The dwarves of Iiosia stand in most cases between four and a half, and five and a half feet tall. Their skin tones are generally dark and dirty looking, as if stone and soil dust has been embedded into their genes. Dwarves of both sexes are always stocky and well muscled, with rough skin akin to the texture of old parchment. Despite their short stature, dwarves can easily weigh in excess of 200lbs. Males often have long, overgrown beards, which are often fashioned into braids and adorned with beads which can be made of precious stones and metals, depending on the wealth of the dwarf.
The un-bearded females have something of an equivalent with their hair, which can range in colour from blondes, greys, browns, reds and blacks.
Dwarves have a fascination with gold, silver, and precious jewels, which they adorn themselves with in times of celebration, feasting, and battle. Dwarf attire aside from their jewellery is often simple by contrast, often consisting of simple leather and heavy cloth garments.
The appearance and length of a dwarf's beard and hair is a status symbol among all dwarvern culture. Females' status is thought of less important than that of their male counterparts as they are a male-dominant race. Dwarves marry and when married are expected to remain so for the rest of their lives, which can be a long time as some dwarves can live in excess of 600 years or more.
Often a gruff and discourteous race, the dwarves are known equally well for their bad temper and ill manners as they are for their love of jewels and their skill at wielding weapons. Dwarves are also adept metal workers – rivalled only by the grellkin- and forge elaborate weapons and armour, often encrusted with precious stones, and their metalwork is surpassed only by their stonecraft. Having an abundance of stone to work with in their mountain strongholds has helped the dwarves emerge as Iiosia's greatest stonemasons; their great capital Vordaal is carved entirely from a lone mountain, which over the centuries has been hollowed out to house a great city filed with living areas, storage rooms, smiths, temples, and all manner of different building types.
Dwarves also have a love for ale and almost all alcoholic beverages, and are also passionate for great feasts and festivals. Despite their love of metal working and mining, the dwarves are also adept farmers. The lands around thier holds are often made up of of fields upon which the dwarves grow wheat, barley, and other common crops. They have also found a way to cultivate an odd, edible plant which they can grow underground. This is known as “Tarfin”, or stonebread. Dwarvern stonebread is highly valued within Iiosia as, though its taste is dull, it takes months after cultivation to become inedible, and is also incredibly nutritious and filling. It is therefore highly sought after by sea-farers and travellers alike.
Dwarves are a reclusive race, and it is not unusual for a dwarf to spend his entire life within the confines of the Hold he was born in. Those dwarves who are found elsewhere are either encountered because they were born outside of a Hold, or, more rarely, because he has lost his Pride.
The occasional wandering dwarf will be doing so voluntarily, but some have been forced into it because they have lost their Pride, and been driven from their Hold. Pride is of great importance to the dwarves, and one who loses it through some great shame such as adultery, cowardice or faulty craftsmanship, then that dwarf will be compelled to wander the lands in search of some way to redeem themselves by performing a deed of great valor and importance.
Save for Dragons, which are believed to now be extinct, Dwarves are perhaps the oldest race on the face of the world. Their records date back many millennia before even the events of the Great War and the Sundering, which predate Iiosia by several thousand years.
Their empire once stretched for many hundreds of miles along the Skybreaker mountain range, which dominates the entire western side of modern-day Iiosia. Amongst the mountains the dwarves built many Holds; great fortress-towns within the living rock. The mightiest of these is, and still remains, Vordaal – a massive city built within a lone mountain which stands alone in a large flat grassy plane. Vordaal is the capital of the Dwarvern Kingdom, and has forever been the seat of the dwarvern king. The lineage of the royal line of dwarves stretches back for as long as the race has recorded its history, and has never been broken.
The dwarves have long enjoyed a strong military might, and for good reasons. Dwarves are known to be a warlike people, for they are hardy and quick to anger, and make ideal soldiers and fighters. Despite all this being true, most dwarves would rather spend their time drinking, feasting and crafting items, clothing and masonry than on the field of battle.
Yet it is often the case that war comes to the dwarves, for others see their riches; their magnificent homes, their craftsmanship, their gold and their jewels, and would attempt to take a portion, or even all of it.
In the centuries before the events of the Sundering, the dwarves had one major nemesis. The dragons. Dragons made their home within the Skybreakers. They would make their homes within caves within the mountains and the dwarves would supply them with cattle to eat and jewels to lust over, for a dragon would crave much of what the dwarves had. Even the giant cities and caverns they would carve out would make a comfortable home for a dragon, and several smaller Holds did fall to dragon attacks, who would swoop down out of the bright sky and rain down fiery death from above.
Such occurrences were rare, however, and it was unlikely that a dragon could overpower an entire dwarf garrison; only the mightiest dragons were able to do so. The battles between the dragons and the dwarves lasted for many centuries, and gave the races a healthy respect for each other. The dwarves would begin to emblazon their weapons, armors and other designs with dragon motifs; wings, teeth, flames.
Eventually skirmishes between dragons and dwarves would die down. It was King Unfurth “Dragontamer” who ventured alone into the mountains to seek a mighty dragon who had sacked one of the larger dwarf citadels. Mighty axe in hand, Unfurth was one of the mightiest warriors ever known. He fought with the dragon for many hours, each combatant sustaining many wounds and taking their toll on the other. In the end, Unfurth and the dragon struck a deal. Unfurth would arrange it so that tribute would be paid to the dragons in the form of meat and gold, and in return the dragon would spread the word amongst his kind that they would no longer harass the dwarves.
This meeting went a long way to alleviate the hostilities between the races and, while tensions still remained and conflict still occurred (for the dragon’s word could not spread to all dragons, and some dragons simply did not care to honour it), it did pave the way for a time of prosperity among the dwarves.
Thus, the dwarvern race found its heyday in the centuries leading up to the Sundering. In these times, the dwarves had built many massive Holds within the mountains, and trade was flourishing between them. In the south, among the Holds of Vorrn and Melk, vast quantities of metals were found within the earth, and from this suits of iron and steel were made. In the west, in the Hold of Vadrak, the wealth came from jewels and diamonds found deep within the bowels of the mountains. In the north, the Holds of Vordaal and Unnlor had access to farmland for crops and cattle for meat and leather. And Dúnth, in the northeast, had access to the forests and became the center for timber supplies throughout the Dwarvern Kingdom. Thus each hold had something to trade with the others, and prosperity spread throughout the Kingdom.
This ended at the time of the Great War, when a massive horde of demons ravaged the lands to the south. Upon hearing of this from the peoples of the atia and tar’tchii, the dwarves knew that they must act lest their own lands come under attack. They sent their armies south to meet the demon host, and joined with the forces of the atia and tar’tchii in a cataclysmic battle. At the climax of this battle the demon host was banished to their own plane of Inferis. However, doing this unleashed a terrible shockwave throughout the world of such immense power that it altered it forever. This was known as the Sundering.
None felt the effects of the Sundering more than the dwarves. The energy from the banishing of the demons travelled up the Skybreakers and rocked them to the core, wracking them with violent and devastating earthquakes which shook from the southern tip to the northern point of the mountain range. The quakes destroyed most of the dwarf Holds; causing them to cave in and killing many thousands of dwarves in the process. Even though the Holds were strong, and would have stood for many thousands of years, they could not withstand the force of the earth moving around them.
Only Vordaal escaped mostly intact, for it was not only the strongest of the Holds, but the only one which was separate from the Skybreakers.
In the aftermath, the dwarves who remained gathered up what they could and abandoned their Holds, gravitating towards Vordaal, for it was the only safe place left for them. This lead to the mighty dwarf Holds being deserted for many centuries after, as the dwarves consolidated their strength within Vordaal and became increasingly introverted.
The dwarves never recovered their strength after these events. Their Holds were damaged beyond repair, and over the years became the homes to monsters and dark things, and were the destination for many a treasure hunter who would go there seeking the riches which the dwarves had left in the aftermath of the devastation.
Vordaal remains the mightiest fortress in the world, however. Its ramparts have never been breached, and the dwarves within are still as strong and dour as ever.