its upper regions since the miners hadn’t managed to extract those hard to reach places yet. “I don’t understand, mi’ lord. I was tol’ the goal was ta extract the wealth of Akka – an’ that’s what my men hav’ been doin’ fer ya.”

Now it was The Chief Advisor’s turn to be confused. “I thought I was clear that the only orders you were to follow were mine? Whose authority could possibly be higher than mine?”

Although the foreman was nearly twice the size of the viperz, when the big man saw the fire in the Advisor’s eyes, Sully cowered back. “But, but…it was the king!”

It took everything in Ramssee power to keep himself under control and not murder the foreman on the spot. As it was, the viperz screamed his rage and stormed out of the mountain – commanding his bodyguards to get him back to Fubar as fast as possible, driving the team of horses that pulled his carriage to their deaths in order to deliver him at the palace before sun up the following morning.

Barging into Diked’s room, Ramssee shook the king awake – causing the still sleeping boy to scream for help.

Diked’s yelps brought a host of guards, but The Chief Advisor assured them the king was well and then he bade them stand guard at the door in order to give them something to do. After closing the door and returning to the king’s bed, the viperz could see that Diked had come to his senses, but was still confused.

“Why did you visit Akka without telling me?” Ramssee barked. “Why did you tell the foreman to have his men keep collecting treasure and not mine? Why did you give an order that was counter to my own?”

Diked held up his hands to try to ward off the viperz’ verbal assault. When at last his Advisor stopped, the terrified king stammered, “I…I don’t understand. I thought you wanted me to be rich? What does it matter whether my treasures come from the miners actually digging or if they just scoop it up where it lies? So long as they deliver it to me, right?” And the boy reached over to his night stand and proudly held up a belt that contained no less than a thousand two-carat diamonds and emeralds. “Why, this alone is worth more than my father’s coffers ever held!”

“Give me that!” Ramssee snatched the belt. In his rage, the viperze smacked the belt against the wall – the baldric broke apart, sending gemstones flying in all directions. “That’s what I think of your precious trinket!”

“That’s okay,” Diked laughed nervously, trying to seem unfazed. “I have another just like it.”

“Do you now?” Ramssee narrowed his eyes as he observed the teenage king. After a sigh, he tried a new approach. “Diked, do you not see how blind you are being? I realize it might appear that there is great wealth in the upper chambers of Akka, but trust me, it is not enough to make Orkney any better than Primcitta or Estalay. Don’t you see, we have not even tapped the surface of what Akka has to offer.”

The king’s eyes lit up at the thought, “I had no idea.”

Seeing his approach was working the viperz didn’t even bother to use his persuasiveness as he continued. “My king, let me assure you that, what is coming to us now is merely of a quality that should be left to clean-up crews after the main excavations are completed. Diked, do you not realize that we have not even opened the passageway to The Deepest Depths – wherein lies the True Treasure Trove? Just think of what could be awaiting you there?”

“What?” Diked gasped.

“Alas, even I don’t have the specifics.” Ramssee spoke in conspiratorial tones. “But what I do know is that the Drokka Treasure Trove houses the type of wealth that will thrust Orkney into a position not only atop Daytaxia, but even over great Karkamesh too! With such wealth your name will not just be known here, but instead will be written amongst the stars!”

“My name written in the stars…” The king let the thought trail away as he envisioned his fame.

Unfortunately for Ramssee, inciting King Diked’s greed and having the royal decree that his miners should put all their efforts into opening the blocked passageways of Akka was not enough to overcome the actual physics of the situation, for when the head foreman reported back a few weeks later he did not bear good news.

“My lords,” Sully addressed King Diked and Ramssee, bowing to each in turn as he held his hammer-beaten iron hat in his hands. The hard-working stocky serf wore his usual overalls and, as always, they were covered in grime – for the foreman worked as hard as his men. Explaining further he said, “the task ya request of my men is monumental. Greater ‘an anythin’ we’ve undertaken.”

“Then be great,” patronized The Advisor, “Rise up, man, and provide your King with that which he desires – the True Riches of Akka.”

“If only we could, my lord,” the miner bowed deeper at the waist. Then turning to the king he said, “Forgive my ignorance, sire, but there’s still more ‘en enough in them treasure rooms from the upper chambers to let you buy all the Salt in Inle if ya wanted to. Mayhap I’ve not made myself clear with my messengers, so, let me say it agin in plain Common, Sire — we don’t really need to do no diggin’ for your riches, my lord ‘cuz it’s still all at our fingertips just waiting to be picked up!”

For his part, Diked knew not how to respond, for like his smiling foreman, the king also believed there was more than enough wealth to be had just by having his men pick up what the dwarves left laying behind. He could see as much everywhere he looked even and was about to agree that Sully, but before he could get a word out, it was the Royal Steward who spoke up first.

“Perhaps I have not made myself clear,” Spat Ramssee, glaring at the Chief Miner. “It is not for you to question the orders of King Diked. We do not have to explain to you the merits of our plan. Nor do we need you to give us your worthless opinion, either.” And grabbing the bigger man by the shirt collar, The Advisor yelled at him, “Now, tell us the status of opening the way regarding the passageway I marked for you!”

“Oh, that one,” laughed the barrel-chested man, unfazed by the smaller-framed Advisor’s threats. Carefully removing his shirt from Ramssee’s grasp, Sully took a step back, then respectfully replied, “I’m afraid the passageway you’re talkin’ about is most difficult of ’em all. It’ll take us a long time just to clear all the debris and then to cut through them quarter stones. In fact—“

“HOW LONG?” grated Ramssee, unwilling to let the miner amble on with his explanation.

“Hmmm,” Sully did some quick calculations in his head, “Well, I gotta guesstimate what’s behind the stones I can see, ya know…”But, sensing the anger welling up in his audience, he quickened his figuring. “Best guess, I’d say about a year or two to break through all the rubble.”

“WHAT?!?” Ramssee shouted in disbelief. “A YEAR? Why, that’s impossible!”

“Beg pardon, sir, but I believe that’s right.” Sully affirmed. “See, ya got these solid blocks of marble that I can see behind some of them quarter stones; now how them dwarves got that marble back there I don’t know ‘cuz that stone ain’t from around here, but I’ll be damned if that ain’t part of this avalanche that’s barring our way.”

“I don’t believe you.” Hissed The Advisor. “You just don’t want to complete the task I’ve given you, lazy man. Why, see if I don’t withhold your stipend,” he threatened, “your family will starve.”

“Now, now, Sir.” Sully tried to calm his betters. “Don’t do nothing drastic like that. And don’t take my word for it, if ya don’t believe me. Why not come and see for yerself? Perhaps ya can show old Sully here what I’m doing wrong.”

“I believe I will!” Ramssee shot back. “If you’re lying, I’ll have your hide hanging on the walls of the city gates!”

Sully’s head never did hang from Fubar’s gates, for when he accompanied the foreman down to the lower levels to see for himself, Ramssee had to agree that the Chief Miner was telling the truth. The fact is that, when The Steward had first visited the entrance to the passageway down to the Deepest Depths, the viperz had only ever seen loose debris – massive stones to be sure, but clearly movable by the machinations of the day. Yet, upon this new visit with the foreman and the king, even though Ramssee could see that progress had been made and all the unwedged stones had been moved out by Sully’s miners, it was now painfully obvious (even Ramssee’s untrained engineering eyes) that the next step towards clearing a path would require a super-human effort indeed.

“How does one go about moving such a blockade?” The king asked, with mouth agape at the twenty-foot high, thirty-foot wide, intricately woven avalanche that barred the way.

The usually glib Advisor was silent and Ramssee even let his shoulders slump, for so discouraged was he at the sight – doubting that such an endeavor was even possible and believing his plans to be foiled.

Seeing the hopeless sag in The Steward’s shoulders, Sully patted him hard on the back and said in a chipper voice, “Fear not, Cap’n, we’ll git ‘er done! Don’t you none worry about Sully and his men, this way will be open. All in good time.” And, pulling out a smoke stick and offering one to Ramssee he asked, “Got a light?”

Nektar’s Notes

  1. Although Alec’s preparation was wise, it was largely unnecessary – this is because The Royal Steward intentionally overlooked the standard statecraft decorum historically shared by the nations of eastern TerrVerde – specifically Ramssee failed to send any decrees about the Annexation of Akka by the Kindgom of Orkney to any of the other nation states on the continent. Because none of Orkney’s rivals knew about the annex, it remained all quiet on the southern front. Ramssee’s oversight was not only intentional but also astute – first off because any war would have drastically reduced the available manpower for Akka’s mining operation, and secondly because the viperz didn’t plan on keeping Diked around very long and planned to blame the soon-to-be-gone king for any diplomatic problems that might arise in the future. It was a problem that he, King Ramssee I, planned to solve by decrying the annexation – the viperz assumed that he wouldn’t need to institute this part of the plan until AFTER The Grim was found, thus removing the need for Akka to be part of Orkney, HOWEVER it was a concession he planned to make only in exchange for various peace-keeping concessions from whatever nation might dispute the claim AND the formal recognition by said international authority of Ramssee himself (and his heirs) as the rightful rulers of Orkney in perpetuity. And that, my friends, is how royal bloodlines are created.
  2. This was of course an outright lie – for any ‘riches’ the serfs might discover was BY LAW the property of King Diked Dinus I – said law being part of the legalese wording that was incorporated into the Annexation of Akka document – yes that same document that The Chief Advisor so conveninetly forgot to share with the world. It was “on public display” for anyone who wanted to read it in the (new) Annexation Library – unfortunately the library (and the parchment it housed) was located in a most inconvenient location in the bowels of Fubar castle – beneath even the sub-level dungeons and available by appointment only via a quite complicated bureaucratic process that was unnavigable by design.
  3. There were 49 miners in the group.
  4. Unlike the dwarves of The Rhokii Mountains, the stone men of Akka didn’t use any special magic to keep the doorways to their kingdom sealed. This is because the dwarves of Akka were so full of pride in their ability to protect themselves and because they foolishly believed their remote location was far-removed from the dangers of The West. As a result, Akka’s entranceway wasn’t hard for the Orkney miners to open.
  5. He conveniently overlooked the bodies of the dead dwarves.
  6. But most did not. For Ramssee embezzled over 90% of the Akka wealth back to the secret caches he created on the property of his villa.
  7. Hmm, I wonder how that happened?

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