“The creature looked at Yates quizzically, then it suddenly threw back its head, eyes to the sky, and laughed like a lunatic in its sharp, crackling way. It turned, hopped, and then scurried into the cave, with Yates, myself, and three frightened goats at its heels.”
The origin of the Gremlins is uncertain, as they possess both bat-like and wolf-like characteristics.
Similarities to bats can be seen in the ears, the length of the arms, the shortness of the legs, and the short fur. Yet in the snout, the nose, the eyes, the teeth, and the feet, there are strong hints of the wolf, or werewolf. Gremlins are generally considered to be wicked-looking and possessing of an evil-sounding language. Like bats they prefer to live in caves, though wolves are not unknown to den in caves either.
Gremlins make and wear clothing, usually of fine, soft leather and sheep’s wool. Their caves maintain a constant temperature year round, so the clothing is usually minimal. A typical outfit might be leather trousers, a belt, and an open vest or thin wool work shirt.
Their jewelry consists of necklaces, rings, bangles, bracelets, earrings, and jeweled buckles.
The Gremlin language is a non-tonal language that can be easily written in Cavendian letters without special markings, other than hyphens, which indicate certain grammar structures. It is a phonetic language like Cavendian speech and can, with great effort, be produced by the human vocal chords. To reduce accent when speaking Gremlish, a human must use his or her facial muscles to pull the cheeks tightly back and outwards, mimicking a taut smile. This helps to simulate the wide Gremlin mouth and allows the pitch of the squeaks and yips to come out correctly.
Gremlin laughter is a curious matter, for Gremlins always throw their heads backwards, directing their gaze and snouts directly upwards, during laughter. It is thought that this is an involuntary quirk of the nervous system, rather than a cultural matter.
“Does Yates speak fluent Gremlish? Yes, without the slightest accent. I have heard him numerous times as I kept watch over our camp, muttering it in his sleep, his cheeks pulled back tight to pronounce the squeaks and yips properly. With my back to him, I would have sworn there had been a Gremlin sleeping behind me, rather than a man.”
Gremlins invariably dwell in mountains, being most highly concentrated in the Hylu Mountains of central northern Tanzia, which is the seat of the Gremlin King Ug Lak, and the Dawn Mountains on the eastern coast. Both mountains have temperate or hot low elevations, yet rise to bitterly cold, snowy peaks. The actual homes of the Gremlins are in meticulously fortified and elaborate caves, which at their lowest reaches become active mines.
Culture and Technology
The principle food source of Gremlins is livestock raised on mountainside pastures and fields. Cattle, sheep, and goats yield leather, milk, beef, lamb, wool, waterskins, and bones for some tools. Gremlin ox tongue is considered a delicacy by wild Faeries. The exits to these pastures from their cavernous cities are always gated with iron and opened with a windlass mechanism and cogs.
They also have lower exits into the woodlands and dales of the mountain foothills or low altitude slopes. In the moist hollows they cultivate crops of mushrooms of incredible diversity. They also raise flower beds, and they pick the flowers to decorate their stony halls.
“Hunting parties also bring back from these lower exits the occasional killed bear, rabbit, squirrel, or other catch. They have no domesticated pigs, for they hunt a plentiful species of wild boar. They hunted them with knives, as Yates had said. That was one accuracy in his testimony anyway. Gremlins also acquire the antlers, meat, and hides of a species of reindeer that roams wild. As for fish, the Gremlins never eat fish at all, even though apart from mushrooms their diet consists entirely of meat.”
One luxury of Gremlins is a kind of fat cigar, whose ingredients include a kind of mushroom, mountain herbs or flowers, honey, and clove (imported from Faeries of the jungles near the Dawn Mountains). They have a pleasant aroma and give the smoker considerable physical and mental energy.
The Gremlins of the Dawn Mountains scale treacherous sea cliffs to gather swiftlet nests for medicinal purposes.
“I had come to realize by then that Gremlins were tinkerers, slapdash mechanics whose designs, nevertheless, always seemed to work. They were scienticians perpetually fascinated with the possibilities of systematic knowledge. And yet, unlike the stodgy and pompous Cavendian, they took an unreserved delight in all manner of mechanical contrivance.”
Gremlins drink water almost exclusively, and it is ever at hand in their cave cities, by wondrous works of plumbing. Ice cold snowmelt and mountain creek water enters the caves and flows via stone aqueducts to fountains, drinking basins, and washing pools. A typical Gremlin home is fitted with a raised basin and a ground-level washing tub into which water flows and pools also drains out of at the same rate, so that the quantity in the pool is never stagnant. Overflow drains ensure a sudden inundation of source water will not cause a flood.
Gremlins dwellings are dens often entered by a spiral crawl, like going into a shell, where the belly-crawl is actually a ramp leading upwards but never downwards. Gremlins are also exceptional acoustic engineers, capable of building rooms containing a “microphone point,” or single space where the voice resounds in great volume intelligibly. They also use building techniques to soundproof areas such as homes and reduce the natural echoing of their caves, which would otherwise be ever noisy with the sound of flowing or trickling water.
Gremlins clean themselves in public baths, heated with the excess heat of their metalworking operations.
Hydraulic lifts and wench-operated elevators lead to the mines, in which nearly every useful metal, ore, and gemstone is extracted. By far the strangest find in these mines are the powerful magnets. These have many applications relevant to cave dwelling. For one, hewing shelves into living rock is more labor- and time-consuming than simply hanging cutlery, pots, tools, and other implements from magnet strips affixed to the walls.
Special Topic: Gremlin Firearms
“They were armed in traditional Gremlin fashion. I watched as they each pulled a weapon from magnetic strips on the armory wall, which stood near the gate. Each Gremlin took down an extremely short blunderbuss of the Gremlins’ unique styling and design, as well as a pistol. So much for the primitive matchlocks Yates had lectured about. Gremlins, knowing everything there is to know about metal and flint, had made the quaint flintlock technology failproof. The shape of the frizzen and the priming pan, the addition of a barrel-mounted priming flask, and the use of cork on the handle and buttstock all showed dissimilarity between Gremlin and human design, as well as giving insight into their mechanical artistry. A handsome leather field pouch attached to the stock contained the paper cartridges packed with what I estimated to be one hundred or more grains of black powder each.”
Gremlin brass, a blend of copper and zinc, is essential to their arms industry, most notably to the Gremlin blunderbuss. The Gremlins are the only race on Tanzia to have discovered and weaponized gunpowder in small arms. They are also, due to their large ears and cave homes, the first race to utilize ear protection in battle. When worn, their hearing protection makes their large ears look like metal horns, adding to the Gremlin warrior’s fearsome appearance.