Throck forest is divided into three parts: a region of twisted black magic, which is dark and hemmed in with the legions of sable pine. This is Spindel, and is occupied by the hideous Ettercaps and their spider-pets. The second area is the chaotic elfin-wood, where the druids work their wyrd magic amongst the oaks. The last part is Udnalor, the home of the gnomes. Finding themselves surrounded by these chaotic forces they dwell as quietly as possible beneath the surface. Their culture is a fascinating one to visit...

UDNALOR

Upon entering the deep underrealm of Udnalor, one must first pass through the upper halls, which were the residences of the gnomes in days of past glories. Now they
have abandoned the fading tapestries to the worms and moles, and an uncanny silence reigns, laid over the oaken tables like the thick layers of dust and humus. There may be creatures which now inhabit these areas: nests livid with giant maggots, rats and other vermin. The watchtowers and passageways which lead to the Overground are frequently trodden, however. After all it takes a great many small humanoids to hoist a single giant rabbit corpse back through the fathoms of earth. The gnomes primarily hunt giant rabbits with bows and arrows tipped with the subterranean poisons concocted by their best alchemists. Unwary adventurers may come across their hunting hides in the surrounding woodland, which generally consist of a wooden screen covered in foliage with three or four arrow slits cut into it. These are set up by the side of the "rabbit-runs", the favoured feeding routes of the creatures. Most of the pathways and clearings in the forest are actually made by rabbits: the gnomes tend not to use paths.

Having left the hush of the upper halls, and crossed the depths of the Braeth (an underground river, which is not all that deep because bear in mind we're talking about gnomes here), you would find yourself in Wattling Street, the main road through Udnalor. It's actually a long, well-worn passageway which opens out eventually into the City Centre. The gnome-buildings branch off Wattling Street as small burrows or caverns with boulder-blocked doorways for privacy. You can find armourers and smiths (though their armour tends to be on the small side for humans to buy) and many other types of trader. There are many streets, ginnels and cooies which run off Wattling Street, the most famous probably being Smell Street, the domain of the infamous gnomish alchemists, the eponymous smell being very distinctive: the stench of cooking fungus, the aroma of subterranean spices, the pungent reek of rotting carcasses (used in some of the more notorious experiments). An encounter with an alchemist can really be spiced up (excuse the pun) if you have a well-stocked herb
cupboard, and actually make up the potions, elixirs and draughts as they are ordered by characters.

Lastly, one reaches the inner sanctum, the four halls of King Laetheli. He is accompanied by an entourage of warrior-gnomes wherever he goes, and feasts nightly in First Hall. His fifteen young children by four wives can often be found playing around in the filth on the floor of the Halls, hiding and seeking, telling stories or yo-yoing (yo-yos were invented by the ingenious gnomes as weapons, but were subsequently adopted as a child's toy). There is not much formality in the court of a gnome-King, the only protocol being NOT to use the L-word...

The Udnalorian warriors wear leathery armour (made from tanned rabbit hide) or bark-mail (very effective at absorbing blows and slashes, not so good against fireballs). Their helmets are metal, the current trend being for sleek and short (in past centuries they've been a little unwieldy with horns). They tend to employ short halberds, spears and swords with rudimentary longbows (though crossbows are becoming more widely used as the technology improves - they currently take five minutes to reload). Gnomish arrows are beyond compare, the cruelly barbed and poisoned tips show a degree of unprecedented sadism.

Udnalorian currency is in the form of small metal or wooden spheres, the metal ones being about twenty times as valuable as the wooden ones, the wooden ones each sufficing to buy two loaves. Maggots are also used as small change, as they are also considered a small delicacy. When maggots pupate they are no longer viable currency (they soon turn into flies and have lost their taste by this point).

Aside from maggots, rabbits are the main fare: from small bunnies to giant beasts their carcasses can be found hanging in the marketplace in Hollo Square. Bread is leavened by various bacterial cultures and looks none too appetising. It tends to be uneven and bubbly with crusts of mould. But the gnomes seem to like it. Cheese is made from rabbit and dog milk (milk tends to go off to quickly, so it needs to be made solid). Cheese tends to be blue. As for drink, there is root-wine (which tastes like potato juice) and fermented mushroom (sipped from the cup, literally). The gnomes also like to drink water (the water of the Braeth has a very minerally taste). Rabbit-hunters occasionally find nests in the woods and bring back eggs, which are considered the same way we regard caviar. In fact, in the egg plays an important part in gnomish folklore. Most gnomes have never seen a bird flying (their pet birds are flightless).

There are three main types of wall fungus growing down here: the edible foriacutus, mangalond and frondy preserya; the inedible gyrsuth and oglet and the poisonous red wart, musm and glag. Of these the glag is the most dangerous: it grows low where gnome children and pets can reach it. Gnomes keep dogs (which they bred from wolves, originally for the purpose of rabbit hunting), rodents (generally in cages) and a curious flightless underground bird they call the Doocri. These tend to wander around and they can often be found in gaggles, or running around screeching.

The gnomes have developed a distaste for magic, bordering on a resistance. As the saying goes, aught of the outside isn't of the inside, and magic is most definitely of the outside. The thick earth above Udnalor protects them from the worst ravages of chaotic magic which infect the rest of the woodland, and it is forbidden for gnomish alchemists to practice or even experiment with magic. As a result, they will be very suspicious of any magical characters who come into their territory. The rabbit-hunters have been known to shoot elves who come too close to the gates...

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