Master Artificer Glorin Glamdrang of Stahlheim
Gorli Glamrinson Works Smithy, Echer’Naught
Eternal Sun 26th, 3127
I have traveled with these Rangers for some weeks now, since our departure from Echer’Naught. My assignment was as stone, construct Arimar Blackstone’s marriage band to Ruby Rockbreaker, and represent the interests of the Kingdom of Stahlheim during negotiations. Despite such, I have been swept into battle and adventure as a pebbled caught in a rockslide.
RFC Blackstone himself is solid enough, but he struggles to balance his duties to the Rangers, and to his Clan. Someday, he must choose. That day may be sooner than he expects.
Sergeant Grendel was a dedicated leader. Perhaps his concern for his men surpassed his common sense, but that is the bedrock of a hero? His men mourn him and that may be all one needs to know. Sadly, no one will admit that this bloodshed is the fault of he and his kin. Dwarves avoid the surface for such reasons. Once again we are drawn into a war that is not our own. Many in the Halls shout that we should quit the surface and leave such matters to the men, elves, and orcs. It is not business of ours. Seeing the loss of life over such triviality, my voice will join the same chorus. We have no cause to be involved.
Corporal Sssahliissstah is a dregordian at war with herself. However, she is now in command. If she can control her passions, she might a leader make.
The Explorer is a Builder. He is the first of his kind I have met personally, but I know of his kind. Though I would hesitate to rely to heavily one of his ilk, this particular Builder appears to have committed to the cause of the Rangers. I suppose time will tell how wise the Rangers were to install him within one of their premier teams.
RFCs Ingrid and McKenzie. It is difficult not to see them as a unit They appear to love the same man. Both have strong ties to life. Despite widely different personalities and appearances, they strike me as more sisters…wives? I am ignorant of such human customs.
RFC Ranna has been struck a devastating blow. Despite little outward expressions, she appears to have cared deeply for Grendel and his loss has…robbed her. Again, the goblinesh kin are a mystery to me, but I can see an almost dwarven drive for revenge. She should be mindful. When beginning the march of revenge, build two tombs. If she can move beyond her loss, who knows where her journey will take her?
RFC Steelwing is a fool, but a noble one. If he continues to show little caution, he will soon find himself in a shallow grave or worse. But, one must admire his loyalty, I suppose.
Eternal Sun, 24th 3127
With dawn approaching, Clan Chief Rockbreaker signaled the army to withdraw. His rearguard held the line against the growing horde of troglanesh in the valley. As dawn’s light filled the natural bowl of earth, the Rockbreaker druids unleashed the power of earth in a massive quake which rumbled across the ground, plowing the Blood Witches brood under. As they died, the Rockbreaker clan withdrew from the field in good order.
These dwarves are clearly not warriors. They are miners, stone and gemsmiths. But, when the war horn sounded, they answered the call. Stahlheim will grow stronger to count such stalwart dwarfkin as allies. Young Blackstone has done well, if he lives to marry.
We marched from 7 in the morning until 9PM, fourteen hours of hard much into the mountains. Not a dwarf lagged. Those too wounded to keep up, fell out, yet trudged behind, never once complaining. These Black Mountain dwarves are truly the stock of earth and stone.
We reached the prepared defenses around 9pm. For such a short time, the Rockbreakers performed well. Their stonesinger sang three rings of thick, squat stone walls to the back of a natural canyon. The natural walls were high, leaving the only way in or out through the narrow mouth to the east. A perfect trap. Also, a perfect tomb. Even our small force of a two or three hundred could hold out for a few days, but once the horde broke through…none would survive.
Without pausing himself, Clan Chief Rockbreaker sent his wounded to the hospital, and ordered his men to fall out and rest. As the last of our stragglers passed through a single hole in the wall, a young stonesinger sang it sealed. I could not help a chill as the image reminded me of the last sight a corpse must see as the mausoleum door rolls closed.
Shaking off such dark thoughts, I joined the Clan Chief and young Blackstone in the command tent. It took Blackstone a few hours to understand that the elder dwarf was grooming him with what little time he had remaining. I also noted the Clanguard stood closer to Blackstone. Clearly, Chief Rockbreaker had not illusions about surviving this battle. Despite the fact that the Blood Witch was not his enemy. Despite the fact that his would-be son in law brought this death upon his people. Despite all, the Clan Chief acted in every way to protect the alliance between Stahlheim and the Rockbreakers.
A true Chief.
The other Rangers rested, or worked as was their wont. Out in the valley, the lead elements of the enemy army nipped at our heals. By full dark, there were already hundreds, or perhaps a thousands bellowing, hooting, and growling corrupted baying for our blood and flesh. The dwarves of Clan Rockbreaker said little. Each dwarf went about his respective task without disquiet. As the final hour approached, a small column of the most wounded and vulnerable were evacuated through a narrow and treacherous pass through the mountain.
I watched in silence as the Rockbreaker Loremaster, Graystone, handed his ironbound tome, and records of the events to a young initiate. Despite the boys brave face, his heart broke as the old mentor laid a heavy hand on his shoulder. Everywhere dwarven warriors embraced their wounded brothers, each knowing the other might not survive. They all marched willingly to their deaths without question into a war not theirs to protect a dwarf they did not know all for the hope of a better tomorrow for their clan.
And not a member of the Grayson’s Gray Rangers appeared to notice. The lovers huddled in the medical tent. The Explorer poured over technical manuscripts. The Ogres slung away to embrace one last time. Only young Blackstone watched as his future kin wrapped themselves in death shrouds and marched to the wall.
It was here, at the witching hour, that I resolved no matter the outcome of this battle, the Rockbreakers would have their alliance. In my final moments before the wave of darkness cast a shadow across out final redoubt, I penned a letter to my masters, and tucked it close to my heart. Should I fall today, let it be known that the Rockbreakers have more stone in their spine than the entire clan of greencloaks.
Under an overcast sky, the enemy surged from their camps and loped across the ground toward out lowest, outer wall. Along the leading edge of the horde, werewolves loped, howling. Behind them, a mass of trogs surged like a wave. Here and there, the sight of massive trolls and golems could be seen. When they struck the outer wall, even the living rock wailed. Without scaling ladders they surged up the walls and poured over the defenses.
For their part, the Rangers acquitted themselves admirably, but it was of little help. The enemy had more than ten times out number, and their troglodytes cut through our ranks, while the trolls smashed through the walls. Within hours the outer wall was taken. Chief Rockbreaker called a retreat to the second line. We lost too many in the retreat. The look on his face confirmed what I knew in my heart. We were merely delaying the inevitable. As stalwart as his men might be, without relief, we were doomed.
Eternal Sun 25th, 3126
The fighting along the second wall was brutal, but dawn mercifully relieved us, and like a black tide, the Blood Witches horde retreated into their holes to escape the cleaning light of the sun. In their wake they left death and destruction. Noble dwarves littered the ground, their life’s blood pouring out into the dirt. It was a waste.
Anger roused in my breast, but looking at the cold, calm eyes of the Clan Chief, I calmed my rage. This was his choice, his battle to lose as he saw fit. I only hope young Blackstone remembers what he sees here.
Without word, the remaining stonesinger walked passed the field of corpses and began the song of stone, mending the gaps in the wall. The druids burned bodies, and provided some solace to the souls of the departed. For my part, I stood by and watched, chiseling every face, every loss into my memory. This sacrifice would not be forgotten.
The Rangers dispersed to sleep, make love, or brood as was their wont. I am too harsh. They fought well, better than most. Were it not for their courage the battle might have been lost. But, were it not for the Rangers, NONE of these dwarves needed to die.
Later in the afternoon, once his dead and wounded had been cared for and the evening battle set, only then did Chief Rockbreaker sleep. I took this opportunity to rest as well. As did young Blackstone. I believe, and sincerely hope, that he begins to understand that duty is the weight of a mountain. Someday, sooner, perhaps, than later, he must stand like the Mountain to protect his own clan.
Battle horns roused us late into the evening. Already the enemy horde gathered in greater numbers than the night before. This would be our last stand. Above me and to the right the Rockbreaker druids prepared a ritual. Along the wall, pikes, crossbows, axe, and hammer took their places. Among their ranks, here and there a green cloak. And then, I saw him. Grendel.
The Ranger Sergeant, Silver Paladin, stood alone beside a young stonesinger. For a moment I wondered at this, but then the Clan Chief just nodded and the two strode forward. The initiate sang an opening large enough for the ogre and the Ranger Sergeant ducked through the wall, before it was sealed behind him. My eyes fell unbidden on RFC Ranna and her eyes stung with unbidden tears. What was this?
Clan Chief Rockbreaker whispered a quiet prayer to Dranak before turning his eyes upon the approaching horde. They charged again, filling the valley. Alone, glowing white silver, Grendel strode into the horde, they parting before him. Not one looked back, their ravenous hunger set upon our small redoubt. Any curiosity I might have had evaporated the moment they reached out lines. Again, they swarmed, but this time, they approached in ranks.
Denier of Death golems belched black/ocre flame at the walls, which crumbled. But, unlike before, they were met by stone and iron as the druids raised massive golems to meet them. Dwarf and trog were ground under foot as the titans battled. Every hour, a golem would wrench through the arcfire power on their backs, and both golems would erupt into black flame, annihilated swaths of both dwarf and trog. It was madness.
The Rangers waded in, their green cloaks soaking in black blood and fire. Ranna fired till her quivers ran dry, then she bludgeoned foes with hand, foot, and stone. The wounded aevakar Steelwing flapped raggedly from battle to battle, laying down fire, though keeping a conspicuous eye on his “girls” who battled shoulder to shoulder on the wall. The Explorer seemed to enjoy himself the most, reveling in the arcfire display.
I, Loremaster Graystone, and RFC Blackstone protected the Clan Chief atop the center wall. Around us hordes of werewolves and trogs raged. We held the line for hours, but the battle was lost. Our formation collapsed quickly. Late in the battle Loremaster Graystone fell to a hobgoblin’s waraxe, though he took the moment of his death to note his death in his tome. Dedicated the last.
Though I did not see the event, I noted the moment when the iron and stone golems collapsed into rubble. Later, we found the shredded corpses of the druids rent tooth and nail by a pack of werewolves who managed to circle our lines. Most of our stonesingers died trying to repair the walls, and the hospital tent was painted in the blood of the wounded and dying, slaughtered along with their healers.
At the height of the 13th hour, something changed in the enemy army. We saw a massive White Silver explosion in the middle of the enemy army. Almost at the same moment, a faint horn was heard at the far end of the valley. Scouts high on the cliffs shouted a warning that Wolfhaven’s army had arrived. And none too soon.
However, just as the good news rippled through the army, a shadow passed over our position. Graystone was dead, as were most of the Clan Chief’s clanguard. The tower beast that was “Gram Gram” appeared at the gates and smashed through the wall like a child’s toy. I was tossed aside like a doll. Both the Clan Chief and Blackstone were crushed under hundreds of pounds of stone. My leg was shattered, but I remained conscious watching the horror of the Blood Troll raise her weapon to finish off the Rockbreaker Clan.
Then, a curious thing occurred. A small, well dressed human-like creature appeared amid the rubble to speak with Gram Gram. I could not hear the conversation, nor would I have understood. But, Gram Gram turned out toward the oncoming reinforcement army, and then turned and strode away, taking her brood with her.
Silence fell over the smoldering ruins that was our bastion. The few dwarves still able to move began digging the Chief out of the rubble. Rangers continued to fight the stragglers, or go off in search of their teammates. Despite the pain, I watched as Blackstone frantically hurled stones aside until uncovering Chief Rockbreaker. The elder dwarf was bleeding out and not long for this life. In desperation, Blackstone tapped into the power of the Mountain and summoned Dranak’s will through the stones.
As we watched in disbelief, the Chief’s body petrified to stone, hardening him into living stone. Neither alive nor dead, Blackstone managed to catch his life force right on the edge of death, and hold him fast. It was a miracle.
Nearby, the Rangers Ingrid and Kenzie wailed over the bleeding mass of blood and feathers that was their lover, Steelwing. Still, the brave aevakar lived, somehow. RFC Ranna stormed out, searching for her lover. Of the Explorer, I saw nothing, but I could hear the occasional report of an arclance, so I presume he was finishing off the wounded trogs. Efficient that one.
A healer came by and repaired my leg, freeing me to venture onto the field of blood and death. Bodies littered the ground for two hundred yards or more. At the far end of the valley, I could see the relief force still battling the fleeing vestiges of the Blood Witch force, but for the most part, the battle was over. Such a cost.
I found the gaggle of figures a hundred yards east of our lines. A glittering Captain Avaron of the White Silver Wolves spoke with the Explorer while Ranna knelt weeping over a body. I did not need to see him to know Grendel had fallen. There was also a large scorch mark nearby that I learned was his twisted brother. We know they fought. We believe Grendel was victorious, but Gram Gram killed them both. One perhaps because he was a failure, the other because he refused her power? All of this death, for this.
Eventually, Blackstone arrived with what remained of the Rockbreaker forces. Out of the original 200 dwarves barely twenty survived. Quickly others assembled.
Eternal Sun 26th, 3127
At dawn on the 26th, as light flooded into the valley, four company’s of the White Silver Wolves under command of Captain Avaron, a company of Stahlheim Dwarves under a Captain Fyrforg, the Rangers under command of Corporal Sssahliissstah, and the Rockbreakers under command of RFC Blackstone, with me as observer stood on the sanctified ground around the body of Sergeant Grendel.
Corporal Sssahliissstah spoke briefly. As did a few others. One of the Wolve’s Silver Paladins laid a silver sword on Grendel’s chest. Then, with permission from Ranna, Stahlheim stonesinger buried Grendel’s body in the living stone, sanctified and purified. It was a funeral fit for a Clan Chief. But that was it.
The morning air was heavy with smoke, and tinged with the stench of burning corrupted when the formations broke. Captain Avaron bid farewell as they turned in their tracks and marched east, hunting the trail of the fleeing Blood Witch army. For our part, we returned to the shattered ruins of our redoubt, gathered our things, and began the long trek into the Black Mountains. Blackstone remained beside Clan Chief Rockbreaker’s army, heading up his honor guard. The Rangers ranged out, protecting the flanks of the small column of dwarves hiking up narrow mountain goat paths deeper into the peaks.
Behind us, the valley, the last few fires burned down to ash. In a few weeks, nothing will remain, but irregular rocky ruins. And, within a decade, those will be overrun by wild flowers. In a century, nothing will remain, but the story of the Great Silver Paladin, whose spirit guards the valley even from beyond death.
To fight alongside a brother, bury him, and then be forced to leave him behind in an unmarked grave is one of the hardest realities of war. For Grendel, at least, his tale will live on in the Lore of the Stahlheim and Rockbreaker Loremasters. Who knows, the Silver Paladins may eventually venture into this place on pilgrimages to gain strength and wisdom from the example of one devout ogres faith and courage? For our part, we must ensure that Grendel’s sacrifice is not in vain.
Blackstone will be married. The Stahlheim and Rockbreaker Clans will form an alliance. And, in the final battles for our home, we will stand together as one. And, those who live, will remember the sacrifices of those who fell to give us the hope of victory.
By mid-day, we passed over a ridge and the valley fell behind. I doubt I will ever trod across the sacred ground again, but the courage and sacrifice I witness will be etched forever in my heart.
Master Artificer Glorin Glamdrang of Stahlheim