Deep We Go
Dwarves have been part of the pantheon of Higher Spirits for as long as any race can remember or record; along with Eladrin and gnomes, they can be counted as the most venerable race in the Hearthlands. However, to dwell on them they seem no higher than ants or bees. Squat mannish-types with thick bushy hair and beards, they live beneath the Undulate Hills in great hives, tunnelled cities that begin in tall granite mounds on hillsides and descend below the earth, far into the roots of the green, gently rolling countryside they call home. For as long as anyone can recall, they have lived in their strange societies, their evolution static, fixed, almost as if a perfect model had been discovered, and needed no change.
Dwarves are almost all male; only one female is born in each hive every generation, and she is, by law and by nature, the queen of the entire community. She maintains supreme command over her subjects, and all laws and statutes are set by her, all trials judged and executed by one hand. Despite the fact that the dwarves are, on the whole, staunch atheists, an quasi-religious cult surrounding the queen forms the social focus of each hive.
The queen will also occasionally lead her hive in war, if the situation demands it, or act as envoy to other societies, though when she leaves the hive becomes like a crypt, with a strange deathly malaise washing over her subjects, deepening with every day she is gone. The male dwarves have unerring devotion to her, the hive, and their fellows, and they perform the jobs they are given from birth until death. Though they do apparently have pastimes, choose family names for themselves, and maintain a semblance of a social life below ground, such frivolities are strictly controlled by a natural caste system, and a true hill dwarf is a tiresome centre of conversation; his mind wanders constantly, and without his queen near him he is a little like a puppet without a hand. From the bullish, muscular soldiers, to the squat, mute workers, to the reedy, pale scouts, every dwarf lives and dies for his queen.
A queen will mate with almost all of the dwarves in her hive in her lifetime – mostly she will produce new male workers and soldiers, though once in her life she will produce an heir, one who will grow to be the next queen, given the correct training, diet and lifestyle. It has been known for this to occur when the ruling queen is quite young, and it not unknown for the usurper and her mother to fight to the death, the victor eating the remains of the loser.
The dwarves are famously shy, and many have never left their own hive, much less the Undulathm, the quasi-alliance between all the hives of the hills. Only Shale maintains an open policy with traders and visitors, and even has an above-ground section more suited to foreign guests. However, many dwarves will choose to leave the hive nowadays, ready to see the world that they have heard and read about on the lips of pilgrims and in the pages of smuggled books nestled amongst shipments of boof and uor. They are never forced to stay; the queen will make more workers, and an individual is not a worthy unit of measurement amongst the dwarves. Though dwarven society can seem repugnant to outsiders, once away from the Hives dwarves are fast learners, and integrate well into society, especially with their knowledge of machinery (much is employed in the extension of the Undulathm) and subterranea.
Those who have visited a dwarf Hive speak of bare rock tunnels, huge throbbing machines, and the whispering of thousands of dwarves scurrying about their jobs blindly by the weak light of poet-moss. Few outsiders have ever seen a queen, though her majesty and terrible aspect are apparently almost too great to behold; as she grows into her role she swells in size, until she is obese and pulsating with the potential of a hundred generations of dwarves before and after her. The natural language of the dwarves is precise, measured and almost mathematical, and no non-dwarf has ever bothered to learn it. Written, it extends up and down the page in all directions from its initial starting point, the symbols swirling and looping like an equation, and each sentence or statement has a result or equal that must be reached.