The Enchanted Duplicator

by Walter Willis and Bob Shaw

Chapter 17

In Which Jophan Continues Through The Canyon

Even as Jophan watched, one of the giants awoke, snorting angrily. With no apparent reason, or even perception of what he was doing, the giant uttered a great bellow of wrath, seized a boulder as large as a house and threw it down the slope. The huge mass of rock hurtled down into a line of Neofen, smashing several into the ground despite their upraised Shields of Umor, and continued on its way down the mountainside, bounding from path to path, and sometime carrying away whole fan groups at a time.

When the last despairing cry had died away, Jophan looked up the slope to see that the giant had settled back down to sleep, a contented, imbecilic smile on his countenance. Shuddering with disgust and fear, Jophan withdrew a few paces and sat down in the entrance to a cave to recover his nerve.

The sound of his own breathing had barely subsided when he was again startled by a clicking noise behind him. He turned round sharply, and, as his eyes became more accustomed to the semi-darkness, he could see that the noise came from a Neofan who was striking at a flat piece of stone with a tiny axe. He was so intent on his work that he did not notice Jophan's presence until the other spoke to him.

"What are those dreadful beings?" asked Jophan fearfully, speaking the first thought in his mind.

"They belong to a race known as the Magrevoos," said the Neofan knowledgeably. "The dwarfs are called Fanmagrevoos and the giants Promagrevoos. Many of them are not really evil, merely thoughtless and stupid. The giants, for example, have no idea of their own strength, and do not understand half of what is going on down here. In fact they would probably ignore us altogether were it not for the fact that they are continually being prodded into activity by a strange and powerful tribe known as the Headeaters, who live in the mountains." As he spoke, he lifted up the flat stone, which Jophan now saw to be covered with neatly-cut lettering, and carried it to the mouth of the cave. He beckoned Jophan to follow him.

"Moreover," he went on, "there are other Magrevoos who do their best to make up for the harm done by their fellows. They are known as the Fair Ones. Watch!"

Jophan looked again at the scene of carnage on the mountainside. He saw that groups of fair-complexioned and kindly-faced dwarfs were passing among the victims, reviving them with draughts of Egg o" Bu, raising them to their feet, and helping them some distance along the path. There was even a beautiful, blonde giantess assisting in the work of mercy. Jophan noticed, however, that while most of the dwarfs carefully selected those among the survivors who seemed most likely to benefit from their help, the giantess showed no such discrimination. Instead, she would sweep up a random heap of Neofen, including some who were obviously already dead, drench them with Egg o" Bu from a large pitcher she carried slung over her shoulders, and with a few mighty strides deposit them far along the path. He saw that many of them merely sat in a daze where she had placed them, quite incapable of taking advantage of their good fortune.

"Who is she?" asked Jophan.

"She comes from a now almost extinct tribe known as the Fillips," said the Neofan absently. He had been swinging the stone in his right hand and now flung it with great force towards the crest of the mountains. He and Jophan watched it spin over the heads of the dwarfs and disappear from view.

"You missed," said Jophan.

"It was not a missile," explained the Neofan patiently, "but a missive. A message to the Headeaters who control the giants. It is important to propitiate them, for they are by far the most important tribe in Fandom. Indeed, there is a tradition that on their existence depends that of Trufandom itself."

"If that is so," said Jophan, impressed, "your work is obviously of the greatest importance, and I should like to help if I may. My name is Jophan, and I am, of course, on my way to Trufandom to find the Magic Mimeograph and produce the Perfect Fanzine."

"My name is Letteraxe," said the other cordially, "and I am delighted to make your acquaintance." With these words he gave Jophan a small axe, similar to his own, and they composed several messages to the Headeaters.

When the last of these had disappeared into the mountains Jophan spoke reflectively to Letteraxe.

"Since these mountains surround Trufandom on all sides," he pointed out, "it occurs to me that it would be quite as easy to send the messages from Trufandom as from here. Should we not continue our journey?"

Letteraxe looked doubtful. "Do so if you wish," he said, "but I have several more messages I want to write. I shall probably follow you later."

Privately Jophan doubted if the Neofan would ever stir from his peaceful existence in the cave, but he expressed the hope of seeing him again in Trufandom and wished him a cordial farewell. Then, having generously replenished Letteraxe's skimpy supply of Egg o" Bu, he started on the last stage of his journey to Trufandom. -

This version is from GHUTENBERG'S BHIBLE -- Section 7-b (Appendix B) -- Copyright © 1994 by Greg Hills. All rights reserved.

All rights to the original material is retained by the authors.