Gog & Magog and the Considerable Egg
Part the First
The giant Magog awoke to the pleasant perfume of sweet onions and sizzling bacon. Pausing only to don his bath-robe and slippers, he tiptoed towards the kitchen. Peeking around the corner, he spied his brother Gog working happily over a hot stove. Still unseen, Magog smiled to hear Gog’s humming and to see him bouncing between the stove and a breakfast table set with their best china and already boasting warm bread and fresh milk. His joy turned to amazement when Gog opened a basket at his feet and brought forth a gigantic pink egg, smooth and dull. His amazement turned to alarm when Gog carried the boulder-sized egg to a waiting frying-pan.
“Gog,” he cried. “Don’t!”
Startled out of his English, Gog leapt into the air with a cry of “Frithfullen!” and tossed the egg over his shoulder. Only slightly less startled, Magog had just wits enough to dive onto the table – breaking the plates and spilling the milk – and catch the plummeting egg.
“Ahh!” Gog grabbed the frying-pan from the stove and spun around. “Foe! Fire! Fiend!” He stared for a bewildered moment at his brother cradling the egg among the ruins of the breakfast table before the hot butter from the pan ran over his hands. “Ow!” He replaced the frying-pan. “Great groves, brother! What do you think you’re doing?”
“What are youdoing?” Magog clambered off the table, still clutching the egg.
Gog wiped his hands on his apron and frowned at the mess on the table. “I was trying to cook breakfast.”
“You can’t!” cried Magog.
“Not if you’re going to ambush me, I can’t.”
“No, I mean, you mustn’t cook this egg.”
Gog eyed the egg suspiciously. “Why mustn’t I?”
“Because this is a Considerable Egg.” Magog placed the egg gently on the table.
“I know,” said Gog crossly. “I’ve been considering it all morning. I was going to poach it then I remembered that you were partial to omelets so I picked a bushel of onions and mushrooms and fried up the last of the bacon. But perhaps you’d prefer kippers or oatmeal or--”
“Gog! I’m very pleased that you were cooking breakfast and I am partial to omelets and I’m awfully sorry that I jumped on the best china, but this a special egg, the egg of a magical beast. You simply cannot cook it.”
Gog pouted. “Well then, it would make a magical omelet.”
“Oh, very well. You best get out the other plates. I’ll make bacon sandwiches and put the kettle on. Then you can tell me all about this magical egg.”
Magog took a thoughtful sip of tea and repeated his question. “You found it where?”
“On the beach,” Gog said around a mouthful of sandwich. “I couldn’t sleep last night –”
“Probably all that cheese,” muttered Magog.
“—so I went for a walk on the beach and nearly broke my foot on this muddy great egg. And so, in the spirit of revenge, I decided to take it home and cook it for breakfast. Why? What makes you think it’s magical?”
“You forget,” said Magog. “I once studied under the great Hillrownious –”
“I hardly call a drunken weekend studying.”
“— and he was most learned on the subject of Considerable Eggs.”
“All right, which magical beast – according to the Great Scholar – lays pink boulders for eggs?”
Magog stared into his tea. “I’m not certain.”
His brother snorted.
“I didn’t catch all the verses,” Magog admitted. “Mostly just the refrain, but he did mention hydra and basilisks and the Phoenix.”
“Well, that’s not much help,” said Gog. “I mean to say: do we bury it in milk and blood or bung the thing in the fire?”
“At least we know that it is a Considerable Egg and we can agree that we should not cook it.”
“Yes, yes, all right. But what are we going to do with it?”
Magog pulled off his nightcap. “I don’t know.”
“We need to learn more about it, and quickly before it hatches out monstrous chick.” Gog thoughtfully rubbed his bald chin. “We must consult the Blue Witch.”
“The Blue Witch?” Magog could not keep his voice from cracking.
“Yes,” said Gog firmly. “And we must go at once.”
“Very well,” sighed Magog. “I’ll pack us a lunch.” He finished his sandwich and tea and pushed away from the table.
Gog stood. “Good. Then I will dress and gather a suitable tribute.”
The Blue Witch – or, as she was addressed by those wishing to deflect her not insignificant wrath: Her Glacial Majesty – lived in a frozen fortress carved within the rimy stone of a towering cliff behind a pair of doors large enough to admit giants and strong enough to bar them.
“Go on,” said Gog. “Knock.”
Magog shook his head. “This was your idea, you knock.”
“No it wasn’t! I wanted to cook the muddy egg. You’re the one who wanted to mollycoddle it.”
“You found it – you knock.”
“Oh, very well!” Gog lifted the enormous knocker and let it fall against the icy door with echoing thunder clap.
Almost immediately a shutter opened far above them and a fat and shapeless figure leant from a previously unseen window. “Who is it?” the figured cried.
“It is the giant Gog the Mighty and his brother Magog!”
“The Brave,” whispered Magog.
“Well, if you’re ‘Gog the Mighty’, I don’t see why I can’t be ‘Magog the Brave’.”
“Brother, hush,” Gog said from the side of his mouth. Then raising his head, he shouted again: “We seek an audience with Her Glacial Majesty! We have brought tribute!”
“Wait there,” the figure shouted. The shutter slammed shut and the window disappeared.
The giants waited. And waited. Magog hopped from foot to foot and Gog whistled an ancient tune. “She’s not what I expected,” said Magog.
“The Blue Witch. I mean, I didn’t expect her to be so fat and frumpy. Still, I suppose there’s no reason one can’t be a wicked enchantress and fat and frumpy at the same time. It’s just that one expects practitioners of fell magic to be more –”
“That wasn’t the Blue Witch, you muffin-head! It was probably some servant. Now be quiet and don’t let her hear you call her a ‘wicked enchantress’ or she’ll turn you into a duck.”
Magog was about to say that it might be interesting to be a duck, when the huge doors swung inward, unleashing a cold wind that engulfed the giants and made their very bones shiver.
“Brrr,” Magog pulled tight his suddenly inadequate cloak.
“Stone and Sea,” muttered Gog, fishing in his pocket for his hat.
The fat and frumpy figure, now revealed as a pale-faced young woman swaddled in cloaks and muffs and hats, stood in the doorway and pulled down a number of scarves and spat wool from her mouth. “Welcome giants,” she said through chattering teeth. “I’m afraid my mistress is not at home, but I’m sure she would want me to offer you hospitality. Won’t you please come in?”
She ushered them into a cavernous front hall. Walls of white ice glowed with soft blue light. With but a touch of her small hand, the colossal doors swung silently shut. “Follow me,” she said and hurried deeper into the fortress. They passed doors (both small and gigantic), tables and objet d’art, all made of ice, sparkling blue or white or even green.
“Is she away long, your mistress?” asked Gog.
“She has been gone for many seasons,” said the servant. “And will likely be away for many more.”
“Oh, dear,” said Magog. “We were hoping she could help us.”
The serving-girl stopped and spun around. “My name is Ingfrid and in addition to charwoman, I am my mistress’s apprentice. I can help you.”
Gog squinted at the girl suspiciously. “I’ve never know the Blue Witch to take an apprentice.”
Ingfrid scuffed her fur boot across the icy floor. “Maybe ‘apprentice’ was not the right word, but I am her assistant and have learned much.”
“No,” Gog shook his head. “Thank you, but we ought to go.”
“Brother,” whispered Magog. “We should at least ask her.”
“It would be folly,” Gog whispered back. “I have known too many sorcerer’s apprentices.”
Magog ignored his brother and knelt down before the woman. “Ingfrid,” he said. “My brother and I have come to ask the Blue – er, your mistress about a Considerable Egg we found. Do you know anything about magical eggs?”
“No,” she admitted. “But,” she added quickly as Gog was turning away, “The library would have the answers you seek. You . . . said you brought tribute?”
“Quite right,” smiled Magog as he snatched the satchel from his retreating brother. “We’ve brought…um…Gog, what have we brought?”
Reluctantly, Gog returned and opened the satchel. “The skull of a knight, slain in battle. An ingot of cold iron from a dwarf’s forge. A fairy’s love token. A bishop’s ring.”
His astonishment growing which each item his brother produced, Magog cried out, “Gog! Where did you get these things?”
“Hush, brother,” was his only answer. “Well, assistant, does our tribute please you?”
Ingfrid wrinkled her nose at the odd collection. “No. I have no use for any on these items. But is that cheese I smell? And bread?”
“Cheese and bread and wine,” said Gog, repacking their tribute and replacing it with the provision for their homeward journey.
“Wine!” Ingfrid hugged the giant bottle that Gog had set down. “And bread!” she rolled her head in ecstasy. “And cheese!”
“And salted fish,” Gog said.
“Ack,” she turned slightly green. “No more fish!” she hesitated only for a moment. “I will allow to consult my mistress’s library in exchange for this tribute.”
“But,” whined Magog. “What will we eat on the way home?”
“Hush, brother. Assistant Ingfrid, by the Stones, we have an accord.”
Carved from living rock, the library of the Blue Witch was a gallery and a temple. Scores of firefly-filled lanterns hung from stalactites or perched atop stalagmites, casting a yellow-green glow over thousands of tomes and scrolls, artifacts and devices. Magog stood, his curly black hair brushing the ceiling, and plucked volumes from the uppermost shelves and passed them down to Gog who sat cross-legged on the floor.
“Here’s one,” said Magog, handing down a tiny codex between thumb and forefinger. “Observation of a Curious Nature by Princess Oppet.”
“Hmm,” Gog did not look up from the scroll he was squinting at, but directed Magog to add the latest book to the growing pile.
“Any joy?” asked Magog.
Gog sighed and rolled up the scroll like a paper cigar. “No.” He took off his gigantic pince-nez and rubbed his red nose.
“What about Unsullied Nature? That one looked promising.”
“Nothing but drinking songs and unicorn jokes,” answered Gog.
“Oh!” Magog squatted down in front of his brother. “I love unicorn jokes! Read us a few.”
“Magog! We’ve no time. We’ve been three days already and haven’t found anything! And I’ve gone all stiff.” Gog punched and massaged his legs before crawling to his feet. “Ow-ee-ahh!” He stretched and twisted and cracked his back with the sound of an armoured knight falling down a flight of stairs.
Crestfallen, Magog surveyed the chaos around them. “There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to this mess. What we really need is some kind of index . . .”
As soon as Magog had spoken, the library seemed to flutter and twitch around them: the lanterns flared and flickered as the insects within danced; millions of pages rustled gently; scrolls rolled slowly across shelves; and strange devices spun, clicked, or popped according to their nature.
“Fi-fo-fum,” breathed Magog, edging closer to Gog.
Gog stood back-to-back with his brother and whispered over his shoulder: “What have you done?”
Before Magog could answer, a host of books, scrolls, tablets, and loose sheets of paper rose up from all throughout the library and flew at the giants like a swarm of wasps. The brothers shielded their faces against the onslaught, but when it did not come they peeked out between their fingers. The volumes and tablets and sheets of paper were floating around the giants in slowly rotating rings. And as the giants stammered and gawked, the floating volumes nudged them gently but persistently, one by one.
“Stone preserve us,” muttered Magog. “What’s happening?
Cautiously, Gog began to read the volumes that had pushed themselves into his hands. “A Directory of Milliners of Constantinople, Mushrooms: Q-Z, An Alphabetical Guide to the Writing of Fonius the Elder, The Forefinger and Other Digits. Magog, these are indexes! You asked for indexes and the library provided them.”
“Fell magic,” warned Magog.
“Fell, perhaps,” said Gog, “but useful. Try it again.”
Magog shooed away a catalogue of fishing lures that was bumping against his head. “How?”
“I don’t know,” said Gog, swatting away an inventory of imperial furniture. “Say what you said before.”
“Um,” Magog twisted his beard thoughtfully. “What we really need is . . . unicorn jokes!”
Immediately, the flock of indexes, catalogue, and directories flew back whence they came and were replaced a moment later by a few weather-beaten journals, an illustrated manuscript, and a mouldy scroll, each eagerly pushing itself forward. “Ha!” laughed Magog.
“Oh, well done,” sneered Gog as he slapped the scroll from Magog’s fingers. “The egg, you fluff-skull, ask after the egg.”
“Oh, right,” said Magog sheepishly. “What I really need are books concerning eggs.”
In an instant the unicorn jokes flew back to their shelves and nooks. Then there came a great rustling and a rumble as thousands of volumes converged on the giants and buried them in a blizzard of cookbooks, falconry manuals, natural histories, religious texts, romances, travelogues, medical theses, plays, almanacs, zoological compendiums, grimoires, sketchbooks, dictionaries, and a primer, all crowding passed one another and hurtling themselves upon the giants.
“Yargh,” cried Gog. “Make it stop!”
“Considerable Eggs,” yelled Magog. “I need a book about Considerable Eggs!”
When the obsequious horde had dispersed, the brothers lowered their arms and raised their heads to find two books hovering nearby, nudging and nuzzling them like eager puppies. Magog pinched the fat volume between his fingers while Gog caught the thin book in his calloused hands as if it were a butterfly.
“Feeding Multitudes,” Magog read. “No, I don’t think so.” He tossed the book away and it flapped sadly back to its shelf. “What does yours say? Any good?”
“Hullo, what have we got here?” Gog pulled out his spectacles and clipped them on his nose. “There’s no title, but it appears to be a bestiary.”
“Does it mention Considerable Eggs?”
“Just a moment,” the giant peered at the book as he turned its yellow pages with the tip of his finger. “Bring me that lantern.”
His brother fetched a lantern and held it over his shoulder so that the agitated bugs within rattled in his ear. “Ta,” said Gog. “Hmm . . . let us see, here . . . gryphons . . . manticores . . . aha! Here we are: Eggs, Considerable. It was red, wasn’t it?”
“Pink,” corrected Magog. “Dull pink, with a rough shell and little grey flecks. It weighted 7 or 8 stone and was more pointed than an owl’s egg but not as much as a raven’s. More like an albatross’s. Oh, and it was warm to the touch.”
Gog stared at his brother for a long moment. “Anything further, professor?”
“No,” mumbled Magog, turning pink himself.
Gog returned to the tiny book. “Right then, dull pink with grey flecks . . . could be a roc egg.”
“A roc? This far north?”
“Doesn’t seem likely,” Gog agreed. “Then it must be . . . a trivet.”
Gog brought the book to the end of his nose. “That’s what it says: T-R-I-V-E-T, trivet.”
“One of those little tripods for cooking pots over a fire?”
“Of course not,” snapped Gog. “Don’t be daft.”
“I’m not being daft,” Magog insisted. “That’s what ‘trivet’ means!”
“Obviously not in this case.”
“Well, what doesit mean in this case?”
“Um,” Gog flipped a few pages. “Here we are: ‘The Trivet (from the Latin three-legged) is the largest of the Amphiviaor land-fish. It has a body like a frog and the girth of a whale. Believe it, there are three odd things about the Trivet. The first is that it has only three legs, one in front and two behind. The second is that it lays only one egg every thousand years, which it expels through a blowhole into the sea. The third odd thing’ – What is that?”
“I don’t know,” said the rapt Magog. “You haven’t read it yet.”
“No,” said Gog, closing his fist over the book. “I meant that crash.”
“Ingfrid,” said the red-faced assistant, stumbling against a stalagmite and sending a lantern to the floor with another crash. “It’s Ingfrid, apprectiant to the Woo Bitch!”
“Ingfrid,” scolded Magog. “You’re drunk.”
“And you, Agog, are . . . very tall!” she laughed at her own wit and shooed away a cloud of fireflies. Then, abruptly, she slumped against the stone. “Clamitty,” she moaned. “Aster. Dooom!”
“What do you mean?” asked Gog.
“She’ll turn me into a . . . a . . . a hatrack!”
“The Blue Witch!” Magog spun in a panicked circle. “Where?”
“You said she was gone for a season,” said Gog, scrambling to his feet.
Ingfrid clung to the stalagmite for support. “She’s come back!”
“Pits and holes! Gog, we have to go!” The giants clutched at one another and ran for the exit.
“No,” hissed Ingfrid. “Not hat way! Mish way,” she pushed off the rock and immediately fell on her face.
Magog picked up the inebriated charwoman and set her on her feet. “Perhaps you should tell us the way,” suggested Gog.
Ingfrid nodded. “There,” she pointed an unsteady finger. “Turd ark, behind Nip–, Nap– behind the fish fork – secret passage. Hurry!”
Gog started away, but Magog lingered. “Ingfrid,” he said. “Will she hurt you? Are you safe? Perhaps you ought to come with us.”
“She’d find me,” the woman shook her head gingerly. “But she’s tarred when she comes home. Maybe she’ll sheep and I can . . . can . . .”
“Sober up,” Magog suggested.
“Yesh!” She patted the giant’s boot. “All well be will. Shoo!” She giggled and waved them away.
Magog started after his brother. “Thank you, Ingfrid!”
Magog found his brother waiting at the third archway. “Do you think she’ll be all right?”
Gog didn’t answer but pulled him into a cavernous gallery. “Quickly! Help me find the secret passage.”
Within the long, glacial room a hundred colossal statues and more greeted the giant with marbly disdain. The giants, in turn, greeted the statues with dismay. “It must be here somewhere.” Magog peeked behind the nearest graven image. “Find the fish fork.”
Gog jogged down the gallery and back. “Pickle-juice,” he said
“What?” Magog poked his head out from behind Athena’s behind.
“That drunken charwoman,” said Gog, “was spilling pickle-juice – there’s no secret passage in here.”
“There is,” insisted Magog. “We just need to find the fish fork.”
“Magog!” Gog waved his arm to encompass the statuary. “There are no forks here. No fish forks, no salad forks, no pie forks, not even a muddy spoon.”
Indeed, while there were scores of gods and goddess and heroes supplied with any number of weapons, regalia, and devices, there were no kitchen utensils of any kind (not even in Hestia’s kettle). Magog frowned as he darted back and forth, examining every statue and pedestal.
“Hi!” He shouted from the end of the room. “Gog, I found it!”
Still skeptical, Gog jogged to where his brother was proudly pointing at a statue of Neptune battling a monstrous whale. “Well,” he said. “Where’s the fork?”
“There,” Magog pointed to the god’s trident, and then to the whale. “And there’s the fish. Fish fork!”
“A trident’s not a fork,” Gog grumbled.
“And a whale’s not a fish,” said Magog, already pushing the statue aside. “Give us a hand.”
Behind the God of the Sea the brothers found a fissure in the ice stretching into darkness, easily tall enough and wide enough for a short, thin giant. Unfortunately, as Gog was not short and Magog was not thin, it was long and arduous journey before they stumbled into the wan sunlight, cold and crushed.
When at last they reached home – and had had a wash, a quick tea, and a little nap – the giants wasted no time. They took the Considerable Egg from its hiding place and prepared themselves for a long journey. “Get the boat ready,” said Gog. “While I pack.”
HERE ENDS THE FIRST PART OF THE TALE OF GOG & MAGOG AND THE CONSIDERABLE EGG. THE SECOND PART TELLS OF THE JOURNEY OF THE BROTHERS GIANT AND THE FATE OF THE CONSIDERABLE EGG.
Copyright 2018 Matthew A.J. Timmins