A Timeless Tale

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The Wrong Medicine

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), and Bejuss, the lisping raven with the twisted beak, encounter an unwelcome side effect of goblin medicine.

The goblin brother’s household were all feeling the effects of winter as chill winds from the north signalled that its icy fingers were taking hold. Neo was laid up in bed, shivering and sneezing with a heavy cold. Make’s nose was all bunged up. Mous’s eyes and nose were streaming constantly. Glob had chronic earache and Bejuss’ feathers had lost their sheen as he coughed and sneezed constantly. The worst afflicted was simpleminded Byz. He had all the symptoms of the dreaded hack, a potentially fatal winter affliction peculiar to goblins.

The hack is not a simple coughing fit brought on by a sore throat or common cold, it is far, far worse. Depending on the health of the sufferer, if the patient is given the wrong kind of medicine, severe, sometimes fatal, complications can occur.

Poor Byz lay in his bed in great discomfort. Glob sat beside him feeding him weak mushroom soup by the spoonful.

Bejuss was perched on Glob’s shoulder, sneezing loudly. “Achoo! Rarrk – me nearly thneezed me brain’th out, beg’th pardon Glob,” the old bird apologised, after spraying his friend’s ear with birdy snot, which he tried to wipe clean with his wing. He watched Glob feed Byz. He wasn’t going to admit it, but he actually felt sorry for the youngest goblin brother.

Neo sneezed, cursed, broke wind violently, and threw off his thick cobweb blankets as his temperature rose, making him sweat profusely. Despite shivering from his high fever, Mous sat so close to the fire that his jerkin started to singe. Make’s dry hacking cough made his face change colour and his eyes bulge. The honeysuckle flavoured smoke from his bestest briar pipe burned his already inflamed throat, making him feel worse.

Byz in his severely weakened state tried desperately to sit up. Each time Glob offered him another spoonful of soup, the hack caused him to shake so violently that several times he had knocked the spoon from Glob’s hand spilling it all over himself, Glob, and his bed.

A loud knock on the door interrupted their misery. Make went to see who it was. When he opened the door, no one was there. He began muttering under his breath about, “Subwun’s dakin diabolical liberdies wiv sick folk!” when he saw a small package had been left beside the doorstep. He picked it up before rapidly shutting the door to keep out the cold.

“Who was it?” Glob casually enquired as he wiped spilled mushroom soup from his lap.

“Tweren’t nobody dere,” Make replied grumpily, sniffing loudly to clear his nose while looking at the package. “Foud dis by de door,” he added as his blocked nose continued to affect his speech. Sneezing loudly he handed the package to Glob, before joining Mous beside the fire. Both goblins shivered constantly, even though wisps of steam rose from their fevered bodies.

Glob stopped trying to feed Byz and took the package over to his chair by the window to examine it. Despite feeling terrible, Bejuss perched on the back of Glob’s chair, curious to know what it contained. “Rarrk, ith yer goin ter open it then – achoo?” the old bird sneezed his question, wiping his beak with his wing. Glob turned the package over to see if it had anything written on it. He carefully opened it and peered nervously inside. There was a small sealed bottle along with a note. Glob studied the note very carefully.

“Ter whom it may concern,

Here is sum medicine ter relieve yer winter ailments. Add no more than wun drop ter a mug on mulled mead ter relieve all the symptoms on goblin hack, colds, coughs, sore throats n blocked noses at this time on year.

Get well soon.”

Glob put down the note and carefully uncorked the mysterious jar. The foul odour made his eyes water as he gingerly sniffed it. He dipped his finger into the jar’s neck and licked the concoction with the tip of his tongue, grimacing at its foul taste. Then his old face lit up when he finally recognised what it was. “Some kind soul has jus gorn n left us a jars on snifflebain jelly. Make go n gets the mugs n the barrel on mead. Mous sticks the poker in the fire – quick sharp now.” As Mous plunged the red hot poker into each mug of mead, Glob carefully put one drop of the runny jelly into each hot drink, then passed them to his brothers.

Bejuss watched as the goblins miraculously began to get better before his eye. “Me want thome, me want thome!” he loudly demanded, jumping up and down, pecking at the jar to get Glob’s attention.

Glob shook his head. “I’s sorry Bejuss lad, but snifflebain is goblin medicine, taint for birdies. It’s cud be poison ter the likes on yer. I’ll go n gets some hawthorn berries n crab apples soon ter makes yer own special medicine once I’s feelin better.”

Bejuss flew up to the rafters in utter disgust, sulking and muttering loudly that, “all goblinth ith thelfithh – achoo!”

By mid-afternoon, the five goblin brothers were once again hale and hearty and had left their home to gather acorns, honeycomb and toadstools to stock their larder for winter. Relieved that they were feeling much better, they had all completely forgotten that Bejuss was still ailing. Plus, never once did any of them wonder who their mysterious angel of mercy may have been.

When they departed, Bejuss flew down to the table where the medicine bottle sat. He peered and pecked at it while walking around it. He pushed it, tipping it over. The bottle rolled across the table and fell to the floor, smashing to pieces. Its contents settled in a sticky puddle on the floor, giving off a strange green haze.

He flew down to the floor and hopped over to the puddle, cautiously smelling it. “Rarrk – it thmellth dithguthtin!” he lisped, as the foul aroma filled his nostrils. He carefully tasted it with his tongue. “Tatht’th nathty too, but it made Glob n the retht better, tho why not me?”

Covering his nostrils with one wing to keep out the smell, the old bird began to lick greedily at the spilled medicine. Because of the way he hungrily consumed the sticky substance, inevitably he got the hiccups. But these were no ordinary hiccups. Each time they happened, a tiny green cloud escaped from his beak. As his hiccups increased in intensity, the cloud grew larger and darker in colour.

Neo had gone to see Miranda, tired of looking for honeycomb. As he approached the stable, he broke wind violently and vanished from view in a thick green cloud.

Glob sat talking with his humin friends, Mica and Agnitha, while their little girl Ylesse, who by now was toddling on shaky legs, played with a ball of twine. A cry of alarm from somewhere outside made them all quickly run to see what was wrong.

Mica’s fellow villagers stood transfixed. They watched a giant muscular green goblin with a large double-headed axe chase after an equally large half goblin, half rabbit with large furry ears and long whiskers sticking out of its long pointed nose, intent on doing it harm. Then from the southern pasture yet another very large fierce looking mountain goblin warrior with a pig-like snout, carrying a shield across his back and swinging a large spiked mace, closed ready to do battle with the other two. A fourth equally large goblin emerged from the tree line and strode towards where the villagers stood, sat down heavily with such force that he made everyone feel unsteady on their feet, and started furiously sucking his thumb.

Despite being terrified, Glob thought he recognised the monstrous assembly. He walked over to the giant thumb sucking goblin. “Byz lad, wots wrong then?” The giant pouted and looked at him before beginning to cry. He sneezed and burped loudly releasing a green cloud, and reverted back to his normal self.

“What’s going on Glob,” Mica whispered quietly as he carefully approached.

“They is all me brothers Mica. Someone left some medicine by our door this mornin. We wos all sufferin from aches n pains, coughs n colds.  I’s gaves all me brothers some in a mug on mulled mead n theys all gots better. I’s didn’t takes any meself, jus stuck some in me ear, n me earache vanished!”

The giant with the axe was about to behead the goblin rabbit, when he suddenly froze, sneezed a green cloud and shrank back to his normal size, crossing his eyes constantly. The goblin rabbit hopped away terrified, disappearing behind one of the roundhouses.

“Wots wrong wiv us Glob?” Neo asked with a perplexed look on his face, dazed by the transformation, still burping and breaking wind and giving off yet more green clouds as the effects of the medicine slowly dissipated.

The former mountain goblin warrior with the mace answered as he reached inside his jerkin for his bestest briar pipe. “I’s knew there wos summink spicious bout that parcel Glob – achoo!”

“Bless you Make,” Agnitha replied, offering him a rag to wipe his nose. Ylesse suddenly burst into tears behind them. When they all turned round they saw her having a tug of war with the goblin rabbit who was trying hard to steal her ball of twine.

“Eponymous Tringthicky – give it back to my Ylesse this instant do you hear, or else I swear I’ll slap your legs!” Agnitha shouted angrily, scolding the accident prone goblin, while scooping up her tearful baby daughter.

The goblin rabbit hung its head in shame, twitching its nose. “I’z zorry Agnitha, zorry Ylezze, I’z juz wanted ter play wiv it,” he said, quickly handing the twine ball back to Ylesse who pouted angrily at him before sticking out her tongue. Mous began to hop off in the direction of their oak tree home, tripped on a rock and fell over, knocking the wind out of himself. With one loud green burp he was finally back to normal.

Glob rounded up his still sneezing brothers and tied them together before he marched them home in disgrace. Once he had sent them all to their beds, after dosing them up with proper snifflebain jelly, he finally relaxed on his chair by the window.

Then out of the corner of his eye he spied the broken bottle and the puddle of spilled medicine. Glob panicked. He hunted high and low in his search for Bejuss. If the medicine had turned his brothers into gigantic ferocious goblins, what might it have done to a raven?

While everyone had been distracted, a furtive figure made its way from shadow to shadow, silently entering each of the roundhouses, stealing what took its fancy, before disappearing once more.

Fleetwood congratulated himself on his brilliant ruse. He sat inside the cave above the valley checking his loot. His face broke out into a broad grin. “Hee hee – stupid humins is fooled so easy,” he chortled to himself, studying Agnitha’s beautiful Jet necklace. His ‘medicine’ had been a total success. Using snifflebain jelly to disguise his transformation potion was a stroke of pure genius.

Dark descended on the valley. The humins by now realised they had been robbed of their most precious possessions. An angry mob led by Mica went to the goblin brother’s oak tree home. “Glob, get out here now!” Mica demanded loudly, illuminated by the burning torches of his angry fellow villagers.

Glob nervously opened the door. He had never seen his humin friend like this before, clearly ready to do harm. The sight of a dozen armed humins determined for revenge unnerved him. “Wots wrong Mica me lad?” Glob nervously enquired, feeling the mood of the humins in his bones.

“While we were all being distracted by you and your brothers, we were being robbed. My Agnitha has lost her necklace. Brion’s wife has lost her mother’s broach. Everyone has had something of value stolen. We don’t want you and your brothers Glob, we want Bejuss. Everyone knows that next to a thieving magpie, a raven likes collecting shiny things. He’s the guilty party here!”

Glob’s mind spun. He could not believe the old bird was a thief, and yet… “I’s always thought that were only magpie’s like yer says. Tenerate, he aint here Mica lad; truth is I’s don’t know where he is. This mornin we wos all feelin horrible wiv coughs n colds. I’s tolds yer bout someone leavin us some medicine ter cure our winter ills; we’s all tooks some n began feelin better – Bejuss wos ill too. I’s forgots ter makes him some birdy medicine. When we’s got back, I’s saw the broke medicine bottle on the floor. Bejuss mus ave taken some n vanished into thin air!”

From high above the real thief’s every movement was being closely shadowed unseen as he returned home with his spoils. Bejuss silently followed Fleetwood through the woods to his hideaway. The crafty wood goblin sat down and began sorting his loot.

“Give it back, give it all back.” A ghostly voice insisted.

Fleetwood leapt up and looked all around him. “Who saids that, shows yerself,” he demanded, nervously brandishing his goblin blade while turning his head left and right, searching for the voice’s owner.

“Give it all back Fleetwood Cranberry, or me’ll turn yer into a thtone or a frog!” Bejuss replied, trying hard not to laugh. He was thoroughly enjoying being invisible.

“Goes away ghosty, please goes away,” Fleetwood bleated, now completely terrified by his unwelcome ethereal visitor.

“Give it all back now!” Bejuss demanded; causing the dust to rise by silently flapping his wings, unseen by Fleetwood. Next, he flew to the fireplace and blew hard, making the low flames erupt into life. Then he opened the goblin thief’s cupboard and threw all of its contents onto the floor.

Fleetwood’s eyes stared in sheer terror as everything he possessed flew about the room. He screamed and cowered in fear among the debris on the floor. “Donts hurts me ghosty, I’s learned me lesson I’s promises,” the frightened thief squealed.

“Gather everythin tergether n take it back ter the humin’th village now Fleetwood Cranberry afore me turnth yer inter a juicy thlug n eatth yer – now be gone wiv yer!”

Bejuss silently followed him back to the village and watched as he returned each item. “Never ever return ter thith valley Fleetwood Cranberry, on pain on death!” Bejuss said finally from somewhere close to the thief’s ear. Fleetwood ran off terrified into the night, white as a ghost, never to be seen again.

Glob sat at the window unable to sleep, worried sick for Bejuss.  He felt a gentle breeze on his face. “Rarrk – me back Glob, n tho ith the humin’th pretty thtuff,” the old bird lisped, perching on the old goblin’s shoulder. Glob nearly had a heart attack when Bejuss magically reappeared. “W-w-what d’yer mean?” he managed to stammer.

“Rarrk – it woth Fleetwood wot gave yer the medicine ter make yer all inter monthterth n fool the huminth while he thtole from them. Me followed him all day. The medicine made me invithible – look.” Glob’s eyes widened when Bejuss disappeared then reappeared before his eyes. The old bird chuckled at the expression on his friend’s face. “Me thcared him tho much, he thought me wath a ghotht come ter haunt him. Me told him me’d turn him into a thlug n eat him if he didn’t return all he thole n never come back.”

Glob smiled happily to himself, glad that his feathered friend was alive and not the thief after all. He gave Bejuss a well-earned bowl full of juicy slugs before they both turned in for the night.

Unlike the goblin brothers, Bejuss was permanently changed by the medicine. Being invisible would prove to be an added benefit for the lisping one-eyed old raven with the twisted beak in the future.

The Time Before Map

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