A Bestiary of Gushémal

Section 1: Sapient Races

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Bestiary

Table of Contents

Preface

Section I: Sapient Races

Section II: Beastly Races

 

 The Dwarves of Gushémal


The Dweorgh

Born of rock and stone,

Blessed by molten lava,

The dweorgh rose from the deepest of cave

To engender a new race.

 

Proudly the forefathers stood,

Uttar the eldest,

Cay the tallest,

Cuchúan the fiercest,

Myrddin the wisest.

 

In the mines of the Gods,

They crafted the finest of works

With the sacred metal, the gadnú.

From the hands of the dweorgh passed

Hammers to shake the granite foundations of the earth,

Axes sharp enough to cut diamonds,

Cups with details too small for a bug’s eye,

Beds of rock molded to their own shape.

 

Dreams of immensity fulfilled at the instant,

Surrounded by visions of beauty and intricacy,

The dweorgh lived in perfect bliss,

Never feeling need,

Never lacking, never desiring –

Still and perfect like their craft.

 

Yet the Gods gave the dweorgh life,

Life and ambition enshrined in stillness,

Yearning crushed by perfection.

Thus Uttar spoke to the Gods,

Asked for the challenge to thrive on and toward,

With devotion and conviction,

With faith and hope,

Yet the Gods deigned not to reply.

 

Their hope shrivelled,

Their faith shrouded,

The dweorgh took their axes of gadnú,

Their fists of steel,

Their minds of diamond,

The dweorgh dug through the walls of their mine,

Through the godsmade cage of perfection.

 

Year upon year, never tiring, never resting,

Hope raised with each inch gained to freedom,

Faith blossoming with each swing of the arm,

For a thousand of thousand years.

 

Then a light not their own brightened their faces,

The light of the sun,

The light of the dweorghs’ first day,

And a shout they raised,

Full of joy, full of cheer.

 

Mirthful they explored the land,

Delighted they tried the rocks and metals,

Blissful they sought a new home,

Imperfect yet free to improve,

Unfinished yet alive,

Godless yet free.

 

Their first task complete,

The dweorgh set upon their next,

To share their joy and freedom

With others of their kind.

 

Their axes of gadnú they placed on the ground,

In the sun’s shine, in the wind’s breeze,

Their axes of gadnú they moistened with their blood,

In the sun’s warmth, in the wind’s cool,

And the gadnú became flesh,

And the axes became women of dweorgh.

 

From Uttar’s came Marrigan,

From Cai’s came Fenice,

From Cuchúan’s came Bladdneit,

From Myrddin’s came Talisana.

 

From “The Song of the Ancients”,
As sung by Cysmaul the Bard,
Translated from the dwarven language by Lestrovar the Wise

 

“What should one have expected of the dweorgh but to leave? That bloody cave, it fills my nights with terror, to think that there should be nothing left for you to want! When I walk through the mine of my people, it is a beautiful sight that swells my breast with pride to see what the hands of my forefathers and foremothers have wrought, what the hands of my own generation have added. Yet nowhere is there perfection – as much as we all have strived, always can there be the wonderful inspiration of a sudden thought that makes a tunnel more stable, that enhances the sharpness of a blade, that makes a design more intricate and subtle.

“I am a smith – though a smith of words rather than tools or weapons, these feelings are shared by every dwarf that ever lived on this world. I dream of writing the song, the poem, that perfectly captures emotion, that grasps the listener firmly and whisks him or her away to the place in my mind that I wished to describe. It is but a dream, and it better remain a dream forever. How would I live on after this achievement? What would be the dream I live towards?

“Should you ever hear that perfect song, with my name on it, never attempt to seek me out. I will have gone to meet the ancestors, to join my voice to the chorus praising Cai and Fenice.”

Chekliesin,
Bard of the Caidwarves
(ca. 2935 A.E.; taken from a conversation during Chekliesin’s visit to the Darawk academy at Mt. Kerisvar)

 

Cúchulain (Wild Dwarves) 

“A strange people the cúchulain are. By their plainest of appearance indistinguishable from a decent caidwarf or amhran acharadh – also called songdwarf -, the descendants of Dweorgh Cuchúan have no honor or ambition. Never would you find a wild dwarf working diligently in a mine, searching rock for ore, carefully crafting a pickaxe in a smithy. At best he’d be standing next to the forge, staring without comprehension at the smith. Perhaps he might laugh, shake his unmannerly long mane of hair about; that would still be a good thing.

“At worst, the cúchulain would swing his axe at the poor smith and take his precious creation.

“Fierce as Cuchúan they are, yet they lack all the determination that was inherent in the great dweorgh – in all respects except battle. Here they will strike with fury, without respect, without fear; as unrelenting as any dwarf warrior wishes to be, so even the least cúchulain will go into a fight. The greatest of them are warriors of such ferocious passion that the enemy will pale at the very sight of them.

“How can they be so formidable on the one hand, yet be so despicable on the other? How can honor be this alien to them? How can the dweorgh’s ambition have been so thoroughly lost?

“They never build their own homes, they occupy those others have created with hard work and sweat – be these human villages, dwarven mines, or kennels dug by clawvoles. The might of a cúchulain attack is hard to stop, particularly when they are aided by the hordes of arydogs – which some call liondogs – and ratpeople that often associate with them. Associate I say since one can hardly call them owners or commanders of these ‘companions’; as far as I can tell, they live in a strange kind of communion with these creatures.

“Occasionally wild dwarves will take the inhabitants of these places captive and use them for slave laborers. Nonetheless they are quite bad at keeping such slaves, due to both their inherent laziness and their bloodlust. Either the captives escape, or they are cut down in a red rage for sport.

“Quenching their thirst for battle, that seems to me is their only motivation in life. Nothing beside interests them, so very undwarvish that it is revolting.”

Koy Banson Seabourne,
Caidwarf
(3040 A.E.; excerpted from “Life of the Dwarves beyond the Great River”, Albinavia)

 

Note: Seasoned as the preceding entry is, both in flavor and in age, it must be added that the cúchulain should not be measured by the tales of a member of the other dwarf species. The knightdwarves of Albinavia know little of them firsthand for there are no other descendants of the dweorgh on their island nation – save the occasional visitor.

But caidwarves and amhran acharadh bear an innate hatred for the cúchulain. (Oftentimes they are also called ‘doggers’ or ‘dogfaces’; this may come from the common presence of arydogs in the wild dwarf packs, yet there is also the dwarven word for ‘dog’ – ‘cú’ – in the very name of the wild dwarves.) Even polar dwarves – who claim they are descended from both Cai and Cuchúan – prefer a healthy distance to the next pack of cúchulain.

Therefore it would be best to rely on human or elven reports on the nature of this dwarven nation. Unfortunately, there are few of these, and none that go beyond a factual description of one or the other pack, along with a summary of the battle that usually sparked the report.

One of these I have appended below.

Lestrovar the Wise,
Imperial Palace at Sirap, Ibrollene

 

“On the sixth day of our journey out of Crannel Keep, we were set upon by a number of savage dwarves. In the craggy hills sloping up to the Ayalamih mountains, they had prepared an ambush. A sloppy affair that my scouts spotted half a mile away.

“Fifty-three cúchulain had gathered on an overhang over the regular road, some thirteen of the ratmen were hiding behind the sparse bushes to both sides. A pack of liondogs, between ten and fifteen, were ranging the area.

“The cúchulain had no archers – not usual, I gather -, each had an axe and a shield. They wore strip metal armor mostly, the higher ranked had chain mail vests and helmets.

“I sent Tocruz with ten men to swing to the back of the wild dwarves, while Vilbruc took ten of his crossbowmen to quietly take out the dogs prior to battle. Along with the caravan and my remaining sixty soldiers, I traveled on towards the trap.

“Unfortunately the arydogs weren’t easy to kill, and their yelps alarmed the dwarves. I should not have worried overmuch since the cúchulain stormed down from their overhang, along with the ratmen, right into a hail of arrows from the fifteen bowers still with me. More than half went down before we had to fight man-to-man.

“Granted the cúchulain gave pretty much as good as they got, but Tocruz’ arrival distracted them, so that he could drive them like a hammer to my anvil. Only two of the civilians were lost, none of the wagons. Twenty-three wounded troops, five fatalities.

“If they had prepared a better ambush, I suppose the end result would not have been as kind, yet victory was assured.”

Colonel Shakonree,
12th Infantry Regiment (“Tomcats”) of Ibrollene
(3121 A.E., battle report, file #392483)