Dwarven Culture

Dwarf culture tends to be fairly consistent throughout the Isles. Male dwarves serve as soldiers and miners, while female dwarves often dominate the safer crafting and service professions. It's only with great reluctance that the dwarves countenance any female putting herself in danger, and this habit sometimes carries over to a disapproval of other species' females taking up perilous trades. Still, those female dwarves skilled and determined enough to earn a place among the soldiery are often more lethal than their male comrades.

Marriage among dwarves is monogamous and for life. A female dwarf always has license to entertain a male should she see fit, but any offspring are automatically of her clan, regardless of the father. Inheritance of land is to the eldest child and movable wealth is divided among all offspring. Male dwarves leave their clan when they marry, joining the clan of their wives.

The eldest living dwarf of a clan in a particular hold is that clan's head. Given the differing roles in dwarven society, most often this is a female, and likely as not the chief ancestor priestess for the clan. His or her word is final, and renegades face exile from the hold. Other holds belonging to that clan may or may not accept such renegades. For those who have no hold willing to take them, a short, brutal life of banditry and mercenary work is common. Crimes against property or person are punished harshly by the elders. Intentional insults are considered particularly grave among the dwarves, and mockery of a dwarf's beard, his female relation's craftwork, or his ancestors is considered justification for killing. Feuds often linger for centuries.

In those cases where a clan head is female, it is the custom that she appoint a war leader to handle all military and defensive matters. Few dwarven females are much versed in combat, and those that are rarely live long enough to become clan head. It's possible for a clan elder to override their war leader's judgment in military matters, but to do so tends to provoke a great deal of unease among other dwarves. In the case that a clan head proves senile or incompetent, a broad consensus of the clan allows him or her to be declared ritually dead, and a successor to take their place while the old clan head is cared for until death. In particularly grim circumstances, this broad consensus is obtained by the blade.

Most holds are small, consisting of a few hundred dwarves of the same clan. As it is forbidden to marry within a dwarf's home-hold clan, wives and husbands must be found from neighboring folk. These ties of kinship form the strongest bonds among the various holds, and ending a feud often requires several tense weddings to accomplish.

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