Secretive masters of stone and iron, dwarves are a race of arms-merchants and mercenaries. They dwell in Thule’s mountains, carving hidden holds from the living rock. Outsiders are strongly discouraged from seeking out their homes—sometimes with deadly force. Only the fortress-city of Kal-Zinan, the City of the Iron Gate, welcomes visitors of other races, and even so these guests are watched constantly. But many human traders and warriors gladly endure dwarven suspicions to seek their help, because Thulean dwarves are the only smiths in the world who know the secret of working steel.
Dwarven weaponsmiths and armorers do not simply sell their prized work. They make each piece as a specific commission, and it’s not unusual for the weaponsmith to stipulate that on the wielder’s death, the arms or armor are to be recovered and returned. Some dwarf weaponsmiths go so far as to require the recipient to accept a brand or tattoo matching a smith’s mark on the blade, to indicate that he or she has been specifically granted the right to carry and wield the smith’s work. Convincing a dwarven smith to make arms or armor for another’s use might involve presenting the smith with a rich gift, performing a great service for the smith, or earning a reputation of skill or heroism such that the smith would be proud to arm a hero of that caliber. Dwarves have been known to hire thieves to steal back blades that fall into the wrong hands, or assassins to kill those who misuse them.
Dwarves excel in all other forms of metalwork, of course, and dwarven merchants frequently travel to the larger and wealthier cities or barbarian tribes to trade tools, utensils, and fabrications of high-quality iron and bronze. Other dwarves form mercenary companies and fight for pay; unlike most other sellswords, dwarves are rigorously strict in honoring their contracts and requiring their employers to do the same. As a people, dwarves are careful to stay neutral in the affairs of other races, and take sides only when they are well paid to do so.
Dwarven culture places great importance on mastering trades. Dwarves have almost no hereditary titles; instead, most dwarven communities are led by a council of the oldest and most experienced masters of important trades. They are a pious and respectful people, and regard Tarhun, Nergal, and Kishar as the special patrons of their race.
Taciturn and hardworking to a fault, dwarves are difficult to befriend—but if one is fortunate enough to win a dwarf ’s friendship, he will find that a dwarf is a friend of exceptional loyalty and generosity.
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