Abridged History of the 10th Age
Lay of Baldr
The lay of the first dwarf-king is a section of the History of Greyholme relating the family history as well as the personal achievements of Baldr Eirisson Hagrund Helming and his battles with the giants. This section of the Abridged History will explore that Lay in great detail.
The first Dwarf to carry the burden of the Axe of Woe was called Baldr Hagrund. He was a helming of ancient age, one of the first of Eiri’s sons to be awoken from the stone. His beard was long and his brow was grim, his eyes were like steel and his grip could crush rock and bone.
Baldr spoke in thought often with Eiri the Father of Earth and Stone. The great elder Æling loved to speak with the first and nobles of his creations. Baldr had a heart of iron and stone, and was stronger than any Dwarf ever was or has ever been. His mind was keen and his wit sharp, and often did he brood upon the doings of the world.
It was Baldr who crafted the first halls and who set the Dwarves in clans to live amongst their kin. He carried the Axe of Woe with heavy heart and ruled well. But the Mountainholme could not have peace, for the Axe carries on it a mighty Doom.
At first the folk-halls were troubled not, and Eiri saw them craft and make things from their cunning. He was true happy, for the work of deft hands was always the best way to make Eiri the Earthfather glad. Yet, to the Mountainholme’s there came the fleeing Wyrms from the north and west, Wyrms whose own kingdoms had fallen long ago, before the Sun. And Eiri came to Baldr in his dreams and warned him, “The Dragon cannot build. The Dragon loves gold as much as you, and yet he cannot mine. His time has gone, but he clings to the past. For this, shall the Dragon come among you, and he shall slay and reave and burn.”
So it was the first great Wyrms came to Mountainholme. When first they came they wore the guise of mortal Dwarves. They came to the great hall of Baldr, six in number, and they knelt before him but felt no humility in their hearts. “King of Dwarves,” they said to him, “We wish of you only your gold and craft, and a place to live within your lands.”
The Dwarf-king saw no way to refuse these incomers, gracious as they were. So he gave them what they asked for, and sent them on their way. The Wyrms retreated to distant holes and caves. They let the Dwarves be for many years but, as time went on their greed grew and they returned to Baldr. “Oh great King of Dwarves,” the said to him in his great hall. “We come for the treasures of your people, to ask for gold and craft.”
Yet the Dwarf-king felt a pain in his heart, and could not refuse the six Wyrms in the shape of Dwarves a second time. So he loaded them with gold and goods. They laughed into their sleeves as they returned to their caves and holes and decorated them with the labor of hundreds of Dwarvish hands. They lived in opulence while many Dwarves had nothing.
Then, again, the greed of the Wyrms grew. They returned one last time to Baldr’s hall; one more time they bowed before him and said “Oh great King of Dwarves, we wish only for crafts and goods of gold…” but this time the Dwarf-king said, “My people have given you all that and more. How many times did you think to return to my hall and impose upon the generosity of a King? By my beard, you are all fools if you think I shall make my people slaves to silver tongues that always ask kindly.”
And the Wyrm called Nekaleror Firebreath threw off the shape of a Dwarf and his form expanded many times in size until the fearsome Dragon filled the whole hall. Flame licked from his lizard-lips as he roared at Baldr, “Tiny king! We have asked you nicely and we have come peacefully to your city. You have refused the heirs of Karonie and spoken foolhardy words. So you will not be slaves to silver tongues? Then, little king! You shall be slaves to words of fire and anger. Give us the gold of your people! Give us the crafts of their labor! Yeild now or die!”
At this Baldr stood tall and proud. He raised the Axe of Woe from the side of his throne. He boomed back, “I do not fear you, fire-breather! No matter your power, you will not sway me! Depart you now from these mountains forever, or you shall feel the wrath of Woe! I give you free passage from this place, but I swear on sea and stone if I ever lay eyes on you again I shall hound your people like the shadow hounds the Sun. I shall slay your spawn and crack your skulls and even your names will be forgotten by your kind; the only people who shall remember you will be the Dwarves, who shall sing your names in edda and song and tell of how Baldr slew thee!”
The Dragons laughed and the blazing Firebreath shrieked, “We shall return in one year’s time, foolish Dwarf. You will think on our words. We will be back for our tribute.”
But Baldr said only, “There is no thought left to think. Return if you will, but it shall be at your own peril.”
The Wyrms left laughing, and flew from the hall.
Of course the Wyrms came again when the year was out, and to Baldr’s hall they roared. “Where, little king, is your gold and crafts? Where is the sweat of your kin-folk? We have come to claim our tribute from your people!”
Baldr stood and his brow creased in anger. He hefted the Axe of Woe in his great fist. “Fiends, you have made your last mistake!” And as the Firebreath prepared to roar, the gates to Baldr’s hall closed. Dwarves with strong bows stepped from the shadows. The Dragons screamed their defiance, and their hate.
Flame roiled over the hall and kinsmen fell, burning. The Axe of Woe glowed bright as the forge-heat, and Baldr stood unharmed. From the ceilings of the hall were released heavy pinions with iron hooks that tore and pierced the batlike wings of the Wyrms and Firebreath was pinned to the floor. He strove and screamed and ripped at his very own flesh, thrashing for freedom.
Then Baldr walked to the Wyrm and looked up at the mighty beast. “I should never have given you the hope of more, for I was warned that the Wyrm’s hunger for gold is bottomless. Know then, o creature, that you are a bane to my people. All Dwarves shall hunt you and root you out, and your kind will be forever known as cursed.” With that the Axe of Woe spoke, and its song thrummed through the hall. The Firebreath fell dead.
At this point in the Lay, the Saga records the long and various clan-relations of King Baldr. These stretch on for many pages, relating a vast genealogy that forms the core of almost all Dwarvish genealogical efforts. Indeed, when a family must be traced to its most ancient source in the Dwarvish lands, they often begin in the Harnholme Saga.
The lay picks up again after King Baldr marries Queen Helgar, with the coming of a gigantine emissary in the Second Age…
To the hall of Baldr-king came the Giant. His hair was flaming red and his eyes burned like fire. His breath was the heat of the forge and he was called Harmr the Cleaver for it was said he had cleft one of his kin in twain with his mighty sword. His frame was vast, but the hall of the King was vaster still, and the Giant was humbled by the mighty works of dwarf-kind.
Before the great throne of the King and Queen knelt the Giant Harmr, and he bowed his head low towards the floor. “Great Master of Dwarves,” said the Giant humbly. “I come from the Giants of Urhame, to seek an audience with you, master of Steel.”
In that hall the humbled giant knelt, and the Lord of Mountains said to him, “What do you seek, oh mighty Giant of Urhame? For I have heard of your peoples, and I know of your plight. Tell me, do you not seek weapons to destroy the land of Pernag, your foe?”
The Giant spake with thunderous voice and said he, “Your wisdom is far-spanning, Baldr-king. It is true that my people have contested with the usurpers and false-heirs of Pernag for many years. I come to seek the secret of Steel so that we may destroy them. Then peace shall reign north of Harnholme, and the roads will be open to merchants, traders, and coin.”
The King of Dwarves frowned full deep. He grumbled in his throat and said, “It is not my place to divulge the secrets of the master smiths. Their lives are given to prying the hidden truths from stone and iron and gem alike. But I can promise you weapons and stock if your people can say with certainty that in the day that Urhame conquers my folk shall cross unmolested across your land.”