These two opening of short stories was written for a writing competition.
Although this is the edited version of what was previously The Cumberland Chronicles. I hope you enjoy and any feedback is welcome.
Word count. 1686
Tarrin pulled a steady stream of energy from the trees into his body and directed it to the veil. The energy shimmered and sparkled reds, blues, and purples. The ecstasy of the magic pulled at him and tempted his mind to vacate his body and dive into the ever flow. A vast river of magic that any with the knowledge could tap into, as long as sufficient energy was exchanged.
After some time Tarrin stopped and wiped at his high brow, his antlers also had perspiration on them from the effort of enhancing the veil. A giant barrier that separated his world from the barbaric race of man.
He stood atop a huge oak tree in the middle of the small woods; the flat outcrop of the tree top had been magically flattened and widened for the keepers of the veil. A few leaves crunched under foot as he took a step to survey the shimmering colors. All was good, and he wouldn’t need to come back for some time as a slow stream of energy from the trees now fed the veil.
Tarrin’s thin frame was covered in the brown fabric worn by the harvester’s tribe. A traveling tribe of elves whose purpose was the up keep of the veil. Tarrin turned his purple eyes down into the trees and the landscape beyond. A tall clock could be seen far off, as did a giant Ferris wheel. The rising sun washed the tree tops, but as he watched, a darkness seemed to creep over some, as if the leaves were turning black.
The tall figure knell and touched the tree floor, soon a series of branches had formed stairs. As he descended he heard the heavy foot fall of someone running to meet him.
A young elf slid through the leave to a stop before him. Tarrin stepped graciously off the last branch and looked at the newcomer’s eyes.
Green with a twist of yellow looked back at him. He didn’t need the young one to talk to know the fear in his heart.
“What is it Glis? What has happened?”
Glis’s was six and a half foot high but still had to look up to the towering Tarrin.
Glis’s white cotton pants sustained several rips on his flight here and quite a few dirty marks from the tree trunks.
“The trees are dying, and not just for winter. First, we thought it was some sort of cold, but it’s affecting them much too quickly. You must come and see.”
The panic in Glis’s voice caused Tarrin to shiver; he placed a slender hand on the young elf’s shoulder.
Glis nodded and darted off through the tree with Tarrin’s browns robes flapping behind him.
The small hole smelled of offal and shit, but that didn’t bother Momo; it was just another day for a goblin in the underbelly of London. Hopefully, the dock men would leave him some carcasses to feed on. The gloom of the night was slowly starting to recede with the rising sun and allowed some additional natural light to enter the brick chamber.
Momo hung his lantern on a broken nail, the small baby Flubbs within continued to convulse over each other. The blue light they made was good enough to see by in the darkness of the tunnels.
As time passed Momo realized that he wasn’t hearing the usual sounds of people banging the crates on the docks. The little Goblin adjusted his sack and pulled at the dirty rope that held it in place. Once it may have been white and would have been fit for the Goblin King, but seeing as it was floating in the Great reservoir, and nobody else wanted it, he had taken it for himself. That was pretty much the Goblin code, if you wanted it, you took it. That was if you could take it from its current owner, and weren’t stopped by a nuggen to the head.
Momo reached up and grabbed hold of the cold metal wrung, and slowly climbed the rusty ladder. At the top, he carefully lifted the metal grate with his balding head and peered out. Quick as a flash he ducked his head back and slid down the ladder, his four toes feet hit the water, and it splashed up his sack.
The Goblin shook his head. His flabby green cheeks flapped back and forth as he pulled at his leaf-shaped ears in distress.
“Dey saw Momo? Tis not right, oh no. Not right, not right. Spell not working, must tell Horg.”
The slapping of his feet echoed around the tunnel walls as he raced to Nextus, the goblin kingdom. The Flubbs continue to slither over each other in their blissful ignorance.
Horg swung the hammer down on the crude steel blade, it’s wicked curved tang glowed orange and red in the light of the Flubb lanterns that hung on broken within his work shop. The five glass jars hung down from rotting wooden beams, each had been reinforced with metal poles in the shape of a T.
Horg pushed his helmet back on his greasy hair and wiped sweat from his wide brow. He then readjusted the dirty brown smock covered with burns that sheltered most of his solid chest from the molten off sprays. He flipped the sword on the anvil and bend down to look at the straightness.
The mud walls were damp with clinging yellowish droplets that ran down the walls in sporadic bursts. Fours windows on either side of the unstable structure let in even more of the dim Flubbs lights that came from the caverns high ceilings. On one wall a selection of metal tools laid on a solid looking bench whilst more hung on the wall. On another wall, a calendar of Female Goblins in various states of undress, couldn’t be unseen.
Horg had often wondered at his fortune, old Borgis had obviously seen something in him, or quite possibly just picked him at random. Either way, he must have shown some promise or old Borigs wouldn’t have decided to take him on as his apprentice. Being born to a Grunger mother and a Beater father had left him with the better traits of both lineages. His huge beater arms bulged with muscle as he lifted the heavy hammer. Sparks flew around him as he repeatedly bashed at his work.
He had inherited the work shop from his old master. Borgis had decided that he needed an apprentice and chance would have it that he chose Horg. After years of teaching the savvy youngest, he had decided to visit his old colony in a distant mountain, leaving the workshop and its contracts to Horg.
What Horg fashioned now, would go to the Wargs, the Kings guards. By far the biggest and means of the goblins – but not especially bright – these towering beasts protected the kingdom, and the king, with out question.
Satisfied that the sword wasn’t bent he dipped it in some oil and let the blade cool.
A few whips of fire sprang up the handle and burnt the only hairs left on his thick fingers. As he pulled the blade out, Momo came flying in through the tattered plastic sheet that hung over the door.
“Hey, Momo. Slow down.”
Momo had been Horgs friend as long as he could remember, his mother was litter mates to Momo’s mother. So as children, they had always been thrown in the slouch pit together with seven of Momo’s Grunger brother and sisters.
Horg threw the sword on a pile of previous works and went over to the forge. Momo frantically pulled at his ears and bobbed from side to side.
“Da saw Momo Horg, on the top lands, da looked right at us.”
Horg picked up a crate full of scraped metal and poured it into a metal box that he inserted into the forge.
“What ya talkin’ bout, top lands. Ya not bein’ up dere again.”
Horg turned to face Momo and looked him over quizzically. He scrunched up his face as if in deep concentration and picked at a wart under his chin.
“Hey, Momo. Where’s my lantern, ain’t got many left, ya bestest not lost it?”
Momo hopped from one foot to the other, his stained sack started to come loose and threaten to drop to the floor. He shook his head rapidly and clamped at his cheeks as they flapped about.
“Not lost Horg, in da tunnels. Never lost.
But what about the top landers? I swears it, da saw Momo. Da spells been broken.”
Horg pulled at his smock and threw it on a bench next to a crumpled cardboard box.
He reached in with a large hand and pulled out a moldy sandwich. A cockroach wiggled out from between the slices and narrowly escaped Horg’s sharp teeth.
He chewed on the bread with an open mouth, the emasculated food swirled around like the inside of a washing machine before he gulped it down.
“Eys told ya millions of times Momo, peaking at da top landers ’tis not good, eh. Ya get caught and da Wargs come get ya.”
Momo tried to squirm under a bench but only his small head disappeared. The back of the burlap sacks had a red imprint with the letters SELFRIDGES written on it.
Horg bent down and pulled at his knobbly feet, until he was dangling in front of him, Momo held his hands in front of tightly squeezed eyes.
“What’s da matter Momo. I only telling da jokes. Da Wargs not comin’ really.”
Horg placed Momo on the rough stone floor as he chuckled deeply, his large chest bounced up and down with the effort.
“Eys tell ya what Momo. Maybes we go see Farrow, he da one with da magic, hes knows what to do.”
Momo peaked out from between split fingers and rose to a kneeling position. As Horg pulled out another sandwich he crawled over to him.
“Ya think Farrow will know what da do?”
Horg shrugged and stuffed the sandwich in his mouth.
*Words Count 1065*
“I’ve heard of that, but I’ve never thought it was true.”
Andy rubbed his hair and dislodged the dust.
“Aye, ‘Tis a lot o’ things ya race dunni know if ya ask me.”
The speaker’s gruff voice sounded extra deep within the chamber he had landed in a few moments ago.
Andy looked at the weird little man in front of him. He wasn’t a human, or even them smaller human, and not what Toby at the dose house called the vertically challenged one either. No this was in fact, a real life dwarf.
“But what about those things up there, Aren’t you bothered?”
“Agh, we dunni care about ya surface dwellers. We’ve encountered ya before. Who’d ya think helped ya with ya tunnels?”
“But people are eating people up there.”
“Look, laddie, I’ve got bigger problems, so if ya don’t mind?”
He had called himself Stonehand when he had picked Andy up and dusted him off after the floor had collapsed. If it hadn’t been for them damn things trying to eat him, he won’t have tried to escape through the underground tunnels.
You see; Andy is what’s known as a Tosher. He had, like a handful of entrepreneurial street rats, found a way to earn a few coins by scavenging lost treasures in the sewers of Victorian London. If it wasn’t for his small knowledge of the tunnels under the smoky city, he wouldn’t have lost the flesh-eating people. His friend Tommy, wasn’t as lucky.
Stonehand grumped and raised his hammer for another strike on the rock wall.
“That stupid floor has covered the damn shaft. I’m gonna have t’ smash me way back now.”
Stonehand grumbled again as he raised a heavy looking metal hammer, the thick wooden shaft had small craving along its handle, and a blue ribbon tied off at the end. The dwarf placed the hammer on one shoulder and dusted off his green trousers, that done; he lifted his long beard and threw it over one shoulder and then spat on his hands. The hammer rang against the stone; the echoes vibrated through Andy causing his teeth to chatter and made him cover his ears.
After a while, the ringing in his ears had abated, and Andy’s eyes started to adjust to the gloom. Lucky for Andy, he was still only a kid; a fully grown adult would have been bent double in these dwarven tunnels.
A small glass jar with a faint blue light swung in the dwarf’s hand as he trundled down the smooth tunnel. As Andy focused on it, he was sure that something inside was moving, or maybe it was the onset of claustrophobia, and he was losing his mind.
“Where are you taking me?”
The dwarf continued on, his long graying beard still thrown over his shoulder.
“Am not taking ya anywhere; ya great lought, ya following me.”
Andy thought for a second and shrugged. He had nothing better to do and seeing that going back the other way could quite possibly lead to him being eaten or worst. He thought he might as well explore with the grumbling dwarf.
“So, where are you going then?”
Stonehand stopped so suddenly that Andy bumped into the back of him. He might as well of bash into a brick wall, the impact would have been the same. The dwarf turned his head, and his pop belly followed. His neat black jacket was cut from what looked like leather and had been expertly sewn. Yellowish eyes looked into his soul and then looked him up and down.
Stonehand snorted and turned around again.
“Not that it’s any of ya business, I’m getting away from ‘ere. Mind, I’m a tad lost now, with that blasted tunnel collapsing.”
Stonehand looked slightly embarrassed as he looked over his shoulder at Andy. The small space only being big enough for single file.
“Maybe I could help. I know my way around these tunnels.”
Andy’s smile faded as the dwarf’s laughter boomed along the tunnel. After a while, Stonehand settled down to a snigger and wiped at his eyes.
“Ah, ya good fun boy’o, maybe I’ll let ya keep me company.”
A small blue light ahead gradually grew larger as the two progressed along the tunnel. A weird sound like rushing water could be heard.
“What that light?”
Stonehand turned his head and looked back at Andy. A worried expression clouded his wrinkled face.
“Y’all see soon enough.”
After a few minute, the tunnel opened up to an enormous cavern, Andy looked up at the cavernous ceiling and noticed large worm like creatures slithering over the stalactites. The blue light was coming from their bloated bellies and their bioluminescent trails. Just under the ledge, a large metal tube with gusting water spraying into the air. The cascading waterfall crashed down into a lake with clear water. The pool emptied to a river mouth that ran away from the rock face.
As Andy followed the river, he saw an underground city sprawled out before him. It was so big that he couldn’t see the end. The city had deep gashes through it that looked like streets, some sort of commotion was happening along them. Tiny figures were crowded in various places, and some of the square stone block houses were alight with fire. At the center of the city, carved out of the stone wall was a huge castle. A stream of dwarves in armor was running around the upper balconies chaotically.
“Wow, what is this place?”
The dwarf brushed past him.
“This is Hammer Falls.”
A vast stone staircase beckoned them to the cave floor. Before Andy could ask what was happening, Stonehand had darted down the stairs, the iron lamp swinging violently against his thigh.
The descent was taxing on Andy’s skinny legs, and soon his dirty gray shirt felt sticky with sweat. Halfway down Andy stopped on a wide platform, and looked down at the city.
The dwarf stopped to face him with a screwed up face.
“What’s the matter now?”
“What’s happening down there?”
“I can see that, but why are they fighting?”
“Cuz the king has just been murdered.”
Andy threw his arm up to his mouth and sucked in a deep breath.
“Oh no, who would do such a thing.”
Stonehand looked down at his feet and kicked a small pebble of the precipice.