“Used to play games with me ma,
Out in the field beyond the trees,
And used travel with me pa,
We’d go most anywhere we please,
Then the men in white cloaks came by the score,
Now ma and pa don’t play no more.” -Gnome schoolyard rhyme
The gnomes were once a prolific people, living in small communities throughout the other nations and in villages of their own hidden away in the wilds. While magical aptitude was a rare occurrence in other species, it was surprisingly common among the gnomes. Their natural gift for magic and insatiable curiosity could get them into trouble occasionally, but they knew how to make themselves useful and were often sought out for their ability with cantrips. All that changed following the Sorcerer Wars. The neighbors who once welcomed them now feared them, and the gnomes were driven out of cities and villages to live in their tight-knit, insular communities on the border of civilization.
Then came High Inquisitor Barnabus Lionheart, who would be known to history as Bloody Barnabus. As part of his campaign to finally wipe magic-users from the face of the earth, Barnabus decided that the gnomes were too great of a risk for the Inquisition to tolerate. Warbands of inquisitors rode forth, armed to the teeth and accompanied by powerful clerics. They put gnome villages to the torch, then tortured the survivors to learn the location of the next secret enclave. The gnomes fled further into the wilds, but the Inquisition was relentless, following them wherever they went. With nowhere else to turn, the gnomes called upon the assistance of their last allies, the halflings.
The halfling elders knew that they had no chance of standing up to the military might of the Inquisition, though they were prepared to go down fighting if need be. However, the surviving gnomes devised a plan that they believed would prevent further bloodshed. Gnomes and halflings were relatively difficult for outsiders to distinguish from each other, with the exception of their hair, for while halflings possessed more natural hair colors, gnomes had hair in wild shocks of pastel and vibrant rainbow hues, likely due to the magic within their blood. When the Inquisition came to root out the gnomish communities hiding among the halflings, they found that gnomes and halflings alike had completely shaved their heads and bodies, leaving them no easy way to tell between the two. Barnabus was furious, but he knew that the halflings were well-liked among the human nation, and ordering their extermination could turn the Inquisition’s allies against it. Begrudgingly, the Inquisition finally left the gnomes in peace.
The few remaining gnomes still live peacefully among the halflings. They retain their gift for magic, and some of their old curiosity, but a bit of the light has gone out of their eyes due to the horrors inflicted upon their people. They are dedicated to bettering the communities of their halfling saviors, and a tradition has arisen amongst both gnomes and halflings of carrying a braid of interwoven gnome and halfling hair as a symbol of the brotherhood that will always exist between the two peoples.