Nowadays dwarves are everywhere. They can be found in cities and in the countryside, usually building something or other; railroads, bridges, houses or anything else that needs constructing. Subways are a particular specialty. The dwarves have become a natural part of society almost everywhere. This wasn’t always the case.
Two thousand years ago dwarves were nowhere to be seen. Old people would take about traveling circuses or fairs having dwarves as attractions, charging people for a glance at the strange little men. Many countries considered dwarves to be extinct.
Then, five hundred years later, towards the end of The Dark Ages, dwarves started to appear again; a little stronger, a little smarter and a lot more independent. This reappearance of dwarves, seemingly reinvigorated and out of nowhere, confused and amazed scholars. Where had the dwarves come from, where had they been, why did they go away?
The beings that make up that which is called the dwarven race are really the fruit of the Giant Rock Marshal, a fungus of the Marshal Mushroom family. The main purpose of the fruits (the dwarves) is to gather the spores that the main fungus needs for sustenance and reproduction. It is what they are created for and what they spend their lives doing.
A dwarf is born fully-grown and lives for 15-25 years. Those who don’t have special functions mainly just eat and sleep and dig until they are worn out and it’s time for them to die. Their lives are uneventful but have a definite purpose in the service of the main fungus.
The main fungus gets its sustenance from the spores brought it by its fruits. The fruits themselves have to make do with what they can find or cultivate in their tunnels; mostly lichen, non-marshal mushrooms and the odd subterranean animal or insect.
The dwarves aren’t hunters or fighters. There are animals in the deep but they are either too rare or too dangerous to make up a regular part of a dwarf’s diet. Instead dwarves rely heavily on farming. In the darkness of their tunnels they’re able to grow the lichen and mushrooms that make up the majority of their diet.
Very little is known about the technological level of the dwarves at this time. Dwarves do not keep their own records and at the time no one else did it for them. The main fungus passes on its memories both to its fruits and to its internal offspring and it absorbs the memories and knowledge of old dwarves that return to it to die.
What is known is that even the early dwarves had a great knowledge about the composition of metals and minerals. Archeological finds indicate that dwarven tools were of a higher quality than anything humans were able to produce. The craftsmanship of dwarven blacksmiths rivaled that of elven master smiths in quality though not in beauty. It is generally believe that dwarves were able to achieve this level of quality without the use of magic, something that cannot be said for the elves.
So what caused the dwarves to retreat into obscurity and seeming extinction? The answer is short, simple and cruel; humans. Humans are the ones that drove the dwarves to disappear from their lands and retreat to deep under the most inaccessible mountains.
As mentioned above, dwarves were neither hunters nor warriors. They had little reason to fight or hunt. The animals that could be hunted are either too rare or too dangerous to make underground hunting a viable source of food.
There’s also little need for dwarves to learn to fight in order to defend their digs. There aren’t any enemies under the mountain that it’s worth the effort to actively defend against.
The predators in the deep come in two types. There are those who occasionally attack and kill a single dwarf and then disappear without a trace. These aren’t really a threat to a dig and their attacks can’t be predicted and the best protection is to just not take unnecessary risks like walking alone.
The other type of predator is the one that will wipe out an entire dig in a matter of hours. The type of monster that sleeps deep under the mountains and which only really appears when a dig gets too deep. These can’t really be defended against and the only things to do when one is encountered is to run, not look back and hope for the best.
As seen, dwarves never really had a need to fight to survive. They’d never had an enemy there was a point in fighting. That is, not until the humans started paying serious attention to them.
The eradication of the Haman empire was an incredible blow to human society and it was an enormous setback to humanity’s evolution, both social and technical. Before this, dwarves had been left largely alone, viewed as an uncivilized curiosity with little worth and best left alone.
After the eradication, once humanity had started to recover it turned its greedy eye on the dwarves. In the dwarves they saw a rich and plentiful resource of cheap labor, valuable metals and precious stones. The dwarves, not experienced in fighting or in interacting with outsiders in other ways, were easy prey for human interests.
Dwarven digs were conquered and enslaved, their inhabitants forced into hard labor, either in the digs gathering metal for the humans, or out in the open world, building roads or houses. The dwarves captured in this way, forced out of their usual habits and exploited for the needs of others, would eventually succumb and die. Death of those taken to work above ground often died farm from the fungus who gave them life and were unable to pass their experiences on to the collective memory of the dig.
This enslavement of the dwarves would eventually kill off the main fungus of the dig, but not so quickly that the humans wouldn’t profit from it. Enslavement of dwarves turned out to be profitable, but in the long run it lead to the virtual extinction of dwarves in human lands. The remaining digs on human lands survived by going deeper under ground. This in the end served to kill them off as well when they awakened the monsters of the deep below.
The only digs that survived were the ones so inaccessible that the humans never found them. Mostly this was in the Snaggfell Mountains, but some digs in other locations survived as well.
This is how the dwarves came to the brink of extinction; enslaved and abused by humanity.
Return of the dwarvesEdit
After centuries spent in obscurity the dwarves eventually reappeared, slowly at first, but later in force. However, the dwarves were different; no longer were they the meek, weak and easily enslaved people of the past. Instead they were strong, independent and ready to stand up for themselves and their rights.
The reason for the resurgence of the dwarven race is a short (shorter) and simple as the reason for their extinction, but far less cruel; anfylk. When the anfylk first appeared two thousand years ago, they too were hidden away from the destructive force of humanity. While most fylkin weren't located in areas with a dwarven presence some were; in particular mountain dwelling winter fylkin and highlander autumn ane.
These fylkin eventually discovered that they shared the land with short, hairy, subterranean beings. The dwarves, aware of how they'd been treated by humans in the past were at first cautious and reluctant to interact with the short human-like beings that suddenly had appeared on the surface of their lands. After numerous incidents caused by fear, misunderstanding, confusion and general ignorance a sort of uneasy understanding was reached; The dwarves realized that the anfylk weren't out to kill or enslave them and the anfylk acknowledged that the dwarves were more than hairy underground monkeys.
Worth pointing out here is that this occurred in multiple places at more or less the same time. Achs Arod is an enormous continent and while far from all of it was settled at the time (and still isn't) there were plenty of areas shared by dwarves and anfylk alike. The timing is slightly different for different areas but as a general rule anfylk discovered and befriended dwarves during the first two to three hundred years after their creation.
Once relations between dwarves and anfylk had settled down it followed naturally that trade started between the two races. The dwarves were able to produce tools and metals the anfylk needed, not to mention precious stones to be cut and used in jewellery. The anfylk mostly provided foodstuffs of different types; meats, grains and vegetables but also beers and cider. On top of that the anfylk also made a good trade in cloth and clothes.
It may seem at first that trading food and drink against valuable metals and gems would be an unfairly good deal for the anfylk, and in many cases it probably was. In the long run however, it was the dwarves who benefited most from the trade and in a rather unexpected way; The addition of the new foods into their diet increased the lifespan of the dwarves drastically. The increase was gradual and it took centuries before the full impact of the new diet on the dwarves was determined.
By the end of The Dark Ages dwarves in affected areas were living more than twice as long as they'd done before the anfylk appeared.
As if a longer life wasn't enough the new dietary options also made the dwarves stronger and fitter. They became more efficient and were able spend less time digging and more time doing other things. This is when the first rail roads on the surface were built, between anfylk settlements and dwarven dig sites.
While the appearance of the anfylk had a profound impact on the fruits of the Great Rock Marshal the impact on the fungus itself was negligible. The only real difference was that slightly less fruits were needed in order to bring in the spores the fungus required as sustenance. This was only much later reflected in the rate at which the fungus produce fruits and then with only a slight reduction.
With dwarves living longer and being more efficient the digs started to become overpopulated. There were simply to many dwarves, more by far than what was needed to sustain the digs. The oldest dwarves were the first ones to leave. They suppressed their need to dig tunnels and gather spores and ventured out into the world to see what life was like on the surface.
And that's how the dwarves made their return into the world; fed and freed by anfylk.