Dwarves - Might & Magic Heroes 7
1. The northern fortresses
The capital city of the Dwarves is Tor Myrdal, built beneath two huge mountains (extinct volcanoes so tall that only the legendary Dwarven kings have climbed to their summits) and the mile-long knife-edged ridge that connects them.
It is so massive and complex that no one, not even the Dwarves, knows all of its passages and tunnels.
Indeed, some Dwarves have a superstitious fear that someone else – not Dwarves – has been surreptitiously adding to and modifying the tunnels for centuries, for some nefarious purpose that is as yet unknown.
Other major Dwarven cities include Tor Vettfang, Tor Eldrheim, Tor Hlifa, and Tor Lindhath. The largest and most populous trading post is Tor Hallr, known to non-Dwarves as Beardsgate and to the Dwarves, colloquially, as “Talltown”…
By the way, allow me to dispel right away a story you might have heard: Dwarf women are neither bearded – they are actually rather attractive by Human standards – nor rare.
But since the Dwarven lines place great stock in heredity and lineage, they guard their women fiercely and only in the most dire emergencies will women join the fray.
That said, she-Dwarves are taught to fight and forge and have the same status and opportunities as any male.
While we’re on the topic of legends surrounding the Dwarves, it is worth noting that contrary to the popular belief found in the Holy Empire, Dwarves are not obsessed by gold, a metal they use to trade with the other peoples of Ashan but deem too fragile to be useful.
Magical Flamegold, on the other hand, is highly prized by Dwarves as they consider it a gift from their God, Arkath.
2. Trade and economy
Speaking of resources, here’s what I noted on this particular topic…
…The Dwarven economy runs on mining and metalworking. The seemingly endless veins of precious metal and useful iron fuel the economy, while thick beds of coal fuel the forges. Gems are also common under the mountains.
Then there are the underground rivers with their sand banks that have allowed the Dwarves to establish a thriving side business in glassworking and pottery. Basically, if it is made with fire, the Dwarves can shape it to their will…
Indeed, most citizens of the Holy Empire don’t know it, but the spectacular stained glass found in the great Cathedrals of Elrath were actually made by Dwarves, artisans from Tor-Lindhath to be precise.
…Dwarven trading outposts are located on the borders of Dwarven territory.
Only a few trusted trading partners can actually bring their caravans over the borders and into the heart of the Dwarven kingdom. The rest do business on the fringes, though some extensive towns have grown up around these outposts.
Each Dwarven city has its own king, with a council of advisors from the wealthiest and most industrious families. The King Under the Mountains is the king of kings among the Dwarves, and it is he who sets policy and summons them to war.
Kingship is not hereditary, though it is a lifetime post.
After each king’s death, the council convenes and elects his successor. At such times, the tunnels are filled with both celebration and intrigue, as various candidates court voters and attempt to discredit – or eliminate – rivals.
Social structure is based around three relationships: family, fostering and fighting.
There is a complicated web of apprenticeships that serves to train up young Dwarves and cement relations between clans. These ties are precious – a single unworthy apprentice can poison an alliance that has existed for centuries.
Clans and families are not the same thing. Families are different lineages within a single clan, with each clan having its own name, battle history, customs and so forth.
Ultimately, Dwarves always fall back on their clans. While a single city may house families from a half-dozen different clans, at important times, such as the election of a new king, Dwarves fall out along clan lines before anything else.
The main clans are Deepflame, Grimsteel, Winterwind, Stronghammer, Stonefist and Hearthguard. The might be other clans but I didn’t have the privilege to meet their members.
3. Religion and beliefs
As the Dragon of Fire is their liege, Dwarves are huge fans of flames, lava, fires, and forges. The Priesthood is obligatory for those who have the gold-flecked eyes mentioned in the text; there is no questioning of this calling due to the immediacy of the Dragon in their daily lives.
Neither the parents nor the children question the removal of such a child to the great seminaries. While studying at the seminary the acolytes learn Dragon lore, Dragon magic, medicine, military theory, and charitable acts.
They are the closest things the Dwarves have to an impartial power, and are occasionally called upon to settle clan conflicts before they can destabilize the nation.
Religious observance is seen in prayers in the morning and evening as well as before meals.
Forges, shrines, and hearths will have a small object to the left of the doorway – the side of the heart – that symbolizes the presence of the Dragon. Dwarves will ritually touch these upon entering and leaving these places.
In design, Dwarven architecture tends toward circles and runes as motifs.
They’re not fond of representational art, preferring instead geometric patterns. Buildings, roads, and stairs are built to be sturdy rather than decorative, and only central meeting halls and the like are decorated with ornate stonework.
The Dwarves are also skilled glassworkers, and are renowned all over Ashan for their mastery of the art of stained glass, which they usually use to decorate the inside of their houses, especially around their hearths.
These great glass frescoes usually describe the heroic adventures of their ancestors. With the fire burning at the centre of the house, it’s like the whole history of the family comes alive on the walls…
Well I could go on and on but I suppose that’s enough regarding Dwarven economy, society, religion and architecture. Let’s talk about their armies.
4. The dwarven warbands
The Dwarven warbands are one of the most feared fighting forces in the world. Featuring unparalleled ferocity and iron discipline, they can be mustered on a moment’s notice.
In combat, warbands from various cities try to outdo each other in terms of enemies killed, banners taken and the like – war is a game, and this is a way of keeping score. On the other hand, Dwarves never, ever surrender.
They fight to the death, even when the odds are hopelessly against them. The best death a Dwarf can hope for is one in battle, against impossible odds, with a witness who will someday make a song of their deeds.
Most Dwarves go into battle armed with a kite shield, a heavy single-bladed axe, and a brace of daggers.
They also have other weapons hidden about their person, just in case. A Dwarf is never unprepared in battle – even if it’s just with a boot dagger, a Dwarf would sooner be naked than unarmed.
Crossbows and siege engines are Dwarven specialties, and are vastly preferred to less complicated devices like bows, slings and the like.
Dwarven ballista crews are deadly accurate, and can reload and fire fast enough to break up almost any enemy advance.
Being worshippers of Arkath, the Dragon of Fire, Dwarves and fire are old friends, and their communion is an intensely personal ritual that most outsiders have never seen.
Apart from the deadly fire spells, their magic is mainly used to instil strength in warriors, forge objects and help during sieges.
Runic inscriptions are omnipresent in Dwarf society and many Dwarves have runic tattoos on their skin.
Each rune corresponds to a spell, an open door for communication between the physical world and the spiritual world. Runes allow the physical properties of an object to be channelled to the Rune bearer.
In other words, don’t get punched in the face by a Dwarf bearing a Stone Rune, for even my healing skills wouldn’t be able to fix your nose!