Everblight, the dark shadow of Caen
Dwarves most commonly live within the mountains, carving huge fortresses out for themselves, that are each linked to one another through various underground tunnels and bridges. Several dwarven strongholds are so deep that they are truly within the Underdark. Others are merely small strongholds over mines and caves. Dwarves are generally associated with three titles, Kurnzard, Mosdwarkurzard, and Dwarkurzard. These three have developed significantly different and unique cultures. In native dwarf culture, exile is the worse punishment that can be sentenced, far worse than death. Exile means that your bones will never be returned to the stones of your ancestors, dooming you to search the afterlife for all eternity. Most surface dwarves have disregarded that notion, but native dwarves fear it above all else.
Kurnzard, “The Exiled”, “Surface Dwarves”-
Surface dwarves are those who have been forced or have chosen to live their lives outside the dwarven nation. These dwarves are as a varied in backgrounds and cultures as humans. Many are the descendants of long exiled clans, who no longer adhere to their ancestors way of life. They have lived their entire lives on the surface. They likely worship human gods and have forgotten or abandon the old traditions of their ancestors. Those more recently banished will be their native culture that they have been torn from and the new cultures and races they have never encountered before. Every exiled dwarf is very different. Some still have families and clans that continue to braid their beards in the traditional style and pray to their ancestors. While others continue to wear their shame by never forsaking their beards and ancestors. Many have become so intermingled with humans that the cultures have blended into something entirely unique.
Mosdwarkurzard, “The Clan-Less”, “Low Born”-
The clan-less may or may not actually belong to a “clan”. Only clans that can trace their ancestors bloodlines directly to the Nine Stone Lords can be recognized as a true clan, and there are other exceptions to this rule as well. The Clan-Less are considered “low born” and are often treated as inferiors to Dwarkurzard. Many accept this status and learn to live and serve, but there are those who fight against it. The Mosdwarkurzard make up nearly two-thirds of the entire dwarven population. Several false clans rival the power of the strongest Dwarkruzard clans. The Clan-Less are the most common to willingly leave their home, setting out for a new life. Those that do this are considered deserters and banished for their crime, but it isn’t uncommon for dwarves absence to go unnoticed. Many take this risk in order to smuggle goods in and out, turning high profits. There are those lower born dwarkurzard, who are willing to look the other way as well. Under the laws and customs of the dwarves, theses dwarves are unable to braid their beards. In many strongholds, it is not uncommon to see the law dictate they can hold no beard what so ever.
Dwarkuzard, “Clan Born”, “High Born”-
These high born dwarves can trace their ancestry all the way back to one of the Nine Stone Lords, the most highly revered dwarven paragons(ancestors). They have also been fortunate enough to either been on the winning side of a blood feud or not have had any conflict at all (blood feud losers are exiled and stripped of all honors, titles, and property). These dwarves are the only ones with the right to braid their beard. Every clan has specific knots and braids unique to themselves, along with varying jewelry that denotes rank and honor. The Dwarkuzard are ruled over by a Durnar, the eldest patriarch of the ruling clan. When the Durnar dies, a tournament to decide the new Durnar is held. Each clan elects a champion to fight in the tournament for them; the battles are almost exclusively to the death, and those that survive are most often banished. The Durnar’s laws are absolute, but there are limitations laid down by the Nine that he most adhere to. Most Dwarkuzard rule over their own stronghold, which also possesses the low born, but it not unique for several clans to rule over one stronghold. This, however, often results in conflicts that rise to blood feuds with the eventual result being exile of an entire clan. Blood feuds have been known to last for centuries. Few outsiders can understand dwarven strict customs and policies to inner strife and war.