The Adventure of Igdryll the Drunken Gnome (Part 4)

          The Elder stood on a podium at the base of the steps in front of Town Hall. Word spread quickly in the town, particularly after Igdryll mentioned what happened to Tragdyll. A crowd gathered and they were eager to hear more. War was big news, the only news really to have occurred in many months. The last event of any interest was Oyroll’s mushroom barn burning down.
           “Quiet now,” the Elder shouted. “I know war is an unhappy business but it is a business we must do.” The crowd pressed closer. “Now, I have gone to the Vale and seen for myself of what Igdryll and Evelya spoke. I have ill news,” the Elder paused. “It’s Tall Men.”
          The crowd gasped. Adralla, the town’s oldest woman, fainted.
          “No one likes to send anyone, not even Tall Men, to the spirit,” the Elder continued. “But, I fear it may necessary.” He waved his staff to silence the crowd. “Now, the Council commands me to go back tomorrow and for this they say I need volunteers to come with me.”
          Everyone fell silent as the Elder scanned the crowd but he only encountered averted gazes.
          “Very well,” he said. “I will consult the bones.” He removed a small pouch from his belt and shook several small bones into his gnarled hand. “Behold,” he said while lifting up his hand.
          He closed his eyes, mumbled something and threw the bones onto the dirt before the crowd. He opened his eyes and stared at the jumble. The bones trembled, then spun before settling to a stop. The Elder smiled.
          “The bones have chosen,” the Elder paused. “Igdryll Tradagast.”
           “Fark me, oldish!” Igdryll shouted from the back of the crowd. He pushed his way to the front and glared at the Elder. “Them bones didn’t ask me, so it don’t count none. I’m not cut for warish activities.”
          “Now, Igdryll,” the Elder said. “The bones have spoken and, as always, spoken true.”
          “How says? Only you can read them anyhows. Coulda said we need to eat more acorn stew or hurl our poos at each other.”
          “The matter is settled. We leave in the morning.” The Elder descended from the podium and walked up the Town Hall’s steps.
          “Wait, now. You said volunteers. Who more?”
          The Elder turned. “The bones said just you, Igdryll. They seem to fancy you a great deal.” The Elder opened the door, went inside and the door slowly closed behind him.
          “Great,” Igdryll said.

The Adventure of Igdryll the Drunken Gnome (Part 3)

           Few have seen the inside of Town Hall. Just beyond the front doors leading to the inner chamber is a larger oak door that is covered in carvings of ancient heroes and verses from scripture in the Old Tongue. Beyond these doors is the council chamber, unseen by most. The council itself consists of the Elder, who serves as the mouthpiece for the group, and six others whose identities are unknown. This arrangement isn’t questioned by anyone in the village because, by consensus of popular opinion, the council is never wrong. Also, the town has remained prosperous for as long as anyone can recall. The only murmurings against the Council occurred many years ago when some spoke out saying the council wasn’t real. In response, every year on the Spring equinox, six cloaked and hooded figures appear on the roof of Town Hall. It has become quite a festival.
           “Igdryll, leave the drink,” the Elder said.
           “The mug I leave but the drink, I take.”
           Downing the remaining cider, he set the mug down on a nearby table. The Elder rolled his eyes.
           “Now listen, Igdryll. Be truthful with the council. They will see into your heart,” the Elder paused. “And, they know of your doubt.”
           “If they see my heart, why they need to talk to me, eh?”
           “It’s complicated. But they need to see that your words and your heart match.”
           The Elder knocked on the door with his gnarled staff and the doors shuddered slightly before slowly swinging open. Stairs led down into darkness. The Elder took a torch from a basket, whispered something and blew on it. The pitch smoldered briefly then ignited.
           “Come now,” the Elder said. “You may not believe but you must respect.”
           Igdryll followed the Elder down. As they descended, the steps went from being carefully hewn treads to careworn stones and then pure, living rock. Igdryll stumbled. ‘Cider’s takin’ hold,’ he thought.
           They descended several hundred feet before they reached another door, this one carved from rock. It matched the scale of the doors at the top of the stairs but lacked the adornment. Still, they possessed a simple beauty.
           The Elder walked up to the door and turned back to Igdryll. “It’s important that you understand that beyond these doors is not a place in the usual sense of the word. Time and space do not, well, work in quite the same way. It will be a bit disorienting.”
           Igdryll nodded. “All right, then.”
           The Elder turned back to the door and spoke, softly at first, then the speech became chanting. The timbre drilled into Igdryll’s head. He tried to shut it out but it seemed to pervade his entire being. Igdryll remembered something. When he was twelve summers old, he had a strange dream. He felt asleep but awake at the same time somehow. His body felt as if some energy was sliding through it. As much as he tried, he could not move and it felt like he was being watched by some entity. As the Elder continued the chant, Igdryll’s sense of horror grew and he felt exactly the same now as he did those many summers ago during that dream, or whatever it was.
           “Nay. Stop,” Igdryll said. The Elder did not respond. Everything went black.

“Igdryll,” the Elder said. To Igdryll, he sounded very far away. “Igg, come on now. Wake.”
           “What the hork happened?” Igdryll sat up staring absently at the stone entryway to the council chambers.
           “You did fine,” the Elder said.
           “Did what fine?” Igdryll stood, swayed but regained his balance. “What you talkin’ about now?”
           “The Council found your truth. We must prepare now.” The Elder ascended the pathway, his torch fading as he rounded a large boulder. Igdryll stood in place, still dazed. “Come now.”
           “Prepare? For what?”

The Adventure of Idgryll the Drunken Gnome (part one)

I finally dusted off this story which has been lying around my office under various piles of radio gear, other piles of half-finished stories and lord knows what else. I intend to post it here in bite size pieces from time to time.

          It was early Autumn and although Igdryll wasn’t entirely finished with what he was doing, he decided to stop anyway. You see, Igdryll is a gnome and a carpenter. The best one in town–carpenter, that is. That he is the only carpenter did little to dampen his impression of his own abilities. He dusted his hands off on his pants and left the cricket barn to make his way back to the village.
          In the distance, a white tendril of smoke drifted and the faint fragrance of burning leaves filled the air. This was Igdryll’s favorite time of year. The crops are coming in, the orchards are heavy with apples and figs, the combs are thick and dripping with clover honey. And, most importantly, Mr. Dallver rolls up last year’s cider from the cellar and uncorks it.
          Igdryll fully intended to head straight to Mr. Dallver’s at this very moment because it wouldn’t be very crowded since everyone else was working. Lost in this thought, he didn’t notice as Evellya approached from behind.
          “Afta noon, Igg!”
          He dropped his toolbox scattering an assortment of chisels and hammers into the tall grass by the path.
          “Bullfachs, Evey! Ya shorn’t do that.” He stooped down to collect his tools. “Might ya help?”
          “Ya shorn’t curse like that now. I help ya. Here.” She picked up a hammer from under a bush and handed it to him. “Ya know I be in the woods a lot.”
          “Yah,” he said.
          “I see somethin’ peculiar might, I did.”
          “Now I serious, Igg. I seen something beyond the Vale there.”
          “Now you shain’t go beyond that Vale,” Igdryll said. “Nothin’ there for us. You know me Uncle Olltort, he went beyon’ the Vale and came back actin’ all funnyish.” Igdryll picked up his toolbox and walked towards town. “Still all mumble mumbles.”
          “Yer uncle drinks too much,” Evelya said.
          “True told. But the drinkin’ came after the Vale, nay before.”
          “Come see it with me.”
          Igdryll stopped and looked at her. “Nar.”
          “Twice nar.”
          “Two drinks?”
          “Let me drop my tools off firstish.”

          After stopping by the cricket shed to drop off the toolbox, they entered the nearby woods. Idgryll never liked the woods much. When he was four summers old, his cousin, Myrdrigg, took him deep into the forest to play hide and seek. Well, actually just hide. After burrowing deep into the hollow of a willow tree by the Old Grey Stream, Igdryll promptly got his foot caught. Myrdrigg was more than halfway home by this time and figured that his little cousin would soon figure things out and come home on his own. When the first stars appeared, Myrdrigg got worried and told his mom who, after whipping his backside with a hazel rod, organized the town to search the woods. They found Igdryll pretty quickly. The town’s tanner, Ogdlot, heard him screaming. Although, Idgryll was only stuck in the willow for a few hours, it felt like an eternity to him. Always after that, he swore to anyone who would listen that the willow whispered to him, “Iya eats you now!” Igdryll figured that if the willow felt that way, all the trees harbored similar dispositions so he avoided the woods when possible.
          They ventured deeper into the woods and Idgryll turned around. Noticing that the field was occluded by the cedars, he began to seriously reconsider.
          “Three times,” he said.
          “Aye now,” Evelya asked. “Three times what?”
          “Cider drinks, fowl face.”
          “Two were promised and agreed upon now. Two it stands.”
          “Fine,” he mumbled.
          The cedars gave way to oak and hickory. The ancient canopy of golden and red leaves blocked the afternoon sun, giving the light a cheery but diminished hue. Just ahead was the Old Gray Stream.
          “This a way,” Evelya said, motioning downstream. “We can ford there now.”
          They walked to the edge of the stream. A slow but steady column of water swirled amongst several boulders. A hickory, its bark flaked and ragged, had fallen across the stream. They crossed with little difficulty and continued along the moldy forest floor. Occasional mushroom balls puffed, scattering dark earthy smelling powder into the still, damp air.
          They continued and the hardwood trees slowly gave way to towering sycamores. The Vale was close now.
          “We made it,” Evelya said as she stepped through a cluster of elderberry bushes. Before them a wide river churned and chortled.
          “The Vale,” Evelya whispered.
          “Aye, the Vale,” Igdryll said. “So where be it?”
          “Yonder. Look you.”
          “I be lookin’ but seein’ nothin’.”
          “Through there,” she said pointing between two mammoth sycamores.
          “Fark,” he said. Through the trees he could just discern the top of what appeared to be a yellow house.
          “What is it?” Igdryll asked.
          A puff of black smoke came from the top of the yellow house and it began to move, slowly at first and then more quickly. A giant yellow scooper rose up carrying a pile of dirt and rock.
          “Go back now,” Igdryll said as he turned back to the woods.
          “Stay and see it.”
          “Nay. We tell the Elder. Come now.”
          Igdryll retreated into the woods. He didn’t know what he had just seen but he knew that it wasn’t good. He raced to get away as Evelya struggled to keep up.
          “Slow now, Igg!” Evelya shouted.
          Igdryll stopped running but still continued at a brisk pace not caring if Evelya kept up or not. He crossed the fallen tree and made his way out of the woods. He was in such a hurry that he forgot his toolbox that was still at the barn.