The Hammer of the Iron Hills

Written by Sean Kendall

“Crack”, the sound of armour being caved in by the hammer echoes across the battlefield.  The screams and cries of those wearing the armour are quickly followed by silence.

But, if the listener concentrates carefully they may hear a dwarven prayer to Fortubo seeking forgiveness for the unavoidable use of physical force. 

“Crack”, that individual silence in a maelstrom of chaos is broken as the battle continues…”

Extract from Glinder Shattershield’s (Hearth Guard and third daughter of Carlos Ironforge) Crosskey Gorge battlefield diary (CY 568).

Aarvidston Stonefist and Glinder Shattershield

The above account is a description of the Hammer of the Iron Hills being wielded by Aarvidston Stonefist dwarven Earthwarden - with deadly efficiency!

The Hammer of the Iron Hills is a historical warhammer that has been passed down through the generations to worthy recipients to oppose slavery and to help defend clan and kin of the Iron Hills.

Cadra Sledgehammer now proudly wields the Hammer of the Iron Hills.  This is the legendary history of the Hammer and the story of its bestowal to Cadra Sledgehammer after the battle for Crosskey Gorge.

The Original Bestowal – Savrivren the Free

It is rumoured that the Hammer was a gift from Fortubo himself to the great clan chief Savrivren the Free.

It is said that Savrivren was given the hammer by a small human boy following the liberation of human, elvan and dwarven slaves held by mysterious “dark skinned elves.

The slaves were rescued from the deep and deadly Switchback Caverns following a demanding and prolonged hunt in which several members of Savrivren’s band were slain by volleys of bolts and fiery rain.

The “dark skinned elves” were eventually trapped by a daring manoeuvre orchestrated by Savrivren.  He split his troops into two and, calling upon their undeniable constitutional fortitude – precious legacy of their dwarven ancestors, the first troop force-marched for two days without rest to get ahead of the dark ones.

Fortubo the Hammer

The second group, led by Savrivren, continued the pursuit with the aim of harrying the dark ones into the planned ambush.

On what was believed to be the morning of the third day and the long awaited rune from the first group was spotted.  They had made it and were ready to strike a telling blow.

Savrivren assembled his troops, 23 formidable dwarven warriors.  Although outnumber four to one his plan was to mount a frontal attack on the dark ones, allowing the second troop to strike from behind – thus completing the hammer and anvil ambush.

Drow on the march

The dark ones launched volleys of bolts and fiery rain against the on-rushing wedge of dwarven fighting fury.  Several were severely wounded, and some would latter die from their wounds, but the dwarven heroes doggedly surged onward into the ranks of the dark ones.

The ambush was then sprung with great effect, as the hammer slammed into the rear of the assembled dark skinned elves which were held against the anvil of Savrivren.  The initial frontal and surprise rear attacks were enough to break the resolve of the dark ones (all know that elves are weak willed at the best of times!) and they attempted to flee – but had nowhere to run.

The dark elf prisoners were released from their bonds and those in need ministered to.  The recount of their treatment was heart rendering, even for those long resiled to the horrors of war, and contained many deliberate acts of torture and cruel indifference.

Among the rescued prisoners was a small human boy.  The boy was reported to have said nothing to Savrivren but followed him closely for several days as they ascended out of the Switchback Caverns.  Upon reaching the surface the glimpse of sunlight was too much for most to restrain the joy of freedom and the tide of humanity surged towards the light.

It was at this stage that the boy turned towards Savrivren and deftly tossed a previously unnoticed warhammer into the air.  The boy then spoke for the first and only time and said “for freedom”.  As the hammer struck the ground a gigantic thunderclap rung out and the boy run off disappeared among the milling crowd, never to be seen again.

The hammer was very finely crafted with runes engraved into the head and haft.  Of most interest to Savrivren and his followers were the dwarven runes:


The runes read “Fortubo’s Iron Hills Freedom”.

Surely this was meant to be a blessing from Fortubo himself and a great gift to be treasured.  Savrivren was deeply inspired by the gift and in the coming months adopted the moniker “the Free”. 

The hammer was taken to the Counsel of Elders, where it was resolved, with the divine blessing from the High Priest of Fortubo, to take the hammer to the human settlement of Irongate.  Although traditionally wary of human magic the hammer was to be presented to the college of wizardry for study.

The hammer was indeed a great gift! After many studious days the wizards divined it’s powers:

Warhammer: +2 to hit, +1 to damage

·       Acts as a ring of warmth

·       Acts as a ring of feather falling

·       Grants the bearer hill giant strength

Strangely for a magical weapon the use of the feather fall and the giant strength abilities required charges.  These charges could be restored through the blessing of a High Priest of Fortubo.

When the hammer was returned, Savrivren called the clans together and spoke a proclamation to be made into law:

"The great gift of Fortubo will forthwith be known as the Hammer of the Iron Hills

Only those deemed worthy by the Counsel of Elders should wield it. 

The hammerbearer must take every opportunity presented to oppose slavery and bring those who practice such an abomination to justice.

The Hammer of the Iron Hills must be returned to the Counsel of Elders upon the hammerbearer’s retirement from active service.

The hammerbearer must charge his companions through holy oath that the Hammer of the Iron Hills will be returned on the hammerbearer’s behalf to the Counsel of Elders if he/she is taken prematurely into Fortubo’s embrace.

Upon the Hammer's return the Counsel will take petitions of worthiness for consideration of a new hammerbearer.”

So began the long and illustrious journey of the Hammer of the Iron Hills to this present day and the current hammerbearer, Cadra Sledgehammer.

Onnwal, Iron Gate, Iron Hills and South Province.

Cadra Sledgehammer – New Hammerbearer

Cadra Sledgehammer

During the Battle of Crosskey Gorge the Hammer of the Iron Hills was destined to pass to a new hammerbearer.  Aarvidston was leading his troops with his usual simple effectiveness when an unforseen and tragic event occurred.

A pair of orcs mounted on giant boars smashed into Aarvidston’s flank with devastating results.  Aarvidston was trampled and gored.  His right arm was severed above the elbow and the Hammer of the Iron Hills fell to the ground - with Aarvidston’s fist still tightly clenched to the haft.

Without thought for his safety Cadra Sledgehammer launched an immediate and unrelenting assault on the giant boars to rescue his captain and protect the sanctity of the Hammer.

Giant boar with orc saddle

The boar tusks were capped with razor-sharp metal tips and they fought like berserkers.  They kept coming and coming despite suffering mortal wounds that would stop any normal beast.  At the last the boars finally fell to the ground dead when a hammer stroke crushed their skulls one after the other. 

Cadra was wounded but used the divine healing powers granted by Fortubo on his bleeding and mortally wounded Captain.  Cadra picked up the Hammer, hoisted his Captain onto his shoulders and rallied all of Aarvidston’s troops into a concerted charge - once more into the fray!

The battle was eventually won and Crosskey Gorge successfully defended as a strategically important crossing point into the Iron Hills from the south

Aarvidston drifted in and out of consciousness, Cadra’s channelling of Fortubo’s healing power only able to stabilise Aarvidston's condition.  The hammerbearer was down and in need of prolonged care and bed-rest and the battlefields of Crosskey Gorge offer little of either.

Once more into the fray!

Cadra took custodianship of the Hammer to ensure its safe passage back to the Iron Hills and hopefully once more into the hands of Aarvidston.

Cadra was hopeful for the future and the restoration of Aarvidston’s health.  He collected the tusks of the razorback as a trophy for Aarvidston – “learn from the past” was the first rule Cadra had learnt from his mentor. 

The slow and painfully journey back to Carlos Ironforge’s seat of power began. 

During the slow march the thought “learn from the past” kept nagging away at the back of Cadra’s mind.  He relived the graphic battle images and Aarvidston’s fall, over and over in his mind.  He kept coming back to the same question – “why had Aarvidston’s arm been severed by a boar tusk?”

The tusks were tipped with razor sharp metal.  On examination Cadra observed that the metal was not any type he had seen before.  The metal was very light and unmarked by battle – not a scratch.  Impossible - it had been used against dwarven plate!  This was an intriguing situation and Cadra felt one that needed the counsel of wise dwarves.

“Attention” – Massed dwarves in dwarven plate

Aarvidston’s health recovered but not to his former vigour and with only one arm Aarvidston doubted his ability to remain a worthy hammerbearer. 

Despite protests and a call for him to reconsider, Aarvidston presented himself to the Counsel of Elders and returned the Hammer of the Iron Hills and announced his retirement from active service.  He would return to the temple and concentrate on the articles of faith.

So started the search for a new hammerbearer. Aarvidston Stonefist and Carlos Ironforge nominated Cadra as the ideal candidate.  They were referees of the highest standard - as the outgoing hammerbearer and the current clan leader.  Despite the representations made on Cadra’s behalf, the Counsel of Elders was not a group to be easily impressed or hurried into a quick decision.

Finally the decision tipped in Cadra’s favour when the matter of the strange metal, named as “Athorite by a captured South Province agent, was discussed.  The Counsel agreed that Cadra was to be heralded as the new hammerbearer with one caveat – he must identify where the South Province was obtaining this “Atherite” and to secure a new supply of it for research and refinement.

This was an immense task which pitted Cadra against the evil might of the South Province but Cadra moved to tears at the rare honour gladly accepted.  He vowed that with Fortubo’s blessing and guidance that he would move heaven and earth to bring honour to his ancestors and to the hammerbearers that lead the way in the past.

So began the reign of Cadra Sledgehammer as hammerbearer.

The Journey Begins Again.

Life is a series of random events that on cold hard reflection appear to take on a recurring pattern.  So as Cadra prepared to commence his quest, Aarvidston gave one last lesson - “learn from the past” – the same lesson as his first.

And Cadra is a fast learner.

Cadra Sledgehammer’s

heraldic shield


[i] Fortubo the Hammer – is a lawful good lesser power with spheres of control over Stone, Metals, Mountains and Guardianship.  Although of human Suloise origin, dwarves have aligned themselves very strongly to the worship of Fortubo.  So much so that Fortubo is often seen by other races to be a Dwarven god.

[ii] Glinder Shattershield (CY519 - ) Hearth Guard and third daughter of Carlos Ironforge

[iii] Hearth Guard – female dwarven fighter who has received intensive military training.  Frequently a weapon specialist, she fights as well as, if not better than, most males.  Hearth Guards form a respected elite fighting force dedicated to defending the stronghold and its children from external threats.

[iv] Carlos Ironforge (CY446 - ) Clan chief and patriarch of the dwarven clans of the Iron Hills

[v] Battle for Crosskey Gorge, Iron Hills CY568

[vi] Aarvidston Stonefist (CY406 to CY574) – Fighter/Priest of Fortubo and worthy wielder of the Hammer of the Iron Hills from CY532 to CY568. 

[vii] Earthwarden – Speciality priest of Fortubo written by Scott

[viii] Iron Hills – A region of Onnwal to the east of Irongate that is predominantly under the direct control of Dwarves with Carlos Ironforge being a prominent clan leader.  The Iron Hills have rich deposits of iron ore and gemstones that are mined in the main by expert dwarven miners and some gnomes. 

The forces of the Iron Hills are constantly on high alert against incursions by the South Province.  This vigilance helps act as a buffer for the rest of Onnwal against direct land-based incursions by the South Province.

[ix] Savrivren the Free (5142 to 5371 of the Suloise calendar, before the CY calendar started) revered leader of his people and a fighter of great courage and tactical genius.  Consolidated the land holdings of his clans in and around the Iron Hills and spent many long years seeking alliances to help withstand the constant struggle against evil and the spread of humanoid armies from the north and east.

[x] “Dark skinned elves” and “dark ones” may be a direct and accurate reference to drow, especially the practice of slave taking.  However, the recollections and rumours may have been influenced by the more recent activities of drow in and under the city of Scant in CY576, when the underground fortress of Ul-Drakken was overthrown by the armies of Scant, led by the Barons of Pogrom Island.

[xi] Switchback Caverns – located in the Iron Hills, west of Zelradton

[xii] This combat manoeuvre is now referred to as the “hammer and anvil” and has been used successfully in mass combat by the dwarven clans of the Iron Hills over the years

[xiii] In the dark caverns it is difficult to keep track of surface time

[xiv] Counsel of Elders – a dwarven tradition where the nine eldest members of a dwarven district are consulted for consensus course of action – especially if it involves dealings with humans or elves.

[xv] The Free City of Irongate -  Irongate is a free and independent city located on the eastern coast of the Azure Sea in a bay framed by the imposing set of hills known as the Headlands in the west and the Iron Hills in the east. The Fortress City is one of the only Oeridian-controlled ports on the largely Suel-dominated southern waterways. The metropolis proper sits upon a hillock at the mouth of a narrow valley that runs north to south across the isthmus that connects the Onnwal Peninsula to the rest of the Flanaess.

Irongate's large and heavily fortified walls form a bottleneck to the flow of traffic between the southern provinces of the Great Kingdom and Onnwal. Its natural harbor is one of the few sheltered ports along the long coast stretching from Scant to Naerie, and it is typically the refuge of many scores of sea-going vessels at any given time. Irongate's territorial control stretches north to the shores of Dunhead Bay in the Sea of Gearnat, where the small town of Northanchor acts as an ancillary harbor connected to the city proper by an efficient portage system run largely by dwarves. The city controls the surrounding hills to the west, about a day's march into the Headlands. To the east, Irongate claims the hills as far as the border with the dwarven Kingdom of the Iron Hills. This is generally accepted to be the Ahlissan Road, a pass that cuts through the hills between the South Province and the Azure coast. A handful of minor villages lie within the region controlled by Irongate, as do the strongholds of dwarven clans aligned with the city.

The local climate is generally warm and comfortable year round, as the vast waters of the Azure Sea prevent the extremes often suffered inland. The land surrounding the city is hilly, and affords little soil to till and cultivate for food. However, the place is rich in mineral resources, including many gems and some platinum. Of course, Irongate is most famous for the high-quality iron ore that has been the stock and trade of the local dwarves for centuries. By virtue of its position, Irongate also has controlled a large portion of the trade coming from the Sea of Gearnat and the western shores of the Azure Sea to points in the Aerdi interior, Idee, and Sunndi. But its most important industry is undoubtedly the mining and metalwork for which the place is universally heralded. The city was often referred to as the Overking's Armory in ancient days before it gained its independence, and the weaponsmiths of Irongate are generally accorded the best in the Flanaess, a combination of the best talent fielded by the human and dwarven populace. An often-heard remark is that if something is found to be unbending or unbreakable, it must have been forged in Irongate.

Irongate is both a founding member and the headquarters of the alliance known as the Iron League, making it a nexus of political and economic intrigue for the region. Due its strategic location and the pervasive siege mentality exhibited by its denizens, the Free City maintains a large and powerful standing force, which includes human and dwarven regulars. It also sports a large and well-trained navy, one of the most highly respected in the region. An island citadel wards its large bay, and a series of interlocking gates controls access to the city from the northern valley. All of these formidable barriers suit the city's Lord Mayor well, a short stocky and wily old man named Cobb Darg. Darg has ruled the city with aplomb for decades, and has earned the respect of friend and foe alike. (extract from the Onnwal web site)

[xvi] Ring of Warmth – provides the bearer with body heat even in conditions of extreme cold where the wearer has no clothing whatsoever.  It also restores damage caused by cold at the rate of one point per turn.  It provides a saving throw bonus of +2 versus cold-based attacks, and reduces damage sustained by –1 per die.

[xvii] Feather Fall – protects the bearer by automatic activation of a feather fall if the bearer falls 5 feet or more.  The rate of fall is instantly changed to 2 feet per second (120 feet per round),and no damage is incurred upon landing while effect is in effect.

[xviii] Strength of 19 for 2d4 turns once in a 48 hours period (+3 to hit and +7 to damage)

[xix] The High Priest must be at least 10th level and each charge to be restored requires the Priest to cast, Bless and spend a week praying at their consecrated altar to recharge the item

[xx] Hammerbearer – respectful title given by the Counsel of Elders to the appointed wielder of the Hammer of the Iron Hills

[xxi] Giant Boars are also known as Alothere.  They are intimidating and dangerous mounts and will continue to attack until reduced to –9 hit points.  Cadra’s first direct encounter with the boar-riders at the Battle for Crosskey Gorge was the geniis behind Cadra seeking to establish dwarven boar-rider heavy cavalry to confront the South Province at their own game.

[xxii] “Hovering on Death’s Door” – upon being reduced to 0 hit points or below the character falls to the ground unconscious.  Thereafter, he automatically loses one hit point each round.  If he reached –10 hit points the character dies.  If wounds are tended to for at least one round the bleeding stops and hit points stabilise.  When a cure spell is cast upon the character is immediately restored to 1 hit point – no more.  Further cures do the character no good until he has had at least one day of rest.  Until such time, he is week and feeble and generally confused and feverish. 

[xxiii] Dwarven Plate – Forged black iron plate made exclusively for dwarven warrior leaders.  The denser armour affords protection equivalent to plate mail +1, and the armour itself saves against equipment damage at +6.

[xxiv] Athorite - A very rare metal similar to Adamantite, but harder to work. Keenly sought after as a superior metal for weapons and armour, but requires the skills of a Master Smith to work it. A large amount of Athorite was discovered on Pogrom Island in CY572. For two years the South Province mined the metal, but it was recaptured in CY574 by Ballard acting on behalf of the Szeck of Onnwal. In CY576 Athorite mining began in earnest when a group of dwarves were recruited from the Iron Hills to exploit the source.