The Exile Dwarfs are the name given to themselves by those dwarfish clans of Thessea, who refused to follow Mountain King Hield Darkensteel's Death Law and migrate en masse to the jagged peaks of Kharad, following the catastrophic Grim Reminder. This sundered the dwarfen race forever, substantially weakening the kingdom of Aluren and altering the course of the Realm's history for centuries to come.
Will an ambitious young dwarf find the key to uncover the origins of the sundering and what the Grim Reminder really was? Only time will tell. For now, only two keys exist to this knowledge - the mysterious documents ceased from a Kharad jailer during the Battle of Erfolg, and one single name that rings hollow - Kato Silverbrand.
Life and place in the worldEdit
Dwarfs fight and drink, mine and craft, sing ancient hymns and drunken bar songs. Their lore and legends stretch back centuries and their laws were used as a foundation for Aluren's - and later Borealis' - legal systems. Dwarfs are crafty and honest (at most times), but by no means simple and straightforward; no wonder most of Thessea's top lawyers are dwarfs - they are almost invariably much smarter than they may look. Those who befriend a dwarf acquire a friend for a lifetime, yet by Galador's grace avoid insulting or harming him or his clan, because their tendency to remember grudges is legendary.
Dwarfs have no single state (although formally they all still belong to the kingdom of Aluren, since at the time of its fall no mountain king reigned to acknowledge it) and their holds are scattered across Thessean mountains and hills. Dwarfen treatment of their ancestral homes inspires such respect, that Northerners of old borrowed their name of them - "kierk" - to mean "church" in their language.
Even after the sundering dwarfs are not a dying race by any means, there are at least two millions of them around the Realm; yet they are scattered and unable to channel their forces together. They are keenly aware of their plight and the single most important thing for a dwarf is community.
Clans seldom participate in affairs of Borealis, although they do not see it as beneath them to work and fight for it when the benefit is good enough - usually it's either money or mining licenses.
Exiles' relationships with Kharad dwarfs is very complicated. For all intents and purposes, they consider themselves a different race and almost no common custom survived between them over many centuries of the sundering. Yet few dwarfs manage to completely extinguish the longing to reunite, howsoever pointless, and thus Kharad dwarfs are afforded basic respect and recognition. The feeling, however, is not mutual, and in the eyes of the others, the exiles are little more than dirt, barely above the despicable humans and worthless elves.
Death and slumberEdit
Dwarfs aren't immortal like elves - eventually they age and "die" (more on that below). However, for human purposes, they might as well be. Dwarfs live very long lives, often for several hundred years. 400 years is considered worthy of respect; 500 - veneration; 600 - awe. The only thing that managed to kill one of the most famous mountain kings, Aki Graybeard, who survived the Planetfall, first wars with humans, the Beast-scourge, three Kierkwars, Plague of the Un-dead and single-handedly felled a dragon, died in an unfortunate drinking accident at the age of 731. The Graybeards prefer not to talk about it.
When the time comes for a dwarf who avoided dying of external causes, he or she retreats to the deepest caverns of its kierk, where a slumber altar is prepared for them. There, on a slab of cold stone, donning its weapons and armour, the dwarf lies to slumber for eternity. Biologically, the dwarfs don't really die - they still breathe and have a minuscule pulse, yet all brain function ceases. It is a dwarf belief that the elders will rouse from their sleep at the end of days, when their wisdom is needed in the final battle for dwarfen survival. It is prohibited by an ancient Death Law to "kill" a slumbering elder.
The dwarfen faith did not survive the world-shattering plight of the Great Journey and the Planetfall. Given a chance for a new beginning, the crestfallen dwarfs were quick to abandon the God That Failed Them (as they refer to Moradin); now his name can be found only in the name of a Thessean mountain range and in old inscriptions in some kierks.
This instructed the exiles attitude to religion in general - they are far more likely to venerate their ancestors, believing that they watch over them from their slumber beneath the kierks, than to worship a Talgur deity. Further, they completely deny the Talgur version of the afterlife - that the dead souls are guided by Leandra or Navka to the Evening Lake far to the North. Instead, they believe in a finality of death - there is no dwarfen afterlife. Of course, conveniently, dwarfen elders do not quite die. For this reason, they are generally the least likely of all mortal races to venerate Leandra.
Exiles do still pay lip service to Talgur gods; they especially respect Galador, for he treasures industry and invention; Somn - for this love of children and community; and Deleritas - for his knowledge of the Realm's darkest depths, although they don't go even nearly to the same degree of fanatical veneration given to him by Kharad dwarfs.
Law and clansEdit
See also Death Law.
An average clan dwarf's life is regulated by a plethora of laws, customs, by-laws, edicts and ancient lore that all vary from clan to clan. No wonder it is quite common for younger dwarfs to escape the suffocating atmosphere of holds to do something more naughty - like adventuring or mercenary work, at least until one he or she acquires enough gravitas and respect to settle down.
Clan is the most important unit of dwarfen society - it is one's family, business partners, brothers-in-arms and for some conservative dwarfs pretty much the only company they're gonna get until they slumber. An offence against a single dwarf is an offence against its entire clan.
Here are one of the few most known (of many dozens) dwarfish clans:
- Graybeards: are the keepers of the First Kierk, the seat of mountain kings of old. While it is not their clan kierk, they nonetheless live there, protecting and collecting the ancient lore. They are most proficient in laws of dwarfs and often act as arbiters in clan disputes and interpreters for particularly cumbersome legal problems;
- Ironclads: famous blacksmiths and armourers, hold many rich mining sites within Copper-leaf mountains. Close friends of many Placian thanes, including house Rosenkreuz;
- Silverbrands: while most of arcane secrets and knowledge of dwarfen magic disappeared in Kharads with clans Darkensteel and Runemark, the Silverbrands preserved some of it, becoming the most sought after runesmiths and arcane scholars North of mount Kharad;
- Bugmans: Known for brewing the best ales and weissbier and tinkering with explosives. Even though every clan brews their own beer and swears by it, the Bugman's Finest is perhaps the most renown ale in Thessea - if not the Realm! Even other proud clans secretly open a keg of Bugman's Finest for special occasions - which, being a special occasion in itself, promptly demands the opening of a second one. Even among dwarfs, who have a (sometimes ill-deserved) reputation for drinking, Bugman's drinking culture is extraordinary. One of the most surefire ways to win respect with a Bugman is to out-drink him; the dark side of it is that lethal mysterious drinking accidents occur to Bugmans more often than to any other clan. Bugmans also have a famous drinking game among themselves and their friends - although most of the clan's dwarfs don't really know how to play by its extremely cumbersome and dogmatic rules and more often than not invent their own.
- Getgolds: probably the most notorious exile clan, they are the unofficial ambassadors of dwarfs to the Borean Crown. They know their way with words and have expansive networks of connections around the Realm, making them efficient power brokers between and among the Kingdom and individual clans. They charge a pretty guilder for their services and are the most eager when it comes to restoring old dwarf institutions - namely, the seat of the mountain king. Despite that, most clans do not like them outside of business; there is even a saying "when a Getgold reigns in the First Kierk", indicating something is extremely unlikely to happen.
- Stormbows: once famous for their archery, nowdays the Stormbows seek more stimulating occupations from their kierk in Brandweiden - namely, they are quickly becoming masters of field and siege artillery that only the dark elves can rival.
Notes and triviaEdit
- Dwarfs are actually well-known for their poetry and it is considered to be of high class.
- Dwarfen language has a complex system of honorifics used when addressing people. It assigns them a "worth" and an appropriate honorific, ranging from "mud" at the very lowest", to "dirt", "pebbles", "stones", "rock" and "mountain".