(Ernhold, Ernholdic, Ernholder)
In 2417 PN, the Dwarven Ranger Leesl pursued a thieving Fey south from Kravak-Barr and found the Valley of Ern. Hidden away by twelve tall mountains, the Valley was inaccessible and heavy clouds usually hid it from the air. Inhabited only by a small group of Fey, the land was rich in minerals and breathtakingly beautiful.
Secretly, Leesl returned to Kravak Barr, and over the next century, quietly slipped Dwarven colonists into the hidden Valley. At first it was only to mine the abundant gold, mithril, admantium and gemstones of the Valley - but Leesl and her folk were not well liked by the Kings of Kravak Barr. Rangers were never popular, and Leesl's people had strange idea - about living and farming on the *surface*, under the sun - and other odd ideals. Many of Leesl's family had scattered into the Empire of Eriad, finding a different life among the Elves and Men.
Being deeply loyal to her family, Leesl gathered these folk to herself, and secretly began a full scale colonization, meaning to establish a Dwarf Hold for her and her family. She had twelve close companions, Dwarf women from her own Hold and others, whom she invited as well, and they became heads of their Families.
Such Dwarves as Leesl brought with her - prone to wandering - were not missed, and by Leesl's three hundredth birthday, a hidden Hold was delved in the Valley of Ern. Leesl cristened it Ernhold, and there she lived for another two hundred years, surrounded by her many descendants.
As Eriad began to fail, the Dwarves of Ernhold - who had traded in secret with the outside world - slowly withdrew behind their mountains, forgotten.
Ernhold has nearly always been ruled by women, who believe uppermost in keeping the existence of the Hold secret. The Valley is bountiful, and here Dwarves live in delvings and under the open sky. The matriarchs of Ernhold mean to keep it that way.
The Valley of Ern is surrounded by twelve soaring mountain peaks, with no natural passes. They do not thaw in the spring, and are forever shrouded in snow.
The Valley floor is amazing; rolling green hills, some covered in thick forest, with a hundred small rivers draining into a long alpine lake in the center of the valley.
Weather is mild to cold; with regular snowfall in winter and an energetic spring thaw.
Ernholder names are matronymic, which patronymic middle names and a long, reeling list of ancestors in between. So, a 3rd generation relative of Markgreifynja Leesl might be Havar Bjorisson(father) Hydjisson Alrunesson Cassjisoon Brigittesson(mother). (Or Havarja Bjorisdottir Hydjisdottir Arunesdottir Cassjisdottir Brigittesdottir, if she were female). As Ernhold's families have thousands of years of lineage, Ernholder Dwarves usually have *very* long names, most of which is recorded in their family naming book. Only the first, middle, and last names are commonly used.
Ernholders are quiet and reclusive among outsiders, but gregarious and talkative around Dwarves they know. They take family bonds very seriously, and are utterly loyal to those who they have named friends, or become relations.
The local Dwarves look different than those from other holds; many are deeply tanned, with all manner of eye and hair colors. The women are said to be especially beautiful, and far more plentiful than in other Dwarfholds; indeed they outnumber the men.
Due to the sheer number of women, Ernhold society looks very different that other Dwarven lands. Women hold most positions of power and influence, and most of the farmland and mines belong to women. Men prefer martial trades, or working as Rangers, Priests, or spellcasters.
Ernholders speak Dwarven, though a quaint-sounding older dialect.
Archgate, Alyssa, Braeya, Dra, and Vigos are the most popular gods here, with most temples being devoted to them. Bors and Shyla have a few temples in the farmlands of the central valley. Kath and Mishya compete as the war god of the Ernholders; Mishya being most popular among women warriors, Kath among the men.
Ernhold is ruled by the Markgreifynja; oldest female member of the line of Leesl. (only twice in their long history has their been a Markgreif). There are Twelve Great Families in Ernhold, one for each mountain; all twelve are ruled by an Landgravina, a direct descendant of one of the mothers of the Twelve Families. Every immediate female relative of the Landgravinas (mother and daughters) serve together in the Mjalfing; a kind of Parlaiment which discusses issues affecting the Hold and can advise the Markgreifynja. The Mjalfing has no formal power, but their united opinion carries great influence.
Laws are enforced by the Gravinja; officials elected by the peoples of each Family. A Gravinja swears solemn oaths by Brandt and three other gods of their choosing to enforce the laws and traditions of Ernhold, and above all, to keep the hold safe. Usually each family elects one Gravinja for every hundred or two hundred Dwarves.
Ernhold avoids foreign relations where possible. That said, they have ancient family ties to Dethgar Hold and Gurdin Tagor. Rangers occasionally scout beyond the mountains, so they know of the Northern Kingdoms and their wars. Until 196 TC, the Markgreifynja has kept Ernhold disentangled from their neighbors.
Each Family raises their own army (called a Hulduvolk, or hidden folk), all of whom serve the Markgreifynja. An army is led by a Hjyrtiginna (or Hjyrtog, should it be a man), who has a dozen or more sworn officers who serve her directly, called Fru (or Frud; should any of them be male). The formation led by a Fru is called a Huldfru; usually about two hundred Dwarven fighters of all types.
A Huldfru has no standard equipment; every Dwarf brings his or her own preferred weaponry. Naturally axes, hammers, and maces are quite common, along with large shields and heavy armor. Crossbows are well liked among Ernholders, though there are a number who use large bows.
Stealth is an important skill for Ernhold's military, and many Huldfru are skilled in stealth and infiltration tactics. Their army has never fought in a conventional war; most of their experience involves ambushing bands of Jotunn or destroying interloping tribes of Orcs The Hulkvolks have never been fielded all in one mass and on one battlefield.
Arcane magic is quite common among the Ernhold Dwarves. Every Landgravina maintains a Convocation of arcane casters at her own expense; ensuring that apprentices are trained and that knowledge is not lost. These Convocations are primarily responsible for maintaining the magical defenses and illusions that shroud Ernhold from view. Every member of the Convocation serves for at least a century, after which they are free to pursue their own studies, though often they are called upon to advise the Landgravina and current Convocation.
Divine magic is centered around the organized temples, and as the Ernholders are quite a devout people, there are a number of powerful priests.
In addition, the twelve peaks of the Valley of Ern form a natural Druidic circle, making the are a potent nexus for nature magic. The Markgreifynja supports a Council of Druids, who also aid in controlling Ernhold's weather. Both Council and Convocation serve the Hold as part of their obligation to family and clan.
Each Family maintains their own stronghold, partially above ground and partially beneath their mountain. These twelve cities are named for the great families, and are: Arna, Laki, Siga, Svei, Vesta, Eyja, Pori, Pngi, Myva, Hafa, Gada, & Usya. Each corresponding mountain has the suffix '-kull' added, so are Arnakull, Lakikull, etc.
The above-ground portions of the cities are build sturdily and low to the ground, often with the roof-tops covered by gardens. The cities are nearly invisible from the air or from a distance. The underground portions are typical fine Dwarven construction, with great furnaces in the lower levels which heat the cities during winter.
Naturally every settlement, large or small, is connected by well-concealed underground tunnels.
Dwarves make up the vast majority of the population of Ernhold, with a handful of Fey races still dwelling in secret places in the Valley.
Nearly all classes are represented here in some number; though Summoners are unknown.