Shay happened to be passing by the path that turned off to the little chapel at the end of village when she discovered Dobble and Puckleflup in the middle of that path having an argument over a scattered pile of what looked like church silver.
Their backs were towards her and they were casting abuse on each other in violent hissing tones. Shay raised an eyebrow and switched her direction casually to check on them. As she approached, the one not currently shouting caught Shay’s movement out of the corner of their eye, and laid a warning hand on the other’s shoulder. The hissing debate ended immediately.
They straightened up, and together they turned around as nonchalantly as possible, simultaneously lacing their long pointy fingers over their well rounded bellies. They assumed an air of complete innocence. Dobble even managed a fair approximation of a whistle. They were so obviously up to something that Shay barely contained a smile.
“Hello, lads. What are you up to?” Nearer now, Shay could see they had indeed stolen some of Lorcan’s sacrament silver. This was clearly part of the war that these little goblins were having with the newly returned priest. Shay deduced from a torn and empty sack, that they had loaded up the silver from the locked chancel at the back of the church, and that, somehow, the sack had ripped during their attempted escape. Leaving scattered bits of silver all along the path.
“Nothing whatever, Locke Lady.” The taller of the two goblins, Puckleflup, said a little too quickly.
“Ummhum,” Shay replied.
“We found it just like this, Locke Lady.” The shorter, and more rotund, Dobble whined.
“Ummhum,” Shay replied with a slightly lower tone.
The two goblins looked to each other, their bat ears flapping with the motion. Knowing perfectly well that Shay could see right through their story they decided to change tactics. By silent agreement they each grabbed Shay about a knee and began pleading for forgiveness. There were false tears, shaking, moaning and much wailing that Lorcan would kill them if he caught them, or worse hang them from the church steeple by their ears or toes. They cried that the Priest would do all manner of horrible things to them, all of them seemingly worse than death. They begged Shay not to tell, promising devoutly that they would put it all back just as they found it. Shay highly doubted that.
After allowing them time to work that nonsense out of their system, and before they could change tactics again, Shay shook them loose, and sat them down on the ground firmly. She placed a hand on each of their shoulders.
“I’m a neutral party in this little war of yours. I’m not going to tell Lorcan on my own, but I won’t lie to him if he asks.” She stood back up to her full height towering over the two little trembling goblins, pointed a finger right at them, and continued, “But, no one gets hurt, and it’s all back by Sunday. It’s only fun if everyone is having fun. Otherwise, it stops. Now.” She firmly concluded.
The two little goblins nodded vigorously, their bat ears making little flapping noises as they did so. They quickly gathered up as much silver as they could carry in their shirt fronts and pockets, dropping half of what they picked up. Then, at a roar from inside the church, they bolted out of sight. Shay felt the need to move on as well.
As she backtracked to the main path she could hear a strong wind rustling the hedge beside her. Only there was no wind. The sound followed along with Shay as she moved out onto the main path heading towards the Garrison. Then Perran the Spriggan stepped out in front of her like a tree walking into view. He looked like an old man and a child at the same time. He was shaped roughly like a human, but took on the texture and shading of a tree. His skin looked of bark, his hair hung like willow vines in places and stuck up like cattails in others.
Thankfully Perran was unlike his Cornish cousins. He neither feared, nor tormented people. He was kind and funny, but he did prefer to keep to himself, most of the time, unless he was playing a trick. Or enjoying one. He was clearly doing both now, and Shay had stumbled into it. Perran was laughing so much that when he sucked into breath it sounded like a violent summer storm happening all at once, his actual laugh sounded like many small sticks clicking together in a sort of chuckle. It was a singularly unusual sound. He was covering his mouth trying to keep it quiet, and he was bent nearly double in the effort. Shay couldn’t help but laugh along with him.
Perran was laughing so hard he couldn’t speak, so he simply reached out and took Shay by the hand leading her to the hedge. He let go and stepped through. Shay didn’t see how he had gone in but he disappeared into the woods entirely.
Just then Shay made out the sound of Lorcan coming down the path grumbling decidedly non priestly things about ‘thieving goblins and their miserable thieving ways.’ She began to panic illogically, not wishing to be caught, even though she had done nothing wrong.
Perran stepped out of the hedge once more and took Shay by the hand guiding her through a hidden entrance and around a sharp angle that completely concealed them just as Lorcan turned onto the main path. Shay could see that Lorcan’s fists were clenched as he moved with purpose toward the garrison, but there was a small smile at the edge of his mouth. Almost like he was getting in his combat zone after having accepted a challenge. Shay held her breath as he approached anticipating a reckoning, but the tall priest stomped along his way right by the hidden entrance and concealing hedge. Lorcan hadn’t noticed the mirthful vibrating Spriggan or Shay, even though both could see him quite clearly.
It wasn’t magic that hid Perran and Shay, just a clever way of shaping hedges that allowed for entrances to look like walls and hedges to conceal on one side while revealing the other. Shay had only a moment to appreciate her situation, the hedge was ingeniously trimmed in such a way you could see out but not look in. It wasn’t magic but it felt like it was. Perran was clearly a master gardener among his other mischievous achievements. Shay turned to him her mouth wide and smiling, he put one long twig-like finger to his lips in the universal sign for silence, and with the other hand admonished her to hold still.
They both remained frozen for three breaths, then, once Lorcan was out of earshot, Perran took Shay by the hand again and led her along a curving trail that lead away from the Village. Within a few hundreds steps she could hear no more of the gentle hubbub and goings on from the Village, no more of the metallic clinks of the training yard in the garrison. They weren’t very far from home, but it was almost another world.
Shay had walked by that hedge hundreds, if not thousands, of times and had never seen the entrance to Perran’s warren. She was in complete awe even though she was still giggling. As she followed along little forest animals followed along too. They came up to Perran and seemed to whisper to him, then they would dart off.
Perran led Shay to a little grotto with a beautiful fresh spring right in the middle. It had been grown and shaped to form a sort of wild parlor. Perran collapsed laughing onto a topiary shaped like an overstuffed chair. And Shay landed on a soft patch of grass that served as a rug. She laughed as much from nervous release, as she laughed at Perran’s reaction, and just at the sheer wonder of what she was experiencing.
“What did you think of my little joke?” Perran eventually asked wiping away tears and holding a stitch in his side.
“I’m not sure what the joke was Master Perran.” Shay said.
“Oh!” Perran began laughing again. “Oh!” he exclaimed, sitting upright on the edge of his seat, “Oh! Let me tell you! I let Dobble and Puckleflup into the locked chancle,” he moved his twig-like finger like a key, “and I provided them with the sack too!” He burst into laughter once more kicking his branchy feet in the air. “I pulled out several threads at the bottom of the bag, you see, so the silver came crashing out all over the path!” He rolled back and forth on his bushy chair laughing and rattling away like sticks in a windstorm.
Shay was laughing so hard at the absurdity of the whole situation that she was rolling on the grass clutching at her sides too.
“So you see, Miss Shay, we are both neutral in the war! You set the rules for them, just now, ‘no one gets hurt, everything gets put to rights in a reasonable time frame, it has to be fun for everyone, or it stops!’ You gave them the guide for their war, and, of course you must refrain from interfering. But oh! Please, you must watch! It will be oh so fun! And I,” Perran said rising and lifting one branch-like arm up nobly in the air while putting his other hand over his heart in a simile of patriotic fervor, “I will help both sides equally!” He came crashing back down to his chair in gales of laughter and Shay joined in. “Just you watch Miss Shay!” he gasped, “It will be a prank war for the ages! Haha!”