Both the dwarf kingdoms of Meckelorn and Stahlheim have a cultural norm that women take care of the homesteads, children, and elderly and men go out to mine, gather food, or march with the army, but the dwarves do not want their women to be damsels in distress. Most dwarf women, much like dwarf men, are expected to be reasonably competent in a fight. The Maiden Guard is the organization responsible for making sure dwarf women can hold their own. As part of their rite of passage into womanhood, an adolescent dwarf girl is expected to spend a minimum of three months undergoing training with the Maiden Guard. Afterwards, until they are middle aged, dwarf women in the lands of Stahlheim are expected to train with the Maiden Guard for one week for every year, so their skills do not get rusty. In the land of Meckelorn dwarf women are expected to train with them two weeks a year to keep their skills sharp. All dwarf women are expected to show basic proficiency with a crossbow and at least one melee weapon. Poorer clans tend to favor spears and richer clans tend to favor battle axes or swords. Any young dwarf woman that shows a special aptitude for weapons training is likely to be invited to become an officer of the Maiden Guard, either serving as a full time officer or serving three or six month rotations. Any dwarf women under middle age can be called up as a reservist by a ranking officer of the Maiden Guard. Ever alert for dangers at the homestead, the Maiden Guard often manages to mobilize the women before the men can muster their reserves, at least in the case of surprise attacks. The Maiden Guard and their reservists more often than not are dealing with goblins and other foes that rely on trickery and guile over brute force. After generations of playing counter espionage, most of the best dwarf investigators are officers of the Maiden Guard. The Maiden Guard and their reserves are intended primarily as a defensive force, the defense of children especially. Dwarf women can sometimes accompany men in battle on offensive actions, this is pretty rare. It is fairly common to see dwarf men and women fighting side-by-side defensively. When the dwarves are officially in a state of war, every war council has a officer of the Maiden Guard as an observer if not an advisor. Both the kings of Meckelorn and Stahlheim have a matriarch of the Maiden Guard on their council and most of their higher ranking vassals follow suit. It is not forbidden for an officer of the Maiden Guard to also be ordained as a priestess so the Maiden Guard has an ear in ecclesiastical politics. Since the officers meet with the women of the general populace often they get a lot of gossip and scuttlebutt. The Maiden Guard is one of few organizations that transcends the political boundaries of Meckelorn and Stahlheim All of this together means that the officers of the Maiden Guard are very well informed about the goings on of both the very high and the very low of dwarf society.
DetractorsWhile most dwarves hold the Maiden Guard in high regard, they have some detractors. A few, mostly Stahlheimer dwarves, believe that it is a waste of time to train women to fight or it is amoral to send women out into dangerous situations, believing men should handle all of the fighting. Others argue that the concept of women warriors is sound, but the implementation is flawed. Some think that dwarves should put their fighting men and women together rather than maintain separate command structures, separate armories, and separate supply lines. All of this is expensive. The Maiden Guard's material needs are sustained by "voluntary" donations but clans that are viewed as being stingy on donations get shunned and many men and women alike do not appreciate this. Others argue that while girls should learn to fight just like boys do, it would better if young women trained within their clans like the young men do rather than training with strangers though it has been countered that since women join their husband's clan, it might be complicated if her father's clan and her husband's clan have different approaches to training, favored weapons, and drills, this necessitates women having their own parallel group with a more or less standardized set of rules. Others argue that it is unfair that dwarf women are expected to fight while most allied gnomes and kalazotz, male and female alike, are not expected to be able to fight. Some dwarves in both major nations view it as a wonderful thing that Maiden Guard stretches across Meckelorn and Stahlheim while others in both nations would prefer the two nations create separate Maiden Guard organizations.
What About Mondert?Mondarian dwarves and Mondarian humans do not require their women to fight nor do they do forbid them from fighting. The Mondert Armed Forces integrate their fighting men and women into the same force. They are generally less formal than other dwarves, they have very few full time soldiers. If there is a hostile force, the young and strong (both men and women, humans and dwarves) will take up weapons and band together to kill or drive off whatever the problem is.
What About Penarchian dwarves?Penarchian dwarves are less militarized than most other dwarves. They tend to rely more on their professional soldiers than their reservists. Penarchian dwarf clans tend to discourage their women from becoming soldiers though their few female soldiers tend to be very formidable warriors indeed because of the barriers they have to overcome to prove themselves. Female Penarchian dwarf warriors, once accepted, are not treated differently than male warriors and they fight together.
Are the Maiden Guard officers actually maidens?The officers of the Maiden Guard are not all maidens. Marriage is not forbidden nor is having a civilian job though many officers do choose to remain celibate and/or abstain from civilian work. Roughly half of the Maiden Guard's officers chose to marry and roughly two thirds of them choose to maintain a non-military trade. Promotions come slightly faster to officers who are unmarried than those who are married. Promotions come much faster to full time officers than part-time officers who have a second job. Most of the ranking matriarchs are essentially married to the Maiden Guard. Dwarf women have a high social expectation to get married and have children. Becoming an officer of the Maiden Guard is one of the few socially acceptable ways a dwarf woman can avoid marriage given that the Maiden Guard are responsible for the safety of all children, no one can accuse them of shirking their maternal duties. Many dwarf men find officers of the Maiden Guard to be very attractive marriage partners believing that strong women bear and raise strong children. It is common to see officers of the Maiden Guard marry male war heroes. The children of such unions are are watched closely and have very high expectations placed on them. Sometimes these children grow up to be great heroes or heroines or they might snap under the pressure. Are some officers secretly "leafers"? Yes, but not as many as most dwarf men think.