Beraphol and the Barking Dogs
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 readings 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 great 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 to build such weapons for them.
Beraphol commissioned six barrels to be cast of the finest mental. Each consisted of an untapered cylinder four feet long and ten inches in diameter, with a bore three inches in diameter extending three-fourths of the way to the end of the barrel. He spent a fortune building articulate carriages to move these things around, and on building 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 per cent of the firings hit their targets, one barrel was badly damaged in a misfiring, and several of the generals were injured when a shot hit the reviewing stand and partially collapsed it. 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 Barking Dogs. Much of his time was consumed with figuring out why the Barking Dogs failed, and his private journals include a detailed re-design of the barrels and shot as well as formulas 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.