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Author Topic: Dwarven Society - Aging, Death and Funerals (& a Story)  (Read 1661 times)
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Bard Judith
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« on: 05 December 2001, 11:05:00 »

AGING, DEATH, FUNERALS - The Time of Stone
       
Dwarves remain active and vigorous well into their late age, but eventually a certain physical change overtakes them, relatively suddenly.  In about the course of a month or so, the elderly dwarf will find it much more difficult to move about than she used to.  Her bones feel heavy and massive, her joints solidifying and grating together. Her skin becomes even more rougher,  almost scaly and calloused, and sensation dims.   Her eyes will film and begin to bulge slightly, so that only far-off objects become clear and focused.  In an underground low-light environment where fine work is prized, this is a severe handicap.  The dwarves say that this change in vision is preparing them to ‘see TollBaroll in the sky’, and they call this time of change ‘Pragorsthomm’, the Stone-Turning.   When the Pragorsthomm begins, a dwarf must put his affairs in order, dispose of his personal possessions, and prepare for his funeral, as he will have one to three months before ‘Aveferpesthomm’, the Time of Stone -  death -  overtakes him.  

“S/he has become stone” is the way dwarves refer to a dead dwarf - a euphemism for ‘Khorimyeh’, to die, or ‘Khorim’, death.  The dwarf is mourned with physical expressions of grief that are restrained and low-key, but deeply felt.  It is believed that this form of mourning and the attendant rituals were evolved out of the Thergerim sensitivity to excess noise, as well as a security precaution - loud wails could carry well through rock, attract unwanted attention, or even cause cave-ins.  The body, now completely rigid and extremely heavy, is taken to the lowest levels of the excavations for disposal.   In volcanic regions it is preferred to utilize a magma pit, but in other areas a bottomless crevasse or non-connected cave pool is used.  

--------------------------A Story -------------------------------------------------------       

The women of the cavern stood in a quiet circle around the motionless form on the stone.
Mututaph Foodmaker, skilled cook and tastesinger, had ended her Pragorsthomm in the same dignity with which she had always moved through her life; she had felt the final stiffening coming upon her and laid herself down on one of the great hearthstones where she had served the clan of AverimTyr for so long.  She had set her favorite pareknife and ladle beside her, a small bag of spices, and a tiny book - her much-thumbed copy of the ‘Barollegendia’, as humans called it.  “Mututaph has become stone,” her friend and co-cook Tareignzen finally broke the silence, “she has gone to TollBarol as she hoped...”

The silence broken, the dwarven women began to move in the patterns of the death ritual - unplaiting their beards and hair to hang loosely, rolling down their sleeves, untucking and untying parts of their rockwool garb.  Their feet moved on the cavern floor, back and forth in a slow shuffle that became a sibilant hissing of sound, the drag and roll of leather against stone like deep tides in unlit pools.  Breathing became faster, audible, blending with the hiss and echoing eerily from the stalactites high above.  One woman lifted her arms high and began rubbing her palms together in imploration, quickly copied by the others.  

In the shadows around them the men watched, heads bowed in respect.  As the dwarven females began a soft wailing, the Denirim emerged from among the men and came towards Mututaph’s body.  The women moved to let him through, still shuffling their erratic dance, the wail mounting.  Behind them, the hearthfire leaped, painting orange light on the Denirim’s wrinkled face.  He touched Mututaph’s open, filmed eyes, a symbolic confirmation of her death, and then picked up the little book with respect.  “She held TollBarol high,” he intoned, “She will be truestone of his choosing.”

The wail rose louder at this, and the dwarf men began a sympathetic patting of their legs and knees, rocking back and forth on their feet.  “Hush, hush, hush...” Tareignzen’s husband was the first to speak for the men’s group.  “Hush, hush, she is stone, she feels no more.”  The men moved forward, splitting up to choose a woman as partner and join seamlessly in the griefdance with her.  Palm to palm they joined, their feet moving unlifted across the stone, a waft and shift of sound made lyrical by the muted cries of the women.  

Above them, the Morjualerons - the batkeepers - released their charges into the confined ‘sky’ of the cavern, and the hardly audible sound of bat piping joined with the emotive song.  “Hush, hush, hush,” the men crooned, “she is stone, she is stone...”  “Truestone,” sang the Denirim, tossing Mututaph’s flavourbag into the flames.  A aroma of spice and savory filled the air, a scent so poignantly associated with the dead dwarf that many gasped aloud in reflex, men and women alike.  The dance blended, softened, became a bare swaying of motion, a comforting hug, shoulders touching; a reassurance that the community was still bound together, still whole.

“Carry her to the Lower Ground,” came the Denirim’s voice again, as the hum of music faded and the cavern became still again.  “Carry her down, and lay her with care, for she is stone, truestone.”  Mututaph’s friends and family moved around the body,  setting her rigid form on a litter made of crossed shovels and picks, hefting it to their shoulders, and standing ready.  The Denirim glided to a tunnel mouth and took a covered lantern from the ledge beside it, gesturing them onward and down the tunnel.  “Truestone, true stone....” their voices faded against the moss-hung walls, and the bat echoes sang their answer.






Bard Judith for the Thergerim

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"Give me a land of boughs in leaf /  a land of trees that stand; / where trees are fallen there is grief; /  I love no leafless land."   --A.E. Housman
 
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« Reply #1 on: 07 December 2001, 12:37:00 »

Great story Bard, as usual. However I have a question. What happens to a dwarf that does not die naturally, like if he/she died in an explosion or if someone kills them? Do they automatically turn into stone, or what? Will be important to my story.

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