A History of Vermintown

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Vermintown was founded at some point between 1972 and 1975 (by the Vastfolk calendar). More precision is almost impossible given the shroud of mystery surrounding the circumstances of the station’s discovery and occupation, difficulty in pinpointing precisely when a mere goblin camp became “the city of Vermintown”, and above all the simple obfuscating effects of time. (Assuming 30 vastfolk years – or “allseasons” – have passed since the founding, thirteen generations of goblins have been born and died in the interim.)

Since no contemporary record of the discovery exists, nor of the so-called “grandglam” which secured the site against vastfolk attention, we have only inherited oral traditions and far more recent written narratives to consult. Some of the latter can be safely disregarded as attempts by particular goblin families to associate themselves dynastically with various of the (officially nameless) founding “Hobfathers”, others are baldfaced attempts to jerrymander civic regions to this or that devious end, others still are well-meaning but hopelessly romanticised accounts which propagandise goblin ingenuity and courage (usually at the expense of other races, representatives of whom were almost certainly not present).

What all accounts agree upon is this: a band of itinerant goblins, who’d seen their glamours dwindle in strength and their lives shortening generation to generation, were pursued from their temporary nest in a Vastfolk sewer by a predator. (Stories differ as to which kind, though most make mention of “thunderous works” and “tremors” stirring-up all manner of subterranean life – probably a reference to the Vastfolk workmen constructing the Central Line Soho-branch extension). A group of eleven goblins, traditionally all male though a few modern revisions beg to differ, became separated from the others. They stumbled upon the almost-completed Wardour Street Station and – with a typically Goblinesque understanding of its value – undertook to claim it for themselves. After a perfunctory round of backstabbing the eight remaining “GobFathers” discovered in their growing sense of ownership a glamour so strong it was intoxicating.

(Goblins, like all the glamoured races, have many speculative traditions and legends regarding the slow decline of their magics over the hundreds of preceding allseasons. Most goblins call it “the great forget”, Pics name it “the withering”, to Kobolds it’s “zöhbun-slathl” (“the slowing of the knocking”), and so on. Regardless of terminology or explanation, what’s clear is that the Hobfathers hadn’t experienced such power in their lifetimes. Many accounts describe it as “the most important they’d ever felt”: a typically goblin perspective on the moment.)

So imbued were the Hobfathers with magical strength – simply by feeling as though the station was rightfully theirs – that they were able to overcome their natural competitiveness and concoct an extraordinary enchantment: imprinting its stones and tiles with a cunning existential Mystery. In small stages the station simply sunk out of the minds of its builders. Little by little the Vastfolk forgot it: mislaying their blueprints, fudging their accounts; somehow unable to hold its existence in their minds for long. It was if the place had become unfocused; mentally slippery. The Porn Shop above, previously condemned to destruction, briefly tried to reopen – but swiftly went out of business (people could never seem to find it, nor remember where it was once they had). Gradually the very existence of the station dissolved from living memory.

Now? The HobFathers are still revered and feared by the goblin residents of Vermintown. The city’s rife with urban myths revolving around them: rumours that they live-on, indefinitely sustained by their power. “Be a bad little greenskin and the Hobfathers will get you…”

(Counterintuitive though it may seem, the founding fathers’ very anonymity in many versions of the tale almost certainly implies a better pedigree of account than those which claim to know their names. Goblins in general – and Hobs in particular – are almost maniacally given to competitive self-aggrandizement. Given the scale of their undertaking and the potential for fame, any uncertainty regarding the Hobfathers’ identity can only have been deliberate, absolute and unanimously agreed. For whatever reason – and there are many theories – the discovery of Wardour Street and the “GrandGlam” used to secure it were evidently the subject of unprecedented secrecy. Even the popular legend regarding the positioning of City Hall, where the Hobfathers supposedly argued over whom should be the city’s first mayor, declines to mention any of them by name – and ends with an outsider from another goblin tribe being appointed to preserve their ungoblinlike equality.)

It’s curious that the nameless celebrity of the Hobfathers has persisted so powerfully amongst a species so determinedly self-centred. Not to mention ironic, given how many of the truly heroic – and nameable – citizens who shaped Vermintown over the next 320 halfseasons have been so utterly forgotten.

This article shall, in due course, seek to remedy this oversight.


[Coming soon.]

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