Gnome Legends: History
The trees surrounding the small Gnomish cottage turned shades of gray as the rainbow of pastel colors left the sunset for night. Tearjon watched over his four sons sitting on the floor before him. He held his young daughter, Talla, in his arms and thought over the ancient stories his father had told him. Talla was really too young for the lessons, but he knew it would be impossible to have all of his sons in one room and keep her away for very long. Her curiosity was as great as any wizened sorcerer he had ever known. Tearjon sighed with a faint smile on his face and decided to start.
“Let's begin tonight's lesson. Listen closely and remember all of my words. My father told me these stories and his father taught him. What you fail to remember may never again be told.”
The boys shifted and watched him intently. Marthin and Rhian, his older sons, positioned pillows under themselves and readied for a long lesson. Steaph watched his older brothers a moment and then focused back on his father. Carst, the youngest, simply watched his father with the look of a young deer caught off guard. “Good,” Tearjon thought, he had their attention.
“The history of our world began in a time when events were recorded by crude drawings on cave walls. A time before gnomes and elves walked the earth." His hand drew an invisible circle in the air. “A shimmering light opened a hole in the air. Those who stepped through this magical doorway were not Gnomes or Elves. They were not Dwellers or Branchers. No, the creatures that moved into our world were Demons.
"They entered our world to plunder its wealth as they always do. Not by war, but through trade. Demons are masters of trade and always looking for an unsuspecting victim.
"But they found no civilization in this new world. It was wild and uncontrolled. Although many wild animals roamed the massive woods, the lands held only one animal-like race—Humans."
Tearjon fought to keep a serious look on his face as he noticed the eyes of all of the children before him widen. Talla on the other hand was fast asleep. He shifted to free his right arm and held her secure with his left. Movement was very important in telling history. Facial expressions and hand gestures are among the most powerful tools a storyteller or historian can have. He was sure he could do well enough without the aid of his left arm for this lecture.
“The Humans they found weren't the barbarians we know today. They were even more primitive. These humans were more animals than men. They spoke in grunts and growls and communicated best by the cave drawings they scratched out to tell their stories. So the Demons found them, these Humans, with hunched bodies, large ridged brows over their eyes—animal skins draped over their bodies as clothing.
“Having found no civilization and no obvious dangers, the Demons sent in a small group to colonize this new world (as they'd done on countless others) in hopes of opening another resource for trade. The foliage was tame compared to many worlds they'd encountered. The animals were less dangerous. And the Human creatures they found—they were fearful of the Demons and gave them a great deal of respect on the rare occasion their paths actually crossed.
“A small group of farmers and explorers settled the village of Sethen. Sethen would determine if colonization were profitable or not. Three wizards ruled over the colony to insure the safety of the village. The first, Meffna was the warlord of the village. He was a very powerful wizard who'd earned the respect of the elders during his many off world campaigns. Ruling an off-world colony was a great honor—one most felt he'd earned. Lazneth and Zett, also wizards, served under Meffna. Both were very impressive wizards who'd probably someday achieve the honor of their own colonies.”
Tearjon noticed Talla was stirring. He sat her on one of the pillows the boys had pulled onto the floor and watched a moment as she woke, rubbed her eyes and then looked up at her father as though she had been listening the whole time and wondered why he had stopped talking. Tearjon smiled and brought his attention back to the lesson. He would be able to animate his stories better with both arms free.
“Many believe what happened next was designed by the gods who were displeased with the Demons' invasion on this young world. For what other explanation could there be when a lighting strike killed Meffna on a warm cloudless day? The villagers were mortified. What chance did Sethen have if the powerful warlord could be struck down so quickly and so early in their endeavor? Lazneth and Zett assured the frightened Demons that all was well and—though they all mourned the passing of Meffna—Sethen would endure in his name.
“The Demon laid Meffna's body to rest into the earth (as is the proper way to deal with the body of a loved one or a fallen warrior. He was both to his people) and a life-sized statue of Meffna was placed over the wizard's grave to honor him. The citizens of Sethen worked hard to honor the memory of their fallen leader. The colony began to flourish.
“What happened next was surely at the guidance of the gods.”
It was a simpler time—before the magical creatures were called into existence to walk the earth.
Thog, a human with a thin coat of hair covering most of his body, long hair draping from his head and a short tangled beard hiding his shallow chin—wearing a jaggedly cut tiger skin tied to his waist—watched from his favorite tree as the much taller, ancient, fern-like trees swayed back and forth in the wind. He often spent hours preoccupied with the movement of the forest and the sounds of the animals that lived in it. His mind was so lost in the movements and the sounds that he did not notice the strange creatures as they slowly entered the clearing until they were nearly under him.
They were so close he almost ran, but he finally found his courage when he realized they did not see him. He settled on a branch and watched.
The creatures were all strangely clothed in something other than skins that hung in bright colors and covered large parts of their bodies while it fluttered in the wind like the leaves on the trees. Their skin was lacking hair except across the back part of their heads where it draped in long strands. They had large foreheads, elongated chins and their long ears ended in a drooping point. The color of their hair varied from a dark red to near purple. When they walked, their slender bodies stood tall—not unlike the ancient trees—quite differently than the leaning way Thog and his kind walked.
The creatures carried a body and made funny noises. Were they crying? Thog wasn't sure what the noises were, but they did seem to be sad. The body must have been someone important. At first, it appeared they were heading to the death caves (where the dead or dying were placed) to put the body to rest, but they stopped and did not move past the clearing. Instead, one of the creatures walked to the center of the clearing while the rest waited. He then held up his arms, looked to the sky and made more funny noises. Was he speaking? Thog didn't recognize any form of speech if he was.
Thog turned his attention to the grass in front of the creatures. It was whipping back and forth as though a storm blew it. Then the ground began to rumble and started to split. In the center of the opening was a large hole where moments earlier the ground was flat. Fascination replaced fear and Thog moved a little closer to watch the events that were happening below him. The creature uttered more noises and passed his hand over the body. Thog nearly jumped from the tree when he saw the body dissolve into sand, leaving only the skeleton behind. He calmed himself down and watched again.
“Thog…” a voice whispered in his ear. He looked around and saw no one. He moved quietly up and down the tree to see if any one was present and found no one. He then turned back to the creatures in the opening. They cast the remains of the body into the hole. The one creature uttered more noises and the hole closed. A large man-sized idol was carefully placed next to the area where the body had been buried. It was incredibly detailed and bore a resemblance to the creature they had placed in the hole—before they turned him to bones.
Several of the creatures uttered noises and finally they all left. Thog climbed down the tree and cautiously moved to the center of the clearing where the dirt was still sitting above the grass. “There you are, Thog,” the voice said, “come closer”.
Thog looked around and saw no one. He moved closer to where the hole had been. The wind seemed to be blowing gently over the area where they had thrown the body's remains. Thog began to dig. He was not sure why, but he was drawn to whatever was under the ground. Perhaps he would find the voice. His curiosity turned to desire as he dug. He ignored the pain of his bleeding fingers and the ache of his back and arms. He had to find the voice. Finally, a fragment of bone appeared through the dirt. He dug more until most of the skeleton was exposed and then stopped. He was confused. Was it possible that the voice had come from the skeleton? Maybe it was angry that the creatures did not bring it to the death cave. He decided to put the body to rest. He gathered the bones. “Very good!” The voice shot through his head like a knife. Thog jumped back and dropped the bones, but, to his surprise, he still held the skull.
Meffna woke. He tried to focus his thoughts to see past the fog that seemed to surround him. His mind spun with questions as he used his magic to reach through the fog and find answers. He saw the villagers standing over him. It was the middle of the day and they should be working. What were they doing? He fought to remember.
Zett was blessing the site and performing a burial ceremony. Meffna remembered the last spell he had heard Zett speak and realized what had happened.
Zett had brought him to an opening to discuss ways to improve crop yield. But as they spoke, Zett cast a lightning call. “I'm dead—murdered!” Meffna realized as he watched Zett continue his ceremony.
Meffna fought the anger that surged through his mind. His body was gone and his spirit would join it very soon if he did not act quickly. He had to find a mind open to him.
He stretched outward with his mind—feeling each villager's thoughts as he passed through the crowd. He avoided the wizards knowing that they would sense his presence and might be able to stop him. Each mind he touched seemed as strong as the last. The loss of their leader had an unexpected result. It was bringing the group closer together. A moment of pride filled Meffna as he marveled at his people, but he pushed the thoughts of admiration from his mind and continued to probe the crowd. He had only moments before they cast his body into the hole. When he was covered, it would be impossible for him to reach anyone.
He found a mind. It was alien and difficult to read, but it was also hungry to learn. It was open to anything Meffna presented to it. “A Human-beast?” Meffna reeled. Spirit binding was very difficult and possible only by the best of Wizards. No Demon had ever bonded with any creature other than another Demon. There was no time to reconsider the act. Zett was casting the closing spell and Meffna's spirit would soon be lost forever.
He reached out with his mind. Meffna's presence startled the creature, but it opened its mind to Meffna like a dry plant searching for water. He made the connection and waited. When the villagers were all gone, he called the human to his grave. The human's curiosity was so great that Meffna barely needed to prod him to dig. Finally the creature's flesh touched his bone. “Very good!” Meffna said as he cast his binding spell on the creature. Meffna's voice scared the human. He dropped the bones and started to run, but Meffna now controlled the creature well enough to control its hand. He called to the human. “Thog.” Thog held Meffna's skull in his hand. Meffna had to maintain a physical connection to keep possession of this creature's body until the binding spell was completed.
He completed his spell and pulled Thog's mind to his. The binding spell would break the human's weaker mind and their two minds would work as one. Meffna would guide Thog and Thog would do his bidding. It had always been that way when a wizard bound his soul to another's—until this binding. Meffna had mistaken Thog's open mind to be a weak mind. The creature's curiosity and ignorance made him very receptive to Meffna's mind. However, much to Meffna's surprise, Thog's mind proved to be a strong one. Neither personality was willing to give into the control of the other as their thoughts began to weave together.
The fierce confrontation weakened both minds. They fought until neither was able to continue and both gave into their fatigue. The binding took effect. Because neither mind was strong enough to overpower the other, the minds of both Meffna and Thog died. A new consciousness arose. “Toff.”
Toff looked around and his surroundings confused him. His thoughts were a jumble of images and feelings. For a moment, he allowed his animalistic urges to overtake him. He threw his head back and yelled. Tears ran down his face and his anger forced his hands closed so tightly his fingernails were drawing blood. He staggered and took several steps to right himself. Toff remembered his meditations and cleared his thoughts. He sorted through the web of memories and brought them back one at a time until he had restored order. Memories of Zett's betrayal filled his mind. That anger mingled with his human side's fear of the Demon that had invaded his world. He would kill Zett and drive the invaders back to their home.
Toff breathed a sigh. He looked at his hands and then at the statue before him. As he admired the workmanship of the statue, he rose from the hunched position he had been so comfortable in to an upright stance. He then raised his hands and focused more attention on the statue. His hands became warm. He smiled. It was time for the invaders to leave. He turned toward the village and walked away from the statue as it melted behind him.
Battles of the Beginning
Tearjon was pleased. His children (including little Talla) were not only awake, but had actually appeared interested in the lecture. “No one knows how the one human rose above his primitive ways to battle the Demons, but he did.
“Zett was the first to fall in the great conflict. Lazneth's educated control of magic, however, was an equal to Toff's natural magic.”
Tearjon moved forward in his seat to increase the effectiveness of this part of the story. “The war that followed was legendary!”
He slowly moved his flattened hand from left to right. “Their fight lasted for tens of years and when it was through they had completely changed the world around them.
“The Demon, save Lazneth, left early in the war. Many believed if a Human could possess such magic then perhaps they were wrong about the presence of a civilization and refused to stay without invitation. Others left either from boredom of the war or fear of its dangers. But Lazneth wouldn't leave. He claimed the magics used by Toff were Demon in nature and therefore the Human must be of another world. If so, he had no more ownership of this earth than the Demon did. So they fought.
“Their war, in its destruction, also brought about many wonderful things. Toff needed soldiers, so he summoned his magics and called forth the Gnomes. They proved to be great builders and fighters and made Toff proud. Lazneth realized he needed soldiers to fight the Gnomes and called forth the Elves. The Elves proved to have great military minds and were superb craftsmen, but their tall, slender frames made them weak compared to the shorter, stout bodies of the Gnomes. So Lazneth brought forth the Unicorn for the Elves to ride into combat hoping it'd bring the advantage back to their side. Toff countered with the Deer. Its many edged antlers were designed to hold back the dangerous spearing horn of the Unicorn.”
Unicorns and Deer always made children sit up and take notice. Tearjon brought them into the lecture at this point intentionally. He was nearing the end of the story and wanted their full attention. “The war brought to this land many of the magical creatures we see today—good and bad.”
“What about the Demon wizard and the Man wizard?” Talla asked, surprising Tearjon that the youngest child was the first to ask. “Where'd they go?”
Tearjon straightened his back and nodded. “As you know, the use of magic is very dangerous. The more a wizard allows its energy to flow through his body the more likely the wizard is to be changed. The same was true for Toff and Lazneth. The levels of magic they used had never been achieved before—and never since.
“Their bodies morphed with each spell. The more powerful the spell the more they changed. Until they had become the most powerful creatures ever created by magic—Dragons.” Tearjon took a moment to enjoy the collection of wide-eyed children before him. “Not one of the dumb beasts you might encounter while climbing through the mountains, but Wizards in the form of Dragons—possessing the muscle, armor and agility of a Dragon with the cunning and intelligence of a Wizard. Their power grew to such magnitude that they achieved that which no other wizard has ever since… immortality.
“At some point the two wizards realized that neither would win their war and they formed a truce. The magical beings created during the war and the Humans would be allowed to choose their own destinies; they would rule their own world.” Tearjon leaned his head back and sniffed. “That's enough lecture for one evening,” he smiled. “Unless my nose fails me, dinner's ready.”
The four boys moved off the floor and ran into the kitchen to see what their mother had prepared for dinner. As Tearjon stood to follow, he felt a tug at the base of his shirt. “Can we hear another story after dinner?” Talla asked eagerly.
Tearjon answered with a smile. "Maybe one more."