Grimsdyke Mugwurzle, the purveyor of seeds
Here is another of the short stories from my fantasy anthology Goblin Tales
Vengeance Shall Be Mine
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo) appear in court as witnesses for the defence.
Grimsdyke Mugwurzle, the purveyor of seeds, had begun his annual trading trip south to the humin settlements dotted throughout the southern woods from his home at the northernmost edge of Goblindom, much earlier than normal this year. Over the winter months, Mug had carefully tended his vast stocks of seeds in preparation for the coming spring. No matter what kind you may seek, he was sure to have a selection to please you for a modest cost.
Of all the goblins you were ever likely to meet within the confines of Goblindom’s magic barrier, he was the dourest and a firm believer in retribution. Like all northerners he spoke with a strong accent. His black eyes were typical of the goblins who settled the northern parts. Set deep in their sockets, they shone darkly like pure polished Jet. His nose which half hid beneath his thick highly animated protruding bushy eyebrows had an unfortunate growth.
Anyone meeting Mug could hardly fail to notice the prominent orange coloured wart sprouting five black hairs, which waved gaily in the breeze like tall marsh reed stalks. From time to time, folk made jokes about it behind his back. If he heard them he hit the offending joker on the head with his club. He failed to appreciate any kind of remark about his unfortunate nasal addition.
“Hey oop there Glob lad; I’s trust thee is well. Gots room for a guest? I’ll gladly pay for mine board n lodgin.”
Glob’s face lit up at the welcome sight of the strange talking northerner. Mug hadn’t passed this way for many summers. “Mug, its good ter sees yer agin. Corse we gots room, come on up n makes yerself at home. How long is yer staying in these parts?” he asked while catching Mug’s bag of seeds when he threw it up before climbing the old oak’s trunk.
“If thee n thine have no objecshun lad, I’s wants ter make thine home mine base on operations for a few days, while I’s trades mine seeds wiv the humins in the valley yonder.”
Glob smiled, shook his hand and patted him on his shoulder before he led the way into the goblin brother’s home. Make and Mous nodded their heads when Glob re-introduced Mug, trying their best not to point and laugh at his prominent wart. Simpleminded Byz was far too busy playing with a spider to notice. Neo as usual was absent, visiting Miranda.
From where he had perched on the back of Glob’s chair beside the window, Bejuss studied the stranger. He hopped from the chair across the table to where Mug now sat talking to Glob. His natural curiosity got the better of him. He tilted his head, staring at the curious orange monstrosity and its five waiving black hairs, plus the constantly moving bushy eyebrows.
Perplexed, he flew across the room and perched on Make’s shoulder. “Rarrk – wot kind on beathtie’th ith thitting on hith beak n hith eyeth Make?” he whispered in all innocence. Bejuss’ natural curiosity built. He continued studying the problem from across the room, wracking his bird brain for an answer. Maybe the wart was some kind of unknown northern grub. Maybe it was a vegetable, or a new kind of toadstool. It might even be that Glob’s visitor didn’t even realise it was there, along with the hairy beetles wandering about above his eyes. Anything was possible to Bejuss’ way of thinking.
Make quickly scooped up the old bird and headed outside before he burst out laughing. “Shush Bejuss can’t yer, taint beasties; the one on his nose is a wart. The others is his eyebrows,” Make replied, hardly able to contain himself. He sat down still trying desperately not to laugh while he filled his bestest briar pipe.
“Wot’th a wart?” the old bird asked, peering back through the doorway.
Mous joined them, choking back laughter with tears rolling down his cheeks, “it’z lookz like a hairy punkin, don’t it.”
“Wot’th a punkin Mouth; I’th that wot’th on hith beak?” the old bird lisped, still intently focusing on Mug’s unfortunate growth. Both brothers burst out laughing holding their aching sides. Getting no sensible answer to his questions from either of them, Bejuss flew off and sat in the leafy branches of the oak, trying hard to make sense of this most perplexing of situations.
When Mug headed towards the humin village, Bejuss shadowed him closely. He perched on Mica’s porch roof, transfixed by the wart. Should he say something, or should he simply fly down and peck it off of the goblin’s nose?
“Morning Mug, come in, it’s good to see you. What seeds are you trading this year?” Mica asked as he invited the goblin trader inside.
Little Ylesse appeared from behind her mother’s skirts, giggling and pointing her finger. “Mummy, why does he have a baby pumpkin on his nose?”
Mug glared angrily at Ylesse. “Taint a punkin yung miss, tis a wart. I’ll thank thee ter mind thine manners, young’un’s should not poke fun!” he barked, clearly annoyed despite the child’s innocence. Agnitha shooed Ylesse outside, explaining that it wasn’t nice to point out other folk’s unfortunate afflictions.
After trading some pumpkin, marrow, pea and bean seeds for honeycomb and dried fish with Mica, Mug left for the next house with Bejuss following close behind. By nightfall the pair had returned to the goblin brother’s home.
Despite the delicious meal Mug had so generously contributed to from his supply of dried fish, honeycomb, dried mushroom and wild onion, everyone, even Glob, could not help but stare at Mug’s wart.
Neo tried hard to avert his eyes. But as they crossed themselves, at least one automatically focused on it. Byz was about to say something embarrassing when Glob kicked him beneath the table, distracting him. Mous sat facing the wall, snickering to himself. Make almost choked on his mead while he tried desperately to avert his eyes. Bejuss remained motionless on a rafter, staring intently at the way the evening breeze made the wart’s hairs waive back and forth, and the way in which Mug’s eyebrows constantly moved. He focussed on the wart, momentarily forgetting the dancing beetles.
Before anyone realized what was happening, he flew down and grabbed the wart’s hairs in his beak, tugging hard to dislodge the growth, making the goblin’s nose bleed heavily into the bargain. Mug’s eyes instantly filled with tears. Flailing his hands blindly, he tried desperately to hit the raven while screaming in agony. “Get thee gone devil bird, leave mine nose alone!” he yelled, gingerly checking his painful bleeding nasal addition with the tips of his fingers.
Bejuss beat a hasty retreat back to the rafters, bitterly disappointed that he hadn’t managed to remove the beasty from the unfortunate goblin’s nose. Everyone, Glob included, could contain themselves no longer. They all fell on the floor in fits of uncontrolled laughter.
Mug stood up so violently that he sent his chair flying. “If this is the ways thee treat thine guests in these parts, I’sll finds other lodgins till mine business is concluded. I’s bid thee goodbye!” Gathering up his seed bag Mug rapidly departed into the night, slamming the door behind him.
By the end of the moon the whole unfortunate incident had been forgotten. But then something occurred that took everyone in the valley, both goblin and humin, by complete surprise. The bounty hunter Figblaster Cornshuffle had been sent by the wise council to apprehend Bejuss on a charge of assault with a deadly beak.
“Fig yer can’t be serious?” Glob began, after Fig read out the charge written on the official document.
“I’s sorry master Bejuss but I’s has ter takes yer afore the wise council ter answer the charge. The leader on the wise council, Peesmold Grifflemew hisself, has sworn out the arrest warrant,” Fig stated glumly, gently putting the old bird into the witch cage, before he locked it securely, and departed for the ancestor oak.
Glob quickly went to Mica to tell him the grave news. “What will happen to him?” Mica asked as Glob sat down with his head in his hands, clearly upset. “If he’s founds guilty, accordin ter goblins law, he’ll be puts ter death!” Glob replied with tears in his old eyes.
“Then we’re all guilty,” Agnitha replied, gently throwing her arms around Glob to comfort him, wiping away his tears with her soft blonde hair. “Even my Ylesse made fun of his wart. All dear Bejuss did was simply try to remove it.”
“But he dids make Mug’s nose bleed when he tugged hards on the hairs stickin out on it. That’s assault in the eyes on the wise council,” Glob muttered tearfully, burying his head in Agnitha’s ample bosom, deeply worried for his feathered friend.
Bejuss sat in silence, confined within the witch cage with a rumbling stomach; he hadn’t eaten since yesterday. He did not understand what was going, or why he was being held in the confines of a dark cell beneath the courtroom.
In an antechamber behind the courtroom, the wise council sat discussing the case. Grimefleet Binglenook cleared his throat, stood up, and began to speak. “Fellow members on the wise council,” he began. “I’s has known the accused, Bejuss the raven, for somes considerable time. Her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother on all, deems him ter be the most noblest on all ravens, a belief I’s share. I’s cannot for one moment believe he maliciously assaulted the plaintiff, Grimsdyke Mugwurzle. We’s all knows that Mug is sensitive bout his wart, n if we is all truthful, we’s has all laughed n made jokes when we’s all seen it. We’s also knows that Mug is a grumpy vindictive ol cuss.”
“Never the less Bingle, Mug has brought the charge n we’s mus apply the laws on the great book, ter determine whether the prisoner did indeed commits the assault Mug accuses him on,” Peesmold sighed, privately sharing the same believes, while he thumbed carefully through the pages of the great book of law for the appropriate section.
A polite knock on the door interrupted their discussion. “All parties is assembled yer worships,” the court usher announced before disappearing.
Peesmold and Grimefleet, accompanied by the rest of the wise council, sat down on their elevated bench facing the packed courtroom. Everyone who knew Bejuss was there to support him.
“Brings up the prisoner,” the court usher commanded. Fig appeared from below carrying the witch-cage with Bejuss swinging on its perch, and sat it down in clear view of all in the dock.
“Who appears for the prisoner,” the court usher asked.
“I do,” Her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, replied, much to Glob’s great relief. She smiled affectionately at Bejuss as she sat down in front of him.
“Who appears for the plaintiff?” the court usher asked.
“I’s appears for mine self,” Mug announced gruffly, while his eyebrows bounced up and down constantly as he bowed to the court. Cries of “ungrateful wretch,” and loud booing drowned him out as he sat back down.
“Silence in court! Usher reads out the charge if yer please,” Peesmold commanded in his capacity as senior judge.
The crowded courtroom fell into hushed silence when the charge was read out. “The accused, Bejuss, the one eyed lispin raven wiv the twisted beak, appears before the court charged wiv attackin the plaintiff, one Grimsdyke Mugwurzle, purveyor on seeds, wiv intent ter murder n maim last moon.” There was an audible gasp from all assembled when the capital charge was read out.
Peesmold looked directly at Bejuss. “Prisoner at the bar, how does yer plead?”
Bejuss fluffed his feathers and replied honestly, without the witch cage making him tell the truth, “rarrk – not guilty yer majethy.”
Cries of “release him, let him go,” filled the crowded courtroom. Peesmold held up his hands for silence. Mug’s black eyes shone with grim determination. The raven must be put to death and nothing was going to stop him in achieving his revenge. Peesmold’s face broke out in a grin when his eyes focussed on the offending wart. He nodded at Mug, trying desperately not to laugh. “Yer may proceeds wiv yer openin argument Mug.”
Loud jeers filled the courtroom when Mug stood and began to relate all that had happened on the fateful day when Bejuss had tried to remove his wart, spelling out each detail as he saw it. Every time he emphasized a point the hairs on his wart waived violently in the breeze, and his eyebrows constantly bounced around above his eyes, making all assembled titter and guffaw. Unable to take any more of the jeers, taunts and laughter, Mug banged his fist hard on the bench. “Yer honour, I’s finds nothin humorous bouts wot happened. I’s demands justice!”
Peesmold wiped a tear of laughter from his eyes. “Quite right Grimsdyke – quite right; prisoner Bejuss what say yer in defence on the charge?”
A hush descended on the court when Bejuss stopped swinging on his perch. Because of the power of the witch cage, he answered honestly once again. “Rarrk – me thought Mug had a beathty thittin on hith beak yer majethy, or thome kind on toadthtool. I’th athked Make n Mouth what it wath n they toldth me it were a wart. When I’th athked them what a wart ith, they thtarted laughin. Tho I’th followed Mug around the village till he had finithed tradin. When we got home, I’th decided ter help him. I’th flew down n grabbed it’th waiving black legth n pulled hard. I’th thought it wath a beathty yer honour I’th thwear. If I’th guilty on anything, it’th on tryin ter help Mug get rid on it!” The courtroom burst into uncontrolled peals of laughter. Everyone, even Mug, knew the old bird spoke the truth, whether in the witch-cage or not.
“He’s a liar, he deliberately attacked mine nose!” Mug yelled at the top of his voice as his eyebrows danced furiously while he pounded the desk with his fists. Mug’s fury at Bejuss exploded. He ran across the courtroom intent on doing the old bird harm.
“Figblaster Cornshuffle, do yer duty n seize Grimsdyke Mugwurzle!” Bingle commanded. Fig struggled furiously to release Mug’s grip on the witch-cage as he tried in vain to open it and strangle Bejuss. In the struggle that ensued Fig was forced to punch Mug several times, once on the nose. Eventually calm was restored in the courtroom and Fig frog marched Mug back to his seat.
“Rarrk! Where’th hith wart gone yer majethy, look he aint’ got it no more!” Bejuss announced, now totally confused. All eyes focused on Mug’s nose. Sure enough it was now wart free.
Her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, stood up. “I believe this is the offending object in question,” she announced after picking up the bloody, orange coloured hairy monstrosity from the courtroom floor, showing it to all assembled. “It would appear that during the recent struggle between the court appointed bounty hunter, Figblaster Cornshuffle, a most dedicated officer of the law, and the plaintiff, Grimsdyke Mugwurzle, that it finally fell off when Fig punched him. Maybe Grimsdyke believes the bounty hunter is also guilty of assault your honour! Instead of bringing these preposterous charges against my innocent client, Bejuss, the most noble of all ravens, my unworthy son Grimsdyke Mugwurzle should thank him for starting the removal process of such an ugly growth. I ask the court to find my client not guilty. In fact I demand the court insist that the wart’s former host pay dear Bejuss compensation. We all know how ill-tempered and tight fisted Grimsdyke can be as he has just clearly demonstrated, with his murderous intent towards my client. Perhaps he thought to get away with not paying Bejuss for his kind deed by committing fowl murder.”
A great cheer rang out in the courtroom when Bejuss was unanimously found not guilty and released from custody. Mug ranted and raved refusing to accept the wise council’s judgement, flatly refusing to pay Bejuss anything and swearing bloody revenge. Peesmold had no choice but to send Mug to prison for being so tight fisted and vindictive, a decision loudly approved of by everyone.
The unforgiving former guest of the goblin brothers sat fuming in his cell. “Vengeance shall be mine,” he muttered to himself. Even though the old bird had rid him of his wart, his mind filled with black plot and bloody scheming, dreaming of the day when he would finally get even with Bejuss and everyone in the court, including Hermione, Figblaster, Peesmold, Grimefleet, Glob, and his brothers.