|main menu | youngsters categories | authors | new stories | search | links | settings | author tools|
|Hieracium and the Earthquake (youngsters:fairy tales, 3186 words)|
|Author: Ian Hobson||Added: Aug 04 2006||Views/Reads: 4157/1749||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|Much later, when Hieracium woke, Tritoma was gone, but soon the cat returned, licking his lips. ‘Water rat,’ he said, guiltily… Another bedtime story from Astrantia (Following on from Hieracium and the Lady of the Lake).|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story was food too: for on the table there was a half a loaf of bread, some cooked meat, a bowl of dried fruit, another bowl, full of nuts, and on hooks and racks and shelves around the room there was more food: strings of onion and garlic, sacks of flour, a muslin wrapped cheese and assorted bottles and jars. The parrot had landed on the table and was pecking up some breadcrumbs. So Hieracium, with little thought for whom the vehicle and the food might belong to, lay his sword on the bed, sat down and helped himself to some of the meat and a chunk of the bread, and he was so busy eating that at first he failed to notice that another parrot, and three other less exotic birds, had flown in through the door. Then two more birds flew in, soon followed by Tritoma. And then there was pandemonium, as one of the birds, frightened by Tritoma, knocked over the nuts; while the rest of the birds flew around the wagon, squawking and pecking at the nuts and knocking over a bottle that stood on one of the barrels. 'What's this?' said an angry voice, as the bottle crashed to the floor. Hieracium looked up as the wagon tilted slightly and a man stepped through the doorway. He was the ugliest man that Hieracium had ever seen, with a scared face and a long hooked nose, and he was dressed all in black. 'Who are you?' he asked, scowling at Hieracium. Deciding it was time to leave, the birds flew past the man and out through the door leaving Hieracium to face his anger. Though one of the parrots lost several tail feathers as the man tried to grab it. Meanwhile, Tritoma had wisely decided to hide under the bed. 'I'm sorry, sir,' said Hieracium, getting up from the table. 'It's just that I was so hungry, and the parrot said there was food inside, and that you had gone away and...' 'Gone away!' exclaimed the man. 'Do I look as though I've gone away?' The man looked around at the mess that the birds had made, before looking angrily back at Hieracium. 'Can't a man take his horse to water and leave his door unlocked, without a thief sneaking in to steal his goods?' he asked. 'Where are you from, boy, and where did you find this?' The man reached for the pirates' sword that lay on the bed and drew it out of its scabbard and looked closely at it. 'Nice piece of work,' he said. 'Should be worth a pretty penny.' Then he turned his attention back to Hieracium. 'And so should you, boy; a very pretty penny.' The man lifted Hieracium's chin with the point of the sword and smiled, but it was a very wicked smile. *** 'There's no way out of here, is there?' whispered Hieracium. He was sitting on the floor of the wagon with his back to one of the barrels. 'No,' replied Tritoma, scratching at a flea that he thought must have come from the man's bed. The sun had set and the interior of the wagon had grown dark, though gradually there was a little more light as Hesperis, Astrantia's pale pink moon, rose into the sky and shone through the windows. The man had made Hieracium clean up the mess that the birds had made and then ordered him to be quiet before giving him a crust of bread and some water and locking the door. But then, after a suspicious glance at Hieracium, the man had taken the key from the lock and hung it high on a hook above the door before climbing into bed where he had soon fallen asleep. And as the man began to snore loudly, Tritoma had come out from hiding. 'And what did he mean about selling me?' Hieracium asked, still whispering for fear of waking the man. 'And what do you suppose a slave is?' The man had warned Hieracium to be ready for a long journey, at the end of which, he would be sold as a slave. 'I don't know,' replied Tritoma, still scratching at the flea, 'I don't like the sound of it, whatever it is. Can't you reach that key?' Hieracium got to his feet and tried to move one of the barrels towards the door so that he could stand on it and reach the key, but the barrel was too heavy. 'It would be nice to be sold, though' said a voice. Hieracium was startled; but not as startled as Tritoma who had been sitting on the floor beside the pile of sacks where the three little carved men with pointed hats were sitting, and it was one of them that had spoken. 'I thought you were just made of wood,' said Tritoma, turning to stare up at the three little men. They were all dressed in red suits and hats, and shiny black boots, and each had a long white beard. And they were moving. 'Wood?' said another of the little men, indignantly. 'We're not made of wood. We're moulded from the finest quality clay, and glazed and baked in a kiln for two days.' 'A magic kiln,' said the first little man. 'It has to be a magic kiln.' 'Don't make so much noise,' whispered the third little man, 'you'll wake the tinker.' 'But how can you talk?' whispered Hieracium, looking down at them. They all looked very similar except that one was holding a fishing rod, one had a pickaxe stuck in his belt and the other was holding a lamp. 'Because we're gnomes,' replied the one with the lamp as he slid down from the pile of sacks. 'All gnomes can speak, but only after dark, of course, not during the day. And, of course, we can't speak to grownups; that's strictly against the rules. My name is Gromwell, by the way, and this is Sedum,' the one with the fishing rod climbed down to the floor and then bowed, 'and this is Willowherb,' and the one with the axe gave more of a nod than a bow and then climbed down to join his two companions. 'I'm Hieracium and this is Tritoma,' said Hieracium. 'What did you mean about it being nice to be sold?' Tritoma asked Sedum. 'We're garden gnomes,' answered Sedum. 'We were made to sit in the sunshine in a garden, not sit inside. But when the tinker takes us to the fair to be sold, no one buys us.' 'So we stay in here and rot,' said Willowherb. 'Is he the tinker?' Hieracium asked, pointing towards the snoring man. 'That's right,' replied Gromwell. 'He travels around and buys and sells... things.' He looked at Hieracium with a sad expression. 'So I'm to be sold too,' said Hieracium, despondently. 'Better to be sold than stuck in here for ever,' said Willowherb. 'And I'm afraid that's what we'll be; stuck in here for ever.' 'Then why don't you escape,' suggested Hieracium. The gnomes looked surprised at this idea, as though such a thought had never occurred to any of them. 'But how?' asked Sedum. 'We're usually locked in, or the tinker is not far away.' 'Willowherb has a pickaxe,' replied Hieracium. 'He could try and make a hole in the floor to escape through.' 'Make a hole? In the tinker's wagon?' exclaimed Willowherb. 'And have him come back and break me into pieces! I may be only a garden gnome, but I'm not stupid.' 'It would be good to escape though,' said Sedum, 'and find a nice garden to live in.' 'The cottage where I live has a garden,' said Hieracium. 'You could come and live with me.' 'Now, just a moment,' said Gromwell. 'We haven't agreed to escaping yet. And, anyway, how far is it to where you live? We can only travel by night, remember.' There was silence then, as Hieracium and Tritoma and the three gnomes pondered this problem. But then Hieracium had an idea. 'If I stand under where the door key is hung and lift one of you up,' he whispered, 'perhaps you could reach it.' Willowherb looked at Hieracium and then up at the door key. 'Too high,' he said. 'You would have to lift more than one of us and we'd have to stand on each other's shoulders.' 'Let's do it then,' said Sedum. 'Are you crazy?' exclaimed Willowherb, quickly changing his voice to a whisper as the tinker monetarily stopped snoring. 'If we fall, we could get hurt.' 'Oh, you're such a wimp,' said Sedum. 'What about using your fishing rod,' suggested Tritoma. 'If Hieracium lifts you up, you could try and lift the key off the hook with your rod.' 'Good thinking,' said Gromwell, suddenly enthusiastic at the prospect of escaping. ''Why don't you try it?' So Hieracium crept over to the door with Sedum and lifted him up towards where the key hung on its hook and Sedum tried to hook it with the end of his rod. But it was more difficult to achieve than expected. 'Not like that,' whispered Willowherb. 'Get the rod end behind the key and give it a good whack.' So Sedum tried this and at the third attempt the key came off the hook and flew half way down the length of the wagon and clattered loudly to the floor causing the tinker to wake with a start. The tinker sat up in bed and blinked at Hieracium who was still standing by the door holding Sedum high in the air. 'What are you doing,' boy?' he shouted. He clambered out of bed and around the table, and in the semidarkness he almost tripped over Willowherb but immediately kicked him out of the way. Then he stepped over to Hieracium and snatched Sedum from his hands and threw him onto the bed. 'Trying to steal from me again, eh? Though why you should want to steel these useless lumps of clay, I can't imagine. But still, it's time you were taught a lesson!' He unbuckled his leather belt and took it off. 'A few strokes of this, is what you need.' He forced Hieracium against the table and then stepped backwards, making ready to lash him with the belt. But he stepped on Tritoma's tail, making him wail, as cats do if you step on their tails, and the sound must have given the tinker quite a fright because he leapt in the air and banged on head on an oil lamp that hung from the ceiling. But Tritoma's wail was soon eclipsed by a much louder sound: a rumbling sound that seemed to come from the very depths of the earth. And it was not just a sound, because whatever it was was shaking and rattling the wagon and everything in it: including Hieracium and the tinker and the three gnomes, all of whom, lost their balance and fell over, only to be showered by pots and pans and other goods as they fell from where they were hanging. And that was not all: the wagon had begun to move and was gradually picking up speed as it rolled downhill. 'Earthquake!' shouted the tinker as he tried to get back onto his feet, but as he stood, a cupboard door flew open and hit him in the face, knocking him back down again. Meanwhile the wagon was still rolling downhill and bouncing over tree roots and fallen branches, and then Sedum fell off the bed, landing on top of Tritoma, while Hieracium and the other two gnomes slid and bounced across the floor as more of the tinker's merchandise fell from the cupboard that had sprung open. Then as abruptly as it had begun, the earthquake and its rumbling noise stopped, though the wagon continued to roll backwards downhill until, with a resounding crash, it ploughed into a huge pine tree and came to a shuddering halt. There was silence then as the wagon's occupants slowly began to recover their wits and clamber out of the pile of debris that littered the floor of the wagon. Hieracium was the first on his feet, soon followed by Sedum, who had taken refuge under the table with Tritoma, and then the other two gnomes crawled out from between a fallen barrel and several sacks of flour. Hieracium's head was hurting and already he could feel a bump, but apart from Sedum's fishing rod being broken and Gromwell being covered in flour from a burst flour sack, the others seemed to be unharmed. 'Look!' exclaimed Sedum, pointing with his broken rod. 'We're free!' Light from Hesperis now streamed in through one half of the door, which had been flung open by the impact with the tree and hung half off its hinges. The tinker was still on the floor but had pushed himself into a sitting position. He stared malevolently at Hieracium and then at Tritoma, but then movement caught his eye and, with a look of astonishment, he studied each of the three gnomes. 'You moved,' he accused Sedum, 'and so did you!' He pointed at Gromwell, who was trying to keep very still, but the flour had got up his nose and he let out an enormous sneeze. 'Run!' shouted Willowherb as he pulled his pickaxe out from under his belt and strode towards where the tinker was trying to get to his feet. 'Run!' He swung his axe, bringing it down hard on the tinker's right foot. It was only a small pickaxe and not very sharp but it made the tinker yelp with pain and hop around until he tripped on something and fell over backwards. 'That's for kicking me,' said Willowherb as he swung again, this time hitting the tinker's left ankle, 'and that's for calling us useless lumps of clay.' Then as a kettle that had been teetering on the edge of a shelf finally fell and hit the tinker on the head, Willowherb ran after the others who were already through the door and half way down the steps. Sedum had excepted an invitation from Tritoma to ride on his back, while Hieracium, who had found his sword and scabbard lying on the floor amongst the tinker's goods, had one hand full, but still managed to scoop up both Gromwell and Willowherb. And so, followed by angry shouts and threats from the tinker, the fugitives ran off down the cart track and into the night. *** 'But what happened next?' Callistephus asked. 'Well,' replied Thymus, 'my dream was a bit hazy after that. But I think Hieracium found the road through the forest and made his way back to Passiflora. I seem to recall him telling Caltha all about his adventures before his father came to take him and Tritoma back home.' 'And did he have any more adventures?' asked Callistephus. 'And what about the gnomes? Did they go home with him?' 'Perhaps,' replied Thymus, yawning. 'Perhaps and perhaps. But story telling makes me very tired so, if you don't mind, I think it's time for bed.' Tweet
Authors appreciate feedback!
Please vote, and write to the authors to tell them what you liked or didn't like about the story!
Ian Hobson has 67 active stories on this site.
Profile for Ian Hobson, incl. all stories