Vir's Archive

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Setting Deep Dive Pt 1: The Dwarves (and a new blogging focus)


A new direction...

So, up until now I have focused on showing off some of my (raw) work and trying to drum up some interest in Precipice through an extended sneak peak. I think its time to start moving away from that process into something that focuses on worldbuilding and providing background to my readers.  From now on, expect to see in-depth discussion on parts of the Precipice world that wont actually appear in the novel when it is published.  For those of you who stick with me, not only will you get some insight into the hows and whys about the Ecumene World, you will also get notes that will serve as a "director's cut" for your understanding of the book.

The tricky thing for you, dear reader, is that the nuggets of worldbuilding and setting background I plan to drop from here on out wont really have any direct context to the story until you read all of it.  Not sure what I mean... stick with me, I'll show you.

The Dwarves of the Ecumene World 

Kinda like the fantasy equivalent of these guys... 
Dwarves in the Ecumene World are different than many of the Tolkien-esque dwarves we find populating most fantasy literature these days.  In the Ecumene World the Dwarven race has suffered under the slaver's yoke for longer than any other.  Centuries ago, the Elves completed their near eradication of the free Dwarf clans, leaving the vast bulk of the race directly under the rule of the Eternal Empire.  Already accomplished miners, the Elves put those skills to brutal use -- making it so most Dwarves never see the light of day throughout their miserable and short lives.

In the modern Ecumene World, Dwarves are short, pale, and usually sport only scraggly wisps of hair.  Why?  Because that's what they would look like if they were forced to live a near complete subterranean life.  Their eyes are proportionally larger than the other races -- the better to see in the low light they toil under.  They are a short race -- the better to move about the stunty caves, crevasses, and tubes the Elves force them to work.

Dwarven lives in the Ecumene World are, to steal a phrase, nasty, brutish and short.  Many are simply worked to death.  Those that live to middle age are usually bred like cattle by their Elven masters to keep their population viable and productive.  Many are sold and traded like livestock.  Its a sad and tough existence.

Do all Dwarves suffer under the Eternal Empire's demands?  Hardly.  In fact, though small in number, there are still a handful of free clans that exist primarily in the western reaches of Dev'Arana.  These free clans are all that remain of a Dwarven culture that has almost ceased to exist.  The free clans constantly live in terror of the Empire and, as a result, are exclusively nomadic.  They constantly move in an effort to stay one step ahead of Imperial slavers and the Empire's war machine.  Many clan leaders live in perpetual terror that the Emperor will order a final completion to the pogrom that nearly wiped out the free clans generations ago.  So, the free clans move -- all the time.

One consequence of this constant movement is that what little historic Dwarven culture (such as art and literary achievements) have deteriorated.  Free Dwarves desperately hang on to the oral traditions of the halcyon days of their people before they were enslaved.  Unfortunately, those traditions are slowly being forgotten.  (note: I use the phrase "being forgotten" very specifically.  Thats not meant to be a lazy passive voice, but to suggest something more active and nefarious is going on...)

So, while the Elves may not have enslaved ALL of Dwarf-kind, they have all but destroyed the culture and history of the Dwarven people.  Dwarves, both free and enslaved, do not remember their heritage, their literary traditions, nor their social and cultural practices.  Dwarves, almost to the last, are ignorant of their heritage and legacy.  They are forced to focus almost exclusively on  immediate and short term basic needs -- food, water, and shelter.  If it doesn't have to do with survival, the Dwarves usually don't care.

Whats left in the modern Ecumene World is a sad shadow of what the Dwarven people once were.  Their ancestors would be (are?) ashamed.

+++

So, some of you might be thinking that the above description of Dwarf-kind really doesn't describe Grawfn at all.

You would be right.

Grawfn is special.  He comes from the free clans and is an example of what they could become once again if they would take the time to assess their situation rather than continually flee an enemy that largely doesn't care anymore.

Grawfn is an exception to the rule... and example that there are some Dwarves who had the insight and courage to have a vision beyond the day-to-day.

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