The Dwarves of the Stone Clans occupy the slopes and tunnels of the vast mountain range called the Stoneclaws. Beneath peak and above cave are an innumerable variety of environments: mountains eternally asmoke with flame, vales covered in shadow and even ruins from a lost age of Dwarfdom.
The northern portion of the Stoneclaws is generally considered to be the most inhospitable, mainly because it shares the same shadowy climate that the Sunless Kingdom is known for and that occasionally touches Gotterdammerung. Horrible monstrosities stalk these mountains — the shades of an elder age — and they wipe out individual traveler and Clan alike. Few Clans lair in this terrible place but largest among them are the Shaggrathi, skilled in sorcery and shadow and accepting only of the worthy into their ranks.
The western portion of the Stoneclaws remains ravaged by the wars with the Jotun. The smoking remains of mountains and gaping chasms are the scars of these tempestuous combats where Dwarf prevailed against Giant. Those clans who stay here are in constant battle with Jotunbrud elements as well as each other. Largest among these are the Dwarves of the Stormgrimm Clan, one with the elements and possessed of great shamanic power.
The central, eastern and southern portions of the Stoneclaws are far more temperate than its other parts, containing many places of fertility and wealth. However, this means that they are one of the most hotly contested in the region.
The central portion is largely dominated by the Iron Kingdom and those Stone Clans to whom they pay tribute. These Stone Clans are swelled by Travaki weaponry and economic power, allowing Malak Travak some refuge against expansionistic Clans. The Iron Kingdom also pays dues to the Rumbletum Clan who would otherwise leave large swaths of devastation among Stone and Iron holdings alike.
The eastern Stoneclaws is home to many warring Clans, but the foremost of them are the Thundershield Dwarves, a Clan known for tradition and honor. They border darksome Gotterdammerung and the fell Stoneclaws of the north. While they battle and feud like any Stone Clan, warring with the Thundershields is to fight with ancient champions of old — they are said to be as enduring as the ancients, following in the traditions that make the First-born mighty.
The southern Stoneclaws are host to many a bloody battle and broken ruin, dating to the Wyrdic days and beyond. The southernmost portions are an impassable wasteland, little more than jagged rocks ravaged by elemental powers and the ghosts of antiquity. Those that have attempted to prospect in the Sundered South have found little in the way of ore and asset, moreso in death and suffering. Still, a myriad of Stone Clans reside above the Sundered South — chief among them the Bladebreaker Dwarves who have reclaimed their ancient, sacred holdings and ply trade more than they do war to the other Clans.
The Stone Clans are vast in number, with many following strange traditions and alien customs. However, almost all Stone Dwarves follow the Maker and his Creed, especially those of the Wyrm-breaker and World-shaper worldviews. Below are listed the commandments of the Maker (as seen by the Stone Dwarves) — each Stone Clan follows these at least in some shape or form.
- Know thy Maker- Remember He that made you from Flame, from Bone and from Stone; always keep him in your thoughts.
- Keep His Virtues– beware the Sundering Sin, Greed! It is not in the keeping of relics but in the making that the Maker considers holy.
- Follow His Aspect – as the Maker did labor and create, so must you engage in industry and build objects and projects of beauty and utility. Similarly, you must not shirk against the evils of the world or against those that would assail you — the Maker is courage and the First-born are in his image.
- Love thine Blood – love and respect your companions and your Clan, for the Maker loves not a traitor nor an oath-breaker. If these should come to conflict, then your God should go before your King, your King before your family, etc.
- Remember the First-born – Within each day and each night that passes lies the opportunity to advance the cause of the Dwarven Race and regain the glory that was lost.
Crime and Punishments:
When a Dwarf is believed to be breaking the laws of their Clan, they are usually brought to their King for judgment. Those who resist arrest are considered to be guilty.
Those brought to the King are judged by the King or, if he chooses, by one of his Councilors. During the trial, the accusers attempt to convince the judge of the suspect’s wrongdoing and its gravity while the accused is allowed to defend themselves and call upon their allies for testimony. If the King allows it, the accused may attempt to perform a Trial by Combat where they (or a champion of their choosing) fight a duel against a champion of the accusers’ choosing. The Trial by Combat may also be called by a King who perceives it to be necessary (such as during a stalemate or if the King is bored).
This combat is not to the death although some have died for it. If the accused wins, they are considered innocent of the crime. If they lose, they are sentenced as though guilty.
The usual punishments given to a Stone Dwarf are as follows (in order of least to most severe):
– Public Flogging
– a Fine or indentured Service
– Maiming or Branding
– Honor Suicide
– Exile or Clanlessness
– Execution (usually via beheading)
Note: Visitors to a Clan are subject to its laws. However, the enforcement of these laws are often what leads to feuding and warring between Clans.
At the head of every Clan, a King
The Stone Kings (or Queens, for the Bladebreaker Dwarves) are the leaders of their particular Clans. They are the arbiters of what is right and what is wrong, of who should be punished and who should be rewarded. Some Kings are heavily reliant on tradition (e.g. the Thundershields) or faith (e.g. the Bladebreakers) while most others order their Clan according to their own whims.
Beneath the Stone Kings are their councilors, usually represented by the leaders of the Clan’s families. This is usually the father of a family, assuming they are influential/powerful enough to affect a Clan’s direction. Power and influence is gained by martial skill, mastery in craftsmanship or various other competitive traditions within the Clan. In some Clans and in some households, it is the mother or even the eldest child who speaks for their family. The most traditional Stone Dwarves only allow the great Grandfather of a particular bloodline to be a councilor for their King.
The influence of a councilor is highly dependent on a particular Clan’s King. The Thundershields, Shaggrathi and Stormgrimms highly value their councilors while the Rumbletum and the Bladebreakers feature a more centralized government.
The assorted families of a particular Clan are beneath the rule of the King and his councilors. Through their various mundane professions and duties, they support the Clan. Some families are more esteemed than others based on their occupation — those Dwarves who are tasked to pest control are less favored than those who farm, etc. In times of war and feud, each family is required to send at least one able body to secure the Clan or raid the holdings of another. However, it is only in a few Clans (such as the Rumbletum) that families sustain themselves only through war.
The bottommost rung are the Clanless and the prisoners of war. The Clanless are those without a Clan and those who have been cast out. These Dwarves are given the most back-breaking of tasks in exchange for residence and the Clan’s (minimal) protection. Prisoners of war are given the same duties until they are ransomed or abandoned by their Clan (in which case, they become Clanless). Sometimes, Clanless Dwarves may ascend their station by marrying into a family, performing a masterwork craft or by achieving victory for the Clan in battle.
At the heart of every Clan, a forge:
The Stone Clans are known for their belligerence and their wars, but they are just as renowned for their craftsmanship. Just as each Clan has public mills and fields that are available to the entire Clan, they also have public forges and workshops that everyone can use.
Thus, the latest technologies and craftsmanship are available to every Clansdwarf. Furthermore, the King of a Clan assigns several families to oversee these public forges and workshops and spread the knowledge of the arts to the rest of his subjects. As holder of the crafting lores, the position of Forgekeeper is a respected and contested one within a Clan, just as renowned as the Lorekeeper (the holder of historical lores) and the Physic. This proliferation of knowledge within the Clan allows it to survive the worst disasters and defeats while advancing their technological prowess.
Among the Stone Dwarves, the Clan is the heart of each Kingdom. The smallest Clan numbers two score Dwarves and the largest being city-states by themselves (10,000+).
Not everyone within a Clan is directly related to each other, but through marriage, adoption or blood, each traces their lineage to an ancient ancestor that founded the Clan and gave it its name. Marriage within families is prohibited and reviled, but marriages between two different families within a Clan is the norm. Marrying outside one’s Clan is considered either lowly (if marrying a Clanless nobody) or prestigious (if bringing a great warrior or craftsman into a Clan). As befitting the Stone Clan worldview, the matrimonial ceremony is a loud affair, filled with singing, drinking and friendly fisticuffs.
For some (but not all) Clans, direct blood lineage to its founder secures one’s place at its helm. When doubt is placed, lineages are traced and if that fails, non-lethal duels and competitions are held between the contesting parties until a winner is declared.
Not every family within the Clan is equal, naturally. Some families naturally have more than others. Travag (Forged) are the families of the King, royal officials, rich tradesdwarves and the high Priests. Sullag (Graven) families are the poorest, working the worst professions and occupations in the Clan. Finally, the Marrag (Gilded) families are the middle ground.
Patriarchy and the Family
Except among certain Clans, the Great-grandfather is the leader of a familial unit. His decisions are law, enforced by the rest of the family. Only the King or a King’s official may contradict a patriarch’s decrees, although only after much stubbornness.
These patriarchs tend to rule strictly, often looking to tradition and precedence rather than breaking the ways of the ancients. Fairness is not a concern of most patriarchs — foremost in their mind is the legacy and honor of their bloodline. The perspective of the youth matters little when compared to the time-tested ways of old.
Within one’s immediate family, the father is the formal leader of the household but in practice, the governance roles are divided equally among both parents.
In matriarchal Clans, the matriarch occupies the same role and function as the patriarch. However, these leaders tend to temper their judgments and decisions according to needs of the family rather than its honor.
Childhood and Development
Each child within a particular bloodline is cared for by everyone in that bloodline, though their primary caretakers are their parents (not just their mother). While every youth in a Clanhold is expected to go to the Lorekeeper and Forgekeeper for instruction, their main means of education is through their family.
Every Stone Clan child is taught the rudimentaries of craftsmanship and of battle. When they are old enough (8-10 years old) , they are apprenticed to a specific family member who is an expert at a particular field (such as witchery, swordplay, skullduggery, etc) until they are judged ready to move on. Those Dwarves who display interest in skills beyond their family’s abilities are occasionally apprenticed to other families or even rarely, other Clans, Clanless Dwarves or even non-Dwarf individuals.
After learning from several familial elders (usually at age 20), the youth is given a weapon and participates in the Clan’s military activities. These activities can range from guard duty to raiding other Stone Clans or Kingdoms. This conscription only requires 5 years of a Dwarf’s life, although some stay within a Stone King’s army for life or for 10 years instead. Those who prove themselves time and time again in battle are recruited for a King’s personal service, acting as his champions, escort, vanguard and/or assassins.
Death, Funerals and Inheritance
When a Stone Dwarf dies, their family inters the bones (or a personal token if there is no body) into their familial mausoleum. Funerary preparations usually include a Priest of the Maker ceremonially burning the flesh and blood from the deceased’s bones. These remains are then buried beneath the bust of the dead Dwarf’s likeness.
The main pillars of the mausoleum hold the greatest heroes and paragons of the family. Those who earn their niche within the pillars are venerated, with their descendants often visiting them and praying to them for guidance.
Traditionally, the assets of the deceased is divided among their spouse and their descendants. The spouse and the first born child gets the most, with the other children getting half a share. Children out of wedlock usually get nothing.