A long and twisted tale.

A Tremulous Test

Book Two of the series Tales of Strangeness and Charm.

A Tremulous Test is introduced below.

The first few colour pages will appear here.
Below the pages is the first chapter in text form in case you’d like to read a sample.

CHAPTER 1

Grimmbros felt the morning sun on his face, warm and gentle. He heard the soft hum of meandering bees and the light rush of leaves swaying in the breeze. Keeping his eyes closed he allowed the remnants of dreams and sleep to disperse slowly, enjoying the gradual return of his senses. The simple, tranquillity of the moment: a thick moss carpet and crisp air that… The sharp crack of a twig and a looming shadow broke the urgh-bane’s drowsy reverie, he blinked and awoke with a start. Right before his eyes Razzles and Fürgůïnðërb peered down at him, faces so close it was like looking into the back of a spoon and seeing two big-nosed midgets instead of yourself.

“Gah!” he spat, scrabbling in the grass, trying to recoil backward, “What are you two doing in my face?”
“It’s time to go,” Fürgůïn said in a cheerful voice.
“He says we’ve got to go to the Forbidden Forest,” Razzles explained angling a thumb at his fellow halfling.
“What? Why? Ohhhh… What? Ohhhhh… go away! Go…”
“But the Forbidden Forest!” the knohm whinged uncertainly.
“Don’t you humanoids sleep?” Grimm moaned, yawning the kind of yawn that threatened to turn himself inside out accompanied by a sound not dissimilar to that emitted by a great oceanic whale. He stretched and gave the two intruders a disgruntled scowl.
“Slept, got up, found breakfast and planned our route for the day,” beamed Fürgůïn enthusiastically, “Old hairy went off that way – headed for the Forbidden Forest, I reckon.”
“What do you mean ‘found’ breakfast?” Grimmbros asked suspiciously. Fürgůïn proudly held up a mass of orangey-brown fungus that oozed a bit from one edge and had a rash of purple spots and blotches on it.
“That’s purpler than is healthy that is,” disapproved Grimmbros wth a scowl, “I’m not eating that!”
“How about this!” chipped in Razzles equally proudly holding up a dead mouse and two leaves. “We can barbecue it!” he tempted. The urgh-bane looked woefully at his stomach and back at the pair of irritants now standing out of breath’s reach. He looked a little too long for their liking before saying, “I’m not hungry.”
“So we’re not going to the Forbidden Forest?” Razzles tried optimistically.
“Pah! Forbidden forest my flannel jacket!” mocked Grimmbros.
“It is!” the knohm shuddered, “It’s dark there and full of, of, of…”
“Trees?” completed the urgh-bane. Razzles looked at Grimmbros enquiringly.

The knohm knew that there was more than just trees to the Forbidden Forest, but nobody ever wanted to talk about that. He knew that Fürgůïn would never admit to anything more than ‘just trees’ in the forest, because he wanted them to go to it, but the urgh-bane, Razzles thought, had no reason to hide anything. He begged Grimmbros for support with a long, imploring look, but the urgh-bane didn’t offer any help.
“Yeah – them,” grumbled the reluctant Razzles, giving up.
“So you’re just going to up and off for the forest…” the urgh-bane mumbled, stretching and sitting up. “What makes you think that beest’s off there anyway?” Grimm seemed to be contemplating the possibility of coming along.
“You’re going to go?” Razzles moaned looking like a balloon that had just had the air drained from it.

He was not happy about going to the forest at all, but if they had to go at least the urhg-bane would offer some protection against… against whatever was there. He didn’t know whether to keep whinging in the hope of not going at all or to try and cajole Grimmbros into coming along.
“Aren’t you afraid of the ‘trees’ too?” he tried rather weakly.
“You knohms frighten your children with mention of the place and you don’t even know why” Grimm growled.
“We do!” Razzles countered with increased feebleness.
“Go on then – what is it that’s so ‘forbidden’?”
“There’s stuff! Stuff! S-T-U-F !”
“Stop it! Stop it!” came Fürgůïn’s voice, “You’re upsetting him. What are we doing anyway? We never used to be like this – bickering, squabbling. We didn’t used to be this way!”

Razzles and Grimmbros’ expressions became momentarily pensive as they doubtfully considered this claim. “We didn’t used to be any way,” Grimm corrected.
“There is no we. N-O  W-E !” he mocked.
“I know,” Fürgůïn continued regardless, “We’re all quaking ourselves silly over the Forbidden Forest. That’s why we call it ‘Forbidden’ it makes us feel better to think we think we can’t go there. But we have to go there. It’s the only way, the only way.”
“Quaking ourselves silly!” repeated Grimmbros in scorn, “Speak for yourselves half-wits! Put an alarming adjective in front of anything and you lot will run a league: ‘Oh I say my little knohm, I see that you have an ‘outlawed’ arbour at the bottom of your garden. Ahhhh! Run for your lives my delicate little knohm family, danger threatens…’
‘Well I do declare my fine renling, I certainly can’t approve of your ‘prohibited’ cabbage patch next to the bank that you have invaded’: ‘What? Oh no! save yourselves; everyone flee for their lives… Cabbages!’” taunted the urgh-bane, chuckling to himself as he spun the scenarios.

Fürgůïn wasn’t impressed, he glared briefly, spun round and set off with an air of purpose, licking his finger as he went and holding it into the wind, “This way.”
He didn’t know why people licked their finger before going anywhere, but it looked impressive and made him look like he knew what he was doing, besides it tasted good since he’d been poking some odd toadstools earlier – at least that’s what he thought produced the odd tang.
“By the way we have to go via the toll bridge,” he added nonchalantly striding onward.

Grimmbros stretched again and began to follow.
“You are going?” squeaked Razzles surprised.
“Whah? But…” He looked at the mouse clutched in his hot little hand then at his leaves, stuffed one inside the other and began to skip rather reluctantly along behind, his head bobbing thoughtfully. “I’m not going in you know,” he mumbled quietly, “You can lead a knohm to water but you can’t make him fish… wait did you just say toll bridge… T-O-L bridge?”
But Fürgůïn appeared not to hear Razzles’ anxious enquiry, he just paced on as if his personal momentum was what was required to get the party to follow.
“Oi ! Did you hear what I just said, the knohm called. “You can hear me can’t you?”
“Yes, that’s right. Something about fish trollops. Now the bridge is off over there… bit of a walk. If we hurry up, we should be there before midday. That device does weird stuff and we need to get it back as soon as possible,” called back Fürgůïn in his now familiar, optimistic and confident manner.

Razzles didn’t like it. Razzles stopped skipping for a moment, stood still and looked ahead at Grimmbros who seemed oddly resigned to the journey yet not fully engaged with its purpose The knohm was still hoping for some kind of  confirmation as to what really lived within the forest, and therefore have a solid reason not to go; but nothing was forthcoming. Secretly he was pleased that Grimmbros had been persuaded to come along with them because whatever did lurk between the towering trunks of the forest, he had good reason to believe that they would manage to survive the experience if he stayed close to the urgh-bane. Grimmbros might use a lot, an abundance, a copious profusion even, of words – many of which Razzles didn’t understand – but in a fight he was of more use than either of the halflings, whose best unarmed combat technique was the unashamed coverage of as much ground as possible.

Then, conscious that he was being left behind, Razzles looked down at his reassuringly stuffed mouse, gave a lick and smiled to himself before picking up the pace again, his hat bell creating a merry, if cautious, rhythm. Although he was feeling uncomfortable about the whole adventure he felt it best to keep quiet for now, he didn’t want to do anything to dampen Grimmbros’ already water-logged spirit,  or to show himself up before his friends either.

The book A Tremulous Test can be found here.

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