Part eight of a study by Gawain Draxynnus, penned 1080 AE
With dwarven culture, at least as it was known before, apparently coming to an end in the wake of the recent destroyer crisis, I feel the need to preserve what is known of the beliefs of the dwarves, both for the benefit of the future historical record and in case the knowledge of the dwarves may prove valuable for future generations in a time when living dwarves may not be present to ask. While this initial document is, unfortunately, brief, it is my hope that some of the surviving dwarves will grant other scholars or myself the time to help in expanding and completing our knowledge of their beliefs.
While sometimes mistaken as monothiestic, dwarven religion is, essentially, semi-dualistic. I say “semi-“ because the dwarves are known to invoke the same deities as humanity when it is appropriate to do so, so they clearly acknowledge the existence of other divine entities beyond their own – however, in most cases it is not clear whether the dwarves actually do venerate the human deities, or they simply invoke them when humans are present to be polite to their allies (similar to how some human adventurers will invoke the animal spirits when in the presence of the norn). However, the apparent naming of the explosive Balthazate crystals after our own god of fire suggests that the dwarves have at least had enough exposure to the pantheon for references to them to enter their culture.
One exception to this general rule is the curious case of Ural Highstone. After being “rescued” from the Stone Summit shortly before the fall of Sorrow’s Furnace, Ural repented and became a follower of Dwayna before returning to the broken Stone Summit in the north to spy on their activities. No stigma was apparent from his fellow dwarves related to his new religious views, although this may have been a case where anything was an improvement over membership of the Stone Summit. Either way, the personal appearance of an avatar of Dwayna to claim his soul on his death suggests that whether his worship of her was accepted by his fellow dwarves or not, he was deemed to be suitable by the goddess of life. Beyond this example, the Wintersday contests between Dwayna and Grenth has spread to the dwarven city of Droknar’s Forge, with carollers mustering for both sides during the festival.
Normally, however, dwarven religion is focused on the struggle between the Great Dwarf and the Great Destroyer.
The Great Dwarf’s power is upon you all!
The final battle lies before us! Great Destroyer against Great Dwarf!
In victory, the Dwarves will be changed forevermore!
We are ALL the Great Dwarf now!
- King Jalis Ironhammer, 1078 AE
According to dwarven legend, their race was forged by the Great Dwarf upon the plateau known today as Anvil Rock. While the dwarves did not settle in the area, a cave beneath the Rock became a traditional meeting place for the clan chieftains of the dwarves until the outbreak of the dwarven civil war lead to talks being replaced by contests of arms.
After this act of creation and the Great Dwarf’s first struggle with the Great Destroyer (the legends we’ve heard so far are unclear on which was first), the Great Dwarf apparently left Tyria for a new domain in the Mists called the Great Forge, which also serves as the site of the dwarven afterlife. Some of his tools, however, remained behind on Tyria, hidden in the deep places of the earth.
According to legend, one of these tools is the Anvil of Dragrimmar, employed by the Great Dwarf to craft weapons of unmatched power. Hidden for centuries, the sepulchre in which it was hidden was recently uncovered in the same caverns near Sifhalla that contain the norn shrine to the Wolf Spirit – apparently intended to be found and used, as it was, to combat the rise of the Great Destroyer. To prevent it from being found and used before its intended time or by the wrong person, however, it was guarded not only by its location far from the heart of the dwarven empire, but by a host of powerful ice elementals and a series of trials to test the supplicant’s commitment to dwarven ideals of strength, unity and kinship.
Even more important, however, was the Hammer of the Great Dwarf itself, hidden deep in the Shiverpeaks in a location known only to the Blackpowder Clan. This artefact was to prove the most significant of all, as it was this hammer that held the power to enact the recent transformation of the dwarves from flesh and blood to implacable soldiers of stone.
This transformation, however, may reveal something interesting about the true nature of the Great Dwarf. In a ritual intended to invoke the power of the Great Dwarf, there was no apparent appearance of the deity, not even an avatar or representative as might be sent by one of the Six Gods in response to an entreaty. Instead, the power was distributed through all of the dwarves present, and, apparently, among nearly all the dwarves that remained true to the ideals of the Great Dwarf. In addition to this physical transformation, it appears that the invocation of the Great Dwarf placed those dwarves affected into a kind of collective consciousness or hive mind, similar to that observed among the destroyers… although discussions with the dwarves after their transformation reveals that they did retain their individuality. Since then, dwarves that had not been present during the ritual have also been turning to stone, and it is possible that the ritual will, over time, eventually come to have transformed their entire race.
Because of this, many human scholars have come to believe that this collective consciousness is all there is to the Great Dwarf. Certainly, the Great Dwarf has not been known to manifest in any other way during living memory, however, this form of existence does not appear compatible with the legends of the Great Dwarf taking direct physical action (especially the initial creation of the dwarves) in the distant past. One possible explanation is that the Great Dwarf invested his essence into his hammer or dispersed it among his children to be unlocked by the artefact. An alternative possibility could be that the Great Dwarf does in fact continue to dwell in the Great Forge among the Mists, and the ritual of the hammer served to merge the Great Dwarf with his servants on Tyria.
If there are any holy sites on Tyria apart from those mentioned above sacred to the Great Dwarf, they are not known to humans. One possibility may be the now-destroyed Stone Basilica in Sorrow’s Furnace (where the Tome of the Rubicon was found, buried, and recovered once again) before the mine-city fell under the control of the Stone Summit.
Long ago, the Great Dwarf took from his greatest foe the one thing that give him his power...he took from him his name, sealing it away until the time of their final battle. To ensure the name was unspeakable to all but the Great Dwarf, the name was sealed within the Rubicon. There are few left with the knowledge and power to open the Tome. If the true name of either is spoken aloud, it would mean the end of the world as we know it. We must not allow that which is unknown to again become known. Not now.
- High Priest Alkar, 1072 AE
In the distant past, it was written that the Great Dwarf battled, and ultimately bound beneath the earth, a dangerous foe known now only as the Great Destroyer. As part of turning their back on mainstream dwarven tradition, the Stone Summit began to turn their worship away from the mythical creator of their race towards his greatest nemesis.
Our first indication of this worship came during the opening raids of the Stone Summit fortress of Sorrow’s Furnace after their defeat at Thunderhead Keep, as one of their Hierophants came dangerously close to opening the Tome of the Rubicon and hastening the Great Destroyer’s awakening, but there is no further indication of veneration for this being. By the time the Great Destroyer had risen, however, the entity’s title was being invoked by the rank and file of the Stone Summit warriors when confronted with their enemies. When the Great Destroyer was finally destroyed, the last surviving hierophant Duncan the Black attempted to harness the power released by its destruction, but was slain before he could succeed.
It is unclear to what extent the Stone Summit truly understood the nature of the Great Destroyer, or just how deep their veneration was. It’s possible that the Stone Summit simply saw the Great Destroyer as a possible source of power – certainly, the Summit dwarves are known to have sought the aid of other evils in the far north, such as the imp Glacius the Eternal and the lich in the depths of the Vloxen Excavations. Certainly, Duncan’s attempt to absorb the Great Destroyer’s power seems devoid of piety, although given the effects of the rite of the Great Dwarf, it is possible that Duncan was attempting a similar ritual to resurrect the destroyers through the bodies of his followers.
Alternatively, it is possible that the Stone Summit genuinely venerated the Great Destroyer. This may simply be as a replacement to the Great Dwarf, but another possibility is that the xenophobic dwarves learned of the prophecy that sealed the fate of the dwarves with the defeat of the Great Destroyer. If so, the Stone Summit may have railed against the prophesised destruction of their race to save the others, and may have sought to appease and aid the Great Destroyer in exchange for their own survival.
How or even if the Great Destroyer may have responded to this is unknown. Certainly, the events around the rescue of the bulk of the Ebon Vanguard from the charr shaman stronghold in Sacnoth Valley suggest that the destroyers would not spare those that offered them worship; but given that a shaman prisoner outright admitted that the shamans were only using the destroyers as a tool to maintain their power, it is possible that the Great Destroyer realised this and reacted accordingly. Certainly, the Stone Summit were never observed to be in conflict with the destroyers… but neither are they known to have fought beside them, so the true nature of the relationship between the Stone Summit and the minions of their apparent deity is unknown.
Do not be afraid. I'm sure you have heard the rumors about the Brotherhood of the Dragon, many of which are not so flattering. There are those in the Dwarven community who see our connection to the dragon Glint as blaspheme against the Great Dwarf. But I assure you, our brotherhood is not grounded in the spiritual realm. We are more interested in the... well, practical applications, if you will, of prophecy and the art of prognostication.
- Consular Tronar Ironseer, 1072 AE
Despite its self-proclaimed status as a secular rather than a spiritual organisation, the Brotherhood of the Dragon is worthy of note in this document thanks to the misinterpretations of the other dwarves… and their responses. With their apparent tolerance of outright worship of human gods by at least a visible minority of their folk, it is curious that a non-religious arrangement with a servant of the gods should earn such distrust among their fellow dwarves. What reasons might the dwarves have of accepting the likes of Dwayna and Grenth but not Glint?
Regardless of this distrust, however, the consulars of the Brotherhood of the Dragon are permitted to maintain a shrine to Glint within the grounds of Droknar’s Forge, functioning similarly to the shrines of the Five Gods scattered through Tyria, Elona and Cantha, allowing the Brotherhood and others in Glint’s favour to communicate with her without needing to locate her hidden sanctuary in the desert. Through this, the Brotherhood and its allies could receive prophecies from the dragon and assist in ensuring that they came to their desired conclusion.
Proof of the Brotherhood’s continued overall allegiance to the Great Dwarf came in the Destroyer crisis, when consulars of the Brotherhood submitted to the ritual to merge with the Great Dwarf along with the rest of the dwarven nation. Even then, however, they continued their service to the dragon, employing one of the gates in the Central Transfer Chamber to dispatch their own forces as well as human adventurers to aid in the defence of Glint’s offspring against armies of Destroyers determined to slay her child.
You don't understand. Win or lose, the time of the dwarves is over. The only question is... is it the end for the rest of you as well?
- Ogden Stonehealer, 1078 AE