I finished it yesterday…
Fell Whispers on the Wind
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 one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, encounter a frightening beast from the past.
As the last days of summer gave way to the cool windy days of autumn, Mica’s wife, the fair Agnitha, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who she named Ylesse after her grandmother. In the first three months of little Ylesse’s life, the goblin brothers where invited by Agnitha and Mica to be her guardians. Needless to say they took their duties to ensure her safety and happiness very seriously, especially grumpy old Neo, who she immediately crawled to when Mica and Agnitha brought her to visit them in their oak tree home for the first time. The normally bad tempered old goblin’s heart completely melted when the humin youngling clung to his neck, gurgling happily while she stuck a chubby finger into one of his nostrils, making his crossed eyes water. From then on, whenever Agnitha needed babysitters, she always knew that her precious daughter would be safe and sound in the goblin brother’s tiny home, being lovingly watched over by her five doting guardians and Bejuss.
When winter finally took hold, knowledge of the child’s birth reached the ears of Geraint, the brother of the black witch Cazophen, killed so long ago by Glob and his friends. By midwinter’s eve the valley was completely transformed into a picture of frozen silent tranquillity under a thick blanket of snow. But all was not well. Mica and all the humins in the village were on edge. The howls of recently arrived timber wolves echoed throughout the valley surrounding the village. The humins knew that sooner or later they would come in search of an easy meal among their cattle, swine, goats and sheep.
One particularly crisp winter’s morning, Brilith arrived at the goblin’s home unannounced accompanying an elderly white wizard named Morweth, friend and teacher to all in the craft. Morweth’s sense of Geraint’s plan to do evil had been the reason for him leaving his home in the east. The ancient wizard sat down half frozen on a root of the goblin’s oak tree home, exhausted by the arduous ordeal of their long trip. “Glob, you must talk to Mica and ask him to convince his father-in-law Yestin to accompany him to the sacred glade. I have much that they both need to hear. Should either of them reject the suggestion, tell them that little Ylesse is in mortal danger, now go my friend.” Then he turned to the rest of Glob’s brothers and sent each one on an errand, simple minded Byz included, summoning all who dwelt in the southern wood to the meeting.
Glob left immediately for the house of Mica and Agnitha, while his brothers departed in different directions on their various missions. On hearing that baby Ylesse’s safety was the reason for the old wizard’s journey, Agnitha urged Yestin to accompany Mica and Glob to the glade, brooking no argument from him. Her father’s hatred of all things magic was legendary, but faced with his determined daughter, he relented.
When the trio appeared at the edge of the glade, they saw before them an assortment of Goblindom’s inhabitants. Elves, southern woods, plains, and mountain goblins stood shoulder to shoulder with humins. All of them assembled round the outer edge of the stone circle. Standing at its centre beside the oval alter stone, leaning heavily on Brilith’s shoulder, was frail Morweth. Yestin’s deep loathing of wizards and witches prevented him from drawing too close. But, for the sake of his precious granddaughter’s safety, he forced himself to listen.
Morweth cleared his throat, shifted his weight from Brilith’s shoulder onto the staff he carried and began. “Friends, I felt it my duty to come here today to tell you of the fell whispers on the wind. Good Yestin, while I know of your hatred of all magic, both black and white, I beseech you to listen without prejudice. Your granddaughter Ylesse is in the gravest of danger. Even as I speak Cazophen’s vengeful brother Geraint is preparing to steal her and make her his own. He is coming himself this time, sending no agent to do his bidding. Because Ylesse was born in autumn Yestin, like me, he knows she will one day be a powerful healer, as his sister would have been if you had not falsely declared her to be a witch because of your professional jealousy. He plans to turn Ylesse’s power for good towards the black arts instead. Ever since you condemned Cazophen, he has planned his revenge on you and your family. At this very moment he is conjuring great evil to fulfil his evil quest. Make no mistake Yestin, this time he means to come himself! I see clearly what form he will take.” Morweth staggered uncertainly on his feet, due to his great age and the effects of the freezing temperatures on his ancient frame. Brilith assisted him by taking his arm and gently guided him to sit on a small stone beside the altar. The white wizard’s speech had brought back to all assembled, the terrible memories of the day when Lungwort, the mountain gremlin, had arrived the summer before Ylesse was born, employed by Geraint to murder fair Agnitha.
Mica went to the centre of the circle. “Friend Morweth, how long before he comes?”
The ancient wizard lifted his head to look at Ylesse’s father for a few moments before replying, “even now he has sent his scouts to spy upon you and your family Mica. You have been hearing the howls of timber wolves in the hills surrounding this valley of late. They are his servants. He sees all through their eyes, hears all through their ears. How long before he comes? Soon – very soon. Certainly by the end of this current moon, two days hence.”
Glob, Neo, Make, Mous and Byz sat listening intently in silence, fearing yet another foul beast was about to enter their peaceful valley. Neo rose from his seat and climbed on top of one of the smaller upright stones of the circle so that all assembled could see him. “Begs pardons yer worship,” he began, bowing low as his eyes frantically crossed themselves, clearly nervous about what was going to happen, “we’s wood goblins wos just wonderin wot kinds on beasty he mights transforms hisself into?”
Morweth’s pale lined face darkened as his vivid blue eyes held nervous Neo in their steely gaze. “He means to transform himself into a giant wargob, young goblin.” Without exception, every goblin and elf assembled there trembled in fear at the revelation.
Make nervously tottered towards where the old wizard sat. “B-b-but a wargobs is a mythical beasty, tolds bout in bedtime’s stories ter scares yung goblins n elves if theys beens naughty sir,” he managed to stammer before wetting himself as he shook with uncontrollable fear.
Morweth placed his bony hand on the tiny goblin’s shoulder, trying to comfort him as he replied. “Sadly lad, it’s no myth. Wargobs were real in the time before. In the great battle of Blaxhorn twixt good and evil before peace reigned, the evil black wizard Crellen created a great and terrible army of them, half bloodthirsty mountain goblin – half wolf, to conquer the world. I know Geraint has sought him out to learn how to transform himself into one.” With the exception of the humins, all the other kinds living in Goblindom firmly believed the widely held, oft spoken legend about the wargobs. Among all goblins and elves whether they were wood, plains or mountain, tales were told of a pack of ferocious wargobs nearly wiping out all their ancient forbears during the terrible battle of Blaxhorn. Only a precious few survived the wargob attack to continue the many ancient bloodlines. Mica and Yestin needed no further convincing after witnessing the frightened reaction among the goblins and elves, that Morweth was indeed telling the truth. All who had assembled quickly left the sacred glade in silence to prepare for the forthcoming inevitable battle.
Geraint sat in his workshop checking all of the ingredients for his transformation one last time. Crellen had repeatedly warned him of the repercussions should he go through with the spell. Despite all, Geraint was so obsessed with his evil quest to seek revenge for his sister that he brushed aside the black wizard’s dire warning. By nightfall his transformation was complete.
Yestin immediately called a meeting of the humins. Soon lookouts were dispatched to the borders of the village and beyond, covering the hills surrounding the valley along with all the many paths leading to it. Glob summoned Yathle and immediately went to demand that Obadiah Fingletook, the grand high goblin, join the fight. Should Obadiah object; Glob would expose to all in Goblindom who the real ruler was.
He demanded that Obadiah immediately recruit an army of mountain, wood and plains goblins and lead them into battle. The ornately adorned throne room where Obadiah sat echoed his shrilled reply to Glob’s demand. “Never, do you hear me – never! This is a humin affair, nothing whatsoever to do with goblins.”
On hearing the loud argument, her magnificence Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, sailed into the room like a ship of war under full sail, ready to fire a broadside. “You may stay here and hide like a coward if you wish Obadiah Fingletook. But your brave brother Glob and his friends need our help!” she fumed, glaring angrily at her first born. Obadiah sat on his throne with his head lowered; tears welled up in his eyes. His bottom lip quivered like a naughty goblin youngling who had just been found with his hand stuck in the honeycomb jar. Hermione immediately took charge of the situation. “Dearest Glob I shall raise you an army and lead it myself. How soon before the wargob appears?” Much relieved that their mother had taken charge, Glob told her that they expected the beast before the end of the moon.
On his return to the valley the welcome news that a goblin army was on its way did much to cheer the humin, goblin and elf occupants of the valley. Not wishing to be left out, Bejuss had flown off to summon his avian cousins. Eagles, hawks, owls, crows, rooks and ravens all soon arrived, taking up station in the tree tops of the woods surrounding the village. Yathle flew off to summon her many sisters to add to the aerial armada after Glob had summoned her and told of the battle to come. With the arrival of the magnificent Hermione, dressed in her finest goblin armour at the head of her army, made up in equal measure from plains, wood and mountain goblins, the most warlike within Goblindom, the valley was soon filled to overflowing. As night fell the glow of countless campfires could be seen in all directions. Mica ensured that each group consisted of equal numbers of humins, goblins and elves, charged with guarding a specific path, road or pass, supported by a wyvern and its attendant squadron of birds. On the ridges to either side of the valley, encampments were quickly set up to house the many legions. Heavily armed elves and wood goblins guarded the forest paths to the north and south. Nothing could enter the valley in secret. The whole was protected by the watchful gaze of thousands of vigilant eyes.
But Geraint had a trick up his devious sleeve. He knew of a long forgotten path through Athol’s Pass to the east of the village, which Crellen had told him about. It was to that pass that he now ran in his new and terrible form at the head of his army of timber wolves, griffins and mountain ogres, promising them their fill of fresh goblin and humin flesh when they won.
Morweth sensed the beast’s evil intent. Accompanied by Brilith, with one full legion of heavily armoured mountain goblins marching in close formation behind them, they sought out the hidden entrance to the valley. Above the advancing armoured column Yathle and her attendant squadron of eagles flew overhead, acting as the ancient wizard’s eyes. The howls and war cries of Geraint’s army grew louder as they sensed fresh meat. Then a cry more terrible and spine chilling than any heard before or since, drowned out those of the wolves, ogres and griffins. Geraint and his army halted for the night, temporarily camping at the eastern end of Athol’s Pass until dawn, still believing their location was undetected.
Yathle and her eagle squadron circled constantly all night. Then in the misty gloom of early dawn she finally saw the beast at the head of its army. Covered in a shaggy silver coat of thick course fur in his new guise as a wargob, Geraint was twice the size of a humin’s draught horse. His huge grotesque face with its tiny lidless slanted red eyes and pointed ears, with a mouth full of cruel fangs that constantly gnashed together, dripped foul slobber on the ground beneath his feet. He sniffed the morning air through his hideously deformed snub nose; his humin like hands with their razor sharp talons flexed in anticipation. He sat on his heavily muscled back legs for a moment, swishing his bushy wolf tale from side to side, while his deep chest heaved wildly as he prepared himself for what was to come.
Neo excused himself and rapidly returned to Agnitha and baby Ylesse’s side guarding both of them with his life, and by hiding them in the hay loft of Miranda’s stable. He instructed her that when the wargob drew near she was to stomp her hooves and neigh loudly, warning of its approach.
Morweth and Brilith joined Glob and the rest of his brothers at a safer vantage point behind the forward goblin legion. The vast army to the rear consisting of mountain and plains goblins, humins, wyverns, birds, wood goblins and elves, quickly re-assembled, drawing a tight heavily armed shield wall of goblin blades, humin flint weapons and elven bows around the village in three ranks. Between the front legion of mountain goblins standing firm at the entrance to the pass and the village behind them, Mica had organised the digging of many pits each filled with sharpened stakes covered by lightweight grass mats. Behind the pits he arranged a killing ground where fire pots full of burning pitch would be catapulted, should the enemy break through.
Yathle cried out her warning to alert the entire valley as Geraint and his army slowly began their advance. The battle of Athol’s Pass was about to begin. Horns blew when Geraint charged at the head of his army through the pass, urging them on with his bloodcurdling howls.
The forward legion of mountain goblins drew up in three shield wall ranks, one behind the other, armed with the finest razor sharp, magically forged, blue metal goblin blades at the ready, completely blocking off Geraint’s progress. Hermione led her army from the front, quickly taking two more goblin legions to stand ready on the narrow path leading from the pass. Morweth and Brilith accompanied by Glob, Make, Mous and Byz sat in the branches of a mighty oak that faced towards the eastern entrance of the pass, giving them an excellent view of the battle as it unfolded. High above on each side of the narrow pass, companies of elven archers stood ready with their stocks of poisoned arrows stuck in the ground at their feet, ready for use.
At Yathle’s signal, her sisters and their attendant squadrons of birds flew off on both sides of the pass, immediately attacking and soon dispatching Geraint’s griffins. Then they turned their attention to the lumbering ogres bringing up the rear, soon making short work of them, before finally concentrating on the back ranks of charging timber wolves. As Geraint and the front ranks got within bowshot, they were subjected to a deadly shower of poison tipped arrows raining down upon them from the elven archers above.
By the time Geraint crashed headlong into the first shield wall at full gallop, there were barely twenty survivors of his mighty army left alive. In the heat of battle he made a fatal error as he lashed out at the nearest ranks of goblins. To gain a physical advantage over the tiny goblin soldiers, he reared up on his hind legs and slashed at them with his razor sharp claws over the top of their shields, decapitating some of the front rank. At the precise moment when he stood up, accurately thrown flint headed spears delivered from the hands of the humin warriors, pierced his chest.
The second shield wall closed quickly with the remainder of the first. With his army dead, the elven archers turned their attention to Geraint. Within the space of two heart beats he suffered no less than fifty arrows burying themselves deep alongside the flint spears within his grotesque form. Morweth and Brilith conjured a freezing spell of terrible power, merging Geraint’s feet into the rocky ground amid the bodies of the dead from both armies. Unable to move, he bit and slashed at any goblin foolish enough to close with him, while howling with fury. This was the cue for Yathle and her sisters to deliver their fiery assault. Each wyvern formed up one behind the other, before diving down to deliver their fireballs, setting Geraint’s thick shaggy fur alight. This action was the signal for the squadrons of eagles, hawks, owls, rooks and ravens to dive in their thousands, pecking bloody clumps of burnt hair and flesh from Geraint’s terrible head and powerful shoulders. At a blast of her battle horn Hermione summoned the front ranks of her goblin legions to rapidly retreat behind the remaining third shield wall. She beckoned forward the humin fire pot launchers and directed their fiery assault on the still breathing monster. By now Geraint realised the battle was lost. He attempted to revert back to his normal self to enable his escape by disappearing from view. But it wasn’t to be. Crellen had repeatedly warned him that once transformed into a wargob, there was no going back. As more and more fire pots full of burning pitch fell on him, elven arrows and humin spears rained down. Now mortally wounded, Geraint found just enough strength left to emit his terrible wargob howl one last time before he died, totally consumed by the flames.
“Well my dears,” Hermione began, several hours later as she sat at the head table as the guest of honour outside Agnitha and Mica’s home holding baby Ylesse in her arms, “you truly have a beautiful daughter.” Between the roundhouses, trestle tables had been hastily erected with benches for all to sit, eat and drink their fill. The mead flowed freely. Songs of the battle of Athol’s Pass, quickly composed, were being sung loudly in drunken voices by all. Despite the cold of the night, the adrenalin of battle still flowed through their veins, warming them.
Mica and the goblin brothers made their way among the victorious army thanking each of them for saving the day. Determinedly urged on by his daughter Agnitha poking him sharply in the ribs, Yestin made a point of seeking out Morweth and Brilith to apologise for being so wrong about them and to shake their hands. Neo sat beside Hermione. Ylesse smiled and gurgled as she stretched out her tiny arms towards him. Seeing the bond between her goblin son and the humin baby, Hermione handed her over. He gently held her in his arms as she once again stuck a finger in one of his nostrils, making his eyes water, much to the amusement of everyone. Even old Neo managed to crack one of his rare toothy smiles, while gazing through tear filled cross eyes with love flowing from his heart for the tiny humin child. Thanks to innocent Ylesse he finally understood the deep instant friendship Glob felt for Mica since the day when he had rescued him from the she-wolf all those long summers ago.