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.
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 & SocietyEdit
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.