Gropewort Winglemite esquire
Here is another timeless tale from Goblin Tales
Byz Tries to Grow Up
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo) say goodbye when their younger brother Byzantine Du Lac (Byz) leaves home on his journey to adulthood.
For many months since he had shown the faintest glimmer of responsibility when they had gone looking for Yathle’s cousin Ariadne, simpleminded Byz pleaded with his older brothers to be allowed out on his own again. After five hundred summers, he was slowly beginning to grow up at long last. Glob and Neo, being the senior members of the goblin household, talked endlessly about whether or not young Byz could be trusted.
In the humin village beyond their home, the old goblin, Gropewort Winglemite esquire, or Wing to those that knew him, had lived with Agnitha, Mica and Ylesse ever since they had found him starving and near to death, on that hot day when the fair was held on Bringweed Common. Now that he was fully recovered, he needed a young goblin as a companion to look after him in his old age. Furthermore, as Wing’s mind was beginning to forget things he would need to pass on all his vast knowledge before it was too late. Plus, he had seen an oak tree he wanted to call his own not far from the humin village. In short, he yearned to be independent again.
Knowing his desires, Glob and Neo sat speaking with Wing outside Mica’s roundhouse. They were about to sign young Byz over to him under the goblin apprentice articles of indenture laid down in the book of law as his companion and pupil, when a voice from the past interrupted their negotiations.
“Avast there ye old spalpeen, don’t ye even recognise ye brother come back home?”
Wing could hardly believe his ears as he was embraced by his brother. “Nook – it can’t be, I’s thought yer wos dead?”
“Aye tis me right enuff, recently retired from her magnificence’s navy, n comes ter sees ye. Hopefully if ye agree shipmate, I’sll hangs me hammock in ye home.”
Wing’s old face broke out into a broad smile as he happily introduced him. “Glob, Neo, I’s wud likes yer ter meet Spindlenook, me yunger brother,” he said with tears of pure joy flowing freely from his cataract filled eyes. “Nook, this here is Globular Van der Graff n Neopol Stranglethigh.”
Nook saluted and shook hands with them both. “Cap’n Spindlenook Winglemite retired, at ye service n so forth,” he said with a broad grin. Even his formal greeting was similar to his older sibling, leaving no one in any doubt that they were true brothers, born from adjacent acorns on the Winglemite twig of the ancestor oak. Taking Glob’s hand in his, he vigorously shook it before repeating the same friendly gesture with Neo. In the process he made both goblins wince in pain before he released their hands from his vicelike seaman’s grip.
Standing before them was a battle hardened tough old goblin wearing a white spotted blue bandana, knotted at the back of his head, with a batwing parchment patch over one eye. He had only one arm, his right, and his left leg ended in a willow wand peg. Nook’s clay pipe hung out of the corner of his mouth. His hair was plaited tightly in a tarred pigtail and his silver grey beard grew down to his chest. He wore the grey flax jerkin of Hermione’s navy. A broad red cummerbund wound around his waist, with a mountain goblin blue steel cutlass and a brace of razor sharp daggers stuck into it. Across his back, wrapped securely in his well worn flax hammock, were all his worldly possessions; a spare jerkin and bandana, not much to show for a lifetime of service to Goblindom.
When Nook was a younger, he had been seduced by tales from passing strangers of the Great River and the ogre pirates, mountain gremlin smugglers and goblin slavers, which Hermione’s navy constantly fought against. It came as no surprise to Wing when Nook ran away to join the goblin navy in the service of her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all. Over the many summers of his service, he had risen slowly through the ranks from a simple hand pulling an oar aboard a galley, to captain.
Nook ran a taught ship at all times. He brooked no nonsense from his crew, dealing out harsh punishment for any breach of naval discipline. Despite his tough regime, his crews all grudgingly respected him because of his fearless leadership. In Hermione’s navy there was none braver than Nook.
He had lost his eye when the first galley he commanded – the Brightstar – was boarded by a gang of weasels in the employ of Barnabus Grockbugle, a particularly evil mountain gremlin, who specialised in capturing goblins and elves to sell in the slave markets further down river. Later on in his career he lost his arm and leg when he led a shore party intent on destroying the nest of a griffin by the name of Caithe, who was trying to unite all griffins for an attack on the ancestor oak.
“Did’s I’s hears ye right Glob, ye wants yer yunger ter be me brother’s companion?” Nook asked while packing a wad of elderberry flavoured tobacco into his clay pipe.
Glob nodded his head, “that’s right Nook. Our yung brother Byz is showin signs on growin up at long last. He needs sum schoolin n yer brother Wing needs hisself a pupil. Praps betweens yer, yer cud takes on yung Byz. Will yer thinks on it a while?”
Wing pondered while Nook puffed on his pipe expressionlessly, content to go along with whatever decision Wing came to. Eventually, both spoke as one when they said, “Rights, we’ll signs the articles n come ter collects him tomorrer mornin. We’ll make summink on him ter makes yers all proud.”
The following day Glob, Neo, Make, Mous and Bejuss waved goodbye as Byz left in the company of the Winglemite brothers. The trio were off to the southern edge of the valley to begin work on their new home in the old oak Wing had set his heart on. The beaming smile on the young goblin’s face was a picture of pure happiness. He was finally entering the world of grownups. Bejuss sat on Glob’s shoulder with a tear in his eye, while waiving one wing. Byz may have sorely tried his patience at times, but the old bird had to admit he would miss not having him around the place.
By nightfall Wing, Byz and Nook had made themselves comfortable inside the hollow trunk of the old oak. Tomorrow they would begin constructing their new home within its cavernous interior.
At the crack of dawn the following day, Nook opened his one good eye, yawned and stretched. He peered over the edge of his hammock to where his brother and Byz lay fast asleep in a pile of leaves. He swung himself out of his hammock and shook Byz hard. “Avast ye lubber, wakes up!” For a split second Byz still thought he was back in his own bed in the goblin brother’s home. Then he opened his eyes to see Nook towering over him.
Between them they began cooking breakfast. Right from the start, both the Winglemite brothers treated their young companion like an adult, not a younger. He determined to live up to their expectations of him.
It had been three weeks since Glob and the rest had all watched Byz leave home. Neo was out visiting Miranda, her foal, and little Ylesse. Mous was busy baking acorn cakes. Make and Glob, along with Bejuss had gone fishing when…
“I’s back brother, I’s runs away. I’s wont’s ter comes home please.”
Mous jumped with fright as he turned to see Byz standing in the doorway with his head hung low, and tears in his eyes. “Why aint yer at Wing n Nook’z home then?” he demanded coldly, clearly annoyed that Byz had returned so soon. The goblin younger burst into tears and hid under his bed among his favourite insects, refusing to come out.
From that first morning when Byz had been roughly woken by Nook, the simpleminded goblin became a slave. He was forcibly immersed into the totally harsh world of hard physical work, constructing the Winglemite brother’s home virtualy unaided during the hours of daylight, followed by endless lessons on goblin history by Wing at night.
He painfully suffered rigidly enforced discipline for the most minor contraventions of the brother’s rules at the cruel hand of Nook. To say it was a shock to this innocent younger would be an understatement. His backside, back and legs bore raw welts from the many beatings he suffered from Nook’s ropes’ end. In his blind rage at what he deemed to be mutiny on the part of the goblin younger, Nook had deliberately smashed his prized reed pipes, reducing Byz to tears, whereupon he sat down and began sucking his thumbs, refusing to do any more work. Nook took his obstinacy as a clear indication of further mutinous behaviour, and thrashed poor Byz’ back, until it bled.
The simpleminded soul could not help being dim and a daydreamer. After all, he is the way he is. But neither Winglemite brother would give him any quarter. They had promised to make something of him, and no matter what it took, they determined to make good their promise. And so they increased their harsh regime upon the unfortunate goblin younger.
They worked him continuously from dawn till dusk without a break, except for the tiny meal barely enough to keep a gnat alive, which they allowed him at noon. When poor Byz was totally physically exhausted and ready for bed, his lessons with Wing began. Inevitably he fell asleep during the long boring lessons and was severely punished by Nook. The last three weeks had been pure hell for this simplest of creatures. Never in his life had he been treated so harshly, or been made to work so hard.
When Glob, Make, Neo and Bejuss returned home, they were horrified by the state poor Byz was in. At first they were all simply annoyed, accusing him of being childish and not going through with the deal. But when Glob caught sight of the vicious welts covering his whole body, annoyance rapidly turned to heartfelt sympathy. Anger and revenge filled their minds. No one, absolutely no one, did this to their young brother and got away with it!
“Wot’z we’z goin ter do Glob,” Mous angrily asked as he gently applied fresh honeycomb to Byz’ many weeping scars.
“I’s tells yer wot I’s is goin ter do,” Neo began, “I’s goin ter bash brains out wiv me club. No one’s treats me brother like this, d’yer here me! The one wot done this is livin on borrowed times. Which one on thems did this ter yer Byz lad, which one?” Neo’s tears of compassion for the youngest member of the household dried up as his crossed eyes changed colour from deep brown to blood red.
Rarely if ever in peacetime does a goblin allow his war-rage to surface. But in this case, as far as Neo was concerned, the circumstances clearly dictated that someone must die for the cruelty inflicted on young Byz. Mous and Make solemnly nodded in full agreement, raring to go on a blood hunt.
“Brothers wait!” Glob commanded, quickly taking charge of the situation. “We shud hear their side on things afore we’s allows our war-rage ter overcome us. We’s needs ter brings this ter the attention on her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother on all. We’s needs her advice. If’s she says that wot has been done ter yung Byz is wrong, n I’s sure she will, thens she will send Figblaster Cornshuffle ter apprehend the culprits.”
Neo shook his head in angry frustrated silence as Make assisted Mous while he tenderly treated Byz’ many scars. “But we’s all knows it’s wrong Glob, look at Byz’ back! No one does that ter any on us, not anyone!” Neo cried out with more tears, this time angry ones, flowing from his crossed eyes.
Bejuss hopped back and forth in the rafters saying nothing, but thinking long and hard. Then he quietly flew through the open door, heading south.
I’s can’t finds no signs on him shipmate,” Nook said as he sat down beside his elder brother. “Peers he’s run orf,” Wing added, shaking his head and shrugging his old shoulders. Neither Winglemite brother heard or saw old Bejuss as he perched on a branch outside their window unseen. He cocked his head and continued to listen to their conversation.
“I’sll flay him alive whens I’s finds him, so I’s will!” Nook began, furious that their indentured servant had run away.
“He’s gots no backbone fer work or learnin brother; he’s still a yunger,” Wing sighed, shifting his aching bones to make himself comfortable on his hard wooden stool.
“Backbone! Whens I’s is finished wiv the little halfwit grotkin he’ll have no backbone left shipmate,” Nook growled, seething with anger. “I’sll learn him ter runs away; deserters gets flogged ter the bone so they does. Thens theys gets hung!”
Hearing all he needed to, Bejuss silently flew back home.
When Bejuss told Glob all that he had heard, the old goblin immediately went outside to summon Yathle. By sunset the pair had informed Hermione of young Byz’ plight at the cruel hands of one of her most trusted and decorated captains. She was horrified by what she heard and immediately sent for Fig, charging him with the immediate arrest of Spindlenook Winglemite, before insisting she accompany Glob and Bejuss to take care of young Byz herself.
Several days went by. Thanks to Hermione’s gentle motherly ministering, Byz slowly recovered. Old Bejuss’ kind heart felt for the goblin younger. He flew out through the window and soon returned with a gift. “Rarrk – I’th got yer a prethent brother; here’th a thpider for yer ter playth wiv.”
Word soon arrived at the goblin brother’s home via a royal messenger sent by Fig that Nook was now in chains awaiting trial.
When Fig had arrived at the Winglemite brother’s new home, and he had made plain his reason for the unannounced visit, Nook immediately drew his cutlass intent on killing the bounty hunter. Wing, despite being nearly blind due to the cataracts in his old eyes, did his best to assist his brother.
Nook’s skill with the cutlass was legendary. Twice Fig narrowly missed being decapitated. But in the end he got the upper hand when he managed to knock out his aggressive opponent with his war club and quickly bound him in elf chains. Fig took both brothers back to the ancestor oak and cast them into the darkest cell within the ancient oak’s dungeon.
The following moon saw the Winglemite brothers standing in the dock before the entire wise council, who had gathered together at Hermione’s insistence.
In his defence Nook admitted to being tough on Byz, and then wished he hadn’t. “No sense in mollycoddlin an idiot likes him ye worships, he’s a useless good for nothin grotkin if I’s ever did seed one. His brothers ought ter have thrashed him more!”
Upon hearing what amounted to his foolhardy admission of guilt, the wise council briefly looked at each other before nodding in unison. Scowling at him from the bench they all sat upon, Peesmold Grifflemew spoke quietly to his fellow council members for a few moments before announcing their decision.
“Spindlenook Winglemite, formerly captain in her magnificence’s navy, yer has condemned yerself wiv yer own words. Yer violent n disgraceful actions bring shame ter all the many kinds livin in Goblindom. Yer name will be struck orf the navy roll on honour. Yer will be takens from here n staked out ter be ripped ter pieces by a court appointed griffin executioner at a time ter be determined by us. As for yer older brother Gropewort Winglemite, yer will be cast inter the deepest darkest cell in the dungeon neath the ancestor oak until yer rot. Yer knew wot yer yunger brother did wos wrong, n yet yer did nothin ter stops him! Bounty hunter Figblaster Cornshuffle be upstanding if yer please.”
Fig did as he was bid. Peesmold continued, “Carry out yer duties if yer please master Cornshuffle, takes the prisoners aways ter their fate. Court is concluded.”
The day after Nook was executed and Wing had been thrown into his living tomb was the first day Hermione allowed young Byz out of bed. Neo carried him out onto the bough beyond their door and gently laid him in the hammock Make had retrieved from the Winglemite brother’s now deserted home, and had slung between two sturdy twigs for him to recuperate in. Glob had made him a new set of reed pipes, which the simpleminded younger happily played.
Glob and Bejuss sat at the window idly watching the world, while Make and Mous bickered over whose turn it was to fetch and carry for Byz. Neo just shook his head, given the circumstances, not having the heart to intervene in his normal way by banging their heads together before he left to spend some quality time with his dearest friend, Miranda the mare, her foal, and his much loved honorary humin niece, Ylesse, daughter of Agnitha and Mica.
Poor Byz found out the hard way that the world beyond his door is not the place for a gentle soul such as he…