Home > Dwarfen Holds > Dwarfen Holds ~ Karak Varn

Dwarfen Holds ~ Karak Varn

“If we’re to retake Karak Eight Peaks, or any other fallen hold for that matter, we must start with Karak Varn! Arm a throng in gromril armor and they’ll be unstoppable! Everyone here knows how crucial gromril is for our struggle, yet all of you balk at the idea of marching into Karak Varn! The gromril’s there for the taking! All we need to do is march in the right direction!”

~ Hadrin Gromdoki, Prospector and Explorer

Karak Varn, the Hold of the Alpine Lake, was once the source of the most precious ore to the dwarfs – gromril. So precious is this metal that dwarfs are forbidden to trade it to non-dwarfs. It is said that there is not a piece of gromril armor or finely crafted gromril weapon which doesn’t have a bit of Karak Varn in it. Alas, the Great Cataclysm that rocked Karaz Ankor was merciless and Karak Varn experienced the wrath of nature firsthand.

History does not tell how the world came into being or how it was shaped. Lesser minds attribute the creation of the world to a divine hand. Others who deem themselves more intelligent those around them claim to know for certainty that the Old Ones shaped all that is in the world. The dwarfs however are a more pragmatic race and do not believe in creation myths or claim to bear the one ultimate truth. The dwarfs know how to read the lines in the rocks, and the tale they tell; and of all the rocks in the mountains, those around the Black Water had a true tale to tell.

At the juncture of the World’s Edge Mountains and the Black Mountains is a massive alpine lake, formed when snowmelt flooded a crater left behind by a meteor impact. This meteor was composed of a type of metal that was so strong, that only the dwarfen race knew how to smelt it and shape it. The metal was gromril, and its value far outweighs that of gold. A dwarf will part with his gold if the trade merits it, but under no circumstance will a dwarf ever part with gromril. To trade away gromril is considered one of the greatest shames that could befall a dwarf, with the only hope for salvation in the path of the slayer. To lose gromril in a fight is a slightly lesser shamed, but one nonetheless. So precious is gromril to the dwarfen race, that thousands of dwarfen lives were lost to secure its ore and reclaim lost relics made from it.

The dwarfs were quick to realize the true scale of importance of the gromril lode they had discovered at the western shore of the Black Water. So great was this find that they carved a fortress into the very cliff-face above the lake and named it Karak Varn, the Hold of the Alpine Lake. Karak Varn was on of the first dwarfen cities founded in -4200 IC, during the Age of the Ancestors, shortly after their departure. The only other holds founded before it were Karaz-a-Karak and the three great Southern Holds of Karak Izril, Karak Azul, and Karak Eight Peaks. If age is any indication of prominence and value, as is the case with the dwarfs, then Karak Varn is certainly among the most important dwarfen holds of Karaz Ankor.

The dwarfs of Karak Varn mastered the craft of hydraulics and architecture like no others of Karaz Ankor. The entrance of their hold was built above the surface of the lake, but the majority of the hold was below the lake’s waterline. The dwarfs used the nearby source of water and mastered it by a series of locks and sluice gates. The flow of water was strictly controlled and managed, and through feats of engineering and aqueducts within the mountain stronghold, the water was distributed throughout the hold to power forges. All of this engineering was meant to fuel one of the largest and most important mining operations in all of Karaz Ankor. None of the great silver, gold, iron, or precious gemstone mines of Karaz Ankor could even compare in value to the mines of Karak Varn. However, in pursuit of the precious metal, the dwarfs of Karak Varn undermined the very foundation of their hold – a fact which would not make itself apparent until it was far too late.

At its peak, Karak Varn boasted the eight largest population of Karaz Ankor during the Golden Age, with 180,000 adults living within its halls. The citizens of Karak Varn were all in one way or another involved in the extraction of gromril or the transport of the gromril ore to neighboring Zhufbar where it was smelted and shaped into the finest arms and armor of Karaz Ankor. This however did not stop the citizens of Karak Varn from taking up arms when the call to war was sounded.

The descendants of Karak Varn are known to say that Karak Varn was the first to march to war during the War of Vengeance. This may be a mere coincidence attributed to geography, but Karak Varn was certainly the first to draw blood. Upon receiving word from the High King of the declaration of war against the elves of the Old World, Karak Varn marshalled its warriors and marched to draw first blood. The host of Karak Varn marched northwest through the plains and forest of the Old World towards their target of Kor Vanaeth. The elven city was built by Prince Athinol of Caledor at the confluence of two great rivers, connecting the interior of the Old World with the open sea. The city was of vital importance for keeping the inland elven outposts supplied, and if the dwarfs were to avoid constant rear-guard attacks, they would have to cut the elven supply-lines. Kor Vanaeth had to fall, and Karak Varn would bleed its warriors for this cause.

The elves of the Old World knew that they were not responsible for the raids on dwarfen caravans, and to little avail they tried to negotiate with the dwarfs that a dark cult within their realm was seeking to drive a wedge between the two allies. Following the slight on the dwarfen ambassador to Ulthuan, the dwarfs would hear no more from the elves of the Old World regarding their innocence. Perhaps the elves were naïve, or perhaps they truly hoped that peace would prevail, but when war came upon them at Kor Vanaeth, they were not fully prepared. The elves are of course a race in which every young elf undergoes martial training and follows strict military discipline, so to say they were unprepared is not exactly the entire truth. As far as skill at arms goes, the elves had been preparing their whole lives for war, but in their hearts they still had hope. When the dwarfs arrived at Kor Vanaeth, it was the first sign of war for the elves. The battle was a brutal slaughter on both sides, as it was the first time they had faced each other on opposing sides.

Though the dwarfs of Karak Varn would triumph at Kor Vanaeth, the cost would be great, and the bleeding they suffered would not soon end. Not only this, but by their victory at Kor Vanaeth, the dwarfs of Karak Varn would earn the hatred of Liandra Athinol, daughter of Prince Athinol, a hatred which would plant the seeds of a new way for the elves. Kor Vanaeth was a sign of the bloody sieges to come. The elven city was razed to the ground, and centuries later from its ruins the young race of humans would build a city that would one day be known as Altdorf.

During the War of Vengeance, the dwarfen commanders reasoned that if they could destroy the largest elven settlement on the continent, then the war could quickly be brought to a close. This settlement, Tor Alessi, would prove to be far harder to take than Kor Vanaeth, for the elves learned quickly from the fall of the smaller colony and used the lesson to shore up the defenses of Tor Alessi. Five times before in many decades of fighting, the dwarfs were repelled from the walls of Tor Alessi. The sixth time, would write a grudge in the Book of Grudges of Karak Varn, but first we must return to the events of the fourth siege. During the fourth siege of Tor Alessi it appeared that the city would fall, until Prince Imladrik arrived with six other dragon riders and unleashed dragon fire upon the dwarfen ranks. This actio and the the subsequence death of the High King’s son Snorri Halfhand at the hands of the Phoenix King Caledor II, would lead Snorri’s cousin Morgrim to confront and defeaet Prince Imladrik at the Battle of Oeragor. Unbeknownst to the dwarfs, Prince Imladrik was the lover of Liandra Athinol.

Twice wounded in the heart by dwarfen betrayal, Liandra who lost her home and her love would never forgive the dwarfs. During the sixth siege of Tor Alessi, the dwarfs of Karak Varn assaulted the city, their banners burning into the Dragon Mage Liandra’s eyes. Mounted upon her red sun dragon Vranesh, Liandra caused havoc upon the dwarfen ranks sending them into yet another retreat, but this retreat would be followed by a greater bloodshed. Some believe that the wounds inflicted upon Liandra’s heart drove her to conceive a plot to cause an equal pain to the dwarfs of Karak Varn. Though there is no proof of the assertation, the nature of the act almost speaks for itself.

During the retreat from the sixth siege of Tor Alessi, the dwarfs of Karak Varn and their king Hrekki Ironhandson were returning to Karak Varn to recover from their losses. What they did not know was that they were being shadowed by the elves who sought vengeance. Was it vengeance for the destruction of Kor Vanaeth, or the death of Prince Imladrik, or both? They did not say. The elves ambushed the dwarfen column at what would be known as the Battle of Bryndal Vale. Beset from all sides, King Ironhandson leapt upon a large stone quickly carving a rune into it with his axes and bellowing to all his warriors that he would not take one step back from that stone though the elves may crash upon him. The act gave great courage to his warriors, who suffered from the defeat at the sixth siege of Tor Alessi, and the dwarfs of Karak Varn fought with great vigor. While King Ironhandson and his bodyguard engaged the cream of the elven attackers, many of Karak Varn’s warriors managed to escape the encirclement. True to his word, King Ironhandson never left the stone upon which he carved his oath, and at the cost of his life the dwarfs of Karak Varn would live to fight another day – with a vengeance. The elves, recognizing the skill and valor with which the king fought, allowed his kin to bury him beneath the stone bearing his oath. By this act, Hrekki Ironhandson created the first Oathstone.

In the final chapter of the War of Vengeance, the dwarfs of Karak Varn would return to the fourteenth and final siege of Tor Alessi. Though the dwarfs would find victory in the death of the Phoenix King Caledor II, both races were decimated and utterly unprepared for what was to come. The High King took the Phoenix Crown from the corpse of Caledor II and considered all grudges settled, but in a special act of recognition for their sacrifices and losses, Karak Varn was honored above all other holds with a special gift from the High King. In recompense for their great losses, particularly that of their king, High King Gotrek Starbreaker ordered a silver horn to be fashioned from the melted-down silver helms of the defeated elves. The Silver Horn of Vengeance struck a note of sorrow for all the elves, a not which shall never leave their minds. Though one elf among the survivors would never allow for sorrow to fill her heart, no she too let the note of this horn fill her heart with vengeance.

With the War of Vengeance concluded at the fall of Tor Alessi and death of Caledor II, the elves were ordered to abandon all colonies in the Old World and return to Ulthuan to face a new threat – the druchii. Some however did not heed this order, either because they no longer felt any connection to Ulthuan, or perhaps because they did not see their struggle with the dwarfs as finished. Liandra Athinol, filled with a deep hatred for the dwarfs, would remain in the Old World and become one of the founders of the Wood Elves. As for the dwarfs, they would march back to their holds for a short-lived celebration, and none more bloodied than those of Karak Varn.

Fate acted quickly to catch up to Karak Varn. Bloodied and severely weakened by the War of Vengeance, the dwarfs of Karak Varn were unprepared for the Time of Woes when it struck. Merely one century later after the war-worn warriors returned to Karak Varn, the world was rocked by a series of violent earthquakes. The mines of Karak Varn which had given it so much wealth and prestige proved to be its undoing. When the earthquakes struck and the rocks split open, the waters of the Black Water flooded the lower levels of Karak Varn at such a speed that there was no time to react and little time for goodbyes and prayers to the ancestors. Sunk deep into the mountain, below the waterline, the mines of Karak Varn turned into a watery grave for tens of thousands in a matter of minutes.

Sensing the blood in the water, literally and proverbially, greenskin and skaven twitched their greedy noses in the direction of Karak Varn. Bloodied and battered by centuries of war, and with a large portion of its population drowning in one day, Karak Varn found itself in unprecedented peril. Its mighty surface defenses hewn into the cliffside above the Black Water meant nothing for what was to come. Only one year after the earthquakes struck, in -1501 IC Karak Varn would fall and be abandoned by the dwarfs. Though it was not the first to fall, for that honor goes to another hold, Karak Varn was ‘only’ the second dwarfen hold to fall – and this delay due in large part to the flooded lower levels which made it harder for the skaven and greenskins to assault the city from below. Fallen and abandoned, Karak Varn was overcome by the skaven who craved warpstone and tainted the hold with its presence. Henceforth it as known as Cragmere.

Fallen but not forgotten, the memory of the gromril veins of Karak Varn lived on in the dwarfen conscience. The tragic loss of such a precious metal could not go unchallenged. Several times the dwarfs tried to retake Cragmere from the skaven and greenskin, the most successful of which was over three hundred years later in -1185 IC led by Runesmith Kadrin Redmane. A portion of the hold was reconquered and the western gromril mines reopened, though this success would be short-lived. In -1136 IC, while escorting a shipment of gromril from Karak Varn to Zhufbar, Kadrin Redmane was ambushed by orcs and slain at the edge of the Black Water – though not before he threw his runic hammer into the waters so that it would not fall into orcish hands. Absent his leadership, the dwarfs would once again be driven out of Karak Varn by the skaven from below.

The lure of gromril would always pull at dwarfen hearts and call them back to Karak Varn. Multiple expeditions tried and failed to reconquer the hold. Due to the high losses of dwarfen lives and the repulsive taint of warpstone caused by the skaven, the High King has considered the hold abandoned and lost for good, much to the despair of both the descendants of Karak Varn’s surviving clans, and those who long for the priceless gromril.

The banner of Karak Varn flew in many battles of the War of Vengeance, but most prominently over the ruins of Kor Vanaeth and later at the fall of Tor Alessi. The central image is that of a lake surrounded by mountain peaks, representing the Black Water, and below the lake is the rune of gromril in a direct reference to the precious wealth that lay below the lake. The central image and the borders of the banner are azure blue, representing both the waters of the lake and the sheen of polished gromril weapons and armor. The background is of a blood red color in reference to the iron content of the surrounding mountains – though with time this original meaning would fade away and it would represent the incredible blood-loss that fell upon the dwarfs of Karak Varn and all who would seek to reclaim it.

Categories: Dwarfen Holds Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: