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Forest Gnomes: Thoughts from an Angstholm Raised Half-Elf

I grew up raised among gnomes, a tall aberration in a short world, so for me, how they dressed and how they represented themselves was just part of my everyday life.  If I thought about it at all, when I was with them, it was out of a concern as to how I could make myself, the peculiarity, the "tall boy," fit.

I know my father was elven and my mother human.  I remember her a bit, and him not at all.  In my earliest memories he was already gone, his absence already unremarked upon and accepted as normal.  She I remember as being very tall, and very soft, and sweet smelling.  I remember her voluminous skirts.

As a child the Angstholm dressed me as one of their adults, though more modestly, and with an eye to masking my elven features.  I wore the huiteo, the beaded browband.  It was leather-backed, and the front was decorated with thousands of tiny glass beads.  Other boys my age had glyphs on their huiteo, they were already dividing up by family and by lineage, but mine was simple geometrics.  During a quarrelsome period, I remember a boy asking me how I could know if I was to be a man or a woman when I grew up, as I had no framed-glyph on my huiteo.  I'm ashamed to say I hit him in his gnomish nose, but that his words probably hurt me longer.

I wore the square-necked tunic before the other boys, to hide my scrawny chest.  They ran around bare-chested longer, but we all took up the apotl at the same time.  In two long lines, girls on one side, boys on the other, we filed into the temple, our shoulders bared.  Each one of us knelt at the altar for the ceremonial cuts, once on each shoulder for the boys and twice on the right for the girls.  Our apotl, and the girls' apotla, were laid onto our still bleeding skin as a balm.  The feathered capes grew sticky with our blood.  When I took my apotl off, hours after the ceremony, it tore the wound open again.  The same thing happened the second day, but not so much the third.

I had to make my own apotl clasp, like the other boys.  Theirs were easier, I think, and many of them cribbed from what they'd seen of their father's designs.  I didn't have that luxury, so I had to decide for myself what my glyph would be.  Being male, my apotl clasp had a squared frame, as opposed to the round frame of the girls.  I had been taught my glyphic history from a young age.  The system originated as purely Bloodline designs on apotl and apotla clasps.  As the 'Lines became distant, the glyphs came to take on deeper and deeper meanings, becoming more particular to each group.  Though they aren't a language in themselves, the glyphs function as a pidgin between a written gnomish language and the symbolic imagery that each 'Line draws upon for a sense of group.

We, they, the gnomes that raised me, were Angstholm.  The glyphs of those around me were influenced by our proximity to the sea.  The designs favored faunal imagery, tending towards the oceanic.  My apotl ended up like those of the Angstholm boys -- stylized, busy and made from shell mosaic and inlay.  I ultimately went with a design of a linear mother-of-pearl shark's tooth on a field of mosaic blue periwinkle shell.  I've since seen other gnomes, and other apotl clasp designs, and they're very different.  The convention of male and female framing seems the same, but the design aesthetics differ.

While the other boys wore leathern breeches that came to their knees, my pants were always longer.  We shared the same bare feet though.  The girls always got to go barefooted as well, though I pitied them the many layers of extra clothing they had to wear -- full skirts, with lots of layers, wrapped tops of woven material, the heavy cloth nonalca waist-sash with its thin, overlaid metal belt, and their basrenne, which were always catching on things.  The boys had it easier.

When I was done growing, and had passed my trial at sea and my trial at shore, I was given the choice to stay or to go.  I chose to stay, for a time.  My mother was just a memory from childhood and my father's people, as I was given to understand, would consider me an abomination raised by uncivilized heathen.  I didn't really have anywhere to go.  I did ultimately leave, but only when I was ready.  The Angstholm gave me the send off of a member of the 'Line, for which I was thankful.  Knowing now what I do of the outside world, I'm grateful I was raised where I was, and how I was.  I consider myself Angstholm, not elven or human or half-elven.  I consider my people gnomish.

Terms

Apotl/Apotla: This garment is a feathered cloak, which is cut to waist-length.  The color and type of feathers varies based on to which Bloodline the wearer belongs.  The male version is called the apotl (uh-PO-tull) and the female version the apotla (uh-PO-t-la)

Apotl/Apotla clasp:  The clasp is an indicator, like a crest, with a glyphic symbol.

Huiteo:  These beaded brow-bands are worn around the forehead and over the tops of the ears, concealing their peaks.  They are leather-backed, with beaded glass designs on the exposed surface.  These designs usually incorporate the glyphic system as a central motif, with solid color backgrounds.  Huiteo are worn by men, and by women when the gnomish people are at war.

Basrenne:  The forest gnome feronniere is characterized by a chain of woven or linked reeds, which can be dyed.  The gem that is suspended from the basrenne is usually in a natural state, though carving is acceptable.  Basrenne are only worn by women.

Nonalca:  The nonalca is a female only item of clothing, which serves as a bridge between the blousy, shawl-like shirts and full skirts favored by the gnomes.  It is a wide, waist-worn fabric sash, overlaid with a thin belt, usually of metal links.

Glyphs

Each Bloodline group has a different glyphic style, though they all share the convention of a square frame for males and a round frame for females.  Glyphs are commonly shown on apotl and apotla clasps, as primary motifs on huiteo brow-bands and as personal marks, in lieu of signatures, on official documentation.

Basingstroke glyphs:  Basingstroke glyphs are the closest in design to the original apotla of the pre-schism gnomish people.  The interiors of both male and female feature a faunal theme worked into a linear knotwork design.  Basingstroke apotla clasps feature multiple glyphs and are generally larger than those of other 'Lines.

Wendwillow glyphs:  Wendwillow glyphs are abstract and linear, with a whimsical, gentle nature.  Trees with faces, hand-shapes and feathers are common in their designs.   Apotla clasps are wood, frequently of two-tones or multiple inlays.

Angstholm glyphs:  Angstholm glyphs are influenced by their proximity to the sea, and are ornamented with a deeply symbolic system of faunal imagery favoring oceanic life.  Designs are stylized and busy.  Apotla clasps are shell mosaic and inlay.

Greengair glyphs:  Greengair glyphs generally have a floral motif.  Enameling is common when using Greengair glyphs in apotla clasps, as is filigree metalwork.

Rosengift glyphs:  Rosengift glyphs favor geometrically curved forms, often echoing matching tattooed patterns.  Apotla clasps are predominately wood.

Felcour glyphs:  Felcour glyphs are angular and rendered in a block style.  Apotla clasps are metal only.



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