The Wildhammer Clan:Chief Thane Kurdran was one of the great heroes of the Second War, credited with slaying nine black dragons and countless orcs. With the help of his gryphons and his forces, the orcs were soon forced to retreat, and Kurdran stayed with the Alliance of Lordaeron as a scout, his service proving invaluable to the war effort. When it was learned that Deathwing had breached the Dark Portal in Draenor, Kurdran volunteered to go with the Alliance Expedition to Draenor, and was placed in charge of the Gryphon Rider Division. After the Dark Portal was sealed, it was assumed that Kurdran and the other members of the Alliance Expedition were deceased, though it was discovered in Burning Crusade that he is still very much alive -- Kurdran survived the destruction of Draenor and joined forces with the Naaru of Outland, founding Wildhammer Stronghold in Shadowmoon Valley.
Kurdran's disappearance from Azeroth, however, left the Wildhammer without a leader. Next in line to rule was Thane Maz Drachrip. As the Wildhammer clan follows a hereditary monarchy, it can be assumed that Maz was somehow related to the Wildhammer line, and related to Kurdran himself in some fashion, though the nature of their relationship to each other is unknown. Thane Maz has literally no history regarding his rule, and whether he died or perished is unknown, however his successor is the current ruler of the Wildhammer, High Thane Falstad Wildhammer. Falstad is an interesting character -- while he's done little in game to date, he did a lot before his rule began, much of it involving the black and red dragonflights.
Falstad was Kurdran's brother, and he started out as one of the gryphon riders of the Hinterlands, patrolling the shores of Lordaeron for any hostile draconic activity after the Second War. While protecting the town of Hasic from attack, Falstad and his band of gryphon riders encountered the human mage Rhonin, who was on his way to Grim Batol to investigate activities in that region. Falstad ended up taking Rhonin and Vereesa Windrunner, his companion at the time, to Grim Batol -- and playing a strong role in the battle to free Alexstrasza from her captivity there. After all of this, Falstad rose to the position of High Thane of the Wildhammer clan, and currently rules in Aerie Peak today. His concerns as of late surround the trolls in the area, although the Scourge just to the north are also at the back of his mind.
This may become important in Cataclysm, as dwarves will be allowed to become shaman. As the Ironforge dwarves have little to no interest in earth magic, it stands to reason that the Wildhammer may be coming back into play -- and with the news that the Twin Peaks battleground will feature the Wildhammer Clan vs. the Dragonmaw Orcs, it's almost guaranteed. The question is what role Falstad will play in upcoming content -- will he continue to defend Aerie Peak from potential troll threats, or will he be taking a more active role in upcoming content?
The Bronzebeard Clan:Ah, the Bronzebeards. Arguably the most famous and well-known dwarves in World of Warcraft, the Bronzebeard brothers have been exceedingly high profile from vanilla to Wrath, and will assuredly only continue doing so in the months to come. There are, as mentioned before, three Bronzebeard brothers -- Magni, Muradin, and Brann. Magni took over the throne after his father died, proving an invaluable leader during the Second War. He pledged his full support behind the Alliance, and his brothers followed suit.
Muradin was the middle son, and served as official liaison between Lordaeron and Khaz Modan, growing close to the Menethil family as he did so and befriending King Terenas' son Arthas. As Arthas grew up, Muradin taught the boy everything he knew about fighting with blades, and the two were close companions. Muradin also founded the Explorers' Guild during this time, an organization primarily concerned with exploring the roots of dwarven history. The dwarves had very little written history, and the dwarves of Ironforge in particular were terribly curious about where it was they'd come from, how they'd come to be.
The oldest dwarven dwellings and tales often hinted at some sort of origin myth, but further research had to be done in order to confirm or disprove where they'd come from. While it's never been stated outright, I like to think that the zest for history the dwarves suddenly developed originated with the revelations of humans, gnomes, high elves, and other races of Azeroth. After all, the humans had an extensive history, and taught the dwarves how to write -- it stands to reason that without this initial contact, the dwarves may just have continued mining away deep in Ironforge and oblivious to the rest of the world.
Regardless, Muradin became an explorer, and spent his time away from Lordaeron exploring the desolate continent of Northrend in hopes of finding ancient artifacts or clues to dwarven origins. While doing all of this, Muradin heard tales of an ancient weapon called Frostmourne that held tremendous amounts of power. He searched for the blade, finally pinpointing its location, and made a terrible mistake. When Arthas came to Northrend, seeking out the dreadlord Mal'Ganis, he encountered Muradin, who told him of the blade. Arthas immediately decided he should find and use the blade to defeat Mal'Ganis for good. The two traveled to Dragonblight and deep in a hidden cave, found the blade guarded by several revenants that tried to warn Arthas of the danger.
Or possibly die. We'll get into that later.
Arthas sent a letter to King Magni, informing him of his brother's demise and reassuring him that Muradin's body would be eventually returned. This never happened -- instead, King Magni heard through Fairbanks and Alexandros Mograine that Arthas was in fact responsible for Muradin's death. To avenge the death of his brother, King Magni forged the legendary blade Ashbringer and gave it to the two. Though he remains a skilled leader, Magni is not without his share of headaches, many of them at the expense of his youngest brother, Brann.
Through it all, Brann kept track of his adventures and the creatures he discovered. Many of his adventures are documented in the source books for the World of Warcraft RPG. Brann himself however was noticeably absent from World of Warcraft, and from Burning Crusade -- it isn't until Wrath of the Lich King that players finally catch up with Brann Bronzebeard and speak to him face to face.
King Magni in the meantime has been dealing with other problems, notably the seeming resurgence of the Dark Iron dwarves of Blackrock Mountain. These Dark Iron dwarves created a vast city in the depths of Blackrock, now ruled by Emperor Dagran Thaurissan. Dagran is a descendant of Emperor Thaurissan and Modgud, and while he rules over the Dark Iron clan, he is still above all else a servant of Ragnaros.
But not all Dark Iron were inherently bad. The Thorium Brotherhood are a group of skilled Dark Iron craftsmen, and when the War of the Three Hammers occurred they naturally sided with their Dark Iron kin. However, once Ragnaros enslaved the Dark Irons and forced them to mine and craft weapons for his armies, the Thorium Brotherhood managed to escape and set up shop across from Blackrock Mountain in Searing Gorge. The Thorium Brotherhood are neutral to all, not wishing to take sides in any future conflicts -- perhaps to avoid and more enslavement at the hands of Elemental Lords.
The difference between the Dark Iron, Wildhammer, and Bronzebeard clans eventually comes down to two things: attitude and, more importantly, magic. The Wildhammer seek the natural magic of the shaman, the Bronzebeard generally follow the path of the Holy Light. The Dark Iron, however, embrace the arcane arts of mages. This is interesting, because dwarven mages will become a playable class in Cataclysm. Now where, oh where, will dwarves learn these arcane arts?
Come back next time for more dwarven politics, which are looking to be appropriately ... explosive come Cataclysm.