Wilderlands Age of Worms
The Recent History of the Gorkbeard Clan
During the time of King Nach-Bendalm, the Gorkbeards were one of the five clans assigned a section of Khallordain’s deep iron mines. The other four clans were the Blitzhames, the Dourstones, the Deephomes, and the Broadshelms. Over generations, the five clans variously competed and cooperated in extracting the bounty to be found beneath Khallordain, but many say the Gorkbeards were the most successful. Successful, that is, until 4382 (51 years ago), when a horrific collapse in their section of mines decimated the clan. Among the survivors was the (then young) Doran Gorkbeard, the supervisor in charge of the mine supports. During the following years, while his uncles and cousins worked to clear the collapse and restore their mine to prosperity, poor Doran found himself under a cloud of suspicion. Had he been negligent in his work? Was he responsible for the deaths of so many of his kin and the huge setback in the fortunes of the entire clan?
Finally, Doran could bear the resentment and distrust from his clansmen no more. He determined to leave Khallordain and seek his fortunes in the suddenly booming human mining town of Rastingdrung. He left behind his beloved wife, Banda, for a human settlement was no place for a dwarf woman. But he brought with him his sons, Turm, Frengek, and the youngest, Anmor.
While Anmor came of age in the strange surroundings of Rastingdrung, his father and older brothers found work in mines operated by humans, earning premium pay. Most of Rastingdrung’s dwarves were in the employ of Ragnolin Dourstone, another émigré from Khallordain who had purchased his own mine in Rastingdrung several years before. Thus, the few dwarves who, like Doran and his sons, were willing to work for human mine owners, found themselves in high demand. Doran and Anmor’s brothers changed jobs frequently, working at times for Gelch Tilgast and at others for the Parrin family, with an increase in pay each time they switched.
In 4421 (12 years ago), Lazare, the dragonchess champion from Tula, used his winnings to purchase a mine in Rastingdrung. As Lazare had no experience in the industry, he needed a skilled supervisor to run the operation. Doran jumped at this new opportunity, and now, as the supervisor of an entire mine, his salary was such that the exiled Gorkbeards should not want for anything ever again! Even after sending money back to Khallordain to support Banda, there was enough left over to finance a proper education for young Amnor. After some discussion, Anmor was sent to the Citadel of Tomes on Ghinor’s north coast to study amongst the clerics and archivists of Bachontoi. Doran’s hope was that an educated, literate Gorkbeard would benefit the family greatly. Perhaps one day they would own their own mine, and Anmor could handle the books and business dealings.
At the Citadel of Tomes, Anmor took a solemn oath to use the knowledge gained there only for good. He learned of events back in Rastingdrung only through infrequent letters from his father. Some important excerpts:
In 4422: “Lazare has taken all of his profits from our operations and sunk them into opening a dragonchess parlor on the Vein. I told him the profits would be better spent opening new sections of the mine and increasing production, but I guess he cannot resist his old hobby. No matter, operations remain profitable enough.”
In 4423: “A new mine owner, Balabar Smenk, has become a force in the business here. He uses mostly slave labor and drives his workers ruthlessly. His practices are making him quite a profit, but I am glad we don’t work for him!”
In 4424: “Smenk has cut his prices again. I offered to take a pay cut so we can remain competitive, but Lazare won’t hear of it. He says things like, ‘Skill will overcome treachery,’ ‘Do not let your opponent’s foolish gambits distract you from your long term goal,’ and ‘The board is mastered by those who maintain the higher ground.’ I’m not sure how this applies to mining, but I’m sure we’ll muddle through.”
Late in 4424: “Sad tidings. Mister Lazare’s wife has passed on. He’s distraught and his heart’s not in the mining business anymore. He’s decided to sell the mine to Smenk. It’s hardly turning a profit at all, with ore prices what they are. Smenk’s offered to keep me on as supervisor, at least during the transition, but the pay would be greatly reduced and I won’t be a party to the beatings and whippings he uses to ‘motivate’ his men. Don’t worry, the savings are enough to keep up your tuition and I’ll find other work soon enough.”
4425: “There’s no work to be found in any of Tilgast’s mines, but Luzane Parrin’s still got three mines operating. The yield is down, and three mines are too much for her to manage on her own, so I’ve taken a job as her operations manager at the South Shore mine. The salary’s not quite as much as Lazare was paying, but it’s plenty comfortable. Luzane’s been around for a while, so she won’t make the same mistakes Lazare did.”
4427: “I’m worried about Turm. He spends more time on the Vein than he does hauling out ore for Miss Parrin. We can’t afford his laziness, with all the competition from that fat bastard Smenk. I’ve asked Frengek to keep a closer eye on Turm, try to straighten him out.”
4429: “Turm has become useless. Even when he’s here at the mine, he’s drunk on Hengest’s. He thinks he can get away with it, because you can’t smell the stuff on his breath, but I can tell. Frengek says he’s started smoking kalamanthis, too. Pains my heart, but I’m going to have to let him go. The South Shore’s still turning a profit, but the yield at Miss Parrin’s other mines has really started to fall. I can’t have Turm screwing up things here, while business is this bad.”
4431: “Miss Parrin’s business is completely in shambles. She’s selling the South Shore to Smenk. She’s selling her family’s manor house to him, too! Her husband was found murdered outside the Feral Dog. No one knows exactly what happened. I’m staying on here at the South Shore, though, even if it means working for Smenk. I suppose it was inevitable, the way he’s been gobbling up mines. The pay is a lot less, but I’m not going to abandon all the good work I’ve accomplished here. At least we don’t have to worry about Smenk putting the South Shore out of business, since he owns it now!”
The last letter Anmor received came in late 4432 and from Frengek, not from Doran: “Father’s had a terrible accident. The damn slaves that Smenk has been using since he took over the South Shore are incompetent. They ran an ore cart into one of the support beams and the whole structure fell on father’s legs. He can hardly walk and can’t work at all. Smenk’s letting us remain in the supervisor’s quarters here at the mine. He says it smells like dwarves, so it’s of no use to him, anyway. But he won’t pay father’s salary while he’s laid up. I wanted to go to the Kazardaran Covenant for see if they would negotiate with Smenk on our behalf, but father wouldn’t let me. He’s too proud.”
“Turm isn’t working anymore. He’s living in Jalek’s Flophouse and injecting the kalamanthis directly into his arm, now. I’ve still got my pay, but the savings are gone. I’m afraid we can’t keep up your tuition. There’s scarce enough to even send home to mother. I may have to turn to the Church of Sashu for some charity, if things get much worse.”
Learning of his family’s misfortune, Anmor’s teachers at the Citadel of Tomes were more than willing to waive his tuition, but Anmor felt it necessary to do something directly to help his family. He would return to Rastingdrung. Torm-Yarel, the chief archivist, did offer some parting advice: “If you wish to continue your studies in Rastingdrung, you should seek out the wizard Penkawr. He spent some time at Ut-Prandur, just up the river from here, and is, therefore, a friend. He recently relocated to Rastingdrung and may be able to help.”