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Dwarven Timekeeping

by Bruce Heard

The dwarves use a totally different way of measuring time. The biggest difference between them and most of the creatures living on the surface of Mystara is that the dwarves, to put it simply, don't. The majority of surface-dwellers, as can be expected, refer to the skies, the course of the sun and the moon, and the seasons as their main point of reference in time. Dwarves couldn't care less. Instead, they rely on a system specific to the dwarves and the gnomes to a certain degree. The dwarves often treat these "silly lights in the sky" with derision which earns them amused smiles from the elves.

One of the more reassuring sounds for a dwarf is the regular beat of the hammer on an anvil. It is a soothing sound that any dwarf worth its salt has loved to listen to and fall asleep with the comforting feel that all is right and orderly. Thousands of years later, it has become part of the dwarven racial memory and rare is the dwarf unable to get the traditional dwarven beat just right. Equally tranquillising is the breathing of the bellows which reminds of a mother's breath. To the dwarves, the sound of the bellows is the breath of Urt, Mother Earth, and they the progeny in her protective womb. From a distance underground, the beat of the hammer on the anvil echoes through the rock as the great heartbeat of Urt.

So, the basic unit of time measurement in Rockhome is the simple hammer beat, which lasts a second. The dwarves ca recognise the double and triple beat, when two or three workers toil on the same anvil. The beats come in a quick succession, followed with a short pause. In effect a double beat lasts half a second, while the pause lasts another second. The triple beat lasts a third of a second followed with a second- long pause.

The breath of a common bellows lasts three seconds. After exhaling, the bellows pauses for a second and then inhales for another three seconds and another pause. The Great Bellows used for clan forges have a slow breath that rumbles on for 10 seconds. Generally, the Great Bellows will inhale for 10 seconds, pause for a second, and then exhale for another 10 seconds. The Great Bellows then remains quiet for three minutes. Dwarves and gnomes can feel these vibrations through the rock, which keeps their natural clock running without making a conscious effort. As a result, outdoors life needs a time of adaptation for dwarves which can be a jarring experience.

Triple Beat: 1/3 of second
Double Beat: 1/2 of a second
Simple Beat: 1 second
Simple Pause: 1 second
Small Breath: 3 seconds
Great Breath: 9 seconds
Great Pause: 3 minutes
(or 20 Great Breaths, 60 Small Breaths, or 180 Simple Beats)

Longer periods are measured according to time it takes to work on a forge. To bring an iron rod to a red hot temperature requires 5 Great Pauses. To work it into steel requires sixteen "Rods". Four "Steels" make a "Shift" after which working dwarves have some free time to take care of their own business and rest. Two "Shifts" make a "Link", basically a dwarf's day.

Rod: 15 minutes (or 5 Great Pauses)
Steel: 4 hours (or 16 Rods)
Shift: 16 hours (or 4 Steels)
Link: 32 hours (or 2 Shifts)
Chain: a dwarven week (or 7 Links, or 9.33 human days)
Gate: a human's month (or 21 Links, or 3 Chains)
Barbican: a human's year (or 252 Links, or 36 Chains)
Citadel: a human's century

Don't forget a Mystaran year lasts 336 days. Dwarves use a calendar of seven-dwarven-day weeks and twelve months. The lengths of time used, however, are different. Of course, this is non-canon material simply because the Dwarves of Rockhome Gazetteer does make it clear that the dwarven calendar is based upon the standard Known World's human calendar. On the other hand, the switch is fairly easy since, luckily, few of the official Dwarven festivals have a date that goes above the 21st of the month -- which works with the above system. One that does need to be changed is the Cleric's Forum happening on Yarthmont 21-27, from a human's perspective. The real Dwarven dates should become Styrlin 17- 21.