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Dwarfen Holds ~ Karaz-a-Karak

“The Everpeak will never fall so long as a single dwarf draws breath within its ancient halls. Woe unto any foe who dares challenge this hold, for it is said that in its hour of need the Ancestor Gods will return to protect the hold that was most dear to their heart. Not only shall Karaz Ankor never fall so long as Karaz-a-Karak stands, but it shall rise again.”

~ Thorgund Ulleksson, Thane of the Ulleksson Clan of Karaz-a-Karak

Karaz-a-Karak may not be the oldest dwarfen hold founded by the Ancestor Gods, but it was elevated to the status of first among equals on the eve of their departure. It bears the greatest link to the Ancestor Gods, the Throne of Power, from which the High King not only rules, but also recites his litany of grudges from the Dammaz Kron. It is atop this throne that Thorgrim Grudgebearer has declared the Age of Reckoning, a time for Karaz Ankor to march forth and avenge the grudges of the past.

No one knows for certain when Grungni received a prophetic dream that caused the dwarfen race to migrate north, but is is commonly speculated to have occurred nearly eight thousand years before the current time. The centuries-long trek took the primitive dwarfen race from the cradle of their civilization in the Southlands north across the World’s Edge Mountains, to face their destiny. During this journey the dwarfs would learn the many skills from the Ancestor Gods, skills they needed to form a civilization. Grungni taught the dwarfs the language of the stone, and how to find lodes rich in ores which could enrich the dwarfen race. Valaya taught the dwarfs how to fashion halls within the mountain, and how to fill these halls with the flame and light the hearth. She also taught the dwarfs how to harness the growing gifts of nature, turning hops into ale, and herbs into medicines. Grimnir gave the dwarfs the gift of courage and taught them how to face dangerous foes. Their children Smednir, Thungni, and Morgrim would teach the dwarfs how to smelt ores, how to bind the Wind of Magic into powerful runes on metal, and how to craft siege machines to bring down the largest of foes, respectively. This centuries-long trek gave the dwarfs time to learn all of these skills as they left the Southlands.

By the time the dwarfen race had left the Southlands and crossed into the Old World by passing the body of water known as the Inner Sea, they had already been travelling for centuries. However, the dwarfs who entered the Old World were very different from those that left the Southlands, for they had the gifts of knowledge to found their society. Upon reaching the first pass to bisect the World’s Edge Mountains in the Old World, now known as the Death Pass, in -5000 IC the Ancestor Gods founded their first hold of Vala-Azril-Ungol, the Queen of the Silver Depths, or more commonly known as Karak Eight Peaks. This hold was to be the first example of Valaya’s work of shaping a mountain into a home, but it would not be her last. Alas this was not to be the home of the Ancestor Gods, for fate drew them northward.

The Ancestor Gods and their expedition left the newly founded Vala-Azril-Ungol and continued their trek north, leaving thousands of dwarfs in the nascent hold to develop it and found new holds. Drawn by destiny’s calling, the Ancestor Gods continued northward. Over the next three and a half centuries they would traverse the extent of the World’s Edge Mountains from Death Pass to High Pass, reaching the northern extent of the World’s Edge Mountains in -4650 IC. From here they would gaze to the north at the vast windswept expanse they would call Gazan Dum, the Chaos Wastes. Now that the dwarfs knew from where their foe would strike, they had to prepare for the inevitable future, but they had little idea of how much time they had left.

Here, at the top of the world, the ancestors made a fateful decision regarding their future. Some looked to the snow-swept peaks of the northwest and longed to continue onward, but the Ancestor Gods warned against it, citing how strong the Winds of Chaos were in these lands. Others looked across a bone-strewn plain in the east and the sun-scorched peaks beyond them wondering what riches lay beyond, but the Ancestor Gods read the omens of Zorn Uzkul, or the Plateau of Bones, and said that only death and ruin lay to the east. Alas the Ancestor Gods were unable to stop these foolish dwarfs from pushing on, and so in -4650 IC the dwarfen race fractured for the first time from on solid branch into three weaker limbs. The Ancestor Gods took the bulk of the dwarfen expedition and turned back south, to found a hold back in Valaya’s most cherished spot in the World’s Edge Mountains.

As spry mountain goats familiar with every crag, the Ancestor Gods and their dwarfen procession made a hasty trek back south to found a new hold. After one hundred years, they reached the pass known as Agril-Drin, the Silver Road, and here at Valaya’s most beloved site the hold of Karaz-a-Karak was founded in -4550 IC. Green trees climbed up the mountains to meet the white-capped peaks, which themselves pierced the clear blue sky. It was a land of color, a land of wonder and beauty. Karaz-a-Karak, the Eternal Mountain or more commonly as the Everpeak, would be the bastion from which the dwarfs would hold back Chaos.

Dwarfen preparations for the incoming Chaos onslaught would be rather short, for they had no idea when the event would occur. The Ancestor Gods did their best to prepare the hold, but time was not on their side. While Grungni was carving the Throne of Power in Karaz-a-Karak, a powerful relic from which the champion of the dwarfen race would command throngs, another race had arrived in the Old World seeking the source of the Winds of Chaos. Roughly in parallel as the dwarfs were building Karaz-a-Karak, the elves were building their first colony in the Old World, the fortress of Sith Rionnasc’namishathir, the Star-Gem of the Sea. Neither race yet knew of the other’s existence, but their destinies were intertwined and they would soon meet in the darkest of hours for the Old World.

In fifty short years after Valaya lit the first hearth in Karaz-a-Karak’s great hall, the Gates of Chaos would burst open and spew onto the world their foul winds and daemonic legions. In -4500 IC the First Chaos Incursion would launch itself upon the Old World in full force. From the northern Chaos Wastes, which the dwarfs looked upon but a hundred and fifty years earlier, tens of thousands of daemons would pour forth with their foul gaze set south. In their return trek south, dwarfs broke off from the main column led by the Ancestor Gods and founded smaller settlements in mountains rich in resources. The Ancestor Gods gave them their blessing, for in some ways they would serve as outposts to warn of ill tidings from the north. Alas when the daemonic legions came, they would sweep over the land faster than any dwarf legs could run, and the Winds of Chaos saw to it that smoke signals or signal fires would never meet the eyes of southern observers. It mattered not if signal fires were never seen in the south, for the massive storm fueled by Chaos winds was all the signal the Ancestor Gods needed. This was to be the dwarf’s hour to make a stand against Chaos.

The daemonic legions spewed forth onto the world from their foul Realm of Chaos, coming in an endless column of hatred and destruction. When these daemonic legions reached the High Pass and crossed it, their gaze was directed south towards the heart of the dwarfen realm, at Karaz-a-Karak. The swarming daemons at this moment finalized the act that had begun one hundred and fifty years earlier when foolhardy dwarfs pushed into Norsca and the Mountains of Mourn. These offshoots of the dwarfen race were cut off from the main branch and their destinies would be shaped and altered by the First Chaos Incursion. The smaller settlements founded by the dwarfs during their southern return acted as bread crumbs leading the daemonic hosts to Karaz-a-Karak. They stood no chance as tens of thousands of daemons swept over the land, becoming the first victims of Chaos.

The full weight of the First Chaos Incursion bore down on Karaz-a-Karak, and only the might and skill of the Ancestor Gods preserved the hold from destruction. Tens of thousands of daemons besieged the hold and battered it day and night, but the powerful runic seals on the Great Gate warded off magical assaults. Under siege, the dwarfs of Karaz-a-Karak believed the rest of the world to have fallen to Chaos, surely the north, though perhaps there was still hope for the Southern Holds. During the months of siege Grungni with his sons crafted weapons and armor, the most powerful relics of dwarfdom, infused with runes to ward off Chaos.

Armed with these arms and armor, Grimnir led the dwarfen throng through the gates of Karaz-a-Karak out face the daemons who besieged them. The overconfident daemons charged at the dwarfs, finding their magic ineffective against the dwarfs. A bloody battle ensued where axe and hammer clashed with tooth and claw, littering the slopes of Agril Drin with corpses foul and fair. The runic weapons turned the tide as the dwarfs pressed on into the dismayed daemonic host. What ensued was the slaughter of the daemons and pursuit of them across the Old World for the next months. This pursuit would lead the dwarfs north-west to the coast of the Old World where another race faced their own struggle.

The pursuit of the daemonic hosts by the dwarfs of Karaz-a-Karak led to the fateful encounter of Grimnir and Caledor Dragontamer of Ulthuan, the most powerful mage of his kind. The elf had been searching for the root of Chaos and how to stem the tide. The two races were unsure as to their loyalties in the war, having no common language to settle the matter. The answer came in the form of a beastmen brayherd which was drawn by the slaughter of the daemons and came upon the dwarfs and elves. The elves and dwarfs recognized the beastmen as children of Chaos and joined forces to defeat them, thus answering the question of where their loyalties lie. In the following weeks the two legendary figures learned how to communicate with each other and shared vital information regarding the origins of Chaos. This encounter would not only shape their own lives, but the fate of their races for millennia to come.

Armed with the knowledge of the root of Chaos, both Caledor Dragontamer and Grimnir made fateful decisions to defeat Chaos. Caledor Dragontamer returned to Ulthuan to construct the Great Vortex, which would siphon the Winds of Chaos and dampen their strength. Grimnir however decided to act on his own to face Chaos. His fateful decision would see him return to Karaz-a-Karak to say his parting words with his brother Grungni and wife Valaya. Grimnir had decided to march north into the Chaos Wastes and close the Chaos Gates with his own hands if he had to. Thus it was that in -4420 IC while Grimnir disappeared into the Chaos Wastes, Caledor Dragontamer was battling the very Winds of Chaos to construct the Vortex, both giving their lives to the cause. The dwarfs do not know the fate of Grimnir, however, after he marched off into the Chaos Wastes his son Morgrim would return to Karaz-a-Karak with one of his axes. This axe would be left to Snorri Whitebeard who would become the first king of Karaz-a-Karak, and with his crowning, the Ancestor Gods would depart this realm.

By -4119 IC the combined armies of the dwarfs and elves would drive the remaining daemonic legions out of the Old World. Centuries of darkness and struggle would finally end and allow the dwarfen race to rise from the ruins. In response to this momentous event, both races would expand their footprint in the Old World by founding new settlements. Working together had allowed them to triumph, and now in peace the two races sought closer ties with trade, that they could both prosper.

By -3000 IC, or the year 0 in the dwarfen calendar, the dwarfen realm had grown to numerous holds and countless smaller settlements, mines, and outposts. It was decided that in the spirit of the Ancestor Gods this realm should be unified and not left to fragmented kingdoms. Thus Karaz-a-Karak was selected as the capital of the newly founded and unified dwarfen realm of Karaz Ankor, a natural choice as it was here that Grungni made the Throne of Power, here that the dwarfs made their famous stand against Chaos, and here that the great runic weapons of the Age of Ancestors were made to drive Chaos away. Karaz Ankor, or the Mountain Realm, stretched from Karak Izril in the south to Karak Vlag in the north. It is not known if Karak Zorn was incorporated into Karaz Ankor, though ties were maintained with the first hold of the dwarfs. However, of the dwarfs in Norsca and the Mountains of Mourn nothing was known. These two offshoots were deemed lost during the First Chaos Incursion, and as far as the dwarfs in these two mountain ranges were concerned, they also were the lone survivors of the First Chaos Incursion and the other two branches vanished under the weight of Chaos. So it as in -3000 IC that Karaz Ankor was established, and the Golden Age began.

Karaz-a-a-Karak would grow greatly during the Golden Age. Trade with the elves brought great prosperity to the hold, which was founded on the richest site in the World’s Edge Mountains. While Karaz-a-Karak did not sit on the single largest lode of any single resource, such as Karag Agrilwutraz atop the largest silver deposit or Mount Gunbad atop the largest brynduraz deposit, it sat atop a wide variety of ore seams and gemstone deposits. The hold, though not the oldest, quickly grew to become the largest hold, overshadowing its older southern kin. Karaz-a-Karak’s peak population during the Golden Age was three hundred and fifty thousand adults, not counting the thousands of beardlings who rubbed their chins daily feeling for the first beard hairs.

The Golden Age was a period marked by great peace and prosperity between the dwarfs and elven colonies of the Old World. Karaz-a-Karak oversaw a chain of outposts stretching from Black Fire Pass, the western border of the World’s Edge Mountains and Karaz Ankor, and further beyond into the Vaults, Grey Mountains, Apuccini Mountains, and Irana Mountains. These outpost were established under the decree of the Throne of Power and functioned to safeguard trade routes so that the holds of the World’s Edge Mountains could prosper. As long as peace reigned between the dwarfs and elves, wealth would flow between the two races and prosperity would follow. Unfortunately the Golden Age was not to last for millennia, that it lasted one was a blessing.

In -1997 IC the fate of the Old World was thrown into turmoil as the War of Vengeance erupted between the dwarfs and elves. One thousand years of peace and prosperity was brought to a tumultuous end as the two races marched to war. High King Gotrek Starbreaker declared the War of Vengeance in response to the numerous slights against the dwarfs by the honorless elves. Together with his son Snorri Halfhand and nephew Morgrim, later known as Morgrim Elgidum for the death he would bring to the elves, Gotrek Starbreaker led the dwarfen throng of Karaz-a-Karak to the elven capital in the Old World, Tor Alessi. Though there were many other elven settlements in the Old World, the dwafs were not seeking revenge, yet, but justice. They hoped that a swift blow at the elven capital would provide the recompense for the lost lives and wealth when elves raided dwarfen merchant caravans. Alas the first siege of Tor Alessi was not to yield any results. Though the elves built slender towers and thin walls, they were sturdy enough to withstand the battering of dozens of grudge throwers.

Throughout the nearly five centuries of the War of Vengeance, Karaz-a-Karak marched fourteen times on Tor Alessi, leading fourteen sieges against the elven city, failing thirteen times. The city was the initial target of the High King, but the course of the war would change in -1974 IC when the High King’s son Snorri Halfhand was shamefully slain by Caledor II in what could hardly be called an honorable duel. What ensued was total war where no elven city or settlement would be spared. Gotrek Starbreaker gave his nephew Morgrim Elgidum much power as a general in charge of the throngs of Karaz-a-Karak. While other holds besieged other elven colonies, Karaz-a-Karak always had is eyes set on Tor Alessi. Finally in -1560 IC, at the Battle of Three Towers, during the Fourteenth Siege of Tor Alessi, High King Gotrek Starbreaker finally obtained the vengeance he sought when he killed Phoenix King Caldor II and took the Phoenix Crown as recompense for the grudges inflicted by the elves.

As far as the High King was concerned, all grudges had been settled and the War of Vengeance was over, though technically it would still drag on for another fifty nine years. In -1502 IC the last battle of the War of Vengeance would be fought at Sith Rionnasc’namishathir, thus ending friendly dwarfen-elven relations in the place where they began nearly three thousand years earlier. The following year the elves would vacate the Old World and the dwarfs would be left to their celebrations, their short-lived celebrations.

After nearly half a millennium of warfare with the highly skilled elves, the population of Karaz Ankor had been severely bled. Fighting against beastmen was an easy matter, even the daemons were not as threatening, but the elves who undergo martial training from a young age were, and are, a foe not to be underestimated. Every hold suffered terrible losses from the war, but worse things were to come. In -1500 IC the Time of Woes struck Karaz Ankor, as earthquakes rocked the mountains and volcanoes awoke from their slumber in a fiery blast. Nature’s fury claimed tens of thousands of dwarfen lives as mountains shifted and structural damage led to collapses, cave-ins, and flooding. Fortunately for some holds, their throngs were still in the west marching back from the War of Vengeance, so they were not subject to these earthen upheavals. However, what came next made these holds pray for the swift return of their warriors.

In the wake of the Time of Woes calamitous onset, unnatural beings followed nature’s wrath. From the east greenskins marched west in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. From the west and below skaven attacked the dwarfen holds from within. Karaz Ankor was weakened and beset on all sides. The Golden Age was over. Time of Woes had begun.

The Time of Woes was a dire blow to Karaz Ankor and its unity. Earthquakes shattered the Ungdrin Ankor, the subterranean highway that linked all the dwarfen holds and allowed for quick communication. Every hold became an island of resistance against the sea of destruction that washed up on the mountains. In the north Karak Ungor had fallen suddenly and unexpectedly as nigh goblins assailed the hold from below as its throng was still marching back from the ruins of Sith Rionnasc’namishathir. Karaz-a-Karak’s chain of outposts along the western mountains vanished over night, when communications were lost at Karag Dromar. Soon after Karak Varn was lost leading to a further retreat of the western borders of the realm. Karaz-a-Karak no longer operated as the head of the realm, but instead struggled to hold onto regional power. Within fifty years Mount Gunbad would fall, a wealthy mining hold that operated under the supposed protection of Karaz-a-Karak. Alas, when the hour of need struck, Karaz-a-Karak could not reach the beleaguered mine.

Karaz-a-Karak, though still the capital of Karaz Ankor, was relegated to little more than a regional power as it struggled to hold onto Agril Drin, the Silver Road. The first fifty years of the Goblin Wars saw the loss of not only mighty holds such as Karak Ungor and Karak Varn, or wealthy mines such as Mount Gunbad and Ekrund, but also the loss of a strategically important route – Mad Dog Pass. With the loss of Mad Dog Pass, the greenskins poured west of the World’s Edge Mountains and the nature of the Goblin Wars was no longer a single eastern front along the World’s Edge Mountains, but now a multi-front war as the greenskins attacked from every direction. In -1387 IC the Silver Road Wars would begin as Karaz-a-Karak struggled, in vain, to maintain control of the Silver Road and keep the isolated eastern mine of Karag Agrilwutraz in dwarfen hands. After twenty brutal years of fighting the dwarfs lost the famed silver mine to the orc warboss Grimfang.

Though the loss of Karag Agrilwutraz was a heavy loss for Karaz Ankor, sadly it was a necessary loss to stabilize the situation of the realm. The eastern outposts were too remote and exposed to defend, vainly held onto at the cost of thousands of dwarfen lives, and were lost in the end anyway. After the loss of Mount Silverspear in -1367 IC a great migration of the dwarfs from the fallen eastern mines and settlements began, a migration not to reclaim what was lost, but to start anew in the west. The enraged High King issued an edit in -1362 IC disowning all of these dwarfs who had abandoned their homes, and by extension exiling all dwarfs who founded new holds west of Black Fire Pass. The unity of dwarfdom was shattered once again, and in a time when unity was needed the most.

The War of Vengeance had dealt a crippling blow to Karaz Ankor. Firstly, it bled the dwarfs of many lives in a needless war. Warriors who could have been used to defend Karaz Ankor during the Goblin Wars were lost fighting the elves. In the following Troll Wars, which started in -1250 IC when volcanic eruptions drove the trolls to the World’s Edge Mountains, the situation only became more dire. Secondly, the dwarfs lost a key ally in keeping the Chaos breeds at bay. Surely if the elves had still been in the Old World at the onset of the Time of Woes then the skaven, beastmen, and greenskins would have been defeated and driven back. Instead they expanded unchecked across the Old World. It wouldn’t be until -1245 IC that some semblance of order was restored to Karaz Ankor, when communication and control was reestablished between Karak Kadrin, Zhufbar, and Karaz-a-Karak. Karak Vlag to the distant north was an isolated island of resistance, while the southern holds still held firm.

For the next seven hundred and fifty years after -1245 IC the dwarfs existed in a state of stubborn uncertainty. Karaz Ankor had more or less been stabilized after heavy losses in the first years of the Goblin Wars, but a new race arrived in the north, the humans from the east. The dwarfs had had minor contact with the humans of Tylos when this city was a thriving settlement during the Golden Age, but these dwarfs were of the western descent, those who had been exiled. Relations with the Nehekharans were practically non-existent, so the first true test for dwarfen-human relations came in the wake of the Time of Woes when the northern human tribes entered the lands vacated by the elves. In -500 IC human city-states began to rise atop the ruins of the elven colonies, quite literally, while bronze-wielding human tribes fought each other as effectively as they fought the beastmen of the northern flatlands. There was a strong degree of mistrust towards these humans, but for the most part they did not seem to be children of Chaos, just unparented children.

Trade relations between the dwarfs and humans were slow to develop, faster in some holds which were more isolated or desperate for a reliable source of agricultural goods. Unfortunately a series of disastrous events would drive Karaz-a-Karak and Karaz Ankor closer to the humans out of necessity more than out of good will. In -513 IC Vala-Azril-Ungol would fall to the greenskins, and in forty four short years in -469 IC Karak Izril and Karak Drazh would fall in the same year, decimating Karaz Ankor’s position in the south. In response to this disaster, this same year the High King offered all exiled dwarfs in the west forgiveness if they returned to the World’s Edge Mountains, but only some responded. The fall of Karak Bryn in -325 IC in the north stoked fears of another series of holds falling. Karak Azul became as isolated as Karak Vlag, and of the five major passes through the World’s Edge Mountains, two were now firmly in greenskin hands. Thus out of necessity the dwarfs deepened their trade relations with the humans and intensified efforts to bring them out of the bronze age into the iron age. Once again more out of necessity than good-will, the High King made the hard decision in -234 IC of re-embracing the western dwarfs and welcoming them back into Karaz Ankor despite their previous behavior. Karaz-a-Karak had to do everything it could to maintain the legacy of the Ancestor Gods. Its realm was crumbling and pride could not stand in the way of its survival.

The events following the triple-loss of the southern holds put Karaz-a-Karak in a precarious position. Karaz Ankor was slowing being chipped away. The strongest center of dwarfen resistance and domination was the triangle of Karaz-a-Karak, Zhufbar, and Karak Kadrin. Here the dwarfs held onto power, though Zhufbar was in a critically dangerous position given how much its population had declined and the constant pressure it was under. The High King made the decision to trust in the humans and seek to cultivate strong relations with this race. The hope was that they could be forged into a bulwark to help hold back the tides of destruction. Therefore, the dwarfs began to take an active role in the development of the human society. Trade grew, particularly in metal tools, and the dwarfs even contributed to the building of human settlements. Raiding bands from Karaz-a-Karak would frequently ride north for the Black Fire Pass to cleanse it of greenskin filth and help safeguard the southern approaches of these lands. In fact, the humans thrived greatly due to the protection provided by the dwarfs, who firmly controlled the High Pass and Peak Pass to the east, and worked tirelessly to control the Black Fire Pass in the south. This dwarfen sacrifice would lead to a key event in the Old World’s history in the years to come.

In -15 IC during one of the raiding warbands led by High King Kurgan Ironbeard into Black Fire Pass, an event unfolded which would shape the future of the Old World until the present day. During this raiding expedition the High King and his retinue were ambushed by an orc warband. In the short scuffle, which caught the dwarfs by surprise, the dwarfs were captured rather than slain, with a handful of exceptions of course. Kurgan Ironbeard found himself at the mercy of the orcs, who no doubt had interesting plans in store for the ‘stunty wif da crown’, but fate was on the dwarfs’ side as a human princeling by the name of Sigmar Heldenhammer came upon the orcs with his raiding party and dispatched them. In gratitude for saving his life, Kurgan Ironbeard gifted Sigmar Heldenhammer with the runic hammer of Ghal Maraz, and swore an oath of friendship and loyalty to the humans. Should the need ever arise, they could call upon dwarfen aid.

The dwarfs would not have to wait long to repay Sigmar for his good deed. In -1 IC a massive greenskin WAAAGH! was spotted marching north towards Black Fire Pass, on the heels of another greenskin horde that had already pressed through the pass. Sigmar managed to rally the fragmented human tribes in order to defend the pass, but he also send call for aid to the dwarf king in Karaz-a-Karak. High King Kurgan Ironbeard, bound by oath, responded and marched his throng to Black Fire Pass to make battle with the hated greenskins, alongside the humans. Though the numbers were heavily against the human-dwarf alliance, the narrow position in the pass allowed them to negate the greenskin numerical advantage. The victory at the First Battle of Black Fire Pass was not only a military victory, but it also led to the formation of the Empire out of the fragmented human tribes. In recognition of this grand event, Kurgan Ironbeard ordered the famed runesmith Alaric (the Mad as he would later be called) to forge twelve great runic swords for the twelve princes of the Empire. Alaric did so, granted the task took him over a hundred years and all the original princes, and their sons, had all died years before the swords were delivered.

The formation of the Empire in 0 IC led to the start of the Silver Age for the dwarfs. A dependable neighbor had been created in the west, one who could be traded with and counted on in times of battle. Dwarfen masons, carpenters, and smiths moved to the fledgling Empire to help it grow. As the humans expanded their control over the domain of the Empire, forests were cut down and pushed back, decreasing the roaming lands of the vile beastmen. During this time of relative peace great heroes arose in Karaz Ankor. Dorin Heldour and Katalin Kandoom would make many expeditions to recover prized relics from lost holds. Kragg the Grim would be born and begin his studies as a runesmith, still alive today as the oldest and greatest living runelord. Karaz Ankor had stabilized, but it was not rebounding. A millennium later humans from the newly established kingdom of Bretonnia would flee their feudal lords to establish princedoms in the Borderlands, thus increasing the human footprint south of the Black Mountains and creating yet another buffer against the greenskins. Hope was truly on the horizon.

The second millennium of the Empire’s existence proved to be a far more difficult and trying time for the Old World, threatening to upend the Silver Age. Firstly in 1111 IC the skaven unleashed the Black Plague upon the realms of men. With the Empire significantly weakened, the skaven were also emboldened to unleash attacks against the dwarfs. The dwarfs would spend the next several decades with their gates sealed to the outside world as the Black Plague burned through the lands of men, and instead focusing on their own survival in their ongoing war against the skaven Under-Empire. The end of the Black Plague would bring no respite to the Empire, as two centuries later civil war would tear the lands apart. The dwarfs once again shut their gates to the realms of men, and saw themselves as honoring their oath to Sigmar by guarding the eastern approaches to the Empire. From 1359 IC to 1547 IC the Empire descended into Civil War, only ended in 1547 IC when three emperors were elected leading to the fragmentation of the Empire and the loss of faith in the office of the Emperor. The period of the Three Emperors would last over four hundred and twenty years, ending in 1979 IC, and this period saw the dwarfs play a very distanced role to the affairs of the humans.

Unfortunately for the dwarfs, their close ties with the humans of the Empire meant that tumult and strife in the Empire spilled over into Karaz Ankor. It was the duty of the High King to navigate the treacherous political waters during this tumultuous period. While it was difficult to avoid picking sides and maintaining good relations with all three factions, there was no question what to do when the greenskins threatened the Empire. In 1707 IC the orc warlord Gorbad Ironclaw led his WAAAGH! into the Empire, a timely attack given their fragmented state. This invasion of the Empire was so devastating that it saw the province of Solland wiped off the map of the Empire. For the most part, the dwarfs of Karaz Ankor did not get involved in the war, which lasted for five years within the Empire; however, they played a key role in blocking the passes into the Empire so that more greenskins would not flock to Gorbad Ironclaw’s ranks. Upon being defeated in Altdorf, WAAAGH! Gorbad fled back south through Black Fire Pass, but this time the dwarfs were waiting for them.

Throughout the centuries of discord in the Empire, Karaz-a-Karak as continuously moving forward with its engineering discoveries. From the steam engine to the flame cannon, Karaz-a-Karak was the cradle of many dwarfen technologies; however, the overly conservative Engineer’s Guild often frowned upon these discoveries as highly unconventional, untested, and unproven. Therefore, although Karaz-a-Karak was a cradle of dwarfen ingenuity, it failed to capitalize on the discoveries it made, leaving this to more progressive holds such as Zhufbar or Barak Varr. After 1979 IC the Age of the Three Emperors had collapsed and the Imperial system failed; it would not recover until 2301 when Magnus the Pious rose to power. Seeing the forlorn state of affairs in the west, the dwarfs decided that fragmented or not, they had to help the lands of Sigmar’s realm survive the darkness to come. In 1991 IC dwarfen cannon technology spread to the Empire, particularly Nuln, and gunpowder weaponry made its way into human arsenals.

The start of the third century of the history of Sigmar’s heirs was a difficult period both for the men and the dwarfs. In 2010 IC the Wars of the Vampire Counts started, culminating in the siege of Altdorf in 2051 IC. The dwarfs had a bitter grudge against the undead and the vampires in particular after Neferata’s betrayal and capture of Karak Bryn in -325 IC. Thus, dwarfen witch hunters and members of the Order of Guardians marched out in full force, not so much to aid the Empire, but to suppress Uzkular, Undeath. Dwarfen throngs marched in full force into the Empire for the first time in centuries, participating in the Night Siege of Castle Tempelhof, a horrible affair that haunted the mind of the survivors. For all their loyalty as allies, the humans were a frail race, prone to death and corruption by other powers. The dwarfs tried their best to defend them, but often times there was little the dwarfs could do given their reduced numbers.

In 2205 IC the dwarfs received a confirmation of survival that brought about great despair, rather than great rejoicing. In normal circumstances the news that a long lost relative has been found would bring joy to a family, but not to the dwarfs. In this year messengers from Karak Vlag sent word confirming that the descendants of the eastern expedition into the Mountains of Mourn had in fact survived the First Chaos Incursion, however they could no longer be called dawi. What they had become was an abomination to the memory of the Ancestor Gods, for they had succumbed to Chaos and given into the darkest thoughts that were anathema to the dwarfs. These dawi-zharr, or rather these frundrar – tainted, were a curse upon the dwarfen race. The High King entered their very existence into the Dammaz Kron, and to even mention them was worthy of a grudge. Chaos had done its worst damage to the dwarfen race, what worse could it possibly do?

In 2301 IC the war worn lands of men and Karaz Ankor were struck by an event that had faded from dwarfen memory, and was entirely new to the lands of men – a Chaos incursion. In 2301 IC the Great War of Chaos began, word reached the south primarily thanks to Kislevite riders, for the dwarfen fortress of Karak Dum had been besieged and none manage to escape. As for Karak Vlag, the bastion of High Pass, no word was received from it and no one knew what fate befell it. Suffice to say the legions of Chaos warriors and daemons flooded through High Pass unchecked. The dwarfen throng from Karaz-a-Karak answered Magnus the Pious of Nuln’s answer to aid the realms of men. This was not done in defense of one emperor against the other two, or one claimant to the throne, but it was done in defense of the realms of men. The war would not be waged in the Empire even, for the first blows of the war were in the lands of Kislev. High King Alriksson, whose father cursed the existence of the frundrar, marshalled the throng of Karaz-a-Karak for the greatest battle in his lifetime.

Though Karaz-a-Karak was itself assailed during the Great War Against Chaos, it answered the call for aid from the realms of men. By 2302 Praag and fallen and the Chaos legions were marching on Kislev, and should that city fall then nothing would stop the hordes of Asavar Kul from ravaging the lands of Sigmar’s heirs. The dwarfen throng arrived in Kislev just ahead of Asavar Kul’s legions, and despite their low numbers, the dwarfs played a critical role in saving the city. Had it not been for the dwarfs, by the time Magnus the Pious arrived Kislev would have suffered the same fate of Praag. Fortunately history played out differently, and the dwarfs held the gate long enough for the armies of the Empire, united for the first time in nearly a thousand years, to attack the besieging Chaos armies and defeat Asavar Kul.

Following the defeat and death of Asavar Kul in 2302 IC at the gates of Kislev, the remaining Chaos forces were routed and fled north. The only Chaos force retaining any semblance of unity was the besieging force of Erengrad. Undeterred by their losses, the throng of Karaz-a-Karak joined the armies of the Empire and of Kislev to relieve Erengrad. There, at the final battle of the Great War Against Chaos the dwarfs would be met with another reunion of long lost kin, but this time met with joy. In 2303 IC at the Battle of Grovod Wood, the Imperial dwarfs of Karaz-a-Karak pressed into the Chaos forces from the south while unbeknownst to them the Norse dwarfs were pressing the Chaos forces from the north. Much to the surprise of both branches of dwarfs, they discovered each other’s existence after losing touch with each other almost six thousand years ago. It was a joyous event, for the Norse dwarfs had resisted Chaos for all those millennia, and although their society developed differently regarding cultural and linguistic aspects, they were still true to the Ancestor Gods.

The end of the Great War Against Chaos was exactly what the Empire needed to become a unified realm once again. Magnus the Pious had shown the elector counts what power rests behind a unified Empire, and together they beat back the hordes of Chaos. The dwarfs also rejoiced at this event, for a unified Empire meant greater peace and stability to the west. Alas, High King Alriksson returned from the battle of Kislev with a wound that would not heal, cursed by the Winds of Chaos. He called for a council in Karaz-a-Karak to elect the next king while still lived, and so stubborn was he that he would not die before the new king was chosen. After a year of trials to prove their worth, Thorgrim Grudgebearer, who was nephew to Alriksson, was selected to be the next High King. Soon after being elected, Thorgrim Grudgebearer would start the Age of Reckoning, a time to reclaim lost holds and avenge the wrongs of the past.

Today Karaz-a-Karak is still the seat of the High King, from which High King Thorgrim Grudgebearer of the Durazklad clan reigns. The hold’s population is a far cry from its Golden Age peak of three hundred and fifty thousand, but even with only ninety thousand adult dwarfs in its halls, Karaz-a-Karak is still the largest hold of Karaz Ankor. The banner of Karaz-a-Karak has been seen countless times in history on battlefields from across the Old World. The banner is among the oldest of Karaz Ankor and is said to be designed by Valaya herself. The central image of the banner is of three peaks, with the center on rising above the others. This is the Everpeak that rises above its kin, making it first among equals. The central image and borders are gold in color, the color of kings and royalty. The background is a royal blue, the color of the High King.

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