Let me begin this section with a simple history of my life and professional career. I was born 1522 years ago, in what many of my people refer to as the Time of Coal. This is the time when the fires from many battles beneath the ground, the suit from the many forges used to produce the tools of war, and the dingy fumes of funeral pyres had stained the stones of the New Kingdom a dark brown or black color. No dwarf living in those times could walk the halls of Stre’ without getting the grime upon them, and the people of the surface world often thought that the stains on our skin and clothing were from the coal we mined for our forges. I lived with my mother during that time, until I reached the age of fifty, and was then on raised by the elders of my clan. At that time I was taught the usual essential things one learns, history, stonemasonry, basic metalworking, mining, and the basics of religion.
The name my clan loosely translates into “Beard of the Elements” in the new tongue, but has been shortened into simply “Beard” over time. This is in reference to Father Moradin’s beard, which all dwarven men wear their beards long in homage to. Dwarven naming conventions being what they are, we are given a full surname upon reaching our 250th year, when we are submitted to the guilds for an assigned apprenticeship. I had just finished my tenure in the Hall of History, carving the fourth quatrain of what is now known as the Septic History (That time between the first attack of the deep elves and the time of the Great Migration, when we intentionally left Klendt in order to fortify our borders and ensure the safety of Moradin’s people. It was my honor to carve the walls that may one day lead to the vengeance due our ancestors.), and I began my apprenticeship in the Armor Smith’s Guild. I was quite happy with my assignment, which I had essentially chosen when I befriended the guildmaster’s (a good man by the name of Clanth Steelshine.) son in my sixty-seventh year by saving the boy from a cave-in. He later died at the afore-mentioned Battle of Doover Trench, under my brother’s command. That was indeed a sad day. Regardless, by the time I had reached 250 years, my beard, though only grown but to perhaps the bottom of my breastbone, had turned a deep gray prematurely, along with the rest of my hair. Thus, my full surname was given to me as Mordin Stormbeard. I was bitter about this naming for a few decades, before I figured out that the more discerning dwarven women prefer men with a bit of dignity in their beard.
I spent a full 250 years in my apprenticeship with Master Steelshine. He was a good dwarf, and taught me much. It was there that I learned to craft shields for the church, and thus began my interest in public service. I was never so at home as when I brought silver, steel, oak, leather, and gold together in the pattern held holy by the Church of Moradin. I am proud to say that I became quite well known for this work, and eventually religious armors were all that I labored at. To this day I try my hand at it now and again, and the smell of a smithy always makes me smile.
Eventually, a series of especially fervent raids by warbands consisting of deep elves, Duergar, and Derro (what some believe to be the result of infernal violations of the Duergar’s women folk). My cousin, Agate, a fine dwarven woman with a heart of purest mythril was killed in a raid. Well, at the age of 326, she had been my favorite relative for at least a good century. She was a gem setter, working under Master Steelshine, and had accompanied a new set of armor that had been commissioned for commander Burke, another dwarf brother similar to Minozh. He was a half-orc, who had allied himself with the dwarves in their fight against the deep things shortly after the death of his father at the hands of his mother. He had redeemed himself quite well, and so had earned himself a place among clan Steel, with his clan-father being Hammer Klendtson Redsteel. Regardless, my point here is that Agate was killed in battle at the youthfull age of 623 years. The rotten bastards had diced her up so badly that there was no way to resurrect her, despite our clan’s ample finances at the time, and she had very heartily resisted the idea of reincarnation. So she was allowed return to the earth from whence she came, and I of course, being a loyal son of my clan, and having a vengeful heart, joined the Thane’s Army. Two years later, we slew those infernal betrayers. Every last demon-spawned one of them was crushed under good dwarven steel, and let me tell you, no few of those crushing blows were my own. I only wish I could have slain more. I felt a fury I can put to neither paper nor stone.
I campaigned with the Thane’s Army for 176 more years, and I’m not entirely certain I ever got over my rage. There comes a time though, when a dwarf needs to seek peace with the gods. Not just Moradin, but all of them. Aye, it may sound odd to hear that from the head of a dwarven religious order, but tis the truth. Once you begin cursing Lolth so vehemently as I did, you begin to find it easier and easier to curse all the gods. There is a bottom to rage. A bottom of white heat more painful to endure than the forge fires that refine mythril or agamorr. It hurts the soul, and eventually you find yourself cursing all gods and the mother that bore you.
I found myself on what the humans might call “R&R”. My battalion had just finished a campaign to clear out some kobolds and goblins which had set up camp in a gold mine to such an extent that the miners there were no longer able to deal with them. We cleared them quickly; such cretins being no more than an ant to squash under our mailed boots. When it was done, we all had a week off to rest and recuperate (though I believe the humans call it rest and relaxation). I had gone into the village that the miners had carved out for themselves. It was a quaint little place, with its history carved into the vein marble in the city center, which twisted about like a bolt of green lightning so beautifully that it nearly made even old Commander Lightsteel sog up his beard a bit. I had begun drinking Sulfur Spirits (an evil brew made from cornmeal, a silvery fungus from the caverns of the southern peninsula, and seeded with human whiskey) and eventually got myself quite drunk. Contrary to the belief of many of the races that live above the ground, a drunk dwarf is a shame to his community. It is generally forgiven in the young, but I was in my 476th year, and dishonored myself and my clan with my actions that day. I eventually burst into the small temple of the Order of the Heat of the Forge that was located there. I cursed both Scarn and Moradin for their inaction that let so many friends and clansmen die. I screamed at the statue of Moradin that he was worthless to me if he didn’t do something to correct his apathy that instant, and threw my mug at Scarn’s feet. I was fortunate that night, and Moradin heard my prayer. Though, as most who serve know, the answers to our prayers aren’t always what we expect.
I had collapsed onto the edge of Moradin’s altar, blubbering into my mustache like the drunken idiot I was. My arm was draped across the anvil that rested next to me and I leaned against Moradin’s knees like a child who’s fingers were burnt his first time at the forge. So, I was surprised beyond words when I heard a slight grinding sound, as of stone on stone, and something flicked the back of my right ear. I looked up, and I swear to you it wasn’t the alcohol talking, but that statue of Moradin winked at me and said, “Well. You asked for it.”
I soon found myself sober, sitting in a city I had never seen before. On each side of the road, rows of dwarves both male and female sat in the stone sleep, but I could feel them watching me. In the distance, a light shone that was both red and gray at the same time. Somehow, I was seeing both the heat of the earth and the colors of the sun at the same time, and I knew I was in a place both holy and defiled. I felt myself lifting from my connection with the stone street, and was pulled towards the light in a rush of dwarven faces, some which crumbled with the passing of my spirit only. I raced along through this city, obviously dwarven though gnomish work was scattered about as well, and found myself in the middle of combat the likes of which I have never again seen, though I know I will again. A group of heroes fought a horde of darkness. I know each of these heroes were mortals, not unlike myself, and that amongst them I walked as one of them. But their forms were not the forms of mortal coils; rather, they wore their true selves on their sleeves. One, whose spirit was a resplendent yellow unto mine eyes (yes, I wax poetic here), shone with wings of gold and eyes of silver fire, jets of holy energy flying from her bow so quickly it hurt the eyes of even my spirit. Another stood next to her, his hair a plume of white fire, and he seemed to be covered in scars of darkness the likes of which made my heart ache. Behind him, a glowing elf made stood, her spear shot archs of silver blades before her which lanced through the darkness like sparks from the forge of Moradin himself. A loving goddess was held in the heart of her mighty avatar, but that goddess knew a fury that made my prior rage look like mere coals, burning a dull red. A bright thing mirrored the dark thing she faced, with sparks of enigmatic magic flaring between them, cancelling one another out, while both kept laughing maniacally into the air, glorying in their power. Finally, there were two familiar figures. I knew them to be dwarves. The soul of one was six feet wide and hovered slightly above the ground, anchored to it, as if he was a part of it, red flaming hair lashing left and right with each swing of his shillelagh and warhammer. Next to him, I looked and I gasped, though no one heard in that morasse of noise and ethereal power. I stood there. No avatar shined above me; rather, a god stood behind my back nudging my arm in yet another swing at the darkness. Parrying blows that I could not see. The scene paused, Moradin turned to me, stepped forward and said quite simply, “Little diamond. I shall have you serve me, and in your service, you will learn to bring my wrath to bear on our foes. You will end your people’s suffering, save the gnomes their enslavement, and bring back light to the Forge of the Earth.” I smiled then, realizing what needed to be done. I was again sitting on the altar, but a young acolytle stood staring at me, his childish face shocked to see the stains on the statues and my patent disregard for the two deities which were more father to him than anything else had ever been. I asked him for some rags, and he eventually got them. I cleaned up my mess, and went back to the camp of the Thane’s Army.
Commander Lightsteel was reluctant to let me go. I had become one of the men he depended on to get things done, and acted as battalion armorer on a regular basis. I had steps to take though, if I were to make my people safe and amend my sins. I needed a church that would take me, a clan that I could honor, and a bit of time to heal my wounds. Like many before me, and many after me, I joined the Order of the Hammer of Wisdom. And so my service to the church began. Not with vengeance, but with purpose. I sought a way to cleanse my anger, to make the lives of my people safer, and to return the dwarven nation to its former glory. I went to Stre’, and there, I worked a long 50 years before they accepted me into the order. I learned much, and wrote much, and eventually even came to enjoy reading for its own sake.