The tragic and heroic backstory for my red and black Dwarf Army
Brimstone Mountain was originally named Silver Mountain for the profitable silver mines within it. 1,200 years ago, there were three mines owned and operated by three brothers, who each owned one, but who gloried in their combined success. Each mine had an attendant village. The villages reached a combined population of about 800 permanent dwarf residents and could support another 300 or more seasonal miners. The brothers and their heirs operated these mines for about 500 years before the dream came to an abrupt halt.
It was the 113th morning of work season about 700 years ago, when a large meteor came out of the sky and struck Silver Mountain with a tremendous, explosive impact. The mountain shook and the ground rumbled as far as 100 miles away from the blast. Rock melted and the earth cracked. The mountain immediately became ablaze as the forest ignited. Miners and villagers scrambled in panic and some sought the silver mines for refuge from the inferno. Two of the three mines had collapsed from the earthquakes leaving only one available for the dwarfs to hide in. Those who did not reach the mine quickly were lost.
While the mine was a haven from the fires, the living conditions inside were impossible. The air was thick with smoke, and only a few small ribbons of fresh water were available. Meager amounts of food and provisions were in stock. While the fire refugees expected to be in the cave for a while, they did not predict they would be trapped within it for four months. For four months, all that could be seen outside the mine was fire and ash. In the first few weeks, the occasional bird, bat or snake would seek shelter within the cave and get captured by the hungry dwarfs. But, the supply of food did not last long as the fires raged endlessly outside. Starvation, disease and despair set in. The dwarfs endured more than anyone’s worst nightmare. Out of nearly 150 original survivors, only half emerged from the mine when early winter snows finally put the mountain of fire to sleep. The survivors never talked much about the suffering endured within the mine. The unmentionable tragedies are now only rumor and legend.
The following summer, one surviving heir returned to the mine to reopen it. Only a few hardy miners would muster the courage to return to work. After several years of difficulty, the mine began to make progress and a small village was reestablished. But, with the mine’s revival in its infancy, the mine was vulnerable to the greedy sort. Frequent attacks from orcs and ratmen began to plague the mine and village for 50 years after the mine was reopened. Then finally, a large host of ratmen besieged and captured the mine. Many dwarfs were slain and the rest were enslaved by the ratmen. The dwarfs lived under the poison of ratmen taskmasters for 100 years within the mine. Eventually, they secretly coordinated with an outside clan of dwarfs that were bold enough to assault the ratmen from without while the slaves revolted from within. After much bloodshed, an heir from the original bloodline of the three brothers took possession of the mine once again. Despite occasional attacks from greedy hordes, the mine has been under possession of the heirs until this day. In the meantime, they have even been able to reopen one of the old collapsed mines from the meteor strike. The third mine was completely obliterated by direct impact from the meteor.
Dwarfs have thrived in the area ever since. The forest has regrown. The area boasts five villages and two silver mines. The mines have also produced ample gold, diamonds and other precious gems. Villages are complete with blacksmiths, silversmiths, breweries, inns, armories and mercantiles. While generally a wealthy and merry clan, the Brimstones are especially proud of their legendary toughness and fortitude. Few enemies dare approach their realm. The occasional monster, or band of orcs, ratmen, ogres or demons are quickly repulsed or annihilated by their vigilant sentries. Despite their relative peace, they have always improved on their battle skills, and machines of war. Knowing the value of their mountain, it is certain that evil minds are constantly plotting the Brimstone’s destruction, if a bold enough army can ever be assembled.
Since their release from slavery, only one large battle has occurred under the shadow of the broken mountain. The mountain was successfully defended from an army of 4,000 orcs about 200 years ago. It was a decisive victory for the dwarfs who were outnumbered 4 to 1. Less than 300 dwarfs were slain. It is custom to bury brave, worthy Brimstone Dwarfs in catacombs dug within abandoned mine tunnels in the old silver mine. The rare malefactor is typically buried beyond the shadow of the mountain.
It was during the orc war that many dwarfs adopted the custom of carrying fragments of the ancient meteor that defines their clan’s identity. Fashioned into amulets, or embedded into armor, or even a shard concealed in a pocket seemed to bring the dwarfs a fortunate tide of luck in battle. Legend speaks of these fragments channeling healing powers, unearthly marksmanship, or remarkable axe wielding reflexes. One extreme tale speaks of a dwarf that could slay up to four orcs in a single blow while wearing his amulet. Another tells about a dwarf who leaped across a high mountain precipice two cannon lengths wide. It has become common for children to roam the woods and hills to collect meteor bits and sell them in the village to visitors. It is honorable for local warriors to find their own special fragments. It is especially prized to find fragments that became molten from the impact or partially mixed with granite from the mountain itself. The most prized specimen is a spherical ball of molten meteor rock split in half with a central core of silver. It belongs to the heirs of the Brimstone silver mines and has brought good fortune and luck in battle. It is simply named the Silver Brimstone. Many oaths and curses have been uttered under the name of the Silver Brimstone. Dwarf dignitaries from other realms have traveled far to see it.
So the legend of the Brimstone Mountain Clan lives on. Their colors are red and black in remembrance of the fire and ash that ruled their realm for four months. Their heraldry depicts the broken mountain peak and sometimes includes the meteor about to strike it. Their realm is relatively open to other dwarfs, but they typically don’t join alliances and prefer to remain independent of other clans in order to protect their precious mines from greedy deals. The only exception is the clan that helped them break their slavery from the ratmen. It is tradition to hold an annual festival in conjunction with their delivering clan, commemorating the day when rat was put under the foot of dwarfs. This is a week-long festival where marriages are usually performed and young warriors take their solemn oaths of service.