On the Dwarves of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
Date: Sat, May 10, 2003
Topic: Peoples & Culture
Few articles in the vast repetoire of Greyhawk knowledge have examined the demihumans of the Flanaess in particular. In the first of a four-part series, the Brother of the Cruel Summer examines that bearded race known as the dwur.
On the Dwarves of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
By Cruel Summer Lord Jared (Email Jared)
Used with permission, do not repost or redistribute without the express consent of the author.
Respected Iquander and Respected Sir Pluffet:
This dispatch is the first in a series of four articles I intend to write on our dwurvish, olven, nonizian, and hobnizian friends in the Flanaess. The dwarves of the Flanaess, or the "dwur", as they are known in the old Flan tongue, shall be the subject of the first of these articles.
I shall examine first their social practices, then a very brief outline of their history in the Flanaess, and finally insights into the nations and kingdoms of the dwarves across the Flanaess:
Social mores and practices:
The dwur, as is commonly known, are a highly structured, lawful society, based on clan lines. Being materialistic, grim, and hard-working, they are a militaristic people, endlessly engaged in wars against each other, humans, and many different humanoid and giant races for control of the vast mineral wealth in the mountains and hills wher they make their home.
Everyone knows that the dwarves suffer from "gold fever", where precious metals and stones (except for pearls) inspire a strong love, even to the point of lust, in the bearded folk for these riches. Wars have been fought between dwarven nations for this wealth, (most particularly in the aftermath of the Hateful Wars, 498-510 CY, which we shall examine later). They tend to take things to extremes, in their laws, their politics, and their relations with other races.
Dwarven society is divded into many different clans, who live across the Flanaess. Among them, the dwarves can show a capacity either for great solidarity (such as among some elements of the Hateful Wars, in the Hestmark and Hollow Highlands, the Principality of Ulek, the Yatils, the Iron Hills, etc.) or great civil war (the Hateful Wars, the Crystalmists, deep within the Rakers, etc.)
Interclan politics are of the highest importance to dwarves, and great politicians have been able to form lasting bonds between them, such as the clans who eventually united under a dwur prince to form the Principality of Ulek.
In everyday life, dwarves are taught to be loyal to the clan and the gods first, the dwarven race second, and other allies third. They typically spend their days either defending against or raiding enemy humanoids, travelling to conduct trade with humans or gnomes, making music, telling tales and drinking, or prospecting down a mine. Mining and the attendant riches are the most critical part of the dwarven economy, as they use both standard mining technology and their own particular form of magic.
Dwarves live in either grand citadels and mansions carved from the stone, or tunnel networks made from older mineshafts. They have the same businesses you will find in any human city, and indeed some innkeepers profit from renting accomodation to the taller humans who may come to visit.
For matters of food, they have little problem with looting the food supplies of their enemies, hunting underground monsters (minotaur lizard is surprisingly delicate and succulent, or so some of my dwarven friends tell me), or even growing their own limited supplies of grains, fruits and vegetables.
Gathering water is done by tapping meltwater glaicers in both cold and temperate zones, and/or by drawing water from underground streams and channels. The dwarven constitution is such that they need less water than us humans to live on. Needless to say, the dwur can also trade gems and gold for additional food or water if they want.
What of dwarven women and children? In some clans, women are forced into very repressive roles, and have little social freedom, sadly enough. They are expected to be child-bearers and little else, either working at the loom, the forge, or other means of producing food and goods while the men conduct all the affairs of political and social life.
Dwarven women and children often seem to be perceived by their menfolk as delicate things needing to be protected. Other dwarves are not so chauvinistic, but even then they are not as egalitarian as an elf or halfling community would be.
Insofar as their relations with the outside world, dwarves can either deal with other clans as brothers, or with a poisonous hate that exceeds even that of their enmity with the jebli and the euroz. They generally get on well with gnomes, although some gnomes resent the perceived paternalism they receive at the hands of some dwarves. Most dwarves and elves prefer to avoid each other at all times, the exceptions being some of the dwarves of the Yatils and their elven friends in the Vesve, or the dwarves of the Hestmark and Hollow Highlands, the elves of Sunndi, and the dwarves of the Iron Hills. When it comes to humans and halflings, the attitudes can vary from great friendship to great dislike, depending on the attitudes of the other race.
One last note must be made: Dwarves are not necessarily "non-magical". They do not, for instance, hate and loathe all sorcery, but rather the kind normally practiced by most humans and elves. The dwarves, I have discovered, use a great deal of very specialized magic in their everyday lives: To convert rock into fertile soil for cultivation, to search out veins of ore underground, to gather water, and of course when crafting their incredible weapons and armor. Gnomes might solve many of these problems with their "technology", but dwarves use actual spellcasting in this regard to aid them.
That said, dwarves have little patience for one of their own who learns elven and human sorcery. Such a person is thought to be "consorting with demons", or abandoning the traditions of the dwarven gods to pursue such a vile career. The social stigma against dwarven mages is very strong in some societies. They can tolerate those of other races who practice such magic, but to see one of their own doing it is highly unsettling.
Only a brief outline can really be given here, as the dwur I spoke to, for obvious reasons, do not wish to divulge too much of their history. Dwarven clans existed all over the Flanaess before the Great Migrations, although they were concentrated in the modern Principality of Ulek, the Lortmils, and the Crystalmists, where great dwarven kings had united many clans into powerful kingdoms.
During the Invoked Devastation, when the last dwarven High King of the Crystalmists was lost, and the sacred Axe of the Dwarvish Lords along with him, the clans of the Crystalmists were badly sundered. Many dwarves left to begin new lives in other regions, blending with the clans already living there, whether peacefully or violently. Greedy and ambitious clan leaders in the Crystalmists, meanwhile, no longer bound by allegiance to the High King, fought with each other for control, with the trauma of the Devastation being too much for some dwarves to bear, becoming power-mad as a result of what they saw.
Since then, the dwarves have more or less reacted to human settlements following the Great Migrations. Good dwarves had always been distant allies with those of the Flan who were of a goodly weal, and this continued even after the Aerdy Empire rose to its greatest heights.
Dwarf-Aerdy alliances were forged in places like Ratik in Bone March and between the dwarves of Ulek and the Keoish, while in other places, such as among the bigoted Aerdi who conquered Idee and Sunndi, or the racist freebooters who took control in the Pomarj, conflicts inevitably arose.
During the Age of Great Sorrow, some dwarves, such as those allied with what would become the Iron League, were happy to assit their human allies in throwing off Aerdi-imposed shackles, while others, who had profited greatly from trade with the honorable lords of Ratik and Bone March, assisted the other way.
The Crystalmist clans continued to fight each other, as always, while with the rise of Iuz in the 450s CY, dwarven leaders in the Yatils gathered in a grand conference in 495 CY. Most of them signed a document declaring support for Furyondy and their elven friends in the Vesve against Iuz, a pact they have kept to this day. Many also aided the Perrenders in overthrowing the Archmage Iggwilv in Perrenland, and also worked with many in Ket to block her advance southward. The dwarves of the Yatils have always been among the most honest, good and friendly in the Flanaess, and so I owe them for giving me more information than I could have hoped for.
The worst event to occur to the dwarven race occured in 498 CY, with the incursion of the Hateful Wars. Historical sources correctly report that the dwarves acted in concert with the gnomes sharing the Lortmils with them and the elves of Celene and the surrounding forests to defeat the humanoids in the mountains.
However, what they do no tell is of the tremendous greed for power many dwarven chieftains and kings engaged in. Playing deadly political games with the lives of their citizens, each other, and their allies in the war to attempt to gain the best vacated halls for themselves, or increased political prestige and power, or simply to avenge old feuds that had existed since time immeorial. By 509-510 CY, when the war was all but won, some dwarves were more concerned with fighting each other than the humanoids.
As a result of this, the dwarves of the Lortmils and the elves of Celene do not, in large part, speak to each other. Some clans have become sworn enemies, and do not speak to each other. Some gnomes resent the paternalistic attitude and ruthless manipulations of their dwarven "allies", and those offending dwarves do not receive aid from the gnomes, either. Their open kin in the Principality of Ulek are yet another party that has a score to settle with them.
Individual Dwarven populations and kingdoms:
Needless to say, each region's dwarves have their own distinct character. I shall give one or two paragraphs to detailing each one here:
The Crystalmists: The dwarves here are often very well-disposed to other races, and dwarves from outside the Crystalmists, but the bitter clan feuds they have with others who share their range has caused deep social scars. Raids and even occasional wars flare up between these clans, and an endless cycle of hard-edged politics is evident. This came through, for instance, when clan disputes among the dwarves in the badly damaged society of Sterich were at odds with each other in attempting to rebuild the wounded nation. (See the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, page 107).
The Lortmils: As a result of the deadly political games and the trauma of the Hateful Wars, the dwarves of this region are a mixed bag. Many, as well as their kin in the Principality of Ulek, are good, friendly, jolly folk, always as ready to kill a goblin as to raise a tankard to humans who visit. Others are sour, evil-tempered, and both greedy and wealthy enough to rival even the worst shylocks of Dyvers. The alignments and dispositions of the dwarves here vary more than any other.
The Yatils: In the western part of this region, the dwarves tend to keep to themselves, though they will greet and help travellers who visit them, and conduct trade with their Baklunish neighbors. Their mannerisms seem to be more Baklunish than dwur these days, as do their dress and custom. The dwaves of the eastern Yatils are friendly, good and open, as willing to welcome an elf as a fellow dwarf. Having good-aligned neighbors in Furyondy, Veluna and the Vesve has rubbed off on them, and their old pact of alliance against evil in the north stands as strong today as it did almost a century ago.
The dwarves of the Griffs: The dwarves of this region are a mixed bag-some are (or were, depending on what you know) with the Duchy of Tenh, and were valued, if distant, allies. The dwarves deeper in the mountains are among the most vile of their kin, and have been that way almost since the beginning of recorded history. The wars between settled dwarves and new arrivals were the worst here, and the most evil of the bearded folk seem to have settled here: They, along with some of the Lortmils dwarves, take part in and move along the slave trade, often buying young human or elven women for "companionship" in the cold winter nights. Their hatred of humans and elves is well-known.
The dwarves of the Rakers: In keeping with the region's rough character, these fellows are strong, robust, noble and brave. They respect decisiveness and force of personality and action, being allied with gnomes and Ratikkan men who share the same ideals. One of their goals has, since 563 CY, been to reclaim Bone March, and many of them are the best allies the Bone March expatriates have, Count Dunstan often guesting at the homes of particular dwarven dukes and kings.
The dwarves of the Hollow and Hestmark Highlands are suspicious and grim for the most part, but if and when they give their oath of friendship to an outsider, it is as if the visitor is one of them. Strongly allied with the people of Sunndi and others in the Iron League, they are heavily armed and unforgiving in dealing with the Scarlet Brotherhood, the Aerdi, humanoid incursions, or any other foe.
The dwarves of the Iron Hills, led by the great Holgi Hirsute, are similar in disposition, being open and welcoming to all other races. The dwarves of the Glorioles, on the other hand, are allies only be necessity, having nothing but disgust for elves and contempt for their kin in the Iron Hills. They are strongly isolationist, desiring to only have fellow dwarves visit their halls, closing their gates to all others without question. Only the eternal Aerdi threat has caused them to aid their neighbours in the past.
Needless to say, the dwarves of the Flanaess share both a rich common heritage and culture, but also have many different dispositions, relations with other clans and non-dwarves, and particular social situations.