Talk about getting things backwards…


Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper

If all that matters to you as a writer, or reader are pretty pictures like the one above take a trip to an art gallery or museum.

What am I on about?

These days more and more writers fall into the trap over what their book’s cover looks like. A lot obsess over it. Before you say anything, yes I accept it’s all part of the modern day sales pitch when it comes to paperbacks and eBooks.

But remember this – until you have built up a faithful readership, as long as night follows day, having a spectacular cover is no guarantee of sales. What sells is your writing talent and the story itself.

“Ah, but having one improves my book’s chance,” I hear hundreds of you caustically shriek. Not necessarily true!

For example, I know several fellow writers who have spent a lot of hard earned money on each and every cover of their books. Yes I grant you the end result is eye-catching. But when you have a chat in private with each writer and ask how many copies of book X,Y or Z actually sold, most will say it made little or no difference whatsoever.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble here people, but, you can have the most artistically produced cover ever conceived, but if you the author are unknown, or the story itself is either below par, or its genre is currently out of vogue, no amount of time, money and effort put into the cover art, will induce people to buy. Last time I checked, you don’t read a picture unless its the speech bubbles on each page of a comic!

Most reputable publishers focus on the quality of the books they are responsible for, avoiding the need for individual cover design. Remember Penguin?  With no fancy picture to distract the reader, Penguin relied on you the reader perusing the first few pages. All actual bookshops allow you to open a book at page one and read a paragraph or chapter. The same applies to eBooks. Most online outlets selling them give you a ‘look inside’ option to sample the story.

In some countries around the world, books are sold sans cover, relying on the quality of the story waiting to be read. That’s how it should be…

There’s no substitute for hard work


This morning I perused several posts on different internet pages extolling the importance of attending workshops and conferences for writers. All of them give the unsuspecting the totally wrong message, by implying that participation is a guarantee to literary success by sitting down with, and talking to, what the various sites claim are professionals in our business.

Most also suggest that by spending copious amounts of money to promote your work via their sites will also ensure success. This little time bomb is usually to be found buried in the small print, tucked well away from the main text.

It’s all complete bollocks!

If you are a social climbing gadfly with money to burn who loves to tell anyone within earshot that you are an author, by all means flit between the various writers workshops and conferences, no matter where they are, to your heart’s content. If you believe that doing this will somehow make you a writer – dream on!

These days you will find many of these wannabe’s on sites like Facebook. They are fairly easy to spot. Usually they are the ones who add the word author as if it is one of their christian names – Author Joe Bloggs, or they add the word to their surname – Joe Bloggs- Author.

However, not all writers who have the word added to their name can be lumped together with the wannabes. There are one or two exceptions. Usually they are people who got caught out when creating an account on the social media site of their choice.

As a general rule of thumb, you will find that hardworking real writers just use their given name.

If you delude yourself into believing that by rubbing shoulders with well known authors, somehow or other some of their success will rub off on you, think again! As for the literary agents and publisher’s representatives who the various sites say will be in attendance, if they turn up at all, which is highly doubtful, they are only looking for one thing – a manuscript to exploit to their own financial advantage. They are certainly not there for you.

As for the kind of literary success the various sites say is yours for the taking, unless you are known celebrity, be it an actor, pop-star, socialite, television personality or sports man or woman, who has been approached by a publisher with an in-house ghost writer standing by – forget it!

Come on now, you didn’t really think that your favourite movie star or singer actually penned that best seller did you? Well did you?

Take it from one who knows – there is no substitute under the sun for hard work and long experience. That only comes after years of honing your craft. Most of us continue honing until the day we shuffle off this mortal coil. Don’t worry if it takes you several years or decades, one day you will pen a work which appeals to the general reading public. I did once, back in 2012.

Meantime get busy writing…

A Temporary Truce


Another tale from my anthology “Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults…


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, are confronted with an unwelcome arrival from beyond Goblindom’s borders.


When the unbelievably smelly plains goblin Snidely Grossbundle had woken up with a lump the size of an acorn on his pointed head, courtesy of Neo’s club, he discovered much to his great annoyance that the life he knew before had now ended. Finding himself locked inside the stinking cell previously occupied by the grand high goblin, Obadiah Fingletook beneath the mountain top lair of Baron Cragwit Grimbledoff. He had been struggling to survive on a starvation diet, while trying to figure out how he was going to escape his living tomb.

The world was gripped in the frozen clutches of winter once more. Dragon Tooth Mountain where Snide was imprisoned lay hidden beneath freezing cloud and a thick blanket of solid ice. His stinking matted coat of hair had stuck itself fast to the ice covering the stone floor, restricting his movement. He hadn’t eaten a proper meal in many moons. He barely survived on spiders and the odd bat which landed within reach from time to time, after it had flown through the hole above his head seeking a place to roost.

“H-h-h – drat’s it, I’s catchin a cold – h-h-h-h-ffner!” Snide’s explosive sneeze deposited a stinking mess onto his hairy arm. He smelt it, licked it, and then swallowed it. “When’s I’s going ter gets out on here, that’s wot I’s wants ter know?” he wondered grumpily, while he scratched his head searching through his matted hair for something else to eat. None of the spiders, earwigs, snails, toads and slugs who lived in the cell, offered a reply. Snide was merely an unwelcome and dangerous intruder in their existence. Then his already dire situation took a tragic turn for the worse.


Cragwit’s lair lay directly below as Kilycke circled above the ancient edifice. The black slit pupils of his golden eyes focused on the ruined building. “At long lassst, I have finally found my ancessstral nessst.” he hissed, smiling to himself as he circled overhead one last time before landing in the ancient courtyard. He folded his giant wings and began sniffing the stonework. From now on Cragwit’s old lair would once again belong to his kind. “I sssmell a plainsss goblin ssstinking up my nessst – wherever it isss, I’ll find it.”

Kilycke had spent most of his long life searching the entire world for the nest. To have a goblin infesting it was the last straw and completely intolerable.  His cruel mouth twisted into an evil smile as he began searching for the intruder. In the gloom his keen eyesight soon detected the missing stone in the courtyard. Despite his great bulk he silently moved over to investigate.

Below the courtyard Snide trembled violently. Even though he could not see, he knew that a large dragon had just landed. As his fear grew, his body’s foul odour increased in intensity. Despite the freezing cold, he perspired profusely.

Kilycke twisted his great spiked head sideways and peered into the darkness below the missing stone with one eye. His magnificent eyesight quickly adjusted, soon picking out the tiny trembling goblin. His mouth opened ready to strike. In an instant everything within the cell was incinerated. Snide screamed his last when he was enveloped in the fiery breath of the evil black dragon, ending forever his stinking existence.


Glob and Neo sat on the old oak’s snow covered giant bough outside their front door, glad to trade the turmoil inside their home for the relative peace and quiet of the frozen world. Make and Mous were arguing loudly as usual.

Byz and Bejuss were fighting over a spider which Byz had found hiding under his bed, and decided to keep for himself. “Put me food down! Me wont’th it, me thtill hungry,” Bejuss lisped angrily, carefully lining up his beak, ready to strike. Aiming at the wriggling spider, he stabbed Byz’s hand instead. It was not an entirely surprising result when you consider the old raven only has one eye.

While Byz danced in pain, with floods of tears flowing down his cheeks, Bejuss didn’t miss a second time when he made short work of the spider as it tried to escape. As far as he was concerned, far too many folks where taking liberties with his food of late. Baby Ylesse had started it off at Neo’s feast. Now Byz had joined in. Enough was enough! “Rarrk – play wiv me food agin n me’ll thtab yer, thee if me don’t!” he angrily insisted, as Byz gave him a black look, while tearfully nursing the deep cut on his hand from Bejuss’ sharp twisted beak.

The whooshing sound of giant wings flying low above the oak instantly silenced the goblin household in a heartbeat. A split second later a humin battle horn blew from the direction of the village. By the time Glob, Bejuss and the rest arrived, all of the humin’s roundhouses were afire.

“Wot was it that dids this Mica me lad?” Neo shouted loudly, to make himself heard above the violent crackling and roaring of the flames, and the cries of the injured.

Mica turned briefly towards his small friends, glad to see they were all alive, with a look of complete shock on his face. “Twas a dragon my friends, a fierce black giant,” he said, wiping ash from his eyes. The goblin brothers immediately began helping their humin friends, trying to save what few possessions they could.

Neo waded chest deep through the snow to Miranda’s stable. The old mare’s eyes were wide with terror. She neighed and thrashed at the sturdy pole which barred the door with her strong back legs. The goblin quickly ducked under the pole and her wildly flailing hooves. “There, there me love, yer Neo’s here ter protects yer,” he soothed, “comes wiv me dearest; tis time ter takes yer ter the safety on the woods.” Miranda immediately calmed down when she heard the welcome sound of her Neo’s voice. She lowered her head and nuzzled his leathery old face in thanks as he put on her halter.

By nightfall the humin village was nothing more than a deserted, burnt out shadow on the snow covered ground. Mica and his father-in-law, the village shaman Yestin assisted by Glob, Make, Mous, Byz and Bejuss had led the survivors of Kilycke’s vicious unprovoked attack to the old cave hidden by the thickly wooded steep side of the valley, where the witch Cazophen had once briefly lived.


Over the next few days Kilycke indiscriminately attacked the homes of many across Goblindom, leaving behind nothing but ashes and burnt bodies. No one was safe from his rampage. This new fiery threat to all living things within the borders of their hidden world had to be dealt with quickly. Enmity between all simply had to end.

On Mica’s insistence, invitations to an emergency council of war, and an immediate truce for the duration were quickly sent out to the many leaders of all living beings. The meeting place would be the ruins of the humin village on the first night of the next moon.


A vast army recruited from the three goblin tribes – plains, woods and mountain, escorted her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, and her first born, the grand high goblin, Obadiah Fingletook, accompanied by Hermione’s beautiful young adopted daughter Heliotrope, much to the goblin brother’s great annoyance. She had already nearly cost Make his life, so why had Hermione brought her along?

Boggis, the one eyed leader of the mountain trolls sat next to Hermione, greedily ogling her ample proportions. Fighting off his strong desire to gnaw on her, he licked his lips imagining how she would taste. He briefly turned over in his mind whether it would be better to boil, or perhaps, spit-roast her over hot coals. Maybe she should be stuffed with truffles and wild onion, and her carcase basted with honey syrup, to produce tasty crackling?

The rest of the war council consisted of the leaders of the ogres, mountain and plains gremlins, griffins and wyverns led by Yathle. Mica and Yestin represented the humins. Lox and her forest elves sat quietly in the shadows. Morweth and Brilith sat beside Glob. All eyes turned suspiciously to where Crellen, the much feared black wizard, sat beside fat Obadiah, making him shake with fear and break wind, much to everyone’s annoyance.

Mica stood to address the assembly. “Friends, we have a new common enemy. Unless we can come up with a plan to defeat this black dragon we will all perish.”

“If I’s may address the council on war yung Mica,” Grimefleet Binglenook, the last elder goblin interjected as he struggled to his feet, leaning heavily on his ornate bejewelled walking stick. Bingle adjusted his snail shell ear trumpet and cleared his throat. “The great book on law has within its pages a section on hows ter fights just such a foe as this black dragon,” he began. “A direct assault on its nest is the answer. Destroy it for all times n the inhabitant loses all its strength. Black dragons do draw their magic from their ancestral nest n the ground on which it sits. Finds the nest n casts a spell on undoing upon it. Once its nest is destroyed, the dragon will dissolve n its spirit will joins its ancestors in the constellation of Draco in the stars above.” Finished, Bingle sat down heavily, completely exhausted.

The black wizard Crellen stood up, casting a scornful eye over the assembled group. “What the ugly wizened one says is perfectly true. I’m greatly surprised that such a low nothing as a goblin even comprehends the complexities of the magic arts, let alone has knowledge of the stars above,” he began, haughtily glaring at Bingle. “To cast such a spell will require the expertise of both black and white practitioners of magic. If Morweth will agree to work with me, between us we shall manufacture and cast just such a spell. But we cannot travel to the dragon’s nest unprotected. Nor can we be expected to wander the land in search of it. Scouting parties must be sent out to the north, south, east and west. Meantime, no large groups should be assembled; the dragon will easily detect and destroy them. By the time this is over, thousands may die. I suggest that the goblin army be broken up into small parties to assist in the search for the dragon’s nest?”

Neo angrily rose brandishing his club, glaring at the wizard through his rapidly crossing eyes. Everyone knew that Bingle was Neo’s oldest friend. As far as he was concerned no one could get away with insulting his friend, or goblins in general, come to that. He charged towards Crellen swinging his club above his leathery old head, ready to draw black wizard blood. His attack stopped suddenly when he was hoisted unceremoniously into the air by the scruff of his scrawny neck. “Crellen, this is no time for cruel insults!” Mica declared angrily after sitting Neo back down minus his club, once more taking control of the situation.

The wizard bowed low and sat back down with a contemptuous smirk on his face. At any other time he would have instantly turned his tiny potential attacker into a toad or a pebble without a moment’s hesitation.

Hermione rose from her seat. “If Yathle and her sisters will agree to work with the griffins patrolling the skies, and Boggis and his kind will agree to work with the ogres and elves patrolling the woods and mountain passes to the east and west, Obadiah and Heliotrope will organise the collection of whatever ingredients Crellen and Morweth deem necessary to manufacture their spell.”

Obadiah jumped indignantly to his feet with a haughty look on his fat face and began yelling at the top of his voice. “I AM THE GRAND HIGH GOBLIN, NOT SOME LOW KITCHEN SKULLION. I REFUSE TO DO MENIAL WORK DO YOU HEAR MOTHER!”

Glob sidled over to him and whispered quietly in his ear, “If’s yer don’t behave, I’ll tells everyone here bout us finding yer naked. Plus, I’ll tells everyones bout the big ugly wart on yer fat wobbly backside. Now sits down n shuddup yer royal fatness – or else!” Obadiah glared angrily at him for a split second, and then sat down pouting. He dreaded the thought of public humiliation, knowing full well that Glob would carry out his threat.

Make stood, puffed on his bestest briar pipe for a moment blowing a perfect smoke ring, and said, “begs pardons yer worships, but Grassnit Thimblefoot be the best scout I’s knows. He’s shud leads the wizards once the dragon’s nest be found.” He then sat down with a smile on his face, satisfied that he had offered something worthy to the discussion.

Mica stood once more and was about to end the meeting when he noticed Boggis out of the corner of his eye, attempting to lick and sniff Hermione, while slobbering all over her back. “Boggis, unless you stop thinking about eating folk, I’ll ask Crellen to turn you to stone this very instant!” Boggis looked sheepish as all eyes concentrated on him, and sullenly complied. “Very well friends,” Mica continued, “it appears we have a mutually agreed plan. Crellen and Morweth will need a place hidden from view to work while the rest of us divide up into scouting groups. But how will we communicate. With so many groups spread far and wide, should one find the nest, we need to keep in touch. Plus, the black dragon’s every movement needs to be observed and reported.”

Old Bejuss flew from where he had perched in the trees above, to where Mica stood. “Me can help,” the old raven said, “If me athk’th all me birdy couthinth for their help, we can act ath yer methengerth – rarrk.”

Yathle flexed her wings adding, “we wyverns and griffins can search from above, working alone. If the dragon sees any of us flying together it may attack. When the time comes we can divert its attention while the wizards do their work.” All assembled murmured their agreement.


By the dawn of the following day Crellen and Morweth were busy at work deep inside the bowels of the ancestor oak’s great trunk in a makeshift laboratory, making use of all the many ingredients they demanded Obadiah and Heliotrope brought to them.

Small scouting parties of two or three individuals crept throughout the land, searching for any sign of dragon attack, taking advantage of every kind of cover. In the skies above, birds flew to and fro with the odd wyvern or griffin. To the casual observer, all looked normal in the frozen world of Goblindom.

Kilycke sat on the walls of his nest sniffing the wind, listening and watching. His long tail lashed slowly from side to side. He stretched his wings and flexed his limbs. It was time to cause mayhem once more in the world below. Besides, his rumbling gut told him he was hungry again. The ogre he had barbecued last night with his fiery breath barely filled one corner of his stomach. “It’sss time to hunt,” he hissed to himself as he spread his wings, making good use of the winds by gliding silently eastward on the hunt.

Working on a hunch, Nit had taken Neo with him on his search for the dragon’s nest. They were once again journeying through the wild country beyond the north western borders of goblin held territory within Goblindom. They had briefly stopped for a rest, sheltering in the shallow cave on the road to Dragon Tooth Mountain when they heard the unmistakeable sound of dragon wings high above them.  “Peers yer notion wos rights after all Nit,” Neo chuckled.

“Aye, bests gets back wiv the news,” Nit replied, smiling and puffing contentedly on his clay pipe. By the time they reported their findings to Mica, Crellen, Morweth and Hermione, news had already arrived about the dragon’s latest target to the east, courtesy of a griffin named Slyth.


Kilycke flew silently among the clouds on the hunt above Goblindom’s eastern reaches. His keen sense of smell honed in on his next target, a humin settlement close to where Brilith and Morweth lived. But when he delivered his fiery attack, the burning village was empty of its inhabitants. Brilith had previously warned them. Heeding her advice, they had taken refuge deep inside a cave behind a waterfall.

Raging with fury and frustration the dragon flew south, closely shadowed by a one eyed old raven with a twisted beak. By nightfall Kilycke had temporarily made camp after successfully broiling a tiny band of goblin scouts with one mighty blast from his mouth, and now sat eating his fill. Bejuss perched in the branches of a tree close by with his one beady eye focussed on the monstrous armoured killing machine who now slumbered as he digested his goblin snack. Wherever Kilycke went, Bejuss would surely follow.

The old raven must have finally nodded off, because the next thing he knew he was suddenly woken by a panicked cry from above. Slyth twisted and turned as Kilycke chased him. “Fetch help Bejuss – hurry!” the griffin screeched, as he narrowly avoided being roasted in mid-air.

Bejuss needed no urging. He flew low and fast through the trees, ducking and diving among the branches. Within an hour he arrived breathless inside the cave mouth above the ruined village where Mica sat. “Rarrk – Slyth’th in trouble,” he panted, “the dragon ith tryin ter burn him!”

Mica immediately blew his battle horn. In answer, the air above the valley rapidly filled with wyverns, griffins and birds of many hues. Bejuss flew to Yathle to tell her what was happening. She thanked him and set off closely followed by a dozen of her sisters and a squadron of griffins, escorted by flights of eagles, crows, ravens, hawks and old Bejuss who did not want to be left out of the action.


Word reached Mica’s ear via an elven runner that Crellen and Morweth were ready with their spell. Nit and Neo escorted the two wizards to Dragon Tooth Mountain and Kilycke’s nest, glad of the distraction offered by Yathle and her aerial armada many leagues away. While Crellan and Morweth prepared to conjure the spell of undoing at the centre of the courtyard, above the cell where Snide had perished so terribly, a mighty battle began to unfold in the southern skies.

Yathle’s keen eyesight soon fell on the frantic mid-air duel ahead. Slyth was growing increasingly exhausted as he ducked and dived, twisted and turned as Kilycke sought to destroy him with his fiery breath. Issuing her battle cry she led her aerial armada to war.

Meanwhile, Crellan and Morweth stood ready at the centre of the courtyard in the ancestral nest of Kilycke. Together, they chanted their powerful spell of undoing.

“O clyw ni elfennau i gyd. Dewch tân, daw gwynt, yn dod mellt. Dinistrio nythod hyn o drwg, gyrru allan pob drwg o’r lle hwn, yn ôl y pwerau hud!”

Neo and Nit stood in the shadows keeping watch as the two great wizards repeated their spell. “Wots they sayin Nit, wot language is they speakin?” Neo whispered.

Nit listened for a moment longer before replying. “They’s talkin in the ancient humin language on the west Neo.”

“So wots is it theys saying thens?”

Nit translated. “Oh hear us elements all. Come fire, wind and lightening. Destroy this nest of evil and drive it all from this place, according to the powers of magic.” As the spell was repeated for a third time, the ancestral dragon nest slowly began to destroy itself, stone by stone.

Far to the south, Kilycke was surrounded by thousands of birds, dozens of griffins and Yathle and her sisters, closely followed by brave Bejuss.

With each probing attack, the black dragon suffered terrible wounds. As he twisted and turned firing great blasts of flame, hundreds died, hideously burned. At first Kilycke seemed unchanged by the spell. But slowly he began to weaken. As the power of the spell increased, his armour of tight fitting scales began to fall away.

Seizing their opportunity, two of Yathle’s sisters delivered a fiery broadside scorching his exposed body, making him scream in agony. Seeing bare flesh, the eagles, crows, ravens and hawks dived at breakneck speed, gouging great lumps of burnt flesh from Kilycke’s body.

Soon, all witnessed his final moments when he began to vanish before their eyes. “I cursss…” were the last words he would utter in this world as he disappeared forever when his spirit rose into the sky.


Bejuss sat on his perch inside the witch-cage preening his singed feathers. Neo and Glob looked in silence at the frozen world beyond their door, glad to still be alive. Byz played with a worm out of sight of Bejuss, while Make and Mous sat back to back talking quietly about the day’s events, surrounded by honeysuckle flavoured smoke rings from Make’s bestest briar pipe.

Dragon Tooth Mountain’s peak lay bare. Any sign of it ever being occupied was gone forever. The time of a temporary truce among all living things in Goblindom was now at an end.

To read more from the anthology go to your nearest Amazon site and look for the Kindle eBook “Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults”.

More and more these days it’s becoming a case of writer beware…


So, you have written your magnum opus. Congratulations. Now you need the services of an editor. But which one do you choose? More importantly will they help or hinder?

In these days of the internet, more and more people are advertising their services as an editor. Some even start up their own publishing business. But how good are they really? Do you simply engage one at will? No – ask pointed questions. after all you are about to pay them for their services.

If they are genuine, they won’t mind being quizzed. The first question I would ask them is which best selling books have you edited? If they are genuine they will be happy to list the books. The second question I would ask them is why, if they profess to know more about the English language than the average writer, have they not become a best selling author themselves?

Just because they may have a university degree, doesn’t mean they can write to save themselves. Far to many so-called editors these days are nothing more than failed writers. Once upon a time they wrote what they believed was the next perfect literary work of note, only to find that it appealed to no more than a handful of equally academically minded individuals like themselves.

With some of these editors, there is always the very real danger that they will try to impose their own will on your story. Don’t let them! Just remember that apart from taking note of the grammatical and punctuation errors they found, and making the necessary corrections, the story is your intellectual property not theirs.

The same thing applies to a lot of people who offer their services in cover design and formatting. Like the aforesaid editors, they tried their hand at writing and failed. So what did they decide to do? Make money instead by offering their services for a fee. No one could ever blame them for wanting to earn a living. I certainly don’t.

Just remember this – engaging any of the above is no guarantee of literary success.

The truth is that no matter how much you try, no matter how well your editor and you edit and polish your manuscript, no matter how eye catching the cover of the book may be, no one can ever predict what will be the next best seller.

Plus, remember this – before you can turn a profit, you have to sell enough copies of your book to get back the amount of money you handed over to your editor etc. A lot of people forget that tiny detail.

Last year to my great delight, one of my books took off, selling well over eight thousand copies. Compared to a book published by one of the big five conventional publishing houses, its sales were minimal. But in ‘Indie’ terms it was a best seller. What appealed was its scenario – a story written around the so-called Mayan calendar predictions for the world ending in 2012. When I was writing it, I didn’t give a thought to whether or not it would appeal. All I wanted to do was entertain the potential reader. Apparently I did just that.

Most writers of my acquaintance, whether they publish conventionally or self publish, would ever consider giving up to become an editor. Instead we plough on writing that next book. If you are a writer, you are a driven, some would say pig-headed, individual. Writing is not the occupation of choice for the faint hearted…

The Letter

POLAND - CIRCA 1918  German Soldiers relax in their deep trenches which in the Stalemates of WWI-681203

The war had dragged on for four years, neither side seemingly gaining any advantage. To the rear of the front lines, generals sat in comfort looking at a map, dispassionately moving markers around hoping to gain an advantage over the enemy. None of them for one moment considered those markers represented living breathing human beings.


Paul sat on the firing step with his back to the trench wall. His rifle lay propped up beside him as he reached inside his tunic for pencil and paper.

Dear Franz,

You and I are the only ones left from the class of 1912. Remember Opellman? He died this morning at dawn when we went over the top, shot through the head. At least it was quick. I doubt he felt anything.

Gruber was eventually found a week ago by the military police. Poor Gruber, he’d had enough. All he wanted to do was go home to the farm. Who could blame him, certainly not me?

There’s talk of an armistice, but you know how rumours spread through the trenches. Hell, we all thought that the war would be over by Christmas back in 1914.

Yesterday old Hans died – remember him, fat jolly Hans, always had his pipe in his mouth come what may. A French plane flew low over where Hans and I were making our way back to the trench with what food we could get for our unit. The bastards dropped some bombs and Hans was hit. His leg looked bad. I applied a field dressing to it before hefting him across my shoulder.

It took me nearly two hours to carry him to the nearest dressing station. My back was killing me. All the while we kept talking, making plans for what we’d do together after the war. I shed tears of anger when the damned medical orderly told me I had wasted my time as Hans was dead.

It’s dawn. The whole front has fallen silent. I’ve just heard a bird singing. Can you imagine that Franz – a bird, a real live bird. I’m going to sign off for a moment. You know me, I love to draw.

Paul feverishly began to sketch the bird sitting on the mangled remains of a tree trunk. He needed to get a better view. The last shot fired in anger, rang out. Paul toppled lifeless into the mud. As his hand relaxed its grip, the unfinished sketch and his pencil fell from his dead hand.


Despite the agreed armistice coming into effect at 11am, on November 11th, 1918, 13,000 soldiers died on the last day. Next year (2014) we celebrate the centennial of the first day of World War One on the 28th of July…  

A thought for the day


With all that is happening in the world today, maybe it’s time to think about just what it is that makes the world such a troubled place. Scientists and theologians would have us believe that Earth is the only inhabited planet anywhere. I cannot believe that for a moment, although I do understand why another sentient species would be reluctant to want to visit us. 

Why would any peace loving race wish to come to a planet where the Earth’s most dangerous species, man, not only preys on other species, but also kills its own kind without a second thought?

With each passing year, I am sickened by our drive for greed and destruction. I doubt there has ever been another species in the long history of this planet that has done so much to try and end its existence than us. 

Why do we do it? What must it take to make us stop? Why can’t we simply live in peace without all the modern day side issues like wanting to invade our neighbour, or get the latest gadget, or buy that new refrigerator because the one we have is five years old.

I wrote my latest science fiction novel The Next Age over a few months without once thinking about money. The thing had been cluttering up my mind for ages. Finally it’s out of my head and published. 

Today, because of the stupid way we all live here on Earth; we are conditioned to find employment to earn money to survive. Why? What is this insane notion of money anyway? You can’t eat it. It won’t keep the rain off your head. What you pay a pound for today will cost you double or triple by tomorrow. Who says we have to use money to survive? Why should we have to spend all our lives chasing money? 

Most people you know (include yourself in this) are trapped in the never ending loop of earning, saving, and spending money. Why?

There are only two things you can be certain of in this world if you are reading this, you were born, and you will surely die. Where does money come into this except to hasten your demise by worrying about not having enough of it! 

When you are too old to contribute to a company, or too sick, you are thrown on the scrap heap and forgotten about as I was when I had my last total nervous breakdown back in 2003. Where does having money help here?

With spiraling inflation, or bad banking practice within the banking world, the money you have slavishly saved over your lifetime rapidly disappears down the monetary drain. So you swallow your pride and ask for a hand out from the state and what happens, you’re made to feel as if you are lower than pond scum – how dare you ask for help, go away and die you ungrateful wretch!

Any self respecting potential visitor to this planet would be justified in saying, “Nice looking place, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

Jack Eason

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Jack Eason

Jack Eason lived in New Zealand for forty-two years until 2000 when he returned to his birthplace in England, after military service in the 1960’s, he travelled the world, visiting exotic lands and making many friends.

Now retired,he is content to write and travel via the Internet. Besides writing novels and short stories, he contributes to his own blog “Have We Had Help?”

Some of his short stories and numerous articles appear in the No: 1 online E-zine “Angie’s DIARY”.

His literary interests include science fiction, history, both ancient and modern, and humorous tales like those written by his fellow writer Derek Haines, such as “HAL”.

He now lives in semi-retirement in his home town surrounded by his favourite books, ranging from historical fact to science fiction.

His literary icons are J.R.R Tolkien, George Orwell, Arthur C Clarke and John Wyndham.

His books include:

The Seventh Age

The Mayan clock…

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Troth’s Eye


A tale from the last days of magic before man almost ended everything natural 

Nagwort snarled, baring his yellow, razor sharp, pointed teeth. Brindle had just stolen his one and only treasure, Ilim’s crystal. Nagwort had won it, or rather stolen it, from the dead body of Ilim during the last great battle between the goblins and the dwarfs of the valley. Ilim had been the fiercest of all the goblin army that day. Nagwort had stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the thick of battle. Brindle sat in the corner of the cave carefully turning over the crystal in his bony hands, almost purring with delight, mesmerized by its exquisite beauty. Seething with anger and hate, Nagwort crept up behind him and knocked Brindle to the floor with one blow from his war club.

“Give it back!”


“Give it me now!”


Nagwort smashed Brindle over the head once more with his club, instantly raising a bump the size of a goose egg between Brindle’s leathery goblin ears. Brindle dropped the stolen crystal and slunk off into the shadows of the cave holding his aching head in his hands, barely able to see as thousands of stars drifted to and fro in front of his red eyes. Nagwort quickly retrieved his precious treasure and put it in the pocket of his jerkin.


Ever since the dwarfs had first arrived in the valley beyond the goblin’s warren of caves over one thousand summers ago, and because of the overcrowded situation all the clans now found themselves in within the valley, trouble between the two most powerful clans of ancients was inevitable.

Man, the blight on the world, as yet had not forcibly colonized this tiny part of the old planet. Both the goblins and the dwarfs had reluctantly been forced to retreat ahead of the relentless march of well-armed warring human armies, bent on conquest. They were closely followed by the burgeoning numbers of other humans who quickly set up home behind the ever moving battlefront, seizing all of the lands for thousands of leagues in all directions.

Very soon the last clans of the ancients, careful not to be detected by the hated humans – the goblins, dwarfs, elves and trolls, would have nowhere left to live. If the mindless destruction of the ancient forests by the invading humans was allowed to continue, the link between those self-same forests and the ancients would be broken forever.

Whenever a new seedling pokes its head above ground, somewhere close by, an ancient related to it, existing because of it, is also born. To cut down the life-giving forests and scrubland, is to the ancients the equivalent in their world of removing the very air that humanity relies upon to exist; all ancients are inextricably linked together with the forests.

Cut down a tree or bush, and, depending on what kind it is, an ancient simply ceases to be. Destroy an entire species, and the ancient clan related to it vanishes forever, breaking the life spells and enchantments that hold together all that is natural, all that is ordained in the great scheme of things by the ancient world.

By clear felling the forests to sow the cultivated unnatural seeds of grain along with fruit and vegetables, and by allowing its domesticated animals to greedily crop the grasses, bushes and herbs unchecked, humanity was slowly but surely killing the only world that Nagwort and all others in the ancient clans had ever known; although the notion had never entered Nagwort’s malevolent greedy brain.

The very idea of forming an alliance between goblin, dwarf, elf and troll to protect themselves from the hordes of greedy humans was unnatural to their way of thinking. Equally, as disgusted by the idea of collaboration as the clans of ancients were, they knew something had to be done before it was too late. A permanent truce between them was now a necessity.

The life-giving ancient forests, shrubs and herbs were daily crying out for their help. The agonizing pain could be heard from the great oaks, elms, alder, beech, larch, sycamore, willows and many more, too numerous to mention, as they were relentlessly cut down by the unfeeling humans. They had been heard and felt by all living creatures within the rapidly shrinking boundaries of the ancient world.

Many ancients, like those of the dragon, fairy, nymph and plains ogre clans, had already vanished within the last three thousand summers, as their life-giving species had been cut down. Every clan, every creature was then, and still is to this day, a necessary part of the world, unlike the vile human invaders.

Dwarfs were descended from Oak, goblins from Larch, elves from Elm, troll from Alder, bear from Beech, deer from Sycamore, squirrel from Chestnut, snake from Willow, bird from Cherry, wolf from Pine, stoat from Briar, weasel from Bracken, wildcat from Birch, snail from Toadstool, slug from Dock, and worm from Wild Potato.

Humans do not have a symbiotic relationship with any other living thing, and yet somehow they had managed to completely take over the entire world beyond the valley and the forest surrounding it, since Troth’s Eye was stolen, ending forever nature’s hold over all living things.

No one knew where they had come from. The humans were like an unstoppable poisonous plague. The very idea that another species could exist without its own life-giving clan tree, or plant, was a puzzle and totally against the natural order of things.

Much discussion and conjecture over just how the humans had come to be so powerful and numerous, had of recent times occupied the thoughts of all clans of ancients. They were seemingly unaffected by the ancients’ use of magic, incantation and curse in an effort to slow their relentless march, humanity was destroying everything that stood in its way in the blind destruction of the ancient world, regarding all other living things much like weeds or pests.


Gorin, the respected elder and arbitrator of the dwarfs stood up to speak in the protected forest glade, hidden from the outside world. Even a malevolent young creature like Nagwort showed grudging respect by keeping silent as the elderly dwarf began to clear his throat.

“Friends of the fellow ancient clans of goblin, elves, trolls, animals, trees and all living things,” he began. “We find ourselves at a dire crossroad. Our world is shrinking at an alarming rate. Our mutual enemy mankind as I speak is battering down the outer reaches of the great forest to the north, south, east and west of where we are, here in our shared valley. Soon they will arrive. What are we to do? We cannot fight them, even using our natural magic. The young among us are for war. But we few ancients cannot survive if our life-giving trees are chopped down, subjecting us and our young to needless slaughter, thereby ending our kind in a single generation. However, we can no longer afford to retreat any further either. Somehow we have to make a stand to enable our world to survive. But how do we achieve it?”

Gorin’s great age and wisdom was known and respected by all assembled there that day. Of all the ancients, he had made it his life’s work to study the hated humans since they first appeared on the eastern horizon many hundreds of leagues away beyond the ancient forest, over five hundred summers earlier.

Dingly, another elder within the clan of dwarfs, stood to speak. “There is a legend that has been handed down through the generations of all ancients, noble Gorin, speaking of the first age when our world was new, before the loathsome humans appeared. It is the legend of Troth the mighty ogre whose magical eye was cast upon the world in those days. It is said that while Troth’s Eye stood guard, our world and all that grew and lived within it was protected and lived in harmony. But, sadly it was stolen from the mountain top where Troth lived over five thousand summers past, at about the same time as when the hated humans first appeared. It was stolen by a thieving goblin youngling named Shruk who loved all things that sparkled and shone, forever breaking the spell of harmony and ending the protection that Troth’s Eye gave to all.”

A great hue and cry ensued in the glade as age old inter-clan bitterness and anger resurfaced. Since Troth’s Eye had been lost, chaos, greed and battle had become the norm among all living things. All assembled there knew of the legend and of the goblin clan’s weakness for precious objects, particularly if the object contained great magic.

“Friends, friends, please calm yourselves, I implore you!” Gorin shouted, as he lifted his hands to quell the anger of all assembled. “What Dingly says is true; all here know it to be fact. Who among the goblin clan can deny that it was one of their number, Slingfoot, son of Shruk, whose evil desire for pretty things was legendary throughout the world when it was young, stole a second great magic from the mountain ogre’s lair? When he died barely four thousand summers ago, we all know that Troth’s eye had already vanished, and could not be found. Neither it nor the magic he stole was ever seen again. No one, be they dwarf, goblin, elf or troll, tree, bush, shrub or bird, beast or fish knows where Troth’s Eye now resides. In fact there is no one alive among us who even knows what it looks like. Sadly friends, the one benevolent object that cared for and nurtured us—Troth’s Eye, imbued with the life preserving magic needed to protect our ancient world from the human disease, capable of restoring harmony, is now sadly lost, seemingly for all eternity…”

The trees surrounding the glade thrashed their branches in frustration, stirring up age old anger among their related clans. A great noise filled the air as all the clans assembled in the glade that day angrily argued, pointing accusing fingers at the goblin clan after Gorin had slumped down, suddenly feeling his great age and not knowing what or how their problem could be solved. For a long time they argued this way and that among themselves, all cursing Slingfoot and Shruk; even their goblin brethren joined in to condemn them for their foolish acts. It was now clear to all that a search for Troth’s Eye and the other great lost magic had to be organized.

The oldest oak there that day soon took charge of the situation and shook itself into action before lifting its roots free from the ground to move to the center of the glade. “There is one among us one who holds the key,” the oak, whose name was never spoken for fear of incurring the wrath of all the great trees of the forest, gently whispered to the gathering, as it pointed a branch accusingly. “It is you young Nagwort! You carry a crystal that was once owned by Ilim, descendant of Slingfoot and Shruk. It is the missing great magic, and you must hand it over. It was made by Troth and is the key to finding his Eye. It will point the way, if placed in the hands of one it trusts implicitly. But it will only work if all clans allow it to decide in whose hands it must be entrusted.”

All assembled there nodded in agreement as their eyes turned to where Nagwort stood quaking and trembling with fear, wondering how the oak knew about his treasure, but still defiantly clutching it in his bony hand, thrust deep in his jerkin pocket. “Shant, it’s mine, you, you scabby worm ridden cankered spindle twig you!” Nagwort screamed angrily at the mighty oak, as all gathered in the glade reeled in shock at the blasphemous outburst aimed at the noble oak by the disgusting youngling goblin thief.

Before he could flee, Nagwort fell to the ground in great pain as he was struck down from behind by the war club of Bladethirst, chief among the goblin clan. Bladethirst bared his cruel teeth, accentuating his disgust for the youngling and his thieving forefathers, as he deliberately and roughly reached into Nagwort’s jerkin to retrieve the crystal before handing it carefully to Dingly. “Your time is now over young Nagwort,” he hissed to the pathetic creature groveling and crying at his feet in great pain. Bladethirst bowed low as he enquired of the great tree what to do next. “Noble and mighty Oak, what this craven youngling has done and what he has just said to you, is beyond forgiveness in my eyes. Pray tell us what we must do?”

Silence fell in the glade as all eyes turned to the mighty oak for an answer. At the oak’s bidding, each clan member, each creature, tree and bush there in the glade that day, drew near and picked up, or touched the crystal in turn, hoping that it would be satisfied with one among the many. By nightfall, all but one had tried and failed to please the crystal.


A spine chilling terrible cry from above made all look up to the moonlit skies of early evening as a great bird suddenly appeared above their heads. They all watched with trepidation in their hearts as it descended on gigantic silent wings, landing beside the crystal. All breathing ancients knew, feared and respected Tallow, the giant eagle. Tallow and her kind were tasked by the great trees with keeping order among the clans since the world was new. She cast her sharp focus over all assembled. Many there hoped and prayed that she had not yet found out their many misdemeanors. All knew that Tallow’s justice was harsh and swift. But this time it seemed she had arrived for a different purpose. The great oak lowered a branch for her to climb onto and they quickly fell into whispered conversation.

When the first light of dawn crept over the eastern horizon, the oak beckoned to Gorin and lifted the elderly dwarf gently to join in the conversation. While the trio continued to speak, many of the assembled clans in the glade, as well as those below the oak’s shady branches, fell asleep exhausted by the previous day’s events. Nagwort whined and groaned from where he lay, pinned by Bladethirst’s foot. At long last by mid-afternoon the oak gently lowered Gorin and Tallow to the ground.

Gorin made an announcement. “Friends, Tallow has brought great news from the mountains to the north. She has found the very last mountain ogre left alive. His name is Gemlik. He is only alive because his protective tree, the last witch-hazel, still grows high on the mountain that is his home in the frozen reaches of the north, well beyond the reach of the human’s axe. Gemlik is the great, great, great grandnephew of Troth. Tallow is about to fly to him with our concerns, and if you all will allow her, she will take the crystal and its bearer to him. Surely if anyone can find Troth’s Eye it is Gemlik.”

Tallow sat on a rock preening her magnificent plumage in preparation for the long flight while the clan leaders talked over the news. Gorin, Bladethirst, Fingu, leader of the clan of Elves, and Slake, the eldest of the trolls, all finally agreed on a plan.

“Mighty Tallow,” Fingu said, “who among our number should accompany you to Gemlik’s lair? We have all tried and failed to please the crystal. If he is truly Troth’s great, great, great grandnephew as you say, his magic and anger will be fierce. All here know that ogres are solitary beings, not disposed to visitors of any kind, not even their own, except at birth planting when a new witch-hazel seed is sown. But if he is told the terrible truth of the human’s invasion by one of our elders, perhaps he will help us end this menace that threatens the natural order of things in our world.”

Tallow sat for a long time before answering. “Slake,” she began, fixing him with her fierce eyes, “of all here, your kind is the closest in kinship to Gemlik. But the journey is long and will take two nights and three days. You are heavy by your very nature, too heavy for me to bear. Bladethirst, your kind are bitter enemies of all ogres, be they mountain or plains ogre, he would kill you instantly. Fingu, your kind are deeply distrustful of ogres, he would drive you away to die in the frozen wastes below his home. Therefore there is only one among you who should travel with me, you wise Gorin.” she said, pointing a wing towards the dwarf elder, “All clans assembled here with the exception of the goblins, at least until today, trust you implicitly as did Gemlik’s kind so long ago. I have already spoken to him on this very subject before flying here. He already knows of the hated human’s relentless conquest to take over our world, and is willing to help end their destructive ways. Daily he sees the smoke from their fires as they kill your related life-giving trees to prepare the way for their kind to inhabit, where before only our natural world lived in harmony. There is only one among you that has not yet been tested by the crystal. Now gentle and wise Gorin, please pick it up.”

A loud cheer rose as Gorin triumphantly stood with the crystal glowing contentedly in his hand before he began to walk over to Tallow with tears of happiness and hope in his eyes. The great eagle held up one wing to halt his progress. “Before we begin our journey, dear Gorin, I have one onerous duty to perform.” She turned her magnificent head and focused her piercing eyes on Nagwort. With lightning speed she flew the short distance between the rock she had previously perched on, to where the pitiful Nagwort lay before seizing him in her powerful talons, knocking aside Bladethirst in the maneuver with her powerful wings, dragging the now screaming terrified young goblin aloft, flying high into the sky. With one precise blow from her massive razor sharp beak, Tallow beheaded the thief, and dropped his lifeless body to smash into the ground below where it would be reclaimed by one of the goblin clan’s life-giving larch trees, before flying back down to where the clans waited. Natural law was once more restored.


Gorin nestled between Tallow’s powerful shoulders, kept warm by her soft feathers as she soared ever higher before turning northward. As the pair flew steadily towards Gemlik’s mountain home, far below from time to time Gorin caught sight of the destruction of the ancient world by the humans. Tallow flew on effortlessly soaring on updrafts as day gave way to night. The sight of campfires, villages and towns from the countless human hoards glowed in the darkness below her mighty wings. Gorin, snug in his comfortable feather bed, warmed by Tallow’s body, ate an acorn for his supper before finally curling up to go to sleep. At his great age, one acorn per day was sufficient for his needs.

When dawn appeared, Gorin woke and rubbed his sleep filled eyes. “Where are we lady Tallow?” he wondered, as they flew across great tracts of land that Gorin had never seen before.

Tallow looked down for a brief moment before replying, “Far below is the land of the snow wolf, bear, leopard and Musk Ox, dear Gorin. No other creature dwells there because their clan trees cannot grow in the frozen ground.”

Gorin carefully stood to peer over her great shoulders at the world far below as she flew on ever northward. By nightfall they were flying towards a great mountain chain. “Is that where Gemlik dwells, do you suppose?” Gorin enquired, as they flew along the chain.

“No dear Gorin. Be patient. We have many more leagues to fly before we reach his mountain.” Gorin lay down once more to sleep, his tired eyes took in the stars above and the great green writhing curtains of light above the frozen north before they finally closed. For one more day and night, Tallow soared effortlessly in the clear northern skies. This far north, no creature lived.

By the early evening of the second night, the pair could now see the snow-topped peak of Gemlik’s mountain home in the far distance. With the coming of dawn on the third day, Tallow circled high above Gemlik’s lair, calling out to him, announcing their arrival. Gorin peered nervously over Tallow’s wings at the desolate frozen scene below. A great and terrible creature stood outside its cave entrance, beside a lone witch-hazel, shielding its eye as it watched the eagle and her precious cargo slowly descend towards it.


Tallow landed gently on a sturdy branch of Gemlik’s life-giving witch-hazel tree.

“Greetings noble Gorin, greetings friend Tallow,” Gemlik’s great voice boomed out his welcome, loosening rocks that tumbled down the mountainside.

Gorin carefully climbed down from Tallow’s back onto the branch she had perched upon, and with great trepidation, climbed onto the outstretched hand of the giant ogre. Careful not to crush his tiny guest in his hand, Gemlik walked back to his cave and placed the elderly dwarf gently in a bed of moss beside a roaring fire to warm his aged body before their conversation began.

Gorin studied his giant host with great curiosity and in great detail. He judged Gemlik to be over twelve feet in height. His great head bore only one eye. From his mouth, short very sharp tusks protruded from both his upper and lower jaws. His body was generously covered with snow white thick fur from head to foot. His hands were similar to Gorin’s own, except for their great size. His feet each bore seven clawed toes.

Not knowing if and when Gemlik might change his mind and suddenly decide to eat him as a tasty morsel, Gorin reached into his pocket and quickly produced the crystal, holding it out for him to see. “Here is the crystal O magnificent Gemlik. I was chosen from all of the clans to bring it home to you,” Gorin announced with a slight tremor in his voice.

The sound of Gemlik’s booming laughter almost deafened the ancient dwarf. As it continued to reverberate around the dark cave, bats that had been roosting happily in the darkest recesses of it took fright and flew out of the cave. “Bless you Gorin, your kind and mine have always lived happily side by side.”

Gorin raised an uncertain eyebrow as Gemlik continued. “Yes my friend, I can hear the thoughts of other ancients. I only tell you this to calm you. Be not afraid friend, you have nothing to fear.”

For the rest of the day, the two ancients, one miniscule, one enormously large, sat, ate and drank their fill as they discussed the progress of the hated human disease far away from Gemlik’s cave. Then the conversation turned to locating Troth’s Eye and restoring it to its rightful place. Gemlik’s one great eye moistened as he thought of his ancestor Troth and the happy times the world had known back then. “Tomorrow we shall climb up the mountain to return the eye,” he said. “For now, rest here while I prepare a place for Tallow to roost.”


With the coming of dawn, Tallow circled slowly overhead, ever watchful, as Gemlik with Gorin seated on one of his massive shoulders, warmed by the giant ogre’s fur in the frozen rarefied air, climbed steadily onward towards his mountain’s mist-covered summit. The snow blanketed slopes were treacherous. More than once despite his great strength and his clawed feet, Gemlik slipped and slid. As the sun climbed higher in the sky, the mist covering the mountain eventually cleared, revealing the uppermost reaches of Gemlik’s home.

By mid-morning at long last Gemlik and Gorin stood at the summit. At its center stood a magical rock with a simple hole at its top surrounded by intricately carved ancient runes, mounted on a plinth. Gemlik picked up Gorin and placed him with great care on the plinth. “Here we are friend,” he said with a smile on his face.

“But where is Troth’s Eye?” Gorin wondered.

“Why bless you friend, his eye is gone. But fear not we shall replace it soon enough,” Gemlik replied. “Now hand me my crystal if you please.”

Gorin handed it over.

“This crystal is the key to the problem our world finds itself in, friend,” Gemlik continued.

“When Shruk stole Troth’s Eye from its place in the rock yonder, almost immediately it vanished, ceased to be, dissolved if you will, ending its magical control, and letting chaos replace harmony by allowing the great unnatural disease called humanity to be born. This crystal is the tool my ancestor Troth fashioned to create the magical eye. As you may have noticed, we mountain ogres only have one eye, unlike our two eyed kin, the plains ogre. Now, like my ancestor Troth, I must sacrifice my own eye to create its replacement.”

Gorin watched with a mixture of anxiety and alarm as Gemlik touched his eye with the crystal. Instantaneously the eye changed from a living thing into a magnificent jewel before Gorin’s tearful eyes. Once transformed, Gemlik carefully plucked the jewel from his head and placed it atop the carved rock in the hole made for it, where almost immediately it became one with the rock and instantly the whole structure began to vibrate in unison with the world.

 “But you are now totally blind friend Gemlik. Was there no other way?” Gorin pleaded, anxious not to be the cause of Gemlik’s terrible sacrifice.

“Fear not Gorin. My small sacrifice has restored the natural order of things across our world. Now hush while I concentrate on the task ahead.”

“Now it is time to return to my cave,” Gemlik said. “Will you be my eyes for the descent? It will take me a little time to rely on my other senses to compensate for the loss of my eye.” Tearfully the old dwarf agreed, and climbing onto Gemlik’s outstretched hand. Once again he found himself seated on the giant ogre’s shoulder.

On reaching the safety of the entrance to Gemlik’s cave, the ogre told Gorin that he would keep the crystal hidden from thieves, should it be needed again in the future, and gave a parting gift to Gorin with instructions on what he wished him to do with it once he reached home.

After their farewells, Tallow with Gorin still saddened by what he had witnessed safely installed back between her wings, began the return flight back to the valley. As the pair flew south a great change was already happening far below. Where before the campfires of humanity had been seen far and wide, only darkness prevailed across the ground below. Gorin dozed fitfully unable to sleep as he worried about Gemlik and his supreme sacrifice.


“Look, they’re back!” Slake cried out, as he pointed towards the northern sky. All the clans assembled there in the glade watched and waited as Tallow circled overhead, gradually losing height as she carefully descended to the waiting throng.

“Welcome back Tallow and Gorin; wondrous news,” Fingu exclaimed. “The humans are vanishing, dying in their thousands, practically overnight or so it seems. Nature is reclaiming that which they stole from us. Seedlings are springing up where before human crops grew!”

Gorin said nothing. He nodded to Tallow, who acknowledged him in return. Then the old dwarf wandered off to the other end of the small valley. He searched all around until he found what he was looking for. Above the valley on its southern outer slope, he knelt down. He reached for the knife in his belt and began to dig a small hole in the soil. Next, he carefully opened his handkerchief and shook its contents into the hole before covering it up. As if by magic, a small seedling thrust its way above the surface.

“I have begun my promise to you friend Gemlik. I shall come each day to tend this new witch-hazel tree, and I shall school its ogre youngling, when he is born, in the ways of our world. Most of all I shall proudly tell him of the great unselfish sacrifice his ancestor Gemlik made to save our world from the terrible human disease that very nearly wiped us all out, when he replaced Troth’s Eye with his own. It is my hope that one day soon he will make the journey to meet you my dear friend.”

Far to the north Gemlik sat in his cave beside his fire and smiled as he heard the thoughts of his friend many leagues to the south…