The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirty-Four
“No more will the blood of dwarves be shed to slake the thirst of a witch!” declared Thane Evrast, the undermountain king of Dengar. He recalled all his soldiers and formally withdrew from the alliance. Kristryd’s sons, Grallsonn, Dwalyn, and Pegli, denounced their grandfather for speaking slander against their mother, but the undermountain king showed a letter sealed with the impress of Dame Thresstone of Gilmorack. The king’s scribe read the letter aloud in their hearing:
Be it known that Urgush, the shaman-king of the Red Medusa orcs, colluded with Kristryd and with the warlock Bagbag to loot the treasuries of Dengar and steal away the Anvil of the Lortmil Mountains.
“Lies and forgeries!” Kristryd’s sons said. “Who is this Dame Thresstone and where is she? Let her come and testify about these matters.”
Thane Evrast clapped his hands. Dame Thresstone stepped into his audience hall, adorned in all the finery and wealth of an undermountain queen. “I will testify before you by Moradin’s beard and by all the gods. Moreover, Kristryd has sent her demons to torment me. She has made my life a terror and a nightmare. Had it not been for the mercy of Hedvyg and the power of her wards and sigils, I should already be pulled alive down into the Abyss!”
Kristryd’s sons reasoned with all who would hear them, “How is it that our mother is called a witch in league with witches when she leads the fight against the witches? How is it that our mother is a friend of goblins when she leads the fight against the goblins?”
Thane Evrast gave ear to the counsel of Dame Thresstone. Said she, “Why chase the rabbit if the rabbit will come to us.” The undermountain king put his grandsons in chains and imprisoned them in the dungeons beneath Dengar.
Came then word of these matters to the underhalls of Bennoth Tine where the Anvil of the Lortmil Mountains still rang under the hammer blows of Durgeddin the Smith. Kristryd said to Bagbag, “I will not suffer that fool any longer!” She sent letters to the alliance and to all the commanders in the field, informing them of Thane Evrast’s treason and how he had taken her sons as his prisoners.
She thought to use the silver-framed mirror to look on the condition of her sons and see how they fared, but she found the magic of her scrying blocked.
“I will go to Dengar, and I will free them,” Bagbag assured her.
“I go with you,” the queen hissed through clenched teeth. “We will bring our trueheaded friends, Bamadar, Archosian, Peralay, Xaxalander, and Father Furduch. I will summon Darrion and the cavalry of Celene. I will send for Gilvgola. I will even find Alton Quickbread and call him back to my service. Together we will make a dungeoneer’s party to storm Dengar, liberate my sons, and teach those traitors the price of treachery.”
“Not this time,” Bagbag said firmly. “I go alone.”
Battle for the Anvil
While Bagbag travelled toward Dengar, Thane Evrast personally led his army away from that hidden vale on a march to Bennoth Tine. By the time Bagbag passed unseen over Durin’s Chasm and through the Long Bridge Gates, the armies Thane Evrast already laid siege against Kristryd’s stronghold. The great cavern outside the sealed gates of the fortress ran red in a terrible bloodletting unlike any since dwur-folk first set foot in the Lortmil Mountains. From inside the safety of the citadel, Kristryd watched the battle in dismay. How has it come to this? she asked herself as dwarves spilled the blood of dwarves.
Bamadar and Durgeddin marshalled the defense of Bennoth Tine, but Evrast’s company outnumbered them. The Gilmorack dwarves retreated inside the citadel and sealed the gates against the besiegers. Durgeddin the Smith and his men swore to defend the anvil to the last drop of their blood. He assured Kristryd, “So long as I live and breathe, no hair of your head will be harmed. Let these Dengar dwarves come taste the weight of my hammer.”
The dwarves of Dengar worked with their gnomish allies to design clever siege engines, and the dwur inside Bennoth Tine labored at countermeasures. The dwarves of Dengar dug tunnels around the defenses, but Durgeddin’s miners undermined their tunnels and walled up the breaches. When the besiegers brought a ram up against the gates, the defenders buffered its blows with a counter ramp of earth-pack against the inside of the gates. When the besiegers brought up a hook to pull down stones, the besiegers dropped a chain to loop it and pull it away. The siege continued for days; days became weeks, and weeks became months. Sufficient foodstuffs had been laid up by the queen; her defenders had no fear of starvation. Water was another problem. A deep welling spring fed a cistern inside their walls, but the dwarves of Dengar tunneled through the stone, drained the cistern, and diverted the watercourse. By the time the deed was discovered, there was little to be done about it. Bamadar ordered water rationing, but even so, he could not see how they might long survive. “We cannot drink our own urine!” he complained, “And we aren’t expecting rain any time soon beneath the mountains.”
“Let the priests invoke the gods to bring forth water from the stone,” the queen suggested.
“Already done and the quantity is not sufficient to fill a hogs head,” Bamadar replied.
She wished her trueheaded friend was present. The queen began to discuss offering terms of surrender. I might yet trade the anvil for the safety of my sons, she told herself.
“Never!” Durgeddin exclaimed. “The thieves of Dengar will never have the anvil again. Even if I must melt it into slag before we are slain.”
While the battle raged outside Bennoth Tine, Bagbag moved unseen through the halls of Dengar. Cloaked in spells of invisibility and silence, the old wizard made his way past sentries and down into the lower dungeons where he expected to find Kristryd’s sons imprisoned. As he stepped into the guard room, the hair on the back of his neck stood up, for he found no guards present. He looked about warily. Hedvyg appeared before him and spoke a word to dispel magic. Bagbag’s invisibility spell broke, and she laid her eyes upon him. In her hand she held a magical wand which she levelled at the old dwarf in a threatening gesture.
“My darling,” Bagbag said without affection. “You have not grown comelier.”
“True,” Hedvyg giggled like a schoolgirl and smacked her lips. Her smile turned abruptly to a scowl, and she was all business, “You have a certain book. It belonged to my sister, and now it belongs to me. Surrender the book and the anvil, and I give you Dengar.”
Bagbag sighed wearily. “The book has brought me nothing but trouble and vexation. And I will deliver the anvil to you as well. But you must first release Kristryd’s sons and exonerate their names.”
“Do you make demands?” the old witch keaked.
“Yes,” Bagbag replied. “I have the book, I have the anvil, and I have something greater yet: the true name of Lord Agilmir’s fiend, the demon of Dregrach the Cruel.”
Hedvyg lowered the wand that she still clutched as she considered the implications of those three claims. “Swear it to me!” she demanded, shaking the wand for added emphasis.
Turmoil in Dengar
Bagbag left Dengar in a state near to anarchy. The mountain dwarves divided between those loyal to the alliance and those loyal to Thane Evrast. Kristryd’s sons, now free of the dungeons, garnered sympathies and gathered strength. They denounced Thane Evrast and laid a challenge against their cousins—rival heirs to the throne. Young Grallson made no secret of his designs. “I am the son of Prince Grallwen son of Evrast and Thaness Kristryd Olinsdotter, rightful heir to this throne as much as any other who can make claim.”
When word of the chaos at home reached the ears of Thane Evrast, he lifted his furious siege of Bennoth Tine, recalled all his forces, and marched back to Dengar in great haste. These things transpired none too soon for Kristryd and the thirsty dwarves still trapped inside the walls of Bennoth Tine.
Thane Evrast hurried back to Dengar, but by the time he arrived there, he found all his royal court in upheaval. Kristryd’s sons had installed themselves in Upper Dengar and taken control of the mountainside citadel. Moreover, they sealed the shafts to the lower city and declared that they would not open them until the undermountain king abdicate his crown.
Rage and fury seized Thane Evrast, and a strange malady beset him. Some fiendish woodness took hold of him. He writhed, flerked about, and frothed like a rabid beast. All who had sworn fealty to him tugged at their beards and muttered, “By Moradin! The undermountain king has fallen under some curse or spell.”
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Artwork by Tulikoura War of the Dwarves and Orcs