It’s the clang of the hammer, bang of the bellows, hiss of the metal cooling in the water, roar of the fire, glow of the caverns. How I long for the Brel!
Slaethe Evensong, Gargoyle Songsmith
Believed to be the first mortal race, the cavern-dwelling Gargoyles are enigmatic and aloof at the best of times. They are fearsome creatures when provoked and they exhibit the greatest natural strength of all the mortal races. This leads many to careers as warriors and wardens. The true love of the gargoyle, however, is the forge. Gargoyle smiths are famed as the finest in the world and much acclaim is given to the town whose smithy is tended by a gargoyle.
History & Culture
The first and most ancient of the world’s mortal races, the Gargoyles are strong and noble. Theirs is a rich culture, with a vibrant history that is as labyrinthine as the Brel caverns themselves. Once viewed as xenophobic “mountain devils,” the gargoyles have since emerged as an intrinsic and dynamic force in the world. They are regarded as philosophers and sages, warriors and guardians. To the Khunari they are the “Waituke Oache” or “Wise Ones,” chosen by Grandmother Dragon to speak for the earth. The sylvans call them the Stoneborn and from ancient days a single gargoyle has sat amongst the Eldaar to speak for the concerns of the mortal world. Dervish nomads believe that gargoyles once walked every road of the surface world before they “gave up the stars” to continue their journey in the realm beneath. Tensions linger amongst one or two of the other races – most notably the Drow and the Djinn – but overall the gargoyle race is respected for its integrity and honored for its steadfast commitment to the goals of all mortal races.
The Fire of Creation
The gargoyles believe that they were created by Forge, the Dragon of Fire. There are many thoughts as to what drove Forge’s decision to create a mortal race – an act that had been forbidden by the gods. Some feel that Forge created the gargoyles to help him work his great furnace in Yggrandr, the Plane of Fire. Others believe that the Fire Dragon was tricked by Syrilith, who sought to enslave the gargoyles. Still others feel that the creation of the gargoyles was an inevitable act; that as the God of “Creation and Destruction” Forge could not help but to seek the creation of mortals. Still others feel that the very idea of Forge being the “sole” creator of all the mortal races is an absurd notion designed paint a false image of gargoyle superiority. While the debate continues, the gargoyles are firm in their assertion that Forge did indeed create their race, and that doing so incurred the wrath of the gods who sentenced the Fire Dragon to eternal imprisonment.
Before he was confined, Forge bequeathed five (and according to some as many as nine) Braziers to his children. Lit from his own furnace, the Braziers of Kyn-Brel were taken into Aeryn where they were used to light the Brel-Fires of the five ancient gargoyle nations: Brel-Jeren, Brel-Vorath, Brel-Kaidon, Brel-Durin, and Brel-Agmar.
Although the Brel Cycle clearly states that gargoyles were the first mortal race, it was not until almost a thousand years into the Age of Might that their existence was first discovered. Erlish exolorers first described them as “monstrous fiends in face and manner – as much a demon as any thing could ever be.” Thus were born countless myths about “mountain devils” who warded their caverns against all intrusion. Though none can be absolutely sure, it is felt that these myths contributed to the Erlish migration into the plains – far from the treacherous realm of the “mountain devils.”
The gargoyles themselves did little to quell the rumors that surrounded their existence. They were content to live their lives secluded in their underground kingdoms. Tradition and superstition told them that the world outside their mountains was of little consequence and that their first loyalty was to the caverns below. Even today there remain many gargoyles who hold to this ancient belief.
The mystery surrounding Forge’s children would end with the onset of a great war known as the Underseige thousands of years ago. In all the under-world, the gargoyles had only one true rival; the Drow. With their vow to protect the under-realms from all dangers, the immortal Drow jealously guarded the deep places of the world. As the gargoyles explored deeper into their mountains they invariably crossed paths with the under-elves. The Brel Cycle depicts the first meeting of these two races in the following way:
They were Wind through the mountain
Theirs were secrets long hidden by time
They were shadow and whispers darkly racing
O’er cavern, o’er tunnel and mine.
And we were the stone in the mountain
With blood that from death cannot last
Fire cannot tame the Wind.
Strongest stone can only stand in its path.
With several millennia worth of experience over the mortal gargoyles, the Drow pressed their advantage. They quickly opened up great tunnels in the earth, linking their capital of Cirith Valledor to all five of the gargoyle Brels. Garrisoning these tunnels at the very base of the gargoyle mountains, the drow prevented the mortals from entering lower than the foot of the peaks themselves. Because the gargoyles had long dismissed the surface as a viable place to live, the five nations were effectively sealed within their capital mountains.
The “Underseige” – as it came to be known – was designed to halt the advance of the gargoyles into what the drow referred to as the “Roots of the World. For their part, the gargoyles mounted an admirable resistance, but in the end could not hope to overwhelm a force that was as long-lived as it was familiar with the ancient powers of the world. By hemming the gargoyles into their mountains, the Drow put an end to their exploration and once again secured the under-realms.
While the Underseige was moderately successful in its aims, it did not take into account the legendary tenacity and adaptability of Forge’s children. The conflict was broken when the gargoyles finally broke their silence and enlisted the support of their mortal brethren. A great army of humans and Khunari joined with the gargoyles to lift the Underseige. After long years, the mortals prevailed, pushing back the drow and closing down the great tunnels of Xyl’landris.
By coming out of their self-imposed seclusion, the gargoyles were able to foster strong alliances outside of their race. For the first time since their creation, a feeling of kinship began to flourish amongst the mortal races. This bond endures among the long- lived gargoyles, many of whom continue to see the creations of Forge (mortals) as sharing a single, unique destiny in the Nine Worlds.
Gargoyles almost unanimously hold to Forge as their own patron god. They feel that every smith is a true priest of Forge and the blacksmith is therefore held in the highest honor. Second to Forge, the gargoyles honor Terrasque, the Earth Dragon. It is said that Terrasque covered the fiery heart of the gargoyles in hard, stern stone so that they might better survive their existence on Aeryn. The ability of gargoyles to turn themselves into stone serves to remind them of the gift bestowed upon them by the Earth Dragon.
It is understandable then that a large number of Gargoyles seek professions as Druids and smiths. A great many also seek to put their great strength to good use and serve as armsmen and (recently) spellswords. The Dervish saying that says, “Spells do not run through stone” was perhaps coined with the gargoyles in mind. Gargoyle spellcasters are exceedingly rare and even these few often elect to eventually take on more combat-oriented professions.
Gargoyles retain one of the most unique worldviews of all the races. Unlike most of the world, which views things as a measure of opposites (Light/Dark, Male/Female, Good/Evil, Black/White), gargoyles have cultivated quite a different philosophical structure that they call the Axiom. Gargoyles are fire and stone made flesh. For them every aspect of the universe is broken up into three parts: the Fire (substance A), the Stone (substance B), and the Result (substance A+B). Light and Dark are not opposites so much as they are ingredients that are used to create something new. Indeed, even the concept of “Light” is itself the product of yet another combination of elements. The study of gargoyle philosophy has intrigued and inspired scholars from all across the world. There are many who believe that the secrets of Creation itself will be revealed to those who study the intricate subtleties of the Axiom.
Perhaps it is because of their philosophy that gargoyles do not recognize the social distinctions that are so prevalent in other societies. The difference between male and female is particularly blurred – each enjoying equal status in gargoyle society. For quite a long time this enforced the erroneous belief that gargoyles were a matriarchal society. However, the truth is that gender plays little to no role in how one fits into society. All gargoyles are made of the same stone – and all share the same potential.
The Axiom has a strong influence over several other aspects of gargoyle culture. The most elegant shape – according to the gargoyles – is the triangle. The triangle flawlessly represents the three aspects of the Axiom. The shape is therefore a common theme in gargoyle architecture, literature, art and craftwork.
It is the year 514. The Gargoyles have been struggling for the past few years with the constant fight against the trolls and demons that constantly seige their home in Brel Durin from the deeps. Now, there is word that the Brel may have fallen. Few gargoyles have been seen or heard from that have recently come from the Brel. It is known the Spell Swords of th Mythal City have been ordered by the Descendant Raemias to march upon the Brel to bring help. However, there have been cautious whispers they Raemias has a hidden motive.