Machinae and the quickening of metal

From: Erik Sieurin (
Date: Tue 10 Feb 1998 - 21:16:01 EET

In it's proper use, the term 'machinae' refers to any mechanism or
apparatus made of quickened metal or stone by the Clay Mostali, but
not even they use the term so widely.

Instead, it refers to 'living machines' that are separate units and
in some way seems to be 'beings' to the beholder. In reality, there
is no great difference between the 'living' locks, tools and more
complex prosthetics commonly used by the dwarves and the mechanical
montrosities referred to as a 'machinae', but it is often ignored.

Humans often use the term 'Jolanti' for these creatures, but the
Jolanti are a separate, superior breed of machinae. _True_ Jolanti
can no longer be created by the Mostali, since only True Mostali can
make them. It still takes a Diamond Dwarf to make an inferior
Jolanti. Most machinae today are made from metal and not stone

Metal was once alive. Humans believe it to have once been the bones
of gods. Dwarves insist that it was parts of the World Machine's
physical structure, of certain vital mechanisms that has since been
broken. If the humans prefer to refer to these mechanisms as 'gods'.
it's their business.

Metal can be returned to life today by the processes of alchemical
metallurgy, but it's only a semi-life at best, the equivalent to
undeath or the pale existence of the shadows of the dead. Only
dwarven heroquesting or the actions of the few Mostali left can
truly quicken metal. Mostali use quickened metal as much as possible
anyway, since it is more useful than dead metal and can be used to
create things like machinae.

Note: Quickening metal should be carefully distinguished from
_purifying it_, referred to as 'enchanting' the metal by humans(1).

Quickened metal feels slightly warm to the touch and increases in
warmth when it is moving. When 'activated' it retains the sturdiness
of the ordinary dead metal while attaining the flexibility of living
flesh. Certain metals or minerals attain special charateristics once
quickened as well. For instance, gold begins to glow with a soft
light. It's akhasic friction increases drastically, ie any imprint
left by nearby aetheric action (magic, spirits, mental activity by
living beings) is deepened, and spells such as those known by Gold
Mostali or the human priesthoods of Lankhor My and Irrippi Ontor
becomes more efficient. It is more easy to read text written on
quickened gold, as the text seems to move in ways conducive to
understanding it, naturally highlighting interesting portions.

Just like purification, quickening can only be performed on metal
which is already shaped. When activated, the object can move, though
limited by its shape. A copper chair, for instance, could walk about,
and a chain could move like a snake. The exact way the object is able
to move depends on its exact form, and almost imperceptible incisions
and a porous internal structure at those places where it is
supposed to be most flexible. The exception is aluminium/quicksilver,
which does not have a strict shape when quickened in quicksilver
form and which will move like a gorp or undine when activated. It
should be noted that it is not possible to activate alloyed metals
(including bronze) but nothing stops the object from having separate
parts made of separate metals, or incorporate up to 37,2%(2)
non-metal parts - stone being a metal in this case.

The quickening process involves placing the object in a quickening
athanor and subjecting it to rythmical showers of aetherical force
projected from the souls of several Brass Dwarves, or one very
skilled one. Creation of a quickening athanor is a process in itself.

Iron must be purified before being quickened, since its antimagical
abilities will make the process impossible. Impure, raw iron still
contains enough undiesenthropified antivitalic substances to make any
enchantment of it possible, at least by dwarven technology(3).

To activate quickened metal, it must either be imbued with a false
mind or brought into harmonic mental domination by a suitable

The first process is permanent but has the twin
disadvantages of dissipating the stable aetheric charge of the Gold
Dwarf in charge of the process, and limiting the flexibility of the
machina. On the other hand, a false mind-imbued machina does not need
permanent supervision and a constant expenditure of magical energy.
Thus, the second process might well be less cost-efficient in the
long run during certain circumstances. The choice of method is made
on a case-by-case basis. In any case you can always imbue a machina
with a false mind later.

A machina imbued with a false mind has a limited intelligence. The
exact amount of intelligence it can receive depends on it's material
composition. Gold can be made to simulate a dwarf close enough that
most Silver Dwarves won't notice(4). Rock is virtually mindless, and
might misunderstand very simple commands. It also takes more aetheric
force to create a more intelligent false mind. In any case a false
mind lacks any kind of emotion and passion.

To use senses other than touch, the machina must include suitable
mostali measuring instruments, like a thermometer for heat, a small
pendulum for time, a gyroscope for improved balance, vibrating bells
for hearing and lenses for sight. Destroying such might incapacitate
or at least desorientate the machina, which is a fact known to
dwarf-fighting elven archers, so the sensual organs are generally

Such a creature will obey spoken and mind-projected commands from
anyone attuned to it. It has the disadvantage of dissipating it's
magical energy slowly, even while not active, and going dormant when
it is completely out of it. The amount of energy a machina has is A,
proportionate to it's size and B, dependent on it's material
composition in a reversed way compared to it's intelligence - rock is
the most powerful, gold the least.

As a result many machina imbued with false minds are also imbued with
a false divinity. This useful enchantment enables it to receive
magical energy from the minds of special Nilmergs taught to worship
it(5). These also polish it, oil it etc. Usually the strongest
 emerges as a leader. It _has_ happened thirteen times that
when it died, such a 's mind has been absorbed by the machina,
and in two recorded cases the machina didn't either break down or
went berserk. The process of imbuing a machina with a false divinity
requires the use of a pure godsblood crystal.

Activation by a formula of harmonic mental domination requires less
power and skill. It allows a Tin Dwarf to control the machina as if
it was his own body. Unlike the possession abilities of certain human
mages, the dwarf doesn't leave his body during the process, though he
cannot use his senses and the body will move as much as possible in
turn with the movements of the machina. If it's makeup is very
different from that of a dwarf, bodily damage might be the result.

A short formula similar to such is used to operate mechanisms like
locks which open on mental command, mechanical tools which run by
themselves or self-loading crossbows. The formula needs mental
attunement and the expenditure of primal aetheric force on each item
the dwarf wishes to affect, however.

When a dwarf (or in rare cases, a human dwarf-tool) has a mechanical
prothesis installed, a relatively simple enchantment which allows him
to activate it is included, so it can be used as the limb it is
copying. Not all prosthetic limbs are quickened, however. Some are
just carefully made mechanical protheses, others are driven by

It is known that _clay_ can be quickened, which facilitates the
reanimation of dead dwarves (though not resurrection), and Dwarf-made
creatures like s. Such a process has very few non-experimental
uses, however.

Something similar was employed by the single Vivamortian Dwarf
recorded, D'Enost the Enthropist, which terrorized Dragon Pass during
the late Third Age and was thought exterminated by Richard the
Crippler, the famous Humakti swordsman. D'Enost created 'living'
pieces of bone and mummified flesh, like the table which moved on
four human skeleton legs or a doorknob placed within a fanged jaw
which snapped shut when unauthorized people tried to touch it. It
might be possible for human Vivamortians to copy this deed.

It is rumored that the Vegetarians of Pamaltela has perfected a
process which allows them to quicken _dead wood_, though most Dwarves
wouldn't use the term 'perfect' in the same sentence as 'vegetarian'.
It is supposed to enable the creation of completely complacent
vegetative slaves, quicker than the brain-washing-by-torture of
Aldryami prisoners or raising of heritage-warped Aldryami which is
normally employed(6).

1, Dwarves consider the term 'enchantment' most unsatisfying and
imprecise in this context. _Any_ metal changed by magic permanently
is enchanted. On the other hand, sloppiness is an inherent trait in
humans, as is the lack of any kind of focus on what really matters.

2, The Brass Diamonds of Nida has checked this. Honestly.

3, 'Magic at a sufficiently advanced level is not indistinguishable
from true technology, but it's growin'* _difficult_ to distinguish
'em' Nakontor Double-sifter, Silver Reconaissance Expert employed
against humans by the 45th expeditionary force of the Nidan Army.

*'Grow' is the dwarven equivalent of the four-letter word. It is not
used in polite dwarven company, but most Silvers aren't that polite,
and Nakontor was extremely foul-mouthed, using words like
'procreate', 'fertilize' and 'ferment' on a regular basis.

4, Which doesn't say much, really.

5, The similarity between this and the relationship between humans
and their 'gods' is a common source of amusement to Dwarves. 'Yes,
the trick is an old one, the Primal Mostali knew it', they say.

6, Besides, walking trees with light cannon-sized blunderbusses
scares the hell out the Muri, and causes them to attack their Embyli
"The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a beautiful pea-green boat..."
>From "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear

Erik Sieurin
Bodagatan 39, 2 tr
50742 Bor=E5s


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