"It was unnerving to be brought into the Duar settlement to trade. They insisted we speak in whispers, so quiet hardly any of us could hear them, and when Jenkins spat an oath at one of their offerings, they jumped like he’d struck them and nearly carried him back outside their village. He was forced to stay outside with the hired guards the rest of the time we were there."
-Merchant Deeptrader Josiah d’Heth
The Duar are a subterranean race, living in mined-out passages and caverns, both familiar in their intelligence and utterly alien in their appearance and behavior. Duar is their name for themselves, whether in the singular or plural; it is believed that the corruption of this name is where their racial descendants acquired the name ‘dwarf’ for themselves, as surface-dwellers corrupted the original name.
A Duar is, by necessity, short and compact to better accommodate life in deep tunnels. Rarely reaching a height of three feet, they are easily as broad as they are tall, with a solidly constructed skeleton that anchors powerful muscles that can tirelessly work at heavy labor. Their flesh is weirdly pale when it is visible, almost translucent, with the workings of muscles dimly visible underneath.
The unsettling appearance of their skin is only magnified, however, by their heads; Duar have no eyes, ears, or noses, only skin stretched tightly against their skin that bristles with a dense fur of vibration-sensitive hairs. This fur covers nearly their entire body, with only the palms of their hands and soles of their feet uncovered. Their mouths are also strangely small, almost as if they might atrophy away some day and leave the Duar with blank visages. More than a few of those who have had contact with them are subject to nightmares of their blank skulls afterwards.
The Duar have nothing that surface-dwellers would recognize as lungs, respirating directly through their skin; their sense of smell is remarkably acute, as the entire surface area beneath their fur is capable of analyzing the olfactory component of their environment. While they are quite vulnerable to toxic gas, being unable to hold their breath, they are also quite adept at detecting such toxins long before they reach harmful levels, an adaptation that has saved them from pools of deadly gas in deep caverns many times.
Few know that the Duar, when forced to communicate with surface-dwellers, ‘speak’ by sucking air into their stomachs and effectively belching it back out, giving their quiet voices the gravelly sound for which they are famous. Those who do are often those who have taken the time to learn the Duar language, with the discovery that it is almost impossible for any other race to speak, with infinitesmally slight variants on other sounds the body is capable of. It is this reason that the Duar are known for their habit of stroking their ‘beards’.
Duar do not have have the ability to see; instead, in addition to their powerful sense of smell, the vibration-sensitive fur across their bodies affords them an incredibly acute sense of hearing, easily as precise a a surface-dweller’s eyesight at mapping their surroundings, with the additional benefit of having no blind spots.
The fingertips of an Duar are completely bare of this sensitive fur, with dense clusters of nerves that give them a tactile sense of remarkable acuity; this is most often put to use in their perpetual stoneshaping projects, allowing them to slowly work stone and soft metals to as perfectly smooth a finish as possible. Some scholars theorize that this trait of the race, and the craftiness of their descendants, is the result of the direct patronage of the Lost God Koriel, the famed Chaos-Crafter who is said to have crafted many of the ancient relics that grace the world.
the most well-known fact about the Duar, even among those surface-dwelling races which never descend into the darkness below the world to treat with them, is the taboo the creatures have against loud noises of any kind. Merchants quickly learn to speak in a soft whisper and not to wear metal that might bang when they visit, as any loud sounds will upset the Duar and cause them to bid the one responsible to leave immeadiately. While difficult for surface-dwellers to comprehend, the reason is quite simple - to the extremely sound-sensitive Duar, a loud sound such as a shouted oath or a metal goblet being dropping to the floor is much like having a fragment of magnesium lit before one’s eyes - painful, blinding, and potentially debilitating in the long term.
Another truism in dealing with the blind creatures is that they are quite fond of strongly scented spices and herbs from the surface world. Even the slightest trace of a powerful spice on a merchant’s body or clothing will draw their appreciation, and a single one-ounce package of cinammon will keep an entire extended family in an olfactory heaven for many months, and some clans even go so far as to use faint traces of different spices to denote different sections of their communal space, leading to extreme confusion among visitors who are told that their quarter are in the cinammon section, left from the lemon after passing the thyme.
The Duar are a people whose conception of time is nearly geological in pace; able to live for thousands of years, easily a full magnitude longer than any of their children-races, they are the very epitome of patience, and their civilization shows it. The underground of the world is filled with a loose network of extended Duar families living in loosely associated clans, interconnected by tunnels which are almost organically fluid in their shapes.