Prince of Nurunkhizdín
The Tale of Years
Spring — Thélor is born in Nurunkhizdín. His birth is highly unusual. He’s one of triplets (almost unheard of among Dwarves) and his brothers are identical twins. After Queen Ním gives birth to Borin and Barin she is removed to her bedchamber to recover. Hours later, while she’s nursing the twins, labor pains come again and — to the astonishment of all — she gives birth to yet another son. Sadly, he’s blue-born and isn’t breathing. The midwives try to take the dead baby from the Queen, but she fights them off like a mountain lion. She gives breath to the newborn and shouts “Azigro! Azigro!” as she slaps his back. The midwives hang in the shadows, afraid to approach the Queen. “Azigro!” the Queen shouts one final time in despair. For long seconds, silence reigns in the bedchamber. Then, wondrously, the thin cry of a newborn rings through the halls. The child lives! Later, when her husband King Thralin V asks the weary Queen by what miracle she resurrected the baby, she tells him: “No miracle, my love. ‘Azigro,’ I told him. ‘Fight,’ I said. And so he did.” Thus, the newborn was named Azigrok, Khuzdul for “Fighter.”
Summer — Thélor has a nightmare and goes to visit his mother. He finds her gone, and a strange Dwarf taking measurements of his mother’s chambers. He storms up to see his father, who refuses to discuss anything with him. The guard, a Dwarf named Frár, who escorts him back to his room tells young Thélor that Orcs tried to kidnap Queen Ním. She has been sent away until it can be discovered how they found a way inside the Bower. When Thélor finally returns to his bed, he finds that Borin and Barin have left a nasty surprise for him.
Late Winter — While in the Bower, Thélor meets a spirited and beautiful young Dwarf woman named Mîra who collides with him while fleeing from a guard. Mîra is baseborn and not permitted in the Bower. She tells Thélor that she only wanted some food for her sickly mother. Thélor dismisses the guard and speaks with the girl. He tells her of his hope to one day better the fortunes of those who have little. After Thélor sees Mîra home, he makes some inquiries and is able to get her a job working with the Queen’s seamstress.
Fall — Thélor has spent much of the past few months in the King’s Library. He is trying to discover the true fate of Dwarven Ring of the Ironfists. Unfortunately, his research has only led to dead ends. After on particularly fruitless night of research, he goes to the Bower to visit with his mother. Unfortunately, he finds that Queen Ním is occupied with his father who has made a rare visit. Mîra is there and asks him to go for a walk with her. She leads Thélor through the nearly deserted halls to Izil-zâram, a moonlit lake in the Great Hall that is always warm. It is sacred to to Dwarves of Nurunkhizdín, but this does not stop Mîra from stripping down to her underthings and going for a dip! She invites Thélor to join her and he does. Mîra asks Thélor why he’s searching for the Ring when it caused so much pain, and he tells her that he wishes to destroy it so that it can never again harm them. She seems to approve of this.
Suddenly they are spotted by a guard! The guard doesn’t recognize his Prince at first, but seems to know Mîra and orders her out of the lake. Thélor dismisses the guard and he and Mîra remain for a while, floating in peace.
The next day, Thélor is summoned to see his father, King Thralin V. The King is incensed with Thélor’s behavior and wants him to be more like his brothers. He tells Thélor that he has had “that baseborn girl” removed from the seamstress’ staff and also flogged. He forbids Thélor from ever seeing her again. Thélor is enraged that his father would physically harm the girl. He decides that he will join the host — which is always away in some forgotten tunnel battling Orcs — so that he can get away from his father. Queen Ním tries to dissuade him, but it’s no use.
Spring — Thélor is sparring with Frár the Ugly, a grizzled and one-armed veteran who Queen Ním hired to provide her son with the best training gold could buy. When he returns home, he finds another letter from Mîra has been slipped under his door. They’ve been corresponding every week for the past four years, though Thélor has kept his word and not seen her, as his father commanded.
After his sparring match with Frár, Thélor is visited by Borin and Barin. They have heard that the Queen got him a trainer. “Does that mean you’re no longer a suckling, little Azigrok? Ever have you hidden under mother’s skirts; I assumed you’d end up in them yourself, one day.” They tell him to stop training; fighting is their business, not his. Thélor tells them that he’s chosen his own way and to leave him be. They try to provoke him into a sparring match with Borin the next morning, but Thélor doesn’t take the bait. Lucky thing, too, as the next morning Frár finds both brothers suited up in the sparring room, probably planning on beating Thélor to within an inch of his life. Thélor proves himself to be cool-headed.
Spring — Thélor is an axe-bearer in the host of Nurunkhizdín. Battle with the Uruk Marzguram (Orcs of the Crushed Skull) is his life. He has become good friends with a fellow soldier, Azagri. His twin brothers are also in host, but as officers.
After returning from a vicious battle in the abandoned lower halls, Thélor doesn’t feel right about the fight. It was too easy. Soon, Mîra arrives, having snuck into the camp in disguise. It is the first time they’ve seen each other in 27 years, but they’ve kept in touch by letter. Alas, she isn’t there for a reunion. In fact, she has horrible news: Thélor was right, the offensive was a feint. After years of trying, the Orcs have finally managed to capture Thélor’s mother the queen!
The host soon mounts an offensive to rescue Queen Ním, but Thélor and his brothers are not permitted to go (the King doesn’t fears they will be captured also). Borin and Barin strike a surprising alliance with Thélor to rescue their mother, saying Barin — as commander of the Pebblers (scouts) — knows a hidden way into the Orc tunnels. Azagri and Mîra accompany them on the treacherous journey. When they come at last to the chamber of the Uruk Marzguram warlord they find their mother bound, bruised, and naked on the cold floor. Shockingly, Borin and Barin betray Thélor and try to trade him for the queen! Thélor accepts this, but the warlord doesn’t want the “runt.” Instead, he asks for either Borin or Barin in trade. Surprisingly, Barin agrees — but Borin won’t be upstaged! He attacks the warlord and a fight ensues. Azagri manages to keep the warlord’s poison dagger away from Queen Ním long enough for Thélor to grab the warlord’s strangely-crafted axe and kill him with it. They queen is saved!
Thélor tells his brothers that he will not report what they’ve done, for it will shame their family and Nurunkhizdín is already fractured. Yet, after their jubilant return to the host it is Barin who tells the host-commander (a re-drafted Frár the Ugly) the truth. Frár is furious and wants to kick them both out of the host, but Thélor commands him as Prince (with a little help from Frár) to instead reassign them to dubious duties. Frár, of course, cannot overlook the fact that Thélor disobeyed him. The Weapon-lord punishes him… with a promotion. Thélor is now an officer, First Axe and commander of a patrol of Dwarves. Barin comes to him and expresses his remorse for what they did. He says that Borin bullied him into it, just as he’s bullied him all his life: “Second born, he calls me.” Thélor tells his brother that he has honor, but he’s not ready to forgive him just yet. The King visits, seeing to the Queen, and he grudgingly concedes that Thélor did well. The King also confides that things are not going well for the Ironfists and he fears they’ll soon by overrun by the Orcs. He is clearly a desperate and worried Dwarf.
Meanwhile, Mîra proves herself quite capable. She admits to Thélor that she’s been engaged in treasure hunting in the abandoned halls with a small group. She wants him to leave the host belong and join her; she doesn’t believe he belongs with them. Thélor tells her that he’s committed to the host, but the idea is tempting.
Winter — For six years, Thélor has commanded Dwarves as an Axe-herd in the Ironfist host. Lately, though, there’s been a lull in the fighting. Thélor is surprised to be summoned to a war council headed by his father, King Thralin V. There, his brother Prince Borin tries to convince the King that now is the time to press the attack; further, he wants Thélor to lead the assault. Thinking it yet another trick, Thélor agrees, but wishes his voice to be heard while discussing strategy. King Thralin, however, seems weary and says they will do nothing.
Spring — Citing declining health, King Thralin attends no meetings of the the Adamant Council. He assigns Prince Borin to mind his throne.
Summer — Thélor moves swiftly up the ranks within the Host. He is promoted to the rank of Attack-lord, responsible for the command of 147 axes.
Autumn — The Uruk Marzguram continue to draw their forces away from the front lines. Though skirmishes continue, there have been no sustained attack against Nurunkhizdín for almost four years. This is not the tactic of leaderless Orcs, and Thélor suspects something is amiss.
Winter — Prince Barin disappears on a scouting mission deep into the old ruins to determine the disposition of the Uruk Marzguram. Weapon-lord Frár the Ugly contracts with Azagri and the “treasure hunters” he’s been running with to locate the Prince, as they possess intimate knowledge of the tunnels and halls they’ve been searched for lost Ironfist artifcats. These mercenaries have a strange request, which Zag communicates: They will search, but Prince Thélor must accompany them. Thélor is surprised to discover it is Mîra running the crew. It seems she has made a name (and a fortune) for herself. She wished for Thélor to join simply because she grew tired of letters, and longed to see his face; it has been almost a decade since they last saw each other. Thélor returns her affection, though guardedly. Soon, Mîra, Zag, and a small delving party depart their hide-away in what was once Uruk Marzguram territory.
They encounter no Orcs during their journey deep into ancient and long-abandoned halls, though there is plenty of evidence that they long-inhabited the place. Soon, Thélor discovers a throne room that pre-dates the Ironfist’s settlement. Carved upon the throne is an axe that strongly resembles the one found in the possession of the Orc chieftain that abducted Queen Ním ten years ago. Thélor vows to return and search the area further. That night, Mîra awakens him to show him something. She takes him to a cavernous hall where the ancient Dwarves who carved these tunnels have used gemstones to mimic the stars. Here, she tells Thélor she grows weary of waiting, and that he must promise her that he will leave the weapon-host and join her little band. He hems and haws, complaining that the clan needs him and promising that he will consider it once this crisis passes. “There will always be some new crisis, Azigri. Our clan lives on the precipice of destruction… but I will dance on the ledge.” Mîra is distressed by his lack of passion, and tells him that his time in the weapon-host has changed him, made him less spirited. Eventually, he agrees that he will join her.
The next day, they discovers one of the pebblefoots under the command of Prince Barin. Thélor is shocked to realize the Dwarf’s horrific wounds were caused by exposure to bilak-khald. They hurry on and soon find Prince Barin, gravely ill. He tries to tell Thélor something about the Orcs, but lapses into unconsciousness. They send Zag and two others to carry to stricken Prince back to Nurunkhizdín as quickly as possible, then continue on.
Soon, they come to a massive mining operation. The Orcs are mining bilak-khald by the cart full! Worse, they note the banner of not just the Uruk Marzguram, but at least two others. The Orcs have not pulled back in retreat, they have pulled back in preparation!
They rush back to report their findings. Surprisingly, Prince Borin announces he will lead the weapon-host against this threat — despite their overwhelming disadvantage. Rallying the Adament Council, Prince Borin leaves Thélor in charge of defensive preparations. Thélor notes he is also strangely adorned, styling his beard in a plaited fashion seen among the Men surrounding the Inland Sea. Thélor notices for the second time a strange ring of black metal on his brother’s thumb. He questions Prince Borin about it, and he says he received in trade from some Mannish merchants who did not know its price. After all, it is Galvorn. Sky metal!
While making ready for a possible assault, Thélor visits his mother in the Bower — where King Thralin is also now staying. It is as bad as the Queen warned him. King Thralin is robed in bedclothes, his hair and beard a wild tangle. He stands in his chambers, lit by dim candlelight and peers into a full-length mirror. “Who is there? Who sings a burial dirge in the dark? Say your name! I fear you not. The Halls of Mahal are open to me, you cannot bar them.” When Thélor approaches, King Thralin seems to recognize him. “Is it you, my son? Returned to me, after so long?” He embraces Thélor. “Oh, Anar – you were the first of my seed, and the best that was in me.”
Thélor reels with the sudden suspicion that he had an older brother he never knew of. The King goes on, asking “Anar” to watch over his brothers and especially Azigri, who he believes is the best of them. Thélor promises to do so, and departs. He confronts his mother about this, and at first she tries to deny it — but she cannot stand to lie to her son. She reveals that Anar was their firstborn son. He was thirty when the triplets were born, but was killed soon after when visiting the battle-lines with the King. A Troll snatched him up and tore him asunder. The grief struck King Thralin so mightily that he made the entire kingdom take an oath never to speak of him, and struck his name from all record. Queen Ním tells him that the King became a much different father afterward — cold and distant when he used to be warm as a hearth fire. She suspected he feared subjecting himself to the same hurt he felt on Anar’s death.
Thélor questions her on the King’s peculiar sickness and learns it began a few months after Prince Borin traded for the Galvorn ring. He expresses the strange timing to her, but she tells him that he is too suspicious. Prince Borin has acted well in the King’s stead, and she has been proud of him.
Two weeks later, Prince Borin and the host return. There were few casualties and the Orcs were routed. Thélor find this extremely surprising — almost unbelievable — but the kingdom is only in the mood to celebrate. Luckily, he contracted Mîra to follow after. When they meet, she reveals that the Orcs were far fewer than when they discovered them. Thélor is distressed to learn that his old mentor and friend, Weapon-lord Frár, was one of the few Dwarves to fall in the assault. He decides something is amiss and convinces Mîra and Zag to help him search the ruins before they are sealed permanently.
They do not find very much in the ruins, but Thélor’s suspicions continues to grow.
Summer — On death’s door after more than a decade of sickness, the King summons his sons to his chambers. He dispatches them on a quest to locate a stolen heirloom. The one who returns the prize home shall be declared the Crown Prince and will be made King Under the Mountain upon his death.