Story, kinda: The great Kingdom of Leonard the Wise had long stood on the shores of the Seepay River, south of the ancient ruins of Kaegil on the shores of the Sea. It was a shining shield against the goblins of the South and the ravagers from the East, filled with gallant knights clad with the colors of the Crown. To the northwest lay the City of Wonders, where the wise wizards of the High Council kept the knowledge of the Ancient Days, before the Plague. They had magnificent powers mysterious and arcane, but they were generous with their knowledge, and had gifted our King with many magical suits of armor, the like of which could not be rivalled by any blacksmith. Upon these suits were laid spells of power and strength, allowing those who wore them to lift heavy stones as if they were empty boxes, or carry many men upon their backs like children. With this gift of magic armor, Leonard the Wise and his noble knights were able to drive back the goblins in the Great War, and kingdoms from all the lands of the West lent their aid, from the wild-men of the Deserts to the stout herders of the plains with their wild stallions and long rope-weapons. In the years that followed, the Kingdom had a period of peace and prosperity. Now, the High Council asks us to go forth into the wilds of the southwest in search of a mysterious mineral of the ancient world, which glowed without fire and could curse men who looked upon it with boils and sickness, yet held unimaginable power if harnessed by the wisdom of the Ancients. The wizards assure us that our armor is enchanted to prevent the curse from falling upon us, but warn that things may have changed in the past few thousand years... The Tale of the Great WarIt was in the third century, a hundred years after the founding of Fairfield by the halflings, when the Kingdom of Thalassana was in its infancy. King Leonard the First was a leader of great renown at the time, brave and strong but inexperienced in the ways of true war. Hordes of goblins came from the wastelands of the East, led by a particularly savage and gigantic creature who called himself Zarthag the Scarred. Under his command, the goblins united into a fierce and terrifying army, burning as they came. The dwarves of Orod Khazad were forced to shut the doors of their city, and Fairfields bristled with arrows. Thalassana, however, was laid siege as its farmlands were burned and its villages ransacked. For years the people held out valiantly within the walls of the city, but soon hunger and thirst set in, and the goblins poisoned the wells, spreading sickness and death. Seeing the desperation of the inhabitants, Zarthag rode up to the gates just beyond bowshot, offering truce and parley with the King. Seeing the cost of war and fearing for the end of the kingdom, Leonard the First thought for many days, councelling with his advisors and sons on how to deal with the situation. In the end, he decided to trust the word of the goblin, and rode out with a small guard of noble knights, trusting in peace, to compromise with the enemy. But treachery was in the black heart of Zarthag, and as the old king rode out with his loyal knights under the White Flag of Truce, he was ambushed by goblins. Mighty as he was, his small group could not hold back the waves of enemies, and at the last, surrounded by the fallen, our King fell to the blade of the Scarred Goblin. Leonard the Second, then only a lad of 20, the Crown Prince, could only look on as his father's body was defiled and consumed by the creatures, his head removed and placed high up on a platform in mockery to the West. Fierce with anger, the newly-crowned king swore vengeance upon the goblins for this crime, calling upon all the peoples of the West to aid him. Outraged by the goblins' treachery, in this time of need wild-men from the Badlands and herders from the southwest came to our aid, and the wizards of the High Council intervened in the daily lives of common men for the first time in three hundred years. With wondrous magic, they called down fire and lightning and the very powers of nature to drive back the hordes. They also gifted young King Leonard the Second with a great store of enchanted armor which lent strength and speed to the wearer, and with these new weapons the Knights of Thalassana fought valiantly and saved the kingdom from utter ruin. Riding forth from the gates of the city, they crushed the armies of the enemy with sword and javelin, and broke the siege of Orod Khazad and the harrying of Fairfields. United against a common enemy, the free peoples of the West drove back the goblins back into the wastelands of the East, and from thence they have not come again in the last two centuries. The Accounting of ZarthagZarthag was no fool, goblin though he was. He saw the united strength of the West, and knew that he would gain no victory that day. Defeated, the traitor withdrew from the field of battle, seeking to return to the wasteland to rally once more and crush Thalassana on his own time. Yet fate was against him, and as he turned his great back upon the field, the young Leonard let loose a single arrow from his father's bow, and in that moment, Zarthag the Scarred, enemy of the West, was destroyed. Like ants scattering when the brooding thing within their hive is crushed, the ranks of goblins fled, some into holes, others into caves, never again to return. Yet some fled into the wilds and wastes of the East, and with them went Murgaz, son of Zarthag. Scores of years would pass like the falling of leaves as Thalassana prospered, and the fire of rage that burned within Murgaz festered like a cancer. Slowly, goblin by goblin, his father's army grew once more, united by a hatred for all those who lived in the Free Lands of the West, never forgetting their loss that day upon the fields of Thalassana. Background of the Dwarf-City: The great dwarf-city of Orod Khazad was founded about a century after the Plague in what was once a vast mine of the Ancient World by Farthi Stonefist, a formidable dwarvish miner turned warrior and leader by necessity. The dwarf and his followers braved the harsh mountain winters and frequent attacks by Goblins from the east, becoming a strong and hardy race which valued strength and endurance and craftsmanship. Over the ages, the dwarves have carved out a vast underground city beneath the mountains, and enormous veins of iron and coal have brought them great wealth and fame throughout the land. Dwarves are grave and gruff, but shrewd with money and loyal to allies. They prefer melee weapons such as hammers and axes, and always wear heavy armor. They are experts at smithing, mining, masonry and ale-brewing, and their food is both hearty and energizing for helping them live through the long, harsh winters in the mountains. They tend to wear thick wool, leather and furs for warding off the mountain cold, and have long beards and generous body hair, being also stout with thick skins and strong bodies. They are slightly taller than halflings. The Founder: Farthi Stonefist was a master mason and miner, with a keen eye for ore and strong arms that could lift boulders with ease. His beard was brown as the earth of the mountain, and his eyes were black as coal, fiery with determination and backed with a will to match. His long experience with earth and stone brought him to the cold mountains east of the Great Sea, where the Ancients had once delved for the strange metals with which they built their wonders. Though he began with but a few followers and a single pickax scavenged from the ruins of the old mine-shafts, the dwarf eventually carved out an empire beneath the mountain to rival even Thalassana itself. An unexpected encounter with goblins, and the subsequent cave-in which crushed his right hand, was no barrier to this formidable dwarf either. His role in literally driving out the creatures and saving all his fellows single-handed earned him even greater renown ever after, and when he replaced his broken hand with a stone fist carved of granite, he passed from mere leader into legend. Much may be said of his shrewd trade and ingenious mining inventions, or of the piles of treasure which came into his possession over the decades, but suffice it to say that this leader among leaders truly became an ideal towards which all dwarves strive even today. Layout of Orod Khazad: The so-called Empire of Stone is entered through doors of mithril and granite, carved with runes and many images of battles long past and heroes of old. Before the gates stands the towering statue of Farthi Stonefist, clad in golden armor and wielding a mithril hammer. The statue represents the attitude of the dwarves in its stance: its right palm faces outward in a gesture of peace, while its left grips the handle of the hammer, ready to fight in defense of home and city. The roads running past the gates and within the city are tiled with marble, while the many-pillared halls are carved directly from the stone of the mountain itself. Orod Khazad has multiple central chambers used for a wide variety of purposes; of note are the Merchant's Hall, the Hall of Fire, the Hall of Meetings, the Hall of Remembrance, and the Hall of Justice. The Merchant's Hall This is Orod Khazad's center of trade and commerce; craftsmen and smiths from all across the land come here to barter for precious stones and marvel at the newest goods available from the famous forges of the dwarves. The pillars are set with golden runes for fortune and protection, and the mine-cart rails leading to the Great Vaults far beneath the earth begin here, guarded by dozens of well-trained soldiers and rigged with intricate machinery which would confound even the most persistent of would-be thieves. A separate rail leads to the renowned Chambers of Glass, where glowing gems light up row upon row of plants fed by the waters of the mountain. Set in hollows along the sides of the hall are endless rows of shops selling all manner of goods, from clockwork marvels to everyday tools and costly jewelry. Here also may be found the Roaring Bear tavern and inn, where one may sample drops of Farthi's Stone Brew, certain to knock all but the strongest stone-cold with a sip. The Hall of Fire The sound of thousands of hammers on anvils may be heard here at the heart of the city's crafting area far beneath the earth. Reached by mine-cart, the enormous forges are heated by the fires of the very earth itself by wondrous creations of the Ancient World. Here, underground rivers fall fathomless heights to drive wheels of wood and stone; ore is refined in vast furnaces heated by lightning, and flow molten into molds to be cast into ingots and bars; gleaming rails lit by brightly glowing gems guide carts from forge to forge, bringing new supplies of ore and coal from the rich lodes of the Dark Delvings; and both day and night the rousing chants of a million dwarves echo from the lowest depths to the highest peaks of the mountain. The Hall of Meetings This ancient chamber is said to have been the home of Farthi Stonefist during his first years in the mountains; from a small hill in the natural cavern the dwarf had taken council with his followers and made the pivotal decisions that shaped Orod Khazad into the empire it is today. Over the years, the chamber was expanded and enhanced into a grand throne room and forum for ambassadors, scholars, soldiers, adventurers, and the elders of the city to gather and discuss any number of subjects, ranging from international agreements to decisions on how to run the empire. Farthi's old hill was reverently set aside, then carefully shaped over the centuries into a grand throne from which the chosen ruler (usually a descendant of Farthi) would preside over meetings and answer questions or make decisions. It is said that the spirit of Farthi himself still dwells within the very walls of the chamber, giving wisdom and guidance to those who gather here to take council. Along the walls are many tapestries and hanging banners representing the Founding Houses of the Dwarves, the first followers of Farthi when Orod Khazad began. The Hall of Remembrance Perhaps it is surprising to outsiders that the often rough and headstrong dwarves would give any heed to deeds of bygone eras, but here in the quiet Hall of Remembrance the old stereotype of the forgetful dwarf is put aside and the grave work of studying the past is placed before respected scholars, ensuring that Orod Khazad chooses wisely in its course through the future. Statues of dwarvish heroes and legendary figures sit silently in alcoves or on lone pedestals, surrounded by millions of shelves containing every book, journal, record and deed ever written in the history of the city since its inception. Beams of light filter through windows high above, and the corridors leading to the Chamber of Records or the Chamber of Scribes are without door or gate, to avoid noise as much as possible. Within the Chamber of Records is kept accounts of the year's activities, to be processed the following year before being moved into the Hall of Remembrance. The Chamber of Scribes houses the tireless archivists of Orod Khazad who work to preserve the oldest of the records either in clay or parchment; their priceless manuscripts are renowned even in the City of Wonders far to the west, across the Great Sea. The Hall of Justice For all the stories of belligerent and rowdy dwarves, Orod Khazad as a whole is extremely strict in upholding the laws of the city. Given the enormous task of keeping the peace in an underground city crammed with well over a million dwarves, this should not be too surprising. The Hall of Justice was created with the express purpose of dealing out judgement swiftly and fairly, and thus far there has been a generally positive attitude concerning the efficacy of the system. Those accused of serious crimes are brought before a panel of judges selected for impartiality and a clean record, with or without an advocate as the accused desires. If found guilty, the punishment meted out may range from fines to hard labor, or death in select instances. There are only a few prisons, as investigations are done first before trials rather than during them, and there is no such thing as a prison sentence: all who dwell in the city must serve some purpose, and to house and feed a criminal for free is unthinkable for dwarves. The halfling village of Fairfield on the Blossom-Downs is an old settlement from about two centuries after the Plague, founded by a wandering farmer-turned-leader named Bolgo Greenhill and his followers as a peaceful refuge from the dangers of the world outside. It is situated in what the wizards say was once an enormous garden of the Ancient World. Though it had been abandoned for ages, it was still as lush and fertile as of old, and as Bolgo and his fellow halflings began to farm the land, it gave forth a rich bounty of fruit and grain and flax. The light forest and fertile land allowed the halflings a good life, and the inhabitants there eventually adapted archery and ambush rather than close-combat melee as their main form of defense. As a result, halflings are generally physically weaker than dwarves, though they are nearly unmatched in stealth and marksmanship. They are excellent cooks, carpenters, farmers and singers, and their food is homely and flavorful, perfect for refreshments after a hard day's work on the fields. They tend to prefer bright natural colors such as green and yellow, and are both inquisitive and talkative, though they tend to be cautious and wary of danger. Though well-fed and jolly, they are formidable fighters and remarkably difficult to daunt when it comes down to it. The Founder:Bolgo Greenhill was a quiet halfling, who desired nothing more than peace, quiet and good tilled earth. Due to the anarchy that filled the world during the second century after the Plague, of course, these wishes were little more than a dream, though the farmer gathered many friends and relatives with his homely speeches about settling down in some green meadow and turning holes into homes. Sheer luck brought him and his companions in contact with the wizards of the High Council, who advised them to search out the abandoned garden of the Ancients to the Southeast of the Great Sea. Heartened by the prospect of fertile land untouched by war, the halflings began their fabled journey to the bountiful hills of flowers that would in later ages be called the Blossom-Downs. Nestled among these ancient mounds, they found a hidden valley filled with wild grain and herbs, and upon viewing the place, Bolgo pronounced the valley and all the hills about to be the home of all his descendants from that day forward. Much may be said of the enormous task of transforming that valley into the Fairfields of today, or of the ordering of the Gedelves, but suffice it to say that Bolgo was the very model of a gentlehobbit towards which all his followers and descendants strive: skilled, cheerful and appreciative of the simple life, yet ready to fight for home and family. Layout of Fairfields: The villages of Fairfields on the Blossom-Downs are laid out naturally according to geographical feature, having sprung up as need or interest arose, but in terms of governance the area is divided, at least among the Halflings, into five areas. The four large areas within which most halflings live are called Gedelves, meaning Diggings and referring to the peculiar halfling habit of living in tunnels in the hills while farming in the open vale. At the center of the four Gedelves, each named after a constellation such as the Hunter or the Bear, is set the Methel-Steading, or Meeting-Place. Every five years the halflings gather for the Gemoot, the General Meeting, to discuss rules and boundaries and farming techniques. The whole of the Blossom-Downs is protected by a loose collection of fighters called Hunters, who often hail from the appropriately-named Huntagedelf. They have no particular leader besides the Chief Hunter, who is chosen by the Gemoot ffor five years to direct the other Hunters and then kept or replaced the next Gemoot. There is no uniform in particular, but Hunters can usually be found carrying a bow and wearing a plaid sash across his or her chest. Each Gedelf is independent, running its own affairs and minding its own business. Though borders are open between each region, halflings tend to stick to their hometowns and farmlands, seldom meddling in the affairs of others. In fact, halflings tend not to take notice of the world outside at all, though they are ever prepared should the outside start to take notice of THEM- it is a common trait among halflings to keep large supplies of food and tools and other useful things in their deep tunnels in preparation for some disaster or another. It is a habit carried over from the first decades, when supplies were scarce and goblins were a constant threat. Over the years, this peculiarity has lead to rather crowded homes and pantries, and inspired yet another trait unique to halflings- on birthdays, it is a common practice for the host to give presents to the guests rather than the other way around. Such gifts are often of the old and unused kind, such as preserves or some ancient tool whose use had long since been forgotten. Halflings don't like throwing away much of anything if it can be helped, and when some object or another truly has no use at all left in it, it is called a "heffy", and usually given to the Hefiganhus in Methel-Steading to be put on display as a curiosity or stored away until some time should arise for it to be useful again. Methel-Steading, the Meeting-Place This may not have been the oldest settlement in Fairfields, but most halflings agree that it was as close to the heart of the Blossom-Downs as one could get, and convenient enough of a location for meeting at. The town itself is small most of the time, with only a few stores, an old library, and typical well-stocked halfling tunnels full of supplies, but every five years when Gemoot arrives, the population spikes to thousands as farmers and craftsmen and hunters alike from every Gedelf gather before the Methel-Stone to discuss The Rules and how to keep them. The Methel-Stone is an unremarkable old boulder surrounded by smaller stones and logs in a shallow sandy depression just outside the town; during sessions the Gemoot sits on the stones or logs, while a chosen Elder stands on the Methel-Stone and picks speakers who want to have a say. Speakers would then stand on the stone, give their speech, and return to their seat afterwards. Besides the Methel-Stone, Methel-Steading is also somewhat notable for containing the Hefiganhus, where unwanted old curiosities from around the Blossom-Downs are put on display. Anything from shiny rocks and gems that don't glow to Ancient wonders that no longer function may be found here; on occasion dwarves and Wizards are known to purchase "heffys" from the place for some purpose or another.