Monday, 13 October 2014


There is a place. It is in my memory and it is, is it stillQ. Unknown, somewhere else, but confusion is not what what all this complex storyQ No, it's not quite he, I mean, I well, says he, I can't answer that. It is Boris who must answer that. This place was in the countryside of Devon, where there is a village ~ let me ask you to imagine it, let us entertain the imagination with story.
 A village, thatch and gardens, colour and cucumber boxes (sign of contentment, Alice in Wonderland} smoke rising from chimneys or pipes which old men puff as they walk down the road. Here are all sorts of life, cows and sheep, dogs and goats.
 When I say 'men' I am wrong. The village where Boris grew up is a place of gnomes. Boris and his people are broad, hairy gnomes who grow a foot or maybe a foot and a half tall.
 The rainbow horizon dots with spotted cows and jangly is the even moon. How do I know all thisQ Do not ask me, that is what Boris came for.
 He sits there telling his stories and I am googly tremblous. Dwarfed in my red armchair, he watches as I write, then he talks and I pace the room.
 'Sit down and be calm or the story won't weave,' he tells me. I simply have to obey and sit opposite, waiting till he has filled his pipe.
 First, he tells old tales of his people, with characters tall in respect and prowess. He speaks of harps and strange stringed instruments, of music made with sticks or hands. I can see rhythms like spider's fabric in the air. There are gentle voices in the music, winding through woods, green hills and misty tracks. Talks of the founding of churches, finding of springs and river sources. Talk turns to darker things and the room shades and patches, the dark crawls on to me and in to me, until Boris blows light and I am left blinking. He turns into a pumpkin and I laugh. He laughs and we both laugh so much that dawn comes and we decide to calm down and have tea, so that the sun doesn't join in as well and confuse the whole day.
   Boris looks at me. 'I will tell you a story,' he says . Though it has been stories all night, I know that this time it is something special. He looks at me dazzly craze and opens his mouth.
 'There was Twilling ~ spread over Twill Valley. Here I was born and brought up. My parents had not always lived there but came down from higher ground at Starden, some cycles previously to be taylors two. I remember them as merry folk seeking true work, song, dance and nourishment alone. Simple people like you or I but starheaded and jewelled. Twilling was bright days and nights by the bridge. Moonlight lovers and I, sent signals of truth down the river.
 'Twilling sent leather trade to villages on the river. It was all our own make, shoes and clothes for gnome and man. Raw materials we also sent ~ barges returning with payment days later. Our barge men were strong and capable folk, for on the road there were beasts and bandits. These lands of Devonshire are as full of peril as trees are full of wind.
 'One night, the river spoke like an oozing black tongue. Rushing by, it spoke of something that had to pass and we waited, knowing it's truths.
 From dawn, Twilling was silent and prepared, eyes aware, knowing the river, fearful of it's ways . Then it came ~ a coiling black worm of such size, that it must have come from deep beneath the Mountains. It passed and was so huge that all was carried with it ~ our village, our animals, our people. Most became lost in the poisonous scales, or were impaled on spikes surrounding him. So sudden and unexpected was all this, that although warned by Twill, we had in no way expected what happened. O calamity!'
   Tears are on Boris's cheek, and I admit that they are welling up in my eyes too.
 'So all Twilling became scattered, many dead or enchanted by the speed of the serpent and riding on his back still. We had been picking canton buds from the hills and we returned to find desolation and the snake disappearing down stream. The serpent broke the river banks as he made his and I cursed his slithery soul. We wept to see the village broken and our folk killed or driven mad with frenzies of death. So it is that there are such things in the world.
 'After time spent in emotions, we set to practicality. We would have to do something. Where were our parentsQ Many wandered dazed, no longer of Twilling and probably ghoulsome and unnatural now. I remember staring down the river and finding the remains of my father. How i wished to soar. I would be like an eagle but I felt like a tarred seagull. Oh carry me down stream, carry me down stream. I want to go, I want to know, I want to seek fortune and fame, I want to hold my hand in the flame. Such were my youthful thoughts.
 'Coming to from my dreams, I realised we were all shivering with cold, so I lit a fire. Whose thoughts were theyQ I thought outloud and no one answered.
 'Then down swept he and down swept one, down swept the all embracing one. He came on wings of steely metal ~ come with a force centripetal. He a machine and horror my head, so I kicked it and fell for dead. A head of dreams rose and there I was again, cold on the grass.
 The fire was low. It was far from dawn. I pulled on my great coat and wandered leaving my sleeping friends behind. Under the sinking moon I walked between silver valleys strange. I wandered down and round in a rhyme and so made up my silvered mind that I would slay that black beast rare. I would still him on the ground. That great worm would fall to my fury. I held above my head a sword, Blade by name. With this, the snake would die.
   So the weeks passed and I came to a wood where I had not been before. Now I moved from areas I know to places with no familiar landmarks. I followed the river for I saw, here and there, black scales fallen or a lock of hair, drenched clothes and scorched remains. These bodies were the worst, blackened and foul. Yes, one eye all remaining or a bucket of blood, laugh in a box, poltergeist meander people all sudden, only the eyes of a fox pop and gone. Such a foulness was in my mind that I could not be restful and had to walk. The river was blackened by the worm's passage and when I saw the stain leave the bank and make off through the wood, I knew that was the way the worm had gone.
 'I will follow you wherever you go!' I yelled and added with true gnomish rage, 'I name you Blackbane that I may slay you and rid this place of your living name.'
 The trail spread wide and thich into the wood. With disgust and horror I looked on and plunged into the sticky wake.
 The forest was as dense as a colony of bats and all that could be heard was the constant speech of the leaves. The noise was mesmeric and I strode on over the ground. Suddenly I woke from my waking slumbers. A form was ahead of me in the undergrowth. I crouched. Looking on, I soon realised that it was not living, it was an idol of wood, in a squatting position. My thoughts were instantly of Men. They had built this. I went on wearing invisibility, following the black trail which was like an evil treacle, slimy sticky and sprayed everywhere. Then came the stones and great gaunt beasts which I silent and quick by, their sad rolling eyes and leathery bodies tall, slow in the trees as I slipped past.
 'They made me melancholic. Here were many fabulous beasts, rare and pretty, dark and bulging, plumed, loathsome and many legged. In the trees, there were bird spirits, sensitive deva and fork tongued strangenesses. Sometimes the spirits of the trees would come and talk, bringing solace to my little fire.
  'Yes, a long time I was in that place and many did I meet. Some brought good, some ill. Loose from the flames of hell for sure was Dragobeast, wingless dragon, green was he with red eyes. Stalked the undergrowth to come up sudden all teeth and tongue rolling, intent that I should be his next meal. I took my sword double quick and thrust it down his gullet. There sprouted a red flower, such a killing bloom. Old Drago~beast and I swapped roles, after I spitted him above the fire I made a meal of him.
 'It was just then that Trollwitch came by. trust her to smell my lunch! Anyway, she and I spent long eating and talking, then we slept. Waking up again we tramped together me in step and in all wisdom known to her for she was wise. She told me to split reeds of bullrush for a head dress. If I wore it, I would be able to tell truth from lies.
  'Later that day, I was walking when I found a piece of wood carved by the rain. How could this beQ No rain could reach the forest floor to carve it. I licked the piece of wood and it tasted of salt. How soQ  It must have dropped from someone's pocket. I was puzzling over this, when I heard a voice that I knew and I cried 'Thomo!'. It was Thomo of Bracknell. He jumped from a tree and we embraced.
'There was a moments silence.
'How thick with friends these woods can be!' I said and we began talking.
Thomo called the black snake Theekoo and I called it Blackbane. Thomo looked at me and said
'You will ne'er slay him alone'
'I did not scoff at him but looked into the fire brooding.
'The snake is old. It has the blood of many around it's foul mouth,' said Thomo. 'Fie will you, Boris of Twilling, stand a moth's chance of even bruising the beast' He spoke truth for sure. I'd been so absorbed in following Blackbane's trail that I had not thought what to do when I found him.
 'Theekoo, my Blackbane, is to vast a foe for my sword. If you are offering your help that makes two moths against the sun.' We both laughed.
 'Sing on Thomo, and we will spin tales of Blackbane who I would slay even alone. Maybe there is some weak spot. True, Trollwitch knew nothing, being bald of the snake in knowledge.'
 'Thomo became still, he lay back. I saw his lips move. 'It goes without sound' he murmered, 'Beneath the branches, the form of death creeping. Below, below, lady fair below, your hand reach down like willow wands, your hair is coloured sand, your golden footfalls sets the lungs a'breathing. Fair fair lady below the branches, your kiss is a shade of night and your eyes are seeds of awakening.'
 'Thomo spoke words which were on the wind. Oh memory! Twilling had been crushed, had spoken in my veins, then changed and crashed downstream. I could see myself reflected in the stream, I was looking down from a hill top, looking down, a dream on a hill.
'Boris! Get up!'
'It was Thomo. We were on the very edge of the wood. Whither nowQ The great black trail had grown small. I wondered why the worm was secreting less. Was he hungryQ Thomo dipped his finger into his navel and said,
'We do not know his ways. He is Theekoo, worm of legend, your Blackbane. He is his own. He is a vile being and I say he drips and slimes a vile black poo!'
'Aye!' I agreed
'It is all we have to follow. We must waste no more time.'
 Boris stops his tale briefly and looks at me across the smoky room.
 'Over grass where small trees grew, trod gnomish feet on morning dew and where to go was not so sure, travel mountain, or maybe moor.'
 Boris resumes his tale.
'Such a fellowship was this, Thomo and I, that we smelt the air anew, felt the land as mother to us both and we trod onward, beards waving in the wind, two hearts on a mission. We passed through valleys full of tall grasses rough to the skin, passes echoing caves and long rivers that yelped over rocks and foamed white over falls. Rapid travel we made ~ each our own heroes, with gleaming blades and a common foe. Thomo told me of past encounters with Theekoo, of the worm's magic and of the things it had done. He told me how once Theekoo took his bride.
'Where' I asked.
'Over field, over county, through the air, borne by Pterodactyl to a castle on a high sill of rock.' Thomo answered.
'And Theekoo was the reptile bird.'
'Your poetry is bad but your tale is taken,' said I. ' The Black worm will soon be so much sliced sausage'
'Night again, which came beyond the dusk where heroes slowed time as they flew by in the ruddy orange. We were around the burning flame talking and burning ourselves with what we heard. O thoughts of trouble ahead on the road! What significance did our journey have to anythingQ What indeed! The stars seemed to answer to augment our sorrow and lie deep troughs of sadness in our beings. Where is this quest goingQ What point is there in this storyQ I remember how we began to feel moody. Thomo would sit in an intensly grumpy state, never saying anything constructive at all. The dark night was all about and it filled us. All I could do was stare at the fire and pull my coat close. Soon, light made the trees speak sight out of the night and our spirits lifted. Morning peered over the hills and the flowers began to warm. We set to walking and walked for several hours. Then a sight came which dismayed us. It was the bllack belt we were following. I have said it had became thin. Now, worse still was to come. It dived underground! The snake had taken to ground, squirmed into the earth with Twilling on it's back. All memory to be revenged was down this hole. We didn't know what to do, so Thomo destroyed a patch of beautiful toadstools clinging to the base of a tree. We looked at one another and without a word, entered the dark hole.
'Down in the deepness of earth, our eyes remembered ancient sight and could see in the blackness. Earth's old creatures have powers which come when needed but which are called strange or impossible by those who do not understand.  Down in the snake~eaten hole, the earth muttered and moaned. Our footsteps clanged but we were brave and went on and down. Thomo said that Theekoo always headed for some open space when tunneling, for he must also breathe. So it was we came to a large cavern half filled with water, silver to our eyes. Cold silver and fish blind, racing. Where was TheekooQ He was not here. Our foe must have gone into the water and who can say where after thatQ We stood forlorn, staring over that water which had become a sea for us. Oh loss! O emptiness! O underground we know is gnome's place and place too of darkest monster, goblin, troll and balrog, foul scaled beings deeply rotten of heart, cold~clawed, deep rock dwelling, incarcerated and emerging to do evil only. Such thoughts tremble~making were, but we were prepared. Into the water! But too late! Out of the dark came shapes darting and quick, small and thick with weapons, eyes in the dark. Terrible shapes even for us as our gaze grew wide to them, for they were all about. A clamouring mass demanding blood and meat, a fell gathering behind which moved larger creatures still, more muscled and redder of thought, bristling with sharp and evil spears. O horrid sights in the deep places of Devon. Goblin rings terror brings! The ring grew tighter and we were fenced in with our blades drawn. How miraculous were we to be this time, if we were going to escapeQ Was there a wayQ Forced back to back and almost blind with fear, we faced our death and I was about to pray. At this moment, Thomo screamed and the word was 'Thaglin!'
 'pouring ourselves into the wall of faces, he screeched his battle cry, joined by my 'Broomhilda! Broomhilda! Featherstar!' We caved and carved into beasts and the air was soon speckled with beans of blood. A fury of motion, our arms were like a thresher's flail, swords transforming creatures to unlife. Great wasting there was, and the gods of destruction were with us. Goblins with huge grey heads were easy meat for our swords which worked like fire to straw on them. Bodies were hacked and spliced, giblets flew through the air on fountains of red spray. Gore splattered everywhere but on we fought. I swear we slew two thousand goblins between us, along with additional greater things, winged ones and shadowy demons of deep places. We stood fifty feet deep in slain bodies, some still moving. All around was dismemberment and things disfigured, that gave off their own unlight. Here, a tentacle would wag in almost~death or a deep mourning belch would rise through the layers of the slain, spraying foul jellies and releasing horrendous gases. Carnage and loose meat would soon have become a mass playground for the maggots and we did not wait to join in their game. So, like a bubble fom the deep, we began to eat into the roof of the cavern, which we had reached atop the bodies. Clawing at the rock, we gnashed our way upwards to where air would be and we could stand again beneath the rays of our sun. Up and up we munched, throwing what we could not cram behind. Likewise, there rose a moan from the dead below, which followed us with dread~hate. We threw ourselves onward and upward. Like a red ball of fire it came, but we were faster and flew through the earth's surface into the sea of air. Down again we came, rapid as eagles to where we clung to the edge of the hole we had made and vomited down all we had eaten, plugging the streak of red fire that was coming up from below. We sat over the hole~that~was and took a meal of roast warthogs, caught from trees with catapaults. Then we took to talk and storytelling.   

Saturday, 11 October 2014

dancing gnomes