The Age of Exploration

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But in time even the wonders of fair Atlantis paled, and the Ten Brothers began to wonder what lay beyond the shores of their island home. They went forth on voyages of exploration and adventure, to experience what the wide world had to offer. Even Vondarien himself travelled the world, appointing one of his brothers (usually Mestor) to serve as Atlan in his stead for decades or centuries. Even today, tales of the Ten Brothers’ adventures in the lands before the coming of the Dominion are told reverently around hearths and campfires throughout the Atlantean realms. Some of the best-known include:

VONDARIAN AND THE CLEVER QUEEN

During one of his many journeys of exploration, Vondarien came to a land ruled by a queen tall and proud. Esharra was her name, and her beauty was surpassed only by her guile and wit. Yet she was not the most lovely woman in the land, for she had a daughter, Alita, more beauteous still than she.

When Vondarien presented himself to the queen as a suitor for her daughter’s hand, Esharra scorned him. “Never have I heard of this “Atlantis” that you claim to rule, adventurer. I see little about you that suggests the nobility of a king, only the trappings and bluster of a wanderer.”

Now at that time, Vondarien had not yet come into his full power, but even then he was mighty enough to destroy the queen’s palace and everyone in it as repayment for her insolence and foolery. Yet he knew if he did that, Alita would nevermore look upon him with favour. So he thought himself another way to win through to his goal. “If you doubt me, majesty, set for me tasks, that I may prove my value to you and my worthiness for your daughter’s fair hand.”

The queen gave some thought to this. Many monsters and perils menaced her land, defying the efforts of her mightiest warriors. Surely this outlander could do no better! And even if he did succeed, other ways could be found to dispose of him. “Very well, if you insist on meeting your doom in my lands. Three tasks I will set you, each more difficult than the last. And you complete them all, my daughter’s hand in marriage you shall have.”

The Task Of The Sharakkian Ram
“The first task is this: go forth from this place, to the mountains of the north, and capture alive the Sharakkian Ram and bring him back to my herds.” Vondarien scoffed when he heard this, for how difficult could it be to catch one mountain-ram? He set out with a will, and reached the mountains in but two days. Nor did he have to hunt long for the Ram, which soon sensed his presence and came against him. Gigantic it was, with terrible round horns and sharp-edged hooves. Casting aside his sword, for to kill the Ram was not his desire, Vondarien leapt forth to grapple the beast and bring it to ground. Great was his surprise when the fearsome beast threw him aside like a dog shaking water from its fur, and then charged him!

For the rest of that day, Vondarien and the Ram fought, neither able to defeat or elude the other. The beast resisted both strength and spell alike, but Vondarien’s cleverness and speed kept it from scoring a telling blow against him. As night fell the two parted, knowing they would rejoin battle the next day.

As he rested by his campfire that night, Vondarien had a visitor: the Princess Alita! “Listen carefully,” she said, “for I have not much time. As you now know, the Sharakkian Ram is a magical creature, created by the gods of these mountains. To defeat it, you must have a special magic.” She pressed into his hand a length of ribbon, slender and fragile-looking. “Use this, which I have taken from my mother’s hoard. Cast it about the Ram’s neck and it shall bend readily to your will.” With that she departed and returned to her home.

The next morning Vondarien arose early and went once more in search of the Ram. When he found it, it charged him, eager to destroy him once and for all. But he deftly stepped out of the path of the charge and threw the ribbon over the Ram’s neck. Instantly the Ram became tame and docile, ready to obey his commands.

Vondarien was well-satisfied, but he knew he could not bring the Ram to Queen Esharra this way, lest she learn her daughter had given him the ribbon. So he built himself a forge, melted down his orichalcum sword, and crafted from the metal a set of heavy chains. Then he crafted himself a chariot from the wood of nearby trees, placed the chains on the Ram, and removed the ribbon. As powerful as it was, the Ram could not break orichalcum chains… and so Vondarien forced it to pull his chariot all the way back to the queen! “Here, my lady, is the Ram that you requested, for the betterment of your herds. I await your next task.” And standing next to her mother’s throne, Princess Alita smiled a secret smile.

The Task Of Slaying The Giant
“As your second task,” said Queen Esharra, “you must slay the three headed Giant of Naxonnath, who has ravaged the southern parts of our realm for many years.”

Since he had melted down his sword to form the Ram’s chains, Vondarien took his spear and shield and went in search of the monster. After he journeyed south for several days, he came upon the desolation wreaked by the giant. Following the trail of destruction and death he found a cave, and he could hear within the cave a loud snoring. He banged his spear upon his shield and shouted, “Come forth, come forth, fell Giant, and meet thy doom!”

Out from his lair the Giant lumbered. Four times as tall as a man, he was wearing the heaviest armour Vondarien had ever seen, and his weapon was a gargantuan axe. The two joined battle, and Vondarien quickly found himself in peril. The Giant’s armour and leathery skin were enough to turn aside even his enchanted spear, and his own magics were potent enough to thwart most of Vondarien’s spells. Several times that day the Giant’s axe came within a hair’s breadth of lopping off one of Vondarien’s limbs, or even his head. As dusk fell the two retired from the field, agreeing to fight again in the morning.

As he nursed his wounds by his campfire, Vondarien had a visitor: the Princess Alita! “Listen carefully,” she said, “for I have not much time. As you now know, the Giant is so well-protected that you cannot harm him. But I have heard tales that say the weakest part of his armour is the top of his helmets, since he has no fear of being attacked by anyone taller than he. Use this knowledge to your advantage.” With that she departed and returned to her home.

The next morning Vondarien arose early and joined the Giant on the field of battle. As the Giant charged, his axe whistling in the wind, Vondarien executed a mighty leap, and as he passed over the Giant he drove his spear down into the middle head and into the Giant’s body. The Giant fell over dead. Vondarien used the Giant’s own axe to chop off his three heads to take back to the queen as proof of his deed. “Here, my lady, are the heads of the Giant you bid me slay. I await your next task.” And standing next to her mother’s throne, Princess Alita smiled a secret smile.

The Task Of The Heart’s Desire
“The third task is the hardest of all,” said Queen Esharra. “If you would win the hand of my daughter, you must bring me… my heart’s desire!”

Vondarien despaired, for he had no way of reading the cold queen’s heart and knowing what she desired the most. He searched the land for the most beautiful flowers, but the Queen just shook her head. He dug in the mountains for the largest, prettiest gemstones, but the Queen just shook her head. He crafted works of art beautiful enough to make a man weep, and even enchanted items of power for her, but all she would do was shake her head.

As he sat glumly by his campfire, trying to think of another gift he could try, Vondarien had a visitor: the Princess Alita! “Listen carefully,” she said, “for I have not much time. The thing my mother desires most is obvious to all but yourself: your death!” “But how can I accomplish that, and still win your hand?” Vondarien said.

“You cannot… or at least, you cannot alone. Together we can defeat her. Take this,” she said, pressing a small phial into his hand. “There is a woman at court who is a witch, and she has made me this potion. Drink it, and you shall be as one dead for an hour. When you awaken, you can claim me as your bride-to-be.” With that she departed and returned to her home.

Dubious of the weak and petty magic of a non-Atlantean, Vondarien realized he had no choice. He went to a place in the palace where he knew someone would find him and drank the potion. Soon word reached the queen that the great hero was dead! Her servants brought Vondarien’s body into the throne room, and she crowed with delight to see her nemesis laid low. But when one hour had passed, Vondarien awakened and arose. “You have had your heart’s desire, though it lasted but an hour,” he said. “Now grant me mine — the hand of your daughter fair and wise.”

Gritting her teeth in anger, the queen realized she had no choice. To Vondarien she gave the Princess Alita in marriage. Vondarien took her back with him to noble Atlantis, where she was one of his favourite wives for many years and bore him many fine children.

MESTOR AND THE SUNFIRE DEMON

During those times when he explored the world, Mestor the Scholar was ever looking for new lore, new spells, and greater wisdom. No subject was small enough to avoid his gaze.

One day in a distant land he heard tell of a wizard said to be skilled at the conjuration of demons from the Nether Realms, and he determined to visit this man and learn from him. He set out in the direction of the wizard’s town, walking as he preferred to do. Several days later, as he approached his destination, he saw a plume of smoke in the sky. Not long after, groups of men and women began hurrying past him, running away from the smoke.

He stopped one of the fleeing men and asked him what had happened. “Our wizard’s tower was destroyed in a mighty blast of flame!” the man cried in fear and anguish. “A terrible demon is there now, and it will slay us all if we do not escape!” With that he tore himself loose from Mestor’s grasp and continued running.

Mestor hurried onward and soon came to the remnants of a town. Most of the buildings were burned or burning, and the large stone tower in the very centre of the town was shattered.
And at the top of the tower, burning like the flame at the tip of a candle, was the largest fire demon Mestor had ever seen.

Before he could move, the fire demon saw him and swooped down on him. “Ho, ho, little manling!” it said in a voice like the crackling of flames. “It seems that you were too foolish not to flee, and now I shall roast you and feed on your essence!”

“Perhaps,” said Mestor. “But you may find out you have bitten off more than you can chew. Where is your master?”

Taken aback by Mestor’s confident air, the fire demon snarled, “Dead! Dead like all others who have dared to stand against me!”

“You are indeed the mightiest of your kind that I have ever seen. Are you a prince among demons?”
“Never before, but I shall be soon! The wizard who lived here called me up to do his bidding. All was going as planned — and then Lord Helios carelessly dropped one of his sunbeams, and it fell into me! I became too strong for the old wizard to hold, and he died for his insolence. Now I am stronger than any fire demon has ever been, and I will destroy you and any others who get in my way!” With that the fire demon lashed out at Mestor — only to find its blast blocked by Mestor’s protective magics! With a fiery snarl the demon struck again and again, but Mestor’s power thwarted it every time.

For hours the battle raged, neither able to gain the upper hand. Night came, and fair Selene the moon began her journey across the sky. Knowing that moonlight would be the opposite of sunlight, beseeched her: “Lady Selene, father-sister, illuminator in the darkness, give now this demon one of your beams as Lord Helios did earlier to-day!”
Hearing his plea, and finding it good, the Lady Selene hurled one of her beams at the fire demon. It struck him, and the power of Helios’s sun-fire withered. Reduced in stature to an ordinary fire demon, the creature was no match for Mestor’s magics.

EUAEMON AND THE TREACHEROUS LEMURIAN

One of the most peripatetic of the Ten Brothers was Euaemon, called the Mariner for his love of sailing, exploration, and trade. His greatest joy was new seas and new lands, hearing and learning a tongue that was strange to him, and meeting the other peoples of the world. But once his wanderlust nearly spelled his doom, when he was the first Atlantean to meet a son of the Lemurian Empire.

Euaemon and his crew had sailed far to the West, into the sea now called the Tellaric, and had made port at a city none of them had ever visited before. As they mingled with the strange people and ate their strange food, a man approached Euaemon. Handsome he was, with a noble bearing, and he introduced himself as Voralus of Lemuria, a merchant. “I see that you have come to port with a large ship that rides low in the waves. I am a trader, the richest in all this land, ever eager for new goods to offer my customers. As newcomers to this land I think you must have wondrous things no one here has ever seen, and I will offer you the best price for them in trade.”

Flattered by his kind words, Euaemon took the man on a tour of his hold, showing him the goods he’d brought from Atlantis for trade — wines, furs, delicate craftworks, and much more. Suitably impressed, Voralus quickly concluded a deal to exchange cloth, some fine drink, and two books of lore for Euaemon’s wine.

That night Euaemon and his crew celebrated at a nearby hostel, where they spent the night to escape the rocking of the waves. But when they went down to the docks the next morning, a horrible sight greeted them: their ship had sunk into the water! Euaemon struggled aboard to discover his hold entirely empty, and a large hole cut in the side. It took little thought to realize what had happened: Voralus the Lemurian had used some magic spell or device to open the hull and steal all the goods, knowing from his tour of the hold where best to enter!
Enraged, Euaemon went in search of Voralus, only to discover that he’d set sail in the middle of the night. Returning to his damaged ship, Euaemon used his magical powers to lift the vessel out of the water and then repair the hole in its side. He and his men rushed aboard and set out in pursuit of the treacherous Lemurian.

Euaemon called down the winds to fill his sails, sending his ship over the waters with the speed of an arrow. In just a few hours the Lemurian ship was in sight. As the Atlanteans’ ship closed, Voralus commanded his crew to fire their Pyrobombards. But their fiery missiles were not enough to stop one of the Ten Brothers. Euaemon’s power flung the fireballs aside. Then he called forth a gigantic hand of water that grabbed the Lemurian ship and held it fast. The Atlanteans swarmed aboard, slaughtering the Lemurians who dared to resist them and driving the others overboard.

Euaemon himself slew Voralus, who proved to be no mean sorcerer, and pinned his corpse to the deck with a harpoon. After the Atlanteans emptied the Lemurian ship’s cargo hold, Euaemon placed a spell of homeseeking on it so that the Lemurians would see the folly of tricking or attacking Atlanteans. And then he sailed for home, bringing a rich cargo and warning word of a people who would become Atlantis’s greatest foe.

AZAES AND THE TARANTH

Though not so great a hunter as his brother Ampheres, Azaes always enjoyed the chase, and in his travels always sought for beasts that could challenge him. One day while travelling in the lands east of Atlantis he heard from an old man about a fearsome monster known as the taranth. “As large as a house it is,” the old man said. “Its body is that of a bull, with the scales, neck, head, and wings of dragon. Its feet have claws instead of hooves, and its tail is a venomous serpent. It belches forth poisoned vapours to blind and stun its foes, and then tears them to shreds and devours their flesh. Beware!”

Azaes could not resist such a challenge and went in search of the monster, asking everyone he met where it might be found. Soon he came near its lair and heard the sound of its bellowing, louder than a brass gong. Following the sound, he approached a cave. Not wanting to fight the monster in there, he began to hurl large stones inside. Soon the monster lumbered forth to do battle.

The taranth was even larger and more fearsome than Azaes had heard, but his heart did not quail. With a great battle cry he leaped forward, raising his sword high and slashing down on the monster’s neck to cut off its terrible head. But its dragons’ scales were proof even against an orichalcum blade forged in fair Atlantis, and Azaes’s attack was thwarted. He leaped aside as the monster clawed at him. They battled back and forth, neither able to gain advantage over the other… and then the taranth breathed forth its poisonous vapours! Blinded and in pain, Azaes barely escaped the monster’s clutches, vowing to return the next day and finish what he’d started.

Realizing he needed to use cleverness as much as strength, Azaes bethought him of a cunning stratagem: his sword could not pierce the monster’s scales… but what about its own claws and fangs? And if vulnerable to its own fangs, might it not also be vulnerable to its own venom? He went out to confront the monster once more. This time after he threw stones into its cave, he ran up and stood above the cave’s mouth. When the taranth came forth he leaped down upon its back and grabbed its tail. Terrible was the struggle, pitting Azaes’s muscles against the monster’s mighty thrashing, but the hero prevailed, dragging the tail down and stabbing the taranth in the back with it. The serpent’s fangs pierced its scales easily, and the monster’s roar of pain told Azaes that the venom was doing its work. He leaped clear of the monster and watched as it stumbled and clawed at itself, wounding itself as it tried to get rid of the agony. At last it crashed to the ground, dead. Azaes sawed off its head for a trophy and continued on his journeying.

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The Age of Exploration

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