A Kobold and A Dwarf Talk about Culture II
Transcript Part II, Interrogation of a Kobold Records of the City of Whitestone:
High-Investigator Krun: I’d like to talk a bit more today about how mothers make decisions.
Nalk the Kobold: Even as a dragon chooses which prey to eat.
Krun: Mothers send sure-climbers such as yourself to learn things about the outside world. How does that filter into their broader decision making, particularly about who you want to “hunt”?
Nalk: When I return, the tribe will hold a small celebration, for usually such travelers are hunted by those with bigger mouths. I will in short order tell the mother who sent me all of the things that I have seen.
Krun: In the same way you are talking to me now?
Nalk: Even as the goblin sings to the dragon.
Krun: How long will it take you to say all of this?
Nalk: The language of dragonkin is very fast.
Krun: What other languages do you personally speak?
Nalk: I know a bit of your native tongue, obviously this tongue, and also the language that goblins call out among themselves.
Krun: I’m not sure most dwarves speak that many tongues.
Nalk: The goblin’s tongue saved twice my skin.
Krun: So, how do mothers make their decisions?
Nalk: They tend to see the world in the same way. Given the same information, it is…rare that they disagree. A disagreement among two “birth-mothers” is usually solved with bites and stings. If there are many in disagreement, however, the mothers speak to the “little-flyers” who are expected to line up in support behind one specific mother’s opinion. Some tribes try to have all disagreements resolved in this way, but to deprive the mothers of their right to try by might earns one the hunting of others.
Krun: If the “little-flyers” are also unable to decide in unison, do they then ask the “sure-climbers”?
Nalk: No. The sure-climber does not play with the mysteries beyond himself in the eyes of the tribe.
Krun: I don’t understand, you yourself have risked everything to come here, but you’ll never have a part in the decision as to what is done with the information?
Nalk: That is the way that it is. I am blessed with great fortune that I have reached this far. I will bring back the truth of the light-from-stone to the mother and receive greater blessing. Perhaps in another lifetime I shall be a mother.
Krun: Another lifetime?
Nalk: Do not the dwarves know of the world beyond a single life? Are not dwarves born into prominence if their soul’s body did well in a past life?
Krun: The All-Father does not teach that.
Krun: Do any among you work magic?
Nalk: There are some, yes.
Nalk: Sure-climbers more than any other, for our weak bodies are not poorly suited to the lifestyle of the mage. Never the magic like the dwarves of the All-Father, though.
Krun: That is, no divine magic?
Nalk: Right, never. Kobolds tend to draw on the magic of the draconic soul. Do you know of this magic?
Krun: I believe we term it “arcane”, but I am not totally certain. Are you one who casts?
Nalk: No, I am one who stabs. Perhaps in another lifetime I shall be one who casts.
Krun: Do “small flyers” cast?
Nalk: They are beholden to a different type of magic, as of the breaths of dragons.
Krun: We call that “elemental” magic.
Nalk: This I have come to understand from the books of the humans. This is a good name.
Krun: Do your elementalists call beings from beyond other worlds for counsel?
Nalk: There is no purpose. Guidance for the tribe is the affair of the mothers. The mothers do not cast, either as “little flyers” or sure-climbers. They believe only that which they see and prophecy only that which they feel.
Krun: What’s that last?
Nalk: From time to time, the souls of dragons past will talk to the mothers.
Krun: …how does that work?
Nalk: I am only a true-climber. I know not of the great mysteries of the mothers.
Krun: Another mystery: Do the mothers choose how many swift-climbers? How many “little-flyers” to birth?
Nalk: I believe mothers and little-flyers talk among the host about this, but that the mother may choose the number she wants. However, only the oldest and fairest mothers produce new mothers.
Krun: You called yourself Nalk. How do you get names? We among dwarves hold an elaborate ceremony and the great clan-chief gives the names one youth, and the next senior dwarf, and so on down to the parents.
Nalk: In this matter the little-fliers have full dominion. A true-climber is named for his speed or his color or the shape of his front teeth. There is no great meaning to our names. ‘Nalk’ means “not-distinctively-pigmented”.
Krun: Do “little-fliers” also get names in this way?
Nalk: Oh no! Little-fliers name themselves when they reach a certain age. In my clan is a little-flier named “thunder”, which sounds a little too close to the word for “colorful droppings”, but he’s so serious and all the other little-flyers laugh as he refuses to change the name.
Krun: If I may ask in a different direction: what sorts of tools do you have?
Nalk: Always focused on the darkest day, Dwarf, always. We have many bone implements, not really good for weapons when birth gives us sharp teeth and claws. We tend not to worry about ripping metal from the ground, especially for ugly skin that parasites can live inside. We try not to waste anything, however, I once heard tell of a tribe of our kind who had taken to using the teeth of hunted goblins for a kind of what you would call “currency.”
Krun: What about your tribe? How do you denote value?
Nalk: Among sure-climbers, we have little need in our own society. But for traveling, I learned to find the pouches that hunted goblins carried and count them out as needed when I talk to those who accept little coins.
Krun: But when you go back home?
Nalk: Our value to mothers is our value to the tribe. Should one be found with no grace of mothers to defend him, he must find another mother or another home. It is very clear and simple.
Krun: Do you know of many good places to go?
Nalk: Certainly here is not so bad a place, as you dwarves have kept me fed and safe. Whom are you hunting? And also, the Elves in Mourning are said to be more-pleasant than orcs.
Krun: You have had different experiences than we in Mourning. At the moment we hunt the Orc and the Goblin, and we’d ask that you join our hunt.
Nalk: Excellent. I will deliver food to your table.
Krun: Wait, that’s not quite what I mean.
Nalk: Oh, I see. You hunt later. Eat now?
Krun: I can have food brought, yes. We’ll talk for the stenographer again this afternoon.