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GRÅBJERGE (Dwarf-Kingdom of)
Location: Beneath the Gråbjerge Mountains, Noslo Island, Kingdom of Ostland. OW
Area: The tunnel systems are impossible to measure, but Gråbjerge covers 350 sq. miles (905 sq. km.).
Population: Estimated at 8,000 dwarves.
Languages: Dwarvish (Archaic dialect). Some individuals may also know giantish languages or Heldannic.
Coinage: Glitter (5 gp), shine (10 sp), rock (1 cp). Trade in gems and jewellery as well as barter is widespread.
Government Type: Monarchy.
Industries: Mining (precious metals and gems), metalworking, crafts.
Important Figures: Throfar Strongarm (King), Gilis Shadowborn (Princess).
Flora and Fauna: Cavern creatures, such as lizards, bats, giant beetles and spiders, as well as the occasional hook beast or rust monster, can be found throughout the tunnel system. Many exotic varieties of fungi grow all over the caverns.
Further Reading: GAZ7 The Northern Reaches.
Description by Gilor Rockcrusher.
As part of Jarl Oda Elsasdottir of Vithesford's mercenary force, I was admitted to the cavernous Kingdom of Gråbjerge, home of a clan of the infamous Modrigswerg or moulder dwarves. I may well have been the first outsider dwarf to set foot in their ancient realm, so surely my report will be of interest to a great number of people, maybe making it worth some additional gold pieces?
The Modrigswerg are well known for having been expelled from Rockhome in ages past, accused of wielding sorcery and trafficking with evil creatures, particularly the Father of Demons. After their banishment they settled the mountain ranges of the Northern Reaches, and now I was about to enter one such settlement, right here in my native Ostland.
Entering the caverns and tunnels beneath Gråbjerge was a stark contrast to the cold winter outside. In the dampness of the caves close to the surface, all manner of rodents and eerie animal calls could be heard. Had it not been for the torches carried by my human comrades, I'm sure I would have soon picked up plenty of life with my superior dwarven vision.
We were met well inside the tunnels by a dwarven fellow, completely swathed in thick, dusty clothes, who suddenly appeared from the shadows. Surely this was one of the Modrigswerg come to guide us into their hidden kingdom. The fellow was impossible to identify due to all the scarves and heavy clothes he wore. As we were led further downwards, our guide occasionally stopped to tap strange pipes that were found along the tunnel walls. Faint replies could be heard further down the corridors.
Finally we came to a huge slab of a door that sealed us from further progress. Our guide tapped a code of some sorts on the ever-present pipes, and then proceeded to manipulate some strange device built into the door, resembling a disc marked with unfamiliar runes. Noiselessly the door swung open before us and revealed a huge cavern.
The entire cavern was lit by a dusky glow, which emanated from strange mushrooms that grew all over the floor and up the sloping walls. Crawling around these mushrooms, and apparently harvesting some of them, were a number of dwarves, the Modrigswerg!
Our guide led us into the cavern, and work stopped momentarily as the Modrigswerg looked up to observe us warily. They were dwarves like me, but also unlike me. Many dwarves are similar to each other, but none of these Modrigswerg were alike. One of them carried an uncountable number of bracelets up both arms, another trailed a long beard behind him, while a third had tattoos covering her entire face and bald head. It seemed that the Modrigswerg liked to distinguish themselves.
As we crossed the cavern I spied other tunnels leading further downwards; some had rails for use by mining carts, others were sealed shut with doors similar to the one we had entered through. At the far end of the cavern we were led down a flight of stairs before emerging in what appeared to be a feast hall. Tables had been carved from the rock and low stone benches circled them. Only a few dwarves could be seen in the hall, sitting far apart. Opposite the entrance stood a large throne, by dwarven standards. The throne was covered in gold plates and had gems imbedded throughout it. On the throne sat the Modrigswerg King.
The king was a dwarf in his late prime, muscular and powerful in posture and appearance. He wore a colourful robe, covered in jewellery, and on his head sat a simple, but extremely elegant crown. His hair and beard were black and braided, long enough to reach his waist. We were led to his table and offered a place before him. When the king spied me, he appeared surprised, but quickly adopted a sly look. He asked me in Dwarvish to sit close to him, as he would hear of news from dwarves outside his kingdom. I initially had some trouble understanding him as his speech was highly archaic, as I imagine we dwarves spoke many centuries ago.
We were treated to a meal, a feast if you will, though most of the dishes were less than delicious. Smoked bat, giant beetles boiled in their shells, and strange meat that I did not dare inquire about were among the food we were offered. And to every dish were served mushrooms of all kinds and varieties. Throughout this meal, the king questioned me about life outside these caverns, apparently pleased that I spoke his language. I tried getting information from him, but he was skilled at using words to his advantage, and I fear he learned much more from me, than I did from him.
At the end of the meal, the king took me aside and introduced me to our guide, who turned out to be one of his daughters. Without her scarves covering her, I could see that she was a very attractive dwarf, but there was something sinister about her. She seemed to be sizing me up as one would a piece of meat or a farm animal. The king asked her to show me around some of the mines and forges, since they would surely be of interest to a dwarf like me, and my protests that I should get back to my comrades fell on deaf ears.
My tour was interesting, but I was constantly on guard as my guide walked beside me, occasionally grabbing my arm or leaning close to whisper some public secret about this or that dwarf, or sharing some tale of the underworld. Had she not been so menacing, I would have enjoyed the attention, but as it was, I was both polite and as distant as I could be. On the tour I saw Modrigswerg carefully mining the tunnels for gems and precious metals, and I observed several dwarves at work in small chambers, carefully crafting weapons and jewellery. I saw no evidence of sorcery or deals with evil forces, but I would likely have been kept away from such endeavours.
When we finally got back from the tour, the princess reluctantly let go of my arm and retreated from the sight of my human companions; apparently she was loath at being seen by them. Another guide was waiting to lead us back out through the tunnels, and we left with the king asking that I please return soon to further exchange knowledge, something I'm hesitant to do at present. I shudder to think what my father would say, had he known that I'd end up visiting the moulder dwarves and being alone with a Modrigswerg princess.
Most of the history of the moulder dwarves consists of legends and rumours, but I will try to repeat both these, and what I picked up from my visit. It was many centuries ago that the Modrigswerg were a clan of dwarves in Rockhome. This particular clan had become adept at binding the souls and life forces of living creatures into their devices and works. How they gained these abilities is uncertain, but there are rumours of an alliance with evil elves and a cult devoted to the Father of Demons.
When their practices were discovered by the other clans of Rockhome, the Modrigswerg Clan was expelled from Rockhome, their leaders slain, and their name forgotten and erased from dwarven records. From this day the Rockhome dwarves knew them as moulder dwarves or rotten dwarves.
Apparently the clan split into smaller family groups and settled throughout the mountain regions of the Northern Reaches, near their old dwellings of Rockhome. For reasons that are not apparent, the moulder dwarves became very solitary and only banded loosely, with even some family members living far apart. In some areas, such as under Gråbjerge, the dwarves banded together under a particularly charismatic individual, who would claim the throne for life, or until betrayed.
Betrayal seems to run in the blood of the rotten dwarves. Tales say that they were cursed by the dark powers they had allied with, when their plots were foiled; the truth of this matter is not known. Still, it is known that these dwarves have regularly betrayed not only each other, but also the people that have employed them.
Such was also the case with the current King of Gråbjerge, Throfar Strongarm, as he gleefully explained to me. The former king was a ruthless, greedy slave-driver, who had taken Throfar as his apprentice and thrall. Throfar was treated to daily beatings and abuse for the simplest faults, and grew to hate the king as much as anyone else in the community. Eventually Throfar promised the king a beautiful gem that he had stolen from another dwarf. The king was lured to his doom in a small remote cave, populated by hook beasts, where he was torn to pieces. Throfar returned with a rescue team well after the king was dead, and slew the monsters.
Since Throfar had access to most of the old king's secrets, he was suddenly a very wealthy and influential dwarf. He took the former queen as his wife, and managed to buy and talk his way to the throne. Throfar Strongarm has ruled the Gråbjerge Clan since that day, some 80 years ago. He has fathered three daughters by his wife, who died 11 years ago, apparently succumbing to madness.
Recently, within the last 20 years, he has begun to trade more openly with the humans of Ostland, growing rich through trade with the jarls of Vithesford. This alliance seems to be merely a stepping-stone for him on his way to open up trade with more domains, and perhaps even other countries.
Despite the oppressive nature of the place, the forges of the Modrigswerg are truly beautiful and magnificent works of art as well as superior tools for craftsmanship. Any dwarf worth his salt would be able to craft excellent pieces with tools such as these. Just looking at all the heirlooms and displayed works could take a dwarf several weeks of enjoyable recreation.
The Modrigswerg have no culinary skills to boast of. As awful as their so-called feast was, we were dismayed to discover that they had even worse foodstuffs. For our return journey we were given what the Modrigswerg call "canned" food, a strange mixture of unknown ingredients boiled together and sealed in metal canisters. This food was surely the blandest I've ever tasted, and we got rid of most of it, relying on food from local homesteads on our way home. I kept a single can as a souvenir, though.