Once upon a time, many cold winters ago, there lived a fnigle eater of Shdadt…

Or that, I am reliably informed, is how these stories usually begin.

Myself, I can’t say that I fully understand this rather ridiculous tradition. After all, everybody knows there was a fnigle eater of Shdadt because, well… Where would Shdadt be without its fnigle eater? And to imply that there was only one fnigle eater seems equally misleading given that there have been so many. There was Elfric the Sane, Godor the Baneful, Juanti the Hesitant, Vangor the Turgid, as well as Urgo the Timid, perhaps better remembered by history students as Urgo the Fussy Eater… Big. Ugly. Small. Smaller. Heavyset. Flat. Glandular. Oblong. Deflated. There have been as many fnigle eaters as there are words to describe them, which by the last reckoning is twenty-seven thousand, three hundred and eight.

Shdadt too shouldn’t need any explanation, being the largest and grubbiest city on the coast of Lorankle. Yet just in case you think it another Shdadt of the same name (or even a different Shdadt of a different name) I will grant you the courtesy of pointing out that this Shdadt lay two thousand klipklops south of Kipporia, the capital of this much-blighted land. And if any of that sounds fanciful to you, I can assure you that it didn’t feel fanciful to the people who had the misfortune of living there. It certainly didn’t seem fanciful to Grimlock, who, as I’ve been trying to tell you, was the city’s fnigle eater.

Now, one day Grimlock was sitting at his desk, chewing on the end of his…

His…

What’s that you say?

What’s a fnigle eater?

Well, by Baron Blakenstock’s backcombed beard! You mean to say you started to read this tale without first familiarising yourself with its main themes and subject? I’m speechless! Honestly! People today… And would I be right to suppose that you don’t know what we commonly mean by a fnigle?

I thought as much.

But fine, if I must… A fnigle is like… Well, it’s a bit similar to… Though, saying that, it’s smaller. Much smaller. It resembles a… If you stand on your toes, hold your arms apart, and figure that your nose sits at the point where the droop of its…

Hmm… This isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

But, you see, I’ve never actually seen a fnigle. In fact, most people who have seen one haven’t lived to describe it. Instead, we rely on the descriptions handed down to us by the long and noble line of fnigle eaters whose sole job it is to dispose of these most disgusting of creatures.

Such a task, as you can imagine, is fraught with difficulty since even the most experienced eater doesn’t know what any one fnigle will look like until they’ve encountered and then eaten it. That means there as many descriptions of fnigles as there have been eaters to eat them. Lumpo the Unsteady said they have eight legs, whilst Burt the Fearless said they have none. Leopold the Blister said they are like earthworms but with the face of a hamster. Frimply the Unwise said they resemble a turtle but with the hairy end of a donkey. The important bit for you to remember is that fnigles are fearsome beasts who plagued the lands of Lorankle for thousands of years. In that time, they had been vanquished by great heroes and even greater armies, yet every victory was short-lived. No sooner would one fnigle die than another would pop up somewhere else to terrorise the people. Even though there was only one fnigle at a time, Lorankle was in a state of constant anxiety. Nothing and nobody could bring peace to the land until that fateful day when the very first fnigle eater did the unexpected.

He ate the fnigle!

Now, I can see why you might not be surprised. I’ve been talking about fnigle eaters for what now seems like the interminable length of this beginning. Yet the fact that you could eat a fnigle was far from obvious when the great Normay the Hungry chewed his way through his first. Back then, nobody thought it possible but, then, few believed that peace could reign for twelve whole years. Yet twelve years is how long the peace did indeed last before the next creature appeared. That’s when Normay chewed his way through his second fnigle and brought another twelve years of peace to the kingdom. By the time it came to consume his third fnigle, Normay was celebrated by city and state, whose regent at the time, Clutterbuck III, established the position of official fnigle eater by royal decree in the city of Shdadt.

By the time he was in his seventies, Normay had eaten five fnigles and would have lived to eat another if poor eyesight hadn’t led him to chew on the leg of a local dreadwolf that he mistook for a fnigle. Unlike fnigles, you can’t defeat a dreadwolf simply by chewing it. As Normay discovered, the moment you start to nibble on their ankle, they have a tendency to peel your face from your skull.

But let’s get back to the fnigel eater of this story. Assuming, that is, you have no more questions about fnigles.

You don’t? Well, thank you!

Ahem…

In Shdadt, there once was a fnigle eater called Grimlock. Grimlock didn’t go by any other name having not himself eaten a single fnigle. An eater in name only, he had inherited his position from his father, Drobo the Obtuse. Drobo was the son of Kenpo the Sagacious, grandson of the great eater Gripsum the Insipid who, in his ninetieth year, choked on his sixth and very last fnigle. It fell to his son, Kenpo, to finish the half-consumed fnigle, which he later said tasted of buttermint but with a distinct undertaste of Gripsum the Insipid’s rather distinctive aftershave, “Swamptinge For Men”, which he had taken to wearing in order to compensate for his rather insipid reputation.

Grimlock was immensely proud of his lineage but, never having eaten a fnigle himself, had no name to denote his place in the great family tale that now spanned a thousand years.

This is how he came to be sitting at his desk one evening, chewing the end of his goose feather quill, and engaged in one of his favourite hobbies. He was compiling a list of names that the people of Shdadt might choose to call him once he’d eaten his first fnigle. Number 2932, Grimlock the Potent, still appealed to him but he’d spent many a sleepless night hoping they’d pick Number 27. He definitely saw himself as Grimlock the Almighty and had perfected a stance to go with the name.

Grimlock was deep into this important work (Number 8392, “Grimlock the Punctilious”, he rated with only one star) when there came a fearful knocking on his door. By “fearful” I mean that the knocking wasn’t the friendly kind of tuneful tapping that indicates the arrival of an idiot. This was a persistent hammering and, to Grimlock, it conveyed a note of urgency and not a little fear. Of course, he might also have been a little influenced by the voice shouting “Wake up, Grimlock, you old fool! Get out of your bed! Something terrible has happened!”

Grimlock walked across the room, slid back the bolt, and gave a shiver as a cold blast of air rushed into his room. On the other side of the door stood a young fair-haired boy with eyes as wide as oyster pies. “Grimlock!” gasped the boy. “There’s a terrible commotion from outside town. They say it might be…”

Grimlock placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder to steady it. “A fnigle?’ He shifted his stance and set his feet apart and spoke in the tone he’d practised for this very moment, which he knew posterity would eventually mark with a statue, song, or second-class stamp.

“But how did you know?” asked the boy, whose name was Mittens on account of his never wearing gloves even in the middle of winter.

“I know because it is my destiny to eat the next fnigle that troubles this kingdom,” said Grimlock. “It’s now more than twelve years since my father, the great Drobo the Obtuse, ate his last fnigle and it now falls upon me to do the same.” He cleared his throat and said loudly in case the neighbours we’re jotting any of this down for the newspapers (and, obviously, they were). “I’m so glad I only ate a light supper tonight…”

And with those much-celebrated words, Grimlock grabbed his coat, hat, and walking stick and followed the boy out into the night.

He returned moments later to kick off his slippers and put on his walking boots but thankfully the neighbours didn’t note this oversight, so it only appears in the better researched and accurate histories such as the one you’re currently reading. Topping his outfit off with his scarf because it was much colder than forecasts had predicted, Grimlock finally ran out into the night and began to chase his destiny.

The young boy’s pace was unremitting as is so often the case with the pace of young boys. Fnigle eaters are many things but fit they are not, choosing to spend their days not in exercise but in perfecting the omnivorous arts. Grimlock huffed and puffed his way through the streets and was red-faced as the city watch ushered the pair of them through the outer gates. His heavy feet drummed a doleful rhythm on the old drawbridge and then an unsteady rhythm as they squelched and sloshed across the waterlogged fields. Soon they began to climb to the drier land where Grimlock stopped to listen to a chilling high-pitched wailing that was coming from the forest.

“I don’t… think… you… should… foll… ow… me,” warned Grimlock breathlessly. He took a moment to wrap his scarf tighter around his neck which also had the added virtue of muffling his chronic wheezing. “None… but… a trained…. fnigle… eater… should… [gulp]… approach… these…” He stroked his handkerchief across his brow and then used it to catch the contents of his dripping nose. “… these… creatures of the frozen deep!”

“No fear,” said Mittens, who history would remember as Mittens the Not-To-Be-Trusted. “Oh, there’s no way I’ll be hanging around here to witness you confronting the terrible fnigle!”

And so, alone, Grimlock walked on into the dark forest.

From the start, it  was hard going. His every step produced more scratches on his face as he pushed through undergrowth that wanted to prick, slice, poke and rake him. Yet Grimlock treated each bite and scratch with great cheer. This was the moment for which he had waited all his life. That’s why it never occurred to Grimlock that he might soon get lost. His attention was on the forest, which was now growing darker and even colder. He could sense that his goal lay near.

That’s when he came across a clearing where the toils of woodsmen were evident. Logs lay half stripped of their branches and tools lay scattered around. Everywhere lay fresh oak in the process of being split. It was also clear that here lay the source of the wailing. An old old man was lying beneath an old sycamore tree. An axe lay beside him on the ground. The old man looked pained and red anger bloomed on his face as Grimlock approached.

“I’ve been screaming for help for hours!” complained the old man, his voice hoarse. “About time they sent somebody to find me!”

“What ails you, old man?” asked Grimlock, kneeling to lend assistance. It hurt his knees, but he knew the gesture would be appreciated by any student later reading his history.

“It’s my leg,” answered the man. “When we heard tell that the fnigle was loose in the forest, everybody dropped their tools and started to run for the lives. Only, I couldn’t go leaving Old Bess behind, could I? So, I tried to carry her and that’s when I tripped over. Damn old fool, I am!”

“Old Bess?” asked Grimlock, looking around for a woman to match the name.

“There on the ground,” said the woodman, pointing to his axe. “Been with me forty year… Not as young as I used to be, but Old Bess is just as sharp. I was running and next thing I know I’d opened my leg on her leading edge. A proper joke, I’m going to look, when I get back!”

“Oh, fret not, old man,” said Grimlock, whose mouth twisted into a wry smile. “If anybody asks what delayed you, you can just tell them you had… an axcident…”

The old man’s face betrayed no hint of amusement. Perhaps that explains why this part of the story is often missing from the more cursory accounts of Grimlock’s tale and appears only in the more scholarly treatments, such as the one you are now reading.

Grimlock pulled a strip of cloth from a tunic that had been left behind in the flight and bandaged the man’s leg. He then cut a branch from a nearby tree in order to fashion a crutch. Finally, he helped the old man to his feet.

“Take your time, old man,” Grimlock advised. “You’re safe from the fnigle now I’m here to take care of it. Just get back to the city and tell people that you met Grimlock the Almighty and everything is under control.”

“Grimlock the Almighty?” said the old woodcutter. “Hmmm… I don’t know that name, but I’ll certainly pass on the message. And you, Grimlock, take care. Fnigles are fiercer than anyone can imagine or so I hear. Carry on heading west and you can’t be long for finding it.”

Bidding the old man farewell, Grimlock began to walk the path that soon led him deeper into the forest.

The old woodcutter was right. It wasn’t long before Grimlock entered another clearing, bathed in the chilled moonlight. There, as if awaiting his arrival, stood the fnigle.

At first, it just looked at him where it was raised up on a fallen tree. It was indeed a beast unlike any other he’d seen. It just looked at him with small squirrely eyes. It had small squirrely feet, as well as squirrely arms, squirrely legs, and a squirrely head.

If anybody would ask him later what the fnigle looked like, Grimlock would say it was indescribable but, after being show drawings in a few books and cross-examined by experts, he would acknowledge that the words “much like a squirrel” could, at a push, be used to describe the beast.

“It is time, demon!” muttered Grimlock as he lay his hat and walking stick to one side. Then he rolled up his sleeves and spat into each hand in that way that people often do but nobody knows why.

Then, as quick as a fnigle eater (which is to say, not very quick at all), he leapt at the squirrel-like fnigle who effortlessly evaded his grasp and quickly scarpered up a nearby tree. “Come here cold demon!” cried Grimlock. “I am Grimlock and it’s my destiny to eat you!”

He picked up a rock and hurled it at the fnigle which was now hopping without a care along the branch as if to taunt him. Grimlock threw another rock and then another. And then…. Thwack! A rock knocked the fnigle clean off the branch.

Grimlock leapt on it without a moment’s hesitation and set to his grim work, biting into the fnigle flesh.

Later he would describe the experience as being exactly like what he imagined a raw squirrel would taste like, though, if that idea upsets you, let’s just reaffirm, again, that this wasn’t a squirrel. It was a fnigle and let nobody – certainly not those busybodies in the Anti Fnigle Eating League — tell you that it’s cruel to eat a fnigle alive, even if Grimlock did have trouble swallowing the bushy tail.

On into the night he chewed, following the ancient fnigle eating rule of starting at the end and working his way up to the head. After the tail, followed the legs and then the arms. And still, the fnigle struggled to escape. Grimlock knew he couldn’t stop now because to stop would give the creature a chance to conjure its magic and return in a form even more terrible.

By dawn, he was chewing his way through the tiny heart, and then, as the sun came up to punch warm rays through the dark trees, he popped the head into his mouth and felt the satisfying crunch as he mashed the fnigle’s skull between his teeth. Then with a satisfying burp, he sat back and as the warm sun stroked his body, he fell back into a little snooze.

The sun was again setting when Grimlock woke up and he chided himself for falling asleep. Nevertheless, he also knew that nothing does a reputation more good than delayed gratification and it would do him no harm if they thought his fight lasted longer than it had. Unrushed, he stood up, brushed himself down, and picked up his belongings before he turned back towards the city, ready to take his place in the history books of Shdadt.

“All hail our brave Grimlock!” shouted the city folk as they saw him emerge from the woods.

He beamed, waved, and even gave himself the odd cheer as the acclamation followed him across the fields. This was the moment he’d been dreaming about his whole life and he was determined to savour the attention. City folk, being typically human, had a tendency of being faddish and take no interest in fnigle eaters except for a few days every twelve years when they just happen to save the city. This was his moment and he repeatedly raised his hat and waved to the torch lit crowds that waited to greet him at the city gates.

“Here’s our hero!” shouted the men.

“The most handsome fnigle eater that’s ever been!” shouted some of the women.

“Another twelve years of peace, thanks to Grimlock the… er…”

But, of course! He still didn’t have a name! He paused at the gate for a moment to see if the woodcutter had spread the word about his deeds but when no name was forthcoming, he opened his mouth to speak. “Perhaps I could suggest Grimlock the Almi…”

“Hail Grimlock the False!” said a voice that piped up from the crowd.

There was a gasp from the citizens who immediately fell silent. This was the moment that the fnigle eater would earn his title by public proclamation. Who would be so cruel to make a mockery of such a sacred moment?

“Who said that?” asked Grimlock, peering into the crowd so he might identify the heretic.

It was Mittens who stepped out from the crowd.

“It was I who led Grimlock the Liar to the forest,” he said. “But I only lingered to see what Grimlock the Fool would do. And it’s lucky for all of you that I did! He claims to have eaten the fnigle but I saw what really happened. Good ladies and gentlemen of Shdadt! Here before you stands Grimlock the Squirrel Eater!”

“A squirrel!” cried a woman.

“Oh no!” said another.

“You mean? A real squirrel?” asked a third.

Somebody fainted, though later reports it was a blood sugar thing.

“And he ate it raw,” added Mittens, clearly enjoying the moment. “It was still wriggling when he bit off its foot!”

This news was naturally greeted with even greater dismay. A fnigle eater choosing to use his lethal skills on a poor squirrel! What would people say? What if the king heard about this?

“But it was the fnigle!” protested the eater of Shdadt. “Friends! Friends! What kind of man do you think I am who would eat a live squirrel?”

“You’re a monster!” cried a woman, clutching a young girl next to her so she might cover her innocent ears.

“He ate a squirrel alive!” repeated another. “Grimlock the Squirrel Eater!”

“Grimlock the Squirrel Eater!” repeated the crowd, who, again, being human, are prone to aping others without really weighing the evidence.

“But it was the fnigle!” protested Grimlock again.

“If it was fnigle,” asked Mittens. “Then why is there still a fearsome noise coming from the forest?”

The crowd fell silent and, sure enough, they could hear a noise in the distant forest. This time the noise was a low strange eerie sound and they all quickly agreed (see the note above about their being fickle) that it could only be a fnigle.

“Right! Okay!” gasped Grimlock, aware that the eyes of history were again turned to him. “I will return to the forest and consume this second fnigle!” He gave Mittens a look which history books would record as “dirty”, “pointed”, and “slightly boss-eyed” and turned back to the scene of his previous victory.

Grimlock approached the dark forest feeling even less fear than the previous evening but angry at the injustice of his situation. He had already faced down one fnigle and was confident a second would offer no more challenge. That, however, really wasn’t the point. A fnigle is a fnigle and he felt he was still owed the acclaim for having eaten it.

Grumbling and mumbling to himself, Grimlock pushed deeper into the forest. He raged so much about the ungrateful nature of people that he bared noticed when an even great darkness began to creep in. Soon even the winter moon was blocked from view as the old trees turned and twisted in a knotted canopy above his head.

Suddenly, a noise nearby roused him from his thoughts. He had not heard the noise of the fnigle in a long time, but the creature must have been lurking nearby. He walked slowly, emerging into a small clearing surrounded by ancient trees. It took almost no time for him to spot the fnigle. It was hiding in the branches of a magnificent oak tree whose broad limbs seemed to push aside all the smaller trees to form the hollow. The creature was small and squat with a fierce demeanour, its body covered in fine bristles that moved in the breeze. Its pallid face was marked by oval eyes that flashed cruel and yellow in the darkness. In the middle of that placid face sat the cold mouth, shaped from flesh made hard and curved into a vicious downturned hook. A chill ran through Grimlock’s body as the demon made another noise.

“Hoooooo! Hooooo!”

“I’ve got you now, icy slayer of mankind!” said Grimlock who…

Who…

Who…

Sorry. Was it my imagination or did you just say something? You are aware that I’m the one meant to be telling this story and these interruptions ruin the narrative tension I’m working hard to estab…

What?

An owl? What do you mean “was the fnigle an owl”?

Well, I suppose, at a push, you could say that the fnigle did look a bit like an owl and the subject was certainly brought up at the later enquiry into events around Shdadt. But, again, I want to be quite clear about this before I get letters or, Baron Blakenstock forbid, a visit from those horrible people at the Anti Fnigle Eating League! This was certainly not an owl. It was definitely a fnigle.

Now if I may continue?

Grimlock dropped his hat and coat to the floor and wiped his nervous brow with his old handkerchief. The tree was ancient, gnarled in every place, giving him a good foothold as he clambered up to the lower branches. Then he could begin to climb in earnest. Up and up he climbed until he reached the big branches that spread out like great roots reaching into the sky. On one of the uppermost limbs sat the owl….

Sorry! Easily done!

… sat the fnigle!

Grimlock pulled himself up, slowly easing his bulk onto the branch. The fnigle watched contemptuously as Grimlock began to edge himself slowly across the branch. His every move the fnigle watched with its head almost completely around so it could peer at him with its big wide eyes.

Grimlock was now within touching distance of the fnigle. His heart beating like it wanted to escape his chest and with sweat stinging his eyes, Grimlock balanced on the branch, waiting to see if the fnigle would blink and then…

“Got you!” cried Grimlock as he leapt at the creature. His big hands wrapped themselves around the demon but at that moment, he felt himself lose his balance and then he was falling…

Every branch he’d used to ascend the tree seemed to punish his body on the way back down. A few snapped but most beat new bruises into his flesh. It seemed to take an age for him to fall but his big hands held onto the beast all the way down. With a heavy thud, he landed in the thick leaves amassed over centuries around the base of the old tree. A lesser man might have checked for broken bones but Grimlock was no ordinary man. He was the Fnigle Eater of Shdadt and that meant only one thing. Without a pause, he sank his teeth into the fnigle.

This demon was much harder to eat than the previous one and far dryer. The strange bristles stuck to Grimlock’s lips and got up his nose. Yet by mid-afternoon, he was licking his fingers as he chewed on the beak.

“All gone!” he said, swallowing the last mortal remains of the fnigle. “Grimlock the Insatiable saves the day! Twelve years of peace await me, six of which I’m determined to spend in bed!”

That thought was perhaps why he allowed himself no sleep this time and was soon walking back through the woods, happy to have rectified a situation that had started to look ugly. And even if he wasn’t greeted with his preferred name on his return, he thought it could be much worse than “Grimlock the False”, which he was pretty certain he’d not included on any list. A few of his illustrious brethren had only eaten one fnigle in their entire lives. None has ever disposed of two fnigles in a single day. That fact alone meant he would deserve special mention in the history books and a suitably impressive name.

The crowd to greet him this time was even bigger than before. Word of the fnigle invasion had clearly spread through the city and beyond. Rich or poor, young or old, all gave a cheer as Grimlock emerged from among the trees. Again, he started the long walk across the fields and, again, he waved his hat, even if this time his movement was a little stiffer due to the amount of fnigle he’d now eaten and his added weight meant he sank a little deeper into the mud.

“The fnigles are no more!” he declared as he came to the drawbridge and into earshot of the people. He waved in the direction of the women who had earlier been so scornful viz-a-viz the squirrel slur.

“You look more handsome than ever,” shouted some.

“Brave Grimlock! How could we ever doubt you?” shouted others.

“It’s easy,” said a small voice which again managed to bring silence the crowd. It was Mittens.

“But I ate the fnigle,” protested Grimlock and then to the crowd: “I bested the beast!”

“I’m not sure you did,” said Mittens who also turned to the crowd. “For again I followed him into the forest and this time I watch as Grimlock the Esurient ate an owl!”

“An owl!” screamed a woman. “Oh, Grimlock! Please tell me you’ve not eaten such a lovely creature as an owl!”

“They’re protected, they are,” said a man in the crowd who Grimlock recognised as belonging to the local council. “If there’s any evidence that he ate an owl, there’ll have to be an enquiry and I’ll call you all as witnesses!”

“I did not eat an owl,” protested Grimlock, who was not only irritated but feeling slightly bilious. Normally after a big meal, he’d spend a few hours dozing in his favourite armchair, not arguing the taxonomy of woodland beasts or wondering what the word “esurient” meant.

“If you ate the fnigle….” started Mittens.

“Fingles,” corrected Grimlock, who wasn’t going to allow the young boy to control the narrative. “I ate two fingles.” He held up two fingers as if that proved his point.

“If you ate the fingle,” Mittens continued, “then why is the city the Shdadt still threatened by a fingle?”

Grimlock laughed. “Threatened? But I’ve silenced the noise in the woods.”

The people fell quiet and, sure enough, the trees made only the sibilant sigh breathed by all branches in the breeze.

“The forest is at peace!” replied one voice which was soon picked up by others.

“We hear no fnigles!”

“Grimlock is right! He silenced the fnigles!”

“Leave him alone!”

“Stop spreading lies!” cried others.

“All hail Grimlock!”

Slowly the crowd turned on Mittens but then Grimlock stepped forward and raised his hand. If Grimlock earned any name that day, it should have been in that moment when he should have been named “Grimlock the Quick-Witted”. For, indeed, it was Grimlock who first understood the nature of the threat. It suddenly all made sense. The cold blast of icy air that had greeted him at his door, his need for his scarf despite his labours, the cold that seemed to follow him through the woods. Most of all, the clue was the strange lack of gloves in the winter! Here before them was the cruellest and coldest fnigle of all! It was the first fnigle that had taken on human form!

It was Mittens!

“He’s the fnigle!” cried Grimlock.

“At last you understand!” laughed Mittens who by now had certainly earned the title “Not To Be Trusted”. As he spoke the fnigle grew in size. “We fnigles have watched your city for a thousand years as you defied our will. We tried every form of creature to find one that you humans would not eat. But now, let us see how you cope with this!”

The fnigle raised himself to his full height and launched himself as Grimlock as the crowd screamed and retreated.

There are history books written about that fight that run to thousands of pages describing the tactics used by Grimlock and the fnigle. This isn’t the place to describe that mighty contest blow by blow. It’s enough to say that long into the night they fought and Grimlock was grateful that he’d eaten so much protein that day. It would take all his energy to defeat the giant fnigle!

Long hours they fought, crashing around a market and in the process destroying three shops, a post office, and frontage of the Early Learning Centre. Yet finally, around nightfall, the fight turned. The fnigle began to tire and Grimlock sensed this that was his chance to subdue it. Grabbing the fnigle, Grimlock pulled the scarf from around his neck and bound the fnigle until it screamed in pain at the warm touch of the wool.

Only then did Grimlock show himself a true fnigle eater as he sank his teeth into the creature’s ankle.

And, yes, again, I feel compelled to say that this wasn’t a human ankle. Those folk at the Anti Fnigle Eating League might spread some vile rumours about cannibalism at this point but they weren’t there, were they? They were probably hiding in their homes and pitying the fnigle as a brave and already bilious man fought for their freedom.

Yes, make no mistake. This was a fnigle ankle.

By dawn, Grimlock was still only half-way through his grim task of eating his fnigle. The city folk remained in their homes, behind closed shutters, snuggling in the dark as they listened to the horrible noises coming from outside. The city waited to hear the news that the fnigle was no more.

By noon, Grimlock was on the last stretch of neck. “You nearly had…” He burped loudly. “You nearly had me beat but this time I knew I’d defeat you,” he said to the last part of the nearly departed fnigle.

Another hour passed as folks in their homes heard all manner of cracking and slurping sounds (to save delicate sensibilities I won’t describe what was happening except to say, at one point, Grimlock resorted to using a spoon) but, finally, they heard the noise they’d been waiting for.

Grimlock rose to his feet and burped even louder than ever. The city folk took it as a sign that the fight was done and twelve more years of peace had arrived.

“Hail Grimlock the Dyspeptic!” they declared as they started to flood back into the streets.

“Hang on,” protested Grimlock. “I’ve eaten three fnigles including one that was the size of a large child or, if you prefer, a small adult. Don’t you think it would be more honourable to…” His stomach groaned again. “… to call me Grimlock the Potent or [bbbuurrp] Grimlock the Magnificent?”

“Hail Grimlock the Dyspeptic!” went the cry again and was soon picked up by the city’s heralds who proclaimed it from the city walls.

Grimlock moaned as he felt his stomach knot and, unable to contain himself, he issued a loud proclamation of his own.

“Grimlock the Flatulent!” went up the new cry.

“But I slew… [prrrffff]… three fearsome… [paaarrrpp] … fnigles!” objected the eater of Shdadt who doubled over as his stomach cramped again. Suddenly he realised that the battle to save his precious name would have to wait. “Is there a bathroom around here I could use?”

And that, sadly, is the last that history books record of Grimlock the Dyspetic, Grimlock the Flatulent, or, as some still remember him, Grimlock the Indisposed. It was a sobering end to his tale but, then, not all tales end well. Certainly, few tales of the Kingdom of Lorankle end well. They end, like life itself, in unfairness, bitterness, and a sense of futility. Only in the case of Grimlock, there was also indigestion followed by long days spent sitting and contemplating the nature of his knees. And if that is the moral of this story then so let it be. Be careful with what you eat. Not everything might be a fnigle.

But then, of course, they just might.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *