Even before they made the mountains their homes, even before making contact with the tribes of men, ancient legends tell of the dwarves of Ereda as a shrewd and diligent race. Some of the oldest histories of the world are recorded in the halls of the mountain kingdoms, broad engravings that often stretch for miles with intricately carved figures at war and at rest, fighting creatures known and creatures unknown. The true meaning of these vast illustrative histories has long since been forgotten and twisted into myth and legend, the kind of which many dwarven songs and poems still regale about. One fact remains true throughout, however: a strong affinity to the earth, to craft and creation.
It is said that it was Dredden Stonehelm himself that first lead the dwarves into the mountains. He appears often in these legends as a prophet-like figure bestowing upon the dwarven people tales of morality and hierarchy. It is said that he personally tried and tested the dwarves of old and elected their leaders based on the strength of character as well as physical prowess. He warned the dwarves that they would face many threats within the mountains, some beastly and monstrous and things quantifiable, some threats that were more internal, challenges of mentality within the dark and skyless caves. But the mountains, said Dredden Stonehelm, would ultimately bring the dwarves prosperity and protection, a fortification grander than any palisade, harder to weather than wood or clay, impregnable and immovable.
So the dwarves took to several mountain ranges: some to the north, lost in the mountains that make the northernmost boarder of Norlundar, some said to have gone to dwell within the mountains of Calavria. Most mountains have folk tale surrounding them that dwarves dwell within them. The only certainty, however, are the the Kordurren Mountains are a long-spanning range that marks the border between Northern Andermark, North-Western Lancereaux and Western Damryn. It was within the the heights and depths of these mountains that the dwarves known to Ereda today forged their kingdoms.
The going was arduous. The conditions mountains saw almost constant snowfall and the rock was difficult to mine through. Cave networks that seemed promising would see years of digging and delving before they opened to a vast chasm that meant they could no longer be used and were redundant. The toil of the dwarves seemed for many years fruitless, made worse by the presence of ogre tribes that constantly plighted their settlements. Not all was hardship, however. Often these tunnels would lead to much stranger sights: forests of fungi and lakes of springwater in impossibly vast caverns as busy and as beautiful as any surface landscape. Moss and algae formed a mulch that could be cultivated like soil and allow plants to take root, unusual vegetation on which strange beasts of the depths grazed on. This unusually verdant underground allowed the dwarves to settle and harvest and breed the creatures for meat, and kept the dwarves sustained on their pilgrimage.
In the time it took them to find the heart of the mountains, the fabled site where Dredden Stonehelm had told them that they would find salvation, over a century had come and gone. The empire of Calavria had risen, the tribes of Damryn were beginning to unify. The world was a different place.
Dwarven lore tells that it was in the heart of these mountains that the dwarves found the knowledge to learn magic. The Lineage of the Stoneshaper clan find their origins here, an entire clan that swore themselves to the arts of earth elementalism to help craft the dwarven halls. It is said that they were a hundred strong and were so empowered by the new forces they wielded and so passionate about following the word of Dredden Stonehelm that they toiled for many restless years making the underhalls and upper palaces of the dwarves, shaping the stone so that it was stronger than iron, incapable of being marred or broken by any common means, an architecture of grand, stark pillars and archways, walls decorated with engravings of squared spirals and leaf-shaped knots. By the time that Calavria fell as an empire, the dwarven cities of Kordurren rose. The highest mountain of the range, Mount Elbritz, was the location of the City of Elbritz, the upper city resting in the bowl between Mount Elbritz and two neighbour peaks.
There came a king, elected by the priests of Dredden Stonehelm, the wizened Bur Grimgravel whose lineage would remain unconquered up until the Fall. With him came a senate made up in equal parts of men of craft and men of religion. The dwarves made strong the foundations of their monarchy, the power of the senate and the rights of the dwarven people over a period of some forty years. There were innumerable treaties and registrations passed, and the dwarves further saw expansion and the establishment of their lands within the mountains. The dwarven cities dug ever-downwards, progressing to accommodate both the booms in the dwarven populous and also in the pursuit of finer minerals, tougher stone, and better craft: perfection under the eyes of their god, Dredden Stonehelm.
Over the next two centuries this status quo almost remained a constant, with the the throne of Kordurren passed between proud Grimgravel son to proud Grimgravel son. The biggest change in dwarven mentalities came in unifying of the Yotunnar. It was not just the men of the world that found their tribes convening into kingdoms. A more savage alliance was emerging within the mountains and the depths. The ogres and the giants that shared territories in and around the foothills of Kordurren began to meet as allies, as did the yeti and the ettins of the north. Their uncivilised treaties were little more than oaths, pacts and blood-bonds, their crude flint weapons no match to the iron of man, elf or dwarf. But the Yotunaar were bloodthirsty, savage, and were becoming resourceful. They could navigate the tunnels better than the dwarves and were moving to draw allies from further afield. Under a crude banner and sigil, the Yotunaar’s first strike was a devastating attack on the city of Blackmount, one of the northern cities of Kordurren.
There were less than one hundred survivors of the destruction of Blackmount. Word almost did not reach the King of the coming Yotunaar, but when it did, the king responded. Dwarven mail was sturdy, dwarven blades were keen, and dwarven spirit was ferocious. It took very little to rally the already outraged dwarves. The Yotunaar were met in the caverns of the mountains and were thwarted in their campaign, a victory in no small part down to superior dwarven craftsmanship. The priests of Dredden Stonehelm heralded this as a sure sign that they had been good to their god in their working of metal and stone, but must not grow lax: the Yotunaar were sent as a test, a much stronger force than the small clans of ogre-kin that had plighted them before. The Yotunaar would return stronger than before. As such, the dwarves must too strengthen their efforts.
It was in light of their battles against the Yotunaar that the dwarves sought the allegiance of man. Ambassadors representing the kith of Kordurren were sent to Andermark. They were unwilling to join the Realm, too proud of their herritage to become amalgamated with the lifestyle of humans, but found that stones and minerals that they had ample of in the mountains were precious to humans. A strong relationship of trade with the Realm began, not only for the gems and metals that the dwarves mined, but also for dwarven-crafted goods. In return the dwarves bought agricultural produce that they otherwise could not grow, as well as lumber to help create vast scaffolds to reach and populate areas under the mountains that they otherwise did not have the resources for.
It was not just man that the dwarves reached for trade, however. The Kordurren dwarves sought out dwarves of other ranges. Their diplomatic envoys would always traverse above-ground, as even the far-reaching dwarven tunnels leading to the fastness of Kordurren did not have any secure and direct routes that far north or east. Trading establishments were made with the Kith of the Northwall in Norlundar and the Kith of Carpathine. As their cultures stemmed from that same cause, of finding prosperity in the heart of the mountains, the dwarves of other kindoms had sufficient similarities to allow for at least a basic communications. Soon the Kiths learned the intricacies of eachother’s traditions to cause no further insult. Trade between the Kingdoms was sufficiently long and arduous to make it only worth the finest of what each kingdom had to offer, and as such dwarves of other kingdoms didn’t see much of each other at all. A baseborn dwarf of Kordurren that saw one of the Kith of the Northwall or the Carpathine was in their lifetime was fortunate indeed.
This time of trade saw a great deal of change within dwarven society over a long period of time. As they began to explore and populate more of the depths of the Korudrren range, newfound wealth meant that particularly prosperous families had money which could be spent on luxuries. The emergence of the aristocracy amongst dwarves was due to several families becoming highly respectable blacksmiths, jewelers, carpenters and masons and, almost simultaneously, charging higher prices for works with their seal on and the coming generations living off the accumulated wealth and the legacy of their forefathers rather than working the craft. Those that could afford rarer gemstones took to having them fashioned into jewelery and clothing, and soon the pride of heritage and heirlooms became convoluted by the desire for ceremony and frivolity. It wasn’t unknown for nobles to have the weapons that serviced their ancestors in the wars with the yotunaar when the cities were founded and have them reforged to be more lavish and ornate, quite often ruining the functionality of said weapon.
Over generations this aristocracy lead the charge of inter-dwarven relationships as they were able to finance the production of under passages that would lead directly to neighbouring cities and the armoured wagons that would travel above ground. The wealth of the dwarven kingdoms fell more and more into the hands of the aristocracy through trade agreements, money begetting more money, until they became an overruling powerhouse. Workers and miners tended to live deeper in the depths, closer to sites of expansion. As the buildings of the upper tiers emptied the aristocracy had them converted to larger and finer housing for themselves. The surface-palaces of the senators and high nobles remained defensible bastions externally, but their interiors became more lavish and ornate.
Four years before the Fall, Iorik Elderforge, nephew to the then King of Kordurren, invested a great deal of his own personal wealth in one of the largest downward-expansions that the dwarves would ever see. The Endless Gulf were depths so vast that no light nor surveyor had ever glimpsed the bottom of it. Working on estimations acquired by seers, Iorik’s expedition was a bold one into the relatively unknown. That unknown yielded a secondary assault of from the Yotunaar. The lower reaches of the Endless Gulf lead directly to one of the Yotunaar’s stronghold and, as predicted, this new-found assault was more devastating than the last. A surge of enemy forces so close to some of the interconnecting passages between some of the higher populated cities and underfarms.
The Yotunaar assault was pushed back after a good several months of almost persistent conflict which saw massive damage done to the agriculture of Kordurren. The opportunistic Yotunaar specifically targeted farmsteads to deplete dwarven resources. Whilst their intention to starve the dwarves out was not realised, the impact was significant. Stores were stretched over the coming years and the dwarves did not recover from the assaults. Poor seasons for harvest saw starvation rise amongst the baseborn and food thinning amongst the aristocracy. A problem of such a scale that effected the higher echelons of society naturally saw the senate responding. The senate passed the Accumulation and Redistribution Act which stated that all produce grown on the territories of Kordurren is property first and foremost to the King and, as such, would be gathered by the King and redistributed amongst the baseborn and the nobility in ‘fair and reasonable’ amounts in order to make best the produce of the Kingdom.
This, it could be argued, was the beginning of the baseborn dwarves resenting their social superiors. The ‘fair and reasonable’ amounts saw most baseborn farms only have a tenth of their produce returned to them, significantly less than they needed to eat well, let alone to trade amongst other baseborn, let alone externally. The Accumulation and Redistribution Act served only to ensure that the aristocracy were kept well-fed and comfortable.
By the time of the Fall, one in every seven baseborn dwarves had starved to death. The baseborn were collapsing under the weight of the aristocracy, and they were beginning to act out. Armed units were bought with the promise of food to suppress the revolutionary talk and anti-monarchist sentiments that were beginning to foster in the lower cities. The miners of several pits went on strike, only to be fired upon by soldiers bought by the senate. Farmers who refused to hand over food were detained and the lands were given to loyalist dwarves. The great forges that heated the upper palaces were shut down and even sabotaged. All across the kingdom of Kordurren, a revolution was brewing. King, senate and noble moved swiftly and violently oppress the revolution before it grew worse.
Before it grew worse, the Legion came.
The dwarves within Andermark today come exclusively from the dwarven city of Baradzhur, the city north of Starkholm. Due to the distances between dwarven kingdoms being so vast and hazardous, the ways usually traversed by the marauding yotunaar, most of the eastern kingdoms fell to the Legion without having received any warning. Baradzhur barely had any warning: Andermark’s best efforts to inform the dwarves were in vain as the mountain passes were flooded with Yotunaar, uprooted and fleeing as the Legion destroyed all in their wake.
The dwarves of Baradzhur recieved barely half a day’s warning as a refugee party miraculously found their way through the lower tunnels from a city further East that had fallen to the Legion. It might be argued that what happened next was a decision made to ensure the survival of the masses, or it might be argued that the dwarves saw the Legion’s coming as a chance for an uprising against the aristocrats that had made the lower-classes all but slaves.
Called The Great Supression by both mentalities, this was the definitive act that defines the dwarven people today. When the Legion were confirmed to be marching through the mountains, the dwarves of Baradzhur sealed off access to their underground, leaving the nobility stranded in their above-ground mansions. They cut off all heat and water from the surface, uncertain of how long they would need to remain underground and how much fuel they would need to preserve. When the nobles caught sight of the Legion’s coming, they tried to flee underground but found that all passages were shut and sealed. They pleaded for their life, but the Legion was upon them, and to open those vaults would have meant certain doom for those that were underground.
That is the story the dwarves of the New Dwarven Order tell, at least. The dwarves of Baradzhur lost less to the Legion than they did to starvation brought about by the Accumulation and Redistribution Act. Having no love for their king or their senate, General Aekster is recognised as the leader of the New Dwarven Order, the very General that ordered the sealing of the vaults, and it is that dispatches diplomats to Starkholm today.
Before the Fall
Whilst it would be inaccurate to say that each dwarf was happy with their lot in life, the dwarven mentality was always a devout one under the will of their god, Dredden Stonehelm, as interpreted by the Clergy of Stonehelm. Dredden Stronehelm knew order and security through hierarchy and hard work. A goal worthy of Dredden was a goal that was demanding both mentally and physically, a goal perhaps unobtainable in a single lifetime, and a goal that would never truly be complete and always see the pursuit of further perfection. This was the fundamental mentality of the majority of dwarves in Kordurren: one must never be satisfied with what one has, else they risk becoming lethargic. The dwarves were, thus, fairly progressive within the restrictions of hierarchy.
It cannot be overstated that there was a huge gulf between the working classes and the aristocracy. The nobility of the dwarves was a class exclusive for the king, senators, the priesthood and wealthy families, numbering about 10% of the overall dwarven population. The rest were the ‘baseborn’, viewed and celebrated as the hard-working and unwavering foundation of the success of the dwarves. These baseborn were the farmers and underfarmers, the miners, smiths, masons and the merchants, and even the soldiers that risked their lives in the continuing plight against the Yotunaar. Their lives were arduous, with dwarven men, women and children working up to sixteen hours of every day in the pits or at the forges. But up until the Fall, this was never really questioned. To go against the social hierarchy of the dwarves was to go against the word of Dredden Stonehelm, and no dwarf had the right to speak against the will of their god, not even their king. It was an insult to the heritage and sufferance of the dwarves of old that first breached the mountains to even consider fracturing from this lifestyle.
As such, the baseborn toiled, even when the aristocracy began to build their homes conveniently over the baseborn forges so that the heat of them would warm their halls. Any attitudes of discontent were usually repressed and only really allowed to foster come the deterioration of the Kordurren farmsteads and the Accumulation and Redistribution Act. Even then, it was not until the Fall that any dwarf dared enact any form of political or social uprising. The most it saw was a rise in satirical plays and songs as an outlet for their frustration.
The nobles of Kordurren enjoyed a much more diverse lifestyle than the baseborn. Whilst not every noble worked, there were some that still continued to produce hallmarked weaponry within the later years of the kingdom. Along with their weapons becoming more ceremonial and less functional, so too did armour. The fashion of the nobility surrounded a blend of the extravagant yet understated. Art, music, recreational activities and sports were mostly the product of an aristocracy with a lot of time on their hands. The baseborn would enjoy a game of rhon as much as a noble, but their ballparks were the streets and their goals were marks painted on the side of buildings, not purpose-built stadiums with wall-mounted hoops that the nobles enjoyed.
The nobility had not entirely forgotten the pursuit of betterment that Dredden Stonehelm had taught the dwarves, but their pursuit turned into matters of finance and coin rather than crafting and hard work. They perceived themselves to be overseers that inspired the dwarven populous under them to keep working, examples of worthy dwarves dressed in finery that stood as examples of the pinnacle of dwarven achievements, encapsulations of Dredden Stonehelm’s ideals made manifest, blessed by the hard work of their forefathers. Every baseborn aspired to sample a noble’s life whilst they had time in the world to do so, but it was widely believed that even the luxuries of the nobles would not compare to what awaited them in the heavens.
After the Fall
Capital: Elbritz Head of State: General Alekster Legislative Body: Dictatorship Population Density: High Religions: None Motto: A People United, A People Served Primary Language: Dwarven
It was the Accumulation and Redistribution Act that fostered the atmosphere of rebellion, but it was the Fall that saw the drastic change. The Great Suppression has not only seen a drastic turn around in the perceptions dwarven mentalities, but also in the way dwarves are perceived by the survivors of the Fall. Under their new military regime, the dwarves argue that the only way their culture could have survived was by sealing off the lower reaches of the city. Those that were aware of the growing discontent of the dwarven baseborn find themselves entertaining notions that this was a hostile takeover and the aristocracy was left above the surface to suffer at the hands of the Legion, the dwarves using the foreign menace to enact the slaughter they wanted without dirtying their own hands.
At the Last Battle of Starkholm, Dredden Stonehelm did not materialise. Every other god, the four gods of the United Church, the Elven god and the minor gods all descended from the Heavens in physical form and set about the battlefield, thwarting the Legion. The absence of Dredden Stonehelm has lead to a vast number of theories from priests of other clergies, scholars and everyman alike, be it that Dredden was somehow incapable of it, or that he had abandoned the dwarves to the Legion as a result. It might be this that caused the decline in worship of Dredden Stonehelm, or the decline of numbers that truly followed the faith that causes Dredden’s absence.
In the years after the Fall, most of the dwarves that live around Starkholm have done so to try and foster relationships anew betweeen Andermark and Baradzhur, but to relatively little success. It is this that marks both the attitudes towards dwarves and the attitudes of dwarves themselves. Some have a hard time ignoring the implications of if the upheaval was intentional or not. To look at the military regime of the New Dwarven Order is to look at a people that are intimidatingly efficient and organised after a period of disaster and ruin and to see a people do so well out of the Fall can be uncomfortable to stomach. Dwarven craftsmanship still remains a sign of quality, but there are those amongst the nobles that can afford such wears that believe the Great Suppression was an opportunistic strike against their aristocracy are, as such, reticent to buy anything marked with a brand of social upheaval and chaos. If there are any dwarves out there that remain loyal to the arisocracy, their presence has been a covert one.
While dwarves do not possess a 'peasantry' as humans would recognise it, with the rise of an aristocracy came the ineviable formation of a lay-class. These were the miners, gatherers and farmers, the people actually performing the menial tasks necessary for an economy to function. However, because of the philosophies of Stonehelm, these workers considered their toil to be of great importance, providing a service to the dwarven community as a whole.
Following the Great Suppression, many dwarves have returned to these hard-working roots, seeking to rebuild the unified society under the new military regime. While the dogma of the Clergy of Stronghelm has largly left, the lower levels of Dwarven society know hard work is necessary to rebuild after the Legion swept throught the land for the race of Dwarves to prosper.
Before the Legion came, Dwarven society maintained a regular militia to deal with the raiding Yotunaar. In the times of food shortages, the aristocracy even turned the militia on the baseborn classes to maintain order. It is rumoured that it was the Military that began shutting the gates to the mountains, sealing the aristocracy on the outside.
Following the Great Suppression, dwarven warriors follow the command of the General at the time, General Alekster. Seving as defenders of the state and maintainers of the peace, the warrior class are undoubtable the new power behind dwarven society. Favouring axes and hammers, dwarven fighters are experienced at fighting Yotunaar, and are well-versed in using mages in combat.
The Dwarven nobles were those who had become sufficiently wealthy that others could do their work for them. They tended to live above groundwhere the heat from furnaces and forges would heat their homes. They enjoyed lives of luxury, with ornate jewelery and ornamental weaponry commonplace, often with little or no functional use. They were able to lay claim to the supplies when the Yotunaar skirmishes lead to shortages, meaning many of them survived.
As far as is known, the noble classes were wiped out when the underclasses sealed them out of the mountains, with the Legion tearing through the upper levels. The wealth they had was redistibuted amongst the military and the survivors. If any of the Dwarven aristocracy survived the Legion, what power they had was gone.
Arts and Entertainment
Dwarves are familiar with magic, particularly that of shaping the earth.
Perspectives on Other Races and Nations
The Iron Empire