Franz grew up never knowing his real parents. He was raised by Beru & Owen, two human farmers settled in the Millsburn County. Franz referred to them as his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. Aunt Beru told Franz many years ago, that his real gnome parents were from Luxengate and had died in a terrible tragedy. A local trader had brought baby Franz to town, after finding the infant gnome in the wreckage of Luxengate. Baby Franz was found clutching a Hoe, seemingly untouched by the fire and debris. The trader, not knowing what to do with Baby Franz, brought the child to a farming community in his trading route. Since the only thing to be recovered alongside the child was a hoe, the Trader reasoned a farming community might be the best shot at giving the infant gnome back the life that had been stolen from him.
Aunt Beru & Uncle Owen raised Franz as their own; being a young human couple with conception problems, Franz was the son they could never have. Beru & Owen taught Franz everything they knew about farming.
Over the years Franz became a knowledgeable member of the farming community, his many hours in the field with Uncle Owen paid dividends. As Franz approached adulthood his adopted family, Owen & Beru approached retirement. For many decades they were a happy farming family, but as time relentlessly marched on, Franz had to take over more of the farming duties. The brutal physical demands of farming had taken its toll on Owen & Beru, with each passing year the most routine tasks had become more difficult. Being a gnome there was only so much slack Franz could pick up.
A New Harvest
The harvest this year looked to be an insurmountable task, with Beru & Owen so frail that they couldn’t do much more than feeding the pigs or milking the cows. The responsibility of Uncle Owen’s farm, and future financial success laid squarely on Franz’s shoulders. If this harvest wasn’t profitable they would have to sell the farm. A life of destitution and poverty wasn’t ideal in Franz’s mind, he had dreams of fulfilling a bigger purpose. In spite of how well he fit in here, in this community, he was always reminded of his differences.
Some nights Franz laid awake, wondering what tragic end befell his parents, and what Luxengate had been like. Most nights Franz fell into a deep satisfied slumber, the toils of physical labor leading to a well earned sleep. In recent months Franz spent more restless nights awake than he cared to admit, his years of contentedness had seemingly come to an end. At times when the night was at the darkest and sleep eluded him, Franz could feel a pull, a sort of magnetic force, urging him out of the bed and out into the moonlight. Some nights the pull was barely there, other nights it reverberated down to his very core, almost pulling his very being out into the night air.
The force that urged Franz out of bed some nights was familiar, there was an element to it that inexplicably had to be Aufsteig, but there was another, more powerful part that was completely foreign. Franz didn’t know what it was, and it scared him, and so Franz never left his bed on those sleepless nights.
Franz wasn’t a stranger to the unexplainable. 5 years ago on this very day Franz discovered an arcane artifact that changed his life. Franz had been working in the field with his most valued possession, Aufsteig, his magical hoe. Aufsteig had been discovered alongside Franz in the wreckage of Luxengate. Over the years the Hoe had displayed some weird qualities that led to the inevitable conclusion that it was enchanted, to top that off, Franz could sense a unique energy emanating from the garden tool. Aufsteig seemed to never get dirty, despite how many hours Franz toiled in the field with it, additionally the Hoe seemed to be more efficient than other tools. In spite of Franz’s size, Aufsteig allowed him to work at a surprisingly quick pace, the way it cut through the dirt was effortless.
While harvesting potatoes with Aufsteig, Franz found an object buried in the ground. The dirt around the object had been singed and melted. Cautiously Franz held a hand out over the mysteriously object to see if it was still hot. The dirt around the object was hard and cool to the touch, but a faint heat could still be felt emanating from the object. Using Aufsteig, Franz carefully scraped off some of the slag and dirt from the object. Within a few minutes Franz had cleared enough debris away to unearth what appeared to be a leather wrapped tome. The book had seen better days, deep gouges ran through the leather in random directions and there were occasional pockmarks where entire bits of leather had been stripped away. Franz carefully opened the tome and looked at the first page. The page was dirty, with spots of dirt, random fold creases and the occasional tear, scrawled in messy cursive was a single name on the page: “Creon Tenebris.”
With a heavy sigh Franz blinked, breaking his staring contest with the knots in the wood on the ceiling. Pulling his blankets tighter he rolled over and softly whispered: “What happened to you Creon?”
A Keen Mind
Since that day 5 years ago, Franz spent every waking minute he wasn’t tending the farm to studying the eccentric arcane text he found smoldering in the field. The book was seemingly unintelligible, upon first glance it seemed like the disorganized scrawlings of a madman. Strange riddles, half thoughts, and mentions of grumpkins and snarks filled the pages of the tome. Franz always had a keen mind, and despite being a gnome of the land, his brain always hungered for more. From a young age he had quickly shown his value to his aunt and uncle; they had been at the market, selling their harvest, and young Franz had devised a way to leverage their crops against the market demand, creating a subscription service for crops. The crop subscription was a breakout success, enabling the average person to get a wider variety of crops at a cheaper price, and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru to collect income all year round, rather than at the end of the harvest.
Something about the book just seemed off to Franz, it’s disorganized writings seemed too inconsistent; Franz could see pattern to it, he knew there was something hidden here. Over the years Franz was able to solve riddles in the tome and connect sections to each other. Franz started collecting the deciphered text in another book, and to his surprise these words had a deep, special, arcane meaning. These weren’t just any words on a page, they were spells. At first Franz couldn’t do much more than summon a faint light, or a mild breeze, but bit by bit, the tome led Franz to greater comprehension and power. Franz wasn’t just a farm gnome anymore, he was a wizard. Franz was terrified, he could never tell Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru about his discoveries, from the way they talked about magic users with distaste, Franz knew they would never understand. If Franz revealed his magical prowess he would be disowned, cast out of his community and shunned by everyone who ever knew him. So for many years Franz toiled on, farmer by day and wizard by night, until one day in autumn when everything changed with the arrival of a visitor named T’aethan.
The Pig Tickler
Franz had been rescued as a baby from ruins of Luxengate. He had no name, identity or parents. Owen and Beru named him “Franz” a common male name in Luxengate, or so a trader had told them. It was about the age of 2 that Franz became “Franz Schweinekitzel.” Being a young gnome on a farm is a dangerous affair. One kick from a horse or a steer could end Franz. Uncle Owen did his best to acclimatize Franz to farm life, but at that age, one can’t help but get into trouble.
One day while Owen was tending to the horses in the barn, Franz slipped out and wandered over to the pig pen. The big mean ol’ sow, Bertha had just birthed a litter of piglets last week. Franz had seen the baby piglets from afar and instantly wanted to play with them. Now was his chance, he easily fit between the planks in the pig fence and waddled over to the first pig he saw. Five minutes later Owen hears a loud squealing sound, the unmistakable tenor of the mama sow. Dropping the oats all over the ground, Owen rushed over to the pig pen fearing the worst. The sight Owen saw would be retold for years to come, a story that caused much mirth around the table.
Baby Franz was there in the middle of the pig pen chasing around one of the piglets in circles. Looming over them however, was the mama sow, squealing uncontrollably. Franz was just small enough that he could fit underneath the sow while standing, with the wisps of his hair just barely reaching the belly and teets of the mama sow. As Franz ran around, his hair would brush against the sow, tickling her. The squealing hadn’t been anger or danger, the mama sow was squealing from laughter. From that day onwards, Franz and the baby piglet became inseparable friends, and he became known as Franz Schweinekitzel.
Normally pigs only live 10-15 years, but for some reason, this pig lived an abnormally long time. The pig seemed to age at the same rate as Franz, almost as if their destinies were tied together.