“On Gnomes” by Melker the Wise

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gnome

My conversation with a gnome

My feet were aching and my stomach growling, two weeks of travel had sure taken its toll.
I was on my way to the city, to present my latest research on dwarven mushroom cultivation.
It wouldn’t be long now before evening would fall upon me. That’s when I found it.

The forest roof opened up, revealing a golden sky and a beautiful glade.
The grass was thick and soft, and the warm air smelled of flowers.
A gentle breeze washed away all my pains and worries.

I laid down my knapsack, removed my shoes and decided to take a well-earned rest.
As I watched the sun set, a graceful mist slowly settled.
Being very tired I rubbed my eyes and yawned.

When I opened my eyes again I saw a strange shimmering light in the mist.
It was getting closer. At first I thought of hiding, but then, I thought that a place like this couldn’t hold any danger, so I stayed and watched.

First there was one, then two wisps circling me. They seemed as curious of me as I was of them.
After a short while I heard footsteps, and out of the mist came a short figure, no doubt a gnome.
At first we just looked at each other in silence. I couldn’t find any words that seemed fitting.
The gnome simply laid down its knapsack next to mine, picked up two apples, gave me one and sat down next to me.
Still no words had been said, so I decided to start a conversation.

Thank you for the apple master gnome.
“Oh, don’t thank me. You should thank the tree.”

Dear master gnome, is it true that the gnomes built the portals?
“No, not build no. We just found them and gave them big stones to lean on.“

But why?
“Pelikeleo!”

Ah, I should’ve known.

The wisps played in the sea of mist and the gnome was dangling its feet from the edge of a stone.
We sat in silence for a while, eating our apples and enjoying the view.
After smoking my pipe, I cleared my throat and asked the gnome if it could explain magic to me.
The gnome scratched the back of its head.

“Uhm … I once heard a riddle that explained it. Ah, now I remember!”

“Imagine you’re in a sealed box in the middle of the ocean. All that’s inside is a shiny mirror and a ball. How do you get out?”

I have no clue. Please master gnome, tell me.

“You look into the shiny mirror and see what you saw.
You then take the saw and cut the ball in half.
Two halves make a whole. You take the hole and climb out! Brilliant, right?”

But, with all due respect master gnome, that’s just word-bending.
It doesn’t make any real sense.

“Exactly! Magic is nonsense! A very very useful kind of nonsense.”

We continued our conversation for hours.
The gnome told me that it had to leave at dawn.
None of us wanted the conversation to end just yet, and so the gnome asked the dawn to wait a bit longer.
Unfortunately my clock had stopped working, so I don’t know if the dawn did as the gnome asked or not, but when we finally went to sleep there was still no sun to be seen.

When I woke the next day, the gnome were gone, as were my glasses. But the gnome left me a broken lantern and some apples, so I guess it’s fine.

Overview

The small and primitive gnomes might not look very impressing, but their skill in magic is far beyond that of men. Many believe that it was actually the gnomes that built the portals.

Gnomes are nomads and never stay in one place for long. During their travels, gnomes like to collect tokens and souvenirs.

More often than not, gnomes are seen in the company of one or more wisps. The wisps feed of magical energies that flows from the gnomes. In return they offer light, protection and company.

Technology and magic

Gnomes know how to finger paint on cave walls and how to make totems. Before they met humans, they didn’t know how to make clothing. They are -very- primitive.

Not only is technology a complete mystery to the gnomes, but the magic seeping out of them sometimes disrupt nearby machines.

What they lack in technology, they more than make up for in terms of magic. To them, magic comes as natural as breathing. If it’s too hot, they ask a nearby wind to cool them down. If it’s too dark, they ask a wisp to shed some light.

Society

They’re a nomadic species who explore the worlds by themselves, collecting souvenirs, trying out foreign food and admiring any strange sights they might encounter. This lifelong journey is called the “Pelikeleo Steps”.

The gnomes don’t have cities, or even houses, but they do have several sacred places scattered among the worlds. These are often places of great natural beauty such as glades, ponds and mountain lakes. Sometimes the gnomes will decorate their sacred grounds with strange cave drawings and totems. In some places the magic is so strong that wisps can flourish even without the presence of a gnome.

Physiology & Appearance

Rather small, weak and according to some people, not very bright. Without their magic gnomes wouldn’t stand a chance against other, more violent beings, such as the goblins, bugmen or necronomen.

Gnomes are often seen wearing knapsacks, tunics and various funny hats. Other favourites are binoculars and flowers. All gnomes know that binoculars “makes you very smart!”, and that flowers “makes you extra nice!”.

Warfare

Gnomes are neither warriors, nor victims. They are the full-fledged masters of avoiding combat. Their inner life is calm, curious and harmonious, not hard and violent. When threatened, they simply disappear into thin air.

As if this was not enough, their wisps are not nearly as peaceful as the gnomes, and will eagerly defend their friends at every cost.

Relation to other races

Gnomes are friendly by nature, and don’t wish to harm anyone, the forces of evil included. If you ask a gnome, it will tell you that they don’t have any enemies, but a lot of friends-to-be. However, even if gnomes are friends with everyone, everyone isn’t friends with the gnomes.

The grumpy dwarves for example, believe gnomes to be mischievous and treat them with suspicion. They are often alleged of sabotaging machines and not showing proper respect to elderly dwarves.

Humans are usually more open-minded than the dwarves, and get along just fine with the gnomes. Especially wizards and scholars take every opportunity to meet and learn from them. Sure, there are some known cases were gnomes have picked souvenirs from the royal throne-room or a wealthy merchant, but those cases are rare.

Pelikeleo

One reason to why the gnomes are such a mystery is the word Pelikeleo. It means something along the lines of “Because I enjoy it,” or “I have no clue, but I do it anyway”. This is the most common answer to many deep questions, and have caused plenty of headaches among human scholars.

“Why do you collect souvenirs? – Pelikeleo!”
“Why do you build portals? – Pelikeleo!”
“Why don’t you use your mighty magic to strike down evil? – Not very pelikeleo.”

In truth, it would seem as if most gnomes don’t know how or even why they do what they do.

Wisps

The bond between wisps and gnomes is said to be matched only by the bond between a dwarf and its beer. A wisp may be a lifelong follower, but might as well switch host at any given opportunity.

Wisps are not always in the company of a gnome though. They can also be found in places where the natural flow of magic is strong. There are even some stories that tell of wisps that chose a human wizard as company, but this seems to be a very rare thing indeed.

Should a wisp find itself in a place without magic, it quickly fades and dies.

Souvenirs

Why gnomes collect trinkets have puzzled many great minds. Some say it’s just to remember the places they’ve visited, others believe there is some magical reason. Some simply believe that gnomes are just kleptomaniacs by nature. When asked, gnomes usually just answer “Pelikeleo!”.

Their view on value is also puzzling. To them, a shard of a broken urn might be just as interesting as a ruby. They seem care more about the origin of the object than the object itself.

Whatever their reasons, gnomes are often seen carrying big backpacks full of trinkets, junk and sometimes treasure.

The Gathering by the Lake

Once every year, all the gnomes meet at the shores of “the Lake” to perform a ritual known as “the Gathering by the Lake”. This not only the most sacred of their rituals, but also a great opportunity for gnomes to share experiences and trade souvenirs. Its purpose is subject of much speculation, but no one truly knows.

The lake itself is a place shrouded in mystery and legend. Some stories claim that you can see glimpses of the future reflected on its surface. Others that drinking a mouthful of its water brings eternal life and cures all diseases. Whatever the truth, it’s generally acknowledged that it’s a place of immense magic.

All gnomes spend their first years in the safety of the lake. When they come to age, they begin what is called “the Pelikeleo Steps”. This is the life long journey that characterizes the life of all gnomes.

When asked about its location the gnomes will just answer with a riddle or not at all. Many human wizards have tried to find the Lake, but so far, no one is known to have succeeded.