Quite a while ago, I shared the origin story of the character I was playing in a D&D campaign (Akta the Tiefling Rogue) – well since then I have started playing in two other campaigns and I decided I should write and share the stories of the two new characters as well.
First up is my favourite character yet, Nyx the Forest Gnome. She is a wizard, who is always trying to use her magic to make up for what she lacks in stature (she stands at just about 3 foot tall). She very much suffers from small-dog syndrome and I enjoyed coming up with the story behind why a Forest Gnome would abandon her home and train to be a wizard.
Without further ado, here is her story:
Nyx Nackle Stumbleduck
Somewhere in Neverwinter Wood, there is a bustling community of Forest Gnomes. Their home is in a glade of massive oak trees, with everything from sentry posts in the crowns to a series of mossy tunnels winding beneath the roots.
The Gnomes are funny, friendly little creatures, who love to work with their hands – building, mending, growing, tinkering, and experimenting. They trade their goods with passing elves but mostly keep themselves to themselves, satisfied with their quiet life in the forest.
This is where Nyx was born into the Nackle clan. Nicknamed Stumbleduck early on, due to her clumsiness and slightly turned in feet when she walked, Nyx was possibly the only Gnome who didn’t feel entirely at home in the community.
She had no urge to work at farming or growing, and had little to no skill at tinkering and making at all. All she wanted to do was learn things – she knew all the names of all the plants and animals, and what all the tools were for – but she had no desire to work with them. She just wanted to know.
And there just didn’t seem to be anything else left to find out in her small corner of the forest.
So when she reached an age where she was expected to choose a skill and begin training, Nyx started to restlessly wander ever further away from home in the forest each day. Partly to try and find new things, and partly to avoid the disappointed looks and stern glares from everyone else.
It was on a particularly stifling summer afternoon, when Nyx had followed a small stream through the trees, idly wondering where it went, that she finally discovered what she wanted to do with her life.
Sleepy from the heat, she settled down in the roots of a willow beside the water and closed her eyes for a nap.
The sound of something lapping at the water woke her suddenly a short while later, and she opened her eyes to see a violently purple panther drinking on the opposite bank.
If she had been more awake, she would simply have frozen in place, and instinctively cast a minor illusion over herself so that all the panther would have seen would be a tree. As it was, a startled squeak burst out of her mouth before she had time to properly think and the panther swung its head up and fixed her in a golden eyed glare.
Terrified, Nyx squeezed her eyes closed again and waited to be eaten. Wishing hard that she had just ‘put up and shut up’ as her cousin Argyll suggested, and took up fruit picking with him, rather than trying to avoid everything instead.
A smothered giggle broke through her panicked thoughts and she opened one big green eye to see a tall elf in purple robes standing where the panther had previously been, one hand over his mouth as he tried fruitlessly to hide his amusement.
His eyes were the exact same shade of gold as those of the big cat.
“Was that? Were you…?” Nyx stumbled over her words as she tried to make sense of the chuckling elf before her.
“Thirsty? Yes.” He laughed. “I’ve travelled quite a long way today and it is mighty warm round here.”
“It’s because of the river.” Nyx waved vaguely off towards where the main river coursed through the trees a couple of miles away. “It runs the wrong way and keeps everything warm.”
“How do you know that it goes the wrong way? What if that one goes the right way and all the others are wrong?”
He asked the question with such serious consideration that Nyx actually found herself thinking about it, before remembering who she was talking to.
“That was you, then? The panther?” Nyx asked, finally getting to her feet.
“Oh, yes. I can cover much more ground in that shape than I can like this. My brother Hobarth prefers to travel as a golden eagle, but I’m not much of a fan of flying myself. I prefer being a bit closer to the ground.” The elf stepped back a few paces before taking a running jump and leaping to Nyx’s side of the stream. He sat himself down next to her and put his back against the tree, “I’m Wesley, by the way.”
Now he had sat down, his head was about level with Nyx’s, though she was still standing.
“Can all wizards do that? Change their shape, I mean?” Nyx asked, breathlessly, imagining making herself into something big and ferocious.
“I’m not a wizard!” replied Wesley, laughing again. “I’m a druid. I get my magic from the land I live in and the natural energy around me. I never went to school.”
Nyx looked down, disappointed. “Oh.”
Wesley regarded the Gnome before him as she scuffed at the ground with a boot. She seemed to deflate at his last words and look even smaller than she was. Which was impressive given that he reckoned she was only just three feet tall to start with. Maybe an inch or two more if you counted the quiff of blonde hair she had running along the left of her head. He had a sudden urge to cheer her up.
“I do know a wizard though. He lives between the edge of the forest and the Starmetal Hills, and I’m sure last time I saw him he was looking for a new apprentice.”
Nyx snapped her head up, her eyes wide.
“I mean, his closest neighbours are the werewolves in Vellosk, but he lives in his own enchanted glade that they can’t even see, so once you get past them they aren’t much of a problem. And I know a path that doesn’t go too close to the town itself, so it should be fine.”
He was rambling now, getting more and more animated as he spoke about the journey through the forest to this wizard’s home. Nyx stopped listening, her mind whirring. If she went home and asked her parents if she could go off with a strange druid to apprentice with a wizard whose name she didn’t even know, near a village they’d only ever heard of in horrifying rumours, the answer would be a flat no. But if she just left, now, with what she had in her backpack and nothing else, she would be entirely at the mercy of this elf and there was no guarantee that this wizard hadn’t found himself an apprentice already.
It took Nyx a moment to realise that Wesley had stopped talking and was looking at her expectantly.
She took a deep breath. “Okay.”
Wesley blinked. “Okay what?”
“I want to go to apprentice with this wizard. Please.” She bent and picked up her bag, settling it on her shoulders, before grabbing the thick stick she always carried to beat off brambles or anything that looked like it might want to eat her. “Now.”
Wesley looked surprised. “You don’t want to go home first? Get your stuff?”
She shook her head, “I have everything I want with me anyway. Couple of scrolls, ink, pen, the map I’ve been drawing, a blanket, some food…”
A squirrel chittered loudly and Nyx looked up at it, an idea suddenly occurring to her.
She quickly rummaged in her pocket and found half a biscuit, chittering back at the animal to get its attention. Once it had crept close enough, she did a complicated routine of hand gestures and squeaks before handing over the biscuit.
The squirrel shoved the treat into its cheeks and bolted up the tree trunk before leaping away through the trees in the direction of the Gnome settlement.
Wesley raised an eyebrow at her.
“He’ll go tell them that I’m safe and I’ll be home when I’m ready. Saves me going back and getting laughed at again.” She sniffed a little and turned to look at the stream. “My name is Nyx, and I am going to be a wizard.”
“That’s the spirit!” said Wesley. “Now, there’s still an hour or so until nightfall – how about I give you a lift and get us a good start on the journey? It’s going to take us about a week I think.”
Nyx nodded, swallowing the lump that rose in her throat, threatening to turn into tears and send her running for home. “Wesley? What is the wizard’s name?”
“Ezimarin Barksbane. But everyone calls him Zed.”
By the time the squirrel bounded into the Nackle family burrow, Nyx had left behind the patch of forest she knew and was galloping into the unknown on the back of a violet panther with eyes of liquid gold.