A Kobold and A Dwarf Talk about Culture V
Transcript Part V, Interrogation of a Kobold Records of the City of Whitestone:
Comparative Anthropologist Hrog: Hello again, Nalk. High-Investigator Krun has retired for the day in part due to exhaustion. Do you have a little more time to talk?
Nalk the Kobold: I can spare time, yes. Thank you for the hobgoblin. It was well spiced; it must not have known what hit it.
Hrog: It fell into a trap set by some of our more radical elements. They had dug themselves into a deep pit; seeing the hobgoblin coming, they readied their axes and struck a single blow of lethal vengeance.
Nalk: Most excellent. How is the decision to hunt made among your kind?
Hrog: You don’t waste much time with pleasantries; to business then. Each of our settlements functions a little bit differently. Here we answer to the three clan-chiefs, one in turn is chief among us. Among his responsibilities then is deciding when we go to war, and who we hunt.
Something that I’m not sure you’re fully in the know about; when a dwarf hunts a goblin, he rarely has an eye on eating it.
Nalk: I had not observed this. Why is it so?
Hrog: On some level, I would guess it is a fundamentally religious decision. Our gods forbid us to eat the flesh of other thinking humanoids.
Nalk: Why do your gods require this of you? The thinker is the tastiest among organs. But even beyond that, do not you by eating gain the mindful habits of your prey?
Hrog: That concept is a little bit alien to our ways.
Nalk: Do not your elders and chiefs grow wizer thus? For the thinking thing is so unlike the unthinking. When I eat your hobgoblin, I taste his anger and rage that a dwarf is his killer. From his very blood, I learn that he has seen the depths of forbidden places. From the shape of his teeth, I know that he has eaten his way upward, for he has different teeth than those who are born hobgoblins.
Hrog: What’s this about eating upward?
Nalk: Have you no knowledge of how Goblinkind is born?
Hrog: Little. We don’t always know the full life cycle of our prey. How are Goblins born?
Nalk: In the days of their youth, goblins are to a man born the same. Tiny, writhing, and ugly-green. Those who are the strongest among their litters feast on the flesh of the weak. Eventually they are strong enough to be taken by their chieftains on their first warbands. The warbands fight with a dozen younglings a few experienced goblins, and of course the band-chief.
But eventually these little bands are torn apart by infighting, for goblinkind has not yet invented a social structure that didn’t give way to chaos and infighting. At the end of it, one goblin, often but not always the chief among them, will swallow up all those who have opposed him. If he spits them out, they may yet arise as the snakes of goblins. But usually he just eats them.
Even as the Barghest outside its clan, this goblin, now the last of its band, must join another. Eventually, their bands grow so strong as to count for a thousand goblin’s eaten each. At this point, they are transformed into hobgoblins.† As strong as three true-climbers or two humans each, these brutes are the basic building blocks of goblin society’s structure.
Hrog: So the Goblin only grows and only matures by eating his fellow Goblin?
Nalk: That is as I understand it to be.
Hrog: Dwarves are not born so. We are birthed from our mothers, whose bodies break to pass us. And we pass in some genetic material in much the same way as your small flyers.
Nalk: And humans the same?
Hrog: It is so.
Nalk: And elves and all those like you?
Hrog: Indeed, it is so.
Nalk: What of the winged ones?
Hrog: Closer to your own mechanism they use. With a clutch of eggs which hatches. But they care more for their youngest than your species; only a few are born.
Nalk: They are not so competitive from the start?
Hrog: It seems not to be so.
Nalk: What of Serpentfolk and their kindred?
Hrog: I know little of them, except that they do have eggs much like your own. The Serpentfolk, and Lizardfolk, and Vishkanya all could use a few more visits from our kind. But we are not always welcome among them.
Nalk: They hunt you?
Hrog: In a manner of speaking, it is always something of an open season on Dwarf in some parts of the world.
Nalk: Does this not concern you?
Hrog: Only when I am near there.
Nalk: Have there been developments in the mutual defense proposal?
Hrog: I spoke to a diplomatic representative yesterday. We are still unaware of much which we will need before we could stretch our thin necks out so far. For instance, what happens when your folk fight the Orc?
Nalk: In best case, Orc Die.
Hrog: Is that common?
Nalk: Not overly. We have not many times clashed with the Orc as big tribe. In small bands, Orcs are stronger and bigger than sure climbers. They are not so fast, but if they take sure climbers by surprise, as when my companion fell, the story writes itself.
Hrog: But they have not faced mothers?
Nalk: They have not attacked our homes, and thus have not fought our mothers. But how different really are Hobgoblin and Orc? They take what is not theirs by force, and by subjugation. When they are forced to fight pitched, they must too die.
Hrog: I think we’re going to have to come to your village. Not as conquorers or even fighters, but as watchers. May a non sure climber scale a tree?
Nalk: If he is escorted by a sure climber, he is usually safe.
Hrog: I will talk to others about putting a trip together, then.
Nalk: This will bring much goodness to the tribe.
†I’m not sure that Nalk is accurate here. This seems a little bit too self-destructive to actually work.