The Days of Kruk-Ma-Kali Part 4

Previous: The Days of Kruk-Ma-Kali Part 3

Kruk-Ma-Kali joined Lork-Bran-Dron’s army as a common soldier but he would not stay that way for long. As his psionic power was honed in the Shacklack School for Psions, so too did Kruk-Ma-Kali’s body grow alongside his mind. By the time he completed Lork-Bran-Dron’s boot camp in Trung Town, Kruk-Ma-Kali was a towering seven foot tall wall of muscle. Even without his telepathic abilities, Kruk-Ma-Kali attracted attention. His mind powers provided the extra nudge and Lork-Bran-Dron placed him in command of a small squad of soldiers.

Lork-Bran-Dron ordered a military campaign against the city-state of Tomak’nax. The army approached the dual city, fighting in a series of skirmishes along the way. In every skirmish the Tomak’nax soldiers slew Kruk-Ma-Kali’s superior officer and then he stepped in to lead the troops to victory. Each of these incidents earned Kruk-Ma-Kali a battlefield promotion from Lork-Bran-Dron. No one knew that Kruk-Ma-Kali had psionically called the opposing forces to target his commanders. No one knew that Kruk-Ma-Kali used telepathic nudges to place himself as the best replacement in the minds of the other soldiers of Trung Town. All they saw was a talented hobgoblin stepping in and leading them to victory.

At the siege of Tomak’nax, Kruk-Ma-Kali coated himself in psionic energy. This clouded the minds of others in close proximity to him, so that they never looked at him. With this magic of practical invisibility, Kruk-Ma-Kali reconnoitered the city. While surveying their defenses from inside something caught his eye. In the dirt beside one of the hastly erected wooden walls was a jet black longsword. Kruk-Ma-Kali picked up the sword and it drank in the sunlight, remaining matte black from every angle.

The sword spoke to Kruk-Ma-Kali and promised him power through conquest. It called itself Kharad-khor, Bloodthirster. Kruk-Ma-Kali listened and saw his path to glory. First, he would have to replace Lork-Bran-Dron as king of the assembled forces. He had arleady swiftly risen in esteem during the campaign and was now a trusted adviser to the king. One more step and the final prize could be his. Kruk-Ma-Kali completed his scouting mission and exited Tomak’nax with his black prize.

Goblin Overview

When the Olympians invaded, the Animal Pantheon of the Goblins gave their subjects a blessing. Prior to the invasion, the goblins were a relatively homogenous race. When war started various sub-races were born to goblin mothers. One out of every hundred births was a hobgoblin. One out of every five hundred births was a bugbear. One out of every twenty thousand was a barghest. Various other sub-races came about as well (bakemono, dekanter, tasloi, etc.). Each of these new goblinoids were more powerful than the original goblins and better suited for war agains the Conclave races of the Olympians. The Animal Pantheon had hoped that this infusion of strength would bring their petitioners victory, but it was sadly not enough.

Since before the Olympian invasion the goblins practiced ritual cannibalism. At funerals a goblin’s family would consume portions of their corpse so that the goblin’s spirit would continue to reside with the family. Additionally, the goblins consumed the flesh of powerful foes they had defeated to absorb the spiritual strength of that foe into themselves. This tendency towards cannibalism increased among the sub-races created by the Animal gods, most notably in the bugbears and barghests. During the Goblin War the two sub-races had plenty of Conclave races to eat, but after the retreat into the east they found their dinner selection rather limited. Without enemy races to consume, the bugbears and barghests began to devour those they were meant to protect, the goblins.

In the six centuries since the Goblin War, cannibalism has become common within the Hobgoblin Lands. Bugbears and barghests continue to hunt the lesser races. Additionally the scarcity of resources in portions of the Hobgoblin Lands leads to cannibalism out of necessity. A fresh body can command a decent price among the upper-class. Poor goblin families occasionally sell their children, not as slaves, but as meals for a local noble to eat.

The goblinoids of Cimmeria have a diffuse population distribution. Most of them do not live in centralized communities, but instead in small villages supported by subsistence farming. Each of these smaller communities are typically ruled by the hobgoblins within them. A hobgoblin birth is considered a blessing for a goblin family as their child will be strong and enjoy an elevated position within the community. Bugbear births are more akin to a curse. Most goblins eat their bugbear children or kill them through exposure. If they reach adulthood, they can be an asset to their family, but they’re also a risk. After all, what’s stopping the violent cannibal from eating its parents?

The goblins worshipped an animalistic pantheon before the Olympians arrived. They valued the particular accomplishments of each animal. Through worship the goblins hoped to please the ideal spirit of that animal. If the ideal animal was pleased then it would provide the worshipper with a blessing related to the unique traits of the animal. When the Olympians invaded and defeated the animal pantheon there were syncretic changes that occurred to the pantheon. The Animal Pantheon became associated with the Titans that the Olympians had defeated during the Titanomachy. Now each of the Animal gods shares a prison cell in Tartarus with a Titan as the two personalities slowly merge due to syncretism.

Trung Town

Trung Town was the capital of the Hobgoblin Lands under the leadership of Kruk-Ma-Kali. At the height of the Hobgoblin Emperor’s power the city was home to 400,000 goblinoids. After his assassination, Kruk-Ma-Kali’s city diminished in size. His vassals fought over the remains of his empire and the infant capital languished. Now Trung Town’s population is only 18,000 goblins, 1,000 hobgoblins, and 1,000 bugbears.

In the fighting after Kruk-Ma-Kali’s death, General Graz-Khrodun emerged on top with a secure hold on the capital after two decades of war. His victory was not without cost though. Many of the important political ties to the rest of the empire were frayed or broken by the war. Trung Town was an unimportant town before Kruk-Ma-Kali’s reign and without the strong mercantile connections created by the emperor, the city contracted at an alarming rate. Planned as a massive administrative center, it became a ghost town.

Graz-Khrodun focused his efforts on consolidation of power. He nominally succeeded and his descendant, Graz-Toshdrun still occupies the throne of Trung Town today. Graz-Toshdrun’s influence over the shrunken city is minimal at best. His personal guard leaves the palace monthly to collect a paltry amount of taxes from the capital and the surrounding communities. These taxes are barely enough for the guards, the palace staff, and Graz-Toshdrun to sustain themselves. They certainly don’t have the power to assist the people of Trung Town with their problems, such as the roving bugbear gangs that have moved in.

The death of Kruk-Ma-Kali and later diminishing of the Graz family left a power vacuum within Trung Town. Without the strength to protect his citizens, Graz-Toshdrun could do nothing but watch when the various bugbear tribes of the Hobgoblin Lands began settling in Trung Town. The city had shrunk over the years, but still maintained a healthy population, a population that the bugbears sought to cultivate and consume. Previously the citizens of Trung Town were good at hiding as a method to avoid Graz-Toshdrun’s taxes. Now that skill set became a necessity for survival as bugbear harvesters stalked the city’s streets and alleyways looking for a goblin to fill their cooking pots.

The streets of Trung Town are littered with unused architectural pieces. Kruk-Ma-Kali had planned a great capital with one million residents and was well on his way to building such a dream before his assassination. Acres of abandoned apartments, storefronts, and tunnels cover the city. A few notable structures have also fallen into disrepair. The city’s gladiatorial arena is now a slaughter pen for the city’s livestock. A forty-five foot tall statue of Kruk-Ma-Kali broke at the knees and the upper portion now lies upon a set of tenement houses. A large bathhouse has been dry for centuries. The only large structures that have been maintained are the Royal Palace where Graz-Toshdrun lives and the temples to Lion and Night. A few priests keep the sacred rituals for Lion and Night, the favored deities of Kruk-Ma-Kali. These priests ward the bugbears off using their magic and keep the temple grounds clean, but they are unable to do much else for the people of Trung Town.

Even in its dilapidated state, Trung Town remains an important pilgrimage site in the Hobgoblin Lands. Thousands come every year to pay their respects to the capital city and the site of Kruk-Ma-Kali’s death. The townsfolk make a living selling rubble from the buildings and trinkets they claim were owned by Kruk-Ma-Kali or his closest advisors. The pilgrims are advised to come with a bodyguard or a fast horse. Bugbear ambushes can happen at any time and they are fond of brewing “pilgrim soup.”

Despite the challenges afflicting Trung Town, the people of the capital have managed to develop a unique industry to maintain the city’s relevance in the present. Trung Town is Cimmeria’s largest exporter of ostrich meat, eggs, and feathers. Ostriches are the only large bird native to Cimmeria that has been domesticated and the Goblins of Trung Town are the only ones who know the secret. With a monopolistic hold on this product, the locals have clawed their way back into the minds of other goblinoids as more than just a deadly tourist trap. Merchant caravans make regular stops at the outskirts of Trung Town to load up on ostrich goods. The large fowl industry may be just what the Trung Towners need to get back on top.

Yuggnod

Yuggnod is walled port town at the mouth of the Pearl River. The town is home to a dwindling population of 20,000 goblins and less than 1,000 hobgoblins. The townsfolk have been leaving by the dozens due to the town’s leadership. Yuggnod is ruled by a cabal of ten barghests. Each barghest demands a sentient being to eat once a month. These sacrifices come from outside the city if possible, but if no outsider is available the barghests choose from among the town’s residents. The overt risk of being a citizen of Yuggnod has led to a mass exodus as the people flee their oppressive overlords.

The city took a hard hit eighteen years ago when the barghests seized control. After defeating the town’s leadership and strongest defenders, the barghests went on a cannibalistic rampage in the artisan quarter of Yuggnod. The neighborhood was devastated by the attack. Worse, the unholy destruction caused the victims to rise again as monstrous undead, jealous of the living that still drew breath. The barghests ordered the artisan’s quarter walled up. The neighborhood is now known as the Locked Quarter. Crossing the wall is a death sentence. Undead still occasionally slip through the barrier to kill a few people before the town guard kills the beast.

The elimination of the artisan’s quarter ruined Yuggnod’s cultural scene. Almost all of the town’s annual festivals and holidays relied on artisans to be successful. The only holiday to survive the barghest attack was the New Year’s celebration in honor of the Fish. The town comes together and honors the fisherman and oyster farmers that provide food for the city. In a grim twist of fate, the barghests ordered new holidays to commemorate themselves. One for each barghest and a final eleventh holiday to mark the day of their ascension, the same day that the residents annual mourn the massacre of the artisan’s quarter. The citizens are forced to enact these celebrations. Any refusal may attract the appetite of the barghests.

Yuggnod’s main production industry is clam farming, but their main source of income is trade. The town is a conduit for goods flowing between India and not only the Hobgoblin Lands, but all of Cimmeria. Despite the barghests’ occupation, trade continues. Commodities come from Cimmeria along the trade route of Jipangu, Tomak’nax, and then Yuggnod as they go in reverse from India. Yuggnod’s own exports are meager, but include clams, fish, leather and cheese from their cattle, as well as wheat and beer.

Tusathapas

Tusathapas is a large city of 120,000 goblins and 20,000 hobgoblins. The city is situated around the junction of the Long River, the Gold River, and the Red River. The joining of the three rivers creates a nexus point that strengthens magic spells cast above the confluence. The people of Tusathapas take advantage of this to create magical goods to trade with the rest of the world and also to enhance their local breeding projects for plants and animals. The city’s love for magic extends even into their government where the leader is the most powerful magician decided by a biennial contest.

Every two years Tusathpas holds a tournament open to all goblinoids with magical power. The winner is crowned Grand Magus and ruler of Tusathapas for the next two years. The tournament rounds are one on one contests held on the nexus point of the three rivers. Two barges are anchored ten feet apart in the water, one for each of the duelists. The victor must knock their opponent into the water or render them unable to continue using only magic spells. If a winner is not declared within five minutes, then neither contestant advances to the next round. The current Grand Magus, by virtue of their previous performance, is seeded into the top eight of the tournament.

The reigning Grand Magus is Bluckie the goblin. She has maintained her rule over the last dozen years using abjuration and conjuration spells. She wards herself against the magic of her foes and then counterattacks using summoned monsters. Bluckie has used her position to further her research on potion miscibility. She hopes to discover a combination potion brewed from the nexus waters that when drunk will permanently improve her spellcasting power.

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Niloctus

Niloctus is home to 35,000 goblins and 5,000 hobgoblins on the eastern edge of the Hobgoblin Lands. The city has an ancient tradition of independence, being founded before recorded history and remaining unconquered for all that time. Prior to the Goblin War, Niloctus was the only large settlement in the region now known as the Hobgoblin Lands. As refugees streamed in from the wars the people of Niloctus became insular and protectionist, looking down on the goblins who had fled rather than die for their lands and their gods.

Religion was important to the goblinoids of Niloctus and it remains important now. They worship all the old gods of the Goblin Pantheon. To assist their worship, living avatars of each god are cared for within the city. A breeding population of each animal is kept so that the city will never lose one of their gods. This menagerie of animals is dubbed the Sacred Zoo. The citizens and visitors to the city are permitted to walk the grounds and interact with the different animals as appropriate. Sites are set up at each exhibit for offerings to the gods. The Sacred Zoo uses these offerings to fund the upkeep of the animals.

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Tomak’nax

The twin cities of Tomak’nax lie on the shores of Lake Astacol, one bordering the northern shore of the Long River and the other on the southern shore of the Pearl River. Before the Goblin War, Tomak’nax was a single city straddling the Long Pearl River. During a fierce battle between Poseidon and Crayfish the earth and the river were split in two. The Long Pearl River fractured into the Long River in the north and the Pearl River in the south. As the rivers became divided, so too did the city of Tomak’nax. Now two rivers and an eight mile stretch of soggy land separates the two halves of the city.

The two cities of Tomak’nax still consider themselves to be one and have a strong faith in the continuation of ancient traditions and connections. The soggy land between the two cities make land travel, trade, and communication between the two cities inconvenient compared to travel across the lake. To help maintain the tenuous connection between North Tomak’nax and South Tomak’nax the cities constructed an enormous cable ferry. The Cableway spans seven miles of water as the gull flies between North and South. Giant donkeys are kept on both ends of the cable to turn the cable winch. These donkeys are bred and magically enhanced specifically for the purpose of turning the cable winch. The donkeys operate the Cableway all day and year-round, with several teams that are swapped out to maintain fresh muscle on the winch. The ferry ride takes three hours with a new barge arriving at each dock once an hour. The mechanics of the winch allow each barge to hold still at the dock for fifteen minutes before departing. Through this marvelous piece of engineering and husbandry the two halves of Tomak’nax preserve an effortless connection.

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Giura

Giura is a town of 7,000 inhabitants. A small population of 400 hobgoblins and 6,000 goblins reside alongside 600 enraptured bugbears. The bugbears are a formidable force that allow Giura larger foreign influence than what its raw population numbers might indicate. Controlling the cannibalistic bugbears is achieved through the use of special medicinal herbs grown in a unique piece of Giura’s architecture, the Undergreen.

The Undergreen was formed during the Goblin War between the Goblin and Olympian pantheons. The great Phoenix engaged the Olympian hero Sadroston in combat above the site of Giura. The scorching flames of the Phoenix melted the entire landscape below, turning the ground into an enormous slab of radiant glass. The glass hardened under the flames of the Phoenix and the magical effusions of Sadroston. It became as hard as stone while still maintaining a measure of clarity.

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Untalpid

Untalpid is a small city of just under 13,000 people on the borders of the Shacklack Desert and the Ousreft Wastes. Of the 13,000, the majority are goblins with a tenth being hobgoblins and a twentieth are various other humanoids. Untalpid serves as the overland connection between the Hobgoblin Lands and India. A well-marked trade route winds through the arid climate to the south and then through a pass between the Dominarie and Himalayan mountain ranges.

The geography of the city is defined by a heptagram of temples that encircle the inner city. Three of the temples pay homage to one of the Goblin deities. These three are the Tree, the Bee, and the Ant. The four remaining temples are devoted to the four elements of air, earth, fire, and water. The seven temples also split the city up into seven pie sections, roughly describing the different industry of that section. Milling and baking in Tree, administration in Bee, warehouses in Ant, textiles in Air, housing in Earth, smithing in Fire, and leatherworking in Water.

Enormous flowers grow around Untalpid creating what some have called the Flower Forest. The pollen from these flowers is refined in Untalpid to make flour for bread, but is also used to sustain the particular animal husbandry of the city. The two main livestock species of the town are giant ants and giant bees. Worker ants are used to plow the fields and warrior ants are ridden by the wealthy like horses. The ants of Untalpid have been bred over the centuries to produce a milky fluid instead of a stinging acid. This milk is called soola and tastes like bread pudding overflavored with cinnamon. The bees of Untalpid produce honey. Many leaders of Untalpid have wished to use the bees as aerial cavalry, but the bees do not take well to riders. The bees still prove useful in combat through the use of pheromones. Ant mounted goblins carry a sealed vial of attack pheromones. They ride into an enemy formation and break the vial upon a foe, triggering a bee attack on whomever the vial hits along with anyone else nearby.

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The Days of Kruk-Ma-Kali Part 3

Previous: The Days of Kruk-Ma-Kali Part 2

Kruk-Ma-Kali got to the Shacklack School for Psions and joined the diverse student body. He was exposed to all the major races of Cimmeria and more. Humans, orcs, dwarves, elves, and halflings, as well as thri-keen, half-giants, dromites, githyanki, githzerai, and harssafs. Few of the students shared a common language, but they were able to communicate through the purest form of mental telepathy, sending thoughts and concepts out while receiving those same messages from others. Kruk-Ma-Kali became immersed in this simple telepathy. During his time at the school he even picked up a working knowledge of the underlying languages of the other students. By the time he left he could speak at least a dozen tongues with passable proficiency.

Kruk-Ma-Kali tasted all the disciplines of psionic magic. His experience with psychokinesis for pure energy conjuration, clairsentience for scrying, and metacreativity for conjuring physical matter. While the usefulness of those disciplines was clear, Kruk-Ma-Kali sought a measure of direct control over himself and others. The budding psion experimented with psychometabolism to make himself stronger and psychoportation to make himself faster. Unfortunately the powerful techniques that he desired were too difficult to perform. Frustrated with his failures, Kruk-Ma-Kali turned to the sole study of his natural talent, telepathy. Kruk-Ma-Kali perfected his inborn abilities and slowly rose to the status of journeyman within the Shacklack School for Psions.

As Kruk-Ma-Kali’s control over his psionic mind grew he found himself longing for more than just magical knowledge. He left the Shacklack School for Psions after six years and returned to his mother and his village. His reunion was short. A platoon and an officer of the hobgoblin king, Lork-Bran-Dron, came to the village looking for conscripts a month after Kruk-Ma-Kali returned. Every hobgoblin between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five was drafted by the officer. Kona-Ranor begged Kruk-Ma-Kali to twist the officer’s mind and escape, but her son refused. Kruk-Ma-Kali was enthralled by the prospect of the army. He would finally have a place in hobgoblin society and a chance to prove his worth outside of his community. Kruk-Ma-Kali left with the others to join the army.

Next: The Days of Kruk-Ma-Kali Part 4