Thursday, 26 May 2016

Iron Dwarves

Iron Dwarf armed for exploring the surface.
Mythos and History
The Ancient Mostali were meant to create. They were designed to shape, to work and to help, all to keep the World Machine functioning. When the trolls, elves, and others invaded the Spike and destroyed Mostal the World Machine, the Mostali were at a loss. The concepts of death and destruction was alien to them. So how could they defend against them?
This was the riddle of Iron. How making can lead to destruction. They turned living metal into an instrument of death, which then allowed them to turn simple tools into weapons, and protective garments into armour plating. It also allowed them to create the Iron caste.
Without Mostal, they could not make more Ancient Mostali, but they needed protectors. Each caste sent those who were most most flexible, most eager to learn the ways of war, and most disposable. They clad themselves in Iron, and armed themselves with the new weapons, and went out from the Spike to drive away the enemies of Mostal.
It was not enough. The enemy had great numbers, and the Mostali had few. Every hand which went to holding an axe or war pick was one which was not repairing the World Machine. Every death meant knowledge and skill which would no longer be around.
And so, in a moment of desperation, the Ancient Mostali created the Clay Mostali, known to men as dwarves. They were crude imitations of their predecessors, but they were well suited for their tasks. They had compact bodies, to work in cramped conditions, enlarged sensory organs, to see, hear, and smell better, and they were soft and able to be reshaped. While some were taught by the Ancient Mostali of the Spike, others were sent out, in armour of iron and bronze, to reinforce the Iron Mostali.
Then the disaster occurred, and the Spike was destroyed. Many dwarves, and almost all the Ancient Mostali were destroyed. The remaining Mostali and dwarves forged their own settlements in what redoubts and fortresses still remained, and eventually developed into the dwarven nations such as Nida and Greatway.

Nature of the Iron Dwarves
Iron Dwarves, like their Ancient Mostali predecessors, are not born to their caste. Instead, each is recruited from the ranks of the other dwarves; selected by virtue of their capacity for warlike behaviour, loyalty to the Mostali purpose, and (most dangerous of all) the capability for improvisation and the prediction of enemy actions.
While to outsiders Iron Dwarves seem as staid and inflexible as their kin, the Mostali learned the need for independent thought to oppose the other races during the Gods' War. Indeed, many Mostali stories are about how the Iron Mostali learned to adapt when the trolls or elves acted in unpredictable ways. (Such as tunnelling through the floor of a chamber, rather than walking straight into the waiting crossbows and axes of the Iron Mostali as had been expected.)

Each dwarven city will have a great barracks housing all the Iron Dwarves, attached to it are forges and armouries filled with weapons and armour. The dwarves treat these complexes as if they were temples to war, and any Iron Dwarf travelling from one settlement to another will be treated much like a wandering initiate to the same god, and given food and shelter within the barracks.
The Iron Dwarves of each settlement will typically organize themselves into units of eight dwarves, led by a ninth Iron Dwarf of higher rank, who acts as priest and military commander to the unit. Each unit will name themselves after their purpose within the dwarven hierarchy; such as the Nidan Expeditionary Forces, or the Rubble Trackers of Pavis.

Iron Dwarf Cultural Keyword
Dwarves are an advanced civilized culture based around the arts of Alchemy and Sorcery. They live in redoubts within mountains and deep underground, with only the Iron Dwarf caste being likely to see the light of Yelm. Their society is not organized along kin lines, which the dwarves see as horrific, but instead around occupations, with all kettle-makers being part of a particular close knit union, which are themselves part of the great caste of copper workers.
Dwarves are around four feet tall, but are typically so stooped and hunchbacked that they appear closer to a yard in height. Their skin runs the gamut of shades, from so pallid and clammy they could be mistaken for corpses, to dark and ruddy from working near flame and furnace. Many dwarves wear beards, but this is not universal; and the crude and ugly facial features of Iron Dwarves are concealed within helmets of iron and brass.
The Dwarves worship no gods, and placate no spirits. Instead their philosophy, called the Way of Mostal, is devoted to manipulating the elemental substances that make up the world, through Alchemy and Sorcery. The Way of Mostal guarantees immortality for those who follow it, as long as they perform their assigned tasks to keep the World Machine functioning.
Iron Dwarves speak the Mostali tongue, a completely alien language to other races and cultures, helping ensure they won't be overheard by outsiders. They will also know the language of the local humans, although they will often profess ignorance if they don't want to talk. All dwarves are literate, knowing the ancient ideograms of their language.

Dwarven names are based upon their occupation, and often seem more like titles. Deepseam, Goldeye, and Ironvoice are examples of such names given to miners, scouts, and diplomats. Many are also left in the ancient Mostali tongue, such as Belkstan, Arapan, or Iravain. Others use both their name and its tradetalk translation when dealing with humans, such as the legendary Chark the Liberator who brought Illumination to the dwarves.

Common Occupations of the Iron Dwarves
  • Alchemist: After warriors, alchemists are the most common Iron Dwarves. As their duty requires them to leave the safety of dwarven life, they are most in need of the ingenious devices of alchemy. Those who know how to make and use these devices are often given command over Iron Dwarf units, and are always given great respect.
  • Crafter: While all dwarves know the arts of creation, those who specialise in making common and useful goods are rarely turned into Iron Dwarves. Those who are are usually from the Brass Dwarves, and are trained in making weapons from Brass, and eventually the Death Metal Iron.
  • Healer: These will be former Tin and Quicksilver Dwarves, and will act as battlefield medics. They do have a reputation for eagerness, seeing amputation and replacement with a weapon or alchemical wonder as preferable to the risk of infection.
  • Merchant: These former Gold and Copper dwarves have the most unpleasant duty of all, talking and deal-making with the primitive humans nearby dwarven enclaves. 
  • Scribe: Repairing the World Machine requires many careful observations and lengthy note-taking to make sure all is following the schedule. Gold dwarves are often assigned as observers, recording copious information on the outside world.
  • Sorcerer: Almost always former Silver Dwarves, the war-mages of the Iron Dwarves usually focus on commanding elemental beings, and will often be able to change an entire battlefield in dramatic ways, such as turning solid rock into soft and treacherous sand.
  • Warrior: The prototypical Iron Dwarf. Dwarven warriors are almost entirely heavy infantry, although the few light infantry act as scouts and trackers for their allies. Dwarves do not use cavalry.

Panoply of Iron
Iron Dwarves count Flares, Smoke Bombs, and Compasses amongst their Panoply, finding them essential for their work. They also use Tanien's Water, although they still call it Dwarven Fire. (Well, technically they call it Liquefied Fire, but will use the name Dwarven Fire when dealing with humans)
  •      Disorder Keg. This small container is usually made of wood, although both stone and metal variant exist. Inside them is the dangerous Black Powder, which the dwarves claim is crystallized disruption. Certainly, those who have seen it in action would agree, for when the kegs are ignited or treated too roughly, they release a tumult of heat, flame, noise, smoke and wind.
  •  Thunderstick. One of the most infamous Creations of the Dwarves, the Thunderstick is a long iron and brass tube, given a trigger and a stock, and moulded into the likeness of an animal. The most common animal design is that of a sparrowhawk. When the trigger is pulled, a piece of Thunderstone is immersed into a small reservoir of Black Powder. The anger of the Thunderstone sets off the powder with a crack of thunder, while the powder's tumult launches a sling-bullet with deadly force and accuracy at whatever the Thunderstick is aimed at.
  • Igniter. A small Thunderstone is bound within an iron cage. When  the cage is squeezed it enrages the Thunderstone. The Thunderstone sends out a small lightning bolt, which is usually directed towards Black Powder, or other flammable objects.
  • Repeater. This Creation takes the form of a box which sits atop a dwarven crossbow. Inside it is a miracle of clockwork which loads quarrels and pulls back the bowstring, allowing a crossbow to be fired repeatedly without stopping, at magical speeds.
  • Opener. This small ze-metal raven's talon is marked with designs recalling the Movement Rune, including miniature cogs. Through their arcane movement, when the Opener is plunged into a sealed object, such as a locked door, the Opener forces it to move, allowing entry. For some reason, the Iron Dwarves mostly use this to open their sealed rations.
  • Farseer. This Creation is a cone of interlocking gold tubes. The interlocking nature allows the Creation to be shrunk for ease of storage. In each end of the Farseer is a disk of polished crystal called an Energy Canteen by the dwarves. When extended, these crystals activate the Truth runes marked along the tubes, and allow someone looking in the small end the vision of a hawk, thereby letting them see great distances away in great quality.
  • Pure Air Mask. This Creation is a leather mask, fitted with a prominent beak or nose like extremity. This beak is often also leather, but elaborate ones made of aluminium have been discovered. The beak contains a mass of Earthbone, riddled with small tunnels which attract miniature sylphs to dwell within. The sylph wards off the forces of Mallia, rendering the wearer immune to miasma and other toxic gases.
Dwarven sling bullet, marked with Thunderbolt on one side, and Law and Mastery Runes on the other.

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