Game of Realms
Realm & Rulership
The Sons of Stone are unlike any other people in our World, for they alone neither age nor breed. Legends say that Dwarves are not born, but rather that their entire race was molded by the hand of Thurin the Strong, the truest of the All-Father's great Companions. Crafted from the Stone of the Earth, the Dwarves were charged by their maker to tend to the Great Fires that boil in the belly of the World. For most of recorded history the Dwarves worked in secret, delving vast halls, building wondrous citadels, and mastering the arts of mining and forgecraft. In the days since the Turning, the mysterious Dwarves have finally returned to the surface World, and the peoples of the World have come in contact with their mysterious ways for the first time in Ages. There are no females among their kind, and they produce no offspring. Dwarves do not seem to die of old age, and it may be that all of them have existed since the day of Creation. When a dwarf dies, the entire race mourns� for that is one less dwarf that our World shall ever know.
Of all the children of the World, Dwarves may be the most remarkable, and they are certainly among the most recognizable. Whereas all the other races are made of flesh and blood, Dwarves are fashioned of the stone they love so well. Individual Dwarves are made of different stones, from ebon shale to gray granite to pale marble, expertly crafted into a form reminiscent of Humanity. Short of stature, Dwarves are the smallest of the World's races, yet also among the strongest. A Dwarf's stocky body seems nearly as broad as it is tall, covered in thick masses of carved muscle. While not quite as agile as the average Human, Dwarves are stronger and much more resilient by far. The fortitude of the earth is worked into them: Dwarves are blessed with incredible toughness and almost limitless endurance. Created for life underground, the glittering gemstone eyes of the Dwarves can see in the dark (though without detail: for fine work, Dwarves still kindle lights in their halls). Dwarves do not age: all of them were created at once, and no one Dwarf is significantly older than any other. While they never grow older, Dwarves do show signs of wear - many Dwarves have visible cracks that run across their bodies, or chips missing from their features. While this wear is almost always repairable, many Dwarves wear their cracks as a badge of honor, the way other Warriors cherish scars. Dwarves also show an uncanny uniformity of appearance. Though there are some variations and each Dwarf is unique in some small way, all Dwarves are short, heavily muscled, bearded men with long, thick hair.
When first encountered by the other peoples of the World, there were many who questioned whether or not Dwarves were truly living beings, or some kind of fabulous magical automata. The evidence was confusing and contradictory: while clearly made of stone, Dwarf limbs move without seams or joints. Furthermore, Dwarves require food and drink like other living things, and they sleep (albeit rarely, for only the greatest exertion seems to tire them). Dwarves are incapable of reproducing themselves, one criterion traditionally given to living things. No new Dwarves are born, and Dwarves who were destroyed in previous Ages can never be replaced. Many Elvish Magi considered Dwarves nothing more than complex constructs like the murgolems their Animators fashion, not truly living at all. Conclusive proof did not come until the Turning, when it was discovered that slain Dwarves rise anew from Trees of Life, just as all the other races do. Dwarves are still baffled by this phenomenon, but not nearly so baffled as the Magi and Loremasters who have tried to explain it and draw therefrom some conclusion about the nature of the living soul.
Dwarves have always enjoyed a sense of unity that the other children of the World have lacked. Isolated groups of Dwarves toil in the deeps or under the mountains, each ruled by a Thane, but never in all their long history have two Dwarf nations warred against each other. Dwarf holds may nurture rivalries between each other, to see which can finish an engineering project or produce finer steel, but these rivalries never turn into conflicts. Because all of the Dwarves were fashioned by Thurin, every Dwarf is a brother to every other, and the Dwarven family is likely the most harmonious in all the World.
Dwarfholds are ruled by Thanes, but many of the most important decisions are made by the community as a whole. Every Dwarfhold has within it a massive hall called the Hall of Voices, large enough to hold the entire local population. In frequent meetings, minor matters are decided by votes of acclamation, with the Thane having final say. These meeting are usually subdued, but not always - loud arguments have been known to break out, and there are no rules of decorum: every Dwarf may speak, and give his opinions as loudly as he wishes. Thanes are chosen by community vote, based on merit and ability. The post of Thane has no fixed term, and Dwarves will frequently resign from the post as conditions change. A warrior might become Thane when the hold declares war on a nearby Orc tribe, for example, and remain Thane until the hostilities end, when he willingly steps down. Thanes are advised by a council of the best and wisest Dwarves in the hold, one of whom must be a Priest of Thurin. Outsiders are often amazed at how harmonious Dwarven politics can be, and at how much shouting and bellowing there is when parties do actually disagree!
Of all the children of the World, none can match the Dwarves in skill and craft. To them alone did Thurin reveal the deepest secrets of the forge, and Dwarven steel is still the finest in the world. Only their Forge Masters can craft weapons and armor of adamant, hardest of all metals. Masters of all forms of metalcraft, Dwarves are cunning goldsmiths, drawing gold and platinum into wire or crafting chains of precious metal as thin as human hair. Dwarves are also natural born miners and masons, with mines and tunnels that extend hundreds of miles under hill and mountain. Dwarvish architecture is stunning is its scope, yet remarkably uniform. Dwarves love symmetry, and favor grand spaces and heavy columns. Many lords who live beneath the sun and sky would pay dearly for a Dwarf's help in designing or building a castle.
Other races tend to regard Dwarves as stoic and grim, as emotionless as the stone they're carved from. These impressions may be correct at first glance, but belie a Dwarf's true nature. Dwarves live for work, and have an amazing resolve that is easily misktaken for stubbornness. Dwarvish minds are not so keen as those of Men or Elves, and tend to follow lines of reasoning that baffle Roofless Folk (what the Dwarves call all people who live their lives under the sky). Once a Dwarf has set himself to a task or purpose, however, he acts with absolute resolution, and a single-mindedness few beings can comprehend. It seems as if Dwarves have a physical need to complete tasks assigned to them, whether by themselves or an authority they respect. If interrupted while working, a Dwarf will do whatever he can to end the distraction, and may finally fly into a rage if the interference continues. Dwarves have long memories, and are very good at holding grudges.
Despite their strict focus, Dwarves are far more than stoic machines. Dwarves have a love of beauty and art that rivals any Elf's, and have a tireless appetite for music. Dwarves sing while they forge, while they mine, and while they make war. Dwarves have spent most of the World's history in isolation, and hence know little of the ways of surface dwellers. Dwarves are on their guard when dealing with tall folk, and the sight of the open sky makes them nervous. Most humor is lost on them, and most surface dwellers can find Dwarves difficult to communicate with. The few who have truly befriended a Dwarf, however, or ventured into their halls, have seen a very different side to their demeanors. A Dwarf is forthright in everything he does: loyal to a fault, dedicated to his work, merry at feast, and grim as death in battle.
"You have done me a great honor, worthy host, while I have stayed and studied here. I thank you, Loremaster, for the gift that you have given me. The history of Suns and Stars and Men passed by my people as we labored in the deep, and we saw it not. Now, through your gift to me, the Sons of Thurin shall know much that has been hidden to us. We shall be richer for it. I shall repay you with as dear a treasure. I, Gourim Granitehammer, son of Thurin, servant of Thane Dolmurg of the Halls of Barankoll, shall tell you the long tale of the Dwarves. Listen, learn our long history, and be richer for it.
We are the Children of Thurin the Shaper. Our bodies were wrought at the heart of the World before the Sons of Men were created, before the Sun was kindled, before the Elves were born and before even their Green Mother awakened. While the World first flowered we worked at the forge. While the Dragon brooded in darkness we worked at the forge. While the hordes of Chaos ravaged the World, we worked at the forge. As the Elvish Empire perished, we worked at the forge. Only when the World was sundered stone from stone, only then did our labors pause. Through all the World's Ages we have honed our Craft, and we alone have forgotten nothing.
I will tell you all that I have seen, and what my brothers told me of events I did not witness. Mark my words well. I am a Dwarf. I do not lie.
Few made of flesh know that the Dwarves are the eldest of all the Children of the World, older even than the Elves. The hands of the Shaper wrought my brothers and I in the Age Before, when the surface of the World was dark and barren, and Braialla the Mother of Elves still slept. Thurin went into the deeps at his Master's command, and there he fashioned us to help him in his great work. The Dwarves were created under stone, wrought of the stone, and we have always felt at ease in the deeps, under the Roof of Aerynth, at home in the dark and stillness. To us the open sky is strange and terrible. Thurin gave unto us his Strength, his Will, and above all his love of Craft. From him came our desire to shape the World of Matter into new forms, to bring order and meaning to all we touch. In the beginning we were little more than tools, knowing only what our Maker had taught us. We existed then only as extensions of his will, yet we were at peace with our labors. In the Ages since we have learned, and grown, and changed. We are not murgolems, stones that move through Magic. We are not Mortals, who have both male and female forms, and to who must sire children to live forever. We are Dwarves, and that has always been enough.
As long as Dwarves have existed, we have served Thurin's will, doing great labors in his name. The Shaper's children do not reckon the same Ages as the dwellers of the Roofless World. Our history begins with the Age of the Hammer, when with hammers and chisels we accomplished the first great task Thurin set before us. At the core of the World we delved the Halls of Haganduur, grandest of all dwellings, mightiest of fortresses, first home of our people. Haganduur is lost now, broken and cast into the Void by the Turning, but I can remember it well, for I aided in its making. As we worked Thurin taught us the ways of stone, how to smite it and carve it and shape it, how to see its nature, hear its whispers, and love its wisdom. As we learned the craft of masonry we learned about ourselves. Thurin worked beside us, and told us many tales of his Master, the All-Father, who had taught our father all his Craft and given him the love of creating and making. As Thurin served His will, so we served Thurin's.
When at last that work was done, Thurin sent many of my brothers out into the deep. For the depths of Aerynth were deeply flawed, filled with faults and fractures and rivers of ice. Thurin ordered the greatest masons to refashion and repair the deeps; shoring up weak places, widening narrow rifts, and buttressing the walls of the World. The stonewrights tunneled their way through the heart of the World, delving great halls and holds, building walls and braces, and bridging chasms unfathomable. So we came to know and love the eternal stone body of Aerynth itself. Tireless in our labors, we sang as we worked, and the deeps resounded with the music of our hammers and our voices.
As we worked, we found the bones of terrible beasts locked within the stone, bones made of iron and silver and adamant. These we showed to our creator, and Thurin led the wisest and keenest of the Dwarves to the greatest hall of Haganduur. There, with their aid, he built a mighty forge, and the Chosen worked beside him, learning from his skill. Their hands wrought the anvil, hollowed the furnace, and made the tools, all under the Shaper's watchful eye. When the work was done, Thurin kindled the fire in the mighty furnace, and he was glad. Under the Shaper's guidance the seven Chosen became the Forge Masters, and they were given the greatest part of Thurin's Craft and Wisdom. At last we brought the metal bones into the forge, and Thurin taught us how to break them, and grind them, and smelt them into ore. We learned the ways of metal, how to mine it and smelt it and shape it, how to see its beauty, hear its wisdom, and love its power. As we learned the craft of metalwork we learned about our destiny.
In the World above Braialla awakened, but we saw her not, nor heard her song when the world flowered. There was no great Twilight in the deep, no Spring. The Elves and Centaurs were born, and the Gods walked the face of Aerynth, but we knew them not. They had no time for stifling darkness, and so they never saw the wonders that we wrought. They did not thank us for shoring up the mountains and the plains, for stifling the tremors of the ground and quenching the volcanoes' fury, but we did not miss their gratitude. The Dwarves did not do any of these things to earn thanks or gratitude. At first we worked because our father had commanded us to, and we knew nothing but his will. But as my people mastered the ways of Craft, so did we discover Joy. We needed no shining Moons or glimmering stars. All we needed were our hammers, and the stones of anvils to ply them on.
While the Elves of the Twilight Kingdom built their mighty palaces under the Moons and stars, a team of Dwarvish miners delved deep into strange, foul caverns, and came into a vast chamber. There, far from the Halls of Haganduur, they found the coiled, sleeping form of the Dragon, terrible even in its slumber. The miners quickly returned with the news, and we called for the Shaper, who went and looked upon this thing. Thurin summoned the All-Father, and He marveled at the great beast, asleep at the core of the World. The All-Father wondered what lore this hidden thing might know, but Thurin was troubled, and liked it not. The Shaper commanded all his children to withdraw into their halls and prepare for disaster. We readily obeyed. So it was that we waited in hiding when the Dragon rose. Its fury rocked the deeps and shattered many of our greatest works, but our halls and holds were built strong and sure, and we weathered the terrible storm unharmed.
I am told that a mighty battle was fought on the surface of the World, a fight that destroyed a kingdom, killed a Goddess, and ignited a Sun. No Dwarf saw that struggle, for we held true to our father's command. Finally Thurin returned to the Halls of Haganduur. There, with the Forge Masters to aid him, the Shaper undertook the greatest of his works, and all of Dwarvenkind helped him in this labor, and wondered at the Shaper's skill. So it was that Thurin forged the Sword of Legend, the blade an Elf named Shadowbane. To finish the blade, Thurin maimed himself, and when his work was done he sundered the great anvil in the heart of his forge. So it came to pass that the Shaper ruined his craft for the good of the World. We, his children, watched Thurin and remembered his sacrifice, and so we learned Responsibility and Honor. Thurin vowed that he would never raise his hammer in a forge again, and so it has fallen to us, his children, to craft the weapons of power to overcome darkness and evil. The Shaper bid us heal the hurts the Dragon had done to the deeps, and dam the flow of the Terror's foul blood before it marred and poisoned Aerynth's heart. He also commanded the Dwarves to forge other mighty weapons, and guard against the Dragon's return. Then Thurin left us, wandering down roads none have ever known.
The childhood of my race had ended, and the World had changed forever. So ended the Age of the Hammer, and so began the Age of the Forge. For the timeless span of the Age of Twilight and through more than five thousand years after, we have honored our father's command. The enchanted blades you folk of the Roofless World cherish so much are our work, and the least of our works. The greatest still lie hidden.
We kept to our labors, unseen, unheard, and undreamed of by the children of the Roofless World. Those of us who did not keep to the forge went back into the deeps, and delved through the core of the World again, repairing much that had been broken and marred when the Dragon awoke. The Master Masons and Forge Masters worked together, devising mighty works that channeled the flow of the Dragon's blood and barred the way to its foul lair. We were alone in our labors, as we had always been, but soon the Dwarves found new company in the darkness. Malog the Warrior had come to live in the shadows of the deep, huddled in a cavern, mourning all that he had lost. My people found him there and praised him, for he was the brother to our father, a Godling Companion to the All-Father Himself. If we had known the pain and bitterness that would come of that meeting, we would have left the Warrior to rot in darkness.
Once Malog had been the handsomest of all the Gods, but when the sun was kindled the Warrior had been horribly maimed, and his face was ravaged by the Dragon's fire. In his pain and shame Malog hid from sight, but our father had come to him and given him a jeweled mask to hide his terrifying visage. Malog was grateful for the gift, and so he met the Dwarves gladly, and held us in high honor. Saying that he was anxious to repay Thurin's generosity, the Warrior came to the Halls of Haganduur, where he lodged among us with great honor. There he received many rich gifts and took comfort from our hospitality. There he taught us the ways of Arms, and so Thurin's children came to know the discipline of steel. We learned how to fight and how to kill, and the ways of mace and maul and axe. As we learned the Arts of War we Dwarves discovered our Power. All the while Malog carefully studied our ways, learned the secrets of our halls, and laid the foundations of future treacheries. If only we had known! How many Dwarves would have been spared their place in the Song of Mourning? How many of our holds and halls would still endure?
The Warrior was cunning, but even his fair mask and clever words could not hide the darkness in his soul. As he taught us the ways of War, Malog ever warned us against the treachery and guile of the surface dwellers. Malog reviled the Elves above all, cursing their arrogance and wickedness. He praised Thurin with shining words, but repented that the Shaper's greatest work should be sullied by giving it to an Elf instead of someone more deserving. The Warrior tried to plant seeds of envy and avarice in our hearts, but these took no root. Finally, Malog urged the Thanes to march against the hateful Elves and take back Shadowbane. Why, asked the Thanes, should the Dwarves do such a thing? Shadowbane was a gift given to the Elves by Thurin himself. At this Malog flew into a rage, and cried out the Thurin had been wrong to squander his mighty gift. The full measure of Malog's evil was finally revealed, and the first of his great wrongs against the Dwarves was thwarted. The Thanes looked beyond the Maimed God's deceptions to the truth: Malog had not taught us to be warriors for our good, but for his. The Warrior intended that we should be his unwitting pawns, and win Shadowbane for him, so that his hand alone would wield the Sword of Destiny. Malog had tried to lure us from our labors and turn all Dwarvenkind against Thurin's will. He failed. And so Thurin's children gained their first Enemy, and the Maimed God has always been the most hated of our foes. The Thanes exiled him from our halls, for it was not yet in our nature to punish or kill our enemies.
When Malog had departed we set aside our weapons and returned to our labors. Thurin finally returned to us, and his homecoming was joyful and glorious. The Shaper told his children the long tale of all that had transpired above, of the treachery of the Elves, the rise of the Beast Lords, and a terrible war called the Taming. We listened, and afterward the Thanes told Thurin of Malog and of the intrigues the Warrior had tried to spin among us. Thurin was troubled at the news, for some of Malog's words had proven true. Thurin had indeed judged the Elves unworthy of the Sword of Destiny. The blade had taken Thurin's maimed left hand in battle, but Thurin did not mourn its loss. And then the Dwarves were freely given the prize Malog had bid us take in battle, for our father had taken Shadowbane from the field, and brought the Shining Sword with him to Haganduur. Thurin commanded us to keep the sword safe forever, and so we delved a great vault to keep it in, deep, strong, and hidden. The Forge Masters fashioned a new hand for the Shaper, a strong, shining hand of silver. We showed him all of our works and accomplishments. Thurin was glad, but kept to his oath and did not return to his forge.
Soon after, the All-Father set Time into motion. Deep underground we felt Aerynth tremble, and we sensed the mighty change. Thurin told the wisest among us the meaning of what had happened, and commanded all Dwarves to henceforth keep the count of days. And so we did. We carved all that we had seen and heard onto the walls of our halls, fixing our history into stone forever. We also bored great shafts upward, from the heart of each Dwarfhold through stone and earth to the very surface of the World. These shafts looked up into to the strange and endless sky, and beneath each shaft we placed great crystals, and mirrors of polished bronze. And so each day, from the very first even unto this, the Sun in its wandering shines down upon the deeps, and its light is seen even in our darkest vaults. We mark its passing, and carve a sign onto walls of the hardest stone.
Even as we began to count the days Thurin gave his children our next great task, a labor we came to rue. Thurin chose the hardiest of our kind, and led them out of the deeps to the surface, under the terrible sky. Only once before had any Dwarf left the world of stone to walk under the endless sky, when Therron Bellowstone beheld the creation of Men and learned the Art of Animation. Thurin led nearly a hundred of our mightiest to the very foot of the Cliffs of Fate. There lay the fragments of the weltwyrdangssaga that had been carved and broken by the Giants. Thurin bade his children gather all the fragments, which he named Runestones, and bear them back to Haganduur for safekeeping. Then Thurin left his children again, and soon we learned the true scope of the great task set before us. The Runestones lay scattered all over the wide face of Aerynth, and would be long in the gathering. Thurin made us well, however, and we were undaunted by the difficulty of the task. Alas! We had hardly begun our new labor when it was cruelly interrupted.
Our work quickly drew the wrath of the Giants, who claimed the Runestones for their own, and refused to hear of our errand. Nearly a hundred of the first gatherers were killed that grim day, broken by the Giants. Never before had any of Thurin's children died. When the grim news reached Haganduur, all Dwarvenkind was stunned. Thurin was gone and could give us no guidance, and so for the first time we found ourselves hindered in our labor. We had known labor, and wonder, and joy. Now we learned anger. Thrangdan Stoneshoulders claimed the name Thrangdan Giant Killer, put down his pick and took up an axe. Legions of Dwarves followed him, and soon the frozen North flowed red with Giant's blood, and our foes learned to their sorrow just how well Malog had taught us. The World had changed again: Dwarves had been killed, and for the first time they walked in the Roofless World and made war with its folk. The Age of the Forge was gone forever, and in its wake came the Age of the Axe, the longest and most terrible Age my people have ever known.
Our quarrel with the Giants exploded into war, the great conflict your Scholars call the War of the Stones. Your folk know only one war, but we Dwarves remember many. They raged for nearly a millennium, and by the time they ended the Dwarves would count all the other Children of the World among their foes. The Age of the Axe was a time of many changes for my people: we learned quickly to adapt to a World that was strange to us, and we learned quickly to steer our own course, for Thurin was not there to guide us. In the beginning the War of Stones went well for my people, for many and mighty were our weapons. Master Animators carved legions of murgolems to defend our halls, and our Warriors had learned many secrets from Malog. But suddenly the tide turned, and the Giants began to win unexpected victories. Entire holds fell to their ruinous attacks, and the Song of Mourning grew long indeed. The Thanes and War Masters were sorely troubled, and soon we learned how the Giants had come to press our folk so sorely.
The Giants had found a new savior and Patron, a God that granted them great power and promised victory in battle. Their new master was none other than Malog the maimed God, who had finally found a set of pawns. Malog had learned that Shadowbane was now hidden in the Halls of Haganduur, and so he drove the Giants against us, hoping to batter his way to the Sword of Destiny. The Warrior remembered well all the maps he had seen in Haganduur, and led the Giants to many of our hidden holds, where they broke down our gates and walls and plundered our works to feed the Maimed God's greed. Entire mountains were broken in that war, and in the face of the great assault we withdrew, using the body of Aerynth as our fortress and shield. No Giant could walk the narrow road to Haganduur, and our defenses held against the terrible onslaught. In time the Giants drew the wrath of both the Elves and men, and were forced to turn their attentions away from us. I am told that their feuds with the Elves and the Northmen nearly destroyed the entire Giant race, and that in time they renounced Malog, turning their back on the Maimed God. As for the Dwarves, we had learned two powerful lessons: it is sometimes better to outlive your enemies than outfight them, and the peoples of the Roofless World will forever be divided, warring one upon the other. It is a weakness.
In the wake of our war with the Giants, groups of Rune Gatherers journeyed far and wide over the surface of Aerynth. For the first time since our creation Dwarves walked among the other peoples of the World, who found us strange and wonderful. The Gatherers met the Centaurs, and engaged in trade with the Northmen and the Tall Men of Ardan. Remembering Thurin's tales, we were cautious in our dealings with the Elves of the Deathless Empire, but even they were willing to trade Runestones for the secrets of Craft. All the World's Children entered into bargains with us, and we traded our knowledge of Craft, stone, and steel for the Runestones we had been tasked to gather. Master Smiths served Human Kings and Elvish Lords, forging weapons and armor for them the likes of which had never been seen under Sun and Sky. It was a time of peace and prosperity, but all too soon it ended.
The Elves, as is their nature, were suspicious of our errand, and wondered why the Runestones were so important. In time, their Wizards learned to sense and master the power locked inside the stones, and soon all the Children of the World were bonding themselves to Runestones, changing their natures and their destinies. The lure of power was too great: the Centaurs, Elves, and Men suddenly turned against us, breaking their word, shattering our agreements, and hoarding the stones. Where once all the Races but one had been our friends, we now found ourselves beset on every side. The greatest Dwarves living all gathered in the Hall of Voices at Haganduur, and there we argued over our new dilemma. Deceit and deception are not in Thurin's nature, and they have ever been anathema to his children. We were baffled and dismayed that our former friends and allies had broken their word to us, and without the guidance of Thurin we knew not how to proceed.
And so it was that as before when the Dwarves first felt the wrath of the Giants, one Dwarf stepped forward and chose a new destiny for our people. Doran Diamondeyes, mightiest and wisest of the Priests of Thurin, shouted out over the din, in a voice like thunder. The deeds and motives of the Roofless Ones mattered not, for they were beyond all reckoning, the great Dwarf said. Only the end result of their action mattered: the Surface Folk were trying, in their greed, to thwart the will of Thurin, as the Giants had before them. The children of Thurin, he proclaimed, must deal with this new threat as they dealt with the Giants of old: with the Axe! And so all Dwarvenkind mustered again for war, and we surged out of our hidden holds and fought the Men of Ardan, the Elves of the Deathless Empire, and even the Centaurs of the Vast Plains. The War of Stones began anew, and in earnest. We emptied the armories of Haganduur and bore our mightiest weapons into the fray.
Our courage and our resolve never wavered � we are Dwarves, after all. What fear had we of death, provided we could die in the service of Thurin's will? And die we did, by the hundreds and thousands. Our weapons were powerful beyond reckoning, and our might and skill were great indeed, but even the greatest Warriors of the Age of the Axe could not hope to stand against so many foes. The power of the Titans, the spells of the Sidhe, and the might of the Horse Lords were more than even we could withstand. Many of the greatest and mightiest Dwarves who ever lived quickly fell in the conflict, and the scourge our enemies visited on our holds made the former onslaught of the Giants seem feeble and weak. Thus began the darkest chapter of our history, though we knew not just how dark it would become. Finally, the Elvish Hosts carved their way into the deeps like a sword of fire, and drew nigh even unto Haganduur. Doran Diamondeyes led the final great sortie to meet the foes, and so two great armies met in a vast cavern, and there they joined in the final battle of the War of Stones. In that bitter fight the full extent of our doom was finally revealed.
The eyes of the Elves are keen, and the spells of the Sidhe have the power both to conceal and to reveal. So it was that in the midst of the fray, Elvish sorceries pierced the veils woven about Thurin's highest priest, and his true shape was revealed. In the midst of our lines stood no Dwarf at all, but Malog the Maimed God, who had learned to hide his true shape with the very mask our father had wrought for him! And so all of Malog's treacheries and schemes were made plain: the Warrior had failed to destroy Thurin's children from without, so he tried a second time to destroy us from within. Long afterward we learned how we had been deceived: how Malog had killed Doran Diamondeyes years before and stood in his place, hoping to gain access to the vault where Shadowbane was kept. When this failed, he goaded our race into a hopeless war, thinking the Sword of Destiny would fall into his hands once we had been destroyed. But the Maimed God's plans miscarried, for he was revealed too soon. In his rage he fell upon both Dwarves and Elves, and none could withstand his fury.
At that darkest moment Arak Helmsplitter, second only to Thrangdan Giant Killer in the ranks of Dwarvish heroes, took his mighty hammer and struck the great column that rose in the center of the cavern. The entire roof collapsed, burying Malog along with both armies, Elvish and Dwarvish alike. It was a bitter sacrifice, and many great Dwarves died, but the invasion of Haganduur was thwarted and the schemes of Malog were undone. When word came back of Malog's treachery, the Thanes decided that Dwarvenkind had lost its way, and that the War of Stones was not Thurin's will but utter folly. We abandoned all our holds save Haganduur, shut fast their gates, and hid their doors. As we had done before against the Giants, the Dwarves would withdraw to our great fortress, and leave the Roofless Ones to slaughter each other under the terrible Sky. Thurin had given us eternal life: we would use it as our weapon, and when all our foes were long dead we would emerge, and gather the rest of the Runestones from our enemies' tombs.
And so we remained locked in our hidden fortress as the Hordes of Chaos raged across the face of Aerynth. We felt the shocks and tremors of the War of the Scourge, but the legions of Chaos never reached the deeps, and when the call went out for all the Children of the World to join the Grand Alliance, we heeded it not. We waited, and from what you have told me it sounds as if the scourge of Chaos nearly did destroy our enemies for us. We waited and worked at our forges, safe and secure, confident in our self-imposed exile. We were perhaps too confident.
The War of the Scourge had nearly ended when we discovered that Shadowbane's vault was empty. The Sword of Destiny, our sacred charge, had been stolen! We feared that Malog had finally triumphed despite all our efforts, and the mightiest among us left Haganduur, returning to the Roofless World to seek news of the sword's fate. The few who returned bore grim news indeed: they told tales of a ravaged world, defiled and despoiled by Chaos. We learned that a Human hero had stolen Shadowbane, only to have it taken from him by an Elvish queen. Though our heroes searched far and wide for her, divinations revealed that Thurin's sword had passed beyond the bounds of Aerynth, out of our reach forever. As we realized that we had failed our father, the Dwarves at last learned despair. We sealed our gates again, and waited for the final victory of Chaos. The All-Father returned, but we saw Him not. He called Thurin to His side for the final battle, but we heard Him not. We waited in the darkness, pondering long the lessons that history and fate had taught us. The War of the Scourge ended, but we kept to our seclusion. No Dwarf joined the celebrations, or helped the Roofless Folk rebuild. We waited, and we watched, working at our forges and brooding in our halls. Though the Dwarves had known peace in our seclusion for centuries, the Age of the Axe had not yet ended, for there was one war left for my folk to fight, when our greatest enemy rose against us for the third time. We had hoped that Arak's sacrifice had destroyed Malog's evil forever. We were wrong.
You have told me tales of the War of Ashes, when the Fallen Thing that had been Malog the Maimed God returned to Aerynth with his Twisted Breeds. The conflict that ravaged the world of Sun and Sky early in your Age of Kings was but the faintest echo of the true fight that raged in the deep. While Morloch sent swarms of Orcs and Ogres to trouble the Children of the World, he led the great hosts of the Twisted Breeds to the ruins of Dwarfholds left empty since we felt the fury of the Giants. In hordes innumerable they clawed and fought their way through our tunnels and caverns, seeking the way to Haganduur and Shadowbane. When Morloch's brood came at last to Haganduur we broke their siege, and our Warriors rushed forth again to battle, and their might had not diminished. Morloch's new servants were no match for our Warriors who had been tempered by the War of Stones, and the caverns were choked with the foul bodies of our enemies. At last Morloch himself came forth, sweeping through the deep like a plague, and none could withstand his fury. In shadow and flame the Maimed God reached the gates of Haganduur, and cracked them with his mighty fists.
The strength of the Fallen God would have broken our first and greatest hold, but then he stopped, for Thurin was there. At long last, after millennia of darkness and doubt, the Shaper returned to his children in their hour of greatest need. Thurin asked the Maimed God why he came to Haganduur where he was not welcome. Morloch hissed in his rage and envy that he had come for the Sword of Destiny. Shadowbane could never have been forged without his help, he raved, and the greatest of Thurin's works should never have been squandered on mere mortals. Morloch was the Warrior: the sword should have been his by right. Thurin said but four words to the Lord of the Orcs: "It is not here." And Morloch's rage abated, and he turned and walked out of the deeps, for he knew that Thurin would never lie. Morloch returned to the Roofless World, and you have taught me what befell him there. There are many of my folk who will be glad to hear it.
After the Fallen God departed Thurin came again into Haganduur, and there we told him of our pride, our errors, and our loss. Thurin only smiled, and proclaimed that at last his children had come of age, for we knew now both Glory and Sacrifice, and while we knew the joy of Duty, we had learned how destructive blind loyalty could be. He forgave us our errors, and for the first time since the creation of the Dwarves, he asked for our aid as friends, not as servants. Our World had changed again. The Age of the Axe had ended, and the Age of the Chain had begun.
You seem surprised, honorable host, by the name. Do you think that somehow my people became slaves after Thurin's return? Quite the opposite. Our father's return freed us to earn our destiny. Nay, this Age gains its name from the first request Thurin made of us. He asked the Dwarves to set aside their axes and return to the forge. Instead of blades or weapons, Thurin asked us to fashion chains, great chains of adamant with links the size of horses. Even though Thurin had freed us from his will, we were still honored to be his children, and happy to comply. As we worked, Thurin withdrew to the lowest vault of Haganduur, where all of the collected Runestones were kept. There he set his great mind to pondering the fragments of the All-Father's great saga, a puzzle that could, if pieced together properly, reveal the course of the future. And so we worked, and all the while we waited, and our Priests worked auguries and divinations, for Thurin had said that Shadowbane would return to Aerynth, and that we must be ready for that day.
Nearly three centuries had passed when at last the auguries of the wise were answered. Shadowbane had returned to the World: the voices of Archons and the very stones themselves whispered to us the mighty tale of the Field of Rennelind, where Shadowbane laid the Deathless Empire low. The shame of Beregund's theft still burned in our hearts, and we longed for the chance to finally avenge that black deed. The Dwarvish Hosts assembled, ready to make war on Cambruin's High Kingdom, but Thurin emerged from his studies and bid us stop. At last the puzzle had fallen into place, and though many fragments of the future were lost forever, Thurin had learned Cambruin's true nature and his grim fate. The Shaper saw the storm that was coming, and knew what must be done. Thurin revealed some of the grim destiny he had read to a few of our Thanes and heroes, but the whole story he alone knows. With dread and fear in his voice the Shaper bid us put down our weapons, and take up instead the great chains we had fashioned for him. Thurin declared that the time had come to abandon Haganduur: he urged us to take all of our treasures (save the Runestones, which he claimed) and return to the wider deeps, taking back our holds long abandoned. The great chains must run from hold to hold, and be braced against the strongest parts of Aerynth's core.
As the War of Tears raced toward its bloody end we worked, and soon miles of heavy chains looped through the deepest tunnels, anchored to the oldest, hardest stones. When this work was finished, Thurin gathered all his children together for one last time. He told us to return to our halls, and seal them, and wait. A storm was coming, greater and more terrible than the rising of the Dragon, and the times ahead would be dark and terrible. We must endure, and work one last great labor, the hardest our race shall ever know. The Shaper warned that he would not be there to guide us, but he knew our Skill and Craft and Will would be enough. Then Thurin left us for the last time, and all of my people scattered to their holds, and waited for the storm. It was not long coming.
Thus came the Turning, when the World was shattered. For four Ages we have toiled in the deeps, secure in the certainty that the Stone, the hard flesh of Aerynth, was eternal and unchanging. To see the core of the World broken was more terrifying for us than the Dragon. Countless Dwarves were destroyed, for the deeps were ravaged worse than the lands of the Sun. The Halls of Haganduur were broken, flooded with the Dragon's blood. Countless halls were lost, as the fragments of the World drifted away into the Void. But the Dwarves were ready. The great chains they forged had long been finished, and when the World was broken the chains held fast, keeping the fragments close, if not together. When the storm had finally passed, the Thanes and heroes Thurin had counseled told the rest of us that a new labor was at hand. The Shaper had given one final task to his children: we must return to the Roofless World, and walk among strangers who had been our bitter enemies. Somewhere amidst the chaos and turmoil, there exists the secret that can make Aerynth whole again. Why had the World had broken? The portions of the giant's saga that might have given the answers were too badly broken to read, or else they have been lost forever. We must learn all we can of the history of the Roofless World, so that we might finally understand this calamity and reverse it.
And so the Age of the Chain, as we call it, continues, and shall until Aerynth is reforged and the chain is needed no more. For a century Dwarves have walked the surface of the World once again, hiring out our skills as masons, mercenaries, and blacksmiths, listening carefully to every piece of news and legend we can find about the Turning. Our piety and devotion has drawn many to the Holy Church of the All-Father, where as Prelates we can read ancient histories unguessed by our folk, and as Crusaders we can hold the tide of blood and darkness at bay. The restoration of the World may seem an impossible task, but we have set ourselves to it, and we remain as as steadfast and determined as we were the very moment we first drew breath. Thurin waits for us at the broken World's heart, and we will not fail him."