“Wake up Numidea!” Hannah jostled her daughter who was still asleep on her pallet. She opened the nearby window to show the sun was now reaching the highest part of the sky.
“Your lessons are almost over! You should at least show up today.”
Numidea mumbled a “yes mom” and started to stir. As her eyes adjusted to the light streaming in from the windows along the sides of the long house, she saw the familiar hearths of each of the families that shared their extended home. The multihued light from the tinted windowpanes added color and vibrancy to the entire abode.
It was Spring and the cool breeze was refreshing across her face. She finally sat up, opened the chest beside her pallet and started getting dressed for the day. She stood up and looked into the polished mirror. Her features where average with a pleasant face and deep brown eyes. At only two years to her Solstice rite, she was just over two Imperial feet tall. She was small, even for a gnome (1).
Her favorite feature was her hair. She quickly brushed her thick mane and the tied it back with a ribbon that was inset with several colored stones. One of these days her older sister Joyce would show her how to use the mica chips to add colored streaks to her ponytail!
She grabbed some morning bread from the common table and then headed out of the long house. Instead of using the front entrance, she went to the back of the dwelling and pushed aside the heavy curtain. Entering the stables, she quickly greeted the ponies and goats. She made a quick note that the goats had shifted to the western wall.
She would need to know this tonight when she snuck out for her nightly runs. Numidea was a rare fifth child of Hannah and Drock. Most gnomes have two sets of twins in their lives. But to have a single child so late in life, and for her to be so small caused her parents to be very protective of their “miracle child”. Numidea doubted her parents would approve of her chasing the wisps under the moon light and practicing with her kerrick knives.
Smiling, Numidea patted the blades under her trousers by her ankles. Kerrick knives are small throwing blades. Gervick the trader had them at the market a few months back. She begged her father for them, even offering extra chores. Her father Drock refused saying they were too dangerous.
That finally gave her a good use for all of her lessons. In secret, she had worked flint from the river into the rough shape of the blades. Then focusing on the area a fists width beneath her navel, she summoned the saffron-orange magic of the gnomes and shaped the flint into its final form (2). The resulting knives had a decent edge. While more brittle than dwarven steel, they where sufficient for her nightly runs and target practice.
Numidea left through the outer door into the Spring daylight. The rolling hills and grasslands stretched as far as she could see. There were a few copses of trees nearby. One housed the apiary for the village. The others were useful for shade while tending the herds.
She made her way to another of the long houses. Originally hollowed out hills and then extended with peat over generations, to an outsider the Hillock, or village, looks like a group of mounds covered in gardens in the middle of the rolling lands. There was a well in the center of the village and a lone, single story stone inn by the road. The inn was a fairly recent addition to allow the Hillock to trade and entertain guests of the taller species.
She entered the long house and quietly sat at a bench in the back. The teacher, an elder by the name of Patrece was teaching math. Something about the number of goats needed to make enough milk for a barrel. Numidea let her mind wander to the events of last night. She had finally hit her target three times in a row!
Now this was not a simple standing still and striking true. She had mastered that almost immediately. Instead Numidea was practicing running at full speed then diving into a tuck roll while throwing the kerrick into a melon hanging from a tree. She smiled and was beginning to figure out her next goal.
“Numidea, so how many goats are needed in your flock to produce a wheel of cheese each week?” Patrece asked. Numidea was pulled from her daydream. She quickly looked around. Grace, a friend a few years younger, was discreetly holding up seven fingers and looking at her with big eyes.
“Surprisingly that is correct. Your lessons are completed for today. Your usual crafting sessions are canceled for this afternoon. The shepherds need your assistance. Please go out to the flocks. Your lunch will be brought to you.”
Numidea was the first out the door. Grace caught up to her.
“Thanks for the help Gracie. ”
“Your welcome Num-Num. ”
The girls had been friends for years, often sharing in chores. Even though Grace was four years her junior, the girls were the same size and often paired together.
When they reached the shepherds, they found almost the entire village gathered in the shade of a small stand of trees. The pair could tell by the quiet tone that something was not right. Gnomes are joyous folk and silence was a sure sign something was amiss.
“Young kin, today we need your help.” Started an elder whose name Numidea had long since forgotten. “Several of our sheep have been taken in the last few days. Today two of the great rams have been killed.”
The youth gasped! The great rams stood taller than a gnome. With their large horns and larger temper they are more than a match for any creature in the area.
“So today the young ones will be watching the ewes and the lambs by the village. The rest of us will go searching for the beast.”
As the village was divided, Numidea was motioned over to the younglings.
“But I am old enough to go with the hunting party!”
Her fathers’ eyes flashed. “You are too small to get near a beast like that. Stay here with Grace!”
Within minutes the hunting parties were formed and dispatched. Grace and Numidea began padding to the western field with a handkerchief of bread and cheese and a skin of water. They sat down and watched the lambs moving in the fields. Numidea was silently twirling grass between her fingers.
“At least they didn’t put us in the North fields right beside the stables this time. ” Grace offered.
“Sure, this is so much bet…” Numidea stopped and the signaled with her hand for her friend to be still.
Something was moving in the nearby trees. Her senses had become tuned from months of trying to catch the elusive wisps at night. She pointed to the trees to signal to her friend. Both girls saw it at the same time.
Dark grey in color and with its head almost two gnomes in height, the great wolf moved silently out of the trees, stalking a ewe. As it approached the girls saw the tough hair rising from its head to the base of its tail and saw the giant paws with sharp claws. It must be a razor back wolf (3)!
They had only heard stories of these creatures. They should be in the forests to the south. Whatever the reason for its presence, the girls needed to get help and quickly. Numidea was about to grab her friend and run to the village when Grace stood up and ran straight at the wolf!
“Stay away from Nani!”
The creature was approaching a ewe with a yellow ribbon around its neck. This was Grace’s first lamb she helped birth and had been her favorite for two years. Grace picked up a rock and threw it at the wolf.
The pebble landed a few feet short but was enough to get the attention of the beast. It looked at the small figure running towards it and let out a chilling howl. Numidea acted quickly. She was on her feet and sprinted towards Grace. Despite her small size, Numidea was the fastest in her village by a wide margin. She reached her friend and took her shoulder.
“Go to the village and get help. I’ll take care of Nani.”
She new her friend would never leave Nani so this was the only way to get Grace to safety. Grace took off to the village and the wolf began to follow. Numidea picked up a stone and hit its hind flank. She yelled as loud as she could.
The wolf stopped and stared at Numidea with cold yellow eyes. The hairs down its back flared up and it let out a snort. Numidea could see how this beast could easily take down a great ram. What chance did she have?
She ran as fast as she could further west away from the village. While she was fast, the wolf was faster. She knew she would lose this race. Then she remembered her kerrick blades. As she practiced, she rolled while grabbing a knife and threw. The blade hit the wolf on the shoulder. The wolf paused and started circling Numidea. This stinging prey confused it.
Numidea drew another blade and kept circling with the wolf. She had no idea what to do. She had survived this long and hopefully the village would get here while she was still alive. The wolf lunged again and Numidea launched another blade. It struck in the center of the chest, causing a slight wound but far from felling the creature.
She saw movement out of the corner of her eye. Saying a silent prayer that it was help, her spirit was quickly dashed. It was another wolf. This one was a lighter color, probably its mate. There was no way she could defend against two of them.
Images flashed before her eyes. She saw her family mourning her death. She saw Grace and her fellow younglings being mauled by these beasts. Her eyes teared at the thought of her precious Hillock living in fear. These monsters are hunting in daylight right by the village. No one is safe!
Numidea felt a stirring in the pit of her stomach. She wanted to protect herself and her friends. The stirring was oddly similar to how she felt when she practiced the Saffron gnome magic, but it was different – more vibrant, intense and much more willful.
Half out of instinct and the rest out of pure need, Numidea drew two kerrick blades and channeled this newly discovered energy into them. She remembered the stories of wolves fearing fire, so she willed with all her might and threw the first blade. To her amazement it flashed crimson red and burst into flames! (4)
The thin kerrick blade struck the first wolf on the shoulder. The flames began to dance over its fur. She threw the second blade at the incoming wolf. This was a long shot but she new she had to act now. Again she willed the blade. Again, it flashed crimson, burst into flames and struck true.
Those acts of will expended her reserves. She started shaking, but quickly grabbed her final two blades. She could smell the burning flesh and fur coming from two directions. She kept turning, facing each wolf as they approached her from two different sides.
The wolves were smoldering and growing more enraged. The pain from this small piece of meat meant they would enjoy this kill more than the others. As their yellow eyes were deciding how to best dispatch this nuisance, Numidea felt helpless. She could still feel the power within, but simply could not summon the will to access it again. Tears welled in her eyes as she looked from left to right wondering which beast would finish her first.
The female wolf crouched down muscles tensing to pounce. Numidea said a silent goodbye and readied herself. The wolf leapt. Suddenly an arrow glowing crimson struck it in midair with such force the beast was knocked aside (5). Numidea looked and saw Gervick riding one of the Great Rams with a short bow in hand. He quickly knocked another arrow and let it fly towards the male. It hit with a crimson flash and an impossible thud pushing the other creature back several inches.
Gervick rode directly to Numidea and began circling her, placing himself between the wolves and the small, exhausted gnome. He drew a short sword and letting out a yell it burst into Crimson flame. His sword and the great horns of his mount held the fiends at bay for several minutes until the rest of the villagers arrived. Together they dispatched the great beasts with only a few injuries. No lives were lost.
That night the village celebrated the defeat of the wolves. The mystery of their presence would be investigated another day. Numidea quickly left the revelry behind to sit alone on her pallet. She was still numb from the events of the day. Drock approached his daughter. He lovingly placed a hand on her shoulder and with a gentle voice told her. “I was wrong in how I saw you. Come with me.”
He led her to Gervick’s house. Gervick was odd because he lived alone. Drock knocked and entered with his daughter. Gervick was sitting at a table examining several thin, black objects. They still smelled of blood and burned flesh. Numidea recognized them at once.
“So you made these?” Gervick asked with raised eyebrows.
“And you used them to defend yourself against not one, but two razor back wolves?”
Numidea started to shift nervously under the serious stares of her two seniors. Then surprisingly Gervick let out a full belly laugh.
“My girl you remind me what my master once said to me. It is not the stature of the fighter but the height of the spirit that truly matters. I saw what you did today. I never reckoned that you had the Crimson magic within you. Today you showed true courage in saving your friend and who knows how many others. In return, I guess the least I can do is train you to use your gifts.
Of course I will need the permission of your family to take you on as my apprentice.”
Numidea looked at her father in disbelief as he proudly nodded with tears of joy in his eyes.
Several years later, Numidea, now a fully trained fighter, while traveling through a small town, stopped at an Inn with a Special Room upstairs. The Venturers’ Guild maintained a second floor meeting room and she had heard that it was the best place to hear new stories and pick up the distant news. They might even have a small job for her.
by Jason Borton, 7/1/2015 updated 02/08/2017
To continue Numidea’s story, please play her character in The Venturer’s of Airth Table Top Game by RJ Borton
- Venturers of Airth® Species: Gnome
- Venturers of Airth® Gnome Species Spell: Stone Shape
- Venturers of Airth® Monster : Razor Back Wolf
- Venturers of Airth® Fighter Class Spell: Fire Blade
- Venturers of Airth® Fighter Class Spell: Enchanted Missile
A Tales of Airth® publication brought to you by The Phanta Corp.
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