The Summer Heroes
The Soulforge is a powerful, mythical forge, believed to be located in the mountains above the dwarven city of Varcrist. The Soulforge itself appears in numerous histories, as it was utilized by the dwarves in mountains known as the Var-Aldun Range for many years to create powerful magical items. In -490 BR, the Sorian emperor Kiira the Dwarf-Slayer began the War of Dwarven Extinction (and some have speculated that part of the intent behind the war was to gain control of the Soulforge), and in -483 BR, the mountains around Varcrist were brought down by the dwarves to kill the imperial army and end Kiira’s siege of the city. As no travelers have been able to get to Varcrist since that time, the current status of the Soulforge is unknown. Additionally, the operation of the Soulforge was a closely-guarded secret among the upper echelons of the priests of Varcrist; since the status of the city itself (and its inhabitants) was and is unknown, it is similarly not known if the forge could even be operated, if it survived.
According to legend, the Soulforge was located inside the hollowed-out top of a mountain near the city of Varcrist. In the center of the space was the forge itself, crafted of a dark, black metal and decorated with large, geometric patterns. The Soulforge was said to be perpetually filled with heat and fire, despite never requiring fuel of any kind, though the metal composing the forge was said to be extremely cold to the touch. The Soulforge was used to craft powerful magic weapons and armor, with different effects achieved (e.g. Holy, Returning, and so on, as well as enhancement bonuses) via complicated rituals that varied depending on the desired outcome.
The final stage of the ritual, however, always required the soul of a living being, a practice which gave the forge its name. During that final stage, a living thing had to be cast into the forge itself, where its soul was merged with the essence of the item. Non-intelligent creatures—like animals—could be used, though the effect achieved was generally weaker than if an intelligent creature was cast in. This practice was considered more than a little barbaric and extremely distasteful, but the dwarves developed a tendency to capture orcs from the north who raided the dwarf settlements in the Var-Aldun mountains to their south. The weapons created via this process were very powerful and augmented Varcrist’s defenses considerably. In very exceptional circumstances, creatures of a “tier” of intelligence even higher than orcs—like dwarves—were cast into the forge. This resulted in the most powerful effect capable of being created, but was usually reserved for those whose crimes warranted death.
Very occasionally, dwarves would volunteer to undergo this process for the good of the dwarven people. Items created in the Soulforge utilizing the soul of a volunteer are all-but-indestructible and enjoy the most powerful level of enchantments the forge can create. This eventually led to the development of a funerary rite known as the Umun-Udar—or, the “Soul-Scouring”—for those dwarves who wished to go into the Soulforge. The dwarves believed that this process annihilated the immortal soul, so the motivations of those who wished to do this were varied: some may simply have wished to achieve a measure of immortality—as the armor or weapon created with the person’s soul would have their name inscribed upon it—some probably wanted to avoid being judged in the afterlife, and some probably wished to permanently contribute to the defense of the city and the dwarven people.