A Kobold and A Dwarf Talk about Culture
Transcript, Interrogation of a Kobold Records of the City of Whitestone:
High-Investigator Krun: Thank you for your willingness to speak to us. I am called Krun. I know this isn’t the most comfortable language for you either. We want to understand your kind so that we can talk to your people and possibly recruit an ally against our mutual foes, the ever-expanding Goblins of Na’thal and the Orcs of Baelrun. Can you tell us why you came to Whitestone?
Nalk the Kobold: I have been called Nalk, of the Four-Shroom clan of whom I am one of the least members. To be here I have traveled at risk through the land of my enemies the Five-Shroom clan, the lands of the Orcs of the Golden Hand and Baelrun who are eaters of all things, and the Hobogoblins of Na’thal who would make my people to be their slaves. In these places I was viewed as food, and one of my companions fell to an Orc thrown-axe.
To actually answer your question, which asks a hard thing, I chose to come to Whitestone because the mother of my tribe wished to understand the tales of Dwarf cities, that they have stones which shed light without fungi. In being brought here, I have had only a few moments to see this miracle, but the report that it is real will be all needed for the mother’s love and affection.
Krun: Why do you say that this is a hard thing? You do generally seem well spoken for one of your kind.
Nalk: You should hear my Dwarven. You would not think so highly of my speech then. It is a hard thing, Krun, because the instruction of a mother is the closest and deepest thing to the heart of a sure-climber like myself. For we awaken to consciousness not knowing which of our tribe’s mothers birthed us, and we are beholden to any mother who will speak to us. May I ask of you a question?
Krun: By all means.
Nalk: Why do Dwarves gird themselves in metal? Orcs and Hobgoblins I understand, for they war constantly, but here even the lowliest I have seen is girded in metal.
Krun: We teach that the All-Father has made Dwarves to be soft enough at birth to enter the world, but hard enough from naming onward that they may survive being dropped in our stony cities. ’’’Laughter’’’ But, in all seriousness, Nalk, the metal you see is only the outer-most layer of our customary dress. We enjoy ceremony, but have seen enough interrupted by war as to always be ready. Look here ""bares arm, reveals leather gauntlet""", this is much more fashionable, don’t you think?
Krun: in any case, I have another, more general question, and forgive me if I cross another cultural line that I shouldn’t! You speak of many mothers for your tribe. How many would you say that is? Do all tribes marshal so many mothers?
Nalk: We birth new mothers very slowly. There are usually only two great-eggs laid in our midst per year. I don’t know much about that, as sure-climbers aren’t privy to the mating details. It is a good omen to have two mothers born in a year. A dozen or more years must pass before they’re ready to be birth-mothers themselves. We’re happy to have three or four birth-mothers every year.
Krun: You said both “mother” and “birth-mother” there, can you establish the difference?
Nalk: “Birth mother” is closest to the dwarven word [mother-of-children-for-the-clan], “mother” is closest to the dwarven word [maiden-dwarf-without-long-beard]".
Krun: I think I understand. Is there a “father” or a [father-for-the-clan]?
Nalk: Yes, there are the “little-flyers” who are as [fathers]. But their contribution could not be more different than your [fathers]. They are as humans say, “administrators”. They organize groups of sure-climbers and have their own strange hierarchies which are unknown to sure-climbers.
Krun: Would “little-flyers” also be diplomats?
Nalk: We do not have that word.
Krun: How do you assure nonviolence between tribes?
Nalk: Decisions to hunt other tribes are decided by mothers.
Krun: Do “little-flyers” talk to mothers about such things?
Nalk: As the goblin talks to the dragon.
Krun: Do the mothers decide to stop hunting other tribes?
Nalk: Do dragons cease to hunt goblins while there are yet goblins?
Krun: That analogy is informative. Can outsiders speak to mothers?
Nalk: It is rarely so. A mother thinks herself a dragon and would need come to you.
Krun: Would it be appropriate to send a gift to a mother?
Nalk: But you know not any of the mothers.
Krun: Must one know someone to compliment them and send a gift?
Nalk: Gifts without knowledge are strange.
Krun: Is the mother who sent you after the light-from-stone likely to want to see it for herself?
Nalk: She would like this in plenty, but how could she come here? And how could you part with stone-with-light?
Krun: Did you not traverse the passages? We could send a group to guard you and the mother against the Orcs and Goblins.
Nalk: I know not whether a mother would traverse the paths through which I’ve traveled, for it was long. But I shall take the offer as a gift back to the mother.
Krun: Another question: you call your mothers Dragons, do you know of the other Dragons?
Nalk: We have tales of a time when our mothers flew under open skies, when our “little-flyers” ate plentiful game on the open plains above, and when our sure-climbers held great treasures for all the world’s dragons. But those days were ended when a human freed humans from the coexisting bondage of that kind.
Krun: You speak of Marduk’s slaying of Tiamat?
Nalk: I speak of a day when a human hunted dragons. Those were strange times, but they are long-gone, and only the unchanging hope for a return to them.
Krun: It looks like we have spent much of our time for this “time-before-sleep”. May I ask you to return here tomorrow that we may talk more?
Nalk: Even as sleepers awake, I shall be returned.