Friday, 8 March 2019

PASS CAMPAIGN NOTES: THE KIZAGU...

I heard we're not supposed to call them dwarfs...


That's a human word, for human aberrations. Dwarfs are neither human, no aberrations. They have their own dwarfs, incidentally, which they call ipotch ("dwarf"), but us humans call gnomes...


They're not dwarfs, they're kizagu (person), they don't speak dwarvish they speak Hizkuntza (speech) and they write Idazketa (writing). They like to keep things simple. And pure. Racially pure...

They love gold though, right?


Yes and no. While humans and elves recognise that the Kizagu have an almost insatiable hunger for all that glitters, they do not do it to adorn their homes or craft fine jewellery (they are likely to do that with silver). Gold has deep religious and cultural significance, and they hoard it deep in the heart of their citadels. Those far-flung dwarven territories which remain have been all but depleted of their natural reserves, and the only reason dwarfs trade with humans is so that they can continue to bolster their legendary coffers.


There is a good reason for this of course...

...they're collecting them for ancient, sleeping dragons that live in the heart of every clan stronghold?


Uh... what? Wherever did you get such a crazy idea from! As we all know, dragons have been extinct for millennia! Admittedly, the Kizagu are considered to have originated during the reign of the dragons, and according to elven legends, dwarfs once rode on the backs of dragons in their war with the giants... and, of course, said dragons were rumoured to have created the dwarfs in order that they could mine the gold they craved in order to fuel their inter-planar ambitions...


...but such talk is mere speculation! There is no real evidence dragons existed at all, let alone remain hidden in the hearts of Kizagu strongholds buried deep beneath ancient mountains!

What about those little dragon-men merchants talk about?


You mean those travellers' tales of diminutive reptiles walking on their hind legs, carrying short swords and speaking Hizkuntza? Kobolds? Fairy tales to make dwarfs seem more magical than they really are! Kobolds certainly are NOT a part slave/ part pet race created by dwarfs to look after their sleeping dragons...


That's disappointing! You'll be telling me the dwarf-maids don't have beards next!

Another overstated phenomenon. Perhaps dwarf maids might be statistically a little hairier than human women (and good luck getting hold of those statistics), but most females are not capable of growing anything like the impressive beards which males wear as a sign of status, so they do not try. However, elder females usually fasten or braid their long hair at the chin, creating a weak illusion of facial hair, and a significant symbol of sage (and thus status) within dwarf society.

Dwarven society is relatively equitable in terms of gender. Obviously females carry and give birth to all children, but child-rearing duties are shared between couples. Raising a child is seen as one of the five parts of eginbahar (duty) and is known as erditza to both males and females, even though the same word is used for the act of childbirth itself.

Beards and hair are very important. Dwarfs consider it a crime to cut hair, neither should it be washed in anything but water. Dwarfs that are ostracised or otherwise expelled usually endure the ritual of having their face shaved. It can take such a long time to grow back that a dwarf might not be permitted to rejoin society that for many decades.


A dwarf with no beard? Well I never!
You've probably met more than you realise. A dwarf with no beard looks like a short, stocky human. Of course, they carry with them the weight of millennia of dwarven culture, which some suspect is what makes them so stooped in stature in the first place.

The weight of dwarven culture? Go on...
The Kizagu life is one of duty: to their dragon-gods, to the Kizagu "nation", to their clan, and lastly to their family. There is no place for individuality, it being seen as an immature state all must pass through before realising their own significance in place of the greater goal of the dragon-gods.  Before turning fifty, each Kizagu embarks on bidaia (voyage)-

Shut the front door! Dragon-Gods?
Oh, sorry... I mean... gods. There is NO connection between the Kizagu and dragons, I assure you!

Well okay then! You were talking about bidets or something?
Bidaia. It means voyage. Each dwarf must go on this in order to sow any wild oats, get any lingering doubts out of the system and to see some of the world before hunkering down for a couple of centuries engaged in repetitive, constant labour with no end in sight apart from death. Most Kizagu will travel around their immediate locale for a year or two, sharing their craft skills as a journeymen. A few will venture a circuit around the whole nation, perhaps picking up an entirely new trade. Rarest of all, a young dwarf of certain pluck might even go so far as to venture into the world of humans. Most come back fairly quickly.

Like a rumspringa
Exactly like that. Please understand that for most Kizagu it is a harrowing experience, even if they spend the entirety of their "voyage" in a neighbouring village. The majority of Kizagu are incredibly conservative. Even Kizagu notions of individuality would seem bizarre to a human, and go so far as having a meal at a slightly earlier time than usual, or arriving late for an appointment, or not wearing a hood over one's head when outside.

Dwarves don't really have an internal monologue. Instead, they experience a kind of logos - a guiding consciousness that speaks to them and directs their actions. It is perceived as being the voice of their clan dragon family NOT-dragon god. Mental illness, in dwarf culture, is NOT hearing voices.

So they're all automatons?
Not at all. Though they are slow to react, dwarfs have strong emotions and form attachments that last centuries. They feel love for their people and family, fear for the security of their borders, and hope for the future of tthe Kizagu and their sleeping dragons. The voice they hear is their own consciousness, but they are detached from it, much like early humans are suspected to have been.

Dwarfs which experience this inner voice as though it were their own, however, are the ones least comfortable in dwarf society. Maybe only 1 in every 1,000 births are afflicted by this "illness", and these are the ones most likely to leave dwarven society permanently. Curiously, this afflicts nearly all the ipotch (gnomes), which is why they form their own communities outside of the Kizagu realms.

Those dwarven mercenaries in the north: they're all crazy?
By human standards, I don't know, but in the Kizagu culture these people are perfectly normal. These are not individuals who have rejected dwarven society, but are completing one of the six duties of dwarf life: zerbitzu (service). Dwarven mercenaries earn good money for their clans, which they take in the form of gold. They usually return to their homes after a year or two.

Of course, many of the dwarves employed in this way become progressively more outgoing and boisterous, using alcohol as a coping device for life outside their clan strongholds. This behaviour is not "normal" by Kizagu standards, although it has created a popular misconception of dwarfs as ale-swilling tavern-hounds. Alcohol is restricted to ceremonial uses only, and is ironically utilised in a very sober fashion

Anything else I should know?
As befitting a people who live for several centuries and spend their entire lives working with their hands, Kizagu craftsmanship exceeds nearly all human efforts, and thus commands a high price. If you are willing to make the trek into the highlands, you can pick up masterwork items for a very low price, as long as you pay in gold. Do not expect to receive a warm welcome, however: you will be sequestered in a utilitarian building and contact with other dwarfs will be strictly monitored. The Kizagu regard all foreigners as mildly contaminated, and some clans even don ceremonial robes (similar to those worn during funerary rites) when dealing with outsiders. Legends of rambunctious great halls and free-flowing ale are pure mythology.

Some dwarves venturing beyond their borders do so as part of their zerbitzu, and not just as mercenaries. Many are archaeologists attempting to recover lost dwarven knowledge in abandoned cities and strongholds of yesteryear. Some are slayers, travelling across the wilderness in search of the ancestors of their ancient enemies, the giants.

Dwarves do not eat mud and rocks, they have similar nutritional requirements to humans. The lower foothills are home to rice paddies situated in artificial terraces or steps, and represent the main source of carbohydrates. Meat is rare, and consists of yak or mountain goats, which are herded. Most of their protein is grown in the form of special fungi, tended to by their kobold slaves mushroom farmers.

Kinda interesting, but I was hoping you'd tell me about the legend of the golem...
Well this has never been verified, and may just be xenophobia on the part of humans... but their is a particularly unsettling myth that persists amongst humans about their dwarven cousins, and that is of the golem.

It is said that each dwarven child is presented with a clay effigy of themselves at birth, which they keep about their person all through childhood. When they embark on their bideia, it is placed in the vaults of their clan until they return. The returning dwarf is then supposed to present the effigy simple gifts of metal and precious stones from its journey. The effigy is augmented each year, on the anniversary of the dwarf's return, with souvenirs of the dwarf's experience. Usually these are simply pieces of clay or stones.

When a dwarf dies, they are buried in a sarcophagus guarded by the figure they have been building since childhood. Legend says that the dwarf's spirit sleeps inside this golem - which by now is nearly as big as an ogre - and in times of great distress, these golems can be animated by dwarf magic. Thus, alongside their armies of hammer-and-axe-wielding berserkers and troll-slayers, there is a sleeping horde of giant-sized clay-and-metal golems equal in number to every dwarf that has ever died.

Of course, it's probably just a myth...


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