Rise of the Runelords VA

From the Journal of Redgar Ironhand - Final

After the Long Dark

It was a cold day in mid-winter when Orin heard that his master had returned to Janderhoff. His excitement hurried his steps down to Torag’s shrine, his legs rushing against the resistance of the heavy leather in his apprentice robes. It was a struggle to keep himself from running—but even as a youngster, Orin knew that Dwarves did not run without good purpose.

His master—a gray-haired, timeworn cleric known as Thorik—was just where Orin had last seen him, leaned over an anvil at the back of the shrine. His hammerfalls came in slow, purposeful strokes, their blows ringing like the tolls of a solemn bell. Orin moved up, and asked if there was anything he could do to help.

“Pump the bellows boy,” Thorik answered as he admired the glowing steel in his grasp, “We’ll need a hot fire for this one.”

They worked for hours in relative silence, the only words spoken were as chants or prayers. Thorik spoke words to Torag as the steel took shape, thanking him for his guidance, his patience, and his strength. Orin echoed the words and felt a touch of his God’s power rise through them. The prayers warmed him from within like the heat of smoldering embers.

The steel became a long shaft for a two-handed hammer. Thorick’s spells put intricate runes up the handle and textured the handle with delicate knotwork. With this done, Thorick fitted a heavy maul-head to the end. Arcane words breathed over the connection of the two pieces forged them as one.

Thorick held the hammer up in the light of the forge and judged it with wizened eyes. He gave the steel a nod, and then passed it to Orin, “Place this on the altar steps and then join me in the study room.”

Orin took the hammer, its haft still warm from the fires of the forge. He went to the steps of Torag’s shrine, looked up to a chiseled likeness of his stern-faced god, and said words of tribute. Orin placed the hammer among the other items forged that day by Torag’s clerics. His patience now gone, he ran to the study room.

Thorik did not look up from his work as Orin returned to him. Before him on a wide stone table, Thorick had spread a number of writings and strange artifacts, many of which Orin had no understanding of. Thorick stared at them for several long seconds before turning to Orin and asking gently, “Have we any ale in the house?”

Orin nodded, “Of course.”

He was surprised to see a smile from the old cleric, “Could you find some for me? I think I might need a mug.”

Orin fetched two mugs and joined Thorik on a bench near the hearth. Orin clutched his cup tight in both hands as he watched his master take a long draw from his ale.

Thorik sighed heavily, “Go ahead boy, I know you want to ask.”

“What did you find at Runeforge?”

Thorik did not answer right away. The dwarf’s eyes went back to the objects on the table, where they lingered for a time and then fell. His brow furrowed with troubled thoughts.

Thorik said at length, “It was a place of great wonders and horrors.”

“But did you find what you were looking for?”

Thorik considered the question carefully before answering. When he was ready, he said, “So little is known of the world before Karzog’s return—of the time before the long darkness and the hundred years of fire. I had hoped that Runeforge would give me a window on what preceded the great fall, a way to see how it all could have gone so wrong.”

He shook his head, “But there was no such lesson to be learned there…only an evil trapped in time and the ghosts of those that came before. In Runeforge I learned that there was no great battle lost to give Karzog his freedom…no moment of choice gone wrong. The world simply let it happen. The few who stood against him were no match for the powers they faced.”

The words seemed to drain the strength from Thorik. He leaned forward against the table, his eyes cast down into his ale. Orin watched him with held breath.

Thorik blinked after a moment, then turned to Orin, “Before I left, you told me you intended to pledge yourself to Torag’s anvil. Is this still what you want?”

Orin nodded, “More than anything master.”

“Then I have something for you,” Thorik replied, “A story with a lesson to be learned.”

Thorik reached across the table for a thick red book with a metallic clasp. The cover was scarred, singed, and tattered with age, but the script on the front was still clear. It said, “The Journal of Redgar Ironhand.”

Orin took the book and held it reverently. He asked, “Who is Redgar Ironhand?”

“Read it and find out,” Thorik advised, “Come back to me when you are finished.”

Orin read through the night by candlelight, turning page after page of the ancient red book. The world Redgar described was something quite different from the one Orin knew—a world with verdant forests and human cities—a world where the light burned brighter than the shadow loomed. It had taken the free peoples of Golarion two thousand years to overthrow Karzog’s dominion. It seemed the world their battles had left was but a shade of the one that had come before.

As Orin saw hope dwindle in Redgar’s entries, he found himself cursing the ignorance of the mortals of his time. Surely others had seen the signs, surely others could have intervened in their time of need. But only Redgar and his companions had risen to stand opposed. As Thorik said, the rest of the world had let it happen.

Redgar’s story then was not one of heroism, but instead only a long tragedy. What started for Redgar and his companions as a call to good became a burden as the story went on—a burden that none of them could escape. For every victory they scored came only a new challenge to overcome—each more terrible than the last. And as they fell, one-by-one, Orin’s heart fell with them.

Orin knew how the story must end, and yet he was surprised when he came to the last entry. There was no finally statement of hope…no pardon…no redemption. Redgar’s journey had ended suddenly, like a prayer cut off in mid-sentence. He felt sick to his stomach when it was done. He tried to sleep, but no rest came.

The next morning, Orin joined Thorick again in the forge. They worked together on the blade for a long pike. They folded steel and sang prayers while sweat beaded across their foreheads. When it was done, the edge of the blade gleamed with a razor’s light.

They retired again to the study room, and again Orin found them mugs of ale. When Thorik had finished his first mug, Orin offered Redgar’s journal back to his master, “I have read it.”

Thorik made no move to take the book. Instead, he looked down on it as it trembled in Orin’s hand.

The old cleric asked, “Has Redgar’s story troubled you boy?”

“It has master,” Orin answered, “It has.”

“And why is that?”

Orin looked down to the book and shook his head mournfully, “In the end it was…it was all for nothing, wasn’t it? They fought, they suffered, and they died…and it didn’t change a thing. Karzog still rose and plunged the world into an age of darkness. All they did, all they hoped for…it was lost with them. No one now even knows their names.”

Thorik asked, “Did you read the inscription in the back?”

Orin shook his head, then opened the book from the rear cover. He found words on the last page, their letters written in large, deliberate strokes.

Why I Fight

For Torag, who gave a lost life meaning.
For my Mother, who showed me what it is to sacrifice.
For my Father, who taught me the meaning of service.
And for my friends, who bear this burden with me.
When I fall, I will sleep beneath the anvil of the world.
But until that day, I will carry it on my shoulders.

“This is the lesson of Redgar’s story,” Thorik said when Orin looked up, “The lesson of purpose.”

“Master, I don’t understand.”

Thorik drew in a regal breath, “Orin, when you swear to Torag’s anvil, it is not to win battles or vanquish evil…it is to live with purpose.”

He reached out with one hand and touched the journal on its cover, “Redgar did not succeed, he did not stop the rise of evil. But there is no shame in his failure. He did not give up. He did not surrender. He did not turn from the path Torag showed him. This is what will be asked of you as well. Are you ready to carry the anvil of the world?”

Orin shook his head, “I don’t know…”

Thorik lifted his hand for a gentle pat at Orin’s shoulder, “That’s okay son. Redgar didn’t know at first either. We’ll find out for you. We’ll find out.”

The old cleric sat back on the bench and folded his arms across his chest, “Keep the journal Orin. Read it again. It’s not the story I want to tell you…but it’s one that you need to know.”

Orin bowed, “Thank you master.”

Thorik raised his mug again, and seemed surprised to find it empty. He offered the cup to Orin with a smile, “Why don’t you find us another, eh? We have more things to talk about.”

Orin nodded as he took it from him, “I’ll be right back.”

He left the journal on the table.

Thorik stared at the book for several seconds, the mirth slipping slowly from his lips. When it was gone, he was only an old man with a sorrowful expression. He felt a pressing heaviness spread across his back. It took all his strength to bear its weight.

Thorik touched the book once more and said sadly, “There was a purpose friend.”

He said then a prayer for the fallen, a prayer for the lost, and a prayer for the forgotten. He thought he heard a ghostly echo from over his shoulder as he said the words. Thorik turned to look, but there was no one there.

He said to the silence, “Thank you.”

And the presence was gone.



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