Month: October 2013
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Held for Ransom
Obadiah Fingletook – Grand High Goblin
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), set out on a quest to rescue the grand high goblin, Obadiah Fingletook.
A loud knock on the goblin brother’s front door an hour before dawn, one day in early spring, woke Glob from a deep sleep. He leapt out of his bed in such a panic that he stubbed his big toe on the chamber pot beside his bed, sending it clattering across the floor, spilling its contents.
He limped painfully towards the front door muttering and cursing under his breath, unbolted it and angrily flung it open. Leaning heavily on the old oak’s trunk, totally out of breath, was a purple faced plains goblin wearing the Fingletook family crest on his courtier’s jerkin, clutching a rolled up piece of parchment sealed with the beeswax facsimile of the grand high goblin’s face.
“Wot’s it yer wonts at this hour? The world’s still sleepin!” Glob growled as his bruised toe began throbbing terribly.
“Begs pardons master Glob sir, but I’s comes wiv a message from her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook,” the messenger began, briefly bowing low before handing the message over. “She requires yer helps. She asks that yer all travel ter the ancestor oak for a confid – private discushun of the greatest import if yer please sir.”
Although being hugely annoyed at being woken at such an hour, Glob calmed down just a little. He thanked the messenger through gritted teeth and sent him on his way to tell Hermione that they would soon join her.
He tried hard to ignore his painful throbbing toe when he sat down on his chair beside the window. The first weak light of dawn began to break through the gloom as he settled himself, lit a rush-light to illuminate the missive, and broke the seal. He looked at it for a moment marvelling at the fine quality of the batwing parchment, the neatness of Hermione’s writing, and the rich purple ink she used. Then he began to read.
Dearest Globular Van der Graff, my most cherished son,
I have the gravest of news to impart. My Obadiah has been taken prisoner. Yesterday I found the need to scold him for his arrogance and stupidity once again. As a result, he ran away from home. Ordinarily he normally slinks back when he gets hungry, and goes to his room to sulk. But my dear when he did not return last night I began to fret as only a mother can.
I dispatched scouts to find him. Eventually one of them did locate the cave where he had sheltered from a terrible storm during the night, just beyond our borders to the north. But the scout in question, Grassnit Thimblefoot, found nought but Obadiah’s fine clothes and boots. Pinned to his best jerkin dear Globular was a note.
It simply said that if I wished to see him alive and well, I must deliver a ransom of one thousand rubies to the mountain top abode of Baron Cragwit Grimbledoff before the next moon begins.
Cragwit thoroughly despises my first born for his petulance and weaknesses, which I can entirely understand; I don’t like him much myself. Obadiah does tend to upset everyone with his arrogance and childish outbursts.
Cragwit believes he should be grand high goblin. After the wise council decreed that only I could rightfully be called the mother of all, his mother, my sister Sherazid, undertook to create a rival dynasty when he was born.
The wise council decreed that Sherazid be put to death immediately for her highly treasonous act, charging her with bringing a usurper into the world. Since her death, Cragwit has made it his mission in life to undermine the house of Fingletook.
Please help me dearest Globular. I am beside myself with worry.
Your affectionate mother,
Glob quickly roused his brothers. After breakfast they all set out on the long journey to the ancestor oak riding on the backs of Yathle and two of her sister wyverns – Maeve and Iolanthe.
Glob led the way through the vast expanse of rooms within the great tree to Hermione’s royal apartments and knocked courteously on the door. Hermione dried her reddened eyes, delicately blew her nose and then opened the door. “Oh my dears, I’m so glad you are here,” she said as tears of happiness flowed, when her face lit up at the sight of her five wood goblin sons.
“Mornins mother on all,” Make said, bowing low in her presence.
Hermione beckoned them all to sit.
Bejuss flew to her and sat on her outstretched hand. “Rarrk – we’th all here ter therve yer in any way we’th can majethy,” he lisped as he bowed low, almost falling off her hand in the process. Hermione smiled and kissed the old raven on his head. “Thank you all for coming so promptly my dears.”
“Begz pardonz majezty,” Mous began, “I’z wuzz juzz wonderin why Cragwit callz hizzelf baron if yer pleaze?” Glob, Make, Byz and Neo nodded, all equally curious to hear the answer to the question. Bejuss was too.
Hermione sat for a moment in silence, composed herself as best she could under the sad circumstances, cleared her throat, delicately blew her nose once more and then replied. “Even though Cragwit is illegitimate dear Eponymous, he still has a modicum of noble green goblin blood flowing through his rebellious veins. The wise council decreed that because Sherazid was my sister, Cragwit was to be entitled to the lowest possible title.”
“Pity he weren’t strangled at births,” Neo muttered under his breath as he crossed the room to where Hermione sat on the side of her bed. His eyes frantically crossed themselves as his leathery old face took on a look of total puzzlement. “So, if he’s a Fingletooks majesty, whys he callings hisself Grimbledoff?”
Hermione’s sweet smile broke out once more, gladdening the hearts of all. “Dearest Neopol, Grimbledoff is the family name of Sherazid’s old wet nurse. No one but a legitimate member of the house of Fingletook may take the name, not even you my dear son,” she explained as she gently stroked his leathery ears, making old Neo blush deeply.
Glob sat for a few moments, like all of his brothers, trying hard to digest what their mother had just revealed. “We needs ter gets started then if we’s goin ter finds Cragwit’s lair afore dark. I’s heard tell on terrible creatures wot inhabits the lands beyonds our northern borders. We don’t wants ter be out after dark!”
Hermione smiled at her favourite wood goblin son. “A fresh start at first light tomorrow morning will suffice Globular dearest. It won’t hurt Obadiah to be out all night long. It may just be the making of him. Besides, it will take time for my court scribe and his assistants to gather the ransom of a thousand rubies together. Meantime you should speak with my chief scout, Grassnit Thimblefoot. I have instructed him to lead you to the cave and to point out the best route to take. From there my dears it is up to your courage, eyes, wits and noses to follow the trail.”
The next morning after eating a hearty breakfast, the five goblins and Bejuss bid farewell to their mother Hermione, and ably led by Grassnit, they set out on the first leg of their journey.
Because Make and Mous were the strongest, they had been entrusted with carrying the heavy acorn chest containing the ruby ransom with its beeswax Fingletook seal. Byz with Bejuss perched on his shoulder was tethered to Neo, much to the old curmudgeon’s great annoyance. Glob walked a pace behind Grassnit as the scout’s keen eye followed the fast vanishing trail of footprints.
By noon they reached the north western border of goblin held territory within Goblindom. From now on the rest of their journey was into relatively unknown lands. Soon Grassnit saw the cave mouth in the distance. As the sun disappeared behind the mountains to the west, the brave party of goblins made themselves at home in the cave for the night.
Glob and Make first hid the chest containing the ransom and then built a fire at the back of the cave. Neo dragged Byz behind him, complaining bitterly about being bounced from rock to rock. Between them they made a communal bed for all to share out of bracken and moss.
“Me’th hungry,” Bejuss declared.
“I’s is ter,” Make added as his stomach grumbled.
“N me,” Byz chipped in, reaching inside his pocket to give Bejuss a juicy slug.
“I’z gotz lotz on honeycomb,” Mous announced, offering a large leaf packet for all to share.
After they had eaten, Glob sat at the cave mouth in the moonlight talking to Grassnit. Make got out his bestest briar pipe, filled and lit it, before relaxing with Mous while Byz played a merry tune on his pipes. Bejuss hopped up and down on Byz’ shoulder, doing a raven jig as the sound of the pipes entranced him. Even Neo tapped his foot in time to the tune.
“Wot’s this ere Cragwit like thens Nit, ever seed im afore?” Glob casually enquired.
Nit puffed on his own clay pipe blowing a large perfumed smoke ring. “Aye, I’s seed him once when he raided for supplies, two summers back Glob. Not sure he’s a goblin though,” Nit replied, knocking the spent makings out of his pipe into the palm of his hand, before blowing through its stem to clean it.
“Wot makes yer says he ain’t a goblin?”
“Yer shud seed the size on him. Taint natural. No goblin is that big!”
“Whaddaya mean, is he fat?”
Nit shook his head. “Nah – Obadiah’s fat. Cragwit is tall as a humin n heavier built than an ogre’s mother.” Glob sat for a moment and then asked Nit to describe the baron to him as best he could.
Nit thought for a long time as he filled his pipe once more with a plug of his violet flavoured tobacco, lit it, and drew deep on the pipe’s stem, tasting the sweet smoke before replying. “Cragwit has a fat belly wot hangs over his belt see. He wears a long chainmail skirt wot drags on the ground, held up by a strap across one shoulder. His arms n his chest is always exposed. Heavy muscled he is. He carries a war club topped wiv a carved skull, n a sharp mountain goblin war axe. He wears his favourite weapon for fightin goblins on his bonce. It’s a blue metal hat wiv two griffin teeths stickin out on it. When he charges at yer, he always lowers his head ter spike yer. So wotch out, cos them teeths is fierce sharp! On his arms he wears blue metal plates for protecshun gainst blades n the like.”
Glob sat quiet for a few moments, yawned, and then asked one last question of Nit. “How many goblins have he gots in his army then?”
Nit burst out laughing. “Why bless yer Glob. He may fancy hisself a fierce baron n leader on a terribles army ter fright those as don’t knows him, but he’s only gots one goblin wiv him, if yer can calls Snidely Grossbundle a goblin. He’s his servant n general factotum. At the moment he’s likely Obadiah’s gaoler. Yer name it n Snide does it for Cragwit. Yer’ll know when Snide is about believes me.” Nit held his nose at the thought of being downwind of Snide. “The smelly little grotkin do stink so foul cos he’s covered in greasy hair froms the top on his pointed bonce ter the filthy black toenails on his feets. Plus he only eats bats. So his breath do stink sumink awful.” Nit shivered in disgust; even merely talking about Snide, made him feel ill. Glob thanked Nit, and turned in for the night alongside his brothers.
Obadiah was a pitiful sight to behold. Stark naked and shivering uncontrollably, sitting in a mixture of his own filth and discarded bones from his meagre daily meal of one small dried bat, he was feeling decidedly sorry for himself.
The only source of light for his dank cell came from a missing stone in the ceiling above. Water constantly dripped on him through it. Obadiah blubbered uncontrollably in his nakedness. His only item of clothing was a moth-eaten short and damp wool scarf, which he had found in one dark corner, and wound round his thick neck. Cragwit had taken great delight in humiliating his royal cousin by removing the grand high goblin’s clothing before leading him in chains back here to his lair.
Cragwit charged his smelly servant Snide, who he forced to live in the dungeon of his lair because he couldn’t stand his foul smell, with guarding and feeding his prisoner. Compared to Snide, the stench in Obadiah’s cell was so unbelievably bad, that even when the hairy goblin gaoler unlocked the heavy door each day to throw his prisoner’s daily meal on the cell floor, the grand high goblin didn’t notice Snide’s foul odour at all.
Obadiah heaved a heavy sigh and continued to sob pitifully; to think that he had come to this. A hungry beetle bit one flabby cheek of his large, fat, naked backside, making him yelp in pain. “Oh mother, please send someone to rescue me, please!” he bleated in between floods of tears.
The perilously steep path to the summit of Dragon Tooth Mountain, which Nit had pointed them towards before returning home, was constantly subjected to dangerous rock falls.
As the goblin brothers and Bejuss steadily climbed towards Cragwit’s lair, none dare peek over the edge of the path. For a tiny wood goblin to fall down the sheer mountainside would mean only one thing – certain death. Eventually they saw their objective looming out of the clouds that hung permanently over the mountain top.
They all stood on the path not far from the heavily armoured door of Cragwit’s home. Glob signalled for Make and Mous to place the acorn chest in plain sight, and then he ordered his brothers to stand behind it in a line while he went to ring the bell. Bejuss flew off to perch above the door. Glob reached up and grabbed the chain, pulling it twice, before rapidly retreating to take his place beside his brothers, standing behind the ransom.
Cragwit was roused from his nap by the sound of his door bell echoing loudly through his home. He went to his front door, opened it and surveyed his tiny visitors.
“Wot’s yer wonts?”
Glob cleared his throat and began. “We’s broughts the ransom for the grand high goblin hisself yer mightiness,” he said, bowing low.
Cragwit’s beady eyes focused on the acorn chest. “Open’s it! Shows me quick now, else it’ll be the worse for yer,” he growled. Make broke the seal and opened the lid.
Cragwit’s eyes glistened with tears of joy at the sight. He began drooling uncontrollably. “Brings it ter me NOW!” he commanded.
Glob crossed his fingers behind his back. “Sorry’s but we’s cant’s does that I’s afriads yer worship. We’s all tired after carryin it up here. Yer’ll jus have ter come here n gets it yerself!”
Cragwit erupted in anger. “WHY YER STINKIN GOBLIN POTSCRAPES, I’SLL TEACH YER TER ANSWERS ME BACK, SEE IF I’S DONTS!” Totally enraged and losing all sense of reason, he charged head down directly at Glob and his brothers.
Gathering all his strength at the last possible moment, Glob snatched the chest away as all five goblins rapidly stood aside, removing themselves from the path of the angry charging humin sized goblin. Cragwit tripped over the hem of his chainmail skirt and disappeared from view, plummeting to his death. What he had forgotten in his blind rage was that the brothers had been standing with their backs perilously close to the edge of the path.
After they had all recovered from their near death experience, they began to make a plan to rescue Obadiah from his cell. “Right Byz me lad, yer stays here guardin the chest, here me! Bejuss make sure he does stay. No wanderin orf now Byz, else yer’ll wind up alongsides Cragwit downs below,” Glob began, “the res on yer, comes wiv me. Neo gets yer club ready, n don’ts forgets ter hold yer noses cos Snide stinks terrible fierce.”
They entered through the large door and found the staircase leading down to the dungeon. The passage leading to Obadiah’s cell was easy to locate. All they had to do was follow the stink. Neo led the way holding his nose, ready to do battle with his war club at the ready.
Snide was busy picking his nose looking for a snack. He carefully examined each disgusting bogey stuck on the end of his finger, before eating it. Neo crept up on him with tears flowing from his eyes from the foul stench of the hairy goblin, and quickly bashed him on the head. He removed the key to the cell from Snide’s unconscious body and led the way followed by Glob, Make and Mous to unlock Obadiah’s door.
They all fell about laughing at the spectacle of Obadiah’s wobbly fat naked flesh, despite the foul smell that greeted them. Back to his old arrogant self once more, he stood up with a look of deep indignation on his face, failing to see anything to laugh at. After the rescuers had locked Snide in the cell and thrown away the key, they emerged once more into daylight and sweet fresh air.
With Obadiah forced to lead the way back down the mountain path, constantly prodded in his fleshy backside with Neo’s club and Bejuss’ razor sharp beak, to keep him down wind of them, and also for their great amusement at the sight of his fat body wobbling as he walked, they eventually returned him and the ransom safely back to Hermione.
She immediately demanded that Obadiah scrub himself clean with a large prickly thistle stem in a tub of ice cold water, well beyond the confines of the ancestor oak, much to the amusement of all the courtiers, Glob, his brothers, Bejuss, and Hermione herself. It would be a very long time before Obadiah Fingletook flounced off in a huff again.
As they all flew home courtesy of Yathle and her two sisters, Maeve and Iolanthe, peals of goblin laughter, combined with raucous raven caws filled the air above Goblindom.
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You’ve got to love Goblins
For your enjoyment, here is just one of the thirty tales in Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults
Fell Whispers on the Wind
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo) and Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, encounter a frightening beast from goblin legend.
As the last days of summer gave way to the cool windy days of autumn, Mica’s wife, the fair Agnitha, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who she named Ylesse after her grandmother.
In the first three months of little Ylesse’s life, the goblin brothers were invited by Agnitha and Mica to be her guardians. Needless to say they took their duties to ensure her safety and happiness very seriously, especially grumpy old Neo, who she immediately crawled to when Mica and Agnitha brought her to visit them in their oak tree home for the first time.
The normally bad tempered old goblin’s heart completely melted when the humin youngling clung to his neck, gurgling happily while she stuck a chubby finger into one of his nostrils, making his crossed eyes water.
From then on, whenever Agnitha needed babysitters, she always knew that her precious daughter would be safe and sound in the goblin brother’s tiny home, being lovingly watched over by her five doting guardians and Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven.
When winter finally took hold, knowledge of the child’s birth had reached the ears of Geraint, the brother of the black witch Cazophen, killed so long ago by Glob and his friends.
By midwinter’s eve the valley was completely transformed into a picture of frozen, silent tranquillity under a thick blanket of snow. But all was not well. Mica and the rest of the humins were on edge. The howls of recently arrived timber wolves echoed throughout the woods surrounding the village. The humins knew that sooner or later the wolves would come in search of an easy meal among their cattle, swine, goats and sheep.
One particularly crisp winter’s morning, Brilith arrived at the goblin’s home unannounced, accompanying an elderly white wizard named Morweth, friend and teacher to all in the craft. Morweth’s sense of Geraint’s plan to do evil had been the reason for him leaving his home in the east.
The ancient wizard sat down half frozen on a root of the goblin’s oak tree home, exhausted by the arduous ordeal of their long trip. “Glob, you must talk to Mica and ask him to convince his father-in-law, Yestin, to accompany him to the sacred glade. I have much that they both need to hear. Should either of them reject the suggestion, tell them that little Ylesse is in mortal danger, now go my friend.” Then he turned to the rest of Glob’s brothers and sent each one on an errand, simple minded Byz included, summoning all who dwelt in the southern wood to the meeting.
Glob left immediately for the house of Mica and Agnitha, while his brothers departed in different directions on their various missions. On hearing that baby Ylesse’s safety was the reason for the old wizard’s journey, Agnitha urged Yestin to accompany Mica and Glob to the glade, brooking no argument from him. Her father’s hatred of all things magic was legendary, but faced with his determined daughter, he relented.
When the trio appeared at the edge of the glade, they saw before them a strange assortment of Goblindom’s inhabitants. Elves, southern woods, plains, and mountain goblins, all assembled round the outer edge of the stone circle. Standing at its centre beside the oval alter stone, leaning heavily on Brilith’s shoulder, was frail Morweth. Yestin’s deep loathing of wizards and witches prevented him from drawing too close. But, for the sake of his precious granddaughter’s safety, he prepared to listen.
Morweth cleared his throat, shifted his weight from Brilith’s shoulder onto the staff he carried and began. “Friends, I felt it my duty to come here today to tell you of the fell whispers on the wind. Good Yestin, while I know of your hatred of all magic, both black and white, I beg you to listen without prejudice. Your granddaughter Ylesse is in the gravest of danger. Even as I speak Cazophen’s vengeful brother, Geraint, is preparing to steal her and make her his own. He is coming himself this time, sending no agent to do his bidding.
Because Ylesse was born in autumn Yestin, like me, Geraint knows she will one day be a powerful healer, as his sister would have been if you had not falsely declared her a witch. He plans to turn her power for good towards the black arts instead. Ever since you condemned Cazophen he has planned his revenge against you and your family. He is conjuring great evil to fulfil his evil quest. Make no mistake Yestin, this time he means to come himself in a terrible guise! I see clearly what form he will take.” Morweth staggered uncertainly on his feet, due to his great age and the effects of the freezing temperatures on his ancient frame.
Brilith assisted him by taking his arm and gently guided him to sit on a small stone beside the altar. The white wizard’s speech had brought back to all who were involved, the terrible memories of the day when Lungwort, the mountain gremlin had arrived the summer before Ylesse was born, employed by Geraint to murder fair Agnitha.
Mica went to the centre of the circle. “Friend Morweth, how long before he comes?”
Morweth lifted his head and looked at Ylesse’s father for a few moments before replying, “even now he has sent his scouts to spy upon you and your family Mica. You have been hearing the howls of timber wolves in the hills surrounding this valley of late. He sees all through their eyes, hears all through their ears. How long before he comes? Soon – very soon. Certainly it will be by the end of this current moon, two days from now.”
Glob, Neo, Make, Mous and Byz sat listening intently in silence, fearing yet another foul beast was about to enter their peaceful valley. Neo rose and climbed on top of one of the smaller upright stones of the circle so that all assembled could see him. “Begs pardons yer worship,” he began, bowing low as his eyes frantically crossed themselves, clearly nervous about what was going to happen, “we’s wood goblins wos jus wonderin wot kinds on beasty he mights transforms hisself into?”
Morweth’s pale lined face darkened as his vivid blue eyes held nervous Neo in their steely gaze. “He means to transform himself into a giant wargob.” All of the goblins and elves assembled there gasped and trembled in fear at the revelation.
Make nervously tottered towards where the old wizard sat. “B-b-but a wargobs is a mythical beasty, tolds bout in bedtime’s stories ter scares yung goblins n elves if theys beens naughty sir,” he managed to stammer before wetting himself and shaking with uncontrollable fear.
Morweth placed his bony hand on the tiny goblin’s shoulder, trying to comfort him as he replied. “Sadly lad, it’s no myth. Wargobs were real in the time before. In the great battle of Blaxhorn, twixt good and evil before peace reigned, the evil black wizard Crellen created a great and terrible army of wargobs, half bloodthirsty mountain goblin – half wolf, to conquer the world. I know Geraint has sought him out to learn how to transform himself into one.”
All of the kinds living in Goblindom with the exception of the humins firmly believed the widely held and oft spoken legend about the wargobs. Among all goblins and elves whether they were from wood, plains or mountain tribes, tales were told of a pack of ferocious wargobs nearly wiping out all their ancient forbears during that terrible battle. Only a precious few survived the wargob attack to continue the many ancient bloodlines.
Mica and Yestin soon realised by the frightened reaction among the goblins and the elves that Morweth was indeed telling the truth. All who had assembled quickly left the sacred glade in silence to prepare for the forthcoming inevitable battle.
Geraint sat in his workshop checking all of the ingredients for his transformation one last time. Crellen had warned him of the repercussions should he go through with the spell. But Geraint was so obsessed with his evil quest to seek revenge for his sister that he brushed aside the black wizard’s dire warning. By nightfall his transformation was complete.
Yestin immediately called a meeting of the humins. Soon lookouts were dispatched to the borders of the village and beyond, covering the hills surrounding the valley along with all the many paths leading to it.
Glob summoned Yathle and immediately went to demand that Obadiah Fingletook, the grand high goblin, join the fight. Should Obadiah object; Glob would expose to all in Goblindom who the real ruler was. He demanded that Obadiah immediately recruit an army of mountain, wood and plains goblins and lead them into battle.
The ornately adorned throne room where Obadiah sat echoed his shrilled reply to Glob’s demand. “NEVER, DO YOU HERE ME – NEVER! This is a humin affair nothing to do with goblins.”
Her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, on hearing the loud argument, entered the room like a ship of war under full sail, ready to fire her broadside. “You may stay here and hide like a coward if you wish Obadiah Fingletook. But your brave brother Glob and his friends need our help!” she fumed, glaring angrily at her first born. Obadiah sat on his throne with his head lowered; tears welled up in his eyes. His bottom lip quivered like a naughty goblin youngling who had just been found with his hand stuck in the honeycomb jar.
Hermione immediately took charge of the situation. “Dearest Glob I shall raise you an army and lead it myself. How soon before the wargob appears?” Much relieved that their mother Hermione had taken charge, Glob told her that they expected the beast before the end of the moon.
On his return to the valley, the welcome news that a goblin army was on its way did much to cheer the humin, goblin and elf occupants of the valley.
Not wishing to be left out, Bejuss had flown off to summon his avian cousins. Eagles, hawks, owls, crows, rooks and ravens all soon arrived, taking up station in the tree tops of the woods surrounding the village. Yathle flew off to summon her many sisters to add to the aerial armada after Glob had summoned her and told of the battle to come.
With the arrival of the magnificent Hermione, dressed in her finest goblin armour at the head of her army, made up in equal measure from plains, wood, and fierce mountain goblins, the most warlike within Goblindom, the valley was soon filled to overflowing. As night fell the glow of countless campfires could be seen in all directions.
Mica ensured that each group consisted of equal numbers of humins, goblins and elves, charged with guarding a specific path, road or pass. Each group was supported by a wyvern and its attendant squadron of birds.
On the ridges on either side of the valley, encampments were quickly set up to house the many legions. Heavily armed elves and wood goblins guarded the forest paths to the north and south. The whole valley lay protected under the watchful gaze of thousands of vigilant eyes.
But Geraint had a trick up his devious sleeve. He knew of a long forgotten path through Athol’s Pass beyond the eastern bank of the Great River, which Crellen had told him about. It was to that pass that he now ran in his new and terrible form at the head of his army of timber wolves, griffins and mountain ogres, promising them their fill of fresh goblin and humin flesh when they won.
Morweth sensed the beast’s evil intent, and accompanied by Brilith with one full legion of heavily armoured mountain goblins marching in close formation behind, after crossing the river via Hermione’s naval galleys, they sought out the hidden entrance to the valley. Above the advancing armoured column, Yathle and her attendant squadron of eagles flew overhead, acting as the ancient wizard’s eyes.
The howls and war cries of Geraint’s army grew louder as they sensed fresh meat. Then a cry more terrible and spine chilling than any had heard in living memory, drowned out those of the wolves, ogres and griffins. Geraint and his army halted for the night, temporarily camping at the eastern end of Athol’s Pass until dawn, still believing their location was undetected.
Yathle and her eagle squadron circled constantly all night. Then in the misty gloom of early dawn she finally saw the beast at the head of its army.
Geraint, covered in a shaggy silver coat of thick course fur in his new guise as a wargob, was twice the size of a humin’s draught horse. His huge grotesque face with its tiny lidless slanted red eyes and pointed ears, with a mouth full of cruel fangs that constantly gnashed together, dripped foul slobber on the ground beneath his feet.
He sniffed the morning air through his hideously deformed snub nose; his humin like hands with their razor sharp talons flexed in anticipation. He sat on his heavily muscled back legs for a moment, swishing his bushy wolf tale from side to side, while his deep chest heaved wildly as he prepared himself for what was to come.
Neo excused himself and rapidly returned to Agnitha and baby Ylesse’s side to guard them both with his life, where they hid in the hay loft of Miranda’s stable. He instructed Miranda that should the wargob succeed in crossing the Great River and drew near, she was to stomp her hooves and neigh loudly, warning of its approach. Morweth and Brilith joined Glob and the rest of his brothers at a safer vantage point behind the second goblin legion.
The vast army on the western bank of the Great River, consisting of mountain and plains goblins, humins, wyverns, birds, wood goblins and elves, quickly re-assembled, drawing a tight heavily armed shield wall of goblin blades, humin flint weapons and elven bows around the village in three ranks.
Mica had organised the digging of many pits close to the western bank of the river each filled with sharpened stakes covered by lightweight grass mats. Behind the pits he arranged a killing ground where fire pots full of burning pitch would be catapulted, should the enemy break through and cross the river.
Yathle cried out her warning alerting the whole valley, as Geraint and his army slowly began their advance. The battle of Athol’s Pass was about to begin. Battle horns blew when Geraint charged at the head of his army through the pass, urging them on with his bloodcurdling howls.
The forward legion of mountain goblins on the eastern bank of the river drew up in three shield wall ranks, one behind the other, armed with the finest razor sharp, magically forged, blue metal goblin blades at the ready, completely blocking off Geraint’s progress.
Hermione led her army from the front, quickly taking two more goblin legions to stand ready on the narrow path leading from the pass.
Morweth and Brilith accompanied by Glob, Make, Mous and Byz sat in the branches of a mighty oak that faced towards the eastern entrance of the pass, giving them an excellent view of the battle as it unfolded.
High above on each side of the narrow pass, companies of elven archers stood ready with their stocks of poisoned arrows, ready for use.
At Yathle’s signal her sisters and their attendant squadrons of birds flew off on both sides of the pass, immediately attacking, and soon dispatching, Geraint’s griffins. Then they turned their attention to attacking the lumbering ogres bringing up the rear, making short work of them, before finally concentrating on the rear ranks of charging timber wolves.
When Geraint and the front ranks of his army got within bowshot, they were subjected to a deadly shower of poison tipped arrows raining down upon them from the elven archers above.
By the time Geraint crashed headlong into the first shield wall at full gallop, there were barely twenty survivors of his mighty army left alive. In the heat of battle he made a fatal mistake as he lashed out at the nearest ranks of goblins.
To gain a physical advantage over the tiny goblin soldiers, he reared up on his hind legs and slashed at them with his razor sharp claws over the top of their shields, decapitating some of the front rank. At the precise moment when he stood up, accurately thrown flint headed spears delivered from the hands of the humin warriors pierced his chest. The second shield wall closed quickly with the remainder of the first.
Now that his army was dead, the elven archers turned their attention to Geraint. Within the space of two heart beats he suffered no less than fifty arrows burying themselves deep alongside the flint spears within his grotesque form.
Morweth and Brilith conjured a freezing spell of terrible power, merging Geraint’s feet into the rocky ground, amid the bodies of the dead from both armies. Unable to move, he bit and slashed at any goblin foolish enough to close with him, while howling with fury.
This was the cue for Yathle and her sisters to deliver their fiery assault. Each wyvern formed up one behind the other, before diving down to deliver their fireballs, setting Geraint’s thick shaggy fur alight.
Then it was the turn of the squadrons of eagles, hawks, owls, rooks and ravens to dive in their thousands, pecking bloody clumps of burnt hair and flesh from Geraint’s terrible head and powerful shoulders.
At a blast of her battle horn, Hermione summoned the front ranks of her goblin legions to rapidly retreat behind the remaining third shield wall. She beckoned forward the humin fire pot launchers and directed their fiery assault on the still breathing monster.
By now even Geraint realised the battle was lost. He attempted to revert back to his normal self to enable his escape by disappearing from view. But it wasn’t to be. Crellen had repeatedly warned him that once he transformed there was no going back.
As more and more fire pots full of burning pitch fell on him, elven arrows and humin spears rained down. Now mortally wounded, Geraint found just enough strength to emit his terrible wargob howl one last time before he finally succumbed, totally consumed by the flames.
“Well my dears,” Hermione began, several hours later as she sat at the head table as the guest of honour outside Agnitha and Mica’s home, holding baby Ylesse in her arms, “you have a truly beautiful daughter.”
Between the roundhouses, trestle tables had been hastily erected with benches for all to sit, eat and drink their fill. The mead flowed freely. Songs of the battle of Athol’s Pass, quickly composed, were being sung loudly in drunken voices by all. Despite the cold of the night, the adrenalin of battle still flowed through their veins, warming them.
Mica and the goblin brothers made their way among the victorious army thanking each of them for saving the day.
Yestin, determinedly urged on by his daughter Agnitha poking him sharply in the ribs, made a point of seeking out Morweth and Brilith to apologise for being so wrong about them, and to shake their hands.
Neo sat beside Hermione. Ylesse smiled and gurgled as she stretched out her tiny arms towards him. Seeing the bond between her goblin son and the humin baby, Hermione handed her over. He gently held her in his arms as she once again stuck a finger in one of his nostrils, making his eyes water, much to the amusement of everyone. Even old Neo managed to crack one of his rare toothy smiles, while gazing through tear filled cross eyes, with love flowing from his heart for the tiny humin child. Thanks to innocent Ylesse, he finally understood the deep instant friendship Glob felt for Mica on the day when he had rescued him from the she-wolf all those long summers ago.
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