Blob Thing says:
Yes. Difficulties. We were in big trouble and I didn't know quite what we were going to do about it. I'd known from the start that entering Bothal was a bad idea and had my person not been so stubborn and foolish we would have avoided the place entirely. When I left you last time we had tried to seek the protection of the church, knowing that within its ancient walls we would find solace and holy relics that might protect us. Unfortunately the church had been locked so we had to flee from its porch and run, as quickly as I could convince my person to move, to the graveyard. When fleeing from the watching eyes of black magic covens and the undead a graveyard might seem to be a counter-intuitive place to hide but I knew there wouldn't be any protection outside it. Possibly there would be some means of escape hidden within its boundaries.
It wasn't looking promising though. The lights of the graveyard, unnatural in appearance, were seeming to beckon us in as if created by some malevolent creature who was at that moment watching us and preparing to spring a trap. We had no choice though. I could feel the darkness creeping in behind us, cutting off our escape to the road. We had to proceed.
We drew closer, past the point of any return. I nearly fell into despair before we had progressed any distance because of this:
What you see are two stone sentinels. Alive. Moving. Daring us to approach. Behind us the trees were singing unearthly songs and I could hear a cackling and I knew we could not go back. But there on the ground. What's that? You can see it, can't you? You can't see the whole vision of dread. This is just one hand - if it could be called a hand - of what must have been an enormous creature. We couldn't see its full size as it had kept itself well hidden behind the trees. It kept wiggling those fingers of it - if you can call them fingers - and rhythmically would lift its hand slowly and then slam it into the ground. Lift. Boom. Lift. Crash. The sentinels watched us. Would we dare to attempt to get past this obstacle.
We had to time our run carefully and I got my person to carry Winefride. I'm not sure that she was aware of the danger at all. It was all new to her and the fact that she giggled loudly every time that hand hit the floor didn't fill me with much confidence for her safety. She just seemed to want to get closer because every time the hand hit there was a massive rush of air and she was enjoying the sensation. I had to admit that in other circumstances I could have listened and watched and felt all those magnificent things all day and I wouldn't have got bored at all. Had the creature not been wanting to smash us all to death in Bothal churchyard it would have been a beautiful experience and I would have stood staring at the light and the way the sun played between the branches of the trees. I would have felt the earth under my fur and smelled the plants and it would have been stupendous. [In my experience it was stupendous and there was no creature.] Oh be quiet my person, you know full well they altered your memory. As it was I had to focus the whole of my being at this point.
I grabbed my person, who had by then picked up Winefride. She protested and I was afraid she might have a meltdown. The hand began to rise up. And I ran, dragging my person who by now didn't need to be dragged quite so much because she had finally noticed that something wasn't quite as she would have wanted it to be.
We ran. It rose. We ran. It reached the top of its path. And it fell. And we were still running. Slam. Wallop. And the rush of air pushed us forward that last distance and we fell straight into the stone sentinels and knocked them down with the force. That was lucky! Although in my experience there's no such thing as luck. We lay there, dazed and frightened. At least we hadn't been squashed. But we were now in the depths of the graveyard and there was no way out.
More stone sentinels turned to look at us and slowly they began to move towards us. They groaned with the effort of leaving their gravesite roots behind and shouted about the new, tasty meat and about the joy they would have stealing our souls and ripping them apart. We were doomed.
Our situation was so bleak that my person even said she wished she had listened to me when I warned her about Bothal. A bit late wasn't it my person? Still, we're still alive. That's the main thing. I feel it's safe to let you know that. The sentinels didn't kill us and eat us for their dinner and then serve up sliced soft toy souls for supper. That's obvious. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to tell you this and my person wouldn't be able to type this and I would be mourning for Winefride. Unless ... unless it is my ghost who is dictating this and my person is now a highly skilled poltergeist who can type. You might not want to discount that possibility if you happen to want some suspense for the rest of this post.
Suddenly there was a very high pitched scream. And then a booming voice. "By the spirits of the gods of Morpeth and the Wansbeck I charge you to be still."
And then silence.
The sentinels stopped their deadly advance. And they stopped their groaning and chatter which by that point had been getting quite annoying.
Only one sentinel continued to move, tall, erect, with far better posture than my person. It approached a little closer and seemed to bow.
"Greetings, travellers. Do not fear. No. Scrap that. Do fear. But do not lose all hope. I am Graig-Pethe, one of the ancient Celtic stone things. You may have heard of my kind. I chose to come and live in this village many centuries ago, before the church existed. I watched as the pagans worshiped and their worship was cast out by Saxons who built the first shrine to the Christian God to stand here. I watched as generations came and passed away. I watched as invaders from Normandy built their castle here and as Lord Bertram increased the grandeur of the shrine. Entombing God within stone rather than releasing God into the earth. I watched people build chantries and clerestories and corbels and chancels and marvelled at their love of the letter C. I saw it all and I stand here still.
I came here because the sages of my kind could foresee this day of evil, the years in which darkness would fall across the land of Bothal. And now darkness has fallen far. Even these sentinels were once perfectly ordinary and quite pretty gravestones until they became infected by the festering rot seeping from the dark magic of the covens whose members took over nearly every part of the village.
There are few places where light survives. But I can help you. No. Scrap that. I've already helped you haven't I otherwise those sentinels would have destroyed you utterly by now. They haven't. Because I'm an amazing protector for those who would be stupid enough to enter Bothal. It was a very lovely place once. No. Scrap that. Perhaps I can't be called such an amazing protector. Not when hardly anyone has escaped and nobody has escaped sane. I see that won't be an issue for that human you have with her. She doesn't look to have entered Bothal sane so leaving insane won't make any difference to anyone."
It was a long speech and I was getting a bit bored. I wanted action not words so I said, "Okay Graig-Pethe, if you can help then help? I hope you can offer us more aid than you did to Lord Forsythe. Oh yes, I've heard all about him and his lamented band of followers. You didn't do much for them did you?"
Graig-Pethe sighed. "There's no need to be rude or I might not help. No. Scrap that. Of course I'll do my best because I'm an amazing protector. Just as I said. Look, those sentinels are starting to come round. My magic and my command won't hold them back forever. They're more confused by it than anything else and every time I have to invent a new incantation. I can't defeat them. But maybe you can. I can give you two pieces of advice:
First, sentinels do not cope well with the feel of soft toys. If you stand on their heads they will freeze. At least for a while. That will buy you time for my second piece of advice. Watch out for the insects. Perhaps not all of them are as they seem. Perhaps one of them might be able to offer you a permanent way out of this terrible place that used to be a paradise."
"Good luck my friends. No. Scrap that. You're not really my friends are you? We've only just met and sadly won't have time to develop a solid relationship. Good luck. And farewell."
Graig-Pethe fell silent.
And the sentinels were beginning to move faster.
But at least we had some kind of plan.
Jump on their heads. Jump on them and hope.
Fortunately Winefride likes jumping games even more than I do and she quickly got the idea and jumped straight onto the head of the nearest sentinel.
It worked. The sentinel stopped moving and the letters on its front, which had been trying to form themselves into anagrams, stopped moving too. The sentinel let out a really weird sound that might have come from a place of pain but it was very, very funny. Or at least would have been if we had a button at home that would produce the same sound whenever we pressed it. I think that button would get pressed so much by Winefride and myself that our person would end up wanting to smash it or donate it to a charity shop.
Winefride laughed and laughed because it was so hilarious. It was good to see her laugh, even in such a dangerous situation as this. She jumped up and down on the sentinel's head some more hoping for the sound to be repeated. But it wasn't.
Winefride knew what to do. She jumped down onto the ground and then straight up again onto the head of another sentinel. And it let out a very similar sound to the first. Winefride squealed with total delight.
Graig-Pethe just stood there. Almost silent. Or was that snoring we could here coming from it's empty face? Not so much of an amazing protector when it hadn't done much protecting at all.
I joined in. It wasn't just Winefride who could jump on the heads of sentinels. I could do it too and the sound was very funny indeed. Even funnier if you stood on its head.
We spent the next hour jumping onto the heads of sentinels and knocking them out. After a while the sentinel would return to life and for the first time we noticed that the whole of the graveyard was surrounded by black witches all pointing and chanting the same incantation. If only we could find a white witch or a green witch or anyone to get us away from this fire.
It was a race. Could we jump onto the sentinels quicker than they woke up again? There were a lot of stones to jump on and we knew that it couldn't go on for ever. They seemed to be waking quicker too as the witches chanted louder.
Sometimes Winefride and I happened to jump onto the same sentinel at the same time and it would let out an extra loud version of the funny noise. Try to imagine the funniest noise you can imagine. It was funnier than that.
My person was completely useless!
All she did was to stand there trying to take photos of us. I do have to admit that we looked pretty stunning together on the stone but you would think she might have found something more useful to be doing. We were getting tired and I didn't know how long we could last out against a tribe of immortal unkillable stones.
Finally my person remembered the other piece of advice we had been given and she started to scan the air for insects. She saw one that seemed to be taking more of an interest in us than was usual. A stripy insect. She put out her hand and called out, "Come here my little friend. Don't be afraid." The insect plucked up courage and gently landed on her fingers.
"Hi! It said. I'm not your usual kind of insect and I've spotted that you might be experiencing some kind of difficulty in your present circumstances. The Bothal churchyard is not to be traveled lightly. But I know of someone who, if you can find him, might be able to help you avoid any more sentinel entanglements." [Blob, stop quoting someone else's story. That's three times you've done it just now and don't think I didn't spot that quote about luck. Stick to your own story Blob or I'll refuse to type more.]
"If you can find the rhyming man whose tomb is a poem you should all grasp hold of the cross. Your lives depend on it. Your lives." Those last too words were said in a very overdramatic voice as if the insect was enjoying an acting role far too much. "Find the tomb. Grasp the cross. And repeat the poem four times and ask him to come. He can help you. And I believe he will. If you can find him. I know his tomb is here somewhere but I can't remember where I last saw it. Sorry about that."
This was good. We could yet live through this even though the witches were chanting even louder and sounding a bit cross that we hadn't been properly destroyed yet. The sentinels were waking much quicker and it was getting hard to keep up. Things were getting to the point at which we would be overwhelmed soon.
We split up into two teams to look for the rhyming man. Winefride and my person were on one team. I was on the other, which wasn't much of a team but it was all we could manage at the time because it wasn't as if Graig-Pethe would be of much use in this desperate quest.
The sentinels got closer and one of them scratched me and I began to bleed stuffing and thread. I knew it was nearly over for me and I couldn't even see my sister or my person.
Then I heard a shout. My person. "Blob Thing. Over here. We've found him."
I ran. I ran. Racing through the gaps between the stones as they got narrower and narrower. I continued to bleed and knew my wound would be fatal if we couldn't get help.
There was the tomb. Just as the insect had said.
And sure enough, there was the rhyming man. And the poem.
who died at Tritlington Broom
We had found him and we grabbed onto the cross with all our might. My person had to hold me because I was getting week and was close to passing out. As I drifted into unconsciousness I saw the figure of a man appear. A man with giant wings. He took hold of us and I could just make out his smile as he lifted the three of us from the ground. And I heard the cries of the witches. Then nothing more.
I awoke in a very comfy bed, feeling very much better. My wounds had all healed and there wasn't even a scar from where some skillful needle worker had stitched me back together. I person was sitting with me, stroking my head and Winefride was there too, lost in a game in which she was lining up a big set of miniature gravestones. As she put them down in their row she would tap them on their tops and make a noise that sounded like a Winefride version of a pained sentinel. And then she would giggle and get flappy.
I was told that we had been saved by the ghost of William Hume and had been taken to Bothal Castle where we had been protected and looked after for three days by a community of green witches. I was very lucky to be alive. We all were. And then, by a miraculous spell they had caused time to recede by five days. It was now two days before we even entered Bothal but the events in the graveyard had still happened. Or were still going to happen. Or were going to still have been happening in the future. Or something. I didn't care how the grammar worked out. I only cared that the three of us were alive. Alive and safe. In an actual castle. Exciting.
It took me those two days to get back to full strength and in that time I talked at length with the green witches who were the most wonderful people you could ever hope to meet. But don't try to meet them because to do that you would have to enter Bothal and you might not be as fortunate as we were.
The witches said that we had a window of opportunity to leave the village. We could reach the river from here and once we had touched the flowing waters of the Wansbeck we would be safe from further attack and could continue on our route to Morpeth. But we had to leave at the right time. When all the evil covens of Bothal were distracted.
We could leave safely if we left the castle just as we were entering the graveyard. We wouldn't be spotted then because all eyes would be on us. Or the other us. Or the past us. Or something.
As we left the castle the green witches spoke one final incantation which wiped my person's memory of the five days she had spent in Bothal. She wouldn't remember any of it and instead would remember a walk through a pretty little place with a very pretty graveyard and a pretty castle beyond the high hedges. To this day that's what she remembers and even my telling of the truthful version of events has not broken the spell cast on her. I suppose she's fortunate. We're all fortunate - we wouldn't want her to be even more insane than she is.
So we three walked down to the river, away from Bothal. Away from fear and near death and salvation.
I'll tell you about the river next time. Yes, those are stepping stones. And since Bothal was behind us I can tell you that my version of events will be quite close to that of my person. It'll just be part of a wonderful day out walking along the river Wansbeck to Morpeth.
[3446 words plus this bit. I have no memory of this happening. None. I thought Bothal was lovely. I think Blob just heard from someone that there's supposed to be a coven of some kind at Bothal and he let his imagination run away. I don't think there's anything to fear if you ever choose to visit. And there are several good reasons to rejoice.]