Roses of Britain
Ability Scores: +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma
Speed: 5 squares
Languages: English, Elven
Skill Bonuses: +2 Arcana, +2 Stealth
Fey Origin: See Player’s Handbook 2 pg. 10.
Master Trickster: See Player’s Handbook 2 pg. 10.
Reactive Stealth: See Player’s Handbook 2 pg. 10.
Trickster’s Cunning: See Player’s Handbook 2 pg. 10.
Fade Away: See Player’s Handbook 2 pg. 10.
English storytellers often assert, rather poetically, that the gnomes were born from the murmuring of brooks through mossy glens, from the smell of damp loam beneath gnarled roots, and from the warmth of sunbeams on ferns and toadstools. This sort of colorful description conceals the fact that the origin of the gnome race is obscure to most folk. Even among scholars of the ancient world, it remains a subject of significant disagreement. However, most historians concur that the creator of the gnomes was likely an archfey called Gerana, the Amber Empress, who was whispered to be the mischievous offspring of a primal spirit of the earth. Gerana sculpted the gnomes from enchanted clay to reflect her own unquestionable loveliness and boundless cunning, and then enthroned herself as the everlasting queen of her newborn children. For ages, the gnomes dwelled in their wondrous underhalls beneath the Feywild’s forests, where they pursued their passions for music, art, games, and arcane magic. The gnomes were not always the wary and reclusive people that they are today. In those primeval days, they were more likely to ally with other races in times of conflict, and to stubbornly defend their domains against any threat.
The fate of the gnome race was altered with the coming of the dreaded fomorians around 5,500 B.C. The malformed giants shuffled up from the gloom of the Feydark to obliterate the underhalls, enslaving countless gnomes to toil in their chthonic kingdoms. The fall of their strongholds on the Faerie Plane was a grave blow to the gnomes. Moreover, the eladrin and other alleged “allies” asserted that they did not have the strength to stand against the fomorians, an act of perfidy that stung the gnome race for millennia to come. Although Gerana escaped the clutches of the fomorians, she was reduced to a queen in name only, ruling over a tattered, embittered remnant of her people from a hidden sanctuary. The vast majority of the gnome race was bound into slavery in the Feydark for over eight hundred years.
The gnomes’ own legends entertain conflicting accounts as to how the race eventually shattered the chains of the fomorians. The most enduring and popular tales usually recount the exploits of three gnomes known as the Petradelphi, arcane heroes whose names vary with each telling but are almost always a bard, swordmage, and warlock. It is said that these three heroes spent thirty years plotting a massive slave revolt across the breadth of the Feydark, an uprising that stunned the fomorians with its swiftness and ferocity. Other legends speak of Gerana mustering an army of half a million wild beasts from the forests of Earth and leading them into the Feydark to overwhelm the fomorians. Still other stories whisper darkly of gnome pacts with malevolent entities, and of ancient debts that have yet to be repaid. Regardless, the gnomes appear to have broken their enslavement by about 4,700 B.C., whereupon they returned to the twilit surface of the Faerie Plane and set about rebuilding their underhalls. However, their centuries of enslavement in the depths had bestowed on the gnomes an appreciation for the value of evasion and obfuscation, and a distaste for open conflicts with other races.
The long plight of her people convinced Gerana of the need for sanctuaries against future fomorian onslaughts. In roughly 3,000 B.C., the Amber Empress commanded her children to venture beyond the Plane of Faerie and found underhalls on Earth. This the gnomes did, favoring the sparse, warm woodlands of southernmost Europe, where they made their homes beneath the oak, pine, juniper, and olive. They found few elven enclaves in these Earthly forests, but encountered many other fey allies, such as the centaurs, nymphs, and satyrs who had long guarded the world’s most sacred groves. Eventually, the gnomes spread outward, establishing their underhalls in far-flung locales across the ancient world, as far east as flourishing Mehrgarh in the Indus Valley and as far south as the fragrant mountain forests of golden Punt. Everywhere, however, they carefully concealed their presence from the grasping kingdoms of humans, goliaths, minotaurs, and other ancient races.
In the twelfth century B.C., Gerana suddenly vanished, leaving the gnome race shocked and demoralized at the loss of their creator-queen. Human scholars of the ancient world assert that Gerana meddled in the Trojan War, provoking a terrible curse from the Olympian gods. Most gnomes snort dismissively at this story today, unable to envision their creator-queen lowering herself to the role of tragic pawn in a Earthly human squabble. The gnomes themselves almost always attribute Gerana’s disappearance to a powerful entity, from annihilation by a mad primordial to enslavement in the clutches of the demon lord Pazuzu. Occasionally, a gnome scholar will point to fragmentary lore that promises a glorious return for their queen, but it is rare to find any who harbor hope of such an appearance in the current age.
Gerana’s vanishing prompted the gnomes to withdraw even further, halting their expansion on Earth and sealing their underhalls off from contact with other peoples. Over the centuries, most of the Earthly races forgot the gnomes, and even other fey creatures only rarely glimpsed them. The gnomes lurked in the wildest thickets of Faerie, eyes ever watchful for threats: fomorians, goblins, aberrant terrors, and more insidious menaces. Though they rarely emerged from their underhalls in southern Europe, the gnomes spread steadily across the breadth of the Feywild, deep into the chill North and perilous West where their ancestors had never settled. Eladrin scholars assert that gnomes first reached the Feywild of Britain in the fifth century, A.D., although the gnomes rarely, if ever, ventured into her Earthly forests. It is only in the past century or so that the gnomes have emerged from their seclusion. In that time, they have allied with the elves that claim dominion over England’s woodlands, and established good relations with other races of the Kingdom’s untamed fringes, such as the shifters and wilden. The gnomes have had only sporadic contact with the more civilized races of England, but in recent years they have warily made their presence known in settlements across the Kingdom.
Place in the World
The lessons of the fomorian bondage linger even after seven thousand years, and the gnome race is reluctant to entangle itself in the bloody conflicts of others and thereby render itself vulnerable. Nonetheless, the gnomes of England are oddly curious about the ways of their neighbors. Despite the deep and abiding guardedness of their race, the gnomes find themselves drawn to the strange and often astonishing civilization that humankind has built amid Albion’s rambling woodlands and windswept heaths. After quietly observing the people of England from the green glens of the Feywild for nearly a thousand years, they have finally begun to settle within the Earthly boundaries of the Kingdom in significant numbers. In only a hundred years, the gnomes have dug an abundance of new underhalls in England’s forests, often close to elven enclaves that have proven themselves as trustworthy allies.
Gnomes are not yet a common race in England, but their secretive and reserved nature ensures that their numbers are more substantial than most folk suspect. They tend to be most populous in the gentler country of the south, where the vast, shaded forests they favor can still be found. Gnomes usually dig their underhalls beneath wizened copses of oak or ash trees, taking pains to conceal all traces of their presence from the prying eyes of trespassers. Only the most observant and seasoned woodsman can normally spot a gnome underhall, even when they are standing directly above it.
Most English humans have little understanding of the gnome race, and misconceptions abound among peasants, priests, and princes alike. Humans often mistake gnomes for peculiar halflings, diminutive elves, or even comely goblins, much to the amusement of the gnomes themselves, who have been known to turn such blunders to their advantage. One rumor that has recently spread among scholars of the arcane holds that gnomes are elemental earth creatures birthed by the primordials, a fallacy that has drawn sages and alchemists to seek out members of the race for study. The Church generally regards the gnomes as puzzling remnants of the pagan days of old, and often ascribes all manner of malicious mischief to their activities, some warranted and some not. Humans who dwell in forested regions are more likely to distinguish the gnomes as a distinct race of good-natured but reticent fey creatures, worthy of friendship when they deign to show themselves.
Gnome heroes usually draw upon arcane power for their abilities, as their formidable intellect and effortless charm allows them to shape mystical energies with ease. Gnomes excel as bards, sorcerers, and warlocks, especially fey pact warlocks. Artificers, swordmages, and wizards are likewise not unusual among the ranks of gnome heroes. Gnomes dot not usually revere gods, having little understanding of the old heathen deities of England, or of Christ and his saints. Rarely, gnomes with close ties to enclaves of pagan elves will worship Gwydion, in acknowledgment of the ancient hero’s cunning and arcane talent. However, most gnomes prefer to offer their devotion to the primal spirits of the forest, when they concern themselves with matters of faith at all.