Barbegazi, Caretaker of the Alps
Submitted by: swampy
“They came like the swirling snow,
Riding down the mountainside,
cresting the avalanche…..”
Barbegazi are gnome-like people that inhabit the mountainous region from France to Switzerland. The name “Barbegazi” is probably a corruption of ‘barbe glacÃ©es’, which means “frozen beards”. Unlike most hibernating mammals, Barbegazi hibernate during warm weather and emerge only after the first heavy snowfall of winter. Because of this, Barbegazi are rarely seen when the temperature gets above zero. They never venture below the tree-line and the few specimens who have been trapped by mountaineers (or by the occasional confuzzled Yeti Hunter) and taken down to the Alpine villages, died after only a few hours of capivity.
Barbegazi are considerably shorter than Man, and vary from average to stocky build. Their ears are pointed and they have ice-blue eyes. Barbegazi are covered with pure white body hair, and the males grow lots of facial hair. All the head and facial hair of Barbegazi seem to shimmer in the light, but closer inspection reveals that their hair is actually covered with thick clumps of icicles. Beneath the icicles, their hair is soft, thick and warm.
What sets Barbegazi apart from most other species of gnomes is their feet. Barbegazi feet are large and broad. The unique shape of their feet gives them the advantages of both skis and snowshoes. Barbegazi’s feet allow them to run rapidly across snow, no matter how powdery – plus they can also use their feet as skis (or snowboards!) and can go down slopes as steep as vertical cliffs. The structure of their feet also lets Barbegazi use them as shovels. Using their feet, Barbegazi can tunnel into, under, out of, and through snow very easily.
Barbegazi’s traditional dress is a white-fur garment, that is unisex in design, and this makes it hard to tell a male Barbegazi from a female at a distance. Barbegazi speech has been likened to the whistling of a marmot (a small furry Alpine mammal). They also can communicate over long distances by a kind of eerie hooting which may be mistaken for the whistling of the wind through the mountains peaks.
Barbegazi live in vast caves and tunnel-complexes deep beneath the mountains, most of which are excavated near the summits of the highest peaks of the Alps. The entrances to their cave-dens are tiny openings shielded by curtains of icicles. Here Barbegazi live, happy with their solitary existence and raise their families. Childling Barbegazi are noisey and love to romp about in the snow, playing with snowballs, snowboarding down the mountain on their feet, and generally having fun.
Barbegazi are known as the caretakers of the Mountains. In their capacity as guardians, Barbegazi protect the mountian environment from harm. Barbegazi are generally friendly towards man-kind, and will often help those who are lost and dying of cold in the mountains. Barbegazi also will aid mountain climbers in distress (providing the climbers haven’t shown any disrespect to the environment). Barbegazi have been credited with leading St. Bernard’s to trapped climbers – they talk with the dog using cantrips. They also will hoot to warn mountaineers of oncoming avalanches, even though they themselves quite enjoy these, and surf them down the mountainside.