Most fantasy worlds are derivatives of John Tolkien’s work, in that the fantasy races are elves, dwarves, humans, goblins, etc. I did away with all of that, save for the dwarves. The elves aren’t excluded either, but they are long extinct by the time that The Nine Empires takes place. Anyway, the dwarves of Varanganska are quite unlike the dwarves of Middle-Earth. There are two main races of dwarves, the red dwarves and black dwarves. The former reside on Rossbera and other continents, while the black dwarves remained on their home continent of Khandar and are not relevant until halfway through the series. Therefore, unless I specify which race I am speaking of, when I use the term “dwarves,” I am referring to the red dwarves.
The Rossberan dwarves largely kept to themselves in their mountain kingdom, which had villages, cities, and castles built into the mountainside with mines going deep into the mountains themselves. Trade was largely between different dwarven settlements, and there was little or no need to trade with the outside world, as they had a complex system of terrace farming and were thus able to produce their own food. Dwarves also hunt mountain goats for food, wool, and leather. Dwarven isolationism continued until Alexandra’s conquest, when she demanded that the dwarves join her growing empire or be taken by force. King Hurtak told her that she would never be able to take the dwarven strongholds by force, and asserted that the dwarves would remain independent. However, dwarven strongholds were designed to withstand relatively feeble attempts by the Western Slavs on land, and Northmen from the coast. Though they possessed the advantage of high ground, they could not withstand the sheer destructive capabilities of Alexandra’s armies. After one disastrous defeat, King Hurtak surrendered and later abdicated.
For five centuries, the dwarves contributed their knowledge of mining and craftsmanship to the Rhûnnish Empire, making it the dominant industrial power on Rossbera until its final days. As I mentioned in my posts about the War of Rhûnnish Succession, the dwarves broke away after the empire split in two, and joined Bulmut to the west, supplying them with their trade secrets instead. It is for this reason that Bulmut is the most technologically advanced of the nine empires of Rossbera (even though it’s not technically an empire). During this time, the dwarves themselves became much more war-like in culture, as opposed to the tough yet peaceful craftspeople they one were. They developed and perfected mechanised warfare, and though they did not make the majority of the Bulmutian army in number, they made up the most of its strength. The backbone of that strength is the dwarven battlewagon, which evolved from an armoured, goat-drawn chariot to the contraption pictured below:
Two main versions of this tank were produced: a steam-powered version and a kerosene-powered version. Neither was better overall, as they had different roles. The steam-powered version (which is sitting on the right of the kerosene version and has a boiler sticking out the back) was typically used in defensive roles in cities and fortified bases. It was typically fitted with a fireless boiler, and thus did not produce huge amounts of noxious fumes. In highly mechanised Bulmutian cities such as Tenlund, the capital, and Arnturn, the largest Rossberan port, every effort was made to reduce the number of devices which needed to burn fuel in order to operate. They had steam stations as we have petrol stations in order to charge up steam-powered carriages, and, of course, battlewagons. The steam-powered battlewagons were typically fitted with rubber tracks, as well, in order to minimise damage to the streets. Meanwhile, the kerosene versions were used on campaigns and the open battlefield. The kerosene version also has a large hitch at the rear, enabling it to fulfil the role of artillery tractor.
Both versions are armed with a 20mm cannon in the one-dwarf turret. I say “one-dwarf” instead of “one-man” because female dwarves fought as well. They weren’t a majority, but there was hardly a combat role that a female dwarf couldn’t fill. Anyway, enough of that. The hull gun is a 75mm howitzer. Notice that there are two outcroppings in the hull, nestled among the road wheels and return rollers. These allow a hull gunner on either side to shoot a rifle or machine gun at flanking enemies. That brings the total crew up to five: the commander/turret gunner, hull gunner, two side gunners, and driver. Granted, dwarves are small, but this vehicle is still really cramped. Below is a picture of a dwarven battlewagon next to a BVS medium tank, which is the exact same size as a T-34 (which was also notoriously cramped):
The dwarven battlewagon was remarkably modern for a vehicle produced at the
same time as the Taressimian trench tank, with the engine and transmission both at the rear, and a torsion bar suspension for the road wheels. Speaking of wheels, the dwarves loved to decorate their weapons, hence the Bulmutian crosses on the road wheels and the quatresacts on the return rollers. A quatresact, by the way, is not a swastika; that’s just how this particular version turned out. Normally, it looks like this:
The turret is made the shape of a regular octagon with the vertices pointing to the four cardinal directions, rather than the sides, as most octagonal tank turrets are made. Not only does this conform to many dwarven motifs, but offers the advantage of increased armour deflection.
Overall, the dwarven battlewagon is a very effective fighting vehicle, especially in large numbers. It remained competitive throughout the Great Rossberan War until the very end, when far more advanced designs began to appear on the battlefield and blow everything else away.