Squawking little Goyle-babies.
Some Gargantuan time later, Thalia carried the Tovi soup into the sleeping chamber. Ghost jerked, mumbled and rolled so his face was squashed in the woven pillow. ‘See, it’s a dream, it’s not real,’ he mumbled.
Thalia sat on the edge of the bed beside him and prodded his shoulder. ‘Ghost wake up! That body of yours needs nutrition.’
‘I’m still dreaming!’ said Ghost looking around the room as he sat up.
‘No Ghost… this is real!’ urged Thalia.
‘But that’s not fair!’ Ghost rubbed his eyes. Thalia passed him a bowl of dark green gloopy soup which he half-heartedly sniffed. The green, lumpy concoction looked horrid and he screwed his nose up in disgust.
‘Taste it. It’s the speciality of Gargantuan. It’s called Tovi soup.’ Thalia attempted to encourage Ghost to take a spoonful.
He reluctantly gave in, took a gulp and swilled it around his mouth. It tasted green like sprouts with lime. ‘So what is Tovi soup?’ he asked with a grimace.
‘You finish your soup. Then we’ll discuss the ingredients,’ quipped Thalia.
Davina sat up and sipped the soup. The flavour was comforting and made her feel at home. The food in the outside world had tasted so weird to her and had made her tired. She glanced over at Ghost, who had quickly grown accustomed to the unfamiliar flavour and was gulping his Tovi soup down.
Once his bowl was empty Thalia dished up some more. He shovelled it down like a starving dog. When he finished his meal he licked his lips contentedly. ‘Once I got used to it, I have to say it was really tasty. So what is it?’
‘It comes from the nose of the Goyle and is mixed with algae. Some of the algae comes from beneath the Goyle’s claws.’ Thalia replied matter of factly with a hint of a smirk.
‘What!?! You mean to say you just served me warm snot with foot fungus?’ cried Ghost.
Davina grabbed her stomach and convulsed with laughter. She laughed so hard that tears streamed down her face. Once she caught her breath, she wiped away her tears. ‘Well how do you think I felt when I had to eat milk that comes from a cow’s nipple, and that nipple is a little too close to a cow’s bottom for my liking? Then eggs actually fall out of a chicken’s behind! That is far weirder… plus you eat the poor animals after all the effort they put in.’
Ghost turned a pale shade of green. Drinking cow’s milk was the most natural thing in the world to him. Ghost’s stomach made a loud rumbling sound with numerous gurgles.
‘The Tovi soup is being absorbed into your system. We will just have to wait and see what happens now,’ Thalia added mysteriously.
‘What do you mean?’ Ghost panicked.
Davina and Thalia glanced at each other, was there going to be side-effects?
Ghost’s eyes narrowed, the more he thought about the fact his stomach was full of snot, the more he wanted to puke.
‘It’s amazing how your mind is reacting Ghost. One minute you looked fine and then when you found out what it was you went all funny,’ said Davina kindly.
‘I wish I didn’t know now,’ said Ghost retching.
‘You wait until you try the dookie cakes,’ said Thalia with a hint of a smile.
‘What are dookie cakes?’ asked Ghost with an expression that revealed that he wasn’t sure whether he really wanted to know.
‘Dookie cakes are a speciality of Gargantuan. Once they are baked, they have a natural instinct to hide. On baking day, all the children in Gargantuan go out and find the dookie cakes. Unfortunately, sometimes they are not found for a while. They have been mistaken for rotting grunts before,’ said Thalia.
Davina giggled at the thought of the Dookie cakes hiding. It was amazing that a little cake could willingly grow little legs and hide itself. Ghost found her giggle infectious, so giggled too.
Thalia studied the two children. It was such a long time since she had seen anyone smiling. She enjoyed their naivety, if they knew the truth about what was happening to Gargantuan it would be a completely different orb game.
‘Right you will both come with me. It is time for you to see the Goyles, albeit being baby ones. Before we go, I have to tell you both of the rules: do not stroke them, feed them … and certainly do not ride them. They are not safe yet, do you understand? They have to grow and be trained before anyone even thinks about riding them.’
Both Davina and Ghost made their understanding clear with a nod.
Thalia led the two children down a staircase towards the Goyle growing grounds, all the while she was consumed in thought. How could she explain the Goyles to the pair? ‘So there are a few things I should tell you. The first is that Goyles are sacred. They have the natural instinct to protect – particularly Gargantuan. Back in history the ‘others’ discovered Gargantuan. They stole the eggs of the Goyles and took them to France, England and many other European countries. They then made those Goyles into slaves. They were forced to protect churches from the baduns. The only time they were free was for one hour at midnight. During that time they could fly through the sky calling to each other and experience freedom. After years of serving, some of the Goyles lost the will to live and withered. They died on the churches and no one ever removed them. There they stay until this day.’
‘But that’s so cruel!’ cried Davina. ‘So they can choose to die?’ she asked as an afterthought.
Thalia nodded, ‘Many of the Goyles escaped and returned to Gargantuan. Most who were left outside are dead or enslaved.’
A concerned glance was exchanged between Davina and Ghost.
‘The Grotesques were more enduring and stayed behind. They became resilient but twisted.’ Over the centuries, they witnessed endless conflicts and numerous wars. Over time, they began to hate humanity and their hearts became cold.’
Ahead of them Davina noticed a series of grand white buildings all decorated with the carvings of baby creatures.
‘Davina you must pay attention. Now the Grotesques intended to take revenge by enslaving humanity. They just needed the right leader. The Chimera was sent out into the world to convince the Grotesques that enslaving humans was not the answer. Unfortunately, while she was out in the world she witnessed what humanity had become. Since she was a creature that human’s did not recognise, she was captured, imprisoned and experimented on. The Grotesques rescued her from some extreme brutality. That was when she turned against inspiration and chose to lead the Grotesques. Together they set about making a plan. When the time was right, she decided to show humanity her true power. At the most unexpected moment she intended to take her revenge. She planned to enslave humanity and force them to experience what the torture they had inflicted upon her.’
‘What did they do to her?’ asked Ghost, dreading the answer.
‘She was tortured and imprisoned. I think it is better to avoid the details but what they did to her forced her darkness to the surface,’ replied Thalia with a saddened sigh.
‘But she comes from here, a place of inspiration,’ said Davina with a confused expression.
‘We all have dark sides Davina but the years of suffering drove her into the darkest parts of her being until they poisoned the good side.’
A forlorn but sympathetic expression appeared on Ghost’s face. ‘I always hoped that underneath that all people were good.’
‘Most are,’ replied Thalia. ‘Unfortunately when they are given power that they cannot handle they are likely to misuse it. What’s more, there is no better way to control the masses than by making them believe that everyone around them is cruel. The Grotesques soon realised that people would rather stay at home behind locked doors than go out and face all the ‘bad’ people in the world. But that was not enough.’
‘The world can be a scary place.’ Ghost thought back to his time of torment at that school and all the bullying by all the nasty kids.
Thalia agreed and paused, ‘The world can be a beautiful place too, but first people must stop blaming everyone else and take responsibility for their actions.’
Outside the Goyle crèche, Thalia paused by a door with a sign saying: ‘PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE BABIES!’
She turned to Ghost and Davina. ‘Now stay calm and no sudden movements. And do not touch them!’ she warned.
The pair followed Thalia through the door to a massive pen. It was arranged over two floors: a viewing area full of seats and a large pen with a small visiting section. That area was sectioned off by a gate. The atmosphere in the crèche was warm and cosy, like a large incubator. Lots of colourful flowers were painted on the white walls. It felt so lovely and fun inside. The cry of small baby animals came from below. She crept down the steps to the visiting section. When she arrived she gasped. Ghost stood beside her shaking his head in wonder. ‘No way! If I hadn’t seen it with me own eyes…’ he trailed off.
Small stone shaped animals crawled about chirping, squeaking and growling. They were light grey in colour with small wings and they were small enough to be held in the palm of the hand. They were the cutest creatures you could ever have imagined with their bright sparkling crystal eyes. The urge to comfort them overwhelmed Davina and she stepped forwards.
‘No!’ Thalia grabbed Davina’s shoulder. ‘Never go to them when they whine. They have to learn to survive alone!’ she said sternly. ‘They don’t need help Davina… Now watch.’
The baby Goyles crawled about nibbling at some Gargantuan bricks. Some climbed the walls and blended in while others wrestled each other.
‘Davina this is all part of their survival training. They have to learn to listen to their instincts. If they are helped, they will always think they should be helped and will become reliant on it. We don’t want our Goyles to become lazy or victims who need to be rescued. Each Goyle needs to learn to survive alone and that means no contact Davina.’
Davina watched all the tiny creatures scrambling around. The plumping of stone feathers of the Eaglegoyles caught her attention while Ghost watched the Beavergoyles gnaw through pillars of stone. They quickly created stone dams and shelters. Their insticts were apparent from such an early age. All the while, Thalia’s staff writhed, it seemed to respond when it was close to the Goyle babies.
‘How come the Goyles look like animals when you live in a completely different world to where animals are from?’ probed Davina.
‘That’s a very good question,’ replied Thalia, with a raise of her eyebrow. Maybe the design for animals originally came from here. All the Goyle designs and qualities are listed in the Sanctus Scripts. Each Goyle animal has different roles, strengths and weaknesses. The puma for example is a quiet animal who observes. The animal traits are carried through Gargantuan to each Goyle who is representative of that animal. Pumagoyles instinctively watch and wait, it is often the guardian of secrets or hidden places. The Pumagoyles are very private creatures and remain elusive. That is why they are good at keeping secrets.’
‘What does the ram do?’ queried Davina. She watched a baby Ramgoyle butting a Wolfgoyle while the other Wolfgoyles began to form a pack.
‘The ram is a stubborn creature with a strong instinct and a definite strength. The ram is used to protect against persuasion. It is often set around churches to stop the baduns persuading the congregation into temptation. The Wolfgoyles protect in packs, they anticipate trouble before it arrives. When a badun nears, the Wolfgoyles work as a team to surround and confront it. The lead female Wolfgoyle becomes a decoy and draws the enemy in while the others surround that enemy and attack.’
Davina watched a group of baby Wolfgoyles practising their hunting formations around the Ramgoyle. It’s instinct was to put its head down and butt them. The Wolfgoyles appeared so sweet and innocent, yet their hunting instincts were powerful.
‘The Eaglegoyles are a stranger breed, they have the ability to clearly see the path ahead. They are always ready to swoop on those who are cruel or have evil intentions,’ Thalia continued.
Davina watched the baby Eaglegoyles. They instinctively perched on anything that took them higher than those on the ground. It gave them the opportunity to see everything that was going on. They carefully selected their prey from their vantage point according to weakness. Their heads twitched as they scanned the arena. Once they had chosen their victim, they playfully swooped on the baby Goyles, who naturally defended themselves using their natural talents.
‘There are so many varieties: the lions, the bears – who are, in my opinion, the most amusing. Although the bulls and the boars can be quite surprising with their more erratic and headstrong behaviour. For every type of mammal and reptile you see on ‘outer’ earth there is a Goyle that can be selected and grown.’
‘When you say grown? What do you mean?’
Another mysterious smile travelled across Thalia’s face. ‘There is a characteristics room that contains all the designs for each creature. Each Goyle type can be chosen according to the skills or traits required.’
The pair took in what had been said, there was so much more to Gargantuan than appeared on the surface.
Ghost turned his attention to two baby Horsegoyles grazing stones.
‘They are just so cute!’ said Ghost with a huge grin.
‘Ghost don’t be misled by their adorable qualities because as soon as they reach adulthood they can be ruthless. They are warriors and will do what is necessary to fulfil that role. Even if it means they have to kill,’ said Thalia.
Small piles of stones plopped from the baby Horsegoyle’s bottoms. Instead of the dark grunts Davina had seen before, they were pale white like the limestone. ‘Why are their grunts white here?’
‘We start them off on limestone because it is easy for them to digest, limestone is equivalent to milk for the Goyles. When they’re mature enough and can go out in the outside world they have to eat whatever they can. That usually includes brick, mud or any kind of stone they can lay their talons or paws on.’
Ghost remained mesmerised by the small creatures. Whenever they pounced on each other or grunted he jolted and then giggled.
‘Ghost you may be interested to know that on the peak of many mountains there are piles and piles of stones. The stone piles indicate the entrances to Gargantuan. Goyles enter and depart the ‘outer’ world through the springs and waterfalls. There are millions of entrances in Norway because there are millions of waterfalls there. At one time Norway was a major entrance and exit place for Gargantuans but in the last two hundred years the Gargantuans stopped visiting the outer world.’
‘Why?’ asked Davina, turning her attention from two wrestling baby Leopardgoyles, to study Thalia.
‘Darling, the ‘outer’ world became too fast for us. We could not blend in,’ she replied with a sigh.
‘But… the Goyles must still need to come home,’ said Davina thoughtfully.
‘They do and it is still tradition for the Goyles to graze the mountain top before making long journeys. They take on their stores so they don’t have to stop on the way. That way they are less likely to be seen.’ Thalia’s tone became increasingly gloomy.
‘That makes sense,’ said Ghost thoughtfully. He imagined a mass of Gargoyles landing at a petrol station and eating the walls. Of course he smirked to himself. ‘But people must notice stone creatures flying above their heads. Most people get excitable when they see a bat.’
‘The Goyles always fly by night when leaving Gargantuan. That way they are less likely to be witnessed. There was once an agreement made where the Goyles could use churches and towers as resting points as long as they do not move or interact with humanity whilst perching.’
‘But surely some people notice?’ said Ghost incredulously.
‘Who notices or counts the Goyles on churches anymore? The Goyles go about their missions undiscovered and navigate their journeys according to the location of remote churches with stone grazing areas.’
‘Are the Goyles on good terms with the modern churches?’ asked Davina.
‘Once the Goyles were liberated, an understanding was made,’ replied Thalia with a nod. ‘All the churches are aware of the Chimera’s uprising, they know they need the Goyles to assist humanity. What’s more, long ago there was a treaty made between the Goyles and man; the Goyles agreed to protect and use the churches as places to roost when they visited the outside world – in return the Goyles were given permission to fly freely at night.’
Davina stared at the baby Goyles; how had she managed to forget her entire history?