Forget about movies…

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…they rarely if ever stimulate you in the same way a book can, and does. If you want to conjure up a mental picture of a fictional character or landscape, always rely on the words on the pages of a book, and your unique mental interpretation of them. In other words, use your imagination!

To illustrate my point, the following is a description of just one of the many characters I employ in Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales, which I’m currently re-writing. If it doesn’t give you a clear vision of him in your mind’s eye, then I feel extremely sorry for you…

~~~

     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. All winter long, 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 on its pointed end. Anyone meeting Mug for the first time, 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’d hit the offending joker on the head with his club. He failed to appreciate any kind of remark about his unfortunate nasal addition.

~~~

If a description is perfect, what else do you need? Nothing! Not every character in every story needs such a detailed description, except when writing something like a fantasy anthology about Goblins in Goblindom…

🙂

We all have a dream…

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Minas Tirith, the fortified capital of Gondor

~~~

As a lifetime Tolkien devotee, each year at this time I go on a pilgrimage to Middle-Earth. Over the last few weeks I have once more immersed myself in the pages of The Hobbit and all three books contained within The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For those of you visiting Earth for the first time, from the planet Zog, they are as follows – The Fellowship of the Ring, The Twin Towers and The Return of the King.

It is no coincidence that I’ve been re-reading the four books at the same time as I am involved in re-working my own humble fantasy tome, for the third and final time. I refer of course to my anthology Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales

Tolkien always portrayed goblins as positively evil. In this instance I choose not to. My five goblin heroes are Globular Van der Graff (Glob), Makepiece Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo) and Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous). I also created a sixth character, who lives with them in their oak tree home, sharing in their adventures. He is none other than a one eyed lisping raven with a twisted beak – who answers to the name Bejuss.

There are a myriad of other characters contained within the anthology from Humins, the antecedants of mankind. Wyverns, a Black Dragon, Elves, Griffins, White and Black Witches and Wizards. Trolls, Wargobs, even Men, to name but a few of those within the anthology. I also created the mythical land known as Goblindom, where they all reside, hidden from the rest of the world (See the map below).

Was I inspired to write the goblin anthology of thirty linked tales by the works of Tolkien? To say no would be a lie on my part. Is my anthology in any way like the tales of Middle-Earth? That is not for me to say. Should the anthology be portrayed on the silver screen? That has always been my dream.

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Will it ever come to pass? In all likelihood, probably not. But then again, who can honestly say. Am I a latter day Tolkien? I don’t think so. Besides, to presume so is a step too far. No I’m just another storyteller. Nothing more. Nothing less…

😉

Want a taste of what I’m re-working at the moment?

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Glob holding his emerald tipped magic staff with Bejuss the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak perched on his shoulder. Make with his bestest Briar pipe. Cross-eyed Neo with his war club. Accident prone Mous. The youngest goblin brother – Byz, always getting into trouble…

~~~

Here is one of the thirty tales that has been reworked so far, contained within the fantasy anthology Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tale.

~~~

I Juth Want One Night’th Thleep!

     In which Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, seeks revenge.

~~~

     As the sun slowly climbed in the sky all was quite in the world, except for the sound of loud snoring echoing among the ancient trees, terrifying the woodland creatures. Glob yawned, broke wind, stretched, burped, scratched his backside and turned over. A few more minutes in his warm bed was all he asked of life at this particular moment in time.

Make curled his arms tenderly around his pillow and began murmuring sweet nothings to it with a silly smile on his face. Mous tossed and turned muttering unintelligible bursts of nonsense words as he fought an imaginary monster. Byz lay on his back kicking his feet in the air dreaming he was a goblin youngling once again, gurgling happily, and furiously sucking his thumb. Between his loud snoring bouts, Neo mercifully fell silent with a look of total bliss on his old leathery face. In these far too brief moments of silence he dreamt of waking up each morning nestled beside his beloved Miranda. Then as fast as his dream faded, his snoring quickly resumed.  Over the countless years they had all shared their comfortable oak tree home with him, each and every one of his brothers had become immune to the effects of Neo’s nightly audible assault; but not simpleminded Byz’s pet raven, Bejuss.

~~~

     The old bird suffered terribly each night from Neo’s ear-splitting assault on every fibre of his being. Deprived of precious sleep yet again, his feet locked themselves even more than usual to the perch, as his cage was violently vibrated with each fresh snore, threatening to shake him loose at any moment.

Now wide awake, bleary eyed and decidedly unhappy with the situation, he covered his ears with the tips of his flight feathers. Poor Bejuss did his level best to rest a few moments more before the sun’s rays finally entered the window, bathing the interior of the goblin household in its golden light. Ever since the day when he first willingly joined the band of goblin brothers, he had come to dread bed time. Within an hour after sunset he knew that Neo would be the first of the brothers to go to sleep. Something had to be done about the goblin’s peace destroying snoring – but what?

~~~

     After breakfast Glob sat beside the window enjoying his favourite view of the Southern Woods, allowing his meal to digest properly. Make carefully packed a plug of his honeysuckle flavoured tobacco in his bestest briar pipe, lit it and enjoyed the pleasant taste of the sweet herb, while idly blowing smoke rings out through the window past Glob’s head.

As usual, Neo left the domestic duties to his brothers, considering tasks like cleaning and washing up beneath him. He quickly left on his morning visit to be with Miranda in her stable. Along the way, he picked a bunch of the finest, juiciest blades of grass for her breakfast.

Back in the goblin brother’s home, it was Mous’s turn to do the washing up. Being the accident prone goblin that he is, almost as soon as the pot of water had boiled on the fire, he managed to tip the lot all over himself as he struggled with its weight. He let out a yell at the top of his voice and ran outside onto the large bough beyond their front door, waiving his hands in the air, frantically trying to cool his injured hands. “It hurtz, it hurtz; takez itz away, it hurtz!” he screamed loudly, as inflamed patches on the skin of his bony goblin hands deepened their colour while the pain intensified. Glob ran to him with a jar of honey and gently applied a generous amount to his severely scalded hands.

“Why don’t yer blows on them thens?” Make suggested between puffs on his pipe, thinking he was being especially helpful to his best friend.

“I’z hatez yer Make!” Mous sobbed, with tears welling up in his eyes, despite the soothing feeling of the honey slowly doing its work as it eased the pain.

“I’s wos only trying ter helps yer brother, sorry’s I’s sure!” Make replied indignantly, puffing furiously on his pipe, sending more smoke signals into the air.

As usual, Byz was totally oblivious to all that was going on. After he had replaced the stale oak leaves in his armpits with freshly picked ones, he found a spider in his bed and began playing with it, completely forgetting to feed Bejuss. “Rarrk, me’th hungry – me needth food!” the old bird lisped angrily from within the witch cage.

Glob kicked Byz in the shins causing him to yelp. “Looking arter Bejuss is yer sponsibility, so yer’d better feeds him, sharpish like – or else me lad!” Glob yelled, above the noise all around him. Byz began crying loudly as he ran outside.

In between sobs he yelled back at Glob. “Yer is a bully Glob, I’s hates yer!”

Feeling totally fed up and decidedly angry, Bejuss opened the door to his cage and flew off to the kitchen. “Can’t get any thleep, n now me can’t get me breakfath neither!” he lisped, while casting his one eye around the kitchen shelves looking for something juicy to eat. Finding nothing, he flew back into the living room in disgust and perched on the back of Glob’s chair beside the window. Byz sulkily returned from outside after a few minutes with some juicy bugs for Bejuss’ breakfast. The old bird made him yelp again when he angrily snatched his breakfast from him with his sharp twisted beak, swallowing them so quickly that he gave himself hiccups. Glob hung his head low and sighed heavily. As if things weren’t bad enough already what with Mous scalding himself, now he had an angry hiccupping raven perched behind him to contend with. The day was not exactly getting off to a good start.

Bejuss hiccupped loudly in his ear before saying, “it’th bad enuff that a bird can’t get any, hic, thleep around here coth of Neo’th thnoring; but forgettin me breakfath, hic, ith the latht thtraw!”

Then a ray of hope shone on the day’s gloomy beginnings when Mica arrived. “Good morning my friends,” Mica shouted to make himself heard over the sobs, yells, hiccups and moans coming from the leafy branches of the ancient oak above his head. Glob leaned out of the window and saw his humin friend below with a heavily pregnant Agnitha sitting on Miranda’s broad back, accompanied by Neo, who was seated between the old mare’s large soft ears, constantly whispering sweet words to her. “We were wondering if you fancied joining us for a picnic beside the stream, and maybe a bit of fishing.” Mica enquired, as Miranda suddenly lowered her head to crop the grass, almost unseating Neo, making him cling on tightly to one of her ears. Quickly forgetting their bickering, the remaining goblin brothers hastily put together a supply of their favourite foods, plates and mugs as well as an acorn barrel full of Neo’s freshly brewed special mead, all stowed carefully by Mica in a basket slung from Miranda’s back. Despite the pleasant prospect of a picnic, Bejuss could not forget the troubles of the night as he glared angrily at Neo. As for Glob, he was relieved for the welcome distraction. He led his brothers down to the ground and soon they were on their way along the path for a nice day out with their humin friends.

Agnitha’s mothering instincts took over as she tenderly cradled tiny Mous in her arms, kissing his pointed goblin ears and wiping away his tears with her soft blond hair, making him totally forget all about his scalded hands. Byz hobbled along tethered to Make, rubbing the painful bruise on his shin. Bejuss perched on Glob’s shoulder in deathly silence, except for his constant hiccups, while the old goblin walked and talked with Mica.

By mid-morning they had finally arrived in a lush meadow beside the stream. Mica helped Agnitha down, and between them they spread a large flax sheet on the grass. Glob and Make carried the picnic baskets between them and helped Agnitha set out the wooden bowls, mugs, and the pots and parcels of carefully wrapped foods. By now, Mous was completely head over heels in love with his surrogate humin mother, the fair Agnitha. He fussed around her, fetching and carrying for her despite his tiny size, dragging a humin sized mug over to her, so she didn’t have to stretch too far for anything in her delicate condition. Whatever she desired from the delicious repast, Mous delivered. Each time, no matter how large or small the request from her, she rewarded him with a gentle kiss on the top of his leathery head, making him blush deeply, much to everyone’s amusement. Mica nudged Glob, pointing at the spectacle of the tiny love struck goblin and grinned. Perhaps the day would turn out far better than Glob could have hoped for after all. Neo sat on Miranda’s neck combing her main, making it shine. Make sat back to back with Glob, while he packed his pipe once more, lit it and closed his eyes, puffing contentedly. Byz, still tethered to him, played with a butterfly.

~~~

     All seemed well with the world. But high above the happy scene, Bejuss was already plotting and planning. “Me can’t take another night of Neo’th noith,” the old bird muttered to himself. And then a solution occurred to him. Of course, why hadn’t he thought of it before? Plug the hole; that way there would be no more noise! The germ of a plan slowly formed in his tiny bird brain. He would need an assortment of items necessary to complete the task, so he flew off in search of the things on his list, unnoticed by his friends below.

By mid-afternoon they were all mostly asleep. Mica and Agnitha were curled up in each other’s arms with Mous snuggling blissfully between them. Byz and Make lay back to back on their sides on a bed of soft grass, bathed in the warmth of the sun. Glob sat with his back to the trunk of a tree beside the stream, holding his willow wand fishing pole and its spider silk line, baited with a caddis fly, watching it drift on the surface of the stream. His hat was pulled low over his eyes while he drifted contentedly between awake and asleep. Miranda had laid down in the shade of a willow with Neo fast asleep beside her soft muzzle. Inevitably the time came when he lay on his back with his mouth open.

Bejuss returned from his trip and landed on one of the willow’s branches. At long last his hiccups had gone. On the way back he had found a fat juicy worm, a snail and a slug for his own picnic lunch, which he now deposited in a knot hole on the branch. He had hidden his secret weapon elsewhere for the moment. As the afternoon drew on, Bejuss slowly devoured the worm, before he pecked the snail carefully out of its shell with his twisted beak and swallowed it whole. Next he ate the slug. The peaceful scene was finally broken as Neo began to snore loudly. “Right – it’th time!” the old raven lisped determinedly to himself. He picked up the empty snail shell and flew down to where Neo lay. Carefully positioning himself above the snoring goblin from a lower branch of the willow, he dropped it neatly into Neo’s mouth. Instantly the old goblin began choking and coughing. Everyone was immediately aroused by the sound of the violent coughing fit. Mica picked Neo up by the scruff of his neck and slapped his back hard. With one or two more slaps, he coughed up the snail shell. Bejuss’ one eye focused on the scene below him with growing satisfaction. Phase one of his plan was successful. Phase two would have to wait until nightfall.  “That’ll teach him,” he chuckled and flew off home unnoticed.

~~~

     On their return, the goblin brothers entered their home to find the old raven sitting on his perch in the witch cage. He had his back to them lisping angrily to himself, clearly in no mood for friendly conversation. Simpleminded Byz was about to say something when Glob stopped him, shook his head and gestured to his brothers to leave Bejuss alone. By now Make and Mous had made up and were best friends once again. Thanks to Glob, they all had a nice fish for their supper. Glob took it upon himself to feed Bejuss his supper of worms, taking great care not to induce hiccups in the old bird once again. Very soon night took over, and the five goblins turned in.

Bejuss didn’t have to wait long to complete his revenge. Within a few minutes, Neo began snoring, quietly at first. But inevitably, each fresh snore grew louder than its predecessor. The old raven carefully opened the door to his cage. Next, he silently flew to where he had hidden a balled up spider web he had collected earlier that day. With a couple of deft hops along the rafters, he positioned himself above Neo’s bed. Slowly he lowered the ball of spider web on a single thread of silk, until it was just above the goblin’s mouth. The next two snores threatened to dislodge the old raven as the vibrations built up, but he hung on with grim determination. In an ‘it’s now or never’ moment, he lowered the ball of web till it tickled Neo’s tonsils, before rapidly retrieving it. Neo woke, saw nothing, and quickly returned to sleep. As soon as the snoring resumed, Bejuss did it again, with the same result. The old bird kept it up, until eventually Neo turned on his side and peace reigned in the household.

At long last Bejuss returned to his cage after hiding the balled up spider web, with a look of deep satisfaction on his face. From now on whenever Neo snored, Bejuss merely had to repeat the process. Just one good night’s sleep was all he had ever asked for, and now he had the instrument to ensure nocturnal raven bliss forever more, safely stowed away in the rafter above Neo’s bed.

~~~

😉

Got to divert myself…

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…while waiting for sales of my latest novella – Autumn 1066 to pick up, if they ever do. I’ve decided to go ahead with the third edition of Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales. A task I’ve been putting off for ages…

As you can see I already have the new cover, family portrait and revised map, all created by a good friend of mine here in Beccles, Duncan Niall Boswell, featuring Glob and his brothers Make, Mous, Neo and Byz, not forgetting Glob’s old friend Bejuss, the one eyed lisping Raven with a twisted beak. In fact I’ve had them filed away for months on this laptop with the idea of one day creating a top quality third edition.

I’m in no hurry with the task ahead. Where before I would work to a deadline, often sacrificing quality merely to get another ebook out for the hungry market, as I did with the first two versions. Not this time round…

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     From left to right – Glob with Bejuss on his shoulder – lower left, Make –  left, Neo – centre, Mous –  right, and Byz – lower right.

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Reworking the anthology will take most of the rest of this year, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, tale by tale.

More later

😉

Another fantasy short story

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Gorin’s Last Summer

Since Gemlik the last of the mountain ogres had sacrificed his single eye to save the ancient world from the disease of humanity, peace and harmony among all living things had returned once more.

Gorin, the much loved and respected elder and arbitrator of the dwarf clan, had journeyed north with Tallow the giant eagle and the crystal tool fashioned by Troth, to return it to Gemlik to create the replacement for Troth’s Eye.

Now he felt his remaining time and that of his life giving ancestor oak was fast growing short. Like all living things, the link between the pair meant they were born together, lived and died together as is the natural way of things in the world.

~~~

Gorin stirred from his long winter slumber beneath the warm down-filled covers of his bed, and lifted his weary head from his soft cobweb pillow. He pulled the curtains back and opened his bedroom window above his bed to gaze at the world outside.

Through still sleepy eyes, he marvelled at the sight of fresh spring grasses, flowers, and the already fattening buds of wild fruits. His old face once more felt the delicate touch of clean fresh spring air wafting through the window of his home in the exposed roots of his life giving oak tree. The time for sleep was over for another year.

Gorin dearly loved his snug little home. Until both tree and dwarf reached two hundred summers, nature demanded that the young tree’s dwarf shelter in the leaf litter and grass beneath its branches during the summer, while in winter, it had to seek refuge in whatever hole beneath the ground that it could find.

In those early years Gorin was forced to keep one eye open in the darkness of the holes he sought shelter in with his trusty knife grasped firmly in his hand ready to defend himself if need be. Often, he would find himself sharing the tight, pitch-dark confines with moles, rats, mice, voles, rabbits, weasels, stoats, worms, snails, slugs or snakes.

This was the time in a young dwarf’s life when he either learnt the craft of diplomacy and negotiation that all dwarfs were renowned for, or perish at the claws and teeth of whoever the occupant may be.

On numerous occasions he had to escape from the creatures he shared with in those early years, before the notion of eating a tasty young dwarf to stave off their own hunger brought on by the chronic shortage of food in the frozen wintery underworld, even entered their minds.

Gorin had survived those early winters by adding guile to his armoury, often saving himself from a cruel death by striking them hard on the nose with his tiny fist in the case of snakes, or by painfully plucking whiskers and stabbing his attackers faces with the sharp point of his knife, in the case of the weasels, mice, rats and stoats, distracting them long enough for him to escape.

In those times the one animal Gorin preferred sharing with above all others was a member of the mole clan. He would often spend the hours of the long winter nights deep in conversation with his friendly host, sharing food supplies. Often the pair hunted together for food during the brief hours of daylight, always providing that the snow was not too deep outside.

Unlike you and I who continue our kind by being born out of the union between a male and a female of our species, all ancients were born a day or two after the new seedling of their clan tree species first poked its head above ground, living as long as their tree does. The ancients have no concept of family as you and I know it. Instead they owe allegiance to their birth tree first, their clan second and finally to nature and the world itself.

~~~

A thousand summers ago, when his life giving oak and he had witnessed two hundred summers, he had sought its permission to hollow out his home in its largest exposed root.

In that wonderful summer, he first fashioned from a knot-hole in the great root a tiny circular door, before opening up a short passageway with two doors leading off it to the left and right, with a third at the end.

The door on the left led into his larder where he kept his supply of edible acorns and the occasional piece of honeycomb, which the bees kindly left at his door from time to time. All were stored on expertly fashioned shelves, made from twigs which he had gathered and carefully split with his knife.

His supply of acorn ale was stored in dwarf sized barrels, constructed from tiny staves split from his supply of twigs, and bound with green vines, which as they dried out, tightened their grip on the staves. He brewed a fresh supply of ale each spring, making sure to prepare the ingredients in his chestnut shell bath before he went to sleep at the beginning of each winter.

The door on the right opened into his windowless warm living room, softly lit by glow-worms, where his armchair, fashioned from acorn cups, furnished with cobweb cushions, took up most of the tiny room.

Beside it sat a small table, constructed from a dried toadstool, where he kept his bark paged life journal, in which he recorded everything of great interest to a well schooled dwarf. Beside it sat his Wren-feathered quill pen and his tiny bottle of blackberry juice ink. At the foot of his chair was a small stool made from an upturned acorn cup for his feet to rest upon in front of his fireplace.

The door at the end of the passage opened into his tiny bedroom with an equally tiny round window, expertly glazed with a semi-transparent moth wing which let soft light through, decorated with curtains made from multicoloured butterfly wings. During the warmer seasons, always providing of course that he remembered to open it to see out and to allow fresh air to enter, he could look out from the comfort of his warm bed at the world outside if his bones ached too much, or if he had a summer cold.

~~~

For the last three hundred summers, Gorin found himself increasingly confined to his bed much more than he would like by the many ailments that now plagued him due to his great age.

“I feel the time for birth planting is fast approaching us friend oak,” he sighed. His life giving oak flexed its equally ancient branches in agreement. When the last leaf finally fell from the great oak’s branches as winter finally gripped the land, both oak and dwarf would die.

Between them they had seen twelve hundred summers and witnessed many new birth plantings by all of the ancient clans.

Both knew they still had one last summer left to enjoy together. Gorin realized that very soon he would have to carefully search out a special site for the new planting, and he also knew he would have to climb his oak’s great trunk to select the very best seed acorn. This was a hazardous task for one so small should he have to climb its rough outer bark. If a hungry bird or beast spied him as he climbed aloft, he knew that he would surely die.

But Gorin knew of a secret space inside his oak. He had found it when he was excavating fresh storage space six hundred summers earlier, which led upward to the first branches emerging at the back of a hole in the trunk where a pair of squirrels had made their home.

He realised that when he made the long final climb in search of a seed acorn, it must be of the finest quality. To plant a diseased acorn, or one partially nibbled by the creatures living in the oak’s branches, would only result in a deformed oak sapling, and the dwarf it would produce would surely prove malevolent.

~~~

He swung his feet out of bed and stood on the warm dry moss mat beside his bed, searching for his boots, trousers, jerkin, jacket and hat. Over the long winter months he had constantly tossed and turned, spilling his clothes onto the floor.

A loud knock on his door startled him. Quickly donning his clothes he walked down the passage to his front door. “Who is it?” Gorin enquired nervously as his forehead furrowed deeply with worry while he brandished a cudgel in his tiny fist. The very loud knocking had clearly unsettled him.

“It’s me,” replied a loud voice.

Gorin, still not yet fully awake asked once more, “Who?”

“It’s me Tellik uncle Gorin,” the voice announced.

Gorin carefully opened his door and peered outside. A young and healthy plains ogre towered above him. “Ah my boy it is so good to see you, how are you?”

Tellik was the product of the birth-planting Gorin had performed when Gemlik gave him the precious seed from his own witch-hazel tree two hundred summers earlier. Gorin had tended the young seedling daily and when Tellik emerged into the world, took it upon himself to school the ogre youngling in the ways of nature and the world.

For the remaining summer months, Tellik carried Gorin wherever he wished to go as the ancient dwarf said farewell to all of his friends among the countless clans. All the while Gorin was looking for that special place where the planting would take place.

One morning in late summer Gorin asked Tellik to lift him high into the oak’s branches, not needing to use his hidden stairway inside the oak’s trunk. As the last leaves turned brown, Gorin finally found the acorn he was looking for.

“It’s time young Tellik. We leave tomorrow morn.” Tellik, despite his fearsome reputation and great size, shed a tear. While he knew it was his duty to carry the one being in the world he loved beyond all others on his final journey, he dearly wished that he didn’t have to.

The following morning saw Tellik standing on the highest side of Gorin’s valley, tenderly holding the old dwarf, barely alive, in one of his gigantic hands. Gorin opened his eyes one last time to see his ancestor oak finally shed its last leaf.

Tellik obeyed Gorin’s dying wish with tears flowing uncontrollably down his fearsome face. He gently laid the ancient dwarf’s lifeless body on the ground and carefully planted the precious seed acorn before lovingly burying his dearest friend close by in a tiny grave.

The following spring Tellik returned to tend the new sapling. When its dwarf was born, he began to school it, ensuring the continued friendship both ogre and dwarves have for one another and their shared respect for the ancient world in which they live.

As the dwarf youngling grew, his giant ogre friend and teacher continued his schooling until the end of his own days. When Tellik eventually died, it was his dwarf pupil who carried out the ritual birth planting for the next plains ogre as is the way of things.

Carefully clutching Gorin’s bark paged life journal, Wren-feathered quill pen and bottle of blackberry juice ink, gifted to him by his beloved friend Tellik, he set off on his own life adventure. His first task was to find his own name…

🙂

 

A Fantasy Short Story

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Roggan’s Tower

Everything that he had ever been told about the crumbling old tower high on the hills above the dead plains of Azurewrath was true after all.

Shivers ran up Gareth’s strong back as his vivid grey eyes took in every evil detail. The legend often told by storytellers, said it was once the abode of the last of the noble dragon warriors of old – Lord Roggan, sword master and champion of Azurewrath’s great king, Borr the bald.

Now the time had finally arrived when peace and stability across the land had been driven beyond recent memory by the tower’s current occupant the wizard Theophas. He was by far the cruellest of all the Black Order of Deighny ever to venture into the western plains. Thanks to his evil purposes, the ancient tower now became the centre of his conjured malevolence as it spread its tentacles far and wide across the land, killing every living thing in its path.

The charm that hung from its simple hide cord around Gareth’s strong neck held the life sapping evil at bay at least for now. But should Theophas or one of his minion’s spy him from afar, who knew how long the charm’s magic would hold out against the wizard’s steadily growing power.

The skies over ancient Azurewrath grew darker as Theophas increased the intensity of his evil magic, blotting out the warmth of the life giving sun above and covering the slowly dying land with thick swirling black clouds. Soon all of Azurewrath would be consumed by deep gloom and death.

Gareth hid in a small depression behind hardy thorn bushes that still barely clung to life, looking for any sign of movement from the tower less than a thousand paces hence. As he watched, his right hand gently caressed a horned tip of the bow Niom last owned by Borr the bald, slung across his powerfully muscled back, while the fingers of his left hand stroked the feathered flight of Meorth, the one true arrow.

~~~

Neither Niom nor Meorth was by any means considered ordinary in their construction. Both were born out of deep and powerful magic. Meorth was designed for one purpose and one only – to kill Theophas. Its shaft was carved from a carefully selected single sliver of the mighty tree Bragaroth, the first scion of the yew nation and god of Gareth’s tribe.

The sliver had been extracted from beneath a thin piece of bark that still grew on the ancient magical yew’s northern side where it stored most of its poison. The arrow’s feathered flights were meticulously prepared from the last tail feather of the great eagle Crag after he had succumbed to Theophas’ evil. Its razor sharp, magically beaten and viciously barbed iron head was carefully fashioned within the last forge of the mountain dwarves, two hundred leagues to the south. The dwarves had summoned the breath of Lord Draco the last dragon, for the fiery magical task.

Borr’s great bow Niom was already over a thousand summers old when it was passed to him on the death of his father for the kingship initiation right, when he was just a youth of sixteen summers. Had he failed to string the great bow, young prince Borr would not have succeeded in taking his place upon the throne as king of Azurewrath. No one alive at the time, or even now, knew what great magic had made the wondrous weapon in the dim past. After Borr died without issue some two hundred summers ago, according to custom, Niom’s bowstring was duly severed until a new king was pronounced.

During a time of great and violent turmoil, deep unrest and bloody war between Azurewrath’s many tribes since Borr’s death, his great bow lay unstrung. Many of his own tribe, the dragon warriors, tried over the years to claim the kingship by attempting to string it, but none succeeded despite their great strength. In the end Niom lay forgotten and soon passed into memory along with its illustrious previous owner.

Then one day purely by chance, or by design, while on a hunting trip, Gareth found its hiding place in the ruins of Borr’s old castle. The young warrior immediately took it to Magleb, the dragon tribe’s venerable shaman. The old man’s excitement grew as he cleaned it up, fully realising what it was the young warrior had found.

At about the same time as Gareth’s discovery, Theophas arrived in the land of Azurewrath and took up residence in Roggan’s old tower, making it his own. By the second summer of Theophas’ evil occupancy, hundreds had already died or simply run as far away as they could in fear of the wizard’s creeping life sucking evil.

Magleb called a meeting of the remaining warriors of the dragon tribe, worshipers of mighty Bragaroth, determined to end Theophas’ hold over Azurewrath forever. Holding Borr’s magnificent bow Niom aloft in one hand, restored to the world once more, with a new bow string made from the steel-like sinew of a buffalo’s hind leg in his other, he challenged anyone assembled there to try to string the bow.

Of all there that day only Gareth managed the task. Magleb took it as an omen of great portent. It was as if magical Niom had somehow sought the young warrior out.

At the end of the moon cycle Magleb emerged from his workshop victorious, holding the one true arrow. Now Theophas’ nemesis was ready to end his evil occupation of Azurewrath. Uttering a magical incantation, Magleb named the one true arrow Meorth, bringer of death.

~~~

Gareth watched nervously as Theophas sent out a great cloud of his flying minions to spy on the land. His heart gladdened as they flew away towards the setting sun. Soon it would be time for him to get within striking distance.

The thick unnatural gloom of the day slowly turned to moonless night beneath the evil black swirling clouds created by Theophas. Gareth knew that he would be doubly vigilant now that night was falling, while he was alone in his tower without the immediate protection of his ever vigilant minions. The wizard would be watching the surrounding countryside intently, aided by the reflective mirror surface of the mercury filled golden bowl in his workshop for any sign of life or movement.

The time for concealment had now arrived. Covering his entire body in a mixture of wet clay, dead grass, dust and twigs, Gareth began crawling slowly towards a knoll on the eastern side of Roggan’s tower, less than sixty paces away from the crumbling edifice. As he progressed towards his objective, he realised just how exposed he was while he crossed the open grassland, especially now that the grass beneath him was dead and fast crumbling to dust. With every deliberately slow forward movement Gareth drew closer, until eventually he was within bowshot.

Carefully raising his head, he scanned the area between the two spires of Roggan’s tower where the window of Theophas’ workshop looked out onto the world. Laying both Niom and Meorth on the dusty ground in front of him, he temporarily covered them with dry grass while he lay in wait.

From inside his workshop Theophas watched the world beyond his window appear on the surface of the mercury filled bowl. Uttering an incantation, his cruel eyes watched as the reflected image increased in magnification. Something had caught his attention.

Gareth lay face down as still as a corpse, hardly daring to draw breath. The charm around his neck glowed deep red while vibrating its warning against both the ground he lay on and the muscles of his chest as the bowl magically surveyed the open ground where he lay.

Theophas carefully inspected the reflected view and then relaxed. It showed nothing more than dead grass, clay, dust and twigs. He walked across his workshop to the great east window and looked out over his slowly dying domain.

With one fluid movement, Gareth purposefully rose to one knee while at the same time fitting Meorth’s notch to Niom’s already taught bow string. The muscles of his strong right arm quivered under the immense physical effort needed as he pulled the string back, until both of Niom’s horned tips almost touched. He closed one eye. With the other, he carefully aimed Meorth’s viciously barbed tip, a hands breadth above Theophas’ head.

Quietly uttering the incantation designed by Magleb to make Meorth’s path true, which the old shaman had made him repeat endlessly until it was firmly fixed in his mind, he relaxed the fingers of his right hand, releasing their grip of the bowstring.

For a few brief moments he watched as Meorth flew in a high arc through the night until he could see it no more. Too late Theophas saw his nemesis. In less than the time it takes to draw a single breath it pierced his left eye. Meorth cleaved Theophas’ malevolent brain in two while lodging itself firmly in the back of his skull fixed by its barbs. The wizard’s cruel face twisted into a deathly frightening grimace in that final brief moment of life. No sound escaped his cruel thin lips as Meorth’s great magic took hold.

Instantly Theophas’ brain became nothing but crumbling dust as the deadly poison leached rapidly through his body from Meorth’s yew shaft, ending his life and his evil hold over the land forever. In so doing, the one true arrow also destroyed the wizard’s conjured minions at the same time.

~~~

The first light of a new dawn appeared over ancient Azurewrath. Gareth re-entered the glade where mighty Bragaroth stood. Magleb sat with his eyes closed while a broad smile lit up his face as he rested against the yew’s aged trunk. All members of Gareth’s tribe enjoyed the simple pleasure of the sun’s warmth once again as it steadily rose above the eastern horizon.

Slowly over the next few months the land came back to life. The skies above cleared. The sun shone, and plants grew aplenty. A new age arrived as the ancient land settled back into peace and prosperity once more under the leadership of its new young king Gareth, holder of the bow Niom, and slayer of Theophas. He ruled benevolently for the rest of his days from his home high above the now fertile plains of Azurewrath in the rebuilt magnificence of Roggan’s Tower.

Mounted on the wall above Gareth’s throne, the great bow Niom and the one true arrow Meorth stood as a powerful symbol for good. Their likeness became the basis of king Gareth’s coat of arms in the new age of enlightenment which spread far and wide beyond Azurewrath’s farthest boundaries.

😉

Written Just For You

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A Debt of Gratitude

Melchior Abanabas Grundwinkle or Barney to his friends, was not your average sorcerer’s apprentice. His master Greywand, against his better judgment, had accepted him when his father had pleaded with the old sorcerer to take his son as his apprentice in lieu of payment for the great debt of gratitude he owed Greywand for getting him released from Baron Shallemont’s dungeon.

Shallemont ruled his lands and the surrounding district with fear and great brutality. No one, not even his own family was safe. Indeed, Shallemont had his firstborn son Magnus summarily beheaded in the town square for daring to speak up for a man wrongly accused of theft.

Greywand was the only person within his sphere of influence that Shallemont truly feared. Twice in the last ten years Greywand had cast a spell over Shallemont to remind him of his fragile mortality, once by turning him into a kid goat in the presence of his entire court, the other in the town square in front of the peasantry by turning him into a toad.

Greywand was untouchable and had to be listened to because he was immortal. In fact he was the only true immortal left in the world. All the others had left this earthly plane centuries ago, disgusted by the way mortals like Shallemont behaved. Greywand made it his responsibility to keep him in check.

Despite being known as Greywand’s apprentice, in reality Barney was nothing more than a sweeper up and tidier of the sorcerer’s bookshelves in the back storeroom. Greywand absolutely forbade him entry to his magical laboratory. It had taken him twenty thousand years to accumulate all of his ingredients and his equipment and there was no room for a bumble footed, seriously accident prone, daydreaming youth.

Barney had one particular talent in his favour, he was a natural learner by observation, a fact he kept to himself. Daily he quietly observed every spell Greywand experimented with, and every spell he used successfully, carefully and methodically learning the way they worked in combination with the relevant potions via the keyhole in Greywand’s locked laboratory door.

From time to time when Greywand was in one of his rare good moods, he would call Barney into the inner sanctum and allow him to watch as he tried out his latest potion or spell on his longsuffering familiar Krark.

Barney always felt sorry for the ancient raven. The last time Greywand had subjected it to one of his experimental potions mixed with its accompanying spell, poor Krark’s magnificent jet black plumage turned bright pink, then a sickly mix of yellow and magenta before falling out altogether.

While Greywand’s back was turned Barney scooped up the old bird, wrapped his naked body gently in his kerchief and took the shivering and humiliated creature back to the warmth of the one blanket he had on his rough straw mattress bed in the tiny chamber he slept in behind the sorcerer’s library. Over time, thanks to Barney’s gentle ministering, Krark’s plumage gradually grew back.

Krark never forgot Barney’s kindness to him. Despite the code of the familiar, which clearly states that under no circumstances was a familiar to talk to a mortal under pain of death, Krark and Barney spoke often in hushed whispers when they both knew that Greywand was preoccupied with yet another experimental potion or spell. In fact they had become the very best of friends, thanks to Barney’s unselfish act of kindness, always looking out for one another.

If Barney got into his master’s bad books by committing some minor misdemeanour or indiscretion by his natural clumsiness, Krark was always there to distract the old sorcerer allowing his friend to escape; far better to be out of sight and out of mind until Greywand calmed down. After all his temper was known by all within a thousand leagues.

If it looked as if another indignity or something extremely unpleasant or possibly life threatening was about to happen to Krark again, hiding behind the locked door with his eye to the keyhole, Barney would knock loudly on the door to distract Greywand allowing his feathered friend to fly out of the window to safety.

~~~

Since his first toddling steps, Barney had been in love with Clotilde the daughter of the equally foul tempered village smith – Magg. One particularly cold night Barney blurted out to Krark his fondest hope and dream that one day he would be worthy of his sweet love Clotilde, able to take her far away and for them to marry. The real obstruction in Barney’s love life was her father, who Barney liked to refer to as Maggot in secret. No one was good enough to ask for Clotilde’s hand in his cruel eyes, least of all a bumbling, clumsy, lazy good for nothing sorcerer’s apprentice. Besides which, he needed his daughter to cook and clean for him.

Clotilde always looked kindly on accident prone Barney; she loved him dearly. When they were five, Barney had plucked up the courage to kiss her cheek when they were playing their childish games in the river meadow beneath the village. She had giggled and blushed and kissed his cheek in turn, giving him a token of their innocent love in the form of a pretty mauve primrose.

As if to prove his tale, Barney thrust his hands under the rough straw mattress of his bed and found the precious love token. He carefully retrieved it and held it in his open palm for the old bird to see before sniffing it with his eyes screwed shut, recalling that day when the childhood sweethearts had declared their eternal love for one another.

~~~

Over the long winter months, Krark began to hatch a plan in his small bird brain. It hurt his head a great deal, because as anyone can tell you a bird’s brain is not designed to think about complicated problems. Wondering how to extract a wood worm from an old beam is one thing, or to catch a spider. But solving the stumbling block to his friend’s happiness was quite another altogether. But Krark was determined; he had decided that come what may, his friend Barney was in sore need of good fortune when it came to the love of his life.

As usual, Greywand barely noticed as the old bird paced back and forth on its perch, opening and closing its wings, tilting its head from side to side, as it tried very hard to think of a solution to its friend’s problem. After all that was what birds did – pace back and forth; nothing unusual there. Therefore nothing for a busy sorcerer to be concerned about.

Ever since Greywand had carefully selected Krark’s egg from others in the nest by weighing it in his scrawny hand, tapping it and smelling it, to ensure that its inhabitant was fit for the role of familiar, Krark had known nothing of life but his lonely role here in the sorcerer’s home; never once experiencing the pure pleasure of flying through the trees of the forest feeling the breeze ruffle his feathers, or to fly across the open fields and thick hedgerows, or even the joy of companionship of his own kind, nor the joy of a mate.

Over the many long years of his sometimes reluctant service to the sorcerer, the old bird had watched him at work from his perch beside the bench, more often though from the relative safety of the rafters beneath the thatched roof of the draughty old house, out of reach. Then one day in late January, as if someone had lifted a great cloud from his tiny bird brain, Krark knew exactly how he could repay Barney’s kindness.

~~~

Over the ten thousand years of his existence, Greywand had steadily accumulated countless thousands of potions and spells, some tried, others not. Five thousand years ago his house was so cluttered with them that in complete exasperation he cast a spell to create more shelf space. Literally every wall of every room beyond the laboratory within Greywand’s house was covered in shelves bursting at the seams and seriously overloaded.

A thousand years ago, the last tiny space on the very last shelf in the attic was filled. So Greywand had to either move to larger premises or conjure once more. All experimentation ceased for several fraught days and nights as the old sorcerer cursed and angrily threw endless numbers of spell books aside in his frustrated search.  He poured over his most powerful books of spells looking for just the right one for his needs. Eventually he found what he was looking for.

Greywand disappeared in a puff of smoke and reappeared moments later in his favourite grove deep in the forest. He searched the entire grove for the ingredients for the spell, spending hours sniffing, tasting and crushing all manner of herb, fungus, poisonous plant, root, flower and vine. Next he hunted among the dead and rotting remains of fallen branches and trees, searching out the insects and small animals he needed. All manner of beetle, worm, snake, shrew, mouse, newt and toad were required. Fortunately the one beetle not freshly available to him – the Scarab, he already had in powdered form back in his laboratory.

Krark jumped off his perch and flew into the rafters when a loud crack accompanied by choking smoke signalled Greywand’s return.

Greywand immediately went to work adding the ingredients according to the spell’s instructions while carefully stirring the stinking brew and invoking the many incantations at the precise moment they were required. Eventually the potion was ready.

Careful not to let any of the bubbling mess touch his clothes or skin, Greywand dipped a wooden spoon into the cauldron and walked across to the only remaining free wall space in his laboratory, careful not to spill a drop of the potion on the floor. Uttering the spell’s final instructions, he slowly marked a rectangle on the wattle and daub wall in the shape of a doorway with the mixture. Then he chanted the very last line of the spell. Nothing happened! Perhaps he had got the ingredients mixed up, or perhaps he had mispronounced a line or a word in the spell.

His former companion Osmodious, a horned owl, watched the whole thing in the way that only an owl can. He had his back to the wall, but his head had swiveled round to watch the proceedings. Greywand’s anger and frustration boiled over and Osmodious rapidly retreated to the rafters. He watched as the sorcerer smashed everything in sight in a blind rage, knocking all of his precious equipment to the floor, throwing iron pots, skillets, precious phials, and the book in which the spell lived with its kin, to the floor. Greywand ranted and raved, cursed and cried until eventually his temper and frustration left him. Disheartened he retired to his bedchamber.

The next morning as the first light of dawn thrust itself sleepily through the barred window of Greywand’s laboratory, Osmodious noticed something very curious; where before there had been nothing but blank wall, a brand new door now occupied the space. He flew up to Greywand’s bedchamber and alighted on the bed’s headboard above the still sleeping sorcerer. He screeched as loudly as he could to announce his presence to his sleeping master.

Greywand opened one eye. The owl flew back downstairs screeching all the while and perched directly above the new door awaiting his master. Greywand soon appeared in his grubby nightgown. Osmodious flew down and paced back and forth in front of the new door. Greywand was beside himself with joy, the spell had worked after all. He cackled as he danced a dance of pure joy, hopping from one bony foot to the other, clapping his scrawny hands together, and doing something that Osmodious had never witnessed before – he actually smiled!

~~~

Krark had never seen what was on the other side of the door. It was the second month after he had moulted. He had been busy admiring his new feathers in the dish of water on Greywand’s side bench. What fine shiny black feathers he had grown. Greywand had taken the key to the door from its hook on the wall and beckoned his apprentice familiar to sit on his shoulder. Krark watched the shiny new key being inserted into the heavy lock and heard the sound as its sturdy mechanism unlocked.

Greywand and Krark entered through the doorway into an endless room in the ether beyond the physical world, illuminated by magic and filled as far as the eye could see with cupboards and shelves. In this magic room Greywand would never again run out of shelf space.

There was a ladder close beside the door reaching up into the darkness for those hard to reach top shelves if Greywand was feeling fit enough. However, as was his want, the old sorcerer preferred to call out the name of whatever potion, spell or ingredient he required instead. To Krark’s amazement it flew gently from where it was housed into the waiting outstretched sorcerer’s scrawny hand.

In that room Krark hoped he would find exactly what was needed to help his friend Barney and his problem with Clotilde’s cruel father Magg.

~~~

That night when they both knew that Greywand was fast asleep, the two friends stole into the laboratory after Krark had silently flown into the sorcerer’s bedchamber and stolen the laboratory key. He now flew across to where the magic storeroom’s key hung, picked it up in his beak and flew back to Barney, carefully dropping it into his hand. Barney very carefully inserted the key, turned it, and then gently pushed the door open. For several hours the pair searched and searched the endless room looking for a particular spell and potion that Krark remembered from his post-fledgling days.

An hour before dawn their search was done, the door and the laboratory door were both relocked, and their keys both returned to their rightful places. Now all they had to do was wait for a day and a night, until Greywand left for his annual meeting with the magic council, in his capacity as its grand master. There were grave matters to discuss and two lowly semi immortal witches to be disposed of for the cardinal sin of revealing a spell to a mortal.

The hours seemed to crawl agonizingly by as Barney and Krark waited for their master to leave on his long journey to the opposite side of the world; but eventually his horse disappeared over the horizon. He would be gone for several months, more than enough time for Krark’s plan to be put into action.

That very night, clothed in Greywand’s cloak of invisibility with Krark sitting on his shoulder beneath the garment Barney made his way to Magg’s smithy. The old bird flew up to Magg’s bedchamber window and tapped loudly on the window’s wooden bars. Magg’s eyes opened as Krark flew back down to where Barney stood completely hidden from view. Magg unbolted the downstairs door and peered into the darkness. Barney deliberately kicked a stack of pig iron sending it clattering noisily to the floor. Brandishing a lit torch in one hand, Magg angrily grabbed an iron bar with the other and began searching for the intruder.

Barney and Krark silently stole past him into the house, hidden by the cloak. Now their plan could be put into action. As Magg searched outside, Barney carefully uncorked the potion they had brought with them while whispering the incantation necessary to complete the spell. Next they stole up the rough wooden ladder to Clotilde’s bedchamber where they silently waited for the spell to take effect.

A commotion downstairs signalled that the spell had worked. Quickly Barney shook his beloved Clotilde awake, and, holding a finger to her lips, he beckoned her to join him beneath the cloak. Krark led the way downstairs once more and the trio disappeared into the night. By the time dawn arrived the two lovers and their friend Krark were many leagues away from the only home any of them had ever known.

~~~

 On the first day of spring with Krark attending his best friend by holding the wedding rings made from woven flowers in his beak, Clotilde and Barney pledged themselves to each other, declaring their undying love for all eternity, beneath a sycamore tree in the glade beyond their new home.

Krark found love that year and made his home in the old tree at the bottom of his friend’s garden. In time both Barney and Krark became proud parents. In Barney’s case his darling Clotilde gave him a beautiful daughter who he named Erin. Erin was the apple of her father’s eye. Krark and his mate brought their brood down from the nest every day, and between them, Barney and Krark spent hours regaling their adventures when they had both been apprenticed to Greywand.

~~~

For some reason Greywand never returned. Perhaps his foul temper had finally got him into trouble. And what of Magg I hear you cry?

The day after Clotilde, Barney and Krark had left; the village was woken by a great commotion within the smithy. Fearful of Magg’s wrath, the villagers nervously peered in through the window of his home. All was chaos. Benches were upturned along with the table, crockery smashed. Something heavy struck the wall where the window was. Then the door was smashed off its leather hinges as the cause of all the commotion burst forth into the daylight. It was Magg, transformed forever into a braying Jackass by Melchior Abanabas Grundwinkle apprentice sorcerer, or Barney to his friends…

😉