Athos: The Return
“Yea, for you have taken your own life
without honour you shall be forced that life
again to atone. With this shackle your
children and your children’s children
unto the deed be done, shall atone for
such wickedness upon my creation!”
With these words, which echoed like thunder through
the highest and deepest places of the Earth,
Athos conceived Gnomes, an ill-fated race,
doomed forever to seek atonement from
a vengeful and seldom forgiving God.
Excerpted from the Book of Hyacinthius
The Gnomes are a seldom respected race. They have had a long history of enslavement which dates back to the First Age. Considered to be mythically doomed, the Gnomes seek atonement for their crimes of creation. Most races hold The Book of Hyacinthius as a true account of creation and so believe the enslavement of the Gnomes to be the Word of God. Gnomes are treated as a lesser race, including free Gnomes who make up sizable populations in most major cities. Nearly all the Realms on Earth have laws restricting the Gnomish right to congregate and none allow for Gnomes to administer their own free communities. The harshest laws against Gnomes may be found in Athos Terrarum, where the State still maintains a large slave labour population and free Gnomes are offered little protections and freedoms.
However, the Word of God also contains the rumour of prophesy which gave rise to Deliverance Athosianism. Most Gnomes believe Athos will send a deliverer to take them from bondage. But the systematic slaughter of Gnomish children when the rumour of a Deliverer arises has led the Gnomes to be hush about such things. Many Gnomes do not hesitate to turn on their own kind to their masters if they feel their family at threat due to another’s religious negligence. Because of distrust between Gnomes, they are known for their skill in deception and the low price it costs to buy their loyalty in return for protection.
A Brief History of Gnomish Enslavement
Gnomes have been an enslaved race since the Dawn of Time in the First Age. The earliest surviving copy of The Book of Hyacinthius in the hands of mortals dates back to just before the War of Failed Succession. The book is considered a Holy Text of Athos and thus carries the weight of his word. Ever since, Gnomish enslavement has been common practice. Demigods, born of Athos and Gnomes, are a rare exception to the general etiquette of respect. Half-breed Gnomes, referred to as Halflings, sometimes occur between a master and his slave, but they are given none of the privileges of higher birth but all of the stigmae of their Gnomish parentage.
On Athos Terrarum, Gnomes are granted few rights. The State still maintains a large population of slave labour which is 4:1 the size of the free communities. They are housed in temporary barracks shelters across the Realms wherever state labour mandates take them. They must carry around identification papers at all times, regardless of free status. The Athosian system works on a basis of birth into caste. Meaning that Slaves born to slaves are slaves and the free born to the free may be free. Though the notion of what ‘free’ means is relative. Freedom is acquired only by a written release from the Master. Freed Gnomes may be enslaved again if caught breaking a law with specific harm intended to Men or any dignitaries. The Free are not allowed to congregate in groups over ten, may not participate in politics in any way, may not marry outside their race, are forbidden from attending public institutions, and a slew of other restrictive laws.
On Elandir, Gnomes too are restricted. Slavery is optional with few partaking in the practice. Slavery is born into, as is freedom, which is otherwise attained through a release by the Master or a great deed in service to a Realm. Free Gnomes are allowed to own heavily taxed businesses but are restricted in congregating in groups over thirty unless a permit is granted for parties or events, but nothing else.
On Brimir, Slavery is born into and freedom is attained through death. The Dwarves, however, are known to treat them well, even paying them. Some do use slave labour in mining expeditions and the like but most are actually paid and are allowed several more liberal freedoms and rights. Gnomes may not be mistreated beyond what punishment is considered right and just and Gnomes must be well cared for by their masters which is less a law now than a societal choice. Congregating beyond one’s Master or family is forbidden, with the penalty of death. Most of the Gnomes on Brimir are referred to as ‘Svirfneblin’ which means ‘Deep Gnome’. They were bred by the Dwarf Lords in Brimir for their traits which made them well suited to slave work in the treacherous darkness at the heart of the mountains. Svirfneblin may be found all over the world but only the purest remain in Dwarvish communities.
Grashnak, the Orcish homeland, generally considers slavery to be a necessary part of tribal operations but the populations are kept low. Freedom is non-attainable. Only a Warlord of Turok may own slaves, who do much of the busy work of maintaining a tribe for their Orcish masters. Their treatment however is relative to their master. Some Orc Warlords are infamous for their raids which mass Gnomish slaves for battle practice and keep otherwise keep them in pens, while others are merciful and use slaves alongside tribal members as near equals. The latter is the more common of the two by far. These tribes on Grashnak are one of the few mono-racially dominated lands to have no restrictions of Gnomish congregation. In the cities Gnomes serve a similar function mostly as house slaves.
Cisplatina generally offers the same level of treatment to Gnomes as their racial communities have done for millenia. The independent kingdoms on the Corvasian Sea vary in the use of gnomish slavery, legally decided on racial practices, but since few gnomes inhabit the region beyond their travelling masters, Slavery is mostly a non-issue. In fact, a few kingdoms actually have made slavery illegal within the last few hundred years. Thrashkar has no systemic slavery of the Gnomes. Gnomes are simply another people, their enslavement is contingent on their capture which is no different than any other race.
Gnomish Society is based around their slave divisions or masters. Gnomes are generally loyal only to those they have come to trust, which is not an easy process. Many Gnomes are willing to trade any information on their brothers for a few coins and most for the offer of freedom. Nearly all are hyper-religious, praying for an Athosian Messiah figure while a small population rejects the deliverance theology and instead choose a different form (many follow the Order of the Dead God in lieu).
Free societies are treated with disrespect by other races and Gnomish homes in city ghettos are not unfamiliar with frequent racial violence, looting, and vandalism. There are few laws that protect Gnomes from such violence outside Brimir, most Dwarven Colonies, and the Corvasian Sea. Constant fear and faith generally sum up a gnome’s existence, which is not long since the percentage who die from natural causes makes up only two-thirds of ‘recorded’ deaths.
Free Gnomish Populations are mostly found on the coastlines with many taking up positions as merchants and shop owners. There are very large and relatively healthy populations of Free Gnomes like this in Elandir. Free populations on Athos Terrarum are more likely to be found in ghettos where free gnomes scrap up any work they can find simply to get by.
The one common non-restriction on congregation allowed for Gnomes is to meet on holy days to pray. Prayer houses are handled differently in each region. Athos Terrarum bans them but most City Guards turn a blind eye to known religious meetings through a series of informants and known relations. Outside of cities and settlements, however, where The Church of Athos Dominus administers the law directly without a strong Guard force, Gnomes must meet in absolute secret lest they be fined, imprisoned, or executed. Elandir requires a city guard to be present in ceremonies and keeps a list of those present but have no restrictions otherwise. None of the other races, nor their regions, administer any regulations on holy day worship.