Lore-Win: King Bruenor Battlehammer
There are a lot of them in the realms, both big and small. You have your Elminsters and Halasters, of course. Your powerful mages who can move mountains and crumble civilizations. You also have your small folk heroes. Adventurers who have become enshrined in a village as a local hero, only to be forgotten to the ravages of time.
But no matter how experienced you are with the realms, there’s a band of heroes that you’ve likely heard of.
Drizzt Do’Urden and his allies.
From left to right: Drizzt Do'Urden, Bruenor Battlehammer, Cattie-Brie, and Wulfgar.
Source: Dark Alliance trailer
These heroes of Faerun have adventured far and wide, from the depths of the Underdark to the heights of the Spine of the World, and they even count among their number one of royal birth. The dwarf, Bruenor Battlehammer.
Welcome to Lore-Win, the Dungeons and Dragons lore series. I, as always, am your humble Loremaster, Sokar. Today we will be delving into the life and times of one of Drizzt’s trusted allies, Bruenor Battlehammer and his voyage from heir-apparent, to exile, and back to claim his rightful throne!
Bruenor’s story starts long before his birth, though. It begins deep in the annals of history. Or, deep enough, I suppose. For elves and dwarves, it may only be a few generations ago.
We don’t know exactly when Mithral Hall was founded, but records show that it was established before 0 DR. Before it was Mithral Hall proper, it was merely a mine. The mine was founded by Gandalug Battlehammer thanks to the rich mithral deposits in the Spine of the World mountains.
As the mithral mining grew into a lucrative business, then a community, and the dwarves settled and expanded the mines into their new home of Mithral Hall.
Of course, mithral is valuable, and letting everyone know that you’re sitting on a stockpile of it is generally… not a good idea. It's a sure-fire way to invite thievery, invasion, and conquest. So, to avoid this, the dwarves set up a separation between their home and the actual trade of their mithral.
To keep the location of Mithral Hall a secret, the dwarves of clan Battlehammer set up a village where they would do business with outsiders. The village, originally named Dwarvendarrow but later changed to Settlestone, was a rare dwarven settlement established above ground. Settlestone was used by the dwarves as both a public front for their business and a forward base.
The village was built out of large stone slabs. These formed formidable and sturdy structures that stood for centuries, even after the inhabitants had abandoned the village.
The entrance to Mithral Hall was also camouflaged to prevent discovery. The Northwestern gate in particular was located in a rocky valley named Keeper’s Dale that was known to be difficult to traverse.The steps to Mithral Hall were carefully carved into the rocks where two different types of stone met, making them difficult to spot from anywhere but the right angle by those who knew what to look for.
These protections, however, would later prove to be a detriment to the dwarves of clan Battlehammer. For while Mithral Hall was protected from the surface, it was not so fortunate below ground.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The downfall of Mithral Hall came from the mines. The dwarves dug too deep, and too greedily. A shaft of their mine broke open to unveil caverns below. Caverns with waiting dangers that would doom their halls and take them for darker purposes.
In the case of Mithral Hall, it was no demon though. It was a dragon.
Sometime in the 1100s, DR. The dwarves of Clan Battlehammer had broken into a shadowcavern, a cavern said to hold a link to the Plane of Shadow. Here they found themselves at odd with the shadow dragon, Haerinvureem. Or, Shimmergloom, for those unversed in the old tongues. Which, let’s be fair, is basically everyone.
A shadow dragon. More detailed than you might expect.
Source: DnD 5e Monster Manual
Shimmergloom invaded with a force of shadow creatures, and a clan of duergar that served him. This force attacked, up into the commons of Mithral Hall, slowed only by the loyal dwarves who fought to let their loved ones flee to safety.
Clan Battlehammer had lost their home, but they survived. And among them was a young Bruenor Battlehammer.
The survivors fled north, up into Icewind Dale, where they settled not in the Ten-Towns, but underneath a mountain known as Kelvin’s Cairn. Here the dwarves mined iron and forged weapons and armour from them. In turn, these were taken across the valley to Bryn Shander and sold, letting the dwarves live a decent life.
This is also where Bruenor grew, and once he came of age, was crowned king of clan Battlehammer.
Bruenor oversaw most of the construction of their new home in Kelvin’s Cairn, but a part of him always longed for a return to Mithral Hall, to reclaim their ancestral home and to drive out those who had stolen it from him and his kin.
It was also here that Bruenor had his daughter. Well, adopted.
Don't you see the family resemblance?
Source: Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance
Responding to a goblin raid on the town of Termalaine, Bruenor and the dwarves of clan Battlehammer repulsed the attack. In the aftermath, he found a human girl named Cattie-Brie whose father had been killed, and he decided to take her in as his own daughter.
She would go on to be one of Bruenor’s most hard headed subjects.
Another new arrival that would prove to be a frustration for Bruenor was the drow ranger, Drizzt Do’Urden. Sent to Kelvin’s Cairn as a scout for Bryn Shander, Drizzt’s presence initially angered Bruenor. In turn, he instructed Cattie-Brie to stay away from him. Which, in turn, she immediately refused to do.
You know, typical teenage daughter stuff.
As time went on, and Drizzt continued to not lay siege to the Battlehammers, Bruenor slowly warmed to the ranger. It likely helped that Drizzt once walked in on Bruenor, fresh from a battle with a Frost Worm, and refused to fight the dwarf.
So when a hunter named Roddy McGristle appeared and demanded to know the location of Drizzt, Bruenor sent him away. Then, when McGristle assaulted his daughter to draw out Drizzt, her sent McGristle on his way again— this time minus a leg on his dog.
Soon after, Bruenor would travel to meet Drizzt proper. Bruenor informed the ranger that the spot he had chosen as a perch was known as “Bruenor’s Climb”, before renaming it “Drizzt’s Climb” and ordering the ranger to keep an eye on his daughter when she inevitably wandered out from the safety below the mountain.
Over the years, Bruenor and Drizzt became close friends. When the barbarian tribes of the north assaulted the Ten Towns, clan Battlehammer fought alongside the defenders.
In the battle of Bryn Shandar, Bruenor found himself facing off a young boy named Wulfgar in the barbarian forces. Taking pity upon the child, he knocked him out and protected him from the less sympathetic forces of the Ten Towns.
Bruenor forced a punishment upon the boy: five years and a day of work in Bruenor’s service. At first, Wulfgar was angered. In his view, he had been cheated out of a death in battle. But over time, the barbarian came to respect Wulfgar. Bruenor had been less a slave master, and more a stern father to the boy, and once his service was over, Bruenor entrusted a gift.
A warhammer, handcrafted by Bruenor, inscribed with magical runes, named Aegis-fang.
Aegis-Fang as seen in third edition. It changes shapes a lot.
Source: Dragon Magazine #386
Soon after, Akar Kessel would invade the Ten Towns with an army assembled thanks to a magical artifact known as Crenshinibon, a topic I have previously covered. But, to summarize Bruenor’s part in the war, he and clan Battlehammer tunneled up under Kessel’s camp, and created a distraction for Drizzt to invade Kessel’s crystal tower and stop the wizard.
After the battle, Bruenor laid in his bed, bandaged and wounded. His companions had Drizzt brought to him, and in concern that Bruenor would die, the ranger promised to do anything. Bruenor asked him to help retake Mithril Hall, and when Drizzt agreed, Bruenor revealed himself to be fine.
Finally, he would retake his home—even if he had lied and greatly frustrated his friend in the process.
Bruenor, Drizzt, and Wulfgar set out in 1356 DR, traveling the north to find the way to the ancestral home of the Battlehammers. On their journey, the halfling Regis joined them. Unknown to the adventurers, Regis was actually fleeing from an assassin named Artemis Entreri. And unknown to even Regis, Artemis had kidnapped Cattie-Brie, and was now in pursuit of the adventurers.
Bruenor and his companions first traveled to Luskan where he and Drizzt purchased a map of the north—then had to fight those who sold them the map. Unfortunately for them, the map (and those who sold it) belonged to the Hosttower, who were upset that it was taken from their grasp.
The party ventured to Nesme, only to be accosted by orcs on their route. Their battle would be interrupted by the tribe of the Sky Pony, however. The party - minus Drizzt - were taken captive and Wulfgar was given a chance to free them by defeating the tribe’s strongest warrior in a test of strength.
Wulfgar was victorious, and Bruenor was set to be freed by his adoptive son’s success. But Regis was viewed as weak, and the tribe of the Sky Pony viewed him as good only for a sacrifice. Wulfgar refused, and just when things seemed tense, Drizzt rode into the rescue.
Tricking the barbarians with fairy fire, Drizzt rode their four horses in while their captors believed they were being set aflame. Bruenor and his companions rode off, only to be attacked by a Pegasus in the woods. A Pegasus that was actually one of the barbarians transformed by their shaman.
The party continued to Longsaddle, a hamlet along the road notable for the eccentric wizards that call it home. Unknown to them, their stop here provided Artemis Entreri and his cohorts information on where they were. The mage Harkle Harpell contacted the Luskan wizard, Sydney, with news of some strange guests he’d just met.
Meanwhile, Bruenor and his companions continued to Nesme, only to be caught in a storm on the road. Taking shelter in a cave, the four survived the night. Unfortunately, their horses were not so lucky. One was killed in the night, likely by lightning. Two broke free from the tree they were tied to and ran. And the last was left injured.
The party continued and soon ran into forces from Nesme that were under attack. They stopped to aid the mounted soldiers, only for them to take issue with Drizzt’s heritage. The soldiers swore that the four would be killed if they tried to enter Nesme, and rode off to send a warning to the rest of their allies.
This left one route open to the four: across the Trollmoor. The route was dangerous and they had to battle trolls, as the name implies, but they made it across, and to the city of Silverymoon.
There, again, Drizzt was denied entry, but in this case at least an explanation was given.
After being turned away, Alustriel, High Lady of Silverymoon, appeared to Drizzt in the night. She explained that she could not allow Drizzt into her city due to conspiracies that would paint him as a threat and use him as an excuse to attack the city.
Which is still kind of what's known as a “dick move” if you ask me. But at least she gave the four companions guidance to where they could find information that would lead them to Mithral Hall.
She also searched the city’s Vault of Sages for the merry band of adventurers, but found little to aid them.
So, that was nice, at least.
In another nice act, Alustriel contacted the sage Old Night at Herald’s Holdfast, and he agreed to sit with them.
With this to guide them, the companions set forth once more.
At Herald’s Holdfast, Bruenor was reminded of an above ground dwarven settlement that would aid him in finding Mithral Hall. Settlestone. Then, with the use of a potion Drizzt presented him with, the Battlehammer king relived the flight from his home, and so saw the path to return there.
The four climbed the mountain to the hidden door, only to be rejoined by Cattie-Brie. She had escaped the clutches of Entreri and his cohorts, but they were close and so the companions travelled into Mithral Hall through a secret door.
Here, he found the armour of his forefathers and wore it. Bruenor had returned, now eighth king of Mithral Hall.
However, secret doors don’t help much when the people chasing you have a flesh golem that knows exactly where you are.
Entreri, Sydney, and the golem crashed into a chamber and engaged the companions in battle. In the process, a trap was triggered and Drizzt and Entreri were buried beneath a collapsing ceiling, seemingly crushed. All that was left was one of Drizzt’s scimitars, Icingdeath.
Bruenor blamed Regis for the seeming death of his best friend. But his adopted daughter managed to pull him from his anger long enough for them to traverse the caverns. Here, they encountered the duergar who served the shadow dragon, and here they killed them too.
But their trials had only just begun. After all, it never rains, but it pours.
The surviving companions met Sydney and the golem once more, and once more they fought. While Wulfgar dispatched the golem, while Cattie-Brie slew Sydney with an arrow. It was her first kill, a loss of innocence. Perhaps it would have been a tragic moment for Bruenor, but he did not have the chance to dwell.
For it was then that Shimmergloom appeared, and Bruenor reckoned with his hated foe.
And to save his adopted family, and Regis, Bruenor grabbed hold of a torch and a barrel of oil, and flung himself at the dragon. He spilled the oil upon its back and set it aflame, riding it down a crevice, laughing all the while.
Would that all our heroes get to go so satisfied.
Source: Dungeons and Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt 5, Streams of Silver.
Bruenor had returned to Mithral Hall and claimed vengeance, but had the fires truly consumed him?
Well, in short, no. The scimitar Icingdeath kept him safe from the flames, and allowed him to ride Shadowgloom to the bottom of the cavern floor. He would reunite with his companions in due time, and lead his people back to their home of Mithral Hall, with adventures between the two.
But that is a story for another time…
Bruenor will soon be making an appearance in Magic the Gathering as a legendary card in the upcoming Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set. If you want to get yourself a king for a Commander, or any supplies for your D&D campaign, be sure to grab them at the Wizard’s Tower.
And until next time, may fortune favour you.