A Brief History
Gnomes had lived in the Blemu Hills for generations before the first humans moved into the region. In those early years, the gnomes of the Blemu Hills were indistinguishable from those of the Flinty Hills. The Gnomelord of the Blemu Hills even swore fealty to the king of the Flinty Hills. Despite this bond, the gnomes of the Blemu were slightly more militant, and solitary due to the humanoids roaming the Bone March. These bands of humanoids were infrequent, but as the Flan moved in, the humanoids began increasing their raids to take advantage of these new opportunities. By -1000 CY the raids were commonplace in the spring and summertime. These raids forced all in the Bone March to be more on guard, including the gnomes of the Blemu.
By – 270 CY, Oeridians begin settling in the Bone March and even in the Blemu Hills, something that the Flan had not done respecting it as the domain of the gnomes. These humans were more warlike than the Flan. However, unlike most of their cousins further south across the Tessar Torrent, these Oeridians were inclined to meld into the existing social structure. Unfortunately, like before, when the Flan entered into the region, the Rakers' humanoids sensing new and easier opportunities for plunder began raiding into the Bone March in even greater numbers.
BY the year -60 CY, the gnomes of the Blemu Hills had not paid homage to the Gnomish King in the Flinty Hills for several centuries and had become even more militant due to the influx of humans, and the corresponding raids of humanoids. Not as stoic as dwarves, the gnomes still traded with their neighbors. Some fifty years earlier, they had turned the three major gnomish cities of the Blemu Hills into a fortified underground network known as Gnomegarde. During the construction of this network, with its hidden entrances, traps, and illusionary magic, lead to it being selected as a hiding place for the hand and eye of Vecna. Besides Bildri Grommet, the then Gnomelord of the Blemu Hills, who else made this decision is still a mystery?
These artifacts of evil would only remain in the care Bildri until 43 CY, when they were passed on to the paladin-King, Miro, a small kingdom in what would eventually become the Theocracy of the Pale. The reason for their being moved out of gnomish care is uncertain, but the polluting effects they had on the community is suspected. To this day, ill tidings for the Blemu gnomes are blamed on the fact the vile items had been housed there.
The Great Kingdom
The Bone March had always been a desired territory by the Herzog of Northern Province, of the Great Kingdom, and those plans were well underway by the year 108 CY. The border struggles between the growing settlers from Aerdy in the Bone March and the Barbarians from the north had finally erupted into a full-blown war. The Great Kingdom never tried to make an alliance with the Gnomelord of the Blemu Hills as they did not respect the gnomes sovereignty over the region. The Herzog did not seek permission to send thousands of his troops marching across gnomish lands angering many. Adding insult to this injury, the Herzog ordered a small trading post on gnomish soil named Knurl to expand into a city.
Many of the gnomes wanted to take up arms against these transgressions, but Gnomelord Bildri knew this was not a war his people would win. Despite their overwhelming numbers, humans have a knack for the arcane arts that is only surpassed by the elves Bildri knew. Instead of fighting, the gnomes withdrew into Gnomegarde completely and watched as the wars of the humans were waged around them for the next five hundred years.
In short order, Knurl evolved into a city of wickedness, placing a hostile nation on the Blemu gnome's traditional homeland. Early in the cities history, it was the gateway into the Bone March for Aerdy troops, but after House Kargus took it over, things worsened quickly. The humans that lived there became worse than the humanoids that used to frequent the region. Fortunately, because of the strong illusionary magics, only a handful of incidents transpired between the gnomes and Knurl.
The Cursed Invasion
By the time of the Cursed Invasion, the gnomes of the Blemu Hills had little contact with anyone outside of their underground complex, Gnomegarde. Always distrustful of the Flan druids, they had only a passing relationship with them. A few of the Flan that still lived by the old ways lived in their hills. Still, they had no contact with Knurl or any other human settlements like the County of Blemu, Spinecastle, or Johnsport. So, when the Cursed Invasion of humanoids smashed the March's human inhabitants, none sought out the gnomes for help, and the gnomes did not offer any.
They gnomes hoped that the humanoids would ignore them, but they were not so lucky. After gorging themselves on plunder for some time, they turned their attention to the gnomes. The humanoids remembered the tales of the old days and the gnomes of the Blemu Hills. These stories had blossomed into great stories of the gnomish wealth squirreled away under their hills, and the humanoids intended to have it.
Fortunately, the gnomes had been perfected their defenses over a millennium of preparation, so when the humanoids began their assault, they were ready. No humanoid even found any of the true entrances to Gnomegarde. The humanoids instead assaulted Greenrock, a very visible gnomish castle built into the side of a rugged hill. Greenrock does not lead to Gnomegrade but is instead a false front to throw off those that would seek the real Gnomegrade.
The battle there raged for several months, and the one hundred defenders that were cut off with no chance of escape died to a man. Once the castle fell, the coffers within the castle were looted, but it was just a pittance left to satisfy whoever attacked the castle. The ruse worked, fortunately, and after the sacking of Greenrock, and not seeing anything else to conquer, the humanoids left.
The gnomes of the Blemu spend more time bellow ground than most other gnomes because of the large number of enemies that roam the Bone March. The burrows of the Blemu gnomes are hidden affairs blending into nature. These entrances are also hidden by strong illusionary magic and traps. The outer passages leading to the heart of Gnomegarde are only four feet tall to hamper larger races that might invade. The passages closer to the heart of Gnomegarde grow to heights as high as ten feet.
Initially, what would become Gnomegarde were just three separate gnome towns that existed mostly above ground. Each had a minor tunnel system to hide in during times of danger. As time passed and more humans and humanoids came to the March, each of these towns began expanding their tunnel networks. Eventually, tunnels were dug connecting the three towns to aid each other in times of need.
With the great kingdom's armies' incursions, the towns above-ground were demolished and rebuilt underground. It was also at this time the Greenrock Castle was built. The connecting tunnels were expanded into underground roads capable of accommodating two gnomish carts at a time. The gnomes did not just dig out small homes and tunnels, but also large caverns where the towns that had existed on the surface were rebuilt. The entire complex soon became known as Gnomegarde. The original towns became known as the north, south, and western branches.
Modern Gnomegarde practices a strict isolation policy and has nearly no contact with anyone in the Bone March. The recent events in the city of Knurl have drawn their attention, however. They have been watching intently what this new Count Dunstan Kargus intends to do with his new won kingdom. To date, the emissaries of Count Kargus have met three times with Gnomelord Kelfex, the grandson of Gnomelord Baldri. Count Kargus wishes to cement an alliance with the gnomes, but Gnomelord Kelfex remains cautious.
The gnomes have no standing military besides the fifty gnomish knights of the Order of the Glittering Shield, Kelfex's personal guard. They do have a militia made up of all able-bodied gnomes that can fight and number around 1,500 in time of war. All the Glittering Shield knights are paladins that follow Garl Glittergold and are equipped with platemail, shield, shortswords, or pickaxe.
In addition to the Knights of the Glittering Shield, Gnomegarde raises giant badgers to help with work and as mounts. The Knights of the Glittering Shield use them when riding into battle. These badgers are fiercely loyal to their gnomish masters. During a battle, the badgers are outfitted with a studded leather barding.
The Gods Worshipped by the Gnomes
While Garl Glittergold is revered as the head of the gnomish gods, the gnomes of Gnomegarde more often call upon, Flandal Steelskin, and Gelf Darkhearth. These gods of smithing, combat, and mining better suiting their daily needs. Temples to all three of them can be found in each of the branches of Gnomegarde.
Gnomelord Kelfex Grommet:
The latest in a long line of Gnomelords of the Blemu Hills, Kelfex is a wise and cautious ruler. He knows all to well the precarious position his kingdom is in and that it is surrounded by possible enemies. He also realizes that he has no allies, not even being able to rely on the Flinty Hills' gnomes or those of the Loftwood for assistance.
Kelfex is very interested in seeing what becomes of this new Knurl. He likes what Count Kargus has done to this point but also knows that human lifespans are short. Kelfex is curious if a lasting kingdom of good will take hold, or if after Dunstan passes will Knurl slide back into their wicked ways.
The Gnome Champion Kaden Glagullen:
The Chief Knight of the Order of the Glittering Shield, Kaden, like all of the gnomes of the Blemu, is a simple hard-working gnome. Unlike most gnomes, though, Kaden has a knack for fighting. The son of a gem cutter, Kaden, still makes jewelry in his spare time, and his plate armor is adorned in semi-precious stones.
The High Illusionist Minzarla Nock:
Minzarla is an older gnome full of good cheer and is a mother and grandmother to a large family. A number of her children are also illusionists and have followed in her footsteps working for the Gnomelords. Minzarla and her children play a big part in defense of Gnomegarde, allowing the gnomes to take on humanoid bands and hordes much larger than themselves because of their illusionary magic.
Her Son Kruckabod is the second leading illusionist in Gnomegarde and does much of the fieldwork now that Minzarla is getting older. Minzarla maintains many standing illusions around the Gnomegarde, making periodic trips through the hills to revitalizes them.
Minzarla and Kelfex have a bit of a relationship brewing since both of their significant others have passed. Both have been far too busy to finalize anything, and both are a little scared to do so for fear it might be bad luck.
Like most gnomes, Minzarla is kindhearted and hardworking and would love to permanently expel the humanoids from the Bone March.