20 November 2021

This living rock, my brother - alternate dwarf culture: brazen dwarves

Dwarves are famous as iron workers but bronze is arguably the superior metal, iron is just more abundant and easier to work. Brazen dwarves are a convergent evolutionary species that occupies the same niche as common dwarves on other worlds.

The key aspects of the brazen dwarves
- non-standard senses and perceptions
- aesthetics of the living rock
- corporate city states with archives of secrets and ablative kings

First are their non-standard senses.
1. Their whiskers detect magnetism - they style their beards into ringlets for better antennae - different cultures and dwarfholds use different styles to tune in different frequencies
2. Their 'eyes' are pure infrared/heat detection like a snakes pit organs
3. Their hearing is sharp but they also have delicate vibrasenses that help them maintain bearing in their coiling tunels. "Drimmel" tapping code - ancient common language of all brazen dwarves - allows precise communication at distance
4. Their writing is textured - like cuniform on wax, rock - read with a breath - 'whuffs' - to sense the shape with vibrasense or a finger
5. They can spark EM pulses - salamander tail like flashes - for a crude radar-like sense, like bat echolocation but silent
6. 'Drummmel spires' or mountain drums - are used for navigation above and below ground - great beacons set up with mysterious devices that charge/discharge
7. Ferrous metals are for reading - iron dust in wax for chalk - wax/iron sticks are rubbed onto a surface to make a splotch then shocked into the shape if the message with their charges
8. Bronze and ceramics are used for gear - non-magnetic to not block vision
9. They can perceive through light materials to hidden weapons or to catch sleight of hand. Among other races 'as if a dwarf is watching' is the saying for playing things by the book.
10. Brazen dwarf mountain drums are often put in inexplicable places and appear as landmarks even in the oldest of maps for other peoples.

As a people they are very old, predating most things.
1. Their dwellings are tunnels aligned with the stone - cities of cramped compartments, not great halls, dark and appearing red/black to the eyes of others
2. They live amongst their machines, they and the machines are all part of the great work. Habitation spaces contain lots of mechanicals, homes are open devices w/ trip hammers, casting forges, polishing and grinding cast parts.
3. Their sense of self is transient - they walk around in this shell today, one day they will return to inhabit the stone. While the greatest of leaders will be cremated in the forges most other brazen dwarves will be laid out for mineralisation beneath stalagtites, ready to be animated again in time of future need after they have been reclaimed by the rock
4. Animated fossils are used extensively particularly around deep lake and coastal habitations. Many will be creatures now long gone but fondly remembered by the brazen dwarves.
5. Trade with others focuses on surface foods, with fruit fermentations being a premium. They offer dark brewed beers and the treasures of the deep earth. Noone things to ask them about what they know of the skies.
6. They reject the surface by day - the shrieking noise, clanging heat of the sun - the quiet of moon and stars is much prefered.

As a society, they tend to ancient city states with deep archives. Weird and esoteric technologies developed, forgotten and rediscovered. Dread weapons are stored in racks alongside toys and convenience gizmos.
1. They are organised in city states with their records carved on the walls - the general philosophy is that the wheels of fate humble everyone eventually but one must be ready to rise back up. 'trust when the stone speaks' accepting fate, earthquakes - prepare then rebound
2. Their records give a great awareness of rock content and its flaws like petroleum, gems and metals as they have tracked the geology over aeons. Petro products - gas and advanced waxes - are used to bind magic into fancy candles. Coal seams are sought to harness gas and for forge fuel
3. Deep understanding of the unseen energies of the world, tapping leylines, lighting and ethereal winds to drive their machines in places where there seems to be nothing. They traverse space by fixing a citadel in space with etheral anchors and allowing the planet to roll away.
4. Crafts follow the ways of the earth - look strange, organic, crystalline. Most of these devices are made by hand-sculpting rocks to reveal the necessary properties within.
5. Devices like windmills and waterwheels that continuously operate are favourites, with volcanic vents are harnessed with turbines.
6. They carry out extensive sub aquatic activities farming cave fish, molluscs, algae and kelp, harvesting metal nodules and studying the fascinating deep abyss. Their most complex devices attempt to plumb these dark and silent depths
7. Weapons for tunnel fighting like fire-throwers are esteemed - on foe on fire, especially undead - is easier to see. Magneto charges w/ wax drop fuses can be improvised from writing sticks to make a dull flash but deafen and blind other brazen dwarves. Rockets fuelled with byproducts from wax-making are sometimes used but short-ranges in tunnels makes them unpopular.
8. Longstanding relationships with sphynx, elves, myconids and other ancient races exist. They appreciate each other as part of the scenary. Nocturnal avians like dealing with brazen dwarves who provide immense navigating beacons with their drumspires. They are hated by stone giants and standard dwarves like carpenters hate woodworm.
9. Their great library tunnels contain knowledge beyond the dreams of scholars, poorly indexed but complete. They know the true names of most things.
10. They plan in geological time, with dwarf holds setting members to rest in the stone to wake in aeons to come once a ruby vein has ripened or a fresh continent has risen from the seas. Sometimes they will ride their home down, beneath the grinding edge of a continental plate, down into the searing depths. The greatest souls are said to return, their fossils intact and transformed into marble, to rise again. This has not been verified by a non brazen dwarf.
11. The cities are run by councils and committees, with decisions made mostly on what has worked well in the past. They are slow to adapt to totally new threats but have contingency plans based on rare historical occurrences that extend into aeons. Many of the things they do are for maintenance or preparation for these contingency plans which have grown obscure over time.
12. The local coordinator for a group will typically wear an crown-like helm which amplifies their 'voice' to all brazen dwarves nearby. To outsiders it appears that they have an endless supply of kings. 'To slay a dwarven king' is a saying for a futile activity that will just make things worse.

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