Terel Hall, The Imperial War College at Estavar
25 Immeril, 968 IR
Half-hearted applause fills the lecture hall as a veteran pioneer from Caster Arentine stumbles to the end of his lesson on camp layout. Thirty years of enlisted service in the legions had certainly made the old boy an expert on how to make and break camp, and how to select the best sites for sludge trenches and latrines to prevent legionaries from having to sleep in their own filth every time there's a downpour.
"Thank you, Senior Pioneer Battiari. Most educational," rumbles Commandant Hirrius, visibly suppressing a yawn as the superannuated combat engineer vacates the speaker's stage. "Our final speaker this afternoon is High Sergeant Aleksander Timko, who joins us from Caster Adrag, where he is serving as the command high sergeant for the Third Legion under General Marco Raniosi, who has graciously agreed to allow him to join us here today for our 'Truth to Power' series of enlisted lectures. The sergeant is a decorated veteran of the Adrag Plateau campaign of 951, and a noted expert on goblinoid barbarians." Genially, the officer inclines his head to the fiercely mustachioed, eyepatch wearing half-orc to the left side of the stage. "Sergeant, the podium is yours."
Cadets in the front three rows stir as the looming figure of the High Sergeant stamps his way across the stage, its boards shifting audibly beneath the weight of his massive form, and grips the podium with both hands. Glaring out into the audience with his remaining eye, the non-commissioned officer raises a surprisingly high and reedy tenor voice, "Commandant, I thank you for your so-kind introduction. And good day to all of you, gentleman cadets. I am pleased to be allowed to speak to you today, concerning an underappreciated menace to the Empire. Of course I speak of the goblinoids. It is common that people of the Empire think about goblinoids and say, 'Oh, these are primitives who know nothing of civilization. They are ignorant and stupid.' But this is a wrong and foolish belief, and it is held only by stupidfaces who are ignorant of the facts. They are as smart as any of you. They see what civilization is good for: the food in plenty, the cities full of buildings with fireplaces to drive off the cold, the metal tools and weapons. They will take it for their own if they can."
Clearing his throat, the huge legionary continues, "Three kinds of goblinoids there are. The littlest of them is the worst, this being the goblins. Orange skins they have. Bandy legs. Long arms that reach past the knee. To look at them, you will think, 'Oh, here is a silly little monkey.' But a silly little monkey does not wind your arrogant guts upon the haft of a spear. Which is what the goblins do with legionaries." His knuckles whiten, and an audible creak escapes the wood of the podium.
"The awfulness of the goblins is that their numbers are many, no matter that you pile their dead into heaps around you. They breed with great rapidity. Eight years old, and a girl clemmie begins to drop offspring. Twice a year. Three times, if the winter is gentle, and there is no drought for the summer. And this continues until there is no food to support more clemmie mouths, and still it continues. And so they come against the Legions, with their hungry bellies and their pointy teeth and pointy spears and their WOLVES! HOWLING IN THE NIGHT LIKE DEMONS!"
The sergeant stops shouting, breathing hard for a moment as the cadets stare at him, and moderates his speech, "Yes, I should explain. The orange devils have cavalry. Wolf riders. They shoot you, and then they run away. And then they shoot you and run away again, over and over until you chase them like a stupid person. And then the clemmies without wolves to ride, you learn that they were hiding in the tall grass all along when they surround you and kill you in messy ways while your friends watch. This is called an envelopment, and is because they don't really want to fight you. You are just in the way, and what they really want to happen is to get past you and take the nice farmers' sheeps and cows and other food. And then they will make more baby clemmies and be happy little devils until the next pangs of hunger strike."
His mustache twitches a bit, but he continues, "So it is important that gentleman cadets do not grow up to become gentleman officers who sit in the command tent and drink too much brandy, and shout, 'Let's form ranks, and then run out there and make the nasty little cowards taste our steel! Tallyho lads, let's show these savages what the Aureshan Legions are made of, pip pip me old sparrow wot wot!' and then make bad orders that end with the slaughter of good legionaries along with stupidface officers. It's a stupidface mistake to decide that when the clemmies don't wanna fight, it's because the clemmies can't fight."
"So the best thing to do about goblins not wanting to stand and fight," explains Timko, now that he has registered his disapproval of stupidface officers, "is that you stand in a place where they have to pass if they are to get to the sheeps and moocows. The most appropriate place for this idea to work depends on conditions in the field, and you should pay close attention to your instructors in tactics and strategy so that you recognize the place when you see it for yourself. At Adrag, it was a river crossing, which was good because of two reasons. First is that cavalry is bad at fighting while it stands in water and can only get at you from the front. Second is that it kept the clemmies from coming at us all at one time. This was especially good because two thirds of the heavy infantry died of stupidface before we retreated to the fords, and we were outnumbered even before that."
The massive half-orc lapses into silence for a moment, possibly lost in the fog of memory, but abruptly returns to the present. "As I said at the start of my talk, the clemmies are the worst of the goblinoids in my experience. But the other kinds still are pretty terrible. Hobgoblins don't breed so fast because they get big. A short hob is about as big as an average-sized human. So they take longer to grow up, and they can't ride a wolf because they're too big! Already, this is better than the clemmies. But still, there is room for stupidface to make us all sorry to meet the hobs. For one thing, a hob is quick as an elf and tough like a dwarf. This is why the Emperor uses them for his bodyguards. For another, the hobs are even less happy to fight on even terms than the clemmies because they take twice as long to replace losses. For a third, they mostly fight as infantry, and they know it's harder to run away if things go badly for them. Hobgoblins are careful about picking the right time and place to fight, and they like to sneak around for flanking attacks because they're really quiet for their size. Really, this is something the goblinoids all have in common, this sneakiness. They just express it differently. I think that I hate the hobgoblins least of all the goblinoids because they are the most like civilized people, and this makes them easiest to understand and predict."
He sighs, and goes on, thoughtfully, "The bugbears are the strangest. They really look like bears, a little, but they can talk and they have hands. And they're strong like a full-blood orc. The good thing is that they are few in numbers, so that you will not see them in an army of their own. Instead they are petty raiders, or they are allied to other barbarians as mercenaries or shock troopers. They are terrible and fearsome as individuals, though. Of all the goblinoids, they're the best fighters, and the worst to fight man-to-man. Like the goblins, these creatures are driven by primal needs. Food. Living space. But they're like the hobgoblins, too. Reluctant to fight except if they can pick the time and place." Timko opines, heavy eyebrows knitting as he puts on a serious expression, "They're nasty characters because they're best of all at fighting in the dark or in fog and rain. This is from their noses being nearly so good as a hunting dog's. They will attack from downwind, so they can smell you and follow the scent toward you through the night. This makes difficulty for sentries on night duty, because they are therefore more likely to find you before you find them."
"I started out this lesson," the sergeant restates, "by saying that all the goblinoids are smart and cunning, and that they want what we have. They want civilization's blessings and they'll take them by force. But they also will trade for them. So it's important to keep an eye on your friendly neighborhood merchants, especially the ones who deal in arms and armor. The clemmies usually can't afford much, but hobs and bugbears are willing to save up for good Aureshan or dwarven steel of their own, and there will always be stupidface filthy merchants ready to sell to them. So you have to pay attention to what civilians in the area may be doing when you're not watching them to prevent stupidface and greed from getting the better of them. Also it's important to deny the enemy your supplies if you can't defend them or take them with you. Most goblinoids are desperately poor, poorer than a gentleman cadet can imagine. The clemmies are worst off by far, but none are rich. A goblinoid horde moves more slowly than the legions, even if they have wolf riders, because they have to forage. If you deny them the chance to seize your supplies, then you can predict where they'll go next. You lose the advantage if they can pack a few days' meals in a saddlebag and run free. They might go anywhere then, maybe even get behind you and cut you off from resupply and communication."
"Finally," he adds, "Do not be deceived because I make it sound simple, like the answers are all known. It is not enough to avoid being stupidfaces! Stupidface is certain defeat, but even with smart faces you must remember that the goblinoids know their own problems, and they pay attention to how the legions fight and plan for wars. And they are nasty sneaks no matter their size! So treat them with respect, like they aren't stupidfaces, yes? Now, are there questions?"
From somewhere in the back of the hall, "Yeah, why do you call them clemmies?"