Next Year's Round-up

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A chance meeting between two completely different individuals leads to a mutual agreement, and that agreement changes the lives of man and beast alike.

Brother Tug the Monk was making his way along a mountain trail when a horrendous rainstorm was about to overtake him.  

After a brief search he located a cave beneath a rocky overhang, and he was quick to take shelter there.

Tug found leaves and twigs lying about the cave entrance, more than likely deposited there by previous storms. And luckily there was a dead tree close by, from which Tug was able to break off a good size branch.

Soon the Monk had a suitable fire going, just in time to counter the cold and wind driven rain that was causing havoc outside.

Suddenly Tug felt the presence of someone else in what he thought was a shallow cave. But the cave must have been deeper than he thought because he could see two large, insidious, eyes reflecting the firelight.

The Monk moved away from the fire as the creature moved closer to it. And soon Tug was backed against a far wall with little options for escape.

The creature crossed its meaty legs and sat down next to the fire, and then it held its four fingered hands out towards the flames for warmth.

Without looking at Tug the creatures said, "Be not afraid, if I was going to harm you I would have done so by now. Come, enjoy the fire and we shall exchange stories."

Reluctantly Tug moved to the fireside and stated, "I am Tug, a Monk from The Monastery in the Clouds. By what name shall I call you?"

The beast replied, "I am Gill, a descendant of the great behemoth, Gobi the Terrible, and these mountains are my ancestral home.

Tell me, what brings you to these treacherous mountains at such an inhospitable time of year? It is not a safe place for man or beasts; I and mountain goats excluded, of course."

Tug replied as he notice that Gill's right ankle had an iron band attached and a chain that led off into the darkness.

"I am on a mission for the Monastery, one of great importance to our very survival.

You see, we live in mountainous terrain, as you do. But we have a vast vineyard on the hillsides below the Monastery and that vineyard supplies the Monastery with grapes for the wine we produce. The proceeds from our wine are our financial lifeblood and without the grapes we would have to leave our home for good.

But enough about me, may I inquire why you are chained, to God knows what?"

"My Mistress, the Queen of Saarland, had the chain attached to the wall; I am her servant. 

My Mistress is extremely fond of Mountain-goats and I am the only one who is able to capture them alive," replied Gill.

Tug acted astonished and indignant when he asked the next question, "You mean she keeps you chained to a wall just for the occasional goat capture?"

Gill replied, "Oh no, I am also able to reach the Berries that grow under the cliff ridges, she has them made into wine. That wine is exclusively for her dinner guests."

"But why are you chained?" Tug questioned. "If you were going to run away you could do that when you were goat hunting or berry picking."

"No, no," replied Gill, "you don't understand. During the winter months I hibernate, and I have a tendency to sleep-walk. So my Mistress had this chain installed so I don't walk off a cliff. See, I can remove it?"

"Oh, well that is different," said the Monk, "it seems that your Mistress is a caring person."

Gill formed what the Monk thought was a smile, and then said, "You are very right, when I bring the goats to her shepherds they do not kill them for food. Instead, she has instructed her shepherds to cut their long hair for the making of garments. When they are done they return the goats to the base of the mountain and released them; then they return to their families."

Tug took another section of tree branch and tried to place it on the fire, but it was way too long.

Gill soon realized what the Monk was trying to do and took the branch from him, saying, "Let me help."

Then Gill easily broke the thick branch into three parts, placing one on the fire and set the others aside.

"There, how's that? He questioned.

Tug smiled his approval, and then gazed into the fire; soon he was deep in thought.

After some time he asked, "When do you gather the goats and the berries?"

"The spring-berries are an early crop; they begin growing during the last of the snow melt and are gone by late spring; when water no longer flows through the rocks.

After the berries I start gathering the goats before their hair begins to fall away.

So I would say that all my work is done in the last half of the spring season. Why do you ask?"

Fryer Tug looked at Gill with the look of a child who had just seen a puppy for the first time, and replied, "Because I do believe that you, Gill, descendant of Gobi the Terrible, might be the answer to my prayers.

But I will need you're blessing first, and if you approve of my idea then I will need directions to the castle of your Queen."

Gill listened to the Fryer's proposal and with a few minor changes he approved it.

Soon after directions were given to Tug, so he could find the castle, the Monk was told to tell the Queens-guard that Gill had sent him.


The great day of the audience with the Queen came and Tug was very nervous. And when he was called before the queen he humbly bowed and waited for her to speak first.

"My Captain of the Guard tells me that Gill sent you to me," stated the Queen of Saarland. "Is that correct?"

"That is correct. I have come to hopefully reach an agreement with you about the service of your servant, Gill. Gill, I might add, approved of this arrangement before allowing me to seek your permission and approval."

The Queen rose from her throne and wandered over to a table where wine was being poured into a glass. And after retrieving the flask she stated, "What are the terms of this agreement and how does Gill enter into it?"

"I will explain," Tug replied, and then began by saying, "At the beginning of each summer, after Gill has completed his work for you, I will come to fetch him and take him to my Monastery.

There he will use his great strength to help the Monks with the lifting of the containers of grapes from the fields below and he will help lower the barrels of wine down the mountain.

The road we once used is now just a narrow trail and can no longer support Ox or wagon.

This will not be a permanent contract, for someday my King, Canton of Stone-haven, will build a new road to replace the one caught in the landslide.

Once a new road is built then the grapes and wine can travel by Oxcart again; and at that time Gills services would no longer be needed.

If you approve of this temporary contract, each summer I will have delivered to you two barrels of our finest wine and a bushel of fresh grapes; the grapes make fine jams and excellent raisins.

All boasting aside, Dear Queen, we do produce some of the finest wine in the entire world."

The Queen questioned, "How would I know that your wine is of such high quality?"

Fryer Tug replied, "My Lady, the wine you are drinking comes from the Monastery in the Clouds, it is our wine that you drink"

"I see," said the Queen, "and why would Gill want to work for you, how does it benefit him?" asked the Queen.

"My Lady, Gill loves his mountain home, but he would like to see things he has never seen," the Fryer stated.

"I made a bargain with him that after every harvest I would take him home by a different route. Routes that will show him lakes, rivers, and maybe even a desert. He definitely want to see a forest, he can't imagine walking among trees growing so close together.

You see, Dear Queen, there are so many things Gill could learn. It would be an eye opening experience for this intelligent beast, and something he would always remember that his generous Queen allowed."

The Queen immediately called one of her hand-maiden to fetch her Keeper of Records. A contract for the lending of Gill was signed and Tug was sent on his way.


Several years had passed and Gill had seen many wondrous things while working for the Monastery in the Clouds.

But Tug's King had begun building a new road through the mountains and that road would be wider and stronger than the one before it. Tug was told that the new road would pass alongside the vineyard and very close to the Monastery. So it would be only a year or so before Gill's services would no longer be needed.


As several Monks and Gill finished lowering the last of the barrels of wine for transport to customers, Gill heard an odd sound.

"What is that haunting sound?" Gill asked one of the Monks.

The Monk replied, "We do not know. The sound occurs this time of year, but not every year. We thought that it might be a wounded animal so we sent someone to find it, but before the Monk could locate the poor thing, the sound stopped."

"I bet I could find it before the sound stops," Gill bragged, "I am an excellent tracker."

"Well your work is done, be my guest," the Monk stated as he laughed.


The sound continued for two days and then it suddenly stopped again.

Not only that, but Gill had not returned after four days and everyone had grown worried about his safety.

On the fifth day a search party was being assembled when Gill showed up at the Monastery, --- with a Mate in tow.

All the Fryers were dumbfounded and only Tug could manage to muster some words. He asked, "Was she the sound you went looking for?"

Gill sheepishly nodded, "yes."

Then Tug questioned, "Are you taking her home with you on this trip?"

Gill just looked at Tug and replied, "She is my mate, we are one!"

Then Tug stated, "Then I believe introductions and congratulations are in order!"


After delivering Gill and his blushing bride back to Gills mountain home, Brother Tug pointed his Oxcart towards the castle to deliver his payment of wine and grapes; and to deliver the news of the Queen's new resident.

"Oh my," said the Queen, "where two behemoths dwell as one, soon there will be more."

And so it was, when Tug returned to the cave the next spring, there were three young behemoths futilely chasing mountain goats.

Mother says they are practicing for next year’s round-up.


D. Thurmond / JEF


Submitted: June 18, 2018

© Copyright 2021 D. Thurmond aka JEF. All rights reserved.

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