Ianterea (Old Ones)
Brotherhood of the Wind
An Excerpt From
“A Quaint and Curious Forgotten Lore: The Dawn of Dwarven Religion”1
Translated from the Old Dwarven scrolls by Skandalan “Sketch” Sandergrass, Gentleman, Scholar, and Historian2
Edited by F. Dicklong Roshanzamir
The dwarven religion is a quaint and curious thing.3 Most people nowadays have taken their nomadic lifestyle and rigid, authoritarian government for granted. But when one peers back through the layers of history, one sees a very different dwarven society that existed more than a thousand years ago.
The current deity now praised in the mobile cities of the dwarves is Clockrotica Mechaniclit. This is a female goddess who champions order and social hierarchy. Their views can best be described from a verse in their holy book:
“For everything a place, and everything in its place”
The Mechaniclati, Chapter 1, Verse 7
But it was not always so, with these stalwart nomads. They weren’t originally nomads at all. They began their lives in the mountains far to the north. Their grand underground caverns had glorious names that were sung in songs, but are now lost to our modern tongues. In their stone halls the dwarves used to sing the praises of a dualistic god. This god was two personalities fused into one overarching deity. This deity was named Algebron Geometits, proving that the dwarves have had a crude sensibility since time immemorial.4
Algebron Geometits was comprised of two halves: a female goddess who favored order and structure, and a male half who favored chaos, neutrality, and balance. Both gods provided a sense of checks and balance for dwarven society. Current dwarven wisdom holds that society (theirs, at any rate) is a Grand Machine. Each citizen, animal, and place is a cog in this Grand Machine. Each being in the world serves its purpose and keeps the gears of the Grand Machine turning ever onward. But in these early days the dwarves viewed their society as a Grand Equation. Dwarves have always had a keen sense of the mathematical; it is what makes their invention so ingenious.
The Grand Equation
The Grand Equation was a way to represent the balance of life. Each side of the equation was filled with numbers and variables (represented here by the peoples and places of the dwarven society). But, like every complex equation, there arose, inevitably, anomalies. These anomalies threatened to overturn the delicate balance of the Great Equation. It was for this reason that the male half, Algebron, existed.5 He was there to use chaos to fight the chaos inherent in the Great Equation. He created a sacred monastic order that praised balance, mediation, and curiosity. This brotherhood would utilize the Great Primordial (the dwarven term for “magic”6) to combat anomalies wherever they existed.
The Brotherhood of the Wind,
Algebron’s monks were called, collectively, The Brotherhood of the Wind, and each individual knight a Zephyr (so called because they were the tiny currents of wind that made up the greater storm)7. The Brotherhood held the wind to be sacred because of its raw chaotic power: it could feed a flame as soon as snuff it out. The wind could carry seeds to new climes and birth new life, while it could also gust and fell mighty oaks in its path. The wind was impartial, and so was the Brotherhood.
Algebron had his monastery outside the walls of the dwarven halls, set into the mountainsides. His knights were farmers who supplied the industrious nation with foodstuffs.8 As outsiders, and trained as they were in the art of mediation and judicious use of chaos, these knights acted as traveling arbiters who would dole out justice in the name of The Great Equation. Since they lived outside of the dwarven strong holds they could not be said to be partial in any matter. They held no allegiance to city, district, or family. The brotherhood actually existed outside of the Great Equation itself. It was thought that only an entity free of the Equation could regulate it with an open mind and ensure its balance.
The Zephyrs and Their Code
The Brotherhood of the Wind held to a code of honor that had three main tenants. These tenants were:
1. Do Not Be Caged
2. Perfection is a Fallacy
3. Your Task is Never Finished
The first tenant, Do Not Be Caged, speaks to both physical and metaphorical cages.9 A Zephyr could not bind themselves in the confines of a house, castle or enclosed space for too long. The rigid walls of man-made structures suggested an abundance of order, and this did not sit well with the Zephyrs. Furthermore, being “caged” had metaphorical connotations as well. These often came in the form of monogamous relationships and family ties. Zephyrs, with their chaotic nature, fled the confines of family structure, and shunned the principle of monogamy. They believed that love could be shared, and should be shared, with more than one person.
The second tenant, Perfection is a Fallacy, reflects the idea that the world must be balanced. The Zephyrs did not believe in a Utopia of any kind. They knew that a society based entirely on “good” outbalanced the equation and had repercussions, just as much as a society based entirely on “evil.” Once you understand that perfection is unattainable because of the delicate nature of balance, it frees you from the constraints of a failed ideal. A Zephyr knew and understood their flaws, and celebrated them, but they also attempted to find a way to counterbalance them as well.
Lastly, and almost most importantly, Your Task is Never Finished exemplifies the belief that the Brotherhood was in constant struggle with the flux of the Equation. The Brotherhood knew that the Great Equation was in a constant state of change. The best one could do was to fix the problems as they were presented. The Zephyrs had no grand notions that there would ever be a day of rest for them; they could not allow themselves to be so idealistic. They knew the world was flawed and would remain so, and that their struggle for balance would never truly end. A Zephyr remained a Zephyr until his body failed him, or until he died in service to The Equation.10
The Zephyrs had been given express permission to exist outside of the Great Equation, and thusly, outside of mainstream dwarven society. They did not need to hold to the rigid rules that kept every dwarf in line. The Zephyrs were known to blow into town and deliver justice. As a means to balance out the trauma and emotional weight of a trial (and possible execution) the Zephyrs brought frivolity and a sense of spirit with them wherever they went.
The Brotherhood knew that their Zephyrs would be called on to pass judgment, kill, and otherwise balance the Equation using any means necessary. To combat the fatigue of the (never ending) task, the Brotherhood encouraged its members to pursue fun whenever they could. It was this sense of duality that began to propagate the idea that the Zephyrs were touched with madness. They often were able to turn their emotions on and off at the drop of a hat. This ability made them unpredictable, and they reveled in it.
Zephyrs had an extremely changeable nature. It was impossible to predict the way they would arbitrate a trial. Zephyrs had undergone training to break their minds free from the sort of linear thinking that clouds regular judgment. Zephyrs savored experience, and whenever they had an opportunity to delve into their emotions, they would take it. This attitude did not help their reputation as mad men. A Zephyr would be as quick to take a night on the town, as he would be to wallow in an empty field. He was as like to plant a tree, as he was to randomly chop one down. A Zephyr would never marry. That is not to say that a Zephyr would not enjoy the presence of a man (or woman (or both)). Zephyrs understood that their lifestyle brought them to many places, and took them away just as quickly. It was not uncommon for Zephyrs to enter into relationships of mutual benefit with each other, but they would not, as a principle, remain exclusive.11
A Zephyr and His Gun
Each Zephyr was responsible, at inception to the Brotherhood, for constructing his own firearm.12 A Zephyr’s pistol was his best friend, and only constant companion. The Zephyr would name the pistol and it is said that they would often refer lovingly to their side arms.
A Zephyr could not lose his gun. If he did, it was paramount that he should retrieve it. Not only because firearms were outlawed to citizens of the dwarven mountain, but because the gun itself was an extension of the Zephyr’s ability to equalize the Equation. The pistol became a sort of symbol of the Zephyr, and no two pistols were alike.
The firearm was regulated by the dwarven societies in the mountains. Such a destructive thing, they said, in the wrong hands was sure to tip the balance of the Equation. The pistol became the badge of office of each Zephyr. They treated their firearms as companions, and sang a daily devotion to their chosen “friend.” The song was said to go something like this:
This is my pistol. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
My pistol is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My pistol, without me, is useless. Without my pistol, I am useless.
My pistol is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, and its strengths.
I will keep my pistol clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other.
Before God, I swear this creed. My pistol and I are the defenders of the Equation. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of life.
The Pistoleer’s Creed (translated from The Old Dawrven by Skandalan “Sketch” Sandergrass)
The dwarves have, since the ascension of Clockrotica, disdained the use of magic. But, in the days of the Brotherhood of the Wind, the dwarves utilized magic just like any other race. The Zephyrs used magic in a truly unique way; one that does not seem to have a modern parallel.
The Zephyrs were masters of a fairly unpredictable, but ultimately powerful weapon: gunpowder. When they discovered that they were able to utilize magic to help them balance the Equation, they set about to find a way to tie their magic to their guns. They found a way to convert magical potential into magical effects that would get transferred to their bullets. In essence, a Zephyr could fire anything out of the barrel of his gun and enchant it, as soon as it passes through the barrel, into an arcane shot of fire, or ice, or a lance of electricity. The Zephyrs used magic not to expand their own intelligence, but as a utility to improve their great equalizers. This magical dabbling was a perfect balance for the Zephyrs. They balanced their martial proficiency with an understanding of the arcane to devastating effect.
It is hinted somewhere in the many volumes I have read, that the Zephyrs were able to enchant their barrels with a myriad of magical effects. Fire, electricity, cold, and the usual arcane elements were not a surprise. It was interesting to note, however, that many Zephyrs could enchant their bullets to not deal lethal damage. In essence this gave them a better hold on life and death: they could now decide whether the bullet they sent your way could kill you or not.
It is widely considered (among the few colleagues of mine that study this ancient society) that the Zephyr’s dabbling in magic is one of the main “sins” that Clockrotica and her ilk could not forgive. This makes sense when you consider the fact that there is almost no magic whatsoever in the dwarven kingdoms of today.
The End of The Order
There are various accounts for what transpired next: some say the Brotherhood became overwhelmed with their own search for chaos, others say that a radical sect of the faith became envious of a society that proclaimed to exist outside of the Equation (how can any person balance the Equation from without the Equation itself; how can any entity be allowed in our society; how can any entity truly balance the Equation by promoting chaos).13 What is known, is that a radical cleric, Clockrotica Mechaniclit herself, lead an army into the heavens.14 She challenged the mighty deity Algebron Geometits, and, ultimately, vanquished it. She killed outright the half that championed order. She did so as a punishment; Geometits had allowed Algebron to craft his Brotherhood, and in so doing had compromised the balance of the Equation. Algebron escaped the melee by scattering himself into the four winds. Clockrotica saw no need to pursue this agent of chaos, and simply allowed him to dissipate into the aether.15
Clockrotica, now an established deity, moved her people away from the mountains as penance for their sinful reliance on the Primordial. She imagined a new paradigm where the Great Equation became The Great Machine. Dwarves have, for ever after, forsaken the use of the Primordial and focused instead on their own technical prowess. The Great Machine metaphor dispenses with the illusion of chaos because, if every cog serves the will of the machine, how can it ever be out of balance? In a well-crafted machine there are no redundant parts, even if their use is beyond our ability to rationalize.
The great irony is that dwarves are now renowned for their clockwork pistols. It appears that Mechaniclit (or any of the succeeding dwarves that have ascended to her place in the intervening years) have had a change of heart regarding the chaotic nature of gunpowder. The Brotherhood of the Wind exists now only in half whispers, a few ink-stained pages of paper, and the receding tide of time. It is sad, indeed, that we know so little of this noble and romantic order of peacekeepers.1617
1 The original text of A Quaint and Curious Forgotten Lore: The Dawn of Dwarven Religion contained several footnotes written by Sandergrass. These have been renumbered and included herein.
2 There is no doubt that “Sketch” (as his friends would call him, liking as he did to merely outline his archaeological findings rather than fully catalog them for the benefit of his academic peers) was a fine gentleman. Much evidence exists pointing to his charismatic and generous nature, especially in the courts of his time. There’s no doubt that Sketch was a superb scholar, balancing his deep learning with an effortless writing style that has gained him an intractable popularity among the noble ”Historati.” His standing as a Historian, however, was never quite as high as he himself esteemed it to be. Having now the benefit of hindsight, Sandergrass’ biographers and editors alike sometimes find themselves wondering just how Sketch found the success he did in his life. This humble editor has struggled to verify through independent research each of Sketch’s assertions, only to find that often his sources either fail to support his claims or outright contradict them. Given the popularity of this work and it’s pending distribution to public and private libraries across Anthatal within this decade, it was the intention of the Sandergrass Foundation (whose largesse is responsible for the hiring of this ever humble narrator) to include what footnotes are necessary to support or supplement the most sensational of Sketch’s claims.
3 The Sandergrass Foundation, at the behest of your most humble editor, wishes to place this opening paragraph in the context of the time in which it was written so as to avoid offending any dwarven readers. At the time of this article’s writing, very little trade was possible with the dwarven peoples. As a result, many nobles and academics of the mainland had their view of dwarven culture colored by the fantastic (and usually less than complimentary) tales of the few travelers to return from the desert island. Contemporary readers will recognize an evolution present in the attitude of the mainland population toward dwarves, their crafts, and their culture.
4 See footnote 3 above.
5 Some scholars have argued that the description of Algebron given here is not that of a deity at all, but rather a reflection of the dualistic beliefs of an otherwise atheist pre-Clockrotica society. Although the Dwarven-Atheist hypothesis has gained traction amongst academics in recent years, it is by no means the most commonly accepted explanation of early dwarven belief in Algebron.
6 The Great Primordial is, as Sketch himself acknowledges below, a much larger concept than simply a direct translation of “magic.” Here, however, Sketch appears to be referencing specifically the importance of arcane magic in The Great Primordial. No archaeological evidence has been found to date referencing the use of divine magic by ancient dwarves.
7 Unbelievably, not a single use of the word “Zephyr” has been found in any of the ancient dwarven texts recovered to date. It’s possible that Sketch had access to sources that did not survive him, or that perhaps he was mixing the historical with the lyrical.
8 Although there is clear archaeological evidence that both ancient dwarven farmers and The Brotherhood of the Wind lived outside of the dwarven cities, there is no direct evidence that any single dwarf filled both the role of farmer and “Zephyr.”
9 Some scholars who study Algebron Geometits argue this tenet also reflects a metaphysical cage created by the conflict between elemental chaos (i.e., The Great Primordial) and order (i.e., The Equation). These scholars suggest that the Brother of the Wind was primarily an order sworn to the spread and worship of elemental chaos, in some ways similar to the cults of Apocryphon Wrecks that exist today. Although Sandergrass was unable to tie his research of the “Zephyrs” to the cult of Apocryphon, he seemed to suspect that such a connection existed (See Footnote 16).
10 However poetic the idea of a tireless “Zephyr” might be, the archaeological evidence suggests that members of the Order would occasionally retire or, at the very least, give up their lifestyle. One example of such a member is evidenced by the discovery of a cache containing a clockwork pistol and Order robes buried beneath the common room of an ancient northern tavern. The location and disposition of the cache would seem to indicate that whoever owned it had given up the life of being a “Zephyr” to open a bar. Whether this conflicts with the tenets of the Order as Sandergrass presents them or is consistent with his characterization of “Zephyr” behavior is left up to the reader.
11 Archaeological evidence has shown that not only were members of the Order allowed to marry, but that they intermarried with city-dwelling dwarves with some regularity. Thanks to the recent publication of a dwarven genealogy ledger dating back several thousand years, scholars have verified the existence of the Brotherhood of the Wind and calculated a rough date for its disappearance from mainstream ancient dwarven culture. Due to the apparent reluctance of city-dwelling dwarves to marry members of the Order, however, it is impossible to extrapolate just how many members of the Order existed at any given time. The evidence of the dwarven ledger would not have been available to Sandergrass at the time, and so this most humble of all editors would submit to you, kind reader, that “Sketch” had exchanged some of the dreary facts in this portion of his historical account for some of the color and flavor his writings are so famous for.
12 While once a popular theory amongst academics, the construction of pistols by members of the Order has now been almost completely debunked. Given the extremely secretive nature of ancient dwarven mechanics and the care their contemporaries have taken to keep their devices from falling into the hands of outsiders, it is extremely unlikely that the secrets of firearm construction would be given to members of an Order that necessarily exists out of the mainstream of dwarven society. Furthermore, there is no evidence indicating that any “Zephyr” possessed the skill at clockwork or mechanical engineering to do more than repair and maintain their firearms.
13 This list of proposed causes of the Order’s downfall is no longer exhaustive. For a more thorough discussion of the popular theories behind the Order’s disappearance, see Erlkug’s History of Ancient Dwarves Vol. 3-4 by Peeraba Erlkug.
14 It is no longer considered unquestionable fact that Clockrotica Mechaniclit led an army into the heavens, or that she was indeed an actual person. A scroll recently discovered in a dwarven ruin hypothesized to be a pamphlet from the time of the Great Southern Migration speaks of a political party called Clockrotica Mechaniclit. While the possibility that an actual Clockrotica existed, it’s far more likely that the name was adopted by the leader of the opposition political party after they had gained control of the dwarven government. For further reading on the possible identity of the historical Clockrotica Mechaniclit, see Clockwork Vaginas and Mechanical Dicks: The Early Dwarven Gods by Theodorous Longwun.
15 I have dug around some other thick volumes in search of the ultimate fate of Algebron. It is rumored that after he scattered himself into the winds, that he reassembled himself and found a home amongst the gnomes. His exact relation to their current deity, Apocryphon Wrex, is both curious and enigmatic. This author wishes he had a more exact answer to this inquiry. [-Sketch]
16 I find it amusing that these men and women lived their whole lives reveling in chaos, but ultimately serving a form of structure. Think about it: you are taught that chaos helps to balance the system. You are even told that you exist outside of the system itself. And you must spend the rest of your life in service to that system. It is one of the many contradictions that make history so truly enjoyable. [-Sketch]
17 This most humble of all narrators suggests to the reader that perhaps Sketch found it amusing to write a book ostensibly about the dawn of dwarven religion that is, in the context of dwarven scholarship at the time, primarily focused on the death of the earliest known dwarven religions.