Of all the beings to interact with humans, dwarves have had perhaps the longest and most peaceful history. Unlike elves, but like orcs, dwarves established a great kingdom in their native lands to the far north. A rugged, tortured land of short summers, long winters, pine forests, fjords, and lake-filled islands with island-filled lakes, the archipelago formed the Kingdom of the Shattered Isles.

Dwarves tunneled below the permafrost to take advantage of the land’s latent geothermal heat and rich ores, while their outriggers sailed far and wide to trade (and occasionally raid) the great human kingdoms and even the orcs of the far south. Their stocky build and powerful physique made dwarven mercenaries extremely popular, and they served in the personal guard or shock troop vanguard of many a ruler.

But the dwarves’ hold on their land was always tenuous. Like elves, dwarves had extremely low population growth: females were only capable of pregnancy once every five to seven years, and the tendency of these cycles to align in the various hold across the Shattered Isles meant that serious losses to combat or disease stood to annihilate a population with startling rapidity. The fact that every dwarven pregnancy, without fail, was a difficult twin birth did not help matters; before the advent of modern medicine, many dwarven women died in childbirth.

These problems came to a head with the invasion of the Sea Peoples. Driven from their traditional homlands by the rising empire of the Hamurabash orcs, they set upon the Shattered Isles with savage fury. Their warships were less stable but much larger than dwarven outriggers, resulting in a series of lopsided naval defeats for the kingdom. Worse, the Shattered Isles had just emerged from a vicious war with a human kingdom, leaving their ranks thinned and more territory than usual to defend.

The Sea Peoples also possessed horses and heavy cavalry, which the dwarves had traditonally spurned in favor of infantry and naval warfare. They were of little use over much of the Shattered Isles but at the crucial Battle of the Two Lakes they were able to smash the dwarven army of the King Over The Isles in a charge over frozen ground. The Sea Peoples eventually gained complete control over the Shattered Isles, dispersing the dwarves that they did not enslave.

Known as the Shattering to dwarves, this event was a watershed for their culture. Many were welcomed with open arms by human kingdoms and settled within them in exchange for their service as warriors and sailors. The death of the King Over The Isles also had a profound effect on dwarven religion, which had been a dualistic faith with the king as high priest of Dvagnchi the Dayfather and the queen as high priestess of Qingvnir the Nightmother. Religious epics from the time before the Shattering emphasized the eternal courtship between the two and their shared rule over the world, each embodying opposing traits.

Such was the violence of the Shattering that the entire household of King Tsovngan IV and Queen Jinheiq III was slaughtered. Traditionally, the King and Queen would designate their own successors or leave matters to a Great Council comprised of the heads of the Great Holds. But with no designated successor, all the most likely claimants dead, and the Great Holds annihilated or in exile, no king and queen–and therefore no priest and priestess–could be chosen.

The void that this left in dwarven religious life led many of them to abandon the worship of Dvangchi and Qingvnir and take up the faiths of their new homes, from human religions to the Hamurabash. Those who remained faithful were often used as pawns by the surviving Great Holds in schemes to attain the Shattered Throne or to retake the Isles.

A combination of modern medicine and a latter-day revivial of Dvangchi and Qingvir has proved a headache for the modern lands settled by dwarves. Thanks to an innovation that dwarves refer to as tsviao qio nvrguchi, or “Homage to the Empty Throne,” the lack of an official high priest or priestess is overlooked through the support of local Twilight Courts–the traditional dwaven temple–and the setting aside of tithes to fund the reclaimation of the Isles or the official consecreation of a new homeland.

As a result, where once dwarves had been regarded as assimilated members of various states, there is a growing movement toward reclaiming their political and religious identity, their language, and a trend toward dwarven militias and armed groups that has resulted in bloodshed both in the modern Republic of the Shattered Isles and elsewhere.

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