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Stronghollow Clan

by Donald Eric Kesler

As related by Olum Stahlstone of clan Buhrodar

We are the Denwarf, the "Rock Born" in our tongue. The word Dwarf is a human corruption of our true and proper name. The tale of the Denwarf of Stronghollow begins in Dengar, which the humans and elves call Rockhome. I, like many others, believe that our tale shall conclude in Dengar, but that is a theory that I will share with you another day.

In the dim past, the mortals that once lived upon Mystara displeased the Immortals greatly. They sinned in that they believed themselves to be greater than the Immortals. So the Immortals, in their wisdom, purged the land with a rain of fire.

This cleansing of the land pleased Flasheyes Kagyar the Artisan. He was like a smith with raw iron. He was like a mason with virgin granite. And thus it was that Kagyar began to create.

He turned his attention to the land that would become Dengar. It was barren and covered with a thick layer of ice. It was not devoid of life, for monsters and creatures suited to icy existence lived and bred beneath the frosty crust, but it was inhospitable and its inhabitants did not please Kagyar.

Kagyar smote the ice with Torphun, his mighty hammer, and the ice broke into many shards and fell away. Like a jeweller considering an uncut stone, Kagyar gazed upon the land he had uncovered. It was upon this harsh and rugged terrain formed from fire and ice that Kagyar would craft his most remarkable creation.

Kagyar spoke, "I require strong and skilled labourers to help me with my work upon this land."

Kagyar picked up a boulder of the strongest granite. He noted how it had withstood both the fire and the ice. This would be the material from which he would forge his people. From this boulder, Kagyar would use his consummate artistry and fashion a powerful mortal that would become the master of this harsh land and a celebrant of both industry and craftsmanship.

Kagyar made this being strong of thew, clever of mind, and long of patience. Kagyar breathed fire into the breast of his creation and named him Denwarf, the Rockborn. This was the first of the Denwarf and was forged to be the King of the Denwarf. Kagyar considered his work with a critical eye and was pleased.

Kagyar spoke, "Go forth and fashion this land, First King Denwarf. May your work please both the heart and the eye. Above all else, may your efforts endure and protect both you and those that I shall fashion for you to lead. For this land is Dengar, the Rock Home, and it shall last as long as both you and yours serve me faithfully."

Kagyar created many more of Denwarf's folk, separating them into males and females, in the fashion of most of a natures creatures. Into their very souls he forged a desire akin to his own, a desire to craft enduring beauty from all things which come from the earth. He bestowed unto them the ability to enjoy and revere the subterranean world as no other intelligent mortal race could. Having forged the Denwarf and placed them upon Dengar, he withdrew from the realm of the mortals to see what they would do.

Faithfully, the Denwarf followed their King for many years. They increased in population and explored their mountains, learning to mine out precious materials and to craft them into wondrous things. The creations of Kagyar also learned the arts of armour and weapons. For in those days, the Denwarf knew that their mountains were the centre of the whole of Mystara and that there were no other worthy races to be found. Orcs, Goblins, and Giants were all encountered and driven forth from the land of Dengar.

The Denwarf have always been a long lived race, highly resistant to the ravages of time. King Denwarf, however, never aged at all. For two score decades, King Denwarf led his people. He was revered for his stony impassiveness, his merciless fighting ability and his chilling impartiality in judgement. King Denwarf acted with the cold authority of Kagyar himself.

It was then, during the 400th year of the Reign of King Denwarf, that the King led his subjects to the very heart of Dengar, a vast cavern complex in the foothills east of Lake Stahl. It was here that King Denwarf commanded the clans to move.

King Denwarf spoke, "Behold, this is Dengar. Let it be known to all the clans that this is the true Dengar of all Dengar. All the rest of Dengar is but a melodious echo of this great cavern. All the clans must come here and rejoice and create works to honour Kagyar."

Having uttered his final proclamation, King Denwarf withdrew from his charges and disappeared into the lower caverns. His final fate remains a mystery, but there are those who say he still explores the deep. This is a tale that I will share with you another day.

It was during these strange days, around 1400 BC as the Thyatians measure the passage of time, that the Modrigswerg clan foolishly rejected the wise teachings of Kagyar and embraced the twin paths of dark entropy and destructive madness.

There are those who speculate that the fall of the Modrigswerg came about as a direct result of contact with both humans and elves. Both of these races were encountered by the Denwarf at this time. As I said, those few brief years were very strange and eventful.

Others speculate that the Modrigswerg were unwilling to follow the second King of Dengar, Everast I. Personally, I doubt this was the cause. After all, there is no record of any acts of either cruelty or malice on the part of King Everast I. But, I digress.

For in truth, the reasoning behind Clan Modrigswerg's fall is ultimately unimportant. What is important is the fact that they did fall. There is much that you will need to know of these abominations, but this, too, is a tale that I must share with you at a later date.

Time passed. Stone was carved. Around 1000 BC, during the reign of Blystar III, marauding tribes of orcs and goblins sought to take Dengar from the Denwarf. This began what some refer to as the Five Century War.

Indeed, for five hundred long years, all of the kobolds, goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, bugbears, ogres and trolls that had been driven forth from the lands of men and elves sought to settle in Dengar. It was not until 492 BC, at the Battle of Sardal Pass, that the final humanoid tribe was defeated and the borders of Dengar were secured. This historic event marks the start, year zero, of the current Denwarf calendar.

It was during some of the worst fighting of the Five Century War, in 744 BC, that the Denwarf warrior and orator Loktal Ironshield began telling others of a land he called Klistdal, the glittering land. It was a land of great forests, bountiful farms, and, most importantly, untapped veins of iron, copper, silver and gold. Indeed, Loktal told all who would listen how this veritable treasure trove was protected by nothing more than little half men.

Several clans were overcome with greed. Others, weary of the seemingly endless fighting against the humanoids, were enticed by Loktal's assurances of an easy conquest. Thus it was that these clans decided to abandon Dengar and seek their future in Klistdal. Everything did not work out as they had expected. The Denwarf who threw in their lot with Loktal found themselves in a hotly contested land filled with human raiders and orcish hordes.

Still, we Denwarf are a hardy and formidable race. After many years of fighting and suffering on the part of his Denwarf followers, Loktal Ironshield was able to declare himself King of Klistdal. In Dengar, Loktal had spoken with a tongue of silver. In Klistdal, with a crown upon his head, Loktal's true nature revealed itself.

Loktal was both shrewd and grasping. His greatest weapon was fear. He maintained strict discipline among his warriors, never letting them forget that they were at war with all non-dwarves in a hostile land and dare not relax. Halflings were rounded up and enslaved. Toiling under heavy Denwarf guard, the halflings mined deep into the mountains of their homeland.

Loktal had no interest in improving the land. He simply wanted its riches. The farmlands slid back into an overgrown and wild state. Food was purchased from other lands with the treasures mined by the halfling slaves. Loktal constructed no lasting monuments or structures. No stone was carved in an artistic manner. Loktal kept only the roads open for his marching armies and his wagon trains of precious metals. Even his mines were poorly kept. Such was the dark state of affairs for two score years.

Then one day, gnolls appeared in the northernmost regions of Klistdal. At the same time, the scattered orcish hordes had regrouped under a new, charismatic leader. Loktal found himself confronted by two opposing forces at once. He led his Denwarf armies against first the orcs and then the gnolls. After two terrible and costly battles, the Denwarf emerged weary but victorious.

However, while the humanoid hordes had occupied Loktal's attention, he had failed to notice that the halflings had been quietly and patiently preparing for a revolution. Now that the Denwarf were exhausted and weak from fighting both the gnolls and orcs, the halflings attacked.

The halflings do not fight as the Denwarf fight. They do not stand up tall and present themselves to their foes. They hide in the woods and sling stones. They climb to the tops of trees and rain down arrows. After forty years of close contact, the halflings knew to strike where we Denwarf are weak. It was then, during that time when those Denwarf faced their darkest hour, that Loktal Ironshield quietly slipped away one night, never to be seen again.

Without a strong leader, the various clans that had united under Loktal Ironshield's banner fell into disarray. They were readily force out of the halfling lands. One group, led by Orrar Stronghollow fled to the East, into the untamed Traldaran territories.

In the wild Traldaran lands, Orrar and his foundling clan encountered one challenge after another. The woodland creatures of this land were wild and fierce. The rolling, wooded hills were inhospitable. They would have surely perished had they not stumbled upon the gnomish Kingdom of Highforge. Recognising kinship with the Denwarf, King Dorfin Highforge made the wayward clan welcomed in his land.

There was some brief talk of returning to Dengar after a brief respite; however, Orrar Stronghollow thought otherwise.

Orrar spoke, "We forsook Dengar when its borders were besieged by its enemies. We eagerly accepted the half truths of Loktal Ironshield, because he offered us easy riches and security. When we discovered the truth and encountered hardships in Klistdal, we did not repent our folly. Rather, we allowed fear to guide our actions. Rather than remain true to what we knew to be just and right, we enslaved the halflings. No, my clansmen, we shall not return to Dengar. For Dengar deserves better than the likes of us."

"Kagyar has shown us mercy by allowing us to find these kind Gnomes. Here is where we shall remain. Here, in this new land, we will craft and forge. We will use all of our skill to atone for our past sins and bring honour to Kagyar. This is how it shall be."

Thus it was that the Stronghollow clan came to the Kingdom of Karameikos.