An Ill Storm Gathers
The Damnedest Fool in the Old World
In the proud and ancient culture of Karaz Ankor, the great Dwarfen Empire, four virtues are valued and
respected above all else: age, wealth, skill, and reputation. This is the story of a Dwarf possessing none of
Karaz-a-Karak, the Pinnacle of Mountains, the Most Enduring, also known to humans as Everpeak, is the
capital and greatest hold of the Dwarf Empire. It is here that the High King of all Dwarfs rules, and these
hallowed halls are home to the most revered of the noble clans. These clans are the most prominent
bloodlines of the entire Dwarf race, tracing direct lines of ancestry back to the Ancestor Gods themselves. They are the purest descendents of Grungni and Valaya, and it is to these esteemed clans that all Dwarfs
cast their gaze for an example of the highest expression of Dwarfen honour and tradition. Second in repute
only to the royal Durazklad clan, to which the High King belongs, is the Angbaraz clan of nobles. In the
Khazalid tongue, Angbaraz means “Iron Promise”, and the clan bearing such a proud name is well-known
for its unimpeachable integrity. A scion of Angbaraz is beyond reproach, as everyone knows. At least, this
was always the case until the rather unfortunate birth of a recent exception.
Ragni Alriksson, known as Ragni Silvershield, was a well-admired and upstanding member of clan
Angbaraz, a noble of Karaz-a-Karak from a strong lineage. His father was Alrik Stoutmantle, son of Dorin,
son of Kazgar, son of Vikram, son of Mordin, son of Ulfar, son of Gorim, son of Brogar, son of Gottri, son
of Hugnir, son of Yorri, son of Baragor, son of Norgrim, son of Grum, son of Cranneg, son of Sundrim,
son of Enlag, son of Dwinbar, son of Kadri, son of Bronn, son of Lunn, son of Fimbur, son of Thrund, son
of Oldor Firebelly. Ragni’s wife, Sifna Katrinsdottir, came from an equally distinguished line of Angbaraz
matrons, and the couple were nothing if not exemplars of Dwarfen values. But for some reason, despite
their long years of loyal and exceptional service to Karaz Ankor, Ragni and Sifna had not yet been blessed
by Valaya with children of their own. Each of them sat on the Elder Council of the clan, and Ragni was
already a Great Beard, so they had largely given up hope of ever producing offspring. When 176-year-old
Sifna finally announced the exciting news of her unexpected pregnancy, the entire Angbaraz clan
celebrated with her. Perhaps they should have reserved their joy.
Hargrim Ragnisson of clan Angbaraz was born thirty-seven years ago, a small and sickly child prone to
wailing at great volume far more often than is seemly for any Dwarf babe, let alone a son of mighty
Angbaraz. His parents were blinded by love, and saw only great promise in the child, but more critical
observers did not fail to notice the disturbing signs of the boy’s ignominious future even from the earliest
age. At Hargrim’s Navnsdeg, or Day of Naming, all of the clan elders and members of the family gathered
to present the infant to the temples of Grungni and Valaya, that the boy might receive the Ancestor Gods’
blessings. First, he was taken by his male relatives to the Temple of Grungni where his name was recorded
in the annals of Karaz-a-Karak . . . and where newborn Hargrim promptly soiled himself, the floor of the
temple, and the golden scroll upon which he was to be written into the history of the clan. After this
inauspicious defilement was cleaned up, he was borne by the women to the Temple of Valaya and passed
through the smoke of the sacred hearth . . . which made the child erupt in a fit of violent coughing that
nearly ended his young life before it began. When the priestess performed the ritual of welcoming by
giving baby Hargrim his first spoonful of ceremonially-blessed stone soup, the boy spit it up and set to
choking once again. Despite the dismal failure of the traditional observances on this day, it was in all
likelihood the moment of Hargrim’s greatest decorum in such matters.
From there, things only grew more disappointing. The child was unexceptional in every respect, and his
every endeavour was marked with failure at best, scandal at worst. He proved to be a wholly unsuitable
student, resisting every effort to instill in the young noble the proper education befitting his station. He
was dull-witted, inattentive, lazy, and ornery. He remembered nearly nothing he’d been taught, constantly
sought ways out of his duties, was full of excuses for his ineptitude, and always getting into fights with his
peers. No one liked the boy, and only the high rank and social standing of his parents forced people to
tolerate Hargrim. His grasp of good Dwarfen virtues was seemingly impaired beyond anyone’s ability to
rectify, and to make matters worse, the churlish lad evidenced no respect for tradition or authority
whatsoever . . . an unthinkable offense.
Hargrim suffered from a number of health problems as a child, quite unlike the good Angbaraz stock from
which he was sired. It was a considerable embarrassment to his clan, and to the noble caste of Karaz-a-
Karak as a whole, to have such a weak, deficient runt of a Dwarf born to such a prestigious bloodline. His
ailments, some real and others no doubt the fabrications of Hargrim’s own malingering nature, kept him
from excelling at even the most intellectually simple pursuits. He lagged far behind in martial training,
could barely manage the most undemanding of labours, and could only be relied upon to accomplish one
thing with regularity: bungling.
Hargrim’s parents stood behind their increasingly worthless son, hoping that he would eventually grow out
of his “awkward phase” and make them proud. The rest of the clan grew increasingly angry with the
child’s blemishing presence, however. His older family members were appalled to be related to him, his
mentors loathed him, and his peers derided, mocked, and harassed him. None of these treatments were
undeserved. Hargrim was no victim. Despite countless chances and the strained support of his beleaguered
parents, he continually found new ways to fail, to ignore good advice, to irritate and frustrate everyone who
worked so hard to help him improve himself. He was not merely a good-natured idiot, however, but an
arrogant buffoon of a lad, willfully disregarding the wisdom of his betters and throwing himself wholeheartedly
into one ridiculous folly after another.
Thirty years of academic teaching availed Hargrim nothing, as the sullen youth refused to learn. He went
through a near-endless succession of teachers, and none managed to push more than the most elementary
bits of knowledge through Hargrim’s unyielding cloak of deliberate ignorance. He never figured out how
to socialize, being constantly at odds with the other Dwarfs his age. No young clansman in Karaz-a-Karak
was so often or so heavily bruised as stubborn Hargrim, who wore the marks of countless wallopings
delivered by his classmates or even older Dwarfs whom he’d inadvisably provoked fights with on an almost
As with the other noble children, Hargrim was sent to study the trades of master craftsmen of other clans.
Unlike his peers, however, Hargrim found himself swiftly kicked out of each such apprenticeship with
barely-cordial “apologies” to his family. He was unmanageable, and his only contribution to the masters
who begrudgingly agreed to make the futile effort to instruct him was inevitably a bunch of ruined
materials, if not a badly damaged workspace. In every such case, Hargrim was full of indignation and
excuses, blaming some outside circumstance on the disasters he caused. To hear the boy tell it, he was
simply the unluckiest Dwarf there ever was. But it was not ill luck that generated such abysmal failures.
Hargrim was, to put it simply, a colossal damned fool.
His parents made every effort to redeem their son, to find some niche for him where he could at least find a
moderate degree of competence. But everywhere Hargrim went, a mess swiftly followed. He put out a
weaponsmith’s eye, ruined a suit of ornate gromril armor for one of the Princes, collapsed a mine, poisoned
a batch of ale, crumbled an intricately-carved archway into rubble, mangled an ancient tome of history, set
off an explosion in the engineers’ shop, and carelessly broke many dozens of other goods in his lackadaisical
romp through the professions. He was sent to the temples, but proved even worse a candidate for priestly
duties, earning the ire and censure of the clergy for his numerous blasphemies. They even tried to marry
him off early, to the least-desirable daughter of a much lower noble clan, but he botched that as well,
leaving the poor lass in question fuming from his insufferable boorishness.
Hargrim understood his uselessness and how much he disappointed his family, his clan, and all of Karaz-a-
Karak. He just didn’t care. As he grew older, closer to the age of formal adulthood, he applied himself less
and less, living as an obstinate, privileged wastrel. When he wasn’t infuriating some hapless would-be
teacher or belligerently destroying a craftsman’s livelihood, he spent his time drowning himself in drink
and fist-fighting with anyone who dared insinuate that he wasn’t worthy of the Angbaraz name. He was
supposed to be learning the language, history, and culture of his proud Dwarfen forebears, to be developing
his skill at the fine trades of his people, to be honing his prowess as a warrior, to be taking on the mantle of
a noble leader of Karaz Ankor . . . he was supposed to be growing into a Dwarf that his parents and clan
could be proud of . . . but instead, he just pissed his heritage away and angrily cast the blame on everyone
and everything else.
Finally, after three decades of complete dereliction, Hargrim reached his thirtieth birthday, the age of
majority in Dwarf culture. On this day, he was to celebrate his entrance into manhood and perform the
age-old rite of Kumenouht, where the new adult Dwarf is formally presented to the clan and the hold. His
family held their breaths in dread, already anticipating the latest in a long line of ruinous disasters.
Hargrim was to make an offering to the clan’s ancestors as well as to the Ancestor Gods, traditionally an
“apprentice-piece”, the Knublsprube, demonstrating his skill and his devotion to Dwarfen ideals. No one
was in the least bit surprised when Hargrim’s offering turned out to be horrifyingly inappropriate, though
that did little to mitigate the outrage.
Unbeknownst to anyone, for the past several months prior to his Kumenouht, Hargrim had been waging a
secret courtship upon the youngest of the High King’s daughters, a Princess of the royal clan Durazklad.
Perhaps “courtship” is too generous a term, for this was very much an unwanted and one-sided harassment,
typified by entirely rude and graceless advances and insinuations on Hargrim’s part. It had only been the
incredible kindness of the target of his affections that had kept this extremely unacceptable behavior a
secret. It was all revealed when Hargrim unveiled his Knublsprube, a shockingly crude and explicit carving
of the aforementioned Princess, complete with a ribald poem declaring his “special feelings” for the maiden
inexpertly etched into the base of the woeful sculpture. It is difficult to say which was more deeply
offensive to the Dwarfs of Karaz-a-Karak . . . the ill-chosen subject matter and indelicate presentation of
such, or simply the complete lack of artistry or talent evidenced in the creation of the monstrous piece.
Needless to say, this offering to the clan and the gods was not deemed suitable. Many nobles, including a
large portion of the royal clan, were furious with the already-disfavored Hargrim. As his parents and small
handful of still-sympathetic kin worked to soothe the incensed nobility, Hargrim slipped away from the
proceedings to get back to the more pressing matter of drinking himself into a stupor. It was there, deep
into his cups, that Prince Dargo of clan Durazklad found Hargrim, having sought him out in a rage. The
Prince berated Hargrim with a viciousness and honesty that the young Angbaraz fool had never heard, and
soon began to beat him as well. At first, Hargrim accepted this latest rebuke, and the physical blows along
with it, as he was accustomed to doing. Obviously, he was being unjustly maligned, but that was the story
of Hargrim’s life, wasn’t it? But after a while, the Prince’s words and fists ignited something in Hargrim,
and he snapped. He had crossed a line with his coming-of-age piece, but now he was to cross one much
Hargrim had been small and weak as a young child, that much is true. But that had been before embarking
on a life of being hated by all of his peers. The countless beatings had hardened the sickly Dwarf boy into
someone much tougher than he appeared, and the hundreds of brawls and fist-fights he’d engaged in over
the past decade or two had made of Hargrim a deceptively dangerous scrapper. He was no warrior, having
fared as poorly in arms training as any other course of study, but the black sheep of clan Angbaraz had
managed, quite by accident, to secretly excel at one thing after all. He was as irresponsible and inept as
they come, but by Grimnir, the lad could take some punches, and deal them out, too.
Prince Dargo, son of the High King, was a vastly superior Dwarf in every respect. He was accounted a
skilled soldier, as any good noble of Karaz Ankor should be. But he wasn’t prepared for the black,
screaming fury that boiled out of the wretched, disgraceful son of Angbaraz that day. Hargrim was just
sick of being blamed, despised, and kicked around, and he hadn’t the common sense to stop himself. He
beat the Prince down in a flurry of rage-fueled blows, and didn’t cease the assault until he was forcibly
dragged off by several strong Dwarfs. The Prince was nearly killed, and his injuries were terrible. This
time, Hargrim had broken something that would not be so easily forgiven.
Had Hargrim been nearly anyone else’s son, he would have likely been put to death. An offense such as
this was unforgiveable. Only the standing of his parents and their impassioned pleas on his behalf stayed
the hand of ultimate justice. Instead, Hargrim was stripped of his noble rank and any privileges of his birth
or blood, and stricken from the records of clan Angbaraz. He was shipped off to the newest and most
backwater of holds, Karak Azgaraz, to serve there as the most common of Dwarfs in whatever menial or
military capacity they deemed fit, forbidden to return to Karaz-a-Karak ever again.
At Karak Azgaraz, Hargrim was unceremoniously put to work. He was no noble here, no son of respected
parents, no scion of the great Angbaraz clan. No one had any interest in watching out for him, or helping
him to become better. He was no longer a protected, supported boy. Here, he was just another back,
another axe, and no one had any tolerance for laziness or ineptitude out of him in Karak Azgaraz.
Everyone at the Hold of Fearless Axes is a soldier, as the hold is a military outpost established specifically
for the purpose of rooting the greenskins out of the Grey Mountains. So he was expected to train, and to
fight when necessary. But he still made a lousy warrior, so he was most often used for the most simple
assignments of pure menial labour. His form filled out considerably in the two years he spent at Karak
Azgaraz, the hours of hard, backbreaking lifting and carrying adding layers of thick muscle to his formerly
wiry frame. He still drank to excess, and got in the occasional fight with his fellows, but for the most part,
Hargrim was considerably more muted during this time. He was hardly a changed Dwarf, but he’d been
shocked into a sort of submission by the events following his Kumenouht. He still did a piss-poor job of
anything he was asked to accomplish, but at least he found some degree of comfort in the mindless
exertions of his most common labouring tasks.
Of course, it did not take long for Hargrim to find a way to sabotage himself here as well. After he’d been
at Karak Azgaraz for just over two years, the hold began to experience greater conflict with the surrounding
greenskins. Battle was more frequent, and becoming more desperate. At one point, despite Hargrim’s
reputation for unreliability, he was entrusted with a message to deliver to an outlying troop of soldiers.
Filled with a surge of his typical foolishness, Hargrim boldly declared an oath upon his honour and that of
his ancestors that he would not fail at this task. But instead of diligently carrying out his duty, he became
distracted and ended up passing out drunk, leaving the message undelivered. The results of this seemingly
minor neglect turned out to be catastrophic, as the entire company of brave Dwarf warriors who were
relying on the orders in that message were killed by a massive horde of greenskins. Had they received the
message on time, they would have regrouped with their own allies and not been slaughtered. When
Hargrim learned of the consequences of his casual failure, he was horrified. He offered up his typical
excuses, but only feebly, and they rang hollow in his ears. This time, for the first time in his life, he began
to realize the nature of his own worthlessness, and the price that others had to pay for it.
Once again, Hargrim found himself being held up to harsh judgment. He was accounted an oathbreaker,
the most detestable thing a Dwarf could ever be. For Hargrim, forgiveness and second chances had run out.
He was given only two choices: take the Slayer oath and become one of the dead Dwarfs walking who
throw their lives away at the hands of savage trolls in order to redeem some shred of their lost honour, or
be branded a traitor and oathbreaker and have his name added to the Book of Grudges as a permanent exile
from all Dwarfen society. Hargrim had no interest in being ripped to pieces by a troll, and knew that he
lacked the martial skills to survive the Slayer’s path, so he chose the cowardly way out, and was forever
banned from Karaz Ankor. His face was branded, his beard shaved, and he was recorded in the Dammaz
Kron as an oathbreaker, no longer even considered to be a Dwarf at all, forever cut off from the lineage of
the ancestors and the blessings of the Ancestor Gods. He was cast out of Karak Azgaraz, and told that only
death awaited him should he show his accursed face again at any Dwarf hold.
Hargrim set out from Karak Azgaraz, alone and with nothing. He was stunned, and for the first time even
humbled. He had no idea what he would do, or whether life was worth living. But in him still smoldered a
faint ember of fierceness, a will to survive and carry on, despite his failures and losses. He would go and
make his way among the humans, find some simple work to do, and try to forget the past. This time, he’d
keep his head down and stay out of trouble, and try not to mess anything up. That was the idea, anyway.
The first place Hargrim came to was the town of Ubersreik. He thought he’d come in and quietly look
around for someone to hire him. But he quickly ran afoul of the large Dwarf community there, who were
none-too-pleased to see a shaved and branded oathbreaker around. Hargrim tried to ignore their
harassment, but they made it extremely difficult for him to find work or any other contacts in town, and
did their best to drive him off. He lost his temper and reacted poorly, getting into a number of loud and
destructive fights around town. Before long, Hargrim was forced to move on from Ubersreik without
finding any work, or else he would have ended up under arrest.
Determined to avoid any such troubles from now on, Hargrim next tried his luck in the town of Stromdorf.
He ran into some hassles from local Dwarfs again, but this time he just endured their castigation and set his
mind to the goal of finding a job. He managed to get hired on as a general labourer at the local tannery, and
worked there performing the dirtiest or most dangerous tasks that no one else wanted to do. He was still
frequently berated and spit upon by Dwarfs in town, but he kept his anger in check and let them do as they
wished. He kept his job there in Stromdorf for several weeks before getting too drunk and accidently
starting a fire in the tannery. After that, he didn’t find the climate in town very hospitable, and once again
Auerswald was next. Here he did fairly well, for awhile. He was hired on by the seedier of the local
taverns almost immediately, working as a bouncer. He had some problems with locals, as always, but he
was getting better at ignoring the insults and keeping his temper down. Hargrim stayed in Auerswald for
over five months. Eventually, however, he lost control of himself one night and a bar brawl turned ugly.
He killed a human merchant’s son, and had to flee the town quickly or else face justice that he didn’t feel he
After his bloody exit from Auerswald, Hargrim decided that he’d better try to stay away from taverns and
fisticuffs in the next town. He made it to Grunburg, and took up work there loading and unloading river
vessels on the town’s docks. Going out of his way to avoid trouble, Hargrim found that this new job fit
him pretty well, and he didn’t cause any major disasters for nearly a year. He took some enjoyment in his
work, moving crates and barrels all day long. This was a decent time for Hargrim, and he might have
stayed there and had something like a regular life for quite awhile. But then a group of Dwarf merchants
came through on a ship, and caused a lot of trouble for him. He ended up letting a load of their cargo crash
onto the deck of their ship, injuring several people and damaging some valuable goods. He was run out of
town by a mob of angry Dwarfs, and didn’t look back.
By now, Hargrim was seriously demoralized. His life was a shambles, one continuous series of miserable
messes, and a lot of undeserved suffering, as he saw it. He was sick and tired of it all, and spent some time
just wandering, living off scraps, sleeping outdoors, and barely surviving. It was during this time that he
decided to abandon his name and his last ties to his Dwarfhood and his past. Numb to every sort of pain by
now, and somewhat maddened by his many struggles, he systematically mutilated his own face, cutting
himself over and over to remove any trace of his oathbreaker brand and to prevent himself from ever
growing a beard again. By the time he arrived in Altdorf, his face was an unrecognizable mass of scars, a
grotesque mask of self-inflicted agony. No one could know him now, none could tell that he was an
outcast. He had no brand to declare him a traitorous exile, and no shortened beard to give away the fact
that he’d been shaved. He was a hideous thing, filthy and wretched, but he had come at last to the great
human capital, a major city full of opportunities, and here he would begin a new life. No one would know
him as Hargrim Ragnisson, the disgraced former noble of clan Angbaraz. Here in Altdorf, he would only
be a faceless Dwarf of no particular history, and he would be known only as . . . Bitterbrew.
When the scar-faced Dwarf now called Bitterbrew came to Altdorf, he resolved to avoid other Dwarfs as
much as possible, and decided to seek out work in the extensive dock districts of the city. He’d enjoyed his
dockhand work during the year he spent in Grunburg, and felt like this was the best way for him to earn a
living, forget about his past, and stay mostly out of serious trouble. He found it daunting to earn such
employment in Altdorf at first, however. The only “official” guild of dockers in the city was the
Stevedores, and Bitterbrew couldn’t get on with them. He worked as an independent freelance dockhand
for a short while, taking on whatever short-term job the various foremen had for him on a day-to-day basis,
but that turned out to be dangerous, as the dominant gangs of the docks were hostile to those who tried to
work in their turf without being a member.
Bitterbrew wasn’t particularly interested in joining either of the big dockland gangs, but he did want to be
able to work without being constantly harassed, robbed, or attacked. His invitation to join the Fish came
after he had a rather notable encounter with their rivals, the Hooks. There was a young boy, a crippled
street urchin of the docklands named Kip, whom Bitterbrew had seen around, begging. A few thugs from
the Hooks took it in their heads to rough up and rob the poor child one day, just for their own drunken
amusement. When Bitterbrew heard the story of what had happened, it set off that deep, hot rage that had
been lurking inside him for years, and he tracked the offending group of Hooks down to the watering hole
on the Street of a Thousand Taverns where they were hanging out. Without saying a single word, this
unknown Dwarf with his crazy eyes and horrorshow scarface proceeded to stomp the tar out of every one
of those drunk, overconfident Hooks, leaving them all broken and bloody, and taking their money to give
back to the beggar boy. Kip told the story to everyone he knew, including his older cousin who was a
member of the Fish. The next day, Bitterbrew was cordially invited to join the gang and have all the dock
work, camaraderie, and backup he’d ever need in Altdorf. He wasn’t thrilled about the criminal aspects of
the gang, but he knew it was his best chance to obtain consistent work and make a life for himself in this
Bitterbrew’s been with the Fish now for a little over three years, working hard on the old docks of Altdorf,
drinking with his fellow dockers, and still getting into more than his fair share of rough-and-tumble
barroom brawls. He does his best to stay clear of other Dwarfs and their politics, and he also avoids most
of the outright criminal activity of the gang. But when someone in the crew is in trouble, that strange,
ugly, scary Dwarf that everyone just calls Bitterbrew doesn’t hesitate to step up and break some heads if
need be. He’s not a very skilled worker, even now, and not the brightest light around. People find him
disturbing, for the most part, and he’s got no real friends. He’ll probably never be anything more than a
simple dock labourer, drunk, and scrapper, most likely won’t ever even make a foreman of himself. But
he’s found more contentment now on those docks than he ever had before in his life full of disappointment
and failure, and much to his great surprise, the Fish seem pretty glad to have him around. Some days, he
even forgets that he used to be a clan Angbaraz noble Dwarf of Karaz-a-Karak named Hargrim Ragnisson.
Some days, he’s all right with just being Bitterbrew, faceless dockhand of the Fish.