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…