Monday, May 31, 2010

Short People, Big Worm

The first known people from Ealderde, the Old World, to arrive in the environs of what is now the City, were the Dwerg-folk of Gulden. Though of human stock, the Dwergen are pygmies--the males less than five feet tall, and the women even shorter. Perhaps because of their unimposing stature, they devoted themselves to becaming wealthy through trade, and became a far-ranging mercantile people.

Over three hundred years ago, they struck a deal with the natives of the New World allowing them to build a fort and trading post that would one day grow into the City. The Dwergen were eventually outnumbered by immigrants from other lands, but people of Dwerg descent make up most of the "old money" families of the City. Today, they're generally of normal height, due to interbreeding with newer arrivals, but there's occasionally a throwback to the old blood.

The people of Gulden were never great wizards, and neither are their descendants. Historically, they lived in fear of the White Women--those born among them with the taint of witch-blood. These pale-skinned, ice-blue eyed, overwhelmingly female, infants were left exposed in the wilderness, where they were generally found and taken in by a sabbat of White Women. The White Women were said to torment isolate Dwergen, particularly males, and often visited curses upon rural villages that didn't pay them adequate tribute. Though the birth of a White Woman among modern Dwergen or their relatives in the New World isn't viewed with the superstitious dread it once was, it's still considered ill-omened and a source of family shame. Among the most conservative families, such children are still sent away or hidden from public view.

Despite their lack of aptitude with sorcery, and perhaps because of their conflict with the White Women, Dwergen traditionally were knowledgeable in regard protective circles, charms, and sigils. They also worked hard at perfecting alchemical arts--particular in the realm of the development of alchemical brewing and the thaumaturgically assisted growth of mushrooms with unusual properties. Unfortunately, these arts are mostly lost among those of Dwergen descent in the City, who tend exhibit only the shrewd-dealing traits of their ancestors.

Another reputed relic of the Old Dwerg days of the City, is the ancient wurm. The wurm is a dragon-like serpent, which dwelled in the streams and fens of the main isle of what is now the City, receiving the fearful deference of the natives. By draining the wetlands, and diverting many of the streams underground the Dwergen sapped the strength of the creature and drove it from the surface. City folklore holds that it still lives, nursing a grudge against the City that prospered in the wake of its defeat. It particularly yearns for vengeance against those of the old Dwerg blood, and devours all those that fall into its clutches. Rumor holds that the downtrodden and disenfranchised of the City--often recent immigrants--sometimes worship the wurm with hidden, and primitive rites, hoping to gain its favor by helping it in its vengeance and eventual return to the surface.


Norman J. Harman Jr. said...

Very, very cool and creative.

"The City" reminds me of "Prisoner" series for some reason.

Trey said...

Thanks. I think I can see that a little bit--though they don't share a lot of similarities (beyond the simple names) the way I've been nipping around the edges of giving information about it probably makes it seem a bit surreal.

Norman J. Harman Jr. said...

> the way I've been nipping around the edges of giving information about it probably makes it seem a bit surreal.

That's it, and they way it's just called "The City" like "The Village" and I was reading it while in a heightened state of fantasy.

Love that Dwergen pic, btw

Trey said...

Yep. Denslow's Oz illustration doesn't disappoint. :)