Gauntlgrym - By R. A. Salvatore
The Year of True Omens (1409 DR)
A LOT COULD BE SAID OF KING BRUENOR BATTLEHAMMER OF MITHRAL Hall, and many titles could be rightfully bestowed upon him: warrior, diplomat, adventurer, and leader among dwarves, men, and even elves. Bruenor had been instrumental in reshaping the Silver Marches into one of the most peaceful and prosperous regions in all Faerûn. Add “visionary” to his title, fittingly, for what other dwarf might have forged a truce with King Obould of the orc kingdom of Many-Arrows? And that truce had held through the death of Obould and the succession to his son, Urlgen, Obould II.
It was truly a remarkable feat, and one that had secured Bruenor’s place in dwarven legend, though many of the dwarves in Mithral Hall still grumbled about dealing with orcs in any way other than war. In truth, Bruenor was often heard second-guessing himself on the matter, year in and year out. However, in the end, the simple fact remained that not only had King Bruenor reclaimed Mithral Hall for his stout clan, but through his wisdom, he had changed the face of the North.
But of all the titles Bruenor Battlehammer could claim as earned, the ones that had always sat most comfortably on his strong shoulders were those of father and friend. Of the latter, Bruenor knew no peer, and all who called him friend knew without doubt that the dwarf king would gladly throw himself in front of a volley of arrows or a charging umber hulk, without hesitation, without regret, in the service of friendship. But of the former.…
Bruenor had never wed, never sired children of his own, but had come to claim two humans as his adoptive children.
Two children since lost to him.
“I tried me best,” the dwarf said to Drizzt Do’Urden, the unlikely drow advisor to the throne of Mithral Hall—on those increasingly rare occasions when Drizzt was actually present in Mithral Hall. “I teached them as me father teached me.”
“No one could ever say different,” Drizzt assured him.
The drow rested back in a comfortable chair near the hearth in a small side room of Bruenor’s chambers, and took a long look at his oldest friend. Bruenor’s great beard was less red, even less orange, as more gray wound among the fiery locks, and his shaggy scalp had receded just a bit. On most days, though, the fire in his gray eyes sparkled as intensely as it had those decades before on the slopes of Kelvin’s Cairn in Icewind Dale.
But not that day, and understandably so.
The melancholy so plain in his eyes was not reflected in the dwarf’s movements, though. He moved swiftly and surely, rocking in his chair and hopping to his feet to grab another log, which he pitched perfectly onto the fire. It crackled and smoldered in protest and failed to erupt in flames.
“Damn wet wood,” the dwarf grumbled. He stomped on the foot-bellows he had built into the hearth, sending a long, steady stream of air rushing across the coals and low-burning logs. He worked diligently at the fire for a long while, adjusting the logs, pumping the bellows, and Drizzt thought the display fitting for Bruenor. For that was how the dwarf did everything, from holding strong the tentative peace with Many-Arrows to keeping his clan operating in efficient harmony. Everything just right, and so too was the fire, at last, and Bruenor settled back in his chair and picked up his great mug of mead.
The king shook his head, his face a mask of regret. “Should o’ killed that smelly orc.”
Drizzt was all too familiar with the lament that had plagued Bruenor since the day he’d signed the Treaty of Garumn’s Gorge.
“No,” the drow replied, less than convincing.
Bruenor scoffed at him, somewhat viciously. “Yerself vowed to kill ’im, elf, and ye let him die o’ old age, didn’t ye?”
“Take care, Bruenor.”
“Ah, but he cleaved yer elf friend in half, now, didn’t he? And his spearmen bringed down yer dear elf lass, and the winged horse she rode.”
Drizzt’s stare reflected both pain and simmering anger, a warning to Bruenor that he was crossing the line here.
“But ye let him live!” Bruenor shouted, and he slammed his fist down on the arm of his chair.
“Aye, and you signed the treaty,” Drizzt said, his face and voice calm. He knew he didn’t need to shout those words for them to have a devastating effect.
Bruenor sighed and dropped his face into his palm.
Drizzt let him stew there for a few moments, but finally