The Small Man Chronicles: There Be Dragons (1938)
a J.R. Dallas novel
(extract from Chapter XVIII)
published one year after J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There And Back Again
The Smalluns had made it to Asragarn.
And Mandrarg was near.
The giant owls of Forellem had not brought them all the way, for they had other, more interesting things to do like do other things and such.
Thall, the tallest of the Smalluns, knew there was only one way to proceed: through the dark woods of Klorsharum and past the rivers of Gooloore. The journey was perilous but this was his quest, their quest, and he wasn’t about to give up now.
“Young Small Man, you have served us well thusfar”, Thall said to Polio, “We Smalluns need you but this is not your fight. If you wish to return to your meaningless existence, with your round doors and your cheese, you may do so. We will not think less of you.”
“I’ll be honest, Thall, I don’t like you people and I care not for your long and tedious quest”, replied the Small Man, “But I will help you. Because Old Man Hat is very powerful and he will no doubt vaporise me or put a sinister curse on my soul should I refuse.”
Old Man Hat, who was standing behind Thall, giving Polio a stern stare and making throat-cutting gestures at him, said nothing.
“Very well”, Thall said with a smile, “On we go! Your courage will not go unrewarded, young Small Man.”
Thall ruffles Polio’s hair and walks on as everyone follows.
“I’m 78!”, yelled a vastly ignored Polio.
The dark woods of Klorsharum were dark.
So dark in fact that one could only walk through them with the help of a lit torch, or two. Luckily, Old Man Hat possessed many abilities, one of which was to generate strange white light from his staff. This was certainly helpful. But they were many and Polio’s tiny feet could not quite keep up with the rest of the group. It was only a matter of time before he would lose them completely, despite his many vocal complaints.
And lose them, he did.
Polio was now walking in total darkness. He became more and more aware of the bizarre sounds which emanated from those treacherous woods.
“I hate Smalluns…”, he thought.
What could he do but keep walking and hope that someone would eventually come back for him or that he would somehow catch up? Then again, what if some forest creature was to attack him and feast on him long before that?
This thought unnerved Polio and he started shaking.
That’s when he remembered: the bracelet.
Of course! The bracelet from the monkey mines of Blerrendor! It had proved itself most useful and displayed incredible powers earlier in the quest, surely it could come in handy in this desperate instant. All he had to do was wear it and think of what he wanted, then the bracelet would no doubt provide him with that!
But why wish for something as trivial as a mere boost? Why not wish for The Smalluns’ Pointy Mountain back? Or the death of the beast Mandrarg? Then that darn quest would be over! Hell, why not just wish for a short trip back home?
It sure was tempting…
Then again, perhaps there were more creative things he could do with this bracelet. Old Man Hat could swallow that rusty staff of his, impale himself from orifice to orifice with it. Thall and all the Smalluns in the land could all be tied together into one big ball by their veins and nerve-endings, with only their raw muscle tissue keeping them warm at night. Mandrarg could be summoned and I could sit back and watch as he devoured each of them, limb by limb, eyeball by eyeball, before my very eyes as a female Fairyun lets me lick those pointy ears of hers.
“Young Polio!”, a loud voice came from the darkness.
Polio looked up, as if brutally awoken from a delicious dream. Above him, stood a stern-looking Old Man Hat, who was puffing on his fern pipe anxiously.
“What is the meaning of this stalling?”, he said, “Explain yourself!”
Halfway between anger and shame, Polio was seriously considering wearing that bracelet. In fact, he was so close to wearing it, it was almost passed his wrist.
“Well?”, pressed the old man.
“I… “, the Small Man struggled.
“Speak, damn you!”
“I… couldn’t reach. I’m too small.”, Polio said finally.
“Too small? No creature is too small that it can’t run or hold on to a taller, and therefore superior, being’s leg in order to follow a pack during a most important journey.”
Polio resisted the bracelet’s power and slipped it back in his coat pocket, without Old Man Hat noticing.
“May I… hang on to your leg?”, Polio asked.
“Not on your life, peasant!”
Old Man Hat walked on, leaving Polio to follow on foot, cursing his name under his breath.
“I could have skinned you…”, Polio muttered.
“What was that?”
“N… nothing. Just talking to myself.”
“And they say I’m high…”, Old Man Hat concluded.
Polio had soon rejoined the group when Thall sensed something was amiss.
“What is there, Thall? What do you sense?”, said Yarlaan, one of the hairiest of the Smalluns present.
Just then, a pack of rabid klargens, foaming at the mouth and emitting terrifying shrieks, burst out of the forest and start surrounding Polio, Old Man Hat and the Smalluns. Once again, Polio starts to consider his bracelet. Slowly and discreetly, he removes it from his pocket and leads it to his wrist as the klargens get closer and closer.
“This is it…”, Polio thought, “First I get rid of the klargens, then the old man’s getting melted in the fiery pits of Warglor. Beard first.”
And, just as Polio was about to finally wear the bracelet, spears came flying from nowhere, impaling every single klargen right there and then. Polio couldn’t understand what had happened. Had the bracelet worked already? That was impossible, he hadn’t pulled it passed his wrist yet.
Out of the darkness, light finally appeared revealing the Smalluns’ saviours: a group of armed Fairyun men on their typically white, blonde and blue-eyed horses.
“Fairyuns…”, Old Man Hat said to himself.
Polio puts the bracelet back in his coat pocket.
“Smalluns, are you all well?”, said the whitest of all the Fairyuns.
“We’re fine.”, replied Thall, reluctantly.
“How did you find us?”, Old Man Hat asked.
“We sensed you would all wander here, and the dark woods of Klorsharum are not known for being the safest of places.”
“We do not need your charity or your company.”, Thall retorted.
Old Man Hat gives Thall a piercing look of disappointment and intervenes:
“What Thall means to say is: we do not mean to be a burden.”
“Your quest is a perilous one, we only wish to offer our assistance should you ever need it.”
Thall emits an audible grunt.
“Thank you, Melomas, you are most kind.”
“We will lead you out of the dark woods. After that, if you wish to proceed without our help, we shall not get in your way.”
And so Melomas and the Fairyuns led the way and we were soon out of the woods. But there were more obstacles yet to come.
The Smalluns had reached the rivers of Gooloore, night had turned to day and the Fairyuns had said their goodbyes for they knew that not all these Smalluns would make it back.
“Blasted river, how will we ever get across?”, Old Man Hat asked himself.
“What about the owls? Call the owls.”, suggested Polio.
“The owls are not ours to summon.”
“But we summoned them earlier.”
“That was different.”
“That was a cliff, this is a river.”
“I don’t understand. Don’t you have a spell? Can’t you dry the river?”
“No. We’ll have to go around.”
“That’ll take ages! We’ll never get there!”
“Do you have a better suggestion, foolish Small Man?”
“I could use the…”
“The… wood to build a bridge. We could all do that.”
Overhearing the conversation, Thall stepped in:
“We are not lumberjacks, young Small Man! We are warriors and Smallun warriors do not build bridges!”
Old Man Hat hits Polio across the face with his staff. Polio reaches into his coat pocket.
“We’re going around.”, Old Man Hat finally said to everyone, “Follow me.”
As the group marched on behind Old Man Hat, Polio could only sit there and manage his anger internally. But this time, by extending this quest even more senselessly, the old man had gone too far. Polio finally takes out his bracelet and, without hesitation, wears it.
“Take me to Mandrarg, deep inside the Pointy Mountain.”
In a flash, Polio was there.
Removing the bracelet, Polio looked around to find that he was ankles-deep in a sea of riches. Gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, it was a sparkling paradise and Polio had never seen anything like it.
Unfortunately, where there are riches, there be dragons.
The ground started to shake beneath Polio’s feet. Or so he thought, for it wasn’t the ground that was lifting him, it was Mandrarg. The bracelet had landed Polio right on his head. Losing his balance, Polio fell back, dropping the bracelet in the process. What was he going to do?
As he started searching through all the coins and gems around him for the bracelet, he heard Mandrarg’s booming, cavernous voice and it was easily the most frightening sound he’d ever heard in his entire life.
“Who dares enter my mountain?”
“N-no-one, I assure you.”, replied Polio nervously, still searching for the bracelet.
“I was wondering when you Smalluns would disturb my slumber.”
“I-I’m no Smallun, I’m a Small Man, from the Parkypark Lands in the West.”
“Small Man? I’ve never seen a Small Man.”
“Trust me, I’m no Smallun. In fact, I hate Smalluns. So you see… we have something in common, you and I.”
“You think me a fool, Small Man?”
Mandrarg’s voice was much more aggressive now.
“N-no, of course not! Your… excellency.”, replied the Small Man sheepishly.
“You may not be a Smallun but you are one of them nonetheless. You are aiding them in some way.”
“That’s not true! Y-you’re mistaken, oh great Mandrarg!”
Mandrarg’s breath reeked of smoke and it felt like fire could burst out of his vast nostrils at any second. The beast approached its scaly, toothy mouth closer and closer to the Small Man, ready to eat him when Polio finally found his bracelet.
“Take me back! Take me back to the Smalluns!”
And, just like that, he was back with the Smalluns, trailing behind as usual. Old Man Hat turns around to find a shaking Polio, lying in the dirt.
“Young Small Man! Hurry up! This is no picnic!”
Polio turns to Old Man Hat and gives him a dirty look, followed by a wry smile. As if he’d just got an idea.
Putting the bracelet back on, Polio wished for something unpleasant. Just then, Old Man Hat felt the trousers under his robe get looser. Polio had made him a small man, just not all over.
What a fiendish punishment.
The bracelet had finally taken hold of Polio.
And it would never let go.
More fantasy tales from J.R. Dallas next year.
Only on WeTheMindthinkers.
See Little Earth Map HERE.