Dwarves, or Fedarshin, are a race of short, sturdily built folk who live primarily underground in isolated strongholds typically called forts, or holds. The Dwarves don't fit in on Mundus. They have a compulsive urge to dig, to scrape away dirt and to strike the earth, and seek out something in the deep. They combat these urges with obligation. Dwarves value anything that can keep them focused on life, even if the depths of are never far from their mind. Dwarves also know, instinctively, what the moment of their death by age will be, down to the second. They do not know how, or where, but they know when. Many Dwarves, upon reaching an old age and knowing their time has come, will finally indulge in one final dig, heading down to die in the deep, as so many have done before.
The Dwarves, however distant their holds, share at least some commonalities between them, though many have adopted elements of the local cultures of the lands they move to.
It isn't always practical... Or even possible, for them to live their traditional lifestyle in some lands. Dwarves in the desert, for example, cannot easily tunnel to make their traditional subterranean homes. If possible they will still attempt to find rocky areas to dig in, or cliffs to dig into, but sometimes they will settle for building fortresses above ground.
The commonalities are normally their system of governance, whereby they maintain a single "immortal" king who is played by a long succession of rulers chosen by a council of elders. Where this system falters, generally the Dwarves simply end up assimilating into local human, or even elvish culture.
Elves generally don't like dwarves, though this varies. The Ohanedin of Iber despise dwarves because of a war they fought long ago, called "The Iron Dust War," in which dire atrocities were committed by each side. The Ohanedin were eventually victorious through a scorched-earth campaign, wherein they burned their own forests, killed many (some stories, likely exaggerated, say as many as a million) human farmers, and hunted a local breed of wild pigs to extinction to deny the dwarves forage, and then starved the hold out over the course of a decade.
There are no dwarves in North Iber now, but those in the South still remember their ancient foes, and many contribute to the Green Order's attempts to contain the Ohanedin in their hilly homes. The primary Hold there is Karu-Venda, the only subculture of dwarves known to ride horses. Really they're more like ponies, but they are very stout, and the mounted crossbows of Karu-Venda are some of the few rivals to the Ohanedin's mastery of horse in rough terrain.
Dwarvish assimilation into Elvish societies is rare, but it does happen. Some Burdinadin Glades have a substantial Dwarf population, though generally Dwarves in a non-structured environment just stop breeding, and eventually die out. They're a very ritualistic people, and when surrounded by a bunch of NEETs, they tend to just stop caring about anything except their dumb hobbies--much like actual NEETs.
A place where Dwarves have a surprisingly large presence is in Helian lands. The Orredin don't think of the Dwarves as being particularly better than humans or Zells, but they do recognize their uses, and so are willing to humor their rituals and culture in return for their services. The Dark, the small mountain of garbage beneath Helion itself, has a substantial Dwarf population that function more or less as a Hold, except with an Orredin magistrate taking the role of their King. Since the Orredin is immortal, he has thusfar filled the same role as one of their own kings.
That Orredin, Atticus Fangoon (he changed his surname as a concession to the dwarves) is a mild-mannered introvert who spends most of his time drinking wine, painting, and letting more qualified people administer his kingdom. The Dwarves of Nox call him "The Even Tempered," a reference to the fact that his Mood has never changed. Perhaps ironically, this arrangement has worked out extremely well for everyone, and Nox, despite literally being a pile of rubbish, enjoys a very high standard of living and great wealth.
Dwarves as a whole could be said to be more stoic, and less thoughtful than other peoples. A dwarf is not likely to spend a great deal of time thinking about what something means, or about the morality or ethics of something he has to do, so long as it falls within the parameters set for him by the principles of his society. As a people, they decide upon a course of action, and then take it, whatever it may be, with the seriousness and efficiency of a machine.
This means that dwarves always seem either know what they're doing, or be completely inactive. If they cannot discern what the correct course of action is, generally they just don't take one, even if trying something--anything--would be better than sitting around. Thankfully for them, their social codes tend to account for just about everything, so very rarely will a dwarf end up stumped. They're a no-nonsense sort of folk, and while they might get a bit chuckly and prone to jokes when they're drinking, they still don't let anything deter them from their proper course of action.
In person they are friendly, as only a race of alcoholics can be, and they have a very high tolerance for banter and even rudeness, so long as no actual affront is made to their honor or property. They also despise deceit, except in the protection of dignity. A dwarf expects white lies, but despises any excuse-making or deceit when it comes to matters of business or safety. If a dwarf drinks too much and cannot attend a wedding, he might make an excuse that he is sick, and it would be accepted, but to make excuses for failure, or ineptitude, is one of the highest crimes that can be committed in dwarvish culture. Apologizing, especially if it is in a wretched and teary manner, is considered more dignified than making up an excuse.
Characteristics[edit | edit source]
Dwarves stand about 4'10 tall, with black or brown hair, often braided with metals and stone insignias woven in. Their compact, stocky frames weigh about as much as humans who stand a foot or more taller. Females stand almost exactly the same height, but lack beards, and have softer (if still very sturdy) facial features. Dwarves can see in the dark. They are hardy, and very resistant to injury, toxin, and hardship, and are famous for their capacity for drink. They are also long lived, though not immortal, and after reaching adulthood at about 20, many live to the very old age of 200, though interestingly, Dwarves never become decrepit, they simply persist in a sort of middle age until dropping dead.
Culture & Society[edit | edit source]
Dwarvish culture varies greatly depending on the Hold in question, but most Dwarvish communities are is close-kit, communal, and clannish. As a people they enjoy very little privacy, unless they are willing to go through great effort for it, and have very little concept of personal space. This extends to most layers of their culture. Meals are eaten in large communal messes, most dwarves sleep in barracks-like rooms with dozens of others. Their social behavior is rowdy and loud — Dwarvish singing is famous for its volume, and their music in general is very energetic, which is surprising to outsiders who think of the Fedarshin as a dour and staid people.
Individuals are inducted into different "societies" within the hold based on their aptitudes in youth. Diggers dig, Crafters craft, Traders trade, and so on. Each society exchanges its services with the others as a group to ensure that all of their members are taken care of, though this relationship is not always harmonious, and dwarves fall through the cracks all the time.
Dwarves tend to enter a Society through their family's teachings, but the hierarchy within the Society is determined by capability. As such, Clans with long histories within a certain Society can hold great influence within them, and are unwilling to give up their secrets.
Trade[edit | edit source]
Contact with outsiders is greatly restricted, and trade with the general public is often divided into two groups, the “outer” market, where strangers and poor traders trade at inflated prices, and the “inner” market, where trusted merchants are allowed to see the real stock without price-gouging.
Dwarves do need trade. There are things they simply cannot acquire for themselves, and cannot live comfortably without. However, they are resolute in not being exploited by foreigners. Dwarven traders are always determined to get the best out of any deal, though they are (usually) above outright lies and selling bad product. In the outer market, basics are traded, and necessities bought.
The inner market, however, is where foreigners can gain access to the finer pieces of Dwarvish artisanship. Exquisite pottery and textiles braided with the same meticulous skill with which the Dwarves braid their own beards, incredible clockwork devices, and jewelry of incomparable beauty and splendor. Many royal regalias are adorned with gemstones from the inner markets of Dwarven holds.
To gain access to the inner market, a merchant must have a mark, a tattoo given by the hold's inkweaver (chief tattooist) that recognizes him as a friend of the Dwarves. Often these tattoos are given only after a merchant family has been trading fairly and capably with the Dwarves for several generations, and the merchant's sons will carry on the right to trade with them as well, so long as they are brought to receive the mark as he did.
Dwarven goods are of obscenely high quality, but growingly, their exquisite craftsmanship has begun to meet competition, both from the Burdinadin’s precision engineering, and from the raw mass-production power of some human production houses.
Writing[edit | edit source]
The Dwarvish system of writing, which is written as dots in three columns going downwards, was born of their primary means of identification in the dark tunnels, where facial features are hard to discern: Thick beards (or necklaces, for women) with large elaborate braids studded with beads, clever knots, and medals, allowed individuals to recognize each other by “reading” them.
Many dwarves of status take great pride in their elaborate, dignified beards, while those who leave the Holds usually either cease the practice, after realizing that nobody can read their beards except dwarves, or else increase the practice and flatter themselves by braiding their beads ostentatiously, perhaps for that very same reason.
Governance[edit | edit source]
Internally, each Hold is ruled by an anonymous King, who sits upon a stone throne in the deepest heart of the Hold, and wears the Hold’s ancestral mask. The King chooses his own successor by merit, and the death of the King is never announced officially, most Dwarf Holds have only ever had one King. Instead, each new King is called a “Mood”, such that King Ulric may have had the Mood of Reform, the Mood of Innovation, the Mood of The Rat War, and the Mood of Decadent Feasting over the course of several centuries.
The Call[edit | edit source]
Dwarves have a deep, overriding urge to dig. Those who tear themselves away from the underground eventually lose this urge, but for most Dwarves it’s a constant presence in their minds. If they begin to dig, Dwarves find that it is difficult to stop, and if left to their own devices, most would simply dig until they died of thirst in the deep, hammering ever downwards in an ecstasy of picking.
The Dwarves know this as “The Call,” and they consider it a natural thing. Most of them combat it with alcohol, as a a drunk dwarf becomes temporarily deaf to The Call. A common strategy for ambitious miners is to carry two canteens, one with water, and one with strong turnip-wine or dark ale. After the water runs out, the Dwarf will quickly become intoxicated enough to realize that he’s out of supplies, and return to the surface.
Of course, this is a dangerous technique, given Dwarven alcohol resistance, and also given the carelessness of drunken miners, so the foreman and overseers of Dwarvish dig operations usually drink enough to keep the edge off at all times, so that they can spot anyone who has spilled his drink, or watered down their ale too much to pull themselves away from the pick.
"The Dwarves we envisioned as fighting subterranean wars all the time, and basing their way of fighting off of that. They tunnel and crawl through dark dirt and stone to outflank Goblins or Elves or other, far darker threats in the deep, and then fall upon them with short maces and swords, knives, knuckledusters, or weaponized mining picks. Armor is a luxury that in the deep, claustrophobic and often dangerous dark may not be appropriate. Dwarves are more interested in moving silently, being able to climb and crawl quickly out of danger or poisonous gas, and being able to outrun cave-ins than they are worried about arrows (from where!?) or stray blows. It's pretty cold underground, so a lot of them wear thick furs or coats. Expect to see more trench knives than axes.
When they fight aboveground, we sort of pictured them using earthworks and and fighting Hussite-style, trying to force their style of engagement onto everyone else, because in a straight fight they wouldn't really know what to do." — Jimmy Rome
Religion[edit | edit source]
Dwarven religion is essentially an unspoken secret within Dwarven community. They very vehemently deny the deific status of the various gods, considering Genosus, Bocanadessia, and The Seven to be essentially glorified spirits.
However, they never speak of the god they believe does exist. This is because they all know, without having to be told, that The King is real. The Call of the Deep claims almost all of the Federshin eventually, but they are loathe to speak of who exactly is doing the calling.
Dwarven religion is essentially a set of inborn beliefs that all Dwarves share, but never express to each other, except perhaps early in childhood, where it is sharply repressed. They are aware that they all have the compulsion to dig to their deaths in the deep, but none of them are willing to say that it is because they can hear the voice of their dwarvish god urging them to do so. Most assume that they are the only ones who can discern the words. In fact, they all can.
Whenever a colony of dwarves begins to realize this, it inevitably destroys itself. The sense of relief at not being isolated within their own isolated community almost invariably results in a sort of unconscious mass-suicide, as the Dwarves lose their inhibitions, their shame-based society collapses, and they ultimately dig themselves to death.
Heroes[edit | edit source]
Tibor Kark was an ancient Dwarvish warrior, supposedly of the bloodline of the First Dwarves.
His skill was said to be such that he could slay his foes not with blades or weapons, but with his bare hands. He and his merry band traveled in a great vessel, seeking out new spots for Holds, and charting much of Vosca, long before man first arrived on the continent. Statues of him adorn many halls, and the sagas of his journey, written in his own hand, set the pattern for all Dwarven poetry thereafter. Famous for sounding very stilted and uneven to the human ear, the nuance of the Saga of Kark is in the fact that it can be an agonizing tragedy, a merciless satire, or a raunchy comedy depending on what the reciter emphasizes.
Lorn, Son of Thorn, Son of Krathorn, is a more martial hero. Famous for his skill with his silver-steel sword, and for his Orichalcum helm, his saga is full of repeated lines about how he struck so well that "from his foe's head a disk of skull was shorne cleanly as a plate," and these stories seem to be true, as many of these skull-plates are still in existence, and can be found, carefully engraved and given as gifts or trophies to various Holds.
Lorn was the greatest warrior of his Hold, Lagodan, and fought bravely against goblins, Din, and men alike in defense of it. Lagodan was a Hold in what is now known as Lagoria, and the feuding between the Dwarves of Lagodan and the Ohanedin of the North was legendary. Lorn and his people fought long against them, and were finally overtaken at the Final Battle of Lagodan, and perished in a great last stand against the Ohanedin warlord Baxxol Zagor. In this battle, Lorn was said to have slain twenty five foes, ten of them "knights" of great skill and renown, before, wounded and exhausted, he was slain himself in single combat with Zagor--and even then, only after inflicting terrible wounds on the Din.
Ecology[edit | edit source]
The Dwarvish diet is very similar to that of humans, with a few exceptions. Dwarves can ingest extremely toxic substances without fear, and their diet includes many things that would be outright poisonous to men or elves. Dwarves are also highly resistant to the effects of alcohol, and have had to develop singularly strong mixes to achieve the same effect as humans get from softer drinks. Because the Dwarvish eye is much more optimized for tracking the outline of shapes than it is for discerning fine details within those shapes, Dwarves have trouble identifying people by their facial features.
Dwarves mate for life, and rarely seek a second mate if separated from the first by death or misfortune.
Cuisine[edit | edit source]
Dwarves do grow some of their own food. Mushrooms are the most common crop, grown in specialized caverns as a staple. Sadly, while Dwarves do love a good mushroom, they don't make for terribly good alcohol.
Some Dwarves do actually perform agriculture above ground, usually at night. Sorghum and barley are the staples (wheat is too difficult to grow, and the dwarves are not terribly adept farmers,) and fruit trees commonly mark the entrances to dwarf holds. Fruit liquors and wines are very popular with the dwarves, and every hold has its own specialty — be it a lemon wine or a plum brandy.
Herding is not desirable work, since unlike farming it is not easily done at night. Goats and sheep are the most common animals, and their herders are some of the few dwarves who humans can encounter outside of the strict environments of the holds' bazaars. The herders are famously talkative, probably due to their lonely job, and even more famous for their gossip. In fact, a dwarf with a crook and a crossbow is a stock character in Voscan theater, typically being oblivious to everything except the location of his sheep, full of information, and willing to talk about anything, even things he is expressly forbidden to speak of, so long as the question is worded in the right way.