In the shrinking intellectual circles of the Empire of Splendour, Beraphol of Ten Thousand Ships is recognized as one of the most influential philosopher-mages in history. His writings and recorded speeches are required reading in many learning institutions, and have influenced scholars and mages for many years. Unfortunately, Beraphol was ill-respected in his lifetime due to a series of fiascos capped by the incident of the Barking Dogs.
At his home in the City of Ten Thousand Ships, Beraphol witnessed an accident with fireworks in which an assistant was flung into a wall with enough force to damage the plaster. After reconstructing the accident, Beraphol designed the first primitive gunpowder weapons. His theory caught the attention of the Imperial army, who paid him an obscene amount of money to build such weapons for them.
Beraphol commissioned six barrels to be cast of the finest metal. Each consisted of an untapered cylinder four feet long and ten inches in diameter, with a bore three inches in diameter extending three-quarters of the way to the end of the barrel. He spent a fortune building articulated carriages to move the barrels around, and on devising the shot for them: a leaden slug with a wick inserted down its length, packaged in a paper cartridge with the charge behind it. He bought a tract of farmland outside Ten Thousand Ships to use as a proving ground.
Eighteen months, two barrels, a dozen assistants and a large amount of money later, the army asked Beraphol to show them something, anything, to justify the costs of this experiment. Decorating the remaining four barrels in gaudy style, Beraphol attempted to demonstrate what little he had accomplished to a visiting delegation of high-ranking generals. The results were underwhelming, as less than twenty percent of the shots hit their targets, one barrel was badly damaged in a misfiring, and several of the generals were injured when a stray shot hit the reviewing stand. Beraphol tried to cover for the failures by describing at length his experiments with shot and charge, and proposing different barrel designs to increase accuracy and efficiency. The generals were furious, and one angrily berated the philosopher by saying, 'You promised us the Vengeance of Dragons, but have given us the Barking of Dogs!'
Beraphol was disgraced, and lived out the rest of his life in a crumbling tower outside Ten Thousand Ships. Ironically, it was during this time that he wrote some of his more characteristic and scholarly works. He never forgot his final failure, which had come to be known colloquially as The Barking Dogs. Much of his time was consumed with working out why the Barking Dogs had failed, and his private journals include a detailed re-design of the barrels and shot, as well as formulae for accurate firing.
As for the original barrels, it is known that at least one was scrapped after the misfire, but the others seem to have vanished. Many of the philosopher's papers are likewise lost, although numerous fakes have been circulated over the years. Now that the Technocracy of Hudan are ascendant in the craft of gunnery, many nations would be eager to find Beraphol's lost papers.
(c) 2006 The Creative Conclave.