Every Sunday I will drop the businessman in me and put down a piece of fiction… This could be something you enjoy yourself for a bit of escapism, or just read the kids before bed…
Darklands – Journey for Freedom (One of The Questor Chronicles – by Thomas Duncan Bell)
The Northern Gate
After a few long hours travelling along the northern path, in the overbearing heat of the midday sun the three friends began to grow weary. The brothers hadn’t eaten for quite some time and their stomachs felt bloated and painful as they pressed on, trying to ignore their blistering feet from the endless trudge toward their enemy and the freedom they meant to offer their people. The road seemed like it would never end as they came to rest in the shadow of a nearby cluster of trees.
“Let’s find some food” said Bindlebob, “I’m starving and rumbly!” “I think we should” replied Samuel, glad that he hadn’t been the first to break the deadlock. Slowly, the travellers began to forage in the bushes either side of the path for things like mushrooms and cabbages, the most common food to be found among the dead branches and spindly twigs that made up the forest floor. Before very long William had pulled up two whole cabbages, almost the size of his own body and Samuel had found a whole host of wild berries and mushrooms for them to enjoy. The boys piled their findings together, using a fallen tree bow as a makeshift bench, while they began to prepare the vegetables for cooking, nibbling cheerily away as they did.
While they continued in their preparation, William was the first to speak. “Where’s Bindlebob?” he said. But scanning the area that surrounded them, neither of the boys could see where their friend might be hiding. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe he’s still just looking for food?” replied Samuel. “That’s right smello’s!” a voice bellowed out as if from nowhere. “Bindlebob! Where are you?” called William, his head still roving around, unsure of where the voice had come from. But instead of a response, Bindlebob appeared, like a flash, directly in front of the two brothers. “How did you do that?” asked Samuel, still stunned that they’d not been aware of this unlikely skill before. “That’s easy!” replied Bindlebob. We hobgoblins have always been magical folk, able to make ourselves invisible so as to keep us from harm. Plus, it means that we can get up to things that others can’t” he said with a wry smirk forming across his scaly face, as he pulled out two dead rabbits from inside his dressing gown. “Where did you find those?” said Samuel, with a hint of concern in his voice. “Never you mind master Samuel” said Bindlebob, as he stripped the skin from the tiny creatures. “It doesn’t matter brother” said William, “as long as we have food. I’m so hungry I could eat a whole family of rabbits!” “But how shall we cook all of this food?” asked Samuel. “Not to worry, trust old Bindlebob!” and at this, Bindlebob drew from behind his back a large, rounded saucepan. “I don’t think I want to know…” said Samuel and he stooped to light a fire with a few pieces of kindling wood he’d gathered from the base of the nearest tree. Bindlebob immediately began fussing and muttering away as he circled the pot, adding mushrooms, then cabbage, then rabbit, followed by more mushrooms. He then drew his knife and held the pot up against the woody coat of a tree, while he thrust the blade deep into the flesh of the bark, allowing a delicate flow of sweet saps down his blade and letting it drip gently into his rabbit and vegetable mix. Then, almost without seeming to move he gave it all a quick stir and the pot was over the fire, simmering slowly into a beautiful rabbit stew.
“That was very good Bindlebob; but I feel so tired” said William, as he finished his share of the stew. “Go to sleep brother” said Samuel, “I will watch over you.” But as time passed them by, in his peaceful ignorance Samuel’s eyelids began to droop, while a heavy, numb feeling washed over his body and he fell silently into the deepest of dreams.
After a short while of lying peacefully, the boys were startled awake by a sharp crack as they jumped to their feet almost simultaneously to see a gnarled wooden arrow embedded into a fallen tree, not far from where Samuel had lay. But before they could even gather their senses, the two boys were swept off their feet and into a large mesh bag. As they began to focus on what had caused the chaos, they realised that holding the bag was a giant goblin. The boys froze; their hair almost on end as their bodies tingled with fear, shuddering at the sight of the beast that stood before them. Neither of the brothers had seen anything like it, but they’d heard their father talk often of the goblin wars, where all men had gone to fight for their land and for freedom, against the monstrous, grotesque creatures. This was until one day a cunning warrior came to end the plight, before he was crowned King of all Earthengale, later to disappear mysteriously forever, dividing the plains between North, West, South and East.
The goblin before them was a good seven feet tall in Samuel’s eyes. It had green slimy skin as dark as the leaves of an Oak, at the height of summer. It had jagged, rotten teeth, that were pointed and sharp; they were stained deep yellow and were clearly not looked after, which was confirmed by the stench from the goblins breath as it crept like a foul elixir through the air, choking their lungs with its thick smell. The goblin wore chain mail armour, which hung loosely over the bloodied fur of dead animals that clung to his broad, bony shoulders, like a vile robe. In his right hand he had a crooked wooden bow and strapped to his back was a ‘leather like’ quiver, full of twisted and distorted arrows. “Bolrag! Come look what I’ve found!” squawked the goblin, raising the bag up in front of his wrinkled, slimy green face to get a closer look at what he’d caught. “What is it Grelbog?” said another haunting voice from beyond the trees surrounding them, as another goblin appeared.
The second goblin was distinctly shorter than the first, though he was dressed in a similar chain mail which again hung across some bloodied fur pelts, almost like a miscreant uniform. However, this second goblins skin was more of a muddied brown colour and William let out the tiniest of whimpers, as he noticed the huge jagged sword he had strapped to his belt. “These look like the blighters what stole our rabbits!” said Grelbog, indicating the skins that Bindlebob had stripped from the corpses and subsequently cast aside. “And that’s my pan!” cried Bolrag, as he stooped to grasp the saucepan from the fire swilling the mix into his mouth only to spit it immediately to the floor. “Yuck! It tastes all nice!” he snarled. Samuel slowly, noiselessly drew his knife and tried to slice through the mesh of the bag, but it seemed to be made from some sort of metallic wire and his efforts were useless. “Awww you won’t cut through that in an hurry you little blighter!” said Bolrag, spotting Samuels feeble efforts. “Why don’t we take ‘em back to ‘er chamber?” cackled Grelbog, as saliva dribbled from his bloated lips. “Good idea, let ‘er deal wiv ‘em.” retorted Bolrag. And the two goblins began to stomp off along the path where the boys had originally been travelling. “Where’s Bindlebob?” whispered Samuel to his brother. “Look” replied William and he pointed in the direction of some steadily emerging footprints that seemed to appear in the earth behind them, as the goblins trounced clumsily along unknowingly. Samuel smiled. “Don’t worry smello’s Bindlebob won’t let you get taken by these uglies!” whispered a reassuring and friendly voice from mid air.
It wasn’t long before the road before them seemed to widen and the goblins turned a corner just as the trees tailed off to reveal, in front of them, a vast wooden gate, fortified by a castle like structure that enveloped it. The gate was set right in the middle of a huge, worn, grey brick wall, with a range of battlements resting jauntily above it. At the left of the battlements there stood a winding, crooked tower which grew almost completely lopsided as their gaze drew nearer to its peak and the boys couldn’t comprehend how the structure stood firm with its cobbled wonky edges and rickety ramparts. Above the centre of the gate was a large metallic plaque, and upon it was written is bold black ink ‘The Northern Gate – May luck be with those who travel forth and beyond!’ Below this was also a smaller plaque that read ‘Entrance to the Crystalline Forest and the Darklands of the North.’
There were goblins everywhere! The battlements were brimming and the courtyard teeming with the filthy creatures, that until recently Samuel and William had never really believed existed. They were short, fat, skinny, tall, vile looking creatures, all with a different and more disgusting shade of skin than the last that let off a smell which sort of amalgamated in the air and was not dissimilar to that of vomit. It was all the boys could do to stop themselves from gagging at the sight and smell of what lay before them. The majority of the grim creatures were crowded around a fire to one side of the main wall and Samuel was no longer feeling as comfortable as he had, when he’d thought there were only two of them to outwit. Also, he could no longer see the footprints of Bindlebob in the dirt around them and he began to wonder if their new found friend had changed his mind about helping them out of danger. The brothers remained silent and steady in their captive state, ever watchful of an opportunity to escape, but both of the boys knew that now was clearly not the time. They would get nowhere if they tried to struggle free and besides there were too many enemies for them to ever make it out alive.
The goblins halted as they arrived at a smaller wooden side door, which lead directly into the base of the great wall. They stood for a moment next to what must have been some sort of guards hut, then, after a little scuffling from inside the hut, out popped a very small goblin. The miniature beast wasn’t a great deal taller than Bindlebob, but he had a head of thinning grey wispy hair and purple skin, with mottled glasses, which almost hung from a crooked pointy nose. “We’ve brought a couple ‘o prezzies for ‘er mistress!” announced Grelbog. “Well you’d better get a move on and enter then” replied the little purple goblin, as he unlocked the door which swung steadily open to reveal a black tunnel before them, lit only by the tiniest if candles. The boys were now stiff with fear, the hair on their necks stood to attention as they trembled, each almost lifeless in their captive state.
Where were the goblins taking them and who was this mistress they spoke of? Where had Bindlebob gone, was he coming back and could they even trust their new friend to help them? The brothers clung to each other for comfort, but neither of them knew what fate lay in store, as day became black and the door crept heavily closed behind them.