THE DWARVES OF THE SEITHR MOUNTAINS
No one knows why the Dwarves came to the Seithr Mountains. Some say it was because they saw a land unclaimed by the civilized races, and seized the chance to carve out a homeland for themselves. Others say they believed the range was home to one of their ancient strongholds, and descended upon it by the thousands to take back what was theirs. Still others believe the Dwarves got wind of gold, and descended upon the mountains solely to satisfy their ancient feverish need for the precious metal.
In those early days, the clans dug gold and silver mines, enjoying wealth and prosperity despite the harsh climate. Those veins were quickly played out, however, and the miners turned their attention to copper and base metals. The strongholds could not grow enough food to feed themselves, however, and the Dwarves needed to earn more from their labor than iron ingots could provide. They returned to their roots as master craftsmen, and soon their workshops were producing the finest metal goods on the continent. Different clans took up different specialties, ranging from the Karadak Clan’s intricate bronzework to the brutally efficient steel blades of the Harsk Clan. While stories of the great wealth of the Seithr Dwarves are exaggerated, the Clans are in large part prosperous and secure.
The Dwarves worship Rogar, a one-eyed aspect of the Ruler. Legend states that Rogar lost his eye fighting evil gods on the day the Dwarven citadels fell, and if not for his courage and strength of arms evil hordes would have been released upon E’n to wipe the Dwarven race from it. Each Clan depicts Rogar differently, but all of them emphasize his role as a craftsman and his skill with an axe.
The Clans work hard to present a unified front to the outside world, and act in close coordination to keep the goblins and other threats at bay. Despite this, dealings among the clans may be tense, and long-running feuds are common. These rarely turn violent, however, as custom dictates that when two Clans fight, both are shunned by others unless there is clear evidence of grievous wrongdoing by one party. Diplomacy is therefore the method of choice for resolving disputes, as evidenced by the common saying, “Leave the axe. Take the ale.”
It would surprise many outsiders to know that the Dwarves, secure in their stone fortresses, consider themselves nomadic. But veins of ore usually play out in less than fifty years, meaning that a dwarf can expect to move at least three or four times in his life. The clans maintain not only their own active holds, but claims on other veins in the hills. Dwarven prospectors continue to comb the hills, and it is a measure of the richness and inaccessibility of the mountains that even today, they still find unclaimed sites. These sites may be traded between the clans, as a clan focused on cutting semi-precious stones would have little use for an iron mine. Such trades may include a stake in future production from the mine, and may be sealed in marriage between two clans. “A bride worth her tin,” is a common expression of respect for a Dwarven matron.
The Dwarves are aware that while the hills are rich, the veins will one day play out. Their natural lust for treasure is therefore further excited by their desire to create wealth for the Clan, in hopes that it can be used to buy a new domain in the outside world. To the Dwarves, this is not an abstract problem but a real challenge to their livelihood. Generations pass slowly among the Dwarves, and many alive today expect to hold the grandchild who will one day have to march into the outside world, never to return.
Despite the wealth of the hills, a few clans have been unable to maintain their mining concerns. These have instead concentrated in the few hospitable valleys, and grow food and harvest timber for consumption by their neighbors at higher elevations. These clans are often seen as poor by their brethren, though in fact these valleys have become prosperous centers for trade. Outlanders seeking to sell food and buy Dwarven goods inevitably pass through these valleys. And the Dwarves who live there have turned their gifts for craft to the art of brewing, producing some of the finest ales on the continent.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD:
The remoteness of the mountains has made the Seithr Dwarves an insular community, and even other Dwarves regard them as somewhat rustic and old-fashioned. It does not help matters that the Seithr Dwarves speak with a distinct accent, and some have even failed to learn the Common tongue. One particularly unfair charge leveled against the Seithr Dwarves, even by their kin in other lands, is that they are rude and inhospitable to strangers. In fact, the Seithr take great pride in their hospitality, and would never turn away a guest or a weary traveler. But their custom dictates that while the host provides food, drink and a warm fire, the guest should offer news of the outside world, a song, or other entertainment. This leads to misunderstandings, as travelers in the mountains have been offered lodging a Dwarven stronghold only to find themselves eating a meal while the members of the Clan stare at them in stony silence. Needless to say, the guest finds the silence uncomfortable while the hosts wonder why the newcomer is not making his contribution to the feast. Similarly, Seithr traveling in other lands are often put off by the host’s insistence on making small talk, and respond gruffly as they try to steer the conversation in a way that lets them honor their commitment.
It does not help matters that the Seithr deal harshly with claim jumpers and thieves. Those who have escaped the vengeance of the Dwarves are quick to speak of these acts of violence, and are not so forthcoming with the details of the provocation.
Despite their reputation for personal rudeness, the Clans have in recent years faced few threats from beyond their own mountains. To the north, the Landandel Baronies and the city states along the Ouhm River are happy enough to trade with the Dwarves, and are more concerned with capturing territory from each other than with making forays into the icy peaks. The recently liberated gnomes of Tal Hallow are on good terms with the Dwarves who, while they never forayed out of their mountains to attempt to liberate the land, did host and provide for a number of Gnome refugees during those dark times. The embattled nation of Irthos to the south maintains good relations with the Clans, and seems pleased to have at least one border along which no threat is ready to mass. And while the horse clans to the east periodically unite under a charismatic leader bent on world conquest, the horsemen have not yet shown any inclination to ride uphill to obtain it.
The only nation to make recent, large scale expeditions into the Seithr range is the Teshali Empire. The recent sorceror-emperors of this metal-poor nation have made no secret of their desire for the Dwarves’ lands, and have made several forays into the passes to claim them. But their mighty war chariots are ill-suited to the mountains, and the combined might of the Clans has proved too much for the Tesh forces. While they are currently at peace, commerce between the two nations remains limited. The tension costs both parties dearly, for the Tesh produce massive excesses of grain, and would pay well for Dwarven metal goods.
CAMPAIGN USE: Characters entering the Seithr Mountains are bound to encounter the Dwarves. So long as the PCs deal fairly and respect them, the Dwarves are unlikely to represent an obstacle and may even offer them hospitality. But PCs should be careful when exploring Dwarven ruins, and hints that they seek Dwarven gold – Even old and unclaimed troves – will arouse suspicion and hostility.