Tales of the Inner Sea
According to the dwarves, they were created by their god, the Great One of the Deeps, to aid in the shaping of the world. These myths tell of mighty ancestors called Forge Lords, beings dwarflike in look and build but greater in stature – ten feet tall or more in some versions. The Forge Lords worked the land itself the way modern dwarves work its bounty, raising hills, shaping mountains and digging seas.
The Elves tell a different story. They claim it was their own godlike ancestors, the Anahon, the Firstborn and the Archons, that created the dwarves to serve as artisans and miners during the time of the Summer Kingdoms. Whatever the truth of their origins may be, historians believe that the dwarves were subjects of the elven lords by the middle Golden Cities Period. In fact, it was a dwarven slave revolt that is typically believed to be the first in a series of events called The Calamity that led to the collapse of the great elven city states and the centuries of chaos that followed. Again, the dwarves and elves tell the story differently. Elven historians say that the eruption of dwarven rage was so extreme that they single handedly sacked and burned every elven city on the southern coast. The dwarves agree there was a massive rebellion, but they claim that the loss of dwarven labor resulted in economic disruption, leaving the ancient, corrupt city states vulnerable to invasion from the north by human barbarians and wild elves, and that it was the humans that were actually responsible for most of the damage.
Today, there are two great dwarven civilizations in the lands surrounding the Inner Sea:
Iron Dwarves (PHB Mountain Dwarves) – Denizens of the Red Mountains south of the Inner Sea, the ancestors of the Iron Dwarves followed Balor Steelheart into the caverns beneath their current home in search of one of the ancient mythical cities of the Forge Lords. The dwarven priests are silent about whether they found evidence of their progenitors. There is no doubt, however, that they found iron beneath the Red Mountains, and lots of it. According to the Gnomes of the Seven Hills Academy, the fabled ruddy color of the mountains actually comes from rusty iron ore mixed in with the dirt. As the dwarves began pulling the ore from the earth and forging it into weapons, the world outside was rapidly devolving. The great elven cities were in flames, and those powers that remained were in a state of constant war, fracturing and fighting to the death over the broken bones of a lost world. In such times, steel is worth far more than gold; and so the legendary wealth of the dwarves was born. The world has moved on from those dark times, but things change slowly for the Iron Dwarves in their stone halls within the mountains.
Phoenix Clan (PHB Hill Dwarves) – When the dwarves warred against the golden cities, they marched in twelve great armies under twelve banners fashioned in the likeness of beasts and mythical creatures: Phoenix, Dragon, Griffon, Roc, Serpent, Unicorn, Wolf, Salamander, Hydra, Raven, Sphinx and Kraken. Those that didn’t follow the priests into the Red Mountains and form kingdoms under the stone retained the command structure of their armies and transformed their supply lines into trade routes, slowly integrating themselves into the cities in surrounding lands. The armies, each managing its own independent trade routes, in time evolved a clan structure. Phoenix maintained routes along the coast of the inner sea, and in time absorbed Sphinx clan, who traded with inland Carcosa and the strange lands to the south and west, and the Naval Kraken clan which added many islands in the Inner Sea to their coastal trade empire. Although the might of the Phoenix clan has waned somewhat since the young empires began flexing their muscles, it is fair to say that Phoenix Clan’s trade empire is responsible for the notion of the Inner Seas region as a single cultural sphere. Prior to their dominance, it was more a border region between three different, inward looking regions that were largely unaware of one another.
The Dwarves Today: Phoenix clan no longer rules trade. The great powers that have grown in the region since the Renaissance of the Archons now have their own ships, routes and treaties. However, the relationships forged in the dark times still stand, and they still monopolize trade in the crafts and raw materials that come out of the Iron Mountains. A Phoenix clan trade center can be found in every major city in the Inner Sea region. These centers serve as trade centers for dwarven merchants operating in the region, and are open to local citizens as banking institutions. There are three important functions these institutions serve for adventurers:
- They often hire mercenaries to solve issues with trade routes
- Dwarven characters can trade bulk goods there and get better rates (they usually aren’t interested in specialty items, but may be able to hook players, dwarven or otherwise, up with collectors)
- Their banks allow coin laden travelers to trade their gold for magically sealed and secured scrip. An ounce of paper is easier to carry than fifty pounds of gold. The scrip is not trade-able as its magical security links it to a specific person or persons and no one else can redeem it, but it can be redeemed in whole or part for hard currency in any major city. The fee for this service is 1% of the gold held, plus a flat fee of five gold for each redeemable individual added to the scrip after the first.