The Lord of the Rings: Shadow of the East
Thralin’s Folk are the small house of Dwarves that dwell in the mansion of Nurunkhizdín beneath the Hathur-na-bunderok (Kh. “Cloudy Head”) — a remnant of the great and once united tribe of Thélor’s Folk.
The Ironfists were not the first to delve a home beneath the mountain known as Cloudy Head. Many of their halls date back to the early Second Age, when the Stiffbeards dwelt in the area. The Stiffbeard artisans carved great wonders under the central Pinnon Rhûn and called their mansion Falek-dim (Kh. “Home of Moving Waters”) before they were evicted by an Orc tribe known as the Uruk Marzguram. After S.A. 522, these goblins fouled the beauty Falek-dim with their presence. It wasn’t until the Second Age that the old kingdom would be rediscovered by the folk of Thélor.
King Thélor IX was a possessor of one of the Dwarven Rings of Power (the Ring of the Ironfists), and in S.A. 2797 the Ring wormed its way into Thélor’s heart and made him greedy beyond reason. He uprooted his people from the Grey Mountains and moved them to what he anticipated would be a better home in the abandoned halls of Falek-dim. Though this did not prove immediately disastrous, seldom do the Rings of Power make their intentions so obvious and Thélor’s people have suffered great sorrow ever after.
Thélor IX and his people made war on the Uruk Marzguram to reclaim the mansion for the bearded folk. After long years of fighting, the Dwarves had managed to capture and hold two-thirds of the ancient kingdom of the Stiffbeards from the Orcs, and brought light back to halls long forgotten in the darkness. Still the highland Orcs were both numerous and tenacious, and the Dwarves were unable to force them entirely out of the mountains. Instead, they sealed the halls connecting Falek-dim with the Orcs’ lair and maintained a constant vigil over their warlike neighbors.
Turning their efforts inward, Thélor’s folk repaired the crumbling works of their predecessors and fashioned new marvels where there was ruin. They wrought wondrous works in the halls of Falek-dim, which they renamed Nurunkhizdín (Kh. “Misty Delving”), and the power and prosperity of the Dwarves of the Pinnon Rhûn was in full bloom at the dawn of the Third Age. Soon, the Dwarves opened new mines, tunneling deep into the heart of the highlands and bringing to light untold wonders: natural chambers of crystals and glittering underground lakes that stretched into still, quiet darkness. But as has often been the case, the desire of the Dwarves to reveal the secrets of the earth became their undoing.
In T.A. 58 the miners were stricken by a lethal disease that infected most of the mine shafts. In each case, the disease followed closely behind the discovery of deposits of an unknown ore that glowed of its own pale green light. The Dwarves named these stones the Bilak-khald (Kh. “Green Stones”), and closed their mines whenever they were encountered. The closing of the mines served as a catalyst to set off tensions that had been building among Thélor’s folk since the mid-Second Age. Envy and greed, magnified by Thélor’s Ring of Power, worked its way into the hearts of his kin, prodding them to resent the commands of the king, who was seen as overly-proud (even by Dwarven standards). And though closing the mines was the only real alternative for the Dwarves, many resented the command and spoke openly of rebellion. In T.A. 62, fighting erupted in Nurunkhizdín, and Thélor XIV was secretly murdered by his brother Thulin, who immediately laid claim to the throne and his brother’s ring. Thélor XIV’s daughter, Thris, however discovered the secret of her father’s death. Driven by her need for revenge, she arranged a secret meeting with Thulin where she pushed the him — and his precious ring — into a deep chasm. Her son, Threlin, was named successor to the throne amid clamor and turmoil. Fearing a civil war, he lead sympathetic followers out of Nurunkhizdín and established a new delving called Namagalûz far to the south. Meanwhile, many of Thulin’s kin remained behind under his son, Thralin. They tried in vain to recover Thulin’s body, but were never able to find it. Those who remained in Nurunkhizdín under Thralin, son of Thulin, became known thereafter as Thralin’s folk.
Nearly fourteen centuries passed in the highlands and the people of Nurunkhizdín slowly regained the strength and vitality of their diminished kingdom. War continued between the Dwarves and the resurgent goblins of the highlands, and the kingdom was divided so that the northern third of the halls remained in the hands of the Orcs. Then, in T.A. 1423, under King Thralin IV, the blight associated with the Bilak-khald was again unleashed upon the kingdom when the miners of the colony disregarded the warning of their ancestors and reopened the deep mines under Hathur-na-bunderok. Nearly two thirds of the population of the Dwarven city lost their lives to the foul blight, significantly changing the lives of the survivors.
Thralin’s folk are in decline. The halls of Nurunkhizdín echo with lone footsteps and the feasting halls are quiet, their hearths ashen. King Thralin V looks to the outside for aid and has sent ambassadors to Thulin’s folk in Namagalûz, but the way is dangerous and so far none have returned. Meanwhile, what remains of his kingdom rots from within. Many in Nurunkhizdín believe that when his sons — the Twin Princes — come into their succession it will mean the end. Both sons are proud and neither will accept a subservient position. When King Thralin V dies, there will be a schism or there will be war.
Little mentioned is the king’s other son, for the Queen was most blessed and had triplets (virtually unheard of among Dwarves). Sometimes called “the afterbirth,” few consider him to be a contender for the throne. In fact, few consider him at all.
Society and Culture
Life among Thralin’s folk has taken a radical departure from Dwarven norms since the sickness of T.A. 1423 which claimed such a large portion of their population. Though Nurunkhizdín’s inhabitants remain Mahal’s children at heart, they have achieved a degree of independence from the materialistic obsessions of their Dwarven brethren. The Dwarves of the Pinnon Rhûn are a pensive lot as their kind go, taking moments in their day to simply meditate, celebrate Mahal (Aulë) their maker, and admire the aethsetic beauty of their home. This attitude is reflected in the architecture of their home, for the artisans of Nurunkhizdín are slower to pick up the chisel and hammer, preferring to study a work in great detail and plan out everything before beginning a job. They also have a heightened appreciation for the natural beauty of the caves of Falek-dim, and have made a greater effort to preserve that natural beauty in their works rather than imposing order upon them.
The political organization of Thralin’s Folk mirrors the layout of the mansion itself. The King, of course, wields the most power, and with his advisors is ultimately responsible for the welfare of his subjects. Three Herd-Lords under him are given stewardships for the three major population centers: the “Great Hall,” and the two “towns” which lie below the portions of the mountains still held by the Dwarves.
Servants of the Herd-Lords are called Gate-Lords and are held as experts on their own special facet of life in the Kingdom. There are military, religious, social, and economic Gate-Lord’s in each center who serve as a cabinet to the Herd-Lords. These leaders deal directly with the artisans, merchants and warriors of the kingdom, representing their interests to the Herd-Lord, and in turn, the King.
Thralin’s Folk are widely peceived among Dwarves as being more vocal and active in their religious practice. The people hold of particular importance their relationship to their creator Mahal. When in need they frequently call upon him for assistance. In fact, nearly all of their ceremonies and organized worship revolve around their association with him and his creation of them. A people of perfection and rigid structure, all rites and ordinances are performed by these Naugrim nearly exactly as they were by their First Fathers. Very little deviation occurs or is allowed. Despite the repetition and seeming monotony of their frequent worship, it never becomes vain or trivial ritual. To them, it is very sincere and very meaningful. While many of their rites and performances seem superstitious to outsiders, most are in fact deeply symbolic of the creation of the Seven Fathers and Mahal’s protection of them before and after their birth.
There is also among Thralin’s Folk a great deal of ancestor reverence. They, like all Dwarves, believe that each of the Seven Tribes has an individual spirit which binds all within it together. They too look forward to the next incarnation of their father, Thélor, and wonder how his coming will change their society. Many have prophesized that Thélor will reunite Thralin’s folk with their brethren to the south, leading the folk to a cultural renaissance. Communication with the folk of Namagalûz is erratic, and King Thralin V have been willing to involve themselves in the politics of the tribes of Man in order to make the lines of communication with the south more secure.
Thralin’s folk have wrestled with the Orcs for centuries over the Pinnon Rhûn. In this time they have become a society where martial readiness is foremost among the responsibilities of the King. The Dwarves practice the arts of warcraft habitually, both on a personal and tactical scale. This stems as much from their love of physical activity as from any fear of a goblin attack. Thralin’s folk take great pride in being physically fit and enjoy the challenges provided by sparing with one another. Wrestling, contests of strength, and mock combat are enjoyed pastimes of all. Consequently, when they go to war, they are formidable opponents despite their small numbers.
The physical prowess of the Dwarves is matched by the quality of their equipment. Only the finest materials are used when outfitting the warriors of the kingdom. Because of this, few foes will stand to face the grim host of Nurunkhizdín’s army when arrayed for battle. While specialized warriors and guards often employ scale hauberks and full greaves, the non-specialized bulk of the Dwarf herd, or Vabnadur (Khuz. “Weapon host”), of Nurunkhizdín choose to bedeck themselves in long shirts of steel mail that reach to their elbows and knees. Hoods of mail are sometimes worn under steel helmets, but more often the helmets made by Thralin’s Folk are hemmed at the base with mail (or scale) that hangs down to their shoulders to protect the neck. Highly decorated, these helms come in many colors and are covered with horns, eyes, or other hideous visages of animals and beasts. Though the helms are very cumbersome, they provide excellent protection and contribute to the fear that most foes experience when confronted by a Dwarven war-host. Square shields almost three-quarters the height of their bearers are made of strong laminated and lacquered wood.
Among the Naugrim, armor and shielding are of the utmost importance in battle. For Dwarves, much as elsewhere in their lives, are very forward and are prone to aggressive charges into battle. In this they rely on their armor to protect them from the blows of their enemies. The courage displayed in these charges is often enough to break the moral of their enemy and cause a rout. Weapons, like armor, are always of the finest quality and construction. Most of the Khazad prefer using a variety of weapons, and those of Thélor’s line are no exception. Heavy crossbows, Axes, Hammers, pole-arms, and other aggressive weapons betray their bellicose and strait-forward battle tactics. Few use swords, deigning their overall shape and style to be lacking in brute strength, a quality they rely upon heavily in combat.
For the most part, Thralin’s Folk are like Dwarves everywhere. Their thick dark hair and ruddy complexions make them instantly recognizable. Dark eyes peer from deeply recessed, bushy brows. Unlike the folk of the three houses of the West, many of Thélor’s Folk have strains of very dark red hair. In stature, they are like their kin as well. Men stand between four and five feet tall (women are slightly shorter) and have very sturdy limbs and frames. They are very powerful physically, which lends itself well to their love of work. All but Dwarven women grow long beards, and among Thélor’s folk, these are usually worn splayed out, or occasionally braided in complex patterns like their hair.
Clothing among Thélor’s tribe is usually very practical. Most enjoy wearing well designed garments of wool and linen which are adorned with intricately embroidered designs near the hems, seams, and collars. Unlike most Dwarves, Thélor’s Folk are not very fond of hoods, and only wear them during rainy seasons at home or occasionally while traveling abroad. Instead, they prefer to wear large and elaborate scarves and simple leather hats. Brims on these hats vary from 1"-3" in width, while the tops of these hats are sometimes very tall. The scarves borne by the folk are commonly brought to just below the eyes, though occasionally are wrapped above them as well, leaving a narrow slit. Large and squared, these scarves are crafted from linen and colored to denote kinship and lineage.