Lines of Blood: A History of the Gnomes
Lines of Blood: A History of the Gnomes is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
“From cringing grotto to sun-dappled weald
We bloomed like morning’s glory. Cottonweed seeds borne by the four winds, We measured the breadth of the world.”--Opening verse of “Vit’gno Loed,” an early gnomish epic
- 1 Origins and the Great Schism
- 2 Bloodline Basingstoke
- 3 Bloodline Withycombe
- 4 Bloodline Winedotter
- 5 Other Bloodlines
Origins and the Great Schism
It is fitting that a reclusive race should have origins shrouded in mystery. Humans long discounted the existence of gnomes, often mistaking them for halfling children on the rare occasions when they spotted one. Noting the gnomes’ long beards, their love for gems, and their tendency to live underground, the halflings long maintained that gnomes were slender and dexterous dwarves. The dwarves, for their part, fixed their attention on the gnomes’ pointed ears and concluded they were pygmy elves. The elves, as might be expected, have long known more. A fragment of hide in the Library Aies, identified by loresong as a draft illustration from the Imperial Chronicles, contains the earliest reference to the gnomes. One of the illustrations, a catalogue of cave-dwelling creatures, depicts a tiny humanoid figure covered with long, silvery-white hair. A note written below the humanoid says “igno skaellim,” a phrase that translates to “identity unknown.” In their explorations, the elves found only trace evidence of these beings--an abandoned campsite, perhaps, or a dessicated corpse--but they never made extended contact with a living specimen. Out of sheer frustration, or perhaps in a rare moment of humor, the chroniclers of Ta’Illistim decided to enter the evasive race into the royal bestiary under a name derived from its original identification: gnome.
The gnomes remained a mystery even to the elves until the beginning of the Fourth Age. In the year -4500, elven rangers recorded the first extended contact with a living gnome in the forest outside Ta’Illistim:
Gyldemar Forest, SW. Lead scout halted on approach to a narrow, shallow stream. At the bank stood a creature of perhaps two and one half feet tall, clothed in a rough linen tunic. Eyes: brown. Hair: blond. Beard: long and white. Ears: overlarge and pointed. Squad took cover to observe its behavior. The creature used a wooden spear to fish the stream, collecting its catch in a wicker creel. It sang a song in an uncouth tongue. Voice: high pitched and reedy. Tracked subject with maximum stealth to nearby cave, where we overheard a greeting to others of its kind. Laughter billowed out of the cave, and the creature emerged with a broad smile on its face. It pointed to each spot where our rangers hid, then pantomimed walking with a heavy, clumsy tread. In its own language, but in a remarkably accurate imitation of our leader, the gnome barked out what might have been commands. More laughter ensued, then with a quick wink the creature disappeared into the cave. Lessons learned: subject was a gnome; gnomes have developed the rudiments of civilization, including technology, language, and a sense of humor. Recommendations: additional observation and analysis.
This initial report was quickly confirmed by additional--but still uncommon--encounters with civilizing gnomes throughout the elven lands. At the very same time, scouts began to report contact with a very different sort of gnomish beast: hunch-backed, gangly, purple-eyed, nearly hairless, and anything but civilized. Keeping strictly to their caves and shunning any light, these creatures were inevitably hostile to the elves, attacking with crude and generally ineffective weapons.
There was--and still is--no satisfying explanation for the difference between civilized and savage gnomes. Most gnomes vehemently repudiate any connection with the creatures that have come to be called "cave gnomes," despite what others consider obvious similarities of size and features (hair and eye color, for example). Only the gnomes of Bloodline Rosengift recognize any relationship, and that only in one of their folktales:
And it came to pass that the gnomes, growing more accomplished with every year, left the lesser races far behind. Among the bloodlines, however, the struggle for dominion was fierce. One bloodline in particular so hungered for power that they communed with Fash’lo’nae. “Grant us, lord, some small part of your knowledge,” they prayed. In a voice impatient and curt, the god replied: “To what end?” “That we might outstrip our kin, of course, and rule the forest far and wide.” A wry chuckle blew down on the wind, and the god’s voice replied, “It’s Imaera you want, not me.”
And so the gnomes communed with the goddess of nature, who appeared to them in sylvan form. “How can I help you, children of the forest,” she asked. “We seek knowledge, great lady, that we might better serve your ends.” But Imaera had observed their exchange with Fash’lo’nae, and she saw the will to power in their hearts. “Very well,” she replied. “From this time forward, you will know nature to its very core.” For a short while the gnomes rejoiced in the idea that their wish had been granted; but foul Imaera, that perfidious wretch, had a crueler fate in mind. Within minutes, the entire bloodline devolved into children of nature, crude savages incapable of higher thought or organized behavior.
Rosengift distrust of nature notwithstanding, most historians believe that the truth lies in the opposite direction: that the civilized race evolved from the savage. This raises questions, however, about why time left the cave gnomes behind. In the end, there is no evidence sufficient to close the debate. Civilized and cave gnomes alike differ radically from the creatures depicted in the ancient elvish record, and thus is also possible to conclude that a single event, shrouded in the darkness of the end of the Third Age, sent the groups off on two divergent paths.
The origin of the gnomes thus remains an open question, a matter of great speculation and rancorous debate.
The Great Schism
Historians agree that gnomes are indigenous to Elanthia and Elanith, and that like other civilized races they first saw light in the First Age, from which no tales survive. In that savage epoch, the gnomes eked out a short and brutish existence--flying from danger or hiding in the darkness of shallow, natural caves--as the prey of larger and more powerful creatures. There are few beasts of smaller size or more modest power than the gnome, of course, which perhaps explains why their savage period extended so far beyond the rest. Those gnomes who survived these barbarous conditions developed the attributes that still characterize the race: stealth, speed, ingenuity, and above all a wary distrust of others.
Little is known about gnomish culture in its infancy except that their religious sensibility began in ancestor worship. Individual families of gnomes kept elaborate records of births, deaths, and marriage alliances. The few surviving records, scratched on cavern walls, indicate that the gnomes practiced exogamy, seeking always to bind additional persons into an ever-more inclusive group. These early gnomes identified themselves by reference to their earliest known ancestors, who gave their names to the extended family groups known as bloodlines. To this day, when outsiders commonly identify members of the race according to their home in Forest or Burg, the gnomes insist that only bloodline matters--or, to quote one of their earliest epigrams, that “Character is drawn in lines of blood.”
By longstanding tradition and from a continuing need for security, gnomes kept close to their ancestral caves. When overcrowding became a problem, several families would leave as a group to settle another cave nearby their original home. Thus the extended bloodlines remained physically and spiritually close to one another. In the year -135, however, a strange pestilence began to strike at the children of the gnomes. The disease progressed in this manner: the eyes became sensitive to light, and then a terrible weakness set in as the muscles became slack and unresponsive; the skin became pasty grey and then began to develop colorful growths resembling the lichen that grows on cavern walls; the disease ended with a lingering, but mercifully painless, death. As more and more children succumbed, the gnomes began to worry for the survival of their race. While no cure was ever found, the gnomes soon discovered that children were less likely to develop the wasting disease in the fresh air of the forest, in the energizing light of the sun. Without pause for thought, the gnomes streamed out of their caves and established camps in sunlit forest glades, and sometimes even in the grassy plains. This was dangerous, as it exposed the gnomes to predators, but the spread of disease came to a swift halt.
After a few seasons of exposure to predators and to harsh seasonal elements, the gnomes began to contemplate a return to their homes. Though the evacuation of the caves was originally conceived as a temporary measure, whispers began to circulate that the plague was a sign from the gods directing the gnomes to leave the caves, to expand their territory, and to take a more visible role in Elanthian life. This idea struck a chord with many gnomes, who felt a competitive desire to measure themselves against the other civilized races. A conservative element argued that life above ground was too dangerous, but a majority felt that the race was becoming too soft, their culture stagnant and hidebound, and that they needed the challenge of living above ground to stimulate further development.
These ideas eventually found their way to the leaders of gnomish society, who called an unprecedented meeting of bloodline elders. Recognizing that this decision would impact the entire race, the elders abandoned the tradition of gerontocracy in favor of a more democratic system in which every adult gnome would be allowed a vote on the issue. The gnomes gathered and spent weeks debating the issue, while craftsmen created wooden tokens marked with the identifying pattern of each bloodline. When the lots were cast, the decision went overwhelmingly in favor of leaving the caves.
No sooner was this decision made that a new wrinkle arose. A young gnome named Sander Withycombe suggested that his people might secure their goals more quickly, and at less trouble, by abandoning the forests altogether and moving into the cities and towns of other races. Groups of adventurous gnomes had occasionally explored the cities of the elves, but were daunted by the advanced civilization they found there. The more rustic towns of the humans, however, were comfortable and inviting.
Withycombe’s cousin and childhood friend, Doneagil Basingstoke, rose to speak in opposition to this idea. A great argument ensued. Lasting the better part of a year, it alternated between formal debate and rancorous shouting match, until finally it was determined that no compromise was possible. It was resolved that the gnomes would take one final action as a unified people. Those resolved to attach themselves to the human cities would leave kith and kin forever, while the rest would keep to their forest home. A vote was taken, and its results surprised no one. Smaller, weaker gnomes--the curious, but also those lacking discipline--chose to leave for the cities. The strongest and wisest of the race chose to remain where nature had placed them.
It is impossible to overstate the disruption that this vote brought to gnomish society. The division cut across families as well as bloodlines, and the departure of random groups violated the most ancient traditions of bloodline continuity. It was therefore resolved to mark the moment—which came in time to be called the Great Schism—with a reorganization of cultural groups. The entire record of gnomish ancestry prior to the Great Schism was destroyed, and two new groups organized under their most vocal advocates. Sjandor Withycombe led the Burghal Gnomes into the cities and towns of the Kannalan Empire, while Doneagil Basingstoke led the Forest Gnomes back to their ancestral demesne.
“Like the shadow of the oak,
And the balm of clover blossom: Go gently o’er the land.”--Doneagil Basingstoke
Doneagil Basingstoke is remembered as something of a ne’er-do-well. He spent his childhood avoiding work, sneaking off to sit with elders and listen to their tales. He walked the woods, observing nature and recording his feelings in finely crafted lyric poems. While the gnomes recognized his talent, they did not believe that it excused him from useful employment. “That Doneagil could make a fine wool gatherer,” his father used to joke, “if we could persuade him to gather anything but dust!”
During the period of debate leading up to the Great Schism, however, Basingstoke’s verse gave voice to the gnomes’ relationship to the forest. He described the gnomes not as stewards of the forest, like the sylvan elves in their lofty arboreal homes, but as interrelated parts of a food chain, engaged in a heroic struggle for survival against tremendous odds. The forest was no idyllic home, but an environment that brought out the best in the gnomes, challenging their communal and competitive spirits, their determination and ingenuity, their stealth, speed, and wit. When Basingstoke rose to speak in the debate, he reinforced the overarching theme of his verse: The forest is the only proper home for a gnome.
He became a leader by speaking, but he became great by listening. When the gnomes he led back into the forest expressed nostalgia for the caves, he suggested they dig homes in the earth. Sunk four feet into the soil and lined with logs, these buildings offered warmth in the winter and cool in the summer. Low roofs, rising perhaps one foot above ground level, were easily camouflaged by shrubbery or tree fall. Their homes were placed in close proximity to one another, alongside smokehouses and storage bins for grains and other foodstuffs, and the entire area was surrounded by natural barriers of thorny briars. The few entries into each compound were densely trapped with pitfalls, deadfalls, snares, and other traps. In these havens, the forest gnomes felt at least as safe as they did in their ancestral caves. When his people worried about a return to cultural stagnation, Doneagil Basingstoke decided that the forest gnomes would become a semi-nomadic people. Every three years, by decree, each compound would relocate beyond its hunting range. This forced the Basingstoke gnomes continually to adapt to the challenges of a new environment and offered the benefit of regular physical exercise from the travel and labor associated with the move.
Basingstoke also knew that his people had to reform the structures of alliance that were lost with the bloodline system. Like all gnomes, his people were more competitive than cooperative by nature, but under Basingstoke’s rule they began to compete with one another to see who could do more for the community. That spirit appeared in the very first remove (as their triennial migrations are known). Upon arriving at their new home space (chosen in advance by a scouting party), the entire community set to work digging holes and hewing lumber until every family had a home. Fields were cleared and crops planted and the smoke houses filled with meat before the first gnome thought to work for his own comfort or pleasure. The gnomes who worked most assiduously during this period were honored by popular acclaim, and at the time of the next vote they were named Captain of the Remove and Captain of the Larder and inducted into the new Council of Leaders.
This spirit of competitive cooperation still appears in every aspect of Bloodline Basingstoke culture. In their economy, for instance, these gnomes live off the land. Because of their disadvantageous height and strength, Basingstoke gnomes rely largely on foods they can gather from their environment: nuts, berries, mushrooms, and other fruits of the forest. They also practice limited cultivation of wheat and maize in small clearings created by slash and burn agriculture. Gathering parties are organized by the Captain of the Larder, who rewards the best producers with an extra measure from the communal stores. Forest gnomes are accomplished hunters, but they rely on skill and wit rather than strength to bring down their prey. While most forest gnomes have skill in archery, they also practice a form of landscaping that multiplies their advantages in relation to the environment. For instance, the gnomes plant bearberry bushes in the center of clearings, luring bears into deadfall traps where they can be safely dispatched by archers. They also clear deer runs so that fleet footed prey run into snares. Gnomes also imitate voices and calls with uncanny accuracy, a skill that aids in luring prey and evading predators. The Basingstoke gnomes are expert food managers, preserving cabbage as sauerkraut, berries as jellies and jam, and smoking meats—and making sure that plenty is left for the cold winters when they stay safe and warm within their compounds.
In late fall and throughout the winter, the Basingstoke gnomes turn their attention to fine arts and practical crafts. They weave baskets from willow and other soft woods, as well as linen for clothing and other household needs. The linen is dyed in a variety of natural colors using dyes developed from natural products. When their clothing has served its original purpose, they tear it down and use the scraps in elaborately patterned quilts. They also use dye to make colored ink, with which they decorate animal hides to create wondrous miniature paintings. They dig clay, from which they form any number of practical items such as plates and bowls as well as fine artistic sculptures from tiny figurines to full-size statuary. The Basingstoke Arts Fair, held every year on the Day of Kuon’s Blessing, is one of the most important events in their annual calendar. The Basingstoke gnomes gather from far and wide for a Bloodline-wide competition in all of their major arts and crafts. The Basingstoke gnomes have an odd relationship to art, however: While they have great respect for talent, they have very little interest in artifacts, perhaps because a nomadic people cannot accumulate too much in the way of material things. Prizewinning poems are memorized, and prizewinning foods are consumed at the fair, but prizewinning quilts are given to young couples to warm their marriage beds. Prizewinning statuary and painting are hidden throughout the festival glade (and sometimes found and sometimes not). The losing entries (with the exception of foods, which are returned to communal larders) are always destroyed.
Basingstoke family life begins in childhood, which is spent in a communal setting known as the dva’lorten. Gnomes with a particular gift for nurturing are given responsibility for raising the children of the compound from infancy through adolescence. At the age of two, Basingstoke children begin a program of education that includes everything from practical lessons in forest survival to the memorization of epic poems that convey the bloodline’s history and values. Games are very important to Basingstoke education, and their games are highly competitive. As a means of testing survival skills, they are harshly realistic: anyone caught by “the forest troll” during a game of hide-and-seek, for example, has their head shaved to signify a gruesome death.
At the end of their childhood, the gnomes of Bloodline Basingstoke endure a rite of passage known as Zhadu’gno, or the Blood-marking. The rite begins with the identification of the gnome’s nemesis. Every adolescent gnome is given an herbal compound that induces a deep sleep, and in their dreams an animal appears. While some clerics preach that the nemesis is chosen by Imaera, other gnomes admit privately that they fell asleep with the image of a particular animal in mind. In either case, it often comes to pass that the nemesis predicts the profession of the gnome: a great hunter might see a grizzly bear, while a gnome destined to oversee the granary is likely to see a mouse. It then becomes the task of the gnome to track down and kill the nemesis. The adolescent chooses an adult, someone whose character they admire, as their mentor for the Zhadu’gno. Some gnomes choose a close relative or friend merely to witness their achievement, but most gnomes choose a mentor who will contribute materially to their kill: a proven tracker, archer, or trapper. When the animal is brought down by main force or stratagem, the mentor bleeds the animal, the adolescent, and himself. After mingling the bloods, the mentor uses the mixture to mark the young gnome. One side of the neck bears the sign of Bloodline Basingstoke, a single straight line with an oak leaf and berry cluster at each side, while the other bears some mark from the slain foe: a paw print, a claw mark, or a pattern of teeth.
The Zhadu’gno initiates the young gnome into adulthood and provides them with a mark of identity. Some gnomes take the ceremony so seriously that they tattoo their marks into the skin before the blood washes away, and they bear these bloodmark tattoos proudly for all of their days. It should be noted that not every young gnome survives the Zhadu’gno. Such cases are considered a very great blessing: It is said that Imaera spares the gnome a long life of struggle and pain by coalescing those forces into the nemesis. The corpse is marked not with the sign of the bloodline, but with the symbol of Imaera, and buried with great ceremony in a marked grave. The discovery of these grave markers by later generations serves to remind Basingstoke gnomes of the stern demands and gentle graces of their mistress.
Another important ceremony in the life of a Basingstoke gnome is marriage. Marriage ceremonies are closeted affairs, with only a cleric present. The ceremony consists of simple vows, always unique to the couple, forming a private covenant between Imaera and the gnomes. The covenant can be put aside by mutual consent when it becomes clear that the union does not have nature’s blessing. After the ceremony, the family organizes an enormous feast for the entire compound. The central feature of a wedding feast is a ceremonial dance in which every married couple, young and old, engages in an elaborate, formal dance. It is said that the pattern of twists and turns, moving together and apart, in speeds from fast to slow, enacts the married life as a lesson to the new couple. Basingstoke couples typically have two children, in order to keep the bloodline population stable, though some couples choose to have more. Childless couples ask fertile friends to have extra children, a request that is typically considered a great honor (those whom Imaera has blessed are able to share the blessing). While the children are raised communally, most parents spend a great deal of time with their children, as much as the demands of their professions allow.
At the end of their lives, Basingstoke gnomes exit life with dignity and uncommon grace. Their lives, however pleasant, are defined by strife. Death is welcomed as both cessation and consummation of the struggle to survive. With a minimum of ceremony, the body of the gnome is marked with the same signs of identity used in the Zhadu’gno and buried in an unmarked grave deep in the forest. Friends and family gather to tell stories about the gnome, often set to verse, but no physical memorial is ever constructed (except, as mentioned before, in the case of those lost in the Zhadu’gno—and in that case it is Imaera who is honored, not the gnome).
Basingstoke religious life centers on Imaera. In their view, Imaera--like nature itself--is worthy of both love and fear. She is the source of nature’s bounty, and some Basingstoke folktales tell of Imaera teaching the gnomes to harvest the fruits of the forest. But she is also the source of nature’s power, and from the point of view of a gnome that power is not always kind, not always just. While rites to Imaera are a part of Basingstoke daily life, from the planting of crops to the start of a hunt, the forest gnomes have also made her worship the centerpiece of their annual celebration of Bloodline unity. On the first day of Imaeresta, the bloodline gathers in their various compounds for a huge feast celebrating the birthday of Doneagil Basingstoke.
The Founders Day celebration also recognizes the intervention of Phoen and Jaston in the containment of the lichenous plague. While the elders recite Doneagil Basingstoke’s poetry, drinking toasts to Imaera in berry-flavored cordials, the children send kites dancing through Jaston’s four winds. Unmarried adults, meanwhile, enjoy a day of rest, lying on quilts to catch the fading sun of summer, lightening their hair and darkening their skins as signs of Phoen’s blessing.
Basingstoke compounds can be found--by those perceptive enough to find them--in every forested region of the continent, but always at a comfortable distance from the settlements of other races.
Some call the gnome an unwelcome guest.
Who could think that the tall ones know best?
I take, but I give in unequal degree: Always two for the host, and one for me.--Withycombe doggerel
When Sjandor Withycombe was a child, no one predicted he was destined for greatness. Many, including his parents, believed he was destined for an early grave. As a curious toddler, he would find his way into a den of hibernating bears or to the center of half-frozen pond. A nearsighted and frail child, he found himself unsuited for participation in archery competitions and the other games that taught young gnomes the ways of the forest. Instead, he spent his time studying the way of things, and looking for ways to improve them. Sometimes his inventions showed signs of genius. After observing the mating behavior of a certain fish, for instance, he redirected a stream down a graduated falls he built with some friends. As the fish tired of leaping the steps, the gnomes were able to grab them at will with bare hands. Other schemes were less successful, however. In one infamous episode, he actually strapped himself to a kite with the intention of dropping stones on a herd of grazing elk. He was a young gnome, and he healed quickly. "More quickly than is strictly speaking good for him,” his father liked to say.
So it was that when young Sjandor Withycombe stood before the gathered bloodlines and proposed an urban life for the gnomes, those who knew him best were persuaded least. Lacking the character and rhetorical gifts of his cousin Doneagil Basingtoke, Withycombe knew that he would persuade--if at all--on the merits of his proposal alone. He well understood that what he proposed was more than mere transplantation--that it would require a complete transformation of the race, as the gnomes adjusted in body, mind, and spirit to an urban environment. Withycombe did not harangue his listeners, but merely outlined the pros and cons as he saw them and allowed each gnome to judge the proposal on its merits. This respect for individual judgment persuaded many that Sjandor Withycombe was the right gnome at the right time.
Thrust from obscurity to the forefront of history, Sjandor Withycombe led nearly a third of his much-diminished race out of the forests in the direction of the nearest human settlement. His regret at leaving kith and kin mingled with curiosity and a strong determination to realize his dream as Withycombe spent the days and weeks of travel formulating a more specific plan. He knew from scouting reports that the humans were fearful of strangers. Even those who accepted individuals of other races were unlikely to welcome an entire tribe of wayfaring gnomes, a race of which the humans had little or no previous knowledge, looking for food and shelter. He knew that the gnomes could infiltrate the city and pilfer what they needed, but this would be no permanent solution. Eventually the humans would discover such parasites, and dire consequences would follow. He needed a plan under which the gnomes would be physically present within the human city, but not a recognized part of its population; under which they could take what they needed to survive and yet ensure that the humans would disregard their pilferage; and under which they could learn from the humans a variety of skills that would make the change of habitat worthwhile.
Late in Eoantos of -125, the gnomes approached the town of Tamzyrr. Not yet an imperial capitol, Tamzyrr had a large population, an agricultural surplus, and a wide selection of professional guilds and artisans’ workshops; most importantly for Withycombe’s plan, it was built over deep topsoil. From the shelter of a densely wooded copse, the gnomes began to dig a tunnel toward the city walls, lining their subterranean road with brick as they moved beneath fallow fields and the wooden palisade surrounding the city. The gnomes tunneled with great vigor and speed. Reaching the city itself, they built brick-lined apartments underneath human neighborhoods, and beneath business districts they built their workshops. In short order, they mirrored the human city with a complete underworld town of their own. On the first anniversary of their arrival, the gnomes gathered in Sjandor Withycombe’s personal compound, which was built beneath the Tamzyrr City Hall (a building that would later be torn down to make way for an imperial palace). In those grand chambers, still some of the finest examples of burghal gnome architectural design, Sjandor Withycombe delivered his first address as head of a new race:
“This is all the welcome you’re ever likely to receive. In the sky-lit world above lies adventure, knowledge, and wealth, but also certain death for any of you careless enough to be seen. Remember our purpose. We will learn from our hosts, and then help them in whatever small ways we can. Of the value that we add to human endeavors, take one-third: no more and no less. Then our hosts will be glad of our presence, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. Seek out every means of improving our lot. I will serve as your leader for one more year, after which we shall meet again. At that time, let the one who has done the most for our race be chosen head gnome for the year to follow.”
Accepting Withycombe's plan with unanimous acclaim, the gnomes set about their tasks with the energy and enthusiasm that were to become characteristic of their race.
They began by studying human agriculture. The size and stealth of the gnomes gave them every opportunity to observe the process of clearing, plowing, seeding, and reaping the crops. They watched as vermin and disease attacked the plants, diminishing the yield. Using the knowledge of plants and animals they imported from the forest, the gnomes improved irrigation and drainage, they trapped marauding birds and small mammals, they imported worms to aerate soil and bees to pollinate, and they spread fertilizing and insecticide potions over the plants. When, in short order, the quality improved and the yield increased, the gnomes began to break into the store rooms and liberate a share of the food, thinking of themselves not as burglars but as co-workers due a living wage.
The gnomes knew they could not take all that was needed to feed the race directly from the fields and barns. Instead, each gnome was responsible for providing for his own needs and the needs of his infant children. Some stole food from the fields, but others stole from homes and workplace pantries. As a result, the pilferage was slow and steady and never significant enough to cause a hue and cry. Another result of this odd method of procurement can be seen to this day in the fondness of Withycombe gnomes for stew. In most burghal gnome compounds, the cook will maintain a kettle of hodge-porridge slowly stewing day and night. Whatever food comes into the household goes into the common stewpot, so that today’s flavor always owes something to the taste of yesterday.
In addition to fields and barns, the gnomes also infiltrated human homes. They observed housekeeping and the maintenance of lawns and gardens. Some gnomes adopted deserving families as their special hosts, and they performed small tasks on their behalf. A window left open to the cold might be closed in the night, or shoes left muddy might be found clean in the morning. Gardens tended by gnomes became the envy of human neighborhoods, and many a person credited with a green thumb found herself receiving unjust blame for not sharing lawn maintenance secrets with the neighbors.
The gnomes also studied the humans at work. From places of hiding in shops and guild halls, they learned every skill known to their hosts. Individual gnomes adopted particular craftsmen, always seeking out the most worthy persons for their special attentions. They performed small housekeeping tasks, making sure that the shop or workshop was clean and inviting for customers, but more importantly they sought out subtle ways to improve the quality of goods and services. A gnome working with a tailor, for instance, might tighten the seams or elaborate on the embroidery of clothing, earning the craftsman a better reputation and increased custom. As the shop prospered, the gnome would exact her share of the increased profits, sometimes in the form of goods but eventually also in the form of silver coin. The gnomes eventually discovered another form of exchange in colorful faceted stones, and the love affair between burghal gnomes and gems began. To this day, burghal gnomes prefer to do business with gems rather than the bulkier and heavier silver coin; rarely will a burghal gnome leave home without a few gems for daily purchases. Withycombe gnomes are expert and innovative gem cutters, and the hallmark of their jewelry is the simple setting that shows off the sparkle of the gem (the quality they value most).
The burghal gnomes acknowledged that the humans, with their advantages in size and strength, could perform certain tasks with far greater ease than the gnomes could ever hope to duplicate. They sought every means to compensate for their physical limitations, and innovation and experimentation became characteristic of their race. In their workshops, they harnessed every available form of power: they tapped the power of earthnodes to experiment with various forms of magic; they directed underground streams through pipes into their homes and workshops for necessary use but also to turn grinding wheels; they tapped boiling springs as sources of heat, but also as a source of steam power for their machines. The gnomes learned to multiply and direct mechanical forces, first with simple machines like the lever and the pulley, and then with mechanisms of increasing complexity. They built practical machines like the clock and artistic machines like the mobile, but in time the purest expression of their love for engineering and design would appear in wondrous toys, puzzles, and games.
The workshop of a burghal gnome is a place of great noise and industry, with the whirr of spinning wheels, the hiss of steam, and the crackle of harnessed lightning. Burghal gnomes are notoriously casual in their dress, especially in the grip of a particularly vexing project, when a splash of grease or oil might go unnoticed for days or weeks at a time. Between projects, however, their persons and their workshops are meticulously clean. Unfortunately, it’s only the rarest occasion when a burghal gnome is between projects.
As their culture increasingly focused on the workplace and home workshop, the gnomes began to experience a radical change in their personal lives. Nowhere is this more visible than in marriage. Over the centuries, Withycombe gnomes have come to look at marriage as an extension of work, as a task they undertake for the good of the race rather than for personal satisfaction. In their marriage vows, they promise not to love and to cherish the positive qualities of their mates, but to fix specific faults in their partners. They spend their marriage tinkering with each others’ habits and personalities, in the hope of making each other better gnomes. As a consequence of this unique arrangement, burghal gnomes of bloodline Withycombe almost never divorce. Their differences are seen signs of the strength of the coupling, and some Withycombe gnomes go so far as to choose their partners on the basis of their incompatibility. (It is important for outsiders to note that Withycombe gnomes do love their mates, even though the basis for their love might be different from your own.)
Withycombe childrearing is also inextricably tied to the cultural focus on craft. At a very early age, children are apprenticed outside the home, as the emotions between parent and child are considered a deterrent to workshop discipline. As a parting gift from the opposite-sex parent, the young gnome receives a leather tool belt branded with the family and bloodline name; the same-sex parent provides the child with a tool etched with the surname of the new apprentice. As the child gains knowledge and skill in a craft, the master makes additional gifts in recognition of significant achievement. When adolescence turns to young adulthood, most gnomes have filled their belts with the tools of their trade and they stand ready for the arvyad’gno, or the “venture of fate.” In this coming of age trial, each gnome is left alone in a room empty but for a burlap bag. Using the tools in their belt and their native wit, the gnomes must assemble something from the parts and pieces found within in the bag. Some rumors suggest that each master creates her own task item, while others insist that every burghal gnome since the days of Sjandor Withycombe has assembled the same item. The Withycombe gnomes hold secret the exact description of this artifact, but many have revealed that words etched on the metal pieces serve as a clue to the order of assembly as they come together to form an aphorism or short parable of Withycombe wisdom.
Gnomes who successfully complete the arvyad’gno receive the title of journeyman, and they are free to pursue their craft independently. Journeymen typically work for some dozens of years, until they have accumulated the experience and capital necessary to buy out a retiring master (and his or her workshop). Gnomes who fail to complete the arvyad’gno in the allotted time bear the stigma for all of their days. They rarely rise to positions of authority, and they usually perform only menial tasks within the burghal gnome community. At the conclusion of the ceremony, both successful and unsuccessful applicants are marked with their own blood as a sign of adult membership in the bloodline. Withycombe gnomes, many of whom choose to tattoo the bloodmark into their skin, bear a sign of two straight lines with a diamond at either side.
The centrality of the workshop also manifests in the religious life of the Withycombe gnomes. Eonak the craftsman has many adherents, as does Tonis the fleetfooted, patron of thieves. Many Basingstoke gnomes also worship Lumnis and Fash’lo’nae for their connection to the search for knowledge. Like their Basingstoke relations, the Withycombe gnomes celebrate their most important holiday as Founder’s Day, which for the Withycombe marks the anniversary of Sjandor Withycombe’s first speech to the burghal gnomes in Tamzyrr. On Founder’s Day, the burghal gnomes clean themselves up and leave their workshops to visit with family and friends. Presents are exchanged in honor of the gods, and to showcase the work that’s been done over the previous year.
It is on Founder’s Day that the Withycombe select a head gnome for the year to follow. The burghal gnomes have long been settled in their cultural ways, and the criteria for head gnome have changed subtly over time. The gnome who does the most to improve the lot of the race is now seen as the gnome who produces the most ingenious device, whether practical or whimsical in nature. The role of head gnome is largely ceremonial. He (or, rarely, she) visits workshops of master craftsmen to kibbutz on their designs. The input of the head gnome is tolerated, but rarely welcome, as many gnomes give in to an excess of pride after winning the competition for the title. The only serious business of the head gnome comes when a particular city’s population reaches excess, and a pioneering group applies for permission to establish a colony in a new human city or town. For day-to-day business, the burghal gnomes are governed by family elders, who in most cases are also workshop masters.
Withycombe lives end with very little ceremony. After a brief visitation of family and friends, corpses are wrapped in anonymous shrouds and deposited in brick-lined vaults deep beneath the city. There the bodies lie, unmarked and unacknowledged, until even the bones turn to dust. In the course of time, as space for new bodies becomes scarce, the gnomes sweep the remains of the eldest generation from the crypt and spread them into the winds that course through the night in the skylit world up above. Only then is a funeral held, and the gnomes recount the major accomplishments of the lost generation. It is believed that this system provides for historical objectivity, which might be threatened should the immediate relatives of the dead be called upon to judge their work.
Withycombe gnomes have little in their culture that might be called art. While they mimic the artisan skills of the humans, their production tends to be derivative at best. Some of their fancy-dress clothing, however, bears a unique style of embroidery design consisting of interlocking geometric shapes. Basingstoke gnomes also favor the mechanical reproduction of nature, in items like the bejeweled metal songbirds sold on the Dhu Gillywack. For the Basingstoke gnomes, such feats of design and construction represent the very height of aesthetic achievement. The Withycombe gnomes are also excessively fond of poetry; but where the forest gnomes favor the imagistic lyric, the burghal gnomes value only rhyme, often at grave cost to meter and sense.
Burghal gnomes of Bloodline Withycombe have infiltrated most of the major cities and towns of the human empire, as well as select smaller outposts on the fringes of civilization. It is far more likely for burghal gnomes to live openly in these smaller towns, where the prejudicial human laws are not as strictly enforced.
Knapkin folded like a swan: Please don’t let me fail!--Arvyad’gno prayer
For 850 years following the Great Schism, there were no bloodlines among the gnomes, but merely gnomes who lived in human cities and gnomes who remained in the forest. All of that changed in the year 725, when Lyosi Wyandotte led a group of Withycombe gnomes into Ta’Nalfein. This first fracture of the burghal gnome community led to the resuscitation of the bloodline denomination as a means of distinguishing the original Withycombe group from the upstart Wyandotte faction.
Lyosi Wyandotte was anything but an upstart. In fact, she was a gnome of such careful thought and deliberate behavior that her friends thought her a little slow. Her enemies might have put it differently, but Wyandotte was so kind and agreeable that few gnomes felt anything but a warm, parental consideration for her. She was raised in a small village surrounded by vineyards and olive groves in the countryside outside Tamzyrr. Her host family was made up of good, hardworking county people: the kind that never achieves greatness, but instead enjoys a lifetime of quiet satisfaction. Lyosi Wyandotte snuck into their cottage at night to iron the curtains, wash the odd dish, and sweep the floor, asking only a small biscuit and cup of milk in return. She took great satisfaction from knowing that her hosts, however humble, were more comfortable because of her efforts. No one ever suspected that Lyosi Wyandotte wanted more from life than this.
In her heart, however, Lyosi Wyandotte was a great romantic. She had a vision of what life should be, and when she looked around her she saw little that met her idealistic expectations. She felt with a deep passion that gnomish culture had gone astray since the time of Sjandor Withycombe. She felt her people were foolish for sweating away their time and energy in steamy workshops, when the true calling of burghal gnomes was service to their hosts, service for its own sake and not merely as a justification for pilferage. She longed for a time when gnomes would take more pride in such work and award more respect to those who performed it. Nevertheless, year after year the word came forth from Tamzyrr that the head gnome had been chosen for crafting some useless machine. Not incidentally, year after year the head gnome was a man. While women were not forbidden a place in the workshops, they were subtly pressured to adopt less prestigious positions within gnomish society, thus rendering themselves unfit for consideration as compound leaders, much less as the head burghal gnome. Lyosi Wyandotte secretly bristled at this perceived injustice. If her friends thought she was empty-headed, it was because she spent so much time dreaming dreams of how society would be different were it led by women in domestic service rather than grimy workshop masters.
She might have continued this life of silent dissatisfaction were it not for the visit of a group of Nalfein traders interested in buying grapes direct from the harvest. Wyandotte was instantly smitten with the elves’ courtly manners. On a whim, she granted herself leave of absence from her human hosts and stole aboard one of the Nalfein wagons. After a long and difficult journey, she finally spied the walls of the city in the distance. She felt a great joy rush into her heart at the grandeur of the sight. As she snuck about the city, everything that she saw confirmed her first impression: here was a people infinitely more worthy of fine service than humans. No gnome, she felt, could fail to respect those who served such lordly hosts.
She raced back to Selanthia with all deliberate speed, telling every gnome she met about the majesty of elves. Many of the gnomes she met thought she was exaggerating, or that she was a bit of a mad enthusiast, but others listened with interest. When she returned to her home, she found it difficult to serve her human hosts, whose lives seemed puny and mean in comparison to the grand families she visited in Ta’Nalfein. First among relatives and friends, and then throughout the county, Wyandotte began to circulate the idea of establishing a burghal colony among the elves. Most dismissed her notion without a second thought, but others gave her idea careful consideration. Many gnomes in service, and a disproportionate number of women, signed a scroll indicating their desire to join Wyandotte’s venture. Another group that joined the roll were journeymen winemakers, who saw relocation as a quicker route to mastery and ownership of wineries; the opportunity to glean secrets of the art from an ancient winemaking culture also played no insignificant part in their decision to join Wyandotte’s quest.
Armed with her scroll filled with names, Lyosi Wyandotte traveled to Tamzyrr, traveling the same underground road that brought Sjandor Withycombe into the city. Sensible of the historic moment, she reached the compound of the head burghal gnome and requested an audience. The head burghal gnome does not have much to do on any given day, and she was immediately shown inside. Sitting behind an enormous steel desk covered with award-winning gadgets was Tymos Aluvy, an elderly jeweler with a silvery grey beard that reached to his knees. He smiled at her and asked her name.
“Lyosi Wyandotte, sir.”
“Only daughter of that vineyard gnome, who invented a machine for extracting oil from grape seeds a few years back?”
Sighing inwardly, she nodded.
“What can I do for you, then, little daughter?” Aluvy looked across at her with his best fatherly smile.
“I bear a petition, sir, of several hundred names. I plan to establish a colony in the elven city of Ta’Nalfein, and I have come to seek your blessing.”
Tymos Aluvy’s eyes opened in unmasked disbelief. “You don’t say? You couldn’t possibly have said. No, I simply don’t believe you!”
Little did Wyandotte know that she was subverting tradition, cutting through the decades of red tape normally required for such petitions, not to mention the fact that she was implicitly questioning the judgment of Sjandor Wityhycombe himself, who deliberately chose to live among humans instead of elves. Lyosi Wyandotte simply stared at the babbling Aluvy, and then walked over to his desk. With the air of someone explaining a simple concept to an addlepated listener, she unrolled her scroll. “I do say just that, sir. Look…here are the names!”
“I do not want to see the names, and I know just what you mean, you impudent thing,” he snarled. “Just what do you propose doing among the elves that you couldn’t do here at home?”
Slowly, hesitantly, she spun out her dream. She described a society where the home was more important than the workshop, where domestic service was the most respected form of employment. She described a matriarchal family structure, where power passed from mother to daughter but with no prejudice toward fathers and sons. She suggested that the head gnome might often (perhaps more often than not) be a woman. She also mentioned the winemakers who had joined her group, and she speculated on a trade that might someday benefit both colony and metropolis: fine elven wine in exchange for gnomish manufactured goods.
She spoke for almost twenty minutes, all the while ignoring the signs of mounting anger and exasperation in the expression of the head gnome. Finally the old man exploded into incoherent screams: “Wine?!” “Daughters?!” “Indeed!!” Recovering only a little of his composure, he continued to shout. “And I suppose you, a housemaid, will lead this foolish venture? It cannot be! It will not be!” In a sing-song voice, he called out, “Winedaughters! Winedaughters!” and then cackled with derision and scorn.
Lyosi Wyandotte sank deeper within herself at every word, her face stinging from the venom of his tone. She started to shrink back from the desk as her dream begin to fade, but then she suddenly found her resolve. She straightened her spine to full height and looked Aluvy straight in the eye. “We are leaving with or without your permission, old man,” she said. “I came here as a courtesy to the head of my race, but you have proven yourself unworthy of my respect. I disavow relationship to you, now and forever, for me and for all those who follow me.” She then turned on her heel and walked out. Within a month, all of her followers were on their way to Ta’Nalfein, leaving a stunned and disbelieving nation behind.
The burghal gnome culture that evolved in Ta’Nalfein, and later spread throughout the elven nations, came to be called “Bloodline Winedotter” from a conflation of Lyosi Wyandotte’s name with the appellation Tymos Aluvy bestowed upon them in his rage. (Some fastidious Winedotters still insist on being called Wyandotters, but they are considered humorless cranks, even by their friends and family.) The culture evolved along the lines of Lyosi Wyandotte’s dream, in no small part because she worked tirelessly to see it come to pass. She served as an informal leader of the group, guiding its development without ever holding formal office. In her later years, she found herself being called “Grandmother” by the entire bloodline, despite having had no husband or children of her own.
Initially, the burghal gnomes found it more difficult to infiltrate the cities of the elves than those of the lackadaisical humans. The elves were much more likely to observe the slightest movement of their things, or to hear controlled breathing in the dark. The Winedotter gnomes selected individual families of elves to adopt on the basis of wealth and power. They infiltrated the grand mansions of royalty and merchant princes, as well as the most successful vintners of the age. Instead of creating an elaborate network of underground tunnels, they built multi-layered sub-basements beneath the “big houses,” and it was not unusual for Winedotter gnomes to go months and even years without leaving the safety of their compounds.
The Winedotter gnomes identify more closely with their hosts than any other burghal bloodline. They take pride in the accomplishments of “our people,” as the host family is called, and they derive their status within Winedotter society from the status of their elven hosts. In the first generation that the gnomes were present in Ta’Nalfein, the desire to please sometimes grew into a competition to do more for the hosts, and eventually some over-eager gnomes stepped over the line where the elves could no longer pretend not to notice their presence. A meeting was held in the private chambers of the Nalfein king, to which Lyosi Wyandotte was invited by subtle hints delivered in stage whispers at night in all the most important houses of Ta’Nalfein.
At the meeting, some elves argued that the gnomes should be made welcome and others that they should be expelled or even killed for their temerity. From a place of hiding behind rich velvet curtains, Wyandotte listened as the king closed the debate by declaring the gnomes welcome in his realm and in his household. Following his lead, the great families of the Nalfein came to regard their adoption by gnomes as a very great honor and a sign of social status. While some families of elves declined the honor, either from parsimony or a desire not to lose their privacy, most welcomed the kind attentions of the gnomes.
Despite the hosts’ knowledge of their presence, Winedotter gnomes maintain the burghal traditions of stealth, doing all of their work anonymously, unseen and unheard, in the night. Occasionally an elf will communicate subtly with the gnomes, leaving a note folded in the pocket of a shirt that needs mending, or tucked into the toe of some shoes that need polishing. Propriety demands that the elves not acknowledge the gnomes directly, instead expressing a vague and passive desire that such and such piece of work might be done. Most Winedotter gnomes actually take these notes as a grave affront, an implied criticism of their failure to anticipate the need, but they would never allow the elves to know as much. The notes are always found undisturbed exactly where they were left, though the work they request has always been completed.
Despite their focus on domestic service, Winedotter gnomes have not turned their backs entirely on their Withycombe origins. They do maintain small home workshops in which they tinker, purely as hobbyists, with mechanical designs. Winedotter gnomes focus exclusively on objects of beauty, however, believing that practical devices are an excuse not to take personal responsibility for careful work. A music-loving people, the Winedotter bloodline produces relatively few musicians, and as a result many of their finest products are mechanical music boxes. They have also refined the mechanical clocks of the Withycombes to include music, and their glockenspiels (large and small) are sources of wonder and delight.
The area in which the Winedotter gnomes focus most of their tinkering energy is winemaking. What began as the professional interest of a small group of gnomes has become, over time, a central component of the culture. Wine is omnipresent in the cultural life of the bloodline, and the Winedotter compounds resemble wine cellars because of the racks of bottles and aging casks that fill every available space. Winedotter gnomes do not make wines in large batches for everyday use, preferring to pilfer that from their elven hosts. The signature labels of the Winedotter vintners are likely to be unique blends or wines with unexpected infusions of flavor made in small batches for the connoisseur trade.
Winedotter families are closer-knit and more loving than those of the Withycombe bloodline. Nuclear families live in brick-lined apartments conjoined into extended family compounds that reach deep underground. Winedotter families observe a strict matriarchal organization. Husbands move into the compound of the wife’s family, and they take the wife’s family name. In addition, the ultimate authority in any dispute is the oldest living woman of the family. Winedotter children remain in the household of their parents, though babysitting duties are often shared by siblings and cousins when the parents are off at work. Children learn the discipline of housework and personal service from an early age. As young children, they are assigned responsibilities in the family apartment, and as they grow older they are tasked with looking after infirm or ill relatives in the extended family. On occasion, a Winedotter gnome will take a son or daughter to work with them in the big house in recognition of some special achievement. Otherwise, Winedotter gnomes are forbidden to leave the compound until they come of age.
At the age of 17, Winedotter gnomes become eligible for the arvyad’gno. In the Winedotter version of the burghal ceremony, invited guests from the extended family gather in their formal wear for an elaborate meal of seven courses; the adolescent undergoing the rite serves the guests with dignity and grace, observing all of the proprieties of Nalfein manners. The most difficult moment for the petitioner comes during the exquisitely formal interlude of wine tasting known as the Seven Sips, in which the challenge lies in circling the table with each vintage in a timely manner, so that the next round is poured before the last has been finished, while giving each guest an opportunity to accept or refuse each libation. The candidate’s success or failure is judged by the diners, who never let the wine dull their scrutiny. Upon successful completion of the arvyad’gno, the Winedotter gnome is admitted to the “Upstairs Staff”: they are provided formal wear (cut in the latest elven fashion and embroidered with the coat of arms of their host family) and assigned nightly duties in the elven mansion. Gnomes who fail the arvyad’gno are assigned tasks within the family compound, and they become eligible to re-take the challenge on their next birthday. (It is never difficult to find judges for the events.) Regardless of their success, the penitents receive the bloodmark of their clan: three vertical lines (signifying an arbor) topped with a leafy grapevine.
Winedotter marriages are always exogamous, and they serve as welcome opportunities for an entire family to leave their compound and visit another. The marriage vows consist of formal speeches of a length guaranteed to bore anyone but the partners themselves, though the assembled families maintain the strictest expressions of rapt attention. The key component of the vows is a promise to serve the partner with all the attention normally bestowed only on the elven hosts. The vows are followed by toasts, speeches, and yet more toasts. Weddings function as important showcases for specialty wines, and the key symbol of Winedotter marriage is the label printed specifically for the wedding. The best vintners from each family create a unique blend for the wedding, and this wine is served at the ceremony and at every anniversary the couple shares. On the death of either spouse, the remaining bottles are poured into the ground in recognition of the lost union.
Winedotter funerals are formal, stuffy affairs. Bodies are borne in great state to the deepest levels of the compound, where crypts are masked by tall racks of wine. Gnomes in formal livery and white gloves stand at attention as the loved one is laid to rest, music boxes playing funereal marches all the while. The next of kin makes a speech praising the virtues of the gnome and listing the highlights of their life: their dreams, their loves, their legacy.
Gnomes of Bloodline Winedotter have a religious life of deep devotion. They adopt the patron arkati of their hosts as patrons of their own, but their personal gods tend to fall into two categories: women and servants. Eorgina, strangely enough, has very few adherents among these gnomes; while the idea of a dark queen appeals to some of their cultural values, the type of service she demands is anathema to the Winedotter pride. Tilamaire also has many followers among these music-loving gnomes. The high holy day of the Winedotters coincides with Founder’s Day, which (following the Withycombe tradition) is held on Eoantos 1. Hosted by the family that serves the royal house of each city, the celebration is marked by toasts to the gods, to the Founder Lyosi Wyandotte, and to the elders of each compound. (By the end of the evening, toasts are made to the children who pour the wine, to the glassware, and to anything that stops spinning long enough to be recognized.) Instead of a head gnome (the Winedotters do without centralized bloodline government), a Chief Taster is selected as the gnome who brings the finest wine to the festival. The Chief Taster’s job is to visit each vintner in the city on a circuit, testing the products at each stop. The Chief Taster spends a rather dissolute year, with the result that rarely is a gnome chosen twice in a row. In fact, Chief Tasters are usually more than grateful to see their terms come to an end.
The Winedotter gnomes also have a unique tradition of mysticism tied to the stars. Studying the elven star maps, drawing the familiar constellations and others known only to initiates, these mystics believe that spiritual well-being and fate are powerfully influenced by the varicolored light of distant stars. By casting starstones of various size, color, and shape onto the ground, these gnomish mystics can read the past and the future of their subjects with uncanny accuracy.
Winedotter compounds exist in each of the great elven cities with the exception of New Ta’Faendryl, where their presence is banned by royal decree. No self-respecting Winedotter gnome would attach to a Dhe’nar, as the very concept of slavery is a heinous affront to the ethos of bloodline Winedotter.
The history of Gnomes is incomplete. Until the remaining bloodlines are completed, the following will serve as general information about each of the bloodlines.
Historical summary: In 1134, Winedotter brothers Urho, Urko, and Urho Tewodros leave Ta’Vaalor to explore the dwarven outposts on the DragonSpine. They sneak into the mines, pilfer some raw ore and low quality gemstones. They return home with their booty, and quickly sell it off. Recognizing an opportunity for profit, they regularly travel between their new home in the mountains and the gnomish compounds beneath the elven cities. Eventually, they expand this trade to carry gnomish goods (and messages) back and forth between Winedotter, Withycombe, and even Basingstoke compounds. Never intending to establish a new bloodline, the brothers Tewodros nevertheless attract many Winedotter gnomes who admire their freedom of movement and thought; this new group willingly adopts the name “Aledotter” after it is applied to them by a Winedotter wag.
Cultural summary: The gnomes of Bloodline Aledotter live outside the caverns of the dwarves, often sneaking inside to glean information about metallurgy and forging. Inveterate tricksters, these gnomes sometimes perform acts of great kindness and sometimes of great mischief, though more often than not fear and respect temper both impulses. Aledotter gnomes supply the other bloodlines with metals and weaponry; over time this role has expanded to encompass the entire inter-bloodline trade. Aledotter gnomes rarely overlook an opportunity to turn a profit, especially when it does not involve any actual work of their own. These gnomes are particularly proud of their size, believing that it gives them an advantage over larger, clumsier races; as a result, Aledotter women are known to choose their mates on the sole basis of stature. Like other burghal bloodlines, the Aledotter gnomes perform the coming of age ritual known as the arvyad’gno, but for the Aledotter the ceremony involves running away from home to see the world. Those gnomes who return are initiated with a bloodmarking of three vertical lines crossed by a horizontal sword, signifying that they are NOT Winedotter gnomes. Aledotter gnomes rarely worship the gods on a personal level, though respect for Eonak and Gosaena is deeply embedded into their cultural lives. The Winedotter gnomes are led by, insofar as a people who actively cultivate an anti-authoritarian ethos can be made to follow, a triumvirate of elderly gnomes whose respective spheres of authority are pilferage from the mines, trade with the burghal bloodlines, and trade with the forest bloodlines. The Aledotter gnomes live more like forest gnomes than burghal gnomes, in a single compound on the side of the DragonSpine range and wandering the roads of Elanthia.
Historical Summary: Within the Imaera priesthood of the forest arises a heresy suggesting that the goddess would not approve of the gnomes’ most basic relationship with nature. Stating that the race should live in harmony with nature rather than in conflict with it, this ideology makes little headway until the conversion of Doina Mazonn, head priestess of the Basingstoke line. After a series of impassioned sermons, in 2389 she leads nearly a third of forest gnomes off to establish a new group, named Bloodline Greengair after the fixed compounds they build.
Cultural summary: Unlike their wandering Basingstoke forebears, whom they liken to a plague of locusts, Greengair gnomes live in permanent compounds that resemble parks and gardens. Because of their fixed location, these gnomes have been known to tinker with the environment, seeking to maximize the yield of useful plants. Greengair alchemists also produce natural compounds that have the ability to modify (for better or worse) a person’s skills and characteristics. Many Greengair gnomes are vegetarian, and most are fanatical devotees of Imaera. The Greengair bloodmark consists of five straight lines arranged in a pentagonal shape, like the briar-covered log fences that surround the greengairs.
Historical Summary: After the departure of the Greengair, the Basingstoke gnomes enter a reactionary period in which dissent and disagreement are strictly prohibited. Resentment over these new policies grows, and less than a century later the forest gnomes fracture again, this time producing a group of gnomes famous for their unwillingness to settle on fixed policy or procedure. Led by Mircea Adhiambo, a gnome chosen for being the least likely to offer a settled opinion on any question, the new group wanders aimlessly until someone suggests stopping. They remain a while until someone suggests moving on. Over time, this settles into a more fixed pattern in which the entire bloodline wanders along the banks of rivers or the shoreline of lakes and the sea. Groups break off from the bloodline whenever they reach a spot they consider too beautiful to leave.
Cultural summary: Known for their hospitality and diplomacy, Wendwillow gnomes are easy-going and good-natured. They often stop their wayfaring to heal environmental damage from fire or flood, and many of them are drawn to the healing profession. Their fickle nature leads many of them to worship the goddess Zelia. Wendwillow gnomes have no institution of marriage. They choose seasonal partners called Summer Loves and Winter Love. In some cases a couple renews those relationships throughout their lives, but in most cases the dalliances are for one season only. Wendwillow artists are famous for working with sand. They blow glass, making wonderful colored objects for practical use and artistic design. At the end of a season, they are destroyed or hidden in the sand of a riverbank. Another unique art of the Wendwillow gnomes is sand painting. They use colored sand to create elaborate designs and realistic landscape paintings. They are created, enjoyed, then immediately destroyed. The bloodmark of the Wendwillow consists of six wavy lines, arranged like the limbs of an ancient willow tree.
Historical Summary: A group of Basingstoke rangers led by Srinath Harazhdo decides that too much effort is put into hunting. They develop a variety of poisons, originally for use on arrow tips, but soon enough for darker purposes. Bloodline Rosengift splinters off for its own protection after a young gnome accidentally uses the wrong compound when hunting, leading to the death of five families who shared the tainted venison.
Cultural Summary: The gnomes of Bloodline Rosengift believe that they have a mandate to subject the forests to gnomish rule. Rosengift gnomes reject any law but expediency and their own personal code. They take particular delight in violating the so-called “laws of nature” by cross-pollinating plants, breeding new varieties of animals, and tattooing their fitness-sculpted bodies. They delight in sporting contests and competitions of every kind, and they rarely find time or inclination to marry. Rosengift alchemists reduce food products to powders which are ingested with water or wine. Rosengift gnomes are also rarely content with the body that nature provides, seeking to alter their features in every way conceivable through body art and piercing, as well as sculpting through exercise. The bloodmark of the Rosengift resembles a bundle of seven arrows.
Historical Summary: In 4120, Danail Nylem is exiled from the Withycombe for violating a centuries-old period of official mourning for the collapse of the Kannalan Empire. More than a quarter of the bloodline admires Nylem’s transgressive humor, and they accompany his departure to form a new bloodline. Reaction against the departure forces the Withycombe to abandon their long-outdated somberness and return to their original good cheer.
Cultural Summary: The gnomes of Bloodline Nylem love nothing better than a good joke, preferably at someone's expense. Where Withycombe gnomes act for the good of their hosts, the Nylem undermine with dirty tricks. They often select targets who deserve punishment for some failing or flaw, but in other circumstances these merry pranksters act with no moral purpose at all. Most Nylem are profoundly irreligious, though Cholen and Jastev receive respect. The cultural life of the bloodline surrounds the roast, and no acquaintance of a Nylem gnome is spared their caustic wit. The Nylem live in close proximity to the Withycombe, often traveling by common tunnelways, but they never live in the same compounds or work in the same establishments. The bloodmark of the Nylem consists of a single line radiating outward through eight spiral rotations.
Historical Summary: A secret cult of Eorgina arises within the Nylem, their worship of the dark queen at odds with the neutral trickster-ethos of the bloodline. A brief but bloody struggle for power ends with the Eorgina faction separating under the leadership of Hjoka Doru, teenage high priestess of the goddess. They adopt the mocking nickname bestowed by their Nylem cousins as a sign of the purity of their devotion.
Cultural Summary: The gnomes of Bloodline Vylem are the proudest of their race, and they brook no disrespect from other gnomes. Worshippers of the Lornon pantheon with a special devotion to Eorgina, the Vylem are ruled by adolescent queens whose every whim is law. Vylem men always defer to Vylem women, who tend to be imperious as a result. Many Vylem men chose a life of chastity, for reasons best left unsaid. Alone among the burghal gnomes, the Vylem are self-sufficient, believing it demeaning to work for--or even steal from--the other (inferior) races. The bloodmark of the Vylem consists of ten small tongues of flame.
Historical Summary: A compound of Wendwillow gnomes established on an island at the confluence of three rivers in the lake country northwest of Ta’Nalfein is lost to a rushing deluge. The few survivors who make their way back upriver vow never to place themselves at the mercy of more powerful forces again. With the help of some Winedotter engineers, they fortify their island with a wondrous array of traps, flood tunnels, and other mechanisms of defense . . . and then effectively disappear from history. Rarely does a visitor to the island of Angstholm return to tell a tale, and when they do they often report having found nothing whatever but thickly-forested land. It is rumored that Angstholm gnomes have built fortress compounds on other, similarly located islands.
Cultural Summary: The gnomes of Bloodline Angstholm rarely leave their island fortress home, and when they do they are notoriously private and shy among strangers. They make acquaintance slowly, and even among their closest friends they say little about their homeland. Descended from Wendwillow survivors of a cataclysmic flood, the Angstholm gnomes remain dedicated to their founders’ pledge to tame the elements through the study of elemental magic. They have long been disdainful of the Arkati, whom they hold responsible for the flood; according to reports, many have turned away from the Arkati altogether to worship the elements directly. The bloodmark of the Angstholm consists of two concentric pentagons with a wavy line representing floodwater coursing over the top.
Historical Summary: The Withycombe, as the eldest of the bloodline has come to be called, dies under mysterious circumstances. An investigation uncovers a secret society of gnomish assassins led by Todor Neimhean. Neimhean is put to death immediately, and the rest of his followers go underground. While some are captured and killed, it is believed that a small bloodline survived the purges.
Cultural Summary: The gnomes of Bloodline Neimhean live in silence and shadow, in and among the larger burghal bloodlines. A society of assassins and thieves, the Neimhean mask their identity from all but fellow initiates. The very name "Neimhean" is anathema to all but the Rosengift gnomes, who supply the group with poisons. Rarely will a gnome tolerate the presence of a Neimhean, even one who renounces membership in the group. So vicious and permanent is the revenge taken on oathbreakers that one may safely assume that a gnome who speaks openly about Neimhean cultural practice is a fraud. The Neimhean wear no bloodmark of their own, but often adopt those of other bloodlines as part of their subterfuge.