Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dwarf-Land: The Celestial Empire

Here's another mysterious location in Scott's very cool Dwarf-Land that he's leaving for individual DMs to develop.  Given the information presented in Scott's original document, here's my unofficial take:

The Celestial Empire of the China Men is far from Dwarf-Land proper.  It is said to lie a distance farther than from the earth to the moon--which is not so great a distance in Dwarf-Land as in the world we know, but still very far. Merchant caravans from this far-flung empire follow tortuous trails, passing through desert wastes, dessicated seas, and strange-spired cities, and with them they bring the legend and rumor that has formed the total of dwarvish knowledge of this land.

The China Folk are so named because all wear masks of fine porcelain among outsiders--or perhaps (as some travelers’ tales say) their faces are, in fact, made of living porcelain.  Perhaps lending credence to this claim, the skin of high born persons of the China Folk is exceedingly fair and unblemished, often a perfect match for their masks.

The masks are not precisely mobile, but they do change expression. This always happens suddenly.  At one moment, a China Man’s visage man be a mask of joviality, the next, a mask of irritation--but it remains always a mask.  Their aspects change less frequently than the faces of unadorned men, only marking extreme swings of emotion. Canny traders from Dwarf-Land cultivate keen ears for reading Chinese voices.  

The masks tell something of social class.  Those of the peasantry are often grotesque in countenance, with exaggerated grins, outsized noses, or bushy brows.  Their expressions seem to represent the essential character of the person wearing them.  Peasant masks are often chipped or at the very least spider-webbed with fine fractures.

The masks of the upper class are simpler, perhaps more dignified, in mein.  However, even the most  staid among them is not above painting on some brightly colored decoration or swirling pattern for feasts or appearances at court. Courtiers often wear bemused grins beneath shrewdly narrowed eyes; Courtesans favor tiny, puckering bows of crimson painted on fullest swell of their lips. The nobility often sport well-manicured beards and drooping moustaches.

Those of the upper class would die of shame (perhaps literally--Celestial Emperors have been known to order ritual suicide if their serenity is disturbed by unsightliness) if their masks were chipped or cracked.  The palace of their Emperor is said to be filled with cushions and pillows so that the fine china masks of His August Personage and his most beauteous wives and courtesans are never put at risk of damage.

The only exception to the pristine visages of the aristocracy are among the warrior caste. Some ferocious generals have been known to go to battle with the faces of grinning, horned demons.  A certain feared assassin of the Empire is said to wear a mask with a long and prominent crack running from his eye down his cheek, like a deep and unending river of tears.


Needles said...

Nice entry Trey very fairy tale without being for the kids. Neat concepts in this one!

garrisonjames said...

You're doing great things with the Dwarf-Land setting. This was a lot of fun to read. Keep up the great work!