Edmund, the Apprentice, and Tangleroot, the goblin, both of whose destinies are entwined by a hex from the Unseelie Court.
The Goblin Chef is utterly peerless
when he makes his many pies,
and so dedicated to his craft, and so fearless,
that others dare not cook likewise.
A butcher artisan of a great many skills
he has found ways to use every type of meat
whether it be ogre fat or mermaid gills,
gnome heads, nymph ribs or princess feet.
Many would gladly risk themselves
to eat what his fevered brain makes,
and many do, in fact, stocking his shelves
with ingredients for his pies and cakes.
You never know where inspiration will strike
as the Goblin Chef feeds his fans,
and he may, indeed, give the meal a price hike,
costing you an arm and a leg for his pans.
But what deliciously unique treats
he offers to those willing to give them a go!
Brownie brownies, fairy sweet meats,
barbecue troll loin and giant tongue gumbo.
Unicorn brisket and witch wart grits,
leprechaun chili and dragon bone stew,
centaur sausage and mandrake jam on biscuits,
and, a Northland favorite, pookah cordon bleu.
Who knows many species he has slaughtered
while beset with his culinary muse?
Or how many ecosystms he has altered
for the sake of seeking unique menus?
That is not to say some are wholly spared,
nor wholly cooked; sometimes he needs only part
of a creature’s body, such as a toe, seasoned and prepared
for a dish, leaving the rest for the creature to depart.
This is why you may see an ogre reading in brail
because he has no eyes, or a mermaid floundering
because she is missing part of her scaly fish tail
or a centaur with only two legs, foundering.
Even goblin folk fear the Chef’s cutting board,
his sharpening whetstone grinding on their nerves,
and though they pride themselves on his mischief and discord,
they have suffered from him, too, as hors d’oeuvres.
He has been known to travel far and wide
to places unknown even to the most worldly wizards,
facing the myriad dangers of a world betide
with bandits, monsters, gods, and blizzards.
He has gone to many places and harsh lands
such as the Breathless Desert and the Mumbling Mountains
He even went to the Molten Matharan Marshlands
where the crystal reeds sparkle among magma fountains .
Whole herds of centaurs flee in a great stampede
when he visits the Easterlands for new recipes,
and in the Northlands, where there grows yam weed
he hunts Yam-Yam Birds, as big as Cressy trees.
Some think of him as a single-person scourge
and as a force of Nature as fickle as the seas
who may feed your family, when taken by the urge,
or feed your loved ones to other families.
Whole armies have attempted to slay him,
thinking him a demonic and malicious merrymaker,
and yet he somehow survives, as if by Fate’s whim,
proving himself a resourceful fairy baker.
One of the greatest armies set camp atop a high hill
to prepare to slay him, going to sleep early that night
and thinking they would surprise him for an easy kill
only to wake up as gourmet soup at first light.
The Goblin Chef did not waste them, however,
and chose to feed them to a litter of kobold pups,
and the pups thanked him by lapping it up, now ever
hungry for human broth in skull-rimmed cups.
Yet, he has also served lords, and even kings,
on one side of the table, or the other,
in a seat, or on a platter with a side of fixings—
served foe to foe, friend to friend, brother to brother.
He knows much, such as there is no finer grease
than that of court sycophants’ slime set afire
when they have overstayed times of peace
and times of war, each fed to his “beloved” sire.
He knows, too, the most tender of tenderloin fare
has to be coddled throughout a tender life,
and so when one duke asked for a steak, served rare,
he served to him his own pampered wife.
One lord, it must be said, was not shocked after
the Goblin Chef revealed to him his supper’s truth.
Hearing he had eaten his wife, he broke out in laughter,
saying, “Sweeter than she had ever been in life, forsooth.”
It is said that once he has a dish in his head, under his toque,
then nothing prevents him from its realization—
neither animal nor human nor fairy escape this cook,
nor even kraken or titan or demigod escape mealization.
So beware if you seek flavors with a jaded palate
or he might see in you a perfect flavor
and cut you, gut you, tenderize you with his mallet
and serve you to your loved ones to savor.
(This poem is set in the Tangleroot Universe, a universe long in the making. If you happen to be interested in this universe, please check out my ebook short story collection on Amazon “Strange Hours: Tales Of Magic And Horror”. It has many short stories and novellas in it, including four stories set in this fantasy universe: “Bone Stew”, “Getting To The Bottom Of The Problem”, “The Necromancer” and “Black Blake And The Bottled Imp”).
He rode Westward with an overlarge knife
which Jim Bowie would have thought a bit much,
but would not have said so, if he had valued his life,
for Patches had upon him Death’s constant touch.
They called him Patches because he rode so Devil-May-Care
throughout the Wild West in the same suit of tattered leather,
unraveling as he traveled, having to stitch himself when threadbare
again and again, making a patchwork of parts haphazardly sewn together.
Alongside his knife, he kept a sharp needle and a spool of red thread
with which he sewed endlessly along his tumultuous route
as if he was suturing a wound just as soon as it bled,
before decay could set in, or the limb could bleed out.
And he had golden teeth, which gleamed when he grinned
through the tornadoes and the Apache raids, all the last stands
and the dysentery and the Pox plagues, the wild desert wind;
his grin never faltered as he searched the untamed wastelands.
Like himself, his horse, too, was a motley-blotched beast
of variegated colors, an inchoate piebald mare
with a white face, and black eyes, which never in the least
tired as it traveled from town to town, here to there.
And his saddle was unique among the American West
for it was made of tanned leather and beaten hide
scalped from Natives and Whites and Blacks and the rest
which he took from the corpses strewn along the endless ride.
Where Patches rode, the sun sank into a pool so red
that it seemed the mesas bled, as did the arid canyons,
and the flatlands that were once a hellish ocean’s bed
now a scorched expanse, as if leveled by the firing of canons.
Patches was a rumor, a hope, a promise, a ghoul,
a bedtime nightmare for kids, and adults, too,
and a savior for some, though mostly just a necessary tool
who could broaden horizons, if he did not happen to kill you.
Like his saddle and suit, America was sewn together as he went
from one mile to a thousand, tirelessly and inexorably, lest any
parts come apart at the seams and fall away, forever rent
from the whole, the union, unraveling this Manifest Destiny.
Even today he rides, retracing his old paths as they fray and tear,
stitching it with new scalps he takes beneath that bloody sun
and holding that bleeding horizon together for another year
until there comes a day when his own patchwork will come undone.
The full moon rose, as did a chill fog,
through whose beams and mists there came
a dark wolf trotting, or perhaps a large black dog,
from a village like countless others the same.
Unhurried, the shadowy hound stole away
with his face set in a knowing, patient grin,
looking for the next town, the next day,
until he should return to that village again.
She came twirling, then, on long willowy limbs,
pirouetting as if to entreat everyone to dance
upon the moonlit moor, as if the sweetest of whims
was to come twirling and whirling, perchance.
She had a high pale forehead and white hair
as light and milky as the full moon,
and there was careless abandon in Her black stare
as if all frets and regrets would pass soon.
The garments She wore were thin of thread
like gossamers woven from final sighs
or final words given upon a deathbed,
as the world-weary close their heavy eyes.
We came to her with the withered flowers
given to us by loved ones and friendly neighbors
who cut them to mirror our short lives, our mortal hours,
after we fell to pustules, coughs, wrinkles, or sabers.
We heard her music— heard nothing— and so obeyed
for it was the music of still air, unmoving earth, frozen water;
a rhythm with inert hearts, composed by flesh unmade
as decay played upon every mother, father, son, and daughter.
A circle around Her we formed, hand in hand in hand,
as the winds fell to silence, the whole moonlit expanse,
all hushed and halted in that nocturnal land
until there was no movement but that of the Danse.
Prince and pauper linked together, Christian with Jew,
stranger likewise with stranger, maiden also with crone,
sinner with saint, foe with foe, and I danced with you,
all in flowing harmony with Her, and Her alone.
We danced in eternal circles, waltzing away the night
and the next day, and every night and day thereafter,
the hours bygone, unseen, cast off as one very well might
the sorrows and ills of Life with loud, careless laughter.
Yet, we were silent as we danced, and silent and free
as the darkness beyond the mute moon, and the Nevermore;
wanting not, and unwanted, except by our Lady
whose rapt beauty was absolute in its clutch and store.
Hear it now? The song of unspoken words?
Of falling tears and grief-strangled prayers,
of restless worms and flies and buzzards
circling round in their own dance upon the airs?
And yet, for us, it is the most keenly attuned song
as we circle timelessness with our unfeeling feet,
bound round together without pain or grief or wrong
until eternity’s beginning and end should meet.
What serenity in Her gaze! So open, honest, and true
as we circle with Her forever in our shrouded Danse,
for there is no peace as pure or gentle, for me or for you,
as that of the sublime Totentanz!
Little Erin made her way
down to that idyll isle
in the lake where druids pray;
her head sore all the while.
(Hey nonny, nonny,
nonsense and bonny.)
Her father had been drinking again
and took umbrage at her girlish songs,
so he struck her on her chin
with a fist writ with wrongs.
(All sobby hobby,
head knotted and knobby.)
Erin’s mother had been pretty
and had a voice without equal,
both fair and clever and witty,
and Erin hoped to be her sequel.
(Still a silly filly
all wild and willy-nilly.)
She had told Erin many fanciful stories
about knights bold and maidens fair,
crowning her head with these glories
of when magic reigned everywhere.
you’re a fabulous yabber.)
Erin’s mother had died only a year since
from a cold caught from a chill breeze
and her husband had from then hence
drank himself vicious on various brandies.
(A handy man, he, yet, fie,
randy as a bitter brandy.)
Eager for escape, Erin went to the lake
and docked in the rocks, upon the isle,
tying the boat to an old oak stake,
singing her favorite song all the while.
(Do you dillydally
in my lake-view valley?)
It was a song about the fairy kin
that her mother used to sing,
telling of a magical portal within
the mound in the standing stone ring.
(Will you still be wild,
stolen changeling child?)
A mist breathed up from the water
as the sky darkened in the South
and, singing still, Erin sought her
dreams within that mound’s mouth.
(Winsome with want and whim,
dreams always dim.)
She crawled on her hands and knees
and thought she could hear the sound
of feet within the maze, as if to tease
her to crawl even faster into the mound.
(Fit and flit as a fiddlestick
that bit at a wick not one whit.)
How lovely, she thought, to dance
with the fairy people in their balls,
and how nice it would be, perchance,
to dine with them in their banquet halls.
(Dance and dine, what is mine is thine,
food and drink and song so long and fine.)
But the fairies did not greet her
as she crawled into the central room;
only rats circled to meet her
as her hand grasped something in that gloom.
(Ages old, slick and cold,
unseen, unclean, but of a familiar mold.)
It was long and smooth, like a scepter,
and Erin naturally assumed it to belong
to the queen of the fairies who kept her
followers hidden in the shadowy throng.
(What a lark in the dark—
merrily as unto a park.)
An oculus let in the darkening daylight,
funneling it into the heart of the mound,
and by its rays she took sudden fright
at the thigh bone she had found.
(Once delightful, now quite frightful,
the columnar light full of the spiteful.)
There were bones here and there scattered
in that rat-swarmed, chthonic place,
and Erin’s own bones chattered
as she saw the truth of the fairy race.
(The kin of men, faintly simian,
therein buried from way back when.)
Dropping the bone, Erin wondered
if any of the old stories were true,
thinking, as the storm above her thundered,
that there was nary a darker view.
(Alas O ill lil’ lass,
all this, too, will pass.)