Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dark fey: Hobgoblins

When household tools and family heirlooms go missing, the wise housewife will suspect the activity of hobgoblins.  Like a snarling, ill-tempered magpie, the hobgoblin will "collect" whatever is within his reach and tickles his inscrutable fancies.  Avarice is his hallmark; avarice, but not discernment, for he will as readily purloin horse-shoes and glass beads as gold coin and precious gems.  The enterprising adventurer who is able to claim a hobgoblin hoard has a task at once enviable and daunting before him in sifting through mounds of rubbish for the inevitable pieces of great value, but he may also earn the lasting goodwill of the local community by returning to them many long-lost belongings.

Yet despite his avarice, the hobgoblin is a creature of clannish and communal habits, gladly adding his precious baubles to the tribal hoard.  Perhaps this is for the sheer delight of seeing so great a collection amassed together.  The clan's "king" is in reality the steward of the hoard, and has few other interests than in protecting and enlarging it.  His "subjects" may freely gaze upon, or even handle, the contents of the hoard, but it is simply unthinkable to them to remove any for their personal use or enjoyment.

Between different clans, however, rivalry is prevalent, and capturing a prized trophy from another clan, by stealth or by force, is a source of great pride to king and clan.  Clans are distinguished by differences of seemingly little consequence to the human sensibility, but which are evidently of great importance to the hobgoblin: the pointedness of noses or the relative lengths of the second and third fingers, for instance.

It is perhaps because of the occasional brutality of these rivalries, and the ease with which the hobgoblin may be tempted into armed service of other races with generous payments of worthless trinkets, that he has acquired the reputation of military inclination.  While it is true that he does not blink at violence, the typical hobgoblin is chaotic and unruly, and is at best a skirmisher in an irregular division and not part of a disciplined fighting force.  In truth, except with regard to other clans of his own kind, a hobgoblin prefers to go unnoticed, and to indulge his inborn kleptomania without risking his neck, unless he clearly has the advantage over his mark.

Where goblins and hobgoblins share territory near human habitations, they exist in a sort of unintentional symbiosis which wreaks havoc on the human community.  The dainties one sets out to repulse goblins are readily snatched up by their grasping cousins, leaving the home unwarded against goblins and encouraging further incursions by the hobgoblins.  Some knowledgeable persons say that hobgoblins fear dogs; whether or not this is true is a contentious subject, but it is fact that the hobgoblin does not share his cousin's curious affinity for savage wolves.  Others will assert that a blessed object such as a holy text or symbol, added to a clan's hoard, will shortly disperse the entire nest of hobgoblins, and so will advocate the leaving of such items where they might readily be taken.  The efficacy, or lack thereof, of these and other remedies is left to the individual house-holder to determine through trial and error.

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