While an absolute monarchy in shape and form – and no dwarrow would ever dispute the need for a King, for it is a King who ensures that clan wars are kept at a minimum – many other details of dwarven society resemble a meritocracy, only that dwarrow rarely take the time to think about it. Thinking about the form of the state, or possible theorizing forms of the state, is something only surface dwellers can come up within their eyes.
There is no fully defined “noble” class among the dwarrow. Yes, there are several ancient houses, who have an especially long and proud history, and such history garners certain respect, but it is by far not the same as noble houses in other parts of the world.
The masters of the crafting arts are the ones who hold the highest respect in dwarven society, no matter their roots or background, their skill, the secrets they have mastered or even invented are what sets them apart in the eyes of their people.
Great warriors gain respect too, because even the dwarrow up on the surface know, how dangerous life in the deeps is, how much it needs all those sharp axes to keep the Troggs, and worse creatures, at bay.
A dwarrow of skill, of courage, or simply with industrious hands can rise from very humble roots to a high rank. Dwarrow believe that while clan and birth certainly are important, it is up to any dwarrow to make their place in the world.
Dwarven Family Structure
The landscape of Dwarrow families is littered with terms that will sound odd to other people: First-brothers, name-brothers, Blood-fathers, or Brother-fathers are common things to be heard about, and woe betides the poor soul admitting they do not understand exactly what is meant. To understand the dwarven family, it is necessary to understand the strong ties that bind every dwarrow to his clan, those ties run deep indeed, on the other hand, dwarves are adopters, not only towards the stone children, that may be found in the deeps, but also towards orphans. Once adopted, a dwarf becomes a firm part of his new family, as firmly as if he were of their blood. Thus often grow families with complex structures. The more important terms shall be explained here.
First Brothers: Brothers who share both blood-parents.
Second Brothers: Rare term. Indicates brothers who only share one blood parent, be it through a pre-marital indiscretion, or through a late finding of a soul mate, is equally possible.
Third Brother (cousin): Child of the Sister or Brother of one’s Blood- Parent. To dwarrow, a “cousin” is a distant relative, while a Third Brother, the child of one’s Uncle, is practically close kin.
Name-Brothers: Comrades who adopted each other as brothers. Longing for closeness and brotherhood, dwarrow often discover a brother in a close friend, and sometimes adopt each other as brothers, when they feel that they were “made of one stone.” Such adoptions are perfectly legal and accepted, the wish for the closeness of a clan is something all dwarrow share. The loss of family will always hurt them deeply, the death of a brother can easily lead to the death of more siblings.
Blood-Father: Biological father. For the sake of succession or legacy, it is not uncommon for an Uncle/Granduncle to adopt a child as heir. In such cases, he becomes the “father,” while the biological parent is referred to as “Blood father.”
Brother-father: An older brother who is already head of the family but has to rear his younger siblings. He becomes their social father while still being an older brother.
Great-Mother: Matriarch of a Clan
True-Mother: Birth Mother. Adoptions by another “mother” are almost unheard of; as such, any mother referred to as a “true” mother, in cases of orphaned children raised by an aunt, the term “true mother” becomes a word of the greatest affection.
Bondmate: Marriage Partner
Bonded Protector: A curious and rather complex term in dwarven family structure. A bonded protector almost takes the role of a spouse – yet his existence does not preclude his partner from having a spouse either. The role of a bonded protector comes from the early days of the Deep Wars when some couples felt that the extra protection of another ax was needed to keep their small clan safe. In such cases, they included a third partner – the bonded protector – into their marriage. Even some Kings felt that times were too dark and dangerous to risk their family lightly, and chose a bonded protector in addition to their wives. The bonded protector is legally on an even footing with any bondmate, only in the question of successions and legacy he is behind the spouse. While having a bonded protector has become rarer in recent centuries, it still happens, for various reasons. The relationship between the bondmate(s) and the bonded protector vary, depending entirely on the couple in question.
Life begins with a name, to dwarrow, this is doubly true, a child that is born and cannot be named is in danger of being soulless. A name is given by the father, or another male relation, in case the father is not present. Only in rare cases, the mother will name the child, as she gave the child life, the father needs to give it the name and thus a soul, even in case of fatherless children, the mother might ask a friend to perform that service to her and the child.
The private naming is right after birth and contains the secret name that only the family will know and use, and the public name, which will be known to everyone else.
A day after birth, any dwarven child is presented to the assembled community, and the father announces the public name of the child, thus claiming it as his. Dwarrow are absolutely accepting of someone claiming a child that might not be his. The moment a dwarrow steps forward and claims a child as his, it is viewed as of his blood, whether this is possible or not. Thus all children found in the deep stone are becoming part of clans, and thus some fatherless child was taken in by another dwarrow, who laid claim to it. There is no distinction between a true child and an adopted child, once the adoption is done, the child counts like a blood-child. It is very rare for an adopted dwarrow to refer to his blood-parents at all; most of them never know about them, linking absolutely with the parent who adopted them.
Most dwarven names consist of three elements:
Birth-Name: This name, the true name of a dwarrow, is only known to his closest kin and his maker. Upon marriage, the dwarrow will share that name with his partner. It is rare, and a sign of the deepest trust, a trust usually reserved for the closest kin, to share this name
Public Name: The name the dwarrow is known by for the rest of the world, the name he is called. In formal situations, the dwarrow will add the name of his father and grandfather, when introducing himself: for example, Falun, Son of Dargain, Son of Rowan.
Home Name: This part of a dwarven name signifies where the dwarrow comes from, his clan home and region, or hold.
The name of home or hold is something that is often part of a dwarven name; names like “Dvalin of Deepsilver Crossing” are common among their kind and indicate their home. These names follow a strict logic that says much about the geography of their homeland.
… of XXXX Deep/Watch indicates someone living in a certain Deep. A Deep, old-fashioned term is “Watch,” usually is a portion of tunnels stretching over 12 levels maximum, and ultimately having two to four exits that connect it with other Deeps. Of XXX Deep simply says that Dwarf this or that lives somewhere inside these 12 levels, so it is not a specific address, but simply gives a rough estimate where he comes from. For dwarves, that’s already saying a lot.
…of XXX Crossing indicates a dwarrow living at a specific crossing of two important tunnels. Often houses around crossings are heavily fortified and families there are expected to not just fight, but use their position to slow down the advance of attackers if necessary. Crossings are a classical defensive position, and as such, people living there are rewarded a certain trust by the community. (Any stranger looking for a specific crossing would need the information on which Deep the crossing is located, while a dwarf would simply ask: Coldiron Crossing in Helvar’s Deep or in Tharnul’s Watch?
… of XXX Hold indicates a dwarrow hailing from one of the many small fortresses that sit on the links between Deeps, and that is vital to protect the dwarven realm against sudden incursions by Deep Creatures. A clan who successfully protected a hold for generations will be respected for their duty to the people, while an ill-reputed clan would be asked to leave the hold and see it entrusted to someone of more trustworthy standing.
… of XXX Gate: Gates were the old fashioned fortresses that lay at the great intersections of the realm, and most of them are fallen now, lost to the deeps. Some families will remember that their clan once came from Dwenderholm Gate or Watchfire Gate, but excepting memory, this is a thing of the past. Such names may come up in history, but there are only three gates left in existence. Thus the name is rare.
Ever so often, dwarrow will find small children in the deeper reaches of the mountain home. Seemingly abandoned, and yet not missed by anyone, these children appear from what the dwarrow believe to be the Forge of Souls. Strangely quiet and unable to speak, these children will, once taken in by a family, begin to mirror their new family’s main traits in a matter of days. Within a week, they will mirror hair colour or eye colour, and as they grow, they will show all traits like they were the genetic children of their parents or parent. Stone-children are almost always male, and there is virtually NO difference made between them and naturally born children. They are as loved, as much considered part of the clan, and as much treasured. In fact, once they are adopted, no one will ever point out the difference between the one and the other. There IS no difference in dwarven eyes, they are all children of their creator, and that is what matters.
Oaths and Loyalty are a core value of dwarven morale. Oaths are to be kept, there is no excuse for breaking one’s word. Dwarves regard murder as the smaller crime compared to Oathbreaking, one might have a good reason to commit a murder, but in their eyes, there is no reason in the world to explain breaking one’s oaths.
Dwarves love only once, and if they do, it is for life. While during their adolescent age, they might experience fascination with the one or other dwarrow, these pangs of the heart are considered to be “the first beats of an untested heart” and are forgotten once a dwarrow realizes his true love. And a good thing it is too, for dwarven love is a commitment of depth and absolutely binding, that it takes a strong soul to bear it at times.
Even in this strong and strict bond, the dwarves distinguish between two different types of couples: bondmates and soulmates.
Bondmates are considered as tied for life and (hopefully) destined to return to their maker together, to share the sleep in the stone together. Soulmates, on the other hand, are bonded for eternity, in this life and all lives to come. Many a legend of the dwarrow tells stories of star-crossed soulmates or of the tragic cases of one soulmate falling in a heroic battle, leaving their partner a broken soul.
While much of this is legend, something the sagas remember, there is enough of it in dwarrow life to make it sound not all that far fetched. The dwarven heart is willful, stubborn, and proud – hard-won and even harder lost. Once committed, a dwarf will remain loyal to his partner, even in the rare cases of a dwarven couple going their different ways, the separated partners will remain true to their erstwhile partner.
Adultery is a very rare crime amongst dwarves, and their legal way of handling it is confusing to outsiders. The betrayed partner alone decides the fate of the unfaithful partner, and no matter what the decision on the unfaithful partner is – the person the adultery was committed with may be killed by the betrayed partner. In cases where both adulterers are bonded, the offended partners will agree on the punishment. But if the person the unfaithful partner was with is single, it is highly likely that the betrayed partner will kill the said person, even if he or she forgives their unfaithful partner. Having intimate relations with a bonded dwarf is considered to be deeply dishonorable, and a person who would allow him or herself to have such an affair cannot expect any understanding or protection in dwarrow society. It is rather likely that their own family will hand them over to the offended partner of the couple for killing. As Dwarven braids tell about their bond-status, there is no excuse for not knowing that a dwarf was spoken for.
As such illegitimate children are fairly rare in dwarven society, and such ‘fatherless’ children are viewed with pity or curiosity. Being ‘fatherless’ is a stigma that is carried for life.
A Dwarrow cares not for the form their love takes. It is a love of souls, of two parts of the same half that have drawn close or of two sparks drawn to the same flame. Whether a bondmate or soulmate, the appearance, gender, or other outward attributes of the partner play no role.
Dwarrow make no racial difference when bonding, even if it means that a dwarrow might die early after losing his human partner or live a long life as a widower. Life with a growing human population has brought about the question of whether or not it might be wrong to allow re-marriage after a century of mourning. This is a fairly new idea to dwarven society and is highly debated.
Like in most cultures, marriage is a cause for celebration amongst dwarrow. Usually, friends and family will gift the couple with various things. Yet, customs are complex, and gifting household goods is a grave offense, indicating that the partners cannot take care of each other. Even the poorest of dwarrow would be deeply offended by getting household goods for their marriage. Tools for their respective trades are a very traditional and welcome gift; in the case of warrior couples, weapons for future children are also a tradition. Jewelry, in turn, is very tricky to gift, as it can easily be seen as flirting with either partner and can lead to a ‘bonding duel’ over the offense.
Death & Death Rituals
When a dwarrow feels his time has come, he may choose to return to the deep stone, to die there, or die in his home. No tradition dictates where a dwarrow has to die. Still, dwarrow take care that if dying among strangers, their hearts can be returned to Tynar-Dazûr and be buried at the Mountain Home. A dwarrow’s heart turns into a jewel in the moment of his death.
Dwarrow built magnificent crypts for their dead. By working on those crypts, by adorning them, the family expresses their sorrow over the loss of their clan member and their love for the one who passed on. Dwarrow crypts are artworks to rival some of their other great creations.
Biases (Against Others)
Dwarves believe many other folks to be without roots for not being able to trace their clans back through history, or for simply not having that close-knit feeling to kith and kin.
The Dwarrow believe other folks to be oversensitive because why in the world would they complain about the hustle and bustle in trade quarters before dawn or the noise of a forge ringing out long after dark? There really is no sensible reason why someone should not sleep, even if the boilermaker next door is hammering out his coppers.
The dwarrow are firmly convinced that the Sedayin can talk to trees and make them grow by singing to them. They also suspect that some Sedayin turn into trees when they become old and tired. And they will sometimes tease Sedayin about that.
Some dwarves are convinced that all the surfacer’s oddities can be ascribed to living above ground. How can anyone expect a sensible being to dwell in a scary place with no solid roof overhead but a huge nothingness called the skies? It would drive even sensible dwarrow a little crazy.