The Shattered Spectrum: The Next Generation

The day it all changed...

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“One month ago. That’s when it all truly changed. The bells of the church of Thorek rang across the old mountain halls. They were calling the assembly. An old tradition that in ages past, was mandatory to attend. Now it was not, and most who came merely did so out of curiosity, myself included. Still, curiosity is strong amongst our kind. I found the church to be quite crowded, and had to stand near the back. The Thorekian guards were holding back angry Dwarves from going at those standing at the front of the church, and it didn’t take long to see why. They were a strange lot indeed, the first of them to catch my eye a Massive Half-Orc. I had heard of the Orcs and their ilk in the books, and I’d even read that in ages long past, they were enemies of my people, though I’m not convinced that last bit is true. Looking at the towering figure standing before us, I certainly know I wouldn’t want one like him for an enemy. He was clad in Armor thick and heavy, like an Iron Hulk, and he held a Great Sword whose handle I’m not sure I could reach if I was standing on Karnor’s shoulders! There was also one of our kind among them, though definitely not from around here. He wore garb colored like the woods, and his beard, while braided at least, was maintained horribly. I do believe I saw twigs sticking out of it? He was young, but carried himself with more pride than I’ve seen from even the heads of the clans. A very odd one indeed. Also among them were 4 humans, the first, a small girl with a mostly shaved head, a mischievous if doubtful look in her eye, and a purple cloth curiously covering her face. Even more interesting were the daggers at her waist, whose design looked remarkably close to that which the assassins of the Black Hand carried. I looked to my right and noticed that many of the Black Hand were here, and paying very close attention to these people. The 2nd human was a man, with a weary look about his face, yet a cold determination in his eyes, peering out at us from under his hat. He wore dark colored, loose fitting clothes, long, dusted, and worn-out from much travel. He appeared unarmed, but if I know his type, I’m sure he has some surprises under that coat of his. The 3rd human, stood peaceful and serene. He had long hair, braided in a similar fashion to Karnor’s, and wore flowing robes that looked rather comfortable, but you could see his arms, and though he had not the bulk of the Half-Orc, you could see his muscles were raw, condensed power, and yet his face and demeanor made him look as if he would not hurt a fly. He was studying the church and the people around him, with the look of one eager to learn. The last of the humans I cannot say for sure even is human. She wore a hood, and looked human at least but she had more of a grace about her. I will say this however, she just looked…alive. Her eyes had the look of one who held a terrible, painful, secret, but her posture, her skin, she just… radiated a glowing sense of comfort. Now, what really had the attention and ire of the people were 2 among them who were actually Elves! Elves! In the mountain! In the church of Thorek! One of them wore a brown cloak, over plain clothes, but I could see his face. He looked at us with contempt, and did not seem happy to be here. His graceful features and fair skin, gave him away to me and anyone around here who’s been fighting them as long as I have. This Elf was undoubtedly from the green. The last among them was an elf as well, though she did not look as hateful as the other one, and she did not have that look as has one from the forest. She stood proudly in the center of their group, yet, seemed very concerned about something. When it came time to listen, it was the Dwarf among them who spoke. He called himself Tavok Bronzebeard, and said he was here to free our people…He spoke dramatically like a young idealist who had all the belief and the world, that he could accomplish anything. Already, some of the Dwarves were beginning to leave. He spoke, of how our war with the green is what was tearing us apart and how it was time to make peace. Now more Dwarves were leaving, and though the boy spoke of ridiculous things, he had my attention, and the attention of the Black Hand interestingly enough. He then pointed to them, called them out and declared them the enemies of the Dwarves. This inspired commotion from many. Here was this Dwarf, clearly an outsider, standing among elves, our hated enemy, telling the Dwarves that we had to turn against those, who despite my own personal feelings towards them, were helping to keep the people fed and safe. The Black Hand turned their back on this accusation, not bothering to defend their stance against this foolish youngling. I saw Dargoth with them…They left the assembly as did many Dwarves with them…
I found myself among the few who remained to hear the mad ramblings of this Tavok, with his strange company. Even the Thorekians who had called this assembly carried doubt on their faces. Looking saddened at so few remaining, the young Dwarf addressed us, one last time in a pleading, challenging tone. He asked us “Are you not Dwarves? Will you now then sit and let the Black Hand destroy you from the inside, while you fail in this foolish war with the Green outside? I came here expecting to find warriors! Where is your pride?! Where is your strength?! Where is your honor?!” At this point I had to leave, if only to fight the urge to get caught up speaking out against this outsider who dared to judge us, and presume our ways, and challenge our honor. I was enraged at this foolish young oaf, for he knew nothing of our plight, or of the magnitude of what his ramblings suggested, yet deep in my heart, what enraged me the most, is that part of me, the part who used to read about the Dwarves of ages past as a youngling myself…that part of me knew Tavok was right…We had lost our way…”
That night I dreamed a strange dream. I stood in a hill in a field of grass, under the sun, with the air touching my face where it could get past my mighty beard. Just below me on the hill stood faithful Baruuk, clad in beautiful yet sturdy armor, forged by the hands of a master. I then noticed such armor upon myself as well. Not the ragtag I was used to, but real, masterwork armor, forged of adamantine, and adorned in the Runes of our ancestors. To my right stood my brother, Karnor, in similar armor, with a mighty axe in his hands. To my left stood one who I did not recognize, an elder Dwarf, with armor finer than all the others, holding a hammer blazing with Divine Fire. Behind us stood 4 more Dwarves, 2 among them men, and 2 women. The first woman I didn’t recognize at all. The second was a ruffian I believe I’ve seen in the Drinkhouses before, beating to a pulp any man who took up fists against her in a vain effort to mend their wounded pride over having failed to outdrink a one-eyed woman. The Dwarf man, was clearly of the Boomkin, with a two iron spheres in his hand, fuses on each, a huge grin on his face, and a truly mad look in his eye. The iron spheres had crimson skulls painted on them… The last man, was another who I did not recognize, but he had a very unique look about him. He also, looked like one not from our people, again with a dirty beard, but older than…than who? Anyways, he was seasoned this one, and he was one with the earth. His boots had no soles, as his feet touched the hillside. He smelled something in his hand, and let that hand drop to his side. It was letting a handful of dirt fall through its fingers. In his other hand was a Hammer made completely of stone instead of metal, shaped like the head of a Ram, resting upon his shoulder. Small stones on the ground began to float up around him. I looked forward and at the base of the hill on the field stood an entire legion of Dwarves. All armored well, and standing as one. Beards fell out below the fierce metal faces of finely wrought helms. To our flanks stood other armies, Men, Elves, and Orcs alike standing with us, united, against…against what? I looked forward and saw only Darkness. I know no other word to describe it but that. I felt fear, but I found within myself, Pride…and Courage. I know not why I did it or how I knew to do it, but I raised my Axe, slammed it’s head against my Shield three times, pointed towards the Darkness and let out a primal bellow. I found that Dwarves beside me and the legions below loudly imitated the gesture, and began to march. I climbed aboard Baruuk and led the legions, bearing a Shining White Banner, with a Hammer of Gold emblazoned on it’s center. “BARUK KHAZAD” I cried! “KHAZAD AI MENNU!” An old war cry in the tongue of our ancestors. At that sound, our great march turned into a mighty charge! Just before collision with the Great Darkness, I awoke from my bed in a cold sweat. I rose to check on my family. Karnor was well asleep, sprawled out with an empty tankard at his side, clearly lost in dreams of his own. My parents were asleep as well. Dargoth was just sitting there awake, staring out of his window into the darkness of the caves. “Are you well Brother?” I asked. “Hmm? Yes Dargor, why do you ask?” “I just had a bad feeling” “All is well brother. I assure you. Now go back to sleep.” I should’ve asked more, but my mind was still in a weird state from the dream. That was the last time I saw Dargoth. The days that followed were spent much in contemplation. Dargoth had gone to do business with the Black Hand. Karnor was training as he often would, but he looked troubled as well. Had he also experienced the dream? It was so vivid. The relative quiet of the next few days was shattered by the sudden appearance of…him. I couldn’t believe it. The strange party from a couple of days before had emerged from an expedition into the mountain they had apparently gone on, but they returned now with one more among them. Armok. The legendary Warchief of old. It was unbelievable. It made no sense. It couldn’t have been him. I had read books in my childhood about this man. But the way he carried himself. The way he wore that ornate armor. The way he spoke with a booming voice, not heard from Dwarves since ages long past. The way he took…no, SIEZED the attention of every Dwarf in the mountain, it could not have been anyone else. Up until now, we had no unified political structure. The clans were just working together in a sense, to try to survive. In a deep throated voice, Armok spoke to the very mountains themselves. Elemental giants of Stone came to his call…To show the Dwarves their new Warchief. None could deny his authority. He dared anyone to try. No-one did. He told us of the Dark Lord in the West, and of the apocalypse that being brought to bear against not just to our people but against the world. He told us that this strange party that had come before were right, and that we would have to put our war with the elves aside until this greater threat could be dealt with. He told us that he will shape us into true warriors. My heart stirred at the thought, as did the heart of many a Dwarf. After a few days of great change within our mountain, he told us all that we needed to cleanse ourselves of that which was going to lead us to ruin. I knew what he was going to say before he said it. We needed to cut off the Black Hand. He told us to spare what lives we could, and not to kill woman and children, but this struggle was going to be bloody. I went home, but Dargoth was already gone…The following days were violent. I joined the hunt against the Black Hand. I worried for Dargoth but Armok was right, and this was a chance for our people to rebuild towards our true destiny. It was more than a dream come true. It was hope. I could not let the Black Hand hold that back. I heard the bad news after all the turmoil. Under Armoks leadership, our people were brutally efficient. Many on both sides were killed, but those of the Black Hand were fleeing the mountain. We learned of heinous acts they had commited. They were servants of the Dark Lord in the west. They were infiltrating the other clans, and influencing everything. They killed every living member of the church of Thorek, and they killed old Orn’s son, who not even yet had the privilege of earning his name. I do not regret doing what I had to, but it does not make it any easier. The Black Hand had fled the mountain, and Dargoth with them. As for me, I was summoned by Armok himself. He told me of Tavok. I heard rumors that he could mind control elves, and that he was a great hero with other mysterious powers, but dismissed them as ridiculous. I learned this day of his actual quest, representing the Dwarves in a mission sent by the White (!) to unite the peoples of the world against the Lord of the Dark. Then Armok told me of a mission I was to embark on…

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