History, Society and MilitaryAuthor: Excelsior Entertainment © 2003
The emblem from
the Swamp Goblins All things are born of the Tree of Life and all things are given back to the Tree of Life after death. This is the basis of Swamp Goblin belief and it governs almost every aspect of life in the Fallen Land. The Swamp Goblins do not see themselves as merely living in the Fallen Land; they see themselves as very much part of it. It permeates not only their culture, but their physiology as well. Although they share a distant ancestry with the Goblins of the Blackblood Empire, they see themselves as a distinct race and often refer to themselves as the Children of the Fallen Land or the Children of the Gourd. To the Blackbloods, they are merely isolated primitives and eccentrics, unwilling to take up their proper place in the Empire.
So ancient is the Swamp Goblin history that no one knows whether the Blackblood Goblins came first and migrated to the Fallen Land or whether the Goblins originated there and were drawn into the Empire when the four races of the Blackbloods first found strength in unity. The truth of the matter is now academic for the recent uprising against the Ogre Emperor has seen the last links between the two races severed once and for all.
Until recently there existed a healthy trade between the Swamp Goblins and the rest of the Blackblood Empire, which benefited from having such an impenetrable region covering its eastern flank. The Orc Alchemists from the Order of the Burning Star relied heavily on the exotic substances that were found in the rich rainforests of the Fallen Lands. Alchemists in large caravans would often lead parties over the Rim of the World to search out new ingredients and components for use in their art. In recent years however, the relationship between the Swamp Goblins and the Jade House of the Elves has grown stronger, giving the Goblins the confidence to challenge the right of the Alchemists to enter their lands at all. As this attitude of defiance spread, friction between the Swamp Goblins and the Blackbloods increased.
This unrest made the Goblins of Terakan bolder than ever and so the wind of rebellion began to blow in the unshakeable Empire of the Blackbloods. With the support of the Elven Jade House, the Swamp Goblins and the Goblins of Terakan rose up against the Emperor Nizar Bloodbound. The uprising however, was not a complete success. The Goblins of Terakan were defeated by the Emperor’s army out of Japur and although Nizar’s expeditionary force was routed by the Swamp Goblins in the Fallen Land his refusal to yield and his display of strength has earned him much respect from all-quarters of the realm.
In retaliation for the Emperors actions, the Swamp Goblins have closed their land off to all strangers and they keep a sharp vigil along the Rim of the World for any that might think to enter their domain in secret to plunder the rare treasures found there. The Alchemists of the Burning Star have been outspoken opponents of this closed border and petition the Emperor on a weekly basis to crush their treasonous hides. While the rest of the Empire seems impressed by Nizar’s current handling of the Swamp Goblin situation, the Alchemists are beginning to bring great pressure and dissension to the Imperial Court, demanding immediate action.
With the current state of affairs in the Empire, diverting a large army to take back the Fallen Lands would leave their war with the Stygians and the Devout at a great disadvantage. For the Swamp Goblins, who would have been decimated in a different time for attempting this audacious action, the current state of affairs made this the optimum time for them to secede from the Empire. The natural geography of the Fallen Lands has made it fairly easy for the Children of the Gourd to defend their borders and watch for intrusion. Many believe that the Swamp Goblins can actually feel the land and share its thoughts. While the notion that the Fallen Lands have any intelligence at all is widely held with contempt, there are those who have been to these primeval lands and have seen things that make it seem that this is actually possible.
There are two areas however, that the Swamp Goblins are unable to control. The area of the Fallen Land where the Stygian have emerged, a particularly dense area of jungle formerly avoided at the behest of the Shamans, lies to the south of their realm. For as long as the Swamp Goblins can remember, this area has been taboo, to be avoided at all costs. It was considered a part of their realm best left alone; an area that was forbidden to enter by Swamp Goblins and other races alike. The off limits nature of this area has driven the Alchemists to visions of wondrous unexploited alchemical wealth, and forced the Swamp Goblins to repeatedly turn their forays away. Now, with the awakening of the Stygians, the dark and ancient secret of this area is realized and the Children of the Gourd have been forced to fight a two front war.
To the north, there is another area that the Swamp Goblins find difficult to defend. This once lush area now seems to be suffering from the shadow of sickness that even the most powerful Shaman are unable to remedy. A malady of rot is slowly spreading down into the Fallen Land, a wicked death that warps the vegetation of the lands and turns its waters fouls and stagnant. As the Swamp Goblins have been preoccupied with their own realm to the exclusion of foreign politics, they have been slow to recognize the influence of the Devout who seem eager to claim all lands for their dark master, no matter how difficult and impenetrable they may be. This current corruption of their sacred lands is being met with the utmost urgency as they view the health of the Fallen Land as reflecting their own health.
SocietySwamp Goblin society is a difficult thing to fathom. The values they place on life are often so alien that they defy understanding by the other races. Life in the Fallen Land revolves around two things; the Gourd Cities and the Yellow Lotus. The Gourd Cities are the vast trees in which the strongest tribes of Swamp Goblins make their homes. These broad trees tower for more than a thousand feet over the jungle and can accommodate many thousands of Goblins. Here, amid the sanctuary of the trees, the Swamp Goblins are able to command a significant advantage over the ground moving creatures and intruders that may enter their domain.
There are only five Gourd Cities known to the outside world but others surely exist in the depths of the jungle. The name ‘Gourd City’ is derived from the fruiting bodies that are produced by the huge trees. These take the form of enormous pods, hanging from the branches of the tree like great lanterns, their latter maturation causing them to emit a steady luminescence. They are known as gourds and are hollowed out by the Swamp Goblins and used as dwellings, barracks and other types of buildings. As gourd husks are incredibly resistant to weathering and fire, they make for perfect homes and armaments, the latter being a task the Swamp Goblins are only just learning to exploit.
Beyond the gourds, the Yellow Lotus flower affects every aspect of Swamp Goblin life even more fundamentally. This potent flower is used in everything from cooking and medicinal remedies to the preparation of poisons and the potions used by the Swamp Goblin Shaman. While it is a truly wondrous substance with many astounding qualities, it is also a powerful toxin and only those with a deep knowledge of herb lore know how to prepare it for the many uses to which it is put.
The knowledge and cultivation of the Yellow Lotus have played a major part in the relationship between the Swamp Goblins and the Jade House of the Elves who have grown increasingly dependant on this powerful narcotic. The main areas of cultivation for the Yellow Lotus are centered on the Gourd Cities and this makes such places even more desirable to the tribes of the Swamp Goblins. There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between the gourd trees and the Yellow Lotus and it is believed that even the trees nurture themselves on the lotus. The iridescent fruits they develop seem testament to this possibility.
There are hundreds of Swamp Goblin tribes in the Fallen Land and they live in a constant flux of sporadic wars and shifting territory. The strongest tribes fight for control of the Gourd Cities. The battles for the Gourd Cities are swift and savage and rarely last longer than a day or two. In all the fighting that occurs between tribes, the gourd tree is never harmed. The warring tribes fight around the tree until one emerges victorious and then the fighting stops. The defeated tribe immediately departs the Gourd City leaving it in the hands of the victors. Despite its savagery, the Swamp Goblins have perhaps the most civilized method of warfare of all the other races; the important point being remembered is that the tending of the tree is not to be interrupted.
Governing each of the Swamp Goblin tribes are the Shaman. They know the secrets of preparing the Yellow Lotus and can walk the Spirit World from which they gain secret knowledge vital for the tribe’s survival. They alone can drink the golden sap of the Gourd Cities without dying a slow and painful death. By drinking the sap they pass into a deep trance during which they commune with the jungle and hear the Song of the Fallen Land more clearly than ever. During these communal times, no Swamp Goblin will initiate war on another, for while the jungle fosters a survival of the fittest attitude; it also has some sacred rules as well.
While in this communal state the Shaman can perceive the state of affairs in all the other Gourd Cities throughout the Fallen Lands. This supports the notion that all of the far-flung Gourd Cities are actually one single semi-sentient organism passing information from one to the other in the essence of its sap. This allows for instantaneous communication between the Gourd Cities, though it takes a skillful Shaman to interpret the nuances in the golden sap. It is in this way that the Elder Shaman from all across the Fallen Land learns of the High Goblin’s death at the Tree of Life.
The Tree of Life is the largest and oldest of the Gourd Cities and the High Goblin is the closest thing the Swamp Goblins have to a king. The High Goblin may come from any of the tribes and remains in place at the Tree of Life until his death even if another tribe takes over the Tree. Some speculate that the Elder Shaman is actually the will of the Fallen Lands made flesh, subsuming the soul of the Goblin through the link they share. Upon his demise his body is absorbed into the Tree and his spirit becomes one with the Trees’ sap. The Elder Shaman at the other Gourd Cities perceive this when they drink the sap and immediately pass into the Spirit World. There they contest each other for dominance, though knowledge of this ethereal struggle defies understanding.
Within a matter of days one of the Elder Shaman emerges from the Spirit World as the new High Goblin and begins the journey to take his place at the Tree of Life. In recent years the golden sap of the Gourd cities has taken on a bitter taste and the Shaman speak of demons and terrors that stalk the Spirit World. They attribute this to the influence of the Devout whose foul presence is encroaching from the north where one of the Gourd Cities has fallen into decay; the tribe tending it having become gluttonous, taking far more than they need and returning far less than they should. They have even started the barbaric practice of burning the dead, which is tantamount to sacrilege in the eyes of the Swamp Goblins.
MilitaryThe Swamp Goblins are a war-like race but they do not fight for personal gain like so many of the other races. Their wars are territorial and essential to the survival of their race. The constant shifting of territory keeps knowledge of the jungle fluid, which is vital in a world where ignorance and stagnation are an invitation to death. The Fallen Land is a cruel master who tolerates neither weakness nor inattention.
All the tribes are composed of the same types of warriors and the design of their armor and weapons is fairly consistent, though the color and markings of this armor differs greatly. In centuries past the Goblins made use of the body parts from the giant insects in the jungle but now, even though they follow traditional designs, they forge newer armaments from copper, gold and steel. Their skillful blacksmiths impregnate the steel with pigments from the crushed carapaces of the giant insects found throughout the Fallen Lands. This process gives the arms and armor of the Swamp Goblins a glazed iridescence that is both beautiful and distinctive to each tribe. More recently the weapons makers have begun using calcified gourd rinds for armor and weaponry. Being incredibly rigid and strong, the gourd armor offers protection from fire as well as being a potent weapon in and of itself. Considering its light weight, the gourd rinds are highly preferred over metal by the majority of the tribes.
The main body of their armies is made up of spearmen. The light spearmen tend to be young warriors, newly conscripted into their ranks, while the heavy spearmen are older veterans who have survived many a campaign. They attack in concerted groups and use their chitin spears and shields with amazing skill. While most outsiders consider the Swamp Goblin military to be pale copies of the swarming Stygian hordes, they are far from that. They know that their natural chitin weaponry is not as tough as steel, but they also know that the best metal armor has joints and weaknesses. They strive to exploit these weaknesses the best way they can and their seemingly wild attacks actually mask their measured precision.
The Headhunters fight for the glory of the tribe and often for the glory of self, though this is somewhat frowned upon in Swamp Goblin society. They take trophies from the battles in which they fight and no trophy is more highly prized than the head of your enemy. These fanatical warriors have a ferocious reputation and are often given a wide berth even by their own people.
Supporting these troops are two types of Swamp Goblin Hunters that also fight in their armies, the Blowpipe Warriors and the Webmasters. The Blowpipe Warriors coat their needle sharp darts in various toxins and are deadly accurate at short range, their skill allowing them to find the smallest gab in an enemy’s defense. The Webmasters are a unique and savage bunch. They tend to the various arachnids that make their homes high up in the Gourd Cities and fashion their nets from the webbing they cultivate. This gossamer filament is collected and woven by the webmasters into a deceptively strong net which they use to capture both game and enemies.
In major conflicts, the Mantis Guard, hand picked warriors who often defend the Elder Shaman, take the lead in an attack on a Gourd City. The leaders of the Mantis Guard fight with a pair of Mantis Claws, which they wield with great skill. Culled from fallen Mantids, the prospective Mantis Warrior must slay this powerful beast in a long hunt armed with only what the land provides. If successful, this veteran will return with the frontal claws of his fallen prey and earn a place among the Mantis Guard.
The foot soldiers of the Swamp Goblin tribes do not enter battle alone. Supporting their armies from the air are the insects known as Drone’s, giant, hornet-like creatures ridden by either a seasoned warrior or a Shaman. The warriors are armed with a chitin sword and blowpipe while the Shaman enhance the efforts of their allies or attack the enemy with exploding spore bombs.
The Swamp Stalkers are another insect used by the Swamp Goblins in their defense of the Fallen Lands. These enormous long-limbed arachnoids scout the jungle, guarding boundaries and warning of attack. Mounted with highly skilled champions referred to as Sentinels, these beasts are swift and seemingly tireless, capable of feats of astounding agility and savagery. Attacking with two vicious frontal claws, the Swamp Stalker is a tireless hunter. Its rider, the respected Sentinel is also a capable foe, knowing the secret paths of the jungle as few others. Together they make a unit the Swamp Goblins rely upon for both support and offense. When it comes to taking the attack to the enemy with the whole tribe, the Swamp Goblins use the larger Swamp Fiends, massive insect creatures that can carry a number of Goblins on their spiny backs.
When and how a Swamp Goblin tribe will attack is ultimately decided by the Elder Shaman. These learned individuals’ commune with the Spirit World and guide the tribe with the wisdom they learn there. The outcome of a battle is normally decided by the wisdom or folly of these members of society and it is not uncommon for an Elder Shaman to be executed if his visions lead the tribe into disaster. It would be better that the Shamans essence be returned to the Tree of Life than be allowed to diminish the eminence of the tribe further.
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