Another Goblin Tale
In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous) and finally, curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), ask Mica to help them find their brother Byzantine Du Lac (Byz).
“Mornins yung Mica me lad, fines day ain’t it.”
Glob sat down heavily beside him out of breath. He scratched his ancient leathery ears, taking advantage of the cool shade from the extended thatch above the entrance to Mica’s home, away from the heat of the noonday sun.
“Morning Glob,” he replied, looking at his old friend’s expressive face. Clearly something of great import was worrying him. “What’s wrong Glob, what is it that brings you out of the woods in the middle of the day?” Mica enquired.
“Tiz Byz I’s afraids yung Mica,” he began, shaking his head. “Peer’s he’s gorn wandrin orf on a fool’s journey,” Glob continued, with a glum look that spread across his face like a black rain cloud, revealing much more of his deep concern for their friend Byz than what he was actually saying. Goblins are not generally known for fully explaining what it is they actually mean unless prompted.
Apparently a few days earlier, Byz had been told a tale by a passing traveller he met on the path through the woods, about a hoard of precious jewels somewhere beyond the valley to north, and had gone off on his own to seek them out. Mention the word jewel to a goblin and they quickly begin to foam at the mouth in sheer ecstasy at the thought of finding those elusive and brightly coloured stones.
Of all Mica’s five goblin friends, Byz was the most gentle and simpleminded. He always had the stupid grin all simpletons share on his highly expressive and kindly face.
He often wandered off on his own, distracted by something as simple as a pretty flower or a coloured toadstool or any other brightly coloured thing come to that. So when Glob told Mica about how poor Byz had swallowed the traveller’s tale hook line and sinker, it came as no real surprise that he had wandered off to find a hoard of gemstones.
“Me n the lads is wurrid bout him Mica. E shud not go orf by hisself. We wuz wundrin if yer’d comes wiv us ter gets him back?” Glob asked, frantically reaching inside the collar of his jerkin to grab a spider that was slowly crawling up his back, driving him to itchy distraction.
Glob didn’t have to ask twice for Mica’s help. He knew his humin friend would always come when called without needing to know the reason why. After all, they were more than brothers now since the time of Mica’s manhood trial three summers earlier. “Let’s go old friend, it’ll be dark soon,” Mica replied as they began to prepare.
By nightfall Glob and Mica were sat around a campfire together with the other members of the rescue party, Make, Mous and Neo – all happy to be together once more.
As the evening wore on, fuelled by mugs filled to the brim with the finest goblin brewed mead, courtesy of cross-eyed Neo’s personal supply, they were all busy burping, hiccupping and laughing loudly. Tears rolled down their faces when they competed with each other to see who could make the loudest noise when passing wind, after eating a supper fit for a king. Thanks to Make’s delicious honeycomb that followed the main course of freshly caught fish and wild mushrooms, they were all now bursting at the seams.
It wasn’t the noises they made which brought on the drunken laughter, so much as the strained expression on each contestant’s face. As each one took it in turns to manufacture their individual contribution, floods of tears reduced them all to a state of happy helplessness. The powerful effects of Neo’s strong mead increased their enjoyment.
Mica’s old mare Miranda stood hobbled behind them for the night. Not that she would have wandered off at all while her friend Neo was close by. The flickering lights of the campfire magically illuminated her. She munched contentedly on the fresh sweet hay in her nose bag. And, as all grass-eating animals tend to do, she freely contributed her own loud and smelly efforts to the contest, reducing everyone yet again to tears of laughter.
Miranda was glad to be free from the shafts of Mica’s heavy old cart, which he used to carry all of the things Glob and he believed would be needed to rescue their friend Byz.
She had complained a lot at first, moodily stamping her hooves, refusing to move. She neighed, whinnied and reared up to emphasize her reluctance, stubbornly objecting to being hitched up to the cart until Glob had a sudden brainwave.
Climbing onto her neck before carefully leaning forward, he whispered in her ear that her friend Neo would be looking after her for the journey. That did the trick, and they were soon underway, heading towards the beginning of the path through the southern wood to pick up the rest of the party.
Miranda loved the curmudgeonly cross-eyed goblin with all her equine heart and soul. Whenever she saw him approaching from the shadows of the woods, she pricked her ears and fluttered her huge eyelashes, whinnying like a young filly in love as she trotted over to him with her nostrils flaring and swishing her tale with pure delight.
Neo, while not having much time for most other living things, loved her in return like the sister he always wished he could have. Whenever he disappeared bored with company, or was in another of his sulky moods, he could usually be found sitting astride her neck.
When he thought no one was about he gently combed her hair through his long bony old fingers, while weaving brightly coloured meadow flowers into the thick body of her luxuriant mane. He loved to whisper the latest gossip from the woods in her large soft ears.
Neo visited her every day, giving her handfuls of the freshest most succulent grass he could find. Unfortunately, sometimes he tried to stick the grass in one of her ears. His badly mixed up eyesight meant he often mistook them for her mouth. But Miranda didn’t mind at all, just so long as she could spend some time with her small cross-eyed friend.
The following day after Neo had hitched Miranda to the cart once more, with him sitting astride her neck gently whispering directions in her ears, they set of to find Byz. They had travelled only a league along the path, shouting and whistling hoping to attract a response from Byz, when Miranda stopped suddenly and sat down on her haunches between the shafts of the cart, refusing to go any further. Her great ears twitched frantically to and fro.
What were they to do?
“I’s can’t gets her ter stands up, no matters wot I’s sez,” Neo announced, shaking his head. He was totally at a loss as to what he could do next to encourage the seemingly stubborn mare. He tried waiving fresh bunches of her favourite kind of succulent grass in front of her. He even promised to come and live with her in her stable – all to no avail.
The decision to begin the process of getting her out from between the cart’s shafts halted when she suddenly stood up. Her large ears twitched left and right. Letting out a whinny of delight, she took off at a fast trot with everyone hanging on for dear life as the old cart bounced along the path through the woods, threatening to spill its contents onto the ground.
Around the corner in a small clearing Miranda suddenly slid to a halt beside an old rotting tree stump, causing everyone to fall in a jumbled heap. Her large ears had allowed her to pinpoint the sound of Byz’s snoring echoing through the woods.
After they had extracted themselves from the tangle of arms, legs, acorn mead barrels and the broken mugs that littered the cart’s tray, they followed the snoring. He was found curled up in a ball on a bed of dry leaves at the bottom of a hollow stump, with that simpleton’s smile of his spread across his face.
On the way home Glob asked him why he had stopped where he did. It turned out he didn’t get very far, simply because he forgot why he was going north in the first place. So he decided to lay down to take a nap for a while to think about it, and the rest of the story you now know…