A Candle in the Dark
The dwarves are an ancient people and have a culture as rich as any in Eredane. Dwarven society is structured along familial lines, and like the Dorns, clan loyalty and honor lie at the center of their lives. Historical records indicate that in the First Age there were more than 600 dwarven clanholds spread throughout the Kaladrun Mountains. Now there are fewer than 200 and this number continues to fall as the Shadow advances.
The clan is the basic dwarven social and political unit. The smallest clans may contain as few as 100 individuals and the largest many thousands. Alliances between the clans are fluid, complicated affairs, most typically formed by intermarriage or common enemies. In bygone days, skirmishes between the various clans were common, but in the past centuries of war, such hot-bloodedness has instead been spent against the forces of Izrador. For matters of governance that affect all dwarves, great clanmoots were once called where representatives of each clan would meet in raucous assemblies to determine collective courses of action. The cantankerous and aggressive nature of these meetings is a reflection of dwarven clan relations at large.
In addition to the clan structure of dwarven society, there is another important social distinction within the dwarven culture. Most dwarves, about four out of every five clans, live underground in their warren-like holdfasts that are carved out of the hard flesh of the mountains. The remaining clans are called the Kurgun, the surface dwellers. The Kurgun still live in the old dwarven surface cities of the southern Kaladruns that predate the First Age and the digging of the holdfasts.
Dwarves are a stout race, with short thick bones and heavy muscles. Their heads and chins—and most of the rest of their bodies, for that matter—are covered in thick hair in a variety of pale colors. These colors typically indicate an individual’s clan heritage, as do the jeweled bangles they wear in their heavy braids. Dwarves tend to blue eyes, and most have light, ruddy skin that only turns redder in the sun. They wear heavy goat-hair clothes, tunics of supple metal lamé‚ and orthide boots.
The Kurgun have darker skin from their lives in the sun and tend to long black hair that they wear bound in multiple ponytails. They are slightly taller and a bit leaner than their underground brethren, but only other dwarves seem to notice this difference. More noticeable are the intricate, abstract tattoos with which Kurgun decorate their bodies from a very young age, giving them a fearsome and primal look. By the time a Kurgun is very old, there is very little unmarked skin left on his body. The patterns trace the lineages of individuals, and supposedly other Kurgun can match son to father and father to son simply by looking at the patterns. Kurgun dress in goat leather and typically wear vests made of small, intricately carved metal plates.
Most dwarves live in underground cities that are warrens of chambers, rooms, and great halls, all constantly being expanded by mining. The original proximity of the clans to one another, combined with their constant expansion throughout the millennia, have turned much of the central Kaladrun Mountains into a bewildering maze of tunnels and passages. The range contains countless pathways and chambers, large and small, new and old, occupied and forgotten.
The Kurgun, on the other hand, live in small surface villages and the few remaining ancient cities of dwarven prehistory. Their stonecutters and masons have kept these old places strong and whole and have turned most into stout fortresses against the orc invaders. Though the Kurgun spend much of their time above ground, their communities invariably sit above underground holdfasts to which they, like their brethren, may retreat in times of need.
Dwarves live on diets of goat and ort meat, cave peppers, and a variety of savory mushroom species. The Kurgun are the only dwarves that do any true surface farming, and trade much of their vegetable crops to other clans for raw metal ore. Though dwarves were once known as the smiths of Eredane, their work has become a rarity in the surface world. They have grown increasingly isolationist since the end of the Second Age, trading only with the gnomes and only for necessities. Since the fall of Erenland, the clanholds have severed almost all contact with the world beyond their mountains, and all their craft has now been turned to their race’s continuing survival.
The dwarves are master weaponsmiths and armorers and rival the elves in the art of enchanting armaments. Any weapon long used by a dwarf soon earns a name, and its history can become a legacy passed down in the history of the clan. Weapons that have proven themselves are often subsequently enchanted by the loremasters of the dwarven clans, with more spells being laid upon the weapon as its glory waxes. Every clan has its armory of hereditary weapons that feature prominently in their legends and their war cries. One of the greatest honors a clan can bestow on one of its kin is to deign her worthy of carrying one of these weapons into battle. Dwarves prefer to fight with short-handled battleaxes and hammers or thick-bladed knives in the confines of the underground. The Kurgun prefer to fight with paired, long-handled hatchets called urutuk, which are just as deadly when thrown as when used in a crazed flurry of blows.