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The (Not so) Young Races Part 2

by Giulio Caroletti from Threshold Magazine issue 16

A Guide to Dwarves and Gnomes of Eastern Brun


This is the second installment in a series on dwarves and gnomes that will tentatively run for a few more parts. At the moment I have planned a third part that should end the history of gnomes and dwarves of Eastern Brun and a fourth geographical guide. This guide follows my usual approach: I work on a limited area, population or time, opposed to the too often used approach of dealing with huge empires with minimal diversity and a long history with few events and little evolution in terms of culture. With long-lived races like dwarves and gnomes, moreover touched by Immortals to follow a certain pattern, there is more rationale for employing a more uniform writing approach to these themes, and this is the reason why I confined myself geographically to a limited area. The guide touches on dwarves and gnomes living in Rockhome, Northern Reaches, Thyatis, Norwold, Alphatia, Karameikos, Dawn, Minrothad and little more, leaving room for other dwarven and gnomish cultures around Mystara that can have a different origin than the canon one that considers all dwarves descendents of the original dwarven race that lived in the Northern Reaches between the Great Rain of Fire and 1800 BC.

This second part goes from 1400 BC, after Denwarf’s disappearance in the depths of Rockhome’s caves, to 236 BC and the end of the first Syrklist line of Rockhome kings. There is some original material on Modrigswerg history and internal Denwarf politics, but most is just an attempt to reconcile Gazetteers material, especially the part on the dwarven invasion of Hindon/Othrong, almost wholly derived from the excellent ideas of Jesper Andersen found on Pandius. I have also included the Sea Gnomes developed by Marco Dalmonte, again from material that can be found on Pandius. More notes and references crediting other ideas and suggestions are scattered throughout the text.

The original text of this revised dwarven history was written many years ago in Italian, so it’s possible that I have forgotten credits that are due; in this case, I apologize fully with the authors and assure them that it was not my intention.

I hope you all enjoy this second installment of my Guide and look forward to the third one.

[Image: Rockhome]

The Age of Conflict

Modrigswerg reformism

The Modrisgwerg families had split into small isolated clans, resentful of each other and mostly indifferent or hostile towards the Denwarf. Sometimes the Modrisgwerg accepted the building of magic weapons or precious jewelry for petty Antalian or giant-kin jarls who could afford their prices; and many were not above stooping as low as accepting dwarven bounties from orc war leaders. In general, they were living in a sort of secluded, safe mountain area: to reach their lands orcs and humanoids had to get past Nithians in the south, Northmen in the east and Rockhome in the west.

Not all Modrigswerg groups remained indifferent to the plight of Rockhome: two groups of Modrisgwerg, both descended from the Fuldwerg who had tried to reform the Modrisgwerg ways after 1800 BC, took a different stance toward the situation. These were the Kurwerg (“black dwarves”) Siblinghood, an order of warriors who wanted to find glory and attain holiness through battle; and the Garlindwerg, a religious-political organization devoted to Garalin Glitterlode based in the city of Hammarskjold, which had the goal of reaching political power among the Modrigswerg clans through diplomacy and politics, in order to repair relationships with gnomes and Rockhome dwarves, and improve physical and spiritual lives of their brethren.

The Garlindwerg had risen to power in Hammarskjold in 1389 BC. They had broken the isolationist policy of the city by inviting gnomes from Falun to the city and opening official diplomatic ties with that kingdom. Two centuries later, through the gnomish intercession, a delegation of Garlindwerg received permission to visit Dengar (1177 BC).

The Black Dwarves, whose religious pantheon included Kagyar, Garalin and Tiuz1, had similar goals to the Garlindwerg and received support after the establishment of their rule on Hammarskjold. Dedicated to the fall of the Modrisgwerg rulers they saw as compromised, immoral or outright evil, the Black Dwarves were confined to small fortresses in the south of Vestland until their first major triumph, the conquest of the city of Blystats (1216 BC), which they renamed Kurats (“black axe”).

[Image: Battle Axe]

After these two major overturns, the Garlindwerg and Black Dwarves could not make further inroads into the Modrisgwerg establishments. Those two victories sounded an alarm bell to ruling monarchs and aristocratic elites, and to the independent clans and family groups that dotted the Northern Reaches. Garlindwerg and Black Dwarves were unwelcome in most cities as possible foreign spies or agents, and most of the organization’s offices in other cities were shut down, and sometimes sympathizers and members were outright persecuted.

Orcs vs Denwarf, Nithians vs Gnomes

[Sidebar: Kings of Rockhome]

The Torkrest dynasty came to power at a troubled time in the history of the Known World: Nithia was rising in the east, while humanoid hordes had arrived from the west between 1300 and 1255 BC, led by the goblin king Wogar. His horde included ogres, red orcs, kobolds and bugbears. Red orcs occupied Atruaghin and Sind. The city of Oenkmar was rediscovered and occupied around 1190 BC. A second, peaceful migration was that of the halflings from Davania to the coastal lands east of Atruaghin and south of the humanoid hordes.

[Image: Orcs]

Torkrest rule started in 1161 BC with Thoric I (1161-1119 BC). The Torkrest initially kept the customs developed during the Everast era, but soon, as the Nithian expansion became too aggressive and waves of humanoids pressed more and more against their borders, they turned their rule towards a harsh, authoritarian regime, creating some discontent. The family who led the opposition was the Eftkroten family, belonging to the recently established Syrklist clan2; however, the Eftkroten limited themselves to empty complaining, without building an alternative program that could find the backing of the population.

Around 1100 BC, the Nithian Empire started expanding in all directions, settling colonies in islands nowadays known as the Isle of Dawn, Minrothad and Ierendi. On land, Nithians pushed south into modern day Thyatis and north into the Northern Reaches3, where gnomes and humans of Antalian ethnicity lived. Between 1060 and 1050 BC, most of the southern Antalians were conquered. The Nithian expansion stopped at the Hardanger mountains, where gnomes, Modrigswerg and Rockhome dwarves were mostly able to resist the powerful invaders. However, the gnomish settlements on the coast and the lowlands followed the same fate of their Antalian neighbours, and their lands were conquered and occupied. Most Antalians and gnomes were outright enslaved.

[Image: Nithia]

To escape occupation, many coastal gnomes fled towards Davania. A first group settled in what is now known as Hattias, and became the Brinnisril gnomes of Iniectum4.

Feeling that Nithians were still too close, most of the gnomes continued their journey south, avoided landing on the Jungle Coast, where Nithians had colonies, and sailed until they arrived in the Vulture's peninsula - the Empire of Varellya at that time. Being mistaken for halflings or halfling-kin, after squabbles erupted, they moved inland and resettled south of the Aryptian desert in a secluded valley5.

Once pushed away by the Varellyan, these gnomes split quite by accident. A few of them discovered Thimhallan (city of Technomancy) and went to live there. The others popped up in the Lost Valley and began to brood and to seek revenge against the humans. But this is another story, and it will be told - if ever - elsewhere6.

It was during this century that evil Nithian necromancers researched a way of creating a servitor race resembling the Hutaakans. These spells involved the use of gnomish blood, and many gnome slaves were killed or used for experiments. Unfortunately for them, the Nithian experiment went bad as the gnolls were not submissive as the Nithians predicted. Strong and barbaric, they bred at a frightening rate, and eventually they broke free from their masters and invaded the Traldar lands7.

Humanoid pressure against the dwarves increased under the rule of the eleventh Denwarf King, Blystar III (1004-961 BC), when eastern Brun experienced one of the occasional migration campaigns of humanoid tribes. Many waves of humanoids, directly or indirectly led by the shamans of Oenkmar, or displaced by humans and humanoids loyal to them, brought havoc around the Known World: orcs occupied halfling lands in the south, gnolls invaded Hutaaka and Traldar in Traladara, yellow orcs attacked Ethengarans, while goblins and orcs attacked Rockhome8.

Hungry and desperate orc and goblin hordes, driven away by other races in a domino effect, started pressing around the mountain borders of Rockhome. Given the health and wealth of their dwarven neighbours, it was clear to the orcs and goblins that the land surrounded by the mountains had to be fertile and prosper: it would have been enough to drive the dwarves away or kill them to gain themselves a land. Clearly the dwarves didn’t like the idea, so a century-long conflict started.

The first invading army was a coalition of orcs, ogres, trolls and goblins, and was defeated by King Blystar III; however, it was soon clear that the humanoids were there to stay, and would try to enter once again.

From small attempts at raids and penetration through Sardal Pass or minor passes that were less accessible but also less guarded, to outright invasion attempts, the life of dwarves in Rockhome was marred by this uneasy coexistence and struggle against enemies for centuries. Given the control of the Antalians’ territories by the increasingly evil and untrustworthy Nithians to their east, the only non-hostile routes the dwarves had for commerce and cooperation were the gnomes, mainly their kingdom in Falun and the underground cities and clans on the southern slopes of the Rockhome mountains, even more endangered than the dwarves by the attacking humanoids. Supplies from the fertile Rockhome heartland to the southern gnomes were possible through the web of underground highways developed by the gnome-dwarven alliance throughout the centuries9.

The dwarves learned to fiercely hate orcs and goblins; but although they despised goblins as brutal and stupid creatures who fought and killed for survival, dwarves saw something more intrinsically evil in the nature of orcs.

In those years many warrior orders rose and fell; a typical early dwarven custom was to build warrior orders that were made up only of members of a single family. This custom led to the total annihilation of whole families, something that heavily affected the preservation-inclined nature of this race of survivors. The Torkrest leadership created the Book of the Dead, a register of all the stories and deeds of all dwarven families, in order to keep alive the memory of those who disappeared.

Among the warrior orders, the most important was to be the Buhrad-hrodar (“Order of the Golden Battle”), founded by Dwalinn Buhrad of Clan Torkrest in 989 BC. It was formed only by Clerics of Kagyar and would assume an important political and philosophical role in the future history of Rockhome.

The war between orcs and dwarves raged violently, but although trade and contacts with other countries of the Known World was limited given isolationism and conflict, it was not really non-existent. Although Garlindwerg had been allowed entry to Rockhome since 1177 BC, the Hammarskjold-based followers of Garalin and the Kurats-based Black Dwarves did not receive much support from their western brethren: the Denwarf were too busy fighting with orcs and didn’t want to be drawn into more potential conflicts by entering the complicated internal political troubles of the Modrigswerg when their attention was to be focused elsewhere. Moreover, the conservative Torkrest rulers still trusted neither the Garlindwerg nor Black Dwarves.

Beyond those with Modrigswerg and gnomes, the most important contacts of Rockhome with outsiders were with Antalians and Nithians. With the latter, they had first some modest trade directly to their southeast and later with the Nithians occupying most of the Northern Reaches. Dwarves strongly disapproved of the Nithians’ enslavement of gnomes and pressed for better conditions for their brethren, considering themselves too weak to start a major war but strong enough to press the Empire into reining in its colonists in the north. This improved the gnomes’ standing in the Empire: gnomes who wished to stay in the Nithian-controlled areas regained their personal freedom and rights to property with the Falun Agreement of 913 BC, while those who wished to leave were allowed to head for Falun, Hammarskjold, Kurats, Rockhome, or for the southern gnomish cities.

However, when Nithians delved deeper and deeper into dark arts (starting around 1000 BC, although the switch of Nithian rulers to Entropy was completed only around 700 BC, and ending with the Empire’s annihilation in 500 BC), the few gnomish communities who had remained in Nithia were again subjected to heavy discrimination and occasionally enslaved. The Torkrest kings completely cut off the dwarves’ eastern and southern trade routes to human-controlled lands, with some exception towards the few pockets of independent or rebellious Antalians, whom they supported with weapons and military advisors against their darker and darker Nithian overlords and against the surrounding humanoids - at least, in the small measure that the dwarves’ own protracted wars against humanoids allowed.

Orcs had major strongholds and settlements in the lands between Canolbarth and Rockhome, making it hard for dwarves and gnomes to interact with Alfheim elves when they arrived in the Known World and wrested Canolbarth from humanoid control between 800 BC and 700 BC. This doesn’t mean Rockhome dwarves didn’t know of their presence, but being generally distrustful of the elves because of their past history and remembering the troublesome interactions from the Blackmoor era, the isolationist Torkrest kings avoided any official contact. However, a few of the dwarven warrior orders of the time, and some of the subterranean gnomish cities, were more friendly and struck a few temporary alliances with the elves.

As the isolationist and militaristic Torkrest rule became harsher with the decades of seemingly unending conflict, it was more and more resented by the population. The Torkrest managed to keep their power mostly because of the perception that more pressing problems (the orcs and goblins) demanded unity from the whole population.

With the passing of time, the traditional way of abdication started to fade - a major factor surely was the fact that most Torkrest kings led the dwarven armies in battle and four of them (Blystar VI, Blystar VII, Blystats I and Blystar VIII, who was a member of the Buhrod-hroda) died in battles over a period of 120 years.

[Image: Battlefield]

Blystats I (811-730 BC), less stubborn or more desperate than his predecessors, agreed to military collaboration with these Modrigswerg. In 796 BC, Black dwarves fought alongside their brethren for the first time, relieving the dwarven garrison at Sardal Pass from an orcish siege. After this first encounter, official relationships started to develop between Dengar, Kurats and Hammarskjold.

In the first part of Blystat I’s reign, the condition of gnomes and halflings in the Northern Reaches worsened, in part due to the spread of Entropy among ruling classes and in part because of the reduced intervention power of the dwarves, exhausted by the prolonged conflict with humanoids. As the Rockhome dwarves were not able to help their brethren, the biggest help to the gnomes unsurprisingly came from Garlindwerg and Kurats dwarves, although it was the Garlindwerg who were most involved in actions to support the Falun gnomes, while the Black Siblinghood worked more on military collaboration with the Denwarf dwarves.

In 795 BC, Empress (Pharaoh) Shadla of Nithia, who had for some time studied the affinity of some eastern gnomish clans to water and their skill with technology, promised these gnomes partial freedom if they manage to designed advanced vessels that did not require rower slaves (at that point in history oceanic vessels were yet to be invented)10.

773 BC: The gnomes finished building a huge ship shaped as a wooden and metal whale. They named it "Leviathan". Pharaoh Shadla was sceptical about putting humans in the ship and was also afraid of losing grain. She ordered that the gnomes be put into the leviathan to operate it and to simulate the weight of grain. The Leviathan was set on a test sail accompanied by Nithian war galleys to prevent escape.

Once deep at sea the Leviathan suddenly began to sink in the water. The Nithian captains tried to rescue the ship but without success. The truth was that, using their technological knowledge, the sea-gnomes created a submersible ship powered by water elementals and used it to escape slavery.

771 BC: The Leviathan settled on the floor of the Alphatian Sea. Gnomes contacted the local sea races and with their help start building an underwater city where to live.

During the second part of the reign of Blystats I, the consequences of Nithian degeneration started taking a toll on their colonization programs. The Northern Reaches split into a number of jarldoms and fiefs, ruled alternately by Nithian petty lords, Northmen jarls, pirate masters and humanoid kings. The gnomish kingdom of Falun, which had always been spared the hardship of their dwarven brethren in Rockhome, was put under duress because of its prosperity, with most of the surrounding populations envying and coveting their riches, their health and their safe lives. Even many Modrigswerg, primarily the greedy, violent and evil Sareft clan, whose underground caves weren’t far from the gnomish kingdom in what is nowadays Soderfjord, schemed and plotted the downfall of the gnomes.

By 730 BC, the sea-gnomes finished the construction of the city of Deepreach, an impressive submersed city very similar to Aquas but powered mainly by gnomish technology. With the help of the local merfolk, they began to explore the Alphatian Sea.

Blystats II, brother of Blysats I, was the first king in a long time to die a natural death (661 BC). With his passing, his son Blystar IX came to the throne. Since these last three kings were all members of the Buhrod-hrodar fighting order, after the Buhrodar Clan was formed some centuries later, the official dwarven chronicles started considering them as part of a separate dynasty from the Torkrest kings, something that the Torkrest found unacceptable, as they accuse the Buhrodar and Everast of having pressed for this choice only to prevent them from being the dwarven clan with the most kings.

Blystar IX died suddenly without heirs in 600 BC. As there was no heir apparent, Thoric Hurwarf, supreme war leader of Rockhome, son of the Hurwarf Clanmaster and of Bifia Buhrod-hrodar, sister of Blystar IX, was proclaimed king by his troops. As a fierce orc invasion took hold of a major part of southwestern Rockhome, the direst moment of the country’s history up until then, nobody dared to oppose the alliance between Hurwarf and Torkrest, and Thoric II became the first Rockhome king from the Hurwarf clan.

Thoric II spent most of his life fighting orc armies, and managed to repel most of them out of Rockhome. His work was finalized by his youngest son Thoric III (born 619 BC; ruled 563-506 BC), who was appointed king very young, since his four older brothers had all died in battle. Even Thoric III died in battle at only a little more than a hundred years old. The closest relative was his first cousin Thrain Torkrest, who ascended to the throne and restored the tradition of taking a new name when becoming king. He took the name of Blystats III (506 BC).

The Invasion of Hindon aka Othrong

As mentioned above, around 1300 BC the Sea of Dread was crossed by another migrating people, the halflings. This race had left the Brasol region in Davania some centuries before, moving through the Adakkian Sound region and crossing the Izondian Deep to reach Thanegia Island, and the southern end of the Serpent Peninsula. They had settled there around 1500 BC, but unfavorable environment and climate, along with unrest among the natives, persuaded them to move on to search for another land. Their flotilla passed through the western islands of the archipelago, stopping briefly in Elegy Island; then they landed on the mainland at Cape Faerdinel around 1300 BC. A couple of halfling clans decided to settle on Elegy Island and northern Ierendi Island alongside the local Makai tribes, and those islands saw the growth of a relevant halfling population in the following centuries11.

Most halflings, however, settled on the continent, among the peaceful, brooding Gentle Folk elves. Unfortunately, by 1000 BC life had become grim and bleak for the hin who were living there. Their elven allies, the Gentle Folk, had disappeared completely in the wake of successive orc threats and raids, and after a succession of conquest wars, the orcs had completely enslaved the hin, founding their realm of Othrong.

Around 965 BC, the halflings started the Rising: they overthrew the orc-king Raurgh at the battles of Hinskulls, Orcfall and in the Spring Slaughter. The kingdom of Hindon and the Rule of Elders were founded12 in 964 BC; however, part of the country was still under orc control, especially the mountains.

The history of the hin race would intersect that of the dwarven race in the most unexpected way. Although this is not widely known, by 1000 BC not all of the dwarves of Eastern Brun belonged to the Modrigswerg or Denwarf dwarven clans. A few smaller groups were not related to the descendents of the masters of the Shimmering Lands. One of these group of dwarves lived in the region of the Khurish Massif, in what is now the northern part of Sindh, close to the border with Glantri. These dwarves were a group of survivors from the pre-Rain of Fire dwarven race. It was a small, hard-pressed group, consisting of only a few thousand people; but they had lost contact with the dwarves of the Shimmering Lands and their kin in the east over two millennia before and had been spared the fate of their brethren13.

By this time, it had been quite clear to Kagyar and Garalin that even this small group was probably destined to extinction in the Khurish region, so some families from the area were moved to the Hollow World to replenish the Kogolor dwarves’ numbers and provide new material in the genepool.

Loktar Ironshield was an enterprising, energetic adult dwarf who had adventured from Khurish through Sindh and Atruaghin and Malpheggi, had visited and fought against humanoids in an orc-ruled halfling nation where he had seen caves and mines filled with riches that were waiting only for capable miners and cave-dwellers to extract them, and where a mysterious cold flame burned in the depths of the earth.

Even though the hin had risen and overthrown the orcs, their control over the land was unstable, and the mountains and passes were still fighting ground for the two races. It was the mountains which interested Loktar most: he thought he could crush the orcs allying himself with the hin and gaining the ore-rich peaks for himself and his followers.

While most Khurish dwarves decided to remain in their secluded mountains, Loktar Ironshield managed to convince a consistent number to follow him, so Loktar built a small but skilled and efficient army and started preparations for the migration and war expedition.

After years of planning, Loktar’s spies in the southern regions told him that the orcish pressure against the hin was mounting to the point of a new invasion. Loktar moved his followers from Khurish towards Hindon in 941 BC, spending two years to move through the regions of Amsorak and the Streel river amidst contacts and conflicts with orcs, and trading and buying of reserves of dried meat, flour and ale from humans. The rest of the food, they would have harvested themselves from their new lands while they were conquering it.

The dwarves arrived in Hindon/Othrong in 939 BC; in 938 BC Hindon fell to the orcs, who burned the Elderhall. Dwarves and orcs started fighting for control of the halfling land, in the battles of Bloody Sands (936), Fireaxe Field (932), and the Hill of Cold Teeth (930)14.

929 BC: After nine years of wars, in which Loktar and the dwarves used terrorist tactics without any regard for the halfling population, Loktar expelled orcs from the region and proclaimed himself King of the Glittering Lands. Halflings, who had been the slaves of orcs, simply changed masters. The dwarves, embittered by many years of war, were not much better rulers than the orcs, and virtually enslaved the hin.

However, things went much worse than expected for the hin under dwarven rule. Dwarves opened mines in the northern mountains, and many halflings were forced to work in them. But the orcs remained a problem exactly like they had been for the kingdom of Hindon, and even more so, as the new mineral riches of the realm soon attracted human and orc attacks, from marauders and brigands to actual attempts of partial invasion of the border regions where most mines were located.

In 912 BC, the dwarves were finally driven out by a hin uprising. Loktar and his followers left the land, which was renamed Shaerdon by the halflings.

It is important also to note that between the first orcish conquest and 912 BC, a consistent number of halflings slaves were brought to the Northern Reaches by Nithian slavers who needed miners to substitute for the gnomes who escaped to their gnomish and dwarven relatives in the mountains or left north or south by sea15. Some of these slaves came not from Hindon but from the halfling settlers of Elegy and Ierendi Islands. Nothing was left of the hin there. The Falun Agreement of 913 BC between gnomes and Nithians brokered by Rockhome and Falun, included in fact freedom of movement and travel also for the halflings.

Halflings brought to Nithia after 939 BC also brought news of Loktar and fellow dwarves in Othrong and Khurish which puzzled and excited both Falun gnomes and the most enterprising of the Denwarf dwarves.

Hin and dwarven relationships:
By Jesper Andersen
It’s worth having a look at modern relations between hin and dwarves, considering the role of Loktar Ironshield and his followers on the Five Shires’ history. First of all, it must be considered that the Rockhome dwarves have much less memories of these events than the hin: most of the rumors and information about Loktal’s invasion of Hindon came in the wake of hin slaves brought to the Northern Reaches by Nithians. The little information they had was forever blurred and destroyed by the Spell of Oblivion in 500 BC. Moreover, they didn’t really have the chance to investigate directly what had happened in Hindon, as around 900 BC they were confined to Rockhome itself by the geopolitical situation and humanoids’ pressure.
Don’t the Hin have any proof left of the rule of Loktal Ironshield?
That was almost 2,000 years ago and no permanent, physical evidence exists from that era. The Hin record their history on tapestries in their clan halls. The tapestries and the oral tradition of interpreting them is the only way they have passed on information for centuries and so naturally it gets a little distorted over time.
Why don’t the dwarves simply take a look at the tapestries?
First of all, the tapestries are ancient, historical treasures to the hin people, not to be handed over to nosy people of other races. They are extremely fragile (the old ones anyway) and protected and preserved. It would take a great feat of diplomacy for a non-hin to be allowed to study them. Second, the hin don’t really care whether the dwarves believe their stories of Loktal Ironshield or not. For so many centuries, the dwarves have demonstrated nothing but scorn for the hin tales, proclaimed them fairy tales and lies. The hin certainly don’t feel a need to convince the dwarves now. And the dwarves, by asking to investigate the tapestries, would be accepting that there is a possibility that the hin were right all along – which would be a great loss of face for generations of dwarves in denial.
Why won’t Kagyar answer Commune spells about the First Dwarves?
In many ways, Kagyar wants the dwarves to live their own lives and figure things out on their own. He has left them to evolve and prosper as a people but he does not interfere much. In fact, it amuses him to see dwarven ingenuity spurred by the quest to discover their roots. In time, he may disclose the truth but for now he just watches.
How are the relations between the Five Shires and Rockhome today?
Definitely less strained than Gaz8, The Five Shires, lets on. It seems implausible that halflings could nurture the level of hatred and mistrust described in the Gazetteer for almost 2,000 years after less than half a century of dwarf rule (even if Loktal was a tyrant). Dwarves travelling outside Rockhome and encountering halflings could hear the tale of Loktal Ironshield. Most would dismiss it as fiction (and be somewhat insulted). For dwarves such as Thrildor Blackhammer, the dwarven ambassador in the Five Shires, it has become a point of interest worth investigating but only in ways that make no affront to hin hospitality.
Dwarves in Rockhome have rarely even heard the legend of Loktal Ironshield unless they are scholars or sages themselves or have some sort of education in the history of the world outside. Among such dwarves, opinions vary from outright dismissal to intrigued yet discrete interest.
Among halflings of the Fives Shires there is a general perception that the dwarves are embarrassed (and rightly so) because of the events in the past and chose to deal with it by denying history. The hin are too polite and peace loving, however, to contest the issue with anything but words. The legendary greed of dwarves makes them weary of dwarven visitors to their lands, but they do not feel the need to draw weapons and defend themselves whenever an unfamiliar dwarf shows his face in their shire.

From Othrong to Thunderdelve16

The 400 Ironshield dwarves, followers of the dethroned Loktar, wandered for three years searching for a place to settle. Finally, they found it in 909 BC, when they finally arrived in a beautiful valley hidden between two spurs of a mountain in the Cruth Range. There they discovered a large cavern system with hidden waterfalls, precious metals and gems, and began the long, hard process of turning the mountain into a new home - Thunderdelve, or, as they called it, the Halls of Paradise17.

BC 898 – Nithians find Thunderdelve

For more than a decade the First Dwarves of Thunderdelve have lived in relative peace in their mountain, guarding their newly found riches against raiding tribes of orcs and goblins from the Cruth Mountains and trading metal wares for food with the nomadic human tribes in the area. Then one day a group of Nithian explorers comes to the valley. Cautiously, Loktal Ironshield enters into negotiations with them. He knows that if the humans discover the wealth of the mountain, they are likely to try and seize it using slave armies and dark sorcery. That is why no humans are admitted inside the dwarf stronghold – all trading occurs outside the gates of Thunderdelve, which are heavily guarded.

The Nithians appreciate the metalwork of the dwarves and are willing to trade food, clothes and other things the dwarves can’t produce themselves for the dwarves’ craft. In the decades that follow, Thunderdelve prospers and grows from the trade with the Nithians and more First Dwarves start to show up at Ironshield’s gate, eager to enter the safety of the Halls of Paradise.

BC 877 – Death of Loktal Ironshield

After a long life as conqueror, dictator and finally king under the mountain, Loktal Ironshield dies in his bed and is succeeded by his son, Renar. For another hundred years, the Thunderdelve clan slowly grows inside the mountain, refining their craft in metals, stone and gems, carving halls of unearthly beauty.

BC 800 – Elves settle in Alfheim and humans in Darokin

Elves drive humanoids from the open plains in central present-day Darokin and begin cultivating their forest. Human clans begin to build permanent settlements in Darokin18.

BC 781 – Crowning of King Vitroin

Vitroin, son of Renar, son of Loktal, is crowned king of Thunderdelve when Renar dies. He goes on to forge the Hammer of Vitroin19 to protect the Halls of Paradise.

BC 775 – Alfheim elves in contact with Thunderdelve

Word of the arrival of the elves on the plains north of Thunderdelve and of the enormous changes their climate-control spells are bringing to the area reach the dwarves. Soon after, elven explorers arrive at the gates of the dwarven city. The dwarves distrust the elves, who so freely are changing the world around them in such drastic ways, but limited trade is established between the two races.

BC 767 – Last follower of Loktal Ironshield dies

The last of the followers of Loktal, who actually as a young dwarf witnessed the exodus from Hindon after the defeat in BC 912, dies of old age.

BC 700 – Mealiden is acclaimed king of Alfheim

The Canolbarth Forest is still growing and expanding and Mealiden rises to become the king of his people, all the while fighting off attacks by angry Nithians who have lost their precious rain water and slowly are entering the decline of their empire20.

The increasing hostility between Alfheim and the Nithian Empire means a drastic decline in trade between Nithia and Thunderdelve. Hard times fall upon the dwarves, who blame the elves for their problems.

BC 633 – Fall of the Halls of Paradise

Fire wyrms known as fyrsnaca invade the realm of Thunderdelve from below, causing massive damage to the dwarven halls and killing hundreds, cutting the dwarves off from their mines and the Forge of Power below their halls. The remains of the Thunderdelve clan is scattered across southern Darokin, where they are preyed upon by brigands and bands of humanoids. Many lives are lost.

BC 632 – Mealiden turns away dwarven refugees

Baran, son of Vitrion, leads his people to King Mealiden of Alfheim and requests aid in reclaiming Thunderdelve but is turned away.

The Nithians no longer travel this far west and are also of no help to the dwarves. A few dwarves manage to reach the Northern Reaches and fight with the gnomes and Denwarf dwarves in the last stages of the wars against orcs and humanoids; most of the survivors, however, settle in the Darokin region or begin a nomadic existence in smaller groups in the world of men.

[Image: Orc Warriors]

BC 579 – Last of the Thunderdelve dwarves outside Rockhome dies

Toil, disease and war have taken a hard toll on the last few dwarves of the Known World who escaped the fall of Thunderdelve to live in the human-controlled lands of nowadays Darokin. The Last of the descendants of the Dwarves of the Glittering Lands outside Rockhome dies.

BC 500 – Last of the Thunderdelve dwarves moved to Hollow World

When Nithia falls, the memory of Thunderdelve is erased from the Rockhome dwarves and Alfheim elves as a consequence of the Spell of Oblivion. All surviving descendants of Thunderdelve dwarves are brought to the Hollow World in the Kogolor Lands.

Traces of the history of Thunderdelve might remain in some long-lost book in some hidden library in a Denwarf family’s hall, or in some obscure Alfheimer scholarly tome.

Nithia falls, Orc Queen fails

By 700 BC, Thanatos and Ranivorus had completed the corruption of the Nithian pharaohs. Western colonies on the Savage Coast and Nithian colonists in Thothia split from the mainland in disgust, as they managed to resist the corruption.

500 BC: The Nithian Empire, having incurred Immortal dislike, abruptly ends. The Immortals alter the climate, divert the headwaters of the River Nithia, promote social unrest, deny magical powers to their clerics, and take other actions which cause the Empire to collapse catastrophically. The Immortals use magic to ensure that almost all trace of the Empire is wiped from the face of the Known World. The colonies are systematically destroyed - - except for Thothia, which has already turned away from the Entropic faith which led to the destruction of Nithia.

Much of what happened between 1000 BC and 500 BC was forever lost to historians, scientists and scholars with the destruction of Nithia, as well as to the cultures who had interacted with them. The fall of Nithia had enormous consequences on dwarves, gnomes and halflings. Falun and Northern Reaches gnomes, halflings and Antalians, who had interacted greatly with Nithians for several centuries, were crippled significantly, their cultures and identities shattered and twisted as whole chunks of history were erased from existence. On the other hand, Altan Tepes gnomes, as well as Modrigswerg and especially Denwarf dwarves, who had had less contact with Nithians, were not affected much, although most of their contacts with humans and elves before 500 BC was forgotten or greatly downplayed in their memories and, thus, in their history. The sudden collapse of Nithia gave free hands to lots of confused, embittered and stupefied armies of destructive humanoids, who spread in all directions bringing havoc to the land. While on one hand this paved the way for the decisive victory of Denwarf dwarves in the final war against orc hordes, on the other it prepared the demise of the Northern Reaches cultures of gnomes and halflings.

493 BC: The orcish Queen Ubdala of the Broken Lands raises a Great Horde again. She recruits goblins and gnolls in the Altan Tepes, and marches north.

At the end of 492 BC, the biggest humanoid invasion in dwarven history, led by Queen Ubdala, was conclusively defeated and dispersed in the famous Battle of Sardal Pass. King Blystats III was honoured by his people with the appointment of an additional name, Sardal, to remember his triumph. His branch of the Torkrest family has since worn Sardal as their surname. Year 492 BC has since become the Year Zero of the Modern Dwarven Calendar.

[Image: Dwarf Warrior]

Hordes routed south and west, crowding the Cruth Mountains and Altan Tepes. Gnomes who lived in the areas south and west of Rockhome were forced to hide below ground, or directly among dwarves in Rockhome lands. No gnomes remained on the surface, although many underground settlements in the Orclands and southwestern Rockhome remained under the control of gnomes. These underground areas became known as the Garalin Underdeep.

490 BC: Kobold clans, mostly displaced by the new humanoids crowding Cruth Mountains and south Rockhome, are driven into the uplands of the Northern Reaches from the west. They overrun and exterminate the gnomes living in the Kingdom of Falun21, thanks to the active involvement of the Sareft dwarves, a Modrigswerg clan living in the Hardanger Mountains, not far from Falun, and occupy their subterranean kingdoms.

The Immortals transport the Valoin Gnomes onto a Floating Continent in the HW22.

After the fall of Falun, not only its population, but most gnomes living in the Northern Reaches were pushed out or left their remaining territories. Refugees crowded Hammarskjold and Kurats first, then Rockhome. As they had hoped to settle their brothers’ lands in the Altan Tepes, they were dispirited to learn of their escape in the lands below. Regardless, many gnomes decided to settle the Garalin Underdeep for the time being.

The humanoids’ spread in the Northern Reaches had consequences for the Modrigswerg too, especially for Rockhome’s allies, who were clearly hostile to the kobolds. The Garlindwerg had to leave most of their settlements and at some point they were confined to Hammarskjold, where the population of the city had almost doubled because of the presence of gnomish refugees from Falun and beyond. Helped by Black Dwarves and Denwarf fighting orders, they managed to strike back at the kobolds, earning a decisive victory in the Battle of Three Axes, which put a stop to the humanoids’ advance.

Halflings continued to live in the Hardanger Mountain’s foothills after the destruction of the Nithian Empire, even though life in that region became harder and harder. Most of the surviving halflings tried to cling onto the land, living closer to hills and plains where it was easier to escape the humanoids’ grip. However, living close to the Antalians wasn’t comfortable either. Cornered as they were between the giants’ and gnolls’ lands on one side, and the Northmen on the other, after another century of hardship, they eventually left the Northern Reaches. Around 350 BC the surviving halflings followed the leadership of a prophet of the High Heroes (actually Usamigaras23 in disguise during his path to Immortality) and left the area, migrating north. They would found the Leeha community some years later in Norwold24.

The Age of Awakening

[Image: A Syrklist King]

Kings of Rockhome
Syrklist Dinasty (I)
24. Daroban I (Korinn son of Gloin) (438-369 BC)
25. Daroban II (369-300 BC)
26. Daroban III (300-236 BC)

After Blystats III’s triumph, the dwarven frontiers were finally safe. The remaining humanoid armies, squeezed between the dwarves and the elves, with many of their most powerful wiccas and shamans enfeebled or gone outright mad after the fall of Nithia, permanently gave up the idea of conquering Rockhome, and turned to banditry and occasional raids against the Denwarf.

Blystats III had repelled the humanoids, but the situation in the Northern Reaches was dire, and there was the problem of many tens of thousands of gnome refugees cramming Rockhome, Kurats and Hammarskjold, plus all the gnomes that had to hide in the Garalin Underdeep. Blystats III understood that the only solution to the demographic problem would be to found colonies, something the dwarves couldn’t even start to consider before his victory. The gnomes would be instrumental in his plans, which he began to develop with the help of his son Turro, his daughter Deira and a gnomish clanmaster, Vidar Ivrast.

It was the impatient gnomes that paved the way for the Denwarf dwarves’ expansion, as it was clear that, as goblins, orcs and bugbears settled permanently between Alfheim and Rockhome in the Orclands, gnomish clans were forced to live permanently underground or with the dwarves. The region between Rockhome, the Orclands, west of the Northern Reaches, where the gnomes settled, had been known for some time as the Garalin Underdeep. It was a web of subterranean cities and settlements that connected Rockhome, Falun, the former gnomish lands on the northwestern Altan Tepes, and the northern side of the Black Peaks.

[Image: Gate under the mountain]

The presence of orcs and goblins in the region disrupted both the overland and underground routes that connected the cities and villages under dwarven and gnomish control (it is important to notice that the two races often lived together in the same mining villages, towns and underground cities, and often shared militia and police).

Blystats III, Turro, Deira and Vidar understood that to secure the gnomish settlements in the region and the dwarven borders, the roads had to be reopened and controlled. The easiest way to do so was to start from the subterranean roads. First of all, most of the roads had been disrupted by the gnomes themselves when they fled their surface villages and towns. It was important first to trace all the settlements and villages, map what had happened to all of the communities, and reopen and secure the subterranean passages. Before 1000 BC, the roads had been partly above and partly underground, depending on geology and geography, as the dwarven and gnomish engineers and architects deemed best. After the growing problems with goblinoids and orcs, more underground tunnels were built in time, so the Garalin Underdeep was relatively established by 492 BC. Much work was needed anyway, but Vidar Ivrast suggested a further move: get beyond the Orclands towards Salonikos, the Traldar lands and Hesperia, and explore and open those areas to surface dwelling gnomes to relieve the region from overcrowding.

After several years of preparations, the gnomish-dwarven colonization program started in 475 BC. Only when the Garalin Underdeep was secured, with occasional surface villages and towns built above main entrances to the Underdeep, the gnomes started branching out, usually accompanied by small dwarven war bands (gnomes usually employed their own architects and engineers, but relied on dwarves for additional security and often shared doctors and priests). The time needed to build this system of roads and connections was a long term plan, but this is how the gnomes eventually moved to the Traldar lands, Hesperia, what would become Glantri and Darokin; and this was also the route dwarven merchants and traders moved south and west in the Known World, relying not so much on human and elven settlements - especially in the first decades - as on the gnomish ones. This also explains why there are many gnomish settlements sprinkled all over the Known World, but very few major ones - most of the bigger cities are not on the surface25, but under the surface. However, Known World gnomes were never very interested in ruling vast swathes of land - either above or below the surface - but much more in living peaceful lives that could allow them to explore their own interests. Often gnomes simply accepted the fact they were minority cultures in areas where other races (especially humans) were the majority, and, keeping as secret as possible the extent of their subterranean network, used them in addition to trade routes to keep contacts between all their communities. In the next two centuries, a number of gnomes and dwarves that took part in these activities became known as the Travellers, a separate demihuman subculture with specific, distinct characteristics26.

Turro Torkrest ascended the throne of Rockhome as Blystar X in 471 BC. In addition to supporting the securement of the Garalin Underdeep with money, resources and men, he decided to explore the situation east in the Northern Reaches. Significant trade with the Antalians/Northmen was not possible for a long time: not only did dwarves concentrate more on the southern routes but the many hostile Modrigswerg clans fought among themselves, against Garlindwerg, gnome refugees and Black Dwarves, against Denwarf, against humanoids, in a whirlwind of side-switching and chaos that prevented any meaningful interaction until 300 BC. The Antalian Northmen established their jarldoms mainly on the coastal lands, on the Ostland archipelago and towards the Heldannic territories, where they had better control of the land in comparison with the western hills and mountains of the Northern Reaches.

[Image: Antalian Warrior]

In 438 BC, when Blystar X died, his son Korinn, who had married Pura Daroban, clanmistress of the Syrklist, took the name of Daroban as king, and renounced his Torkrest affiliation, much to the annoyance of his Torkrest relatives. But Rockhome was now at peace and the dwarves needed an open-minded and progressive clan to guide them, and king Daroban consciously made this move, as he considered it in line with the change of policy begun with Blystats III after Sardal.

The Syrklist kings led dwarves to progressively increased contact with humans and to establish consulates and posts among human city-states and clans, from Darokin to Ostland, Heldann and Hesperia. They made sure they didn’t take part in any war or feud, especially the internal ones among the warlike Ethengarans or Northmen cultures. Dwarves went relatively well along with the honorable Alasiyan tribes of the desert. At this time, dwarves pretended that they had not possessed a writing system27, in order to block curiosity from other races on their older traditions. They had relied on using foreign alphabets for any activity that needed interaction with other races, but now that their contacts with the outer world became more and more frequent, they needed some systematic way to interact, so they promoted a dwarven runic alphabet that could be shared with humans and elves.

West, the Syrklist kings won over the suspicious dwarves to support contact with the elves. Nonetheless, the encounter wasn’t a happy one, even though gnomes had long since been friendly toward both races. Dwarven lore told of the elves’ role in Blackmoor’s Rain of Fire, and although admittedly these elves seemed nothing like Blackmoor elves or - even worse - Dark elves, their ways and beliefs put them at odds with the Denwarf dwarves.

The three Daroban rulers’ era is still remembered as a golden age of awakening of the dwarven race. New ideas and technologies spread, not a few of them learned from the cultures dwarves interacted with, and the Skarrad and Syrklist clans dominated politics and philosophy.

One of the major events of this historical phase was the establishment of Clan Buhrodar. At the Battle of Sardal Pass, the Buhrod-hrodar battle order had been almost completely destroyed. The few survivors, almost all of them priests of Kagyar, shut down the order and united in a new family, which they called Buhrodar. The elders of the family adopted several young dwarves who wanted to enter the new family; the practice of adoption became a staple of the Buhrodar family, until they became so many that they created their own Forge of Power and were recognized as the sixth Clan of Rockhome (287 BC).

Appendix: Sidebars

[Sidebar: Kings of Rockhome]

Kings of Rockhome:

Torkrest Dynasty (I)

8. Thoric I (1161-1119 BC)

9. Blystar I (1119-1062 BC)

10. Blystar II (1062-1004 BC)

11. Blystar III (1004-961 BC)

12. Blystar IV (961-920 BC)

13. Blystar V (920-881 BC)

14. Blystar VI (881-823 BC)

15. Blystar VII (823-811 BC)

16. Blystats I (811-730 BC)

Buhrod-hrodar Dinasty

17. Blystar VIII (730-697 BC)

18. Blystats II (697-661 BC)

19. Blystar IX (661-600 BC)

Hurwarf Dinasty

20. Thoric II (600-563 BC)

21. Thoric III (563-506 BC)

Torkrest Dinasty (II)

22. Blystats III Sardal (506-471 BC)

23. Blystar X (471-438 BC)

Appendix: Images

[Image: Rockhome]

Joseph Marszewski, Alpine landscape with staffage, 1859. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

[Image: Nithia]

Robert Davids, The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, 1859. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

[Image: Battlefield]

William McAusland, Ancient battlefield with skull on post. Used by permission of the author.


[Image: Battle Axe]

William McAusland, Battle Axe. Used by permission of the author.


[Image: Orcs]

William McAusland, Orcs on a hill. Used by permission of the author.


[Image: Orc Warriors]

William McAusland, Three Orc Warriors. Used by permission of the author.


[Image: Antalian Warrior]

William McAusland, Male warrior with norse style helmet. Used by permission of the author.


[Image: Gate under the mountain]

William McAusland, Gate under the mountain. Used by permission of the author.


[Image: A Syrklist King]

William McAusland, Wizard with horned hat, bust. Used by permission of the author.


[Image: Dwarf Warrior]

William McAusland, Male brigand with shield and axe. Used by permission of the author.


1An alternate identity of Ilsundal.

2The Syrklist clan was established in 1323 BC, when it created its own Forge of Power with the help of the Skarrad clan. See part 1 of “The (not) so young races”, Threshold #14, p.133 .

3GAZ7:, “The Northern Reaches”, p.6.

4“Hesperia, Land of the Setting Sun”, Threshold #12, p.214

5Marco Dalmonte, “Gnomish Timeline”,

6These gnomes must not be confused with the Ice Gnome clans who originated in Davania in 2900 BC and whose descendants include the Snartans. According to Marco Dalmonte: “There is now one gnomish kingdom in the Lost Valley region founded by these fleeing gnomes, who dream one day of returning and freeing their brethren. They have no idea the Nithian Empire collapsed millennia ago, and still think there are enslaved gnomes in the northern continent. All their life has been devoted to build the ultimate weapon to defeat their enemies and once they are sure of their victory, they will head north once again. They are now a very dark folk, obsessed with the past and their flight (a sense of guilt is also haunting them and they want to atone by killing their old enemies—similar to Elven Feadiel clan) and bent over a personal vendetta. As for the object of this revenge, it was primarily the old oppressors (Nithians), but as the years have passed and the experiences with the humans have taught them, the entire human race is to be blamed for their suffering (they may have got clues about the humans' involvement in the Great Rain of Fire as well).”

7The birth of the gnolls is one of the major issues in Mystaran canon and lore. It’s quite clear that some Canon aspects are untenable: gnolls cannot be a magical cross of gnomes plus trolls; and it’s unbelievable that gnolls could breed at such a pace that in 50 years they could break free from their Nithian masters, travel to Karameikos, and invade the Traldar and the Hutaaka of Karameikos putting an end to their civilization. There are many alternatives in fan-based material: some propose the use of lupins as base creatures, so gnomish blood might simply be used as a catalyst; and there are many alternate or complementary histories of Karameikos and of Traladara that can be used for expanding on the gnoll invasion of those lands.

8GAZ6: “The Dwarves of Rockhome”, p. 45.

9For more on this, see “The (not) so young races”, part 1, Threshold #14, p.134

10This part is lifted from Marco Dalmonte, “Gnomish Timeline”,

11Simone Neri, “The History of Ierendi and Minrothad”, Threshold #3

12GAZ8: “The Five Shires”, p.8.

13Most of this section is derived from Jesper Andersen, “Genealogy of the Dwarves”, According to Jesper, Loktar’s dwarves were part of what he called ‘First Dwarves’, untouched since the time of Blackmoor by Kagyar and Garl, and thus separated by over 2,000 years from the eastern dwarves. Jesper doesn’t explain where these dwarves came from, so I located their origin in the Khurish massif, far enough not to have any contacts with eastern dwarves, and close enough that a migration to the Five Shires makes sense. By 500 BC the Khurish dwarves were so hard pressed by humans and humanoids in the Sind region that they had all left towards the Savage Coast. These dwarves were the first to arrive to the eastern Savage Coast and build small colonies. It is established by Canon that dwarves first arrive there by 450 BC. Later, Denwarf dwarves moved west and made contacts with these dwarves, eventually merging.

14GAZ8: “The Five Shires” p.8

15See the relevant histories by Simone Neri in Threshold issues #3, #4 and #7, and JTR’s “History of Leeha” in Threshold issue #6 “Presence of halflings in the Northern Reaches region was established by the Poor Wizard’s Almanac books, under “Leeha” and “Norwold” entries: «Halflings first settled this area 1,500 years ago when kobold invasions drove them out of the Northern Reaches». How and why the halflings were found in the Northern Reaches has never been explained.”

16Most of the material for this section was originally written by Jesper Andersen and re-used by permission of the author.

17See XS2, “Thunderdelve Mountain”, and Jesper Andersen, “Genealogy of the Dwarves”,

18See GAZ11, “The Republic of Darokin”

19See XS2, “Thunderdelve Mountain”

20Gaz 5, “The Elves of Alfheim”

21Modified GAZ7.

22Poor Wizard’s Almanac II

23See Usamigaras’ background in Marco Dalmonte, “Codex Immortalis, Book One: Guide to the Immortals”.

24Francesco Defferrari, Threshold #12, p.49

25What is the major surface city of gnomes in the Known World was founded much later in Traladara: Eveskyr (known to humans as Highforge) was established around 100 BC, under the lead of the Hilltopper Clan (see for example The Garalin Underdeep’s extension by AC 1000 was of about 10,000 square miles of land under gnomish control, with a total population of 100,000 (90% gnomes), mostly underground.

26See “Deep Hollow” in Threshold #14. In the original article, there is a typo that states the destruction of Falun was in AC 490. It clearly was 490 BC.

27Gaz 6, “The Dwarves of Rockhome”, p. 44, says dwarves didn’t possess a writing system until then. It seems very unplausible to say the least.