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THE LAST HAMLET or The Readiness Is All - 38 'HE'S A CLIMBER, MAN!'


Breakfast over on the second day following the departure of Traveller and Garth, we were being entertained by Darek and Tullulah, who had discovered a mutual interest in the making of traditional Steefaxian mouth music. At first their recital was light and frothy, but soon a more melancholy mood set in, with singers and us sharing thoughts of home, friends, and loved ones. "Music too deep for tears," someone murmured.

"We have company!" Macroida shouted, perhaps to everyone's relief.

Into plain view they rode, Garth, Traveller - on separate mounts - and one other, who was quite simply the strangest looking person I had ever seen. He was scantily clad in what I think were goat skins. His tousled hair merged into a whispy beard which almost made it down to his waist. His face - what little could be seen of it - was rough grained, like untreated leather. His bare chest was hairy, and so were his arms, which rippled with muscular power. His black eyes flashed hostility. Taking him for all in all he was neither a pretty nor a comforting sight.

"This," Traveller announced, "is Trevon the Wise, Hermit Sage of All Fendergedano."

We all tried to look suitably impressed.

Garth was dressed very differently to when we had first seen him. His robe of shimmering white was topped with an ankle length rich red cloak, and on his head was a coronet of black leather studded with with glittering stones, some of which might have been diamonds. As soon as he opened his mouth it was clear that he was not going to tell us what we wanted to hear.

"King Hamlet the First and I were most graciously received in audience by Trevon the Wise. We put to him your request, which he regrets not being able to grant. However, he has for you a gift, from all the people of Fendergedano. It will be his pleasure to bestow it upon you."

Disappointed, outraged, flummoxed, disbelieving, resentful, gob smacked - we were all these and more as we watched the Hermit Sage of All Fendergedano taking a small leather pouch from his belt before tossing it onto the grass at His Majesty's feet. Our Hamlet had had many fine moments on this trip, but up to then there had surely been nothing to match the perfectly executed flick with the toe of his right boot which sent the pouch flying straight up into the face of the contemptuous donor of what was, no doubt, the precise amount of Draxy needed for a return from whence we came! Garth stood aghast and petrified at this piece of effrontery, while Traveller looked vey much as if were trying not to laugh! As for Trevon - well, apoplectic might well have been the medical term for his condition, as he jumped up and down in his saddle crying, "Crepit borothcrum! Crepit borothcrum!"

"You cannot do that to the Sage!" the Prince of the Outer Reaches bleated to His Majesty.

"Can't I? I've just done it!"

"Crepit borothcrum! Crepit borothcrum!"

"The Sage speaks, King Hamlet!" cried Garth. "When Trevon the Wise speaks, princes and kings tremble."

"He speaks, does he? And I am to tremble, am I? Well, how may I know quite how much to tremble if I can't understand what he's braying on about?"

Trevon, who clearly was not used to this sort of thing, began edging his horse towards the King; there was menace in the movement, in the multiple execrations, and in what looked like a very insulting gesture, which may, of course, have meant something completely different on Fendergedano!

"That will do!" Traveller was very angry. "Trevon's manners have never been of the best, but this is insufferable!" Cue for further cursing. "No! If you must curse my people, then at least have the curtesy to do it in their own language. Your Steefaxian is not brilliant, I know, but I'm sure it can run to the odd curse."

Trevon bristled, and grunted, and growled, before suddenly wheeling his horse and setting off at a gallop towards Macroida's rock, and shouting as he went, "Evil corruption! Evil corruption! Crepit borothcrum! Crepit borothcrum!"

"Are we supposed to be impressed?" Hamlet asked Garth. "Does being Hermit Sage of Fendergedano excuse his revolting manners?"

"Take care, Your Majesty."

"Say you so?"

"The Sage may not be defied. He who affronts his words will perish."

"Who says so?"

"It is written."

"Where is it written?"

"In the ancient books."

"How will he persish?"

"By curse in the morning light."

"Then what happens?"

"By sundown the anathema is dead."

"Has this ever been known?"

"It is so."

"But has it ever been known?"

"We know what we know."

A heavy silence descended upon the company. Despairing looks and gestures were exchanged. Traveller strode off by himself, as if to disassociate himself from Garth. Mutterings began.

Enter Macroida, stage right.

"Look! Just look at that! He's a climber!"

All eyes turned to where an excited Macroida was pointing. On the top of that very rock which our engineer had climbed so many times in her mind was the wild man himself. He was waving his arms above his head, jumping up and down on the spot, and roaring the single Steefaxian word, "Come!"

As we approached the rock I recalled Bryn saying how it looked like a giant parsnip; and he was right, or nearly, for from its broad circular base it almost tapered to a whispy, parsnip like tip; had it done so completely, however, not even Trevon would have been able to dance on it. As it was, I reckon that the summit slab could not have been more than a yard square.

Viewed from immediately below, the rock face presented an awesome sight. How anyone could possibly have climbed to the top of it was beyond me.

There was the glint of admiration in Macroida's eyes. "Now, that opening wee gully looks easy enough, but the chimney could be a bit of a squeeze. As for that final cliff - well, I don't see a piton anywhere. He must have climbed it free! Now, that's climbing for you!"

"Could you do it, Mac?" Darande asked.

"Aye, captain, I could - but I'd need some tackle."

"You climb?" Trevon shouted down. "A woman climb?"

"Yes, I climb!"



"Ma-croida come up!"

"I have no rope! No pitons!"

"I will guide! Trevon will guide Macroida!"

"It could be a trap," Bryn warned.

"He's a climber, man!"

That settled it.


Macroida's position looked perilous in the extreme: she was wedged about two thirds of the way up the 'chimney', her shoulders jammed on one side, her feet on the other, her knees bent acutely, her head pressed forwards almost into her chest,

"She's having a rest," said Callum.

"Come! Come!" urged the Hermit Sage.

We watched, at times hardly daring to breathe, as the engineer squeezed herself up the chimney to a point where she actually vanished into the ravenous jaws of the rock. A minute went by, then another, and another, before, to our immense relief, a puffing and a panting and a sweating Macroida emerged. "Good! Good!" enouraged Trevon.

But the worst was yet to come: there must have been fifty or sixty vertical and - to the eyes of those of us on the ground, at least - holdless rock for our heroine to negotiate before she could reach the comparative safety of the summit slab. It was now that the Sage really showed his quality.

Before Macroida began her ascent of what she later was to call her 'wall of self knowledge', her guide tutored her by word and precise gesture in the line she must take. Steadiness was all, and with each move nicely calculated this amazing person managed deftly to pick out miniscule protusions and cracks for finger tips to grasp, or the extreme edges of boot soles to jam against. The most frightening time for us below was when she had to negotiate a traverse. With arms, hands, and cheek flat against the rock face, and with her feet goodnes knows where, she edged herself slug-slowly fifteen or twenty feet to her right until she reached a 'ledge' on which she was able to place almost a third of an entire boot sole! As she took a little rest she looked down at us, grinned impishly, and said, "Now, folks, that was just the tiniest bit hairy!"

The final scramble to the top was made to look easy, and soon Macroida was standing upon the summit beiing hugged by a backslapping Trevon.

"But how is she going to get down?" Darek asked.

As if in answer to the navigator's question, which could hardly have been loud enough to have been heard up top, Trevon shouted, "We come down, now!" He reached behind him and produced a long coil of rope. "Good rope! For coming down only ! Even Ma-croida needs rope - for coming down!"

"He must have had it with him on his horse," Tullulah said.

"Perhaps he had a climb in mind from the start," Bryn suggesteed.

With the rope looped around the the summit slab, first Macroida, then Trevon, abseiled down, each with practised ease. A wristy flick by the Sage brought the rope skimming to his feet.

Trevon's smile, which showed off a set of sparkling white teeth, was as incandescant as it was unexpected. "Macroida good! Macroida good!" he trumpeted.

Hamlet said, "Macroida very good!"