Belix

Motto: Steam is the Blood of Industry
Language: Gnomish, Avenan Common
Current Head of State: Trade Council (5 person council)
Ethnic Groups: 99% gnomes, 1% other (sea elves, wood elves, dwarves, halflings, humans)
Demonym: Belixian
Government: plutocracy
Population: 9,500
Patron Gods: Garl Glittergold
Year Founded: 912 Before the Scourge

Government
Members of the Trade Council are selected by the simple expedient of picking whichever specialist in each critical trade is the most economically successful. This can render the Council occasionally volatile, but it has historically also – surprisingly – led to a high degree of economic diversity and robustness. Gnomes – being long-lived – tend to take the long view of business success, and as a result worry less about short term protectionism, and more about long-term viability.

The Trade Council is responsible for instituting and enforcing economic and defense policy throughout the city. Aside from this basic level of oversight, the Trade Council has little authority – social policy is left up to individual families and trade guilds (of which there are a great many). This is surprisingly effective, since gnome families tend to be large and multigenerational, leading to sophisticated networks of intermarriage – and therefore economic and social alliance.

The current members of the Trade Council are:
Corymil Fono – Chief Innovator
Fudnab Bleemut – Chief Tradesman
Shajon Rauldur – Chief Tinkerer
Murdo Nambur – Chief Metallurgist
Lindnok Hednab – Chief Gemcutter

The Trade Council has the power to levy extremely limited taxes and tariffs. The income generated by these taxes and tariffs is used to maintain the infrastructure of the city, its defensive works, a small professional police force, and a small criminal court system.

Military
The Belixian military is a strictly defensive force – gnomes have little need for war or conquest, and have rarely fielded an expeditionary force. The militia is made up of volunteers who receive basic training in the use of battleaxes, shorts swords, crossbows and gnomish siege weaponry (which tends to be much more complex than the siege weaponry of other races). There is also a large, disorganized contingent of bards and wizards active within the Belixian militia. On the occasions Belix has been forced to defend itself from an external threat, the event has been accompanied by a great many large-scale illusions, bizarre summonings, thunderous explosions, and lingering weird weather.

The city itself is organized around fairly complex but effective defensive principles. Belix is made up of hundreds of small islands connected by a huge complex of comfortable, well-lit burrows and tunnels underground, and sophisticated drawbridges above. Surrounding the complex of islands and canals is an artificial floodplain that, in the event of a conventional assault, can be drowned in nearly fifteen feet of water in a matter of minutes. More than one army has been inundated and destroyed before ever reaching the outskirts of the city.

Within the city, the drawbridges can be easily raised and the canals patrolled by hundreds of small, fast gunboats manned by crossbowmen and wizards, while other ranged attackers man siege weaponry mounted on the roofs of the taller buildings in the city.

During the winter, many of the canals are allowed to freeze, but those that are critical to industry are kept flowing by pumping steam into them from nearby workshops. Most canals can be returned to liquid state within a few hours to a few days by the same means.

Pre-Scourge Avenan ambassador to Belix, Riosh Balbannon, once noted that “while the deployment of Belix’s militia is almost comically inept, its defensive works are frighteningly effective. Ground troops must contend with the unstoppable fury of a raging tidal wave, while aerial forces find themselves sailing through a cloud of living flame.”

Cities
Before the Scourge, Belix was the largest city in the north, with a population of almost 26 thousand, and several outlying suburbs. Belix also boasted colonies as far east as the Hamatül Fjords, and as far south as the northern border of the Empire.

The Belix caer was built largely underneath the city, as a collaborative effort between many of the engineers who call it home. Many domestic burrows were simply expanded downward into the tunnel that gave entrance to the caer, which was then sealed off for the duration of the Scourge. The gnomes of Belix made extensive use of their ability to communicate with burrowing animals during this period

Belix today is considerably smaller, and has little contact with the outside world beyond a trading relationship with the gnomes of Ap’Lei. Even so, the gnomes have been out of their caer for longer than any other race, and have built Belix into a thriving and prosperous city over the course of the last decade.

Religion
Worship of Garl Glittergold is overwhelmingly predominant within Belix, given that he is the chief deity of the gnomes. There are no organized churches within the city, but there are scores of shrines. Most shrines feature puzzles, tricks, jokes or even painful (but never deadly) traps that often yield powerful blessings once defeated or understood.

Clerics of Garl are typically chosen through visions granted by Garl himself. They are responsible for the maintenance of the shrines, as well as the performance of baptisms, blessings of families and business enterprises, marriages and other ceremonies. They typically make their livings by performing these services, as well as maintaining their own businesses as healers, public speakers or even street performers. Clerics that reside in the city are also paid a small stipend out of the taxes collected by the Trade Council. They are granted a great deal of respect within the city, despite the fact that they are also often a source of chaos, engaging as they sometimes do in vast and complicated practical jokes.

There are also a number of lesser deities of family, commerce and magic that receive worship and tithes.

Languages
Gnomish is spoken almost exclusively across the city, though most citizens also still speak Avenan Common for its utility as a trade language.

Culture
Belix is a true neutral city with strong chaotic leanings. Education focuses on business and industry, with a special focus on water and steam driven machines and magic.

It is an overwhelmingly mercantile city; most of the citizens of the city are traders, shopkeepers, alchemists, engineers or inventors. Nearly everyone is in some way involved in the production, transport or sale of goods and services.

Family, clan and business are of paramount importance. Gnomes are very long-lived, and often have two or three children scores of years apart in age. As a result, family alliances and business relationships can become extraordinarily complex.

Homes are generally constructed at least partially underground, and are typically called “burras” or “holes.” Most of the city is, in fact, underground, with only some businesses and most industrial buildings appearing entirely on the surface. From above, the appearance of Belix is one of small, rolling hills, occasionally interrupted by a modest wooden building or a mill.

Litigation is rare, but there is nonetheless a sophisticated civil court system for the resolution of disputes. The decisions of the courts are not enforced by government mandate, but for a gnome to violate a court ruling is considered extraordinarily bad form. One risks one’s reputation by not abiding by a decision. The civil court maintains itself by charging fees of the litigants as part of its judgments.

Close family relationships, strong economic diversity and the chance of social isolation render crime fairly rare, but there is a small criminal court system and police force. The single jail in Belix is used primarily to house those suffering from the effects of strong drink, misbehaving visitors to the city, and individuals who owe the civil court a substantial sum. On the rare occasion that someone is convicted of a serious crime like murder or grand theft, indentured servitude or banishment is more likely than a prison sentence or execution.

Practical jokes and riddles are a critical part of the social life of Belix. There is a riddles competition held four times a year that draws almost the entire city, either as participants or spectators. Competitors submit riddles, hoping to stump their opponents. The puzzles can take almost any form, from an arcane engineering challenge to deceptively simple wordplay, but they must require nothing more than a keen intellect to answer. The winner of the contest is the guest of honor at a grand feast that closes the week long competition, and is feted as a celebrity throughout the city until a new champion is crowned at the next festival.

Most practical jokes are played by one individual on another, but some target the populace as a whole. The city is occasionally paralyzed by especially grand practical jokes. Whether the perpetrators are punished or not depends on how funny the joke is once it is revealed. Most of the truly ambitious practical jokes are perpetrated by clerics of Garl Glittergold.

Though the gnomes of Belix are not aquatic, they do enjoy a special relationship with the canals that flow through their city, and the vast harbor on which it sits. Living as far north as they do, the inhabitants of the city are used to harsh weather, including heavy snows and early-Spring floods. Much of the industry in Belix is driven by either water or steam power, and there are technologies present in the city that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The gnomes have managed to build rough steam engines which, while prone to common malfunction, they use with wild enthusiasm. Much of the mining and milling in the city, as well as its defensive works, depends on a constant flow of water.

Unlike most other gnomes and all dwarves, the gnomes of Belix enjoy swimming, and spend much of their leisure time in the water. It is not uncommon to see the canals crowded with pleasure craft of all types, and even swimmers, though that is less usual.

Economy
The primary exports from Belix include many precious and semi-precious stones, advanced alchemical technology, water and steam-based technology, low-level magic items with a special focus on illusion, and, significantly, the finest sailing ships and portable siege weapons outside of the Empire. The immense deep-water port on which it sits allows Belix to be the home of more than a score of shipyards (though only three are active at this time; most of the others are destroyed after nearly four centuries of neglect). Before the Scourge, the shipbuilding capacity of Belix rivaled even that of the Empire, and Belixian ships were often employed by Ta-Den and the Elven city-states as a counter to Imperial naval power.

Trade within the city has always been brisk as precious stones change hands constantly, and the alchemical industry is energetic and full of rivalry. The economy of Belix shrank significantly during the Scourge, but the city was able to scale down smoothly as its population moved into the caer. Growth has been slow to restart in Belix, but the renewed trading connection with Ap’Lei has kick-started the economy, and already made a few gnomes quite rich.

Despite this, there are some gnomes – especially among those who survive from before the Scourge – who favor continued isolation. Most of these gnomes are influenced by an ancient anti-Imperial sentiment, but many of them advocate cutting off ties even with Ap’Lei in the belief that it is still too soon to risk letting outsiders into the city when any one of them could be a disguised monster (or, it goes without saying, an Imperial agent scouting the city for annexation).

Demography
The population of Belix is almost entirely gnome. There are few, if any, half-blood individuals, though it is not entirely unheard of for a gnome to have a child with a summoned or elemental creature. The few non-gnomes in the city are either visiting for the purposes of exploration or trade (in the case of most elves), or were trapped their at the beginning of the Scourge (in the case of dwarves). The few humans in the city are the descendants of Imperial traders, soldiers and embassy staff. These humans rarely consider themselves Imperial citizens.

Though many non-gnomes take part in the traditional trades practiced by gnomes, many others have chosen to adopt specialized roles within the city. Many of the dwarves and humans serve as military consultants and militia commanders, or in other roles to which gnomes are less inclined.

People, Organizations and Locations
Corymil Fono – Chief Innovator on the Trade Council, alchemist and engineer
Fudnab Bleemut – Chief Tradesman on the Trade Council, gemcutter
Shajon Rauldur – Chief Tinkerer on the Trade Council, inventor and engineer
Murdo Nambur – Chief Metallurgist on the Trade Council, engineer and smith
Lindnok Hednab – Chief Gemcutter on the Trade Council, gemcutter and engineer

Castlereagh Books – William Castlereagh is the descendant of a member of the Avenan embassy to Belix. When they were originally assigned to the Belix embassy, his family brought with them an immense collection of unusual works of fiction and history. William’s great-grandfather inherited the collection of books, which had been greatly expanded over the years, and decided to turn it into a library. For a small fee, anyone is free to browse the collection of books. Additional fees cover the occasional lending of books, or a copying service for which William employs several scribes. William uses the small profits from these fees to expand his collection and restore the older works included in it.

The Doughty Hammer – This smithy is operated by a small family of dwarves trapped here by the Scourge. The patriarch of this family is named Ogun Hammersly, and he is one of the few surviving dwarves from the city of Andurrial. Though there are any number of highly-skilled smiths and craftsmen in Belix, the Doughty Hammer is widely regarded as the finest – especially when it comes to the manufacture of weapons and armor.

The Winding Road – This is the primary inn used by traders visiting Belix. There are smaller guesthouses, but the Winding Road is the only one to offer private rooms in which to dine and do business, a tavern, and the best winter stew in the city. The owner is a young woman named Molly Coddlington, who is not only an excellent cook, but also a magnet for many of the young men in the area.

History
With the exception of Ndango, Belix has been continuously occupied longer than any other settlement on the northern continent, and may date back even before the beginning of the Imperial calendar in 1213 BS. Though the official date of foundation of Belix, and the beginning of its recorded history, is 912 BS, the land was a gnome settlement long before then.

The name Belix reflects the city’s humble origins; in ancient gnomish, velicas means “fertile wetland.” The name of the city is merely a description of the land on which it sits. On very ancient maps, the city is designated variously as “Velic,” Belics,” and “Velics.” The modern name Belix has been in use since 528 BS, and reflects the more relaxed pronunciation and spelling of modern gnomish, as well as the loss or evolution of some words (gnomish no longer makes a distinction between types of wetland, using the single common term beortosh).

It is difficult to say for certain when the land on which Belix now sits was the first settled by gnomes. Imperial scholars have found evidence of other, more ancient gnome cities on the Mercian continent , some dating back as far as the last Age of Mystery, when it supposed that the dragon kin died out and the current civilized races came into being, but according to gnome legend, Belix and Ap’Lei are the first and most ancient homelands of the gnomes. The cities share a common origin myth in which Garl Glittergold, while burying jewels and precious metals in a mine deep within the earth, discovered the first gnomes sealed inside of a giant geode. Having discovered the gnomes, Garl declared himself their protector, and decided to lead them out into the world. During the journey to the surface, however, Garl came upon a fork in the way. He turn to the gnomes and told them they must make a choice of which way to go.

“One way,” he said, “you will find warm and full of all the wealth I have scattered through the earth. But you must be clever, for the ground will be forever unsteady beneath your feet, and the fire that lights your forges can also burn your homes.”

“The other way,” Garl told the gnomes, “you will find full of life, and all the space you could ever need. But you must be clever, for the air will grow very cold, and the same water that feeds your crops can also drown you.”

The gnomes discussed among themselves, and agreed to split up; half would go one way, and half the other, and thus both gnome homelands were settled at the same time.

However the gnomes came to be on the land, they remained isolated for at least several hundred years. Some ancient stories collected by William Castlereagh and other scholars indicate that the Belixian gnomes must have had early encounters with the dark elves of the Shattered Lands, and possibly also with the aquatic elves that live in the deepest parts of Belix Bay.

The origins of gnomish engineering actually date to a prehistoric legend of the human adventurer Bor Bladeblood. Unlike many of the ancient legendary figures, Bladeblood’s activities are fairly well-documented, including his sojourn in Belix. Brought to the settlement by a group of gnome explorers, Bor immediately became an important figure to the fledgling community. Records of Bor’s adventures indicate that he was a quick-tempered and largely amoral individual, but he apparently felt a great affection for the gnomes. He spent at least two years in the area, taught many of the local adventurers the art of swordplay, and left behind the first piece of dwarven steel any of the gnomes had seen. This single piece of steel proved to be the foundation of a revolution for the gnomes.

Using it as a template, and Bor’s description of the dwarven bloomery process as inspiration, gnome craftsmen managed to reverse-engineer the first gnome steel. This revolutionized not only the production of weapons, but also the production of farm implements and shipbuilding. By the time Besiktan adventurers first made contact with Belix in 846 BS, gnomish steel was nearly as fine as dwarven, and was often available at a fraction of the cost. Largely as a result of their high-quality steel, the gnomes established friendly and lucrative trading relationships with the humans in Besiktas and Aksum (located on the southern coast of Belix Bay).

Aside from this anecdote, little is known about the city before it’s official founding. Though gnomes live for a long time, they do not have many children, and the settlement grew slowly until 918 BS, when a series of attacks by a rampaging kobold tribe inspired a loose confederation of farmers and tradesmen to collaborate on a series of defensive works meant to protect their homes and families. Thus was the core of what eventually became Belix constructed.

The loose defensive works attracted more remote tradesmen to relocate to their safer, more central confines. In turn, the growing collection of gnomes in one central area provided an opportunity for outlying farmers to sell their surplus. And so Belix continued to grow, until in 912 the original group of farmers and tradesmen formed the first Trade Council in an effort to recoup some of the investment they’d made in constructing the first canals and defensive trenches.

It was around this time that small groups of gnomes, disenchanted with the more sedentary lives of their fellows, began to leave the city in search of their fortune in the wider world. Other gnomes – fishermen mostly – began to experiment with more sophisticated boats capable of sailing into the open ocean beyond the bay.

From Besiktas, Belix learned more about the arts of fortification and warfare. In return, the humans of Besiktas acquired a vast amount of magical knowledge from the gnomes. Likewise, the relationship between Aksum and Belix resulted in a quick increase in shipbuilding skills. It was a joint team of humans and engineers who – in 799 – built the first sailing ship large and sturdy enough for a long journey in the open ocean.

In 842 BS, a party of gnome adventurers reached the dwarven settlement at Andurrial, and immediately opened a trade relationship. A single family of gnomes, the Burriburs, managed to protect the knowledge of the route between Belix and Andurrial for 96 years. During that time, they controlled the movement of precious stones and metals, high-quality finished goods, wood, spices and food between the gnomes and the dwarves, and grew ridiculously wealthy as a result.

With the monopoly came greed. When another family managed to finally discover a route to Andurrial themselves, the Burriburs secretly hired a party of Besiktan assassins to kill them. This first murder, occurring as it did on the road, was blamed on brigands. But as the knowledge of the route to Andurrial inevitably began to spread, a pattern of violence and intimidation began to emerge. For 8 years, everyone who tried to compete with the Burriburs was afflicted with a string of bad luck leading to death or economic ruin. Finally, in 738 BS, a paladin of Garl Glittergold named Horful the
Daring exposed the Burriburs for what they were, revealing that the family was responsible for as many as sixteen murders.

Since that time, Belixian society has frowned on monopolistic practices. Trade is expected to be fair, and information to be shared. Gnomes consider businessmen who cannot succeed without dishonesty to be either fools or cowards.

From that time until the first contact with the Empire, Belix lived in relative peace. The population of the city grew, and some families and trade groups established settlements outside the city. Mining camps sprung up along the northern fjords, while farming and fishing communities appeared all along the shore of Belix Bay, and in the land between the gnome city and Besiktas. A small undersea settlement was even established in conjunction with a tribe of sea elves that lives just outside the mouth of the bay (though that settlement – and the magic and technology that made it possible – was lost after the destruction of Aksum). Trade also thrived. Relationships were established with places as far flung as Anglesey. Trade, intermarriage and immigration between Belix an Ap’Lei was brisk.

During the long peace that followed, extensive collaboration between gnome illusionists and the conjurers and evokers of Aksum led to a golden age of magical advancement. Discovery piled upon discovery, and while many of the most powerful spells were impossible to perform at the time, the principles that underpin them were established in the two cities during this period.

By 305 BS, Imperial adventurers and occasional groups of soldiers had begun appearing in Belix. They brought with them strange new items for trade, the Avenan Common language, and news of a vast and unstoppable army marching north, borne on flying ships and sweeping all before them.

In 298, trade with Anglesey suddenly ceased as the Imperial conquest of that kingdom began. More news of the dreaded and unstoppable Imperial army began to flood northward. Belix’s long peace was finally brought to an end in 294 BS, when the Imperial army descended on Besiktas and took the city in less than a month.

Only a few weeks after the fall of Besiktas, an Imperial fleet appeared at the mouth of Belix Bay. The Empire quickly established a blockade of the bay and sent messages ashore to both Belix and Aksum, declaring that Aksum was being annexed by the Empire. Any resistance would be viewed as rebellion, and any assistance given to rebels by Belix would be seen as an act of war.

Despite the Imperial army’s reputation, rumors of its difficulties in Anglesey had filtered north through the dwarven kingdoms. Spies from Aksum and refugees from Besiktas indicated that more and more units of the Imperial army were being pulled south to feed the conquest of the mountain kingdom. As the Imperial army in the north shrank, and the terrifying fleet of flying warships moved south one by one, the determination to resist in Aksum grew.

By the time the Empire had fully subdued Besiktas and established a strong garrison there, Aksum’s defenses had been strengthened with gnomish technology, and secret lines of trade between Belix and the human city had been established both overland, over the water, and underground.

The Imperial navy quickly grew frustrated at their difficulty interdicting the fast, steam-powered boats of the gnomish smugglers, and the enhanced magical defenses of Aksum helped to repulse attack after attack on the city. Eventually the harsh northern winter fell, and the Empire was forced to retire to winter quarters in Besiktas. The blockade of the bay continued however, and even during the winter dozens of skirmishes were fought along the coast of the bay as Imperial squads continued to try to interrupt the flow of supplies from Belix to Aksum.

The spring of 293 saw the resumption of the siege of Aksum, and a new aggressiveness on the part of the Empire. Anglesey had begun to falter, and many of the Empire’s airships had returned from the fight in the mountains. The season opened with an aerial assault on Belix itself – a punitive expedition designed to discourage the gnomes from offering any more assistance to their southern neighbors.

To the Empire’s surprise, the seemingly undefended and indefensible Belix proved to be far more formidable than they had ever thought. Over the course of the winter, gnome engineers – inspired by the Imperial airships, but unable to replicate the magic that made them function – had developed a technological workaround. The Imperial assault faced a fleet of small boats slung under hot air balloons. The gnome boats were smaller, slower, and less maneuverable than the Imperial ships, but they were also equipped with mechanical bolt throwers that could fire a dozen arrows in the time it took an Imperial archer to fire three, and a few were simply packed with explosives. During the entire First Period of Imperial Expansion, the Empire lost nine airships – three of those were lost during the punitive raid on Belix.

In addition to the fight in the air above Belix, a flying column of nearly four thousand Imperial soldiers approached Belix on the ground, intent on burning or destroying outlying farms and workshops, and penetrating as deep into the city as possible, killing defenders and destroying property as they went. Instead, the brigade was shattered and routed when the dry plain across which they charged was suddenly inundated by a tidal wave released from an underground reservoir. Though few of the soldiers were killed in the flood, none of them made it to the city, and not a single gnome lost his life in hand to hand combat against Imperial soldiers on the ground. All told, the raid on Belix was a complete failure.

The Empire responded by redoubling its efforts against Aksum. Navy raids destroyed its port facilities. The Empire scuttled three of its older ships in an attempt to render water routes to the city totally impassable. Constant aerial patrols sent gnomish balloons caught outside of Belix flaming into the water. When the winter of 293 fell, Aksum still resisted, but the city was much reduced, and the ability of Belix to render assistance had been severely limited. By the summer of 292, Aksum had fallen, Anglesey had capitulated, and the First Period of Imperial Expansion was over.

For the next sixty years, Belix and the Empire existed in an uneasy state of detente. The Empire professed no interest in annexing Belix, but their record of conquest conveyed a different message. The Empire controlled half the known world, with only the gnomish and dwarven homelands left independent in the north. The Empire maintained almost constant hostilities with the dwarves of Ndango, and Aksum became the home of both the Imperial Magical College and the Fleet of the West. It was difficult for the long-lived gnomes to forget the Battle of Aksum when the shadows of Imperial airships regularly fell across their city.

Nonetheless, most of the people in Aksum remained as they had been, and slowly, relations with that city began to normalize. The Empire brought new trade and new technology, and the Imperial Magical College – as well as the laissez-faire pre-Scourge attitude towards magical experimentation – brought new magical discoveries. What had begun as open hostility eventually turned into a friendly rivalry, as gnomish and Imperial engineers and wizards competed against one another to be the first to put the latest theory into practice.

The relationship between Belix and the Empire relaxed further during the Second Period of Imperial Expansion. Much of the Fleet of the West was moved south to assist in the conquest of the elven city-states, or to battle the Ta-Den fleets in the Finger Reach. The horrors of that period never reached as far north as Aksum, and so the only outcome of the conquest of the south was an influx of gold every time a successful captain brought his ship home from the wars.

Once again, Belix was at peace. Faltering Imperial trade meant new opportunities for gnomish traders. The relationships with Andurrial and Anglesey resumed. Magic flourished. Gnomes once again ventured out into the world, determined to discover all there was to discover. Some even immigrated to non-gnome cities, going as far east as Anglesey, and as far south as Avenanhma.

The Golden Age of the Empire saw further growth and success. The populations of both Aksum and Belix boomed, and the borders of the Empire began to blur as Belix and Aksum expanded around the coast of the Belix Bay.

The destruction of Aksum was nearly catastrophic for Belix. Many of the coastal settlements were destroyed. Massive waves pounded Belix for days afterward, and the canals surged out of control. Hundreds of gnomes drowned in their burras as uncontrollable flash floods inundated the city. The dust cloud cast into the sky from the explosion blotted out the sun above Belix for nearly three years; winter fell in July of that year, crops were destroyed and farming became incredibly difficult for years afterward. Famine became a fact of life. In the course of a single day, life in Belix went from being an ongoing quest for the next big discovery to a constant struggle for survival.

The destruction of Andurrial in 3 YS went largely unnoticed in Belix as the city continued to struggle to recover from the cataclysm at Aksum. The event that brought home the reality of the Scourge was instead the loss of Besiktas.

Trade between Belix and Besiktas had sustained the population of the gnome city since the destruction of Aksum. But in 4 YS, a trading caravan disappeared during a mission to the Imperial city. Subsequent trade missions revealed a city struggling under the weight of a dire plague. What little assistance Belix could render was given, but it was simply too little, too late – and in any case, what was originally thought to be a simple disease was in reality the result of either vile magic or the depredations of some hideous monster – for the people of Besiktas were not simply dying. They were being transformed, one by one, into the shambling undead. By the time the Imperial army was broken at Viti Marches, Besiktas had become a city of the damned.

That same year – 5 YS – an Imperial packet arrived in Belix bearing plans for a caer. The gnomes, having already concluded that the Scourge was likely to last for a century or more, quickly agreed to the Imperial price for the plans, and began construction.

Aside from a string of attacks by a mated pair of white dragons in 7 YS and renewed attacks from kobolds, orcs and suddenly deadly and aggressive trolls, Belix was spared much of the destruction of the early years of the Scourge. The one exception was the wild magic that afflicted the land. The city, once so dependent on magic for its defense and its technology, was plagued by violent storms, elemental assaults, and demonic possessions until the Trade Council issued a recommendation that magic be restricted, at least until its result became more predictable.

Once the caer was complete, the Scourge passed Belix by in relative peace. Certainly the city was subjected to many of the same dangers as others – infiltration by shape changers and mind-controllers, population stagnation, economic isolation – but the caer functioned as was intended – it protected the remaining population of the city from the nightmare above.

In 365 YS, the first gnomes emerged from the caer at Belix to find their once thriving city gone. Washed away by three and a half centuries of storms, waves, and wind, what had once been a thriving gnomish metropolis was now nothing more than a few gentle hills rising out of a frozen, reed-choked swamp.

Still, the land was once again relatively safe. The storms that whipped the shore of Belix Bay no longer bore the fury of the elemental. Evil dragons did not descend on every sign of civilized life. Low-level magic functioned as it should. Life – and just as important, business – could resume.

The past 13 years have been a struggle for the gnomes of Belix, but they have passed in relative peace. Contact was reestablished with their cousins at Ap’Lei. The gnomes of Belix hold the distinction of being the first to venture back into the open ocean, and the combined navy of Ap’Lei and Belix is currently the most powerful in the world.

And just recently, the first adventurers from the Avenan Empire have arrived, signaling to the gnomes that they are, at long last, not alone in the world.

Belix

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