Last of the Hearthstones
Height: 4 feet 2 inches tall
Weight: 190 pounds
Hair colour: deep dull red
Eye colour: deep green
Distinctive Features: Orlof was once easily described a conventional dwarf. He worked hard to fit in with his fellows, almost blending in as well as he could. He wears dull earth colours and works hard to keep his body language neutral. Orlofs face was normally stuck in a neutral position, though on those occasions he found something amusing he wore a huge grin. He wasnt a dour dwarf, he simply seemed preoccupied, as if he was focusing on things most others weren’t looking at. Unfortunately, that all changed after a particularly nasty run in with a pack of ghouls, and a strange twist of fate that left him in the care of a number of Derro Spellcasters. Now, Orlof is covered in patches of dead skin. The smell of wet earth clings to him, and an almost manic grin spreads across his face at most times. Where before, the world was serious. Now, Orlof finds all things amusing, almost as if he is incredibly glad just to be alive.
the Deads Empathy
Orlof has great empathy for all living beings. He wants to do right by everyone, because he understands how hard life can be.
Dwarves are many things. Dwarves are not manic. It runs counter to all they hold dear. Orlof however has been changed. He lives, an yet has death cling to him. An in so doing, he has taken on some of that which hangs off him. He is not chaotic or evil, simply manically glad. Almost incapable of grumpiness, he sees the levity in all things. He sees it as a boon, not a curse. As lets be honest, he should be dead but he isnt. An since he isnt, he is going to enjoy everything that life throws at him, whether it be good or bad.
Most dwarves put duty to royalty before all else. Before friends, family and even the gods. A Hearthstone does not. The Hearthstones put their families Three Duties before that of any other: to keep the Heir alive until they can be judged; to protect the world from the darkness of another betrayer; and to help a worthy heir regain their throne.
Orlof has attempted all his life to cultivate a look of blandness. Of everydwarvisshness. Of unremarkability. In so doing, he has found most folk find him unsettling, even going so far as to brand him disloyal. Amusingly enough this may be because of his very remarkableness as a Cleric of the Stoneborn. Whatever it may be, folk dont trust him and he doesnt know why, so he just keeps being him.
The Stonehearth line
The tale of Thorbadin is a well-known story and warning amongst the dwarven people. A tale of both greed and honour, and the pollution of Abbathor’s influence. Little known though is a related tale, but it is one of great importance to the clan Hearthstone of Dalorrak. The tale begins with a young dwarf named Orlic, and his family. A noble family, but of meagre wealth and little fame, its name is lost to the ages of time. What is known, and kept alive by the Hearthstones is the fact that this ancient family made a grave mistake. A mistake so heinous that they would choose to remove their name and history from the world in penitence. Orlic the young dwarf was said to be given a great honour in Thorbadin. He was to watch the gates of the keep that had stood for centuries. Most thought of it as an honorary title, something given to those families that may one day be favoured of the king. It was a gate maintained by a great many people, and to be one of its guards, though special, was thought to have little impact on the running of such a great city.
So it was that this honour was given to Orlic, of a house barely known to the world. It was to this day a great misfortune for such a family, because Orlic was the guard that Marduk spoke to on the precipice of his great fall. Orlic was the one plied with honeyed words by the kinslayer, and sent forth on a forgotten errand. Though it was his duty to guard the gate, he was young and sought honour for his family. Being given a task by Marduk was a great opportunity, and he leapt upon it with vigour. Or so the tale goes.
Orlic’s return was marred by the warring duergar as they sallied forth into the city. As he returned, proud of his success, he found his compatriots slain and the hosts of the villainous dwarves swarming through the gates. Amongst them he saw the prince Marduk. As he was about to leap to the young princes aid, he witnessed the Dwarf slay a member of the kings army. To his dismay, he realised too late the betrayal of the kinslayer, and in his realisation, he fled ensuing devastation. He hastily gathered his family and what little they could gather and fled the Golden Mountain. Downtrodden and guilty, this small family left the city they had so loved, now a smouldering ruin of its former glory.
It took months for the family’s patriarch to get the true story from Orlic. Of how the duergar gained entry to the city on his watch, and how he had fled instead of died in defence of his home. He learned of the death of Balgur and the resistance posed by Marduks own son Bofin. This Dwarf, whose name has not survived the ages, took on the shame of his son. He was not a cruel Dwarf, and so understood the choices his son had made that day. He could not fault him, for truly he loved his son, and yet he was not so pleased that his family would live with this shame. So, between them all, the family made an oath. No child of theirs, neither kin nor descendant would be spared this oath.
These Dwarves, men and women all; vowed that the Hearthstones would always stand by the descendants of Bofin in order to retake the Golden Mountain. This oath was not meant as a simple pledge of solidarity though, but also as a pledge to maintain the honour of Thorbadin. They would stand as judge of the heir, as the folk that would ensure that the right king take the throne. It would not be enough that a descendant of Bofin sit the throne. He or she must be pure of heart, and capable of resisting the foolishness of his ancestor. They vowed that only a good king would take that throne, or that they would die in the attempt to stop him. They would take the time necessar to make such a judgement. They would do what it took to follow the descendants of the Fireheart, whether in shadow or light, as friend or as foe, and they would ensure only a Good Dwarf gained what Marduk had destroyed. So it was that the family took on the most common name they could think of, and became the Hearthstones. They would live lives in obscurity, so that the descendants would not know them on sight. Thus they would be able to see the heirs as they truly were, not as they wished to be seen. The Hearthstones of history have come and gone, and not all come from this clan, but many have. They have ensured the survival of Bofin’s line as much as they could, until they came to a decision on the nature of that generation. They have not shirked their duty nor shared it with many. Some found death protecting the lives of the heirs, and others have simply become lost with the heirs as they sought their homeland. Not all of the Hearthstones stories are known to their clan because the journey to the Golden Mountain is such that few ever return, and fewer still come home willing to tell the tale of their journey.
On the pledge of the Hearthstone
The Hearthstones are not enemies to the heir; they simply wish to see his mettle. Know that he is worthy. They have no other truly driving goal in their lives, though many have adopted other goals when their purpose cannot be served. Over the centuries since the fall of the Mountain the task has always fallen to the eldest of the Hearthstones, while the younger folk of a generation continue their unfortunate family line. As such the youngest often pursue other goals, such as the clergy or lives of thievery and deceit. There is no set goal for those not watching the heirs, it is simply enough that they live and breed.
Due to the nature of their family mission though, many of the younger siblings have been forced to change their lives and seek out the heir due to an elder sibling’s death, and this has lead each Hearthstone to pursue their duty differently. It is always important to note that a Hearthstone will not waver in his duty. No other goal or allegiance will come first, and this even extends to the very gods themselves. It is no coincidence that sometimes a Hearthstone will fall from the gods favour, but it is their family’s duty and they cannot forswear it, or the gods would hate them all the more.
Orlof Hearthstone and the last generation
Orlof Hearthstone is the youngest son of the Dallorak Hearthstones. He is only young by dwarven standards, little older than 50 years of age. An yet, he has always had an old soul. As a child, he found it easier to talk to the adults of his home village, and he was always curious about the history of his family. Yet he was the youngest boy in a family of five, and the eldest was a Dwarf of 80 years his senior. He never felt that he would be called to fulfil the family oath, so it never fazed him. He was curious in the way all young children were, but as he moved into adolescents he hungered for meaning in his life. It wasn’t enough to maintain the family’s meagre existence by tending flocks of sheep. He wanted his life to be worth something, to someone. So on his twenty fifth birthday, he joined the Stoneborn’s clergy. His family was very proud of him, and encouraged him in his studies. He himself came to identify most with Clanggedin Silverbeard, due to his family’s peculiar oath. It seemed most appropriate to him that the warrior would expect a family to make up for the failings of one of its members, especially as that failing was to run away rather than fight. For twenty years Orlof studied within the temple. He studied hard to master the basic rituals of his faith and worked tirelessly to fill the martial aspects of his role in the world of the Dwarves. Indeed, for a while the young Hearthstone was content. His family served their purpose, and in so doing allowed him the freedom to serve the gods. For Orlof, this was a good life. One he could live for as many centuries as the gods required.
Fate however is a cruel thing. Clanggedin would not have one of his most faithful languish so. His twenty first year within the clergy was a tragic year for the Hearthstone family. For it was the veritable end for many of them. All of them in fact, excluding the eldest and the youngest of the Last Generation. Little is known about the death of Orlof’s family. To many they were simply one family of many wiped from the planet in the orcish raids of that year. Certainly it was a tragedy for Orlof. He and his brother Dandric were the only two Hearthstones left. All of their family was slain in that raid. The parents, uncles, aunties, cousins, siblings and their families all slain. There was not a one left alive by the orcs. Other families had a son that hid under the floorboards, or a sister in a cupboard, but not the Hearthstones. It seemed they had all died fighting, and the few nieces and nephews had been dragged from their hiding places as an example to others. Dandric and Orlof buried their family in the summer of that year. Grouped together, the Hearthstones essentially had their own section of the graveyard. Yet, the family oath remained. Dandric must continue watching the heir. Though in this time, he was still able to leave the man be. Certainly, in his own view, if the heir got himself killed while he was still within a safe city, then he was simply not worthy. There were other descendants of the Fireheart line, many that seemed more promising than the current heir.
So Dandric made a decision. He took Orlof away from the clergy for a time, and passed all he knew of the Hearthstone history to Orlof. Between the two of them he renewed the Oath, and made Orlof promise that he would uphold the family honour if it came to it. Orlof was not pleased. He had moved beyond the oath, and had no wish to leave his place within the clergy. He was doing good work. An yet, whenever he felt this way, he remembered his suspicions about his patron god. That it would be apt for Clanggedin to enforce such an oath, and that it would be truly beneath Orlof to ignore such a thing. Still, it would not be a problem so long as Dandric lived. Orlof’s only duty now was to father a family, and though the clergy did not generally take wives it did not mean they couldn’t. Orlof simply had to become an adult before it became a pressing need, and he had many years before then. So Orlof, though grieving, was content.
Dandric was not a foolish dwarf by any means, so it truly surprised Orlof when he discovered that he had died. A runner delivered the message a few days before Orlof’s fiftieth birthday, and it was a blow for the Dwarf. Though it had been tragic for his family to die years earlier, he had never really considered that Dandric may die. Indeed, Orlof had never even contemplated that such a thing could happen. To him, Dandric was like the gods themselves. An immovable force, wise and yet stubborn. Honestly he had thought the man could assault a raging ogre and survive. Yet here was news of his death. It was not clear how the eldest had died. Orlof could never find out, though he made many attempts. He was simply given a body to bury and some few items as inheritance. A shield that was cumbersome and some armour he was unused to. A holy symbol and some sturdy boots. That was it. In his grief, all Orlof could think was “why the boots, where’s the rest of his clothes. And why do they fit me so well”. Still, Orlof buried the eldest with all the ceremony he could muster, and mourned for many months. He was not simply grieving for his brother. It was his entire family he lamented. He was the last of his line, and the oath was such that it could not be ignored. An yet, if he died, that was it. The tale of his family would end. Their struggles, the lives lost, all for naught. Orlof was angry at the very world for such an unfortunate thing to happen. Not simply that it had taken his family, but that it had very nearly taken the entire meaning of his family with them. How was he to cope? There were rumblings of war now as well. Not only was Orlof supposed to leave the clergy to follow an heir he knew little about, but he was also likely to be called to war for his country. And he was supposed to found a family in all of this to provide more meat for the grinder. It was all too much. Orlof could not make a decision, and so the world made his decision for him.
Orlof would not have time to seek out the heir, because his church was called to war. He had a very straightforward loyalty to the country he was born in. They had taken in the Hearthstones when they had needed it, and never asked much in return. Orlof may have a family duty, but his first call was to his country. At least, that’s how he felt. He knew, deep down, that a Hearthstone never chose that way. Duty was always to the family’s honour. The patriarch of the first family had made that decision for all of them when he took on his son’s shame. An yet, Orlof did not feel bad. Sometimes he justified it to himself as following both oaths. He knew that the Fireheart’s descendants had been drawn into the conflict, and this was a simple way to get close to them. He even recalled that the current branch of the family was known as the Stonehearts, and that the middle child was the current owner of the Heart of the Mountain. These are the things he told himself as he was called to muster and assigned a squad. It was these things he remembered even as he stood before the Stoneheart he was thinking of. A man named as his captain, and the leader of his squad. Orlof could only shake his head in amazement at the cruelty of the gods, that they would put such a thing before him. That he must choose to honour his family’s oath, or ignore it in order to continue their line. It is a choice he still struggles with three years later, and may well be the undoing of this poor young Dwarf.
An yet, the opportunity to see what becomes of the Fireheart’s line is a promising thing to Orlof. To maybe, one day, have a part to play in the stories told to young dwarves. In these moments Orlof remembers his brother Dandric. He remembers how strong he always seemed, how wise he appeared to those around him. Orlof constantly wondered if his brother was always so sure of himself, and honestly could see only one answer to that. It was Dandric’s surety of purpose that gave him such strength, and maybe that is something that Orlof can gain now that he has a driving purpose. It is a purpose that may make him a villain to many, or a hero to a few, but it is a purpose unlike any he has had in his life before, and it is one he feels is worthy of his time.
Orlof’s immediate (and deceased) family
Mother – Elena
Father – Mandric
Eldest brother – Dandric
Second eldest brother – Elendac
Third eldest brother – Mornof
Fourth eldest sister – Elehof