The mountain gremlin Lungwort
Evil’s shadow grows longer
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo) seek out the truth about a stranger, assisted by Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven.
As the long freezing days of winter gave way to the first signs of spring, an enigmatic stranger arrived in the humin village. He was an itinerant by the name of Eodor who made his living napping the finest flint tools, spearheads and knives in exchange for food and lodging. At first the villagers were wary of him. But he soon charmed them all, turning the heads of the women with his handsome appearance and pleasant nature, especially Mica’s intended, Agnitha, the daughter of the village shaman Yestin. But not all females fell under his spell. Eodor had been given the hay loft in Miranda’s stable for his temporary abode. Miranda, like all animals living in Goblindom, has the ability to judge any being by its shadow, unlike humins and goblins that see nothing out of the ordinary. Only one other kind living in Goblindom shares this ability – the members of the white sisterhood like Brilith. Sensing foreboding, Miranda communicated the fact to her beloved goblin friend Neo when he next came to comb her luxuriant mane.
That night after the goblin brothers had eaten their fill, Neo sat at his customary position on his stool beside the fire in their living room, unusually quiet in deep thought. Not once did he grumble about anything his brothers said or did. Sensing something was clearly troubling him, Glob sat beside him. “Wot’s wrongs brother?” he asked as he put another handful of sticks on the fire.
Neo stared at the dancing flames through his crossed eyes for a few moments before answering. “Evil’s shadow grows longer in these parts. Miranda says she seed Eodor’s true shadows n she’s frighted by it. She believes he means harms ter someones in the humin village I’s afraids ter say Glob.” Neo slumped back against the fireplace with his head in his hands. For the first time in his long life he was very afraid. Glob had never seen him so shaken and concerned for anyone other than his beloved Miranda before.
“Wot shadows dids she seed then?” Glob quietly enquired, not wishing to alarm Make, Mous and Byz by speaking out aloud. Neo leaned closer, so close that his long pointed nose almost bent double against Glob’s leathery ears. “She seed the shadows on a terribles mountain gremlin, where a humin’s one should have beens,” Neo whispered as quietly as he could, shaking his head at the prospect.
Glob visibly shivered. Mountain gremlins terrified all non humins. They were feared by all other living creatures and where usually employed by black wizards or witches to carry out vicious assassinations. “Truly, tis evils Miranda saw Neo. At first light, goes ter her n rides east. We’s needs Brilith here. Her powerful white magic is sorely needed once more,” Glob whispered, while throwing his arm around Neo’s shoulders to reassure him.
The following morning just as the sun rose in the east, no one noticed that Miranda had gone from her stable, especially Eodor who was still sleeping in the arms of a young maiden, physically exhausted from having satiated his carnal needs after charming his way into her bed the evening before.
After Neo left, Glob called together the remainder of his brothers. He charged Make and Mous to find, and shadow Eodor’s every movement. He sent Byz to find Mica and stay with him, asking Bejuss to accompany him to keep his mind on the important task, knowing full well how easily distracted simple minded Byz can be at times. Mica had risen early and was busy in the southern meadow picking the prettiest dew covered wild flowers to take to Agnitha when the pair arrived. He had decided that today he would ask her father for her hand. Both Byz and Bejuss did their level best to totally divert their humin friend Mica in friendly conversation, until the time for action drew near.
By noon Miranda was back in her stable. Neo left Brilith on the southern edge of the humin village and quickly sought out Glob, who was watching all that went on in the humin village from the confines of the old cave above the village, where a few months earlier the black witch Cazophen had briefly made it her own.
Neo eventually arrived. Wheezing breathlessly after the hard climb up the steep wooded north-east side of the valley, and still unable to speak, he pointed back to where a comely blond haired maiden carrying a basket of flowers, slowly walked towards the centre of the village. Brilith positively revelled in the looks of physical desire her attractive form generated among the humin men while she deliberately sought out Eodor. “Flowers, pretty flowers,” she cried, continuing to seduce the humin men by way she swung her shapely hips as she walked among them. “Who will buy my pretty flowers?”
“What will it cost me for a posy my lovely?”
Brilith smiled sweetly at the handsome stranger, despite the evil shadow he cast. “You may have a posy for a gentle kiss handsome sir,” she giggled, as she fluttered her eyelashes at him while brushing her hair to one side, exposing her perfect facial features, completely entrancing him. Eodor eagerly seized her slim waste and roughly drew her towards him. As his lips met hers, Brilith delved deep into his malevolent mind. Despite the loathing she felt for this abomination, she never once alerted it to her true purpose as she sought the answers she needed. After her encounter with Eodor she disappeared from view behind one of the village roundhouses and soon joined Glob and Neo in the cave above the village. “You did right to fetch me here my dears,” Brilith announced gravely as she once more took on her natural plump white witch form. “Eodor is indeed a mountain gremlin and he is here to take revenge on the humin shaman Yestin by murdering his daughter Agnitha.”
“But why does it wants ter?” Neo enquired, fighting fit once more and ready for anything.
“It has been sent by Geraint, brother of the dead black witch Cazophen. Twas Yestin who first called her witch so long ago my dear Neo,” Brilith replied, frowning deeply as her mind began to churn and boil searching for an answer to their problem.
“Wots ter do, oh wots ter do?” Glob said, frantically pacing back and forth in the cave mouth. In his old bones he felt that this time maybe they were all out of their depth.
Brilith thought for a few more moments before hitting upon a strategy. “We need to distract it my dear friends. Glob, go and tell Mica that he has a rival for the hand of Agnitha. See to it that he challenges Eodor to a fight in the southern meadow. Neo, gather up your brothers and join Glob and Byz at the meadow. But stay hidden from view until you hear me cry the gremlin’s true name. For when I do, it will begin to change back to its real appearance. It is at its weakest as it transforms. That is when the five of you along with young Mica must strike, overcome and kill it. Though beware my dears; a mountain gremlin is a tricky foe. It may cause you grievous wounds. Go quickly now!” she concluded, giving both goblins a gentle shove towards the cave mouth.
Mica needed no urging as anger took over when Glob lied to him. He soon found Eodor talking to Agnitha outside the door to her home. “Leave my Agnitha’s house you cur!” Mica shouted, seething with anger. Eodor turned, and for a brief moment took in every detail of the tall, powerfully built, young warrior closing with him. Agnitha screamed and ran inside the house. “Fight me you dog, fight me! Agnitha is promised to me. None but I have the right to her hand,” Mica yelled.
Eodor stood square on to Mica. In his humin form he was Mica’s equal in strength and size. “Very well pup, choose the place of your death – here and now if you like.” He deliberately spat the words out to goad the young humin warrior into making a foolish move. He was going to enjoy this brief distraction before he fulfilled his contract for Geraint.
“Meet me at the south meadow as dusk falls!” Mica spluttered angrily, fighting back his immediate desire to strike at his rival right here and now in the village.
“So be it young fool,” Eodor’s handsome face twisted into a cruel mask. He added one last mocking insult as Mica departed. “Don’t forget to pray to your gods boy. For soon you will join them!”
The sun was almost touching the far western hills when Eodor strode towards where Mica stood at the centre of the southern meadow. Bejuss saw him coming and let out a cry of sheer terror. “Rarrk – the evil come’th – beware!” Then he flew high into the branches of an oak tree at the edge of the meadow and hid from view.
Glob, Make, Mous and Neo lay in wait in the shadows behind a tree stump with their razor sharp goblin blades, ready to come to their humin friend’s aid. True to form, Byz had wandered off. He sat at the southernmost edge of the meadow, happily playing with a butterfly.
Mica stood ready with his flint war axe in his right hand and his best spear dug into the ground beside him, as Eodor approached. His left hand caressed the handle of his flint knife stuck in his belt. Brilith readied herself, wand in hand, behind a large boulder close to where Mica stood. Eodor and Mica began to slowly circle each other, both seeking a weak point in their opponent’s defence. Mica swung his axe with his right hand while stabbing his spear at Eodor with his left. Eodor’s lightning fast agility meant he was easily able to dodge every blow Mica delivered. Both of them soon tired of these preliminary skirmishes and closed with one another, dropping all weapons except for their knives. At first they were evenly matched, but gradually Eodor’s unnatural strength gave him the upper hand. Despite his youth and strength, Mica was beginning to tire. Eodor finally grew weary of the game and sliced into the young humin’s thigh with his knife. Mica fell on his back, clutching the wound in great pain. Blood flowed freely between his fingers.
Eodor straddled his foe. At the point where he was ready to end Mica’s life by plunging his cruel knife into the young humin’s heart, Brilith strode forth and called out his true name, ending the fight. “Behold foul beast, thy name is Lungwort. I command ye to reveal thy true self!” Unable to disguise itself any longer the mountain gremlin stood up and began slowly transforming; instantly forgetting the young humin it had been so intent on killing moments before. Lungwort remained motionless as he slowly and painfully transformed, reverting back to his natural appearance. He stood half the height of a humin, yet twice the height of a goblin, with folded bat wings protruding from his back. His foul head was adorned with yellow bat ears and a bat muzzle of the same colouring. His cruel mouth was filled with needle sharp teeth capable of ripping flesh with ease. A long thin blue tongue hung limply out of one side of his cruel mouth. His heavily muscled torso, legs and arms were grey in colour. Both of his hands were armed with viciously sharp slashing claws. His four toed feet supported his powerful legs. Each foot had three toes facing forward, one back, each armed with a vicious talon.
“Now my friends, strike now while he is at his weakest,” Brilith cried as she stood with powerful spells at the ready. Glob, Neo, Make and Mous dashed from their hiding place and attacked the mountain gremlin with such fury, stabbing, ripping, gouging, biting – each of them seeking that mortal wound.
Lungwort was almost fully transformed, but he was sorely wounded. He lashed his head and arms from side to side trying to catch or bite one or other of the goblin brothers as they clung to him, still stabbing him furiously. Make had made Lungwort’s still not fully formed wings useless. His goblin blade shredded them, rendering the mountain gremlin incapable of flight. Neo had finally managed to hamstring one of the brute’s ankles, causing all to fall in a tangled heap on the ground. Lungwort seized Mous in one powerful hand, squeezing the tiny unfortunate goblin, breaking some bones. He was about to bite off his head, when suddenly he relaxed his grip as his cruel black eyes glazed over. His foul existence ended when simple minded Byz joined the fight. He had finally remembered why he was in the meadow. With one swift movement he had succeeded in finding the gremlin’s heart with his own razor sharp goblin blade.
The aftermath of the battle was a truly horrible sight to behold. Mica lay in agony, bruised and battered, still clutching the bloody wound on his thigh. Glob, Make, Mous and Neo were utterly exhausted and equally bruised and wounded. As for Byz, he sat down distracted once again, this time by a pretty wild flower. Bejuss, his courage returned, stood on the gremlin’s head pecking out its dead eyes with his twisted beak. It would take many months before the goblin brothers would ever speak about the day they all truly fought for their lives with their deadliest foe – Lungwort the mountain gremlin.
What of Mica and Agnitha I hear you cry? They were joined according to the humin custom. Their hands were bound with garlands of flowers on mid summer’s day beneath the ancient oak where Glob, Make, Mous, Byz, Neo and Bejuss lived. By the following summer the goblin brothers would have another young humin to look out for.
Geraint sat in his lair scowling at the happy scene reflected in his witch bowl. Time was on his side. He would send no more agents to do his bidding. One day he would personally take revenge on Yestin and his accursed family for the murder of his beloved sister Cazophen. And as for those accursed goblins, their time would come soon enough.