If, while delving in a deep cave, you find a large, red gemstone under some moldy bones and an old woolen hat, know that you have found a hob.
Simply pick it up (taking care, it's likely as large as your head) and take it home. Wash off all the old mold, then put it in an urn. Fill the urn up with whey, a fifth of whiskey, a dozen eggs, and a side of fatty bacon. Cover it up, put it beside your fireplace, and wait a while. Pay no heed to any noises or smells it produces. After approximately four months, open the urn and pour in some more whiskey. Pour an additional glass, and place it beside the urn. If all went well, you will have succeeded in resuscitating the mole-like hob, who will emerge from the urn fully-formed and hairy. Make sure to dim the lights, to provide a comfortable atmosphere for its beady, roe-like eyes. The hob will help itself to the glass which you poured, swirling it ruminantly under its ponderous, mustachioed nose. It may then introduce itself, ask for a pair of pants and a woolen hat, and offer you a favor in exchange for resuscitating it. If you're wise, you will accept (the favor of a hob may encompass or surpass such deeds as the building of a castle.) While completing this task, it will drink all the alcohol you own. Task completed, the hob will borrow a spade and pick. It will excavate a shaft outside your residence (but also possibly in your parlor.) Though you may not see it again (depending on whether you obtain more whiskey) know that you have made a friend.
A sapient, morphogenic variety of corundum. Crystals are highly opaque, ovoid, and possess a deep, bloodred hue. They occur individually, and vary in weight between one half and a full stone (seven kilos at most.) Homunculite crystals occur solely in the thick bands of marble which are so common in the endless subterranea of the Underworld.
When bathed in an appropriately nutritious blend of fat, protein, and alcohol, a homunculite crystal will begin to gestate. Over a period of roughly four months, the stone will develop a skeletal girdle, limbs, nervous tissue, musculature, and skin. The resulting organism resembles a paunchy, neckless, stout biped which stands level with an average human's knee. Its furry features are reminiscent of a mole's. Small, pinched black eyes; a large, wriggling nose covered in protrusile whiskers; and hefty, wide hands with robust nails. This organism is called a hob.
Hobben subsist on alcohol. It is a requisite element in their metabolism. The yellow, spongy structure within a hob's head, which contains no brain, is devoted to the storage and breakdown of alcohol. Hobben do consume other foods, but do so infrequently and in immense quantities. A hob's paunch serves as fat storage. It also contains a simple digestive sac. So long as ample alcohol is available, a healthy hob may endure, miserably, for an entire season without eating.
A hob's physiology is incredibly robust. Injuries can only be so severe, given the creature's solid corundum center. This crystal core connects to tissues via nerve-like fibers. It is a nigh invulnerable brain. "Death" occurs only if a critical severance (fire, acid, freezing, dismemberment) arises between the crystal and its fleshly husk. Even after having died, a hob may still be resuscitated from its crystal core with memories fully intact.
A homunculite crystal, once stripped of its body, becomes dormant. It may sleep for an eternity before gestating once again.
Hobben have neither physical sex nor reproductive systems. They "reproduce" by excavating their comrades.
Hobben society is purely chthonic. It revolves around the subterranean search for homunculite crystals; for brethren who still sleep within the stone. The small folk pursue this task with fervor and solemnity. All their considerable skill in engineering, metallurgy, and mining is set to the epic task of retrieving more fellows from the stone of the endless Underworld. Just as mice are concerned with mating and breeding, hobben are obsessed with excavating more of their sleeping kind.
Immense quantities of ore, marble, and precious gems are the byproduct of hobben excavation. Hobben idly craft these byproducts into items and places of shocking quality and scope. Though they possess treasures in excess, hobben are loath to share, or even to permit other creatures into their halls. Any contact with the outside, they fear, could threaten their sacred mining operations.
Hobben society is organized into companies, which fall under larger kingdoms. Members of such kingdoms wear colored hats, usually pointed, to mark their allegiance. Leaders are either the oldest or "wisest" (most learned and skilled) among a population. When a leader dies, they are laid to rest, and a new king or commander is chosen via a moot of elders.
Dead hobs are placed in a catacomb nook for several years. This permits flesh to fall away, freeing the homunculite gem (which the hobben call a grieb.) It is believed that a period of years spent "sleeping" is a just reward for decades of work.
Hobben idly construct leagues of catacombs, where they keep quantities of sleeping griebn. These appear as places of worship, to outsiders. Therein, hobben visit their "sleeping" friends, and commune with them by laying hands on the gem within the deceased's rotting husk. Catacombs truly are sacred halls, and are protected jealously against theft.
Spirituality is valued by the hobben. They believe they are the living blood-drops of an immesne ancient deity, whose stone corpse now gives them shelter.
The language of the hobben is Stnghetn. It is spoken primarily in monotone and is lacking in whole vowels. Stnghetn also lacks words relating to emotion. As a result of this, the dour hobben use complicated turns of phrase to express feeling. Their poetry is complex, riddled with obscura, but quite affecting once explained.
Though they exist primarily in the Underworld, hobben are occasionally encountered in the foothills and peaks of the Gorathian range. They are territorial and hostile to outsiders. Their mountain holds contain rare, reliable gateways to the Underworld's fathomless, black depths, and hobs are loath to allow outsiders access to them.
On occasion, hobben emerge from their holds to trade wares for alcohol. Though the brightness of the sun pains their small eyes, the hobben greatly enjoy alcohol produced under its rays. Drink crafted from wheat, barley, and corn, which they are unable to grow underground, is a delicacy. When trading, hobben display an unusual and inconsistent appreciation of wealth. They refuse to assign value to currency beyond the raw worth of the metal within coins. To them, a chest of silver may be worth no more than a wheel of hard cheese, while a sword couldn't be traded at any price. Some companies (those who better understand the Coast's customs) craft square coins specifically for trade with Coastal folk (they consider this to be quite clever.) The hobben themselves do not use coinage, and prefer to barter. Legends abound of mythic heroes who were gifted red gems or weapons of fantastic might by the hobben . The hobben know these same heroes as the vilest of thieves.
This article has been heavily edited since its inception. Hobben used to go by another name, but I have changed it, due to overuse.
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