Rumholt Thunderaxe, an Ironforge dwarf belonging to the Explorers' Guild, studied the Dark Irons for many months after learning of their reemergence. The Dark Irons had diverged from their Ironforge heritage in the few hundred years since the War of Three Hammers, gaining new abilities and losing old ones. Even their physical structure was different. Investigations into Rumholt’s own family tree revealed that two of his ancestors — his grandfather’s cousins — joined the Dark Irons during the war. Curiosity spurred Rumholt to great feats of research, but he finally realized that study in his comfortable Ironforge home was not enough.
One year ago, Rumholt purchased a magic item able to change his appearance (a hat of disguise) from a passing goblin merchant. Rumholt left a letter for his son Dedrik, who was abroad fighting troggs in the Wetlands. This letter stated that Rumholt was leaving to “conduct field research” but left the specifics vague; it also stated that Rumholt did not know when he would return. With that, Rumholt left Ironforge and set out for the Badlands.
When he was safely away from the dwarven capital, Rumholt donned his hat of disguise and altered his appearance to resemble a Dark Iron dwarf. A few days later he encountered a Dark Iron band searching for ruins. Rumholt gave his name as M’nath Pikesplitter (his traitorous ancestors bore the Pikesplitter surname in the War of the Three Hammers). Rumholt claimed to be the sole survivor of a sudden gnoll attack. The Dark Irons warily accepted Rumholt’s company and headed back toward their headquarters to show this new acquisition to their chieftain, a dwarf called Bakthet. On the way, an ogre group ambushed the band. Rumholt drew his axe and fought alongside the Dark Irons, and his dedication and prowess impressed his new companions. Rumholt entered the Dark Iron cave a hero — something he had never been in Ironforge.
Rumholt lived with the Dark Irons for months, partaking in their rituals and forays against troggs, gnolls and other Badlands creatures. He was a more competent fighter than many of them, having honed his skills in the Second and Third Wars. Soon the Dark Irons not only accepted him, they honored him. They taught him their histories and the stories from the times before the War of Three Hammers — from their perspective, of course. Rumholt sympathized with them. He understood why his Pikesplitter ancestors had defected, and he was proud to wear their name.
Rumholt became more and more Dark Iron as time went on. He was not evil, but neither did he think the Dark Irons were evil, just misunderstood and justifiably vengeful. Rumholt did not participate in an attack against an Ironforge caravan, but neither did he condemn it.
Six months after Rumholt joined the clan, a trogg band broke into the cave system. The troggs rampaged through the caverns, killing many before the Dark Irons defeated them. Among the dead was the chieftain Bakthet. A few Dark Irons threw Rumholt’s name (actually, M’nath’s name) into the running to become the new chieftain. Rumholt defeated his rivals in combat and became the clan’s new leader, claiming the fallen chief’s magic pendant as his prize.
Rumholt was ecstatic about his new position. Now he could be with the people he had come to respect and who respected him. And in his leadership position he could ensure that the Dark Irons fought only against evil creatures.
Yet Rumholt missed his son. Dedrik was Rumholt’s only family, and he had not seen him in many long months. Rumholt knew that, patriotic as Dedrik was, once he truly saw the Dark Irons he would understand and stay with his father. Rumholt simply had to figure out a way to get him to his side.
One year after leaving Ironforge, Rumholt’s scouts told him of a solitary Ironforge dwarf making his way across the Badlands. Rumholt recognized his son from the description. He was overjoyed. Though he briefly toyed with the idea of having his warriors abduct Dedrik, he dismissed that plan because it would only serve to demonstrate the Dark Irons’ violent nature.
Instead, Rumholt planted a message where Dedrik would be sure to find it. The message stated that Rumholt had been captured by Dark Iron dwarves and was being held prisoner. “I do not believe they mean to harm me, but please come quickly!” the message pleads. Rumholt knew that this would draw his son to his side. What he did not count on was Dedrik hiring a group of heroes to help him.