GRIMNIAN - THE GWUMP *

This story is rated 4 stars (2 ratings).

by Grimnian

THE GWUMP

 

The Gwump lived a relatively untroubled life. He dwelt inside a cave beneath the still waters of Grimney Lake. He slept during the day, and even at night he kept himself hidden from sight. The world above was unfriendly. Children would throw stones into the lake, hoping to drive him further into the depths. No one cared about the Gwump, he was loathed simply because he was so ugly.   

 

They had cruel chants.

 

“The Gwump, the Gwump!

With his hideous hump!

We hate you!

We hate you!

That’s why we berate you!”.

 

But he did not care, for he had gifts that made him happy, even though he did not have any friends. He loved to paint beautiful pictures.

 

One day, a beautiful girl became lost in the forest. She was a fair maiden, her skin like porcelain and lips as red as flame. She came upon the stream and tired and weak she lay down beside it, and cupped her soft hands in the water to drink. Beneath the rippling water she saw her own reflection, and was comforted by the sight of her own beautiful face.

 

Ursula Klimt had been told about the Gwump, but the forest around her held more fear, for the wolves were hungry, and were still on her trail, drawn to her by the smell of perfume and perspiration.   

 

Ursula's deep blue eyes were wide and full of fear, and she bowed her head and began to sob. Her tears tumbled, and fell into the lake. The Gwump who never slept very deeply was awoken by Ursula's sobs, and began to swim upwards towards her.

 

 “What am I to do?” She muttered, her voice trembling. She stared once again into the water, her reflection merging with the features of a ghastly looking creature.  

 

The Gwump’s head bobbed up through the surface. His face was covered in patches of wiry black hair and his nose was long and hooked, and covered in red warts. Two very long ears stuck out from either side of his deformed misshapen head, and his eyes were large and completely white.     

 

Ursula was frozen with fear, as the Gwump crawled out of the water, his hunched body thick with clumps of black hair, and dripping wet.

 

“Don’t hurt me!” She cried raising her arms in submission. 

 

The Gwump squatted down in front of her, and rested his long bony arms upon his hairy knees. He smiled, but his teeth were black, and he looked far from friendly.

 

“Why? Why would I do such a thing?” He answered innocently, flicking out a long brown tongue and licking the moisture from his thick green lips.

 

“You’re the Gwump” Ursula, fumbled around for a weapon and found a long stick and waved it at him aggressively.

 

“Do you want to beat me with that?” The Gwump asked, leaning his body forward and bowing his head “I used to get beaten when I was smaller so I understand if you wish to hurt me”.

 

Ursula lowered the stick, and placed it down beside her. “No, I don’t wish to, but if you try to eat me, I’ll fight back”.

 

The Gwump lifted himself from the ground and screamed at the top of his lungs, it was a horrible sound and made Ursula flinch. He reached out a long clawed hand and grabbed the girl by the arm and dragged her towards him, and spinning her around she plunged into the lake, kicking and screaming as she slipped beneath the surface.  

 

The Gwump leapt forward as a large red eyed wolf pounced upon him and he wrestled the beast to the ground throwing it against a tree. The Wolf yelped in pain, and quickly retreated back into the forest.

 

The Gwump jumped into the water, and grabbing the terrified girl, he dragged her down to the bottom of the lake.   

 

As she tumbled helplessly through the dark Ursula could feel the icy water pouring into her mouth and the breath of life squeezing from her lungs. In mere moments fear overcame the young maiden and she lost consciousness.

 

Ursula woke some time later and found that she was lying upon a large bed wrapped inside warm fur. A blazing fire burned in a rock built fireplace, and a row of dead fish hung above the flames, sizzling and cooking amidst the crackling smoke.

 

“Where am I?” Ursula called out, her voice echoing against the vast walls of the chamber. Nervously she slipped out of bed, and placed her feet down upon a wolf skin rug, her toes twitching.

 

She stepped cautiously across the stone floor, the fur skin draped around her bare shoulders. She could see that her dress was hanging beside the fire, and was dripping pools of water beneath it.

 

“Gwump?” She whispered “Are you there?”

 

The Gwump was seated in another chamber. He was surrounded by beautiful paintings, and with brush in hand he had nearly completed a portrait of Ursula. The likeness was remarkable, and his touch was so gentle, and with each stroke of paint, the more radiant the picture became.

 

Ursula stood behind the strange and twisted creature, even she was amazed by his work, and she gazed around the walls admiringly.

 

Beautiful landscapes, birds, and creatures of all kinds, emblazoned with colour almost leapt out from the canvass.

 

“You have quite a talent Mr Gwump” Ursula nodded approvingly “I mean for someone so”… She shook her head, her pale cheeks blushing with embarrassment.

 

The Gwump dabbed the portrait gently with his brush, and sighed sadly. “For someone so ugly?” He rolled his white eyes, and continued to paint.

 

“I didn’t mean to upset you”. Ursula replied pulling the furs tightly around her shoulders. “I don’t always think before I speak, I’m very sorry”.

 

“It is hard for many to see what true beauty is” He added a dab of yellow paint to Ursula’s hair, and smiled. “I see beauty, wherever I go, I know nothing of my own looks, for I never really see myself, only as a reflection in the water”.

 

“You saved me from the wolves. My name is Ursula”. She began to reach out her hand, but quickly drew back. The creature looked dirty, and although it was clear that the Gwump had a delicate touch she could not bring herself to shake hands with him.    

 

“I did what was in my nature Ursula” The Gwump continued, scratching his warty nose with a claw like fingernail. “At least I have found myself a new friend. Perhaps you will come and visit me in the future?”

 

Ursula nodded, and tried to sound sincere. “Yes. Of course, I owe you my life”. She looked down at her bare feet, and admired their delicate form. “If I can repay you in anyway, you only need to ask”.

 

The Gwump climbed down from his stool, and turned towards her. He seemed deformed, his left shoulder was higher than his right, and his back was covered in large fleshy lumps. He looked up into the young woman’s beautiful face and smiled sheepishly.

 

“I’ve never had a friend before. I’ve always been alone. When I was born, my parents, they gave me to the forest, and I learned to live in the wild”.  

 

Ursula stepped back, although the Gwump was softly spoken and appeared unthreatening, his appearance was grotesque in the extreme.

 

“I’ll be your friend, if you promise to lead me safely from the forest”…

 

The Gwump’s eyes began to well with tears. They trickled down his face and dripped from his hairy flared nostrils. “I am so touched by your kindness” His voice cracked with emotion. “I should give you a gift. Maybe you would like one of my paintings?”

 

Ursula chuckled. “I fear Mr Gwump that your paintings would be ruined if we tried to carry them up to the surface. They maybe watercolours, but too much water would destroy them”.

The Gwump scratched his long whiskery chin, and rolled his eyes. ”Yes, indeed, I am not as clever as you Ursula. Perhaps I may give you another gift”.

 

“It’s not necessary” Ursula smiled, but it quickly faded and instead it was replaced by a deep frown. “I want nothing from you”.

 

The Gwump began to crawl about the floor, scraping dust and grime from the stone, until he had a small pile of loose powder in the palm of his hand. He reached outwards and displayed it to the young lady.   

    

Ursula looked down disapprovingly. “Dust? Dirt? I’m sorry Mr Gwump, but that’s not worth anything where I come from”.

 

“No no, you don’t understand” The Gwump was getting excited. “I was blessed by the Zoriat. Given a gift, a gift to paint, and make things by magic”.

 

The Gwump began to rub the palms of his hands together in a circular motion.

 

“My touch contains the power to create”...

 

Separating his hands he squeezed them into fists and outstretched his arms.

 

“Look”. He gazed into Ursula’s face and opened his hands. The dust had turned into gold dust. 

 

“My God” Ursula stepped forward as her fear and distaste for the wretched creature vanished. She dipped her fingers into the gold, and lifted her hand to her face.

 

“Is this real? You can make gold?” She brushed the dust against her red lips and traces of the glittering metal fell upon her delicate skin.

 

“Yes. It’s very pretty” He chuckled “But not as pretty as you”.

 

Ursula’s blue eyes sparkled as she continued to gaze in awe at the glowing dust. “Can you make me lots of this?”

 

“All you need are my hands Ursula. But I know what gold is, and I like to keep my talents a secret. I can make you another handful if it pleases, but no more, for I believe that gold is beautiful, but too much beauty can be bad for the soul”.  

 

Ursula nodded slowly, and licked her lips. “You and I will be great friends Mr Gwump. Someone like you should have a friend like me. I promise if you get me home safely tomorrow, I will visit you every week”.

 

The Gwump bowed his head and began to laugh. He looked over his hunchbacked shoulder and stared with great admiration at the portrait of Ursula, his new friend. She was without doubt as beautiful as he had painted her.      

   

 Sleeping in a bed was dangerous for the Gwump because he found it hard to breathe when lying down. He often slept amidst his paintings, leaning his twisted body against the wall. Tonight was different and sleep was far from his mind, instead he chose to sit beside Ursula and watch her while she dreamed.

 

She was so beautiful, like an angel. The Gwump had never seen a girl like her before. It made him feel warm inside, and his stomach seemed to spin into knots, it was the strangest sensation. It seemed like a very pleasant form of indigestion. 

  

Upon waking, the gold dust was poured into a small leather bag, and Ursula tucked it into the puff sleeves of her blue dress. The Gwump escorted her down a dank passageway that led to a circular pool of water.

 

“We have to swim through this” He said, bending down beside Ursula like a dog with its mistress. “It will take us back to the forest”.

 

“Wherever you go I shall follow”. Ursula replied taking several deep breaths of air.  

 

The Gwump smiled broadly and bounding forward on all fours he plunged headfirst into the pool.  He heard a splash from above, and watched the water froth and bubble as Ursula dived down alongside him. He pointed a long bony finger down the spiraling tunnel, and they both swam towards a circle of white light. The Gwump reached back and grabbed Ursula by the hand and splashing frantically with his large hairy feet he pulled her upwards through the mouth of the cave.  Together, hand in hand they ascended into bright sunlight, and scrambled up upon the riverbank.  

 

Ursula breathed the fresh air, and rolled onto her back. She smiled with relief at the green expanse of sky and the two red suns glowing above her. 

 

 “Now I will lead you from the forest”. The Gwump said, standing once more on all fours and shaking his body hair free of moisture. “But promise me that you will return to see this lonely creature”.

 

 

“Yes” Ursula reached into her dress pocket and slid out a small mirror, and looked into it. She looked a little unhappy with her disheveled appearance. “Of course dear Mr Gwump, I will not forget you”.

 

Ursula sat up and looked across at the ugly creature “Now will you lead me out of this wretched forest?”  She asked adjusting her matted hair in the mirror.

 

The Gwump was delighted, and began to jump up and down clapping his large bony hands together. “I’m so happy I found you”. He said “My life will never be quite the same again!”

 

Ursula looked up from her mirror, and gazed at the Gwump’s hands. The talent this creature possessed was remarkable, and she could not help smiling in admiration. Yes, the Gwump was indeed far more valuable that he looked, and society had been wrong to view him as a menace and a liability.

 

The Gwump guided Ursula safely out of the forest. Their journey did not pass unnoticed.  The wolves had picked up the young woman’s scent and they were following at a safe distance. The Gwump was a formidable creature and even though they were blighted by hunger, they dared not risk an attack.

 

A large signpost stuck out of the ground. Huge red lettering stated ‘WELLFAR VILLAGE AHEAD’ The Gwump bowed his head and shook it sadly, for beneath those words were ‘HUMANS ONLY’..

 

Ursula reached out her hand and placed it uneasily upon the creature’s shoulder.

 

“I’m sorry but you can go no further”. She drew back her hand, and wiped her palm upon her dress. “But I promise that I’ll visit you again”.

 

The Gwump looked up into Ursula’s glorious face. “Thank you my angel. Until then I shall simply stare at your portrait”

 

Ursula chuckled “Beauty and the beast”… 

 

The Gwump was not offended by the remark, because Ursula was his friend “To see your face is like dancing through rainbows”.  He remarked cheerfully.  “Please do visit me again soon”… He turned away and bounded back into the forest. Ursula waved goodbye, but the Gwump did not look back. He did not need to, he had her image firmly in his mind, and all the land seemed beautiful because of that.           

 

The villagers in Welfar lived in wooden shacks that stood upon raised pillars. Their homes were suspended above ground to protect them from predators. The villagers lived harmoniously on the outskirts of Grimney Forest. In summer the meadows around their houses bloomed with a sea of red flowers, and nourishing blue Will-Der berries.  It was here in these tranquil surroundings that Ursula Klimt lived with her husband Leith. 

 

The house they lived in was sparsely furnished. A large oak table, surrounded by four wobbly chairs, a wooden four poster bed in one corner, and a tin bath in another. Seated at the table was Leith Klimt. He was a big man, with a large round face, and dark green eyes. His head was shaved, and he had a small white goatee beard. Leith stroked his whiskers and stared across the table.

 

A second man was seated opposite. Shadows fell across Vance Scarab’s pale face, the dark leather eye patch he wore added to his somewhat sinister appearance. He leant forward across the tabletop and smiled. “They’re hunting me Leith. I’m tired of hiding”.

 

Leith sighed deeply and scratched the tip of his nose with a shaking finger. “It’s dangerous you being here Vance. I mean, Grimwood Scribes has put a bounty on your head”.       

 

Vance chuckled because he understood what his friend was trying to say. “I’m an enemy of the State. They’ll hang me if they catch me. I guess if they catch me in your company, they’ll hang you too”…

 

Leith found it difficult to look into Vance Scarab’s one good eye, and he began to drum his fingers upon the tabletop “Ursula’s life is at risk too Vance. There are three lives at stake here”.   

 

Vance began to laugh. “Perhaps I should go and live with the Gwump?”…    

          

“Perhaps you should”… Ursula said from behind them.

 

The two men turned their heads. The young woman looked disheveled, her dress torn, and her hair matted in sodden clumps. She staggered forward and fell to her knees.

 

Vance remained seated, he seemed unconcerned and looked down at the scorpion emblem emblazoned upon his red armor. This creature defined his reputation. He was part of a clan, and as such he rarely concerned himself with the suffering of others.  

 

Leith leapt to his feet and helped his wife to a chair. She opened her eyes, and a deep frown clenched the skin of her forehead together. “What’s he doing here?”

 

Vance winked his one good eye and grinned “Ursula, I’m always pleased to see you”. He winked a second time. “But only with my blind eye”.

 

“I’ve been through hell, so your jokes are not appreciated Mr Scarab” Ursula reached out and grabbed her husband by the hand.

 

“I’ve been attacked, and mistreated” She fluttered her eyelashes at Leith, and deliberately rolled her eyes as if she was about to faint.

 

“Darling” He wrapped his arms around his wife’s shoulders. “What happened to you?”

 

 “The Gwump”.. She responded hugging her husband tightly against her body.  “That vile creature, he attacked me”…    

  

Vance leant back in his chair and folded his arms, the left side of his mouth curled upwards, and he narrowed his eye and watched as Leith rubbed his wife’s back, and kissed and caressed the beautiful woman’s face.

 

”Ursula, that creature needs destroying. How dare he hurt you” Leith stared across at Vance. “That beastly thing, we drove it out of town, yet it still causes trouble, it’s a social menace”.   

 

Vance nodded and folded his arms even more tightly across his body. “Like me?”  He gritted his teeth into a strange smile “We all sit in judgment.  But the more money and power you have, the more you can judge”.   

 

Ursula glared at Vance “We have no money, but that creature tried to buy me. I refused and he tore at my clothes. I was lucky to escape with my life”

 

Leith’s eyes welled with tears. “We should punish that vile creature”. He looked across at Vance.

 

“I’ve helped you enough, now you help me. Bring me that things head”.

 

Ursula raised her hands and placed them upon her husband’s shoulders and squeezed “No. He likes to paint”. She narrowed her eyes and grinning coldly she turned her head towards Vance Scarab. “Bring me his hands… That will teach him the ultimate lesson”.

 

Vance was silent for a moment and then he began to roar with laughter. “What’s in it for me?”

 

Ursula was about to speak, but Vance raised a black gloved hand. “Don’t bother to answer”. He responded harshly   “I don’t kill anything without good reason, and I suggest that if your honour has been compromised Ursula, then it’s Leith’s duty, not mine to right that wrong”.    

 

Ursula nodded and gazed seductively into her husband’s eyes. He was melted by her beauty, and as she gently kissed his lips, he knew he was duty bound to slay the Gwump and thus preserve his wife’s virtue.

 

The Gwump enjoyed his own company, but he was distracted. His thoughts straying back to Ursula. The more he thought about her, the more angelic she became in his mind. She was indeed like an angel, and as he sat upon his stool in front of her portrait, he brushed his hairy hands across the canvass.

 

“I’ll never look at my own reflection in the river again” He said softly, his white eyes welling with tears as he became overcome by Ursula’s flawless image. “Why would I want to see my face, when I can simply look at yours?”

 

 

Leith Klimt had arrived at the river, Night had fallen. The two moons glowed brightly overhead, and diamond splinters fractured across the water and danced like fairies upon glass. 

 

Leith had a leather rucksack strapped to his back, and he rolled his shoulders against the uncomfortable straps.

 

“Swimming was never one of my strong points”. He muttered nervously as he edged to the side of the riverbank and dipped his boot into the water.  

 

“No” Leith looked about himself and his eyes alighted upon the many small stones that littered the ground “Best to confront it on dry land”. 

 

The Gwump was sleeping. He was seated with his deformed back pressed up against the wall, and his bulbous head hanging forward.  His dreams were somewhat restless, and his large hairy ears were twitching back and forth, a continuous dull tapping sound had penetrated his thoughts. The Gwump’s white eyes opened and he gazed around the cavern. The sound was coming from the far end of the tunnel. He shuffled to his feet, and ventured cautiously down the damp passageway.

 

The sounds echoed in his ears, and he gazed down into the circular pool, vibrations beneath its surfaces were causing gentle ripples. The Gwump took a deep breath and plunged into the water.

 

He had only managed to swim a short distance, before he was struck upon the head by a small stone, moments later another followed leaving a trail of bubbles in its wake.

 

The Gwump’s huge hairy feet frantically propelled his body upwards. More stones were falling around him, plummeting into the darkness and bouncing against the rocks below.

 

Leith stood upon the riverbank, and watched as a grotesque shambling shape emerged from the water. It crawled on all fours like a giant brown bat scenting pray. Leith stepped back and dropped the handful of stones he was holding.

 

“You’re the Gwump? Are you not?”  Leith was afraid and found that he was unable to blink. 

 

The Gwump pushed himself onto his feet and stepped towards the frightened man. He unfurled his long hairy fingers, and jabbed a long fingernail at Leith.

 

“You know me of old” The Gwump’s white eyes stared coldly at the man “It was your kind that used to beat me with a stick when I was a child” 

 

Leith shook his head “Not I”.. Leith smiled, and reached a shaking hand over his shoulder. “I come with a gift from Ursula. You know her I think”.

 

The Gwump grinned, and his expression seemed to soften. “Yes. I do. She is my angel. What has she got to give me?”

 

“Come closer Gwump” Leith replied, beads of sweat glistening upon his forehead.  “Reach out your hand and I will give you the gift she wants you to have”.

 

The Gwump looked innocently at the man, and reached out his hand. Leith pulled a short silver sword from his rucksack, and cutting through the air, the blade severed the Gwump’s hand at the wrist.

 

The Gwump screamed in pain and stepped backwards, cradling the bleeding stump against his chest. He looked up in bewilderment at his attacker.

 

“Why?” He cried “Why do people hate me so?”…

 

Leith pointed his sword at the helpless creature, and stared down the blade. The Gwump’s blue blood dripped down upon the ground, and wherever his blood fell, a small golden flower grew. 

          

“You attacked my wife” He said forcefully “You’re a beast that needs destroying. You will never use your hands to hurt anyone else”…

 

The Gwump’s white eyes widened, and in his rage they began to fill with blood. His breathing became unnaturally loud, and his teeth seemed to grow longer.

 

Leith gripped the sword handle tightly and raised the` blade. “Dead or alive I’m taking your other hand too”.

 

The Gwump swallowed his pain, eyes burning blood red with rage he pounced upon his enemy, pinning him to the ground. The colour seeped from Leith cheeks, as the full weight of the Gwump’s body pressed down upon his chest.

 

“Release your sword” The Gwump hissed, saliva dripping into the petrified man’s face.

 

Leith tossed it to one side and stared up into the monstrous creature’s face. “Wait, I’m sorry. But you shouldn’t have hurt Ursula”.   

 

The Gwump grabbed Leith tightly around the throat, and dug his fingernails into the man’s neck. “I never touched her”. He growled, looking down at his bleeding stump. “You have disfigured me”…

 

Leith chuckled. “Disfigured?” He grinned “You were disfigured before, but I’m sorry” He said quickly “Ursula said you hurt her, that I was to bring your hands to her”.

 

The Gwump glared into Leith’s eyes “I understand. I am betrayed” He loosened his grip, and his eyes began to lose their redness “Ursula wants my hands so she can make gold for herself”.

 

“What?”  He was gasping for breath, under the Gwump’s body weight “I know nothing about that. How is that possible?”

 

“If I rub dirt between the palms of my hands” He said sadly   “I can make it into gold”.  The Gwump lifted his hairy body and rolled over onto his back, he lay motionless beside Leith and looked up at the darkening sky.  “I’ve been mislead” He said solemnly “You’ve been mislead”.

 

Leith remained motionless too afraid to move. He raised his head slowly and looked down towards his booted feet. He could see that his sword was just out of reach.

 

“I’m sorry Gwump. I truly am. It seems that Ursula lied to me too” He licked his dry lips. “Go back to the river, I’ll go back to the village and bring you a doctor”.

 

The Gwump groaned in agony and staggered to his feet. He gritted his sharp teeth and snarled “I thank you for that. But I will decline your help”. He began to hobble down to the riverbank, his blood steadily trickling from the stump. He gazed over his shoulder and said rather menacingly. “I will be visiting Ursula in due course”..

 

The Gwump waded into the water, and ducked down beneath the surface and disappeared from sight. Only a small circle of rolling ripples and a cloud of blood marked his passing.

 

Leith sat up quickly, and grabbed his sword. “Wretched creature” He stood up and brushed himself down. “You’re a naughty girl Ursula”. He chuckled and looked down to where the Gwump’s severed hand lay. “Gold” He smiled “But I’ll need both hands for that”…

 

Leith approached the riverbank and gazed down into the water. “Should I?  Or shouldn’t I?” The thought of making gold was irresistible, and Leith began to take off his boots. “This’ll be so easy”.          

 

He slipped off his socks and wiggled his toes, dipping his foot into the water. “Cold” He gasped drawing back. “Still, nothing ventured nothing”…  He was unable to finish his sentence as the blade off a sharp sword entered through his back and exited through his chest.

 

Leith’s blood trickled from his lips, as his body slid away from the blade and rolled down into the river. Leith’s corpse was caught by a gentle breeze, and began to float away, swallowed by the vast dark waters, soon to become food for the fish.  

    

Ursula sat at her dressing table, gazing into a large mirror suspended upon the wall before her. She brushed her long blonde locks, and smiled at her reflection. She was indeed a very beautiful young woman; her likeness was that of an angel.    

 

She placed the brush down upon her lap, and sighed. “What is Leith doing?”  Ursula heard the floorboards creak, and a dark shadow loomed behind her.

 

“What?” She said gazing briefly over her shoulder, only to find the Gwump’s hairy fingers grabbing at her face, and covering her mouth.

 

“Scream for help, and I’ll tear out your throat” The Gwump’s words were delivered with such malevolence, that Ursula simply nodded in compliance.

 

The Gwump drew back his hand and crouched down beside the petrified woman. He raised his stumped arm and placed it down upon her lap.

 

“Look at what your husband did to me” He growled, his white eyes once more turning red. “I demand that you look at your folly”….

 

Ursula lowered her head and stared down at the bandaged stump. Blue blood was seeping over her dress, and she felt physically sickened by the sight.

 

“Oh” She said with a gasp. “You poor creature, let me get you a doctor”…

   

The Gwump grabbed Ursula around the throat and he dragged her from the chair. He pinned the woman against the wall with his one good hand.

 

Ursula stared into the Gwump’s raging eyes. “You intend to murder me?” She said firmly. “I knew you were a barbarous creature”.  Her expression hardened. “I knew you were a monster”.

 

“No” He replied softly “I intend to punish you”. The Gwump’s mouth began to open unnaturally wide and his jaw cracked as if dislocated.

 

Ursula watched as a dark green cloud seeped from the Gwump’s postulated tongue. It smelt of rotting fish. She grimaced, her nose wrinkling in response to the vile stench. It flowed around her face, stinging her eyes and skin. Ursula fell into a swoon. The Gwump closed his mouth and released the young woman from his grip. She slid down against the wall, her eyes rolling frantically in her head. The last image she saw before passing into unconsciousness was the Gwump standing over her with a ghastly grin spread across his face. 

 

Hours passed, and Ursula’s body began to twitch, and spasm, until her restless dreams jolted her back into her body. She grabbed at the leg of the dressing table and gasping for breath she hauled herself into the chair.     

 

She opened her eyes and gazed into the mirror. The reflection was not her own. Instead she saw the grotesque features of the Gwump staring back at her. She blinked and looked away, but when she returned her gaze the hideous creature was still staring back at her.

 

“It can’t be” She muttered the Gwump’s mouth moving in synchronization with her own. She reached up her hands and touched her face. Her skin felt as it always did, soft and smooth, not a hint of hair grew from her chin or forehead.

 

“That damned creature” She said grabbing her brush and hurling it at the mirror shattering the glass “He’s stolen my reflection”.  She began to cry. “How could he be so cruel?”

 

Ursula wiped her eyes and gazed coldly across the room. A large axe was hanging upon the wall. She looked back at her broken reflection, and spoke to the Gwump’s fractured image.

 

“I’ll kill you for this”…. Ursula took several deep breaths, reached forward and using all her strength, she ripped the mirror from the wall and hurled it to the floor. The glass exploded into a million shards, and the Gwump’s reflection was scattered into oblivion.   

 

The Gwump sat beside the riverbank gazing up at the two moons of Grimney. The night sky was a luminous shade of red, and falling meteorites blazed a golden trail against a sea of glowing stars. 

 

“I don’t understand human nature” He said hoping that the answer could be found in the Heavens. The Gwump felt lost, and betrayed. A well of sadness weighed heavy in his belly, and he felt like crying. He stroked his bandaged stump. “There is no good reason that I am hated. I am only hated for my ugliness”.

 

He looked at his reflection in the water, his hideous white eyes, and deformed shoulder, the matted clumps of coarse black hair growing from his face. 

 

The Gwump nodded with disgust “I am truly a monster”… 

 

The sound of twigs snapping alerted the Gwump; his long hairy ears swiveling back and forth. He jumped to his feet, and swung around.  

 

Ursula was standing before him holding a large axe. She smiled at the creature her fingers twitching. “Give me back my reflection or I’ll cut you in half”.

 

“You took away the very thing that gave me a reason for living”.   The Gwump replied in a fractured melancholy voice “I lived to paint. You lived for your beauty” The Gwump’s white eyes began to weep “We have both lost what mattered to us”. 

 

“You’re going to lose far more than your hand Gwump, if you don’t give me back my reflection!” She shouted stepping forward with her axe held high.

 

The Gwump jumped out of the way, and turning on his heels he dived into the river and vanished amidst a flurry of frothing splashes.

 

“Coward!” Ursula shouted. “I’ll come after you!”  She walked down to the water’s edge and waded in, lifting the axe above her head. “Damn it” She cursed, realizing that she would not be able to swim holding an axe. She returned to dry land, and finding a tree stump nearby, she embedded the blade into the wood.       

 

The Gwump sat upon his stool in front of Ursula’s portrait. He began to cry, the tears dripping from his long hairy chin. “Is beauty worth nothing to?” He cried.

 

Ursula answered him frostily. “My beauty is worth more than your worthless life”.

 

The Gwump slipped down from his stool, and straightened his body as best he could. Ursula stood before him, soaked to the skin, she looked very angry. She stared around the cave at the many paintings that hung from the rough walls. . “This is your last chance Gwump. Restore my looks or I’ll destroy your pictures”.

 

“Even you would not be so cruel. These are all I have”. The Gwump began to cower. He was cringing at the suggestion.

 

“Fine” Ursula drew a knife from her boot, and stepping forward she slashed at his paintings, tearing huge gashes into the creature’s artwork.

 

The Gwump’s eyes turned bright red and he leapt on top of Ursula, gripping her shoulders, he hurled her to the ground.  She slashed at her assailant with the knife, cutting his face, as the Gwump bit her throat and tore out a chunk of flesh.

 

Ursula screamed and using every ounce of strength she lifted the creature from her body, and scrambled to her feet. She grabbed her portrait and bleeding profusely she staggered down the passageway.

 

The Gwump tucked his legs into his body and rolled into a ball. His cries of pain echoed in Ursula’s ears as she made her escape. 

   

Ursula’s journey to the river’s surface was marked by a rainbow trail of oozing crimson and flowing paint. Her neck was badly torn, and as she struggled onto the riverbank, she could feel the blood pumping from the wound. She lay upon her back, coughing up dirty river water.

 

She reached for her portrait and held it up in front of her face. The paint had merged, her image washed away, and lost forever. “I’ll make you pay, I’ll come back” She spluttered “I’ll come back with the whole village and I’ll”…   

 

Growling… The sounds of growling interrupted her. Ursula found the strength to stand and gazed into the dark, white shapes moved amidst the shadows, the wolves were in the wood, and gathering around her. The smell of fresh blood had drawn them from the forest.

 

“Damn”. Ursula looked across at the tree stump, but the axe was not there, someone had taken it. The wolves began to surge forward, bearing their teeth, their tongues dripping saliva.

 

“No” She stumbled back sliding on loose pebbles and nearly losing her footing. “I’m too beautiful to die”.

 

The Wolves were hungry and her beauty did not matter, because they had simple needs and their stomachs needed filling. Ursula tried to flee, but the wolves pounced and their teeth tore into her body. Ursula screamed for help, but no one came. She could only watch as the wolves tore her flesh from her body, and ate their way to the bone.

 

The Gwump had not heard Ursula’s death throes. He remained lying upon the floor, sobbing. He was in a state of despair. His hand severed, his paintings destroyed, and the terrible thought that Ursula and Leith might return with other villagers and drive him from his home.

 

“What can I do now, I’m done for?”…

 

“Get up Gwump”. The creature felt a boot kicking him gently in the back. The Gwump sat up and gazed into the face of a one eyed man.        

    

“I’m Vance Scarab”. The man stated looking down at the wretched creature. He reached into his tunic and pulled out the creature’s severed hand. “So you have the power to make gold?”

 

The Gwump shook his head in disgust. “Humans, they drove me out of their world and persecuted me because of my looks. Hurt me. Despised me, but now they all want me, because I can make gold”. 

 

Vance looked at the remaining paintings and smiled. “I’m an artist myself you know. As for Leith, I killed him, and Ursula has been eaten by wolves. Just as well I threw her axe in the river”.  He grinned and nodded “But yes you can give me your other hand”.

 

The Gwump shuddered at the suggestion. “I have no need of it, for the hand I paint with was cut off”. He reached out to Vance “Take it and be gone”.

 

Vance smiled and raising his arm he grabbed the Gwump by the hand and shook it. The Gwump looked astonished.

 

“You wish to be my friend?” The creature asked innocently.

 

”I have no desire to hurt you. We’re both outcasts. Hated, despised by the masses. We’re the same you and I”   He looked once more at the Gwump’s beautiful paintings.  “As for your artistic skills, I’m filled with admiration. You have value. You may look the way you do, but real beauty it’s not as superficial as you may think”.

 

“But I can never paint again” The Gwump said sadly withdrawing his hand from Vance’s grip.

 

“No Gwump” Vance stepped forward and using a damp handkerchief he gently dabbed the wound upon the creature’s hairy face. “When I lost an eye, I had to rely solely on the other one. You will adapt”.  He placed a hand firmly upon the Gwump’s shoulder “With my help and my guidance you’ll paint again”.   

 

The Gwump managed a slight smile. Perhaps, at long last, he had found a true friend.  

 

 

End

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Grimnian 2011

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