Feel the need to get in touch with the Balrog, swap chit-chat with the Cat
or simply exchange verbals with the Cockroach - then all you have to do is click on the button and you will be transported
to the place where you can do all that.
Cat has had another little brainstorm and those of you who
like a challenge may wish to scoot over to the 'News' section and see what has been dreamt up .. we don't
think you will be disappointed.
Entries have been a bits sparse on the ground and those we have received don't deserve
to see the light of day, let alone to be published, so Cat has decided to keep the competition running until something worthwhile
turns up .. he always was an optimistic little sod!!
"BALROG BITES THE APPLE"
The project to place all the ZENOBI titles on to the Ipod, Ipad
and Iphone was completed thanks to the wonderful programming skills of Fernando
Garcia. The final result looked superb and played excellently.
Four 'packs' were available for download and each
pack featured at least TEN full games (not counting their individual parts) as well as a host of 'information',
Pack 4 consisted of :-
The Dogboy (Parts 1 and 2)
Lightmare - The Village of Delvhorn
Of Our Wombats Is Missing
The Golden Sword Of Bhakhor (Parts 1 and 2)
The Islands Of Sinbad
The Mapper + Guide
Why Is The World Round Anyway (Parts 1 and 2)
Pack 3 consisted of :-
A Fistful Of Necronomicons
Alien Research Centre
1 and 2)
The Case Of The Beheaded Smuggler (Parts 1 and 2)
Escape From Hodgkin's Manor
House On The Tor
The Treasure Of Santa Maria
The Twelve Days Of Christmas (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
Wizard Quest + Guide
Pack 2 Consisted of :-
Agatha's Folly (Parts 1 and 2)
Behind Closed Doors 4
Mr.Hyde (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
Jack The Ripper (Parts 1 and 2)
Pawns Of War (Parts 1 and 2)
Silverwolf (Parts 1 and 2)
Black Tower (Parts 1 and 2)
The Curse Of Calutha (Parts 1 and 2)
The Taxman Cometh
White Feather Cloak (Parts
1 and 2)
Pack 1 Consisted of :-
Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors 2
Behind Closed Doors 3
Everyday Tale Of A Seeker Of Gold
Secret Of Little Hodcome
Bulbo and The Lizard-King
From Out Of A Dark Night Sky
Retarded Creatures and Caverns
Balrog and The Cat
A Stroll In The Bleak Forest
Bulbo Slide Show
Goblin Gazzette 2 + Supplement
Just One Of Those Days
The application 'ZXNostalgia' was constantly being updated
and all 'updates' were FREE. So if Fernando made an improvement then you got that improvement
for nothing ... how good was that ???
Plans were afoot to release even more packs, as well as to release
a couple of '128k' versions, however these never reached fruition.
However sticking a 'Balrog' on your 'Apple' was
a fun thing to do .....
"Another Bite Of The Apple"
Continuing the trend of adding more and more ZENOBI
titles to the Iphone, Ipad and Ipod, Jonathan Needles released a couple of packs of '128k only'
games on his 'Spectaculator' emulator.
The packs were as follows ...
The Gods Of War
Leopold The Minstrel
Murder .. He Said!!
The Khangrin Plans
The Krazy Kartoonist Kaper
A Murder Mystery Weekend
The Thirty-Nine Steps.
Each pack was available from the in-app shop of 'Spectaculator'
itself, so you knew where to go to get hold of them.
THE DRAGON's LAIR
Fancy a quick chat or even a long moan .. then click on the link below and
air your grievances .. ALL are welcome .. even Trolls, Orcs and Goblins.
View the Message Board ****************
& The Lizard-King (Early Version)
& Slam (Early Version)
Here are 'early' versions of 'Bulbo & The Lizard-King' and
'Fuddo & Slam' - hence the rather 'rustic' font etc. However you might like to check them out and see what
the final games stemmed from.
BULBO AND THE LIZARD-KING (Early Version)
FUDDO AND SLAM (Early Version)
Zen On The 'Ten
All the various '48', '128', 'TZX' formats of our games, as well
as the ZXDS 'emulator' on which to run them, were at one time supplied on a 2GB micro-sd memory card.
The ZXDS 'emulator' could handle all formats of the games. However
there were still a few problems with save/load routines in 'Quilled' games and 'Multi-part' titles that use said routines.
Sadly this was never remedied, so it was necessary to use the inbuilt 'options' to save your progress through these
Also included with the various games were a number of little 'extras' for
your perusal - such as 'leaflets' and 'screen-shots' - complete with a 'utility' to display them on your DS.
The SD memory-card needed to have the relevant 'flashcart operating-system'
installed on it in order to enable it to run on your DS/DSi. Once this was done it was a simple case of inserting the SD
memory-card into your 'flashcart' of choice, then inserting the 'flashcart' into the relevant slot on your DS/DSi and switching
Such was the way of "Zen On The Ten"..
The creator of ZXDS has now coded a new routine into the emulator that allows
the player to 'Save' and 'Load' to the 'virtual tape-deck'. This in turn allows the player to 'Save' and 'Load' the normal
Spectrum routines built into 'Quilled' and 'Pawed' titles. Effectively this SHOULD mean that all 'Multi-part' games are now
fully supported, thus allowing data 'saved' from one part to be 'loaded' into the next part.
To download this latest version of the ZXDS emulator use the link listed
"Back In The Mists Of Time"
A few of you have been asking about the origins of Roal
and how he and the Korats became such bitter enemies. Well here is the first-ever tale .. hope it explains
things and more importantly, that you enjoy it.
Part 1 ..
In the west a great black cloud appeared from out of nowhere and began to
fill the sky above Ska Dhor. As the 'cloud' grew and the sky darkened, an enormous shadow covered the land around the base
of Ska Dhor causing all manner of creatures to scurry to the safety of their lairs, their hearts pounding in their ears as
they ran. If they had but chanced to look up and gaze at the 'cloud' they would have seen that is was formed by a mass of
birds, black of plumage and sharp of talon, who wheeled and soared in the air as though waiting for some signal to guide their
next move. Suddenly that signal was given and the vast armada of Korats, for that was what they were, surged forward as one
and headed in the direction of Torag Minh.
Meanwhile on the edge of a small babbling brook a halfling by the name of
Roal was busy doing battle with a large brown trout and quite oblivious of the approaching birds,until darkness befell him
as the 'cloud' passed overhead. Glancing up he noticed the dark sheen of their plumage and the sharpness of their talons and
casting his rod to one side he quickly scampered up the bank .... with a flick of its tail, the brown trout dove to the bottom
of the sparkling brook and settled beneath a large rock.
Just then two of the 'outriders' of the flock spotted the halfling clambering
away from the brook and with a quickness that belied their size, swooped down towards the unsuspecting Roal. With his eyes
fixed on the nearby safety of a large hollow tree-stump Roal had no reason to look over his shoulder but if he had,
what he would have seen would surely have spurred him to greater efforts. For there, just behind him, were two large Korats,
their beaks gaping wide and their talons fully extended. With his breath burning a hole in his chest and his little short
legs pumping for all they were worth, Roal drew ever nearer to the small hole in the hollow-stump and then just as it seemed
that all his efforts were worthwhile the first of the 'outriders' struck!!
The first Roal knew of it was when he felt the hot breath on the back of
his neck and then a smell of decay reached his nostrils, only to be replaced by the scent of warm blood ... his own ... as
the razor-sharp talons of the Korat seered into his shoulder.
In the taverns and alehouses of the kingdom of Tousel tales had often been
told, albeit in hushed tones and whispered phrases, of the cunning and guile of the Korats and of their undoubted talents
as 'bringers of death', but there had always been the odd one or two story-tellers willing to embellish their monologues with
accounts of the Korat's one great weakness .... their inability to control the 'blood-lust' when it came upon them. It was
this weakness that was to save the life of Roal the halfling as he scurried towards the hollow tree-stump. For as the first
'outrider' delivered its telling blow the second Korat smelt the fresh, warm blood and in its urgency to obtain its share
cannoned into the first bird causing it to relax its grip on Roal. In that instant Roal made one last frantic effort to reach
the safety of the hole and with a twist of his body flung himself desperately forward. With a blood-curdling screech
the two 'outriders' struck out at Roal, only to rip the boot from his left leg as he hurtled head-first through the gaping
hole and then buffetting the air with their mighty wings they soared into the sky to retake their place on the edges of the
In the warm, moist safety of the hollow tree-stump a small halfling quivered
in a dark corner and sobbed uncontrollably .. . .
Part 2 ...
.... As his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness and the searing
pain in his chest began to recede, Roal glanced around and tried to take stock of his present situation. The air in the hollow
tree was heavy with a 'dankness' that spoke of decay and misuse, whilst the ground upon which he now sat was covered with
a thick blanket of soft, moist leaves.
Just then he felt a movement of the leaves in the region of his
right foot and with panic lodging itself firmly in his throat, he shifted position slightly in order to ascertain just what
was causing it. As the fear of the unknown pulsed wildly in his temples he kicked out, scattering the leaves nearest to his
foot and revealing a small furry creature not unlike a surrel but with the soft amber eyes of the pine-rats of the great Northern
Forest. "That was a close call young halfling" croaked the creature, "For
a moment there I thought the Korats had you." Then with a shake of his head it approached Roal, with a bravado far in excess
of its diminutive size, and perched itself on his upper left thigh. For a few moments Roal gazed at the small furry creature
as it preened its whiskers, removing the odd remnant of leaf and generally straightening out the crinkled ends, and then the
urgency of the situation struck home ..... "I must get to my people" cried Roal, "They are in great danger from the Korats
but even my sturdy little legs are incapable of out-running them."
Tears of frustration welled up in the corners of his eyes and
he racked his brain in an effort to figure out how to carry out the impossible. "Their strong wings will carry them to Torag
Minh long before my short little legs and without my warning all my people will be taken unawares by the arrival of the Korats.
The ground will run with rivers of blood and the 'death-cries' of the Korats will echo long and loud through the land of Torag
Minh." Thumping the ground in despair, Roal began to sob uncontrollably ... his little body shaking with every convulsion.
"There is a way" whispered the creature, "Because the Korats
will not fly the direct route, instead they will skirt the realm of the Grundars and fly to the far east. For even the Korats
have their fears and Grundars are the one thing they fear most in all the land. The reasons are hidden in the mists of time,
but it is said that the Grundars once slew more than l,000 of their number, when they stumbled across a flock of Korats who
had just gorged themselves on a herd of unsuspecting Mugs. The satiated Korats were roosting, when a war-band of Grundars
came across them and the slaughter was incredible to behold. Only one Korat lived to tell the tale and the rest were put to
the sword. Even to this day the Grundar still wear the talons and beaks of the slaughtered Korats hanging from their war-belts.
They are much prized possessions and are handed down from one generation to another. The Korats have never forgotten the incident
and to this day they never over-fly the realm of the Crundars."
Roal's heart skipped a beat, he would take the direct route and
cross the realm of the Grundars .. that was the answer, but would he succeed. The Grundars were renowned hunters, the tales
of their tracking abilities were legend in the taverns of Tousel and it was said that they could detect the scent of their
prey from more than 500 paces away. He would have to be swift, but more importantly, would have to be silent. "Thank you!"
yelped Roal, "The fate of my people depends upon my speed, so I must go now. However without your advice there would have
been no purpose in my leaving this place." With that he tentatively
peered out of the hole in the hollow stump and seeing that all was as it should be, emerged once more into the bright
light of day. Making his way across to where his left boot lay crumpled and torn, Roal picked it up and peered at the
talon marks in its heel. A shiver of fear ran down his spine as he recalled just how close the cold hand of death had
been to his heart and as he pulled on the boot an inner urgency overtook him and he knew that he MUST complete his task ..
his people depended upon him.
With a quick wave in the direction of the hollow stump and the
creature it contained, Roal turned in the direction of the realm of the Grundar and set off at a fast trot. Behind him
a small voice cried "Good luck halfling, I hope you get there in time ..... because I know what it is like to be the
last of your race!"
Part 3 ...
.... In less than the length of one stride Roal crossed the divide
between bright sunlight and cold green darkness to find himself in the chilly confines of the great forest that marked the
outer boundary of the realm of the Grundars. For just a moment his short little legs seemed to take on a will of their own
and threatened to bring Roal to a sudden halt, but with the taste of fear still sour in his throat the small halfling clenched
his fists and plunged onwards into the waiting unknown. Meanwhile in a
small hollow tree-stump a tiny surrel tentatively rubbed the 'ourat' it now clutched in its paw and trusted in the ancient
powers contained in this legendary sacred object to guard his new-found friend from danger. Perhaps one day they would meet
again and Roal would relate to him the tale of his journey to his people .... but then again, perhaps not!
Brushing aside the overhanging branches that threatened to bar
his progress Roal sped on through the dank green forest, his eyes darting this way and that in an attempt to ensure that nothing
was following him. Now and then a dark shadow fluttered into his vision but a small change of direction and a quickening of
pace soon caused him to breathe a little easier. Roal glanced upwards but the overhead canopy was too dense to allow more
than just a hint of sunlight through and what did descend towards the forest floor quickly darkened in hue, casting a strange
green tinge over all that it touched. 'How far had he come?' he wondered, 'How far is there to go?' Such thoughts as these
flitted through his head like small dark butterflies, each one adding its own pinch of doubt to the worries that were already
clogging Roal's mind. 'Where were the Korats now? Had they outflanked the realm of Grundars or was there a chance that their
intense loathing of all that was 'Grundar' still burnt brightly enough to ensure that they gave the forest as wide a berth
as possible?' With that Roal paused for a moment, his breath rasping warmly
in his chest and took stock of his situation. 'It is no good just blundering blindly on, I have to make sure that I am going
in the right direction or else I could end up running in circles until either my legs give way or my heart bursts with exertion
and then who will save my people?' panted Roal, quickly glancing around for some sign to guide him in the direction of his
As a child Roal had often spent time in the company of Kacj,
an old and wizened halfling who dwelt on the outskirts of the village, listening to his tales and learning of the ways of
his people. It was Kacj that had taught him to fish for the brown trout and Kacj that had shown him how to bait traps to catch
the small blue creatures that lived in dark burrows in the meadowlands ... strange little creatures with long ears and even
longer back legs. But most of all Kacj had taught him how to survive and to adapt to whatever his situation was. How to use
every means at his disposal to ensure that he always found his way home again .. it was this knowledge that was to serve him
well now. Peering at a tall tree Roal noticed that one side was thick with a covering of moss and at the back of his mind
nagged the words .... 'The north side of the trees always protect themselves from the cold winds of winter with a layer of
moss'. Hopefully Kacj would be right and now was the time to put this knowledge to the test. So armed with this information
Roal quickly took stock of his bearings and then, taking one deep breath, struck out in the direction he hoped would lead
him to his village .....
With his sturdy little legs striding out for all they were worth
and his arms pumping away by his sides Roal sped through the forest, occasionally leaping over fallen branches and side-stepping
around the large rocks that littered the path. It was one of these that was to prove his downfall, for as he stepped around
the next one to cross his path his foot slipped on some rotting leaves and he pitched forward on to his face. Some seconds
passed whilst Roal gathered his wits and then looking up he was terrified to see the talons of a Korat dangling only inches
from his nose ........
Part 4 ...
With visions of death and excruciating pain searing through his mind Roal
clenched his eyes tightly shut and buried his face in the soft, moist leaves that littered the forest floor. For a few moments
all was still and quiet and then to his great horror a scratching sensation was felt on the back of his head .... Followed
some seconds later by a sharp 'nudge' on the seat of his pants! Instantly his mind was filled with the terrible tales of how
the Korats disposed of their intended victims and of the macabre way in which they severed the legs of their prey from the
upper part of their bodies in order that they were unable to flee to safety. Roal felt sure that this was about to happen
to him and that the 'nudge' was simply the exploratory prod of the Korat's beak as it sought the best place upon which to
launch its gory attack.
Fearing the worst Real flattened himself as much as possible and hugged
the cool, moist earth for all he was worth .... But even he knew that this was a futile gesture .... a fact that was soon
confirmed, as he found himself lifted aloft by the seat of his pants and dangled some distance off the ground. Perhaps the
Korat was toying with him and that it just wanted to extract the ultimate amount of 'pleasure' from the death of this young
halfling. Or perhaps he was about to be borne away to some high peak and once there, his bones would be picked over by the
evil bird and its brood ... These and other such thoughts flashed through his mind and he resolved to make one last effort
to break free of the clutches of the Korat.
Letting out an almighty cry, he squirmed this way and that, his legs flailing
in all possible directions at once, but the creature still held him in a vice-like grip ..... Then to his sudden amazement
a rather gruff voice said "Stop wriggling young halfling, you are worse than a great sand-eel of the northern rivers!" Opening
his eyes, Roal peered at the coarse face of the Grundar that was presently holding him at arm's length and for a fleeting
second his heart stopped beating ... "Had he gone out of the frying-pan and into the fire?" was the thought that darted through
his mind or was there some sort of salvation in this strange being that now held him aloft?
The Grundar gently lowered Roal to the ground and then, with its head cocked
to one side, said .... "What is a young halfling like you doing wandering this forest unprotected and just where were you
going in such a hurry?". Amidst great gasps of breath, Roal related his tale of the sighting of the Korat war-band,
his meeting with the surrel and of his flight through the forest in an forlorn attempt to save his village at Torag Minh.
Then overcome by emotion and shock, he slumped to the ground to be overwhelmed by a great, soft darkness that blotted out
the outside world.
Roal awoke to find himself propped against the base of a tall tree and glancing
around he spied the large bulk of the Grundar some distance to the east. Carefully adjusting his feet and gathering his strength
for an anticipated flight to freedom, Roal was astounded to hear the soft tones of the surrel echoing in his ears .... "Grundars
are the one thing they fear the most." .... Looking down, he saw two soft, amber eyes peering at him from beneath a pile of
leaves. The surrel emerged slowly and then seeing the puzzled look on Roal's face he said "I thought you might need some help,
so I have been following you as fast as my little legs would carry me. However it was only your recent collapse that enabled
me to catch up." With that it scrambled onto Roal's right leg and sat there gazing at him.
Reaching out a hand Roal stroked the
small creature and a feeling of well-being surged over him. "That ....... is the only chance of saving your people."
whispered the surrel, pointing in the direction of the great black shape that was the Grundar. "Go on, ask it for yourself
if not for your people. It can only say 'NO!' and you have nothing to lose by trying." Roal took a deep breath, gave a shrug
of his shoulders and slowly advanced towards the waiting Grundar ......
Part 5 ...
As Roal approached the squatting Grundar he could not help but notice that
it seemed to be deep in meditation, that is if Grundars ever did such a thing .. for its gaze appeared fixed on some far-distant
object and its breathing was shallow and slow. Then suddenly, without even the slightest movement of its head, the Grundar
spoke. "Come closer young halfling, for I will do you no harm, or at least I won't as long as you behave yourself and don't
start making that whistling noise that you halflings seem so fond of doing." Edging
slowly forward, Roal drew closer to the Inmobile Grundar and then, with a sharp intake of breath, stepped within reach of
the creature. Gradually the Grundar swivelled around to face the stock-still halfling, its warm breath disturbing the loose
hairs that hung down over Roal's eyes. With a swift movement of its left hand it brushed aside the hairs and growled "That
is better, at least I can see what you look like now." Never had such a large hand been so close to Roal's head before and
he found himself fighting against an urge to close his eyes and jerk his head out of reach. The small veins in the side of
his temples began to pulse wildly and just as it seemed that panic would prevail, the large creature seized Roal with his
other hand and lifted him quickly towards himself.
A strange 'musky' scent filled Real's nostrils as he was drawn closer to
the Grundar and he was vaguely reminded of the time when he spent a long dark night in the confines of the burrow of a Tarat
.... Kcaj and him had been out hunting the blue creatures that hopped and skipped over the meadows of the vast grasslands,
when a sudden storm had caused than to seek warmth and shelter in the first place they could find - to Roal's disgust Kcaj
had chosen the spacious burrow of a Tarat, a plump round creature that lived on acorns and tree-roots, and liked nothing more
than wallowing in a pile of semi-dry oak leaves. For days afterwards the smell of that burrow had clung to Roal and only a
quick dip in the cool waters of a swiftly-flowing stream had enabled him to get rid off it ... Roal sensed that perhaps he
would be taking another dip in that stream, if only he survived long enough to find it again.
"You need my help", grunted the creature and before Roal could figure out
whether it was asking a question or not, it continued "So I guess I can find the time to come to the aid of one who stands
to lose all he loves most dearly in the world. The Korats can and will be stopped, of that you can be sure, but first you
must promise me never to relate any of what you might see. You must tell nobody ... understand, NOBODY!" Roal nodded in dumb
silence and hoped that the Grundar would believe him. He would promise anything if only this mighty creature could halt the
slaughter of his people at the talons of the Korats.
Rising to his feet the Grundar lifted Roal on to his left shoulder and then
turned in the direction of the small surrel that was sat at the base of the tall tree. "We might as well take this 'thing'
with us", it said and then scooped up the surrel and stuffed it into a small pouch that was hanging from its belt. Eager to
familiarise itself with its new home the surrel stuck its head out of the neck of the pouch and gazed around. However the
close proximity of the Korat's talon that also dangled from the belt, was more than it could bear and it quickly ducked back
inside the pouch. For a moment Roal thought he had heard a small chuckle merge itself with the cool forest air but surely
Grundars never laughed, so he must have been mistaken.
"Hang on tight little one" grunted the creature, "We have a long way to
go and only a very short time in which to get there." With that the Grundar began to make its way through the forest and head
in the direction of Roal's village. In the confines of the small leather pouch the surrel smiled to itself and felt sure that
Roal's people would not go down the same dark road that his own had done ... the Grundar would see to that!
Part 6 ...
Roal was surprised and somewhat puzzled to see that there was
no slackening in the pace of the Grundar as it sped through the forest, and at no point did it deviate from the path in order
to seek out those other Grundars that Roal felt sure were to join them in their struggle against the Korats. Perched upon
its shoulder, Roal clung on for dear life as the Grundar continued on its way, each stride eating up large chunks of the forest
floor and bringing the approach of the inevitable battle ever closer.
Looking down at the pouch, that was swinging precariously from
the belt around the Grundar's waist, Roal wondered what the surrel was thinking at this time and whether it was any the wiser
in regard to the plans of this creature that was carrying them both to a meeting that neither wanted but neither could avoid
if the fate of Roal's people was not to be decided by the sharpness of the talons and the quickness of the beaks of the vast
armada of Korats presently heading in their direction.
Meanwhile in the village life continued as it had done for countless
years, the daily tasks were undertaken and gossip exchanged with passing brethren. "Bit cold for this time of year," exclaimed
Nann as she passed the hut of old Kacj and drawing nearer to his small camp-fire she continued, "Has Roal returned from his
fishing-trip yet or is the little scamp still doing battle with those brown trout he loves so much?" A small smile wrinkled
Kacj's forehead and looking up he said, "Don't worry, he will probably turn up later today, stinking of fish and bearing some
outrageous tale of the 'big one' that got away."
Just then something caused him to glance in the direction of
the far horizon and Nann could see his old eyes screw up in effort as he tried to focus on a small dark patch that was barely
discernible in the distance. Nann looked in the direction of his stare but the dark patch had vanished behind a fluffy cloud
and she turned her head once more to the comforting glow of the small fire. "Well this won't get them pots washed, so I best
get off home and set about cleaning up before his lord and master gets back." With that Nann smiled down at old Kacj and headed
in the direction of her dwelling. If she had but looked back she would have seen a flicker of recognition as the dark patch
emerged from behind the cloud and Kacj remembered a time when such sights were more than common-place. As the thoughts crawled
across his mind he reached down to the hilt of the small dagger tucked into his belt and closed his fingers tightly around
In the confines of the pouch the surrel braced itself the best
it could against the constant buffeting and reminded itself that perhaps it had not been such a good idea after all to have
become involved with this young halfling and his problems. But then a warm sadness gripped its heart and it remembered times
when surrels darted hither and thither across the floor of the forest and their excited chirping could be heard echoing across
the land ... as a moistness filled its eyes, it thrust aside all doubts and vowed that the half ling would have all the help
it could possibly give.
From his precarious perch on the Grundar's shoulder Roal glanced
up and in the distance the greenery of the forest seemed thinner and the light seemed much brighter. "Surely they could not
be approaching the edge of the forest already? " was the thought that ran through his mind, but as he stared ahead of himself
the trees did indeed begin to thin out and he knew that they were almost on the edge of the grasslands that served as the
northern-most boundary of Tousel. "Just a few moments more and they would
be 'home' but where were the rest of the Grundars? Surely this great creature that presently bore him aloft was not intending
to take on the might of the Korats single-handed?"
These thoughts hammered away inside his head and chipped bits
off the wall-of-confidence that the meeting with the Grundar had installed there. "Not even he can take on the Korats in such
large numbers and live to tell the tale, " thought Roal and gripping the Grundar by the ear he screamed in a hysterical voice
.... " Where are all the others ? " For
just an instant the pace of the creature slackened and its head turned in the direction of the tiny halfling. "Have faith
little one, I will not let you down", and with that the Grundar once more strode off in the direction of the edge of the forest
and Roal's village.
Part 7 ...
Sprinting into the open meadowland, the Grundar placed itself between the
village and the oncoming armada of Korats and then reaching up with one hand, gently plucked the halfling from his lofty perch
and placed him on the ground. "Now is the hour young halfling, it is time to see if Korat blood still runs as swiftly as it
has always done." Roal glanced up at the mighty creature towering over him and though his heart swelled with pride at the
way the Grundar was ready to lay down his own life for that of the people of the village, he could not help but doubt the
ability of a lone Grundar to bring down the might of the massed army of Korats that was presently winging its way towards
"How about me?" squeaked a small voice from the confines of the pouch that
was dangling from the Grundar's belt and for a moment a half-smile flicked across the creature's cragged visage. Unhooking
the drawstring of the pouch from around his belt, the Grundar stretched open the neck, shook the pouch and deposited the surrel
on the damp grass beside Roal. "Hmmph!" it cried, preening its bent whiskers back into shape, "It is about time I was let
out of that smelly darkness!" and then peered around at its surroundings. The sight of the approaching Korats was the first
thing to catch his eye and just at that moment in time the smelly old pouch seemed a more than welcome haven.
High aloft the 'outriders' of the armada spotted the tiny band of travellers
standing between them and their intended target and swooped down to investigate, their talons extended and their beaks open
in anticipation. As the wind whistled through their flight-feathers they gathered speed at an alarming rate and were soon
within striking distance of the trio. Then suddenly a spark of recognition registered with the lead 'outrider' and it broke
off its attack and swooped away to one side. The second 'outrider' was not so quick and the last thing it saw was the grinning
features of the Grundar as it reached out and plucked the Korat from the air by the throat. Less than three seconds later
the Korat's crumpled body lay at the feet of the creature and its talons hung from its belt ..... the first 'trophy' of this
particular battle had been taken!
Open-mouthed Roal gawped at the talons and the blood that was dripping from
them to form a small pool by the left foot of the Grundar ..... "Close your mouth little one" growled the creature, "or else
one of those darg-flies might just decide to fly in there!" Roal did just that and then stepped further away from the small
pool of blood where the darg-flies were now gathering in their thousands.
Overhead the Korats now whirled in uncertainty and seemed very reluctant
to continue their approach. This puzzled Roal, for surely even blood-thirsty predators such as them had nothing to fear from
one solitary Grundar. As Roal gazed at the wheeling mass of birds two 'outriders' left the flock and set out on their respective
journeys ... one to the east and the other to the west ... as though in search of something or somebody!
A deep rumbling noise caused Roal to break off from his study of the Korats
and he turned In the direction of the noise. To his surprise the Grundar was sat cross-legged on the grass, eyes tightly closed
and head bowed. In one hand it held a small greenish-coloured stone and in the other hand a small sphere pulsated with a bluish
light. The rumbling noise was coming from the creature's mouth, for it appeared to be chanting some strange incantation but
Roal was not sure what as the 'words' were totally incomprehensible to him.
Just then the 'outriders' returned and wheeled aloft before rejoining the
armada. The Grundar sensed their return and rose to its feet, placing the stone and the sphere on the ground as it did so.
Then raising itself to its full height it extended its arms and let out an almighty cry. To Roal it sounded like a cry of
pain but to the surrel it sounded like the cry of one who was ready to join his ancestors ... both of them were mistaken.
However to the Korats hovering high above the cry meant only one thing .... this day would end with the talons of many
more Korats dangling from a Grundar belt.
Once more the Grundar raised its arms aloft, took a deep breath and cried
Part 8 ...
As the last remnants of the Grundar's cry echoed their way into
the distance the sky darkened and a heavy grey mist began to descend on to the meadowlands. Lowering its arms to its side,
the creature turned to the small halfling ..... "Now is the time little one, so remember what I said and never tell anyone
of what you are about to see." Roal nodded in dumb understanding and edged slightly closer to the Grundar, who seeing this
movement, reached out a large hand and gently guided the halfling into place. "No, it will be safer for you if you stand directly
behind me and then I can always be between you and those 'birds'." The last word almost spat from between his lips and Roal
sensed the intense hatred that the Grundar nurtured for the Korats.
Taking his place in the shadow of the mighty creature, Roal felt
a small drop of water trickle down his neck and glancing up, noticed that 'rain' was beginning to fall from the grey cloud.
As he did so, he could not help but notice, that high above him the Korats milled as though in confusion and seemed reluctant
to press home their attack. It was as if they were awaiting the arrival of something or somebody.
Meanwhile back in the village, old Kcaj looked up from the warmth
of his fire and a sense of unease hung heavy over him. To the north he could see a rainstorm approaching, though this one
was unlike any normal storm and reminded him of the ones his father had told him of. It had been said that such storms heralded
the arrival of the Grundar and that even after their passing, the ground upon which they fell remained perfectly dry to the
touch. Legend had it that the Grundar came and went under the cover of these storms and that no creature had ever lived to
see their movements .... But that was ' legend ' and surely such things never actually happened. Kcaj drew his blanket tightly
around his shoulders and tried to see through the greyish mist that hung over the meadow-lands but it was too dense and the
vast majority of the grasslands, and the lands beyond them, were obscured from his view.
As the 'rain' became heavier Roal looked down in the direction
of the tiny surrel squatting at his feet and was puzzled to see a look of fear on the small creature's face. "I have heard
of these things," whispered the surrel, "and my people have always lived in awe of being out in the open when the 'Grey Rain'
comes." With that, it closed its eyes and covered its head with its paws. Just
then Roal 'sensed' rather than noticed a change in his surroundings and guickly glanced to his right and then to his left.
To his astonishment, where each raindrop had fallen, there now stood fully-armed Grundar warriors and as he watched, more
appeared, until there were hundreds of them stretching out as far as the eye could see.
High aloft the Korats did their best to peer through the mist
but even their sharp eyes were no match for the dense grey blanket that covered the ground below. Many times before they had
encountered this mist and many times before they had swooped into it never to return again. However this time was to be so
different, for beneath that mist stood one lone Grundar and their compulsion to destroy it was too strong for them to resist
... If only one of their kind had been able to return from a previous journey into the mist then maybe they would have known
just what awaited them and how wrong their assumptions were.
With a mighty "Kraaaakkk!!!" the lead bird dove into the mist.
The armada of Korats followed, each intent on being the first to draw blood from the creature waiting for them below. Their
'blood-lust' was up and nothing would now deter them from slaking their thirst for Grundar blood.
Part 9 ...
As the Korats emerged from out of the grey mist, beaks agape and talons
glistening, the sight of the massed ranks of Grundar warriors was almost more than the birds could believe and panic took
over from aggression. Wings flapped frantically in an attempt to avoid the deadly thrusts of the Grundar swords and loud squawks
were emitted as the Korats attempted to rise to the air again and the comparative safety of the open sky. Black-feathered
bodies swooped this way and that in a vain effort to elude the un-erring accuracy of the Grundar's blades, but the ensuing
chaos only helped to make the Grundar's task even easier.
From behind the vast bulk of his protector, Roal watched in awe at the slaughter
of the Korats and at the manner in which the Grundars dispatched them. Swords soon lost their shine as the Korat blood ran
forth, their edges taking on a crimson hue as the blades hit deep into their targets. One by one the Korats were chopped down
in flight and their talons, in some cases still twitching, clipped to the belts of the triumphant Grundars. Soon the air was
heavy with the sickly smell of warm blood and the buzzing of the thousands of darg-flies attracted by the blood almost overwhelmed
the very sound of the battle itself.
Throughout all this the surrel remained with its hands covering its head
and its eyes tightly closed and it was not until the headless-body of a Korat hurtled to the ground next to it that anything
changed. Hearing the dull thud and smelling the sickly-sweet odour, the surrel opened its eyes just in time to witness the
last convulsions of the dying bird before a large hairy hand reached down, seized the Korat by the talons and deftly removed
them with a swipe of a sword. The surrel shuddered and then looked away, but something to the southern edge of the meadowlands
caught its eye and it tried to focus on that.
Completely taken by surprise, the Korats were unable to make any account
of themselves and the battle was short-lived. As the last of the Korats was put to the sword the grey mist lifted, and the
sky began to lighten in colour. The noise of the gorging darg-flies was almost deafening but then, if as one, the Grundars
clapped their hands and the darg-flies took flight ... they knew better than to stay. Their time would always come again and
now was not the moment to risk incurring the wrath of the Grundars.
Just as the last of the grey mist swirled away the creatures took their
places in line again and, with heads bowed, began to chant. This time the words were more gentle, tinged with a touch of serenity
and altogether different from the harsh cry that had summoned them. Then, as Roal looked on, the Grundars went as they had
come, leaving only the scattered dead bodies of the Korats as a sign of their passing. The one who had befriended the young
haIfling was the only one who remained, and it was still busily engaged in the ritual with the stone and the sphere,
completely oblivious to all that surrounded it.
The speck to the south still intrigued the surrel and it strained its tiny
eyes in one last effort to ascertain what it was. To its immense horror it suddenly recognised what it was looking at ...
it was a Korat ... obviously an 'outrider' that had not re-joined the flock in time to take part in the attack. However having
seen its compatriots put to the sword it intended to make its mark on the small party of three and by the looks of things
the small halfling that had brought death and destruction to its companions was its ultimate target.
The surrel turned quickly to warn Roal... but for some unexplicable reason
found that it was unable to make any sort of vocal noises ... it was as if the words were frozen in its throat ! Glancing
back over its shoulder it was all too obvious that the lone Korat was hell-bent on its task and judging by the speed at which
it was approaching there was very little time to waste. So, in a desperate attempt to gain recognition, it sank its teeth
into Roal's leg!
"Hey! What In the name of Rodar is going on ??" screeched Roal, turning
to face the surrel.
Part 10 ...
As the small black speck grew larger and the true flight-path of the lone
Korat became more evident, Roal knew that 'death' was but a brief moment away and memories of the 'feel' of a Korat's talon
ripping through flesh and the smell of warm blood, came flooding into his head. On that occasion he had been lucky but, dancing
with old death once and living to tell the tale, was no solace at a time like this. To stay where he was would surely mean
that the Korat would strike its target, gouging and slashing as it came. Anxious to avoid such a fate Roal flung himself to
one side and landed with a thump on the ground to his left. As he did so his hand struck a cold metallic object and he quickly
snatched it away again, then glancing up he noticed that where he had once stood there was now a clear path to the unprotected
back of the squatting Grundar. The creature, still engrossed in Its ritual act, was completely oblivious of the approach of
speeding Korat ....
For a moment It seemed as if the surrel was still struct dumb, as it still
stood rooted to the spot with not a sound emanating from its mouth. Then suddenly it managed to stir itself into action and
to find the words it had been seeking to emit. "Use the sword!" it yelled In the direction of the prone Roal. "Use the sword
and protect the Grundar!" but its words were feeble and barely carried across the open space between it and the halfIing.
Still stunned by his landing, Roal shook his head and the buzzing In his
ears eased for a second. As if as spoken from a long distance away, some words drifted into his ears ... "Use .. sword ..
Grundar!". He shook his head fiercely in an attempt to clear his mind, surely the surrel did not want him to kill the Grundar.
After all, had it not been the one responsible for their well-being and had it, and its kind, not risked their very existence
to save his village from destruction at the talons of the Korats ? But the words kept drifting in an out of his head ... "Use
.. sword .. Grundar!" In a final attempt to bring some sanity to the events now taking place Roal gave himself a sharp slap
to the forehead and this time the words were a shade clearer ... "Use .. sword .. protect .. Grundar"'.
Totally bemused by Real's reluctance to pickup the sword and defend the
unprotected back of the creature currently deep in 'prayer', the surrel bounced up and down,waving its arms In the air and
yelling for the halfling to take hold of the sword. Reaching out, Roal seized the hilt of the sword in his right hand and
quickly turned to face the oncoming bird. Stepping swiftly to his right, he lunged forward and felt the sword strike home.
There was a sound of tearing flesh, the warm smell of blood and the sword was ripped from his hand. Amidst a cloud of feathers
and blood Roal was knocked to the floor and something large and heavy descended upon him, a sharp talon raking his cheek as
he fell. The next he knew was the approach of a soft warm darkness and his fight was over.
"Come, come little one. It is over and done with now and there is nothing
to fear from those birds ever again". Roal slowly opened his eyes and found himself gazing up at the coarse features of the
Grundar. "That was a very brave thing you did there and if you had not acted as you had I would have been skewered through
the heart by the Korat's beak." As Roal sat up, his head ringing and his cheek stinging with pain, he looked to one side and
shuddered. For there on the ground lay the crumpled body of the bird, the sword still embedded In its breast. Just then the
Grundar reached across, withdrew the sword from the bird and hacked off the talons. "Take these" the creature grunted, "and
hang them proudly from your belt. For you are now truly a 'Grundar-Warrior'" With that the Grundar rose to its feet, patted
the surrel on the head and turned to the northern horizon. "My people await me and I must go, so take care young halfling
and remember our exploits." In less than the twinkling of an early evening star the creature was gone.
In the years to come Roal and the surrel would often reflect on the fishing-trip
that went wrong and of their encounter with the Grundar and his people and of how one small halfling came to possess a pair
of Korat talons.
... The End (of this particular tale)