Trapped in Gorgola

He had been without food for two days in the Gorgola forest. Sir Binural, with all his good intentions, did not lead him out of the woods, but agreed to accompany him to the river’s edge. During the trip, Binural began to chant in Latin.

“Puer magnum est!” he yelled.

Poxig had to admit, the gnome was getting on his nerves. The gnome had offered him a scrap of his food, but Poxig could not bear to eat some scarabs that the gnome had caught. He puzzled at the Latin and tried to remember his training in the halls of the great library on Mt. Crump and his teacher Jongleur.

“This loosely translates as  ‘The boy is great,’” Poxig thought. Why was the gnome  insisting that he be childlike? Perhaps this was a test from Releven to prove that he could survive in the most abstemious of conditions.

Here he was, more tired and exhausted from travelling aimlessly than he had ever been. His Latin was failing him amongst a Latin scholar gnome who was starting to irk him to his core.

He would have to gather up his allies (all gone to Marginalia) , and when he returned it would be more humbling work for him, working as a field grunt, far from his glorious goal of returning the orb to the rightful owner.

The possibility of catching a disease got more likely the longer that he was in the forest. Yet, he had to make it back to Marginalia, and take his business to the king. Perhaps his possession of the sacred orb would gain him an audience…

Poxig lost

The gnome

Poxig wandered over to the tree root where he assumed the gnome lived. It was a short walk, but a long thought process. What if the gnome could not help him? What if he were stranded in the Gorgola woods? He would have to find some other means of finding comestibles.

He called to the tree, where he was expecting the gnome sage to live. “Binural?” he asked over and over. Still, there was no response. Now, he was beginning to think that Meerschaum had deceived him. Just when he was about to give up, he heard a gnomish voice.

“Hiyo there!” said a minuscule voice. “Hiyo!”

Poxig heard the voice but couldn’t tell where it was coming from. “Where are you?”

Poxig heard a buzzing sound and looked overhead. There was a gnome riding on a hummingbird’s back. “Where be ye from, wayfaring stranger? I am Binural.”

Poxig saw that there was a glyph on the tree. “Is this your name?” he said,  pointing to the glyph.

The buzzing of the hummingbird’s wings came to a halt. In fact, he wasn’t sure if the gnome was nearby.

“Ye elf, ye are in the wrong way. Vendigo lives around here after dark. You are looking through the dark glass with Eber.”

Poxig scratched his head. He knew about Wendigo, but he couldn’t tell who Eber was or what this tiny talk-a-lot was doing. All he knew is that the gnome was trying to warn him of the werewolf.

“I am Poxig of Excelsior. Please kindly tell me, Sir Binural, where the road is that leads to Marginalia?”

Binural huffed and stammered. He couldn’t be coaxed to give a clear sentence. “First, find you the Naughright. See Eber through the dark glass. He will send you a missive.”


Poxig and the miniature person

After Poxig crossed the Gorgola river, he went through a strange interlude. All of his food supplies extinguished, and he near extreme exhaustion,  he wandered near the Gorgola forest.  He took up the search for vittles,  but found nothing but inedible roots. He began to be very hungry, and lonely.

Poxig wondered what would become of Lakfi, or whether or not he would starve out here in the wilderness. For now, it was clear that he would have to scrape by on his own. He was concerned about where he would sleep for that evening.

The sun began to set, and it was getting cold. Poxig began to gather kindling in order to build a fire. He could hear the jeweled scarabs in the trees. The fire soon blazed hot and there was a few nuts that Poxig had collected from the local flora that he munched on while watching the fire.

It became clear that he would have to return to the city of Marginalia, and look for a chance to use his newfound skills in Eyrrfish to help the diplomats who lived there. Perhaps he could get a sinecure and live comfortably the rest of his days. But this was beyond his imagination at this point. It was still likely that he would starve out here in the wilderness.

He nodded off to sleep under the beta tree, and began to dream of elven women. While he was asleep, he heard a small voice, as if it could have come from a mouse. It said, “Wake up, sir. You are sleeping on my house.” Poxig thought that it was a dream, but when he stirred to consciousness, he saw a small gnome-like person, standing right next to his head, which was resting on a pile of leaves.

“Wake up!” he heard again. Surely enough, the miniature person stood in front of his face, and Poxig could perceive that he was irate about something or other. He immediately stood up on the forest floor. “Who might you be little fellow?” Poxig asked.

“I am Meerschaum, the sprite. I don’t know who you are, but you had better move because the entrance to my abode is blocked. I have returned from hunting insects, and now I wish to see my wife and pet mouse!” said Meerschaum.

“I am sorry, sir. But I have never seen a sentient creature of your size,” Poxig continued. “How am I certain that I am not still dreaming?”

“Pick me  up in your hand! Then, please put me down, for I am in a terrible hurry, ” said the sprite.

Poxig lowered his hand and the miniature man walked upon it. He raised him to his face. “You’re a cute little sprite. Can you possibly tell me where I can get some vittles? I’m terribly famished.”

“Here are some scarabs that I caught last night,” said Meerschaum. “Now please kindly put me down, and remove yourself from my front door.”

Poxig looked at the place that he was sitting, and carved into the side of the beta tree was a small almost imperceptible green door, which he surmised was the entrance to Meerschaum’s domicile.

“One more thing before you go!” said Poxig, placing the minute personage on the ground. “I’m lost in these woods, which you must be familiar with because you live hereabouts. Please inform me of the way to Marginalia. I , too, would like to return home.”

“I’ve never been out of these woods,” said Meerschaum. “But ask the sage of our village, and he should be able to tell you where to go. His name is Binural, and he lives just over the knob over yonder.”

“Thank you kind sir. I am quite sorry for blocking the entrance to your residence,” said Poxig.

“And I apologize for disturbing your slumber. But these are weird woods, and we sprites must be wary of wolves and falcons. I mustn’t be seen by these predatory beasts. And so, good day,” he uttered, and sped swiftly into the beta tree.

Poxig thought that he would try to find another miniature person here, as he assumed that this was a sort of gnome village. He had heard about gnomes, but didn’t think that they actually existed. Now, he would be sure to question even the most basic assumptions if experience dictated otherwise.


The locket

Since Poxig and Lakfi set out from the great library, all had gone wrong. The Eyrrfish poets were finally authorized to publish their publication in Eyrrfish. Of course, Brad Conrad was the editor. The only reason that they found this out was because Lakfi hypnotized a villager and forced a confession from him. These were dark arts that he controlled.

Now, they entered Eyrrf with trepidation. These people were half orcish, and so it was likely that they would be arrested and tried in a kangaroo court. The houses were built into the side of the mountain and they were surrounded by brush and very hard to see. Poxig found himself amongst a maze of underbrush and underground caves.

Brad was sitting underneath the ‘alpha’ tree, just as Jongleur’s sequence had predicted. He was reading a volume lost black magician lore, turning the pages with mild amusement. He looked every bit to be his father’s son, except for the vampire  teeth.

Poxig motioned Lakfi over to the alpha tree. “We’ve found him!” he exclaimed.

“Excuse us, but are you Brad Conrad, son of Carl Conrad?” he asked.

“Who told you about me?” Brad questioned. Brad looked visibly irritated. He shut his book and began to walk in the direction of the forest.

“We’ve come all this way because of a promise that we made to  your dad!” Lakfi shouted.

“How did you find this place? I came here to not be found!” rejoined Brad.

“Please stay awhile, sir,” said Poxig.

“Don’t try to inveigle me! I know this forest well, and I can live here quite safely for some time!” Brad yelled as he was moving away from them.

“What about this?” Poxig withdrew the locket from his vest. “Do you recognize this?”

Brad stopped and turned about face. He inched closer to them in order to get a glimpse of the locket before his eyes. It was as if he had never seen such a curio like that one, except that he appeared to be transfixed on the object.

“I haven’t seen this in twenty years!” he said.

“It belonged to your father, Carl,” Lakfi said. “He gave it to us just before he expired in the sun. Your father wanted you to have it.”

“I left home long before he became a vampire,” Brad said. “In fact, I never knew my father but as an honest man.”

“He came to see the error of his ways, and now he dwells in the halls of Releven,” said Poxig.

“We have endured  much hardship so that we could fulfill a promise to your father. But now that it is done, tell us why you have come to this charnelhouse of evil,” said Lakfi.

” It was after some time, when I left home because we had had an argument. Father and I couldn’t see eye to eye. He wanted me to take over the manse on the hill, and be its proprietor, and I wanted nothing but to set out on my own and fulfill my destiny as an Eyrrfish poet,” said Brad.

“Aha! So that is why you are here amongst the heathen!” said Lakfi.

“Yes, so to speak. I came here on the eve of my father’s birthday, determined to stay and write in Eyrrfish. It was then that I secured a copy editor job with the local newspaper, and I have worked my way up to the position of editor.”

“Well, then, you have done well for yourself. But you know that these Eyrrfish publications only publish fake news,” said Poxig.

“Your father would still be proud to see what you’ve become,” said Lakfi.

“Please take this,” said Poxig, handing him the locket. “We promised your father.”

Poxig felt such glad tiding in the midst of the Eyrrfish poet. He felt such a sense of accomplishment to have been able to fulfill his vow to the dying Conrad. Now, there was naught to do except return home again.

Lakfi would accompany him just as far as the Gorgola river, and no more. The two would have to part ways for now, and seek their separate destinies beyond the hill country of Ulteria.


The sequence

It became obvious that the longer they were entertained by Jongleur, the less chance that there was that they would learn Eyrrfish. Actually, Jongleur was the purveyor of the wildest and  most absurd ideas. Sometimes, they would call him out on his buffoonery, and he would respond with : “Capital!”

They pored over manuscripts of the Eyrrfish language, depending on Jongleur to translate. It didn’t quite make sense, but they continued to make a reasonable effort at translating the language. The problem was that without Dr. Unne, they couldn’t make heads or tails out of what they were reading.

They were outspoken about their approval of his methods, but there were so many problems. The clockwork owl kept circling above their heads and screeching in French, “Veuillez boire du bon café!” It was most unsettling. There were so many texts before them, that they began to be confused as if the papers were a twisted gyre of nonsense.

Over time, they had begun to make something of Jongleur’s encrypted code. They noticed that it was connected to his explanation of Koine Greek. ‘Α’ or ‘alpha’ signified the beginning of the code chain, and of course, ‘Ω’ or ‘omega’ was the end of it. In between they saw that each letter of the Greek alphabet corresponded to a separate idea.

The code-breakers eventually saw that this could be the way to find Brad. They would trick Jongleur into revealing the location of Brad, and then, see to it that the Eyrrfish language was translated into plain English. Afterwards, they would give the locket to Brad, and then leave for the Cardia Islands.

At that point, it would be necessary for Poxig to return to Ulteria, with the idea of getting the sacred amethyst, which would allow him to pass unharmed to Elrick the half-prince’s domain. He would regain his composure, and take Lakfi just until the border.




Crawford grammar


The William Crawford grammar is a great tool for those of us in the ESL classroom. Especially with regards to corpora in the classroom, there are many reasons to employ these techniques in the ESL classroom.  Probably the most important one is that it helps students form their collocations, and can aid in the formation of phrasal verbs.

Crawford has the following to say about the use of corpus linguistics in the classroom:

“Corpus linguistics is a method of describing language by reference to
large amounts of language that occurs in specific contexts. Scholars
have used corpus description to gain new insights into areas such as
language change and variation, sociolinguistics, lexicology, and stylistics,
to name a few (see McEnery, Xiao, & Tono, 2006, for a good description
of corpus linguistics and the various ways that corpora have been used in applied linguistics).” (Crawford, 2013)

I have used these techniques in the classroom with varying success. It is hard to get students to believe that looking up various collocations in a free website like ‘MICASE corpus‘ is in the interest of the student. But after some work, it seems like this begins to set in, and the work becomes easier on their end.

Using free corpora can be a great way to get students engaged who normally would not be able to get this stuff. In fact, it seems that the corpora that is most useful are not online databases, but the CD-ROM that go with dictionaries, such as Collins COBUILD, and corpora like it.

I will continue to develop ESL lessons that emphasize corpus linguistics, because it is an optimal way to learn language. Also, students like to use the computer to learn! Please click the ‘contact’ tab to comment.


Behind the question

The night was getting late, and they had not yet located the precious document that would translate the Eyrrfish language into plain English. They had coaxed, wheedled, and cajoled Jongleur, but he would give no indication as to Brad’s whereabouts.

They gave a sample from Dr. Unne of the Koine Greek language and asked Jongleur to translate.

“Εν ‘αρχη ην ‘ο λογος,” read the document.

“Of course, this reads ‘In the beginning was the word.’ ” said Jongleur.

“Dr. Unne located this gospel as the cause of the universe’s existence ex nihilo,” said Lakfi.

There was a small outside chance that the gospel  as it were would lead them to the source of the earth’s rot. No one could locate the source of this, and least of all, Jongleur, who was puzzled.  He knew the document was ‘Ευαγγελιον ‘ιΩαννην, but he didn’t know how that would lead them to the source of the earth’s rot.

“The question is, does this document lead us to the source of the earth’s rot?” asked Poxig.

“The answer to your question will be in the sacred black magician texts,” added Lakfi.

“Perhaps! This document does prophesy many things, but only tells of the apocalypse, not of its cause,” replied Jongleur.

“Then, tell us! What is the source of the earth’s rot?” asked Lakfi.

“You must consult the prophecy, and I cannot lead you further. But everyone knows the light warriors will restore order to the universe!” exclaimed Jongleur.book23

He never returned…

After several weeks of camping outside of the great library, the deuce realized that it was unlikely that Brad should ever return the Eyrrfish document. They had many unusual conversations with Jongleur. One of these was the following:

“Surely, Brad is also a vampire,” said Lakfi.

“No, actually, this is why he went to Eyrrf. He wanted to escape the vampire legacy of his former family. He knew that to escape the problem of vampiric succession, he would quit the manse in Melmond for something that his then father would have never suspected,” replied Jongleur.

“Why can’t you just tell us where he is?” asked Poxig.

“I am sworn to secrecy because of the nature of my profession. If I were to reveal the names of the patrons of this library, it would cause disorder in the librarian code of honor,” offered the librarian.

“Well, then, perhaps you have other books on the Eyrrfish language?” asked Lakfi

“I do, but it is too rare to be shown. Even the light might damage the pages. I do have one on the history of Eyrrf, which might be of interest to you,” said Jongleur.

“Please, sir, show us this book!” said Poxig.

The librarian  brought out a slim volume of about one hundred and fifty pages. The corners of the pages of the book were yellowed with time.

“This is the account of a black mage who lived in Eyrrf a hundred years ago. He catalogued all of the  magic spells that he mastered at the time,” said Jongleur.

It turned out that this book was a commentary to Eyrrfish. No one knew that language except one language expert, and her name was Sheela Nesta, who lived across the sea.


The search (part 3)

They walked into the cavernous reaches of the library.  Jongleur showed them some of the rare books  in the collection. They were surprised to see so very few patrons in the library.

“Not many venture to the top of Mt. Crump in search of wisdom. You have managed to avoid the soldiers at the border. Now it seems necessary to tell you something you may not know about the Eyrrfish,” said Jongleur.

“What’s that?” asked Poxig.

“Many of them are half-orcish, half-elvish,” said he. “Your friend’s son must have been a sort of unusual addition to their kind. They are a strange bunch, and only come out at noontime due to their weak eyesight.”

“You have to tell us what we must do to learn this language. Brad would have the document. Can you get it for us?” Lakfi questioned.

That night, they talked late into the night about how to communicate with these strange people from a forgotten civilization. They knew that at least they had to get the locket to Carl’s son, Brad.

“But you said Brad lives nearby…” he commented. “Why can’t we just go there?”

“I never give the information of my patrons to others. It’s a policy that I don’t intend to break,” said Jongleur.

“Well, if we can’t find Brad, then we’ll have to ask you for the map to get to Eyrrf,” Poxig said.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” said Jongleur. “These beings are technically orc. They might have you for dinner.”

“You just said that they have weak eyesight,” said Poxig. “I think we can surely evade them and find Brad.”

“Well, then, how will you communicate with them?” Jongleur asked.

“Once we have the sacred amethyst, we won’t need to,” said Poxig.

Jongleur continued on his tirade to persuade them that they ought to take precautions. He told them of a document that located the sacred amethyst’s whereabouts near Mount Eyrrf. But only through communicating with these people could they hope to find it.

That settled it for the twosome. They would wait for Brad Conrad’s return to the library, and then somehow get the document that they needed. Jongleur

The search (Part 2)

They had arrived at Mount Crump after a long, slow journey. Lakfi’s hands were gnarled after riding the horse all night. Poxig was also exhausted. But they had crossed the border to Ulteria shortly after dawn, and now they had reached the end of the Rivula River, where it flows into the sea.

The suzukib birds were chirruping, and there was little fanfare at their arrival. They would now have to scale the mountain as best as they could. They began their ascent to the library on the top of the summit. They walked, crawled, and scaled up the crags that led to the survey tower that was visible next to the library, which was carved into the side of the mountain.

Poxig could not help but propose some philosophical question or another, since there was plenty of time to expend. “Have you ever noticed,” he said, “that the same senses that we use to perceive the world is also what we use in dreams?”

“And so?” Lakfi muttered.

“Then, how can we tell the difference between dreams and reality? Could not our senses be misleading us?”


“Dreams will be our only hope of getting the Eyrrfish document,” said Lakfi.

“Ah yes. We must answer the riddle,” replied Poxig.

They came to the entrance of the library,  which was festooned with columns and draperies. They noticed that not many people were there, but just a few Ulterians around the area.

“Have you been here?” asked Poxig.

“It was a long time ago during my apprenticeship,” replied Lakfi. “I think that it will be difficult to meet the head sage and librarian, Jongleur. Hopefully, our letter has reached him.”

As they approached the library, a clockwork owl flew up to them and began to speak in a robotic voice: “WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS?”

“We are here to see Jongleur,” said the green-faced elf. “Is he in?”


“What?” said Lakfi.

“MASTER …MASTER… MASTER…” at that point, the clockwork owl fell to the ground and began twitching.

A man in a coxcomb emerged from the library. “Oh, darn it! It seems that my sentry has malfunctioned,” he said.

“Excuse me, but might you be Jongleur? We are looking for him,” asked Poxig.

“Aha! Yes, that is me. You have found me. But I must say, how did you get this far? The Ulterian guards should have stopped you.”

“We evaded them by the pass by the Rivula near the Ulterian border. Lakfi cast a cloak spell that allowed us to pass undetected,” said Poxig.

“Have I received correspondence from you?” asked Jongleur. “As you well know, I don’t entertain guests that I don’t have any missive from.”

“You must have something from us!” said Poxig in an elated tone. “We sent the letter several months beforehand.”

Jongleur began to fuss with his papers in a large leather knapsack. He pulled out a long letter with a red seal on it. “Ah yes, this must be yours,” he said.

“However,” he added, “you must understand that no one may enter the library before they answer a riddle.”

Lakfi thought himself very good at these sort of idealistic mind experiments. “This shouldn’t be too hard,” he whispered to himself.

“Very well, let’s begin.  What ceases to be the very moment it is spoken?” asked Jongleur.

“Hmm.” Poxig mused. “I’m not sure I know the answer to this one.”

“I do,” said Lakfi. “The answer is: silence.”

“Ah yes!” the fool on the hill laughed with delight. He did a back somersault and then shouted, “that’s absolutely right!”

“I have another one…” Jongleur began,  but Lakfi interrupted.

“You said that we should only have to answer one! Our business is pressing. We must gain the translation document for the Eyrrfish language. We sent you the letter in April,” said Lakfi.

“Ah yes, it is April,  the cruelest month. And you, sirs,  are out of luck. One such individual has borrowed that document from me. His name is Brad, and he lives just beyond the Ulterian border.”

“You tricked us!” yelled Poxig.  “You led us to believe…”

“You have come here on your own,” said Jongleur. “I had nothing to do with it. I make sure the documents are in order, but otherwise, it was all of your own devices.”

“Then,  can you at least inform us as to Brad’s whereabouts?” said Lakfi.

“Well, I never give out the patron’s information. I only have about 200 of them. I rarely get visitors on the top of Mount Crump. But since you answered my riddle, please come inside, and I will tell you about some of my most recent research,” said Jongleur.

The trio went inside the great library together as dusk was falling.