The Dwarves of the Esterwall:
Founded by three brothers thousands of years ago, few outsiders have visited the heart of the Dwarven Kingdom. With the exception of the trading posts at Fort Esterwall and Falconspike and the capital of Vhardum, travel within — or well under — the Esterwall is prohibited to all but the most honored of outsiders and foreign dignitaries.
It is rumored by the few who have travelled within the kingdom and are willing to speak of it, that it is a place of breathtaking splendor. In caves so vast that griffons could soar without knowing they were underground, huge cities hewn from living rocks stretch beyond comprehension. Enormous jewels filled with unceasing light provide illumination in the endless dark, and the mines of the people delve into the very fires of the earth.
The Dwarven government is unique. Unlike most monarchies, which are based on a hereditary dynastic succession, the Kingdom of the Esterwall is governed by a monarchy that rotates among the clans in hundred year increments. Based in a compact nearly as ancient as the kingdom itself, the three clans share the monarchy in 100 year reigns. While the monarch is theoretically absolute, it is rumored that some sort of ruling council, the Urzonate, has considerable sway over the day-to-day administration, and individual clans and keeps retain basic autonomy.
Although this arrangement has been very stable and prosperous for the Dwarves, it is very hard on any kingdoms or principalities that border the Esterwall, including Valacia and the northern Elves of Vaedijhal because each dynasty maintains separate treaties and arrangements with foreign nation. This means that while Valacia maintains peace with the Anagarn and Larzal kings, they have been at war with the Zaka monarch for over a thousand years, meaning that every 200 years, the Dwarves march on Valacia in an endless cycle of war and peace.
The Dwarven Clans
Unless there is some reason for contact, little is known by most people about individual Dwarven clans, but they tend to follow pretty regular stereotypes.
The Anagarn Clan
The best known of the clans, the Anagarn clan is primary concerned with trade and commerce. As such, the tend the be the only dwarves that most people have ever met. They trade in mostly manufactured and crafted goods of such quality that they seem to be magical; however, they never sell the legendary gunpowder weapons and will pursue anyone who steals this technology.
Socially, Anagarn relationships are matters of exchange. Meetings are accompanied by gifts on both parties, and haggling is expected in both formal and informal negotiations.
When their clan holds power, mutual commerce and gain is had by both the Esterwall and Valacia.
The Larzal Clan
Reclusive and occasionally xenophobic, the Larzal clan forms the basis of the Dwarven artisan class. Masterful craftspeople, the goods of the Larzal rival Elvish magic in quality, but are not magical. In fact, there is little evidence of any Dwarven mages of note. The Larzal clan also constructs Dwarven firearms.
Socially, Larzal are awkward when separated from the group. They are quintessential tinkerers, not conversationalists. In fact, it is rumored that the Larzal have an almost group mind; however, this cannot be verified. It is nearly unheard of for an outsider to meet one of them.
When the Larzal control the monarchy, the Dwarves draw inward and focus on public works and crafts. Although formally at peace with neighboring nations, they are mostly just aloof.
The Larzal currently control the Monarchy
The Zaka Clan
Zaka Urzonites often boast that their children, male or female, are born with an axe in hand and a stein in the other. Proud and boastful, the Zaka have taken identity as both the sword and shield of Urzon. Mercenaries and enlisted alike, Zaka have a surprisingly large number of options available to them. Ultimately, however, Zaka are born to fight. Zaka dwellings are relatively primal by comparison with their peer groups, often decorated with ancestral items of remembrance or trophies from current and past glories.
Surface dwellers have moderate contact with Zaka Urzonites. Zaka are not immune to wanderlust, and often will use a trading expedition with Anagarn in order to leave the maze-like tunnels of Urzon behind. Usually intending to return on conclusion, some are so enraptured by the constant conflicts on the surface world that they remain. The legendary fighter Kharn Zaka left Urzon behind this way, choosing to inspire and lead an entire mercenary army upon seeing the fortune and fighting potential of the surface world.
Unfortunately, the century with the Zaka in control of Urzon government is usually a tumultuous one with the surface world. Most clashes with the worlds of men and elves are due to an overreaction on the part of the Zaka, which the other tribes often spend much of their governance to correct. Quick to anger as well as forgive, in a group Zaka are wildly unpredictable. Some joke that bringing a cask of the wrong ale is grounds for a melee under a Zakan government.
There are a number of minor clans who fill the other associated functions within Dwarven societies. They do not bear many of the idiosyncrasies of the major clans, but they are permanently isolated from the power structure in the Kingdom.