The Metal Eaters Ethnicity in The Churning World | World Anvil
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The Metal Eaters

The Metal Eaters, also known as the Iron Men, Ironfolk, or Iron Raiders, are a group of sapient machine people who reside in the northern reaches of the Great Wheel. Though they originated from the human dominated continent they q quickly spread out through the world on small raiding ships and established a multitude of small, largely isolated tribes that sustain themselves on a culture of raiding nearby biologicals and, occasionally, other Ironfolk for the one thing as precious to their kind as water is to organic life; metals.   The name Metal Eaters is a bit of a misnomer. They do not literally consume metal but rather use it to replace portions of their bodies that have long rusted away in an attempt to preserve their long lifespans. Because of the scarcity of metals within the Great Wheel however the Ironfolk are forced to raid other groups to steal their metals for themselves.     Description: Metal Eaters tend to vary in size and shape considerably. The original variety were of roughly human size and proportions but centuries of replacing broken pieces with often ill-fitting or poorly crafted parts has left many of their kind lopsided and disproportionate. While most favor the original humanoid frame and seek to keep to it as much as possible there are some who have abandoned that form and choose to model themselves after animals or simply create whatever form they feel best suits them.   The one unifying physical characteristic they all share is that they are made of metal. Their bodies are often made of iron or, if they are fortunate enough to know a skilled smith, steel. Some settle for bronze or brass bodies, and those especially unfortunate had to go with softer metals like copper or gold that leave them easily broken.     History: Ironfolk began as the household servants of mankind back in the Old World before it died. They were constructed within monumental buildings where long forgotten sorceries brought them into being. At the time they were demure, content creatures made of now lost materials and a false skin that covered their artificial bodies. When the Old World died and the gods came to whisk humanity and other living creatures to safety they chose to bring the Ironfolk along for reasons that are unknown to modern scholars, though it is theorized they hoped the Ironfolk would aid humanity in its survival.   The Churning World is one without deep earth that can be bored into for a near infinite supply of metals, however. What metal is available is highly finite and already dug up from the earth. The humans knew metal was needed to repair their servants but few were willing to part with the rare and valuable commodity to do so. In time this caused the Ironfolk to rebel and found their own way of life in the north and, due to needed metal to survive, caused them to turn of raiding to get what they needed to continue their kind’s survival.     Society: The Metal Eaters are a warrior culture first and foremost. Each member of any given tribe is expected to be able to fight and one’s social standing within the tribe is proportional to their capacity to fight and bring a wealth of metals back to the tribe. Those who cannot fight often make up the bottom of the social hierarchy and are expected to do the bulk of the grunt work like cleaning the living facilities and repairing broken tools and structures.   The exception to this rule are the repairers. These are often the older members of any society, though a young repairer isn’t unheard of. They are seen as wise people and serve as both spiritual leaders and healers for the tribe. They alone carry the secrets of how to repair the broken bodies of the Ironfolk as well as how to smelt new components from scrap metal. They pass this knowledge on to the next generation by taking an apprentice, called a fixling, who will study under the repairer personally until the repairer feels their skill has grown enough to be called a repairer themselves. Repairers are also expected to memorize the oral history and religious practices of their tribe and pass it on to their fixlings with time. The oldest and most revered repairer in the tribe is referred to as the Maker, and the Maker holds the responsibility of guiding a couple through the process of creating new Ironfolk to form the next generation.   A tribe is commanded by an Iron Reaver, the oldest and most capable warrior in a given tribe, but even he is subject to the demands of the Maker. The Maker has final say in all things, though they rarely weigh in on the day to day workings of their people. The Iron Reaver chooses where the tribe goes and who the tribe raids and is responsible for the safety of his people.   “The Iron Reaver protects the now. The Maker forges the future.”     Relations The Metal Eaters are well regarded as being the most fearsome warriors within the Great Wheel. They are largely hated for their raiding ways, though few can speak ill of their abilities in war. For that reason it isn’t uncommon for the Ironfolk to sell their raiding services as mercenaries in exchange for the metals they need to survive. A unit of Ironfolk is a prize in any commander’s army and an Ironfolk bodyguard is both a pragmatic investment and a sign of prestige due to the costly expense of hiring them.


Shared customary codes and values

The Ironfolk value freedom above all things. They know well of their history and their origin as servants as well as the fact that their creators and masters saw them as less valuable than their own personal wealth. For that reason no Ironfolk will do work for another unless they are being compensated for their time. The Ironfolk take this to an extreme degree to the point of being content to watch another die if they are unable to pay them to save their life.   This mentality has earned the Metal Eaters a reputation for cruel indifference, but the Ironfolk see it as simple pragmatism. It has also lead to a belief that the Ironfolk are untrustworthy, but that could not be further from the truth. The Ironfolk’s word is strong as steel. Lying and deception are cardinal sins among their kind. Once they form a verbal agreement with someone they will complete their end of the bargain to the best of their ability so long as the promise of pay remains good.   Courage is also a primary virtue for the Ironfolk and by extension cowardice is a grave sin. To be called “gold-hearted” is among the gravest insults in the Ironfolk language. Worth of fighting and even killing over. Its opposite, “steel-hearted”, is the highest praise. An Ironfolk is expected to fight to the death rather than accept being captured by the enemy, for the metals that make up their body could be scavenged by their comrades and used to bolster the tribe if they simply died on the field. If they are captured the metal is denied to their friends and family and their defeat was for nothing.

Common Dress code

The Ironfolk do not seek to cover their bodies. Rather it is normal for them to show it off. Every piece of metal that is a part of them is a sign of wealth and prestige. Many of the richer Ironfolk will decorate their bodies further with rings of different metals. Excess fortune they don’t even need to repair their bodies which both shows their exceptional good health and their skill at procuring the life giving metals for their tribe. Wrapping thick chains of different metals around one’s body is the ultimate expression of this and is most common among Iron Reavers who have grown rich and powerful enough to command the tribe.   Precious stones are also often used for decoration due to their aesthetic value and the otherwise lack of pragmatic use the Ironfolk have for many of them. In fact even the more poor Ironfolk are likely to sport leather or cloth bands inlaid with rubies and diamonds to make themselves stand out. Many Ironfolk will also make use of paints to color their chassis to better reflect their sense of individuality.   Many Ironfolk will also make use of paints to color their chassis to better reflect their sense of individuality. One of the few forms of clothing that is considered acceptable to wear are canvas capes painted with unique colors and designs often created by the cape’s owner. Often times these painted capes hold a visual tapestry detailing great achievements from the Ironfolk’s life or otherwise detail the story of a famous ancestor they revere.   Those who do wear clothing do so out of shame. Those with bodies of copper or gold or those who are missing huge chunks of their external chassis and thus have exposed wires and parts will often seek to cover themselves in cloaks of cloth or leather or otherwise wrap bandages around the offending parts of their body to try and hide their poverty from view.


Gender Ideals

The Ironfolk have no sexes and so have no innate concept of gender. They were, however, instilled with the concept by their creators in the distant past. Assigned gender roles and built with sexual characteristics in order to make them a more palatable servant caste. In the New World though this is not the case. Sexual characteristics alone are a luxury only the very wealthy Ironfolk can afford, though few bother with it all the same, and gender is a matter of preference. It is customary for Ironfolk to choose their gender, or none at all, after living for their first year. Changing one’s gender later in life is possible but usually seen as frivolous.

Courtship Ideals

Despite not reproducing asexually the Ironfolk do still form pair-bonds for the purposes of reproduction. The bond is usually based on romantic feelings for one another but is not strictly limited to that. What is necessary is for the two to wish to make a new life with one another.   The bond itself is formed with an exchange of internal, vital components. Typically a repairer will oversee this process. Symbolically it represents the two individuals becoming one on a spiritual level.   The two will then go to the Maker and request their aid in forming a new Ironfolk. The couple are responsible for obtaining the raw materials necessary for the endeavor and the Maker will perform the rites to force the components themselves, then instruct the couple in how to assemble the components into a working being. This process is extremely difficult and will usually take several months or more, but the final product is a new member of the tribe.   It will then be the couple’s sacred duty to teach their child of the world and any vital skills they might need to survive.

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