An Early Timeless Tale

gremlin

The mountain gremlin Lungwort

~~~

Evils shadow grows longer

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo) seek out the truth about a stranger, assisted by Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven.

~~~

As the long freezing days of winter gave way to the first signs of spring, an enigmatic stranger arrived in the humin village. He was an itinerant by the name of Eodor who made his living napping the finest flint tools, spearheads and knives in exchange for food and lodging. At first the villagers were wary of him. But he soon charmed them all, turning the heads of the women with his handsome appearance and pleasant nature, especially Mica’s intended, Agnitha, the daughter of the village shaman Yestin. But not all females fell under his spell. Eodor had been given the hay loft in Miranda’s stable for his temporary abode. Miranda, like all animals living in Goblindom, has the ability to judge any being by its shadow, unlike humins and goblins that see nothing out of the ordinary. Only one other kind living in Goblindom shares this ability – the members of the white sisterhood like Brilith. Sensing foreboding, Miranda communicated the fact to her beloved goblin friend Neo when he next came to comb her luxuriant mane.

That night after the goblin brothers had eaten their fill, Neo sat at his customary position on his stool beside the fire in their living room, unusually quiet in deep thought. Not once did he grumble about anything his brothers said or did. Sensing something was clearly troubling him, Glob sat beside him. “Wot’s wrongs brother?” he asked as he put another handful of sticks on the fire.

Neo stared at the dancing flames through his crossed eyes for a few moments before answering. “Evil’s shadow grows longer in these parts. Miranda says she seed Eodor’s true shadows n she’s frighted by it. She believes he means harms ter someones in the humin village I’s afraids ter say Glob.” Neo slumped back against the fireplace with his head in his hands. For the first time in his long life he was very afraid. Glob had never seen him so shaken and concerned for anyone other than his beloved Miranda before.

“Wot shadows dids she seed then?” Glob quietly enquired, not wishing to alarm Make, Mous and Byz by speaking out aloud. Neo leaned closer, so close that his long pointed nose almost bent double against Glob’s leathery ears. “She seed the shadows on a terribles mountain gremlin, where a humin’s one should have beens,” Neo whispered as quietly as he could, shaking his head at the prospect.

Glob visibly shivered. Mountain gremlins terrified all non humins. They were feared by all other living creatures and where usually employed by black wizards or witches to carry out vicious assassinations. “Truly, tis evils Miranda saw Neo. At first light, goes ter her n rides east. We’s needs Brilith here. Her powerful white magic is sorely needed once more,” Glob whispered, while throwing his arm around Neo’s shoulders to reassure him.

The following morning just as the sun rose in the east, no one noticed that Miranda had gone from her stable, especially Eodor who was still sleeping in the arms of a young maiden, physically exhausted from having satiated his carnal needs after charming his way into her bed the evening before.

After Neo left, Glob called together the remainder of his brothers. He charged Make and Mous to find, and shadow Eodor’s every movement. He sent Byz to find Mica and stay with him, asking Bejuss to accompany him to keep his mind on the important task, knowing full well how easily distracted simple minded Byz can be at times. Mica had risen early and was busy in the southern meadow picking the prettiest dew covered wild flowers to take to Agnitha when the pair arrived. He had decided that today he would ask her father for her hand. Both Byz and Bejuss did their level best to totally divert their humin friend Mica in friendly conversation, until the time for action drew near.

By noon Miranda was back in her stable. Neo left Brilith on the southern edge of the humin village and quickly sought out Glob, who was watching all that went on in the humin village from the confines of the old cave above the village, where a few months earlier the black witch Cazophen had briefly made it her own.

Neo eventually arrived. Wheezing breathlessly after the hard climb up the steep wooded north-east side of the valley, and still unable to speak, he pointed back to where a comely blond haired maiden carrying a basket of flowers, slowly walked towards the centre of the village. Brilith positively revelled in the looks of physical desire her attractive form generated among the humin men while she deliberately sought out Eodor. “Flowers, pretty flowers,” she cried, continuing to seduce the humin men by way she swung her shapely hips as she walked among them. “Who will buy my pretty flowers?”

“What will it cost me for a posy my lovely?”

Brilith smiled sweetly at the handsome stranger, despite the evil shadow he cast. “You may have a posy for a gentle kiss handsome sir,” she giggled, as she fluttered her eyelashes at him while brushing her hair to one side, exposing her perfect facial features, completely entrancing him. Eodor eagerly seized her slim waste and roughly drew her towards him. As his lips met hers, Brilith delved deep into his malevolent mind. Despite the loathing she felt for this abomination, she never once alerted it to her true purpose as she sought the answers she needed. After her encounter with Eodor she disappeared from view behind one of the village roundhouses and soon joined Glob and Neo in the cave above the village. “You did right to fetch me here my dears,” Brilith announced gravely as she once more took on her natural plump white witch form. “Eodor is indeed a mountain gremlin and he is here to take revenge on the humin shaman Yestin by murdering his daughter Agnitha.”

“But why does it wants ter?” Neo enquired, fighting fit once more and ready for anything.

“It has been sent by Geraint, brother of the dead black witch Cazophen. Twas Yestin who first called her witch so long ago my dear Neo,” Brilith replied, frowning deeply as her mind began to churn and boil searching for an answer to their problem.

“Wots ter do, oh wots ter do?” Glob said, frantically pacing back and forth in the cave mouth. In his old bones he felt that this time maybe they were all out of their depth.

Brilith thought for a few more moments before hitting upon a strategy. “We need to distract it my dear friends. Glob, go and tell Mica that he has a rival for the hand of Agnitha. See to it that he challenges Eodor to a fight in the southern meadow. Neo, gather up your brothers and join Glob and Byz at the meadow. But stay hidden from view until you hear me cry the gremlin’s true name. For when I do, it will begin to change back to its real appearance. It is at its weakest as it transforms. That is when the five of you along with young Mica must strike, overcome and kill it. Though beware my dears; a mountain gremlin is a tricky foe. It may cause you grievous wounds. Go quickly now!” she concluded, giving both goblins a gentle shove towards the cave mouth.

Mica needed no urging as anger took over when Glob lied to him. He soon found Eodor talking to Agnitha outside the door to her home. “Leave my Agnitha’s house you cur!” Mica shouted, seething with anger. Eodor turned, and for a brief moment took in every detail of the tall, powerfully built, young warrior closing with him. Agnitha screamed and ran inside the house. “Fight me you dog, fight me! Agnitha is promised to me. None but I have the right to her hand,” Mica yelled.

Eodor stood square on to Mica. In his humin form he was Mica’s equal in strength and size. “Very well pup, choose the place of your death – here and now if you like.” He deliberately spat the words out to goad the young humin warrior into making a foolish move. He was going to enjoy this brief distraction before he fulfilled his contract for Geraint.

“Meet me at the south meadow as dusk falls!” Mica spluttered angrily, fighting back his immediate desire to strike at his rival right here and now in the village.

“So be it young fool,” Eodor’s handsome face twisted into a cruel mask. He added one last mocking insult as Mica departed. “Don’t forget to pray to your gods boy. For soon you will join them!”

The sun was almost touching the far western hills when Eodor strode towards where Mica stood at the centre of the southern meadow. Bejuss saw him coming and let out a cry of sheer terror. “Rarrk – the evil come’th – beware!” Then he flew high into the branches of an oak tree at the edge of the meadow and hid from view.

Glob, Make, Mous and Neo lay in wait in the shadows behind a tree stump with their razor sharp goblin blades, ready to come to their humin friend’s aid. True to form, Byz had wandered off. He sat at the southernmost edge of the meadow, happily playing with a butterfly.

Mica stood ready with his flint war axe in his right hand and his best spear dug into the ground beside him, as Eodor approached. His left hand caressed the handle of his flint knife stuck in his belt. Brilith readied herself, wand in hand, behind a large boulder close to where Mica stood. Eodor and Mica began to slowly circle each other, both seeking a weak point in their opponent’s defence. Mica swung his axe with his right hand while stabbing his spear at Eodor with his left. Eodor’s lightning fast agility meant he was easily able to dodge every blow Mica delivered. Both of them soon tired of these preliminary skirmishes and closed with one another, dropping all weapons except for their knives. At first they were evenly matched, but gradually Eodor’s unnatural strength gave him the upper hand. Despite his youth and strength, Mica was beginning to tire. Eodor finally grew weary of the game and sliced into the young humin’s thigh with his knife. Mica fell on his back, clutching the wound in great pain. Blood flowed freely between his fingers.

Eodor straddled his foe. At the point where he was ready to end Mica’s life by plunging his cruel knife into the young humin’s heart, Brilith strode forth and called out his true name, ending the fight. “Behold foul beast, thy name is Lungwort. I command ye to reveal thy true self!” Unable to disguise itself any longer the mountain gremlin stood up and began slowly transforming; instantly forgetting the young humin it had been so intent on killing moments before. Lungwort remained motionless as he slowly and painfully transformed, reverting back to his natural appearance. He stood half the height of a humin, yet twice the height of a goblin, with folded bat wings protruding from his back. His foul head was adorned with yellow bat ears and a bat muzzle of the same colouring. His cruel mouth was filled with needle sharp teeth capable of ripping flesh with ease. A long thin blue tongue hung limply out of one side of his cruel mouth. His heavily muscled torso, legs and arms were grey in colour. Both of his hands were armed with viciously sharp slashing claws. His four toed feet supported his powerful legs. Each foot had three toes facing forward, one back, each armed with a vicious talon.

“Now my friends, strike now while he is at his weakest,” Brilith cried as she stood with powerful spells at the ready. Glob, Neo, Make and Mous dashed from their hiding place and attacked the mountain gremlin with such fury, stabbing, ripping, gouging, biting – each of them seeking that mortal wound.

Lungwort was almost fully transformed, but he was sorely wounded. He lashed his head and arms from side to side trying to catch or bite one or other of the goblin brothers as they clung to him, still stabbing him furiously. Make had made Lungwort’s still not fully formed wings useless. His goblin blade shredded them, rendering the mountain gremlin incapable of flight. Neo had finally managed to hamstring one of the brute’s ankles, causing all to fall in a tangled heap on the ground. Lungwort seized Mous in one powerful hand, squeezing the tiny unfortunate goblin, breaking some bones. He was about to bite off his head, when suddenly he relaxed his grip as his cruel black eyes glazed over. His foul existence ended when simple minded Byz joined the fight. He had finally remembered why he was in the meadow. With one swift movement he had succeeded in finding the gremlin’s heart with his own razor sharp goblin blade.

The aftermath of the battle was a truly horrible sight to behold. Mica lay in agony, bruised and battered, still clutching the bloody wound on his thigh. Glob, Make, Mous and Neo were utterly exhausted and equally bruised and wounded. As for Byz, he sat down distracted once again, this time by a pretty wild flower. Bejuss, his courage returned, stood on the gremlin’s head pecking out its dead eyes with his twisted beak. It would take many months before the goblin brothers would ever speak about the day they all truly fought for their lives with their deadliest foe – Lungwort the mountain gremlin.

What of Mica and Agnitha I hear you cry? They were joined according to the humin custom. Their hands were bound with garlands of flowers on mid summer’s day beneath the ancient oak where Glob, Make, Mous, Byz, Neo and Bejuss lived. By the following summer the goblin brothers would have another young humin to look out for.

Geraint sat in his lair scowling at the happy scene reflected in his witch bowl. Time was on his side. He would send no more agents to do his bidding. One day he would personally take revenge on Yestin and his accursed family for the murder of his beloved sister Cazophen. And as for those accursed goblins, their time would come soon enough.

~~~

😉

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A further Timeless Tale

the_old_goblin_by_jiyou0963-d8oivzp

Glob’s twig cousin, Limberespan Van der Graff

~~~

Thicker Than Sap

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), and Bejuss the lisping one-eyed raven with the twisted beak, hide a fugitive.

~~~

Glob was having a wonderful dream. He was laying on a bed of freshly picked oak leaves beneath the ancient branches of the ancestor oak, being fed honeycomb by her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, who lay beside him naked as the day is long, while she gently kissed his forehead and stroked his leathery old ears, making him squirm in ecstasy. His nose which was definitely not dreaming, twitched violently. The next moment he woke barely able to breathe, choking on the pungent fumes that filled the entire household.

Bejuss felt ill, so much so that he fell from his customary perch in the rafters to the floor. His eye watered as he did the best he could to cover his nostrils with the thick flight feathers of one wing.

Make felt distinctly queasy. Half awake, he filled his bestest briar pipe with a plug of his honeysuckle flavoured tobacco, lit it, and inhaled deeply before filling the room with smoke to drive off the stench. The combination of the pungent smell and thick tobacco smoke woke Mous, who immediately threw up on their still sleeping younger brother, simple-minded Byz.

Neo could not stand the overpowering smell either. In sheer desperation he covered his face with his cobweb blankets in an attempt to get away from it. His stomach heaved violently. Leaping out of bed with one hand clamped firmly across his mouth, he rushed to the window. Quickly flinging it open, he began breathing in sweet lungful’s of fresh air through his long pointed goblin nose. But it was too late. His stomach had simply had enough. It decided to revolt and emptied its contents, spraying them through his fingers down the gnarled bark of the old oak.

“Rarrk – wot jutht died?” Bejuss cried as he flew rapidly through the opened window, glad to be in the fresh air.

Make and Mous both ran for the door to escape the foul odour. But it was strongest there. Something was blocking it from the outside, preventing them from flinging it wide open.

Byz crawled inside one of the kitchen cupboards in a desperate attempt to get away from the smell, but to no avail. The poor soul threw up in the nearest thing at hand, Neo’s favourite mead mug.

Glob staggered across to the window from his own bed, far greener in the face than was natural for a southern woods goblin, and stuck his head outside beside his cross-eyed curmudgeonly brother who was slowly recuperating.

From the twig he perched on among the sweet-smelling leaves of their oak tree home, Bejuss eventually spied the problem.

Huddled against their door was a pathetic figure. He was practically naked, clad only in a filthy flax loincloth, and shivering uncontrollably despite sweating profusely from fever, which added to the overpowering stench from his body. On his head he wore a faded red batwing parchment convict skull-cap, with tattered flaps that barely covered his ears. Grey hair flowed in tangles across his shoulders. His thick pointed nose stuck out above a bedraggled white moustache and a long filthy beard which grew down to his chest. The only other item of clothing he wore was a pair of tattered willow bark boots, from which the blackened nails of his toes protruded. Great clouds of flies surrounded him, while maggots feasted on the dead flesh in his many wounds.

“Rarrk – there’th thomeone laying againtht our door Glob; he don’t look well. Maybe he’th dead,” Bejuss reported, making sure not to get too close to the cause of the gut-wrenching smell.

Glob nodded, briefly sighed, and began climbing out through the window to investigate. When his bare feet finally felt the rough bark of the great bough beneath them, he studied the bag of bones for a few moments. “It can’t be – I’s wos sure yer wos dead! What happened lad, where’ve yer been all these summers?” he exclaimed as he finally recognised the source of the foul disgusting odour.

The pathetic creature struggled to open its glued up eyes. “I’s is already dead in Brag’s eyes Glob, yer mus help me, I’s begs yer. I’s bein hunted by Grizweavil Bragsbill. He wants ter flay me hide orf me body cos I’s escaped his punishment gang. Make no mistake; he’ll do it whether I’s is dead or alive.”

Glob took a deep breath before gently picking up the pathetic stinking creature, shifting him away from the door. After it was finally flung wide by Make, and the entire household were at last able to breath fresh air, Glob introduced their smelly visitor. “Brothers, this is Limberespan Van der Graff, me long-lost twig cousin. Lim these is me brothers, Neopol Stranglethigh, Makepeace Terranova, Eponymous Tringthicky n Byzantine Du Lac. This here raven is me good friend Bejuss,” he said finally, as the old bird perched on his shoulder, quickly covering his nostrils with one wing.

Glob and Make tended to his festering wounds using honeycomb and fresh sphagnum moss, after bathing, feeding and clothing him. Then Lim began his story.

As Glob had said, they were both born from adjacent acorns harvested from the Van der Graff twig which grows out of the fourth largest limb of the ancestor oak. As we already know from her magnificence’s previous explanation to Glob, when the acorns are carefully selected by her, they are taken to the birthing room to maintain the finite number of goblins living within Goblindom.

For the first six summers of their lives the twig cousins were extremely close. They often found themselves defending one another, whenever the other young goblins ganged up on either of them. To emphasise how close they were back then, Lim informed Glob’s brothers, “blood is thicker than sap yer knows. After all, me n Glob is froms the same twig.” Glob nodded his old head, recalling those innocent days so long ago.

When they were finally released into Goblindom, Glob took the path south to the southern oak woods, while Lim headed east towards the jagged range of mountains, known as the Widow Spires. Magical Goblindom always allows each new goblin younger one moon to find its true place within its boundaries, before it finally transforms them into one of three goblin types, plains, wood, or mountain.

Many times over the intervening summers Glob heard what he thought were far-fetched tales of Lim’s escapades. And so when Lim said he had just escaped from penal servitude, Glob finally realized the tales were true after all.

Curmudgeonly old Neo grew more angry by the second, sitting by the fireplace staring at the flickering flames through his constantly crossing eyes. The cause of this, his latest bout of displeasure, was the fact that Glob and the rest had temporarily placed Lim in his bed to recover. “So, wots did yer do ter gets yerself in truble this time thens?” he growled, while his crossed eyes danced violently back and forth as his anger grew.

Lim seemingly ignored the angry outburst and gratefully accepted Make’s freshly filled spare pipe, lit it with a taper proffered by Mous and lay back for a moment, enjoying the comfort of Neo’s bed, and the sweet taste of the honeysuckle flavoured tobacco.

“I’s wos always in truble wiv our chief, Monkwig Gribblehang,” he slowly began. “I’s can’t help meself yer sees. I’s jus steals things wot take me fancy. Each times I’s wos caught, Monk sent me ter one work gang or other. But this last time, I’s really cooked me goose so ter say, when I’s stole Monk’s bestest briar pipe n his supply on mountain dew flavoured tobacco. He sent me orf in elf chains ter Grizweavil Bragsbill’s punishment gang. Anyone wot gets sent there, never comes back alive. Brag is the most dangerous n murderous on us mountain goblins n an excellent shot wiv the huntin bow. When Monk declares war on another goblin chief, Brag is his first choice to lead his army. He is the most feared warrior in the mountains. If he sets his mind ter killin, yer is nought but walkin dead! One night a moon back, I’s tooks me chance n hid as we wos bein taken back ter our camp. For nearly half the moon I’s has been headin west n south, hidin by day n movin by night. Brag took it personal when I’s escaped n started huntin me wiv his pack on hungry timber wolves wot he uses ter controls his prisoners. Five nights back I’s thought he had finally caught me. I’s wos makin me way through Athol’s Pass, jus east on here. Takin a rest, I’s wos caught by one on his wolves wot suddenly appeared n grabbed me leg. It began shakin me sumink fierce as it tried ter drags me back up the pass ter Brag. I’s cud hears him yellin orders ter his other wolves not far off. I’s managed ter gets free by sticking me fingers in its eyes. It’d ripped me leg ter shreds as yer can see. I’s crawled inside an old fallen log, but it reached in n grabbed me arm. I’s thought it were goin ter bites it orf. But’s I’s managed ter clench me fist n shove it down its throat, choking it ter death. Thens last night I’s finally found meself in yer valley, n made me way here. The rest yer know.”

Mica and his portly friend Cantor were returning to the village from the south, where they had been trading with the next humin village. They had stopped to visit Neo’s mentor and great friend Grimefleet Binglenook, the last of the elder goblins. They both sat with him outside the door of his home on the largest bough of his oak tree. With his ornately carved snail shell ear-trumpet stuck in his relatively good ear, Bingle listened to Mica’s news.

Because of the ancient goblin’s increasing deafness Mica found he had to speak directly into the ear-trumpet. Cantor took advantage of the moment, quietly eating the last of the food his wife had packed for the trip, while Mica and Bingle talked in the warmth of the morning sun.

From somewhere close by, a chilling howl made their hair stand on end. Mica motioned to Cantor to climb higher while he scooped up the tiny ancient goblin in his arms and quickly followed. As they watched hidden from view by the old oak’s thick coat of leaves, they saw first one then a second timber wolf cautiously circle the oak’s great trunk, sniffing all the while.

Soon a well-muscled and unusually tall mountain goblin archer and three more wolves hove into view below. “Wot dids yer finds me lovelies?” Brag quietly asked as he surveyed the oak. He loved his wolf pack more than life itself. Each was like a son to him. His cruel black eyes spied Bingle’s front door. He quickly climbed up onto the bough and unshipped his powerful bow from across his broad back. Nocking an arrow, he entered the ancient goblin’s home before soon reappearing, scowling with disappointment. He quickly climbed down and re-joined his faithful wolves. “Nothing, he aint here me lovelies, don’t worry we’sll finds him soon enuff. Thens yer can tears him apart n fill yer bellies, after I’s has killed him slowly for murdering yer brother that is.” The five wolves all bared their fangs at the thought of sharing in Brag’s revenge for their dead sibling. The fearsome mountain goblin had not forgiven what Lim had done. When he had found the lifeless body of the youngest wolf, he slashed the palm of his hand with his sword, swearing a blood oath of revenge over the corpse. Now he was even more determined than ever to find his missing prisoner.

His wolves warily sniffed the air. They could smell goblin on the wind. But they could also smell humins too, which made them nervous. Brag began to walk in the direction of the humin village with his faithful wolves ranging all around him, searching for Lim’s scent amongst the rest.

“Who’s he after?” Cantor whispered as they slowly descended with one eye on the departing goblin and wolves.

“Not sure, but you can be certain he’s not here on a friendly visit. Circle round him and head for Glob’s place. My guess is he’s hunting one or other of our goblin friends. I’ll follow him to see where he goes,” Mica whispered. The two humins quickly left after making sure old Bingle was well and truly hidden, deep inside his oak tree’s hollow trunk. When Cantor reported the news to Glob and his brothers, the defence of Lim began in deadly earnest.

Brag carefully bypassed the humin village via the heavily wooded north-eastern slopes of the valley. He temporarily camped in Cazophen’s cave, sending out three of his wolves to scout out the area around the humin village.

Bejuss watched the unfolding scene below him from on high. After Cantor had reported Brag’s presence in the valley, Bejuss had been on his way to recruit his griffin friends Slyth and Garr for what would inevitably occur, when he spied a lone timber wolf descending from Cazophen’s cave, heading towards the goblin brother’s home.

He watched it deliberately circle through the woods, following Lim’s scent on the northern side of the humin village. The wolf briefly stopped beneath their oak, before heading off in search of the two other wolves that were sniffing the ground behind Miranda’s stable. They had been temporarily distracted from their task by the thought of a mouth-watering delicious four-legged meal, when they smelt the old mare and her foal.

Curious to see where they had come from, Bejuss descended silently. He perched in the branches of a tree, hidden from view above the cave. Peering intently through the foliage at the entrance, his one eye focused on Brag who was seated on a large stone with two timber wolves sitting on their haunches at his feet.

A little further down the track Brag had taken to the cave, Bejuss spied Mica crouching behind a tree. He landed silently behind him, unseen. The old bird gently tapped Mica’s heel with his twisted beak before suddenly re-appearing, making the normally unflappable humin warrior jump. “Thorry,” he whispered as he hopped on to Mica’s shoulder. “Brag’th in there n he’th got two wolveth wiv him. The other three are behind Miranda’th houthe. One on them thniffed our houthe, then went ter fetch the other two, it mutht have thmelt Lim!”

“Brag, Lim – who are they? Why are they here in our valley?” Mica whispered his enquiry, clearly puzzled, as he kept an eye on the cave entrance.

Bejuss quickly realized Mica knew nothing of the unfolding events. “Begth pardonth Mica, me woth forgettin yer don’t know; me had better explain. Brag ith after Glob’th twig couthin Lim, coth he ethcaped from hith punithment gang n came here for help. They’re both mountain goblinth. Lim killed one on Brag’th wolf guardth on the way here. Accordin ter wot Lim told uth, Brag ith a murderin monthter. No one wot ith thent ter his work gang ever leaveth alive!”

The look on Mica’s handsome face changed from curiosity to one of grim determination as the reason for Brag’s presence here so far away from his mountain home, finally became clear, thanks to Bejuss’ explanation. “Go and let Glob know what is going on old friend. Seek out Cantor and get him to gather our warriors together. Tell him from me to set a guard at your home and send some of our warriors to kill the three other wolves, before they can return to Brag with their news.”

The old bird nodded his head. Quickly vanishing from view, he flew off. Once he had passed on Mica’s commands, he continued on his journey to fetch Slyth and Garr.

The agonised howls of the three dying timber wolves when they were slain by some of Mica’s humin warriors close to the goblin brother’s home brought Brag’s malevolent mind back to reality. While he awaited his wolves return, he had been day dreaming about just how he was first going to torture, then skin Lim alive.

His two remaining wolf sons ran beside him eager for revenge, as he sprinted down the wooded slope of the north-eastern side of the valley. Abandoning his normally cautious ways, Brag ran through the humin village in a blind rage, bow at the ready.

Mica’s friends, Verig, Jasper and Manx lay in wait, hidden behind the northernmost roundhouse, spears at the ready. Should Brag or either of his two remaining wolves get past them, Neo, Glob and Make were hiding behind an old tree stump in the northern meadow, between the village and their oak tree home. They were fully armed with their war clubs and razor-sharp blue metal goblin blades.

Inside the house Mous and Byz had barricaded the door with all of their furniture. Lim hid in a secret compartment in the largest cupboard the goblin brother’s possessed.

Cantor placed himself in front of the cupboard as the last line of defence, bitterly regretting his impetuous decision, and feeling decidedly uncomfortable inside the cramped confines of the tiny goblin home. He could neither stand nor crouch, so he had to kneel with his head bent sideways. He was armed with his spear and his razor-sharp flint bladed knife. Close at hand should he need it, was Neo’s second best war club.

On the spur of the moment he had decided to squeeze himself inside. Glob, Neo and Make had ably assisted by pushing him from behind, while Mous, Byz and Lim pulled on his arms from inside their home after he had temporarily got stuck in the tiny doorway, due to his fat belly. Neo had suggested that they leave him wedged in the door. To the old curmudgeon’s way of thinking, what better way was there to stop Brag entering? All they had to do was defend the window.

Cantor took angry exception to the suggestion. Though his head and shoulders were inside the goblin brother’s home, he somehow detected where Neo was and lashed out with one foot, kicking the cross-eyed old curmudgeon where no goblin, or humin male for that matter, should ever be kicked. Neo bent double in extreme agony. The unbelievable pain emanating from his groin temporarily straightened his naturally crossed eyes. Intense white spots danced across his eyesight temporarily blinding him. Struggling for breath, the old curmudgeon quickly grunted his apology through gritted teeth.

After Cantor had finally got inside the goblin brother’s home, Neo tottered off and sat at the other end of the bough among the leaves, rocking back and forth, crying like a younger, while tenderly cradling the painfully bruised part of his anatomy for a considerable length of time.

Brag’s sharp eyesight detected movement on either side of him. The villagers were fast closing with him and his wolves. As he ran blindly forward, well-aimed spears quickly found their targets. Soon Brag stood alone.

He readied himself, arrow nocked. The taught string of his bow sang in the breeze as he fired wildly. If he was going to die, he would make sure he took as many as he could with him. Large shadows appeared on the ground where he stood as Slyth and Garr dived towards the mountain goblin archer. Within a few moments, Brag’s life ended when Garr ripped his head off his shoulders with one swift bite. As the mountain goblin’s headless body relaxed, his last arrow flew free, passing harmlessly through Slyth’s flight feathers.

Once the brief fight was over, his body and those of his wolves were unceremoniously dumped in the middle of Athol’s Pass as a warning to anyone else who thought of entering the peaceful valley with murder on their minds.

After Bingle had been retrieved from his hiding place and reinstalled on his rocking chair outside his door, Glob, his brothers and Bejuss had a pressing problem. The old goblin posed a question to Mica and his warriors. “Wots we’s goin ter do bout Cantor? He can’t get outs on our home. His fat belly won’t let him.” In the heat of the moment, extreme nervous tension had overcome the humin warrior while waiting for Brag’s assault making him hungry. As a consequence he had helped himself to their entire store of honeycomb, dried fish and mead.

Verig smirked and winked as he replied, “he’ll just have to be your guest for a while longer Glob; at least til he slims down that is. Meantime you and your brothers are welcome to stay with us.”

As Glob and Mica led the party of humin warriors, goblins and griffins back to the village where Agnitha, her daughter Ylesse, and the rest of the women were preparing a victory feast, the sound of raucous laughter echoed throughout the valley. Still nursing his painful groin, Neo smiled to himself at the thought of Cantor being trapped.

Bejuss perched on the window sill of their home, peering inside at the unfortunate Cantor, briefly wondering how long the humin would be there. Then, smelling the feast he flew off to the village. A bowl of juicy slugs, worms and snails awaited his attention.

From deep inside the cupboard behind the decidedly overstuffed Cantor, a pathetic voice cried out, “Glob, anyone? Cans yer hear me? Cans I’s comes out now? Is it all over?” In the heat of the moment, Glob’s twig cousin Lim had been completely forgotten about.

The Time Before Map

😉

A Timeless Tale

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The Wrong Medicine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ter whom it may concern,

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

Get well soon.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Time Before Map

Part Two of Beware On Crellan’s Mine

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 Glob’s beautiful friend Lox, the leader of the Elves

~~~

Beware on Crellan’s Mine

Part 2

It’s A Case of Balance, Do You See

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), and curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), together with Bejuss, the one-eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, and their friends and allies, head towards Crellan’s mine to rescue its slave workers.

Morweth ended a heated argument over what they would do with the black wizard Crellan when they finally caught up with him. This was the time for wisdom, magic and cunning, not revenge.

“No, no, no, Crellan must not die! Goblindom exists because it is in equilibrium. Life and death, growth and decay, summer and winter, and in magic’s case, good and evil. All contribute to keeping us hidden from prying eyes. Should any of these elements necessary to our existence cease to be, the magic barrier will simply dissolve, and our part of the world will be quickly overrun by the hated humans and end forever. If you will dear friends, Goblindom and everything in it will simply end for all time, soon to be forgotten. Our capability to live in peace together and converse with each other, be we witch or wizard, raven or eagle, humin or goblin, wyvern or griffin, ogre, troll, elf, mountain gremlin, even dragon, will also end. The human’s world beyond our barrier is in a state of chaos. The different kinds living in it cannot understand each other anymore. Consequently, they live in fear and kill rather than live side by side like us. Any mutual trust between all living things that they may have had is gone for all time. It’s a case of balance, do you see.”

“Then why’s is we goin ter his mine?” Nit enquired. Like the rest, he puzzled why they were heading east towards the Widow Spires and certain trouble, possibly even death, if not to end Crellan’s life.

“I’s can answers that Nit, if yer don’t minds me buttin in Morweth,” Glob interjected, in support of the white wizard, “we’s goin ter free the slaves if we’s can, n close the mine forever. Everyone knows taint natural, nor safe, ter dig big holes neath the ground. It coulds let danger from below enter Goblindom. I says beware on Crellan’s mine! Remembers wots almost gots out when we’s tried ter rescue Yathle’s cousin Ariadne.”

Those that had taken part in the abortive rescue attempt remembered the spine-chilling cry and the smell of brimstone, moments before the magic barrier closed behind them after they had reached the safety of this world, sealing off the one beneath their own.

“But what is Crellan up to?” Mica began, still not clear about the black wizard’s reason for needing so many jewels, “apart from looking pretty round a female’s neck, what possible purpose could Crellan have in mind for those coloured stones?”

“That my friend is what I wish to learn,” Morweth replied, like Mica he puzzled over what Crellan needed them for. For the moment the answer eluded him.

They had camped for the night at the head of a valley leading to the foothills of the Widow Spires beneath the easternmost edge of Goblindom’s thick oak woods. From now on they risked being seen by Crellan’s lookouts as they began following Brog. At long last he had seen the error of his ways after both Yathle and Slyth threatened to rip him apart with their powerful talons. Together with Nit, he would guide the army through the hills.

Bejuss sat on Slyth’s great armoured head quietly talking to him. “Rarrk – we need ter thee how far wetht Crellan’th lookoutth are,” he lisped, while preening his feathers in between catching passing moths in his twisted beak which were attracted by the campfire.

Slyth’s belly growled. He hadn’t eaten a goblin for days. Being surrounded by hundreds of his favourite snacks was driving him crazy. For a split second, he even contemplated flicking his head to dislodge his feathered friend and swallow him whole. Then overcome with deep shame, he quickly dismissed the idea. He had momentarily placed his desperate need to eat above his deep friendship with the old raven. “We should go ter Morweth n tell him we need ter fly east ter spy on them Bejuss,” Slyth sheepishly suggested, desperately hoping that the old bird had not sensed his brief moment of madness brought on by his extreme hunger.

Maybe they could kill two birds with one stone so to speak. He and his brother Garr could fill their bellies at the same time as determining Crellan’s defences. Within a few minutes with Morweth’s blessing, the two griffins and Bejuss together with Yathle and her squadron of wyverns were heading towards the Widow Spires.

“I’s feds up n hungry! Where’s our relief, Derr?”

“Shuddup n stops moanin, they’ll be here soon enuff,” Derr replied to his companion, Tan. They had been on watch since sunset, and now it was close to dawn. Below them, they had a clear view of the reception camp, the mine’s entrance, and the carts being loaded by slave labourers with the freshly mined jewels.

Derr’s eyes misted up. Great drops of saliva fell from his mouth at the thought of all those jewels below. “Taint fair. Whys don’t we steals sum for us?” Tan suggested in a hushed tone, briefly forgetting his hunger as the thought of owning the jewels below overtook him. “Shush brother, don’t even thinks on it, else Crellan will hears n kills us both,” Derr hissed, as an involuntary shiver ran down his spine. The thought of crossing the black wizard made his green goblin blood run cold.

Back in his laboratory, Crellan’s face broke out in a contemptuous sneer while he watched and listened to their conversation, thanks to his mercury filled crystal seeing bowl before he retired to bed. Ungrateful plains goblins like those two were easily replaced. Tomorrow things would be different. As it turned out it was a prophetic thought on his part. So far his stocks of emeralds were building up nicely. He only needed twenty more cartloads before he could finally begin the second phase of his plan. Half a moon’s more mining should suffice.

Bejuss perched on Morweth’s shoulder moments after he and Slyth, together with Garr, Yathle and her sisters returned. “Rarrk – there ith three wayth ter the mine Morweth; one ith directly ahead on uth ter the eatht, but it’th heavily guarded like the one ter the thouth. But the one ter the north hath only a few lookoutth; it leadth directly ter a bluff above the mine.”

Morweth nodded his thanks. “No matter which path we take, Crellan will see us approach via his crystal seeing bowl my friends,” the old wizard declared, deeply concerned for everyone’s safety. “Yathle, can you take Brilith and me to Crellan’s home? Between us, we can cast a spell of invisibility to prevent us being observed by any of his minions along the way. But if he is still awake, whether it will fool him I simply don’t know. We have to get inside undetected to counter his magic. Perhaps we may even learn of his intent.”

Yathle fixed the old wizard with her golden eyes, gently smiled and nodded. Mica rose, and together with Lox, the leader of the elves, volunteered to accompany them. Morweth smiled and shook his head. “I thank you my friends, but no. You must lead the army to the mine. Bejuss will accompany us. If we are successful he will act as my messenger and fly back here to you. At that point, you will know it is safe to proceed. The battle for Crellan’s mine will be fierce my friends, make no mistake.”

Mica, Glob and the rest momentarily watched as Yathle rose into the sky with her two passengers with old Bejuss flying alongside before they all magically vanished from view. Now all Mica, Glob and the rest could do was wait.

Yathle landed silently on the roof of Crellan’s impregnable stone tower lair. Morweth motioned for both her and Bejuss to stay behind while he and Brilith stole silently down the tower’s winding stone steps leading to Crellan’s laboratory. As the pair approached the door still invisible, they came across two dozing mountain gremlin guards. Morweth turned them both to stone, after deftly relieving one of them of a set of keys. Brilith kept watch while the ancient wizard tried each key in the door. After they entered, Morweth quickly relocked the door behind them.

The first thing on his mind was to destroy the seeing bowl. Brilith stayed his hand. “Take it with us, it may prove useful later,” she whispered. Morweth handed it to her. After pouring the mercury into a stone flask, she quickly secreted both the flask and the crystal bowl into a large pocket inside her cape.

Next, they both turned their attention to destroying Crellan’s laboratory using their powerful magic to reduce everything to dust. Then they left the laboratory, locked the door, and between them, cast a spell. Briefly, they watched as the door transformed itself, becoming part of the wall, sealing the laboratory off forever. When Crellan woke, not only would the two guards be nothing more than stone statues, but the wall of his laboratory would be solid with no entrance.

Brilith led the way down to where the slaves delivered the emeralds each day. They stopped outside Crellan’s bed chamber. Morweth quickly and quietly turned the sleeping wizard’s door to stone, making it blend into the rest of the wall just like the door to his laboratory, sealing him in.

On entering the vast ground floor their breath was completely taken away. Neither of them had ever seen so many emeralds before in their long lives. But they were not the only jewels stored there. Huge mounds of rubies, diamonds, beryl, sapphires, onyx and topaz filled the rest of the chamber. While they briefly surveyed the scene the first two cartloads of emeralds for the day were being unloaded by goblin slaves urged on by the vicious whips of their guards.

Morweth’s blood ran cold. He finally understood what Crellan intended. Only one kind of creature coveted jewels like these in such vast quantities – black dragons!

The black wizard was gathering together enough jewels of all kinds from beneath the ground to raise an army of dragons to help him seize Goblindom for himself. Perhaps he even intended to raid the world of the humans beyond the magic barrier, thereby threatening the very existence of their hidden world in his desire to become its ruler!

Their objective had now changed. Everything here had to be destroyed. Taking the drastic decision, between them, they cast a spell of undoing. This time, the spell was different to the one cast by Morweth and Crellan when they destroyed the black dragon Kilycke’s nest, being wholly cast using white magic. As the spell slowly took effect, stone by stone, jewel by jewel, Morweth followed Brilith on the long climb back to the tower roof where Yathle and Bejuss waited patiently. When the black wizard eventually woke, he was in for a few unwelcome surprises.

Glob passed wind violently as he ate his breakfast of honeycomb, wild onion and dried fish. Moments later he almost soiled himself, very nearly jumping out of his skin when Bejuss landed unseen on his shoulder. “Rarrk – it’th time ter begin,” the old raven announced. By the time Yathle returned with Morweth and Brilith, the army was already on the march to the northern path with Mica and Lox at its head, all following Brog. At the base of the path, Morweth divided the army in two.

Taking Mica and his warriors together with Lox and some of her elven archers, accompanied by Slyth and Garr, Morweth and Brilith set off to the lookout post above the mine. Glob, Neo, Make, Mous, Nit and Byz were to follow Brog further north over a precipitous path. With luck, they would not be detected as they approached the mine from behind.

Derr and Tan’s lives savagely ended when Mica picked them up by the scruff of their scrawny necks and threw them to Slyth and Garr, who sliced them in two with their great beaks after the party had stealthily crept up on them from behind. At long last the two griffins had finally filled their complaining bellies. They both flew off to join Yathle’s squadron feeling renewed. Now they could enjoy themselves.

Yathle and her sisters began by delivering well-aimed fire balls, first at the remaining lookout posts, and then the groups of mine guards far below beyond the reception camp’s boundary fence. Slyth and Garr flew low and fast, crisscrossing the inside of the camp, decapitating guards and creating panic among the goblin slaves who hid completely terrified beneath the wooden carts used to carry the emeralds.

Morweth and Brilith took Derr and Tan’s place, protected by some of Lox’s archers and Mica’s band of warriors, quickly setting up the crystal seeing bowl to direct the attack. When Glob, Brog and the rest appeared from behind the mine, the battle was practically at an end.

All around them lay the broken bodies of the former guards, a mixture of plains and mountain goblins, ogres, trolls and mountain gremlins. Some had missing limbs, some no head. Still others slowly bled to death. Most were burnt to a crisp by the powerful fire balls delivered by Yathle and her sister wyverns.

By nightfall the mine had been taken. The rest of Lox’s elven archers had quickly dispatched the remaining few guards when they burst forth from inside the mine. Neo led a party deep underground to bring out the slaves. Once Morweth was certain that the mine was finally empty, he cast a spell which sealed it forevermore.

While the battle for Crellan’s mine raged below him, Bejuss circled overhead. Something in the distance caught his attention and he flew off to investigate.

Among the broken stones of Crellan’s ruined lair, the old bird’s one eye focused on a dirty bundle of clothing. Bejuss landed and hopped over to the writhing pile. A tiny helpless baby with rapidly reddening skin screamed when it saw him towering over it. The baby looked up at him with pursed lips and defiant, yet tearful eyes. Bejuss gently gathered together the clothing around the infant thinking it was cold then quickly flew back to Brilith. She soon returned astride Yathle’s back following the old bird.

Brilith instantly recognized the jagged birthmark on the baby’s badly sunburnt chest. The spell of undoing had done something completely unexpected. Crellan had suddenly woken up in great pain when strong sunlight struck him and began burning his exposed skin. In the distance, he could hear the sounds of battle going on. Why was he awake, it wasn’t dusk? What had happened to him? He lay in the rubble of his former home, thoroughly bewildered and covered in dust, unable to speak, stand or move. For the first time in his long life, he experienced real fear when the jet black raven suddenly appeared with its massive razor sharp twisted beak close to his face.

“So Crellan my lad, just wait until Morweth and the rest see what has happened to you,” she said laughing softly as she gently cradled the bad tempered infant black wizard in her arms.

Bejuss cocked his head, clearly still puzzled. He watched Crellan throw a tantrum. The black wizard stuck out his tongue and thrashed his chubby fists and legs in the air trying to hit Brilith. All he got for his petulant outburst was a smacked bottom which reduced him to tears, increasing his pain tenfold, much to Bejuss’ great delight. To add insult to injury, Yathle joined in Crellan’s humiliation by licking his sunburnt face with her long rough tongue, making him squirm even more, with a mixture of revulsion and great pain.

The black wizard would experience many more deeply humiliating incidents like this as he grew up for the second time. He would suffer Brilith’s no-nonsense attitude, and the inevitably painful chastisement administered by her for each transgression of her rules, many more times in the future. She was determined to change his ways. He tried to curse and blaspheme, but nothing came out of his mouth except screams, dribble and bubbles. The hidden world of Goblindom would be safe for a few more years now that it’s most dangerous son’s dark plans of domination had finally been ended.

Fortunately, the one thing the spell had not done was to wipe the vast knowledge of black magic from his mind. Thanks to this particular spell of undoing, Goblindom’s equilibrium had been maintained. White magic and black still existed.

The Time Before Map

See what happens to you when you have delusions of grandeur?

~~~

PS – Despite my offering Goblin Tales for free over a five day period which ended on Tuesday 29th March, only twenty-four of you took the opportunity to avail yourselves. Sad, very sad…

😉

Part One of another Timeless Tale

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The Black Wizard Crellan

Here is the first of a two-part timeless tale from my fantasy anthology

~~~

Beware on Crellan’s Mine!

 

Part 1

 

The Pressgang

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), along with Bejuss, the one-eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, Morweth, Nit, Fig, Mica and a party of his humin friends, set out on a dangerous mission.

Disturbing news from the far eastern reaches of Goblindom arrived at the ancestor oak. It was revealed that the black wizard Crellan has a secret jewel mine. The whole area surrounding the mine is watched over, protected and run by hundreds of mercenaries in Crellan’s employ.

None of the slaves working it know what it is they are mining, or why. When they are dragged into its reception camp outside the mine’s entrance, they are immediately chained together, in groups of five. The guards then put out their eyes and cut out their tongues, before sending them into its murky depths.

In the mine, the slaves barely exist. They work in cloying darkness under the cruel whips of their mountain ogre gang masters, who are unaffected by its poisonous environment. The slaves barely exist on a diet of watery acorn broth. They sleep at the seam face and breathe in the vapours escaping from the rocks all around them that they have to pick their way through in their search for the rich jewel seams.

As a consequence of the harsh beatings they endure, together with the poisonous environment and their lack of proper food, they die in their hundreds. Crellan’s many pressgangs made up from a mix of plains and mountain ogres, mountain gremlins and trolls, easily replace the dead with freshly pressed volunteers from across Goblindom.

For the moment, no one apart from Crellan himself knew why he wanted the precious jewels, or what kind they were.

The slave responsible for revealing the mine’s location and its horrors died before he could tell exactly how he had escaped. His name was Pigwort Minkclaw (Mink), an educated plains goblin, who formerly worked as a junior scribe for the wise council. For many moons Mink had headed west, hiding by day, crawling, feeling and smelling his way by night, eating whatever his fingers or nose told him was edible.

Bejuss had found him quite by accident when he was on his way to visit a distant cousin on his mother’s side to the east of the valley. His eye focused on a skeletal creature lying in a hollow, perilously close to death. By nightfall, Mink was being looked after by her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, and Brilith the white witch. But even their best efforts were not enough to save him.

Because he had been made blind and dumb at the cruel hands of the guards he could not communicate normally. Before he died he managed to scrawl a few words, naming who had pressed him into service along with their descriptions. He also drew a map from memory of the part of Goblindom known as the Widow Spires, a range of brooding mountains shrouded in a permanent cloud of mist, seldom visited because of its close proximity to Crellan’s new lair at Goblindom’s eastern border. In particular, he drew the safest route to the entrance of the mine to bypass the vigilant eyes of the many lookouts.

The very last words Mink wrote in his shaky hand were – Whatever yer does beware on Crellan’s mine! Don’t… Before he could finish his warning, the wren feathered quill pen slowly fell from his dead hand to the floor.

Glob sat at the window with Bejuss perched on his shoulder; both of them were silently fuming. Like the rest of the household, thanks to Mous’ unfortunate aptitude for clumsiness, they were starving.

Today’s breakfast had been an utter disaster. They had all gone hungry yet again because of him. On the way to the table, he had managed to drop all of the breakfast bowls, smashing them to pieces and covering the floor with their delicious contents.

Both Neo and Make angrily chased him around the kitchen intent on doing physical harm to their accident-prone brother. Mous barely escaped their wrath when he ran outside fearing for his life, before quickly climbing to the old oak’s topmost branches. Simpleminded Byz hid under his bed not daring to show the point of his nose, just in case his brothers decided to take out their frustrated anger on him instead.

Glob sighed, briefly looked his old friend Bejuss in the eye, and shook his head before calling for calm. “Right’s brothers, we’s needs ter hunt down the three goblins wot is capturin folk for Crellan’s mine in these parts. Now we’s has their names n wots theys look like. Morweth, Fig n Nit shud be’s here soon; Mica, Miranda n his war party as well.”

Then he went to the door and demanded Mous come back inside before angrily telling him, “now brother, let’s see if yer can makes us sum food ter takes wiv us, preferably wivout spillin it on the floor if yer don’t mind!”

Mous warily slunk back inside. He quickly made for the kitchen, not daring to look anyone in the eye, “I’z zorry brotherz,” he sheepishly muttered, ducking a well-aimed cuff from Neo, “I’z knowz I’z a clumzy numpkin; I’z won’tz do it agin, I’z promize.”

“Yer’d better not, else yer’ll feels me club kiss yer noggin,” Neo grumbled, glaring angrily at his brother through his highly animated crossed eyes. Mous did his best to ignore the threat and began to prepare leaf parcels of food as well as collecting their mugs and a full acorn barrel of Neo’s special mead for the journey. Within the hour everyone was assembled beneath the old oak, ready for the hunt.

Mordern Bigsnook, or Dern as he was known, was a frightening figure. Condemned for five brutal murders and suspected of countless unsolved others, he had languished in a stinking dark cell, waiting to be executed for his crimes. Seizing his opportunity one night, he killed a guard when his food was brought to him and stole his keys before escaping into the night from the dungeons below the ancestor oak two summers ago. Heading east where he knew he would never be followed, he eventually found employment with Crellan.  Now he led the pressgang working the southern woods.

At four foot, he was unusually tall for a plains goblin. He shaved his head, apart from a thick wiry black line of hair on its crown, which looked like the bristles on a boar’s back. Two large fangs stuck up from his bottom jaw, almost disappearing into the equally large nostrils of his broken nose when he closed his mouth.

Crellan had told Dern to pick his own team for a special assignment, to capture Glob and his brothers. Not trusting any other kind than his own, Dern chose his two companions, Grythle Snickweed (Snick), and Broglik Cantfurgle (Brog), from the ranks of the plains goblin lookouts.

Dern only cared for one thing, the jewels his master Crellan paid him; one emerald for each new slave delivered alive. This time, Crellan had promised him five hundred emeralds for each of the five brothers. Capturing a few more goblins before they took Glob and his brothers was perfectly fine in his eyes. It meant more emeralds for him. If either of his companions proved to be a threat, he would kill them without a moment’s hesitation.

“Which ways is we headin terday boss,” Snick yawned as he began to pick his nose, “norf, souf, west or east?”

Dern scowled at his two companions, “south blast yer. Now gets yerself forward yer scum afor I’s slit yer throats! I’s can always does this alone. More profit for me if yer’s both dies.”

A chill ran up their spines. They both knew that their leader’s notoriously short temper meant that they were constantly in danger. Neither one had willingly volunteered for this assignment. Both preferred their relatively cushy jobs as lookouts high above the approaches to the mine, rather than accompanying this homicidal maniac. To refuse would have meant being thrown into the mine. On the other hand, the pay was good.

Snick shrugged his shoulders and swung his war axe and his pack onto his back while Brog checked his blade’s edge before slinging it over his shoulder. Then the pair set off with one eye on the woods ahead and the other, nervously on Dern bringing up the rear. By noon, they made temporary camp in a tiny glade several leagues inside the vast southern wood.

With Grassnit Thimblefoot (Nit), Hermione’s chief scout, leading the way, Mica walked beside Miranda who was loaded down with their provisions.

At first, she had been reluctant to leave her foal. But when Agnitha and Ylesse said they would take care of her, Miranda agreed. To make her journey as pleasant as he could, and to take her mind off her foal, Neo sat between her large velvet soft ears whispering to her. Following close behind were Mica’s fellow humin warriors Verig, Cantor, Jasper and Manx together with Morweth, the white wizard, Figblaster Cornshuffle (Fig), the bounty hunter, and the four other goblin brothers while Bejuss flew above on the lookout.

Not far ahead of the party was the home of Smikewhistle Pontigle (Pont), who made his living sewing the finest jerkins in Goblindom. Unbeknown to Pont or our plucky band, Dern and his pressgang were already studying the comings and goings of Pont’s customers. Dern’s cruel fanged smile spread across his face. It looked like today would be a highly profitable one for him. Signalling to Snick and Brog to conceal themselves on either side of the path, to knock out each of Pont’s customers as they appeared, he crawled forward through the lush grass, heading for the unsuspecting tailor’s home.

Within a matter of minutes he had entered silently, hit Pont on the head with his club, and bound him securely before hiding him in a cupboard. Then disguising himself and taking Pont’s place at the workbench, he prepared to bash any goblins that his companions missed when they entered Pont’s home.

High above, Bejuss’ one eye focused on Dern’s two companions. For a few moments, he circled while he studied them closely before flying back to Glob to deliver his report. “Rarrk – they’th ith not far ahead on uth; me can’t thee Dern anywhere. He mutht be inthide Pon’th houthe.”

“Where are they exactly Bejuss – show us?” Mica commanded of the old bird as they all temporarily halted.

“They’th on the path juth outthide Pont’th place, waiting ter capture hith cuthtomerth; they’th already got thix tho far, all truththed up like chickenth for the pot,” the old bird replied, after he had carefully drawn a map in the dust with his wing, indicating where Snick and Brog had concealed themselves in proximity to Pont’s oak tree home.

Between them, Mica and Glob worked out a plan of attack. “Right Make, you take Byz with you along the path to get Snick’s attention. Verig and I will shadow you for a while before we seek out Brog. Jasper, you take Fig and circle round to the right behind Pont’s home, to watch Dern’s every move. Manx, Cantor, Glob, Neo, and you Mous, protect Morweth and be ready to do whatever he commands. By all accounts, Dern is our real concern. Morweth this is the time for your magic my old friend. Verig and I will try to capture Brog alive. We need a guide to get us past the mine’s lookouts undetected.” Everyone grimly nodded when Mica issued his orders.

“N what’s bout me if yer don’t minds me askin?” Nit grumpily enquired, feeling decidedly left out.

“Sorry Nit, yer mus stay here wiv Miranda. We’ll signal yer whens we’s done. Yer nose for trackin is vital. We’s daresn’t risks yer being caught or injured,” Glob told him as gently as he could, not wishing to insult Goblindom’s most illustrious scout.  Nit glumly nodded. He knew what Glob said made perfect sense, but still…

Bejuss lightly pecked Glob’s earlobe. “Rarrk – what d’yer want me ter doeth Glob?”

Glob turned to look at his old friend, winked and replied, “I’s wants yer ter does wot yer does best Bejuss lad – vanish, n keeps yer eye peeled for truble.” In a trice, the old bird did as he was bid and vanished into thin air.

Make set off along the path holding Byz’ hand, walking like two sacrificial goats towards where Snick lay in wait, to distract him. Meanwhile, Morweth under the protection of Manx, Cantor, Glob and Mous, crept up behind the unsuspecting mercenary.

Mica and Verig carefully shadowed Make and Byz before circling through the thick woods to the left of the path heading for their appointment with Brog, some way past Pont’s home.

Jasper and Fig silently crept round to the right until they finally positioned themselves with an excellent view of Pont’s door, waiting for Dern to burst forth.

At Morweth’s silent command as he raised his hand, his protection squad halted not far from where Snick hid. With his wand, he froze the unsuspecting goblin mercenary to the spot, turning him to stone. Morweth signalled that his protection squad should move forward and smash the frozen figure to pieces. On seeing this Make, still holding Byz’ hand, joined Morweth’s group.

Brog was getting bored lying in wait for fresh volunteers despite the fact that he now had eight wood goblins bound and gagged behind him, each nursing a blinding headache. He stretched his limbs and started to yawn when suddenly the lights went out.

“Got him! Verig, bind and gag him quick so I can release our friends from their bonds,” Mica whispered, handing over the tiny unconscious goblin mercenary. Verig grinned and nodded, setting about his task with relish while Mica quickly cut the captive’s bonds, asking for their cooperation to gain Dern’s attention. To a goblin, despite their pounding heads, the eight willingly agreed.

Bejuss flew down to where Morweth and his party stood in readiness, perching on the wizard’s shoulder, barely a hundred paces from Pont’s home. “Rarrk – Mica n Verig hath captured Brog; they ith waiting for action when yer ith ready. They freed the goblinth wot Brog captured who ith now waitin ter walk patht Pont’th houthe ter dithtract Dern n make him come out when yer want,” the old bird whispered between gasps, as he got his breath back.

On Morweth’s command, the whole party quietly positioned themselves around the oak tree.

Dern peered out at the path. For some time, he had seen no movement in either direction. He was about to collect the unconscious Pont from the cupboard and call it a day, when he saw a party of eight goblins sauntering along, loudly chatting among themselves and heading south.

They passed Brog’s hiding place without being attacked. Dern shook his head, scowling and muttering to himself, seething with anger that his confederate had missed them. When they passed Snick’s hiding place unmolested, Dern completely lost his temper and exploded into action, rushing outside to chase after them. Eight precious emeralds were escaping his purse!

Mica’s battle horn sounded. From all sides humin warriors yelling their terrifying battle cry, brandishing their flint-tipped spears, closed for battle. Wood goblins, armed with their war clubs and blades, joined by a wizard and an old raven completed the picture, catching Dern completely by surprise. From the shadows elven arrows flew, quickly piercing his chest. The welcome sight of Lox appearing from nowhere at the head of her archers heartened everyone with the exception of Dern.

Dern fought ferociously like an insane cornered animal. Many of the party were wounded by his razor sharp blade. His murderous life finally ended after Mica’s spear ripped open his throat, just as Jasper’s flint knife found its way through his jerkin, puncturing a lung, while Fig’s blade hamstrung him, sending him crashing to the ground.

He lay twitching and writhing in the grass as his life force inevitably ebbed away. Bloody green bubbles escaped through his punctured jerkin, from where many elven arrows had pierced his chest. His blood gushed from the severed artery in his neck opened by Mica’s spear, briefly merging with the green grass, before disappearing from view. When his eyes finally glazed over Goblindom was rid of yet another murderous individual forever.

“What now?” Manx asked much later, like the rest already guessing what the answer would be.

“East, we’s heads east ter Crellan’s mine,” Glob replied while he watched Cantor and Verig bury Dern’s body. Turning to Lox he asked, “Wills yer joins us on our quest friend?”

Lox’s bewitchingly beautiful face broke into a smile, “We elves, like the rest of Goblindom, loath Crellan and everything he stands for dear Globular. We were on our way east when Bejuss found us and led us back here. Of course we will join your band.”

From high above three other familiar voices announced in unison, “We too will help you my dears.” Within a blink of the eye, Yathle the wyvern had landed with a squadron of her sisters, with her magnificence, Hermione Fingletook, mother of all, and the white witch Brilith astride her back.

The happy moment was broken when a muffled voice suddenly cried out, “help someones, I’s trapped!” Neo leapt to his feet and went inside the oak to free Pont. Morweth, Hermione and Brilith attended to everyone’s wounds while Mous assisted Pont who insisted on cooking a meal for his rescuers to show his gratitude.

“The east beckons my friends,” Mica said later after they had all bid Pont farewell.

A terrifying screech from high above made the hairs on everyone’s necks stand on end. Bejuss materialized on Glob’s shoulder. “We’th got another volunteer Glob; he’th goin ter recruit hith brother along the way.” The griffin Slyth landed at the centre of the group, reducing the eight rescued goblins who had also volunteered, to a quaking grovelling mass.

Taking Miranda’s halter in his hands, Mica followed Nit with the rest close behind. They set off on the long journey east into the dangerous unknown territory of the mist-shrouded Widow Spires and Crellan’s mine. Above the plucky band, Bejuss flew alongside his friends Slyth and Yathle, with her sisters flying in formation behind them. Along the way, many more willing volunteers would join the quest.

Brog grumbled continually from where he lay trussed up tight, roped securely to Miranda’s back. Neo ended his protestations with his club from where he sat astride Miranda’s neck. By the time they would eventually arrive at the Widow Spires, either Brog would have changed his attitude and become cooperative, or he’d be counting the painful lumps on his head, courtesy of Neo’s war club, moments before his life ended in Slyth’s beak.

The Time Before Map

~~~

Part two later…

😉

Coming Soon

Grandfather goblin    Grimefleet Binglenook aka Bingle, last of the elder goblins.

For those of you who were kind enough to purchase, and hopefully read, a copy of me fantasy anthology – Globular Van der Graff’s Goblin Tales for Adults set in the southern woods of Goblindom, I am about to write it’s prequel after being urged to do so by lovers of Glob’s tales.

One character, Bingle (shown above), is the last survivor of the Battle of Blaxhorn during the period known throughout Goblindom as ‘The Time Before’. In those days the Goblin tribes were united under the leadership of their naked queen Persephone Witchclaw.

Writing it should keep me busy for several months. At the moment I’m still gathering information and re-acquainting myself with Goblindom and its inhabitants. Meanwhile Graham Christopher aka The Story Reading Ape is busy working on the cover.

More  later…

Troth’s Eye

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A tale from the last days of magic before man almost ended everything natural 

Nagwort snarled, baring his yellow, razor sharp, pointed teeth. Brindle had just stolen his one and only treasure, Ilim’s crystal. Nagwort had won it, or rather stolen it, from the dead body of Ilim during the last great battle between the goblins and the dwarfs of the valley. Ilim had been the fiercest of all the goblin army that day. Nagwort had stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the thick of battle. Brindle sat in the corner of the cave carefully turning over the crystal in his bony hands, almost purring with delight, mesmerized by its exquisite beauty. Seething with anger and hate, Nagwort crept up behind him and knocked Brindle to the floor with one blow from his war club.

“Give it back!”

“Shant!”

“Give it me now!”

“No!”

Nagwort smashed Brindle over the head once more with his club, instantly raising a bump the size of a goose egg between Brindle’s leathery goblin ears. Brindle dropped the stolen crystal and slunk off into the shadows of the cave holding his aching head in his hands, barely able to see as thousands of stars drifted to and fro in front of his red eyes. Nagwort quickly retrieved his precious treasure and put it in the pocket of his jerkin.

***

Ever since the dwarfs had first arrived in the valley beyond the goblin’s warren of caves over one thousand summers ago, and because of the overcrowded situation all the clans now found themselves in within the valley, trouble between the two most powerful clans of ancients was inevitable.

Man, the blight on the world, as yet had not forcibly colonized this tiny part of the old planet. Both the goblins and the dwarfs had reluctantly been forced to retreat ahead of the relentless march of well-armed warring human armies, bent on conquest. They were closely followed by the burgeoning numbers of other humans who quickly set up home behind the ever moving battlefront, seizing all of the lands for thousands of leagues in all directions.

Very soon the last clans of the ancients, careful not to be detected by the hated humans – the goblins, dwarfs, elves and trolls, would have nowhere left to live. If the mindless destruction of the ancient forests by the invading humans was allowed to continue, the link between those self-same forests and the ancients would be broken forever.

Whenever a new seedling pokes its head above ground, somewhere close by, an ancient related to it, existing because of it, is also born. To cut down the life-giving forests and scrubland, is to the ancients the equivalent in their world of removing the very air that humanity relies upon to exist; all ancients are inextricably linked together with the forests.

Cut down a tree or bush, and, depending on what kind it is, an ancient simply ceases to be. Destroy an entire species, and the ancient clan related to it vanishes forever, breaking the life spells and enchantments that hold together all that is natural, all that is ordained in the great scheme of things by the ancient world.

By clear felling the forests to sow the cultivated unnatural seeds of grain along with fruit and vegetables, and by allowing its domesticated animals to greedily crop the grasses, bushes and herbs unchecked, humanity was slowly but surely killing the only world that Nagwort and all others in the ancient clans had ever known; although the notion had never entered Nagwort’s malevolent greedy brain.

The very idea of forming an alliance between goblin, dwarf, elf and troll to protect themselves from the hordes of greedy humans was unnatural to their way of thinking. Equally, as disgusted by the idea of collaboration as the clans of ancients were, they knew something had to be done before it was too late. A permanent truce between them was now a necessity.

The life-giving ancient forests, shrubs and herbs were daily crying out for their help. The agonizing pain could be heard from the great oaks, elms, alder, beech, larch, sycamore, willows and many more, too numerous to mention, as they were relentlessly cut down by the unfeeling humans. They had been heard and felt by all living creatures within the rapidly shrinking boundaries of the ancient world.

Many ancients, like those of the dragon, fairy, nymph and plains ogre clans, had already vanished within the last three thousand summers, as their life-giving species had been cut down. Every clan, every creature was then, and still is to this day, a necessary part of the world, unlike the vile human invaders.

Dwarfs were descended from Oak, goblins from Larch, elves from Elm, troll from Alder, bear from Beech, deer from Sycamore, squirrel from Chestnut, snake from Willow, bird from Cherry, wolf from Pine, stoat from Briar, weasel from Bracken, wildcat from Birch, snail from Toadstool, slug from Dock, and worm from Wild Potato.

Humans do not have a symbiotic relationship with any other living thing, and yet somehow they had managed to completely take over the entire world beyond the valley and the forest surrounding it, since Troth’s Eye was stolen, ending forever nature’s hold over all living things.

No one knew where they had come from. The humans were like an unstoppable poisonous plague. The very idea that another species could exist without its own life-giving clan tree, or plant, was a puzzle and totally against the natural order of things.

Much discussion and conjecture over just how the humans had come to be so powerful and numerous, had of recent times occupied the thoughts of all clans of ancients. They were seemingly unaffected by the ancients’ use of magic, incantation and curse in an effort to slow their relentless march, humanity was destroying everything that stood in its way in the blind destruction of the ancient world, regarding all other living things much like weeds or pests.

***

Gorin, the respected elder and arbitrator of the dwarfs stood up to speak in the protected forest glade, hidden from the outside world. Even a malevolent young creature like Nagwort showed grudging respect by keeping silent as the elderly dwarf began to clear his throat.

“Friends of the fellow ancient clans of goblin, elves, trolls, animals, trees and all living things,” he began. “We find ourselves at a dire crossroad. Our world is shrinking at an alarming rate. Our mutual enemy mankind as I speak is battering down the outer reaches of the great forest to the north, south, east and west of where we are, here in our shared valley. Soon they will arrive. What are we to do? We cannot fight them, even using our natural magic. The young among us are for war. But we few ancients cannot survive if our life-giving trees are chopped down, subjecting us and our young to needless slaughter, thereby ending our kind in a single generation. However, we can no longer afford to retreat any further either. Somehow we have to make a stand to enable our world to survive. But how do we achieve it?”

Gorin’s great age and wisdom was known and respected by all assembled there that day. Of all the ancients, he had made it his life’s work to study the hated humans since they first appeared on the eastern horizon many hundreds of leagues away beyond the ancient forest, over five hundred summers earlier.

Dingly, another elder within the clan of dwarfs, stood to speak. “There is a legend that has been handed down through the generations of all ancients, noble Gorin, speaking of the first age when our world was new, before the loathsome humans appeared. It is the legend of Troth the mighty ogre whose magical eye was cast upon the world in those days. It is said that while Troth’s Eye stood guard, our world and all that grew and lived within it was protected and lived in harmony. But, sadly it was stolen from the mountain top where Troth lived over five thousand summers past, at about the same time as when the hated humans first appeared. It was stolen by a thieving goblin youngling named Shruk who loved all things that sparkled and shone, forever breaking the spell of harmony and ending the protection that Troth’s Eye gave to all.”

A great hue and cry ensued in the glade as age old inter-clan bitterness and anger resurfaced. Since Troth’s Eye had been lost, chaos, greed and battle had become the norm among all living things. All assembled there knew of the legend and of the goblin clan’s weakness for precious objects, particularly if the object contained great magic.

“Friends, friends, please calm yourselves, I implore you!” Gorin shouted, as he lifted his hands to quell the anger of all assembled. “What Dingly says is true; all here know it to be fact. Who among the goblin clan can deny that it was one of their number, Slingfoot, son of Shruk, whose evil desire for pretty things was legendary throughout the world when it was young, stole a second great magic from the mountain ogre’s lair? When he died barely four thousand summers ago, we all know that Troth’s eye had already vanished, and could not be found. Neither it nor the magic he stole was ever seen again. No one, be they dwarf, goblin, elf or troll, tree, bush, shrub or bird, beast or fish knows where Troth’s Eye now resides. In fact there is no one alive among us who even knows what it looks like. Sadly friends, the one benevolent object that cared for and nurtured us—Troth’s Eye, imbued with the life preserving magic needed to protect our ancient world from the human disease, capable of restoring harmony, is now sadly lost, seemingly for all eternity…”

The trees surrounding the glade thrashed their branches in frustration, stirring up age old anger among their related clans. A great noise filled the air as all the clans assembled in the glade that day angrily argued, pointing accusing fingers at the goblin clan after Gorin had slumped down, suddenly feeling his great age and not knowing what or how their problem could be solved. For a long time they argued this way and that among themselves, all cursing Slingfoot and Shruk; even their goblin brethren joined in to condemn them for their foolish acts. It was now clear to all that a search for Troth’s Eye and the other great lost magic had to be organized.

The oldest oak there that day soon took charge of the situation and shook itself into action before lifting its roots free from the ground to move to the center of the glade. “There is one among us one who holds the key,” the oak, whose name was never spoken for fear of incurring the wrath of all the great trees of the forest, gently whispered to the gathering, as it pointed a branch accusingly. “It is you young Nagwort! You carry a crystal that was once owned by Ilim, descendant of Slingfoot and Shruk. It is the missing great magic, and you must hand it over. It was made by Troth and is the key to finding his Eye. It will point the way, if placed in the hands of one it trusts implicitly. But it will only work if all clans allow it to decide in whose hands it must be entrusted.”

All assembled there nodded in agreement as their eyes turned to where Nagwort stood quaking and trembling with fear, wondering how the oak knew about his treasure, but still defiantly clutching it in his bony hand, thrust deep in his jerkin pocket. “Shant, it’s mine, you, you scabby worm ridden cankered spindle twig you!” Nagwort screamed angrily at the mighty oak, as all gathered in the glade reeled in shock at the blasphemous outburst aimed at the noble oak by the disgusting youngling goblin thief.

Before he could flee, Nagwort fell to the ground in great pain as he was struck down from behind by the war club of Bladethirst, chief among the goblin clan. Bladethirst bared his cruel teeth, accentuating his disgust for the youngling and his thieving forefathers, as he deliberately and roughly reached into Nagwort’s jerkin to retrieve the crystal before handing it carefully to Dingly. “Your time is now over young Nagwort,” he hissed to the pathetic creature groveling and crying at his feet in great pain. Bladethirst bowed low as he enquired of the great tree what to do next. “Noble and mighty Oak, what this craven youngling has done and what he has just said to you, is beyond forgiveness in my eyes. Pray tell us what we must do?”

Silence fell in the glade as all eyes turned to the mighty oak for an answer. At the oak’s bidding, each clan member, each creature, tree and bush there in the glade that day, drew near and picked up, or touched the crystal in turn, hoping that it would be satisfied with one among the many. By nightfall, all but one had tried and failed to please the crystal.

***

A spine chilling terrible cry from above made all look up to the moonlit skies of early evening as a great bird suddenly appeared above their heads. They all watched with trepidation in their hearts as it descended on gigantic silent wings, landing beside the crystal. All breathing ancients knew, feared and respected Tallow, the giant eagle. Tallow and her kind were tasked by the great trees with keeping order among the clans since the world was new. She cast her sharp focus over all assembled. Many there hoped and prayed that she had not yet found out their many misdemeanors. All knew that Tallow’s justice was harsh and swift. But this time it seemed she had arrived for a different purpose. The great oak lowered a branch for her to climb onto and they quickly fell into whispered conversation.

When the first light of dawn crept over the eastern horizon, the oak beckoned to Gorin and lifted the elderly dwarf gently to join in the conversation. While the trio continued to speak, many of the assembled clans in the glade, as well as those below the oak’s shady branches, fell asleep exhausted by the previous day’s events. Nagwort whined and groaned from where he lay, pinned by Bladethirst’s foot. At long last by mid-afternoon the oak gently lowered Gorin and Tallow to the ground.

Gorin made an announcement. “Friends, Tallow has brought great news from the mountains to the north. She has found the very last mountain ogre left alive. His name is Gemlik. He is only alive because his protective tree, the last witch-hazel, still grows high on the mountain that is his home in the frozen reaches of the north, well beyond the reach of the human’s axe. Gemlik is the great, great, great grandnephew of Troth. Tallow is about to fly to him with our concerns, and if you all will allow her, she will take the crystal and its bearer to him. Surely if anyone can find Troth’s Eye it is Gemlik.”

Tallow sat on a rock preening her magnificent plumage in preparation for the long flight while the clan leaders talked over the news. Gorin, Bladethirst, Fingu, leader of the clan of Elves, and Slake, the eldest of the trolls, all finally agreed on a plan.

“Mighty Tallow,” Fingu said, “who among our number should accompany you to Gemlik’s lair? We have all tried and failed to please the crystal. If he is truly Troth’s great, great, great grandnephew as you say, his magic and anger will be fierce. All here know that ogres are solitary beings, not disposed to visitors of any kind, not even their own, except at birth planting when a new witch-hazel seed is sown. But if he is told the terrible truth of the human’s invasion by one of our elders, perhaps he will help us end this menace that threatens the natural order of things in our world.”

Tallow sat for a long time before answering. “Slake,” she began, fixing him with her fierce eyes, “of all here, your kind is the closest in kinship to Gemlik. But the journey is long and will take two nights and three days. You are heavy by your very nature, too heavy for me to bear. Bladethirst, your kind are bitter enemies of all ogres, be they mountain or plains ogre, he would kill you instantly. Fingu, your kind are deeply distrustful of ogres, he would drive you away to die in the frozen wastes below his home. Therefore there is only one among you who should travel with me, you wise Gorin.” she said, pointing a wing towards the dwarf elder, “All clans assembled here with the exception of the goblins, at least until today, trust you implicitly as did Gemlik’s kind so long ago. I have already spoken to him on this very subject before flying here. He already knows of the hated human’s relentless conquest to take over our world, and is willing to help end their destructive ways. Daily he sees the smoke from their fires as they kill your related life-giving trees to prepare the way for their kind to inhabit, where before only our natural world lived in harmony. There is only one among you that has not yet been tested by the crystal. Now gentle and wise Gorin, please pick it up.”

A loud cheer rose as Gorin triumphantly stood with the crystal glowing contentedly in his hand before he began to walk over to Tallow with tears of happiness and hope in his eyes. The great eagle held up one wing to halt his progress. “Before we begin our journey, dear Gorin, I have one onerous duty to perform.” She turned her magnificent head and focused her piercing eyes on Nagwort. With lightning speed she flew the short distance between the rock she had previously perched on, to where the pitiful Nagwort lay before seizing him in her powerful talons, knocking aside Bladethirst in the maneuver with her powerful wings, dragging the now screaming terrified young goblin aloft, flying high into the sky. With one precise blow from her massive razor sharp beak, Tallow beheaded the thief, and dropped his lifeless body to smash into the ground below where it would be reclaimed by one of the goblin clan’s life-giving larch trees, before flying back down to where the clans waited. Natural law was once more restored.

***

Gorin nestled between Tallow’s powerful shoulders, kept warm by her soft feathers as she soared ever higher before turning northward. As the pair flew steadily towards Gemlik’s mountain home, far below from time to time Gorin caught sight of the destruction of the ancient world by the humans. Tallow flew on effortlessly soaring on updrafts as day gave way to night. The sight of campfires, villages and towns from the countless human hoards glowed in the darkness below her mighty wings. Gorin, snug in his comfortable feather bed, warmed by Tallow’s body, ate an acorn for his supper before finally curling up to go to sleep. At his great age, one acorn per day was sufficient for his needs.

When dawn appeared, Gorin woke and rubbed his sleep filled eyes. “Where are we lady Tallow?” he wondered, as they flew across great tracts of land that Gorin had never seen before.

Tallow looked down for a brief moment before replying, “Far below is the land of the snow wolf, bear, leopard and Musk Ox, dear Gorin. No other creature dwells there because their clan trees cannot grow in the frozen ground.”

Gorin carefully stood to peer over her great shoulders at the world far below as she flew on ever northward. By nightfall they were flying towards a great mountain chain. “Is that where Gemlik dwells, do you suppose?” Gorin enquired, as they flew along the chain.

“No dear Gorin. Be patient. We have many more leagues to fly before we reach his mountain.” Gorin lay down once more to sleep, his tired eyes took in the stars above and the great green writhing curtains of light above the frozen north before they finally closed. For one more day and night, Tallow soared effortlessly in the clear northern skies. This far north, no creature lived.

By the early evening of the second night, the pair could now see the snow-topped peak of Gemlik’s mountain home in the far distance. With the coming of dawn on the third day, Tallow circled high above Gemlik’s lair, calling out to him, announcing their arrival. Gorin peered nervously over Tallow’s wings at the desolate frozen scene below. A great and terrible creature stood outside its cave entrance, beside a lone witch-hazel, shielding its eye as it watched the eagle and her precious cargo slowly descend towards it.

***

Tallow landed gently on a sturdy branch of Gemlik’s life-giving witch-hazel tree.

“Greetings noble Gorin, greetings friend Tallow,” Gemlik’s great voice boomed out his welcome, loosening rocks that tumbled down the mountainside.

Gorin carefully climbed down from Tallow’s back onto the branch she had perched upon, and with great trepidation, climbed onto the outstretched hand of the giant ogre. Careful not to crush his tiny guest in his hand, Gemlik walked back to his cave and placed the elderly dwarf gently in a bed of moss beside a roaring fire to warm his aged body before their conversation began.

Gorin studied his giant host with great curiosity and in great detail. He judged Gemlik to be over twelve feet in height. His great head bore only one eye. From his mouth, short very sharp tusks protruded from both his upper and lower jaws. His body was generously covered with snow white thick fur from head to foot. His hands were similar to Gorin’s own, except for their great size. His feet each bore seven clawed toes.

Not knowing if and when Gemlik might change his mind and suddenly decide to eat him as a tasty morsel, Gorin reached into his pocket and quickly produced the crystal, holding it out for him to see. “Here is the crystal O magnificent Gemlik. I was chosen from all of the clans to bring it home to you,” Gorin announced with a slight tremor in his voice.

The sound of Gemlik’s booming laughter almost deafened the ancient dwarf. As it continued to reverberate around the dark cave, bats that had been roosting happily in the darkest recesses of it took fright and flew out of the cave. “Bless you Gorin, your kind and mine have always lived happily side by side.”

Gorin raised an uncertain eyebrow as Gemlik continued. “Yes my friend, I can hear the thoughts of other ancients. I only tell you this to calm you. Be not afraid friend, you have nothing to fear.”

For the rest of the day, the two ancients, one miniscule, one enormously large, sat, ate and drank their fill as they discussed the progress of the hated human disease far away from Gemlik’s cave. Then the conversation turned to locating Troth’s Eye and restoring it to its rightful place. Gemlik’s one great eye moistened as he thought of his ancestor Troth and the happy times the world had known back then. “Tomorrow we shall climb up the mountain to return the eye,” he said. “For now, rest here while I prepare a place for Tallow to roost.”

***

With the coming of dawn, Tallow circled slowly overhead, ever watchful, as Gemlik with Gorin seated on one of his massive shoulders, warmed by the giant ogre’s fur in the frozen rarefied air, climbed steadily onward towards his mountain’s mist-covered summit. The snow blanketed slopes were treacherous. More than once despite his great strength and his clawed feet, Gemlik slipped and slid. As the sun climbed higher in the sky, the mist covering the mountain eventually cleared, revealing the uppermost reaches of Gemlik’s home.

By mid-morning at long last Gemlik and Gorin stood at the summit. At its center stood a magical rock with a simple hole at its top surrounded by intricately carved ancient runes, mounted on a plinth. Gemlik picked up Gorin and placed him with great care on the plinth. “Here we are friend,” he said with a smile on his face.

“But where is Troth’s Eye?” Gorin wondered.

“Why bless you friend, his eye is gone. But fear not we shall replace it soon enough,” Gemlik replied. “Now hand me my crystal if you please.”

Gorin handed it over.

“This crystal is the key to the problem our world finds itself in, friend,” Gemlik continued.

“When Shruk stole Troth’s Eye from its place in the rock yonder, almost immediately it vanished, ceased to be, dissolved if you will, ending its magical control, and letting chaos replace harmony by allowing the great unnatural disease called humanity to be born. This crystal is the tool my ancestor Troth fashioned to create the magical eye. As you may have noticed, we mountain ogres only have one eye, unlike our two eyed kin, the plains ogre. Now, like my ancestor Troth, I must sacrifice my own eye to create its replacement.”

Gorin watched with a mixture of anxiety and alarm as Gemlik touched his eye with the crystal. Instantaneously the eye changed from a living thing into a magnificent jewel before Gorin’s tearful eyes. Once transformed, Gemlik carefully plucked the jewel from his head and placed it atop the carved rock in the hole made for it, where almost immediately it became one with the rock and instantly the whole structure began to vibrate in unison with the world.

 “But you are now totally blind friend Gemlik. Was there no other way?” Gorin pleaded, anxious not to be the cause of Gemlik’s terrible sacrifice.

“Fear not Gorin. My small sacrifice has restored the natural order of things across our world. Now hush while I concentrate on the task ahead.”

“Now it is time to return to my cave,” Gemlik said. “Will you be my eyes for the descent? It will take me a little time to rely on my other senses to compensate for the loss of my eye.” Tearfully the old dwarf agreed, and climbing onto Gemlik’s outstretched hand. Once again he found himself seated on the giant ogre’s shoulder.

On reaching the safety of the entrance to Gemlik’s cave, the ogre told Gorin that he would keep the crystal hidden from thieves, should it be needed again in the future, and gave a parting gift to Gorin with instructions on what he wished him to do with it once he reached home.

After their farewells, Tallow with Gorin still saddened by what he had witnessed safely installed back between her wings, began the return flight back to the valley. As the pair flew south a great change was already happening far below. Where before the campfires of humanity had been seen far and wide, only darkness prevailed across the ground below. Gorin dozed fitfully unable to sleep as he worried about Gemlik and his supreme sacrifice.

***

“Look, they’re back!” Slake cried out, as he pointed towards the northern sky. All the clans assembled there in the glade watched and waited as Tallow circled overhead, gradually losing height as she carefully descended to the waiting throng.

“Welcome back Tallow and Gorin; wondrous news,” Fingu exclaimed. “The humans are vanishing, dying in their thousands, practically overnight or so it seems. Nature is reclaiming that which they stole from us. Seedlings are springing up where before human crops grew!”

Gorin said nothing. He nodded to Tallow, who acknowledged him in return. Then the old dwarf wandered off to the other end of the small valley. He searched all around until he found what he was looking for. Above the valley on its southern outer slope, he knelt down. He reached for the knife in his belt and began to dig a small hole in the soil. Next, he carefully opened his handkerchief and shook its contents into the hole before covering it up. As if by magic, a small seedling thrust its way above the surface.

“I have begun my promise to you friend Gemlik. I shall come each day to tend this new witch-hazel tree, and I shall school its ogre youngling, when he is born, in the ways of our world. Most of all I shall proudly tell him of the great unselfish sacrifice his ancestor Gemlik made to save our world from the terrible human disease that very nearly wiped us all out, when he replaced Troth’s Eye with his own. It is my hope that one day soon he will make the journey to meet you my dear friend.”

Far to the north Gemlik sat in his cave beside his fire and smiled as he heard the thoughts of his friend many leagues to the south…