From: Erik Sieurin (BV9521@bhs.utb.hb.se)
Date: Mon 26 Jan 1998 - 21:11:22 EET
I find myself liking Vesa Lehtinen more and more. In his post he said
a lot of thing about nonhumans which I was going to say, and now I
don't have to.
Since you obviously can't write a message with so little content -
not that a lot of messages which have been sent to this list lately
have more content than this although they are far much longer(1) -
I'll add a little to munch on.
A lot of communication between various dwarven strongholds is carried
on through courier nilmergs, or cornils in Gold argot. Though created
by the Tin caste, they are managed by the Gold, who are in charge of
information gathering, organisation and distribution.
Each cornil is primed to one route already in its homunculus vat, by
the addition of brains from an older cornil which used that path to
the vat melange. If no earlier cornil exists for that path, a 'blank'
nilmerg is created, which then is primed to that path by a special
nilmerg training team made up by a Tin trainer, a Gold expert on
tunnel navigation, a Copper expert on velocipede management and
control, and a Silver expert on thought transfer processes. This
means the process is rather expensive. Add to that the usual risk
when priming any nilmerg: gremlinism.
The cornil may be warped due to mistakes made during its training
process, and will then turn into a gremlin hell-bent on achieving on
doing exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do: disrupting
messages and communication in general. If possible, such gremlins
will be caught, and a team of gremlin theorists (Iron, Silver and
Tin) will be called in. They will try to fix the gremlin by making it
terribly afraid of dwarves and dwarven tunnels, and turn it out into
the territories of nearby dwarven enemies to disrupt their
communication - they are most famous for reversing road signs,
destroying wagon wheels and spooking horses.
Cornils are indistinguishable from average nilmergs except for
their extremely muscular legs. Their leg muscles are very
powerful already at their homunculus state, and they use them
everytime they work, which might be often or rarely depending on
their route. Cornils, just like all other nilmergs and the dwarven
masters who made them, are workaholics, and when not working or
getting necessary sleep, they will train their leg muscles by various
Cornils whose route only passes thorugh dwarven tunnels are equipped
with small two-wheeled velocipedes made from copper, the back wheel
considerably wider than the former. With this the nilmerg can achieve
a hellish speed. Cornils which are velocipede-equipped spend a large
part of their spare time polishing and oiling their 'pedes.
The 'pede is equipped with a little whistle of enchanted brass which
produces a high-pitched screaming noise. All dwarves knows what this
noise means, and stays away from the sides of tunnles when they hear
it. Jolanti generally stand stock-still when the wistle is heard -
they are rare enough that time has been taken to program them with
it, so that they wont incidentally cause cornil crashes.
Incidentally, the noise is extremely painful to uzkind, and Iron
commanders send 'pede cornils through troll-occupied territory
without hesitation. Individualist Iron dwarves have been known to use
this effect to actually divert trolls while attacking. Since
this is Using Issued Equipment in a Non-Standard Way (horrors!), it
will invariably bring down the wrath of the responsible Overseers,
especially if it leads to success(2).
Regardless of their equipment, cornils not on duty will chant what
seems like nonse rhymes while practicing or keeping their equipment
fit. In actuality, this is an aid to remember their exact route and
what they will do if any of the Expected Obstacles will appear. While
singing, they will exibit great cheer and often start using their
bicycles as percussion instruments. Sometimes, filled with pride in
his work, the Gold postmaster will join in. Since the cornils only
know one song, they know it well. They never cease to love the song,
nor their route. Hearing their song every day, the postmaster will
after some years be able to walk the route even if deprived of his
Earthsense. Or he will Break.
The messages cornils carry is written on Earthstuff paper in suitable
caste code and placed in a small gold cylinder marked with the
cornil's number and the number of its route. If the route is unsafe,
the cylinder may only be opened by a key the responsible postmaster
has. Generally, the cylinder is strengthened as well, and in extreme
cases a small conditional spell is placed on the cylinder, so that
the paper will Ignite if the cylinder is opened by non-standard
When the cornil reaches the end of its route, it will leave the
message to that route's postmaster. It will then eat, sleep for a
couple of hours, and start to wait eagerly for its return journey.
The postmaster opens the cylinder, stamps the message, and if the
dwarf to which it is adressed is not within communication
tube or walking distance, it is given to another cornil for further
transport until it reaches it's goal. All routes which connect at one
point have their own postmaster.
Especially when the messages are between Golds, who are enamored of
writing things instead of saying them, the dwarf who receives the
message will write the answer on the same paper. This saves paper,
and is thus Efficient - at least until the same message has
passed back and forth umpteen times. Other dwarves, where rations are
short, will eat the message after reading it, hopefully comitting it
to memory carefully before that.
In more well-equipped complexes, messages are transported between
cornil stations and workshops by communication tubes. These
skillfully made (by Lead dwarves) glass and metal pipes suck messages
from one point to another by means of a chained air entity. The
entities have no mind to speak of, and if you are careless when
sending the message, your finger will be sucked into the tube, and
you will probably loose it. Many postmasters have one or several
fingers replaced by golden prosthetic fingers as a result, generally
equipped with pens, keys, stamps and/or small scissors for cutting
1) This was a minature flame, aka Spark. Enjoy.
2) This may seem illogical, but dwarves never are. If using
non-standard equipment seems more Efficient than not, it may tempt
more dwarves to do so. Non-standard equipment cannot of course really
_be_ more efficient, because then it would be standard equipment.
It's obvious. Of course, if said Iron survives the Dysfunction
Hearings following the incident, and eventually becomes a Diamond
Iron, then the non-standard equipment will become standard, in the
name of Efficiency, and nobody will protest.
"The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a beautiful pea-green boat..."
>From "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear
Bodagatan 39, 2 tr
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