Dwarfs are a sturdy race: four and a half feet of solid muscle. They wear tough leathers, chainmail, and horned helmets, warhammers or axes slung at their belts. A dwarf’s most prized possession is his beard – its length and whiteness reveal age and experience, and its adornments and the weave of its braids denote rank. Dwarfs live in mountain strongholds bordering the Empire, and are adept fighters, even in the gloom of tunnels. Unless they die in battle, they live for centuries.
Every dwarf can recount his lineage back through numerous generations, and remembers every insult endured by his ancestors – the settling of a grudge is a serious issue. Dwarfs seldom back down or change their mind, but they always honour their pledge. They do not waste words on trivialities, and their gruff manner wins them few friends outside their own race. But a dwarf’s friendship, once given, is absolute.
Dwarf craftsmanship is vastly superior to that of men. They utilise steam-powered engines, clockwork devices, devastating black-powder weaponry, and even ingenious flying machines. However, bound by tradition, nothing can be invented or improved without approval from the elders of the Dwarf Engineers Guild. Most dwarfs respect their betters, and those who do not are snubbed and humiliated. Dwarfs have no affinity for spellcasting, although runesmiths carve artefacts with intricate, magical runes. Dwarfs honour the smith-god Grungni, the warrior-god Grimnir, and Valaya, protectoress of the hearth, and their religious rites involve the copious quaffing of potent ale.
Most dwarfs have an insatiable lust for wealth, and are loath to part with the smallest treasure. Expert miners, they delve deep underground for precious stones and metals, including rare gromril, tougher yet lighter than iron.
At the dawn of time, the ancestor gods taught the dwarfs mining, metalwork, and warfare. Then Chaos overwhelmed the world. It was during this ancient war that the dwarfs first encountered the elves. Together they vanquished the daemonic forces, and for several millennia, peace reigned. During this Golden Age, when men were mere primitives, the dwarfs founded their greatest strongholds.
Four and a half thousand years ago, the treacherous elves plundered dwarf settlements. High King Gotrek Starbreaker attempted to seek compensation, but the elves sheared off his ambassador’s beard. Four centuries of conflict ensured, known as the War of Vengeance, ending only when King Gotrek slew the Phoenix King of Ulthuan. The elves skulked away from the Old World, save those who retreated to the forests. Dwarfs distrust elves to this day.
The war had no sooner ended when earthquakes and volcanic eruptions racked the cities under the World’s Edge Mountains, and tides of greenskins poured from the east. Over the next few millennia, hold after hold fell to orcs, goblins, and worse. But all was not lost. Two and a half thousand years ago, Sigmar saved High King Kurgan Ironbeard from an orc warband. They joined forces to annihilate the greenskins at Black Fire Pass, and Sigmar’s men crowned him emperor for his victory. With the passing of time, the Empire of men has flourished, while the power of the dwarfs continues to fade. But the oath of brotherhood remains strong – only two centuries ago, High King Alriksson marched alongside Magnus the Pious to secure victory in the Great War Against Chaos. Today, dwarfs and men continue to stand firm against their relentless foes.
Dwarfs of Karak Azgaraz and the Reikland
Until recently, only scattered communities of dwarfs lived in the Grey Mountains – there are few rich mineral deposits to attract them. However, an exodus of young dwarfs from the eastern mountains have founded a new small stronghold among the peaks south of the Reikland town of Ubersreik. They have named it Karak Azgaraz – the Hold of the Fearless Axes. It has attracted ambitious short-beards keen to make a name for themselves away from the shadows of their elders, who thoroughly disapprove of the venture. The dwarfs glean a little silver from the meagre seams below the stronghold, which they trade within the Reikland. The main function of Karak Azgaraz is a military base of operations from which the dwarfs plan to eradicate the greenskins that plague the mountains, and thus win themselves glory.
Dwarfs are not an uncommon sight in the Empire, especially in larger cities. The craftsmanship of dwarfs is renowned, and a dwarf can find work as a blacksmith, brewer or craftsman throughout the Reikland. Some dwarfs from Karak Azgaraz frequently visit towns and villages throughout the Reikland, trading their wares to restock the karak’s stores while learning more about the land around their new home. In many cities, dwarfs and men work side by side, both in commerce and trade, as well as in defence of the land against encroaching foes.