A Dwarven Celebration
Each year on the 28th of Amada, dwarves across Ellara celebrate the defeat of the Minotaurs and seizure of what would later be called Stonesunder. Previously inhabited by Takaris Heavyfoot and his clan of minotaurs, this mountain fortress was captured by the dwarven army led by Takard Stonesunder , and renamed in his honor. Perhaps the greatest dwarven achievement in recent history, the battle for Stonesunder has remained a pivotal point in dwarven culture for the clans of the mainland.
Weeks are spent preparing for the festivities of Barrak Runedar. The halls and greatrooms are decorated with dark red fabric hanging from the walls and fur pelts on the floors to simulate the bloody swath that the dwarven army carved through the minotaur rabble.
Never ones to dwell on accuracy when telling tales of their combat prowess, Barrak Runedar is not a historical rendition of the taking of Stonesunder, but rather a wholehearted celebration of the superiority of the Dwarven battle-culture.
The wealthiest families often have “parade armor” commissioned just to wear for this celebration. Embossed or engraved with elaborate battle scenes, the armor is light and agile enough for the patriarch of each family to still compete for honor and glory in that night’s games. Even the poorest families and clans of Stonesunder are expected to field a participant, but their dress may be characterized by a simple blood red sash worn over their normal clothing. The single item that every competitor MUST have to play the games is a horned helmet. While the most prestigious families take pride in their helmet being “horned” from one of the slain minotaur of the battle, most are actually just bovine horns.
The games themselves are treated as bloodsport by the dwarves, although combat is certainly not the focal point. There are a series of 4 events, each chosen by the 4 families who won the year prior. This means that the competition varies wildly each year and the chosen event is closely guarded until the night before Barrak Runedar when the pre-celebration begins and the competitors are publicly announced by each family. A family can only win a single event. Many still compete in the other events even though they cannot be hailed as the victor.
Several of the more popular events include:
The Tipper: Each competitor has a support member of their family to hand them full flagons of beer as they balance on a greased barrel. The first person to finish 6 flagons without falling off is the winner. No more than two beers may be dropped to be considered a finisher.
The Gutshaker: a minimum of four pitchers are set aside for each competitor, they alternate having a dark beer and goats milk. Pitchers are placed on two tables spaced about 25yds apart. Competitors start with the dark beer, then sprint to the milk table, then back to the beer table. This continues until all but the last person retches in their helmet.
The Race: each competitor starts with a small portable forge, an iron ingot and 12” length of bar stock. At the signal, they each work to forge a small handaxe. Once forged and quenched, the axe must be used to cut a notch at least 6” deep into a supported log. After this chopping test, the axe is hurled at barrel full of mead 20’ away, set above a trough. If the axe is able to create a leak in the barrel, the maker of the axe must run to the barrel a fill his helmet with mead, and then drink the contents of the helmet completely. If the axe does not immediately cause a leak, he may remove the axe and try again. There is only one barrel, and the first to fill (and empty) their helm of mead wins.
The Pit: a small pit 10’ wide, 15’ long, and 3’ deep is prepared in advance and filled with rotting food and table scraps. Throughout the festivities, it is also used as a makeshift urinal. A set of 4” wide planks span the length of the pit, with the number of planks equaling twice the number of competitors. Each participant has a mug of beer and a wooden club. Participants are randomly assigned a starting side and all converge on the center when a horn in blown to signal the start. The only fair blows are at the legs (wearing greaves) and head (which is helmeted). A combatant is knocked out of battle if they spill their mug completely or are knocked into the pit. Every 30 seconds, a 4” plank is removed from the end, shrinking the platform. When the last dwarf is left, everyone finishes their cup.
Holy Fire: A large round table is set with iron mugs around the outside for each competitor. Participants are not allowed to wear any gloves or coverings on their hands. The alcoholic contents of all mugs are ignited at the same time through magical means. Participants must keep their hand on the mug as long as possible, before blowing out the flame and drinking the contents. The last person to drink their mug wins.
While the games themselves grow and change each year, there is a downside to being one of the four champions. Bragging rights aside, each champion is expected to spend the next year creating a valuable contribution to the next year’s festival. This could be as simple as supplying 10 casks of mead for the next festival, or as elaborate as traveling to Brightport to secure (and fund) carnival entertainment (a task that grows increasingly difficult as the rumors of the night’s events spread). Either way, the attempt to make each years’ Barrak Runedar bigger and better than before is getting harder for the dwarves of Stonesunder.