The Wraithlight Chronicles
“The sureness of stone, the strength of metal, the alignment of the heavens and the length of his beard. These are the only things that matter to a dwarf. Everything else can always be forged out of these four things.”
- ancient dwarven proverb
At the beginning of time, after the Vaháliynu seeded the world with chaos, there were countless creatures that labored in servitude deep within the ground. Made of earth and fire and glittering with gemstones and glass, they toiled endlessly in servitude to the Titans, their elemental chaos masters. Then, these creatures managed to escape their overlords, and they spilled into the young world. Those that called themselves Dverung became what the above-ground world refers to as dwarves.
Dwarves have the same statistics as their entry in the Player’s Handbook I on page 36, with the following exceptions:
- Languages: Substitute “Dverish” for “Dwarven”; substitute “Low Daskanean” for “Common”.
In ancient times, the Dverung emerged from the earliest mountains and looked to the stars above in awe and wonder, as they had never seen such before. They saw patterns in the sky, and gave names to their shapes, and made note of their power and influence on the world below. Seasons and weather, luck and unluck, and past and future could be divined from observing and understanding their patterns. The bright and colorful motes that traveled separately from the constellations were also named and sworn upon as entities unto themselves, unfettered even by the patterns of the universe, determined to float through the heavens driven by their own destinies. In time, these patterns became the driving force behind the Dverung pantheon; gods and goddesses eventually emerged from primitive astrology, but were forever tied to them.
Eventually, the Dverung lost their primal earthen nature, becomint less like their close cousins, the Galeb Duhr. As their paths crossed with other races, they earned the slang “dwarves”, for obvious reasons; Dwarves are shorter and stockier in comparison to other races, the men taking pride in their spectacular beards, whereas the women taking great care in their own long hair.
Never taking a direct hand in the Dverung’s progress as a race, the astral gods of the Dverung chose to reveal prophecy through symbolism and coincidence. Only what the Dverung could forge for themselves would determine their future. In time, through divination and chance, the Dverung learned the secrets of pulling ore from the ground and treating it with fire and heat like the Titans did. Four kings founded four great clans, each clan mastering one kind of metal. Clan Vanadhamir, the last of the great dwarven clans in this age of Creeping Darkness, was the first to rediscover the secrets of iron, and then steel and blacksmithing; it was Clan Vanadhamir that delivered the secret of steel upon the world.
There were some, however, who were dissatisfied with the passive role of the gods, and sought to move the stars themselves.
The Rise of the Starmetal Cult
Galhag Blackrust, an unsuccessful smith and social pariah in his clan, sought to reach out to the stars and the celestial patterns and control and twist their influence upon the world, placing curses and banes upon his enemies. As Clan Kohlvir was the smallest and poorest of the four clans, finding dwarves willing to go to extreme measures was easy enough, and Blackrust’s intelligence and magnetic personality sealed the deal. It was easy to find other disenfranchised members throughout the other clans as well, quietly gathering to him poor families and unsuccessful craftsmen.
It was at this time that Kohlvir clerics “divined” a method on smelting and forging sacred star metal – adamantine – into weapons and tokens of incredible power. It was foretold that a great discovery would be fostered upon the weakest, and truly it was. Blackrust stole the secrets for himself and tragically murdered the clerics before they could reveal the secrets to the Kohlvir clan. Uttering words from the Far Realm sounding of rent iron and shattering crystal, Blackrust sealed his pact of power with the painted blood of his clansmen, and finally the Starmetal Cult rose to notoriety.
The predations and deceptions of the Starmetal Cult plagued the Dverung kingdom for centuries. Blackrust himself became something unearthly and immortal and left his cultists behind, but that did not diminish their blind fervor. The most powerful and sinister cultists attempted to follow in Blackrust’s celestial footsteps, but only failed miserably in their chaotic transformations; other cultists took up their failures and created legions of shock troops to throw against their enemies. Ogres, ettins, trolls, and other giant-kin are a sample of what was created, but the crowning achievement of Starmetal transfiguration is the orc. Orcs are the only race descended from the Dverung, other than dwarves and possibly goliaths, that have had the cunning and intelligence enough to form their own kingdoms, and they are a lasting reminder of the Starmetal Cults and their evils. Finally, through unity amongst the clans, the Starmetal Cult was driven out of the kingdom and into obscurity.
Emergence of the Geodim
Not long after the exodus of the Starmetal cultists did a previously unknown race arrive on the slopes of the Dverung kingdom. Nearly being twice the height of a dwarf, they were facetiously dubbed “goliaths” by human traders, and the moniker stuck. The tribal but friendly Geodim were eager to learn about their neighbors. They could not recall where they came from before their appearance, only telling a strong creation-myth of the spirits cracking open a geode and spilling out its contents along the mountains. From these crystals, their legends say, the Geodim emerged. Dwarven clerics and scholars suggest that the goliaths were a discarded experiment by Starmetal cultists who did not recognize them for what they were.
It was the dwarven explorer Kalum Shatterfist of clan Durumvar that immersed himself in Geodim culture in an effort to learn about them. In the series of scrolls entitled, The Shatterfist Chronicles, Shatterfist retells his initial contact:
My colleagues stayed at a safe distance, crossbows loaded but angled towards the ground. The Geodim, too, were wary, heavy spears hefted in their hands, but similarly at a safe, downward angle. Boldly, I stepped towards them, holding halfway between them and us, closer towards their village fire. The villagers’ eyes shifted between my advance and my protective comrades, but there was one amongst them – a young girl, still taller than me by more than a beard’s length – who watched me with curious, rapt attention.
To her, I extended my hands, holding in my palms a whole, closed geode mined from the royal Durumvar quartz mines. With only a brief moment’s hesitation, the girl smiled and walked forward away from the shielding wall of adults. There were some whispered words in the Giant tongue – words of concern and alarm. Yet none reached out to stop her advance.
Carefully and with apparent reverence, the girl took the geode from my hands. I bowed slightly to her, and most unexpectedly, she giggled good-naturedly at my gesture and scampered back to the adults. In a rush of activity, the adults gathered around the girl, poking and prodding the geode and murmuring curiosity and wonder at this gift I had given them. And then, after a long moment, their excitement hushed as an aged and stooped man draped in furs and teeth shuffled out while leaning heavily on a gnarled staff.
The shaman – I am certain that would be his function if not his title – grasped the rock in both hands and cracked it open like an egg. One of my comrades, a cleric of Svaal, cried out an alarm; he could sense the raw, primal energy empowering the shaman’s hands. I lifted a hand to silence him, my eyes never leaving the geode. The goliaths, too, quietly huddled around the shaman to watch as he pieced through the halves of the geode in ritual observance. One long index finger probed the contents of the halves, noting crystals loose and feeling for tell-tale structures.
And then, grinning a grin missing several teeth, the shaman looked up at me, eyes mirthful. In halting Dverish, he said, “The fortunes smile upon this meeting.” And then in a sudden whoop of a cheer, the Geodim discarded their weapons and gathered me up as if I were their king on a royal litter. My companions stared dumbfounded. “Put away your weapons, you fools!” I cried to them, “and break out the ale!”
The Age of Metals
Following the initial discovery and peaceful coexistence with the Geodim, King Ashgar I extended to them membership in the Dverung Kingdom. The goliaths had no nation or matriarch beyond individual villages, so through assistance from dwarven diplomats and clerics the tribes appointed a junior shaman. Called a “walker”, this shaman forswears ties to tribe yet travels between all tribal lands and the King’s court in Dürmvéhanar.
Never before had the kingdom been so prolific. Clan strongholds grew like crystals out of the mountainsides, massive works of art that were both practical in their defense and spectacular displays of craftsmanship. Beneath the ground, holds expanded to accommodate for greater population, more forges, and larger vaults to hold uncountable treasures. The clans, too, discovered the riches in the lands above and below their holds, and eager dwarves pulled ores and crystals from the yielding earth.
King Ashgar III commissioned the greatest public works accomplishment of all dwarvenkind: the Vault of Ages. Every hold was to create a protected vault deep in the earth to hold the greatest treasures of that clan. Naturally filled with all manner of precious metals and gems, the histories of each clan was cast to stone or metal and hung in the vaulted halls. In addition, many clans created mausoleums within the Vault, where dwarven lords and heroes were interred.
As the Gloomveil crept across the surface world, the Dverung paid little attention to the cries of Man and the flight of Ealu. After all, they were secure in their underground halls, and all they needed was to be unearthed from the depths with their own two hands. Even when the darkness swept across their farm valleys and surface holdings, the kingdom retreated to its mountain halls. Why did they care about the plight of those races? Only did the great Dverung machne pause in contemplation of this threat as, from the deep dark below, entities only known to the Starmetal cultists of old emerged. Hand in hand with diplomats of the Deathless, these squid-like deep-dwelling humanoids made overtures of religious and authoritarian subjugation with promises of power. Hearing of the overture that the Deathless offered to the nations of Man to the west, King Ashgar outright rejected their offer. Naturally, the might of the Dverung kingdom would be triumphant over these interlopers.
The punishment for resistance was severe.
Collapsing the entirety of the Dverung kingdom with a wave of a hand, these Shadar-kai and Illithid diplomats called upon the powers of triumph over death and unspeakable words from beyond the stars. The very mountains shook, magma boiled up from below the depths, and the clan holds tumbled into ruin. When the cataclysm passed, the great mountain ranges of Dürmvéhanar became as a spiny, rocky rubble. Now, years later, with the passing of the Creeping Dark, all that was the mountains of the Dverung is now a fetid, jagged swamp full of abominable terrors. The four great dwarven clans scattered into obscurity.
Daskaen and the Founding of the Runelain Bulwark
Eventually, survivors of the cataclysm found their way to a corner of the world populated by humans. The land was called Daskaen, and its people were loosely-affiliated city-states rallying under a unified banner against the darkness. The dwarven refugees were granted asylum in these lands in exchange for their knowledge of building and rune-magic. For while the humans were fair builders themselves, carving their own magnificent stone pillars, halls and temples, they were no masters of the earth like the Dverung. Human ingenuity, combined with dwarven engineering and rune-magic, created the Runelain Bulwark — an impenetrable wall braced with the combined power of the Radiant Choir and the Sidereal Illustrative.
The only downside to this wall is that there is no entrance, and there is no egress, except by the sea, but the winds howl and rains drench Daskaen with the anger of a betrayed goddess and only the bravest (or most foolhardy) attempt to make landfall by boat.
Now, in the mountain hall made in the space excavated to provide stone for the Bulwark, a council of clans rules over the gathered dwarven refugees. It is a sad age to be a dwarf, with no hold, no wealth, and no king.