From Istaria Lexica
Dwarves are a race native to Western Aradoth who predominantly live below ground or near mountains and hills. They are short in stature, but are quite stocky and broad giving them excellent body strength and stamina. Dwarves are a very passionate people in everything they do, from drinking to eating, to making love or war. This has had a tendency to earn them more enemies than friends over the years.
Dwarven legend places the creation of the race at the time of the Age of the Gods, when Dwarves are said to have been created by Brobbet, the god of Honor and Justice, to serve as enforcers of justice upon the prime. To that end, the Dwarves have always taken it upon themselves to bring order to a chaotic world and this philosophy has earned them the enmity of many races of the years. Since the early years of The Lament, the Dwarves have believed it was their sacred duty to fight the Withered Aegis, even to the ruin of their race as they believe Brobbet would demand no less of them.
The first record of any contact with Dwarves is from the Annals of Nelthorr, an ancient document that chronicles a series of explorations from Dralk into the east. Though the exact date of the Annals are hard to place, many scholars believe that it dates from around 2000 to 2500 B.R. It is in one of these journals that Nelthorr mentions contact with "naka of such small stature that I nearly overlooked their presence". He goes on to describe how they fled before him, abandoning their work and dropping their tools behind as they ran. Nelthorr described how the naka appeared to have been carving stone and building some sort of structure. Though the location is vague, it is likely that this may have been among the earliest structures in Aughundell and that these "naka" were in fact the earliest Dwarves in Istaria.
Dwarven society and culture is one of the richest in tradition and history. It is also one of the most closed societies amongst all the Living Races. Dwarven society is structured around the principles of justice and honor above all things... even at what some might consider the cost of being compassionate and forgiving. The Dwarven clans, though often fractured and argumentative amongst their own political machinations, rally around a single credo they refer to as Brobbet’s Divine Mandate: "Without honor, there is no justice; without justice, there is no future." The Dwarves consider the other Living Races to not have the same desire to adhere to Brobbet’s Divine Mandate as they themselves continually strive for. This makes relations with the other Living Races merely cordial, at best; of notable exception are the Gnomes, whom they consider to be kindred spirits who are merely errant and who have lost their way.
Since the onset of the Lament (and ending only recently), Dwarven society had been cut off from the majority of the other Living Races. In fact, the Dwarves were one of the first of the Living Races to have been sundered... or so the assumption went. No communication with the Dwarven state was ever successful, and their capital of Aughundell was eventually deep within the Withered Aegis’ sphere of influence. The truth of the matter is that the Dwarves had been under siege by the Withered Aegis to one degree or another for almost one-hundred years. Only with the defeat of the Withered Aegis at the Battle of Tazoon was the true fate of the Dwarves discovered; though the very walls of their capital had been breached, the Dwarves held out, barricaded within their tunnels, against the Undead Horde. This is a fact they vehemently remind any and all.
For all their small size, Dwarves are known for their superior strength and resilience. They gravitate markedly toward the roles of Chaos Warriors and Crossbowmen, though - confounding a false stereotype - there are several highly adept Dwarven Mages in Istaria. Dwarven males are known to keep meticulously groomed beards throughout most of their lives. A Dwarf’s station within his clan may be identified by beard length and grooming. A clean-shaven chin, while not unheard of, is generally a sign that a Dwarf is either changing his station within the clan, or perhaps trying to change his luck in life. They are a notably superstitious folk, adhering religiously to rituals believed to bring good fortune to themselves and their kin. It’s very hard for a Dwarf to admit there’s something he doesn’t know, or can’t do.
Dwarves have never had an organized system of worship, though they do believe in the Istarian Pantheon. The main deities the Dwarves say a prayer or word to are Istara the Mother, Brobbet the Law-Giver, and Galderos the Widower.
Dwarves believe that when they die they are brought before Brobbet and the Grand Tribunal to be "Judged". If they are judged to be worthy in Brobbet's and the Tribunal's eyes they are given a place among the Gallery. If they are judged to be unworthy then they are cast out of the afterlife, to wander The Void for eternity. The Grand Tribunal is composed of past Kings of the Dwarves who were judged worthy by Brobbet and their peers. Dwarven lore holds that only one King has ever been judged unworthy by Brobbet, but that is a story for another day.
Dwarves are particular about the state of their body in death. It is believed that their body must be laid in stone and properly adorned so that they may reach Brobbet and the Grand Tribunal. Those improperly attired may be cast out as unworthy. Exceptions to this are given for those who fall in battle and cannot be recovered as they are Honored as the Fallen Dead. For millennia, the Kings of Dwarves have been buried in the Vale of Garokh which lies near the summit of Mount Grenaden.
Spoken Phrases, Utterings, Prayers, Curses
- Axe high! – The battle cry of the Iron Guard of Aughundell. Frequently used as a salutation between veterans, a rallying call, and as a parting statement. Ex: “Axe high, ‘til we meet again.”
- Justice and honor – A formal acknowledgement, usually reserved for something of great importance. May also be used as an exclamation of joy and happiness. Ex: “’Will you marry me?’ ‘Justice and honor, yes!’”
- Swap steel – An oath or agreement. Based on the custom of a bride & groom-to-be exchanging betrothal daggers to seal an engagement. No actual daggers need to change hands, but there does need to be an agreement. Ex: “The contract looks good to me. Shall we swap steel?”
- True as gold – A declaration of value or trustworthiness. Ex: “This blade be true as gold. ‘Twill serve ye’ well.”
- In the Eyes of the Tribunal - An expression used when giving a sacred promise or vow. To make this "in the eyes of the Tribunal" means it cannot be broken and must be fulfilled.