Broken Lands: Dwarf factions
Joined: 12 Aug 2011
Posted: 12 Apr 2015 at 09:29
From the journal of Barnard of Shelton, master trader in the employ of the Illyria Trade Council, recording his journeys to the Broken Lands.
When the Sundering ripped across the land at the end of the Second Age, the magics tore trees from the ground, whipped the air into great cyclones, and tore at the earth itself. The lands shook, plains rose up to form ridges, and mountains plunged into an abyss to be swallowed by the sea. For surface dwellers this was a cataclysm. Millions died, and only thousands survived.
But how much worse for races that dwelt beneath the ground! The deep halls of the Dwarf clans collapsed, their tunnels caved in, the entrances to their strongholds were buried. And not only the Dwarves were thus destroyed. In five hundred years no Kobold, those scrawny underground-dwelling greenskins, has been seen in these Broken Lands.
Of all the underground strongholds, only one survived the Sundering. It is a Dwarven hall. Its masters are Clan Dollogh, and they call their home Lasthold.
For five centuries they have dug in, built up, reinforced, defended. They are the last survivors of the Dwarves in these lands, and they will, they insist, endure.
I went to visit Lasthold. I passed through seven sets of gates, set in huge walls, and at each gate I was quizzed, searched, regarded with suspicion and fear. At last I thought that I was in, as I emerged into a broad market square. But then I noticed that there were almost no Dwarves here. And the Dwarves that I did see in the market, were surface-dwellers, from settlements in the lands about, visitors just as I was.
Beyond the market was another set of doors, made not of wood but of granite, set in yet another sturdy wall. I approached, but saw no guards, nobody I could speak to. As I stood there another visitor smiled at me. â€œThat is Lasthold, in there. Nobody gets in, unless you were born there. And you arenâ€™t a Dwarf, so you werenâ€™t born there.â€
All the gates and checks I had been through had not even been to get into Lasthold. They were just to get to the market where visitors come to trade.
I returned to the seventh gate, and attempted to engage the sergeant of the guards in conversation. I explained that I wanted to talk to their rulers, about trade deals. He did not answer. I asked who his rulers were. No answer. I pestered for several minutes, until in the end I hit a nerve and he exploded in a rage, shouting at me as his face turned deeper and deeper scarlet. My mistake was to ask how emissaries from â€œhis Kingâ€ (meaning the King of Virten) gained access to Lasthold.
â€œA thousand years,â€ he fumed, â€œa thousand years! For a thousand years we were slaves to Elf wizards, duped by their human servants, and abused by their Orc dogs! For a thousand years we were tortured, forced to work until we died. And then we were killed. All of us. When the mountains fell everyone died except five hundred Dwarves here, and a few thousand out on the surface! My people here, my forbears, they clawed through the cave-ins with their bare hands, and rebuilt! Now you think some human Orc-lackey is our King! Heâ€™s your King! Or heâ€™s the Orcsâ€™ King! You think after everything weâ€™ve been through, weâ€™ll let some human peasant, raised up by the Kartur-Hhakrall, tell us what to do? Out there, heâ€™s your King. In here, we are free, and we will stay that way even if the mountains fall again!â€
Lasthold [Clan Dollogh]
The stronghold itself lies within the mountain, where, rumour says, these dwarves maintain huge workshops. Stories tell of vast automated forges, of machines that make other machines... but nobody knows. Only those born within Lasthold are allowed inside. Yet many visitors still flock here, to trade at the secure market on the surface of the mountain.
From the journal of Barnard of Shelton, master trader in the employ of the Illyria Trade Council, recording his journeys to the Broken Lands.
I was invited to join two scruffy Dwarves, as they played dice with a gang of goblins. It was not the reception that I had expected.
The Overoad Traders, from the reports I had heard, control the foremost commercial network in these lands, with a range of well established trade centres stretching from the peaceful lands of Virten out into the wild and dangerous lands to the East. When I asked to be permitted to discuss possible trade deals with some of their leaders, I did not expect to be invited to play dice with ruffians.
I had expected, as in my own homelands, to be invited to a well established guild house or palace, where negotiations would proceed in measured tones in luxurious surroundings. Instead I found myself gambling with goblins.
The two dour Dwarves who led the game had planted a staff in the ground, adorned with tattered parchments listing the wares that they had for sale, and topped with an astrolabe, as a wizardâ€™s staff might have some mighty crystal. And wherever such a staff is planted, that becomes a headquarters, for a while, for these rough traders. It is a far cry from a grand guild hall.
The two greeted me without enthusiasm. They explained the rules of the game, which were surprisingly complex, and told me to drag across a box to sit on.
As the dice were passed around, they quaffed ale from huge wooden mugs and wiped their mouths on their sleeves, and they started to quiz me about what I wanted to trade and at what prices. I outlined a possible proposal to gauge their interest, and was told, curtly, â€œIt wonâ€™t work. Iâ€™d have to sell the cargo on at Cloghordâ€™s Haven, and my costs mean Iâ€™ll only make six point seven percent.â€
â€œPoint six,â€ the other Dwarf corrected him.
The first Dwarf fiddled with four bulky rings on the fat fingers of his left hand. â€œNo, point seven.â€
â€œWe promised Scritgut a raise,â€ the second nodded towards one of the goblins. â€œInclude that in.â€
More ring fiddling. â€œSix point five eight. Youâ€™re right. Anyway, the journeyâ€™s too dangerous. We have to factor in likely losses, so your price is too high. Now, whose throw?â€
And so the conversation, and the game, continued. The Dwarves, it transpired, were two of the leaders of the Traders. At least, they had their own trade caravans, which in the chaotic world of the Traders made them leaders of sorts. And they were very happy to discuss major transactions while half distracted, it seemed, with a petty game of chance.
â€œNot game of chance!â€ one of the goblins objected when I commented on this. â€œProbability! Math-e-menatics!â€
â€œHeâ€™s right,â€ the Dwarf concurred. Itâ€™s all about calculations and probabilities, just like trade is.â€
â€œBut still, is this a suitable place to discuss a trade deal?â€ I asked.
â€œOf course. My mindâ€™s on numbers. And any deal we do, my friends share the risk, so they should hear what you have to say.â€ He saw that I looked surprised at his use of the word. â€œFriends? What, when you trade, who do you travel with?â€
â€œWell, employees, servantsâ€¦.â€
â€œWe rely on each other. Rank doesnâ€™t matter. Out there, we live or die based on each other, and we have enough enemies already. It has been like this for generations. When the Sundering broke the mountains, the Dwarven race was swallowed up. Some say that only three thousand of us survived. It must have been more, but the point is, almost everyone died. Our ancestors were trapped above ground while their families were crushed to death under the fallen mountainsâ€¦.â€
And so he started to explain. He explained that the scattered Dwarves had become wandering craftsmen and traders, at last finding trade to be the more profitable path. He also told me what happened to the goblins.
â€œAfter the Sundering the Orc armies werenâ€™t used to getting their own food. So when the survivors had nobody to send them supplies, they ate the weakest amongst their ranks. That meant that they ate the goblins. The goblins who got away also had no idea how to fend for themselves. The mages had only wanted them as scouts and killers â€“ they hadnâ€™t taught them to farm or forage or cook. So, those that our ancestors met they took in, and fed. These goblins, my friends, are descended from those my ancestor rescued five centuries since.â€
The Overoad Traders, he explained, needed others to help them. There just werenâ€™t enough Dwarves to perform all the tasks required in all their trade missions. And the goblins were outstanding servants â€“ or as he put it, partners. They were excellent scouts, cunning and swift, they could look after pack animals, they could learn any simple skill, and if needs be they could be merciless. And they ate only half what a Dwarf or Human would eat, â€œwhich means we carry and buy fewer provisions. So weâ€™d rather work with them than with humans. Not that we donâ€™t have human partners. Anyone can join up. But the goblins have always been our best friends.â€
Travelling light was important to the Traders, I realised. They carried no ledgers, but held all of their accounts in their heads. â€œThis month is set to be my best in 2 years, by three point four percent,â€ he mentioned, apparently without thinking about it. They had no offices, no clerks. Everything was calculated through their well practised mental arithmetic, which, if needed, could be verified by the use of the four heavy rings which each wore: these four, made of several bands of metal which could be adjusted individually, were like a more complex abacus. One of the two also wore a pendant which was, I realised, a kind of portable sun-dial.
These, then, were not the degenerate gamblers that I had feared that they were when I sat down with them. They were clever, pragmatic survivors, and their approach to trade, though alien to me, is perfectly suited to survival, and perhaps profit, in a hostile land.
The Brothers' Haven [Overoad Traders]
This stronghold was founded by three competing brothers, who each established a market here. The three markets are interlinked physically, but are administered separately, and the stronghold is frequently wracked by rivalries between the traders of the three Wards.
Cloghord's Haven [Overoad Traders]
Cloghord's Haven is the oldest of the Overoad Traders' havens. It dates back to just a few months after the Sundering,when a lone orphan from the north set up a trade post here in a ruined castle. The dwarves who trade here are proud of their heritage - of a long history of profitable commerce and tenacious survival.
Winter Haven [Overoad Traders]
Winter Haven started as a secret stash, a set of caves where non-perishable goods could be stored over winter by traders heading north to escape the snows. Over time a permanent settlement grew up above the caverns, and it is now a major Traders' stronghold. For many its underground warehousing seems a novelty, but the caves go deep into the hills, and some say that there are greater treasures in the dark than merchants' crates.
Cleag's Haven [Overoad Traders]
Uniquely amongst the founders of the Traders' Havens, Cleag was no merchant. He turned a small company of mercenary dwarven sappers into the heart of a multi-racial mercenary company, and ran them from this impressive stronghold. In time, dwarven traders settled here, and war became just one business amongst many. Now the stronghold's military past seems far away, as life today revolves around the thriving market and crammed warehouses.
Deagh's Haven [Overoad Traders]
Deagh's Haven was established in the early days of the Kingdom of Virten, as a safe base for dwarven traders, from which they could mount trade missions to the east. Now much of its trade is local, and visitors say that it feels more like a safe and sedate Virten stronghold than a profit-hungry Traders' Haven.
Headagh's Haven [Overoad Traders]
Headagh is legendary, as a trader who could spin profit even from a complete failure. He spent thirty years trying to open trade relations with the Drek-Hhakral. He never succeeded, but through his efforts he built up this thriving entrepot, from where goods brought from Virten can be distributed by the courageous to the wild lands of the south-east.
Roetagh's Haven [Overoad Traders]
In the chaos after the Sundering a range of petty kingdoms rose and fell. About a century after the cataclysm, an elven kingdom rose hereabouts, and a dwarven merchant named Roetagh persuaded them to allow him and his friends to become their quartermasters, customs officials and, in time, bankers. The kingdom whithered, but Roetagh's network prospered and his headquarters grew into this impregnable stronghold.
Laghadd's Haven [Overoad Traders]
The Traders of Laghadd's say that this is what the Havens all used to be like: free-booting, unpredictable, every deal a fresh one and few regular contracts to fulfill. Here the dwarves delight in finding new ways to win profit from the wild surroundings, with little regard for formality nor, always, for legality.
Thoroe's Haven [Overoad Traders]
Like most of the Havens, Thoroe's was originally an inward-looking settlement, emphasising defence against the outside world. But Virten is now securely at peace, and so the defensive towers are given over to warehousing, the stout walls breached by additional gates to make it easier for traders to come and go.
Hedgor's Haven [Overoad Traders]
Far from the safety of the lands of Virten, this is the Traders' most exposed outpost, and unlike most of the others it has not evolved through time. A century ago a confederation of leading Traders raised finance to build this impregnable stronghold. Millions of gold were spent on the defences alone, and the descendants of these founders still own the Haven, reaping regular dividends from its tax revenues.
Poeghad's Haven [Overoad Traders]
In the years after the Sundering, Poeghad ran a beleaguered trade caravan. Ambushed, she and her fellows were enslaved by the orcs who held this stronghold. Their captors forced the dwarves to work as quartermasters and traders, but through cunning and hard work Poeghad won, or bought, her freedom. Her son bought the other dwarves from the orcs. And her granddaughter bought the stronghold itself. Commerce defeated violence; but it took decades.
The Lost Clans
From the daily reports of Commander Cirian Danorian, deep reconnaissance mission.
Day 29, evening: We have made camp in some sort of ancient Dwarven ruin. It will be an uncomfortable night. There is scattered rubble on the hillside, but nothing that provides cover. So we have come in through the main entrance, to passages cut into the rock. The floors slope downwards, away from the opening. Our engineer says that the passages might once have continued back for miles, but the whole structure has slipped into the ground, swallowed up in the Sundering. We checked all the passages, and they all end in collapse.
Day 30, early morning: The guards we posted at the entrance raised the alarm. They say they saw a figure, skulking. A quick search found nobody. We will look again in the morning.
Day 30, morning: Started to pack up camp, but then the scouts reported in. They found our visitorâ€™s tracks. Dwarf footprints. There shouldnâ€™t be Dwarves this far east. So we will stay today, and investigate.
Day 30, evening: Scouting parties fanned out, looking for our visitor, or any other evidence of Dwarves living near here. They found nothing, but the guards back at camp saw him again, watching them.
Day 30, midnight: I set everyone to work this evening. It seems our visitor wants to get into these ruins. Maybe he has hidden something here. Maybe thereâ€™s a secret passage, some Dwarf deception here. So we searched. After five hours, nothing has been discovered. We need some sleep now.
Day 31, morning: The guards think our visitor is still lurking. So, the plan today is that we set out again, with search parties going in all directions. But after an hour they will fan out to form a single long line, and return. They will act like a net, trapping our visitor. I want to talk to him.
Day 31, afternoon: We have lost our opportunity. The Dwarf fell for the ruse, but we lost him. We went past him, fanned out, came back, trapped him. He ran, we chased. We hailed him, he kept running. We chased him to the edge of a cliff. He looked wretched. His hair was greasy and lank, his skin was sickly grey. In his left eye socket some sort of metal contraption whirred and moved around. We encircled him, and I tried to question him. Did he live in the ruins? No answer. Were there any other Dwarves living nearby? No answer. Could he please tell us his name? No answer. I told the Kartur-Hhakrall to grab him. They stepped forward, he stepped back and plunged fifty paces down the cliff. He killed himself rather than let us take him. I have now set the Kartur-Hhakrall to scale the cliff and check the body.
Day 31, evening: I should have been clearer with the Kartur-Hhakrall. I said check the body. I should have said retrieve the body. They checked it. They say it was not a real Dwarf. They say he did not have blood in his veins, but some black oil. I would have liked our surgeon to examine it. But our Orcs had checked it, and then they burned it. I can see the smoke rising in the distance. I asked why they built such a big bonfire for him. They said that they werenâ€™t taking any chances.
The Empty Halls [The Lost Clans]
When The Sundering wracked the lands, many great dwarven holds fell, swallowed by rock and earth. This ancient hall is the best preserved of these ruins.
Access is difficult, via broken roads and over fallen fortifications, but inside long passages wind deep into the mountains, and many of the old, dusty halls remain intact. All of the passages lead, eventually, to cave-ins and collapses, but rumours tells of other rooms and other corridors, behind secret panels and concealed doors, which still delve deeper into the mountain.
Edited by demdigs - 16 Apr 2015 at 19:51
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