When Bejuss first appears in Goblin Tales

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Bejuss’ great grand-nephew Braak

As I’m rewriting my fantasy anthology Goblin Tales, I thought I’d let you read about when I introduced my favourite character of them all – a one eyed lisping raven with a twisted beak. I couldn’t get a picture of him as he’s extremely shy. So the one of Braak will have to suffice.

~~~

A Spell is Cast

     In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), assisted by worthy allies, do battle to save their humin friend Mica and his entire village from the effects of powerful black magic.

~~~

     In the midst of a violent stormy night a mighty lightning bolt hit the ancient oak tree where Glob and his brothers lived, immediately followed by an ear-splitting clap of thunder, throwing them all into a state of sheer panic. They were forced to flee in the torrential rain and head for the relative safety of Miranda’s stable.

~~~

     “Oh here me dark spirits; I call on thee in this my time of revenge, to strike down mine enemies. Spirits deliver upon them all evil devices. I command thee to make their worthless lives a misery,” her voice shrilled, even though she could not be heard beyond the precincts of the cave she occupied, thanks to the continuous lightning strikes and claps of thunder, created by her powerful magic. The flashes of the lightning bolts illuminated her cruel face, twisted as it was into a grimace of pure hatred, disfigured by a festering sore on her forehead. She hobbled between her workbench and cauldron, despite the great pain of her grossly bent back and deformed legs, adding ingredients as she increased the power of her spell. No living thing had noticed she had taken up residence in the shallow cave in the thickly wooded slopes east of the village, accompanied by her familiar, two days earlier.

The effects of her spell immediately induced a host of crippling maladies in the humin village. Boils, festering sores, vomiting, diarrhoea and chronic physical pain violently struck its residents low. From inside Miranda’s stable, the now thoroughly soaked goblin brothers could hear the groans and cries coming from the village in the brief lull between lightning bolt and clap of thunder, not yet realising that evil that had struck down their humin friends.

~~~

     The next morning, the magically induced storm finally abated and Byz had trapped himself a new pet in the witch cage. Grouzle had choked to death a couple of days earlier, after trying to swallow Byz’ gold ring. “Look – gots me a new pretty birdy!” he said, proudly showing his latest pet to his brothers. His simpleton’s grin broke out, showing his sheer delight from where he sat tethered to one of Miranda’s back legs. Glob and his brothers stared at the new pet for long time with a mixture of deep suspicion, fear, and curiosity. A bedraggled one-eyed raven with a deformed beak peered suspiciously back at them through the bars of the witch cage.

“Wot’s yer name thens bird?” Neo cautiously enquired.

“Arrk – me miththtreth callth me Bejuthth,” the raven lisped, prevented from telling a lie by the strong magic of the cage.

“Whoth – sorrys, I does begs pardons bird, I’s means whose yer mistress thens?” Glob enquired, quickly correcting himself, not wishing to upset the old raven by copying its speech impediment. Careful to interpret the answers correctly, he determined its name was in fact Bejuss and its mistress’ name was Cazophen. Through careful questioning, the old bird revealed she had returned to the valley a few days ago, after spending ten long summers learning the black arts from the black wizard Crellen, who found her near death and nursed her back to health. Bejuss went on to explain how Mica’s parents and their fellow villagers, had accused her of being a witch all those years ago, after Yestin had noticed something suspicious on her shoulder. In fact she was not a witch of any kind, merely an innocent young girl with a peculiar birthmark. Young Cazophen was a natural healer. Perhaps professional jealousy was the reason for Yestin’s accusation, no one really knew. But all those summers ago, strange and frightening things occurred within the confines of the village. Many people were struck down with various maladies. According to Yestin, black magic was at work. He proclaimed Cazophen was its practitioner. At his command they branded her witch with a burning piece of wood, leaving a hideous scar on her forehead that never healed, yet more proof to all the nervous and highly superstitious villagers that their shaman’s belief about her was true after all. A few days after the ritual branding, the men of the humin village dragged her screaming and pleading for mercy from the cage she had been put in. They threw her off a cliff at the far end of the valley, believing they had killed her. This was the reason for her bent back and hobbling gate. But now she had returned schooled in the black arts, with revenge filling her angry tortured soul.

Bejuss was completely terrified by her and the vicious storm she had conjured to hide herself. Once her spell was cast he seized upon the opportunity to quickly take flight while she was distracted. Seeking shelter and safety, the old raven flew into Miranda’s stable during the violence of the night.

~~~

     Glob signalled to his brothers to follow him outside into the sunshine. “Brothers, we needs ter finds us some help n quicks sharp like,” the old goblin announced as a look of deep concern for their friend Mica and the villagers, mixed with fear of what the witch might do next, rapidly spread across his face. “Neo, takes Miranda n head east ter finds our friend Brilith n brings her back ere afore nightfall. Now orf wiv yer sharpish like,” Glob commanded. Neo quickly explained to his dear friend Miranda what was needed and soon the pair galloped east through the woods. “Right Mous, takes Make n go n check on yung Mica n sees how he is – orf with yer now, no times ter waste!” Glob began. “I’ll goes orf ter the south on the valley n summon Yathle. We needs her help agin. Dark deeds require powerful weapons ter counter em.” Glob took off at a steady loping pace carrying his magical staff with its emerald tip to summon the goblin friendly wyvern. By nightfall Neo and Miranda had returned with the white witch Brilith, who along with the rest, sat in a tight circle hidden from view beneath Yathle’s great spiked wings in a council of war.

~~~

     The black slit pupils of Yathle’s mesmerizing golden eyes expanded as the evening light faded. She looked at each and every one of the small band in turn. Her great armoured head, similar in shape to her distant cousins, the dragons, twisted and inclined slightly as she carefully studied her companions. Her snakelike tail with its vicious barbs swept slowly from side to side tearing up the grass, briar patches and nettles behind her. The metallic coloured scales on her chest barely flexed as she breathed. Her thick and powerful legs with their two toed feet, each armed with razor sharp claws, bent at the knee allowing her to sit on the ground. She had willingly come before when Glob had summoned her to do battle with the griffin. Now she was ready once again to serve her goblin friends in their hour of need in any way she could.

“Cazophen muzt av a weaknezz,” Mous offered.

From his perch within the witch cage, Bejuss lisped, “thhe duth; thhe love’th the thound on pipeth.”

“What iz pipez?” Mous wondered out loud, shaking his head as he desperately tried to understand the old bird’s lisping speech.

“Shuddup Mous! E means pipes – pipes yer plays musik wiv.” Neo grumbled, feeling decidedly nervous, encircled as he was by Yathle’s wings, feeling her hot breath on the back of his head.

“Zorryz I’z zure,” Mous muttered angrily under his breath.

“Still it cud comes in handy like,” Make added, puffing on his pipe, “knowing her weakness I’s means.”

“Brilith have yer any suggestions?” Glob asked of the plump, kind hearted white witch.

Before she could reply, Yathle stretched her wings and said, “I have a suggestion my dear, if Brilith will excuse my interruption. My nose will soon smell Cazophen out once I’m up there in the sky. But we need to draw her out from her hiding place first. Who among you can play the pipes?” she asked, as a tiny puff of smoke escaped from her nostrils.

“I’s can. I’s knows how,” Byz replied, much to everyone’s surprise. From beneath his jerkin, he produced a new set of reed pipes and began quietly playing a pretty tune. Since he had been forcibly confined, tethered to one or other of his brothers, Byz had found a talent he never knew he had.

“I can conjure a protection spell for the whole humin village in the meantime. At least that way they will not be attacked again,” Brilith added, moving a little distance away to prepare the spell. And so, slowly but surely a plan began to be formulated. Byz with his pipes would be tethered to an oak sapling in the open grassland north of the village, where on a prearranged signal he would begin to play. Meanwhile Brilith would stand at the centre of the village square, ready to counter any further spells that Cazophen may cast. Glob, Neo, Make and Mous would search out the cave guided by Bejuss, who solemnly promised not to fly away.

~~~

     As the first rays of the dawn slowly filled the sky, Cazophen was busy searching for her familiar. “Bejuss, where are you? I need ye eye to search the village and report back to me, blast ye! Bejuss, Bejuss, blast ye bird where are…” Cazophen’s cries fell silent when she heard the most beautiful sound she had ever heard in her entire tortured existence drifting up to her on the morning air from somewhere below. Byz’ haunting melody completely mesmerized her. A smile broke free from her hideously disfigured face. She turned her head left and right trying to determine where the music was coming from. Now completely under the music’s spell, she stepped out from the shadows of her cave and hobbled trancelike down the wooded slope.

Yathle flew south away from the valley before climbing high into the sky, then turned north and slowly circled overhead ready to strike. Brilith readied herself for a battle with Cazophen’s dark magic in the village square. Glob, with Bejuss guiding them from his perch on the old goblin’s shoulder, closely followed by Neo, Make and Mous, steadily climbed through the thickly wooded slopes of the valley towards Cazophen’s cave. The raiding party stopped briefly just outside its entrance. Bejuss flew ahead and carefully peered inside before returning, happy that the cave was empty. Between them, the raiding party destroyed everything within the cave’s confines before rapidly retreating back the way they had come.

Cazophen hobbled her way out from beneath the tree line and moved towards where Byz sat tethered, happily playing his pipes, oblivious to the danger that steadily approached him. Yathle’s keen eyesight focused on the black witch far below before she began a silent but swift power dive towards her quarry. Brilith stepped forward, wand in hand, ready to parry any attack from Cazophen. Glob, Bejuss, Neo, Make and Mous watched the battle slowly unfold before their eyes from the confines of Miranda’s stable, after returning from their mission to the cave.

The spell of Byz’ haunting melody was shattered irretrievably when the ground around Cazophen suddenly erupted in a wall of flame when Yathle delivered a fire bolt from her flared nostrils. At the same moment Brilith conjured a powerful wind and sent it towards the flames. The wind rapidly turned them into a twisting fiery vortex that lifted Cazophen bodily into the air. Meantime Yathle twisted at the last possible moment from her headlong flight towards the ground and seized Cazophen in her cruel claws before biting off her head.

With the death of Cazophen, the power of her spell of revenge was broken. Soon Mica and all of the humins recovered. Not one of the plucky band who had saved the day told the humins anything of the affair, or of Cazophen. Better that they simply thought they had been struck down with terrible ills. Free once more, Bejuss chose to stay with his friends till the end of his days, while Brilith returned to her home in the east unseen by the humins, and Yathle returned to her home beyond the world. Given their fear of magic, there are things in Goblindom that humins should never ever know about. What recently happened was definitely one of them…

More later,

😉

I’ve always suspected this to be the case…

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… but until now there was precious little evidence to back up my theory.

If you live in a country like England, when it comes to making it as a serious writer, believe it or not the two things that will always determine whether or not you succeed are your social class and which school you went to. If you are working class and attended a state school, forget it the publishing houses simply aren’t interested!!

Yesterday the BBC showed a program about why most of today’s top British actors are no longer working class.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31110063

The same criteria applies to many of today’s writers here in England, unlike Scotland who treasure their working class authors, actors and artists.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/07/loneliness-working-class-writer-english-novelists

Fact – unless you are the product of a privileged upbringing (upper middle class or above), meaning you went to a public school like Eton or Harrow and then on to Oxbridge, you will never be taken seriously as a writer in England! After you have read the articles for which I’ve provided you two links, I defy anyone to prove otherwise. Believe it or not acceptance by the publishers has got damn all to do with talent and everything to do with who your people are!

Bah humbug

😦

…my immersion in DEADLY IMPASSE… in more ways than one…

More from that man Seumas in AbaDabaDo land (Abu Dhabi)

Seumas Gallacher

…occasionally Master Gallacher dabbles in poetry… NUTHIN to scare the Laureate Selection Panel, I can assure yeez… I’m a firm believer that the most avid follower of emb’dy’s poetry is usually the Poet/Poetess himself/herself… in essence, it’s a highly personalized thing… and so it is with me… however, there are times when I indulge the bardic Muse when certain trains of thought are bouncing around in my head… when I was squeezing onto the laptop the most recent Jack Calder thriller, DEADLY IMPASSE, I wrote the following as CHAPTER 2

               DEADLY IMPASSE – CHAPTER 2

‘…The intense darkness engulfed the dinghy. Wave after wave crashed heavily along the sides, the spray soaking the passengers. Four dozen people crammed into the craft as its grossly underpowered outboard engine struggled to make headway against the roiling water. The promised lifejackets had not appeared…

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For all scifi fans here’s a teaser

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     There was a time when mankind’s only means of exploring the Universe either meant sending unmanned probes to various locations across our solar system, or exploring beyond its borders using powerful telescopes parked in stationary orbit above the Earth, as well as the hundreds of observatories dotted across the planet. That all changed in the twenty-second century when fusion powered propulsion became a reality, along with a way of keeping a human being alive for the duration of any flight farther than the inner limits of our solar system.

Chapter One

The mission commander took one last look at the beautiful blue planet he and the crew called home as the ship prepared to leave Earth orbit. Now was the time for its crew to enter their stasis units. “If there are any problems at all Céleste, please don’t hesitate to wake me.”

“Understood David,” was the reply that echoed all around him.

Not only the ship but its small crew and the mission itself were in the care of the ship’s state of the art artificial intelligence. For the several decades it would take to achieve their goal, she was in complete control whenever the crew were held in stasis. Once she had ensured he and the rest of the human crew were in a safe state of suspended animation, she uploaded the complicated course with its numerous way points into the ship’s computer. Each waypoint must be reached in a specific order for them to ultimately arrive at the mission’s destination – the exoplanet designated Beaumont 61, located at the absolute outer extremity of the Orion Spur, the same spiral arm in which our own solar system is situated, part of the galaxy we know as the Milky Way.

~~~

     Launch day had finally arrived. The ship was given the name Apkallu, the collective term for the pantheon of gods worshipped by the ancient Sumerians and Akkadians, thousands of years earlier in man’s chequered history. Until Apkallu arrived at the first waypoint, all of the technology and materials used, together with the method of its construction would remain unproven.

Apkallu’s crew consists of the twenty-eight year old mission commander, David O’Leary, who had gained a first in deep field astronomy at University College Dublin. The next crew member is the totally bewitching twenty-five year old Flávia Blanco with two Bachelor of Arts degrees to her name, one in plate tectonics and the other in geomorphology. Given her privileged background, whether or not she actually earned them was another matter entirely. Only time would tell. The third member of the crew is the forty year old self-taught Belgian electronics genius Lukas Gossens. His other talent as a gifted amateur chef negated any need to recruit anyone for the post. The fourth member of the crew is the diminutive thirty-five year old Japanese bio-scientist, Rieko Mori. She earned her two honours degrees, the first in horticulture and the other in exobiology, from Osaka University. Lastly, at fifty-six, the extremely dour doctor, Andreas Georgiadis had graduated thirty years earlier from The School of Medicine at the University of Thessaloniki in Greece. He had been chosen from a list of thousands of highly qualified doctors from across the planet. His field experience with Médecins Sans Frontières in various hotspots, particularly in the Middle East where civil war fuelled by religious intolerance and control over the area’s vast oil deposits still persisted in the twenty-second century, was the deciding factor for his inclusion as part of the crew.

~~~

     Apkallu’s artificial intelligence was christened Céleste by the youthful team of highly gifted bio-electronic software graduates responsible for her creation. The ship’s Fusion reactor was designed and developed by a team of lateral thinking nuclear engineers from China, Korea, Germany and Japan. Lastly, the crew’s individual stasis units were conceived, designed and constructed in India. On reaching the first waypoint situated at the closest position possible to the Andromeda galaxy still within the spiral arm, Cèleste would wake the crew.

She engaged the Fusion powered propulsion system, gradually building up its output to a nominal thirty percent to achieve maximum sub light speed. Even though in theory it was capable of propelling Apkallu at the speed of light, given that it was still untried technology, whether or not it was safe to do so was considered a risk too far by its designers. They believed it was far better to err on the side of caution, unless Apkallu’s crew found the need to use its theoretical maximum speed to extract themselves and the ship from some as yet unforeseen circumstance.

~~~

     Apkallu finally arrived at the first waypoint, five years after leaving Earth orbit. How their bodies would react to being in stasis for an extended period of time was yet another unknown. Céleste had constantly monitored each one of them for any sign of medical problems throughout the entire time it took to get here, paying particular attention to David for reasons which will soon become apparent. Before they could go about their duties, Andreas would have to give each one of them a full medical after first checking himself over.

“David, how do you feel?” she asked with a tinge of concern for him in her voice.

“Lethargic,” he groggily replied, trying with some difficulty to shake off the effects of his unnaturally long period of sleep. “God I’m hungry. I need proper food, not substitutes. How is everyone else?” he asked while he unplugged himself from the unit’s intravenous system that had supplied him with nutrients essential to his wellbeing.

“I’ll check for you.”

“Thank you. While you’re at it can you please ask them all to assemble in the observation lounge, once they’ve been given the all clear by Andreas?”

“Of course David, it will be my pleasure.”

While the crew were slowly recovering from the effects of years of physical inactivity, they took in the magical sight of our sister galaxy, Andromeda, floating in the star filled cosmos beyond the lounge’s vista windows. “Ok people,” David began. “While we all recover from our first taste of being in stasis we’ll remain here for a few days. Once we’re back to normal, we have a couple of tasks to perform before we head for the next waypoint. By that I mean we will be placing the first of a series of listening stations and optical observatories here. In the meantime get as much rest as you possibly can. Always providing of course that the good doctor here is not too insistent upon all of us taking part in some kind of punishing fitness regime he has dreamt up that is.” His last comment drew smiles and laughter from everyone with the exception of Andreas who failed to appreciate David’s joke at his expense. “That’s it for now. Lukas what’s on the menu, I don’t know about the rest of you but I need real food, not those damned stasis unit nutrients?”

“If Flávia and Rieko will consent to give me a hand I’ll rustle up something in a half hour or so,” the Belgian replied as his own belly began grumbling. With that David left to head to his private quarters for the first time in the mission.

~~~

     Even before she spoke, David’s sixth sense told him that Céleste was about to say something. “David, may I have a word please?”

“Of course you can. What is it?” Even though she was nothing more than a disembodied presence to her human crew mates, her creators had given her voice a delightfully seductive French accent, which he found extremely pleasing to the ear.

“I’m curious about something. Can you tell me what is it that attracts a man to a woman?”

David was completely caught off guard by her question. “Well, I can only speak for myself. For me it’s a mixture of her intelligence, personality, attitude and looks, combined with how relaxed she feels in my presence. Take Flávia for example. Her mix of Amazonian Indian and Portuguese ancestry has manifested itself in a typical example of South American womanhood. Unfortunately, she appears to exhibit all the signs of becoming a total pain in the backside at some point in the future given her petulant manner and the arrogant way she reacts towards other women like Rieko. I put that down to the fact that she is the only child of very rich parents, and therefore was, and probably still is, spoilt. It strikes me that she is the kind of shallow creature who uses her looks to get her own way. It would not surprise me in the least if her parents had secured her degrees in return for a large donation to the university she attended. We’ll see if she actually did earn them when we arrive at Beaumont 61 when she is called upon to do what she was hired for. Until then I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that score.

Rieko on the other hand couldn’t be more different. While she is also extremely pleasing to the male eye, she gives the impression of having been brought up in the traditional Japanese manner. Which means that like all of her countrywomen, she was taught from birth how to entrance anyone she meets by the way she exudes femininity, gentleness, intelligence, grace and charm, while rarely speaking unless spoken to. I hope that helps to answer your question?”

“Yes – thank you. May I ask you other questions when they occur to me?”

“Of course; is there anything else you want to know at the moment?”

“Yes there was one other thing, forgive me for asking but who is that in the image on your bedside table?”

David picked up the framed photograph with a faraway look in his eyes. “I never knew her name. But that didn’t stop me falling in love with her in my teens when I first came across her photograph on the Internet. It’s the only personal possession I brought with me. Quite honestly Céleste, I couldn’t bear to be parted with it. I really wish I could have met her…”

“I’m sorry for prying. I thought she might be your fiancée.”

“Sadly no, as far as I can make out she lived at some time during the twenty-first century,” he replied, with a sad expression on his unshaven face and the merest hint of a tear beginning to well up in his eyes, which affected Céleste to the point where she dearly wished that she had a physical presence so that she could comfort him. “Is there anything else you wish to ask me?”

“Not at the moment David. Thank you.”

“Then it’s time to take a familiarisation tour of Apkallu. Would you care to join me?”

“You forget, wherever you are in the ship I’m always by your side David,” she quietly reminded him.

~~~

     Over the next seven days he and the rest of the crew explored their giant new home. Rieko was in the scientist’s equivalent of seventh heaven as she wandered around her brand new laboratory and its adjoining seed banks and cryogenic storage lockers. Situated next to the laboratory, she found a state of the art hydroponics unit. Beyond that, a hothouse containing compost rich beds lit and heated with overhead UV sunlamps.

Andreas closely inspected Apkallu’s medical department, paying particular attention to the operating theatre and the recovery ward, plus the airtight contagion unit, necessary should anything hazardous to their health be contracted by any of the crew once they arrived at Beaumont 61.

For his part, David thoroughly familiarised himself with the ship’s on-board astronomical observatory on the upper deck and its adjoining workshop.

On the other hand, Flávia had to force herself to briefly enter her assigned workspace. When she saw its drab décor and utilitarian furnishings, she wrinkled her nose in utter disgust. Closing the door behind her she returned to the comfortable loungers in the observation lounge to daydream like a lovesick schoolgirl about being in David’s arms, having decided she wanted him.

As well as being the one responsible for Apkallu’s complicated electronics, Lukas was charged with maintaining its Fusion reactor, which powered literally every piece of equipment aboard from the propulsion system through to the cracking unit designed to create fresh water and a breathable oxygen rich atmosphere, plus the ship’s composting system that ingested all organic waste. In the latter’s case instead of the end product being jettisoned into space, it was to be used in Rieko’s hothouse as a source of fertilizer. Had his workshop been based on Earth, undoubtedly it would be the envy of literally every electronics and mechanical engineer across the entire planet.

On the last day of their stay at the first waypoint, Céleste and the rest of the crew watched as David piloted one of Apkallu’s shuttles, capable of reaching the surface of Beaumont 61 without burning up in its atmosphere, to a position approximately half a mile away to enable Flávia and himself to launch its payloads. No one was surprised in the least when she volunteered to help him. What she felt for him was blindingly obvious by the way she always sighed whenever anyone mentioned his name, or when he entered any area where she also happened to be at the time, the way she looked at him with a burning sexual hunger in her eyes, leaving the casual observer in no doubt whatsoever as to her physical intentions where he was concerned. No one had the heart to tell her that he simply couldn’t stand her. But because she had begged to be allowed to assist him, he took it as a golden opportunity for her to actually do some work for a change instead of merely lazing around.

The first of the telescope arrays with its mix of optical and infrared telescopes, each fitted with its own camera, was placed in position. While he left her to follow his instructions to the letter on how to check that it was fully functional, while at the same time paying particular attention to the links between the array’s cameras and their sender units, he flew the shuttle to the other side of Apkallu to set up the first listening post. In effect it was nothing more than a series of radio dishes and antenna, each specifically tuned to a preselected frequency that fed their individual signals to a powerful transmitter aimed at Earth. Having satisfied himself that it too was fully functional, he picked up Flávia before returning to Apkallu’s main shuttle bay.

Once back on board they joined the rest of the crew for their last meal together at the first waypoint. Three hours later while they once again slept in their individual stasis units, Céleste engaged Apkallu’s propulsion system. Satisfied that all was well, she could now devote all her energies to a research and development task she deemed to be of the greatest importance from her point of view. This leg of the journey would take fifteen years. More than enough time for what she had in mind.

~~~

Interested? Then if you live in the US and want to read the rest of the story, you know what to do. Click on this link to buy your own copy. UK readers should click on this link.