Rise of the Runelords
Origins: Grosilge and Chuffy
Summer was when the warchanters trained.
Since it was hot, the already short goblin tempers of the Seven Tooth Tribe warriors were easy to arouse. For female pups with their fang teeth sturdy in their skulls but bellies too soft to fight with proper weapons, they were recruited to become wives and warchanters.
There was Faulfang, small and wiry but ferocious in spirit. She didn’t survive by being strong or clever; she just bit things really hard and viciously refused to let go. Not a warrior in frame but spirit. Her song was harsh, angry, and full of fire.
Gritzahn would and could eat an entire other goblin. She was too big to bully and too lazy to fight. Everyone agreed she’d make a better fat wife for Koruvus if she could be convinced not to eat her own young.
Then there was Grosilge, fit of body, strong of tooth, long of ear and the biggest softbelly of them all. She was not fierce or ferocious, she didn’t fight, bite, or maim but she could sing. Her voice was like thunder, solid stone, or good steel. She kept to herself except for raids to the longshank dump where she had a good eye for treasures.
All three found themselves standing before the fearsome Raitzenmurtr, leader of the warchanters. The malicious Raitzenmurtr bared her teeth at them as she fingered the bones hanging from the hilt of her dogslicer.
“Sing,” she hissed in both command and threat.
All three could not bother to start at the same time but as they began they somehow ended up in unison, a matter of absolute happenstance on the part of Gritzahn.
Goblins chew and goblins bite!
Goblins cut and goblins fight!
Stab the dog and cut the horse,
Goblins eat and take by force!
Goblins race and goblins jump!
Goblins slash and goblins bump!
Burn the skin and mash the head,
Goblins here and you be dead!
Chase the baby, catch the pup!
Bonk the head to shut it up!
Bones be cracked, flesh be stewed,
We be goblins! You be food!
The flat of Raitzen’s blade struck Grosilge on her thigh; it turned brown were the red blood rushed to the place on her green skin the blade struck. The blade was old and worn as obvious by the crimson red dots forming where the rustier and more jagged bits pierced the skin. Goblins can’t be bothered with things like, well, taking care of things, because then where would all the fearsome and life threatening jagged edges go?
Grosilge ground her teeth. She wanted to cry, she’d cried before and it felt better after she cried. However, she’d never seen a goblin cry besides herself. She’d seen a human baby do it once right before it was thrown in a bugbear stew pot but never a goblin. She wasn’t entirely sure where SHE had picked up the trait. Still, if she cried, she died – this much she knew.
“Stop dancing!” Raitzen screeched and hissed at the same time. Gritzahn and Faulfang gave amused chortles at Grosilge’s expense. It’s not that goblins didn’t dance, they did but on specific occasions like when a raid was successful or you’d stepped on a hot coal. Grosilge didn’t need a special occasion to dance – she just needed sound. Sometimes the sound was in her head.
“Sing me another!” And they did. Grosilge didn’t sing her best because she had to concentrate hard on keeping her body as stiff as a corpse. Raizenmurtr would whap her again if she so much tapped a toe. She’d done it before. She’d do it again.
By the end of training, Grosilge achieved no more than 3 or 4 whaps. A record low. She was learning.
Chuffy was peculiar for a goblin male. He was born to a decently large litter and yet something pulled and tugged at him. It’s not that he couldn’t fight, or bite, or be mindlessly cruel, it’s just that being mindless at all was beyond him. From a young age, Chuffy reasoned.
His siblings were unreasonable and they were stupid, a concept Chuffy did not quite understand but he generally understood that he was more… more… more or less likely not to fall off a cliff, for example, which happened, he noticed, with surprising frequency.
He was good at avoiding fights. It so happens that goblins are motivated as much by food as their goblin dogs. He’d once thrown a dead chipmunk he caught at a bully and that bully fought with his own dog over the scrap. The bully won. It was a good chipmunk and he could hardly blame them but the Shank’s Wood was full of chipmunks and catching them was not terribly hard once you knew the trick of it.
No, there as something peculiar about him. He knew it and everyone knew it but no one tested him too much. Probably because Chuffy was good at inventing clever ways to escape detection and cleverer ways of accidentally convincing bullies that it was bad luck to try and beat him to a pulp. Every last bully that had gone after him with any real dedication, found him or herself dedicatedly dead. Never something he intended but something that happened all the same. Besides, he was a pipsqueak and hardly worth the effort as he kept to himself mostly, so the village all agreed he was a tiny, worthless curse and should be ignored until which time he died or was killed.
Today, Chuffy had a treasure. Glass didn’t last very long in the hands of a goblin. It broke easily and the shards were much more appealing as a stabbing weapon than the whole smooth thing as “whatever a longshanks did with it”. Chuffy, however, had filled it with water and nightshade berries. He threw in some poison ivy and and redcap mushrooms, for texture, and watched the brew swirl in a chunky grey mess.
He gave it a sniff. It smelled like … nothing. Sometimes the things he made smelled notably awful or notably something. Most times they smelled like nothing.
A goblin happened passed on his way to the goblin dog pens. “What’s that!?” he queried, giving Chuffy a start. Gutsnort, Chuffy realized, the breeder’s son – a curious, voracious, meanspirited goblin that loved making the dogs fight.
“Nothing,” Chuffy muttered, trying to hide his flask. He wasn’t worried about the concoction but the glass… He’d never find another one intact! Too slow or too obvious to protect his treasure, Gutsnort was on him in a flash and the two wrestled. It wasn’t really wrestling; Gutsnort was several pounds heavier than Chuffy and had no trouble shoving the latter’s face into the dirt.
Gutsnort sniffed the flask and bounded off Chuffy looking smug. “It’s mine now,” he proclaimed with daring. Chuffy didn’t dare ask for it back. Instead he glared as intensely as he knew how – which wasn’t terribly intense all things considered. He spat dirt and blood from his mouth.
“Is it delicious?” Gutsnort asked, sniffing again.
Chuffy opened his mouth in horror. “Wh-what?! No! It’s the most poisonous thing there is!” He hopped to his feet and tried to get the glass container out of Gutsnort’s hands.
“Well,” the large male chortled, “you’re a liar and full of tricks! If you say it’s bad then its delicious!” Gutsnort said in a profound misunderstanding of reverse psychology. He proceeded to down the drink while holding Chuffy at bay. After draining the glass, he belched and threw the container on the ground.
Chuffy wailed and lunged for the flask but it was too late. It shattered with a tragic crashing noise. He was too late. No, everything was too late – including keeping Gutsnort from guzzling poison.
Usually the constitution of a creature prone to feasting on several day old carcasses and foul foods fermented in the world’s worst culinary tragedy like goblin pickles were not prone to illness but this was no mere matter of rotten food. It was poison.
Before Gutrot managed to get 5 feet away he was already swaying like a willow in the wind. At 10 feet and he was retching. Then 15 feet he turned to give Chuffy a look of total surprise and at 17 feet, he was dead.
Instead of horror, Chuffy felt mildly fascinated. After all, it’s not everyday you accidentally poison your enemy to death – only every 2 -3 months. Still he was a smidgen disappointed, after all, since that concoction wasn’t even clever and he really was just messing around, he hadn’t intended on creating the world’s most deadly poison and he was out a pristine glass container. All in all, it was rat in a hole – something good completely out of reach and therefore a waste.
Sighing, he collapsed on the ground and stared at his broken glass.
Grosilge sat in her thicket hiding place turning a headdress she was working on this way and that. She has found some random jawbones of deer lying in the trash piles near the village and thought of amazing idea.
There would be a raid on the longshank village’s trash piles in the coming days and she was excited to get her hands on some colorful scraps. Some need more bones too then she could make a full ensemble. She grinned at the idea and hugged a jawbone lovingly to her chest.
Hiding her work in a pile of leaves, she scrambled out of her thicket and headed up the hill.“Stop!” She froze.
It’s not often the bushes tell you to stop so she supposed she had better. Soon it was apparent it was not a bush that was commanding her but a small goblin a few years her younger with a dirty face and a bloody nose. She didn’t recognize him. Usually goblins were separated first by job, then by age and then by who was closest to being dead. The ranks were always shifting but age tended to stay fairly constant.
“Why am I stopping?” she asked, leg lifted in mid-stride.
“Because there’s glass,” the young male tried to sweep the glittering shards together with his hands. “If you step on it, you’ll probably hurt your feet and die or something. I dunno how poison glass works.” He paused. “Yet.”
When he had cleared away the glass under the lifted foot, she dropped it and knelt down to observer more closely. “Why is there poison glass?”
“Because I had a glass bottle full of poison and Gutrot broke it,” he jerked his round head in the direction of a corpse. Grosilge looked from the body to the small goblin now holding dirt and glass in his hands.
“And you killed him?”
“Yes. I mean no. I mean, kind of. He drank the poison because he’s a stupid rockskull that doesn’t listen but I also didn’t try to stop him…very hard…so…”
There was a silence between them. Grosilge stared at Gutrot’s prone corpse and shrugged. Crows were already gathering. “Thanks for protecting my feet, ah…who are you?”
“Chuffy. Gruffy’s pup. The big guy with the nail in his head?” Grosilge nodded knowingly.
At least once a day someone was trying to hammer Gruffy’s nail all the way in. He got it during a raid and lucked out that the nail somehow embedded itself without much damage into his brain. Still, the constant harassment gave him a hair-trigger temper which lead to adventurous goblins with nothing to lose and everything to prove to go after him. Gruffy always won out in the end – he was terribly invested in winning.
Grosilge patted Chuffy on the head. “Okay. Thank you for saving my feet, Huffy.”
“Chuffy,” he corrected.
“…They’re very important to me.” She continued either ignoring or not caring about the distinction he made. She hopped to the side deftly, spun on one foot, struck a pose and grinned toothily by way of showing off how uninjured feet were incredibly useful. “See you around, little Tuffy! I have to go!”
“It’s… Chuffy,” he responded to her retreating back with a resigned sigh.
10 were lost in the harpy attacks. One was from Grosilge’s band of fighters but in her defense he did die inspired.
Chuffy’s poison arrows helped slay 3 harpies.
Harpy tastes very little like chicken. Still delicious.
Longshanks, or humans as other creatures knew them, threw away perfectly good things, Grosilge thought with a little frustration. She was looking at a small purplish article of clothing. It had various stains but stains well placed add character and this had fair load of character. She tied the sleeves of the garments in not and used the open bottom to form a kind of sack.
Her companions were crawling through the piles of garbage careful not to make too much noise lest the half-orc thing come bursting out swinging his pitchfork at them. He was mostly harmless but his hooting brought the guard and the guard were considerable more trouble.
Grosilge opened a wet box made of sturdy paper. Small shears, rusted. They were perfect! she put the whole soggy box in her sack. The sack would dry and might acquire more character for all the effort. The warchanter in training found that humans did not like wet things. The hard part of raiding wasn’t finding things it was finding good things. Humans also did not like mixing things. For example She found a boot with a dead rat in it. Or there was the time she found a pile of various pots all with the wrong lids.
She loved mixing things up and it wasn’t as though the mixed up things weren’t still useful. She shook her head and shoved a doll with tattered hair in her sack. Humans didn’t make a bit of sense.
After some time, there was a gruff shout and the chattering of half a dozen goblins sounding alarmed. The half-orc had been roused. She reached for the last bit of treasure under a pile of broken tables and chairs and took off, her full sack clanking behind her.
Chuffy struggled to breath passed the fabric shoved up his nose and covering his moth. He scraped the last bit of paste in the empty half of a walnut shell and then covered it with the other half.
He took the cover off his mouth and the plugs from his nose, which turned out to be a mistake. The overwhelming smell of stinkbug and stinkhorn paste did not abate now that he had filled a dozen and a half poorly sealed walnut shells.
He scrambled away attempting not to retch. He found himself pursued by the smell and realized his hands were perfumed with eau de funk and if he didn’t do something about that he’d be very tempted to just cut his hands off, which would be an insurmountable inconvenience.
The early morning mist from the waves hung in the air and indeed smells crisp and salty. It was a welcome smell. Holding his hands out in front of him, he heard a rich noise like the waves if the waves had real emotion.
He stopped, taken aback but a figure dancing on a large flat topped rock. The small figure was a goblin warchanter. She had one of the most magnificent headdresses he’d ever seen. He’d mistake her for a war chieftain if it weren’t for the fact the Seven Tooth’s had not seen a female war chief in recent memory, so at least 20 years.
As she danced and sang a hauntingly beautiful song about warriors dreaming of their own deaths, the garment she wore seemed to flow with her movements which flowed her with song, which all wove a mesmerizing image that Chuffy could not stop watching.
Seemingly at the behest of her song, a wave crashed impressively behind her, framing her for a moment in throne of white mist before dousing her in cold early fall seawater. She squealed and leaped from the rock, laughing triumphantly.
Chuffy opened his mouth but found himself completely bereft of words so he clapped and croaked a cheer. The warchanter spun on her toe and brandished a rusty pair of shears. “Lumpy?”, she asked.
“Yes! No!” he shook he head to clear his thoughts. “No, It’s…it’s Chuffy.”
“OH!” she nodded in affirmation. “Sure, whatever. What are you doing here?”
Chuffy looked around himself, briefly unsure of the answer. "Well, I needed to wash my hands, "he said like a gob waking up from a head injury. “Yeah, and then you were…YOU! YOU WERE DANCING and it was AMAZING! And singing…”
Grosilge shrugged and played with a wet feather. Her expression was hard to read. Her face was red as though she as furious but she lacked the tale-tell snarling and violent chest thumping. “S-sorry if I hurt your feelings…” Chuffy ventured, in case he had offended.
“What? Oh no, no. People don’t usually like my dances.” And what passed was an incredibly awkward moment of silence, neither really knowing how continue. Chuffy never knew he could have a civil conversation with another of his kind. He wasn’t completely prepared for it. And for Grosilge’s sake, she had never in her life been praiseworthy and she didn’t really know how to take it.
“Well,” the young warchanter began. “We had a raid a few nights ago and I found this.” She walked over to a patchworked sack of various leathers and rummaged around. The sound of clinking made Chuffy’s heart jump. She pulled out two large bottles, the largest he’d ever seen and presented them to him.
She gave a sniff and curled up her nose. “Lumpy, you smell like Kehleschlitzer’s armpits.”
Chuffy’s squeak out a noise that was meant to be words of gratitude and instead sounded like a strained passing of wind. Grosilge laughed and patted his cheeks.
“You’re funny. I’ve gotta go or else Raitzenmurtr will beat my brains in.” She paused. “One day…I would like to make more people smile with my dancing, you know… Too bad for us we’ll probably die as weichenbauchs.” She gave him a final pat and moved passed him.
Chuffy could not recall how long he remained motionless but by the time his brain returned from its unexpected foray, Grosilge was gone and he was alone holding two large heavy bottles. He looked them over, there was still a dark liquid in the bottom that smelled sour.
It’s not often that a goblins heart is empowered to do much more than force foul blood through foul veins and arteries. It’s not often a goblin feels much more than anger, hunger, fatigue, and mixes thereof. Rarer still do goblins feel something as pure and and as good as love. And yet, Chuffy’s heart felt just that. Real and true, honest love for a goblin he barely knew.
“Grosilge…I’ll never let you die like that…” He enjoyed the firm resolve he felt in his chest and tipped the bottle and looked it over. A fat laughing longshanks looked back at him. “Don’t laugh! I can do it…somehow…”