Dwarves

The dwarves are creatures of fire and metal, seemingly born to the forge. Many legends, including those of the dwarves themselves, describe dwarves as crafted from metal and gemstones on the anvil of the Highgod at the dawn of the world. No one is sure how old the race of dwarves is. They were first discovered by elves of the First Kingdom when their explorers uncovered the hidden entrance to Bazjak, the Fire Hold.

Dwarves stand on average about four to four and a half feet tall, and are stout and solid. They have ruddy complexions, and their eyes are any color except blue. Dwarves tend to live between 250 and 300 years.

Dwarves are an extremely religious people. Very little is as important to a dwarf as his family and his gods. Purity of the soul, righteousness, and pride are the chief virtues of any dwarven clan. In addition to their deities, dwarves also find elements of the earth and personal property to be sacred. Examples include Mithril (which the dwarves believe the Highgod used to create the world) and the battle gear of a dwarven soldier.

First and foremost, however, all dwarven religion is based on deeds, not faith. Priests find their prayers answered based entirely on merit, the gods of the dwarves seeming to take a more active hand in their followers than those of the humans or halflings. In all things religious, as in all aspects of the dwarven culture, what you do is considered a more accurate judge than your intentions.

All dwarves value history, and never let a slight or insult to either themselves, their family, or their clans go unremembered. Such tales of treachery and rude behavior are passed verbally to the dwarf’s children, and the opportunity to even the score is highly sought after.

Gloimar (Mountain Dwarves)

The first discovery of the dwarven race occurred in 456 of the Age of Dreams, when elvish explorers of the United Kingdom uncovered the secret entrance to the Halls of Bazjak, The Fire Hold. The dwarves greeted them and treated them with respect, swearing allegiance with the Kingdom, provided that the elves left them in peace until they were needed.

For generations, the elves and dwarves were at peace and did not disturb each other. Then emissaries from Kaelminthanas, requested aid from their old allies in exchange for wondrous power. Kaelminthanas had slain the Highgod, and stolen his divinity. There remained only his consolidation of power on this world before he would rule forever as the New and Only God, the Lord of Murder. The emissaries showed the dwarves the powers of sorcery, and promised them this new magic, beholden to no God, and a place within the new order if they would aid them in crushing the rebels.

The twelve High Kings, blinded by greed, accepted. Kaelminthanas took them to the spires of Lormfinduil, and saturated them with sorcery, as he had his own Sintheron. The dwarf kings were distorted by the magic, their skin turned gold, their hair became spun silver, and their eyes seemed made of burning emeralds. When they returned, they were no longer the High Kings. They had become the High Tyrants, inundated with magic, and corrupted to suit the purposes of the Lord of Murder.

The High Tyrants refitted Bazjak to suit their new objectives. Huge tunnels were excavated and vast breeding pits and torture chambers filled the once-peaceful halls. The dwarves named it Baalethos, elven for Dammed Place. From here the most terrible sorcerous atrocities of the entire war took place. The elven capacity for cruelty and the dwarves’ careful research were responsible for the creation of many of the monstrous races that even now populate the northern world, imost noteably the entire race of Blackbloods.

Even after the war’s end, when their elven allies and their God had been banished, the High Tyrants could not be deposed. They continued to rule for another 800 years, until the middle of the Age of Stars. During this time, they perfected their sorcerous arts, blending them with the unholy worship of dark powers, finding patronage with the Beast Gods that had feasted on the flesh of the discarded and rotten flesh of the Highgod.

This period in dwarvish history is called the Vonuskiran, or the Lost Times. Denied their God by the murderous rampage of Kaelminthanas, the dwarven people sank deeper and deeper into despair and madness, as all around the vile rituals drenched the ancient halls in more and more blood.

After centuries of despair, the beleaguered prayers of the dwarven people were answered. New Gods rose into their consciousness, granting the dwarves the means and the conviction to overthrow their oppressors. Armed with this new hope, the dwarves rose up and cast the High Tyrants from their thrones and placing the crowns of rule on the heroes of that bloody revolution. As their first act of kingship, the dwarven thanes offered the dwarves that had escaped or been exiled from their homes to return to their kingdoms in fellowship.

The dwarves refused. They proclaimed that the dwarves of the mountain had left them in exile too long for them to return as brothers. They would stay amongst the upworlders, including the humans, and live a life devoid of the spiritual impurities of the mountain and its magical corruptions. Enraged, the Kings of the Mountain threw their armies forward again against their kinsman,
and this war raged for thirty years. Considering the horrors the Gloimar suffered in their uprising, the attack on their spiritual character was too much. Already they had been forced to kill their own kin once. They would not allow those that had run to the surface to sneer at the sacrifice.

Although this war was much shorter than the years of oppression of the High Tyrants, in some ways it was far more terrible, and left deep scars in the dwarves that have never truly healed. This time is known as the Sad Struggle, and is only one of three slights the dwarven race as a whole laments.

Modern mountain dwarves reside in the ancient underground strongholds of their ancestors. Although many of these have been destroyed or lost over the centuries, the dwarven race as a whole flourishes under the mountains. Each of these strongholds is ruled by a king, or Thain, who enjoys absolute authority. The only individual more powerful than the Thains is the dwarven High King (or Kengsthain), who rules the dwarven city of Torezak. Each of these thains can trace their lineage back to one of the great heroes that overthrew the High Tyrants.

Mountain dwarves are seen as materialistic and judgmental to other races, but to them, it is common sense. As the saying goes, “Always appear to be what you are, and always ask for what you deserve.” Mountain dwarves treat other races respectively, but keep their distance emotionally, because they know that overworlders don’t always say what they mean. They wear their hair short, but cultivate long, thick beards. The beards are usually worn braided, with precious metal wire interwoven amongst the strands. Gloimar favor loose-fitting clothes in various shades of red and brown.

Tenar (Hill Dwarves)

During the Sintheos, the original High Kings of the dwarven realms were corrupted and perverted by the raw power of Kaelminthanas and his apostles. The High Tyrants, as they came to be known, committed unspeakable atrocities and committed countless vile acts in the service of the God of Murder.

Even when the war ended, the High Tyrants could not be removed from power. For two thousand years they exerted their control over the hapless dwarves in their kingdoms, performing all manner of vile experiments on them, and tainting the holy shrines to the Highgod with the debased iconography of the animal totems.

Those dwarves that could leave did so. A mass exodus from the mountains took place throughout the Second Age, until the destruction of the High Tyrant rule. Calling themselves Tenar (Hill Men, or Hill Dwellers) the dwarves that left made a living as best they could in the unfamiliar and savage overworld. It was they who taught the human tribes the secret of steel weapons and armor. Most dwarven communities at this time bartered their various crafts to larger human tribes and clans for protection against monsters, other human tribes, and the elven forces of the Lotus Throne, whom the displaced Tenar did not trust.

Eventually, the High Tyrants and their followers were deposed, and the new Mountain Kings invited the refugees back to their homes. But for many, it was too little, too late. The Tyrants had ruled for over a thousand years, and the stench of foul sorcery and the resentment for what the mountains had become were too strong. They rejected the offer, telling the Dwarves to leave and never return. In their anger, the mountain dwarves attacked the Tenar settlements, and their human allies. This war is known to the dwarves as the Sad Struggle, and is only one of three sins in dwarven history that is considered unredeemable.

Hill dwarves are organized into clans, the same as their mountain brethren. No longer trusting the powers of rule in any one person’s hands, however, rulership of clans in every settlement is the shared responsibility of a council. This council is made up of representatives from each of the clan families. Consensus must be reached between this unwieldy body before any major actions involving the settlement can be made.

The modern hill dwarf is every bit as materialistic as his Glorimar counterpart, but is significantly less brusque. Years of dealing with overlanders has taught them that these other races are less open and less blunt than a typical dwarf, and accommodations are made for this social handicap. Tenar treat mountain dwarves with respect, but are always saddened to see them. A rift exists between the two peoples that can never be rectified.

Hill dwarves also have a standing feud with the trolls and their kin, although this particular rivalry is somewhat more recent. During the last hundred years, since the death of the Drachenkaiser and the subsequent invasion by Avalon, trolls have been a terrible thorn in the side of the Eisenfursten. Eager to pacify their lands and desperately in need of soldiers, the Eisenfursten offered the Hill Dwarves something that they had never enjoyed since their exodus from the mountains – a homeland of their own in the hills of Volkshire. This has led to brutal conflict between the two races, as the Tenar eagerly battle the trollkin for a prize more valuable to them than all the treasures under the mountains – a place to finally call home. Needless to say, a century of war has embittered both sides, and the two races have become permanent rivals.

Hill dwarves dress in baggy and functional clothing in earth tones, with a hooded cloak or cape in a bright, contrasting color (blues and yellows are favorites). As a general rule, Tenar dislike jewelry, but often will embroider their clothing with detailed and complicated designs. Hill dwarves wear their hair long, and use the length of their beards as symbols of their social standing. Tenar also value their beards, but tend to let them grow more freely than their mountain cousins. A lush, full beard is a sign of manliness among dwarves, and the Glorimar’s braiding a restriction of their facial hair is a source of many jokes.

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