World Building: Goblins Remix

Goblins of the Written Word

As everyone knows, goblins are one of the greediest of the races, constantly hoarding coin. However, at the foothills of the Karthar Mountains exists a goblin of a different breed, whose thirst is for words instead of gold. 

As the legend goes, a goblin village whose name is now lost to history was visited by a wealthy prince. The prince offered lavish prices in exchange for their food, which the greedy goblins immediately agreed to. As the winter came upon them, and each goblin realized that their neighbors had sold their food as well, it soon became clear that the village would starve to death. When the winter lifted, and the last few weakened goblins came out from their huts, the prince returned with a small company of men and killed them, then gathered up the gold and returned to their kingdom.

Unknown to them, a single goblin survived, and though history has forgotten the name of the village that was destroyed, the name of Kel’e’thar is still widely spoke among the goblins of the Karthar Mountains. It had occurred to Kel’e’thar, as he gnawed at the bones of his former family during those long winter months, that gold wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. With the snow banked high in the valley pass out of the village, the gold could do nothing but sit there, worth less than even a small scrap of food in that moment. And as the others who had made it through the winter were cut down, Kel’e’thar thought that the whole thing would have been avoidable if only the goblins had known more about the world.

Kel’e’thar made his way into the world of humans. By a stroke of good fortune, he hid in an alleyway behind a schoolhouse, and as he huddled there each day before venturing out at night, he listened in on the classes, watching through a small hole made by a knot in the wood. Kel’e’thar was unusually clever for a goblin, and so learned to read along with the children. He soon realized that the world was full of words, and that those words were one of the secrets to survival.

One day, Kel’e’thar discovered the local library. He was welcomed in by the scholars there, since a goblin that could read was a rarity. From that day on, Kel’e’thar spent almost all his waking hours reading, mostly histories of goblinkind that had been compiled by other species, but also eventually branching out into economics, psychology, and politics. It was during this time of great learning that one of the scholars asked him a question about the arbitrage scheme of the 11th Dan merchants. Thinking quickly, Kel’e’thar asked for some coin in return for the answer. Within a month, he was regarded as a goblin who knew things, and he was paid well in exchange for the answers he provided. At first he thought that perhaps the scholars didn’t realize that he had gotten his information from the books all around him, but it wasn’t long before he realized that what they were really paying him for was convenience.

Kel’e’thar had bigger plans than sitting around a dusty library for the rest of his life. Following the wisdom of the books, he traveled north and found another goblin clan, distant cousins of his. Over the course of several years, Kel’e’thar taught the other goblins to read, and the value of information. He began to use the lessons he had learned to build up a new way of life for the goblins of his new clan, having houses made of stone instead of wood, planting crops for the winter, and most of all eschewing gold in favor of solid investments. With the goblin economy running, Kel’e’thar started his own library, and as he reached his old age, the library was filled with many young scholar-goblins and thousands of books.

Kel’e’thar’s Library is now the largest library in the whole world, dwarfing most small towns. Generation upon generation of goblin has added to it, and now there is no single person who has read all the books. Access to the library is cheap, but the shelves are deliberately disorganized so that only the goblins know where any given book might be located, let alone what might be contained within those books. The goblins charge dearly for the organization that their minds can impose upon the information. That organization makes the library nearly worthless without the goblins, protecting them from the various kings and ruler who might like to siege the library and take it for themselves.

And yes, there are rumors that small raiding parties of goblins have attacked foreign libraries, stealing rare books and burning redundant copies of their own, but those rumors have never been substantiated.

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