Books and Scrolls
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September 3, 2013, 9:39 am

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What Is A Dwarf


A miserable little pile of secrets? No, where did you get that idea? Join the scholar Matteus Carter as he unveils the secrets of an ancient dwarven poem.

The first passage starts with three single runes, which can be translated into the dwarven virtues.

Tenacity, Loyalty, Tradition

We crawl through rocky crevices, filling our bellows with soot. A chill kiss upon our beards, only the sounds of our bodies in our ears. Rewarded perhaps with a glimpse of glimmer, unspeakable beauty not viewable elsewhere. Toiling away, one chip at the time, hours, days, until dear mother yields her treasures. Our arms may tire, but never will our hearts. That is what it means to be dwarva.

I feel I need to clarify, dwarves use the same word for lungs as bellows, I stuck with bellows for the artistic feel of it. The mother referenced therein, most likely pertains to the earth itself. For those who have never met with a dwarven woman, it is worth pointing out, that only a handful of them sport beards, nevertheless, it isn't uncommon for female dwarves to be miners, blacksmiths or to have other strenuous professions, but it is much more prevalent among the caste-less. The word dwarva is the dwarven' name for their kind, out of respect I decided to keep the original name.

After dropping our haul, We see the welcoming lanterns. Frosty brew flows past our lips, warming all that we are. Welcoming arms and shouted merriment, we revel in the moment of community, for tomorrow we are once again apart. But still we stand together, bound by rune, bound by word, bound by blood, by clan and by walls. We may be apart, but alone we are never. We are one, and so were our fathers and mothers, and their fathers and their mothers. That is what it means to be dwarva.

Bound by rune can pertain to both laws and tradition. It should be pointed out, that the poet worked as a miner, and while this poem has become somewhat of the norm for the stereotypical dwarf that exists in the minds of most simpletons(contrary to popular belief, the dwarves have no known songs containing the lyrics, hi-ho, hi-ho), it's worth noting that not nearly all of them work in mines and drink their evenings away.

When we stand in defense of our hearths, we never falter. Even in the long sleep, we are remembered. Embraced by our mother, we are safe from all harm. And so we stand, the taste of iron in our mouths, swinging away, shields locked. A great clamour of metal and confusion. We stand, and we win, there is no other way. That is what it means to be dwarva.

The long sleep is what the dwarves call death. Once again we see references to the earth mother, worth noting is that dwarves are traditionally buried in stone coffins.Or for the caste-less and poor, cremated and honoured with a small plaque. But everyone's names, no matter the station, are recorded by the lorekeepers, first at birth with station and familial ties, any note-worthy events throughout, and finally the moment of death. To be stricken from those records is the worst punishment known to any dwarf.

The name of the poet wasn't mentioned anywhere on the runestone this was carved upon, though it was old, there were no big chunks missing, so we can conclude that the poet wished to remain anonymous. Perhaps, one may muse, because of his (or even hers!) given profession. While looked upon fondly today by any dwarf, it could be that poets and bards were not as respected among them as they are today.

It is also worth noting that the cultural values of surface dwelling dwarves are strongly influenced by other races and therefore not perfectly indicative of the cultural values held below. It is also true that most surface dwelling dwarves happens to be caste-less, even though not all of them choose to wear the tattoos. It is considered very rude to ask about such things though, I learned that the hard way.

About the Author

Matteus Carter was born the youngest of three children in the village of Eastbrook year the 23rd under the rule of his Glorious Emminence Kyron IV. His father was a humble carter, his mother a housewife. During his younger years he was apprenticed off to become a woodcutter. But alas, it was not to be. Instead, he decided to devote his life to the pursuit of knowledge, and transscribing lost lore for the betterment of future generations. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the lute and go riding (weather permitting) an accomplished equestrian, it has been said about him.

5 years of research went into transscribing this poem, using some pre-existing translations.

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Comments ( 8 )
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Voted young0ne2
September 5, 2013, 14:37
Only voted
Voted Scrasamax
September 5, 2013, 20:38
Life After Dwarves, reading tablets in runic script.

There is something of a theme of finding dwarves in their passing, their ruined cities and monuments, and words written into stone, but nothing remaining of them, or a scattered remnant.
Voted Shadoweagle
September 5, 2013, 21:50
Will Matteus Carter be a recurring character in future transcriptions? :p

I like the way you structured this sub; what we are reading is Matteus's interpretation of this poem and it may not be correct, which means if anything is wrong about this sub for your own dwarves in your specific game, you can explain it away due to the interpretation.

Voted MysticMoon
September 7, 2013, 9:02

I like that it's focused and pretty straightforward. A section rebutting alternative interpretations could have added a little depth to it, but it is fine as-is. Showing Dwarves through the lens of a scholar gives it a nice, readable tone.

I find myself wanting to know more about the author of the poem. Was it common for one of the lower caste to be able to read and write? Or to be able to write poetry? Was this an individual not representative of the Dwarva caste? Was this someone who felt trapped by their role in Dwarven society but wished for more? These are questions that the sub raises but can't answer because Matteus Carter doesn't know them. I like it when a sub gets me pondering like this.

September 9, 2013, 5:46
@ Scras, I actually pondered whether it should be written on paper/papyrus/parchment, but since I wanted it to be an old, culture defining poem, I felt there was no other way than with a good ol rune stone.

@ SE, I usually prefere to make up new characters so I don't have to go back and cross reference stuff, but anything's possible. Yup, I felt that it needed an outside perspective to explain it to the would-be reader.

@ MM. Miners are among the lower castes that is true, but they may or may not be caste-less. As for whether or not they could read/write, that was most likely dependant on their parents' plans for them. But of course this was no ordinary writing either, it takes special knowledge to be a rune carver, while a few(at the time) could read, extremely fewer could carve. So I would say this was a bit of an aberration. And all dwarves are poets. :)
Voted valadaar
September 9, 2013, 11:48
A nice bit of detail.

Regarding Scras's comment about the Life After Dwarves comment - and that phrase alone would suggest an excellent article.

Perhaps there is a tendency to fear the dwarves? With their martial and technical skills, how would humans deal with them if there were at the height of their strength?

This has spawned a couple of ideas for me - thank you :)
Voted Dozus
February 3, 2014, 16:32
Great atmospheric piece. I'd love to see more like it.
Voted Murometz
February 20, 2016, 22:19
Only voted



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       By: Cheka Man

What if casting magic changed (for a few hours or days depending on the strength of the spell) the colour of the skin of the spellcaster? It could lead sadly to a very racist world to rp in.

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