Friday, August 11, 2023

“Lord of the Tropes” • by Judith Field


Flabh’gast the wizard dreamed he wrestled a dhai’mon. A voice called his name. He awoke to find his acolyte, Diggles, shaking his shoulder.

“Master! The crystal Sphyre glows numinously and plays its song!”

Flabh’gast sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Give it here.” Diggles dropped it onto his lap. “Off you go, this is private. Muck out the unicorns.”

“But I did it last time.”

Flabh’gast pointed his carven staff at him, magic streaming from the knob on the end. You could tell, by the green glowing trace it left behind. “Do it, insolent whelp.”

The boy slummocked off, muttering about distribution of labour. He had not been the same since discovering that, rather than his parents being a peasant woman (dead) and a lovable buffoon (alive), he was actually the son of a famous warrior. The birthmark on the back of his neck reading ‘hero’ would have provided a clue, had the lad washed himself more often. His birth name turned out to be Tyridyridyridion, but Flabh’gast found Diggles easier to remember.

The swirling smoke inside the Sphyre coalesced into the shape of a man’s smiling face.



“Known as Flabh’gast the Sludgy Colour Between Yellow And Green That There Isn’t Really A Name For?”

“Yes. What do you want?”

“Is it okay if I call you Flabh’gast?”

“No, you eldritch horror. Arch Mage, to you.”

“Good morning, Arch Mage, how are you today? Have you been in an accident that wasn’t your fault?”

“Be gone, foul demon.” Flabh’gast snapped his fingers and the Sphyre was empty.

He pulled on a tattered robe and went into the kitchen. Diggles stood at the fire, stirring a cauldron. “Porridge?” he said.

Flabh’gast put the Sphyre on the scrubbed wooden table and sat down. Diggles placed a bowl and a spoon in front of him. The Sphyre glowed and sang again, showing the face of the Elf King.

“Flab, get over here now, the High Council meets. Evil is abroad in the land.”

Flabh’gast threw down his spoon and stood up. “There’s always something. Boy, pack waybread. Saddle the steeds.”

“And fodder for them?”

“Listen to your Wise Old Mentor. They go all night and all day without stopping. You have a lot to learn. Now, on Filofax. On Precious. We ride for the Hidden Treehouse.”


Elves, dwarves, bards, healers, seers, warriors and more milled around the Meeting Hall, muttering about the Evil One, who was mean just for the sake of it. You could tell because he always wore black.

The Elf King sashayed over, flicking long, silken ash-blonde hair out of his huge blue-green eyes. “Hi, Sludgy. Fantabulosa to see you.” He and Flabh’gast kissed the air next to each other’s ears. “Now we can begin.” He called the meeting to order.

He pointed out of the window at a dark, brooding tower on the horizon, topped with a glowing nose of fire. He raised a thick gold ring, set with a coin, above his head. “Behold the sovereign ring of the Evil One!” The nose atop the dark tower sniffed. “He knows it is here. He can smell it! It must be destroyed. If he gets it his power will be absolute and we will be forever in his thrall. Someone must be bold. Someone must hurl it into the volcano, Aghghgh’oss, in which it was forged.”

Everyone spoke at once. Above the tumult a small man, from a country that looked just like rural England, piped up. “I will take it!”

“Get lost, shorty.” A young warrior pushed in front of him, knocking him to the ground. The lad removed his helmet and curling golden waist-length hair tumbled down. “Yes, I am a girl,” she said. “I, Treponema of House Palyd’m, disguised myself as a boy, to find adventure. I will take the ring and defeat the unnamable Dark Lord.”

“You mean Xfgdrt?” Diggles said. “Hard to say—for some. I will take it.”

They stood opposite each other and glared, Treponema wrinkling her uptilted nose, sprinkled with freckles. The little man pulled himself to his feet. “No, I will go.”

“Push off, short arse,” Diggles and Treponema said together.

“Now, now.” Flabh’gast took Diggles’s shoulder in one hand, Treponema’s in the other, and pulled the two of them apart. He pulled a silver whistle from his pocket, blew it, and a fairly large eagle landed on the window ledge with a thud.

Flabh’gast reached out an upturned hand towards the Elf King and twitched curled fingers towards himself. “Ring. Give.”

“Now, watch and learn.” He took the ring to the window and placed it on his open palm. The eagle lifted one foot and curled its talons round the ring. “See that volcano?”

The eagle turned its head and nodded.

“Just go and drop this bauble in there. Okay?”

It nodded again.

“Now, fly, my pretty.”

Soon the eagle disappeared. They saw the flames of the volcano die. As it became a heap of cooling ash, the nose on the dark tower sneezed. The tower collapsed, the nose with it, and soon it too was a pile of rubble.


Flabh’gast and Diggles sat by the fire. Flabh’gast stretched out his legs and puffed his long clay pipe. “Just think how long that would have taken if you’d done it on foot.”

They heard music. You could tell it was the Sphyre, because it was achingly beautiful.

“You get that,” Flabh’gast said. “Take it into the kitchen and sort it out on your own. Good practice for you.”

Some time later, Diggles came back. “That was an arch mage in grave danger. He cannot get his gold away from his homeland. He wanted to charm it into my account for safekeeping. I will keep some.”

Flabh’gast smacked himself on the forehead. “You gave him your bank details, didn’t you?”

“Yes. For, is it not written that we must help those in need?”

The Evil One was back.


Judith Field
was born in Liverpool, lives in London, and has been writing since 2009. She is the daughter of writers. Her short stories, mainly speculative, have been published in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Her short story collection, The Book of Judith, was published by Rampant Loon Press in 2014. She was shortlisted for the Cinnamon Press Literature Award in 2022.

Judith is also a pharmacist, freelance journalist, editor, medical writer, and indexer. She was awarded an MA in Creative Writing from the Open University in 2018.




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Terry F. said...

Wonderful parody. I'd say more, but it might spoil it for others. Suffice it to say my suspension (bridge) of disbelief snapped (with laughter) and tumbled into the abyss of perilous whimsy. Great short! ~Terry F.