Dwarven Tidbits


From my

campaign

world

Four for strength, Seven for luck,

Thirteen to keep fortune from fattening much.

             -Dwarvish Children’s Rhyme

The number thirteen has held special significance to the Dwarves for a long time. It has been a tradition among many clans to build particularly important rooms with thirteen sides since at least the year 700. Due to the Dwarves long-suffered ill fortune (which none talk about as much as they), Men have long associated the number with that ill fortune. the Dwarves say sardonically that if this is so, then they should keep using the number thirteen- with all the bad luck that comes to them, they wouldn’t want to go soft!

Dwarven folk stories are hardly ever about senseless heroics or renown. Rather, they match the humors of the Dwarves themselves, and therefore usually begin sadly, end badly, and have protagonists who are surly, cynical, vengeful, and yet wise. A popular story that is told to the children of Dwarves and Men alike (though sometimes with different purpose) runs as follows:

A Dwarf was returning to his clan from a visit to another. This required him to head aboveground through lands where no Dwarves lived at that time, which was normally no trouble to him- but this time, a great storm struck while he was travelling, filled with winds and rain and thunder, and he was forced to seek shelter in the hall of a human. This human’s name was Brevaldi, and he was but a minor chieftain among his people. His hall was thatched with straw, and had but a small pen for pigs and a stable for no more than two horses. When the Dwarf knocked at his door asking shelter from the storm, he said: “Allow such a filthy creature as yourself in my hall, in the name of hospitality? When have you given such to men?”

The Dwarf replied, “If you will but let me stay the night, my clan will offer shelter to you and yours whenever you should need it.”

“Faugh!”, he answered, “What should I want with your dark and unwelcome halls? I will allow you to stay in the stable, with the following conditions: you will pay me whatever gold you may have on you, you will join my kitchen thralls in serving food and drink tonight, and you will take nothing which you are not offered, or I will set my three hounds on you!”

The Dwarf paid him the thirteen gold pieces which he had brought with him. These were much larger, and of purer gold than the coins Brevaldi was accustomed to and was expecting to be paid, but he said nothing. That night, the Dwarf served food and ale with the kitchen thralls, while Brevaldi and his men drunkenly heaped abuse upon him and the hounds snarled whenever he came near them. He was offered no food, and so took none, not even the scraps that the thralls ate when all had gone to bed. He slept in the stable in the damp hay, scarcely drier than the grass outside in the storm.

That morning, he said nothing before he left but this: “You are a fool. Farewell, and I leave with you my fortune.” That afternoon, it was discovered that crucial beams had been sawn through when the hall fell over in a strong wind.

Traditional Dwarven ale may be distinguished by its metallic taste. While enjoyable, one should avoid drinking too frequently; this taste comes from water-soluble copper, and drinking it more than need demands leads to problems in the bones.  -Gleowin the Bard, Alcohols of the world

And there were all the flying things, and all the swimming things, and all the climbing things, and all the crawling things, and all the burrowing things, and they went about the world, each and his mate deciding their talents, so that there might be all manner of creatures when Men finally came to be.

And the most burrowing things decided to become worms, and badgers, and moles, and rabbits, and snakes, and beetles, but two of them decided instead to burrow very deep indeed, and so hoped to find their talents.

And as they burrowed, they passed by many things most wondrous and strange, and were filled with questions, but they could understand nothing- for understanding still was a talent that was reserved for Men, and such things that had it already. The two passed many such things, but they could ask no questions of them, not understanding speech. So deeper and deeper they burrowed, until they came at last to a great heat.

And they saw before them the great beast that is father to all beasts, the name of which is Dragon; The great thing that holds up the earth and is imprisoned beneath it, that claws at it with immense hands as slowly as trees may grow, the great hands that are strong enough to squeeze the blood like fire from the rock.

And he understood many things in his immense groaning, and the two sat and listened for many score years until they understood- and they lived there in the deepest depths for many years and had many children. –Dwarven myth on the origin of the Dwarves

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