In the middle of Nomad's Land, outside of a small village called Nim, you can find a caravan.
Caravans are typically populated by Demons, who use them to travel the barren land of Damuck, never staying in one place for more than a few U-weeks. This caravan, however, has been in the one spot for almost 20 years, and inside there are no Demons.
Inside is a single Gnome and a heck of a lot of scrolls.
Outside the caravan is a particularly large stump, about half the size of the caravan itself. The stump is roughly the size of a dinner-table, which is perhaps why the caravan parked next to it in the first place.
On top of the stump you'll find an unusual sight - a Dwarf, calmly sitting a mythical animal.
Sometimes the Dwarf is meditating, sometimes the Dwarf is practicing his sword-work, sometimes it looks like he's talking to his hand, and sometimes he's just cursing the world in general. Sometimes the mythical animal is a frog, sometimes it's a cat, and sometimes it's something that is even more out of place in the forest - a dolphin, an oyster or a rather large herring.
It's an extremely strange sight. But inside the caravan is where things get interesting.
The Gnome, you see, is a wizard. Her name is Dorysse Glum, and she's been practicing magic for over 30 years. "Practicing" is definitely the word to use, because she hasn't quite got the hang of it yet. Once upon a time, Dorysse had an apprentice, a young Human boy. A spell had gone horribly wrong, however, and Dorysse accidentally turned him into a beagle.
Many Gnomes, at the sight of an impossible creature, would have freaked out or tried to destroy it before it sneezed and created a hole to the Underrealm. Dorysse, however, had simply tilted her head to the side and sent her ex-apprentice outside to sit next to her Dwarvish friend.
Once every Gnome week, she attempts to turn him back into a Human. So far he's been thirty-eight different mythical creatures - most terrifyingly, a flea. It had taken Dorysse and the Dwarf almost half a day to find him without getting permanently scarred in the process.
Dorysse still holds out hope she'll work out how to restore his original race. The Dwarf is just happy for the company.
Normally if a spell fails, it simple fizzles out and nothing happens. Dorysse, however, was a rare exception - instead of being mentored in the ways of magic, she'd simply read some of the many scrolls in her caravan, worked out roughly what she was supposed to do, and gone from there.
The first few years had been fruitless, however eventually, magic had started to happen. Not the right magic, true, but creating any kind of magic is exciting enough when you've spent the rest of your life as a librarian.
Dorysse was born in the Year of the Bohemian Waxwing as Doris Glum (her name had changed spelling after a spell went particularly wrong: she distinctly remembered being born Doris, but soon discovered that every single record of her name had been permanently altered) to Glynda and Donny Glum.
When Doris's mother had fallen pregnant, her parents had decided that they didn't want to raise their child in the organised, arguably heartless city of Cognito. They'd considered trying their luck in Certus but decided that if they were moving anyway, they may as well shift to an entirely new environment.
Gnomes, due to their natural mechanical instincts, are welcome most anywhere, and so for six months Donny and Glynda had travelled All-That-Is on a Fandang pirate ship. They travelled halfway around the world, just following the current. As pirates tend to do, the ship ported every chance it got, and the crew spent a few Dwarven weeks drunk in each city it passed.
When the ship stopped at Vevale, a large port in the Demon homeland, the Glums were fascinated. Rather than the square, neatly organised houses of their home city, each Demon lived in an enchanted caravan, floating along the ground, pulled by the family who owned it. (or, if they were particularly wealthy, by an Orc or an Ogre.) This sense of freedom entranced the pair, and they considered leaving the ship then.
But the climate of Damuck was too dusty and dry for their taste, so after bartering for the secrets of enchanting a caravan, they joined the rest of the Fandang crew and continued travelling.
The ship stopped at Island 98 of Nevah-Nevah, and again at Island 81. These lands were also fascinating to the Gnomish pair, however, the Angel's more lawful and only slightly less-organised ways reminded them too much at home, and so they continued travelling.
The two Fairy ports in Thebaz Isle they stopped at were overwhelming to the couple - the color, the magic, the thousands of tiny people. It was an easy decision to return to the boat.
Outcasts, rebels, misfits: whatever you want to call them, they can find a home in any of the larger cities of All-That-Is. But those wishing to escape - those who want to get out of the hustle and bustle of city life and experience a simpler existence - generally have only three choices.
The first is The Big Desert - the huge tract of land which lies between kronktoN and the Land of Ogres. There is a sort of tribal system, however if you don't wish to be part of any of the Desert tribes, they'll mostly leave you alone, provided you don't cause them any trouble.
There's the appropriately named province "Misfits" itself, in Eb, the central province of Thebaz Isle. Truly, anywhere in Eb has its fair share of loners or outcasts, however Misfits embraces the lifestyle wholeheartedly. With absolutely no attempt to create cities or social groups of any kind, it's not hard to carve out a simple existence against the pale pink background.
And thirdly, there's Nomad's Land: the largest contiguous forest in the world, covering over two-thirds of the continent of Navig. The original colonists were outcast Peedlings, moving there at a time when the entertainment guilds controlled their homeland.
Over time, however, Nomad's Land become the home of anyone who enjoyed the forest life. With villages dotted through the land, and thin, winding tracks from one tiny settlement to the next, it was easy for bandits to melt into the forest, and just as easy for scavengers to live off the land.
It was here that Glynda and Donny decided to raise their child, and for the final 3 months of the pregnancy, Donny and Glynda set out to build and enchant a unique caravan. Styled after the Demonic homes they had seen on their travels, but built with a Gnome's attention to detail and exact measurements, the caravan was unique among caravans, and soon became well known on its travels around Nomad's Land.
The first few years of life were scattered for young Doris*, but they were certainly never done. Her parents took shifts pulling the caravan, their daughter strapped to their back or watching from the intricately-carved door.
*as she was then known
Originally, Glynda and Donny travelled around, doing whatever odd jobs were available, but a lack of focus (and regular income) does not suit a Gnome, and by the time Doris was 2, they'd come up with the idea of turning their spacious caravan into a travelling library.
The pair would make annual trips up to the Peedling city of Wolly (the largest city on the island) several times a year, buy large quantities of scrolls, and then travel around Nomad's land, selling them to the various odd inhabitants.
Assuming Doris would want to carry on the family business when she grew up, they raised her to worship a god other than their own. Sure enough, on her 20th birthday it was the tattoo of Mildred, the God of Librarians that Doris received on her forearm.
Doris, with the inventive streak that comes naturally to all Gnomes, created a simple device which attached to her waist and allowed her to read scrolls while walking, slowly turning them without needing use of her hands. When she was old enough to pull the caravan herself, Donny and Glynda would occasionally discover that they had been travelling in circles for hours, Doris distracted by whatever scroll she was reading at the time.
Perhaps it was the amount of time she spent with a scroll wrapped around her head, perhaps it was the fact that she was never anywhere for more than a Peedling week at a time - and rarely took the same route twice in her life - but Doris's personality was just as scattered as her upbringing. She seemed to live in a world of her own, occasionally muttering strange things, talking to trees the same way she spoke to people, and occasionally giving affectionate nicknames to parts of the caravan.
When Doris turned 25, bandits struck. The discovery that the caravan was holding more scrolls than gold infuriated them, and both the caravan and the family still bore scars from their fury.
It was an easy decision for Glynda and Donny to hire security - fortunately, their years in Nomad's Land had given them many contacts, and before long an ex-gladiator called Borge was pulling the caravan full-time, watching out for trouble as he did. Whether it was due to his diligence or his mere presence was unknown, but after Borge's watch began, the caravan never again had trouble with Bandits.
At the ripe old age of 114, Donny passed on. Doris was only 30 at the time, and though Glynda tried to continue the business on her own, her heart wasn't in it, and a few months later, Glynda left All-That-Is as well.
For the next 20 years, Doris was known as the Travelling Librarian (or, if she was out of earshot, "That mad gnome with all the scrolls, and the house that floats). Borge stayed on, handling the customers, happily chatting for hours with anyone who could provide him with news about the world of gladiators he'd left behind.
One day, however, Doris abruptly decided that she wanted to be a wizard. She stopped the caravan, went inside, and started to read up on magic.
Borge was fairly unperturbed by this: he was used to Doris's odd changes of mood. He focussed on finding and killing local animals for them to eat, and when he was unable to do this, he would go into Nim (the closest village) and work for a few hours, to earn them some food.
It was during one of these visits that he met Tim, the son of Nim's baker. Tim was enthralled to discover that Borge worked for a budding wizard, and upon meeting Dorysse first-hand, offered himself as an apprentice.
"Doesn't it bother you, taking care of her?" Tim had asked, back when he had a Human mouth to ask questions with.
"Not really," Borge had responded after a few minutes of thought. "Besides which...if I don't, who will?"
The caravan, Borge and Doris/Dorysse have been in the one location for twenty years now, and for almost a year, Tim has too.
But in the Year of the Brown Bear, the Gods are having a contest, and Dorysse's crew have been chosen to represent Mildred. It'll be a long and bumpy road, and in two Dwarven weeks time the caravan will start moving for the first time in decades, taking the Gnome, Dwarf, (ex-)Human, and their unseen companion with it...
Fantasy city by David Revoy, licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.