The Founders are an ancient and now vanished religious order, believed to have originated in the dawn of the Realm of Strife by those of the newly arrived exiles of the Third Creation who would later become known as Dwarves.
Like so many other early civilizations built in the formative years of the Realm of Strife, their understanding of the creation of their new home was primitive and instinctual. Though they did not give name to it, they were all too aware of the of the eternal struggle now known as the War of Souls, and the pain and suffering that the Abomination of Creation, demons, had caused when they corrupted the Third Creation. As such they respected and revered Creation as a concept, without necessarily understanding its deeper workings. They recognized that Creation was formed of all life; beasts of the air and land and sea, plants and all growing things, their own lives as the Third Creation, and even the very soil and stone of the earth beneath their feet; it all had some part to play in maintaining the delicate balance of this new world.
While the Dwarven people were instilled with an affinity for the earth, building homes in the foundations of mountains, and delving deep to unlock their riches, the Founders knew that these riches were not enough to sustain them in their new home. These enlightened individuals saw in creation a balance of all things, therefore there was value in things that grew and flourished in the sun as well as under the mountains. They began as craftsmen and priests, tending to groves of trees and gardens from which the Dwarven communities would harvest needed timber, as well as fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs, making sure that those resources were protected and blessed for the good of the community. However threats arose to these natural areas and protection was needed to prevent imbalance from destroying these natural regions.
As Dwarven civilization grew beneath the mountains, so to did their need for resources above ground, forcing the Founders to expand further afield. As they expanded their resource holdings, they found that there were two great threats to the balance of Creation. The more minor of these was other refugees of the Third Creation, the barbaric tribes of Men, and the haughty and prideful Elves. They did not seem to share the same respect for Creation as the Founders, they made war and set fires, cleared ground and destroyed trees, marred the mountains and carved up the earth, with no consideration of the delicate balance that held together the Realm of Strife.
It was not long before the wanton pillaging of the natural world encroached upon the sacred holdings of the Founders. And so, from among the strongest and bravest Founders, arose a new order of militant priests tasked with defending these resources from any imbalance or threat. As they armed themselves and trained for battle, they became some of the first Paladins in the Realm of Strife. They allied themselves with the natural world, harnessing its tremendous forces and calling its creatures to their defense, even learning to alter their own form to strike with the fury of the wild. They also learned to use blessed stone from the mountains to build towers and redoubts that would guard these locations, which would later become known as Cathedral Groves.
However, the darker more sinister of the two threats which sought to upend the balance of creation was the Demons. Seeing the stewardship and growing power of the Founders, the Abomination of Creation set itself against the founders. The Demons laid waste to many of the Cathedral Groves, starving countless Dwarven civilizations of their much needed resources. Many historians believe that this is what prevented the Dwarves from becoming the dominate race upon the Continent of Gant. Desperate to fend off the Demon threat, the Founders called out to the Realm of Eternity for aid. Although the Founders did not truly realize who or what they were calling out to, the Realm of Eternity heard them and sent aid, pushing back the Demons and teaching the Founders many secrets to divinely protect themselves and their Cathedral Groves, and giving them the power to excise the demonic presence from their lands.
The Founders are thought to have protected and supplied Dwarven civilization for many generations, but they fell into a slow but steady decline as other civilizations and city states rose and fell around them. In Gant, Humankind eventually established itself as the dominate race among the exiles of the Third Creation and in doing so their interpretation of Creation involving a powerful eternal being or deity called the One God became widespread. These beliefs infiltrated Dwarven society, eventually leading to a merger of old and new beliefs which would become known as the Church of Vahlin the Maker.
As Dwarven society grew more advanced, they discovered more and more ways to draw the resources needed for survival from beneath the mountains, pulling ever inward. Over the passing of generations, many of the Founders would migrate over to this new belief system, made all too easy by the declining reliance upon the Cathedral Groves for resources. Many Cathedral Groves ceased to truly function as resource centers and became purely sacred places for ancient rites and ceremony. As their numbers diminished, the Founders could no longer hold onto all of their remaining Cathedral groves, losing them to the age old threats of imbalance. So it was that the Founders turned to Dwarven ingenuity to bolster their ailing forces, building immortal constructs of wood and stone that could mimic many of the different forms of Creation and setting them to the task of defending the Cathedral Groves. These guardians, known as Dhoire, would prove all too effective at their charge, outlasting even the Founders who created them.
Dwarven historians cannot agree on exactly when the Founders truly disappeared, but it has been over a millennia since they have been heard from. Their legacy is said to live on in the Cathedral Groves of the West Gantinor Foothills, though even these seem to now be lost to the world. Though they are devout in their faith in Vahlin the Maker, the now mythical Founders still have a respected place in the hearts of the Dwarves of Ralgor. They recognize that this primal religion formed the back bone of their civilization in its infancy, worshiping Vahlin in their own way, as the Father of all the Earth.