Vergadain, also known as The Laughing Dwarf by non-dwarves, is the neutral dwarven deity of luck, trickery, negotiation and wealth, and sometimes considered an exarch of Moradin.
While it seemed that Vergadain represented the dwarves' well-known dedication to the mercantile art of bargaining, those who knew better were aware that he had an aspect that seldom filled the more legal-minded dwarves with pride. As such, Vergadain also watched over those dwarves who used less-than-legal means to gain wealth. Regardless of how he was viewed, Vergadain delighted in the art of the deal, no matter what it was, so long as it turned a profit.
Vergadain also represented the god Bes, the Short Father, in the Realms, thus becoming the god of chance and luck within the Mulhorandi pantheon. In the later 14th century, Bes' worship had declined to the point where only a few merchants in Skuld still prayed to him.
In the knowledgeable society, few admit to following Vergadain, as those who profess adherence to his doctrine are known as either skilled negotiators, shameless thieves, or both. Clerics are dedicated to furthering the progress of dwarven commerce and travel the world more widely than the servants of any member of the Morndinsamman (except Marthammor Duin). The Merchant King expects all his clerics to be personally wealthy, and to ensure that a portion of their wealth goes to keeping the local temple. When clerics multiclass, they typically do so as rogues.
VestmentsClerics of Vergadain favor rich robes of obvious cost studded with gems and trimmed with furs. A string of linked gold coins is draped over the shoulders and around the neck. Gold and deep purple are preferred for colors. Ceremonial armor includes ornate chainmail, a gem-studded gorget bearing Vergadain's symbol, and an elaborately decorated helm. Senior priests are expected to have their ceremonial armor plated in gold—it's quite a dishonor if they can't afford this—and junior priests who can afford to do this as well are considered marked for great status.
In day-to-day life, Vergadain's clerics tend to prefer leather armor worn underneath their normal clothing; when going into danger, they usually wear chain mail with a helm and a gorget. They favor small, easily concealed weapons such as daggers, knives, and short swords.
HierarchyPriests of Vergadain are called the Hurndor ("those who trade"). Novitiates are the Impoverished, whilst full priests are called Gilded Merchants, ascending through the ranks of Alloyn, Copprak, Argentle, Electrol, Aurak and High Aurak. The senior priests are called the Merchant Princes.
TemplesTemples to Vergadain are either windowless vaults deep in the ground, or fortress-like vaults above-ground; they are filled with treasures donated by the faithful, but also guarded with traps and enchanted devices called guardian anators, which can blast trespassers and thieves with lightning bolts and magic missiles (unless a secret pass phase is uttered, usually only known to high priests). The center of every temple is a huge stone cauldron, which serves as an altar to Vergadain; offerings to the god are tossed inside.
RitualsHoly days in the Vergadain faith are called coin festivals (by the faithful) and trade moots (by everyone else). This is because Vergadain's followers typically seek to earn as much coin as they can before the ceremony-proper starts, and thus they engage in a riot of bargain-rich merchandising before they enter the temple. Coin festivals are held on the days before and after a full moon, and on any day proclaimed holy by a Merchant Prince.
The ceremony proper is held inside the temple, where the faithful wear ostentatious displays of their wealth and begin a slow, stately dance around torches, braziers or other flames. Ever participant throws at least one gold coin or other valuable into the flames, which are consumed; on rare occasions, the flames may die down and reveal a sending from Vergadain himself. The most common sending is the duplicate key to a strongbox, vault or barrier that prevents dwarves from reaching wealth rightfully belonging to them, or stolen by cheating them over a period of time, but it may also include other sendings, such as maps, clues, scrolls or potions. Weapons are extremely rare gifts.
The dance ends when the flame flares upward, signifying Vergadain's attention and thanks. The priests then light candles or conjure light and proceed first to discuss business, then to transfer fees. Finally, the ranking priest passes his hand through the flame, which slowly diminishes; the faithful then kiss gold coins as gestures of farewell and depart.
All of Vergadain's faithful are called upon to make an offering to him at least once per month, which is usually done by throwing coins or other valuables into the altar-cauldron during a coin festival. The more ostentatious the offering, the more status the faithful can earn.
OrdersThe Golden Hands of Vergadain is a widely scattered order of priests and thieves found in most major cities where dwarves live and trade, as well as along the major trading routes used by the dwarves. In exchange for a small percentage of any recovered wealth, members of the Golden Hands seek to secure the safety of dwarven merchants and deal with those who would cheat the Stout Folk. In cities, the Golden Hands organization is often structured like a thieves' guild, employing many rogues. They raid warehouses of merchants of other races believed to contain goods stolen from dwarven merchants by force or fraud. Along trade routes, the Golden Hands resemble roving mercenary companies composed largely of fighting clerics and specialty priests. They often seek out and destroy monsters or brigands threatening trade routes, ransom kidnapped dwarven merchants, and recover goods from plundered dwarven caravans.
The truly blessed are those whose enterprise and zeal brings both wealth and good luck. Work hard, be clever, seek the best bargain, and the Merchant King will shower you with gold. Treat others with respect, but shirk not your responsibility to try to strike a deal better for you than for them.
Vergadain appears as a tall dwarf dressed in the brown and yellow garb of a merchant; often his clothes are dusty from his long travels. Underneath this, he wears armor and often carries musical instruments (Vergadain has a great singing voice and is said to be a great poet), disguises, and sacks of treasure protected with poisonous snakes and vermin. His boots contain concealed weapons such as knives or garrotes, or hidden places or both. His eyes sparkle enigmatically, and he smiles more than any other dwarven god.
Vergadain was very popular among the Morndinsamman, while sharing a particularly strong friendship with Dugmaren Brightmantle, as they shared an interest in mischief. He also occasionally partnered with Abbathor, a relationship that they both would have described as a "business arrangement". After traveling throughout Faerûn, Vergadain had also gained many allies among the non-dwarf mercantine deities.