The ancient pre-Cataclysmic texts make frequent mention of warfare against the Goblins who dwelled on the northern fringe of the Lloroi Empire. Although many frozen corpses must have littered the sub-arctic wastes after a thousand battles and ambushes, the feud was not settled before the Cataclysm rendered it irrelevant.
The catastrophe raised high mountains where none had existed before and brought the Goblin range down into the warmer latitudes. Many Goblins per- ished during the upheavals, but those that survived found the rugged, savage life of the Nithmere ("World's End") region to their liking. They called their mountain country Zorn, a name that means "home" in all the Goblin dialects.
Goblins stand between four and six cubits tall and are covered with coarse hair ranging in color from reddish brown to black. The staple of the Goblin's diet is flesh and he will sicken if confined to a vegetable diet for too long. Of all the races of Minaria, only the Trolls surpass the Goblins in individual strength, and none rival them as all-around warriors in a prolonged campaign.
The activities of the Goblins, especially in earlier times, center around hunting wild game, raiding the enemy for goods and captives, and herding. The principal domestic animals of the Nithmere are the hill goat, prized for its meat and wool, and the long- necked sheep, which besides providing flesh is also a useful pack animal.
At one time, a Goblin's wealth was measured in the number of goats and sheep he possessed. In fact, a young warrior could not come into adulthood until he was successful in rustling animals from an enemy's herd. Unfortunately, in the hinterland this custom still prevails, even though it has always been the prime cause of inter-tribal conflicts. The importance of these stock animals in the Goblin culture is seen in their choice of gods: Nergil, who is worshiped by most of Zorn, is a ram-headed being.
The primary concern of the Goblins has been keep- ing their population limited in proportion to their food supply. Unlike some other Minarian races, they have done this without resorting to the practice of daugh- ter-slaying.
Travelers to the Nithmere are surprised by the indul- gence Goblins shower on their young, since to out- siders the Goblin serves as an archetype of brutality and casual violence. Whipping of small children is almost nonexistent and, if the young cry, their wants are either immediately satisfied or they are soothed by their elders until they settle down. Very early in life the Goblin child becomes a functioning member of the family -- not by sulking through tedious chores,
Despite their affection for their young, the Goblins necessarily attempt to limit their birth rate by means of various incentives. According to the words of the Goblin elder Mooi (preserved by the astute Shucassamite geographer Taheiki), marriage is deferred until full adulthood and the chaste individual is admired over the wanton and the rake. Female virgins may belong to any of a number of amazonian societies which encourage chastity and whose members are hon- ored on the level of young male warriors. It is for this reason that the Nithmere produces such large warrior bands. True, many Goblin maids die in war, but this, too, helps to limit the population.
Goblin warrior-maids partake in hunting and warfare exactly like their male counterparts. So agreeable is the life of the Goblin amazon that many females never marry, although it becomes permissible for them to do so after their twen- ty-ninth year. Amazons who are expelled from their societies for any just rea- son fall into disgrace; their sorrow serves to remind their sister Goblins to obey the high-minded rules of their people.
The Goblins scorn town life and do not permit the formation of villages within their domain. Their one supposed city, the Pits, is really a natural fortress and the seat of their governing body. Foreign traders are careful not to offend Goblin sensibilities by letting their trading posts expand out of hand even in areas of the densest population.
Typically, several families place their huts in small groups of four or five, sepa- rated from their neighbors living similarly by rough land or goat pastures. The basic unit of the early Goblin culture was the family hunting group, called the Hrungsenna, though it is most analogous to a predatory pack. Related Hrungsennas make up a clan. The clan leader is a patriarch of the grandparent generation and to this leader the clan Goblins owe inflexible obedience, since clan-survival depends on a kind of martial cooperation. Clan headmen have the responsibility of choosing the chief of their tribe. Although democracy prevails in the chief's election, it goes no farther than that in the Goblin Land.
The chieftain makes the hard decisions, which are meant to be carried out instantly. Torture, mutilation, and death are the tools of coercion available to a tribal leader. His power is curtailed to some extent by certain traditional rules.
Violating these -- usually by acts in denial of the four Great Virtues (courage, generosity, wisdom, and fortitude) -- has brought down numerous chieftains in the past.
Most of what is known of the Goblin way of life may be gleaned from a few mod- ern texts, the most important of which is The People of Nergil, by the Elven scholar Nuadat. Until very recently, the Goblin race has not fared well in the lit- erature of Minaria. The old chronicles of Men, Dwarves, and Elves equated them with devils or predatory beasts. A traditional prayer of the Vidarna tribe reads: "Be our bulwark, Lord Anshar, against the frenzy of the Goblins."
Nuadat found it very hard to compile a concise history of Zorn because to a Goblin history is tribal history -- and correlating many similar-sounding deeds of eleven different and very turbulent tribes into one cohesive narrative account is a vast and baffling undertaking. The fact that the Goblins do not keep written chronicles themselves further complicates the task.
Says Nuadat: "The sources of information concerning the Goblins include the factual, the traditional, and the mythical. The seriousness of the Goblins' inter- est in their own antecedents is evidenced in their scrupulous maintenance of storyteller-skins. These are pictures painted on goatskins, usually in spiral form with the first event of the year at the vortex. Each picture is intended to remind the storyteller of a different event occurring during the year. The individual clans keep hundreds of these skins, representing centuries of time. Unfortunately, it becomes impossible to sort out legend from fact for periods going back some five hundred and more years."
Yet, even these legends must not be discounted; the Prachar Goblins have a story of a time when the gods made the mountains:
The earliest legends say that Zorn comprised six tribes which carried on in low-grade conflict but which period- ically met to discuss matters of common interest. Gradually, as the Goblin population increased and pas - ture land and game grew scarce, rivalry led to conflicts. New groupings appeared and old ones dissolved, so that by the year 1000 A.C. the Goblin storytellers could name eleven tribes -- a number that has remained unchanged to this day.
The poverty of the Nithmere has forced the Goblins into raiding as a way of life. It is not possible to migrate to better lands, because Goblin habits -- particularly their anthropophagy -- have made them unpopular all over northern Minaria. Yet, can their disposition truly be said to be evil when Nature has enjoined them to eat meat or die?
For centuries the Goblins have raided their human neighbors as they please. Catastrophes, such as the invasion of Kalruna-Sasir (ancient Muetar) by "abomi - nations of the land and horrors of the air" only made their work easier. But never was there a chance for the disunited Goblin tribes of Zorn to achieve any perma- nent conquests in the well-populated south. All nations have been united in their disdain for the Goblins and civilized armies swiftly grow large enough to overwhelm them; Goblin tactics have tended to lag behind military science in the South, as was displayed at the Battle of Tanglefoot when Egalon, the Emperor of Muetar, shat- tered a powerful sortie by the Longmuir tribe.
By the end of the Twelfth Century, Vidarnan warrior- bands ("thargals") were in the field subduing the Conodras tribes to the west of Zorn and also coming into conflict with Goblins in the Nithmere foothills. In addi - tion, the human barbarians in the Wild Reaches and Blownover were increas - ing in population and power and impinging upon the Nithmere. When the Pirostars put an end to the anarchy in Muetar, the Goblins were encircled by foes of such strength that no individual tribe could stand up to them alone.
Change was forced on the mountain tribes and it was those dwelling closest to the borders, those with more familiarity with non-Goblin ideas, that took the first steps toward formulating a native state in order to match the power of the enemy.
At the outset of the Thirteenth Century, the Goblin Mengsmal assumed the chieftainship of the Gakstetter tribe. He had observed how trade had enriched his human neighbors and he desired the same for his own tribe. Alas, he real - ized that no caravan would enter the Nithmere as long as lawless Goblins roamed the borders, robbing -- and sometimes devouring -- merchant travelers. Accordingly, he suppressed banditry among his own people and drove the marauders hailing from other tribes out of his territory. Finally, the uncommon- ly-sophisticated chieftain opened his quarter of the Nithmere to traders from Immer and Muetar.
Unlikely as it may seem, bold entrepreneurs took up Mengsmal's offer, and soon the Goblins were eagerly exchanging vanamir-ivory, furs, amber, and musk for human-made cloth, spices, beads, and -- above all -- rock salt. The latter the Goblins called "jozon," and it was used as the standard currency of the Nithmere, the mineral not being available in quantities large enough to do more
than season Goblin food. The wealth that flowed into the Gakstetters' hands through trade allowed Mengsmal to arm the tribe with iron weapons and to bribe the allies of rival tribes to his faction. After Mengsmal had isolated his enemies, the Hliosurts and the Glyfadrs, he conquered them by force and imposed a trib- ute.
Trade did not develop as quickly as Mengsmal desired unfortunately. Plainly, Zorn had few products to offer to offset the dangers of the Nithmere. Accordingly, he talked to Immerites and Muetarans and heard them speak of the high prices they paid for slaves and how far afield traders were willing to go when prisoners of war were made available. Mengsmal understood this infor- mation and resolved to enter into the lucrative Minarian slave trade.
He spread the word that non-Goblin prisoners could be purchased from the tribes in exchange for cloth, spice, beads, and jozon. The Goblins of the Nithmere were actually pleased to comply, for human, Dwarven, and Trollish meat was not preferred over sheep and goat, and the goods they acquired in exchange could buy much livestock.
However, the idea of unity was too vital to the survival of the Nithmere way of life at this point to pass away with its originator. The Longmuir Goblins, inhab- iting the region of the Mouth Pass, had already confederated with the Yngguls of Stone Toad (later the "Cursed" Forest) to ward off Mengsmal's ambitions. These tribes maintained order in central Zorn and replaced the Gakstetters as the leaders in foreign-trade endeavors.
The wealth created by expanded trade was not shared equally among the fam- ilies even within the same clans, alas. The rich tended to purchase huge herds and then drive the poorer Goblins off the common pasture land. The ensuing conflict did much to destroy the old patterns of tribal life and created many vagabond clans. For a time the new vagabond class renewed the old-style Goblin raids on Immer and Muetar, the former being weakened by the Ducal War and the latter moiled in the feudal anarchy that accompanied the decay of the Oyarostar dynasty.
During this period of economic prosperity but civil ferment, the worship of the god Nergil spread out from the Glyfadr tribe which originated it. Nergil-worship was more than just a throwback to a simpler time; the god spoke of justice, of brotherhood, and peace among his worshipers, and an end to the eating of sen- tient creatures. Symbolically the god was a ram, a being that was offering his
So seriously did the Glyfadrs take the injunction against fighting with co-religionists that when an outlaw thargal fled from Immer and occupied Ozerg Mountain in the face of Goblin resistance, the combatants made peace on equitable terms when the humans (who are now called the Ozerg Mountaineers) accepted the worship of the Great Lord Nergil.
The Glyfadrs prospered during the latter Thirteenth Century, raiding Immer, Muetar, and the barbarians to obtain slaves for sale; these slaves were offered both to foreigners and other tribes, especially the Svipdagvoir Goblins, who were mining an unusually-large mine of jozon and wanted men to work the mines. When star- vation forced the Gakstetters to attack the Gap Castle in 1288, they were routed and severely weakened. The Glyfadrs subsequently enticed them into a federation by means of the dole and the attraction of Nergil-worship.
Elsewhere in Goblin Land, the Thirteenth Century saw the tyranny of the Mangubat Goblins under Gronek spread throughout eastern Zorn. When Gronek inso- lently offended the mysterious Black Hand, Gronek fell in a horrifying manner and his fragile domain broke up in his absence.
The power vacuum left by Gronek's misfortune was filled by the Svipdagvoir Goblins, who had recently dis - covered a native deposit of jozon at Bitter Water Spring. The huge loss of mining-slave's lives at the diggings was an outrageous scandal all over northern Minaria and captives taken by Goblins sometimes slew them- selves in fear of being sent to the jozon mines.
Initially, the output of jozon enriched the Svipdagvoirs vastly. Alas, they were not economically sophisticated and the astonishing growth of the jozon supply under- cut its value. Many Goblins, once wealthy with jozon, were subsequently paupered and the economic life of the Nithmere fell into confusion. This was the state of affairs in the year 1290, when the Great Barbarian War broke upon the Nithmere.
We know of the war largely from the memoirs of the Ozerg Mountaineers who stood by their Goblin allies throughout the conflict. The trouble began when Sagaradu Black Hammer rose to the status of Great Chief over the barbarous North. He chose to direct the
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