The Singers of the Black Stone are so named because of an ancient pact they swore on the sacred Black Stone of the highlands. Inviting terrible consequences, they swore never to shed the blood of a fellow highlander. From this ancient oath grew a force to be reckoned with – and they will not let you forget it. Do not mistake the Dalwyn for savages. Their chieftains are wise and strong. Their Elders are steeped in the lore of countless centuries. Their Gravespeakers have the ears of the gods and can rouse the spirits of the world to do their bidding. And their Forgebound are some of the finest crafters, smiths and alchemists in Valedonia. The Dalwyn Forgebound were the first to learn the secret of steel (or so they claim) and Dalwyn blades are said never to chip or shatter. Pray that when the Dalwyn draw steel you stand at their side, for if you stand against them, they will hew you down like wheat at the harvest, and trample your bones underfoot.
Dalwyn are brawny, pantherish, and lithe. Their skin ranges from pale tan to nut brown, and their hair is dark. Eyes are fierce blue, bright green or brooding brown. A few grow beards – immense, ragged things that claw their way down their chests. The Dalwyn wear their hair long, loose and windblown. You will know a Dalwyn's clan by his clothing: braids along hems, collars and sleeves; common patterns for cloth and cloaks; totemic representations of beloved ancestors, spirits or deities; unique styles of weapons and armor; facial tattoos and warpaint; and carvings of clan totems. You will hear them coming by the sound of the drums that echoes from the heights, by the braying of the great highland horns, and by the skirl of the pipes that comes drifting down the misty glen. And you will share the Dalwyn's glory when you ride your beardog into battle at their side, blade high, with ancient war-songs on your lips. Let the world hear you. Let them know that the Dalwyn are coming.
The Dalwyn endured the Apocalypse (which they simply call The Burning) with stoicism and courage, and these are the characteristics that most define their culture to this day. Of the four tribes of the Dalwyn, three have lost their ancestral homelands, but already they seek to recover them and rebuild what was lost. Even though the Dalwyn are a people in love with tradition, they have also learned that some traditions must be discarded in order to survive. They are nothing if not survivors, and so are more than prepared to abandon whatever ancient ways that stand in the way of their return to greatness.
Despite their grim demeanors, the Dalwyn love life like few others. Riotous, chaotic festivals spring up at the slightest provocation, the music of horn and drum is a constant serenade to tribal life, and the roar of the beardog never far from hearing. Once you have proven yourself to the Dalwyn, they will embrace you as one of their own – but they will expect you to return the sentiment. Dalwyn have no time for those who will not accept their ways. The words they use to describe such folk are best left to the imagination…
The Dalwyn live off the land and by their own wits and skills. Their highlands are barely fertile enough to grow produce, and what little can be grown is jealously hoarded by the clans. This is not without its benefits, of course. The Dalwyn are the best hunters in Valedonia. They are master herbalists and their lore of the natural world is unparalleled. Do not attempt to best the Dalwyn in their own lands – they are more at home in the moors, forests and mountains than any of their southern neighbors could ever hope to be.
In a time before time, the Gravespeakers say, Grandmother Weaver crafted a world at her loom, then tore it apart in frustration. Her three daughters wove a new world from the threads, and it is this younger world that we inhabit. Or so the Gravespeakers claim. Dalwyn religion is a blend of polytheism, animism, and ancestor worship. Grandmother Weaver and her daughters create the structure for life and being, the nature of existence and the world. The lesser deities and spirits are the embodiment of the living world itself, and the ancestors are the direct guardians of the clans, the shepherds of humanity, their teachers and their judges.
Besides Grandmother Weaver and her four daughters (whom the Dalwyn name Alassia, Mirena, Nefari and Serena), lesser Dalwyn deities include Grandfather Steel, Lord Dalureth (who watches over the highlands), Father Sun, Brother Wolf, and the Moon Sisters (who once were sorcerers and gave their lives in defense of their home). The ancient Gravespeakers knew the names of a hundred other gods and goddesses (or so they say) but none dare claim such exalted wisdom in the years after the Burning.
The Dalwyn are a clan-based culture. They owe allegiance to chieftains and to one another along patriarchal family lines. Due to intermarriage between clans, actual distinctions of clan membership are somewhat arbitrary. Nevertheless, the Dalwyn have a strong sense of clan identity and place great importance on their ancestry. Ultimate authority rests with the clan chieftain, assisted by the clan Elders and the enigmatic Gravespeaker (who many say are second only to the chieftain in power – and often not even that). The four clans are the forest-dwelling Vojdun, the mountain-loving Kajeth, the Ershun of the open moors, and the Rasheth, who have always dwelled by the sea. Only the Rasheth retain their ancestral holdings and the city of Dallochar. The other clans are hungry to see their own lands restored…