The Shattered Throne and the Thrice Crowned Queen
The Dwarven Kingdom of Dhurn Boram is a relatively new polity. As a single political entity, it has existed for just shy of 500 years. Historically, the Dwarven people were divided up into clans, with each clan being made up of numerous families descended from a single patriarch, and each clan laying claim to its own mountain. Clans are lead by chieftains, but clans refer to the mountain’s under their control as their kingdoms. Surface dwarves (or Hill dwarves as most other races describe them) tend to refer to their territory simply as their “lands.”
As Dwarven culture and population expanded, some pushed out to the surface world, establishing towns, villages, a few rare cities near the entrances to the greatest of the mountain cities. These surface cities eventually became politically independent of the mountain kingdoms and began developing their own methods of agriculture, a system of robust trade with other surface nations.
Historically, conflict between the Dwarven races has been rare, but seismic in terms of realigning Dwarven culture. The most significant conflict was a campaign of unification by Skodgroik Broadarm who sought to unify all the Dwarven clans by any means necessary, be it marriage, agreement, or force of arms. Before he could complete the unification, a lieutenant of his by the name of Undonlir Craghand betrayed Broadarm and murdered all of his direct heirs, eliminating the Broadarm line. In the Mountain King Massacre, the Craghand warriors who served alongside Broadarm warriors held a feast for King Broadarm. They served ale tainted with cave spider venom that when it took effect left the Broadarm warriors awake and awarm of their surroundings, but paralyzed. They were slaughtered to a man in their beds. The children present at the feast were driven out into the surface world during a harsh winter, where all but a handful died of exposure.
When the survivors brought word of what had transpired to the other clans, all the clans united against the Craghands under the banner of Lunmotelin Mountainshield. Mountainshield’s army slaughtered two thirds of the Craghand forces and drove the remainder of the clan deep into unexplored caverns beneath the mountain kingdoms, exiling them forever and naming them Duergar. Duergar means clan-less, however it is an archaic term. There are clan-less in dwarven society simply known as Duer who, while beneath contempt, and not seen as blood-enemies of the dwarven race the way the Duergar are.
Mountainshield then proclaimed that all Dwarves are but a single family with the exception of the Craghands whose unforgivable crimes mean that they are no longer of Dwarven blood.
Families do not spill each other’s blood to resolve squabbles. They talk. And so Mountainshield formed the Moot. At the Moot, every Dwarven clan chieftain has an equal vote and the Dwarves resolve their differences through debate. However this structure often leads to endless debates and arguments and some believe it is a cumbersome obstruction to progress. The Moot is lead by the Shield-bearer, a largely ceremonial title that cycles through the clans once a decade.
Recently, a group of adventurers discovered an ancient and long abandoned Dwarven city that predates all known Dwarven written history. More startling still was that is was found beneath the nation of Atren, many hundreds of miles from Dhurn Boram. Its existence suggests that Dwarves have forgotten much of their history. And among some Dwarves, it is whispered that this forgotten city is proof that the Dwarves once ruled all of the Seven Kingdoms, and that the triple crown rightfully belongs on the head of a Dwarven King or Queen, and this news has revitalized a vein of anti-moot monarchists within Dwarven culture who yearn for a new Broadarm to rise and unite the clans under a single ruler.
The adventurers report that the forgotten city is infested with a giant, sentient plant creature, as well as other wild terrors such as giant spiders. Currently the Dwarven Moot is arranging for an official Dwarven expedition to clear out the threat, document the find, research the history, and preserve the site for posterity. Extra muscle to help clear out the horrors lurking within is desirable and the expedition will be empowered to hire adventurers to assist in the hard work.
How Surface races see the Dwarves.
Hill Dwarves are common enough in most major cities that any cosmopolitan subject in the kingdom has seen or met a dwarf. Some cities close to a dwarven stronghold even had a dwarftown, or quarter where a sizable number of hill dwarves live. For many humans they work along and respect their neighbors, who tend to live modest, ordinary, if talented lives.
The Mountain dwarf kingdoms are legendary for their riches. Few surfacers actually ever get to truly know what the subterranean kingdoms hold. Most visiting diplomats and merchants who are invited see the halls of the mighty guild heads or chieftans. So stories on the surface are full of grand vaulted ceilings, rich halls and warriors clad in fine armor, carrying battle axes, And feasting every night. But tucked away in the darkness out of sight of visitors are various other districts and caverns, that do not compare to the halls of the wealthy. A poor surface human scraping to get by has an easier time than a poor subterranean dwarf. Soil and sun is more forgiving than stone and darkness. Knowing this, dwarven society strives to support all of their members.
Small or moderate sized cities of Surface Dwarves tend to grow up over or near the greatest dwarven underground cities, but geography tends to limit the upper size of the partially submerged hill dwarf cities. They usually have strong trade ties as preferred middle men between surface trade centers and the craftsmen of the Mountain Dwarves. Most Mountain dwarf Cities claim little control over their Surface brothers, giving them independent city state status. Hill dwarves get along well with their neighbors, and hill dwarf buildings in cities use hard glass prisms in street pavers to channel light into tunnels just below city streets. Hill Dwarves do control several sizable cities on ore veins without a local Mountain dwarf city, these islands of dwarves can usually trace their history back to a Mountain dwarf kingdom that was prosperous and needed to remove excess population.
Despite their political structure being defined by clans, which are collections of families, day-yo-day Dwarven life revolves primarily around the guilds which provide dwarves with not only their occupations, but their primary social support and interactions. In Dwarven society, a Dwarf’s guild plays the role that family plays in human culture. A Dwarf’s family tends to be far more removed and serves primarily as a Dwarf’s political representative at the Moot.
Young dwarves live at home with their parents for the first 8 years of their lives. After that nearly all Mountain Dwarves and most Hill Dwarves are expected to enter into an apprenticeship. From the wealthy and influential guilds like the brewers, jewelers, silver smiths, and priesthood down to the poorer digger’s guilds, a dwarf has their career planned out from a young age. There is a yearly weeklong festival where all children of age are presented to the guilds for selection, trials, games and tests, with winners achieving better apprenticeships, though many loving, dwarven parents also pre-arrange a with a master to select their child through favors, friendship or bribery. City elders are supposed to ensure that every presented child is selected by the festival’s end (the fungus growers and scrapers collective is always looking for new blood). Hill Dwarves depend less on this strict regulation, and have more economic freedom to find and pursue their own life path, but apprenticeship is still regarded as a fortunate path to follow.
To a mountain dwarf their guild is their family. When translating dwarven into other languages, the word for Fellow apprentice translates best into sibling. Contact with the birth family will be rare in daily life, reserved mostly for holiday visits or clan meetings to discuss business to be pursued at the Moot. Each guild present in a dwarven settlement has a vote in the city council, and all dwarves of master rank can vote on more public affairs within the settlement. Although they cannot vote at the moot, the wishes of the guilds are frequently privileged above the wishes of even the most influential individual dwarves. It takes an act of the city/settlement council to recognize a new master, and the politics of this can be quite drawn out, subject to endless debate and on rare occasion violence. Mountain Dwarves traditionally elect city officials for life, and these individuals are usually, but not exclusively, drawn from the parliament of guild masters (the collective of guild masters within a settlement). Often the apprentices of the most influential guild master rise to master and then public office, creating guild dynasties.
Membership in the guilds is also a support system for guild members. Guild officials can always find a contract for a struggling member, support the family or apprentices of a dwarf who dies young, or protect young members form a master who is not training apprentices properly. Pride in the Guild prompts a good guild leader to shore up the weakest members of the group. This creates great loyalty and friendship bonds within a guild family. Mutual respect is the currency of cross guild relations, and with each guild created to perform vital functions a network of support is required to keep the kingdom functioning efficiently and keep the gold flowing.
Because Mountain dwarves place such a precedence on work life, dwarves often do not have time to start a family. So arranged marriages are very common. A dwarf is never married to a dwarf inside of their own guild, such marriages are arranged by local guild heads. Dwarven marriages are not for life, instead the couple will come together, be together for a decade or two, and then part when any children enter apprenticeship. In a dwarf’s long life they usually have several arranged marriages, often requesting the same partner if it was a good match.
Hill dwarves have fewer arranged marriages, placing less importance on work life gives them time for more natural courting. Their pairing tends to more permanent as well.
Hill Dwarf Clans
While government differes from clan city state to clan city state, each Hill dwarf clan also tends to have a senate of influential members who purchase judgeships, military rank, and other official duties, but membership in the right family and wealth is often a prerequisite. Money spent to gain access to offices is used for public good, including public service to the poor (which makes it acceptable to the governed.) Some Hill dwarf cities have stagnated in senate membership so that a single dwarf is influential and powerful enough to purchase or, create the illusion of purchasing every office.
There is no warrior guild in existence, instead each guild trains all members in the basics of combat, heavily trains a subset of apprentices as guards, and watchmen for the guild. When the clan chieftain, Moot, or the Thrice Crowned Queen needs an army, they call on each guild to send a portion of their ready men, much like a feudal monarch. It is a great honor to serve, the pay is good, and each guild takes great pride in providing the best supplies and soldiers to the army. Extra enlistment is based on a volunteer system, but it is rare that any call is not answered by many willing recruits.
Hill Dwarves ruling clans tend to have their own fighting men, as well as a force that serves the city and reports to the current official in charge of such matters (a purchased position, It is expected to donate weapons and supplies to the city watch as well.)
Dwarves love decoration, and their favorite decoration is architecture. Guild halls are mighty and extravagant to show the power and wealth of the guild, a chieftain’s hall has donated decorations from each guild vying for prestige. A clan head is expected to build the grandest house in the city, and pay others to do it. You show your hard working virtue through your wealth, as well as what you can give.
There are many dwarves who live outside of the cities that are the centers of culture and influence and wealth of the dwarves. The subterranean edge communities suffer the worst attacks from the dangers of the deep, and often have the poorest guild halls, but surfacers have little opportunities to see these slums of the great cities. These families at the edges scrape by, as subsistence farmers, hunters, prospectors, and hermits. Past the edges more dwarves are Guildless (except for the prospector’s guild who specialize in travel and finding new markets and resources to tap, but these dwarves are not permanent residents on the frontier) and the clan-less Duer, who are hardly recognized by dwarven society.
The Goblinoid Wars
Although not heartless, most Dwarves in the early days of the Goblinoid wars saw the wars not only as a surface dwellers’ problem, but as an opportunity. The war was being fought primarily to the north, and the surface dwellers were making unprecedented calls for dwarven smithed weapons and dwarven metals. All the wealth of the seven kingdoms was quickly accruing to the Dwarves and their greed overtook their commonsense and blinded them to the dangers they faced, and for this reason they were the last nation to join the alliance of the seven kingdom’s under the Triple Crown. In retrospect it was obvious that the amount of weapons and armor they were producing should have served as a warning of the size and scale of the threat. This was not some battle between kingdoms. It was a war of conquest by a force far superior in number and savagery.
As the orcs began to take more and more land, marching further and further south, the dwarves assured themselves that they could simply seal up their mountains against any outside threat and weather the storm. But that all changed The Day The Mountain Fell. The small gnomish kingdom, the closest neighbors of the Dwarves and long believed distant cousins, was thought heretofore impregnable. It was an enormous mountain that floated in the sky, with a single gnome city that covered most of its surface and ran through much of its interior. Through a combination of dragon fire and ancient magics, the Orcs brought the Mountain crashing to earth and in a single day ended an entire nation and rendered nearly extinct an entire race. Suddenly, gnomsih refugees began flooding into Dwarven kingdoms and the Dwarven people found themselves wondering, could stone and metal truly stand up to dragon fire? Just as they turned their attention to the surface, they were attacked from beneath.
The goblinoid races and their Orcish masters were not fools. They recognized the quality of Dwarvish steel, and knew that what held their advance more than anything was that the people’s of the seven kingdoms had a weapons and armor manufacturer of superior quality that existed primarily in a seemingly impregnable series of mountain fortresses. If they were to succeed in their conquest, they needed to cut off the supply of weapons and armor. And if they could take those weapons for themselves, so much the better.
Somehow, the Orcs had found a secret way into the dark and unexplored caverns beneath the Dwarven cities. There, they made common cause with the Duergar. The Duergar, who knew the caverns like the back of their hands, lead Orcish shamans through the dark where they wove their dark spells and brought about a great fog. The fog rose through the Dwarven kingdoms, harmless to the dwarves themselves but turning all food to rot and all waiter to poison. Although minuscule in number, the well-fed Duergar soon began making significant advances against the starving and dehydrated Dwarven forces. In the fastest decision ever reached by the Moot, the Dwarves forged a crown on behalf of themselves and their gnomish cousins and sent it to Atren.
The crown was accepted and the alliance was complete. The surface dwellers demanded free armor and weapons, a bitter pill for any Dwarf to swallow, but in exchange they sent caravans of Elven food, large bands of Elven hunters, and 1200 human footmen. They saved the Dwarven kingdoms and drove the Duergar back into the darkness, slaughtering hundreds along the way.
Although bitter over having to part with their hard earned craft-work for aid rather than gold left many Dwarves feeling bitter towards the surface dwellers and secretly ashamed of heir own foolishness and vulnerability, as long as there is the threat of the return to war, the general populous, current marquis and a majority of Guildheads are willing to follow the young queen in Atren. A monarch-favoring separatist movement has gained some traction in the wealthier guilds, but is still in its infancy and would require a blunder on the part of the queen’s government to give it true momentum.