Widely considered to be the eldest residence in all of Cisterra (by all but the Elves of Chusei), Kaldheim keep is the renowned — and only — city of the Dwarves. Deep in the Dhugdzur Mountains, near Cisterra’s polar cap, the entrance to Kaldheim Keep is unknown to almost everyone but the Dwarves. Kaldheim is the last Dwarven city in Cisterra, the others having all been lost to Elven forces during the Ancients’ War, and in its earthen halls every Dwarf finds a home. Truthfully, no non-dwarves know what lies underground inside the keep, and the xenophobic Dwarves tell nobody, so the true number of their race is shrouded in mystery.
Of the government of Kaldheim Keep, only rumors abound. Some say the ancient Underking of old is still alive and rules underground. Others claim the Dwarves live in perfect communism, without any sense of self or private property. Few accuse the Dwarves of having a hive-mind mentality, and that any Dwarf outside its range escapes its grasp. In reality, Dwarves are far too covetous to maintain communal living, far too stoic to be commanded by a hive-mind, and too short-lived to still be following their original king. Kaldheim’s true government, accordingly, still remains a mystery.
Dwarven culture is different than any other in Cisterra. Where most other people value honor, fealty, and worship, dwarves value intelligence, ingenuity, and creative thought. As evidence, even the public Market District above Kaldheim Keep is littered with fantastical inventions, including lightning-prison towers, steam-powered elevators, and bathhouses and washrooms with moving, plumbed-water systems. Known only to Dwarves are the secrets of Alchemy-an arcane art of mixing volatile chemicals into amazing compounds, which, when infused with the arcane power of an Alchemist, can produce unbelievable effects-from the mimicry of spells to the creation of mighty explosives to mutagens capable of transforming a Dwarf into a Giant.
Most believe the Dwarves to have been created alongside the Elves (again, excepting the proud Elves) and therefore suspect the Dwarves revere some sort of deity or magical power, but all Cisterrans also know of the Dwarves’ resentment for anything magical. Again suspect to rumor, Dwarven religion, if any, remains a mystery to outsiders. The Dwarves themselves seem to hold nothing sacred; they trade munitions with Orcs, they pursue alchemical reactions similar in power to the war-mages of Chusei and the clerics of Lindel, and are never seen worshipping or honoring anything or anyone.
One thing is known of the Dwarves: their immense military prowess. Though they did lose all but one city to the Elves in the Ancients’ War, they were not the losers. Legends tell that, at the gates of Kaldheim keep, the Dwarves routed the entire Elven army, which at the time numbered in the tens of thousands. Any Cisterrran who witnesses the destructive power of Dwarven artillery, explosive rockets, high-alchemy, or battle-mutants has no problem understanding how this military feat was definitely possible. At the moment, the only Dwarven military power seen by common Cisterrans is in the hands of Orcs, as the mercenary Dwarves sell their technology to the highest bidder. Dwarven cannons, even under the bestial control of the Orcs, prove their capability on the battlefield every time they are used.