The Dwarf Kingdom was the largest empire to ever grace the face of the world, stretching the entire length of The Skybreaker mountain range, and across to the Rugged Sea. Within the mountains, great keeps of stone were built from the living rock, from where the dwarves amassed great riches mined from deep within the mountains. A network of roads, both overland and under it, were constructed, connecting the dwarvern holds and enabling them to move troops, good and supplies with relative ease and speed. Their crafters created ornate weapons, armour, furniture, ornaments, and statues, which are still prized to this day. Their brewing halls overran with mead and their pantries were stocked with provisions. Their stone fortresses were nigh impregnable to attack, and their armies were stout and strong.
So things were for many centuries. And it was during this time that the dwarves learned to respect and fear fire. Dragon fire.
Dragons were the only beings powerful enough to challenge a dwarf hold, and the gold, security, and food offered by such a place made them tempting prospects for the ambitious or desperate dragon. Such attacks were rare – perhaps one a century – but they were so devastating that dwarves were ever vigilant against them, and every dragon sighting was recorded and relayed throughout the entire empire.
Despite their strong steel, their strong walls, and their bravery, two holds fell to dragons during the Age of Wonder – Unnlor, to the north, and Melk, to the south. Melk was eventually re-taken, and the dragon slain, many years after it was conquered, but Unnlor was never returned to dwarf hands.
Dragons did not end the empire. They were never going to, and never intended to. The Great War, however, did, and was disastrous for both races.
When the call to arms came to rise against the demons, the Dwarf King at that time was Vorn Flamehammer. A young and honourable dwarf, he eagerly accepted the pleas of the atia and the tar'tchii. Though his people had little to do with events in the south, he recognised the dangers posed by the demon host growing strength there. Many other dwarves would have fortified their walls, sharpened their spears, and seen out the invasion within their keeps. Vorn saw the truth of it – it was no invasion. It was a plague, that would not wither and die, but would persist, and outlast them if they hid away from it.
Against his advisers wishes, he sent the dwarf armies to war.
It was an ironic thing that he saved many lives in doing so. When the Sundering occurred, many of the dwarves were still on the roads heading southwards, and they were so spared the destruction of the keeps they sallied forth from.
The Sundering cracked the Skybreakers, causing the entirety of the Dwarf Kingdom to be separated from the rest of the mainland during a series of earth-shattering earthquakes which lasted many months. Such a catastrophic event obviously wreaked untold destruction on the dwarf holds, and those who still resided within. Almost every hold was destroyed, with only a scant few remaining operational. In the decades that passed, the dwarves gradually retreated back to their capital, Vordaal, and, having lost so many of their number, have never come to reclaim their former glory.
Vordaal is a mighty mountain-stronghold which stands upon an area called the Plains of Ash – a region of swirling storms of grey dust, threatening to choke and anyone blind anyone caught in the open within them. These plains were formed when Vordaal was assaulted by a mighty dragon, many centuries ago. At that time, lush forest covered everything, but in the ensuing conflict the trees were burned away by dragon-fire, and never grew back. Like a bad, unwanted memory, the ash from the forest remains.
The mountain of Vordaal (Vor-dah-al) stands imposing and immovable in the centre of the plane. The mountain itself is huge; reaching up almost twenty thousand feet out of the ground. Inside, the dwarves have carved out a complex and extensive tunnel system. The mountain is riddled with living quarters, guard houses, foundries, kitchens, storerooms, drilling stations, armouries, dining halls, meeting chambers, and shrines. Thousands of dwarves make their home there, and they have truly conquered the mountain, making it the largest and strongest fortress in the world.
Deep within the mountain the dwarves keep their libraries and the vaults. Within the libraries, thousands of tomes, compiled by generations of dwarf scribes, line the shelves and contain the most comprehensive account of the worlds histories and knowledge. In the vaults, some of the worlds most treasured and dangerous artefacts are kept.
Only the oldest and must trusted dwarves are able to access these two areas, with all others forbidden. Many wizened old sages have come to the gates of Vordaal to barter everything they own for just a few moments within the library, but all have been turned away.
The other dwarf holds have been abandoned. Exploratory expeditions by the dwarves have been launched to them, to ascertain the damage within and as an attempt to recover lost treasures, but they have met with limited success. Other races, humans among them, as well as rogue bands of dwarves, also venture to the ruins to relieve them of whatever valuables remain.