Gaerdal Ironhand is the most dwarflike deity of the gnome pantheon, rarely smiling and fiercely intense and the only gnome deity who could be considered stern. Gaerdal takes his duties as protector of gnome burrows very seriously, at the cost of sacrificing a playful spirit. The Shield of the Golden Hills guards against threats from above and below and teaches gnomes to hold their own in combat with larger and more powerful creatures by using their size and natural abilities to their advantage. The Shield of the Golden Hills has no use for tricks, jokes, or deceits, and he remains unsmiling at gnome tales and pranks. The other gnome deities say he chuckles in private, but this is deeply uncertain. Gaerdal often assists gnomes in preparation for battle.
The church of Gaerdal is organized in a strict military hierarchy. Gaerdal's clerics are as close to being a warrior caste as one could find among gnomes, and their numbers are fairly small. They are rather moralizing, much less given to levity than most gnomes, and may often be administrators, judges, and the like. Their role as protectors is of major importance to both their religious teachings and the safety of the communities in which they dwell.
Most clerics multiclass as fighters.
VestmentsThe ceremonial vestments of Gaerdal's clergy include a suit of chain mail, an open-faced helm, and a shield emblazoned with the god's device. The faith's holy symbol is an iron or steel band worn on the right forearm.
The strictly functional ceremonial garb of priests of Gaerdal serves them well in dangerous situations. Nevertheless, members of the clergy acquire the best armor that they can afford, and most senior priests commission a suit of gnome-sized plate mail at some point in their lives.
HierarchyNovices of Gaerdal are known as the Eyes of Shield. Full priests of the Shield of the Golden Hills are known as the Vigilant Host. In ascending order of rank, the titles used by Gaerdalian priests are Stern Watcher, Stem Observer, Stern Guard, Stern Sentinel, Stern Sentry, Stern Guardian, Stern Defender, and Stern Protector. High-ranking priests have unique individual titles. Specialty priests are known as Sternshields.
TemplesTemples of Gaerdal are fortified subterranean strongholds formed from worked caves that serve as both houses of worship and defensive fortifications. Small statues of the god are erected at the center of such shrines, symbolizing Gaerdal's unflagging vigilance, but otherwise each temple is relatively austere, adorned only with the shields of the fallen.
RitualsClerics of Gaerdal pray for their spells at dawn, marking the beginning of a new day. The followers of Gaerdal refer to tendays as Tenhammers, a name referring to the marking of the passage of catch day by striking a great hammer against a metal shield, for such is the typical length of service for guard duty for members of this faith. The tenth day of every ten Tenhammers is a holy day of the faith, known to gnomes everywhere as the Great Clang. On such days the cult of Gaerdal assembles to pay homage to the god through battle hymns and rhythmic chants.
OrdersThe Shields of the Golden Hills are a strictly organized militant order with semiautonomous chapters in most large gnome communities. Strictly divided into four individual branches according to skill, this group includes specialty priests, fighters, fighter/clerics, and clerics. The Shields are charged with defending the Forgotten Folk against attackers as well as serving as both the champions and officers of any larger force raised by the gnomes in time of need.
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The best defense is unswerving vigilance. Serve Gaerdal with absolute dedication and devotion. Defend and protect gnome communities against all invaders both obvious and hidden. Never cease to hone the skills of war, and take the opportunity of relative peace to pass such talents on to gnomes at large.
Gaerdal is most often a gnome in the golden age of life, he is strict, strong, and wearing a chain. He has thick, smooth brown hair and brown eyes.
Gaerdal Ironhand had good relations with most of the other gnomish gods with the exception of Urdlen. He disliked Baervan Wildwanderer because of his tendency to pull pranks. He was hostile toward the kobold and goblin pantheons.