Much to the surprise of many alive today, not all goblins were evil despite what ignorant folk may tell you, and yes they did exist until very recently.
The five members of this plucky band who I will always be extremely proud to call my friends were the last of their kind to live in peace alongside mankind before the world changed forever and like all things wholly dependent on the natural world – they soon disappeared forever, except in the memories of we fortunate few who were privileged to know them.
After that first unfortunate encounter a wary truce ensued. Neither species actively went out of its way to upset the other, but neither did we freely mix. Because of this deep mistrust on the part of my kind, sadly, many a good friendship between goblin and human until Glob and I first met, simply never happened, despite the fact that the vast majority of goblins were simple kind folk, and certainly not the thieving, bloodthirsty child stealers that evil minded and stupid humans believed of them.
Like all young human children I had often been warned by my parents that if I ever misbehaved in any way, I would be handed over to the village Shaman who would take me out into the forest and leave me for the goblins to do with as they may.
I first met Glob when I was a small child of barely four summers. I was happily playing on my own at the edge of our village beneath the trees that marked our tribe’s border with the great forest. Being so absorbed in watching a large carnivorous snail slither its way towards a juicy honey ant, I failed to notice the stealthy approach of a large she-wolf intent on killing me and carrying me away to feed her ever hungry pups.
The first moment I knew that something was wrong was when a small shadow briefly passed in front of my eyes across the boulder where the snail slithered breaking my concentration. I turned round in time to watch with a mixture of fear and fascination as the she-wolf’s fangs bared in preparation to do battle with plucky Glob.
For one so small he showed absolutely no fear for his safety as he placed himself directly between the hungry wolf and me. Glob like all Goblins, though slightly built, was immensely strong and fast. Each time the wolf attacked, Glob rapidly fired expertly aimed small sharp sided stones directly into her mouth, threatening to jam one in her gullet. No matter which way she approached from, the hungry wolf mother met her match in Glob’s relentless pelting attack of those deadly stone missiles. The shadow of the boulder in front of me had barely moved the width of a blade of grass before she gave up in disgust and slunk off into the dark shadows of the trees at the edge of the forest.
“Now younger, time to takes you home afore your mother frets for you,” my defender announced with his toothy smile.
At that time Glob and I were practically the same physical size and yet he scooped me up in his arms as if I weighed no more than a fat gooses wing feather before silently walking back, carrying me effortlessly to my parent’s thatched wattle and daub walled roundhouse, where he gently placed me down on the ground just outside the door before disappearing unannounced and unnoticed as rapidly as he had first appeared.
It was to be several summers before Glob and I met again.
Came the summer when, with the rest of my boyhood friends we were to endure the manhood ceremony. Our shaman Larch took us into the forest to the stone circle in the sacred glade where the ancient rites had always taken place.
Each of us in turn was given a task to perform to prove that we were worthy of standing alongside the warriors and hunters of our tribe.
In my own case I was to hunt the old wolf who had been stealing our sheep for the last several moons. To assist me in my quest I was given a razor sharp flint bladed knife and a stout staff. If I succeeded, and hopefully survived the ordeal unscathed, my place in our tribe was assured. Fail and the shame my failure brought upon my family would soon see me forgotten by all. My name would never be mentioned again, nor would any other child be allowed to take it in the future.
My first night alone in the depths of the forest was to say the least unnerving to one as young as I was back then, for I had barely seen fourteen summers. Each creak of branch or hoot of owl re-sharpened my wits and stretched my nerves almost to breaking point. Glowing eyes watched my every move as tiredness and hunger announced their presence to me. So I took shelter high up in the branches of a giant oak tree, where at least I could rest in comparative safety away from fang and claw.
“Morning younger, still not paying attention I sees.”
I was so happy to see my childhood protector Glob once again. But this time he was not alone. Seated all around me were his compatriots.
“He he, I sees I still needs to keeps an eye on you younger,” Glob chuckled good-naturedly while ruffling my hair.
Still not knowing his name at this point in the story I am relating to you, I replied.
“Good sir I am so happy to see you again. I have never forgotten the day when you rescued me when I was a mere child.”
“Ha, mere child is it? It still is aint it,” said a grumpy cross-eyed goblin as he spat on the blade of his knife before stropping it on the rough bark of the ancient oak. All with the exception of Glob nodded in agreement, much to my youthful annoyance.
Glob gave his friends a withering glance before seating himself beside me.
“Times to introduce us all younger,” he began as his friendly toothy smile replaced the scowl that had formerly occupied his animated face.
“My name is Globular Van der Graff n this fat one ere stuffing his gob with honeycomb is young Makepeace Terranova. The tall skinny one yonder replacing stale oak leaves for fresh under his armpits with the silly grin on his face is Byzantine Du Lac. While sitting next to him the one picking his nose with a twig is Eponymous Tringthicky, and the cross-eyed ol curmidgin sharpening his blade, who just rudely insulted you younger, is none other than Neopol Stranglethigh.”
“My name is Mica,” I said in reply.
“Mica, Mica who?” Eponymous asked.
“Just Mica – I have no other name. And If I don’t succeed in my manhood trial, my name will be struck from the memory of my tribe.”
“Strange folks is humins,” Neopol muttered, “only got one name – perculiar I calls it…” Neopol’s voice trailed off suddenly as his attention was drawn towards the throbbing pain in his thumb as his razor sharp blade had just bitten deep, largely thanks to his inability at focusing his eyes when engaged in such a task as sharpening it.”
“Tells us about this ere trial younger – er pardon me – I means Mica,” Makepeace enquired, smiling between mouthfuls of honeycomb that dripped great sweet drops of honey down the front of his jerkin from the large gaps in his teeth. So I explained the rite of passage from child to man as best I could.
“An you says you got to hunt n kill this ere wolf on your own?” Byzantine asked shaking his head with an incredulous look on his face.
“Ridicalus I calls it, ridicalus! Fancy sending out a younger to his certain death. Never happin in decent n polite Goblin circles. Madness – shear madness…” Neopol’s voice trailed off once more and his eyes almost uncrossed themselves at the prospect as all five nodded their heads in unison, quite unable to comprehend our ways.
“Well now Mica. Peers old Glob and his party will av to lend a hand so to speak,” Glob began good-naturedly, touching his long wrinkled nose and winking at me.
“What do you have in mind Globular sir,” I politely enquired.
“First things first young Mica me lad; most that knows me calls me Glob. E’s called Byz, e’s Make, e’s Neo, n e’s Mous – see,” he said, pointing to each of his four comrades in turn with his long bony finger. “Us Goblins don’t have no truck with formalizing cep when in the presence of the grand high Goblin hisself, got it.” Glob’s ancient eyes fairly twinkled with delight as our formal introductions were finally concluded to his and his compatriot’s satisfaction. “As for our secon names, theys never used cep in formal occasions like introducshuns n the like.”
The six of us spent the rest of the morning endlessly going over each step of our plan that we would perform collectively and separately. By the time the sun was high overhead, it was so firmly fixed in our minds that we were all suddenly quite weary having taxed our brains so much with it all.
Glob and his friends knew of the old wolf and his ill health that had lead to his having to steal sheep from our village to eat, sadly no longer able to hunt properly with the pack in the forest. Glob warned me most earnestly that the wily old wolf though ill would still rip the throat out of any that thought him easy prey.
Planning over, Neo with his thumb still throbbing from the vicious cut accompanied by Mous went off to the stream to catch fish for our evening meal while Byz and Make raided a bee’s nest nearby for more honeycomb to complete our repast, leaving Glob and I on our own to laze away the afternoon catching up with each other’s lives and adventures.
It turned out that Glob had often spent time watching over me over the intervening summers as I was growing up unbeknown to me, considering it his duty to do so up until that gloriously sunny morning when we had reunited. He laughed so much when I told him of the childhood threat of being left in the woods for the goblins that human parents used to frighten their children into behaving themselves that I swear I thought he would turn purple and die laughing.
The following dawn saw us stealthily approaching the old wolf’s lair downwind so as not to alert him of our presence. The path we had chosen followed a low stony ridge that ran below the old wolf’s lair. Neo and Byz, Mous and Make would act as the left and right arms of our attack formation with Glob at the centre while I was supposed to be positioned in a forked branch of the yew tree in whose roots the old wolf’s lair lay hidden. Although just how I was supposed to climb up there without alerting the wolf, for the moment eluded me as the only way aloft into the darkened confines of its branches was directly in front of the entrance to the lair.
Glob froze in his tracks. His leathery pointed ears swung right and left while his long nose twitched, all appendages searching, searching. Neo and Byz were not paying attention, being busy in hushed conversation about Neo’s still sore thumb. The next second we all heard Neo’s unmistakeable voice as he let out a scream of sheer terror – the wily old wolf had caught the pair unawares! At that moment all thoughts of our carefully laid plan rapidly disappeared as the rest of us ran to rescue poor Neo from the vicious death grip of the wolf’s still powerful jagged jaws.
In a trice we all fell on the snarling mixture of furry assassin and bleeding goblin. Neo’s crossed eyes were filled with terror as the old wolf began shaking him rapidly from side to side trying to break his scrawny neck while increasing the pressure on the unfortunate goblins’ throat to choke the life out of him. After all, to a hungry wolf even a scrawny goblin would suffice to fill his groaning belly.
Cruel blades frantically flashed as they bit deep through the old wolf’s thick fur. Make and Byz each took a flailing hind leg of the wolf and began to hamstring the still strong animal while Mous and I attacked his large body from either side putting our razor sharp blades to good effect by plunging them repeatedly up to the hilt through the old wolf’s ribs, searching for a vital spot.
Meanwhile brave Glob attacked head-on, hurling himself at the wolf’s great head savagely stabbing the powerful creatures’ cataract filled eyes with one hand while hanging on with the other to its thick mane of coarse fur. Our battle had now turned from one of ancient manhood rite into a rescue mission to save our compatriot from a brutal and savage death between the jaws of this awesome killing machine.
By mid morn the battle was finally at its bloody end. Neo lay quietly moaning in the blood soaked grass, his crossed eyes still rolling in his head. Make and Byz were busy applying honeycomb to all of our many wounds, courtesy of the wolf’s teeth and claws. Mous meanwhile was binding a poultice of herbs and fresh sphagnum moss around Glob’s hand that had unfortunately been savagely bitten by the wolf in its final vicious act before it succumbed to its many wounds.
For the rest of the day we all sat in silence at the edge of the battlefield nursing our various wounds and thanking our lucky stars that somehow we had all come through those terrible moments with our lives intact, if not our limbs. But our vicious wounds would heal eventually largely thanks to liberal coatings of honeycomb and sphagnum.
Sunset found the six battle weary blooded warriors sitting around a hearty fire fuelled by the now skinned corpse of the wolf. There could be no more fitting send off for a valiant foe. While he was our enemy we still felt the need to honour him by this simple act.
The following dawn gradually appeared. Low lying fog rolled across the battlefield and us as we lay shivering in the wet grass where we had fallen asleep exhausted by our ordeal from the day before.
“Well young Mica, peers it’s time to gets you back to your village with your proof of quest eh lad,” Glob announced as he sat up shaking the heavy dew from his leathery ears, like a dog shaking water from its coat.
Our sombre return journey through the forest gradually changed to one of excitement and light banter as the world warmed up and each of us recalled specific moments of our shared experience. From that day on we would always remain the very best of friends with a bond deeper than any family tie could manufacture.
Poor Neo was picked on mercilessly by his fellows and I’m ashamed to say by me also. But if it hadn’t been for the unfortunate surprise ambush by the wolf, things may have been very different especially for me as I was to expose myself directly in front of his lair to climb the tree to lay in wait, ready to strike the death blow according to our best laid plan.
My five new brothers stood silently in the shadows of the forest edge as I proudly strode towards the centre of our village shouldering the old wolf’s pelt.
“Glob your eyes is leakin – look Make they are, look!” Byz said pointing his long bony finger at Glob’s welling eyes.
“Shuddup”, Glob muttered as his tears flowed freely. The tough old goblin was proud of his ‘humin’, so very proud.
For the rest of our lives we spent countless happy days and nights in each other’s company, often retelling the story with a lot of embellishments for the benefit of anyone listening who may have been with us wherever we stopped for the night, of the battle we had all taken part in that fateful day so long ago when a young ‘humin’ and his five best friends set out on his quest of manhood. Since that day we shared many an adventure together and our friendship has gone from strength to strength.
As a man steadily journeys through his lifetime, he is indeed fortunate to have such fine friends as I have had all of my life in Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo) whose eyes have crossed even more as he has aged…