Of all the Minute Races, the Dwarven Clans are indisputably the paragon. Larger and more physically formidable than their lesser cousins, the Halflings and Gnomes, they also live longer; the natural life span of a male dwarf is nearly 600 years. Dwarves range in height from 30 inches to an extreme of 50 or so, and can weigh up to nine hundred stone, all of it muscle. They are prey to few diseases, having a constitution which can bear extremes of weather and deficiencies of diet far better than virtually any other known race. They are also highly intelligent and civilized, possess a refined artistic sensibility, and enjoy acute senses of taste, smell and hearing - faculties which all Minute persons share. In distinguishing dwarves from other Minute races, take special note of their facial hair; neither gnomes nor halflings can sport such full and luxuriant beards.
Our experiments with Dwarven tissue have shown them to be almost completely devoid of any mystical vibration, and their bones have been found at great geological depth in the fossil record. I conclude from this that they are not the product of any Magickal agency, but are instead the children of pure Natural Selection, just as humans are. According to the scanty evidence we have presently available, the parting of ways between our Median race and the Minute races occurred some two millions of years ago, and we evolved along parallel courses from then on. For this reason, it is impossible for humans and members of any Minute Race to produce offspring together; the blood ties between us are not strong enough to allow it.
As children of Natural Selection, dwarves, like humans, have no special aptitude for the practice of Magick, and are inclined to seek power in the application of Natural Law. They have a great gift for mathematics, and all those professions which derive from its use, including architecture and engineering. They excel in mining, refining, and shaping metals, and it is in these occupations that they are chiefly known to outsiders, but their artisans in leather, wood, and stone are also unparalleled. The beauty of their sculpture and carpentry must be seen to be properly appreciated. Alas, very few non-dwarves ever have the opportunity to see their homes, much less the many treasures inside; dwarves are a secretive people, bound by many laws and taboos which cannot be broken, on pain of banishment or even death.
Dwarves live in mountainous regions, and their settlements tend to be small. Ogres are their natural enemies, since the two races compete for space, but the dwarves have the advantage of greater intelligence and numbers; in any dispute between the two, dwarves are always the victors. The peculiarities of dwarven society have inspired a great many myths and misconceptions about their race, which the Clans have been at no great pains to correct. Some theologians hold that they are the Children of Earth, formed of the primordial clay and made from the beginning of time to toil underground. That their race is ancient, there can be no doubt; it is also true that they have made their homes in the mountains for many thousands of years. However, recent evidence unearthed on the far side of the Stonewall mountain range suggests that dwarves once occupied the plains there, and may have built above-ground cities within sight of the Western Ocean. In the half-buried ruins of old Ur'uk and Caamlun, archaeologists have unearthed extremely ancient ceramics and lead figures which depict dwarves hunting, hawking, even fishing and farming in the lowlands.
Dwarf What catastrophe eventually drove the dwarven Clans to the forbidding mountains in which they now dwell? It is impossible at present to say. It may be linked to the overwhelming antipathy which dwarves still bear for orcs, however, which is otherwise inexplicable. It may also have to do with to the remarkable longevity of their race, and the price they pay for this enduring span of natural life. Many have wondered why dwarven women are never seen by outsiders, and why they do none of the work in mine, quarry, smelter and forge for which their people have become so renowned. In attempting to arrive at some explanation for this generally known fact, I made a study of many other long-lived organisms, and I concluded that the dwarven life cycle must include a very long period of confinement for their women. My experience suggests that they most likely take over ten years to deliver a healthy infant, once the child is conceived. During this time, a dwarven lady's health must be very much at risk, and the efforts of her entire clan are probably bent to keeping her safe, well, and in a state of perfect serenity.
By visiting the dwarven settlements north of Stillwater, I was able to make a casual count of the men in the community, most of whom could be seen traveling daily to the mines. Given that number, and an estimate of the supplies which were always being delivered from the south, I was able to make a fair guess at the number of dwarven females which must live there, hidden from the prying eyes of strangers by high walls and locked doors. The results were surprising; it appeared that dwarven males outnumbered the females by nearly 2 to 1!
Combine the long period of confinement and the ratio of men to women, and it is little wonder that females of child-bearing age must be a rare and precious commodity among the dwarves, to be sheltered and protected at all costs. Perhaps this explains why we rarely see a dwarven adventurer who is not bent on making a vast fortune, and winning as much gold as he can get; the poor fellow may be hoping to raise a hefty bride price, in order to be eligible for marriage!