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Introduction to Goblins

Would you know a goblin if you were standing in the room with one?

Written by ErinRigh

Annie filed into the lecture room with the other students amidst the murmurs and scrapes of chairs and settled herself into the back where she hoped she would remain unnoticed. The figure at the blackboard was both striking and imposing. His long silver hair hung down his back in a practical braid and highlighted his pointed Alfar ears.   There was a large classroom, a huge desk, and a speaking podium between her and the professor and she wondered if she would be able to hear him at all.   “Very good,” began the professor, not turning to face them. His voice seemed to fill all corners of the room. “Students, please take your seat in an orderly fashion. I see we have a new student among us. Please introduce yourself, dear.”   Annie wondered for a moment if he was talking about her, then realized that he had to be.   “Me, sir?” she asked stupidly.   He responded, still facing the blackboard, “I see no other new students,” making the little gnome wonder how he had seen her at all.   As he turned she was stunned by his bold, violet eyes meeting her… You know, she had absolutely no idea what color her eyes were. After all, she hadn’t specified when she polymorphed into this gnome form, and under his gaze she suddenly, awkwardly, wondered if he could see through her disguise.   “S-sorry,” she stammered. As she gazed into his ancient eyes from across the room, seeing the thousands of years of wisdom, compassion, and learning, she thought to herself, “Oh crap, I’m falling for the damned elf!”   “I’m Annie,” she continued, “Annie Spindizzy. Of the Crankshaft Spindizzies.”   “Annie Spindizzy hailing from Crankshaft?” echoed the old professor. “I haven’t seen old Chromium Spindizzy since, well, probably before you were born, girl. I would take it that you’re his granddaughter then?”   “Yes, sir.” She nodded, a smile crossing her face, and she suddenly felt herself glad for having done the research. “Steele Spindizzy and Jama Freebolt are my parents, but I didn’t know you knew my grandfather?”   A somewhat half-hearted, half-smile crossed the old Alfar’s face, and she noted how elves' faces rarely betrayed their age. “You will find, young lady, there are very few of importance who are slinging spells that I have not crossed words with at one point or another, and my memory is eidetic. I must say, you look not a thing like your mother, though I can see some of your father in your hair. We will speak more on this later, Annie Spindizzy, from Crankshaft, when the class is not waiting for us. Please, take your seat.”   Fomorians!!! wrote the elf upon the blackboard, as he echoed the word with his voice, “or in Draconic,” and he scrawled the same in the Draconic speech and alphabet, “and in Elven,” and he wrote and spoke again in Alfar and Sidhe.   This last bit fascinated Annie, as she knew enough about the elves to know that most Alfar never bothered to learn the dialect of the Sidhe, or vice versa. It actually was a bone of contention between the two types of elves. Both considered their own tongue superior to the other. She felt her mind wander off, wondering if the Svartalfar had separate languages, and if they ever bothered to learn them, or whether or not they bothered at all to differentiate.   From the back of her mind she heard the professor’s voice, “They don’t, actually.”   She realized she had been daydreaming, pondered for brief instant on how long she had been doing that, and snapped her eyes up to once again meet the direct gaze of the professor. She found herself wondering how long he’d been staring at her, and if she’d actually heard his voice.   Then she realized, in that awful instant, that much of the class was looking at her, and that she had no idea what she had just been asked.   “Long trip from Crankshaft, Miss Spindizzy?” chided the teacher.   Trick question of course. Everyone knew that even though the physical distance between Crankshaft and Symmerin was vast, but it was only one simple wormhole jump to get here, as there was not much in between.   “I-I’m sorry,” she stammered, “of course not, sir, I just must’ve slept poorly.”   The old elf regarded her for a moment before saying calmly, “I’m not one of those professors that allows a student to take a little nap in their class, and expect to catch up later. I will not hold your hand, Annie Spindizzy. If you can’t keep up, we will not slow down for you. Not a good way to make a first impression. You will please remain after class so that we can discuss the matter.”   “Yes, sir.” She nodded.   “On with the lesson,” continued Selnaris. “For those of you who do not know me, you will find that I am not prone to repeating myself, either. Would somebody please repeat the question for Miss Spindizzy?”   A small, dumpy human, who smelled sharply of salt, and who was definitely trying to score points with the prof, stood and said before anyone could answer, “What do the gnomes call the goblins?”   “Fomorians,” the head corrected. “Miss Spindizzy?”   She opened her mouth to answer, when she heard a loud, somewhat high pitched, squeaky voice say from behind the desk, “Oh! For the sake of the gods, you moron, do you really think they give a dire rat’s arse what the bloody gnomes call a goblin? What in all the suns makes you think you’re even qualified to teach this class, Mage?”   With that, a small gnomish figure climbed up onto the chair, and then onto the desk’s surface. He was stocky, and weathered, with bright blue hair and brighter blue eyes.   “Ladies and gentlemen,” returned the Mage, “I give you, perhaps, the only mind in the universe from which I would tolerate being called a moron; perhaps the greatest mind in the universe, Professor Selgorn.”   The whole class erupted in uproarious applause, and Annie felt herself swept up in the excitement.   Selgorn stood on top of the desk, giving a little imperial wave, and gesturing for everyone to take their seats. “Thank you, thank you, your applause is appreciated, but time is money, friend.”   Turning back towards Selnaris, he continued, “Seriously, Mage, you really think that this group of students wants to sit here for a semester while you babble on about the gnomish perspective on goblins. There ain’t a gnome among them!”   Annie stood up to protest, but Professor Selgorn shot her look and a wink that said to her, You don’t really want to get into this right now, do you? Instead she found herself wondering if he’d just flirted with her.   “Care to take over then, my friend?” inquired the Elven professor, and when Selgorn indicated that maybe he would, Selnaris made an open-handed gesture, indicating that he had the floor.   The diminutive gnome began to pace across the large desk. “All at once, now, what is the motto of Symmerin University?”   As a chorus, the class chanted, “All Stand Equally Before the Book!”   “In short,” he continued, “who can tell me what that means?”   Like somebody had attached a rocket to his underpants, that same, dumpy, human, shot up out of his chair and blurted out, “it means everybody is judged on their own merits, everybody has the right to learn magic.”   The gnomish teacher made a little jump like somebody had prodded him in the back side and barked out, “Holy Stars! Your head nearly went all the way up my arse there! What did you say your name was?”   Looking chagrined, the portly man responded, “Lucas, sir, Lucas Porter.”   “Nobody likes a brown-nose, Lucas. Take your seat and wait to be called next time. But you are correct, All Are Welcome in Symmerin University. Everybody gets to learn!   "Well. We’re here to learn about goblins, and goblinoids, and since all are welcome here, why don’t we just ask them? Goblins, tell us a little about yourselves?”   He looked around, meeting the eyes of random students to the awkward silence as, obviously, there were no goblins here. No goblins, that was, except Annie, who suddenly felt very, very alone. When the professor’s gaze stopped on her, she almost blurted out the truth, but there was a look in his eye and an almost imperceptible shake of his head that told her now was not the time.   She was convinced of it now; she wasn’t fooling anybody. Well, not anybody who mattered. The professors knew that she was a hatgoblin, or at least some form of goblin, and she was going to have to face that.   After the pause, he continued. “Hmm, interesting,” he seemed to ponder, “no goblins students, not one. Not a hobgoblin, not a venngoblin. Who here thinks they have any idea why that is?”   A banshee -- meaning a female elf of Sidhe descent, in this case a member of the Banshees cheerleading team -- stuck her hand in the air, and when acknowledged asked cheerfully, “Goblins can’t read, can they?”   Selgorn looked at her and returned, “Which are you asking? Are they blind or are they stupid?”   Looking pretty stupid herself, she said, “Uh? Neither, I guess.”   With a nod, he carried on. “Would anyone else like to take a stab at it, with, perhaps, a more thought out question?”   The fat little Lucas hesitantly put his hand up and asked, “Goblins can’t use magic?”   The gnome just stared at him, blinking, for a good long moment before not bothering to acknowledge him and asked, “Anyone?”   “How about Miss Spindizzy?” suggested the aged elf. “She’s a gnome, like you, Selgorn, and we all know the gnomes and the goblins have a long history of hatred between them. Maybe she knows something about goblins?”   Now, she was in for it. Of course, she knew about goblins. What she didn’t know was what gnomes know about goblins; and what she didn’t know, could get her caught. “Uh? Goblins don’t write!” she blurted out after a moment’s hesitation.   Selgorn reached for the heavens with an ecstatic look upon his face, then shot a look over to Selnaris exclaiming, “Sudenitsa’s ever-balanced scales, Selnar, some of them can use their heads for something other than a repository for food!”   Annie was so taken aback by such a familiar moniker being used to describe the Great Archmage Selnaris-khi-Marinae, that she nearly missed the rest of what was said. It was like hearing Prince Arthur Goldenwyr III of Hope described as “Big Artie”.   “Not correct, but at least it shows that you know something about goblins."   What did he mean, not correct! How dare that pudgy little, big nosed, gnomish arse say that was not correct! Annie felt her racial pride swell up in the face of this gnome and she wanted to go slap him.   “And, what I mean by not correct, is, not entirely correct. Though, as a rule, goblins who write are exceptions, it is not that reason that keeps them out of Symmerin University. And, to further clarify, we are referring to the primitive, land based, goblins here. Goblins in space write. There is no other way to navigate.”   OK, maybe she wouldn’t slap him, just pinch that big ugly nose of his. She knew gnome women were supposed to find that attractive, but she just couldn’t look at his rumpled up, squinty eyed, proboscisly endowed face and think anything but “troll”. Smart troll, but troll.   “Okay,” exasperated the troll, tossing his hands in the air for effect, “it is clear to me that if we’re going to discuss goblins, and indeed Fomorians in general, that we’re going to have to start at the very beginning. Annie may have a leg up on you given who she is, but we’ll catch you up. Take out your textbooks. You did all remember to buy your textbooks, didn’t you?"  
For this class you will require the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook by Paizo publishing and at the very least Psionics Unleashed, though preferably Ultimate Psionics both by Dreamscarred Press. Those two books are essential to your understanding of goblins. To understand goblins and space and the relationship therein, you will also require the Starfinder Core Rulebook by Paizo Publishing.   Other books referred to, but not essential for this class, are the Advanced Player’s Guide, Advanced Class Guide and Mythic Adventures, all by Paizo Publishing, and possession of the Ultimate Magic accessory book will greatly improve your appreciation of Ip-Ara’dare. Don’t worry, I will explain what they are, but it isn’t essential either. Oh, it too is published by Paizo.
  “Sir,” rose the hand and voice of the young banshee, “if we’re just going to refer to the textbooks, what do we need you for?” There was a bright smile on her face that said she thought herself funny, and clearly the professor did too, because he started laughing.   “Girl, I don’t think you would know a goblin if you were standing in the room with one,” he snapped.   “Well, they smell bad, don’t they?” she asked meekly.   “What? All of a sudden, goblins are troglodytes? You can smell them coming? I can think of a couple of hobgoblin janitors who would be very insulted by that."   Annie was almost giggling now but couldn’t help herself. “Male goblins do smell pretty bad, sir.”   “Some, many, perhaps most.”   “Almost all,” she interrupted, now giggling herself.   “Miss Spindizzy,” chuffed the prof, “kindly get a hold of yourself, and while I won’t ask you how you know goblins smell bad, or better yet, how you know female ones don’t, I will ask you to contain interruptions to a minimum.”   With that, the professor buckled over at the waist, hands clutching the back of his head. As he tugged at something at the back of his skull, he said, muffled into his chest, “Almost all, but I stand here as testament that not only do goblins not all smell bad, but that they do write. You wouldn’t know one if you were talking to him.”   As he stood up, he pulled the mundane mask from his face to reveal the wizened, handsome face of an older, though still good-looking, Bar’tor goblin.   The whole class gasped in awe, Annie included.   “Now pick up your pens and prepare to take notes, ‘cause we’re going to start at the very beginning.”

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Articles under Introduction to Goblins



Cover image: Hobgoblin Girl by Leo Matthew Duncan

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