Dozil Tumbledown is not the only bard familiar with the Heroes of Harkenwold. Making her way through the southern lands of the Nerathan Empire is Azarya Dawnborn of Daggerport, a deva fascinated with learning and telling tales of the brave and the selfless. Here you will find her perspective on events befalling Andrasian the elvish warrior, Krillorien Brightsong the eladrin priest of Pelor, Melanie Good-Melons of the Arcane Tower, and Lyria Thorngage of the Junction Thorngages.
Tonight I sing of Dar Gramath.
You will not have heard his name. He was a hard-working man of common birth, like many of you. Before the coming of Lysander, he was one of the premiere horse-masters of the Nentir Vale. The Lord Marshal of the Vale, barons and free knights, all came to him for the shoeing and barding of their steeds. It was for this reason the Harkenwold became known outside of the Vale. It was for this reason Antonious Vhennyk sought the land as his entry point to his claim on the north.
Yes, that very same Vhennyk, Lysander’s Lord of War, master of the Iron Circle. He wanted lands befitting his title and stature, for he was a large man with large appetites. Half-giant, some called him. Still, with Sarthel uncertainly held, Adamanton loyalists creeping in the alleys and the dwarves ominously silent, Vhennyk could not leave that place with which he’d been charged, so he sent his lieutenant, Nazin Redthorn, to secure the Harkenwold and the land beyond it.
He anticipated peasant resistance. He anticipated guerrila assaults from the Woodsinger Elves. He anticipated Hammerfast closing its gates only to open them onto his very keep in Sarthel.
He did not anticipate Dar Gramath, nor the heroes that came to his aid.
For his part, Dar Gramath feigned compliance. He knew most Harkenwolders were no soldiers. Still, he sent whom he could to harrange the supply lines of the Iron Circle. The smallfolk beyond the towns of Harken and Albridge could render no assistance, as they had fallen under assault from vile frog-men with a grudge to settle with the druid Reithann. Gramath knew he had little time, that his resistance would be discovered eventually, and without help from elsewhere in the Vale, he and the freedom of his people were doomed.
But then came the Heroes. You’ve heard the tales of their part in the Battle of Albridge, yes, how they set Redthorn to retreat before tracking him down to Harken Keep and ending his short but brutal career as a mercenary leader. But this foursome numbered five that day. Dar Gramath stood with them at the battle, a general in all but name, an inspiration to the brave people of the Harkenwold, as if he was twenty years younger and once again adventuring with other names you know – Zeradar Brightsong, Azariael of the Tower, Tulwyr daughter of Bahamut, the Silent Lady. Those are tales I’m sure you know well, from happier times, the times before the Empire.
When Baron Stockmer was freed and Harken Keep liberated, Dar Gramath feasted these new heroes. He traded stories of battle with Andrasian. He served Lyria ales even larger than those of her compatriots. He introduced Melanie to a traveling hedge magician. And he told Krillorien that he was the spitting image of his father in both form and action, yet the elder eladrin had never been so inclined to help smallfolk as the priest of Pelor had been.
It was after the Heroes departed for Fallcrest that tragedy came on a black horse. Nazin Redthorn, you see, was not the only tool in Vhennyk’s arsenal. A tiefling murderer, full of hellfire and malicious intent, came into Albridge with a smile and some coin. The night he was shown hospitality and goodwill from the newly liberated folk, he stole into Dar Gramath’s livery, taking the former hero’s head and burning the stable to the ground.
The head he took to Fallcrest. He presented it to the Heroes of Harkenwold and tried to send them to meet their friend. The battle was fierce. The blade of Avernus nearly took the lives of Lyria and Andrasian. Were it not for the skill of Krillorien and Melanie’s magics, this tale would have a very different end. Yet they did triumph in the end, and almost immediately, they returned to the Harkenwold to pay their friend the respect he was due.
Great was the wake held on the grounds of Harken Keep. Baron Stockmer told the massive gathering of his friend of many years, how he’d come to the Harkenwold after suffering so many scars and hardships, wishing merely to tend to horses and hang up his weapons forever. Yet when the Iron Circle came, Dar Gramath took up arms again without hesitation. He died, John Stockmer said, knowing his land and his people were free, thanks to the Heroes of the Harkenwold, who even in death did not forsake their friends.
After the wine and song, the bonfires and memories, the Heroes struck back West, to that keep over Winterhaven you all know well. Snow had begun to fall, despite it being just after midsummer, but… that is a song for another night…