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The Gnomes of the Trielta Hills
The Trielta hills, the wooded highlands between the Forest of Wyrms and the Reaching Forest, has for thousands of years been the home of several gnomish clans that have little contact with the rest of Faerun except for the nearby hin and traders of Sunset Vale. Today it is estimated that there can be as many as three thousand gnomes living in or under the hills and spread out over several settlements. The hills are also the home of a few groups of hin and some groups of hobgoblins, mostly in the western part of the hills.
Most of the gnomes living here are descendants from those gnomes that long ago ran away from slavery under the mages of old Netheril, long before Anauroch spread its desolate visage over the old lands of the Sword Rivers. Under the leadership of an old gnomish woodcarver by the name of Druilink, that the gnomish priests claim was really Gnarl Glittergold in disguise, the gnomes managed to find their way through freedom. The story of the great escape through the very heart of the wizards empire at the height of its glory is one of the great legends of the gnomes and one gladly told to all listeners that have the time to listen. Be warned though ,the story takes almost a day to tell and it is seen as a great insult by the gnomes if one ask to get a short version. With the help of their illusionist abilities and cunning the gnomes were able to hide their presence from the wizards and the surrounding tethen tribesmen. As the years went by the wizards of Netheril gave up on their hunt for gnomish slaves and with time, freed the slaves that remained. With the slavers gone, the gnomes could have come out from hiding and in the western Faerun gnomes became a common sight in many a human land, but the gnomes of Trielta has since that time found it best to, as far as possible, stay away form the affairs of the larger races.
For thousands of years now the gnomes have lived among the hills that stand in a crossing point between the people and races of Faerun, watching and observing the world at large, but seldom taking direct part. Nations and empires has risen and fallen again in this region many times since the days of Netheril, but the gnomes of Trielta are eternal. At times foreign rulers and warlords have incorporated the hills in their domains, but these have been the rulings of the map and has had little effect on the gnomes. Most of the time the average gnome was not even aware that he had been conquered.
The contact the world outside have had with the gnomes is mainly through trade with the small towns along the Dusk Road and with the hin of Sunset Vale. These two areas have always stood together against the threaths of more agressive neighbors and with time a strong mutual trust between gnomes and haflings has developed. As the centuries have passed some of the gnomes have settled in the lowlands or settled in the human cities to the south, at the same time some adventurous hin homesteaders have settled in the deep interior of the hills. The general relationship between the gnomes of Trielta and the hin of Sunset Vale is today almost as two self governed parts of the same country.
The Trielta Hills themselves are green and filled with wildlife. The terrain is rugged and varies between green valleys and more arid conifer clad hills and highlands that at some places reach respectable hights. The westernmost area, called Baeruansback, rises menacingly and slopes drasticly down into the lowlands. In the northern part of the hill rises the areas one true mountain, the manypeaked Hand of Flandal. Through the valleys cut several small rivers and creeks, the largest of these being the Daria creek and the Fallflow.
Most of the Trielta gnomes live in the green valleys of the sentral and eastern parts of the hills, but these still look like the thickest of wilderness for the untrained eye. The gnomes themselves take out as little as possible from the land itself and this keeps the highland wildlife as bountiful as they were when the gnomes arrived thousands of years ago. As the gnomes only seldom use the surface lands for foraging and seldom stay there for long periods at the time, and have no wish to see humans from the south taking over the hills, they generally leave monsters in the hills alone. This goes for both semi-intelligent carnivores and two-legged predators like ettins and other wandering giants.
There are a few smaller groups of hobgoblins and bugbears living in caves and primitive wood huts, but the goblinoids have learned not to travel into the darkness under the hills as the gnomes will react to any threats to their domains. Most of these monsters are found near the Tefarillian ruins that are hidden among the highlands and the ancient tombs of the snake-men in the northern part of Trielta.
One can distinguish four main groups of gnomes, separated by geography.
The Baeruansback-clans live in the western hills which is also the wildest and most dangerous part of Trielta. Most people never see a gnome in these lands and even the giant owls can go for years without seeing a Baeruansback-gnome in the woodlands and meadows. Baeruansback-gnomes live more secluded than any other gnomes here and are almost dwarflike in their isolation. These gnomes live in clan-holds that are heavily fortified and carefully hidden from the overworld. The dwellings are usually built in enlarged and improved natural caves, with a hidden and blocked entrance. In addition to the gate to the Sunlands there is usually only one more way in or out and that is through the passage that leads down to the fields in the upper Underdark.
The gnomes have their reason to be cautious as this part of the hills are not only threatened by local marauders, but also from roaming monsters of the river-lands to the west, the High Moors and the Forest of Wyrms to the north. Each clan hold usually patrol only one valley in the upper world and to an even greater degree than the other gnomes, the Baerunasback-gnomes are dependent on their underground lichen and mushroom fields. As the other gnomish clans to a degree feel indebted to the western gnomes for protecting their backs, the Baeruansback gnomes also receive a large amount of food and supplies from the world above each year.
There are four main dwellings of Baeruansback-gnomes, each with its own extended family or clan. The families are Sparklestream, Juniphergrove, Roughchissel, and Tricklingstream.
In the Weirtree Vale where the Daria creek sluggishly flows trough the tree covered landscape one finds the Bluefir gnomes. This is the safest and most sedate area of the Trielta hills lying in the deep interior and protected from both weather and rovers, and the gnomes living here are also the most open and carefree of their people. The Bluefir gnomes spend a great deal of their lives in the surface lands of the Trielta hills and commonly lives in small burrows in the hillside or under tree roots. The valley itself almost feels like the lands of the faeries in its quiet, unasuming beauty.
Their beautifully carved and paneled homes usually only houses one small core family and the gnomes are spread evenly throughout the area with a very weak clan-structure that gives a unity more in name than in reality. Here there is little need for mutual protection, and travelers from the west have likened the individualistic Bluefir gnomes with the Dalesmen of the east. The difference is clearest in the wintertime when gnomes pull together for communal living during the cold months. Among the Bluefirs it is as common that the gnomes stay in or near their own homes with only near friends dwelling together as near family, and it is not unusual to find Bluefirs spending the winter with members of other clans if these are those closest to their hearts. Here the formalized winter migrations of the other peoples are not as important, as life, even in wintertime is relatively easy..
It is only natural with their life being the least hindered by the basic needs to survive, that the Bluefir gnomes are the greatest woodworkers and leather workers among the Trieltan gnomes. These are then traded to the Roundstone gnomes who sell them to their contacts in the lowlands and most of the famed gnome carvings found in Berdusk is of Bluefir make.
The Fallflow gnomes live at the slopes of The Hand of Flandal, the highest part of the hills and the outspring of Fallflow creek. It is from here, in the mountains named after the gnomish god of crafts, that the gnomes mine their precious stones and gems. This area is somewhat harsher then the rest of the hills, as much of the water runs under ground and the topsoil is rather thin. The higher altitude also makes the temperature a little lower and the wind a little colder, so the Fallflow gnomes live underground where they are safe from the winds and where it is easier to grow food than it is in the highlands themselves.
The Fallflow gnomes are generally friendly if somewhat careful around strangers as the myths of their gem-mines more than once have brought treasure seekers to their lands. At the same time, there is no other gnome clan that lives as near the legendary Imagemakers, and this gives the Fallflows a feeling of safety and belief that any danger to their land will be noticed in advance. This does not hinder the many rows between Fallflows and Imagemakers over the eagles hunting from the tops of Flandalls fingers and the giant owls of the north-side. The birds, old allies of the Imagemakers, both threaten the gnomes’ goats and children..
The main families of Cedargrove, Opalsheart and Ice-cutter all live spread out over the mountain in small underground dwellings that house one or more core families. There are also half a dozen smaller families which consists of only one or two dwellings. One will always find lairs of mountain marmots near the gnomes, as the rodents have formed a near friendship with the gnomes.
Spread out over the lands east of the Fallflow one meets the Roundstone gnomes. This is the largest grouping among the gnomes and the Roundstones can be found throughout about two thirds of the Trielta hills. The gnomes of these lands border the humans and hin lands of the south and east and are the most likely to travel out of the hills themselves, to visit both the hin-lands and the village of Hardbuckle. Much of the craft work done by these gnomes are done on demand both for the other gnomish clans and for the neighboring peoples and it is common for Roundstone gnomes to travel out from the hills for a period to study the craft work of other peoples.
The amount of contact with the outside world has made some conservative members of the other clans weary, as they see the Trieltan traditions being mixed with ideas from the hin and humans. Others point out that gnomes in general and Roundstones in particular, have always been known for their willingness to communicate with other creatures. If the Roundstones are the masters of communications with the small animals of the earth, why can they not be the masters of communication with the world outside?
The gnomes of the Trielta hills are mostly of the same stock other rock gnomes of the realms with a few cosmetic differences developed over the thousands of years of isolation. The nutty-brown skin and prematurely white hair they share with most other gnomes, but the Trielta gnomes have sharper features than most other gnomes and the ears are somewhat longer and pointier. Their large noses are somewhat pointed and straight. They also generally wear their beard longer than other gnomes and it is not unusual to see a Trielta gnome sporting a full growth of beard. This will seldom reach a length longer than to the naval; the pointy beards and moustaches usually associated with gnomes are common also, held in place with a combination of beeswax and grease. The Trielta gnomes also decorate their clothes with extensive bead works and embroideries. The Trielta gnomes tradition for decorating their clothes to a much greater degree than what is usual among gnomes is also an expression of the gnomes sense for details and working with the natural flows of the materials.
The gnomes of Trielta have little interest in the Words of Nebulon and concentrate more on their craftsmanship and artistic abilities than on inventions and technology. Among the highland gnomes it is the small details that are important, the individual characteristics that makes each item unique and that the gnomes, if possible, will enhance in any way they can. These small details can for the gnomes show a beauty in an old working man’s tool as well as in an old elven artifact.
With the exception of the Baeruansback clan, the gnomes live in a patchwork of family dwellings without what one might call a village structure. The structure of the gnomish society can be a little confusing for outsiders as the meaning of the word family has other connotations for the gnomes. To the Trielta gnomes the word has more of a symbolic meaning and the direct family ties has little in the way of a practical role except for in some religious ceremonies and festivities. It is not taken for granted that one has much contact with ones family and each gnome spends his life with those he is most comfortable with and the core family of parents and siblings are more points of reference than importance. Most of the time the individual gnome has little interests outside of his or hers nearest friends and the current project of work. To most gnomes the further development of a project is one of the few reasons for interacting with the world outside of the personal sphere.
The gnomes work the land carefully and most of the fields and cultivated areas of the hills are small and blends well with the surrounding terrains. This is not the most productive method, but it is the one that preserves the land to the greatest degree. Most of the plants grown by the gnomes are natural for the area and hardy sorts that can grow without the gnomes working the soil to hard. This Sun grown food, as the gnomes name it, covers only about 20% of the gnomes food production together with hunting and gathering in the wilds, another 20% usually comes from trade with the people of Sunset Vale. The remainder, the 60% comes from the real gnomish agriculture, the underground fields of mushrooms and caves of mosses and lichens that stretches through the lands under the hills. In fact, most people would be surprised if they knew how many tunnels and chambers the gnomes have made and improved through the centuries. A couple of metres under the feet of travelers is the real gnomish realm. The extensive tunnel network makes it possible for the gnomes to travel through most of the hills without ever going in to the sunlight.
As has been said it is unusual for Trielta gnomes, with the exception of Bluefir-gnomes, to spend much time in the world above. This attitude also influence their reactions to strangers, as the gnomes prefer to hide from encounters with the outside world. In fact, if one were not lucky enough to meet a Bluefir gnome one could travel through the whole of Trielta without ever seeing a single gnome. The other groups will usually need some sort of reassurance before approaching strangers. Even gnomes that in the lowlands will socialize with other people will be wary in the hills themselves as the gnomes long ago found out that secrecy was their greatest weapon.
As has already been mentioned, the gnomes has learned that it is useful to let creatures they can in some way manipulate, populate the land above for the simple reason that this keeps other more troublesome visitors away. This leads to a few cases of death among the gnomes each year as the careless or just unlucky fall into the clutches of a wandering ettin, a bugbear hunting party or even to the claws of common mountain lions or the large eagles of the Flandall mountains. But these are mostly exceptions as the gnomes natural cunning and illusions tricks will usually keep predators at bay and the gnomes privacy is better protected than it would be if the hills were left standing seemingly empty.
If the hills were to be invaded by creatures the gnomes can not as easily control, such as kobolts and goblins (able to enter the gnomish homes), orchs (extremely destructive to all around them), smaller dragons (to dangerous) or undead(immune to illusions and mind tricks), the gnomes will organize quickly to drive this threat from the land. This would be a situation out of the normal of course, in the gnomish daily life there is no military or organized patroling of the hills and only the Baerunsback gnomes have any martial traditions of note.
The daily watch over the Trielta hills is kept by the Imagemakers that also hide the small hin villages of the hills from outsiders with illusions. The Imagemakers are the ancient order of the gnomes oldest and greatest illusionists, from their castle at the highest peak of the Flandall fingers they have watched over the Western Heartlands for centuries and collected their findings in the great written tomes kept in the towers of the castle. Together with the hin druid Mirialla they are the Trieltas most important guardians.
The hin of Trielta are sceptical at having to live under the protection of the Imagemakers, but they have no real alternative to the gnomes illusions if they want their villages to stay secret. Their lives on the surface makes them a easier target than the gnomes and they could be the focus of invaders from the lowlands; therefore the Imagemakers has decreed that their villages must remain secret from the world outside.
Trielta is the home of about four hundred hidden hins that the Imagemakers have also supplied with a few select magical weapons for use in emergencies. The hin are collected in three villages, Mapleshade and Waterwhirl, which both consists of mostly Hairfeet and Rutabagyard, which consists of Stouts. All the villages are found in quiet beautiful valleys. Rutabagyard can be found in a secret valley in the inner parts of Flandells hand were one also has the only gold ores known in the hills.
One of the more unique fiatures of the Trielta gnomes is the Winterbond, the form of communal living practised during the winter months. In the Trielta hills it has been a tradition for as long as anyone can remember, that the gnomes group together in the winter season. The gnomes will then leave their individual homes and travel to places decided on at Highsummer to spend the Coldmonths with those they count as their closest and dearest. In some ares this in reality means those that live closest. The wintertime is a lonely time, so why make it worse by being on your own? Most gnomes find it more logical to pull together and spend the long nights in each others company, telling old stories and creating new ones from the happenings of the year that has gone. It is an important part of the gnomish life to look back at what has happened and try to take a learning from the past that they can use in the years ahead.
Most gnomish homes are built big for such small people and has the space for at least a dozen individuals, even if it will get a little tight, especially during sleeping time. Traditionally it is the gnomes with the most space that put their homes at the disposal of winter guests. The visitors on the other hand, are responsible for bringing food and beverages for the winter, both for themselves and the host. Every gnome is also expected to bring firewood for the winter, as all important conversations are traditionally held around a fire and only those that have contributed to the flames can contribute to the conversation.
As an extra social extravaganza, the winter also has a few holy days and festivities; the gnomes will often then pull together three or four of these wintergroups for large parties. That's when you really get a new definition of crowded, in homes intendent for three to five individuals, there are about a hundred singing and eating gnomes.
But the wintertime is not just fun and play for the gnomes; it is also the main working period in the gnomish year. Most building projects, for example, will be started in winter, as the frozen earth is easier to work with and safer during the frost, and larger works are more logical when one already have all the help one needs at hand. While the snow covers the hills and trees in the world above in silence the gnomes are teeming under ground to build and repair their homes and structures. If any one decides to not partake in these larger works, it is accepted in silence, but the gnomes do view this as rather rude.
In addition to this common-work each gnome will usually have one individual project that he or she will work on through the cold months when the daily work of existanse is least important. If it is a work of great proportions that will be to the benefits of the others the gnome responsible can be excused from the other work with the blessings of the others. This can be anything from the an improvement of a common tool to the planning of a grand joke or trick that will amuse and create stories in the year ahead. The main point is that the work will be a blessing for others.
Even the gnomish mining are structured around the their strange routines of time, as most gnomes work in these for a short period during the late fall and early spring.
Most of the Trielta gnomes live a good distance away from the mines themselves, one or to days of travel is typical. This makes it impractical to run back and forth to the mines in the growing season, as the gnomes have more than enough to do with growing food and collecting raw materials from the woods. But the silver and gemstones are a central part of gnomish craft-work, so gnomes usually work in shifts with the neighbors tending the fields while one spends a week in the mines. When he comes back it is the neighbors turn.
The gnomes realize that they could trade with humans for metal and gemstones or have permanent workers in the mines, but most traditional minded gnomes holds that a craftsman's work should be his own and that he should collect all the raw materials himself as this is as important as putting the finishing touches and his seal on the work. The result of this is that the use of silver and gems decrease as one gets further and further from the mines, that mostly are centered around the Flandalls.
When the snow has fallen over the Trielta it is a very rare happening for a gnome to go up on the surface; there is little food to be found and the tracks one leaves in the snow can lead enemies back to the winter quarters and put every one in danger. Only specially trained individuals or the truly desperate will ever go out in the snow for any reason. This is usually a hard test for the gnomish children who, like most young creatures are fascinated by the powdery whitnes surrounding them. If possible the children will be let out right before an expected heavy snowfall that will cover their tracks.
When the spring melting starts the gnomes part ways and go back to their individual homes. This is also the great moving season, as many as one in four gnomes each year find other partners, either physical or professional, that they would like to spend the warm season with. This usually works out in some strange way as each gnome that moves leave another with the need for a new partner. As few gnomes really irritate each other there is usually little reason to not combine forces; the gnomes are social creatures with little sense of jealousy or thought of emotional ownership. Any apprenticeship between a young gnome and a master is also agreed upon at this time, even though the apprenticeship itself does not start before the fall. The half year in between gives the parts involved time to get to know each other and if necessary change their minds if they seem unsuited for each other.
Therefore the last great all out effort is put in the the last week of moving furniture, tools and everything else from one home to the other. The underground tunnels will be busy at this time and it is one of the few time where angry voices are common in the Trielta, as different moving teams block each others way.
As the great yearly gnomish migrations finish, there is only one last detail before they part for the warm season, the sharing of the fire. Each gnome brings an ember from the fire they have all shared through the winter to light the years first fire in his own home. This is a symbolic action in honor of the gifts of Garl Glittergold and the sharing of these between the gnomes. As Garl is a reasonable god it is no crisis if the ember goes out and there is no thoughts around an ”eternal flame.”
The gnomes moving into a new home in addition bring a glow from the last fire of their old home, or a half burned piece of wood from the same. In the gnomish mind one must allways bring with one a piece of the old to form something new. It is the way of natures births and the way of the craftsman.
The hills of Trielta, the highlands west of the golden fields of the Sunset Vale, the land of the gnomes; this area has been shrouded in mystery since the times of human legends and the time of the elven grandfathers. One of the greatest mysteries are the secret guardians of these lands, which the people in the surrounding lands never have laid eyes on or been able to identify. The myths tell of elder dragons, undead mage kings of sorcerous Netheril and of demon princes bounded with ropes made from the hairs of all elven virgins of Myth Drannor. Only the gnomes know the truth.
The true story is far less menacing than the stories that the aspiring goblet bards and entertainers of the ships decks can spin. The gnomes guardians are a secret order of mystics bearing the name of the Imagemakers. Through the millienias this hidden group of illusionists have made their home in the five peaks of Trieltas one true mountain, the Hand of Flandall. From the hand the five art-twisted points reach toward the clouds, and in this treeless landscape the gnomes magical castle of Godstar rises from the ground with bending and undulating forms that makes one think of lava that has risen from the ground an been frozen in form in a second. Here the Imagemakers have gathered the learning's of Trielta and secrets gathered from the four corners of Faerun.
In the inner halls of the castles tall central tower the gnomes have placed the Mirror of Nathiir, or, The Watermirror. This artifact is the most important tool of the Masters of the order; The Masters being the leaders of the Imagemakers, the most powerful handlers of the Art among the gnomes. In the cold, granite-gray chamber that can be called the Heart of the gnomish land, they gather around the ancient, massive stone font decorated with symbols few even among the gnomes can read, and miniature scenes from gnomish mythology. It is said that if one studies these symbols for through the sleep of the great swamp dragon Scurge, one can find the secret of the female gods of the gnomes.
The font of the Mirror of Nathiir is at all times guarded by two members of the order, that through all the hours of the day keep watch over the Hills of Trielta. They wary between grand overviews of the lands and quick glances into the private lives of those the order find interesting. The gnomes task is mainly to study, observe and record their seeings; the known physical interferences into the lands below by the Imagemakers can be counted on two hands. But this information alone gives a somewhat twisted image of the orders role in Trielta, as the Mirror of Nathiir has secrets and functions that go far beyond those of a common crystal ball or scrying devise. Beside its uses as a spy-tool, the Mirror also enables its user to influence the scenes before them either directly or by way of magic.
Many gnomes consider the Hills of Trielta to be their heartland, the country blessed by the gods, little knowing that the small miracles they see in their daily lives are the work of the old ones on top of the mountain. Even those who know of the Imagemakers see them trough legends and with little real knowledge of their role or powers.
Godstar itself is a rather small castle placed in a landscape of ”half-melted” spires, stalagmites and other rock-formations bearing the signs of thousands of years of magical influence. To reach the castle one has to go through a journey few even among the gnomes would consider. One first has to climb the sides of the Hand of Flandall itself, at the lower it reaches through the forest of pines and fir that has been influenced by the constant leak of magic from the Godstar castle. Coming up on the plateau called the Hand of Flandall, one has to find ones way trough the mist clad labyrinths and broken terrain, constantly observed by the Imagemakers of course. When one finally reaches the peak bearing the castle as its crown there is a last obstacle of a follow a spiraling path so narrow that even a gnome has to walk sideways, to reach the gates. When one has arrived at the gates there is still the question of the gnomes interest in opening their door for you. The Godstar itself is granite-gray, but gives the impression of being made of half melted wax suddenly hardened.
The castle consists of half a dozen towers with several spires and architectonic outcroppings of bewildering variety. Bridges, walkways and stairs snake they're way across the surface and the tower-roofs and spires are covered in slate that never seems to fall of. The window are few and seemingly placed at random, but as there is little to see through the mist and fog of the Hand few complain about the lack of view.
Within the castle is the dwellings of the Order of the Imagemakers. The order itself is separated into three grades, Masters, Imagemakers, and apprentices. At any given time there is always four masters, no more, no less. They each have their duties and specialisations. The daily surveillance over Trielta is performed by the ten Imagemakers and their apprentices.
The order itself is the only center of formal magical education in the Trieltas and the illusionists one finds here are of a totally different caliber from the ones met in the lowlands of the general Swordcoast, which are mostly dilettantes and self learned dabblers. The order consists entirely of gnomes and dress in brown robes with a pointed hood, bent forwards.
As has already been said the Imagemakers are mainly observers when it comes to the lands below, but if they should detect a threat to a large number of gnomes they will intervene by throwing spells into the Mirror of Nathiir. If necessary one of the Masters will be called in to command this.
In the chamber of the Mirror the Imagemakers are a force to be reconed with as the chamber itself has been inlaid with elder runes and symbols of magic that gives the gnomes the ability to pool their forces. Surrounding the Mirror the gnomes can combine their powers into spells, and a single Imagemaker together with his apprentices can work magic that will match most mages, sorcerers and wielders of witchcraft and black arts that should disturb the hills.
The chamber of the Mirror is not the only chamber of the castle Godstar that improve the gnomes magic; the true extent of the powers are unknown, but it is known that the castle helps the gnomes recuperate their magic and that some chambers are built to help in the casting of certain types of magic.
In addition to the chambers of magic, each member of the order has his or hers own private quarters and there are several common rooms as well as libraries and areas of study. The library is the pride of the castle and can be compared with the great chambers of lore collected at Candlekeep only with a more limited focus and on the Trieltas and gnomes as a whole. Here, between the dusty shelves the apprentices continually struggle to organize and categorize the constant stream of information that comes to them from the Mirror, wandering members of the order, and from other sources around the whole of Faerun.
The Masters of the Imagemakers each have their area of responsibility where they are obligated to memorize lore and magical symbols as well as teach the lower ranking members of the order. On his field the master is expected to be, as the name says, a master. By distributing the mightiest illusionists in this way, the castle is guaranteed to always have the spells and magic needed for any situation that might arise, they can then use the lower members of the order to back up these spells trough the Nathiir. As the Imagemacers ”sirclemagic” only works through the Nathiir, the Masters never leave the castle; they are expected to get any wanderlust out of their system before rising to this position. If it should become necessary to send a member of the order down into the lowlands or the hills below, it will always be a lower ranking member with the ability to call for help through the observers of the Mirror of Nathiir. This ability also makes it possible for the orders member to wander at will, as the Mirror can call them back to Godstar if the need arises.
The castle also has quite a large collection of items with magical powers that the members can make use of. The mightiest of these items may not be handled without the consent of the Masters. If a member of the order wishes to bring the item with him out Godstars surroundings the Masters has to be convinced of the necessity of this and of the Imagemakers ability to handle the item responsibly. Generally a Imagemaker will not take anything with him from the castle; in fact one of the main motivations of travel is to gather magical items and take them back to Godstar, as each member below the rank of master is expected to bring one item to the hall every four years. this can be either an item of magic or of lore. This can lead one to speculate over what riches the castle holds in its halls.
The head of the order is the Imageshaper, this is always the leading wizard of the order his main task is to shape and maintain a repertoire of perfect illusions and other forms of magic for fooling the mind. In a way he is seen as the soul of the order and his name, as that of all the Masters, must be kept secret from the outside world. It is said that all members of the order go through rituals that makes it impossible to even think the name of a member that has gone over to being a master.
Below the Imageshaper one finds the Guardian. This wizard is the seer and predictor of future happenings. The Guardian’s task is to look into the worlds, times and places whose image is blocked even from the Mirror of Nathiir. The Guardian’s magic is not aimed at the material and visual reality, she handles the unknown and uncertain and her role is therefore relatively free. Most of the Guardian’s time is used to scry for dangers that might threaten the order and the hills from beyond the here and now.
The next in line is the Changer. This masters magic is concentrated on the world surrounding the hills and the Hand of Flandall. In spite of the fact that the Changer is the one whose magic could be the most daily use for the Imagemakers, his status is relatively low. The reason for this is that the Changers magic works for changing the already existing, his magic has a finality to it and in ways goes into the area that should be best left to the gods. For these reasons the Changers magic is sparsely used by the gnomes. The Changers magic is direct and unhidable and the long term damage done by the spells may be greater than the gnomes can foresee; for these reasons only the most controlled and responsible gnomes are given the status of Changers.
The fourth and last Master is the Summoner. The Summoner is responsible for calling on help and rescuing those in need. This responsibility spans over both the Imagemakers themselves and the hills below if danger threatens. His magic reaches into other dimensions and worlds and can bind the creatures of nightmares. Her status is the lowest as the responsibility is laid in the hands of others, this gives the Imagemakers them selves a lesser degree of control over the situation and each summoning may bring unwanted attention from other worlds and dimensions. Because of the nature of the Summoners magic she is only called for in situations of extremes; the greatest emergencies and the situations lacking any forms of danger.
There is no Master of the magic of mental and psychic manipulations, for spellbinding and controlling. All Imagemakers learn the basics of these arts, but they are not mastered for principal reasons. The leanings of the Imagemakers go in the opposite directions of these arts and focuses on the idea that it is the senses and the visual reality that shall be manipulated, not the reality itself and the center of the mind. One never knows the consequences of changing reality and it is also without the creative snare of illusions. To override a creatures own mind to control its body is seen as very questionable morally and only done in the greatest of emergencies.
The Imagemakers holds the middle role of the order. They can make few decisions in the castle without orders from the Masters and they must in principle obey without objections. The reality is different of course and the Imagemakers spend their time working on own projects and wandering. The exception to this is the night between the months of Tarsekh and Mirtul. The Greengrass night and change at winters’ end is the holiest of nights for Baevar Cloakshadow.
On this night all members of the order below Master must come forth before the whole order and tell of the progressions he or she has made within magic and lore-seeking. If the Masters were to see obvious signs of laziness or skulking from duties over time the member in question will be thrown out. It should be noted that that has only happened twice during the history of the order and the last time was over a hundred and fifty years ago.
From these meetings and the progress made the Master will decide the members future status, assign apprentices and mark the most promising for a future status of Master. The Imagemakers thinks that the judging starts when they receive their rank and know not that the Masters scrutinize them from the day they start their apprenticeship.
The Hin of Trielta
As the Hills of Trielta is located next to one of the three main lands of the hin of Faerun, The Far Hills and the Sunset Vale, ( the land of Luiren and the Purple Hills being the others), it is of little surprise that one can find halfling communities in the highlands. The mountainous region is not ideal for agriculture, so the pressure on the gnomes has been minimal, even if one today can find several small hin communities in the hills. Even if the semi-official border between the two people go at Hardbuckle both people drift over to each others areas for a variety of reasons. Some seek adventure, some fall in love, others seek business opportunities or a way out of feuds and petty crime.
With the Zhentharim conquering Darkhold and killing the Which queen the situation may be changing. Many among the Hin are nervous about these men from the east and there has been a long series of incidents. Even if the Freelances and Swords in Semmemons service have learned that the hin are far from as defenceless as they seem, there has been talk among many of the farmers bordering the Sunset Mountains of moving while they still can. If this sort of migration takes place and streams into the highlands of the west, this could lead to a drastic worsening of the relationship between the gnomes and the hins.
The hin of Trielta are located in three villages in the highlands; Mapleshade in the south and Waterwhirl in the west, which both consists of mostly hairfeet and Rutabagyard, which is mainly populated by stouts, in the central hills. Mapleshade is the smallest village and the one most influenced by the gnomish culture of the hills, as they often partake in the gnomish winter seclusion with some gnomes among the halflings and some hin among the gnomes.
Mapleshade is a small village with about one hundred and fifty hin distributed between twenty burrows that they share with between ten and twenty gnomes at any given time. The village lie in a quiet valley called Sorefootdale, also known as Hinsrest. The gnomes of this valley came to the hills as fugitive from the great goblin hordes that soared out of the lands lost to the great desert off Anauroch to lay waist to the old lands of the Western Heartlands. The goblins and their kin overran the borders of the hins lands at the northern borders and some families of refugees became separated from the main body of fleeing hin. They chose to seek the protection of the highlands of the western border. When the Goblin wars finally quieted down fifteen years later, the hin had built up new lives and gotten used to the conditions of the Trielta hills.
In the little valley they have their gardens, fields and small orchards. Most of the harvests goes to their own use, which is rather large, the surplus that remains is welcomed by the gnomes in the form of wine, jams and various juices. For the gnomes with their somewhat unusual attitude towards cooking this is the perfect union of abilities. The hins’ gardens lie as a natural part of the landscape, with the burrows placed among the hills and mounds. The hins of these lands have as little contact with the world outside of these hills as the gnomes themselves and are therefore somewhat old fashioned in their habits. But hin are hin in all lands, and most of the days goes by with the halflings studying the growth of plants and the clouds travel over the skies, the little work that comes with maintaining the fields are more than enough for them.
Rutabagyard lies in a hidden valley deep in the shadows of Flandalls Fingers, the tallest peaks of the Trieltas and the only area that reaches so far into the skies that the trees can not grow at the tops. The rumours say that somewhere in these land the secret of the mysterious Imagemakers is hidden, probably in one of the highest peaks that many has tried to climb but few have reached. It is said that the tops only can be reached with the blessings of the Imagemakers themselves. The village itself lies in the so called Palm, a six mile highland dale that has its entrance hidden by the magic of the gnomes. The magic together with the sheltered position gives the valley a somewhat higher temperature than the altitude should indicate, but the hin of the valley still have a harsh existence during the snowy months. For the Stouts living here it has become more logical to base their agriculture upon the growing of cabbage and various root crops.
The village of Rutabagyard itself is a small community of stout-hin that have, according to themselves, lived here since the times before the gnomes wanderings with Druilink. There are two hundred and thirtythree hin in the valley, but it is hard for the few visitors that come to the valley to get any grasp of their numbers as centuries of living isolated from their kin has made the hin suspiciously similar to each other.
In the village of Rutabagyard near to all the male hin are ruddy, lightly overweight and with dark hair growing thin with age. Beards are common. The female are round like the males, but their hair have more wavy tresses and the noses have a tendency to point slightly upwards. It does not help the recognition of individuals that the hins’ clothes are almost uniformly lacking in individuality. They wear a white cotton tunic with a brown woollen west and black homespun pants or skirts.
The village is led by Booriton Plowgarment, the descendant of Halvoor Plowgarment, the founder of the village according to the legends. The stouts have some contact with the gnomes, but their love for peace and quiet, for hard work and quiet evenings, makes it difficult to live any kind of life where the two people glide together in any form of symbiosis. It is common for the two people to invite each other to special occasions and holy days (which is rarely attended, but it would be rude to not invite the neighbours), but all other contact is in the form of sporadic meetings and the occasional trader.
The stouts love their quiet evenings as much as the Hairfeet of Mapleshade, but they also like to vary their days with hard physical exertions during the hours of the sun. If they for some reasons don't work the Stouts have a half a dozen games and sports to give them their daily exercise. Even in the farthest reaches of the Trielta Hills one has heard of the crazy stouts sleighing down Mount Flandall during the winter months.
The stouts are also the guardians of one of Trieltas best kept secrets, the gold of Mount Flandall. The mountain is rich in ore and the stouts have for centuries carefully mined the metal and little by little traded it with the gnomes who smuggle it to trusted contacts in the lowlands. This access to riches has allso made the stouts one of the gnomes main trading partners.
The last village, Waterwhirl, lies in the westernmost part of the Trieltas with a clear view of the rolling lowlands stretching towards the caravan city of Elturel. The hins of this area are mainly hairfeet. The collected burrows consists of something like two hundred hin on the average, but this can vary greatly as there are usually a great numbers of visitors from the lowland hin in the village. Many of these are on their way to the main lands of the hin in the Sunset Vale and the Far Hills and this makes Waterwhirl something of a meeting point between the western lowlands, Trielta and Sunset Vale. This has also made the village the main trading center of the Trieltas and this can be seen in the architecture that is made to satisfy both hin and visitors with an equal number of stone huts as burrows.
The area surrounding the village is covered in traps that will make any attack on the village a nightmare for the enemy. Ambush points and hidden defensive strongholds are placed at strategic locations and there are several gnomish illusions that can be called upon if necessary. Raids both from the wilder tethens of the north and hobgoblins from the plains has made it necessary to be prepared for anything, but as the trading center it is, the village can not hide from the world in the way of the rest of Trieltas inhabitants.
The hin of Waterwhirl are more influenced by the people of the lowlands and of the plains of the west than they are by their kin of the Sunset Vale region. The villagers themselves view their life as one on the border of all and part of none. The lowlanders, gnomes and other hin are neighbors not life fellows and most contact with other people is governed by ancient treatises and agreements. New visitors will have to contact the village council if they have any business in the town and the responsibilities for each part in a visit will be formally declared and explained; if the visitors don't agree to the demands of the council they will be evicted from the village. Through the years many an arrogant outlander has learned the hard way that the feisty Hin villagers will not let themselves be bullied by anyone.
The Giant Owls of Trielta
In the lands between the Sunset Mountains and the Forest of Wyrms hunts the Giant Owls of the Flandals. Since the days of Netherillian growth the birds have sailed over the sky as Selune rises for her swim across the night, scowled down on the world from the Shadowtops and snatched animals out of the grassing herds in the lowlands. They have held council with the Imagemakers of Godstar and met with the dragons that rule the inner reaches of the Sunset Mountains.
The giant golden feathered birds have never been numerous in the highlands and the people of the surrounding lands are generally awed at the sight of the bird.. Even in the chronicles of the kingdom of the Five Crowns it is told that even the people of Netheril feared these servants of their dead Sun god. One only has to see one of the birds hit by the rays of the sun as it sleeps on the hillsides to see how the stories started.
The sight of the birds golden feather is a rare one; most people lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the bird only see the white chestfeaters with the spots like tiny eyes covering it reflected in the moonlight when it passes over head or the golden eyes staring with heavy brows from the shadows.
The owls of the Trieltas consists of one extended family, with three mated pairs that nests in the steep cliffs of Mount Flandals north side. Their names are Abrisca & Bigimiia, Baiasca & Dudbimiia and Hviist & Piisuh. There are two more pairs living in the old trees of the Weirtree vale, their names are Toostii & Cuii and Xarii & Nomoii. Two young birds from an earlier hatching are searching for mates in the surrounding lands. They still spend much of their time in the Trielta hills. Finally there is old Shiliiria and Noricxa, who both have lost their mates and now live a nomadic life that even the other owls don't keep track of.
The birds mainly live of deer and wild boars in the lowlands, but will band together to bring down larger pray if food is scarce. Two or three pairs of giant owls hunting together is a threat anything smaller than a dragon will take seriously. The birds are smart enough to use tactics when hunting, such as driving pray over cliff-sides or into the same if avian. They will attack humanoid creatures coming to near their nests or over hunting their territory. Very few stories tell of the bird eating intelligent creatures and these might be false or the memory of birds taken by madness.
A young owl usually has to leave the hills to find a partner; with the stock being as small as it is the birds will try to hinder interbreeding as much as possible. The choice of a mate usually happens at the first meeting, as the birds are so rare the instincts tell them more or less to take the first unknown owl that comes along as there have been a couple of very embarrassing episodes, mages of these lands seldom polymorph into giant owls. Even then there is the story of the love between Hammariid and Xiima, but most mages prefer to be on the safe side. Now, the birds may be quick to team up, but it may take the birds a lifetime to get used to each other. With the birds being instinctively monogamous and long-lived there usually is not much choice but to learn to get along.
To the birds the complicated love life of the other races is one of the universe greatest mysteries and in their opinion, the greatest source of idiocy in existence. In the scrolls of the Imagemakers it is told of a Summoner that spent a century trying to make the leader of the birds understand the love poems and ballads the tethen bards sang. It is also said that the bird instead wrote a thesis on the whims of nature and the superiority of birds, but this could be a myth.
The Giant Owls are intelligent, according to those few who have communicated with the birds, as intelligent as most humans and with a highly complicated language of their own that other creatures only can understand by way of magic. The birds are supposed to be cordial speakers, if somewhat mean spirited at times. They are curios and keep an eye on what is happening in their part of Faerun.
The Giant Owls keep in contact with Giant Eagles and owls in far of lands, even if the contact is not always friendly they use each other to get and spread information and news. There is some contact between the Trieltan owls and the Aaracocra of the Stormhorns, even some solitary Kenku has been known to seek out the owls for advice, but these creature has an understanding of life and reality so different from the owls own, that it is impossible for them to form a close relationship. The owls have a problem understanding the hominid mind, even if it is combined with the nature of birds.
The myths of the Giant Owls tell of a time when their relationship with the tethen tribes in these lands were close, but today the birds prefer to keep away from humans. The same goes for most gnomes and hin, with the exception of the Imagemakers. The owls have a close alliance with the illusionists of the mountain and they have even been known to carry the gnomes on their back in times of great need. The Imagemakers and the owls both regard the other as difficult and demanding, but their common gain from the alliance is to clear for it to ever develop to more than a slight irritation.
The owls will usually gather the information and then the magically strong gnomes will analyse the information and act as they see fit. The bond between some of the older birds and the Masters are so strong that the gnomes can take advantage of the owls power with the Mirror of Nathiir if necessary. They can even give some of the birds the ability to store some spells in their own brain for use with a command word if the need arises.
The other gnomes are regarded by the owls with slight curiosity and at times a friendly cackle from an observation post, but without a common method of communication it seldom develops to something more. There are in reality few people in Trielta outside of the halls of the Imagemakers that know that the birds are intelligent at all and stories of talking birds are dismissed as myths.
According to the owls themselves their most important function, the one they were put in Faerun to perform, is to guard the lands against the snake-people and their masters the Dark Nagas of the north. The world has many myths about the conflicts between snakes and birds, and here in Trielta the owls can tell of generations of conflict. These tales are gathered in the halls of Godstar.
The Naga have to this day never managed to locate the birds hiding places and therefore time and again they have fallen to the claws from the sky when they dare to leave the Forest of Wyrms or Serpent Hills. The birds on their side have learned that they will fall quickly if they in rashness fly in to the dark forests of the serpents.
This conflict is rather quiet for the moment, but the naga have not forgotten that two of their numbers were killed by the birds while traveling towards the old castle of the Witch queen ten years ago.
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