Gnomileshi boy in Gash-Garnok village

Have I mentioned that I take my camera with me on all my travels? I never know who I’m going to meet or what I’m going to see, and any of it might get pulled into a story later. So even though the damned images always come out wonky when I get back, I keep a photo journal to serve as visual reminders of the things I might want to write about later. This most recent trip was no different, and a young Gnomileshi boy made quite an impression on me.

photo of gnome boyHis name was Echmog. (Or maybe it was Echmok. He had a quiet, reedy voice and I had trouble making out some of what he said.) I met him while revisiting Gash-Garnok.

Most Gnome children run from me on sight, but Echmog was busy digging for fragments at the base of the shrine and never even looked my way as I sat myself in the tower’s shade and took out my lunch.

I thought he’d been too absorbed in his search to notice me, but when I asked if I could take his picture he agreed quickly, on the condition that I pay him with the chicken bone left over from my lunch. I assumed he was hungry of course, but to my surprise, after letting me snap this photo, he took his payment and climbed up the tower to set his prize carefully in the dish, leaving it as an offering to Garnok’s Rage. I was taken somewhat aback by this. A little boy—he couldn’t have been any more than seven or eight—was appealing to that fractious spirit of conflict, hoping to appease it and bring an end to the war that had turned his world on its head.

Our interaction didn’t last any longer than five minutes, but as I say, it left an indelible impression. I am humbled by moments and contacts like these. They remind me that war is a tool of governments, and rarely an expression of what the real people themselves believe. People like Echmog. I hope he’ll be safe in the days ahead, but I fear for him. Something’s coming. I can feel it.

This article first appeared in The Liar’s Hearth, my super-secret newsletter. If you’d like to see stuff like this when it’s, you know, current, plus lots of stuff that doesn’t get posted to the site, you can sign up for free. Just click this dangerous looking button here: dangerous looking button
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About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.