The Forge Of The World

Arise, ye Forgeborn, awaken!
With steel in hand, while dragons fly!
"Birth of the Forgeborn," translated by Dierk Pageletters

Of the Land

The Forge of the World is an enormous valley, tucked between an enormous, ever-encroaching glacier in the north and volcanoes to the south and east. To the west, the sea is awash with icebergs, when it is not wholly frozen over in the depths of winter. The Forge, for all the flame and smoke the mountains produce, is a cold place. In the northern reaches, the snow never fully melts. The growing season in the Forge is short, and the beasts of the wild are terrible and many, and the sight of dragons is not uncommon. That anyone could live here, or would stay given the choice to leave, boggles many; even stout Dwarvenkind shuts itself up in halls of stone delved deep into the mountains themselves. Yet one tribe of humans does survive, even thrive, in the Forge, such that they have taken its name for themselves: the Forgeborn.

There are two passes into the Forge. One is by the Pass of Folvig, more commonly called Brokenback for the crag of rock upon which the ancient hero cast down an elder wyrm, crippling it. This pass is beset with glaciers and ice tigers, and only a fool would take it. The other pass is home to the greatest (some would say 'only') city of the Forgeborn: Ironhearth. Built by Dwarf and Forgeborn, hand in hand, it stands across the pass with walls of thick stone. Built atop a great mountainhome[needs name], Dwarven mechanisms power the mighty gates of Ironhearth, which have never fallen to an invader. Yet for all their strength, these walls have never been truly tested, for every army to march on the Forge has been met by an army in turn: the Forgeborn do not hide behind stone when battle calls, but ride gladly out to meet it.

To the north of Ironhearth, between the two great rivers that quench the Forge, lies Aurvangar. This hold serves as a great harbor in the summer, and much of the land's trade passes through it. As a result, it has grown wealthy. In the winter, they spend much of that wealth on the Games, which take place upon the frozen bay and are a spectacle unlike any other in the Forge.

North of that is the Anvil, the great towering plateau that rises above the surrounding terrain. Great vertical cracks adorn its sides. It is one of the great mountainhomes of Dwarvenkind, and it is said that it was once a mountain like any other before they made art of it; the Forgeborn, as they do in many cases, believe a dragon responsible.

To the east of Ironhearth, just north of Brokenback, is the Hold of Folvig, also called Dragonsbane, said to be the ancestral home of the great founding hero of the Forgeborn. It has grown less important since the founding of Ironhearth, and the two holds are often at each other's throats. It remains a very prestigious hold, and inheritance battles occur at least once every three generations - bloodlines do not tend to last long here. To the south, upon one of the mountains of Brokenback, lies a great beacon of Dwarven make that flares brightly enough to be seen at all hours. It is the summit of a great mountainhome[needs name], and part of an enormous mechanism to supply magma throughout the settlement.

To the west of the Anvil, in the shadow of a lesser mountain (that, for all it is dwarfed by its fellows in the Forge, is still tall enough to have its peak forever white with snow), lies Isabrot. Though its bay, much smaller than Aurvangar's, is frozen over all but three months of the year, this hold thrives on trade during those self-same months, for it is the closest to Aeringunnr Hold, their sister Hold upon the smoking islands in the western sea. Razor-sharp runners carry ice boats across, where they trade furs and grains in short supply on the islands for the whale oil the fishermen bring in by the barrelfull. The two holds are historically close, and have not gone to war in over 200 years.

In the southeastern corner of the Forge lies Gnaefath, a great hold for the sole reason that no other major hold is anywhere near it, and the lesser holds need a greater partner. The hold lies in the foothills of the Dragonstomb Mountains, and has ever had troubles with dragon worshippers. Though they put them down fiercely, new ones rise up to take their place.

By way of contrast is Dunabjarg, northernmost and westernmost of the great holds, tucked into an enormous canyon carved into the glacier by a volcano that has not stopped welling up lava since Forgeborn first told stories of it. Here is the center of dragon-worship in the Forge, and the only strife is between followers of opposing dragons, or between true believers and those whose faith is insufficient in their eyes. The Forgewood lies between Dunabjarg and the other major holds, thankfully, and this natural barrier has kept open warfare to a minimum.

Of the Forgeborn

According to the songs of the Forgeborn, the world began in nothingness, a great chaos into which the Great Elder Dragons came, and they breathed the world into being; first sea, then earth, then storm, then flame. The Forgeborn hold that they were born of the meeting of these breaths, as they did battle with each other to determine the shape of the world in the Dawn Times. At first the Forgeborn were awed by the Elder Dragons, but before long they grew to fear their constant strife, and thought it might unmake the very world it had created. So rose Folvig, who struck down the Elder Dragons by cunning, by ferocity, and by sheer strength at arms. But Folvig, though he was great, was yet mortal - he could not kill such a thing as the Elder Dragons. Instead, he laid them low with mortal wounds and bound them deep beneath the earth, where they rage to this day. Ice storms, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes - all of these and more the Forgeborn attribute to the Elder Dragons.

That is the story the Forgeborn tell. The Dwarves, of course, see it rather differently, emerging from a long age hidden beneath the ground to find the land above populated with "giants." Though the two races fought viciously at first (mostly because fighting is how Forgeborn test the strength of something they've never seen before), over centuries of time they have grown to be great friends. The Dwarves have taught the Forgeborn much, including the secret of smelting and working steel into armor and weapons. The Forgeborn in kind keep the surface safe, guarding the passes and hunting terrible beasts, that the Dwarves might emerge to trade and even travel. The Forgeborn consider themselves to be the eldest of the races of humanity, and that all others descend from them and are weaker and smaller for not living in the Forge; dwarvenkind, they hold, is only slightly older than themselves (as evidenced by their great wisdom and learning), born of sea and earth and flame but not the breath of air.

Forgeborn are a deeply spiritual people, seeing the action of magic and mysticism even in the mundane. They hold there to be no difference between a master swordsman and a great sorcerer; both, a Forgeborn would say, have mastered their soul, and the trappings of their flesh matter little. Indeed, the soul is of great import to the Forgeborn, for they believe that Death is a dragon and that when it comes, all one may do battle with is their very soul. Most, Forgeborn will admit, will fall in this struggle and be carried off to the land of the dead, but some, truly the greatest of the Forgeborn, may slay Death when it comes for them, and thus achieve a strange kind of apotheosis. This is the origin of the Forgeborn practice of ancestor veneration, their native pantheon where great ancestors take the place of gods. The greatest among these is, of course, the legendary dragonslayer Folvig.

But the Forgeborn do not only revere their ancestors or their great heroes. Rare is the Forgeborn who does not take joy in the hunt and in the wild, and they are close to the spirits they see. They offer thanks and pleas alike to the various spirits. Favorite among these are Wolf and Elk, but all spirits receive their due. The Forgeborn have even adopted the Dwarven pantheon, and small shrines and talismans of their god of metalworking can be seen in many a Forgeborn smithy.

Finally, as noted above, some Forgeborn turn to the worship of dragonkind. This is seen by most Forgeborn as a betrayal, and dragon-worshippers are unwelcome in all but one of the major holds. The Forgeborn animus against Dragon-worship is easy enough to understand considering their belief that the soul is influenced by whatever one allows into ones heart; a heart tainted with the thoughtless malice of dragonkind is unbecoming of the Forgeborn, and weakens the soul even as it might strengthen the body. Naturally, dragon-worshippers violently deny this (emphasis on violently).

Of Hold and Hall

The centerpiece of any Forgeborn Hold is the Hall, a great longhouse structure. This serves as both a common gathering place for the people of the Hold, as well as the throne room of the Eignar, the Holder; other buildings will spring up alongside it, such as homes, markets, and the like. The Hall, while it belongs to the Eignar alone, represents his hospitality, and any are welcome within. The spilling of blood is discouraged in the Hall (there's perfectly good snow outside), but fistfights are both accepted and commonplace (and typically met with cheers, jeers, and bets placed on both sides). Much of the largesse on display in the Hold comes directly from the taxation and gifts an Eignar is presented by their people, and a stingy Eignar will quickly earn a bad reputation. The Holds of the Forgeborn differ in some ways from more common feudal structures. The Eignar is a person of great power, to be sure, but a wise one respects the counsel of his people, for while his word is law within his Hall and Hold, the Forgeborn have no ties to the land. An Eignar who treats his people with contempt may find his Hall empty!

While all Eignar are considered equals, there is no question that a hierarchy exists between the common Holds that dot the Forge and the Great Holds, those most ancient and prestigious of Holds that most resemble a city of the outsiders. The lesser Eignar offer up tribute to the greater, and in turn may call upon his aid should another encroach. The greater Eignar may also serve as a way to mediate disputes.

Finally, there is an ancient tradition regarding the founding of a Hold; only one who has slain a dragon may take the title of Eignar for a new Hold. Commonly, they will take a trophy, such as a tooth or a horn, and work it into a ceremonial weapon, the symbol of their authority and strength. Their descendants need not accomplish such a heroic task (though many would certainly like to, and more than a few have died trying), though any who challenge the inherited right to rule must have slain a dragon themselves. This is how the Forgeborn ensure that only the greatest among them, or those who share blood with them, govern the Forge. Such as it is governed at all, that is.

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