Deep under the rocky hide of the Giant’s Thumb Mountain, the Dwarven city of Gun’Idur bustled with trade. The city market had thrived for hundreds of years since the Molten King had opened the Dwarven city’s doors to trade with the world above. For thousands of years they had remained isolationists, and for some time it suited them. But the deeper they dug, the more trouble the city was brought. They were not the mountain’s only inhabitants, and their resources wore thin. Opening trade enabled them to bolster their supplies, share secrets of craft with the humans and elves, and even employ other races into their ranks.
A fire burned inside an ornate stone pit, carved with Dwarven runes. A group of children, Dwarven, Human, and even Elven, gathered around the fire giggling expectantly. This was no ordinary fire pit; it was the Grand Teller’s fire pit. A Dwarf of untold years came to this pit each week to tell stories so grand they surpassed time. Children gathered on the Day of Telling to hear his tales. Each story was as tall, and filled with wonder as the last, and he never disappointed. Often, he told them the legends of important figures in history and how they came to become immortal in history.
“Come little ones, come.” The Grand Teller chuckled as the children clamored about him. Several of the children, especially the Elvari children, were a great deal taller than him despite being less than a dozen years old. The Teller was barely five feet tall, and that was counting the heeled boots he wore. His braided beard was a majestic, pearly white with his hair tied into a topknot. A large, iron bead held the braids of his facial hair together down near his belly, and his face was always curled into a jolly, welcoming smile despite it being completely covered by his bushy mustache. Rosy cheeks covered in scars and a forehead with permanent crease lines identified him as a traveled man, and gave credit to both his age and his stories.
“What story are we going to hear today, Grand Teller?” A human child, just barely seven years old, squeaked while hopping onto the Teller’s lap as he sat down. The old Dwarf chuckled and patted the child’s head. He didn’t mind the child’s excited behavior, he was quite used to it and reveled in their joy.
“Hmmm…” He pondered while rubbing the iron bead at the bottom of his beard. “Do you children like adventure?” He asked.
“Yeah!” The children shouted.
“Do you like bravery? Heroism?” He asked again.
“Yeah!” The children shouted again, even more excited.
“Do you want to hear a story about a brave hero who, despite all odds, defeated an ARMY OF UNDEAD ORCS?!” The Grand Teller bellowed.
“YEAH!!!” The children shouted, borderline screeching with excitement. The Teller laughed in response. Their excitement always brought such joy to his heart.
“Well you’re in luck, because today I’m going to tell you about the Legend of Smitebeard!” The Teller gesticulated and brought his voice low.
“Ooooooooh!” The children cooed. They huddled up in their blankets, their eyes solely on the Teller, their hearts already pounding with excitement.
“Once upon a time, there was a Dwarf named Donnach. He was a mighty warrior, with great faith in the Light. A Paladin he was! Trained in the great city of Amulthar at the Cathedral of Dawn! Donnach had seen many battles and spent many years protecting the good people of the realm from the evils of necromancy. Then, one fateful morning, his life changed…
Donnach woke to the sound of birds chirping, the town bustling, and a throbbing sensation in his noggin that reminded him he was no longer a young rapscallion. Since taking his oath at the Cathedral of Dawn, Donnach had scarcely touched a drink that wasn’t sanctified wine. But a sudden collision with an old war-friend had rekindled his Dwarven nature. His oath did not forbid him from drinking, far from it. It was simply something he chose to fast from in order to keep his wits more thoroughly about him during campaigns. The undead were mischievous, and the necromancers that raised them were full of malice and cruelty.
Despite his natural constitution, he had chosen not to allow himself the threat of dulled senses. As a result of this, however, the excessive drinking that his people were prone to left him feeling like one of the undead himself.
A sudden and loud banging came from his door as he rolled from the bed, landing on the iron bead that held his beard together. He felt the wind leave him as the bead pushed into his stomach, pressed upward by the hardwood floor. The door flung open and a vicious, cackling assaulted his eardrums.
“Oh ya little lightweight, I ne’er though’ I’d see the day ol’ Donnach couldn’t stomach some mead.” The boisterous, and likely still drunk, voice was that of Khazag Bronzebelly.
Khazag and Donnach went back as far as they could remember. Growing up in Gun’Idur, they had been friends from the time they could hold a weapon. They trained together, drank together, played together, and drank some more together. Both had joined the Molten King’s standing army and had stood the front lines as their people dug deeper into the Giant’s Thumb Mountain, awakening all kinds of hostile creatures. After over a hundred years serving together they split ways.
Donnach had found faith in the Human world at the Cathedral of Dawn. While Khazag continued to train soldiers, only now it was for more than just the Molten King.
The whole realm benefited from Khazag’s knowledge of battle. He had even developed his own manner of fighting that, while disturbing to many, was genius to those who witnessed it. Khazag had drank so much in his days that he could fight BETTER when he was drunk than he could sober, though he was still formidable.
“Fortunately for ye, I brought the delicate lily some bread.”
Donnach felt a dense loaf of bread land on his head and heard Khazag thump around his room.
“C’mon, git’ yer arse up.” Khazag bellowed and then plopped himself down onto a chair.
Donnach found his breath and rolled to his side so that he could be on his back and took a large bite out of the loaf of bread his friend brought.
“Light’s mercy, who e’er heard o’ a hungo’er Dwarf?” Donnach grumbled before forcing himself up onto his feet.
“Well, who e’er heard o’ a Dwarf paladin?” Khazag smirked. Donnach’s only reply was a grunt and a twisted face.
After getting himself dressed, both Donnach and Khazag headed out towards the center of town. Khazag was currently training the guard regiment of Rindall, a small foresting town near the Giant’s Thumb Mountain. The trees near Rindall were massive, stretching almost a hundred feet into the air. One tree nearly gave enough lumber to fill an entire cart and took hours of preparation to bring down without killing anyone.
Donnach had been sent here at the behest of the Cathedral to investigate suspected Necromancy that could potentially threaten the town and the borders of the kingdom. There hadn’t been a serious case of Necromancy in years, but, as experience had taught him, that didn’t mean it wasn’t about.
“Can’nah say we’ve seen any ghouls or boners about,” Khazag said as they strolled. Donnach rolled his eyes at his friend’s term for necromancers. It was deliberately lude and made Khazag belly-laugh every time he used it. He had used it many times in the past century since Donnach had made it his life’s work to fight necromancers.
“Well, tha’s why I’m here, innit? To investigate?” Donnach said and stifled a morning belch.
“Ye’ll wanna talk to the guards?” Khazag asked.
“Nay, I’ma head to yer cemetary and see if there’s any signs o’ mischief.” Donnach said and then made the sign of Dawn over his body as a minor prayer before leaving Khazag’s company. His friend pointed him in the direction of the cemetary and Donnach made his way. It was separate from the town by a mile or so, but a clear path was well kept leading to it.
His bones felt cold as he entered the land covered in gravemarkers. Though the town wasn’t particularly old, it had still been around long enough to accrue its fair share of casualties, whether by age, illness, the occasional bandit incursion, or the massive trees claiming a victim or two.
Donnach closed his eyes a moment and whispered a prayer.
“Mighty Dawn, strike through the darkn’ss with me as yer beacon. Grant me yer illuminatin’ sight to pierce the fog o’ evil. Let those who breathe death and curse life beware. I am the blade o’ Dawn, an’ I am here to purge the wicked.” His eyes opened to a new sight. Fog circled him and the graveyard, thick as a curtain and ominous as a deep, brass bell tolling in the night. He sensed that an illusion had been dispelled by his prayer.
Before his prayer the graveyard seemed normal: tombstones undisturbed, graves smoothed over, and a glowing sun warming the dirt. With his prayer, the truth came forward. Several graves had been desecrated and the granite stones that identified the graves were cracked. Donnach sighed.
“Well shite…” he whispered and slowly, carefully, quietly, unclasped the engraved mattock and pulled it into both of his hands.
“Blessed are they that witn’ss the void and brave it,” he whispered. “blessed are they who wield the light… Bless these hands, so that they may wield the light with valiance…” He continued to pray, his eyes scanning to and fro, hands tightly gripping the long handle of his mattock. The weapon, though crude and blunt, was engraved with holy runes. He had inscribed the prayers of Dawn in Dwarven runes and had them sanctified and blessed. It was as unique a weapon as he was.
His senses raged about him. His training enabled him to feel the evil around him, and right now it was smothering.
“Is he gonna be okay, Grand Teller?” An Elvari child asked.
“Donnach was no pushover, little one. His faith was as strong as he was, and his resolve was ironclad.” The Grand Teller explained. “He spent over a hundred years fighting necromancers and undead as a Paladin, and a hundred more before that as a soldier for the Molten King. There’s a reason a whole clan of Dwarves dedicated themselves to his ancestry.”
“The Smitebeards!” A Dwarf child shouted eagerly.
“Aye, child, the Smitebeards. A whole clan of Dwarven Clerics, Priests, and Paladins following in his footsteps. Now, where were we….”
“If I know ghouls…” Donnach muttered, and he did, very well, “one’a you’ll be lookin’ tah jump my guts any secon’ now.”
When one comes, ten more’ll follow… Donnach thought. The light will illumine this place, an’ any that are here will swarm ye… These were things he knew all too well, reminding himself kept it fresh in his senses.
A sloppy patter of feet came from his left. He continued forward, pretending not to notice. The undead were mindless, and thus stupid, yet they still, somehow, had a primal instinct that governed their actions. Unless there was a necromancer nearby, in which case intelligence was something he would have to battle against. Another sloppy patter to his right. By the sound of their feet they were mostly decomposed: ghouls.
“I’m just a delicious little Dwarf, full’a meat… an easy target for yer drooling jowels…” He whispered.
Quick feet came from his left; his peripheral vision caught movement. He timed the feet, measured the distance, and then swung his mattock to his left, twisting his core and moving his feet to assist the momentum of the massive weapon. A bright flash of light pierced the fog as his mattock glowed white hot with radiance, slamming into the ribs of a mostly decomposed ghoul that shrieked in rage. The ghoul’s body turned to a flinging pile of ash in mid-air as the light burned away it’s unholy flesh and bones.
Feet came from behind him, faster than the first set. Donnach allowed the momentum of the mattock to continue turning him halfway towards his new assailant; another ghoul. It was too close for another swing, but the pommel of his weapon was aligned perfectly. He thrust the jeweled pommel forward into the ghoul’s head. Experience taught him that ghouls always ran head first, a convenient fact as long as you were able to keep your distance.
The ghoul howled and fell onto its back from the force of the blow. Donnach wasted no time in heaving the mattock over his head and straight down onto the ghoul’s chest. Light once more flashed from his mattack and turned the abomination into a pile of smoldering ash.
Donnach allowed the mattock to rest where it lay, leaving one hand on the lower end of the handle and turning to scan the perimeter. Nothing. Only silence.
“Two? Two ghouls… Nay… I know yer out there, I know there’s more a yeh!” Donnach shouted. The silence remained, and the fog, daunting and malicious, continued to hover over the landscape.
“Fine,” he said, “ye’ll not show yerselves. I’ll bring the Light to yeh!” Donnach gripped the handle of his mattock with both hands and raised it, pointing the tip of the mattock towards the sky. He barked a word in Dwarvish that echoed through the air like roaring thunder. A pillar of light split the fog, piercing down to him from the Heavens as the fog rolled itself back.
Donnach was suddenly afraid. As the fog rolled back, he saw what lay beneath it. What hid in the belly of the foul fog. Surrounding the entrance to a small mausoleum was a contingent of rotting, undead orcs, and above the mausoleum, a Lich. The robes of the Lich were tattered, his skin stretched across his bones and seemed paler than the purest snow. Pale green eyes pierced Donnach’s very soul, and ever orc shared the same green light in their eyes. From the forest, more orcs appeared, rotting and grotesque.
“Light’s mercy… No…” Donnach stuttered.
“A Dwarf? I’ve never killed a Dwarf who served the Dawn before.” The Lich cackled. He did not walk, he levitated over the ground as he moved. Any living thing under him decayed and rotted beneath his bare feet. But Donnach did not stay for this fight, he knew he would lose. Strong though he was, he was no match for a Lich, and every second more undead poured from the forest. He started to run out of the cemetery. Three large orcs blocked his path. Their eyes had that same sickly glow as the Lich’s.
“Kill him!” The Lich commanded, his voice like steel scraping against steel. The three that blocked Donnach’s path started to meet his charge. They did not lumber like the ghouls did, these were commanded by the Lich’s will and would fight with a more focused ferocity.
Donnach leapt into the air as high as he could, bringing the mattock up over his head and then slamming it onto the ground. The runes glowed white hot radiance. The ground cracked and from the cracks bled golden light. The light came up and burned the orcs, melting away the flesh on their legs and slowing them down.
At their pause, Donnach allowed the mattock to remain in front of him, thrusting the head forward into the knees of the closest orc. The orc’s knee buckled as he fell forward towards Donnach. The Dwarf grabbed the Orc by the face and shouted a quick prayer. Golden light escaped his fingertips and melted the undead’s face into oblivious. He saw an axe come down towards his head. He batted it away with his armored, free arm and then kicked out the Orc’s knee. When it’s face was closer he used the same hand, clenching it into a fist, and thrust it forward with all his might into the Orc’s jaw. He felt the bones crack and splinter, even from within his armored gauntlet.
Donnach raised the handle of his mattock just in time to block another savage blow by the third orc. With all his might he shoved the orc to the side and then swung his mattock to the side, colliding into the third Orc’s spine and sending it off into the distance, evaporating in golden light as it flew through the air. He let the momentum of that swing carry him all the way around into the second orc whose jaw he had just smashed. The mattock crushed the Orc’s chest and sent it hurling into the distance as well.
Though he had made quick work of the Orcs who barred his way, he had let his flank exposed. In the time it had taken him to dispose of them the Lich had caught up to him. He felt his feet rise from the ground as he was lifted into the air by foul magic.
“A devout one you are,” the Lich hissed, “no doubt you could have taken scores of my orcs before you died. I think I’ll not allow such a thing. I think I’ll raise you to lead them instead.” The Lich’s rotting lips curled into a cruel smile.
The mattock was torn from his hands. The Lich inspected it.
“Amazing, you blended your own people’s craft with the religion of humans. A remarkable weapon, to be sure.” The Lich cackled and raised its hand towards the weapon. The runes glowed with white hot light as he poured his dark magic into the weapon. A thousand pieces of Dwarf iron tore through the air as the hammer was obliterated by the Lich’s magic.
Donnach barked a word in Dwarvish and golden light flashed from his eyes. The Lich, being so close, hadn’t time to defend himself against the blinding light and staggered back. He shook his head, snarling at the audacity of the Dwarf who was now running as fast as he could towards Rindall.
“No matter. You have no weapon,” the Lich hissed, “and I have a Legion.”
“What’s a Lich?” A young Dwarf child asked.
“A Lich,” the Grand Teller explained, “is a necromancer who has ascended beyond his own craft. It requires an unholy, and terrible ritual where the mage rips his own soul from his body and stores it elsewhere. In doing so, he becomes something of an immortal and is granted power beyond imagination.” The children drew their blankets closer around themselves.
“Why would anyone do that?” An Elvari child asked, “it sounds miserable…”
“And it requires misery, child. Misery unknown to most.” The Teller said.
“Why didn’t Donnach just smite the Lich like he did the other undead? He killed them pretty easily…” A human child piped in.
“A good question, little one. A Lich is more resilient to holy power than other undead. While most undead, even vampires, are repelled and mortally wounded even by a weak display of holiness, and can barely stand holy icons; a Lich is capable of resisting this immediate decay since he still has a soul, it’s just not attached to him. It’ll still hurt, and hurt bad, but it won’t be quite as easy as the others, and a Lich is a deadly adversary, far too deadly for one Paladin to handle alone.”
“So he ran away? I thought he was a hero?” A young Dwarf girl asked.
“A hero thinks of more than just himself, lassie. A hero always puts others first.”
Donnach ran as fast as his legs would carry him. He prayed for speed, he prayed for swiftness. He prayed for time.
“KHAZ!” His voice bellowed through the air like thunder. “KHAZ!” He shouted again, sprinting through the town. He finally spotted his friend and ran straight for him, halting only just before the two collided.
“What? What’d ye see?” Khazag inquired. The stout Dwarf skipped past his usual sarcastic jabbing, he could see his friend was distressed. He knew there was little that would cause Donnach to be frantic. “Where’s yer mattock? Where’s yer hamm’r?!”
“Destroy’d,” Donnach panted. He was in superb shape, but running at a full sprint in layered plate armor was not an easy feat. He wiped the sweat form his brow, fear filled his eyes.
“Destroy’d? What in the-“ Khazag started, but Donnach cut him off mid-sentence.
“A Lich. There’s a Light-damned Lich in yer graveyard an’ ‘es got a bloody army of undead Orcs in the forest.” Donnach coughed roughly and rested his hands on his knees.
“Tha’s… what do we do? This is your area of exp’rtise, what’o we do?” Khazag gesticulated towards a pair of guards walking by and motioned for them to head to the western gate.
“We run. We dunna have the forces in this wee town to fight off a Lich. We get the people out and giv’em time to run.” Donnach explained. “If yeh ‘ave any clerics in town I’ll need them. We can make sigils, barriers that’ll take a lot of magic to break.”
“Will tha’ stop’em?” Khazag asked.
“Light, no. But it’ll kill some’a the undead and slow the horde down. I’dunna know how many there are.”
“Ye’ll need a weapon. Dun’ think I ‘ave anythin’ compared to that mattock a yers, but anythin’ bet’r than yer fists.” Khazag said while fitting his clawed cestus to his forearms. “’less yer me, of course.”
“No skeletons that I saw, a sword’ll do fine. Make sure yer men know they need’a sever the head for a kill. Anythin’ short an’ they’ll keep comin’. I need to see yer priests.”
He didn’t know how much time he had, but he assumed it was short. Donnach’s goal was to prepare as much as possible to give the people of Rindall time to evacuate. Khazag was overseeing the evacuation efforts while receiving scouting reports every few minutes. Guards were posted along the border of the town and given horns to signal any sightings.
Donnach went quick to work with the only priest of Dawn in town blessing buckets of water and dipping every weapon he could get his hands on in it. Vials of Holy water were given to soldiers as thrown weapons, and even to the townsfolk for their own protection.
The two clerics were busy marking the ground and gates with Holy sigils and drawing up wards to protect the town.
Donnach noted to himself that they had more time than he would have thought, and then immediately cursed himself for thinking it as a warning horn sounded. He heard Khazag’s voice thunder across the town.
“Archers back, shields forward!” He shouted. Donnach picked up a sword and ran towards the immediate sound of combat. Unholy shrieks split the sky as undead orcs attempted to pass the holy sigils. Their flesh and bones dissolved and burned away, but more poured forth. Dozens of them fell to piles of dirt and smoldering ash before the sigils, which were already starting to wane.
A voice hissed through the air speaking an ancient dialect of Elvish, and the holy sigils shattered with bright light. The undead horde poured forward. Archers loosed their arrows and shields met rotten bodies. The soldiers, made up of Dwarves and Humans alike, timed their thrusts and steps so that they could fight while slowly moving backward.
“An Elvari Lich, it just had to be an Elvari.” Khazag bellowed.
Khazag and Donnach both had the same idea when it came to this battle. The soldiers and town guards that weren’t escorting the evacuated townsfolk had formed a phalanx and were preventing most of the horde from getting past them. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of them to prevent being surrounded. Khazag took the right flank while Donnach took the left, protecting the sides of the phalanx.
The weapons, coated in holy water and blessed, cut through the undead flesh and bone as though it were air. But they were still being pushed back by the sheer number of them.
“Fall back!” Khazag yelled. The soldiers bought themselves a quick moment and then threw their vials of holy water at the oncoming horde. The undead orcs howled and raged in pain, clawing at their own burning flesh and eyes. The phalanx quickly turned, Khazag and Donnach holding the horde’s advance through a stone archway that thinned their numbers.
“We cannah’ fight them all, Khaz. Git yer men gone!” Donnach yelled as he plunged his sword up into the throat of an opponent. Khazag leapt into the air and brought a savage haymaker across an orc’s jaw. The clawed cestus tore through flesh and bone and sent the orc careening into its undead companions.
“I ain’t leavin’ yeh all the fun, ya sober mook.” Khazag bellowed.
“We can’t beat them, ya idiot, and I dunna intend for us to.” Donnach’s sword was coated in blood, it was barely cutting through flesh now, even with the holy water. He quickly ran behind the phalanx and knelt down.
“I’unno what yer doin’, but damnit do it fast!” Khazag yelled.
“Light,” Donnach whispered, closing his eyes. “I need a weapon… grant me a weapon worthy o’ the Dawn. Not for my sake, but for the sake o’ these people. Let them fight ano’er day.” Donnach felt a searing heat touch him; the Light had answered his prayers. He opened his eyes to see his hands empty, however. Still, he felt the warmth of the Dawn upon him, upon his belly in fact.
Looking down, Donnach saw that the iron bead that held his copper beard together was glowing with golden light. The Dwarven runes glowed with blue light and the iron radiated golden light.
“Well… By the Dawn…” Donnach whispered and then turned towards the horde. They were starting to envelop the phalanx as their numbers began to swell around the soldiers. Without giving it a second thought, Donnach leapt over the line of soldiers and whipped his head to the side. The glowing, iron bead slammed into an oncoming orc like a cannonball, and exploded with light like one too. The explosion of light killed three more nearby orcs and Donnach had to stifle his own excitement at his newfound weapon.
“Wait,” one of the children interrupted, “he hit them with his beard?” The child’s face contorted into a confused stare.
“Aye, little one,” the Teller said with a face as serious as the tale had turned. “The Light granted his prayer-request for a weapon by empowering the iron bead that held his beard together.” The Teller hefted up the bead he wore that his own beard was woven into. The heavy iron was carved with Dwarven runes and an ornate knotwork-pattern in the style of Dwarven architecture.
“An unusual weapon, to be certain,” The Teller continued, “and certainly one that is uncomfortable to use,” he rubbed his neck and made a silly face for the children who giggled in response. “But a weapon that the undead would learn to fear; a weapon that would inspire Dwarves everywhere!”
“What the-“ Khazag started. Donnach didn’t hear the rest of his friend’s sentence. He whipped his head again, sending the glowing iron bead into the chest of another orc. Another explosion rattled their ears and incinerated another line of orcs.
“Fall back!” Donnach yelled, turning to the phalanx of soldiers who were staring, jaws dropped, at him. “Quit gawkin’ and get yer arses to the townsfolk!” The soldiers nodded, turned, and ran towards the caravan, which was well out of the town by now.
Their plan was, thankfully, working. They had drawn the horde all the way into town, slowly bringing them deeper in while the town escaped the other side. Donnach hoped, prayed even, that not many had gone around and seen the retreating villagers.
The two Dwarves turned and quickly ran for the gates. The horde was climbing over a mountain of bodies and ashes trying to get to them. It bought them time, but not much.
“Go,” Donnach said, “I’ll hold them off.”
“Yer daft and drunker’n I am if you think I’ma leave you ‘ere with them.” Khazag said, a curse at the tip of his lips. Anger swelled in his heart at the thought of leaving his friend at the mercy of a horde of undead.
“An’ yer far too drunk if you can’t see that if we both die here, their next target is that caravan. The caravan that only ‘as a small detail’a town guards protect’n it.”
“So you get to die a glorious death an’ I don’t?” Khazag’s voice cracked mildly. He did not want to leave his friend, though he knew Donnach was right. Someone had to hold the horde at bay, and someone had to make sure the evacuees made it safely.
“This is my fight, Khaz. Yers is to protect Rindall, an’ Rindall is on its way t’the mountain.” Donnach said. The two stared down one another. Finally, Khazag begrudgingly clasped arms with his friend. A tear came down his rosy cheeks and disappeared into his bronze beard. There was a brief moment of silence between the two. Donnach looked towards the horde that was now just staring at the two Dwarves in an eerie stillness.
“Go,” Donnach said, “while they’re still. The Lich is comin’, I can feel it.” Khazag nodded.
“Send’em back to the grave, you. I’ll see your name toasted for a hundred years.” Khazag whispered and ran under the portcullis. Donnach dropped the gate after his friend left and ripped apart the mechanism that operated it. He turned back to the Horde of orcs. Their eyes emanated that haunting green light as they stared at him. Waiting.
The Lich hovered into view. His face was gnarled into a wicked grin. He seemed partly amused and partly full of rage.
“Clever little Dwarf. You robbed me of my cattle, but no matter.” The Lich’s voice carried through the air with a chill. Donnach’s bones felt cold. “There are other towns, and I will add them all to my army. And you, I think, will lead them.” His thin, rotting lips curled into a smile.
“Ye’ll have my corpse,” Donnach snarled, “when yeh pry it from the Dawn’s justice, heathen.”
“How delightfully boring, you Paladins are. Always the same dribble.” The Lich waved his arm and the first line of Orcs started to move forward.
Donnach strode forward, muttering prayers. With each step the iron bead glowed with greater intensity. It became so bright, that it started to burn and blind the undead Orcs who came near it. His armor even started to radiate light, and his beard turned into a glowing beacon of holy energy.
“Bring me his body!” The Lich shouted and the horde began to pour forth. Donnach whipped the iron bead, crashing it into an orc’s body causing an explosion of light.
With his newfound weapon, Donnach laid waste to much of the Lich’s horde. But by himself, even with the Dawn breathing power into him, there were just too many, and soon the Lich grew tired of watching him make a mockery of his army.
The Lich’s lips twisted as he spoke an ancient Elvari dialect. His spell held Donnach in place and hefted him into the air. Donnach felt the crude, vile magic twist his insides and cloud his brain.
“I grow tired of you, Dwarf. You showed an impressive resolve in your faith, but you are mine now.” The Lich whispered and began to plunge his will into the Dwarf’s mind. Donnach roared in pain as the light dimmed from the iron bead.
“Give. In.” The Lich demanded.
“I…” Donnach grunted, his eyes rolled back into his head. “I… give…”
“Yesssssss,” the Lich hissed.
“I. Give. You. Nothing!” Donnach’s eyes flared with holy power, flashing with golden light. His arm stretched out and grabbed the Lich by the neck.
“No!” The Lich barked.
“The Light take us both, scourge.”
From a great distance, Khazag could see a bright pillar of light thrusting down from the heavens.
“What happened to Donnach?” One of the children asked.
“Well,” the Grand Teller leaned over and began to whisper, “the legend goes that the Dawn gave Donnach something called ‘Ascendency.’ See, his faith was so great, his prayers so strong, that the Dawn made him a beacon of pure light.”
“Is it true?” Another child asked.
“Who’s to say, little one. Who’s to say.” The Teller leaned back and stroked his beard. “But that day, the villagers and guards who made it to Gun’Idur spread the story of Donnach and his mighty deeds. ‘The Smitebeard’ they called him, and it wasn’t long until more Dwarves dedicated themselves to the Dawn’s Light. They formed their own clan and took after his legend.”
“Wowwww,” several of the children whispered in unison.
“In fact, because they believe he achieved Ascendency, many of the Smitebeards ask Donnach for intercession. Some even claim he has appeared on the battlefield in times of dire need against the undead.” The Grand Teller reached into his cloak and pulled out a pipe.
“Did the Lich die, too?”
“No, child. Though it took a great deal of power for him to survive.” The Teller explained while lighting a pinch of tobacco and puffing out smoke.
“So what happened to him?”
“That, my child, is a story for another day.” He smiled.