Each Friday for the next so many weeks I'm going to highlight some aspect of Uhl, the fantasy world in which I set my novels. Posts will include details on Uhl's people, places, races, and more.
An excerpt from The Five Elements, wherein we find Shanna getting her first good look at her dwarven captors:
"Keln, how went the hunt?"
Right away Shanna saw that this dwarf was indeed different from the others. His clothes—leather breeches and a loose fitting shirt that clung to him from the damp—were cleaner and of a finer cut. Long, blondish-red hair was pulled back straight from his forehead and must have reached halfway to his waist if not further. His beard was braided and neatly groomed, though littered with drops of moisture now. As thick of body as any of the others, surliness ruled the dwarf's narrowed brow and steel-blue eyes. But there was thoughtfulness there, too, especially as he looked past the one named Keln to sweep his gaze across the prisoners.
Keln did not answer right away. Instead, he briefly studied the other. His examination started and ended with the great weapon slung across the other's back. Shanna thought it odd that it should be wrapped from handle to blade in a thick layer of cloth.
"You have it, then?" Keln said, the braids of his beard swaying as he gestured with his chin at the large cloth-wrapped item.
"Yes," the other replied. "I have it and, with it, leadership of the clan."
Again, silence, until Keln said, "Yet, you do not bear it proudly. Why is that, brother?"
"Because," the other said, his voice suddenly a rumbling landslide, "it is an accursed thing and you know it."
Keln weighed the other's words, then he nodded. "Aye, tis a double-bladed weapon in more ways than one, eh?"
"Truly," the other said, his voice calm now. "Pity Kelgin's indulgence with it was brief. I intend my time with it to be longer. When we return home, Soljilnor will unite the clans. With it in my possession, I will claim leadership."
"And if that leadership is challenged?"
"Let any dwarf do so and he'll soon find himself basking in the fires of hell."
The dwarves of Uhl are a chthonic, congenial lot who adhere to a lifestyle ruled by unity, strength of will, and, above all, patience. They believe in what they can see, smell, and touch, having little use for such concepts as luck or fate, and are renown throughout Uhl as master blacksmiths, armorers, brewmasters, and cooks. They take great pride in the sampling of their own creations. Dwarves favor the comforting gloom and solidness that is found underground and will never make their homes anywhere else. Dwarven families tend to be large, with four or five children being the norm. Both sons and daughters are loved equally. They have little use for reading or writing. Lore and stories are passed down through the oral tradition.
They are a short, stocky people, standing about 4 to 4 1/2 feet tall with ruddy cheeks and brown, black, or red hair and beards. Clothing tends towards the drab side as bright colors cannot be seen well in the half-lit dark of their realm and so serve little purpose.
The beard of a dwarven man is sacred and worn with extreme pride. It is a symbol of their honor, courage, and devotion. Some wear their beards braided, others loose. None shave or trim them as a general rule. Only those dwarves who have committed the most heinous of crimes are made to shave theirs off, for a dwarf who has no beard is branded an exile, one who is no longer considered dwarven. A disgraced dwarf is looked upon by his own people with disdain and contempt and, by others, with pity.
Uhl boasts seven dwarven thane fortresses. They are Rillock, Dwathenmoore, Heidelheim, Akenraen-tor, Berjendale, Merkinjel, and Brokken-tor. Only some are in close proximity to any other, but even those are separated by hundreds of mountainous miles. While each thane holds true to a set of common dwarven traditions, each has evolved their own variety of customs, rituals, and way of life. Each is ruled by a single thane lord.
Note from the Author
While I found it an easy decision to do away with elves, there just wasn't any way I was going to part with dwarves. They're too fun of a people to write about. My dwarves are everything one might expect. But don't think of grouchy Flint from Dragonlance or congenial Gimli from Lord of the Rings. In The Five Elements, dwarves are more akin to Viking raiders. Sometimes I think I may have put a little Cimmerian in them as well. They are fierce SOB's who look upon the weak with disdain and the strong with envy and possibly respect if it is earned. They enjoy having a good time—they're dwarves, so of course they do!—and a good fight. In The Five Elements I introduced readers to a handful of dwarves from the Fire Rock clan. As the book ended, some of those dwarves were still onboard the airship, Griffin. I'm not forgetting about them. In The Nullification Engine, which is the next book in The Alchemancer series, they're back and better than ever. That group had some nameless faces in it by necessity. Those characters' time has come, though, as they'll get the full treatment in the next book. Their names? Hirad Bolheim, Kimlor Rusk, and Ardus Arkor to name a few. Kind of strange to think that these characters, who took part in the slaying of many at Norwynne, now get to become heroes of a sort. But that's how my books work. Only a very few are truly evil. The rest are just like you and me, doing some good, some bad, making mistakes, but ultimately trying to come out ahead in some fashion. That about sums up dwarves.
View my gallery of dwarves on Pinterest.
Read more about the people and places of Uhl at the World of Uhl.