Gnomes

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Amarsland Gnomes

The stories handed down through the ages, detailing the origins of the gnomes, vary between Houses, but the common notion that they are one of the oldest races to inhabit the Prime is certainly true. Gnomes originated, like most races, on other planes (such as limbo), and used the Astral Gate to travel widely – ‘bumping into’ the Prime. Some gnomes – the surface dwellers – moved away from these Gates, exploring the Prime and leaving planar travel behind them. Some stayed close to the Gates, burrowing into the Prime, discovering the deep and continuing planar travel. The final group of gnomes did both – travelling far from the gates before making their homes in other mountains, often with the second born, equally comfortable living above or below ground. These discovered yet more Natural Gates to Outer and Inner Planes – some more hostile than others.

This latter group describes well the House of Yagrik, from which Hishik Baravar Cloakshadow heralds. Surface dwellers, these gnomes travelled from Bytopia, the Twin Paradises, to the Efferendil gate, from where they explored far and wide, looking for a place to sink their roots deep into the Prime. Hundreds of years passed as these gnomes happily co-existed with the forest and all its creatures and other houses came to the Prime from their otherworldly dominions. They developed strong friendships with original Prime dwellers, such as the Sylph – a fairy folk of great knowledge of the Prime and power over its natural forces; bonds between gnome and some sylph grew strong, ultimately leading to a race now known as Halflings in the common tongue.

The most powerful of the Sylph, known as the ‘Flore’, held power over the strongest of forces of nature, including the mightiest of beasts on the Prime – the dragons. Once dragons had roamed the Prime freely; uncontrolled, they destroyed everything that the Prime developed, leaving it little more than scorched earth and putrid air. As legend has it, the Gods themselves – from all interested pantheons – cooperated to produce the Flore to control these beasts and nurture the Prime. Understanding that balance was essential, and that these beasts deserved to live in concert (if not in harmony) with others of the Prime, the Sylph moved them to more appropriate realms; for example, fire dragons went to the heart of volcanoes where their destructive tendencies were overcome by natural replenishment from the earth’s core. This interaction between the Prime and the Inner Planes was not lost on the Gods, who increased the power of their offspring to reward their achievements.

Recognising that there were too few Sylph, and even fewer Flore, to ensure the Prime flourished, the Gods empowered them with a symbiotic ability. This allowed the Flore to choose powerful entities to share in the gifts of the Gods. The Flore, typically the most intelligent and measured female Sylphs, could choose to bond with another race and share their understanding of the Prime and, importantly, their ability to control the dragon kind with which they were associated. Often the Flore would not wish for the symbiont to realise that it was in this relationship, in case they altered the balance of power, so they remained hidden – guiding, unseen, the actions of their chosen host. Only the gnomes knew of this power; they also knew that their race’s first chosen symbiont was Orodruin, the powerful entity in a distant Everinstar Clan.

The gnomes witnessed the arrival of the elves (mockingly called the first born), who they kept at arm’s length. These strange, tall, willowy creatures, quick to song and merriment and equally quick to reproach, always roaming, always searching for something just out of reach, were too flighty for the gnomes. They too inhabited the forest, befriending its ancient folk, and dividing the Sylph into those preferring the company of gnomes from those preferring elves. The latter, now known as the Sylvan creatures – brownies, sylph, dryad etc – together with many ancient forest-dwelling creatures, like the unicorn, centaur and Pegasus, travelled far and wide with the first born. It is known that some Flore accompanied the elves.

Conflicted, the Halflings went their own way, never severing their bonds with the gnomes but sharing much of the elves’ thirst for knowledge, they roamed the prime, eventually settling in the far reaches of both Amarsland and Everinstar. Living underground like their gnomish ancestors, whilst very much connected to nature like their sylph forebears. The gnomes always presumed that a Flore, or its symbiont, would exist in the race of Halflings. They remain much loved friends of the gnomes.

Then came the second born. Whilst gnomes know that they are very closely related, dwarves see themselves as a separate race, arriving on the Prime in the same manner as gnomes and elves, though few can say for certain from where they came. Whilst the dwarves claim their lineage stems from Mount Celestia, born from Moradin’s will, Gnomes know them to have evolved from the earliest of their folk that settled distant mountains; natural selection making them taller, stronger, broader but less sensitive to the mystical forces of the natural world. Orodruin’s folk know their origins well, and do not mind being known as Half-dwarf or Half-gnome – that is what they are. Their travelling instinct, thirst for knowledge and symbiosis with a Flore have offered incredible powers, which they have directed to the betterment of the Prime – always striving for balance.

It is understood that it was the heated debate surrounding the origins of the second born that caused a rift between some dwarven and gnomish clans, particularly in the north of Everinstar. Here the first Minas (Tower) was built by the dwarves to deny gnomes easy access to their underground halls. No real war ensued, as the gnomes simply went around the tower and built homes deeper than the dwarves had dug; the feud did not last long due to gnomish sense of balance in pursuit of betterment of the Prime, which led them to formally acknowledge the Dwarves as a separate race that worshipped a Father Deity called Moradin.

Humans were, of course, creatures of the Prime, in the same way as horses, birds and fish. They did not really feature as a ‘people’ because they had little intellect, no connection with the spirits and sylvan creatures that surrounded them, unseen, and were always fighting among themselves. Gnomes loved to play tricks on these stupid ‘animals’ watching closely their reaction – often jibing them into contest and internal strife. The elves were more sympathetic, encouraging their development and helping them shape societies – clearly seeing in them more potential than gnomes gave them credit for.

Slowly the gnomes witnessed the birth of a race, rising from the dirt to become a significant power; it was not lost on the gnomes that humans presented a significant threat to their way of life. Surface dwelling gnomes took to hiding from them, often in plain sight - visible only to others with knowledge of the natural way of things. Those in the deep, dug further still. Amongst gnomes, only Orodruin’s folk helped nurture humans. Dwarves saw in them a similar threat and built their second Minas – at Tiris - to dissuade them from further expansion in Everinstar. Halfings were also wary and have, to this day, remained hidden from human society. Of the main races on the Prime, elves and their sylph friends forged lasting bonds with humans – eventually intermarrying. The combination of elf and man, potentially with the help of the Flore, produced some of the greatest powers the Prime had seen, powers like Lastar.

Yagrik, worried what this would mean for the Prime and his folk, collected his House and moved en masse to Yarlug, to co-exist with the second born of the House of Yarl. The Sylph remained undiscovered in Efferendil for many years, at least until the coming of Orcus. (Their whereabouts now is not known.) Over time, the Gnomes and Dwarves of Yarl got to know and respect their elf neighbours; mistrust gave way to ambivalence which gave way to friendship. This rapprochement was triggered by the coming of mutual enemies, particularly throughout the 1st and 2nd Ages (by the reckoning of the Sylvan Elves) – Dispater, Orcus and Demogorgon.

It was during this time that Lastar, possibly himself a symbiont, began to bring the races together, to unify against a common foe and to set aside petty differences. Together with Orodruin, he used natural, elemental and otherworldly powers to defend the Prime and defeat his enemies. Held in high regard by all free folk, his decision was final on all matters concerning the defence of the Prime. He was first to see the threat posed by powerful entities travelling from other Planes and, with Orodruin’s help and the knowledge of the oldest races, he built mechanism to defend against intrusion. One such mechanism concerned the movement of the Natural Astral Gate at Efferendil to Yarlug.

Once at Yarlug, the dwarves and gnomes began their study of the Gate; using snippets of information gleaned from Orodruin and the gnomes of distant houses, such as Rhodrus, they began to construct a rudimentary containment field. Over time the construct began to hold, despite the ‘spillage’ as Yarl called it, where visions of other planes, other parts of the Prime and other times would appear briefly on the solid walls of the dwarrowdelf – changing them forever.

The House of Yagrik moved to Mordrass many leagues south and west of Yarlug – nearly 500 years ago, before the birth of Hishik’s parents. The pioneering families set about exploring, as Lastar had asked them to do, confirming, first, that there was a Natural Gate to the astral deep within the mountain. Once the gnomes found the Gate, with Orodruin’s help, they created greater protection from its forces, including a huge fortification. Once built, the Gnomes named the fortress that covered Mordrass, ‘Locklastar’: ‘The Lock of Lastar’. This discovery was a mixed blessing. Yagrik himself was quickly seduced by the power that unlimited travel offered – hypothesising that one day they would be able to unlock the secrets of time itself. Remaining closely aligned with the House of Yarl, both gnomes in exile and dwarves in ancient Yarlug worked to protect the Natural Gates, defending the Prime from outside influence.

However, it wasn’t long before the ‘other worlds’ took notice of the Prime; indeed, Lastar had encouraged Yagrik to seek out the Egyptian Gods, particularly Anubis, to ease Lastar’s transition to immortality. During this protracted dialogue, Yagrik and his close relatives fell under the influence of darker powers, from all pantheons, including Hel. At the same time, possibly influenced by the gnomes, Yarl and his kindred also ventured into worlds unseen before.

Sixty-six years after the gnomes first ventured to Mordrass and about fifty years after the fortress was complete, Lastar himself came to Locklastar and used the Gate to visit Anubis; however, the great Mage was not rewarded as he expected. Having been denied Devine ascendancy, he shattered the Artefacts he had created to defend the Prime and plunged the world into chaos. It was soon after this time that many of the House of Yagrik left Locklastar, fearing the path their Lord has chosen. Indeed, many blamed him for Lastar’s failure to reach divinity.

It was also rumoured that Yagrik and Yarl had made bargains with the deities of the underworld that all souls sent to them would never be able to return to the Prime or Ascend to divinity, via their Gates without permission. Whilst the Gate at Maedus was contested and the other in the Vikriain turned by the Drow, the deities of the underworld rejoiced in this bargain – able keep powerful beings, regardless of alignment, to use them for their own ends. Anubis himself, keeper of the path, saw no reason to stop the bargain. Set, Hades and Hel revelled in the support that the Gnomes were offering – barring the path from the Underworld to the Prime, unless it was on their terms. No longer would the father figures of their Pantheons be able to establish links with the Prime, without their knowledge. In return, Yagrik was granted extreme longevity by Anubis (who could only see the righteousness of his actions). Hades, used Locklastar to ensure safe passage of Persephone, previously controlled by the Efferendil elves. Hel offered armies in support of Yagrik and Yarl’s alliances – including the first Gith Army, later given to Iki. The Gods – most likely Set and Hades - directed the ancient sylph to produce Flore, to establish symbiotic relationships, to support both the gnomes of Locklastar and the dwarves of Yarlug.

As already mentioned, Yagrik’s accumulation of power was not to the taste of all in the Gnomish House. Some families moved from Locklastar and its immediate vicinity, settling further into the mountain range, others travelled as far north as the Pikes of Arnur, believing them to have spiritual relevance to the Egyptian mythos they had become to love. Most families either returned to Yarl, in the vein hope that the dwarves had not become equally power hungry, back to the Efferendil, or further afield into uncharted regions. No option was without danger.

Eventually Yagrik died having established a hugely powerful dynasty, control of which passed to his son, Quorone. Like his father, Quorone was set on using the Natural Gate and its reach to greater powers; however, he was vexed by its random nature – any understanding of control (other than stopping things pass to the Prime from the other Planes), Yagrik had taken to his grave. Neither Orodruin’s folk nor the gnomes of Ishtur and Rhodrus would help with controlling astral travel, despite having produced the requisite compasses and timing devices. Blessed with a keen intellect, Quorone was quick to employ the services of Rathon, Song master of Numenorea, to help understand how song and verse may allow more controlled travel. Which it was rumoured Rathon demonstrated successfully at Yarlug.

Around the time of Hishik’s birth, in the year 190 according to the Men of Amarsland, Guerin descended on Yarlug, fleeing Valourin’s forces, and captured what was left of the House of Yarl. The evil Mage began to understand the power of the ancient dwarven race, realising that Lastar had them build a portal to the Astral Plane in the dwarrowdelf. It is rumoured that Orcus himself paid for Guerin’s access with an ancient Ring – a Ring of great value and power to the dwarves – bestowed on Yarl many years before. Guerin used the Astral Gate to link to Locklastar as a demonstration of its power, and to escape the attentions of his enemy. At Locklastar, sufficiently removed from battle, Guerin used Rathon’s verse to travel to the Abyss to discuss tactics and his new findings with his Lord, Orcus. Impressed with the speed and reliability of travelling directly to the Prime, Orcus supported Guerin in Amarsland and, through treaties with the Drow, came once again into Everinstar, via the Vikriain Gate.

Allowing Guerin a free hand to use the Natural Gate at both Locklastar and Yarlug caused great consternation amongst the remaining Gnomes, not yet persuaded of the path their lords had chosen. Like his father before him, Quorone pledged himself to the service of the deities of the underworld and was similarly named Duergar; whether he too was a symbiont is not known. At the time an acolyte of Guerin’s – an oriental monk named Malor (formerly Iki Moko) - accompanied the evil Mage to Yarlug. He had been told by Yagrik, some years before, that Derro controlled the Gate and that Hel would provide him with the forces he might need should he wish to take over Amarsland.

In Yarlug, Malor witnessed the use of the Astral Gate and, once Guerin left for Locklastar, purchased the use of it with a shard of the Sarnim Stone. He travelled far and wide across the inner and outer planes, amassing a network of evil – promising them access to the riches of the Prime. Introduced to them by his Goddess, Hel, Malor aligned himself with other astral travellers – principally the Gith under the command of Grasgal and the Efreet under Fraysir. He too formed treaties with the Drow and became aware of the other Natural Gates – using the one in the Vikriain to resupply his forces in Everinstar, eventually building sufficient strength to take Sutur.

Malor’s unchallenged access to Amarsland ended abruptly when Yagitamo answered Nenye’s call for assistance. His vast, well-disciplined army swept west from the eastern ports driving Malor back to Vorsaykarai, which itself fell to the Shogun after a very lengthy siege. With Malor retreating north, central Amarsland began to heal. The Sylvan elves prospered in the Efferendil, humans expanded to the south from Vorsay, eventually to Oshika, and Sea elves, bolstered by Milai’s successes, took control of Fontainver and Findorsveldt. The peace did not last long, however.

Rumours spread across the exiled gnomish families that a stupid human {Lan Zi?} had ‘fallen’ into Yarlug and discovered the Astral Gate, which was allowing Grasgal to bring his Gith Army to the Prime. Seeing Grasgal himself emerging, the human panicked and closed the unstable Gate simply by touching it without protection. Severing the connection to the Astral at Yarlug, the Gate moved back to its natural home in the Efferendil. Grasgal himself was shot into a void, waiting to be discovered and returned to the Prime. Other Gith emerged in the Efferendil, causing mass confusion amongst the Sylvan elves living there. Arriving in such vast numbers, much of the forest was quickly overrun, before Sorien regained security, which gave Walorin (her trusted Mage) sufficient time to contain the Gate in the World Tree. Rangers were recalled to the forest to help defend the Glade, on which Walorin heaped defensive dweomer, successfully replicating its movement in time with the Sylvan calendar.