The Battle of Overlook
“It translates to “Those Who Shield”. It was first granted to the greatest son of Moradin; Adrek was his name. With his shield, a thick, ugly slab of adamantium attached to some rope, he shattered the chains placed on us by our Titanblooded slavemasters. He rallied our ancestors together armed with nothing but dulled mining picks and planks of wood ended with crude chunks of unrefined iron. Unified, we fought as Moradin intended, brothers and sisters forged for war. Since then, we have never gone wrong with an axe or pick or hammer, each weapon, each tool, a part of the mountain, just as we. But oh, what a day it was, when after years of servitude, our ancestors overthrew our masters and ended tens of centuries of slavery! Our elders, with renewed vigor and vitality from the Dwarven Hero Adrek, took arms beside him and claimed the Mror Holds as our home, Clan Kundarak’s home.
To this day, we keep in memory how a shield is not just for protecting our brothers and sisters beside us, not as just a symbol of protecting our ways, our culture, our people, but as identifying that we, Dwarves, are free. We are the first defenders of our pride! And never again, shall we be enslaved."
“Everyone knows that story!” the young Dwarven girl exclaimed. The young Dwarfling peered up through a mop of messy, mussed up hair, still too short to braid. She had that and sass. Bardryn was full of sass, much like her mother.
“Who told you such a tale, then?” Thalgorm half-yelled, and not in a dignified manner. He was proud of that story, and this runt, not a wisp of a beard yet on her face, wasn’t the least bit satisfied. It seemed only a year past when she would sit and listen diligently, like the stone carved seat she sat lazily upon. He stroked his long, deep oak brown beard, deep in thought, not in the least regretting that he was bald as a Greenskin.
“I’ll tell ye, little Bardryn. I earned the name Barakor two years before you were born.” He couldn’t help betraying a soft grin as he remembered the day, rare upon his hardened face. “Your father and I were sent out with a group of ten to investigate Noldrunthrone. They said the Greenskins had been seen there, vile creatures that—”
“The Narathun? The Greenskins had gone to attack the Narathun?” The runt had a delighted smile, one that left Thalgorm no room to be annoyed. The stone bench was not so high off the ground, but her little feet swung and dangled, regardless, as she happily interrupted him.
“Yes, yes, Narathun clan— they who feuded with the Toldorath whose lands border those of the Torn Skull Greenskins, the ’Jhorash’tar’ as they call themselves.”
The metal door creaked under the weight of its hinges as Heljeth entered. “Och, needs grease again. Grim! How many times ’ave I told ye to-” Thalgorm had stood up, regarding the old, decrepit woman with a nod, his face quickly turning to a sour frown. It had seemed his stone face wasn’t as set. He had kept his bearing as he fought Orks, foreign armies of Humies, and an assortment of vile creatures. But the old widowed crone, with over a hundred years of complaints, gave him pause.
“Gram Heljeth! Uncle Grim was telling a story!” It was little Bardryn’s turn to be impatient, Thalgorm’s little savior. Trisbel had entered quietly afterwards. She was the old crone’s daughter, and her smile was a hot brew on a cold mountain evening. Like the other of the generation, she kept her beard shaved, looking far too young for her age— marriageable as of a few months back. He had plans to try to win her hand in the soon-coming Brewfest. But he worried about what the lads would say.
A tug on his hand brought him back to reality, that and the wide eyes of a child. “You never finish your stories!” Bardryn’s look was enough to quiver the heart of Moradin, himself. “I’m sorry, lass, where was I? Oh. But hasn’t your father told you this tale many a time?”
The miniscule child refused to let go, her tiny hand only just able to grab all the way around one of Thalgorm’s adult Dwarven fingers. “No! You need to finish the story!” As nonsensical as her logic went, Thalgorm “Grim” Barakor could only give in.
“Fine, fine. We had made haste, good wind at our backs, and arrived without trouble or fatigue. But long before then, we could see the rumors were true. Greenskins filled the valley beneath Noldrunthrone like a moldy cesspit. Without hesitation, hearts filled with courage, and heads remembering our training, we moved into battle formation. The Greenskins outnumbered us but fell like saplings to our superior might. But before we could establish an advantage, Bladzek took an axe to his collar. Agann, your father, was immediately at his side tending to him! ‘Get back in the fight, man!’, ‘That size of wound wouldn’t make my wee baby flinch!’ he said to him. It was his words that kept us strong. Every break in the formation, his shield was there, rebuilding it.”
“That’s not what my Papa says!” The little runt interjected. “Papa says it was Uncle Grim’s shield that covered him every step of the battle. That you were the.. the in-cross-ah-ble line.”
“Did he now? Well, if Agann says it, it must be true.” With a grin, Thalgorm leaned forward and mussed up Bardryn’s hair. “But I wasn’t so ‘incrossable’ for long. An Ork broke through our lines, a big mean one, wearing a great metal jaw, and two horns on his head, each as big as a Dwarf. With a great ‘waaaaagh’ he barreled towards your father, each step shaking the mountains.”
Bardryn’s eyes grew wider with every word. Even the miserly crone sat and listend quietly, as well as the beautiful Trisbel. Agann had arrived, waving for him to continue and taking a seat. And half a dozen others had found interest and sat around the hall. He was tempted to twist the story a bit, to impress Trisbel, the lovely lass, but he didn’t want to risk Heljeth’s or anyone else’s annoyance. The story was about Agann, after all.
“The Greenskin’s heavy green unwashed arm swiped me aside, like an empty mug. And just like that, there were more Orks than I could remember. But I do remember this. Your father alone, he fought the Greenskin, four Dwarves tall, breathing fire from his mouth! He was valiant! Courageous! Glorious! But… he was quickly losing! I fought my way back to him, cutting through a two Orks each with each swing of my mighty axe! The Greenskin raised his axe to the sky and CRACK! …That’s what we heard, the thunderous crack of your father’s shield breaking in half from the Greenskin’s gigantic axe!
“But.. that was when I had arrived. When your father smiled, the big, fat, ugly Greenskin didn’t know what hit him. I put all my weight into the cut that cleaved his leg off at the knee. The Greenskin crashed to the dirt, blood and dust, everywhere. All of our kin saw it. And all of the Greenskins saw it. I wish I could say I killed the brute, but your father took that honor that day. The rest of the Orks fled afterwards. And I won the title because your father claims I saved his life.”
Thalgorm’s story earned little Bardryn’s smile, shining like daylight. Heljeth hadn’t scolded him any, which meant he must have done well. And some of the other Dwarves in the Great Hall were nodding their head in appreciation. He looked eagerly towards Trisbel, who quickly looked away. But there was a hint of a blush, confirmed when Trisbel shyly peeked back at Thalgorm’s face.
Satisfied, Thalgorm continued, “But in truth, little one. It was your father who saved mine.”
Rain filled Thalgorm’s ears. Lightning flashed, with rolling thunder immediately shaking the earth. He lied in the muck, rain filling the grey landscape as well as partially into his ears. His unkempt beard was matted to his face with rain and mud.
Thunder accentuated the girl’s deep voice. It looked nothing like morning. The sky was filled with grey and black clouds. And rain. And lightning. Haela’s voice was normally upbeat and happy, but she wasn’t a morning person, and the black clouded, torrential rainy morning only further dampened her mood.
“Sorry, Haela. I’ll get up.”
Aches and pains of a Dwarf twice his age struggled to keep him down, even as Thalgorm fought to sit up with his armor on. He looked at Haela Brightaxe, just as armored, just as wet, just as miserable as he. Haela coughed back a chuckle.
“You’re the only man I’ve ever met, who could look so dead, but his eyes be so alive. But that’s why they call you ‘Fire Eyes’.”
Thalgorm stroked his rain-matted long, oaken-brown beard, though recently, it had begun to grey.
“I dreamt of them. I saw Bardryn again.”
The sound of rain filled the emptiness. The pair were far from their home. They had camped in the middle of nowhere, miles of dark and cloudy plains in any direction. Haela no longer wore a hint of a smile.
“Grim, my sister is dead. Agann is dead. The old crone, Heljeth is dead. Everyone is dead.”
If she was crying, the rain hid it. But Thalgorm knew she had run out of tears long ago. She continued, “They were killed over a fortnight ago. The Greenskins came in the night while we slept. We survived.”
Thalgorm struggled to find words. The tears came hot to his face, the guilt still fresh. “I know, Haela… I know. My shield— I did not even—”
“No, Grim.” Haela shook her head as she walked away. “Our clan still needs us, our shields and our axes. We have argued. We have prayed. And we have mourned. Pack your things, shieldbrother. We march while there is light.”