The Hateful Wars: Chapter One
There was a dwarf named Olinstaad from the house of Corond, born in the city of Gyrax on the Bay of Adirole. His father was Morgiz and his mother was called Anesia, and both of them were noble dwur of the old blood of Balnorhak.[i] They kept an estate on the river that flows between Eastpass and Oakhollow where they had lived for so many centuries that the river took its name from them, and no one remembers if it had ever had a different name. In those days, the remote mountains belonged to the old dwur kingdoms, but the lowlands and the mountain passes belonged to the Lion Throne of Niole Dra.
The blood of Olinstaad came from no insignificant place. The noble House Corond boasted close ties of kinship with the dwur of Irongate, and, in his youth, Olinstaad twice crossed the Azure Sea by way of sailing ship to visit those far-off lands. A noble and affluent dwarf, he made a name for himself as a roguish hero of great strength and prowess in battle, renowned for his brave exploits and adventures in the mountains, in the faraway lands of Yeomanry, and further abroad—even as far as the Barrier Peaks. When the proud young dwarf was ready to settle down for a respectable life and take a wife, he married Sjarrdys Dagberyl, the sister of Oldid Silverbeard and a daughter of a noble house of Ironhelm. With her dowry came the vestige honors of that ancient and no-more kingdom called Balnorhak, and Olinstaad received the crown and title to become Prince Olinstaad Corond of Ulek, Lord of the Peaks of Haven.
By his first wife, Sjarrdys, the Prince Olinstaad had a daughter called Kristryd, and after her, two sons. Some say she had been born under the boon of the Fey Queen Astaranthe, the fifteenth queen of Celene.[ii] If the story is to be believed, Sjarrdys Dagberyl, the first wife of Prince Olinstaad, was barren, for her womb was like hard stone soil where no seed could take root. In distress and despair over her shame, the prince’s wife made pilgrimage to the fey kingdom and begged a blessing from the elven queen. Astaranthe had mercy and granted the boon. She blessed the prince’s wife in the name of the goddess Ehlonna and bade the dwarf-woman drink deep a draught from her own goblet of green wine. Then with such blessings and enchantments as she could bestow, the elven queen sent the dwarfess back to her husband whence she did conceive at once and in due course gave birth to a daughter—and after that, to two sons. Needless to say, the royal court of Havenhill and Gyrax denies the story, but many remarked that the child had a fey look about her—more like an elf-child in appearance than a proper dwarven girl. The girl had her mother’s thick and curling black hair, but she looked slight of frame for a dwarf and not so heavy faced as her kin. Instead, her visage seemed to bear the sharp keen edges of fey blood. The prince named the fairy-child Kristryd after his mother’s mother. He showed no concern over his daughter’s slightness of form, “She shall be a proper dwarfess and stout enough in good time.”
Kristryd matured into a healthy dwarf lass, dark-haired and dark-eyed, keen and quick-witted, but not exceptional in any other way except her petite frame and the fey features. Strong and sturdy as any other dwur girl, she quickly learned to swing the hammer and the axe, and she learned which end of the sword to hold and which to thrust.
Sons and daughters of dwarven nobles apprentice themselves—for short spells—under every profession practiced in the clan, so that they might obtain some passing knowledge of every trade over which they will one day lord. So Kristryd learned the arts of mining, stonework, metallurgy, smithying, loom-work, warp of weft, husbandry, brewing, baking, bartering, and all craftsmanship practiced by her kin within the Principality. Moreover, she learned the art of mothering, for Kristryd doted over her two younger brothers as if they were her own sons. When her mother Sjarrdys died unexpectedly, young Kristryd took it upon herself all the more to nurture her brothers and smother them in her affections as if by her attentions she might compensate them for their loss. Her brothers Olin and Orin considered her more mother than sister, and they looked on her with fond affection. “Kristryd!” the Prince Olinstaad scolded her, “If you pamper them too much, you’ll make them soft!”
When his daughter came of age, the prince sent young Kristryd to the Royal Military Academy in Gyrax, where Keoish instructors schooled officers of the Royal Army in languages, etiquette, mathematics, philosophy, and architecture, as well as military history, weapon proficiency, tactics, and strategy.[iii] Because she excelled in her studies, he sent her to be tutored in the court of King Tavish II at Niole Dra: “the center of all culture and scholarship,” or so the prince believed.[iv] In that city of men, the dwarfish girl learned much of the world and all that is useful at court and in the world of politics, but she also felt ill at ease far away from home and removed from her own kind. The children of noblemen are cruel of tongue, and they teased the girl mercilessly all the years she remained at court, not less because she was pretty to their eyes, that is, until the hair of her face began to grow. Nonetheless, she learned what she might, made such friends as she could among the children of human aristocrats, and she braided her dark beard in the manner of a dwarf maid. Nor was she alone without a warder, for Prince Olinstaad entrusted her to his most-loyal, trueheaded advisor, the court wizard, Bagbag Silverstonecutter of Khundrakar. Bagbag proved loyal to the prince’s daughter as he was to the prince himself, and he oversaw all aspects of Kristryd’s education. Kristryd showed little interest in the types of studies to which a young princess should apply herself. Instead of arts and crafts, matters of court, poetry and literature, charms and potions, Kristryd learned the histories of men and elves, and she learned to master their languages. She studied the lore of the twin cataclysms and the great migrations. She read the tomes that recorded the history of the wars of Keoland and the Great Kingdom, paying special interest to those passages which concerned her land and her people. Moreover, she poured over maps of the Flanaess, learning what she could of all its lands, the roads, the trade routes, and the strategies of war. Bagbag Silverstonecutter was a loremaster himself, and he encouraged the young dwarfess to pursue such interests, always pointing her toward another book, another map, another scroll. “It is fitting for the daughter of the prince,” he assured her, “to be conversant with all things that touch on the art of kings.”
With her studies completed and she, by then, entering her thirty-sixth year, Bagbag returned the girl to her father. Laying his eyes upon his now full-grown and rounded daughter, Prince Olinstaad remarked, “Tall as a mountain dwarf and as fair as an elf lass, you shall fetch me a pretty penny for a bride price.” And so she did. In the year 440 of the common reckoning, Prince Olinstaad Corond gave his daughter Kristryd in marriage to the Prince Grallwen Evrast of Dengar, son of the undermountain king, to cement a restoration of relationship and mutual goodwill between the Principality and Thane Evrast VII of Dengar. “If Keoland marches against us, we will need him,” the Prince said. “Four and a half centuries should be time sufficient even for dwarves to forget old grudges.”