The Summer Heroes
Siege of Varcrist
Evidence from ancient eras—like the dwarven architectural styles in evidence at the Light-Bearers—seems to indicate that the dwarves were once a far-flung people, but there are no extant records that indicate dwarven settlements anywhere outside of the mountain range known as the Var-Aldun Range.
By the time of the founding of the city of Soren in -739 BR, the dwarven settlements in the Var-Aldun were already old. Small cities dotted the mountains, and the fantastic engineering and stonecutting abilities of the dwarves were fully evident in them. In the center of the Var’Aldun, the city of Varcrist soared high into the sky and plunged deep into the hearts of the nearby mountains.
There were several passages through the Var-Aldun, from lower Orem to the frozen wastes in the north, and dwarven settlements guarded them all. The largest and safest of these passes, the Frostpeak Path, ran directly by the city of Varcrist. It is said that in ancient times the lands to the north of the Var-Aldun were inhabited and civilized, but even the dwarves had no records of this (beyond mere legends), and by the time of the founding of Soren the north was home to countless, warring orc tribes.
By -490 BR, the city of Soren had grown into an empire, and its boundaries began to push up against the Var-Aldun. The overt racism of later imperial generations was beginning to take hold, but an uneasy peace between the human empire and the dwarven settlements reigned, in no small part because the dwarves served as a useful counterbalance to the orcish hordes in the north. In -490 BR, the Emperor Kiira (now usually referred to as “Kiira the Dwarf-Slayer”) ascended to the throne and began waging aggressive wars of expansion to the southeast and west.
Kiira’s prowess in battle, both as a warrior and as a general, became legendary. In ten years, the empire added three new provinces; the expansion was more than any one emperor had accomplished before. The economy of the Sorian Empire struggled to keep up with the new demands on its infrastructure made by this territorial multiplication, and Kiira’s attention turned to the master builders in the mountains.
After five years of peace, Emperor Kiira launched a devastating, multi-pronged offensive against the dwarven settlements. Resistance was fierce, but the dwarven population had been dwindling for decades, and they were slowly but surely overwhelmed. One by one, the dwarven settlements fell. As they did, Kiira pressed the dwarves into slavery and scattered them into small bands, far and wide across the Empire to build roads, fortresses, and walls.
Only the great city of Varcrist stood in the way of Kiira’s domination of the Var-Aldun and his enslavement of the dwarven race. Far larger and better defended than the other settlements, Kiira faced a formidable challenge. The Siege of Varcrist began in -484 BR, but the emperor had, finally, miscalculated. Much diminished in numbers, the dwarves were able to subsist off their underground lakes and farms, raising scores of blind fish and growing crops by the light of engineered glowmoss.
After a year of besieging Ironforge with nothing to show for it, Kiira’s grew impatient and had hundreds of dwarven workers returned to him from across the Empire. Dragged in chains before the high towers of Varcrist, the dwarves were executed, one by one, in gruesome and hideous fashion. On the fifth day of executions, with no word from the dwarves of the capital city, Kiira’s army prepared for an assault on the city and lined a hundred dwarf children up in front of the massive gate of Varcrist.
The Suicide of the Dwarves
There are numerous accounts in existence across the Imperial provinces of Orem (both current and former). The tale of the Empire and the dwarves is oft-told now, but in the past large sections of it were altered or suppressed. As part of Krastus the Reformer’s efforts at rolling back the Empire’s racist policies, however, the suppression of the story of the Siege of Varcrist was repealed.
The details of what followed are unclear, but all the accounts agree on the essential point: The dwarves brought down the mountains. The explosion was said to be so loud that it could be heard in Soren itself, and when the dust settled at last—largely because of a torrential rainstorm three days after the event—it became apparent that the dwarves had shattered the mountains on either side of the Frostpeak Path. The emperor and his army were, presumably, all killed in the incident.
Sealed away from the world since then, Varcrist has remained remote and inaccessible. The Empire never returned to the Var-Aldun, and the Frostpeak Path is as unusable now as it was when the mountains fell. The other passes, however, now unguarded by dwarves, were slowly but surely occupied by orcs. It is said that the Emperor’s war of extinction against the dwarves was what eventually allowed the orcs to overrun the Empire itself, though a great deal of time passed between the events.
As news of the destruction spread, scores of dwarves—now aware that they could never return to Varcrist and had no hope of rescue—committed suicide. Those that did not take their own lives out of despair were tasked to Imperial building projects for the rest of their lives.
No one has seen a dwarf in hundreds of years, though it is assumed by many that they live on in Varcrist. From time to time, expeditions attempt to reach the city, but the mountains are so treacherous and the path to the city so non-existent that none has ever gotten close. Some have speculated that powerful dwarven magic has helped to keep everyone out, but many believe this is just a myth created by failed travelers to assuage their egos.