War of the Three Hammers

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Previous: War of the Shifting Sands
Next: War of the Three Hammers (second phase)
War of the Three Hammers (first phase)
War of the Three Hammers
Location: Ironforge, Dun Morogh
Provocation: The death of High King Modimus sparks a civil war among Ironforge's three major clans
Outcome: Decisive Bronzebeard victory
  • Bronzebeards secure control of Ironforge
  • Dark Irons and Wildhammers expelled from the city
  • Wildhammer clan resettles in the Twilight Highlands
  • Dark Iron clan resettles in the Redridge Mountains
Belligerents
Commanders and leaders
Strength
Casualties and losses
  • Moderate
  • Moderate
  • Heavy

The War of the Three Hammers was a series of civil wars and conflicts, separated by a short period of peace, between the three rival dwarf clans of the city of Ironforge. Originally beginning as an internal conflict to decide the ruler of Ironforge, dwarf clans Bronzebeard, Wildhammer, and Dark Iron fought ferociously among themselves, resentful of cultural and ideological differences as well as past grievances. The conflict ultimately decided the political landscape in and around Ironforge for many centuries to come, and had major consequences for the future of the dwarf race.

Although prosperous through loose partnerships with the human kingdoms to the north, the dwarf society was deeply divided. Its three clans vied for power in the political arena, with each clan possessing their own advantages in terms of resources and specialists. These problems were only further exacerbated by the old age of High King Modimus Anvilmar, who served as one of the few barriers to an all-out war. Upon Anvilmar's death around 230 years before the Dark Portal, the fierce tensions that permeated the city boiled over. War subsequently broke out between the three rival clans and all of Ironforge's resources were mobilised in support of one clan or the other.

Bloody and destructive, the war raged on for many years before finally the Bronzebeard clan, the most numerous and martial of the three, successfully drove the other two from the city, claiming it for themselves. Bitter from defeat, the Wildhammer and Dark Iron clans left the region and established their own nations nearby; the Wildhammers created Grim Batol to the east, and the Dark Irons founded their new kingdom of Thaurissan in the peaceful Redridge Mountains to the south.[1]

Although a period of relative peace now ensued, it proved to be short-lived. Unable to come to terms with his clan's defeat, Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissan now prepared his Dark Iron dwarves to launch a massive, two-pronged invasion of the other two clans' respective territories, to seek revenge for the original conflict. Thaurissan himself led the assault on Ironforge, relentlessly pushing deeper into the city. Eventually, the Bronzebeards rallied and managed to drive the Dark Irons from the capital altogether. At Grim Batol, Thaurissan's wife, the sorcerer Modgud led the attack on the Wildhammers.

Using dark magics to wield shadows against her enemies, a vicious battle ensued between Modgud's forces and the surprised Wildhammer dwarves. The tide turned when Modgud herself was killed in a daring counterattack, and the Dark Iron forces retreated back towards their lands. They were ultimately caught and crushed between the pursuing Wildhammers and the Bronzebeards who had now pushed Thaurissan's army back to Redridge.[2]

His armies smashed and broken, Thaurissan attempted a powerful conjuration to defeat his enemies but mistakenly summoned the Firelord, Ragnaros, whose arrival destroyed Thaurissan, as well as much of the surrounding landscape. The war over, the Wildhammers and Bronzebeards began friendly interactions, having banded together during the war. Abandoning the now cursed Grim Batol, the Wildhammers settled far to the north in the Hinterlands. Meanwhile, the remaining Dark Irons were enslaved by the Ragnaros. Now residing in the recently-created volcano Blackrock Mountain, they retained a fierce hatred and resentment of the other clans; one which would become relevant once more in the future with the formation of the Council of Three Hammers.[3]

History

A city divided

For many years following its founding, the dwarf kingdom of Ironforge led by High King Modimus Anvilmar thrived in the snow-covered land of Dun Morogh. Over the recent centuries, partnerships and trade agreements with the human kingdoms to the north had filled Ironforge's coffers and made the kingdom extremely wealthy. Great and expensive wonders, such as the mighty Stonewrought Dam, attracted visitors from as far away as Quel'Thalas, who would be awed by the architectural skill and resources involved. However, although prosperous, Ironforge was far from peaceful. Tensions simmered between the city's three powerful clans: the Bronzebeards, the Wildhammers, and the Dark Irons. Though all were dwarves and all inhabited Ironforge together, they were culturally and traditionally diverse, and constantly vying for political power within the kingdom.

The largest of the three clans, the Bronzebeards were led by the wilful Thane Madoran Bronzebeard. The clan, which formed the bulk of Ironforge's military and mercantile classes, considered itself the backbone of the kingdom and claimed to share distant blood relations with High Kind Modimus. The Bronzebeards themselves were tough, stubborn, and suspicious of their fellow dwarves, who they considered weaker.

Unlike the other two clans, the Wildhammer clan preferred to inhabit the craggy hills and icy sloped outside Ironforge, and were led by Khardros Wildhammer. They subsequently gained notoriety as as adept and incredibly resilient mountaineers, for which they were proud. Considered uncouth by the Bronzebeards, the Wildhammers struggled gain more sway with the High King and to solidify their place among the ruling elite of the city.

Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissan ruled the Dark Iron clan, who inhabited the deepest and darkest corners of the subterranean city. Their long-standing practice of dabbling in sorcery, along with a penchant for secrecy and political scheming, drew the ire of the majority of Ironforge's other inhabitants. Thaurissan, however, held firm control over the kingdom's richest gem and mineral deposits, using this wealth as leverage to protect his people and secure a place in Ironforge's increasingly volatile political arena.[4]

Civil war

A member of none of the three clans, High King Modimus attempted to remain neutral in matters of government and always strived to treat each clan with fairness and respect. He was ineffective in attempting to reduce tension between the rival factions, however, and this would ultimately lead to catastrophe. Around 230 years before the first opening of the Dark Portal, High King Modimus Anvilmar passed away from old age. Before the rightful heir, Modimus' eldest son, could be crowned, the simmering cauldron of rivalry in Ironforge boiled over. Although no-one can be sure which clan struck first, the city soon fell into a state of open warfare. Each clan mobilised all of their resources and assets in an attempt to seize control of the mountain from the other two. Chaos reigned, and for years the war raged through the mighty halls and dark caverns of the once-thriving capital. Eventually, the Bronzebeard clan, using its martial expertise and large size, gained the upper hand and successfully defeated the Wildhammers and Dark Irons. The two beaten clans were driven from Ironforge, and the Bronzebeards claimed total control of the mountain and city.

Battered and weary from the war, Khardros Wildhammer and his clan gave up on Ironforge and left for the east. Soon, they settled in the nearby region of marshlands and highlands. There, they created a new city for themselves: Grim Batol. So magnificent and well-built was the city that it soon rivalled even Ironforge in its size and prestige. Although his clan's previous defeat weighed heavily on Khardros' heart, he and his kin came to accept their lot and became content and prospered in their new home. They lost interest in claiming Ironforge and neither made nor planned any attempts to wage hostilities against the Bronzebeards in their newly-claimed city.

Meanwhile, the Dark Irons, also badly mauled by the war in Ironforge, were forced to leave Dun Morogh and decided to venture south, to the tranquil and idyllic Redridge Mountains. There, in a similar fashion to the Wildhammers, they forged their own independent kingdom and constructed their own nation. Dubbed the Kingdom of Thaurissan, after their leader, they also found a great degree of prosperity in their new home. Unlike Khardros, however, Sorcerer-Than Thaurissan was far from content to simply accept his clan's failure to take Ironforge. Wallowing in humiliation and with his pride permanently damaged, Thaurissan carefully plotted the Dark Irons' eventual reconquest of the old kingdom. As well as revenge on the Bronzebeards, Thaurissan also sought retribution on the Wildhammers who, although being driven from the capital as well, still fought ferociously against the Dark Iron clan during the war.[5]

Thaurissan's war

Previous: War of the Three Hammers (first phase)
Next: Trade Wars
War of the Three Hammers (second phase)
War of the Three Hammers
Location: Ironforge, Grim Batol, Dun Morogh, Wetlands, Loch Modan, Twilight Highlands, Redridge Mountains
Provocation: The Dark Iron clan invades the Bronzebeard and Wildhammer nations
Outcome: Decisive Bronzebeard-Wildhammer victory
Belligerents
Commanders and leaders
Strength
Casualties and losses
  • Heavy
  • Very heavy
Dark Iron dwarves battling alongside their infamous war golems

After years of scheming, the Sorcerer-Thane was finally ready to act. In the recent lull since arriving in Redridge, he had begun building up large forces. Among the many Dark Iron warriors and battlemages, the clan's armies also included legions of the powerful and effective war golems, as well as devastating siege machines. With this new and diverse army, Thaurissan was confident that he could at least exact retribution on their dwarven cousins. The clan's plan of attack included a two-pronged invasion of both the Bronzebeard and Wildhammer territories simultaneously. The Sorcerer-Thane planned to lead one army to Ironforge himself and personally defeat the Bronzebeards, reclaiming the city. A second army led by his wife, the sorceress Modgud, would invade the Wildhammer's nation at the same time and seize their equally important capital of Grim Batol.

As planned, Thaurissan and his army marched deep into the Bronzebeard kingdom and eventually reached Ironforge itself. Using his vast siege engines and constructs, the Sorcerer-Thane struck deep into the city, forcing back the beleaguered Bronzebeard defenders. As in times past, battles raged across Ironforge's inner halls. Despite the Dark Iron's large forces, the Bronzebeard put up a stubborn and powerful defence. Only after Thaurissan had reached the very heart of the city itself was he halted. Having finally rallied his forces, Thane Madoran Bronzebeard began to push the Dark Iron clan from the city.

As events unfolded in Ironforge, Modgud had successfully lead her army to the Wildhammer capital and laid siege to it. The Wildhammers were surprised by this sudden assault but desperately held their ground against the invaders. Dark Iron mages and sorcerers used their dark magics to batter and break the Wildhammers' will. Led by Modgud, they brought the shadows of Grim Batol to life, transforming the bustling city into a realm of nightmare and shadow. The darkness itself began to stalk the dwarves in their own stronghold and soon began to take a major toll on the Wildhammers' strength. Desperate, Khardros Wildhammer led some of his best soldiers in a swift and brutal counterattack, which just succeeded in slaying Modgud herself. With her death, and a renewed Wildhammer resistance, the Dark Iron army fled south. Coordinating with the Wildhammer, Madoran learned of this recent development and brought his forces north. The Dark Irons were caught between the Bronzebeards and the Wildhammers; they were attacked from both sides and utterly annihilated. In the Dark Irons, Madoran and Khardros and their clans had found a common enemy and a new purpose. They promptly put aside their old rivalries and marched their mighty host southward, pledging that they would not rest until they had purged Thaurissan and his treacherous Dark Irons from the world. Soon, their armies began to converge on Dark Iron territory with no Dark Iron army large enough to oppose it.

The fall of the dark irons

The dwarves observe Ragnaros's rebirth

As the Bronzebeard and Wildhammer armies closed in, Thaurissan desperately scrambled for a way to salvage the situation. He ultimately decided to draw on the fiery powers from deep within the world and use them as a powerful weapon. Thus, Thaurissan wove a great spell to save his kingdom. Yet, amid the conjuration, his mind turned to the death of his wife and his recent defeats. Anger roiled through Thaurissan's heart. His rage grew so absolute that his spellwork breached the Elemental Plane and tapped into a powerful being: Ragnaros, the Firelord. Unwittingly, Thaurissan ripped Ragnaros from the Elemental Plane and summoned him to the surface of Azeroth. The earth began to buckle and wrench apart, as the Firelord's violent arrival sparked a series of apocalyptic explosions that instantly killed the Sorcerer-Thane and shattered the surrounding mountains. From far away, Madoran and Khardros watched in horror as the world was torn asunder and firestorms engulfed the area. They realised in that instant that Thaurissan had doomed his people. Fearing for their own safety, the Wildhammers and Bronzebeards turned around and retreated back to their lands in the north. The war had at last reached its conclusion.

Aftermath

In the years following the War of the Three Hammers, Madoran and the Bronzebeards rebuilt the damage inflicted on Ironforge during the war. The Wildhammers, however, found that Grim Batol would forever remain uninhabitable. Upon her death, Modgud had cursed the city, permanently transforming it into a place of darkness and terror. Although the Bronzebeards offered the Wildhammers a place in Ironforge, it was little more than a conciliatory gesture. Madoran knew in his heart that Khardros was too proud to ever accept such an offer. Once again, the Khardros and the Wildhammer clan set out to create a new home for themselves and forge a new future for their people. While some Wildhammer dwarves settled in the land of Northeron, not far from Grim Batol, Khardros and the majority of Wildhammers ventured farther north until they reached the wooded region of the Hinterlands. With the terrible memories of Grim Batol still fresh in their minds, the dwarves decided to forego the usual underground dwellings of the past and instead constructed a majestic open-air city, Aerie Peak. In their young city high in the mountains, the Wildhammer honed their ties to the natural world that they had possessed and treasured since their days in Ironforge. They began to actively practice shamanism, and befriended the intelligent half-lion, half-eagle gryphons which called the nooks and crannies of the mountains home. Over time, the Wildhammer clan as a whole would develop an inseparable bond with these creatures, even learning to tame and ride them. These two species would become emblematic of each other and their bonds would persist even through some of the darkest wars in history.[6]

Madoran and Khardros, the leaders of the victorious clans, established diplomatic ties between the two healing nations. The great arches of the bridge known as the Thandol Span were constructed, both as a means to ease trade and travel between the two nations, as well as a symbol of their unity and friendship. Although rivalries and ideological differences would persist, the two leaders vowed that their clans would never take up arms against each other again. When Khardros and Madoran eventually passed away, their two sons commissioned masons to forge two great statues of the leaders. The craftsmen constructed these at the entrance to the southlands, beyond which lay the decimated territories of the Dark Iron clan. There, the statues would maintain a tireless vigil, their stony eyes ever watching over the broken domain of their nemeses. These two monuments survive to the modern day and can be found in the Valley of Kings in the region of Loch Modan.

Ragnaros's rebirth had scorched and destroyed much of the Redridge Mountains; a raging volcano known as Blackrock Mountain now towered over the ruined Dark Iron kingdom. The smouldering wasteland south of the volcano became known as the Burning Steppes, while the yawning chasm to the north was dubbed the Searing Gorge. Weakened from his summoning, Ragnaros retreated deep inside his new lair within the blistering heart of Blackrock Mountain. From this sanctum, known as the Molten Core, he went about enslaving the remaining Dark Iron dwarves. Ruined and having little choice, the dwarves obeyed their new elemental master's every order. They carved out a new fortress under the mountain and named it Shadowforge City. Within their new fiery home, the Dark Irons would nurture a permanent hatred for their cousins, who they would never forgive for the wrongs they committed against their clan and people.

Legacy

The statues of Madoran and Khardros

The War of the Three Hammers was one of the most significant events in shaping the future of the dwarven race. The war spread the dwarf clans out considerably and each clan would go on to play its own role in the future of the Eastern Kingdoms and Azeroth itself.

Rumours persisted that when Modgud's army was crushed attempting to retreat from Grim Batol, some Dark Iron dwarves survived and managed to flee into the deepest reaches of the city itself. With Grim Batol's curse and transformation, no-one desired to hunt these dwarves and so their fate remained a mystery.

The Council of Three Hammers, which works to heal much of the damage wrought by the War of the Three Hammers

Years later, a group of Bronzebeards was sent by King Magni Bronzebeard to investigate Grim Batol, headed by Rom. Shortly after arriving, they had the misfortune of discovering that the long-held rumours were true; some survivors had fled here, but they little resembled dwarves now. Being constantly exposed to Modgud's dark magic for generations had warped them and their descendants into something more reptilian than humanoid, the Skardyn.[7]

Centuries after the war, the three dwarf clans would find themselves sharing the capital of Ironforge once again. A period of instability ensued with the return of the estranged Queen-Regent Moira Thaurissan, formerly Moira Bronzebeard, who laid claim to the thrones of both the Bronzebeard clan (being the daughter of the previous king) and the Dark Iron clan (being the wife of the previous emperor). After a brief conflict, the situation settled somewhat and a new form of government was installed on Ironforge: the Council of Three Hammers. With a representative from each clan, the council's goal is to ensure that the three races of dwarves coexist peacefully in the city. This is made greatly problematic by the feelings and resentment over the events of the War of the Three Hammers. These recent events are clear evidence that, even many years later, the war is still highly influential on dwarven society and politics.

References