The Five Kings Mountains is the name given to the collection of independent dwarven city-states located in the Five Kings Range of central Avistan. They are the largest center of dwarven culture on or beneath Golarion. Highhelm, the largest dwarven city on Golarion is located under one of the tallest mountains of the Five Kings Range, the lofty Emperor's Peak.1
The Five Kings Mountains were not always populated by the dwarves. Dwarves believe that Torag himself forged the first of the dwarves deep in the Darklands during the Age of Creation, where they continued to live and work quite happily throughout their early history. Even though they were content in their sunless home, Torag prophesied that one day the ground would shake and mark the beginning of a great migration to the surface of Golarion.2
The Quest for Sky
In -5293 AR, the massive earthquakes caused by Earthfall not only devastated the surface, but shook the dwarves' Darklands tunnels as well. Their priests declared that this was the fulfillment of Torag's prophecy, and initiated a mass migration of all dwarves to the surface known as the Quest for Sky. Some dwarves refused their call and chose to remain in their ancient cities. Over the millennia, those left behind were transformed by their environment into an entirely new species: the hryngars.23
This massive movement of people was not without its problems. As they left their ancient homes and moved closer to the surface, they displaced their ancient enemies, the orcs, triggering countless battles and driving the orcs upwards as well. The dwarves also squabbled amongst themselves, even erupting into open warfare that stalled the Quest for Sky. It was not until the great king Taargick united the dwarves through diplomacy, wisdom, and quite a bit of coercion that the migration was resumed. Taargick crowned himself the king of all dwarves in -5133 AR, and founded the kingdom of Tar Taargadth, and the dwarves first emerged on the surface in the Five Kings Range in -4987 AR.4
Populating the surface world
Upon their arrival on Golarion's surface, the dwarves discovered that their migration had unleashed a deluge of orcs, and that their enemies had easily overpowered the few peoples who had survived Earthfall and the subsequent Age of Darkness. In order to better defend themselves, and to commemorate the successful completion of the Quest for Sky, they built 10 massive city-fortresses known as Sky Citadels. The first and greatest of these Sky Citadels was Highhelm in the Five Kings Mountains and it was from here that the rulers of Tar Taargadth started to bring civilization back to the decimated world. Even though the orcs and dwarves continued fighting, the Sky Citadels, combined with the return of the sun at the end of the Age of Darkness, gave the dwarves significant tactical advantages over the next 1,000 years. Once the orcs had been driven back into the hills and mountains, the dwarves began a rapid expansion of their domain, coupled with rapid population growth that led to their golden age.4
Decline of Tar Taargadth
Sadly nothing lasts forever, and the golden age of Tar Taargadth was no exception. The orcs, once confined to the edges of the civilized world, gained in strength and began attacking the Sky Citadels. Under the command of Belkzen, the greatest orc hero of all time, they conquered the Sky Citadel of Koldukar (now known as Urgir in the Hold of Belkzen) in -3708 AR. This defeat, and the loss of other Sky Citadels in the subsequent centuries, led to a decline in dwarven power and prestige. Even though Tar Taargadth continued into the Age of Enthronement, it never recaptured its lost greatness.4
Era of the Five Kings
The government of Tar Taargadth finally collapsed in 1551 AR, leaving each of the four remaining occupied Sky Citadels to fend for itself: Dongun Hold in what today is the Mana Wastes; Janderhoff in Varisia; Kravenkus in the World's Edge Mountains of Taldor; and Highhelm. As the first and greatest of the Sky Citadels, Highhelm held a special place in the imaginations of the dwarves, and it was around this great fortress-city that a new dwarven kingdom rose after the disbanding of Tar Taargadth.4
Five separate dwarven nations were founded around Highhelm in the Five Kings Mountains in the decade following Tar Taargadth's collapse, each ruled by one of five brothers. Gardrick I founded Gardadth in 1557 AR; Saggorn the Holy established the Pious Kingdom of Saggorak in 1559 AR; Doggon followed suit with the Impenetrable Kingdom of Doggadth in 1560 AR; Grak the Younger founded the Laborious Kingdom of Grakodan in 1561 AR; while Taggrick I established the Everlasting Kingdom of Taggoret in 1562 AR.54
A mere nine years after the founding of the last of the five kingdoms, the first of no less than nineteen civil wars broke out in 1571 AR. Known as the Five Kings War, it lasted 700 years before the kings of the five nations finally negotiated the Kerse Accord in 2332 AR with the help of a delegation of Kalistocrats from Druma. This treaty ended the civil wars and began a long-lasting peace.5 It is these five great kings that give the region its name, and in celebration of the event, they carved the likenesses of these forward-thinking monarchs into the the sides of mountains overlooking the important passes in the region.6
The peace lasted 160 years before the dwarves' ancient enemy, the orcs, invaded the dwarven kingdoms in 2492 AR. One by one, the five kingdoms collapsed and their great cities fell to their enemy; the only city to resist was Highhelm. With the demise of the other five kingdoms, the Era of the Five Kings was over.5
The Wild Era and Tar Khadurrm
During the Wild Era, which followed the Era of the Five Kings and lasted almost 700 years, the orcs controlled the Five Kings Mountains with only Highhelm remaining to defend the dwarven and human civilizations in the area.5
Khadon the Mighty arrived in the Five Kings Mountains in 3197 AR aiming to destroy the orcs and end their 700-year occupation of the region. After 82 years of war, Khadon finally defeated the orcs in 3279 AR at the Battle of Splitmist Pass, and founded the empire of Tar Khadurrm. The city of Jernashall was founded under the mountains in 3312 AR and became the pre-eminent city of the new empire and later its capital. Jernashall's sister city of Raseri Kanton was founded on the surface in 3451 AR, and became a vital trade center in the region. For 500 years, Tar Khadurrm and its cities flourished7 until the Rending of Droskar's Crag in 3980 AR.7
In 3980 AR, the volcano named Droskar's Crag erupted, destroying Jernashall and its sister city of Raseri Kanton, and forcing many dwarves to flee their ancestral homeland. This event, which became known as the Rending, broke the spirit of the dwarves and marked the beginning of the decline of Tar Khadurrm, as the dwarves fell into apathy and indifference.47
King Talhrik the Industrious tried to inject spirit and ethics back into his people, but after his death in 4277 AR,8 the dwarves once again fractured. Ordrik Talhrik murdered his cousin, Garbold Talhrik, and seized the throne in 4369 AR attempting to create a theocracy. The resulting Forge War raged for 13 years, from 4369 AR to 4382 AR. Generals loyal to the true crown fought to keep their kingdom united but failed. Ordrik declared himself theocrat and commanded all dwarves to work in the name of his patron deity Droskar.9104
For nearly 100 years, the dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains lost every sense of art and beauty, and their craftsmanship became merely adequate. Many dwarves fled to the other nearby dwarven settlements, as well as settlements in Druma and the Mindspin Mountains. In the end, priests could not maintain their hold on the other dwarves and Ordrik's theocracy crumbled in 4466 AR, with entire settlements abandoned. Some, especially treasure-hungry Pathfinders, believe that many of these dwarves left in such a hurry that they abandoned great wealth that still lies entombed within these abandoned locations.9104
In the 250 years since Droskar's Kingdom faltered (a period known as the Collapsed Era), no single dwarf has been able to unite his people in the Five Kings Mountains. The remaining four Sky Citadels are great metropolises, but none can claim to be more than a city-state. No one has emerged with the will, ability, and charisma to reunite the dwarves of Avistan into a single, unified people.114
- See also: Five Kings Range
The Five Kings Mountains are a harsh and dangerous area of tall, imposing peaks, rich with ore and ironbloom mushrooms. The mountains are mostly rocky with occasional plateaux. They are home to savage giants and bloodthirsty wildlife, with few natural resources worth exploiting. The nations that surround the mountains (Druma, Kyonin, Galt, Andoran, and Isger) have not established settlements any closer than the foothills and never approach the dwarven territory. They also do not interfere with the industry carried out by the stout folk in the higher reaches, although they usually conduct a profitable trade with the dwarves.12 Dwarven lumber-mills work to procure timber and firewood to support tunneling operations in the forested foothills, and to provide light and heat below the surface.1314
Massive iron gates decorated with a huge dwarf faces carved above the entrance, guard all primary ways into to cities of the Five Kings Mountains. Smaller entrances located on high, otherwise inaccessible plateaux allow the stout folk to cultivate crops and provide grazing land for their herds. Additionally, a large number of iron-grated tunnels ensure that fresh air reaches even the deepest tunnels, and smoke and toxic gases can be safely vented away. Reservoirs have been built that catch the seasonal snow-melt and fill the subterranean cisterns with clear water.15
Underground, the dwarves have performed miracles of engineering. Deep inside the mountains lie sprawling megalopolises that stretch the length of the Five Kings Range. Nearly all dwarven settlements of the Five Kings Mountains are linked by long tunnels, though there are occasional tunnel collapses, or tunnels that are sealed on purpose, in places like Droskar's Crag or the sealed-off ancient city of Saggorak; travelers are forced to travel above ground in these cases. The stout folk have constructed sturdy, iron gates throughout these tunnels, having learned their lesson during the orc invasions. The gates are usually open to help facilitate travel and commerce between the cities. For safety reasons, the dwarven cities are arranged in dozens of discrete semi-autonomous caverns.15 Tunnels and caverns are supported by enduring vaulted arches. The dwarven tunnels are well planned, smoothed, and rune-curved, and the halls and passages of the dwarven cavern-cities are hung with rich tapestries and banners to honor their history, heroes, leaders, and gods.12 Despite the dwarven ability to see in the dark, most of the inhabited areas in the dwarven settlements are lit by oil lamps, tallow candles, torches, or magic spells, because the dwarves appreciate color and the play of light. Their mines are never lit with true fire due to the existence of explosive gases.15
The region has no central authority, as each of the various city-states has its own government and traditions. Because it is the only remaining Sky Citadel in the range, the city of Highhelm is considered the de jure capital.6 High King Borogrim the Hale convenes a meeting of the Gathering Council, composed of the rulers of Larrad, Highhelm, Kovlar, Taggoret, Rolgrimmdur, and Tar-Kazmukh once every 200 years. The meetings of the Gathering Council are known to go on for months.12
The major settlements of of the Five Kings Mountains have remained relatively safe and stable despite recent upheavals in nearby nations. Tradition and stability never translate to ignorance or naiveté, though. The dwarves keep a wary eye on Tar-Baphon, the increased tensions between Cheliax and Andoran, the Ironfang hobgoblins of Oprak, and even the newly established realm of New Thassilon.16
The dwarves will always hold a fondness for the people of Druma who helped them negotiate the Kerse Accord and put an end to their internal wars. Primary trade destinations of the stout folk are the Drumish cities of Kerse and Macridi. Flat-bottom boats filled with metal goods and weapons move downstream from Highhelm to both cities on a regular basis.17
Relations with Taldor are very good as both nations have cultural similarities, such as an ordered social hierarchy. Taldor has long encouraged dwarven immigration from the Five Kings Mountains to Taldor as the dwarven expertise in mining and metalworking are much desired there.1819
The Five Kings Mountains are renowned for their top-notch metalwork, gemstones, and other crafted items, but its cities have also nurtured robust trade partnerships with neighboring nations. Notably, they have established flourishing trade links with Druma, and they also engage in commerce with Andoran, Isger, and Taldor. Unfortunately, trade with Galt has significantly declined due to the nation's descent into turmoil. Nevertheless, some merchants are willing to supply equipment to the Gray Gardeners or resistance fighters despite the ongoing chaos.16
Because more dwarves live on and beneath the Five Kings Mountains than anywhere else on Golarion, and because Highhelm was the first and greatest of the mighty Sky Citadels to be built upon the completion of the Quest for Sky, the mountain range and its city-states hold a special place in the hearts and minds of many dwarves.2 The Five Kings Mountains are also at the heart of a resurgent dwarven culture. Five Kings dwarves are actively renewing connections with other dwarven nations that were cut off after the fall of Tar Taargadth. They are also embracing ancient dwarven magical traditions, including the shamanic practices of the Rivethun. This newfound pride in dwarven heritage has sparked greater interaction with the neighboring elven realm of Kyonin. This collaboration between artisans from both cultures has resulted in the creation of exceptional works of art and utility, unparalleled in their beauty and functionality.16
The ancient red dragon known as Daralathyxl, a mighty wyrm, has wandered this part of the world for over two millennia, establishing its lair in the Five Kings Mountains around the year 3001 AR. This formidable dragon, one of the mightiest on all of Golarion, has earned the title of the "Sixth King of the Mountains." The dwarven dwellers here remain ever vigilant, wary of the possibility that their wrathful neighbor might resurface and unleash havoc upon the Shining Kingdoms.21
Many aspects of dwarven society within the Five Kings Mountains revolves around the veneration of traditional dwarven deities. While Torag is widely regarded as the foremost dwarven god (and also the mythological dwarven creator deity), he is just one part of the broader dwarven pantheon. Magrim and Angradd oversee battles, often held up as a mentor-mentee example, while Trudd finds favor among more impulsive youths. Folgrit represents the roles of mothers, wives, daughters, and those providing emotional support; while Bolka is invoked for guidance in matters of the heart—a challenge viewed akin to battle and craftsmanship. Dwarves involved in diplomacy seek the wisdom of Grundinnar. Kols commands immense respect and is cited in formal oaths, like the common expression "Kols witness these words." Within the broader dwarven pantheon, Dranngvit and Droskar receive limited worship, although they are still recognized as essential, albeit less savory, facets of the dwarven experience and, consequently, the pantheon.16
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 66–69. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 66. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- Paizo referred to hryngars as duergar until the publication of Highhelm and the Sky King's Tomb Pathfinder Adventure Path.
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 67. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Dwarves of Golarion” in Dwarves of Golarion, 8. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 68. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Dwarves of Golarion” in Dwarves of Golarion, 9. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- Guide to Darkmoon Vale, inside front cover. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Dwarves of Golarion” in Dwarves of Golarion, 9–10. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 36. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Dwarven Character Traits” in Dwarves of Golarion, 10. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “The Five Kings Mountains” in Dwarves of Golarion, 13. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “The Five Kings Mountains” in Dwarves of Golarion, 12–13. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 7. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “The Five Kings Mountains” in Dwarves of Golarion, 15–16. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Shining Kingdoms” in World Guide, 125–126. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “The Five Kings Mountains” in Dwarves of Golarion, 17. Paizo Inc., 2009 .
- “Gazetteer” in Taldor, the First Empire, 14. Paizo Inc., 2017 .
- “Gazetteer” in Taldor, the First Empire, 21. Paizo Inc., 2017 .
- “The Scrolls” in Pathfinder Society Primer, 11. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Shining Kingdoms” in World Guide, 127. Paizo Inc., 2019 .