The Legacy of the Golden Rune

A possible interpretation of the Golden Rune

Morniarak retreated from the mountains, to an outpost that was once used to trade with the Sea People.  He was numb and weary beyond all feeling, his grief too profound within him for his life force to shift it aside. Dolvatch, god of the Stone Ancestors, was grim and silent, the ancestors murdered in their graves. In his prayer and communion with the gods, Morniarak came to understand the depths of what his wicked Runesmith had done.

Fariak had twisted the very stuff of life, Mekk. Fariak had taken the Pure (Mekk life energy, usually constructs) to fuel the Blended (life from mixing sources, usually sex) in creating the Remains (the undead). This final blasphemy shocked Morniarak loose of his sanity, a refugee emperor gone mad with loss.

Dying of sorrow, he too pled with Zomok, begging that his linage and the dream of what Tcholiark once represented would burn on undying in the face of the ravages of death. Zomok heard him, and responded. Indeed, he would have all he asked for, to seal the tragedy for all time.

Morniarak’s corpse was burned, the final indignity that protected him from what may happen if Fariak discovered his resting place. Morniarak’s great grandson, Kreftimar, was ironically crowned Thane of the Living Dead (referring to his people, robbed of home and history but yet living). Grim, formed by the hideous reversal his people had endured in the last thirty years, he swore a mighty oath he would restore the dream of Tcholiark.

Kreftimar was popular with the Thaneguard, for he had led them in former times of glory. Leading those still printed with the golden energies crafted from Ghertian’s wisdom, he founded Retribution Delve. Runesmiths from all the Stone People’s redoubts were invited to study Ghertian’s work on the aging Thaneguard, and see if they could duplicate the effects within Kreftimar’s watchful and cautious boundaries.

Retribution Delve was hidden carefully, and word traveled only by word of mouth between bonded allies, strong in faith in Dolvatch or Mekk. The runesmiths came, and for a century they grimly focused on Ghertian’s art, as in the background Tcholiark cackled and unleashed conquest upon the massively weakened nearby provinces of the Dracolithic Empire.

After a century, the runesmiths had reclaimed some of the healthy work Ghertian left on breathing weapons, the surviving runically marked Thaneguard. However, many of the Thaneguard fell.

Grief and rage polluted their runes, with the death of the Thane and the loss of all they were to protect. As despair gripped them, some of the Thaneguard were corrupted. Runes darkened to the runic necromancy that had desecrated their homes; some became mad constructs of undeath, freshly powerful with their repurposed sigils. Others went mad and joined their tormentors, champions in Tcholiark again regardless the cost.

The Council of Retribution Delve met in (year). They determined that only a single flesh rune would be permitted, and the two subsets it governed. It was simply too dangerous to continue the experimentation that Ghertian’s wisdom nurtured, for Fariak’s jealous ambition would always be in the shadow. Still, the inherent beauty of the art, combined with Kreftimar’s steady rage, and the runesmith’s awe of the craftsmanship, denied the possibility the flesh runes would be lost forever.

Three Master Runesmiths were selected. Responding to the woe of Fariak’s jealousy, they renounced name and clan and became effectively faceless in the dwarven culture, so they would not be tempted by glory. They each took 1/3 of the surviving Thaneguard and their families, and traveled to find hiding places so they could continue the work with the precious lore that survived. The Thane of the Living Dead, Kreftimar, retained Retribution Delve as his home as he plotted the destruction of Tcholiark and the mad Fariak, Thane of the Dark Column.

Less than a year after the Council of Retribution Delve, the Delve was under siege. While the Thane of the Living Dead was prepared to repel the undead forces of the Thane of the Dark Column, he was caught totally by surprise as an unexpected attacker crashed into his defenses.

In the distant mists of Skydeep, the Thane of Clouds had heard about what happened at Tcholiark in a predictably garbled way. Sending a spy network and trusted agents, it took him decades to determine the broad outlines of what really happened, and to track the surviving rulers. Seeing the profound damage done to dwarven history, culture, ancestors, reputation, strength, morale, and so forth, the Thane of Clouds decided that Morniarak’s legacy must be ended.

By now the tragedy of Necromekk had unfolded around Tcholiark, and the screaming madness of the Gilver had darkened the world and tempered all hope with bitterness. The entire dwarven race teetered on the edge of madness from grief and guilt, and the Thane of Clouds knew they needed a symbol, some hope, something.

When the army descended upon Retribution Delve, the Thane of the Living Dead found his greeting dying in his mouth as the kinslaying dwarves began their grim work of burying the last of what Morniarak’s misplaced trust had allowed. The Delve was not built to repel a determined dwarven army; instead, it relied upon concealment. The main entrance could not hold forever, especially with siege tunnels burrowing in from the surface. The Thane of the Living Dead made a difficult decision.

He took one of the three Living Runesmiths, and all his Thaneguard, and tasked them with continuing the work. The Delve site had been selected in part for its access to an underground lake that stretched for miles, with dozens of entrances. So in stealth the sorrowing Runesmith and this Thaneguard prepared to leave as the stalwart defenders of the Delve held off the sweeping intrusions of the kinslaying army.

The Living Runesmith named the exchange the Lake Parting; in it, the Thaneguard were changed forever to the Runeguard, charged with protecting the Living Rune and bringing about the end of the blasphemy wrought in Tcholiark’s salvation from the Dracolithic Empire. Two Thaneguard remained with the Thane, and several runesmiths, each disguised as the Living Runesmith.

And so the Living Runesmith and the Runeguard sailed in darkness, and the Thane of the Living Dead and his last two Thaneguard met the invading army with all the forces at his disposal. That battle was not one they intended to win; even facing destruction, they had no heart to slaughter loyal dwarves.

Adurmik, Master of Forces, tarried in the dark of the Retribution Delve. He entombed the noble Thane of the Living Dead and his two Thaneguard, and those who fell in defense of the Delve. Then he withdrew, sealing the Delve so that its combined secrecy and sealing would protect it from those who would rouse the unpleasant memories of a dark, dark time.

Morniarak had pled with Zomok to allow his linage and dream of Tcholiark’s former glory to burn undying in the ravages of death. In response, Zomok’s power flowed; the founding of the Dolviak created investigators within the dwarven culture that would be ever vigilant and prepared to murder to protect dwarves from the experimentation that could destroy a pillar of dwarven strength in a mere century or two. Tcholiark’s glory served as a grim reminder that any place could fall. Those in Morniarak’s royal family were also burnished golden; they were doomed to forever hunt the necrodwarves, or join them, for the Dolviak founded by the Thane of Clouds saw to it they could never really leave the tragedy of Tcholiark behind them and find a new home among dwarves.

Go check out the artist whose work I have b0rrowed for this post. Good stuff!

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