Despite common belief, the Dwarves of Bormar share their dominance of the Mar Mountains with another civilized race. That race is the Grol, an animistic people who live and roam in the highest altitudes of the central range while the Dwarves run their trade empire in the valleys below. This tenuous coexistence has seen innumerable brawls, skirmishes, diplomatic incidents, and even two full-fledged wars. Even so, most Dwarves view the Grol as generally honorable, if primitive and strange, neighbors. From the perspective of the Grol, Bormar is a generally well-meaning neighbor that sometimes needs to be reminded that its Dwarves are not the only people that call the Mar Mountains home.
Appearance[edit | edit source]
The Grol are a peculiar race with several pig-like physiologies but are, generally speaking, humanoid. They have hoofed feet but five-fingered hands, and tusks but no horns, and are fully covered in a thick layer of coarse hair ranging in color from the common shades of brown, black, and dark red to less common varieties of blond and white.
When compared to Dwarves and Humans, Grol are naturally superior in height, weight, strength, and durability, traits which have served them well in the unforgiving highlands of the Mar Mountains. Despite hardly needing them to survive the cold temperatures of their territories, the Grol are known to wear a great variety of finely crafted clothing such as fine leathers, durable pants and tunics, and colorful shawls.
Grol men and women are both known to have notoriously long facial hair, but these beards are shaved as a sign of respect to the patron god of warriors, Ar-Bu, who is depicted as having a magnificent beard. Consequently, only the most accomplished Bejji warriors and Skorj'Al masters have the honor of growing facial hair. To honor this tradition it is not uncommon for Grol to carry razors on their person at all times to make sure that their facial hair never grows to the point of being disrespectful.
History[edit | edit source]
Similar to their Dwarven neighbors, the early history of the Grol is largely a mystery due to disappearing oral traditions. Unlike the Dwarves, however, the ancient Grol recorded their lineages, records, and mythologies by carving great murals into the stones of the Mar Mountains. Due to their remoteness in the highest altitudes of the range, many of these works are preserved to this day. The few scholars of Bormar who have studied these great records report vast chronologies depicting a great variety of information. Sadly, due to difficulties in understanding modern Grolka (let alone long-extinct dialects of ancient times) these works are only known for their visual imagery which often depicts terrible primordial creatures and what can only be assumed to be the primordial origins of the Grol religion.
Another difficulty arises from the location of these ancient records. Not only are they in the highest altitudes of the Mar Mountains, but they are also almost exclusively located in or near the great cities of the Grol, known as the Urji. These scattered domains are the only permanent settlements of the Grol people. Each is of ancient origins, with no living being knowing who laid the first massive stones of the foundations. They are built near prominent geographical phenomena (the walls of a dormant volcano, the heights of a great mountain waterfall, etc.) where it is said that the beast-gods of the Grol are the loudest. While each city is autonomous, there is general uniformity in their leadership, that is religious leaders.
While the vast majority of the Grol population can be found in the Urji, significant numbers live as nomads, with these nomads being the sort with which Bormar has had the most contact. While most Grol of either origin tend to keep to themselves, there has always been a natural and often vicious rivalry between the two peoples of the Mar Mountains. It is said that the Grol sing ballads in celebration of their raids on Dwarven holdings just as often and as loudly as Bormar folks toast their ales to bloody expeditions into the high ranges.
The last hundred years have seen perhaps the longest, continuous peace between the Grol and Bormar. There is little the Dwarves have that the Grol want and vice-versa, with both societies nowadays sticking to their territories. The occasional border disagreement still flares up now and again, especially in those holdings higher up in the Mar Mountains, but rarely does this lead to anything violent.
This peace was spearheaded by Bormar’s First House, who several centuries ago made the harming or provoking of the Grol people punishable by death, a decision made after the last great war between the two peoples, that being the one which brought the rise and fall of the great Raun’Ka. While the Grol lack a central government to make similar commands, there is an informal understanding that provoking their Dwarven neighbors will lead to nothing productive.
Culture[edit | edit source]
The Grol are most prominently known for their incredibly martial culture. Whilst some may look and think that their warriors are mindless brutes, the Grol value strength, bravery, courage, and valor as much as any other race, if not more so. Ranged weapons and small, concealable weapons are generally looked down upon, being seen as weak and cowardly, with the Grol warrior ideal using heavy melee weaponry, such as a hammer or axe. Still, while martial victories are particularly celebrated, those Grol who achieve great strides through strategy or other means are equally respected, but often less celebrated.
Grol Skorj’Als are masters of their interests. These may be potion brewing, literature, religion, fighting, and more. Skorj’Als are only ever appointed as one by an older, wiser Skorj’Al, so nobody knows how this tradition began. Still, these Grol are masters of their respective craft regardless of whatever discipline they make their own.
Scars and bruises are portrayed with the utmost confidence and pride within Grol culture, signifying that the individual has survived a particularly devastating blow. Piercings are quite common amongst the higher ranks of melee fighters, with particular emphasis on the ears and face. Jewelry and armor taken from a defeated enemy are also highly prized, with the most fearsome Grol warriors being signaled by their patchwork armor taken from dozens of fallen enemies. Additionally, tattoos are commonly seen amongst more experienced warriors, as is face paint made of jisken fungus, with those worn by the Bejji being particularly elaborate covering the face and chest.
The Grol are a very group-oriented race, with a heavy focus on community and collective well-being. As such, Grol gatherings can be huge affairs or very tight-knit ceremonies. The Harna Kulu, possibly the most notable of Grol celebrations, is usually held as a religious ceremony, victory celebration, or a mixture of both. Those who are shunned from Grol society, known as nagrombu or simply rogues, are treated with great mistrust, and typically have no choice but to abandon Grol society to either live in solitude or join with other similarly situated individuals and become thieving raiders.
Acirassi[edit | edit source]
In regard to material culture, the Grol are most famous for their mastery of working acirassi. To most smiths of the world, the metal is so difficult to work that it is simply not economical. This is far from the case with the Grol due to their exceptional strength, with their acirassi smiths–known as armorers or acirpolka in Grolka–being the envy of many realms. However, strength is not the sole reason for this mastery, as the Grol have developed special techniques for working the difficult material, with each variation of the technique being a highly guarded secret. These artisans tend to speak of their work as more art than science, much to the frustration of the smiths of Bormar who continue to try (and fail) to replicate this mastery. The skill of acirassi armorers is so well known that the metal is often spoken of as synonymous with the Grol as a people, serving as a reminder to the world that this mountain race is far from the savage, simple folk they are made to be.
Religion[edit | edit source]
Little is known of the religion of the Grol, but a few small fragments are understood by Dwarven scholars. The Grol believe in a manner of spirits that are present in every aspect of the world–stones, forests, waterfalls, animals, etc.–with an unknowable, otherworldly nature. They are beyond worship or mortal understanding, yet they are worthy of reverence as they are the spiritual ties that bind the world. However, the Grol also worship a small pantheon of gods which are viewed as patrons of the Grol as a race, with each god guiding the Grol to live in accordance with the spirits. While there are an infinite number of spirits, there are only four gods: Ar-bu, Gor-Oibr, Morr-Pel, and Ur-Pepam.
Ar-Bu[edit | edit source]
Ar-Bu is the most well-known of Grol gods to the Dwarves of Bormar due to his patronage of Grol warriors and melee and is beginning to be seen by Bormar scholars as the leader of the pantheon, although there is little evidence to back this assertion. Regardless, Curiously, Ar-Bu is often depicted as having a majestic beard that is sometimes shown as eclipsing even the greatest Dwarven facial hair. Sworn followers of Ar-Bu, the Bejji, and Skorj'Als invoke this image by being the only Grol allowed to grow such beards. Still, even these do not live to the standard of Dwarven beards, let alone the majestic beard of their patron god. Ar-Bu is universally revered due to the Grol affinity for martial pursuits, and a shrine to the god can be found in nearly every tribe, caravan, settlement, Urji, or battlefield.
Gor-Oibr[edit | edit source]
Gor-Oibr is the Grol god of hardship and toil, a domain that covers almost every aspect of Grol life due to their rugged lifestyles. While the designated patron of laborers, this is not restricted to manual work but instead covers any Grol who works diligently in their respective tasks. For example, hunters will give thanks to Gor-Oibr after a successful hunt just as quarry workers would do so after separating a great slab of stone from a mountainside. Every working Grol gives thanks to Gor-Oibr after their labors come to fruition. Among settled Grol in the Urji or other settlements, Gor-Oibr is held in high esteem as one's labor and work product is typically what dictates their quality of life. On the other hand, tribal Grol often have Gor-Oibr as a minor god worshipped only by artisans dedicated to the struggles of their craft.
Morr-Pel[edit | edit source]
Morr-Pel is the god of harmony and kinship and is the patron of Grol communities in all forms, from tribes to the great Urji cities. Morr-Pel is often seen as the patron of the social caretakers of these communities as well, from healers to storytellers, and even Grol “diplomats” who make peace between different tribes. While dedicated followers of Morr-Pel zealously advocate for unity among the Grol, this does not make them pacifistic towards non-Grol. It is not at all uncommon for great multi-tribe raids to be organized by followers of Morr-Pel, while the fight itself is led by a chosen leader or follower of Ar-Bu. Moor-Pel is often a central god to tribal Grol who still live traditional semi-nomadic lives. Among settled Grol Moor-Pel is often relegated to minor status as the god is so closely associated with the simpler nomadic ties that they have rejected by settling down. Still, praises of Morr-Pel are often sung at festivals and social gatherings regardless of what manner of Grol sings them.
Ur-Pepam[edit | edit source]
Ur-Pepam is the god of order and spiritualism. Ur-Pepam is seen as the connecting force between the Grol and the spiritual world, even more so than the other gods. The great Urji cities are said to be led by varying groups of spiritual leaders and groups, and that is likely because of the command that Ur-Pepam’s followers hold among the general population. Spiritualists of all sorts are sworn to Ur-Pepam, with tribal shamans and spirit talkers of all kinds seeing him as the Grol’s connection to the spiritual world, and the god which allows them to see what others cannot.
Creation Myth[edit | edit source]
The Grol believe that their gods shaped the world from a single, unfathomably large stone sphere. In doing so, Ar-Bu struck the stone. Gor-Oibr moved the massive stone as needed. Morr-Pel kept the others supplied, well-fed, and in good spirits. Ur-Pepam guided their efforts in shaping the stone into a grand design.
Dwarven Grol[edit | edit source]
Dwarven-cultured Grol, known as Ajagrollen in Grolka, are those Grol that have taken residence in Dwarven towns or cities, and may take some part of Dwarven culture as their own. Still, Ajagrollen is a very loosely defined term, and no Grol communities have varying meanings for the term. The most common interpretation applies to Grol that have settled in Dwarven holdings, while others may refer simply to a Grol that prefers reading and writing as opposed to sparring or mastering weaponry.
Most Ajagrollen are unskilled laborers (i.e., miners, lumberjacks, farmers) or simple merchants of some kind. Despite their apparent preference for living with Dwarves, they are almost always turned away from construction work and apprenticeships due to Grol being notoriously bad at building even if they have the necessary skills.
Many Grol look down upon Ajagrollen, seeing them as runaways who are rejecting their heritage in favor of their ancestral rivals. This is exacerbated by the fact that Grol and Ajagrollen often suffer discrimination in Bormar. Many are turned away from jobs and housing and landlords have been known to increase rent only for Grol tenants, as Bormar’s lifeblood of trade caravans are easily spooked by the sight of Grol, a side effect of the few warmongering bands on the outskirts of the nation. Unfortunately, this fear negatively affects peaceful Grol and Ajagrollen more than anyone.
Language[edit | edit source]
The language of the Grol–known as Grolka–is a difficult language for non-Grol to learn as not only is it notoriously difficult to do, but the Grol are also incredibly resistant to teaching it to outsiders in any way. Still, in recent years Dwarven scholars have slowly pieced together a lexicon of words and phrases to, hopefully, better understand their neighbors. Progress on this research has been slow, however, because most Grol can speak at least some of the Dwarven language, making learning their language anything but a priority.