The Dwarves of Teleria are divided into two realms: Gloomdeep Hold, and the Skyiron Dominion. Both call themselves kingdoms, for both are ruled by kings. But that is where most of their similarities end.
In Gloomdeep Hold, the Mountain King has absolute power over his territory, both above ground and below it. He bears the weight of ultimate authority in his kingdom, and if disaster strikes his lands he will be held responsible for any harm his people suffer. It is not a weight one carries lightly, and the pressure can sometimes push the Mountain Kings of Gloomdeep to foolish action – it has already nearly cost the kingdom its royal line. In recent times, King Duran the Avaricious pressured his only son, Prince Gnut, to embark on a foolish adventure in the hopes that the boy would recover artifacts that could prove the glory of Gloomdeep Hold. It was a journey that would nearly cost the prince his life, all for the sake of competing with the Skyiron Dominion.
The Skyiron Dominion is ten times the size of Gloomdeep Hold, and is not one kingdom, but many. The Dominion is divided into cantons, which stretch both above and below the vales of the Cloudspire Mountains, and each has its own Skyiron Mountain King. A Mountain King’s authority within their canton is strong, but far from absolute – they compete with guilds, nobles, militia captains, and others. Some groups have legal rights that the king cannot abridge, while others hold tremendous soft power and can compel the king to action or inaction. Then there is the political titan that is the Skyiron Navy. This and a few other institutions hold seats on the Grand Council of the Dominion, where matters affecting all Dwarves in the Cloudspire Mountains are discussed. If the Navy demanded a tax of iron or soldiers, it is all but impossible for the kings to deny them. Some might see this as weakness, rulers bowing to the wishes of their officers. Those who say such things have likely never faced the wrath of a Skyiron warship. It is because of the Navy’s strength that the Mountain Kings do not resent their shared strength, and they bear their titles with pride.
However different the Skyiron Dominion and Gloomdeep Hold might be, they both trace their origins to the under-empire, a unified Dwarven realm that once stretched beneath the whole of Teleria. As a result, the armor and weapons of the Mountain Kings across the world are much the same. They speak the same oaths on their coronation, they carry similarly styled enchanted axes, and they wear identical crowns over their brows. In its heyday, the under-empire united every Dwarven holdfast in a vast network, some of which even wound beneath the seas. Most of the under-empire was lost long ago, but there are some who whisper that one of the lines of Mountain Kings reaches all the way back to the Dwarven Emperors of old. If this is true, it means that one king has the blood-right of absolute authority over all Dwarvenkind.
For now, these ideas remain only rumors. The kinship between the Dwarven realms has been so strong for so long, none have felt any need to unite them under a single banner. But relations between the cantons of the Skyiron Dominion and the cold fastness of Gloomdeep have strained in recent years, as the two are pulled apart by different alliances, different neighbors, and different beliefs. If the two Dwarven realms should someday turn on one another, those rumors of a potential Dwarven Emperor existing may rise up from the ashes of history to become a rallying cry. It may only be a matter of time before a power-hungry Mountain King seeks to reunite his people – not in brotherhood, but by the axe.