The next episode of life at Old College from our Lucy 🙂
Glob’s beautiful friend Lox, the leader of the Elves
Beware on Crellan’s Mine
It’s A Case of Balance, Do You See
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), and curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), together with Bejuss, the one-eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, and their friends and allies, head towards Crellan’s mine to rescue its slave workers.
Morweth ended a heated argument over what they would do with the black wizard Crellan when they finally caught up with him. This was the time for wisdom, magic and cunning, not revenge.
“No, no, no, Crellan must not die! Goblindom exists because it is in equilibrium. Life and death, growth and decay, summer and winter, and in magic’s case, good and evil. All contribute to keeping us hidden from prying eyes. Should any of these elements necessary to our existence cease to be, the magic barrier will simply dissolve, and our part of the world will be quickly overrun by the hated humans and end forever. If you will dear friends, Goblindom and everything in it will simply end for all time, soon to be forgotten. Our capability to live in peace together and converse with each other, be we witch or wizard, raven or eagle, humin or goblin, wyvern or griffin, ogre, troll, elf, mountain gremlin, even dragon, will also end. The human’s world beyond our barrier is in a state of chaos. The different kinds living in it cannot understand each other anymore. Consequently, they live in fear and kill rather than live side by side like us. Any mutual trust between all living things that they may have had is gone for all time. It’s a case of balance, do you see.”
“Then why’s is we goin ter his mine?” Nit enquired. Like the rest, he puzzled why they were heading east towards the Widow Spires and certain trouble, possibly even death, if not to end Crellan’s life.
“I’s can answers that Nit, if yer don’t minds me buttin in Morweth,” Glob interjected, in support of the white wizard, “we’s goin ter free the slaves if we’s can, n close the mine forever. Everyone knows taint natural, nor safe, ter dig big holes neath the ground. It coulds let danger from below enter Goblindom. I says beware on Crellan’s mine! Remembers wots almost gots out when we’s tried ter rescue Yathle’s cousin Ariadne.”
Those that had taken part in the abortive rescue attempt remembered the spine-chilling cry and the smell of brimstone, moments before the magic barrier closed behind them after they had reached the safety of this world, sealing off the one beneath their own.
“But what is Crellan up to?” Mica began, still not clear about the black wizard’s reason for needing so many jewels, “apart from looking pretty round a female’s neck, what possible purpose could Crellan have in mind for those coloured stones?”
“That my friend is what I wish to learn,” Morweth replied, like Mica he puzzled over what Crellan needed them for. For the moment the answer eluded him.
They had camped for the night at the head of a valley leading to the foothills of the Widow Spires beneath the easternmost edge of Goblindom’s thick oak woods. From now on they risked being seen by Crellan’s lookouts as they began following Brog. At long last he had seen the error of his ways after both Yathle and Slyth threatened to rip him apart with their powerful talons. Together with Nit, he would guide the army through the hills.
Bejuss sat on Slyth’s great armoured head quietly talking to him. “Rarrk – we need ter thee how far wetht Crellan’th lookoutth are,” he lisped, while preening his feathers in between catching passing moths in his twisted beak which were attracted by the campfire.
Slyth’s belly growled. He hadn’t eaten a goblin for days. Being surrounded by hundreds of his favourite snacks was driving him crazy. For a split second, he even contemplated flicking his head to dislodge his feathered friend and swallow him whole. Then overcome with deep shame, he quickly dismissed the idea. He had momentarily placed his desperate need to eat above his deep friendship with the old raven. “We should go ter Morweth n tell him we need ter fly east ter spy on them Bejuss,” Slyth sheepishly suggested, desperately hoping that the old bird had not sensed his brief moment of madness brought on by his extreme hunger.
Maybe they could kill two birds with one stone so to speak. He and his brother Garr could fill their bellies at the same time as determining Crellan’s defences. Within a few minutes with Morweth’s blessing, the two griffins and Bejuss together with Yathle and her squadron of wyverns were heading towards the Widow Spires.
“I’s feds up n hungry! Where’s our relief, Derr?”
“Shuddup n stops moanin, they’ll be here soon enuff,” Derr replied to his companion, Tan. They had been on watch since sunset, and now it was close to dawn. Below them, they had a clear view of the reception camp, the mine’s entrance, and the carts being loaded by slave labourers with the freshly mined jewels.
Derr’s eyes misted up. Great drops of saliva fell from his mouth at the thought of all those jewels below. “Taint fair. Whys don’t we steals sum for us?” Tan suggested in a hushed tone, briefly forgetting his hunger as the thought of owning the jewels below overtook him. “Shush brother, don’t even thinks on it, else Crellan will hears n kills us both,” Derr hissed, as an involuntary shiver ran down his spine. The thought of crossing the black wizard made his green goblin blood run cold.
Back in his laboratory, Crellan’s face broke out in a contemptuous sneer while he watched and listened to their conversation, thanks to his mercury filled crystal seeing bowl before he retired to bed. Ungrateful plains goblins like those two were easily replaced. Tomorrow things would be different. As it turned out it was a prophetic thought on his part. So far his stocks of emeralds were building up nicely. He only needed twenty more cartloads before he could finally begin the second phase of his plan. Half a moon’s more mining should suffice.
Bejuss perched on Morweth’s shoulder moments after he and Slyth, together with Garr, Yathle and her sisters returned. “Rarrk – there ith three wayth ter the mine Morweth; one ith directly ahead on uth ter the eatht, but it’th heavily guarded like the one ter the thouth. But the one ter the north hath only a few lookoutth; it leadth directly ter a bluff above the mine.”
Morweth nodded his thanks. “No matter which path we take, Crellan will see us approach via his crystal seeing bowl my friends,” the old wizard declared, deeply concerned for everyone’s safety. “Yathle, can you take Brilith and me to Crellan’s home? Between us, we can cast a spell of invisibility to prevent us being observed by any of his minions along the way. But if he is still awake, whether it will fool him I simply don’t know. We have to get inside undetected to counter his magic. Perhaps we may even learn of his intent.”
Yathle fixed the old wizard with her golden eyes, gently smiled and nodded. Mica rose, and together with Lox, the leader of the elves, volunteered to accompany them. Morweth smiled and shook his head. “I thank you my friends, but no. You must lead the army to the mine. Bejuss will accompany us. If we are successful he will act as my messenger and fly back here to you. At that point, you will know it is safe to proceed. The battle for Crellan’s mine will be fierce my friends, make no mistake.”
Mica, Glob and the rest momentarily watched as Yathle rose into the sky with her two passengers with old Bejuss flying alongside before they all magically vanished from view. Now all Mica, Glob and the rest could do was wait.
Yathle landed silently on the roof of Crellan’s impregnable stone tower lair. Morweth motioned for both her and Bejuss to stay behind while he and Brilith stole silently down the tower’s winding stone steps leading to Crellan’s laboratory. As the pair approached the door still invisible, they came across two dozing mountain gremlin guards. Morweth turned them both to stone, after deftly relieving one of them of a set of keys. Brilith kept watch while the ancient wizard tried each key in the door. After they entered, Morweth quickly relocked the door behind them.
The first thing on his mind was to destroy the seeing bowl. Brilith stayed his hand. “Take it with us, it may prove useful later,” she whispered. Morweth handed it to her. After pouring the mercury into a stone flask, she quickly secreted both the flask and the crystal bowl into a large pocket inside her cape.
Next, they both turned their attention to destroying Crellan’s laboratory using their powerful magic to reduce everything to dust. Then they left the laboratory, locked the door, and between them, cast a spell. Briefly, they watched as the door transformed itself, becoming part of the wall, sealing the laboratory off forever. When Crellan woke, not only would the two guards be nothing more than stone statues, but the wall of his laboratory would be solid with no entrance.
Brilith led the way down to where the slaves delivered the emeralds each day. They stopped outside Crellan’s bed chamber. Morweth quickly and quietly turned the sleeping wizard’s door to stone, making it blend into the rest of the wall just like the door to his laboratory, sealing him in.
On entering the vast ground floor their breath was completely taken away. Neither of them had ever seen so many emeralds before in their long lives. But they were not the only jewels stored there. Huge mounds of rubies, diamonds, beryl, sapphires, onyx and topaz filled the rest of the chamber. While they briefly surveyed the scene the first two cartloads of emeralds for the day were being unloaded by goblin slaves urged on by the vicious whips of their guards.
Morweth’s blood ran cold. He finally understood what Crellan intended. Only one kind of creature coveted jewels like these in such vast quantities – black dragons!
The black wizard was gathering together enough jewels of all kinds from beneath the ground to raise an army of dragons to help him seize Goblindom for himself. Perhaps he even intended to raid the world of the humans beyond the magic barrier, thereby threatening the very existence of their hidden world in his desire to become its ruler!
Their objective had now changed. Everything here had to be destroyed. Taking the drastic decision, between them, they cast a spell of undoing. This time, the spell was different to the one cast by Morweth and Crellan when they destroyed the black dragon Kilycke’s nest, being wholly cast using white magic. As the spell slowly took effect, stone by stone, jewel by jewel, Morweth followed Brilith on the long climb back to the tower roof where Yathle and Bejuss waited patiently. When the black wizard eventually woke, he was in for a few unwelcome surprises.
Glob passed wind violently as he ate his breakfast of honeycomb, wild onion and dried fish. Moments later he almost soiled himself, very nearly jumping out of his skin when Bejuss landed unseen on his shoulder. “Rarrk – it’th time ter begin,” the old raven announced. By the time Yathle returned with Morweth and Brilith, the army was already on the march to the northern path with Mica and Lox at its head, all following Brog. At the base of the path, Morweth divided the army in two.
Taking Mica and his warriors together with Lox and some of her elven archers, accompanied by Slyth and Garr, Morweth and Brilith set off to the lookout post above the mine. Glob, Neo, Make, Mous, Nit and Byz were to follow Brog further north over a precipitous path. With luck, they would not be detected as they approached the mine from behind.
Derr and Tan’s lives savagely ended when Mica picked them up by the scruff of their scrawny necks and threw them to Slyth and Garr, who sliced them in two with their great beaks after the party had stealthily crept up on them from behind. At long last the two griffins had finally filled their complaining bellies. They both flew off to join Yathle’s squadron feeling renewed. Now they could enjoy themselves.
Yathle and her sisters began by delivering well-aimed fire balls, first at the remaining lookout posts, and then the groups of mine guards far below beyond the reception camp’s boundary fence. Slyth and Garr flew low and fast, crisscrossing the inside of the camp, decapitating guards and creating panic among the goblin slaves who hid completely terrified beneath the wooden carts used to carry the emeralds.
Morweth and Brilith took Derr and Tan’s place, protected by some of Lox’s archers and Mica’s band of warriors, quickly setting up the crystal seeing bowl to direct the attack. When Glob, Brog and the rest appeared from behind the mine, the battle was practically at an end.
All around them lay the broken bodies of the former guards, a mixture of plains and mountain goblins, ogres, trolls and mountain gremlins. Some had missing limbs, some no head. Still others slowly bled to death. Most were burnt to a crisp by the powerful fire balls delivered by Yathle and her sister wyverns.
By nightfall the mine had been taken. The rest of Lox’s elven archers had quickly dispatched the remaining few guards when they burst forth from inside the mine. Neo led a party deep underground to bring out the slaves. Once Morweth was certain that the mine was finally empty, he cast a spell which sealed it forevermore.
While the battle for Crellan’s mine raged below him, Bejuss circled overhead. Something in the distance caught his attention and he flew off to investigate.
Among the broken stones of Crellan’s ruined lair, the old bird’s one eye focused on a dirty bundle of clothing. Bejuss landed and hopped over to the writhing pile. A tiny helpless baby with rapidly reddening skin screamed when it saw him towering over it. The baby looked up at him with pursed lips and defiant, yet tearful eyes. Bejuss gently gathered together the clothing around the infant thinking it was cold then quickly flew back to Brilith. She soon returned astride Yathle’s back following the old bird.
Brilith instantly recognized the jagged birthmark on the baby’s badly sunburnt chest. The spell of undoing had done something completely unexpected. Crellan had suddenly woken up in great pain when strong sunlight struck him and began burning his exposed skin. In the distance, he could hear the sounds of battle going on. Why was he awake, it wasn’t dusk? What had happened to him? He lay in the rubble of his former home, thoroughly bewildered and covered in dust, unable to speak, stand or move. For the first time in his long life, he experienced real fear when the jet black raven suddenly appeared with its massive razor sharp twisted beak close to his face.
“So Crellan my lad, just wait until Morweth and the rest see what has happened to you,” she said laughing softly as she gently cradled the bad tempered infant black wizard in her arms.
Bejuss cocked his head, clearly still puzzled. He watched Crellan throw a tantrum. The black wizard stuck out his tongue and thrashed his chubby fists and legs in the air trying to hit Brilith. All he got for his petulant outburst was a smacked bottom which reduced him to tears, increasing his pain tenfold, much to Bejuss’ great delight. To add insult to injury, Yathle joined in Crellan’s humiliation by licking his sunburnt face with her long rough tongue, making him squirm even more, with a mixture of revulsion and great pain.
The black wizard would experience many more deeply humiliating incidents like this as he grew up for the second time. He would suffer Brilith’s no-nonsense attitude, and the inevitably painful chastisement administered by her for each transgression of her rules, many more times in the future. She was determined to change his ways. He tried to curse and blaspheme, but nothing came out of his mouth except screams, dribble and bubbles. The hidden world of Goblindom would be safe for a few more years now that it’s most dangerous son’s dark plans of domination had finally been ended.
Fortunately, the one thing the spell had not done was to wipe the vast knowledge of black magic from his mind. Thanks to this particular spell of undoing, Goblindom’s equilibrium had been maintained. White magic and black still existed.
See what happens to you when you have delusions of grandeur?
PS – Despite my offering Goblin Tales for free over a five day period which ended on Tuesday 29th March, only twenty-four of you took the opportunity to avail yourselves. Sad, very sad…
Indeed, who were the Vikings?
I have news for you. The Vikings were nothing like those sword wielding warriors you see on tv. They did not dress in blood stained leather and ragged tunics if they could avoid it – they preferred silk and colored linnen. They didn’t sport those fancy hairstyles that the tv show with the same name has made popular – both men and women took pride in their long, well tended hair. And the name «Viking» wouldn’t have made much sense among the Norsemen themselves – their sense of nationality was much more regional. By the way, even at the height of the Viking Age, the British didn’t talk about them as Vikings, but as Danes.
So, who were the Vikings? Or, more correctly, who were the Norse? Only a small portion of the Norsemen were Vikings, after all. I have used the name «Viking» in this blog when I write…
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Read about the price we all pay, whether we like it or not Here
The next episode from our lovely Lucy 🙂
You may as well ask why do painters paint, or sculptors sculpt. Like them, we have a burning desire within us to produce something for posterity. In our case, for your reading pleasure. The serious writer isn’t in it for the money, only the story. Nor are we attempting to become famous during our lifetimes, just to be read.
Sculptors use chisels and other tools to release that statue trapped inside the block of marble. Painters use brushes, palette knives and all manner of paints and pigments to produce that painting which you admire in an art gallery. Whereas we use words to paint a picture for your imagination to feast on.
By its very nature, writing is a solitary occupation. You have to have a writer’s soul and a total commitment to the craft, not to mention a steely determination.
An editor or a teacher of English can give you an explanation for every part of speech in the English language, be it verb; adverb, noun or pronoun, etc, etc. But if you are a writer, what a particular word is formally categorized as by the academically minded is utterly irrelevant? Leave that kind of thing up to your editor. Does a sculptor need to know how to make a chisel, or a painter how to make a paint brush? No. In our case what matters is knowing how to use words to their best effect. To achieve that takes years of practice.
To aid us in writing that story for you, we employ our equivalent of brushes and chisels by spending endless hours researching and fact-finding as well as using our dictionary and thesaurus for the best choice of word, plus reading the works of others.
So, the next time you feel the need to pass judgment on a book you have just read, pause for a moment and ask yourself this simple question, “could I have written it any better?” If you are honest, chances are the answer will be no.
Further to that point, in a recent post on Facebook put out by the BBC about J.K Rowling sharing some of the rejection letters she received over the years with would-be writers, certain sarcastic armchair critics jealous of her success, immediately went on the attack by amongst other things, claiming she can’t write. Nothing surprising there. Most social networking sites and fora automatically attract highly opinionated hate filled individuals.
Not prepared to simply let them get away with it, I posted the following comment – “I see a hell of a lot of envy by people who should know better going on here.“
It’s interesting that after I’d posted my comment the criticism slowed to a trickle, particularly when other people agreed with me. One of them went as far as saying to one of the critics, “tell you what, why don’t you give me the name of a book you’ve written?” Not unsurprisingly they received no reply.
While Joanne will never know how we rallied to her defense unless one of you tells her, it’s nice to be able to silence a handful of the highly vocal idiots out there from time to time, don’t you think.
Score one for all writers…
Views of where Stuart gets his inspiration 🙂
Along the old track of the railway.
Some places inspire. The Forest of Dean is one such place for me. Living within the forest, with access just a hundred yards or so from our front door, we have the opportunity to walk amongst the trees every day, and do our best to do just that.
Our less used track up the hillside.
The weather has been very variable this Easter; everything from bright warm sunshine through to pretty violent storms with strong winds and pouring rain. We managed, however, to get a walk in the dry on each of the three days of the weekend break.
A deer watches from the trees. You can see it in the bottom right.
Our walk on Friday was the longest, with a trek up into the hills and along the less travelled trails to the bridge over the Greathough Brook where it runs…
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Nicholas on maps.
When working on Pearseus, I decided to include a map. In fact, I ended up drawing at least three versions, then buying Cartographer and doing another three versions there. Then, I realized a lot of people hate maps in books. A recent post by A.J. O’Conell of Bookriot explains why.
I Hate Maps
When epic fantasy N.K. Jemisin released her latest novel, The Fifth Season, she posted the – admittedly beautiful – map from her novel on her blog. What’s unusual about this is that Jemisin is one of a handful of authors who have been vocal about their distaste for maps in high fantasy.
So, why aren’t some fantasy authors fans of maps? Three reasons are usually cited:
- Maps on the fly-leaf are cliché; every author from J.R.R. Tolkien to George R. R. Martin seems to have one.
- Sometimes being able to see every major location in a world
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The Black Wizard Crellan
Here is the first of a two-part timeless tale from my fantasy anthology
Beware on Crellan’s Mine!
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), along with Bejuss, the one-eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, Morweth, Nit, Fig, Mica and a party of his humin friends, set out on a dangerous mission.
Disturbing news from the far eastern reaches of Goblindom arrived at the ancestor oak. It was revealed that the black wizard Crellan has a secret jewel mine. The whole area surrounding the mine is watched over, protected and run by hundreds of mercenaries in Crellan’s employ.
None of the slaves working it know what it is they are mining, or why. When they are dragged into its reception camp outside the mine’s entrance, they are immediately chained together, in groups of five. The guards then put out their eyes and cut out their tongues, before sending them into its murky depths.
In the mine, the slaves barely exist. They work in cloying darkness under the cruel whips of their mountain ogre gang masters, who are unaffected by its poisonous environment. The slaves barely exist on a diet of watery acorn broth. They sleep at the seam face and breathe in the vapours escaping from the rocks all around them that they have to pick their way through in their search for the rich jewel seams.
As a consequence of the harsh beatings they endure, together with the poisonous environment and their lack of proper food, they die in their hundreds. Crellan’s many pressgangs made up from a mix of plains and mountain ogres, mountain gremlins and trolls, easily replace the dead with freshly pressed volunteers from across Goblindom.
For the moment, no one apart from Crellan himself knew why he wanted the precious jewels, or what kind they were.
The slave responsible for revealing the mine’s location and its horrors died before he could tell exactly how he had escaped. His name was Pigwort Minkclaw (Mink), an educated plains goblin, who formerly worked as a junior scribe for the wise council. For many moons Mink had headed west, hiding by day, crawling, feeling and smelling his way by night, eating whatever his fingers or nose told him was edible.
Bejuss had found him quite by accident when he was on his way to visit a distant cousin on his mother’s side to the east of the valley. His eye focused on a skeletal creature lying in a hollow, perilously close to death. By nightfall, Mink was being looked after by her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, and Brilith the white witch. But even their best efforts were not enough to save him.
Because he had been made blind and dumb at the cruel hands of the guards he could not communicate normally. Before he died he managed to scrawl a few words, naming who had pressed him into service along with their descriptions. He also drew a map from memory of the part of Goblindom known as the Widow Spires, a range of brooding mountains shrouded in a permanent cloud of mist, seldom visited because of its close proximity to Crellan’s new lair at Goblindom’s eastern border. In particular, he drew the safest route to the entrance of the mine to bypass the vigilant eyes of the many lookouts.
The very last words Mink wrote in his shaky hand were – Whatever yer does beware on Crellan’s mine! Don’t… Before he could finish his warning, the wren feathered quill pen slowly fell from his dead hand to the floor.
Glob sat at the window with Bejuss perched on his shoulder; both of them were silently fuming. Like the rest of the household, thanks to Mous’ unfortunate aptitude for clumsiness, they were starving.
Today’s breakfast had been an utter disaster. They had all gone hungry yet again because of him. On the way to the table, he had managed to drop all of the breakfast bowls, smashing them to pieces and covering the floor with their delicious contents.
Both Neo and Make angrily chased him around the kitchen intent on doing physical harm to their accident-prone brother. Mous barely escaped their wrath when he ran outside fearing for his life, before quickly climbing to the old oak’s topmost branches. Simpleminded Byz hid under his bed not daring to show the point of his nose, just in case his brothers decided to take out their frustrated anger on him instead.
Glob sighed, briefly looked his old friend Bejuss in the eye, and shook his head before calling for calm. “Right’s brothers, we’s needs ter hunt down the three goblins wot is capturin folk for Crellan’s mine in these parts. Now we’s has their names n wots theys look like. Morweth, Fig n Nit shud be’s here soon; Mica, Miranda n his war party as well.”
Then he went to the door and demanded Mous come back inside before angrily telling him, “now brother, let’s see if yer can makes us sum food ter takes wiv us, preferably wivout spillin it on the floor if yer don’t mind!”
Mous warily slunk back inside. He quickly made for the kitchen, not daring to look anyone in the eye, “I’z zorry brotherz,” he sheepishly muttered, ducking a well-aimed cuff from Neo, “I’z knowz I’z a clumzy numpkin; I’z won’tz do it agin, I’z promize.”
“Yer’d better not, else yer’ll feels me club kiss yer noggin,” Neo grumbled, glaring angrily at his brother through his highly animated crossed eyes. Mous did his best to ignore the threat and began to prepare leaf parcels of food as well as collecting their mugs and a full acorn barrel of Neo’s special mead for the journey. Within the hour everyone was assembled beneath the old oak, ready for the hunt.
Mordern Bigsnook, or Dern as he was known, was a frightening figure. Condemned for five brutal murders and suspected of countless unsolved others, he had languished in a stinking dark cell, waiting to be executed for his crimes. Seizing his opportunity one night, he killed a guard when his food was brought to him and stole his keys before escaping into the night from the dungeons below the ancestor oak two summers ago. Heading east where he knew he would never be followed, he eventually found employment with Crellan. Now he led the pressgang working the southern woods.
At four foot, he was unusually tall for a plains goblin. He shaved his head, apart from a thick wiry black line of hair on its crown, which looked like the bristles on a boar’s back. Two large fangs stuck up from his bottom jaw, almost disappearing into the equally large nostrils of his broken nose when he closed his mouth.
Crellan had told Dern to pick his own team for a special assignment, to capture Glob and his brothers. Not trusting any other kind than his own, Dern chose his two companions, Grythle Snickweed (Snick), and Broglik Cantfurgle (Brog), from the ranks of the plains goblin lookouts.
Dern only cared for one thing, the jewels his master Crellan paid him; one emerald for each new slave delivered alive. This time, Crellan had promised him five hundred emeralds for each of the five brothers. Capturing a few more goblins before they took Glob and his brothers was perfectly fine in his eyes. It meant more emeralds for him. If either of his companions proved to be a threat, he would kill them without a moment’s hesitation.
“Which ways is we headin terday boss,” Snick yawned as he began to pick his nose, “norf, souf, west or east?”
Dern scowled at his two companions, “south blast yer. Now gets yerself forward yer scum afor I’s slit yer throats! I’s can always does this alone. More profit for me if yer’s both dies.”
A chill ran up their spines. They both knew that their leader’s notoriously short temper meant that they were constantly in danger. Neither one had willingly volunteered for this assignment. Both preferred their relatively cushy jobs as lookouts high above the approaches to the mine, rather than accompanying this homicidal maniac. To refuse would have meant being thrown into the mine. On the other hand, the pay was good.
Snick shrugged his shoulders and swung his war axe and his pack onto his back while Brog checked his blade’s edge before slinging it over his shoulder. Then the pair set off with one eye on the woods ahead and the other, nervously on Dern bringing up the rear. By noon, they made temporary camp in a tiny glade several leagues inside the vast southern wood.
With Grassnit Thimblefoot (Nit), Hermione’s chief scout, leading the way, Mica walked beside Miranda who was loaded down with their provisions.
At first, she had been reluctant to leave her foal. But when Agnitha and Ylesse said they would take care of her, Miranda agreed. To make her journey as pleasant as he could, and to take her mind off her foal, Neo sat between her large velvet soft ears whispering to her. Following close behind were Mica’s fellow humin warriors Verig, Cantor, Jasper and Manx together with Morweth, the white wizard, Figblaster Cornshuffle (Fig), the bounty hunter, and the four other goblin brothers while Bejuss flew above on the lookout.
Not far ahead of the party was the home of Smikewhistle Pontigle (Pont), who made his living sewing the finest jerkins in Goblindom. Unbeknown to Pont or our plucky band, Dern and his pressgang were already studying the comings and goings of Pont’s customers. Dern’s cruel fanged smile spread across his face. It looked like today would be a highly profitable one for him. Signalling to Snick and Brog to conceal themselves on either side of the path, to knock out each of Pont’s customers as they appeared, he crawled forward through the lush grass, heading for the unsuspecting tailor’s home.
Within a matter of minutes he had entered silently, hit Pont on the head with his club, and bound him securely before hiding him in a cupboard. Then disguising himself and taking Pont’s place at the workbench, he prepared to bash any goblins that his companions missed when they entered Pont’s home.
High above, Bejuss’ one eye focused on Dern’s two companions. For a few moments, he circled while he studied them closely before flying back to Glob to deliver his report. “Rarrk – they’th ith not far ahead on uth; me can’t thee Dern anywhere. He mutht be inthide Pon’th houthe.”
“Where are they exactly Bejuss – show us?” Mica commanded of the old bird as they all temporarily halted.
“They’th on the path juth outthide Pont’th place, waiting ter capture hith cuthtomerth; they’th already got thix tho far, all truththed up like chickenth for the pot,” the old bird replied, after he had carefully drawn a map in the dust with his wing, indicating where Snick and Brog had concealed themselves in proximity to Pont’s oak tree home.
Between them, Mica and Glob worked out a plan of attack. “Right Make, you take Byz with you along the path to get Snick’s attention. Verig and I will shadow you for a while before we seek out Brog. Jasper, you take Fig and circle round to the right behind Pont’s home, to watch Dern’s every move. Manx, Cantor, Glob, Neo, and you Mous, protect Morweth and be ready to do whatever he commands. By all accounts, Dern is our real concern. Morweth this is the time for your magic my old friend. Verig and I will try to capture Brog alive. We need a guide to get us past the mine’s lookouts undetected.” Everyone grimly nodded when Mica issued his orders.
“N what’s bout me if yer don’t minds me askin?” Nit grumpily enquired, feeling decidedly left out.
“Sorry Nit, yer mus stay here wiv Miranda. We’ll signal yer whens we’s done. Yer nose for trackin is vital. We’s daresn’t risks yer being caught or injured,” Glob told him as gently as he could, not wishing to insult Goblindom’s most illustrious scout. Nit glumly nodded. He knew what Glob said made perfect sense, but still…
Bejuss lightly pecked Glob’s earlobe. “Rarrk – what d’yer want me ter doeth Glob?”
Glob turned to look at his old friend, winked and replied, “I’s wants yer ter does wot yer does best Bejuss lad – vanish, n keeps yer eye peeled for truble.” In a trice, the old bird did as he was bid and vanished into thin air.
Make set off along the path holding Byz’ hand, walking like two sacrificial goats towards where Snick lay in wait, to distract him. Meanwhile, Morweth under the protection of Manx, Cantor, Glob and Mous, crept up behind the unsuspecting mercenary.
Mica and Verig carefully shadowed Make and Byz before circling through the thick woods to the left of the path heading for their appointment with Brog, some way past Pont’s home.
Jasper and Fig silently crept round to the right until they finally positioned themselves with an excellent view of Pont’s door, waiting for Dern to burst forth.
At Morweth’s silent command as he raised his hand, his protection squad halted not far from where Snick hid. With his wand, he froze the unsuspecting goblin mercenary to the spot, turning him to stone. Morweth signalled that his protection squad should move forward and smash the frozen figure to pieces. On seeing this Make, still holding Byz’ hand, joined Morweth’s group.
Brog was getting bored lying in wait for fresh volunteers despite the fact that he now had eight wood goblins bound and gagged behind him, each nursing a blinding headache. He stretched his limbs and started to yawn when suddenly the lights went out.
“Got him! Verig, bind and gag him quick so I can release our friends from their bonds,” Mica whispered, handing over the tiny unconscious goblin mercenary. Verig grinned and nodded, setting about his task with relish while Mica quickly cut the captive’s bonds, asking for their cooperation to gain Dern’s attention. To a goblin, despite their pounding heads, the eight willingly agreed.
Bejuss flew down to where Morweth and his party stood in readiness, perching on the wizard’s shoulder, barely a hundred paces from Pont’s home. “Rarrk – Mica n Verig hath captured Brog; they ith waiting for action when yer ith ready. They freed the goblinth wot Brog captured who ith now waitin ter walk patht Pont’th houthe ter dithtract Dern n make him come out when yer want,” the old bird whispered between gasps, as he got his breath back.
On Morweth’s command, the whole party quietly positioned themselves around the oak tree.
Dern peered out at the path. For some time, he had seen no movement in either direction. He was about to collect the unconscious Pont from the cupboard and call it a day, when he saw a party of eight goblins sauntering along, loudly chatting among themselves and heading south.
They passed Brog’s hiding place without being attacked. Dern shook his head, scowling and muttering to himself, seething with anger that his confederate had missed them. When they passed Snick’s hiding place unmolested, Dern completely lost his temper and exploded into action, rushing outside to chase after them. Eight precious emeralds were escaping his purse!
Mica’s battle horn sounded. From all sides humin warriors yelling their terrifying battle cry, brandishing their flint-tipped spears, closed for battle. Wood goblins, armed with their war clubs and blades, joined by a wizard and an old raven completed the picture, catching Dern completely by surprise. From the shadows elven arrows flew, quickly piercing his chest. The welcome sight of Lox appearing from nowhere at the head of her archers heartened everyone with the exception of Dern.
Dern fought ferociously like an insane cornered animal. Many of the party were wounded by his razor sharp blade. His murderous life finally ended after Mica’s spear ripped open his throat, just as Jasper’s flint knife found its way through his jerkin, puncturing a lung, while Fig’s blade hamstrung him, sending him crashing to the ground.
He lay twitching and writhing in the grass as his life force inevitably ebbed away. Bloody green bubbles escaped through his punctured jerkin, from where many elven arrows had pierced his chest. His blood gushed from the severed artery in his neck opened by Mica’s spear, briefly merging with the green grass, before disappearing from view. When his eyes finally glazed over Goblindom was rid of yet another murderous individual forever.
“What now?” Manx asked much later, like the rest already guessing what the answer would be.
“East, we’s heads east ter Crellan’s mine,” Glob replied while he watched Cantor and Verig bury Dern’s body. Turning to Lox he asked, “Wills yer joins us on our quest friend?”
Lox’s bewitchingly beautiful face broke into a smile, “We elves, like the rest of Goblindom, loath Crellan and everything he stands for dear Globular. We were on our way east when Bejuss found us and led us back here. Of course we will join your band.”
From high above three other familiar voices announced in unison, “We too will help you my dears.” Within a blink of the eye, Yathle the wyvern had landed with a squadron of her sisters, with her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, and the white witch Brilith astride her back.
The happy moment was broken when a muffled voice suddenly cried out, “help someones, I’s trapped!” Neo leapt to his feet and went inside the oak to free Pont. Morweth, Hermione and Brilith attended to everyone’s wounds while Mous assisted Pont who insisted on cooking a meal for his rescuers to show his gratitude.
“The east beckons my friends,” Mica said later after they had all bid Pont farewell.
A terrifying screech from high above made the hairs on everyone’s necks stand on end. Bejuss materialized on Glob’s shoulder. “We’th got another volunteer Glob; he’th goin ter recruit hith brother along the way.” The griffin Slyth landed at the centre of the group, reducing the eight rescued goblins who had also volunteered, to a quaking grovelling mass.
Taking Miranda’s halter in his hands, Mica followed Nit with the rest close behind. They set off on the long journey east into the dangerous unknown territory of the mist-shrouded Widow Spires and Crellan’s mine. Above the plucky band, Bejuss flew alongside his friends Slyth and Yathle, with her sisters flying in formation behind them. Along the way, many more willing volunteers would join the quest.
Brog grumbled continually from where he lay trussed up tight, roped securely to Miranda’s back. Neo ended his protestations with his club from where he sat astride Miranda’s neck. By the time they would eventually arrive at the Widow Spires, either Brog would have changed his attitude and become cooperative, or he’d be counting the painful lumps on his head, courtesy of Neo’s war club, moments before his life ended in Slyth’s beak.
Part two later…
How many of you actually appreciate a writer taking the time and trouble to get the details right in any story? Not many of you I’m betting. Never once do we hear praise for having done our homework. However, if we get something wrong, the more eagle eyed among you never let us forget it! Why is that do you think?