There Are No Women Dwarves

To the many other sentient races, dwarves are a strange people.  All anyone ever sees of them are burly men with no woman in sight.  This has led to a few people joking that women dwarves don’t exist and that dwarves simply pop out of holes in the ground fully formed.  It comes as a surprise to many to learn that this is completely accurate.

The reproductive cycle of a dwarf begins when a dwarf identifies a high-quality patch of stone.  They release spores into the stone to impregnate it with their young.  To the eyes of other creatures, this looks like a dwarf masturbating onto a rock.  Often a dwarf caught doing this by other species is labeled as a sexual deviant, but it is actually a perfectly normal thing among dwarves.

These spores sink into the rock and combine to form zygotes.  These zygotes quickly begin dissolving the rock around them and consuming it for nutrients.  This enables the zygote to quickly grow into the dwarven larval form.  Ideally, there will be multiple dwarves using the same vein of stone to help maintain genetic diversity, but spores from a single dwarf can produce a healthy larva just fine.

The larva has the appearance of a small furry worm.  It will spend some time completely buried in the rock as it consumes its home.  After a few months, they will begin to poke their heads out of the stone.  In part, this is to look for other nearby rocks that might be worth moving to.  It also allows them to begin experiencing the world around them before they are ready to completely leave their stone behind.

Typically, there will be some adult dwarves around to help care for the larva at this time.  Due to the reproductive method, dwarves typically don’t know who the actual sire of a given larva is so they will care for them as a communal activity rather than an individual responsibility.  However, occasionally circumstances will make it clear that a single dwarf is the father, especially when a dwarf is traveling far away from dwarven communities.  It isn’t atypical for that single dwarf to be the only adult caring for the larva in these cases.

At this late larval stage, the juvenile dwarves will begin to practice talking.  Typically, their first words are “What kind of stone?”  This phrase is completely instinctual and it is common for it to be repeated many times before they begin to understand the answer.  The adult dwarves will take this time to carefully explain the basics of petrology to the larva.  It is typical for the larva to not say anything else even as they begin to understand more complicated speech.  It means that in dwarven culture, the phrase “What kind of stone?” is seen as baby talk similar to how humans might see the phrase “goo-goo ga-ga”.

The dwarven children will exist in this late larval stage for another few months before burrowing back into the stone to form a pupa.  After a week as a pupa, the dwarf will burst forth from the stone as a fully formed adult.

It might not be obvious to outside observers, but dwarves often take on properties of the stone they were reared in.  It is usually purely visual differences, but notable behavioral or physiological differences have been noted in some cases.  For example, a dwarf reared in pure granite will typically be heavier and more robust than a dwarf reared in limestone.  Meanwhile, a dwarf raised in marble might act more fastidious about their appearance than one raised in shale.

It is theoretically possible for a dwarf to reproduce in refined metal, but it is rarely done.  There is a high amount of infant mortality in these cases and it can be expensive to provide enough metal.  Furthermore, the adult dwarves from this process are typically sterile.  They have a very metallic appearance as adults and are often mistaken for magically animated constructs.  It has been noted that larval dwarves raised in metal will say “What kind of… metal?”  There is typically a pause in the phrase that has been interpreted as a form of confusion.  The adults have also been noted as having significantly reduced senses and have been said to be incapable of indulging in any of the pleasures of the flesh.

These metallic dwarves, while expensive to produce and sterile, are highly effective in combat.  They are far stronger and more durable than typical dwarves.  Dwarven cultures are divided on the appropriateness of the practice.  Some view it as a form of child abuse to intentionally produce children in such a manner.  Others see it as a valuable way to produce warriors to protect the society as a whole.  The latter group of dwarven cultures often venerate these metallic dwarves as great heroes.  They are regarded as individuals who have sacrificed their own personal enjoyment of life for the sake of dwarves as a whole.

Legend tells of one dwarf who secured the blessings of Hephaestus for all dwarves by selling an army of his metallic children into the service of the god.  It is said that the halls of the god’s domain are guarded by these dwarves and that in any situation which calls for a divine army to appear, it will be these dwarves who do the fighting.  Dwarves who believe in this story revere all metallic dwarves as holy warriors and treat them as though all of them are in service to Hephaestus.

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