I will now remove my tongue from my cheek.
Dimourgos' laid down two laws to his dwarven children, and they are as follows:
- One must wear the constitution of stone in one's heart.
- It is forbidden to destroy what another has wrought.
So, you might be wondering, what does this mean? Good question. We'll start with the second one.
At first blush, this looks like it's saying "Don't break other people's stuff". It does indeed say that, but there are some implications to be considered. Remember that dwarves create their own offspring. In this way, killing a dwarf is forbidden. There is great debate between dwarves as to whether this law extends to other creatures and races. The vast majority believe that killing itself is forbidden, and resign themselves to mosses and water for their sustenance.
Even further, many dwarves believe that this law does not apply just to physical things but also to things such as clans, the peace, and other non-physical constructs. However, the interpretation of this law changes depending on the purpose for which it is being interpreted.
As with the second law, the first law is also given to much controversy. What exactly is meant by "constitution of stone" is a subject of great discussion. Most dwarves agree that it is a call to be durable and patient in character, unyielding to outside influence without great cause to be otherwise.
When used in conjunction with the first law, this is a powerful barrier to change, and a result, the systems and traditions of dwarven society are relatively unchanged over the centuries. Deference to authority is a common thread among all dwarven societies. It should be mentioned that a dwarven adventurer is quite possibly no longer welcome in dwarven society, as such a career often requires some amount of autonomy (though this may not be true if the character is on a mission from dwarven society proper).
There are very few issues that are of importance to all dwarves, and accordingly there is no real central government. The closest dwarven society comes to a central government is the structures of the church of the Life-Breather, but even this does not reach all dwarves at all times. There is one particular dwarven society whose Life-Breathers are taught in the central hall of the clans, rather than by the church itself, but more about this break-away sect later.
Life-Breathers do not rule directly, or use their powers as blunt instruments. Rather they arrive to clan discussions and speak softly, allowing the weight of their position to do the work for them.
In most circumstances, the clan leader is the only government a dwarf will have, and this is not so much government as it is leadership. Decisions made by the clan leader are only binding in the sense that, to most dwarves, it would be unthinkable to do otherwise.
Most small or medium-sized clans do not have their own Law-Speaker, and often live in an area with other clans nearby. One Law-Speaker may service multiple small clans or a few larger clans. The largest clans have their own Law-Speakers, but these are rare.
As with many other facets of dwarven society, Law-Speakers do not directly appoint new clan-leaders, but they are considered to be extremely persuasive, should they decide to weigh in on the matter. In the event of a delinquent dwarf, a Law-Speaker will hand down a punishment that is in keeping with what Dimiourgos' stories would suggest. These stories are only tales of what Dimiourgos has done, and his decisions are imitated in most circumstances.
In times of war, many clans come together, and the Law-Speaker or Law-Speakers meet and the group comes to a consensus on who is best suited to lead the soldiers in war. This generalship is the closest dwarven society comes to absolute rule, and even the general is subject to removal by the decision of five Law-Speakers in consensus.
Much of dwarven governance is of the "live and let live" philosophy. Clans only worry about what other clans are doing when there is a question of great danger, and even then the clans tend to fight together, only consulting with one another when necessary.
Next time: Who knows.