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"-1997: Word has reached us that we are to gather the clans unto arms. The ambassador of King Gotrek Starbreaker did return from his mission of good will with his beard shaven by the people of Ulthuan. For this wrong we shall not cease until every head is sheared from the shoulders of each and every Elf.
[...]
-1560: Let it be recorded that on the fourth day of Smirnikul Odroraki the Elven host did leave the Old World to return to their accursed shores. With the demise of the Elf King Caledor, the High King has claimed his crown in recompense. Let it be said that grudges outstanding against the Elves are now but a few though let their treachery never be forgotten.
"
Translated from the Book of Grudges of Clan Kamerad.[2b]
Gotrek Starbreaker

Gotrek Starbreaker fighting Caledor II in single combat.

Gotrek Starbreaker, famed as the Axe of the Elves, the Lord of the Mountains and the Hammer of the Ancestors, was the High King of the Dwarfs during the terrible conflict known as the War of Vengeance.[1a][2b][2c][6]

History

Gotrek was the first High King to have the Dragon Crown adorned with the Master Rune of Kingship, which absorbs the wisdom of its former master and passes this on to the next crown bearer.[2a]

The Great Betrayal

"But then the capricious and faithless folk of Ulthuan, dishonourable to an Elf, were overcome by a greed for our lands and possessions. In an act of betrayal never again equalled, they ambushed our convoys, slew our warriors and maidens and stole our finely crafted goods. But Gotrek Starbreaker, being a king of whom it's said wore wisdom and age easily upon his brow, stayed his hand and sent messengers and envoys to the shores of the Elf isle to parley with the folk of distant Ulthuan. In derision were they greeted, and in dishonour were they ejected; their beards, long and lustrous and bushy with age, were shorn from their faces and they were flung from the Elf realms with the cackle of cruel Elf laughter ringing in their ears."
Anonymous Dwarf retelling of the start of the War of Vengeance.[2c]

In -2005 IC[1a][2b][3b][4b][5c], the Dark Elves started to raid Dwarf caravans and outposts in the guise of High Elves. The Dwarfs believed the Elves were to blame, and many were slain by Dwarf travellers believing themselves under attack. The Elves retaliated in kind, and soon both sides began to muster their armies.[1a][3b][5a][5c]

When word reached Gotrek Starbreaker in -1997 IC[1a][2b][3b][4b][5c], he was mystified at these apparently unprovoked attacks from his allies and trading partners[5a], so he halted his Thanes from war-making.[4a]

Instead, he sent an emissary to Ulthuan, where the vain and haughty Caledor II had just ascended the Phoenix Throne, demanding an apology and financial recompense for Dwarf losses[5a] — a Dwarf will never forgive a grudge, yet in cases of misunderstanding, an exorbitant tribute of gold and gems, called wergild, coupled with sincere contrition, could possibly prevent the Dwarfs from settling the score in their more traditional fashion. In this way, Gotrek hoped to resolve the dispute peacefully.[4a]

Caledor refused to see the emissary, sending him back with a message that the Phoenix King did not accede to demands, but could be moved to grant pleas. Furious, Gotrek sent a second emissary to Ulthuan, carrying the message that the High King of the Dwarfs would not plead before Elf nor god. The amount of restitution he demanded was doubled on account of Caledor's insult.[5a]

The Elves received the Dwarf envoys with open scorn, mocking what they called baseless accusations. Such was their contempt for the Dwarfs’ claims that the Elves deliberately conceived of an insult so grievous that no amount of gold could ever serve as recompense: the Dwarf ambassador had his beard shaved and was compelled to return home shorn of pride and bearing the message that the only way King Gotrek might gain a single gold coin was if he came to Ulthuan personally and begged before the Phoenix Throne.[4a][5a]

High King Gotrek swore by the most powerful of oaths that he would have just compensation or its equivalent in Elf blood, or he would shave every hair from his head. The beardless emissary had been shamed into becoming a Slayer by his treatment at the hands of the Elves, and it was unthinkable that the High King of the Dwarfs should suffer a similar fate. The entire race united behind their leader.[5a]

With his blood boiling, High King Gotrek Starbreaker called the far-spread clans, the king of each stronghold mustering his throng.[4a] It was from this incident that the following war took its Elf name of the War of the Beard. The Dwarfs, not a people to take such matters lightly, refer to the conflict as the War against the Elves, or the War of Vengeance.[1a]

The Battle of Three Towers

After over four centuries of warfare across the Old World, only the major colonies of Tor Alessi and Sith Rionnasc'namishathir stood. Frustrated, Caledor II dismissed his generals and took personal command of the Asur forces.[5a]

In -1560 IC[1a][2b][3b][4b][5c] High King Gotrek and his throng joined his nephew Morgrim Elgidum[2c][3a] in besieging the port citadel of Tor Alessi for the fourteenth and final time.[4a]

Here the grudges were repaid in most literal fashion. Great rocks, bound in iron, rained on the Elf city for a hundred days. By this time, the walls were breached in a dozen places and not one tower remained to halt the advance. The Starbreaker and the Elgidum attacked together and sought out the treacherous King Caledor.[2c][3a]

Unable to flee, Caledor was forced to face Gotrek and the two kings clashed in personal combat. Caledor sought swift victory but King Starbreaker denied him. The Dwarf king was content to fight on as day gave way to night and gradually, the Elf's fortitude began to fail him. Still Gotrek fought on, drawing the last reserves from his foe before shattering Caledor's light Elven sword with a well-placed hammer blow.[2c][3a][4a]

Defeated utterly, Caledor pleaded for mercy but the High King carried the burden of vengeance for his people. Mercy was not his to give, merely justice, and so he ended King Caledor's life with a single blow of his hammer.[2c][3a][4a] Taking the Phoenix Crown from his corpse, Gotrek declared that his honour was satisfied by this compensation. The Dwarfs withdrew from the field in good order, declining to press their victory and refusing to hear any Elf petitions for the return of the crown.[5a]

As proof of the victory and testament to a grudge settled, King Gotrek brought the crown home to Karaz-a-Karak,[2c][3a][4a][5c] proclaiming the Elves were welcome to come there to beg for its return.[4a] To this day, the crown remains in Karaz-a-Karak.[2a][3a][4a]

Elf preparations for an assault on Karaz-a-Karak were cut short by the news that the Dark Elves had taken advantage of the Phoenix King's absence and invaded Ulthuan.[5a] In -1509 IC the new King, Caradryel, recalled all the Elf armies from the Old World[5c], and the High Elves abandoned their cities and sailed back to Ulthuan or retreated into the woods of Athel Loren.[1a][3b][4b]

After the war

After the War of Vengeance, Gotrek Starbreaker ordered the Runesmiths to melt down the silver helms of the slain foe. Most of this went as wergild to the families of Dwarfs who fell, but a hunting horn, too, was fashioned from that silver — a gift, it is said, for the King of Karak Varn, who had lost his brother in the Battle of Three Towers. When winded, the horn sounds a clear note that can be heard for miles. It brings vigour to troops on the same side, but for foes, it foreshadows certain doom. Those few Elves who have heard the Silver Horn of Vengeance and lived claim that they can still hear it echoing deep inside their own minds.[4c]

His honour satisfied, he joined his ancestors peacefully at the age of 655.[5c]

Sources

  • 1: Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (4th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 18
  • 2: Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (6th Edition)
    • 2a: pg. 23
    • 2b: pg. 58
    • 2c: pp. 70-71
  • 3: Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (7th Edition)
    • 3a: pg. 10
    • 3b: pg. 16
    • 3c: pg. 46
  • 4: Warhammer Armies: Dwarfs (8th Edition)
    • 4a: pg. 10
    • 4b: pg. 20
    • 4c: pg. 58
  • 5: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 1st Ed.: Dwarfs - Stone & Steel
    • 5a: pg. 7
    • 5b: pg. 13
    • 5c: pg. 106
  • 6: Grudgelore - The Final Siege of Tor Alessi

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