Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gnays, Kneddies, and Heejaws - Gnomish Beasts of Burden

Gnays, Kneddies, and Heejaws are rather smallish ponies/burros/equines.

Rather than sleep standing up like ordinary horses, kneddies will kneel down to sleep, tucking their short legs underneath themselves like cats or camels. Curling up this way into very small lumps means that they will usually go unnoticed by any predators - which is just about everything. Gnomes don't often eat their domesticated equines, but a hungry human has no qualms about spitting one over a fire. Mmmm...kneddy chops. 

They are not suited for riding with a traditional saddle, but instead are arranged into teams for pulling small carts. 

A mare will bear not more than 4 tiny offspring. Ordinarily it is no more than 2, with an odd third runt sometimes slipping in. The chances of a mare carrying and birthing more than 3 [live] offspring is exceedingly  rare. There are hostlers tales of a good breeding mare birthing 2 litters of 4 each before she finally died, but they’re typically dismissed as horse-tales -- they are so called because a horse’s tail only goes up so much naturally before it produces sh*t.

It’s a brutal practice in butchery, but any runts are usually killed shortly after birth because they’re too sickly or would cause competition for feed. To be called “worthless as a kneddy runt" is an incredible insult that will likely result in bloodshed. 

Gnomes are the only humanoid beings small enough to ride such miniscule creatures, and even then, they do so bareback to cut down on the weight of saddle and tack. A single kneddy can only carry 75 lbs reliably. Anything more than that and they will simply tire out or refuse to move at all.

Compared to a regular donkey, the kneddy is quite small. Even a “large” one is not quite shoulder height to a human youth.

If bearing a light single-rider cart, one will suffice, but they can pull no more than the weight of the rider and their possessions. They are not “pack mules” capable of hauling great loads. If the rider/cargo’s weight exceeds 200 lbs combined, it is too heavy to pull (on wheels). If the kneddy is a “companion” animal that carries the weight of supplies on its back, anything greater than 100 lbs is considered too heavy and will risk the animal’s health. For travelers that don’t care much for the animal, they will load it heavy, walk it to death, and then consume the meat. 

The hide of a kneddy is considered unfit for anything more than light gloves. It is not thick enough to warrant foot wear and it is certainly lacking in the durability of any kind of armor. Its hide would need to be at least 4-5 x as thick to be of any use for protection.Gnome maidens will often wear kneddy hide aprons because they are inexpensive to replace should something tear or stain them. 

A team of 2 may pull upwards of 200 lbs (including the cargo and weight of the cart itself). Ordinarily one does not ride with a team of only 2 unless the rider is the only thing being pulled. When hauling goods, the master attaches a set of long reins that pass over or around the cart laden with supplies. The animals cannot exceed the walking pace of a human, so they just trundle along saving the master’s back from toting the weight of a heavy pack. Some gnomes have even devised light canopy carts. The design has wheels a bit taller than the driver and an angled canvas canopy that extends over the driver. They are devised as such so the driver is sheltered from the weather, and in the off chance that the team spooks and runs, the gnome master simply falls flat and the high wheeled cart passes harmlessly o’er top of them.

4 can comfortably pull a rider and cart loaded with up to 300 lbs for medium duration/distance. If one falls victim to injury or predation (completely lacking any natural defense) the rider must either walk beside the vehicle or drop 50 lbs of gear.

 A team of 10 can haul/drag the same amount as a regular horse. To carry 2 riders is considered a reckless strain on the creatures. As such, sometimes only 1 person (up to a normal human) will ride while any companions walk beside the lead kneddies to keep them moving. A responsible gnome child might be put in charge of driving the wagon, while their parent(s) lead the team. 

A heavily laden gnomish wagon would need a team of at least a dozen. They can be arranged in 2 rows of 6, 4 rows of three, or 3 rows of 4. Most common is 3 across (known as a gnomerow). The downsides to traveling this way is that A) it looks a bit ridiculous, B) the harnesses are prone to tangle if the entire team fails to work together, C) because gnomes and gnomerows generally lack adequate defense, they make easy targets for predators (both humanoid and otherwise). 

Kneddies also have a natural fear of water as they are profoundly weak swimmers. Any water more than about knee-deep on a human is cause for panic/hesitation/refusal for a team of these wee creatures.
The advantage of keeping/raising kneddies is that they are small and docile and can be very easily sheltered in stables that resemble shelves upon shelves of the wee things. They are exceeding gentle, almost like a favorite pet, and even the odd unfriendly one cannot deal much physical damage (not more than a human biting a gnome). They don’t eat much, and they can eat darn near anything, up to and including stinging, sour swamp grasses. This iron stomach also allows them to drink even murky, fetid bog water. This is about the only thing nature has given to help these tiny animals survive in an otherwise harsh world. The drawback to these walking garbage guts is that they are prone to noisome flatulence and thereby they usually stink of whatever they’ve been eating.

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