Even before the Long Winters, dwarves were never populous in this remote border province of the Old Empire, numbering thousands at the most. And their numbers dwindle still, picked off by bitter cold, hungry humanoids and long simmering blood feuds. They now account 500, or less.
Most dwarves are concentrated at the Grimhau, more commonly referred to as the Grimstand by humans. During Imperial times, Grimhau was an insignificant outpost along the mountainous High Road (between the paladin’s Citadel and the Lost Keep on the far northern stretch of the High Road), home to about 500 dwarves (and a few others). Today the Grimhau’s inhabitants number 300 dwarves, plus another 50 or so others.
Grimhau is a subterranean settlement, specializing in mining and metalworking. Given this, while the rest of the Riverlands hunkers down during winter, the dwarves are able to work all year long, stockpiling resources and goods for trade when the thaw comes. In fact, Grimhau is the primary source of tools, weapons and armor for the region, and boasts the highest concentration of master weaponsmiths of any settlement.
The dwarven settlement is also home to the Collegium Lacunae, a college of wizards dedicated to safeguarding and restoring lost knowledge, especially magical knowledge. In particular, they seek any information regarding the Cataclysm and the Spells of Ending, in the hopes they might someday counteract the Long Winters. However, they are a good market for any kind of book or scroll, arcane or not.
Culturally, the dwarves of the Long Winter Campaign are based along Norse/Viking lines, rather than the Scottish vogue for dwarves that’s been popular since WoW came out. The Grimstand has also taught them to prepare for dark times. For example, the Grimhau now stocks enough provisions and supplies to last three winters, and it’s said they’ve stockpiled such an arsenal to outfit a thousand soldiers (though, interestingly enough, the arms and armor are designed for human proportions, not dwarven). So, dwarves are sort of the ultimate Viking doomsday preppers. 🙂
Battle of the Grimstand
The Grimstand gets its name from the now legendary battle fought there in the early days of the first Long Winter, when ice and snow reigned nearly two years. Normally querulous, the various tribes of humanoids and giantkin inhabiting the mountainous highlands put aside their differences, banding together in a massive horde. Driven by desperation, with the certain knowledge they would soon die by starvation and exposure, they threw themselves upon the Grimgates, intent on taking the Grimhau’s shelter for themselves (sustained in winter, no doubt, by the flesh of the former inhabitants).
For weeks, wave after wave of the great horde assaulted the Grimhau’s narrow entrance. And for weeks the defenders repulsed the horde’s increasingly mantic assaults. The dead piled high, buried only in snow. At the last measure of desperation, the horde-lings threw even their youngest into battle. And then they were spent. The horde had perished by the thousands; the defenders themselves were reduced to less than a hundred.
Those few creatures that remained scurried off to find whatever winter-shelter they could. During brief respites in the weather, they’d venture out to pilfer a frozen meal from the battlefield. When that first thaw came, more than a year later, it was said that the fields of the Grimhaus had already been picked so neatly clean that there were hardly any bodies left to burn.