The Fall of the Dwarven Halls
Many decades ago, the dwarves discovered that a secret network of cultists had been operating within their clans, clandestinely practicing dark rituals and performing bloody sacrifices. The clan leaders united themselves in an effort to wipe out this religion, and their investigations revealed something startling: not only had these cults infiltrated many of the larger clans, a handful of the smaller clans had been completely taken over by this cult. It took several years of fighting before the last of these cultists were expelled from their halls. Those who surrendered were exiled to the wilderness, and their shrines and clan halls were sealed off.
These former cultists, known simply as The Exiled, were forced to make new lives for themselves in the wilds. Many of them fled east, beyond the borders of The Northwest Barony, but some have stayed in the area since then, sometimes causing trouble for travelers and merchants. The Exiled are usually poorly equipped, and some appear to be diseased or even insane, so they never posed a serious threat to the clans.
About a year ago, it was discovered that the cult had risen again in power. Some of the old shrines had been broken in to, and dark rites were again being practiced. This time, however, the cultists had obtained greater power. Through necromantic arts they commanded the bodies and spirits of the dead. Strange, inhuman creatures were summoned to their aid through unspeakable rituals. Entire clans perished or went insane – corrupted by malevolent forces or driven mad by unearthly horror – and there was no hope left but to flee. As they made their escape through the wilderness, many were cut down by The Exiled, who seemed to be waiting for just this opportunity to strike.
In the end, those few dwarves who managed to survive found themselves in Kelgar’s Holdfast. If any dwarves remain in the old halls, it is a safe bet that they are either cultists or desperate survivors who may have already been driven mad.
Dwarves have three parts to their names: their first name, their family name, and their clan name. For example: Grunlo Brud Horvurg, Rugar Dern Horvurg, Vord Halgo Gursvemer.
Dwarven religion is a form of ancestor worship and animism. Dwarves pray to earth spirits for blessings, good harvests, fair weather, etc.. They pray to the spirits of their ancestors for guidance and strength in troubled times. The Imperial Church would probably be more alarmed by these practices if dwarven priests showed any sign of spell casting ability. Since dwarven priests appear to be without any supernatural power, and since the dwarven religion hasn’t spread to the men of the barony, the church sees this as relatively harmless paganism and has decided to leave the dwarves alone for the time being.
Those dwarves who have sworn themselves to the dark cult are are another matter. The cultists have tossed aside traditional dwarven beliefs and aligned themselves with some otherworldly force. in doing so, the priests of this cult have unlocked great magical power. The Imperial Church is very concerned about this, and some say that the cultists have tapped in to the same dark sources of power as The Elves.
Dwarven society is divided into clans – ancient tribal groups that evolved through the ages to build vast underground cities. Each clan is distinct patriarchal society, governed by a council made up of the heads of each family. Theses councils prefer to solve problems practically and efficiently, but politics and bureaucracy sometimes get in the way. Several times throughout the year, representatives from each clan would meet to form a tribunal and vote on policies and issues affecting dwarven society as a whole.
The dwarves have always been a proud and – up until recently – self reliant people. Duty and honor to clan and family is the principal factor in dwarven culture. Oaths are not made lately, and those who break them are often exiled.
Dwarves are a varied lot, and there are no shortages of individuals to defy every stereotype they have been saddled with so far. It is said that they are humorless, but dwarven storytellers have no trouble making their kinfolk laugh with bawdy yarns and clever satire. Many regard them as gruff and rude, but this is really just a misunderstanding of the directness and honesty of their speech. They are said to be drunkards, but they don’t seem to enjoy their drink any more or any less than the men of the holdfast. They are said to be unaffectionate with each other, but dwarven families are closely knit and children are prized and cherished.
One reputation the dwarves do deserve is their endurance and ferocity in battle. Scouting parties report that the dwarves in their groups fight like devils and show little fear when confronted with violence and danger. If this is indeed true, whatever drove the dwarves from their homes must be a force to be reckoned with.
Although not every dwarf is a craftsman, those that are tend to be highly skilled at their trades. The baron recently appointed a dwarf as the holdfast’s master builder, and dwarven smiths are reputed to forge the highest quality weapons and armor that men have ever seen.
The Dwarven Clans
There are four clans that have survived the recent fighting, each of which has taken refuge at Kelgar’s Holdfast. There are some survivors from other clans, but most of them have since undertaken the oaths and rituals required to bind themselves to one of the four clans listed below.
The Horvurgs pride themselves on being the best stoneworkers in the land. Their master builders were frequently sought out by the other clans to assist with more complex projects.
Motto: “Strength and Valor”
The Dubgroden clan claims to produce the strongest warriors of all the dwarven clans. They were the last of the clans to flee their homes. Some of the other clans consider the Dubgrodens to be reckless and foolhardy.
Motto: “Honor and Tradition”
The Gursvemer clan are renowned for their whiskeys. They are the most widely traveled of the dwarven clans and have produced many successful merchant families.
The Dorbag clan is the most insular of the dwarven clans. They have reputations for being exceedingly grim and antisocial. They have many master blacksmiths, and their weapons and armor are unmatched in quality.