[WHFB] ...Among the Wicked Dawi - Part 20 - Despoiler of the Dark Lands

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We journeyed as silently as possible around the edge of the cavern, passing many grottoes and passageways, until we came to a scattering of discarded weapons and rotten timbers. Clearing them aside, Ashirk revealed a small hole, just wide enough for a man to slip down. In an instant, he had disappeared.

Haltingly, I followed, my hands still awkwardly bound.

Down in the hollow I shivered in discomfort at the sight of a crude, ruinous shrine. A semi-circular sunburst of spears stood against the wall, in front of which various strappings of armour and helms lay. Blocky, straight-edged swords had been jammed in a smaller crude sunburst, with charms of tooth and bone hanging from them. Twisting roots and glowing fungi poked through but in the centre lay a tattered, red banner, atop which sat an awful, fang-toothed golden circle ringed in spikes. It scowled miserably, unlike the wicked grins of those others I had seen in books as an apprentice. On the banner was painted its likeness. A simple wooden altar of sorts lay in front of it, covered in goblin skulls, ogre teeth, and metal implements in the dark twisted dwarven style. I saw a handful of other colours amongst them. One small figurine, I felt sure, was an effigy in gromril.

The presence of gromril in this place suddenly called out to me. It seemed significant that this here was a greenskin shrine, deep in the underbelly of Hashut’s fortress, and yet of the offerings placed upon it, those most prominent were dwarven. Not just any dwarven item, either - something that looked to pre-date the coming of Hashut, whenever that had been.

Ashirk solemnly stepped forward, and I felt a gentle tingle of otherworldly energies across our bond. He was being touched by something, regarded by it.

With the sweep of a clawed hand, he callously knocked away a few bone totems from the leftmost end, before placing a skull there in the space he had cleared.

At the other end, he placed the skull of Turshu.

He bowed low, and muttered words, though I knew not what. I caught a few clearly that must have been names. Throg, he said. Grunmunter. Mork. Gork. And something about the dawi.

It was almost impossible to make out, but the ghostly glow of luminescent mushrooms faded green for a heartbeat, then he rose and turned away. He did not look at me as he scrambled back up the thin passage. I did my best to follow.

I wanted to raise the subject as best I could, but the taboo against questions weighed on me heavily. I had dared a beating prying into the matter of his melancholy only a few minutes prior. And, I felt cautiously, in his own way - that moment I had just witnesses was an act of worship and honour, however primitive. There were perhaps some things I ought not pry about.

We paused in the cavern mouth and watched the flickering shadows of the knife-fight on the cavern wall. He sighed, a rattling, weary sound.

“Once, we were - more than this. We were… stronger.”

I said nothing. As far as I could remember, he had never simply spoken to me unbidden before. Only orders, warnings, transactions.

“Shrine. War-banner. Old. Throg the mighty. Throg, despoiler of the dark lands. Great king of my people. Grunmunter - champion. By his side. Two brothers. Mork. Gork. Together, strong.”

I had a glimpse of the bones in the haunted forge, a glimpse of the wrestling greenskins in their empty desert, a glimpse of the two players in the Royal Game. A shiver once more.

“Throg conquered. Before chains. Before… this,” he said, gesturing expansively to the cave. “Conqueror of western Dark Lands. First, killed orcs. Killed goblins. Made them serve. Hobgoblin king. Not in east, petty khans of the great nothing. West. King of the mountains. Not frozen hovels of Mourn - the Dwarf mountains - your mountains. Where we travelled.”

I had another hazy vision. A stop he had made as we journeyed eastward. Fresh, cool mountain springwater. A few snatches of bright sunlight. A secluded gully beside a mountain pass. I was out of the wagon for only one or two minutes, but I knew even then that he was somehow affected. It must have been a similar spiritual observance.

“Throg entered the Karaz Ankor. Before the coming of the Prophets. Before the great bull. Throg fought dwarfs. Throg won,” he spat bitterly, voice barely more than a murmur. “Grunmunter won. Murdered dwarf king after dwarf king. Once - Throg entered Karak from beneath, in the kitchens. A great slaughter. Murdered Boran Fireheart as he feasted and sang. Knives in dwarf throats. Treasures from dwarf vaults. Hobgoblin king on dwarf throne.”

I felt images flowing back and forth between our minds. Of armoured hobgoblins storming dwarf-halls, unleashing torrents of destruction to shatter great walls, marching in great columns through the mountain passes. But there was a great sadness to this glory. Every image was a glimpse of a ghost long passed, like so much from the world before; as they faded into nothing, I could see he had little else to say. The scene before us spoke for itself. Gathered in a fetid cave, slave-soldiers to a dwarf sorceror, murdering one another for sport. The Dark Lands themselves utterly subjugated.

The banner, it seemed, was truly Throg’s. Or - one of those held aloft by his hosts. I saw it fluttering strong in the hands of a hunched brute, awaiting the order to advance. Throg must have had a mighty army indeed. But his sigil was a hidden thing of shame and secrets now. Did Ashirk’s fellows here even know the tale he told? If they did… what difference could it even make?

“What happened to Throg?”

I could not help the question. I had judged it right. There was no explosion of anger in him. He didn’t even turn to me, just hung his head lower, and softly shook it.

“None knows. Attack on Ravenshold. Blood beyond measure. Some say Dwarf cannon. Some say Grunmunter’s blade. Whatever - it fell apart soon after. Dwarfs never recovered, but… hobgoblins never truly great again. And then…”

He gestured expansively, to all of this darkness. And then the Bull came, I thought to myself. Best not speak the obvious.

A few more moments of silence passed, when the White Fox began to march slowly over to us from a dark corner. The warriors were fully engrossed in their pit-fights. Standing pitiless before the downcast Ashirk, he nodded toward the darkness of the wolf pens, turned on his heel, and marched away.

Next

6 Likes

Holy hell.

Hobgoblins with pathos :shock:

You write a tale about chaos dwarfs and yet I’m hooked to this other side of the tale.

And then the Bull came

More of that :beer:

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Thanks Ashur! I really wanted to see if I could make us empathise with and pity the hobgoblins.

Rest assured our fearless protagonist will hear the tale of the Pact in good time…

Fun fact: Throg the Despoiler (and his best mate Grunmunter) are Canon.

2 Likes

Very nice story. It adds depth to Hobbos. However, this does not raise sympathy, but murderous frenzy. My inner vanilla Dwarf is marking it down in the Book of Grudges. :tongue:

Neat inclusion of Throg the Despoiler and Grunmunter the beast! Humorous read, as usual with 1980s Warhammer. Here is another story based on a 1980s miniature, one who had a name but no backstory.

Before the Bull sends shivers down the spine. Is Ashirk implying that Throg came before the Black Orc rebellion and the Hobgoblins’ treachery, or before the coming of Hashut to the beleaguered ancestors of the Chaos Dwarfs? The former makes the most sense, given the Hobgoblin viewpoint of the Bull, the mention of Dwarf cannon here, Halfling jugglers in the 1980s text and Dwarfs not recovering from Throg’s Hobgoblin Despoilers.

Please give us more. Greener is meaner. :hatoff:

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The short answer for now is - Ashirk doesn’t know, and Hobgoblins more broadly don’t either. They have little concept of time. The cannon is a similar possible embellishment. Whether the Dawi Zharr had not yet cemented their grip on the Dark Lands at that time, or not yet fallen, is not the type of detail that interests the intellectual minority of western Hobgoblin chauvinists who are aware that once there was a big boss and his name was Throg and he killed stunties. I take your interpretation as my own though.

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By Hashut, you’re actually making me care for Hobgoblins! :smile: You’ve really made Hobgoblin culture tangible and to a degree even relatable from a viewpoint of human emotion. From official fluff, what had impressed itself unto my mind about Hobgoblins was basically “Haha, treacherous greenskins love shanking each other”. But your story makes it all feel organic and hence immersive. Also - and this is something I often miss in modern fantasy - despite the darkness, I feel that the humour that underlies the whole Hobgoblin concept does not get lost in your interpretation. Great writing as always. Looking forward to more!

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This is getting to the point where this is headcanon for me now, if this were entombed into a Warhammer Armies book it would be more than worthy of it

Again a great read, can’t wait for more. It’s nice to have the hobbos fleshed out like this, again in all of your writing perspective is something you do incredibly well

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Nobody does anything in life for cartoonish reasons. Even people who from the outside look like cartoons. Mussolini is a great example. So are the hobgobs. Backstabbing means something to them. Yes it looks cartoony from the outside- but they do it because it means something to them. Something social, something religious.
They are a conquered people. That means something very deep too. When I read throg’s original lore paragraph I thought- there’s something to this.

Watch out for more 80s stuff to appear in future, including some stuff that wasn’t on the old forum lore list as far as I know.

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Fully appreciating these oldhammer references. Very cool you tied in Throg and his dark land despoilers!

I saw those being sold VERY cheap recently. But they got snapped up before I could buy. C’est le vie.