‘‘I know where you can find just what you’re looking for. Give me a few days and I’ll get it for you. Trust me, it’s better if I get it for you. The only place in the city that has exactly what you’re looking for is the Hardville ghetto. It’s dangerous for most folk to enter that place unles they know the right people’‘.
Hardville is a large sprawling slum neighbourhood that covers wide swathes of the Zogra , capital city of Camdonu, a powerful kingdom of some distinction. Its name in the local Cadenian language is simply crude street slang for ‘‘place where filth dwell'. As can be easily deduced from the name of this neighbourhood, most residents of Zogra hold Hardville in absolute contempt. This stems directly from the fact that unlike their closest neighbours, the inhabitants of Hardville are not humans. Rather, they are goblins. Second class citizens, the goblins suffer greatly under the domination of Camdonu’s kings, at least in comparison to the rest of the city’s inhabitants.
Five centuries ago, Richard the First, the then reigning king of Camdonu decided to embark on a rather ambitious plan. For eons, the lakes bordering the southern boundary of Camdonu had been infested with fetid and disease ridden lakes, venomous vermin and worst of all, rebellious goblin tribes. The latter were especially annoying, often raiding isolated farmsteads located close to their lands, carrying off livestock from impoverished villagers and occasionally killing a few peasants. For centuries however, the plight of their victims had been ignored since the kings could care less about the fortunes of these unlucky peasants.. Things would change though, with the reign of King Richard. More ambitious and far-sighted than any of his predecessors, he had resolved on an ambitious plan to divert water from the marshes in order to irrigate the arid northern regions of the country and turn them into a bread basket to feed the increasing population. In the fifteenth year of his reign, massive armies of builders and soldiers alike were despatched to the untamed wilderness of the south to bring his dream into being. When the goblin tribes dwelling in that region took issue with his massive incursion and begun raiding the camps set up by this force, Richard’s generals promptly crushed them with overwhelming force. Thousands were massacred. The survivors chose to surrender in the face of complete annihilation, and were brought back to Zogra on the orders of Richard. Here, kept under strict control that they would no longer be a further hindrance to his designs. In order to open up some space for the newly arrived captives, inhabits of the existing Poor District were paid generously in order to relinquish control of their mean dwellings to the crown. Meanwhile, the exiled goblins would be forced to eke out a wretched existence in their new home. Thus did the origins of Hardville begin.
A divided city
Today, Hardville is one of the largest precincts within Zogra. Although traffic flows freely between it and the city’s burgeoning central district, no such flows occurs between Hardville and nearby residential suburbs. Certain barriers are responsible for this. These are not walls or gates controlled by the city guards. Instead, there is an unspoken agreement between both the goblin residents of Hardville and the people of the ‘‘decent’’ neighbourhoods that prevents any visible traffic from occurring between the two locations. In return for local community leaders not whipping up anti-goblin riots, their goblin counterparts in Hardville have agreed to ensure that none of their people enter the wealthier suburbs of their human neighbourhoods. To this effect, bands of goblins appointed by the heads of the largest goblin clans patrol the fringes of the neighbourhood at night to ensure that no would-be burglars are attempting to sneak into the suburbs inhabited by their human neighbours. These patrols take their responsibilities very seriously. The terrible riots that occurred during the twentieth year of the reign of King David, are fiercely seared in the goblin consciousness. Within the space of a mere week, almost sixty goblins were burnt alive by enraged mobs, following the death of a merchant at the hands of assailants that were allegedly goblin gangsters. Tragically, instead of attempting to prevent the furious mob from entering Hardville, hundreds of the city guards chose to abandon their posts and joined the rioters. To this day, both the crown and the general public still blame the bloodthirsty greed of the goblins for the horrific violence unleashed by the mobs.
A visitor to Hardville mighty almost sympathise with the fiendish goblin greed. Even by the standards of most poor districts, Hardville makes for a bleak sight. Consisting of numerous winding dirt paths that snake amidst the mass of mean shanties and hovels assembled from scraps of discarded wood and other debris, the poverty of the place is evident. Whenever heavy rains fall, paths and homes alike are washed away and mud covers everything within sight.
Overwhelmingly refused employment elsewhere by employers that still view goblins as savage abominations unworthy of existence, most of Hardville’s residents eke out a wretched living by toiling as rag pickers and scavengers. The more fortunate few labour in tanning workshops owned by wealthy human merchants, drying and curing hides of goats and sheep. Hundreds of half-starved goblins labour over folds of hides soaking in bubbling vats of acid mixed with dog and goblin faeces. Although the wages they are paid would be regarded as a miserable pittance by human standards, it still allows them to purchase a ramshackle hut from a slum lord and move in. These wages come at a heavy price, however. Toxic waste is discharged by the primitive tanneries into the murky canals that provide the goblins with their main water supply. Consequently, throat and stomach ailments are rife among Hardville’s residents. Goblin healers estimate that at least a tenth of the total population suffers from various illnesses caused directly by drinking water tainted by the tanning workshops. Even the breast milk of Hardville’s nursing mothers is tainted by the noxious offal discharged by the ubiquitous tanning workshops.
Gangs of Hardville
As a result of such pervasive poverty and discrimination, it is little surprise that crime has become a way of life in Hardville. Many young goblin males that tire of slaving away in the wretched professions open to goblins, turn to more profitable if dubious ways of earning coin. Numerous gangs operate in Hardville, many of them dealing in narcotics such as Goblin Snuff. This potent snuff is especially popular among Hardville’s addicts, with roughly a quarter of its male population hooked to it. It is not unusual for these users to spend over half of their annul income on sating their craving for Goblin Snuff. With the misery that is pervasive in Hardville, most goblins are desperate for anything that make them forget the hardships they face, even if only temporarily. More disturbingly for the authorities however, the producers of the snuff have also been known to sell it to human clients. Gang leaders that have grown wealthy by selling goblin snuff to humans have established a vast distribution network. Although most of their human clients usually make clandestine trips to Hardville in order to get the snuff, this has been changing recently. Increasingly, many human users of the snuff are themselves recruited by the gangs to sell and distribute the snuff to their neighbours since it is forbidden for goblins to enter human residential suburbs. In the city centre itself however, no such restrictions occur and goblin dealers from Hardville can be seen lurking around dark corners, wearing absurdly long overcoats that conceal the pouches of snuff they carry.
In recent years, the city guards have conducted raids into Hardville to stem the flow of Goblin Snuff entering human neighbourhoods. However, these efforts have proved largely ineffective. The workshops where the snuff is produced are often the very same leather tanneries that are owned by the citys powerful leather merchants. In exchange for an annual pay-off from the gangs using their premises, the leather merchants are more than happy to use their influence to bribe the guards into allowing the most powerful suppliers of goblin snuff to be left well alone. More often than not, only petty traffickers are arrested to face the horrors that await goblin inmates in the prisons run by the city guard.
As a result of such inaction, the gangs have grown bolder. A few years ago, they begun to diversify their line of trade and started purchasing crates of Buck Ogre Rum from the unscrupulous merchants who purchase that vile concoction from the ferocious Ogre tribes that dwell in the Great Woses. Since Buck ogre rum is banned in Camdonu, it can only be obtained through illicit means. However, even then, its availability is limited. Human gangs refuse to sell it, outraged by the horrific process that is inflicted on unwilling human victims by the ogres that brew it. Thus, it is only the goblin gangs that are willing to purchase the rum from smugglers and sell it via human agents and couriers who are also Goblin Snuff users.
As with any slum rife with gangs, turf wars are common. It is not unusual to see dismembered body parts floating in the canals every week or so, casualties of a never ending conflict. Whenever a goblin gang leader feels that his rivals are threatening to undercut him, he sends his thugs to attack the leather workshops where his rivals' snuff supplies are stockpiled. Doped up on snuff and armed with a vicious variety of homemade weapons, the goblin gangsters will savagely attempt to set the targeted building aflame, unafraid to kill anyone who tries to stop them. When guards posted around the rival gang attempts to defend their prized stockpiles of snuff, fatal fights inevitably break out, resulting in deaths that initiate bloody vendettas. However, despite their ferocious hatred for one another, the gangs will cooperate with each other when it comes to dealing with attempts by law enforcement to infiltrate their respective organisations. No gang leader will ever agree to become an informant for the city guard, since like all his people, he burns with hatred for the race responsible for subjugating his people. Indeed, within Hardville itself, most gangsters will take great pleasure in mugging or even killing unwary humans that make the mistake of lingering in places rife with goblins. Only those carrying a special symbol sported by one of the more powerful goblin gangs can move within Hardville without fear of death. One such human loathing gang are the Garland Collectors, renown for their special penchant for killing unwary human drunks foolish enough to accidentally to stray into Hardville. They are given their name due to their fondness for adorning themselves with the innards of their victims.
Gang-land assassinations of important gang members however require a special ceremony once the deed has been done. Usually, when a hit carried out, the gang responsible will proceed to send the body to their relatives to have it dressed and ready for dining on. A group of six or more female goblins can sometimes be seen crouched outside their huts, bent over the corpse of the victim and ripping open its belly to harvest the intestines that goblins consider a delicacy. These choice protions are then dipped in a vat of cheap salt and vinegar, intended to be served as a highly cherished delicacy to the gang leader and his commanders. The rest of the corpse is then systemically hacked into bits and throw into a rusting iron cauldron filed with boiling water. This will become a stew intended for the rest of the gang members and their families. Only the eyes, genitals and feet are thrown into the canals. Ancient goblin taboos hold that eating these particular parts of the victim will cause the dead victim to return as a vengeful spectre bent on bloody vengeance. Cannibalism as a practice has ancient roots among the goblins.
Even now, after centuries of living in Hardville, gang leaders still distribute the corpses of victims to be eaten during wild, boisterous feasts that will last two days and nights. Doing so allows them to strengthen the vitality of their souls and those of their relatives by eating the flesh of their foes and with it, or so they belief, the spiritual power of the enemy which strengthens their spirits when consumed in such a manner. To humans who are not unaware of these horrific goings-ons within Hardville, such ritual feasts are further evidence of the fact that goblins are demonic abominations.
The local color
Being a goblin gangster can be taxing and the best way for one to blow off steam is to spend some time at one of Hardville’s numerous snuff bars. Usually no more than a warped plank of wood manned by a scrawny goblin, snuff dens can be found around most crossways in Hardville. The owners have little pouches of snuff strapped to their waists and dole them out to a wandering passerby who decides to stay for a little while. A pouch of snuff typically goes for five copper coins. Until their snuff runs out, a patron can simply sit somewhere along the length of the wooden ‘‘bar’’ and smoke himself into an inebriated state. The snuff dens also have a reputation as the incubators of the Kuga. A bastardised form of the traditional oral poetry once performed to glorify the ego of tribal goblin chiefs, it is a fast and hard form of singing. The lyrics are spat out quickly like bullets by the performer and usually contain various obscenities that glorify the slaying of a victim from a rival gang.
These are inevitably performed after someone has become inebriated on a massive amount of snuff. Fights typically erupt following the spontaneous composition of such as Kuga, as the friends of the slain gang member reach for their concealed blades and attempt to inflict vengeance for the insult that has just been offered. Despite this threat of constant violence, the appeal of the snuff dens are such that young male goblins always flock to the nearest one whenever they’ve just made some money. In addition to snuff, there is also the promise of relatively cheap sex. A steady stream of impoverished young she goblins can often be found lounging near the snuff dens, willing to fornicate with anyone for as little as six copper coins. With large numbers of hungry children to feed back home, they’re often an easy lay for patrons that have just had their libido boosted into overdrive by inhaling a large amount of snuff.
One of the few places of potential interest to would-be tourists daring enough to visit Hardville, is the local healers’ quarter. Rather than consisting of mean huts like what the rest of Hardvilles' inhabitants dwell in, these are a row of shallow dirt pits crudely dug into the soil. Afraid of attracting the attention of evil spirits commanded by rival or foes, traditional goblin healers prefer to dwell in these pits where hostile entities cannot see them. Like rats in a hole, they spend most of time in their subterranean lairs, protected from the elements by a leather tarpaulin draped over their lair. Only when their services are summoned, do they leave their homes. Stooped and wizened things that are almost completely obscured with an array of dried herbs and dried frog corpses strapped to their bodies, most healers are female and are held in awe by all, even the most bloodthirsty gang leaders. It is believed that anyone who angers them will be afflicted with a terrible illness unleashed by malevolent imps that these healers can summon at will. On occasion however, these imps can also be summoned by a powerful healer to battle with evil spirits that are allegedly causing a patient’s suffering. When provided with a bottle of rice wine and a couple of chickens, most healers can be counted on to heal a patient promptly and swiftly.
The healers also play a larger social role. On certain days which are scared in the national calendar , the healers lead special festivals designed to appeal to the gods to bestow their blessings on the goblins of Hardville. These festivals however, have a unique twist that would not appeal to most of Zogra's human residents. Although they nominally worship the same pantheon revered by the crown and people alike, the residents of Hardville always carry out their sacred festivals under the cover of darkness, unlike their human neighbours who regard the night as a period of time when demons are abroad, searching for new victims to devour. The goblins by contrast, view night as an auspicious time to conduct sacred rituals. Moreover, many of the gods they worship have also had their attributes mingled with those of earlier primordial tribal deities unique to goblin culture.
Thus does Victoria, goddess of healing and wisdom, become mingled with Vigaru, the dark she-demon that sends evil spirits to wreck terrible plagues upon those who neglect to sacrifice chickens or rats to her, during the scorching afternoon heat. On such festive occasions, the residents of Hardville gather around a large earthen mound located in the middle of Hardville. Raised on centuries of accumulated trash, its top is home to crude wooden effigies of the gods. Sacrifices are performed here, usually those of goats purchased from local merchants. The healers begin the ceremony by imbibing deeply of goblin snuff and then proceed to slash the throats of the row of assembled animals with knives. As the animals collapse in pools of blood, devotees rush towards them and proceed to rip open their stomachs and eat their guts while the animals are still thrashing.
Meanwhile, the stoned healers clamber atop the mound and begin to loudly beg the gods to ensure future prosperity for the folk of Hardville. Then snuff is distributed to the crowd waiting below by agents of wealthy gang leaders and wild dancing begins as the goblins proceed to lurch around awkwardly in tune to the sound of skin drums and gourds being smacked. Spirits and minor deities reputed to serve the major gods are invited by the healers to take possession of the bodies of some of the assembled devotes. What happens next is a truly awesome spectacle as stunted four and five foot tall goblins proceed to grab large heaps of debris and hurl them away from the sides of the mound with almost effortless ease.
In this otherwise grim slum, one source of delight is Hardville’s delightful street cuisine. Operating from rickety-old carts which they push along, Hardville’s street vendors sell a mouth watering variety of unique dishes. Mobile and rather battered gear such as cauldrons, skewers and spits allow them to prepare a meal of the customer’s selection right on the very spot, thereby ensuring a fresh and tasty gourmet experience for anyone. Curried rats, poached toads, devilled frogs and braised cats are just a few of the many dishes available.
Individuals of Interest
A weapons dealer, this goblin has become wealthy by selling weapons to all of Hardville’s gangs. So much so that although he lives in Hardville, Gariha secretly owns a couple of fine apartments in Zogra’s central district. Gariha specialises in buying weapons from corrupt city guards which he then sells to gangsters. In Hardville where life is cheap, no one dares to harm Gariha who is under the protection of all of Hardvile’s leading gangs.
The descendant of the chief of a formerly powerful goblin tribe, Kora presides over one of Hardville’s biggest gangs. Recruiting from a pool of kinsmen and relations, his gang commands large parts of the illicit Buck Ogre and goblin snuff trade. Renown for his ruthlessness, Kora has decided to expand his empire even more by initiating a bitter turf war against his rivals. To date, this struggle has claimed no less than fifteen lives, including that of a city guard. Kora enjoys personally killing his enemies, often employing his carefully sharpened fangs to rip open a victim’s throat. His gang’s symbol is a curved blade, an image that is tattooed on Kora’s back.
A old and reclusive healer, she is believed by her fawning adherents to be an oracle blessed by Ihsal, the god of divination. When offered a tub of goblin snuff and a cauldron of Buck Ogre rum, Bukonder can reportedly make accurate divinations. Some are even convinced that she is the avatar of Ihsal himself. Certainly this is a story that Kora A-Hilla beliefs in, as evidenced by his insistence that his followers offer sacrifices in her name. Bukonder herself is media shy and spends most of her time skulking in her pit, refusing to answer questions about her alleged divinity.
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? Responses (3)-4
And down, down to Goblin-town you go, my lad.
Good slum with some great details! Complete with explanations of how it came to be thus.
The cuisine alone is inspiring. Curried rats, poached toads, devilled frogs and braised cats are just a few of the many dishes available
Great Idea. Keep up the goods !