Mirkin Topp and the Hair of the Dog

A NaNoWriMo Novel by Phil Gardner

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I live in Brighton, work for the NHS, and write endless stuff online.

Chapter Nine

The Bear-Faced Mountains lay to the south of the Aero Plains and the small town of Melee, and stretched from east to west (and back again) across the peaceful land of Phillysia, dividing the kingdom like a mighty granite net on a lush green table tennis table. Melee, it had been noted, stood approximately two thirds of the way from the net to the service line, with the Benni Hills marking the baseline beyond. Roi Castle could be represented by a carefully positioned ping-pong ball, and the southern body of water known as Rikky Lake by a pimply bat. Ultimately however, it was easier to use a map.

The mountains were so called because from space they formed an uncanny likeness of Danny Bear, the legendary yogi of Phillysia, and husky-voiced star of stage and screen. Windscreen that is. From his regular position by the traffic lights on the magic roundabout just outside Florence, Danny would clean the windshields of a thousand carriages a day. Mostly without their owners’ consent, it has to be said. But his night job as a performing yoga master had earned him a reputation which stretched far and wide throughout the small theatres of Phillysia, and beyond.

Of course, as a kingdom yet to discover space travel, no one knew of the mountains’ striking similarity to Danny’s smiling face, but as King Pip the Fantabulous was fond of saying, “Long before we discovered Rikky Lake, the lake was there.”

He was wrong of course – Rikky Lake was a man-made body of water created by a group of landscape gardeners and venture capitalists with a view to turning the nearby WC fields from a communal toilet area into an exclusive country club and leisure resort. When planning permission for a karaoke bar had been refused, the group had abandoned the project, leaving the area for good and travelling north, where they invested heavily in a new business venture called ‘The Bitch & Butt’. Shortly afterwards the abandoned lake was discovered, and the rest, as King Pip would say, is a mystery.

The fact remained, however, that from space the Bear-Faced Mountains looked like Danny Bear the yogi, and there was simply no getting away from it. Unless you had a spaceship with extra thrust and a map of the far reaches of the solar system.

It was here, amongst the snowy windswept peaks, that a small bearded face could now be seen in the early morning light, poking out from a hole in the side of a rocky mountain. The hole was the lair of the Giant Mountain Goose, and the face belonged to Bray.

The dwarf had crawled on all-fours towards the rocky ledge at the entrance to the fowl beast’s lair. As the wind whistled around his ears, Bray looked down. It was a sheer vertical drop to the steep snow-covered slopes below. There appeared to be no way out.

As he peered through the wisps of cloud around his head, he felt a tugging at his foot, and turned to see Mother Goose with her beak around his shoe. Taking a firm hold, the giant waterfowl dragged Bray back into the cave, before picking him up by the ankle and dropping him into the nest from which he had crawled moments before.

The dwarf’s journey here the previous night had been both swift and somewhat chilly. With nothing to keep him warm but a freshly cooked drumstick, he had flown (well, dangled) through the air at high speed, the mountain breezes chilling his bones and forming icicles on his beard. Tempted to eat the drumstick, he had decided it might aggravate his captor if she looked down to see him munching on her offspring, and thus had resisted, choosing to grin and bear the harsh elements with all the dwarfish resolve he could muster.

Fortunately the journey had not been excessively long, and they had duly arrived at the goose’s lair, where Bray was immediately deposited in a fittingly large nest lined with feathers, leaves and bric-a-brac, the like of which the dwarf had not seen since Mirkin last had a yard sale.

Bray sat there now, up to the waist in feathery debris, looking at his three bedfellows: a trio of baby Mountain Geese which had not yet earned the description ‘giant’. The dwarf smiled uneasily, looking from the geese to the roasted drumstick in his hand, and back again. He felt a little uncomfortable to be sitting amongst these creatures whilst holding the cooked leg of their sibling, but was reluctant to loosen his grip on the drumstick in case its scent was the only thing keeping the Mother Goose from eating him.

As much as Bray disapproved of Mirkin’s actions the previous night, as he looked at his three step brothers and sisters now, he couldn’t help thinking how much better they would look rotating slowly over an open fire.

He put such thoughts to the back of his mind as his wicked stepmother approached.

“Honk,” said the goose, standing over him and reaching out a webbed talon.

Bray smiled weakly. “Er… good morning,” he said.

“Honk,” repeated the goose.

Bray held up the roasted drumstick as a talisman of protection. The Giant Mountain Goose looked unimpressed. She poked the dwarf with her claw.

“Erm…” stammered Bray, “… I don’t speak Goose, do you speak English?”

“Honk,” said the goose.

“Would it make any difference if I said I was from Fetlock Fancier Magazine?”

“Honk,” came the reply.

“Feathered Friend Fancier?”

“Honk.”

Bray quickly realised that his hopes of having meaningful intercourse with the bird were likely to be hampered by her failure to do any more than honk. True, she had a plump breast and a well turned thigh, but Bray wanted a bird he could talk to.

Of equal, if not more, concern for the dwarf at this juncture, was the way the Mother Goose seemed to be encouraging her young to peck at him. Time appeared to be running out. Armed with nothing but a cold cooked goose leg, Bray knew he had to take action. And fast.


* * *


In the northern foothills of the Bear-Faced Mountains, a weary white horse trudged slowly down the long and winding road, following the undulating curves of the Kellee Brook towards the foot of Mount Baton, pulling a plastic wagon with a goose-shaped hole in its roof.

A mere four hundred yards away, Nyte was pulling a similar wagon with an overweight dwarf aboard, blissfully unaware of her doppelganger a quarter of a mile further on down the road. Sadly they were destined never to meet, and would remain unaware of each other’s existence for ever more. Which was a minor tragedy for Nyte, who had always dreamt of the possibility of such a twin, but a stroke of good fortune for Mirkin, who found it a struggle to cope with just one white mare, and would in all probability have found the presence of a second horse a little too much to bear.

Unaware of his lucky escape, the elf was looking up at the snowy peak of Mount Baton, his mind filled with thoughts of his short chum Bray, his eyes scanning the mountains for any hint of a flying waterfowl or dangling dwarf.

It was early morning, and Nyte was tired.

“I can’t go any further,” the mare sighed. They had travelled through the night, their pace gradually slowing, until the brave horse could take no more.

“Hey, I’m the one who’s been doing all the driving,” said Mirkin, a little unreasonably.

Nyte stopped and looked at the elf behind her with an expression of contempt. “I will not dignify that statement with a response,” she said.

The white mare pulled the wagon off the road, and, deciding not to make waves, Mirkin unbuckled her harness. Nyte lay down on a nearby bed of bracken, close to the clear mountain waters of the Kellee Brook.

“Well,” said the horse, looking up, “those are the Bear-Faced Mountains. We’re here. And with any luck, so is Bray.”

“Well, have a rest for five minutes, and then we’ll go and find him,” said Mirkin.

“Mr Topp,” Nyte did lot look amused. “I have been walking all night, I have had not one wink of sleep, and I need to rest.”

“Yeah, I know. But Bray’s out there, somewhere, all alone in the clutches of an evil goose, and it’s up to us to find him. We can’t just sit here all day and expect him to magically appear.”

“I know,” said the horse patiently, “and I’m as anxious to find him as you are, but the time has come to rest. I suggest you fetch yourself a drink from the brook, and try to sleep for an hour or two.”

Reluctantly, Mirkin took the mare’s advice. He jumped down from the Fab-Wagon and made his way over to the small stream. Peering into its shallow waters, he decided they lacked the depth required to conceal a giant hippo, and consequently felt confident enough to kneel down and take a drink, scooping up the crystal clear mountain water with his hand, and enjoying the refreshing taste which had made the Kellee Brook famous in these parts. The refreshing taste which could only safely be enjoyed by races of a non-elf persuasion. For the waters of the Kellee Brook flowed directly from the heart of Mount Baton, a rocky peak hewn over the centuries by Mother Nature (and her daughter Hoomen) from the purest Sharen stone, a strikingly beautiful and naturally occurring rock, yet one poisonous to elves. Whilst harmless to all other Phillysians, contact with Sharen stone could be seriously bad for your elf.

Unaware of the inevitable consequences of his actions, Mirkin finished his drink and returned to the wagon. His equine companion was already asleep, and Mirkin had resigned himself to following her example. Climbing aboard, he lay down in the back of the Fab-Wagon and covered himself with a blanket, wishing that Bray were there to tweak his pointy ears as he fell asleep.

Closing his eyes, the elf stretched out, and promptly kicked something with his foot. It clinked appealingly. Sitting up, he reached to the bottom of the bed and examined the box he found there. It was Bray’s beer ration.

“Hmmm…” said Mirkin thoughtfully.

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