It is said dwarves were hewn from rock and stone, shaped and given life by the gods. There must be truth in it, for dwarves slowly turn to stone when they die. There are exceptions, but most dwarves are dour, proud, and stubborn. They are fond of red meat, strong drink, ancient tales of dwarven glory, and dwarfish company. Oh, and dwarves love gemstones… almost as much as they love precious metals like platinum and gold… which they love almost as much as they love gemstones… etc.
Once the dwarves dominated the mountains of the Cunaerai much as the elves ruled the forests and wildlands. The race has dwindled over the millennia, so that now only a few dwarven kingdoms survive. Many ancient realms and places sacred to the dwarves have been overrun and taken by all manner of darkling and worse that thrive and multiply in the peering darkness under the earth. Stubbornness and skill in battle have preserved the dwarves as a race and give them some hope to survive the constant onslaught of chaos in their underground kingdoms. What may surprise many: most dwarves do not possess any special capacity to see in the deep dark, and underground dwarfen cities and holds are brightly illuminated.
Most dwarven kingdoms possess a walled citadel, or Grafvult, above ground. These citadels are built using the rock and stone excavated from the deep when the dwarves crafted their home under the mountains. Surface-dwelling humanoids are welcome to dwarven Grafvults to trade, hire artisans from beneath the surface-world, or consult deep sages. Conversely, those non-hostile races that live in the deep of the Realm will travel to Grafvults in order to trade and parley with the surface as well, as such places are considered safe enough and well-guarded. The elaborate worked-stone entrances to the great dwarven cities are typically found within their Grafvult. In addition, dwarves will claim vales, valleys and mountain-ringed meadows near these Grafvults as their own where goats, cattle, and other foodstuffs desired by dwarves may be herded and/or harvested. These lands are precious to dwarves, well guarded, and defended without mercy. Grafvults and their surrounding lands are ruled by Altgraves, a particularly prestigious title bestowed upon a dwarf.
Those dwarves who grow up in the mountain halls and underground kingdoms are known as mountain dwarves, and they bear subtle differences over those raised in the Grafvults and steep hilly pastures that surround them. These dwarves who grow knowing the sky and sunlight are known as hill dwarves, gold dwarves, or derogatorily referred to as ‘sky-lovers’ on occasion by their mountain dwarf kin. Finally, there are dwarves who delve too deeply under the earth, where dwarven greed never kissed by the wind and sky slowly turns their skin to ash and their mind to malice. They are the duergar, the gray dwarves, an irredeemable evil roaming and killing in the depths of the under-earth.
To humans, dwarves are the children of the god of Mountains and the element of Earth. In truth, the dwarves have their own pantheon of gods and goddesses and pay little heed to the Living Gods worshipped by humanity.