The gnomes of Hyperborea are neither born nor created; they enter our world by climbing out of their own shadows, and leave a few hours later when they inevitably tumble back down into them. At the bottom of each of these peculiar holes (sometimes over thirty miles in depth) is a pool of black lava of unknown origin. Some say that each such shadow is a window into a second underground, and that our planet hides multiple interiors beneath a single surface. Others claim that there is no such multitude of underworlds, and that the gnomes create a material debt by existing that eventually swallows their borrowed bodies whole.

Natural philosophers who dare attempt to resolve the paradox of gnomeflesh tend to write themselves in circles. In his rather verbose masterpiece Of the Supreme Mysteries of Nature, Paracelsus contradicts himself at every corner of this logical labyrinth:

“They are not Spirits, as others are, but are compared unto them, for the Similitude of their Arts and Industry , which are common to them with the Spirits: they have flesh and blood as men, which no real Spirit hath: as Christ spoke unto his Disciples, when he came amongst them, when the doors were shut, and they were afraid, saying ‘Feele me, and touch me, for a Spirit hath not flesh and blood nor bones, as I have:’ By this, he himself hath taught you, that a Spirit hath no true body that can be touched: nor bones, nor flesh, nor blood, but existeth in its own essenence of winde or Aire. But of this we have briefly spoken enough; But to return to the earthly [Gnomes] or halfe-men, we are to know that these are not to be reputed Spirits, but like to Spirits; but if they are or shall be called Spirits, they ought to be called earthly Spirits, because they have their Chaos and habitation under the earth, and not in the winde and Aire as the other Spirits have.”

The native Hyperboreans have a much simpler explanation: “Gnomes do not exist, but they spend their entire lives trying.”

Each of these so-called “halfe-men” emerges in the caves of our world carrying in his hands a tool known as a “weaver’s drill.” One of its corkscrew-like mechanisms burrows into the walls of his mountain home, while another twists in the opposite direction beneath it, pulling any ore struck into one long, thin thread. Golden strands are preferred, but they tend to work with whatever they can find, for their time is short.

Once enough thread has been mined, the next (and last) phase of a gnome’s life is usually spent desperately trying to sew their own shadow shut and seal themselves in our reality. Only a handful have ever been observed to succeed, and even then, only temporarily. The pit continues to follow them wherever they go, tearing at its corners and growing until inescapable.

Humans often feel empathy for gnomes and attempt to intervene in this process; however, gnome shadows do not seem to discriminate in who or what they swallow, and regularly drag would-be heroes down into the darkness as well.