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The dwarves were among the first races of Ashan and are servants of the Dragon of Fire, Arkath. Their homeland is Grimheim, federation of dwarven cities in Northern Thallan. Often called the Lords under the Mountains, their realm is the underground kingdom of Grimheim. Wardens of the demons (for they live closest to the “lava core” where Asha imprisoned Urgash) and rivals of the dark elves (they compete for underground territory).

HistoryEdit

Note: most of dwarven history is actively hidden from the rest of the world. The dwarves have lengthy sagas, eddas, and histories concerning their deeds, wars, and adventures, but these are not shared with the outside world. The things they have seen and battles they have fought within their own domain remain mysterious, at least for now.

The dwarves have coalesced from a series of scattered clans into a mighty kingdom called Grimheim, capable of defending itself against all enemies. Children of the Dragon of Fire, they worshiped him in the deep places of the world where magma provided the only light, and in return they were taught the secrets of the forge and the hearth.

At first, the other races were not even aware of the dwarves. Not until the Wars of Fire (28-41 ASD), when the dwarven units joined the others to resist the demons, were they recognized. Once the fighting was over, they returned to their homes under the mountains and had little to do with the other races for centuries. Slowly tunnels were dug between the various dwarven cities, connecting them into a honeycomb deep beneath the earth. Also new kingdoms were founded far outside their borders, either gaining their independence like Sudgurd or maintaining their loyalty to the King under the Mountains, like Ostgerd.

Underground WarsEdit

All changed when the first dark elves settled on the borders of Grimheim, to find a new home and escape the wrath of Irollan. A steadily deteriorating situation turned into the War under the Mountains. During the first years of the war, the dwarves had the upper hand but as the dark elves began to fight back, they realized they underestimated their enemy. Over time, the dark elves began to turn the tide of the war with their powerful fortress Renekon. Despite the dwarves best efforts, they couldn't breach the fortress. Soon the King Under the Mountains, Fasolt, began to entertain the prospect of a truce with the dark elf Clan Lord to end the fighting. Refusing to accept the dwarves are losing the war, Hathor led a band of loyal dwarves that breached the fortress, killed the dark elf commanders and freed prisoners of war. Hathor returned home as a hero but was angered when King Fasolt used his success to promote his own rule.

Over time, after a truce was finally made between the dark elves and the dwarves, King Fasolt failed to realize that although he used Hathor's popularity for his own use, he found a rival that could rise against him. A brief civil war soon erupted in Grimheim as Hathor had gained the allegiance of the six clans to remove the cowardly Fasolt from the throne. When Fasolt refused to step down, Hathor was forced to kill him and assume the throne as the new King Under The Mountains.

A New Ruler, A New AgeEdit

Although Hathor was considered a hero by his people, he lacked the characteristics of negotiation, parlay and compromise needed in leaders of nations. As the recent wars took its tole on Grimheim, the people needed supplies to heal the damage done. Instead of negotiating with his neighbors, Hathor reorganized the Warbands to invade Irollan and the Holy Falcon Empire to take what his people needed. Despite both kingdoms fighting back, Hathor succeeded in gaining the resources and wealth his people could need and bested both kingdoms. With his rule firmer and more secure, Hathor's reign began a new age in Grimheim, one where "might makes right" and weakness, a crime.

However, as Hathor's reign continued, those of the priesthood discovered that the sacred fire in the Temple of Arkath had died out and slowly the volcanoes were dying out with it. Within a century, the lands of Grimheim had become a frozen wasteland. Now with resources scare once more, Hathor ordered the Warbands to invade the Holy Empire and Irollan once again to take what they needed. Raids that both the Elves and the Empire haven't forgotten nor forgiven.

Those who investigated the Sacred Fire, all agreed that Arkath was angry with his children but none really knew why. A few, like Kari, believed it was Hathor's survivalist and aggressive ways that angered their god. However, the majority believed Arkath was angry with his children's weakness and to believe that Arkath would disavow a hero like Hathor was preposterous and downright treasonous. Those who shared Kari's fears were exiled.

Fires of Sheogh and Grimheim Edit

In truth, the fires dying down was a warning that a greater threat was about to threaten the very existence of Grimheim and put all of Ashan in jeopardy: a massive army of Demons breaking through the gates of Sheogh guarded by the Dwarves. The Demon Sovereign sent Agrael to ally with the Dark Elves under the warmongering Sylsai to retrieve a runic key that opens the gate which was in Hathor's possession.

Rebels against Hathor's ways learned of the plot against Grimheim and began a desperate plan to stop the demons from arriving and hopefully restore the fires of Grimheim. Gathering what forces they could muster, Kari and Vilma began to discredit Hathor by defeating some of his top warriors, including Tolghar. Furious at their disobedience, Hathor left his throne to deal with the rebels himself but was instead surrounded by Dark Elves. With a poisoned blade in his back, Hathor was killed and the key was now in Sylsai's grasp. Hathor's death left the Dwarf clans disorganized and confused, leaving the Dark Elves the time to open the gate and allow the armies of Sheogh to pour through.

With little time, Vilma and Kari gathered their forces and new allies like Tolghar and marched to the gate to stop the ritual and finally defeat Sylsai. Fed up with his gods silence and taking action, Kari lept into a pool of lava as a show of strength and remembrance of what it meant to be a dwarf. Arkath heard his cry and returned him to the world as a chosen Einherjar, giving the Dwarfs the power they needed to stop the gate from opening. The Dark Elves were defeated and Sylsai was caste into the inferno while Agrael escaped. Kari returned to Arkath as his task was now complete.

With the Dark Elves defeated once more and the gate to Sheogh secure, the six Dwarf clans now met together to decide who would become the next King Under the Mountains. On Hangvul's "suggestion", the clans named Tolghar king for his ability in battle and leadership. Soon enough, the fires of the Temples of Arkath and the volcanoes of Grimheim burned with life once again, taking it as a sign of Arkath's approval.

Conflict with The Griffin Empire Edit

While humbled at being chosen, Tolghar was in fact terrified at the prospect of living up to his predecessor and though he was now king, Hathor's ways did not die with him and some Dwarves still believe he is an example to follow. Those who refused to accept Tolghar as the new king, organized themselves as the warbands and began raiding the nearby kingdoms, especially the newly formed Holy Griffin Empire. Tolghar did not want another civil war in his kingdom and was afraid that might occur as the leader of the rogue warbands was none other and Hathor's daughter, Aslaug.

Despite not being behind the raids, Tolghar refused to meet with Emperor Ivan to negotiate or even denounce the warband attacks as he would be admitting his own weakness in his inability to control them. This decision would nearly bring the two kingdoms to war if not Vilma came to Ivan's council to explain Tolghar's predicament.

The Dwarves TodayEdit

Today, the dwarves still keep a watchful vigilance up. They watch their borders, and no one moves on their lands unseen, both above and beneath. They befriend a precious few, and expand their kingdom carefully.

PoliticsEdit

Each dwarven city has its own king, with a council of advisors from the wealthiest and most powerful families. The King under the Mountains is the king of kings among the dwarves, and it is he who sets policy and summons them to war.

Kingship is not hereditary, though it is a lifetime post. After each king’s death (whether by age or by regicide), the assembly convenes and elects his successor. At such times, the tunnels are filled with both celebration and intrigue, as various candidates court voters and attempt to discredit or eliminate rivals.

The current dwarven king is Wulfstan.

CultureEdit

The core philosophy of the dwarves is “Never yield and never lose face”. Be proud of who you are. Defend your kinsmen, your homeland and your honor. Always protect the hearth.

The dwarven capital city is Tor Myrdal, built beneath two huge mountains (extinct volcanoes so tall that only the legendary dwarven kings have climbed to their summits) and the mile-long knife-edged ridge that connects them. It is so massive and complex that no one, not even the dwarves, knows all of its passages and tunnels. Indeed, some dwarves have a superstitious fear that someone else, not them, has been surreptitiously adding to and modifying the tunnels for centuries, for some nefarious purpose that is as yet unknown.

Other major dwarven cities are Tor Vettfang, Tor Eldrheim, Tor Hlifa, and Tor Lindhath. The largest and most populous trading post is Tor Hallr, known to non-dwarves as Beardsgate and to the dwarves, colloquially, as “Talltown”.

Dwarven culture is very much male-driven, though, despite the old rumors, women are neither bearded nor as rare as one might think. Dwarf women are considered actually rather attractive by Human standards. But since dwarven lines place great stock in heredity and lineage, they guard their women fiercely and only in the most dire emergencies will women join the fray. That said, she-dwarves are taught to fight and forge and have the same status and opportunities as any male. Since dwarves are very protective of their women, and only in the direst emergencies will dwarven women join the fray. As a result, it is more common to see Dísir and Valkyries, spirits of Arkath, fighting in Grimheim’s armies than actual female dwarves.

EconomyEdit

It is worth noting that contrary to the popular belief found in the Holy Empire and other nations, dwarves are not obsessed with gold, a metal they use to trade with the other peoples of Ashan but deem too fragile to be useful. Magical Flamegold, on the other hand, is highly prized by dwarves as they consider it a gift from their God, Arkath. Shadowsteel is also favored in their crafts, another reason why they are rivals with the dark elves.

The Dwarven economy runs on mining and metalworking, at which they are considered masters at. The seemingly endless veins of precious metal and useful iron fuel the economy, while thick beds of coal fuel the forges. Gems are also common under the mountains. Then there are the underground rivers with their sand banks that have allowed the dwarves to establish a thriving side business in glass-working and pottery. Basically, if it is made with fire, the dwarves can shape it to their will.

Indeed, most citizens of the Holy Empire don’t know it, but the spectacular stained glass found in the great Cathedrals of Elrath were actually made by dwarves, artisans from Tor-Lindhath to be precise. Since then, the Holy Empire are the dwarves best customers in the glass-working industry.

dwarven trading outposts are located on the borders of dwarven territory. Only a few trusted trading partners can actually bring their caravans over the borders and into the heart of the dwarven kingdom. The rest do business on the fringes, though some extensive towns have grown up around these outposts.

SocietiesEdit

Social structure is based around three relationships: family, fostering and fighting. There is a complicated web of apprenticeships that serves to train up young dwarves and cement relations between them. These ties are precious, a single unworthy apprentice can poison an alliance that has existed for centuries.

While there are numerous ties that bind the kingdom together, the most important of all is the clan. The six dwarven clans are:

  • Deepflamerune priests, the religious leaders of the dwarves
  • Grimsteel – one of the largest clans noted for its famous warriors
  • Stonefist – the clan responsible for mining and building the great underground cities
  • Stronghammer – artisans and blacksmiths, creators of the famed dwarven handicrafts and weapons
  • Hearthguard – the clan of slow and serious traditionalists, magistrates and administrators
  • Winterwind – the beastmasters who are accustomed to the outdoors and friendly with other races

Clans and families are not the same thing. Families are different lineages within a single clan, with each clan having its own name, battle history, customs and so forth. Ultimately, dwarves always fall back on their clans. While a single city may house families from all clans, at important times, such as the election of a new king, dwarves fall out along clan lines before anything else.

This has to be said about the dwarves: true, they don’t much like anyone else, and they’re extremely suspicious of outsiders. But once you’re accepted by them, you’re accepted for life.

Architecture and artEdit

In design, dwarven architecture tends toward circles and runes as motifs. They’re not fond of representational art, preferring instead geometric patterns. Buildings, roads, and stairs are built to be sturdy rather than decorative, and only central meeting halls and the like are decorated with ornate stonework. The dwarves are also skilled glass-workers, and are renowned all over Ashan for their mastery of the art of stained glass, which they usually use to decorate the inside of their houses, especially around their hearths. These great glass frescoes usually describe the heroic adventures of their ancestors. With the fire burning at the centre of the house, it’s like the whole history of the family comes alive on the walls.

Dwarven artwork is not representational, but rather geometric, or even abstract. Arkath, in particular, is never shown in his true form. But when one see's Ardent Dragons, one can realize it would be hard for any artist to do them justice anyway.

MilitaryEdit

In times of war, dwarven armies of Grimheim are one of the most feared fighting forces in the world. Featuring unparalleled ferocity and iron yet uncanny discipline, they can be mustered on a moment’s notice. In combat, units from various cities try to outdo each other in terms of enemies killed, banners taken and the like – war is a game and this is a way of keeping score. On the other hand, dwarves never, ever surrender. They fight to the death, even when the odds are hopelessly against them. The best death a dwarf can hope for is one in battle, against impossible odds, with a witness who will someday make a song of their deeds.

Most dwarves go into battle armed with a kite shield, a heavy single-bladed axe, and a brace of daggers. They also have other weapons hidden about their person, just in case. A dwarf is never unprepared in battle – even if it’s just with a boot dagger, a dwarf would sooner be naked than unarmed. Crossbows and siege engines are dwarven specialties, and are vastly preferred to less complicated devices like bows, slings and the like. Dwarven ballista crews are deadly accurate, and can reload and fire fast enough to break up almost any enemy advance.

While they prefer fighting underground, dwarves do occasionally muster on the surface. In the tunnels, where large bands are less useful, they build complicated defensive fortifications and traps. Dwarves who explore unknown tunnels are called Delvers, and they are often the first line of defense against an incursion by dark elves, demons and the like. Most dwarves go into battle armed with a kite shield, a heavy single-bladed axe, and a brace of daggers. They also have other weapons hidden about their person, just in case. Overall, a dwarf is never unprepared in battle.

Dwarves particularly excel at sieges, always finding new ways to undermine any fortifications they face. The Fire Cannons are a good example of that. In addition, the Fire cannon is an example of the dwarves talent for using magic for practical use. Dwarven ballista crews are deadly accurate, and can reload and fire fast enough to break up almost any enemy advance. Thanks to their ballistae, the dwarves can turn all but the most barren position into a stronghold with astonishing speed.

Thanks to the Winterwind clan, the dwarves have beasts of they're own to call upon, with bears being a favorite mount. Bears are not the only animals dwarves have been known to tame. Mountain lions, predatory birds and of course goats are common sights in Grimheim.

The Kobolds, the dwarves Beatmen allies, serve as scouts and pathfinders thanks to their strong senses.

MagicEdit

The dwarves use runes to tame and use fire magic, the "ruthless" magic that consumes the weak but gives strength and purpose to the strong. Their link to the Dragon of Fire manifests in gout's of flame, fireballs, and explosions. Being worshipers of Arkath, the Dragon of Fire, dwarves and fire are old friends, and their communion is an intensely personal ritual that most outsiders have never seen. Apart from the deadly fire spells, their magic is mainly used to instill strength in warriors, forge objects and help during sieges. 

Runic inscriptions are omnipresent in dwarven society and many dwarves have runic tattoos on their skin. Each rune corresponds to a spell, an open door for communication between the physical world and the spiritual world. Runes allow the physical properties of an object to be channeled to the Rune bearer.

Other forms of magic are used by the dwarves such as Earth and Prime magic. In some cases, the dwarves use Air Magic but only remotely.

ReligionEdit

As the Dragon of Fire is the liege of the dwarves, they are huge fans of flames, lava, fires, and forges. The Priesthood is obligatory for those who have the gold-flecked eyes mentioned in the text; there is no questioning of this calling due to the immediacy of the Dragon in their daily lives. Neither the parents nor the children question the removal of such a child to the great seminaries. While studying at the seminary the acolytes learn Dragon lore, Dragon magic, medicine, military theory, and charitable acts. They are the closest things the dwarves have to an impartial power, and are occasionally called upon to settle clan conflicts before they can destabilize the nation.

Religious observance is seen in prayers in the morning and evening as well as before meals. Forges, shrines, and hearths will have a small object to the left of the doorway – the side of the heart – that symbolizes the presence of the Dragon. Dwarves will ritually touch these upon entering and leaving these places. 

For the dwarves of Grimheim, each new volcanic eruption is an important event, an opportunity to pay tribute to their Dragon-God Arkath, and many warriors volunteer to throw themselves into the crater. The few dwarves who survive the ordeal are fused with the elements of fire and stone, becoming Fire Giants.

The leaders of the dwarven religion, the Rune Priest, is a master of Rune Magic, which creates links with the Spirit World. By tracing symbols in stone or fire, the Rune Priests can communicate with the spiritual reflection of the elements. For instance, by talking with the stone, they can facilitate the opening of new tunnels. The Rune Priests also preside over the rituals to honor their Dragon-God. When a dwarf dies, they bring his body to the volcano to ensure his soul will become one with the flames.

The spiritual ally of the dwarves, Valkyries, are Fire spirits, manifestations of Arkath. Their ashen body sports majestic wings of fire. Valkyries are born on the battlefield, when numerous dwarves die in battle, their souls then gather and, with Arkath’s blessing, they spark this powerful warrior spirit into life.

It is unknown if the dwarves worship any of the other Dragon Gods, if so it is only sparsely. As the dwarves are suspicious of outsiders, it is possible they are suspicious of the other nations' patron-gods as well but it is also likely that they respect them at the very least, since they are able to use other forms of elemental magic.

RelationsEdit

Despite being suspicious of outsiders, the dwarves have made strong alliances and hated rivalries with the other Ashan nations.

Possibly the dwarves main and prominent ally would be the Holy Empire, having allied together in the past against the demons. Many years later, the empire became the dwarves best customers in glass-working, as the churches stained-glass windows within the Empire are the work of the dwarves. Though both have a history of disputes, both remain allies.

The most hostile relation the dwarves have would be the dark elves of Ygg-Chall, as they originally fled Irollan and settled on the borders of Grimheim. Thus began their underground war, where although the dwarves won, the dark elves survived and continue to grow their new underground nation. Today they are heated rivals for underground territory.

The dwarves are known as the Wardens of the demons, as they possibly live closest to the fiery prison of Sheogh. As such the dwarves, like the Holy Empire, are hated enemies of the demons. The dwarves also hate the demons for using Fire Magic, which is popular among the demons, possibly believing they are polluting its use for spreading chaos. The dwarves have taken measures to contain the demons when a Bloodmoon Eclipse draws near, such as closing up the volcanic chimneys where the demons emerge. Obviously they can't plug up every entrance the demons emerge from, though because of their efforts, the demon Invasions during an eclipse are "much less" terrible.