Summary: According to Kagain, a questioner as to his past should mind their own business if they want to keep their teeth. This is a legend of Kagain Dragonaxe.
A/N: Liberties taken with Forgotten Realms lore. Dragonaxe is supposedly Kagain's surname as per the novels.
Once there was a dwarf born deep within the mines of his clan, which is not unusual for a dwarf. This dwarf in particular was born the eldest son of his clan's headsman, and therefore heir to it; and he was born with robust lungs and with thews that held the dwarven inheritance of the endurance as strong as the earth. There are some who would also say that this dwarf was born black-hearted and born no true dwarf; for this dwarf indeed hated legends, and sagas, and lovers, and friendly beasts of the earth, and comradely jests, and great clan celebrations, and everything that was not the clink and glitter of gold.
Kagain Dragonaxe was named for a weapon and not for being the son of his family, which is now a name lost to the ages: the axe he carried was engraven with the image of a giant wyrm, and had been obtained by one of his great-grandmothers in a battle with such a wyrm and as her share of its treasures. Like most young dwarves, he enlisted within the clan militia as soon as he was of age to do so, and trained to fight the goblins, duergar, drow and still worse that lurked not far from their tunnels and mines. His mother gave birth to three children after him, the first fair-spirited, the second wise, and the third handsome as a fresh white underground cabbage; and it was gossiped that any one of these might be for a better headsman in the distant future. Yet Kagain gained gradual renown in battle. He was not the fastest warrior, nor quite the strongest, and taciturn and not always the first to propose a strategy of action, but he remained in the field longer than any other, resisting burns and grim pain, never stopping upon a march. Always he claimed his share and as far beyond as he could of plunder. He was alone: even the female warriors in his militia would have none of him despite his skill, and he would have no time for any dwarven lady who sought a mate and the sharing of household goods, only a few short times spared for those women who accepted payment in coin and negotiation over the price.
The clan grew stronger when its militia grew stronger, and Kagain was given the post of one of its foremost warriors, known for his inherited stamina even among dwarves. Slowly, as his father lived long and his siblings grew older, Kagain fought battle after battle without complaint and mined when there was no enemy to fight. His private hoards grew day by day as he himself slowly advanced toward what the dwarves call middle age, when they are still strong and stout and sturdy. And then there came news to the dwarf of dark elves who had moved dangerously close to their clan-home, and had managed to conceal themselves.
Kagain commanded the dwarves with charge of the battering-ram to bring down the sealed doors of the drow settlement. It was a time when their foul black selves seemed to rest. His forces had approached cloaked by the priests of the militia, for Moradin and Clangeddin Silverbeard and Haela Brightaxe the Lady of the Fray, noble and brave dwarven deities. The doors cracked; they were met by drow who rained down acid and flamestrike from the ceiling. The drow priests were male, and wore symbols of grey masks about their necks in addition to emblems of a black dragon. This had the meaning that they were renegades and outcasts: but drow were drow, and he weren't going to give them a soft pat on the head and free gold coin. With a grunt Kagain brought out his axe and struck them down at the knees. He walked through acid they called down on him to get to the side of one of them, and then that body was a long-limbed shield for him while he killed it. It was not he who started the cry of a classical dwarven vow, but with the other warriors he echoed it and that battle-rage boiled in his blood like any other. When he was through the last of the blood-soaked drow Kagain looked down at his hands, and saw that his wounds were already beginning to close. Most dwarves heal quickly.
The dwarven warriors made their way to the next passage of the drow, stopping only briefly for some of the silver ornaments upon the priests. It seemed there would be not enough plunder to compensate those who were not berserkers for their efforts: drow renegades who hadn't the forethought to steal enough from their people for the dwarven clan's satisfaction. Kagain strode ahead, his axe ready, and behind a group of waiting female fighters there was an adolescent black wyrm dragon.
The common dragon is a formidable beast. Dragons are not known only for their size and strength and claws, but for gold they rest upon. The dwarven priests stood together to join their powers, and cast spells upon the dragon to weaken its hide. The warriors without such power swarmed the dragon.
It was a terrible battle. The drow alone were not easily defeated. Kagain earned renown here by his courage, never once giving voice to pain when the acid breath of the black dragon fell upon him. When the dragon lowered its body to the ground for the tatters and weights placed on its wings by the priests, he was among the first to strike at its belly to seek a way through the scales. It could not be told whether Kagain's fine axe was the particular weapon that found the very last blow before the wyrm collapsed, but his gauntlets and mail were seared by its painful blood, and his strikes were certainly among those to make doubly sure it would not rise again.
It was Kagain who then gave the command to separate and to search the compound. No further allies had come to the aid of the drow and the dragon, and thus they had only to eradicate those of the black longlimbs too weak to fight. Below the dragon's body was a store of gold, smaller than the share they had won in their last battle against goblins. It was a young dragon: Kagain spoke that the drow were poor.
But Kagain had chosen for himself to search a passageway where against a featureless wall his sharp dwarven eyes had noticed a single glistening coin fallen to the tiled ground. With his axe he splintered the wall, and then moved a tapestry to cover over where he had done so. He stepped through other twisting passages, carefully searching, greed glowing and rising. The gold was far more to him than any lust for the blood of enemies. He found a treasure-house beyond his imaginings, and if he told none of his comrades, it should be all his own. In the past Kagain had been ungenerous, negotiated to limits, sought the last jot and tittle of contracts to gain full entitlement: but this was the first time he had trespassed against the law of his clan. He looked at the dragon rune upon his axe, and perhaps it was indeed he who had slain the young black dragon. For it seemed as if that same avaricious spirit had passed into him once and for all time. Kagain concealed the treasure into corners and barrels and behind rubbish, feigned that he had cleared empty rooms only, and rejoined the warriors for their triumphant return to the clan, seasoned by the deaths of not a few. He claimed his leader's share of plunder from that which the other dwarves had found.
A dwarf is meant to deal honourably with his clan; a dwarf is meant to share his possessions with family, especially in times of need. Dwarves value their earned, mined gold, but above it is valued ilith, word and clan and bond. Kagain quietly moved his ill-gained treasure to secret places and sometimes rather than his normal tasks of mining he would visit these caches simply to count and to know it was there. Gold was bright as a lady's yellow beard brushed out and shining clean above her strong chin; green emeralds shone like good tormoss, refreshing and healing to lay upon skin; diamonds as white as the gleam of a strong forge-fire that gave warmth and craft; blue sapphires as clear and fine as lakewater. Kagain saw them as empty and lifeless things that marked what he craved.
Dwarves have a saying that a forge and hammer in a hundred years will smash out any lie. Pressure upon any metal will reveal its impurities, no matter how secret, and all ill deeds will one day come to surface. Kagain was one day observed travelling to his caches; the oddity was marked; proofs were obtained; and in a gathering arbitrated by a high priest of Moradin the All-Father, he who is creator and judge to all dwarves, Kagain Dragonaxe was disowned by family, cast out from clan, and exiled forever from dwarven land. Of ill-gotten gains the court deprived him of all.
A dwarven court, on making an outcast, leaves the dwarf with only three possessions: a linen shirt to cover him, a lump of coal to show the mines that he is forever barred to, and a single weapon that he may fight like a dwarf at his ending. Kagain did not look back whilst he walked from family and clan. Through long tunnels he heard not a soul breathe, and he was far wandered from clan mines before he did.
Then a voice spoke to him, and he recognised it as one from his clan even though it defied taboo. He thought that perhaps it was some illusion from a creature of the darkness. Gripping his axe, Kagain ventured into the shadows that concealed it.
"Greetings, Kagain," the voice repeated, and it was one of the lowest and least of miners of the clan, a dwarf that all considered unworthy and sneaking and a coward, Thassa Feldspar. But on this day there were tones in the creature's speech that Kagain had not heard. "Kagain clanless," Thassa spoke on, to show that he knew what had passed, even though he had not been present for the trial. For a moment Kagain stayed his hand.
"Kagain, I and my master have great news for you," spoke the other dwarf, still as thin and weak as always. "You have achieved great deeds! You are powerful! I recognise power. Your fortune is made on this day."
"Tell me your offer," Kagain said.
"You value gold, 'tis true," Thassa spoke.
"Aye," Kagain said simply.
"You were crafty to capture it and keep it to yourself."
"That I was."
"You wish to have much wealth that shines and sparkles."
"Are ye blind, or split-headed without my axe speeding it yet?"
"Without knowing it you are a follower of Abbathor," the other dwarf said, the words spilling out for his lack of courage. "Have you not heard of the Wyrm of Avarice?"
Now the worship of Abbathor is frowned upon in most dwarven communities that follow the good fathers and mothers of the dwarves, for they fear that the deity plans to change the entire race of dwarves into greed-obsessed and evil, and therefore Kagain had heard only of the one called the Trove Lord within tale of un-dwarven dwarves.
"In part," Kagain replied.
"In that case you understand my offer!" Thassa said, words and a trace of saliva spilling from his mouth in his enthusiasm. "The Great Master of Greed offers you a place of the highest honour, Kagain. Follow him with all your power and you will be rewarded with all the wealth you could want—and Abbathor also will be rewarded by your gain."
"And would you also gain from this, Thassa Feldspar?" Kagain said.
"Greed is the reason for any act," Thassa said, and instead of the weak and craven dwarf he usually appeared there was indeed a glimmering of power in his eyes. "I am known as an Aethanor in our hidden priesthood, a master of gold; Abbathor willed me to come to you. In our clans we can make you one of us. Will you accept this divine favour, Kagain...Dragonaxe?" Thassa said at the last.
"This dwarf," Kagain said, "makes his own way in the world."
With that Kagain raised his weapon and smote Thassa Feldspar in the centre of the skull, and it was a mighty enough blow to part the skull of an ogre. But it felt to Kagain as if he had aimed his axe into the strongest of mithral walls. Thassa lived; his eyes held a burning yellow-green light that could not belong to any normal creature.
And Thassa spoke in a voice that was not his own, harsh, husky, wheedling, and piercing mortal ears like an iron needle. "Do you refuse to serve me, Kagain, you who have lived your life by my doctrine? Choose not to insult the Avaricious a second time, or rather than an outcast you shall be a dead one." And then in Thassa's hands were a long, jewelled dagger that glowed with an unearthly light, formed so quickly it was as if such a wondrous weapon had always been within the hands of the small dwarven priest.
"I do choose," Kagain said, "and I have chosen to take my own gold, owing nothing to you."
And then the avatar of the god in possession of his priest sprung upon the dwarf who had insulted and rejected him. Kagain threw his axe to the ground for he knew that no mortal-forged weapon could withstand one brought into existence by a god; and instead seized the thin arms of Thassa by both of his hands before the dagger could reach him. Possessed by the Wyrm of Avarice himself, Thassa's strength ran far higher than natural to him, but Kagain's determination was strong and he held back the body of Thassa. Whilst they wrestled there was a high singing noise that could be heard, like the ringing of many chimes of metal and glass at many pitches: for it is well known that Abbathor's presence causes jewels in the earth to sing their positions in sound.
Thassa's body was small though it was nimble. He writhed like a snake or bare-skinned crawl-worm to release himself from the grip of the other dwarf. There were times he even escaped from Kagain's grip and began to raise the dagger. But each time Kagain himself would rise from the ground and pin down Thassa's arms, and up and down they wrestled each other through the caves until Thassa's form breathed shallowly by exhaustion and Kagain behaved as if he was utterly fresh. The yellow-green eyes of the god Abbathor blazed like sapphires that took and focused rays of an unimaginable inferno beyond, and still Kagain endured against him. It had been dark upon the surface world above when Kagain's fight against a god had begun; in the surface dawn neared, and Kagain Dragonaxe still showed no sign of yielding his effort.
Night is considered the property of most evil deities, for though those such as Eilistraee know the beauty of the night and those such as Selune and Sehanine Moonbow craft glimmering silver lights for its peace, the night is also a chosen time for those of ill intent to seize plunder whilst the good sleep. And it is also true that gods must not take possession of an avatar for longer than an allotted time, for even deities are governed by rule.
Thassa's voice spoke with Abbathor's sound. "Yield, Kagain, and I shall reward you with wealth in mithral beyond your wildest imaginings. For the Master of Greed desires either the possession of that which is briefly craved—or its utter destruction."
"Then try destruction," Kagain said, "but I have endured so far and can endure still."
The dwarven god hissed, for he knew that at least in part his bluff had been seen through. "Then release me," Abbathor demanded. "You cannot slay me, but this conflict must end: for my lawful time upon here comes to its ceasing. Name your price, but know that if it be too great I will send my full number of priests all to murder you."
And then it is not known what Kagain Dragonaxe said in reply to the god who called him as a chosen one, or indeed if the dwarf said anything at all, for no mortal can wrestle a god for a night and be reasonably expected to retain power for any task at all. But some say that while dawn crept above on the surface world and touched green grass and sparkling lakes, Kagain Dragonaxe spoke to the god Abbathor and asked not for mithral wealth but wealth in endurance, that from the god he held pinned down he required a powerful stamina far beyond that of any dwarf, the gift to heal his wounds by flesh that ever knit itself together and muscles that could heave and strain for as long as he desired to use them to gain his gold. Some say instead that Kagain already possessed such abilities simply from his dwarven blood, and asked only gold and jewels of Abbathor. Others say that Kagain said nothing but held down the god still, his own path to wealth chosen on the simple basis of wishing to tithe to none. In any case dawn came to the surface as it will come until the night the world ends, and Kagain found himself standing over the strained body of weak Thassa Feldspar.
For some time both dwarves lay exhausted. But Feldspar, being a coward, believed the other dwarf to have been the victor; and pleaded for his life. A dwarf of Abbathor has ability to recognise precious stones buried in the earth. Kagain offered Feldspar his life in return for such stones as had been sung out whilst the avatar had possessed the priest. Thassa led to such stones; Kagain seized them for himself; and at the last of them hit the unfortunate priest in the back of the head with his axe while Thassa sat down unawares. It is also told that Kagain, being a cunning and crafty dwarf, had besides this hidden some of the hoard of the dragon in places that his clan had still left unfound.
Thus Kagain Dragonaxe, an outcast dwarf without clan or family, travelled toward the surface for the first time in his long years of life, his pockets filled with wealth, and a slain clan-member left behind him stripped of all possessions. He walked a far distance from his clan's land first, and then began his life as a mercenary. And it was three-and-ninety years following this, for dwarves live and remain vigorous to their sesquicentennial year and beyond, that Kagain of Beregost met the Bhaalchild. But that is another story.