The Eighteen Blades of Vode Nulan
Name: The Impregnable Citadel of Burok Tom
Population: 185,000 (Dwarf 99% Other 1%)
Government: Hereditary monarchy
Ruler: Ruler of the Rock and Worthy of Goran King Thain
Currency: Gold worthy (1 gp), silver wanderer, (5 sp), silver runal (1 sp), copper forge-penny (1 cp)
Resources: Weapons, iron ore, gold
Allies: Vesh, Durrover, Mithril
Enemies: Calastia, Dier Drendal
Dwarves of Burok Torn are short and stocky, weighing roughly the same as a human. Male dwarves maintain elaborate beards, but this is not the rule. Many do not have beards, as they cause problems when working within the Forgeworks. Females do not have beards, though they braid and maintain their long hair for elaborate social events. The majority of the dwarven population dresses simply, wearing hides and furs or elaborate suits of armor more than likely made by an ancestor of that family. Dwarves appear primitive, but their traditions and magic belie this perception.
Wealthier dwarves dress in clothing bought from human merchants visiting the mountain steadfast to trade. These dwarves love fine jewelry and ornaments, and females sport jewels to rival a true queen of other lands. They have a separatist attitude after years of warfare at their front door, and as such, tend to distrust strangers until that person proves himself. Afterward, the “stranger” is accepted as a loyal friend, although the dwarves rarely allow him free run of the citadel.
Burok Tom is a realm of ancient magics and proud warriors. Rune masters, the sorcerers and priests of Burok Tom, walk the stone corridors with spells floating about their heads, and armed guards patrol the deep shafts. The Shield Arms, elite dwarven guards, protect the king and his family and see that his interests are carried out. Visitors are permitted to
carry weaponry, but doing so often comes with a warning: Step out of line, and the forces of Burok Torn will react decisively.
When most look upon the broken peak of Burok Torn, they see the proud testament of the dwarves rising above the lands. They see stubbornness in the face of an enemy. They see a fighting spirit long since broken in many areas of Ghelspad. In short, they see very little of Burok Torn. Within the stone walls of the citadel, dwarves are a social bunch, favoring lavish dinners and celebrations.
Meals allow dwarven workers, rune wizards and even the king to come together in peace for a moment to share stories of the day. Sometimes, depending on how long the cooks can keep the food coming, dwarves spend long hours within one of the many dining halls scattered about Burok Torn, discussing matters of great and small importance. (The frequent use of cave fish for all manners of dishes comes up regularly during these discussions.) There are main dining periods: Morningfast, also known as Goran’s Offering; Midmeal, or Goran’s Contemplation; and Evedine, or Goran’s Rest.
To feed the nation, scores of cooks rely on many hundreds of larders situated just off the kitchens. The efforts of these behind-the-scenes dwarves are remembered once a year as the king and his retainers take to the kitchens to prepare a meal for the cooks themselves. Fortunately for the dwarves, the meals are becoming more edible, as Lady Krysara has stepped in to direct the king on which ingredients are actually appropriate and why black pepper and dwarven ale are not required ingredients in all dishes.
Visitors find one custom odd. Dwarves, with the exception of the king and his family, carry their own utensils with them to every meal. With the number of dwarves the meal halls feed, the thought of providing food alone for the masses is mind-boggling, let alone making sure each dwarf has a knife, fork and spoon. Thus, the tradition began many years ago during the reign of King Galshain Gimrut the Tall that all dwarves supply their own utensils to save wear and tear on the poor major domo who, before the decree, ran himself near death providing for dwarven needs.
Burok Torn interacts with the world through trade, but still distrusts outsiders because of the harm brought upon it by the world. Dwarves have no need to seek out the merchants visiting the citadel. They have no need to buy the fine silks and exotic woods the outsiders peddle. They have no need to listen to the strange tales of gossip the foreign bards bring.
But they do.
The dwarves, despite calls for more restrictive trade with the merchants of Ghelspad, have adopted the styles and customs of traders coming into the citadel. The merchants of Ontenazu say the easiest way to make a sale in Burok Torn is to wield a silken moneybag and to show it freely. Despite the dourness the war with Calastia has created in Burok Torn, the dwarven people still enjoy themselves whenever possible, and outsiders invited into the inner core are amazed at the revelries of which the dwarves are capable. Even failing that,
visitors are always astonished by the amount of alcohol that the dwarves consume while still able to walk.
The Ale King’s penchant for brewing his own ale has rubbed off, and many families sell versions of ale with their name attached. Outsiders within the Burning Ring might not detect a difference in taste between a brew by the Korelstoens and one by the Rahnforks, but the dwarven families know and are quite proud of the variations of ale produced.
One popular pastime is the annual dwarf hound races within the deep mines, where dogs are set loose to track mineral deposits untouched throughout the deep levels. The winners are determined after long mining to find the detected ore, and judges are often hard-pressed to weigh every last ounce of ore found within the vein to decide the winning dog. Dwarf hound breeders of Burok Torn take their game very seriously (as do all of the wagerers following the game) and protect their training and breeding pens from spying by other competitors.
Dwarven marriages are for life, although currently a number of widows live within the walls thanks to Calastia’s attacks against the gates. Elaborate marriage ceremonies are held within the central core of BurokTorn, with the bride and groom floating within the huge room as friends and relatives watch from various balconies. The bride leaves her father’s home after the wedding to live with her new husband in a stronghold connected to his parents’ dwelling. The new bride is welcomed into the new family with open arms and attitudes and the often explicit expectation that she provides new children for the clan to
Because of the low birth rates plaguing Burok Torn, many dwarven couples toss bags of coins into the forges to honor Goran and seek his blessing. Dwarven legends say Goran takes these offerings and crafts the soul of a child with which to bless his faithful. The naming of a child is one of the greatest moments for the nation as a whole, given the precious few who are born. When a child is named, a magical imprint of its foot is pressed into the wall of Burok Torn. The magic stays active as long as the child lives.
The marking is thought to add to the overall strength of the walls. In a community where every birth is celebrated, so it is for every death, which depletes the dwarven community of yet another worthy spirit to stand against the adversity of the world.
Burials, with the exception of the royal family, no longer take place within Burok Torn, although ancient burial crypts from years past still lie deep within the bowels of the stone fortress. Instead, the dead are cremated within their forges and their ashes spread into mortar to reinforce failing portions of the citadel. Truly, Burok Tom is built with the ashes of
the ancients, as thousands upon thousands of dwarves are interred within. These ancestors are not at all quiet, either, serving as guides and protectors of the city-state they loved. Evil wizards and clerics attempting certain spells are likely to anger the spirits,
bringing the dwarven militia and the ghosts of the ancestors to stop the invader.
For the king and his family, a royal crypt lies deep within the fortress, and graves are staked for any new additions when an heir arrives. Thus, the kings of Burok Torn know where they shall lie even before they can walk. Thain, the current king, has plots reserved for him near his slain wife and daughter, Lucella and little Milla, in the crypts, as well as newer crypts for his current wife, Krysara, and their son,Prince Turen.
Dwarves have long memories, made longer by the detailed records maintained since before the Titanswar. Huge libraries with volumes penned by dwarven rune masters fill levels of the mountain. While dwarven viewpoints are sometimes sorely limited, concerning only Burok Torn and its immediate environs for many centuries, the histories are some of
the few complete works to survive the Titanswar intact. And while Burok Torn lost contact with the outside world during the war, the dwarves have recently started filling gaps in our knowledge with information gleaned from travelers. This effort has been greatly aided by the return to the fold of the many dwarves who were outside Burok Torn when the Divine War began. These survivors have brought many strange stories to the record-keepers within the mountain, telling tales from far-off lands that the dwarves might otherwise never believe – if the storyteller weren’t a dwarf returned home.
Crime and Punishment
An established military protects Burok Torn, but no police force investigates and uncovers criminal elements. Instead, criminals are usually restrained by dwarves, who may or may not belong to the military, in the vicinity of the deed. Usually this treatment is reserved for erring outsiders who overstep the customs of the dwarves. For truly heinous crimes, the elite branch of the militia, the Shield Arms, joins the hunt for the criminal. Usually the
elite guardsmen, aided by the rune masters of the citystate, track and bring the person to justice within two days.
Captives are brought before the highest ruling body of the dwarves short of the king: the Elder Conclave. The conclave oversees justice and fairness within the halls of Burok Torn, determining rights and wrongs based on those brought before them. The conclave hears minor squabbles that get out of hand, but for the most part the dwarves of BurokTorn judge themselves and their neighbors when something occurs. The conclave is rarely called out for these tasks, although the feuding neighbors can request a hearing. The twelve-member conclave always presides over matters involving murder, treason and the intentional destruction of a forge within the city-state.
Members vote among themselves after hearing the accused’s defense, which the person must provide either on his own or allow friends to speak for him. The decision is then handed down and the person condemned to his fate that day or set free. Dwarven
justice moves swiftly within the conclave’s hall. Punishments within Burok Torn are based on a dual system, with one set of punishments for outsiders (humans, elves, etc.) and the other for the dwarves of the city-state. Punishments vary depending on the crime, although the worst crimes share a single fate for all races. The punishment before the slash is for
Burok Torn dwarves, the second is for outsiders.
Rune marking is a permanent rune tattooed on the criminal’s face, and known to all dwarves as a sign of great dishonor. The hanging from the high peaks is actually a misnomer; the biting cold kills an individual before the hanging does.
Petty Theft (50 gp or under): Confinement (1 day/10 gp value stolen) / Mine labor (1 day/10 gp value stolen).
Grand Theft (51 gp or higher): Confinement (1 month-1 year) / Mine labor (1 month-1 year).
Intentional Contamination of Forgeworks: Mine labor (10 to 75 years) / Expulsion from Burok Torn.
Intentional Destruction of Forgeworks: Expulsion from Burok Torn, rune marking / Expulsion from Burok Torn, rune marking.
Murder: Rune marking and mine labor for 100 to 200 years / Rune marking and mine labor for 100 to 200 years or until death.
Treason: Death by hanging from Burok Torn’s peak / Death by hanging from Burok Torn’s peak.
Goran is everywhere in Burok Torn, from the stones the dwarves tread upon to the metals they pour into the forges to craft their blades. Everything done within the walls of the mighty citadel is done in Goran’s name, and the god is often wont to pass among his people, spreading blessings upon his faithful. The rune clerics venerate Goran, running the
temples of the city-state where thousands of dwarves may attend. Individual families often have smaller temples in their homes so they can offer thanks to Armed Forces. The dwarven army is a hidden one sitting in open view. The only true warriors are the Shield Arms, elite guardsmen protecting King Thain and his family. The number of the Shield Arms is small, but they are a potent force nonetheless. As King Virduk discovered, all dwarves in the mountain are skilled with weapons, whether the waraxes they are famous for or the spells that make them deadly adversaries. If a call to arms is sounded, a standing army of 50,oOO dwarven soldiers is ready within a few days. This includes the elite Shield Arms, and dwarven warriors known as the iron and stone guardsmen.
The commoners are also likely to rise to the occasion, bringing the nation’s military strength
to over 100,000, with countless thousands more in reserve. Anyone wanting to take Burok Tom must first fight through every last defender.
Most dwarven forces are ground troops who charge into battle swinging their axes and hammers. Backing them up are the Shield Arms, elite rune masters and priests. The rune masters and priests provide magical attacks and healing. A spell-user routinely accompanies patrols in case things go sour. The dwarves are at a disadvantage, fighting two
fronts constantly. Calastia presses for the doors of Burok Torn, while the dark elves of Dier Drendal threaten from the stones beneath the dwarves’ feet.
Cairn hunters, an ugly cross between a dwarf hound and a monitor lizard, patrol the caverns, allowing the dwarves to concentrate on one threat at a time.