The Stone-Hearted

Prelude: The Fall of the Golden Mountain

Thorbadin – The Golden Mountain. Tis said that no traveller could enter her halls for the first time without weeping at her beauty: her great, radiant columns rising nearly to the heavens, her streets aflame with the shine of gold, her architecture so fine as to make the greatest of masons shamed at their own meager craft. The famed skald Dwinden Mythriltongue once declared “There may be greater kingdoms in dwarvendom, but none so lovely as Thorbadin.” One of the 12 great realms of dwarvenkind, The Golden Mountain was known far and wide for its boundless riches and its noble rulers. Thorbadin’s mines were deep and rich, her people prosperous and diligent, and her walls tall and impregnable. It was thought that she would stand forever, as solid and unchanging as the stone from which she was carved. But the tiniest of streams can undermine a mountain with time, and no walls are high enough to guard against the treachery of a corrupted heart.

So it was that the fall of the Golden Mountain began with the loss of a single battle. Not a battle for riches or for territory, but for the soul of its greatest paragon: Marduk Fireheart, Son of Yorgal – forever after known as Marduk Kinslayer. General of the armies of Thorbadin and younger brother to its last true king, Balgur Stonebeard, Marduk was its greatest champion – fearless in battle, wise in leadership, steadfast in determination. It was said that Marduk’s mettle was forged by the gods themselves, from the purest of mythril. Yet unbeknownst to all, the forging had left a single, fatal flaw: envy.
The evil god Abbathor, long covetous of Thorbadin’s prosperity, learned of this flaw, and set out to turn it towards the kingdom’s destruction. Like a master smith, Abbathor worked Marduk’s covetousness, stoking the fires of his pride, stretching and tempering the Fireheart’s envy of his brother. Slowly, diligently, he turned Marduk’s valour into arrogance, his love for his brother into disdain. Was it not widely acknowledged that Balgur was a fine dwarf, but that his younger brother was stronger, wiser, more valorous? Why should Balgur reign through mere chance of having been born first? Thorbadin deserved more, it deserved better – it deserved Marduk as king.

So it was that Marduk opened his heart to Abbathor, and The Golden Mountain’s destruction was assured. Secretly allying with the evil duergar, the would-be king struck a deal: the grey dwarves would assist Marduk in obtaining the throne, and he would reward them from Thorbadin’s vast riches. Marduk laid open the gates of the Golden Mountain to the duergar, and at the head of their army, marched upon his brother’s fortress. The battle that ensued was bloody but short: the loyal dwarves of Thorbadin, taken unawares, were no match for the cunning of their former general and the powers of the grey dwarves.
In the final, desperate battle, Balgur’s sons and daughters fell one by one. When the invaders entered the throne room of Thorbadin, only two warriors remained to stand against the usurper and his legions – King Balgur and his nephew Bofin – Marduk’s youngest child, and his only offspring to remain faithful to the true king. The two fought valiantly, but were no match for their opponents. Bofin was quickly overcome by the duergar’s dark magics, while Marduk engaged King Balgur in an epic battle, shaking the very foundations of The Golden Mountain. In the end, Balgur lay dying, and Marduk grasped The Heart of the Mountain, symbol of the king of Thorbadin, in hands still red with his brother’s blood.

Marduk’s moment of triumph, however, was short-lived. Not content with a mere share of Thorbadin’s riches, the duergar general turned upon the new king, summoning forth a foul beast and setting it upon the Kinslayer and his heirs. It is said that as his end approached, the gods blew upon the last embers of goodness within the Fireheart, burning away Abbathor’s taint. In his final moments, Marduk saw clearly all that he had done, to his family, his clan, and his kingdom, and understood his only chance to make amends.
Charging into battle for the final time, the Fireheart and his kin sacrificed themselves to free the loyal Bofin from the duergar. Mortally wounded, Marduk entrusted his son with the Heart of the Mountain, commanding him to flee, so that one day he might return and undo what his father had wrought. Marduk remained to face the grey dwarves, and his end.
Little is known of Bofin’s escape, obscured as it was by the duergar’s later spells. Justly fearing retribution from the other dwarven kingdoms, the grey dwarves employed a dark ritual to remove all knowledge of Thorbadin’s location from dwarvenkind. Overnight, the most knowledgeable sages and skalds found themselves unable to place Thorbadin, their maps mysteriously blank. The survivors of The Golden Mountain, harried and scattered wide by the duergar, found themselves unable to recall their own home. Most wandered the land in vain, finally taken in as refugees by other communities. Bofin Oathkeeper, as he would come to be known, never gave up on the promise he had made his father, working tirelessly to rediscover the location of his birthplace. Upon his death, the Heart of the Mountain, and his oath, were bequeathed to his oldest daughter, Orila.

It has been 1,600 years and four generations since Orila returned to the Maker’s forge. Some 2,100 years after the Fall of The Golden Mountain, three siblings, great-great-great-great-grandchildren of Marduk Kinslayer, and their allies set out upon an epic quest to right the wrongs of their distant ancestor. Amongst them marches the wielder of the Heart of the Mountain, the last regent of Thorbadin and the bearer of Bofin’s ancient oath.

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