The Zirghurim Dwarves, “of the
Bright Heights Clan”, are also known as the Clan of Unghur, after that famous
dwarven Archmage. Residing in the
Zirkumire Mountains of
Ximax, they are mainly renowned for having
been the primary builders of the magical
city of Ximax, and for their
famously-spectacular "lava cities", epitomized by the great volcanic cavern of
Hlahujit. They are also one of the most accepting, open, and eclectic of the
dwarven clans: friends of the
Volkek-Oshra orcs, worshippers of the
Twelve, and appreciative of Injèrá’s
blessings as few Thergerim would be.
Appearance. The Zirghurim are a ruddy race who do not have the pale skin of their deeper brethren. The ripe-peach complexion is strongly flushed on the typical full cheeks and large nose. This rich flushing is also evident on the palms of the hands and, less noticeably but equally vivid, on the heels of the feet. Despite the ‘overheated’ appearance this often gives them, the Clan of Unghur is far more heat and light-tolerant than the average dwarf. In fact, they are, as noted below, rather fond of indirect sunlight and will even refer cheerfully to ‘fresh air’ without sarcasm…
Their eyes are of various striking light colours: leaf-green is common, bright blue also, and a mithril-grey. Golden is more rare, as is an odd yrom-blossom hue, a grey with a hint of purple in it. Brown, black, and other dark colours are almost never seen among the Zirghurim; however, a rich 'burnt-sugar' colour has been noted, as has an unusual reddish-tan 'cinnabark' hue.
Hair is often light or bright as well, and quite straight but with a lot of natural body. Both head and beard hair may be bleached or dyed if they do not match each other, or simply for cosmetic reasons. Males braid, tie back sections, use stiffening clays and creams, and even trim individual locks to create very idiosyncratic, almost sculptural effects in beard and head hair. She-dwarves will do the same, and take it one step further by rolling and fastening their locks to dainty metal frames resembling coronets, which are totally covered and hidden from view when the hairdressing is complete. Remarkable effects can be achieved with a combination of hair stiffeners, near-invisible fasteners, pins and ties, and these supportive frames. We quote from a contemporary description of a Ximaxian “Four Races Ball”:
“Though the elven maidens could not but bear away the crowns of beauty, still the beautiful coiffures of the dwarf lasses did not fail to attract their share of attention. Not only the shining colours, bright as the sparks of Thergerim forges or glossy as molten metal, but also the magical shapes and designs into which their hair was formed… While our human ladies had to content themselves with albeit-complex braids and weaves and buns that primarily rested upon their heads in two dimensions, their dwarven counterparts boasted leaping curls, towering frameworks, springing fantasies of hair that seemed impossibly to defy the pressure of Wind, or indeed of any weight of itself… some were fountains studded with miniature gemstones... some rivers of golden locks wrapped with aurium wires... one silvery birdcage shaped seemingly only of sparkling tresses held a tiny live songbird! One could only stare in delight at the vying motifs, as architecturally marvellous as any work in stone which the male Zirghurim could have constructed...”
A side note on feminine
beards: Zirghurim females, like other liberal tribes who have a lot of contact
with extra-dwarven races, depilate their
facial hair, and in fact were among the first historically to do so, according
to their records. However, a few independent-minded Yehurrarons (unwed females,
dwarfmaidens) have recently begun a protest against depilation, arguing that
their beard hair is both ‘natural’ and a long-standing tradition of the
Thergerim, and that it is their privilege
to decide whether or not they wish to groom without being influenced by
‘abovegrounder’ attitudes and human
Dwarf males have an inverted triangular build. The typical wide shoulders and heavy arms of the dwarven race are set above a barrel chest. The waist narrows to sturdy but not widely-spaced hips, with only a hint of the ‘traditional’ dwarven belly. They have solid muscular thighs, shorter than the thick calves and broad, splayed feet. Beard and headhair should blend one into the other, and colours must match as closely as to make the blend nigh invisible. The hairs are also sculpted, pomaded, and cut in such a way as to create a homogenous, bulky mass over the male dwarf’s head – the more elaborate and massy the better!
Dwarven women are built along the same general lines, save that the body is far more curvaceous, and the overall shape resembles that of a gnomish minuteglass. The hips are generous, thighs are heavy but the calves much slimmer, and the feet positively delicate in comparison to those of the males. Similarly, their shoulders are broad but not as muscular, and their forearms and wrists, while still competing with most human males for strength, seem quite slim in proportion. Head hair is grown and worn as long as possible while the female is wed (it must be worn in a simple pulled-back style before marriage, and she cuts it almost to her scalp if her husband predeceases her.)
Oremark/Forgemarks. Though dwarves do not have coats of arms as the human races do, they are equally proud of the quality and unique craftsmanship which their oremarks represent. Usually these simple symbols are stamped, carved, embossed, or stencilled on various products that emerge from the Thergerim caves, such as weaponry, forged articles, oresacks, and so on. However, the Zirghurim uniquely among Sarvonian dwarves produce very little in this line, preferring to concentrate their skills on spellwork, communication techniques, alchemical research, and architectural design.
Appropriately enough, since many common folk associate the bat with sorcery, the striking 'oremark' of the Zirghurim is an open-winged black morjual (common cavern dwarves) against a inverted fire-orange triangle with splayed concave sides. This has been adapted in stamp, brand, and seal format to mark various wares coming from the craftdwarves and mages of the Ximaxian peninsula.
Territory. The Zirkumire Mountains cover the peninsula of Cha'dómm in Xaramon, with the Magic Sickle Range along the south and east side, the Wanderer Mountains along the north side, the Westrons along the west side and the Anghorth Alsae Mountains extending northward along the Cyon Sola Bay.
"Zirkumire Mountains" in the dwarven tongue are translated as “Y’zekormor” (Bright Heights of Sky) - from "Yse (sky) Ze (of) Ko (opposing, not) Mor (mine, darkness)". The original name, however, was “K’zir’ki’mir” - taken from a now-dead language, and literally meant “one should go around” – also apparently a reference to their imposing loftiness and sharp peaks!
The most spectacular peak of the Zirkumires, in the Magic Sickle Range to the south, is the “Face of Khaelvan”, which the Zekormorim call “BarolRotrum” ("Father Rock"/"Lord Mountain"). However, equally famous though not as outwardly imposing is the volcanic Hlahujit ("Flame-wombed") in the northern range of the Wanderers, which holds the dramatic "Hosting Cavern" of the Zirghurim (see below).
People. The Clan of Unghur is much more open and friendly to strangers than the majority of dwarves, without the mistrust and rigid secrecy of many clans (although in all fairness the longlived and lawabiding Thergerim have had reason to keep themselves apart from the toils and upheavals of human history and culture...) The locations and entrances of their caverns, rather than being jealously guarded as a racial secret, are known – actually, promoted! Indeed, their openness towards sentient beings of other cultures, races, and beliefs might well be emulated by all such sentients who desire to attain enlightenment and harmony among their own kind and elsewhere... but we digress. They are likewise religiously diverse and tolerant – perhaps the only such dwarven clan in all of Caelereth. See Holidays and Religious Observances, below.
Again we must use comparisons to make it clear how far the Zirghurim differ from the average Thergerim as we have come to know them on Sarvonia. They are not only less exophobic, and less claustrophiliac than the average dwarf - most actually enjoy the blue of the sky, and find Injèrá’s heat "pleasant". They claim that as they have the favour of the Firelord in the molten rock beneath, they have it in the fires of that above (the Zirghurim believe that Injèrá, rather than being the flat round mirror or polished shield that other dwarves say Trum-Barol forged and set in the sky, is actually a sphere of molten rock, similar to their lava bubbles. They do not explain how such a sphere could remain aloft, or rather, their explanations are incomprehensible and seem to have more to do with gnomish fantasy than with either fact or belief...
This dwarven clan is renowned for producing stunningly effective and creative architects, able to design for both their own race’s preferences and for humans. They have worked with gnomes, halflings, orcs and elves on specific projects without major dissidence. Their designs can be found in major cities from one end of the Santharian kingdom to another, and some even without the kingdom. See Great Achievements, below.
The dwarves of the peninsula have evolved a particularly close relationship with both the city of Ximax and the local clan of orcs known as the Volkek-Oshra. Zirghurim and Volkek-Oshra worked closely together on the building of the city itself, from design to actual construction. The great towers and walls were reared by joint dwarven and orcen labour under the supervision of dwarf architects and orc designers, while the catacombs beneath the city were hewn out by dwarven picks to orcen specifications. Volkek- and Zirghurmages in combination wove some of the most powerful spells into the wards of protection and the lifting incantations that were required during construction, and to this day the relations continue cordially in both trade and social interaction. Wind spells were contributed by elven mages, and human spellmasters of Water also gave of their energies. In fact, every race which was under treaty at the time was contacted to assist in this great project of binding and guarding the Orb.
Housing. Their caverns are far more shallowly-set than most, many with airshafts and lightwells, if not actual ‘windows’ to the surface. Humans find them some of the most tolerable dwarven environments, with expressions like ‘homely’, ‘comfortable’, ‘secure’ occurring often in their descriptions. As is typical in dwarven craftsmanship, most furniture is built-in, or rather carved-out, so that bedledges, benches, and ‘Yr-tables’ are formed from the living rock. However, the sheltered volcanic warmth of the Zirghurim caverns does not foster the lush moss growth that other dwarven clans enjoy, so they must substitute other products such as combed wool, taenish feathers, and even humble straw to form their necessary pallets and cushions which sit atop the stone. Again, this results in a more familiar environment for humans and other races, despite the exoticism of living below ground and the ever-present danger of cracking one’s forehead. (Note: most of the ‘public’ areas have been expanded with a view to human comfort, but if one is invited into the sub-caves or home cavelets, one should be wary of the ceilings and lintels!)
The six most famous caverns are BarolRotrum, Hlahujit, TheuAeph, Hoa Rusun, Rizkul Hund, and Kaeryetenyim. Should you be fortunate enough to travel to the Ximaxian peninsula, and have the leisure and moneys to expend upon sightseeing, a visit to one or more will surely repay your expenditure. And should you have the even better fortune to have made a dwarven friend and received a personal invitation, the full glories of these spectacular mountains and their attendant underground cities will be yours for the viewing – a time to treasure!
BarolRotrum ("Face of Khaelvan")
The largest peak of the Xirkumire range, and always snowtopped. Formed by volcanic activity but long since declared extinct, the vast bubble in its center has been built up, excavated out, and generally turned into one of the most convoluted labyrinths one could imagine. Primarily a mages’ hall, with plenty of cavelets and storage tunnels for their ‘supporting staff’ and their families. There are spacious workrooms, physically and magically shielded – there are individual and communal dining quarters – there are cosy bedcavelets with their lavishly-lined niches cut directly into the stone walls – there are huge public mootplaces and small secret meeting-caves – and of course, hearths and fireplaces and (mostly decorative) forges everywhere.
This is the site of the spectacular Meeting Hall which is ringed by a lake of lava. Though the clan residence cavelets are well-removed from any volcanic danger, there is always a chance that the frequently-grumbling Hlahujit may lose her temper and erupt – in which case the architectural genius of three generations of dwarves would be destroyed in her lava – but as she has been snoring for centuries without waking, the Zirghurim are rather complacent about it.
Here one walks through zig-zagging black obsidian tunnels, steadily downwards till calves complain and thighs rebel. Slowly one feels the increasing heat, the murmur of sound. And then, incredibly emerging into the great belly of the volcano herself... a sea of lava filling the vast circumference. Flanges of black rock circle the fiery lake, their ribs picked out by the glow which it emanates, going upwards into unimaginable height and vanishing into darkness, presumably at the filled-in apex of the volcano. Each flange is pierced through at the height of the pathway which runs round the outer edge, about fifty peds above the bubbling, molten rock.
Seven bridges are equally spaced around the lava sea; black against the incandescent oranges and yellows of the livid stuff, they arch steeply upward, spring towards a central plateau and merge. One’s face feels drying, cracking, in the searing heat that rises from beneath as one climbs up towards the plateau. Stepping onto the rock gives, magically, some surcease from the constant dull seething of noise, and from the sullen fires.
The flat top of the upthrust of rock has been hollowed slightly, so that the center is lower than the outside ring. Two ledges spiral down into that center, about two fores in height apart – thus forming a continuous line of bench-style seating, and a parallel footspace which serves as a path. The ledges halt abruptly before the very middle is reached, leaving a clear space about five peds square – enough for a single dwarf to stand and dominate, for a prisoner and two guards to occupy, for a small circle of justicekeepers to pace, for a Gornegron to consult in relative room with his Denirim. The length of the bench for the first two spirals from the centre, obviously the smallest in diameter, are carved with individual seats, recessed to hold massive black leather cushions. Here are the spots for the Trutharoon, the council that will assist and guide the Gornegron in his decisions.
Around the very outside of the plateau, equidistant from the base of each bridge, seven spikes of rock arch almost as many peds into the air above our heads. They flare out slightly at the top, and are scorched and streaked with black-stained runnels. At their apexes a constant fire leaps and hisses – a molten resentment of flame. The Hlahujim say that the original builders 'tapped' a bubble of gasses which they then allowed to emerge through pipes and channels running to the very top of the rock spikes, and ignited so that the seven fires burn perpetually.
The entire Meeting Hall is a spectacular merge of natural power and dwarven-made architecture; from one of the many observation slots carved into the dome’s sides, it resembles a black iron crown tipped with garnets which itself rises on a black pedestal from a sea of shimmering orange silk.
TheuAeph ("Our Flint")
Near Horth, this Thergerim cave system is old and shallow. Its main entrance is a vast, natural shelf of flinty rock which juts from the gentler slopes of the Anghorth Alsae Mountains, overlooking the ridged expanse of fields and vineyards below. Here the variety of grape known as the Tali Night Vine flourishes in the volcanic soil, described as “adult, defined... earthen tone, richly spiced”. TheuAeph holds its own vineyards and dwarven vintners, though the amount of alcohol they produce is small and is accurately described as ‘bitters’. A unique drink brewed with Tali grapes, herbal infusions, root extracts, and a secret ingredient which many suspect is extracted from fungi, the Aephian Bitters sell steadily to inns and taverns across Santharia. One bottle lasts for a goodly time, as it is considered a flavouring rather than a potable.
Hoa Rusun ("The
The name might suggest that Hoa Rusun controls coal deposits, but the translation of ‘Hoa’ is actually closer to ‘ember’. Rather, this small but tidy enclave holds sway over an extensive complex of tunnels dug through the slag and vitrified rock of past volcanic eruptions. The HoaRusim have worked with the natural curves, flows, and bubbles of rock to create some fantastically-shaped spaces with a very exotic feel. Mage-shaping has been used in conjunction with skilled masonry and dwarven stone-craft, so some of the tunnels and subcaverns which appear physically impossible probably are, at least to humans.
Hoa Rusun is noted for its seafood dishes and daring fisherdwarves (Thergerim who actually venture near, if not directly out upon, the water!) The Hoa Rusan folk have developed a system of interlocking wharves and jetties which extend outwards from their coves at the tip of the Bay of the Sky, all supported upon deep-sunk pilings and bulwarks. Strung between the far-flung ends of these piers are great nets, lines with hooks, hatchling pens, or tryster-seeding flats, depending upon the fisherdwarf’s preference. The nets can be dragged from far out at sea back along the tracks set into the parallel wharves, and directly up over wide, grid-bottomed troughs into which the haul for the day can be tumbled, glinting and flapping. Small fish slide through the grid along with the seawater and fall back into the bay, while the rest of the catch can be sorted safely from the stepped edge of the trough. Note that the dwarves do not actually venture out upon the water, as, like all Thergerim, they become queasy if too far from the solace of solid ground beneath and above them! However, there is also a small fleet of fishing boats crewed by ‘mercsailors’, hired seamen from other races, who go out daily for kraken and deepsea fish to serve Ximaxian appetites.
Rizkul Hund ("Fire’s
An open caldera pitted with workshops, ‘storerooms’ and other individual stone buildings which rise tipsily from the floor of the shallow crater. One of the most accessible dwarven ‘caverns’ on Caelereth, and a major attraction for humans and other travelers, who are welcome to visit, watch, and even stay for a bed and meal – at a slight cost, of course. The private Rizkulim dwelling cavelets are located off shafts sunk into the side of the caldera, their enjoyment of the surface notwithstanding: even this broad-minded clan cannot overcome their need for the security of stone completely around them when they take their bread or lie down to sleep. Small inns and taverns catering to humans are set here and there on the walled plain, like all the other buildings hardly distinguishable from the rubble piles and stepped ancient lava flows. Have we failed to mention that a dwarven guide, usually an adolescent or ‘shorr’, must be assigned to every non-Thergerim visitor, and that the fee for their services must not be dispensed with lest one find oneself hopelessly lost in the rocky maze?
Poised on the slopes of Mount Watcher (the Ximaxian humans borrowed the translation of the ThergerimTaal name), this beautiful and unique cavern overlooks the Bay of the Sky. It is as if the entire peak of the mountain has been hollowed out and then pierced through with windows, tunnels, lookouts, balconies, and other features – an impossible feat of engineering and a stunning landmark. The workspaces are all found here at the apex of the mountain, airy and well-lit, while the sleepingcaves are set safely deep below, accessed by liftshafts with Brownie-designed liftboxes. By day from inside the peak, the mountain top seems to float with a few piers and pillars of living rock still supporting it above lines of udezeran-blue sky and turquoise water – all is light and air and cloudscapes drifting by. By night, observing the Watcher from afar, one sees an entire mountain top radiant as a lighthouse, bright with dwarven fires, magical illuminations, and individual lanterns and glowglobes.
As you might imagine, in the warm underground environs of many of the Zirghurim
caverns clothing is more decorative than necessary for most of the year’s
seasons. In the colder months coats and cloaks must be donned to work
aboveground (at Rizkul Hund and some places in Kaeryetenyim and TheuAeph) but
at Hoa Rusun and Hlahujit the average temperatures range from as warm as a
sunlit day to the heat of a charcoal-burner’s kiln clearing. Obviously, the
thick leathers and traditional rockwools of the other clans are not practical
here, despite a skin tolerance level of a much wider range than
Smiths and forgewrights work in a light loincloth ( the traditional dwarven under-wear ‘Nupalzi’ - which wraps the buttocks as well as the genitals and loins), stout sandals, and an impervious leather apron over their chest and thighs to guard against burns. Childtenders and cooks wear flimsy (by dwarven standards) wraps of light linen or mossweave, easily washed or even discarded when severely stained by the travails of their occupation. For most others, a simple sleeveless tunic – scarcely more than a long rectangle with an oval neck-hole cut in it, left open along the sides and belted for comfort – over the Nupalzi is sufficient.
Nursing mothers or otherwise amply-breasted females usually add an ‘Ardoon’ or chest-wrap beneath the tunic. And it is only here that we can verify the existence of the dwarven undergarment known as a ‘Rusdoon’ or bellywrap! Obviously those great with child would seem to benefit from the support, but we may also see a stout dwarf, his magnificent beard nearly concealing his equally impressive belly, with the tell-tale lines of a Rusdoon beneath his tunic; his innate ‘Olnaas’ (dignity) and ‘EchHaed’ (honour) debarring even the insensitive human or light-hearted halfling from mirth at his expense.
Earth Toccon, made from the useful silkstone (link to entry) is popular despite its expense. Its lightweight, sturdy fibers make it ideal for hard usage in a warm climate, and the cost is no factor for those who labour at making it, nor for the Earth mage who wishes to robe himself in garments matching his Ximaxian peers of the other elements.
However simple the dress, though, it is invariably embroidered with striking geometric designs and the miniature patchwork technique unique to the Zirghurim. Developed in the spacious halls and caverns of Kaeryetenyim and known as ‘Watchwork’ throughout the kingdom, this style of decoration consists of vividly dyed scraps of cloth which have been folded into sharp squares, triangles, or diamants, then sewn together with points loose and overlapping. The result is both colourful and dramatic, resembling a type of exotic scaling. When used as trim or border on even a plain-styled tunic, it brings sparkle and texture; when done in larger panels on the breast and back of more elaborate garments, it is spectacular. Watchwork may be found everywhere in Ximax, from the hems of a dwarfbabe’s swaddling blanket, to the full sweep of an archmage’s robe, and it is one of the better-known exports (see below) of the Zirghurim.
Diet. The dwarves of the Cha’domm peninsula enjoy a far more varied and exotic diet than their brothers on the rest of the continent, due both to their warmer environment and to their eclectic trade relationships.
Of course the favourite mushrooms, tubers (potatoes, carroots, turnips and blood-fists), rootweep and mezpuu are often on the table, along with the well-charred roasts and mixed grills that are popular with the dwarves. Numbles and organ meats are used (horse-n-kidney pie, tuber-stuffed heart, 'Boudeen' or gut sausages, etc.) in thrifty fashion. As Ximax is a peninsula, all kinds of seafood and fish are available, much from the Bay of the Sky coast. For the human visitor we can recommend the ‘Garlick Prawns with Wild Riz’, the ‘Trysters in Moorgul’, or the ‘Grilled Baby Kraken’ which Hoa Rusun often sets on its table!
Condiments are many but not particularly subtle, and are usually laid on with a heavy hand. Fortunately for the visitors of other races, they are almost always served as sides so that the diner may season to taste. Ummadon chutney, Moorgul oya-pea distillate, rocksalt and Kraggi sauce are the main flavours available. Black peppercorns, herb-leaf powders, and spiced applesauce are also popular. The pickled vegetable medley, Ak-ak, in all its varieties (including HlabliAk made with spicy Kraggi sap and red Thugrum) is a side-dish which features often.
The moss-based bread Borwul is rarely eaten as its main ingredient, dried moss-flour, must be imported, so it is seen on the table mostly at festivals or for other sentimental occasions. Golden rain is traded for instead; the dwarven Foodtenders have taken to its lighter consistency and the Zirghurim breadbaskets contain a great many creative options.
This clan is probably the only one in Sarvonia which uses any dairy products. “Milch and cheese are not a natural part of (the dwarven) diet, as they keep no large domestic animals. As a result, most dwarves dislike the smell of any dairy product, describing it as 'sour' and 'decayed'...” (from Dwarven Food, Manners and Tableware – a Compendium Folio by Judith of Bardavos). However, by long association with humans and orcs the clan has come to incorporate milch and cream into their cooking and even tolerate some of the milder cheeses, such as Cottcheese with its thick white curds or Hava Cream (a spreadable fresh cheese with a gently nutty scent).
Dwarven ale from the Mithrals, local cider, mineral waters, and Horth-made Chéniar wine are the most common drinks. And despite their reputed love for alcoholic beverages, dwarves are surprisingly temperate, rarely affected by amounts of liquor that would have a human toper reeling or under the table. This may have something to do with their more massy bodies, as scholars have often observed that the heavier man holds his ale better than the lightweight – or it may simply be a function of their race which we do not understand. At any rate, if asked for his favourite beverage a dwarf of any clan will always claim his home cavern’s water, with its strong unique taste, to be the sweetest and most refreshing of any drink...
Weapons, Tools and Utensils. The utensils common to most humans are also used here: the two or three-tined fork, the belt knife and eating knife, the cooking ladles and pots and cauldrons, and so on. A dwarven kitchen, ranged in a circular pattern around its huge round hearth, is a fully-stocked marvel of brass, copper, tin, and other metallic surfaces, catching and sparking back the flames from every direction. (In fact, we must digress here to mention that most human nobles aspire to at least the first part of the ideal household as supposedly laid out by Gebl the Brownie so long ago: “A hobbit cook in a dwarven kitchen, a gnomish sutler, human groom/an elven chatelaine for your hallway, but give me a brownielass in the bedroom!”)
The classic orehammers, warhammers, picks and shovels which are so characteristic of most dwarven clans will not be in evidence here. In fact, there are few tools of the usual sort among the Zirghurim, except for the families at Rizkul Hund, the craftsmen of the clan. They tend to be artists, jewelers, architects and alchemists, so they have small and specialized tools of the trade.
The RizkulZirg claim to have invented the ‘square and triangle’ system of draftsmanship, a way to sketch architectural designs neatly and realistically, and there seems to be good evidence in their historical records that this is indeed the case. These tools are formed of slim plates of polished brass combined with rare hardwoods. The main one is shaped like the L rune - coincidentally also the ‘L’ shape which represents that sound in the Tharian tongue – and called ‘The Lrian’. It is laid along the edge of a squared-off drafting board and used to represent the horizontal. The coordinating tools are all various triangles, some right-angled and some in other preset shapes, jointly known as “Berdruwi” (“Three-drafters”). They can be used in combination from the horizontal line of the Lrian to create various lines of perspective and extrapolation, making quite realistic and sharp drawings.
As to weapons, the Zirghurim are not by nature one of the more warlike clans, and tend to rely upon magical means of defence when necessary. However, ‘a dwarf without a hammer is not a dwarf’, as they say, and they are very fond of hammer-like representations, whether as huge T-shaped pendant necklaces, tiny belt hammers used mostly for cracking nutshells, or staves topped with stylized hammer heads. It has been noted that technically all of these could be used for personal defence as well; the necklaces would make rather dangerous flails, for example...
Occupations. The Zirghurim, uniquely among Sarvonian dwarves, prefer to concentrate their skills on spellwork, communication techniques, alchemical research, and architectural design, rather than mining and forgework. They do keep to the traditional gender-based division of labour, though there is no distinction between 'higher status' and 'lower status' work - tending dwarven children is as prestigious as performing ambassadorial service, and skilled Foodtenders are honoured as highly as any inventor or mage.
Their seamstresses are known for their Watchwork, and there are a great deal of tinkerers among them who come up with either technical or magical improvements for common household needs (the spell to keep milk fresh longer was a Zirghurim design, for example). They breed more than their fair share of Earth Mages, not surprisingly, and of course their architects are always in demand.
Government. As in all dwarven clans, the Zirghurim are led by a Gornegron clan chieftain and his or her council, the Trutharoon. Among the Zirghurim the Trutharoon is made up of what we would call Guild Leaders – masters of their trade or craft, chosen by their peers in the craft. The Trutharoon meets regularly and deliberates amongst themselves to make decisions for the good of the clan. Individuals with concerns, ideas, or disputes may arrange with the Gorkavon (second-in-command) to come before the Trutharoon’s moot and present their case. See the Mitharim clan entry for further details on how dwarves govern themselves.
Production/Trade. The various caverns have their own specialties; in general they are less self-sufficient than clans elsewhere on the continent and have far more trade relationships.
Embroidery and Watchwork designs (intricate geometric patches, sewn decoratively) are exported. Fish are exported. Spells, enchantments, magical items, and mages are a main product of Ximax, and the Zirghurim control almost forty percent of such exports. They are also competent alchemists, if not on the scale or level of the gnomish experts, and produce a variety of pigments, bright dyes, and glues. For example, their ‘Master Flint’s Carpentry Glue’ is sold exclusively out of Horth across the Santharian kingdom, and as a number of shipwrights have discovered the stuff recently we may expect their trade environs to expand...
Their Singspeakers have apparently made great strides in batspeak and have improved Morjual memory through breeding, but the resulting beasts are only traded internally (that is, within the dwarven clans) and are not available to other races. However, Zirghurmages are working with the batmasters and with Brownie engineers to develop a type of long-distance communication process not based on animals but on vibrating membranes. As this process could have great significance to Compendium researchers and scholars, we await further developments with interest.
Silk Stone is harvested from the Zirkumire Mountains and the cloth made from it is highly popular with Ximaxian Earth mages, both as garment fabric and a reagent for spells.
The clan trades with Horth for the delicate white Chéniar wine, which they drink as liberally as water, washing down the various spicy delicacies that grace the Zirghurim tables.
Foodstuffs such as wheat, mutton, riz, and apples are imported to the peninsula as a whole. There are good relations with the local Volrek-Oshra orcs and with the major coastal cities. Kor Donion, Milkengrad, and Thylsan all have well-developed trade links, and ships out of Voldar may be seen in the Cyon Sola Bay ports frequently. Wood is not as common in this volcanic area, so lumber from more forested regions is an import, as is well-crafted furniture.
Natural Resources. The peninsula is rich in a variety of flora, though the periodic volcanic activity has not encouraged long-growth forests. There are many stands of young pine and spruce, but far more common are the softwood trees such as the malus, urban tree, and wolf willow. Low, spreading juniper lends its spicy scent to many hillsides. Eur'oak has been transplanted but so far is uncommon. Heavy scrub and many bushes cover the mountain flanks, along with alpine grasses, prairie grasses, various wildflowers, some mosses and lichens. The miyuestiac bush, the sulcho mushroom, wild grape, wild hops, and dochnut all do well here. Small plants like the fragrans, the candlebush and rosemint, or the arv and hanging horn can be found throughout the peninsula.
The fauna is somewhat more exotic: as the entry on Ximax claims, there are “rumors of dark beasts of magic roaming freely and areas of wild corrupted magic throughout them”. We can report spottings of the lovely milari cat and the grotesque giant spider, at the very least...
More ordinary beasts such as the bushy-tailed sarni, the striped mimsy, and the silvery fox known as the raoshir inhabit the forested ravines, while the feline herin and wild boar prefer the higher flanks of the hills. The corbie crow and its larger brother, the hravn, nest in the young pines. Rubits and other lizards may be found along the coast where volcanic activity warms the climate. Rodents are frequent, both the common rats and vilerats, and hedgemice. Some wild mustangs, probably Centoraurian culls or escapees, roam the foothills, enjoying the rich prairie grasses. And finally, there are plenty of fish and sea creatures along the coasts and in the Bay of the Sea.
In terms of mineral resources, besides silkstone deposits, there are some silver veins and some copper. Diamonds may be found in old volcanic vents, but on the whole the area is not one of Sarvonia's richer mining regions - perhaps the reason the Zirghurim are so little interested in the typical dwarven occupation!
Overall, the province's main resources are wizardleaf, golden rain grain, and grapes, all of which flourish in the climate and on the tufa soil.
Holidays, Festivals and Observances. Whether because of their long familiarity with magic-users of all stripes, their long feud with the demon-worshipping True Vision cult, their tolerance for the surface and ‘above-ground culture’, or simply their liberal, open-minded nature, the Zirghurim are one of the very few dwarven clans known to even tolerate the concept of multiple deities – or indeed any deity beyond their Forgelord, Trum-Barol (similar to our Urtengor) A good third of the Zirghurim follow the way of the Twelve, choosing a favourite or appealing aspect in a god or goddess, and worshipping him or her with a shrine, prayers, and other acts of devotion just as the humans of Santharia do.
A few follow the Brownie belief in nature spirits, a very few in the One (a Brownie minority belief), while perhaps one in a hundred holds to the ‘Love of Avá’ – an elven belief about which humans have little information. There are even those who have faith in the northern mother goddess Lier’tyan, and who celebrate her rites as best they are able. Though all - dwarves deep to the stone of their bones, as they say - still hold to their faith in Trum-Barol, or Urtengor as some choose to call him in untroubled ecumenicalism, one will find a great deal of diversity of faith among the Zirghurim, and of peaceful acceptance of that diversity.
The only difficulty this causes is in the multiplicity of celebratory days and observances which must all be incorporated into the dwarven work routine. Generally the looser structure of a Zirghurim day, which does not require time at the pitface and communal meal attendance, allows for this naturally, and as long as the work is done and the gods are pleased, the clan is content.
Some Specific Zirghurim Festive Days:
Zouum Ze Kertrumerons
("Feast of Towers")
Yearly commemoration of the completion of the famed towers of Old Ximax. Oversized ‘follies’ and ‘subtleties’ of Borwul bread are built as table centerpieces, then consumed with a marvellous variety of spreads, dips, sauces, and condiments. Roast piglets are usually served, and meldar-apple-butter in tubs is a necessary accompaniment... not to mention the barrels of ale!
Ind Kanupeh ("Seaspans
Mostly observed by Hoa Rusun but becoming more popular in other caverns - a monthly day on which nothing but sea products are consumed: fish, oysters and trysters, seaweed bread, prawns, kraken, etc. as a way of proclaiming dwarven ‘conquest’ of a feared element.
(Inden for short, "Day of Rest and Worship")
Actually a recent decision by the various Gornegrons and Trutharoons of the peninsula in an attempt to ‘standardize’ the many holy days observed by their ecumenical Thergerim. The devout but practical dwarves argue that as long as one’s particular god is paid regular and sincere attention, it doesn’t much matter to Him/Her upon which day it occurs. The first day of the human week, Restday/Prayday in the Cournanian calendar, was chosen both as a nod to inter-racial relations and a pragmatic way of synchronizing work projects. Of course Lithden, the last day of the dwarven week, remains a day free from regular labour, so that Zirghurim actually have two days in a row on which work is voluntary or home-based... and special feasts and celebrations are not included in this decree, probably yet another reason for its relative ease of acceptance! Surprisingly enough, productivity does not seem to have been affected...
Great Achievements. Important achievements of the Zirghurim can be summarized as follows:
Construction of Ximax
... which needs little detailing here. If you require more information, see the scrolls on Ximax history and on Dwarven Archmage Ungur Firehands (properly, Unghur Thuugolzerons, in the dwarven tongue), who was responsible for its overseeing.
The Inner City is often referred to as "Old Ximax", as the vast majority of the buildings here date to the first millennium of the School (also referred to as the Ximaxian Academy). This portion of the city is more ornate, ancient, and more laden with the dust of the ages. The architecture here, in sharp contrast to the Outer City, is mostly similar, lending itself to the monolithic, big, and fortresslike, as the original master architect of the city, Ungur Firehands, was more concerned with the defensibility of the fledgling Magical Academy than aesthetic pursuits.
We quote from the Archmage Xarl Bluestride: “The masterwork of the dwarven Archmage Ungur Firehands, the Staff of Earth was forged in the fires in the heart of BarolRotrum. It was made from pure mithril, shaped into a scintillating rod of power. Then Ungur, in all his power, turned the lava that had heated the staff's core into a multicoloured weave of stone cloth, and placed it over the Staff's heart. Thus, the Staff fits its wielders perfectly, rough and coarse on the outside, shining with amazing power within. The Staff controls the very earth around it, and also can twist physical strength to its owner's whims. It is considered one of the lesser staffs, but you would find few in the history of Ximax willing to challenge the Archmagi who have controlled the Brown Staff….”
Tower of the Guard
This tower is the only entry into the School. It also contains the Great Library of Ximax, repository of all the knowledge the magi have accumulated (and are willing to disclose). This tower is the only "classic" tower, with the battlements and structure made so famous by the dwarven Archmage Ungur Firehands.
 ‘Yr’, pronounced ‘year’, is a transliteration of YR in Thergerim runes, which forms the shape (in cross-section) of a typical dwarven table. In the same way, literate Tharians might speak of ‘a T-table’ or ‘an X-chair’ to describe a particular form. [Back]