Braum Stormforge was born the sixth child and fourth son to Olanna and Gorm, the second heir to the Stormforge clan. He, like his brothers and sisters, are direct descendants of the matron of the Stormforge line: Bronnah Stormforge. Although, at that time, the young bastard woman was known as Bronnah Whitestone and she officially worked as a low-wage, forge-scraper for the Metallurgists and Smithing Guilds. Unofficially, Bronnah was a whore, and her free time was often spent in the back alleys of the Haglin Palace and marketplaces, doing anything she could for the coin just to eat.
The matron’s luck changed when the Drow, who had been battling on and off with the dwarves of Myrepeak for a dozen years at that point, broke through into Wyrms-horde through a series of forgotten and unpublished mines. Their intent was simple: to kill, maim, and rape as many dwarven civilians of the great city and inflict as much potential damage as they could while the soldiers on the front line scrambled for a footing and doubled back while trying to fight back against the Drow who were already knocking at the gates in the adjacent cities of Hratholm and Vergis-Hold. There were many guards in Wyrms-horde, but plenty were killed in the initial attack when they were caught unprepared by the onslaught of heavily armed and armored Dark Elves and Dryders. The tide changed, however, when Bronnah, thinking quickly and using her knowledge of the pipes and systems of the great, interconnected forges, used the very city against the assailants. With the help of several acquaintances, savory and unsavory alike, Bronnah led a group of civilians to cool and heat key areas of the massive forge networks that ran through the city like a spiderweb. The result was a ‘storm’ of exploding pipes that rained down fire and fury of molten metal onto the Drow; hurting some, killing many, and giving the weakened militia and guards enough foothold to slay the Dark Elves before fleeing from the city. Then, under Bronnah’s insistence and with the support of her future husband, the then guard-captain Ogrinn Shieldsong, the offending mine networks used to assault the city were filled with the remaining molten metal and used to flush out any remaining Drow while simultaneously adding their own assault to the front line of the war some thirty miles down.
After that day, the bastard woman Bronnah was officially dubbed ‘Stormforge’ by the King of the Myrepeak in honor of the ‘storm of fury’ she had wrought upon the attackers. She was granted all of the titles, rights, and lordships of a minor noble and was even granted the right to live within Haglin Palace for the services she rendered in saving the city. While she accepted the titles and even the hand of Ogrinn several months later, the man who was key in helping her save Wyrms-horde, Bronnah did not elect to join the majority of other nobles in the Palace. Instead, she worked to rebuild the forge networks, relight their fires, and eventually was integral in the discovery of ‘Living Steel’ later in her life. To this day, her clan is at least a hundred strong, some by blood but many by marriage, and it is considered an honor to work within the Lumos Forge Network in honor of the clan’s matron or to act as a guard for the city should evil ever strike again.
Braum, influenced by the tales of old, decided to take up the mantle of Guard of Wyrms-horde while many of his brothers and sisters took to the forge.
He, like his family, were small for their ilk, even by Dwarvish standard. It made them wonders in the forge; strong yet dainty hands crafting keen pieces of the finest Dwarven steel to come out of Myrepeak, but Braum knew he had another calling. He had never been able to back down from a fight and more often than night found himself rushing in to stop an injustice rather than look around for help. He always felt the calling to protect and, after decades of training his body, trying to achieve perfection, he was accepted into the specialized Guard platoon known simply as ‘The Wall’. They were a group of Shield Bearers, born long before the time of Bronnah by Ogrinn’s clan, the Shieldsongs. They specialized in the use of weapon and shield combat, specifically phalanx tactics, and were seen to be the living embodiment of protection for the citizens of Myrepeak. Even should the roof of the mountain crumble and the walls of the city fail, ‘The Wall’ will always stand as a barrier to those that would seek to do evil. Immovable and invulnerable, they will serve as a living shield to drive back the threats of the dark at no matter the cost.
Clad in the Living Steel full-plate armor with the molten-metal-splattered tower shields of his family, Braum served in ‘The Wall’ for over a century.
While he worked diligently to be not only a protector but servant to his people, Braum was dissatisfied over the years to learn that his doe-eyed impression of ‘The Wall’ and the guards themselves were not all he hoped they would be. Heavily influenced by politics and nobility, he realized slowly, but painfully, that ‘Law’ did not always equate to ‘Good’. Depending on who had the coin, Justice could often be avoided with a simple piece of fresh paper for those in the power to wield the pen. As time rolled on, Braum witnessed more and more moral tragedy and started to recognize trends. The guards, despite being sworn to serve, often had an inclination to imprison and punish lower class clans and individuals, treating them with extreme and unnecessary harshness under the claim that they’re “just more likely to be criminals”; ignoring the obvious self-fulfilling prophecy that was that mindset. Likewise, the nobility, those that could change laws to suit their needs with a little help from a soft word and a bag of coin, always seemed to be treated with utter respect and velvet gloves; even when their crimes were far more heinous than those in the lower wards.
The realization sickened Braum and, for a time, he didn’t know what to do with himself. He had sworn to uphold the Law, but had realized after decades of servitude to that Law that it only served those in power; it didn’t serve those in need.
As his life dragged on, the answer to the questions came from the place he had never expected: the Gods. Braum had never been religious. None of his family was. With a history of bastards raised to good fortune through hard work and men and women that dedicated their lives to the crafting of swords and shield and their usage, not but a few of his clan had ever taken to the cloth whether half-hearted or otherwise. Those that did often favored Torag, father of Creation, as he was well known by all within the Dwarvish communities and held a special place in his heart for smiths.
Braum had never even heard of Trudd before that day.
While on a routine patrol through the lower mithril mines, his heart heavy with woe and his mind reeling on the topic of justice and law that had plagued him for over two decades, dipping him further and further into depression, he heard a sound. A mix of sobbing, roaring, and yelling echoed down the tunnel to him and, upon reaching it, he was surprised to find an older man clothed in fine silk running away from a small contingent of orcs at least a dozen strong. A young man, a servant or lower clan based on his appearance, was on the ground bleeding with a laughing, half-tusked monstrosity roaring his pleasure and beating his own chest with a great wooden club.
“You can’t help him.” the noble said. “We have to alert the others. More are on their way!”
It made sense. The other man was clearly worse for wear and he was but a single guard. “I can’t just leave him.” He responded.
“Please! He’s just a Slagshed.” the noble begged, confirming that the other man was, quite literally, a shit-cleaner. The lowest of the low. “He’s not worth our lives!”
“He’s worth mine. Get the others, I will hold the line there.” Braum told the man, pointing directly at the group of orcs. “Make sure you bring a medic when you do. For the Slagshed.”
And so Braum fought. He charged directly into the group and planted himself before the bleeding out lower clansman. He fought and bled and screamed and triumphed, never letting even one of the orcs slip past him. He was a wall. He was “The Wall”. And no man, monster, or beast would harm those he stood before, Slagshed or otherwise, while he still drew breath.
After what felt like hours of fighting, but only really equated to a few minutes, Braum collapsed next to the man on the ground, hurting but victorious. The other man, bleeding but alive, smiled his thanks and, to Braum’s complete surprise, stood up and dusted himself off.
“I see I chose right afterall.” the Slagshed said.
The man, bloodied and broken, changed to a new appearance. One that Braum instantly recognized as a thief that was convicted for “stealing” when a nobleman had literally taken the man’s gold pouch off his belt and condemned the ‘thief’ as a liar and a scoundrel for trying to take back his own belongings. He changed again and again Braum recognized the whoremonger that had tried to claim she was raped by one of the highborns only to be literally laughed out of the Palace. Four more times the man altered his appearance and four more times Braum recognized them immediately as being one of the many injustices that fueled his own depression. The last change was to that of a rather young, rather powerfully built dwarf that reminded him heavily of how he always imagined his clan patron Ogrinn to look as a young man. Powerful, intimidating, yet good natured.
“Who are you? What are you?” were the first words Braum could ask.
“I am Trudd.” the shapechanging dwarf explained simply in a gentle yet deep voice. “But I suppose that bears further explanation.”
Trudd went on to explain his stance in the pantheon of the Dwarvish deities, a topic that Braum was largely unfamiliar with given his own personal history with religion yet he felt himself dedicated to listen to all the same. In the dark, musty tunnel, surrounded by the slain bodies of orcs, he explained that he was the son of Torag and, despite being the youngest of his brothers and sisters, he is also known as being the strongest. He is tasked with guarding his father’s Halls and is dedicated to the protection of the innocent and the doing of good. Finally, Trudd explained that he has been watching Braum for some time now, even testing him occasionally, for at least a decade, and had finally come to a decision.
“And what is that?” Braum asked.
“I have chosen you to act as my paladin.” Trudd told him simply.
It’s not well-advised to openly laugh in the face of a deity; particularly not one that is known for their capability in martial combat and the fact that they can probably turn you into a fine jelly with a few well-chosen swings of a warhammer. In retrospect, Braum felt Trudd handled the slip up with good humor given Braum only realized several moments afterwards that the fit of giggles could have very well been his last.
“But I’ve never prayed to you. I didn’t even know you existed.” Braum explained sheepishly.
“Perhaps not consciously. But you have more than you know. Each time you raise your shield to the wicked in the name of those that cannot, you bear my sigil for all to see. Each time you speak out against injustice for those that would use the mortal law for their own gain, you speak my words for all to hear. Each time you ask the world ‘Why do I go on through that which I have seen?’ you whisper these words in my ear and I show you the answer.’”
This simple thought brought a smile to Braum’s face. There was something comforting about the idea he had been watched. That he had championed a cause of good and righteousness even as he felt like he was falling away from that very path by being disinclined to follow the clearly fallible laws of the land. And it was true, many times he had seen something immediately after the most breaking of trials that proved there was still good in the world. It was what kept him going for so many years.
His smile drifted away as the next thought hit him and he asked. “But what would I do as a paladin? I’ve known only my home and all the stories I hear of paladins are that they wander the world and die in, frankly, pretty horrific ways.”
“Paladins are bound to the will of their god. They spread their word and do the deeds of their god as if they were walking in their gods boots for they would become an avatar for their power. You would become an avatar for my power... and my pride. There are wrongs that need righting, there is good that needs doing, and, when your time comes, whether it bloody and horrific or quiet in your sleep, you will be welcomed into my venerable halls for the remainder of eternity.”
Braum thought of his family. He thought of his friends in the lower wards and his comrades in the “The Wall”. He thought of all of the men and women that he’d grown up with, lived with, fought for, and killed for through his many years. He was not young anymore and his head had long grown bald while his beard had began to silver. He had borne no sons or daughters nor even taken a wife, his life having been dedicated to the shield. And if he were to accept this calling, he would likely never see his home again nor ever have a true family for the rest of his days.
But it didn’t matter in the scope of the world…
“I’ll do it.”
“Then repeat after me these laws. You will repeat them every day. You will live them, breathe them, and they will nourish you as no other thing in this world may. They will be your food and your wine when you are hungry, they will be your lullaby to which you will rest, and they will be your anchor when the winds of the world seek to throw you off-course.
My strength is my sacred offering. I will maintain my body as I would a sacred relic and use it only for admirable pursuits.
To ensure the safety of those I protect, I will be among the first to charge and the last to retreat, save when such tactics would place those I protect at undue risk.
I will hold any defensive line if it will save innocents or the homes of my people.
Even the young can accomplish great things. I will never dismiss someone on account of youth.”
And so Braum repeated them and in his belly burned a fire like nothing ever had. He felt the diminishing strength of his youth return in a flourish of bulging muscles and cracking bones. He felt a fervor that burned away the aches and pains of his age, healed the open, bleeding wounds of his battle, and made him feel as hot as a mithril forge. He felt the power of his God, of Thrudd the Mighty, surge through him like pipes filled with molten steel and he bellowed in a mix of agony and delight that echoed through the empty mine.
When the nobleman appeared, five other guards in tow and one very weary looking cleric of Torag, they were unable to find Braum. Using the tunnels he knew so well from his patrols, he had already disappeared and doubled back, cutting through the rock to the main road just outside of Wyrms-horde. From there, he left the mountain and, for the first time, ventured into the daylight of the world above. The power of his God burning in his belly, the words of his oath playing over and over in his mind, and the willingness to do more than he’d ever imagined for a world that needed a champion of might pushing him forward into the shining sun above.
To all of my regular readers, I know I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of playing Dungeons and Dragons. In general, I pretty much always run the games and act as what's known as the Dungeon Master, which basically equates to the storyteller. For the first time in a VERY long time, I actually am getting the chance to play and, as such, dedicated myself to creating a character that I found really interesting. Because I'm me, the character needed to be more than just gameplay stats and numbers, and so I started writing down a history for who he is and where he's from. While it started off as just a 'here's some history', the entire thing started flowing into an actual story. As such, I figured I would share it with all of my lovely readers because why the hell not?
I hope you guys enjoyed.