Rise of the Red Hand
A Dwarven Paladin of Moradin
== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ==
Haemish Hammerblow, level 1
Build: Ardent Paladin
Brother in Battle (Brother in Battle Benefit)
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 18, CON 16, DEX 11, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 12
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 16, CON 14, DEX 11, INT 8, WIS 14, CHA 12
AC: 18 Fort: 15 Ref: 11 Will: 13
HP: 31 Surges: 13 Surge Value: 7
Diplomacy +6, Endurance +12, Heal +7, Religion +4
Acrobatics –2, Arcana –1, Athletics +3, Bluff +1, Dungeoneering +4, History –1, Insight +2, Intimidate +1, Nature +2, Perception +2, Stealth –2, Streetwise +1, Thievery –2
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Ironwrought Attack: Inevitable Strike
Dwarf Racial Power: Dwarven Resilience
Paladin Feature: Divine Mettle
Paladin Feature: Divine Strength
Paladin Feature: Divine Challenge
Paladin Feature: Ardent Vow
Paladin Attack 1: Holy Strike
Paladin Attack 1: Valiant Strike
Paladin Attack 1: Piercing Smite
Paladin Attack 1: Blood of the Mighty
Level 1: Dwarven Weapon Training
Holy Symbol x1
Plate Armor x1
== End ==
The first baby was born kicking and screaming and pink and as round as a stone. The fiery shock of slick and matted hair upon his head matched that upon his chin, and both were so very much like his ma’s. Pender Hammerblow lifted his newborn son triumphantly, marching him into the long hallway to show the proud family. The cheers of the clan drowned out the wails of the baby, who promptly bit his father’s thumb.
The firstborn son of the king of the Hammerblow clan had arrived, and it appeared as though the clan would be in strong hands for centuries to come.
Moradin was surely pleased.
The second baby was born silent. Still. Unexpected. The midwife had already begun cleaning when Noora Hammerblow cried out in pain, her hands wringing the blankets about her so tightly they ripped. Something else ripped, too, and by the time Pender returned, he was a father twice over and a widower once. Pender barely heard the midwife’s desperate pleas to the healers as they rushed in. He nodded distantly as he consented to let them use the last bit of his beloved wife’s life energy to fortify the second child – the one who did not cry, who lay there still as a shadow. His eyes simply drifted from son to son. Two? Why had the clerics not known? Where did this second son come from? So like the first child – identical, in fact, save the inky black of his hair and the eerie stillness. The silence. Even when the clerics managed to rouse him, he was quiet.
The first son Pender named after his great-great grandfather, the founder of the clan.
The second son? He couldn’t bring himself to name the dwarfling that had killed his wife. It fell to the midwife, who gave the dark, brooding baern a name she thought befitting such a terrible, puzzling mystery.
They had prayed, and Moradin had told them of one child.
Was Moradin displeased?
“He didn’a take it! I been watchin’ him wi’ me own two eyes, and he didn’a take it!”
“Stop defendin’ ‘im, Haemish! The boy’s always been a heap o’ trouble, and yer gonna end up takin’ the brunt o’ that trouble iffn’ ye stay blind tae it! Just like yer mum!”
Pender Hammerblow regretted the jab as soon as he said it, and his eldest son, firstborn by eight minutes, growled at his father ferociously.
“Da, I prayed on it! An hour o’ me day in the chapel askin’ Moradin fer the truth, and he told me Boggle hae’ nothin’ tae do wi’ it!”
“Oh, Moradin talks tae ye now, does he?”
“You know he does, Da!”
“Bah, but I know nothin’, and neither do ye, boy, iffn’ ye think yer brother’s innocent!”
The argument continued, the fiery red-bearded boy (boy? Perhaps in age, but not in size – he was taller now that even his father, and stronger, too) growing angrier by the moment. And how could Pender rightly blame him? How many times over the past seventeen years had he told Haemish to look after his brother, told him that Boggle wasn’t to be trusted, that he’d ruin them all if Haemish didn’t keep the black-bearded child close by? Even now, Boggle merely sat there in the corner, watching them, using the fine point of a thick-bladed dagger to clean his fingernails. His brother’s massive hammer leaned against the wall close by, the mark of Moradin upon the side of the weapon – a gift from their father two years ago when they had found out that Haemish was indeed strong with Moradin, their god’s favor fairly radiating off his twin. Boggle had undergone the same ritual, the same test.
Did Moradin simply not care?
If Haemish was to be believed, Moradin very much cared. In fact, his overprotective and overbearing brother constantly spoke of Boggle’s destiny – that Moradin had a special plan for him, and that it was Haemish’s job to protect him, to see him to whatever grand, cosmos-serving plan lay before him. Utter trash, of course, likely fed to him by clerics and politicians who wanted to invest their scion-son with a weighty “purpose” to keep him hungry and invested in the fate of the clan. Boggle knew damn well there was no god favoring him, no greater purpose sharpening his daggers for him. No, he did that himself. Trained himself, too – how to fight. How to hide – both from his father’s wrath…and his disappointment.
Eventually, the shouting got so loud that it grated upon Boggle’s quieter sensibilities, and so he reached out with his left hand, covering the movement with a twist of his body, toppling the head of that great hammer over, where it smashed satisfyingly upon the nearby desk, actually breaking the heavy oaken furniture in twain, scattering papers and quills and scales. The shouting stopped…at least momentarily.
“See, Haemish? See what yer brother just did? Naught but destruction fro’ that one!”
“Me hammer fell over, Da! An accident, and nae more!”
“The both o’ ye, out!”
A few moments later, and Haemish and Boggle strode down the hall, the one with his hammer slung over his shoulder, the other slipping a blade into a sheathe.
“Yerself knew it weren’t no accident,” Boggle said accusingly.
“Aye. That were a bit o’ a lie, but Da deserved it. He’s got nae right to slander ye.”
Boggle rolled his eyes. “Again, no accident.”
“I know! No such thing as accidents. Moradin wanted the hammer tae fall tae stop us feudin’, so the hammer fell.”
Boggle stopped in the shadow of a hallway, peering at his brother from beneath the cowl of his cloak. “Are ye truly that dense, brother? I’m sayin’ I pushed the hammer over.”
Haemish, his red beard swaying, never stopped rolling down the hallway. He did, however, holler back over his shoulder, “Aye. Ye pushed the hammer over, just like Moradin intended. Big things, brother. Moradin has big things planned fer ye, dinnea ye doubt!”
Boggle growled, shaking his head helplessly. The one dwarf who supported him, who loved him unconditionally, was more insufferable and stubborn in his way than even his father. Worse? He couldn’t help but love his brother for it in return, which made him unable to simply slip away, to find a long shadow and slink silently from these soot-stained corridors. Yes, this was truly a curse.
Or was it a blessing?
Was Moradin pleased?
Boggle could hear Haemish and Pender talking in the other room. Some House business or the other. Or worse, some theological argument about the finer points of Moradin’s greater plans. Bah, the gods will do what they’ll do, he thought. Meanwhile, in the shadows, Boggle quieted the struggling figure with a twist of the knife. This was the second one this month, skulking in the halls with their eyes on Haemish and Pender. Boggle still wasn’t sure which was the target. But they couldn’t know; this was his service to the house – silent and still, as it always seemed to be. Boggle was sure there were more, but until he figured out where they were coming from, he couldn’t risk alerting the perpetrators. He know that he would eventually miss one if he didn’t solve this soon. They were getting smarter, or at least better prepared. Someone in the house, or with close ties. The assassins seemed to know where they were going, with almost supernatural knowledge of where the elder Hammerblow and his scion would be.
“Of the crime of regicide, we the council find the accused…guilty. Of the crime of patricide, we find the accused guilty. Of vile treachery, sneakthiefing, and scurrilous villainy, we find the accused guilty!”
Haemish’s voice rang out through the Hall of Judgement, echoed down the stone passageways, reverberated in the forgerooms and filled the corners of the armories. There were more than a few who witnessed it that would later say that he spoke with the voice of Moradin then, and that even the stoic members of the tribunal glanced at each other, suddenly unsure of what had seemed an obvious outcome. After all, Pender Hammerblow had been found stabbed to death, a dozen dagger wounds staining his back bloody. Even Haemish had been forced to testify to the magnitude of the argument his brother and father had the day before, and the paladin of Moradin couldn’t account for his shadowy brother’s whereabouts since. It hardly mattered that they hadn’t found the blade that was used; Boggle had been found in his quarters, kneeling on the floor, blood-soaked hands held to the ceiling. Haemish had begged, had screamed, had threatened, but Boggle could not tell him what had happened to their father. Thus, Haemish could not defend him.
And the sentence for such heinous crimes was immediate death.
Haemish, his eyes wet and face grave, watched as his stunned brother was dragged to the center of the floor. He watched as the crossbowmen lined up and took aim. But as the cantor intoned the ballad of the doomed, consigning Boggle’s soul to exile from the drinking halls of Moradin, Haemish could not just watch. With a roar, he launched himself through the crowd. As the crossbow strings twanged, Haemish threw himself in front of his brother. The bolts, all ten of them, hit Boggle’s twin. All ten were foiled by the paladin’s finely-bossed and cunningly-crafted plate mail. Muttering a vow to Moradin, Haemish brought his hammer off his shoulder, as he stood poised, ready to defend his brother to the death, even against his own people.
In that moment, Boggle made his choice. He reached up, grabbing a dagger from his brother’s belt. In a single, lightning-quick moment, he fired the blade toward the ceiling, where the candle-filled chandelier hung. The fine blade cut through the chain, and the candles crashed to the floor, their lights snuffed as surely as their father’s life.
Boggle stood in an instant, grabbing Haemish by the cloak. “Come, brother. Your light kinnea help us here. We survive this my way…find the shadows. They’re not fer lettin’ us return, but we’ll have our revenge on whoever killed our da, and the scars of me knives will surely mark the murderer!” Nothing more was said, nothing else offered in defense. “Ye know the hammer is no’ me way, but kinslaying is no’ either.”
“I know,” Haemish replied. “I know.”
Together, the two brothers fled. They fled their home, their people, their clan. Now they wander, adrift, searching together for redemption, for the truth about what happened to their father, and for forgiveness. And as they search, a single question burned in one, and smoldered in the other. When they find their answers, when they have washed their transgressions away in the blood of evil foes, when they return to their clan…
…Will Moradin be pleased?