Monday, July 03, 2006

Halls and Heroes - Dwarves of The Valley of Baryn

Deep beneath the jagged peaks of the western talons of the Dragon's Claw Mountains, is the dwarven kingdom of Har Hundir. A vast and ancient warren of caves, halls, fortresses and mines, Har Hundir is home to thousands of dwarves.

The dwarves of the valley are an ancient and well-established people, having been in the valley long before men arrived and long after the elves departed. It is they who have tamed the western peaks of the Dragon's Claw Mountains and if not for their presence and the constant battling, the trolls, orcs and other unmen would surely have dominated the valley ages ago.

The dwarves of the valley are rather typical of their race and fall into two distinct types. The first if the Ulthar or Mountain Dwarves and are the sort found deep in the mountains. the other is the Undril or Hill Dwarves - the sort that live above ground in the rocker cliffs and hills.

Ulthar are a stockier more brawny lot with skin tones that range farer than their surface brothers. Their hair ranges through the full range with red and brown being most common. Males sport long, well-kept beards, often braided and decorated with charms and tokens. Hair is worn mid-length to long and tends to also be well-kept. Female Ulthar are known to wear their hair bound, often in fabric or leather, sometimes even metal bindings known and Toldi. Toldi are often passed from mother to daughter and are highly prized and treasured items. Dwarven grooming is a well-known and much celebrated trait.

Ulthar tend to have a stern demeanor, but it is not to say that they do not appreciate humor nor do they feel other emotions - they simply keep them bottled up and held in check. Ulthar are devoted and commited, raising strong families and extended kinship groups bound by both oath and deed. An Ulthar's word is often stronger than his very life and it is not unheard of for a swarn oath to be carried on for generations after the original speaker has passed on.

Ulthar clans mark themselves with clan brands known as Gulgir or "Forge Marks". these brands are infused with shavings of iron, carbon and other biproducts of the forge so that they show up dark and raised against the Ulthar's skin. The receiving of a Gulgir usually marks important events in an Ulthar dwarve's life and are usually accompanied by a serious fever that the recipient must work through and live with lest he appear weak. By the time he reaches old age, an Ulthar dwarf will usually have accumulated several dozen Gulgir.

Quite a contrast are the Undril. Undril drwarves are also known (especially by Ulthar) and Hearth Dwarves for their warm homes and much more relaxed family lives. Undril are the most commonly encountered dwarves throughout the valleys and those that are most likely to engage in open trade with humans and elves. Friendly, jovial and with a astute wit, the Undril often take strangers by surprise when they meet a dwarf who is not so "dwarfish".

Undril also have family groups byut they do not mark themselves with Gulgir. Instead they mark their family kinship through the wearing of patterned textiles, draped in a wrap around their shoulders. These wraps known, as Wilgrom, are study and utilitarian, often being used as cloaks, blankets and even sacks when no other presents itself. When an Undril dwarf dies, he is often shrouded in his Wilgrom, scraps of which are torn free and woven into his direct family and closest kin's hair and beards.

Undril dwarves tend to be darker of both skin and hair than their under-mountain kin. These warves have ruddy skin and dark hair that ranges from a burnt rusty color to a raven black. Their beards are usually worn shorts and less ornate than their stalwart cousins. Female Undril are known for wearign their hair free and loose, well-kept and decorated with mountain wild flowers and and charms. Undril couples wear matching neckbands of woven gold, silver and gems known and Althali or "Heart Bindings".

The King of Har Hundir is a grizzled old dwarf by the name of Grimbol Grongdrol and it is his lineage that has ruled the undermountain kingdom from his Iron Hearth Hall for nearly 500 years. Grimbol is a wise ruler, maintaining his rule through the fair and level rulership of his people who, given to their own devices, might succumb to their natural tendancies of greed and obsession and forsake their higher duties of stewartship of the western peaks.

Grimbol rules over botrh Undril and Ulthar alike and he keeps a council made up of both. the bond between the two dwarven kith is eternal and neither would deny their dependence on the other. Ulthar work the depths and make the rishes that keep the dwarves strong while the Undril make sure that the drwaves never slip into obscurity and maintain their connection to the world above. It is a constant fear of the dwarves of the Valley of Baryn, that they will sink into themselves and be doomed like those who their ancestors fled. All remembered the doomed halls of Har Handigar.

The dwarves of Har Hundir keep good relations with most of the folk of the valley, even trading with the Thane for pelts and meat or treasure taken from slain enemies. Har Hundir also watches the northern passes of the valley for incursion from Gallow and also from Trulsk, the powerful trollish kingdom that shares the western peaks.

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