Monday, June 17, 2013

The Dwellers in the Mountains

When I was creating notes for my current game, I did not have players interested in playing a dwarf. So, I did not do much with their background in the setting. Naturally, I included them in the setting background, but I left it at that.

The players have since interacted with dwarves from two different areas of the known world. The first one was a trader of sorts and traveled with an entourage of dwarven servants, including his own cook. The second one resides in the city where the cast lives and is from a different area of the known world as the first. This one weaves baskets and bird cages. In both cases, the cast discovered the dwarves do not like human food. At this point, I knew I had begun a culture of people and not just character quirks. It was time to stretch the fingers and bang out ideas. However, as the entire culture within the mountains was not touched during character creation, there are notes here for dwarves and others. . .

On Dwarves
Life in the mountains is ideal for dwarves. Here, the halls of old contain carved memories of their people. The halls are vast caverns designed for their former draconic masters. Gems gleam, reflecting light amongst the caverns. Very rarely is an actual flame used as a light source within these great halls.

The dwellings of dwarves are quite different from the great halls. Dwarven neighborhoods do not tower multiple stories, rather they are short in stature, wide in breadth, and maze-like in appearance. Instead of mining out caverns and constructing buildings within the hollows, they simply carve out living spaces. In areas where the earth is easier to manipulate, more dwellings are created. This method of construction has resulted in the repetitive pattern found from one dwarven community to the next. The first pattern is that of living in a hive or series of rooms, instead of a city filled with separate structures. The second is the feeling of walking for great lengths of time to get anywhere. Due to building where it is easiest to manipulate the environment, long distances exist between different neighborhoods inter-connected to a great hall.

To outsiders, the various polished gemstones appear to only serve as decoration and reflectors of light. However, early in the draco-elfen war, it was discovered that crystals with six and eight sides were more a more effective defense versus certain elven magics. Demons were stymied by the equal sides of the crystals, even if the appearance of each gem might be different. The crystals have no effect on other types of magic, besides sorcery.

Once the dragons were vanquished and the Tuathanas began their long rule of both humans and dwarves, the dwarves were forced to build large estates over the dragon caverns. These estates would eventually become castles and keeps. The dwarves put as much artistry in the structure of these buildings as they had for their former masters. The Tuathanas learned the secrets behind using the crystals and would request they be worked into specific rooms and areas of new buildings. Rumors abound detailing Tuathanas who had crystals mixed in the mortar of a keep, in order to provide protection from demons who were owed favors from the old accords.

After the humans and dwarves overthrew their Tuathanas masters, many of the elven keeps and castles were abandoned. The dwarves had no interest in populating their second masters' homes, due to past memories. Plus, the homes were often too large and aerie for most dwarven tastes. Only three of the Tuathanas castles are known. Of those three, only two are occupied. The third is said to be haunted and avoided at all costs.

An Aside
Dwarves are accustomed to eating well-done meats, mushrooms, and lichen. They have learned how to prepare root vegetables. While some dwarves have come to eat and enjoy vegetation grown above grounds, it is still a rare occurrence Most find such food disgusting and many become ill from eating those foods. The smell of rare meat sickens them. All of their food is heavily spiced due to the bland taste.

Dwelling in the Mountains
The first of the retained castles, and most human-occupied city within the mountains, is the main building for Carnock, the Barony of the Mountains. The castle and capital city lie mere days west of the wooded barony of Caerlaverock. Certain dwarven elders wanted to be within striking distance of Lanark, in the event of a Tuathanas uprising or resurgences. The city is made up of dwarves (55%), humans (40%), and gnomes (5%). The gnomes have taken over the more elaborate sections of the Tuathanas dwelling spaces. The dwarves live at the other end of the social spectrum, taking up residency nearest the old dragon caverns in the center of the city. The humans live everywhere else.

The politics of this barony are very integrated between the dwarves and humans. The gnomes publicly consider such activity not worthy of their attention. Yet, one or two gnomes have entered the world of politics "for the fun of it" over the years. The baron is advised by a council of elders from among the dwarves and humans.

The current Baron of the Mountains is a short, stocky human. Many believe this has enamored him to the dwarves whom sit on the council. The baron has taken to dressing the part of a dwarf, including affecting a beard and warriors braid behind his right ear. The baron has grown louder and more boisterous as he ages. Still, he is considered a kind and beneficial ruler. He is known to surround himself with children in court, on the lists, or in his home. He dotes on all children as if they were his own. It is said that he has a family of over 100 people, if one counts his great-grandchildren.

The second settlement is among the northern mountains and is called Stonehaven. The dwarves of Stonehaven keep themselves more removed from human society than their brethren in the Barony of the Mountains. They are more classical in appearance and behavior than the western dwarves. Their clothing is often thick to protect them from the cold of the mountains. Their arms are the pick axe and maul of the mines. Their preferred drink is a fermented beverage made from mushrooms and sassafras. Their beards are thick and voices deep.

Stonehaven began as a mining community for gold and quartz. In time, it became a young dragon's hold. This dragon spent most of its time away from the mine and required very little in the way of servants or quarters. In fact, the dwarves of this community knew nothing of the draco-elfen war until a combined army of humans and dwarves, lead by General Tiberius of the Tuathanas arrived.

Stonehaven became an outpost village with a simple keep and a handful of other buildings. Stonehaven was a prison for the general and his fellow Tuathanas. They had no interest in the dwarves or mining. The food was constantly of poor quality. Only the beauty of the dragon hold held their interest. The general would send his humans into the mountains to scout for an end to the mountains and more dragon holds. However, the mountains were so treacherous that very few would return. No other holds were ever discovered.

Once word of the dwarven and human rebellion reached General Tiberius, he sacrificed all of the humans in a teleportation ritual bringing him and his Tuathanas back to the outskirts of old Dunvalaig. The dwarves recovered the city, disposed of the human bodies, and then marched out of the mountains to support the rebellion. It is said an axe from Stonehaven found its way in to the skull of General Tiberius.

Today, Stonehaven is a distant city without much outsider contact. There is some contact with the Barony of the Plains' tribesmen and the Barony of the Eastern Coast. However, these are simple trade contacts and not embassy style, political contacts. Most of Stonehaven's contact with the outside world is through the different under-mountain communities. Dwarven holds are scattered amongst the mountains, serving as both respite and battlement against anything north of the mountains. The dwarves of Stonehaven have no problems with the human-centric baronies to their south, they simply have no need of them.

Silver Keep is the third known structure. Many demons were sent to kill the dwarves in this place when it was owned by the dragons. It was a Tuathanas stronghold during the rebellion. No known human or dwarven army ever marched on it during the war due to its ferocious reputation. It was only after the war was effectively over that a small unit of mortals was sent to find it. Upon their arrival, there were no signs of the Tuathanas or their demon minions. It was never discovered where they went or why they departed.

Silver Keep was erected on what is known as Silver Mountain. Silver Mountain was the primary source of silver before the draco-elfen war. The structures in the area all glitter with the silver that was mixed with the stone and decorative inlays.

No one has consistently lived in the Silver Keep since the war. The silver mines ran dry before the dragons were killed, although pan-handlers often venture forth to try their luck. More quick-individuals have gone to Silver Keep in an effort to relieve the keep of its decorations that are said to adorn every surface.

Most who venture to Silver Keep never return. Those who do are often changed mentally or have physical scarring. All who have returned claim the place is haunted. Some claim the ghosts of dead adventurers emit forth from the brook which runs through town are to blame. Others accuse old Tuathanas magics and demons left behind as the cause of Silver Mountain's curse. Items brought back from Silver Mountain are highly sought after for their perceived value, despite the rumors of curses. The origin of the designs in the silver and the decorations is unknown.

Paths and roads to Silver Mountain exist from Polworth and Carnock. The Chantry of the Falls, based in Polworth, has a standing invitation to pay handsomely any adventurer returning with silver items from the haunted keep. Images copyright their respective owners and used here without their permission.