Recreature is an ongoing series of posts re-imagining classic creatures.
Beings of roots and tubers, gnomes have a boundless and seemingly cruel curiosity when it comes to non-fey creatures of flesh. Gnomes will poke, pull, gnaw, tear, snap, crush, strangle and dismember animals and people with little to no provocation. Sometimes these attacks appear experimental, as if attempting to understand the strange flesh. Just as often, though, gnomes attack in a fury – perhaps enraged by this same lack of understanding.
Also unclear is whether gnomes need blood to survive, or just find it intriguing. Either way, they almost always stop after a kill to soak up their victim’s blood with their roots, giving their curved heads – or “caps” – their distinctive red colouration. Gnomes without red caps haven’t soaked for a while and are likely eager to do so.
Gnomes have excellent night vision and decent daylight vision, despite their eyes being apparently nothing more than puckered divots. From time to time, these sunken pits grow small white sprouts similar to the eyes of a potato. Eventually, the sprouts drop into the dirt where they will grow into new gnomes. While sprouting, gnomes fluctuate between being very elusive and carrying out quick and brutal attacks, soaking up as much blood as possible before retreating into hiding again.
The dynamics of gnome society are not very well understood; the creatures are often encountered alone but they frequently live and work together. Sprouting gnomes often remain stationery, even rooting themselves into the ground for sustenance and to heal, as all gnomes can. Other gnomes attack in groups and bring back bloody carcasses for the rooted gnome.
Gnomes often live in forests, but make their warrens wherever plants grow and the earth is not too hard. Due to mortal settlements encroaching on the forests, many a farmer has dug up a bed of carrots or potatoes only to find some sleeping gnomes. Gnomes disturbed in such a way let out an ear-piercing shriek so loud it can burst internal organs and bring most anyone to their knees in crippling pain, at least until they get over the initial shock. Gnomes also use this shriek as a last defence or a surprise attack when waylaying travellers.
Usually, however, gnomes attack with their sharp thorny teeth and claws, the latter of which are perfect for digging and burrowing. Some gnome warrens have extensive networks of tunnels which can appear overnight. Gnome colonies working together have even been known to undermine farmland and roads, causing the ground to collapse under the weight of larger creatures. One final defensive measure is the gnome’s poisonous body. Most animals know – or soon learn – not to eat gnomes, and generally give them a wide berth.
More subtle gnomes sometimes leave root-like limbs around in the hopes that animals or children won’t recognise the source of the small root before consuming it. It is rare, but there is more than one tale of a whole village falling when gnomes have sprinkled their hacked up dead or their own severed limbs in tavern stews – poisoning all who eat the food, while simply growing their limbs back later, rooted in fertile or blood-soaked soil.