For millennia, Melankul enjoyed a small population of barely 1,000 souls, including the few outside elves seeking respite from the desert heat. The desert elves were wholly unprepared for the failure of the wards that bound the Frozen Lotus of Laleiven, due in part to their magical regression as a species over the past thousand years and because the purpose of the wards was unknown at the time. The spread of the ice was not fast by any means – merely a few inches a day – but it was relentless. The desert city quickly ran out of burnable goods as they lit a series of bonfires along the edge of the ice, supplementing the heat with what meager fire magic they could muster. After a few weeks of trying and failing to keep the ice at bay, Cathis Icewarden knew they had to turn to outsiders if they had any hope in saving their city.
This decision was not an easy one. The thought of non-elves walking on this sacred ground was blasphemy to many of her followers, but she was not an elf to be dissuaded from making hard but necessary choices. To make matters worse, the only group of humanoids she could turn to was a group of surly dwarves that lived under the nearby Chokesun Mountains. Historically, the two populations had an uneasy peace that only remained intact because they did not interact with each other often. That would need to change if the elves were to save their city and stop the inexhaustible spread of ice.
Perhaps surprisingly, the dwarves agreed to help and soon marched on the city en masse. Many of the residents of Melankul were suspicious of this and prepared for battle in case the dwarves were using this guise of helpfulness to ambush the desperate elves. Again, perhaps surprisingly, the dwarves truly were there to offer assistance. While the elves continued to melt the ice with what fire magic, the dwarves began constructing great machines that would gouge and scrape the ice, rending massive blocks from its surface which could then be transported out of the city.
The city was saved, but the ice needed to be continuously harvested lest it spread beyond control. Again, against the wishes of many of her elven brethren, Cathis invited the dwarves to stay in the city and profit from the ice however they could, so long as they continued helping keep the ice at bay. The leader of the dwarves, Mirwo Deepspit, was no fool and saw great avenues for profit now that the ice had been contained. After all, it doesn’t get much easier than selling water in a desert. Most of the dwarves abandoned their home under the Chokesun mountains and began excavating new dwellings beneath Melankul that would grow over time to become the Underwarren. Once the dwarves were settled, the elves and dwarves set their efforts to creating massive reservoirs outside of the city’s walls where the ice could be melted and sold or used to irrigate the thirsty ground. Though the first few years of cohabitating were difficult, soon Melankul’s economy was thriving and the people were, for the most part, happy to share in the bounty.
And then around thirty years ago, the humans arrived. Hundreds of humans came to take advantage of Melankul’s growth, setting up shanty towns outside of the city’s white walls. After the refugees brought a plague with them that ravaged the city, Mirwo was on the cusp of setting fire to their sea of tents to drive the interlopers away. Cathis interceded on the humans behalf, recognizing them for what they were – desperate refugees looking for a place to prosper. Mirwo hesitantly agreed to let them stay, though he set one condition – any able-bodied human who wanted to live in Melankul had to work.
The dwarves set the would-be citizens to the task of building a new ring of walls around the city large enough to encompass their growing number. It was grueling work in the desert heat, but the humans were desperate their desperation drove them harder than any whip or punishment. Over time, this new ring filled with life as humans built taverns and houses and public squares. Soon their numbers grew so large that they demanded representation on the city council. Mirwo and Cathis both agreed, and soon they were joined by a young woman named Sister Ginthe, a beloved midwife and healer who tended the city’s poorest.
Together, these three leaders ruled over Melankul for the last twenty years, overseeing massive construction projects such as the aqueducts, the public gardens, and acres of forest beyond the city’s southern borders. Not all is well in Melankul, however. Mirwo has recently fallen ill and the dwarves are already arguing amongst themselves who will take his place on the council. Cathis is worried about this change in leadership, and sees more changes brooding on the horizon as her short-lived human counterpart grows older with every passing winter.
Still, Cathis believes the city will endure, as it always has. Though, if the last half-century is any indication, there’s no telling what the years will bring.