Globular Van der Graff’s friend – Yathle the Wyvern
For your enjoyment I present you with another of the thirty Goblin Tales
A Case of Insatiable Curiosity
In which Yathle the wyvern seeks help from Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo).
After a particularly long and cold winter, spring was finally here. All across Goblindom, the many kinds who inhabited the land were welcoming this year’s crop of new lives.
In the humin village beyond the goblin brother’s home, three new baby’s had arrived giving young Ylesse some future playmates. To maintain the goblin population, Her Magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, had ensured that forty carefully selected younger acorns were planted in the birthing room within the ancestor oak. Even Neo’s friend, Miranda the mare, was about to give birth to a foal much to the old curmudgeon’s great delight.
Piemite Sweedlenewt, the tiny plains goblin storyteller, had gone home after spending the long winter with the goblin brothers, as soon as the snows melted. Make and Mous were busy doing the annual spring cleaning, bickering as usual. Neo had temporarily moved in with Miranda to take care of her every need as her time drew near. Byz had found himself some new-born insect pets to play with and was busy making them comfortable under his bed. Old Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, had flown off to find himself a mate to continue his own kind.
For the first time in a very long while, Glob enjoyed being on his own in the spring sunshine. He sat on the bank of his favourite stream with his willow wand fishing pole in one hand, without a care in the world.
His peaceful solitude abruptly ended when his friend, Yathle the wyvern, briefly hovered above him. She landed carefully, temporarily throwing her vast shadow over the stream, frightening off a fish which was just contemplating whether or not to take the spider bait on the end of Glob’s fishing line.
For Yathle to appear without being summoned by him with his emerald tipped staff was highly unusual. “Good morning my dearest friend,” she said, while carefully folding her large wings across her back. The black slit pupils of her golden eyes adjusted to the light as she looked intently at her tiny goblin friend.
Glob sensed that something was clearly troubling her, despite the fact that wyverns never normally show any sign of emotion. “Mornins Yathle me dear,” he began, “wots brings yer here?”
Yathle said nothing for a long time, gathering her thoughts. “I hardly know where to begin,” she said finally, while nervously flicking her barbed tail left and right, tearing up great clumps of turf.
Glob smiled his toothy friendly smile. “I’s always finds that the beginnin is the best place ter start,” he replied, trying to cheer her up as he put down his fishing pole and turned to face her.
Yathle smiled weakly, nodded and began to tell her story. “Twas a few days since when I was flying to visit my cousin Ariadne, who unlike all the rest of my kind, lives in the world far to the west of Goblindom. I saw her nest in the distance and flew down to it. As she was not there I decided to make myself at home and wait for her return. Oh my dear, she never did! I waited patiently for eight whole days and nights. It’s not like her to simply vanish, where could she be Glob?”
The old goblin sat in silence for a few minutes trying hard to find the words to console her. “Praps she’s gone ter visits yer n yer passed each other unseen in the clouds,” he suggested, searching for a simple explanation for Ariadne’s mysterious disappearance.
Yathle shook her great armoured head. “No my dear, I flew home before I came here. I fear something terrible has happened to her,” she replied as a hot tear escaped from one of her mesmerizing golden eyes, sizzling as it slowly rolled its way down the scales that protected her face.
Glob stood up, gave her a friendly kiss on her nose, picked up his fishing pole and took charge of the situation. “Rights thens me dear, first we gets me brothers, thens we sets out ter yer cousin’s nest. We’ll pick up Brilith n Grassnit Thimblefoot. We’s may needs her magic n his trackin skills.”
As dusk descended, Yathle with the company of friends on her back finally arrived at Ariadne’s empty nest, where they all settled in for the night. At first light the following day, the search for the missing wyvern would begin in earnest.
Dawn finally broke. On a hunch, Nit told Yathle to fly even further west, far beyond Goblindom’s magical border into the world beyond. As they flew on their search, Nit peered through the mist at the ground beneath Yathle’s powerful wings, looking for any sign that Ariadne may have landed somewhere.
Brilith looked forward between Glob and Neo, who had reluctantly left Miranda’s side, when he saw how upset Yathle was over her missing cousin. Make puffed furiously on his bestest briar pipe, keeping an eye out for trouble. Mous and Byz assisted by checking for any form of surprise attack from the thick clouds they flew through.
“Look, downs there!” Nit suddenly cried, breaking everyone’s concentration when Yathle flew into a gap between the clouds. All eyes followed his pointing finger. Yathle dived down at such speed that the witch and the goblins had to hang on tight for fear of falling off of her back. She landed beside the faint wyvern footprints that Nit’s sharp eyes had seen from so far above.
They all climbed down from Yathle’s back, courtesy of one of her large leathery wings which she gently laid on the ground, acting as a ladder for her passengers. Nit immediately began following the faint sign on the ground with the rest walking close behind. For several hours he followed the path Ariadne had taken this way and that. Her footprints tracked between and around and about the many large rocks of this unknown land. Onward they went through treacherous swamps full of quicksand like holes topped with foul water, which any other goblin but Nit would have simply fallen into and disappeared without a trace. Eventually the trail ended in front of a solid rock wall.
Nit scratched his head, clearly puzzled. “I’s don’t gets it! The footprints lead ter here, n yet…”
Yathle sniffed the air. “I can still smell her Brilith,” she began, addressing the white witch directly, feeling a sisterly bond with her. “She’s here somewhere, I know it. Why can’t we see her? Ariadne where are you, it’s your cousin Yathle?”
While Nit pondered the unexplained question of the mysterious and sudden end of Ariadne’s footprints, Glob took charge once more. He asked Brilith to take Neo with Byz securely tethered to him to explore the rock wall for any sign of an upward path. He next directed Mous and Make to prepare their temporary campsite and to search for food. None knew how long they would be here. Yathle meantime gently sniffed the ground with tears welling up in her golden eyes, fretting for her much loved cousin as Ariadne’s scent slowly dissipated on the wind.
The pupils of Ariadne’s eyes opened wide to pick out any detail of her surroundings. Wyverns are known for their exceptional eyesight in all conditions, but in the inky blackness she found herself in, even she found it difficult to see. “Oh why did I have to chase that griffin?” she thought to herself as she carefully peered all around her.
When she had mortally wounded it, she should have simply turned back and gone home. But when it was swallowed up by the swamp in its panicked attempt to get away from her, Ariadne’s insatiable curiosity had got the better of her. When something caught her attention, common sense was soon snuffed out as easily as a rush light in a breeze. And so she had continued on along the path, intrigued by what she saw in the distance. “Where am I? Is there anyone else here?” her voice echoed her question all around her.
Nightfall found Yathle, Brilith and Glob along with the rest of the rescue party seated around a roaring fire, tucking into the meal which Make and Mous had cobbled together from the strange plants and fish they had found. Neo had brought along a small acorn barrel of his mead and some honeycomb.
“Byz gives us a tune on yer pipes, there’s a good lad,” Glob suggested, while they all relaxed as best they could on the rocky ground around the campfire. The simpleminded soul duly retrieved his pipes from inside his jerkin and began to play a goblin jig. Make, Mous and Glob all danced in the firelight with Brilith, while Neo clapped his hands and Yathle rocked her great armoured head from side to side in time to the music.
When Byz ended playing the jig, the dancers were all exhausted. While they all relaxed, he began playing the hauntingly beautiful tune he had last played on the night Piemite had told his tall tale. Soon weariness took its toll of the rescue party and they all fell asleep in a group, protected by Yathle’s great wings, which she gently closed around them before she too closed her eyes.
When they woke next morning, the rock wall had dramatically changed shape.
“Glob dearest, wake up – look there is a door in the rock wall behind us!” The old goblin almost had a heart attack when Yathle’s startled cry shattered the early morning stillness and his dream. Yathle opened her wings so that all of her companions could see what she saw. Byz’ beautiful tune had unlocked the western barrier to the world beneath once more, just like it had the night Mite told his tall tale.
Neo’s eyes were now out on stalks, frantically crossing themselves. “There’s evil here and no mistake my dears,” Brilith muttered, nervously peering into the darkness beyond the entrance.
Nit carefully walked towards the doorway. “I’s sees her footprints agin – there they is headin inter the dark.”
Glob, who was by now fully awake, blocked everyone’s path. “Wait! We’s needs ter make us a plan afor we’s follow her inter the world neath ours.”
“Glob’s right,” Neo added, gathering his wits, “if we’s jus blunder on through the door, how’s does we’s know where we’s goin. We’s aint got no light wiv us ter see in the dark for one thing; n for another, I aint had me breakfast yet.”
Brilith smiled and waved her wand. Its tip suddenly shone brighter than the sun, “will this do Neo?”
Make picked up a rock and threw it into the opening. Instantly the barrier closed. All they saw once more was the rock wall.
“Byz, if yer pleaze brother, playz yer pretty tune agin,” Mous asked, momentarily before Brilith was about to suggest the same thing. The simpleminded goblin took out his pipes and played the tune once more. This time, all eyes watched as the barrier magically re-opened.
“Yathle my dear, can you sense your cousin close by?” Brilith gently asked as the wyvern strained her ears and eyes, concentrating on the darkness beyond the barrier. She began shaking her great head, wiping away a tear with one of her claws, when suddenly her eyes widened and a smile broke out. “Yes, I smell her on the air coming out of the world below Brilith – I smell her, I do!”
Deep inside the labyrinthine tunnels between the world above and the one beneath, Ariadne momentarily knew she had heard, or at least felt, the presence of her cousin not far away. But down here her senses, particularly that of direction, had let her down more and more as she explored her surroundings. Once again she found herself in a strangely familiar part of the tunnel system.
After breakfast, with Brilith lighting the way with her wand, the rescue party set off, leaving Byz tethered to Mous beside the barrier entrance. “Now remembers Byz, as soon as we’s goes inside n the barrier closes, yer is ter plays yer tune agin,” Glob instructed the goblin younger. Byz nodded his head furiously, proud to at last be doing something to help. For the first time in his life he was being treated like a grown up. As soon as the barrier sealed the party off from the world outside, he played the tune once more. Providing nothing entered behind them, it would remain open until they returned.
For half an hour they descended down a single wide twisting tunnel following Ariadne’s clear set of footprints. But their progress ground to a halt when the tunnel narrowed and then divided in two. The trouble was that both the tunnels showed sets of wyvern footprints going in both directions. Ariadne had spent endless hours going round in circles in the inky black confusion of tunnels.
Which path was the correct one to follow? The faint smell of fresh sulphur floating on the slow air movement around them answered the question.
When a wyvern walks, her natural swaying gate is accentuated by the movement of her long barbed tail from side to side. In such a confined space as this narrow tunnel system, Ariadne’s long tail would naturally strike the tunnel’s sides causing sparks to fly, and the resultant sulphurous smell to be released. All they had to do was follow their noses.
To ensure they did not get lost, or retrace their steps unnecessarily, Brilith marked the right-hand side of each tunnel they entered with an arrow pointing forward melted into the rock by her powerful white magic.
Several hours went by as they went deeper into the system until their stomachs told them that it must be noon, and so they stopped to rest and eat. None spoke. All thoughts were for Ariadne, terrified and alone somewhere ahead in the darkness.
An evil stench and a chilling scream from somewhere close by filled the tunnel system, abruptly ending their rest. Yathle quickly got to her feet and cried out, “Ariadne, we’re coming cousin, we’re coming, fear not!” Glob stopped her from charging off on her own as an ear-splitting roar echoed through the tunnels. “We’s has ter gets out on here now Yathle, d’yer hear me, now! We ain’t gots no times ter waste. There’s summink truly evil down ere wiv us. Ariadne will have ter takes her chances if she’s still alive. Quick sharp now – run fer yer lives!” the old goblin urged, driving her back along the route they had taken with Brilith, Neo and Make close behind, all running back the way they had come in blind panic.
With a heavy heart Yathle flew towards the east. Her hot tears of grief sizzled against the scales on her face as she carried her passenger’s home.
Far below, Giath’s blazing red eyes angrily peered out at the world from behind the barrier. The choking smell of evil filled the air around him. Twice now he had arrived at this barrier only to find it sealed by magic. If he hadn’t been delayed by the blasted wyvern he had just killed, when she deliberately blocked his path, he would have been free at long last. One day soon it would open again and he would be waiting to walk forth once more in the world above his own.
Ariadne had not simply died in vain, when she made up for her foolish curiosity by blocking the evil beast’s path, allowing her much loved cousin Yathle and the rest to escape to freedom. As her spirit soared into the sky she looked fondly one last time on Yathle and her tiny passengers as they flew through the clouds. “Goodbye dearest Yathle, live a long life. Remember dear sister; don’t make the same mistake I did by living in the world – farewell, until we meet agai…” Then she was gone from the world forever.
Sometimes insatiable curiosity can lead to trouble…