Gammelnok in Andalucia - Chapter 2: Enter the Squirrels  
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"I remember when.." Gammelnok nearly always started his stories that way.

It made him feel important having a good memory. It also made his audience sit forward in anticipation, especially those who had heard him tell stories before.

It was night time, near midnight. The moon showed barely a sliver above the horizon. The weather was warm, as it was coming up to midsummer, the second most important time of year.

The crowd of listeners gathered closer, aware of the pond edge not far away.

Clearing his throat, Gammelnok began again.. "I remember when I first came to StepSixtySix. It was a warm evening in the sixth month, just like now."

"I have heard this one before. I'm not wasting my time listening to this," said Mister P, the cat who lived with his Servants in the house at the foot of the garden. Pointing his tail into the air, aiming for the moon, he started of down the steps towards Level 4 and resumed his nightly patrol of his territorial borders.

"Don't worry about him, he always behaves as if he was an aristocat." PigPig the hedgehog scratched away, shifting a few fleas from left to right. "Do carry on Gammelnok. What happened next..?"

"Very well." Gammelnok shifted in his comfortable chair, drew hard on his pipe until smoke surrounded his face and continued his tale.

"There was a great deal of commotion from the five levels below where we are sitting now. Especially from the third level, where I was dumped onto a table, landing among gifts, presents and offerings."

"It was obvious, the Servants were having a party, and that I was offered as a gift."

"Now I don't mind that, as I am an adventurous sort of chap, and enjoy a bit of a challenge. But I was left there for hours. The noise went on and on, music, talking, dancing and shouting. No chance of Forty Winks there. Eventually they put me here by the pond at StepSixtySix."

Gammelnok sat back and puffed on his pipe for a while, lost in thoughts.

After a time, PigPig despite having heard this story many times before could not contain himself anymore. "What happened next?"

"Nothing happened," said Gammelnok at last. "It was nearly the end of the night, and as you all know by now, I can only move about in daylight when there are no Servants around. As this was my first night, I did not yet know the habits of my new Servants."

"Mind you," Gammelnok continued "I took a chance in the early morning, wandering to the edge over there." He pointed across the pond with his pipe, towards the stone edge, separating levels 5 and 4. "I sat myself on the edge, looking down over a huge display of wild flowers. There were poppies, cornflowers, daisies and loads of others I do not know the names of. All looked peaceful, no Servants about yet, and I took the chance to explore a bit."

"That was the first time I met the Squirrels or GreyFaces as I prefer to call them. Boy oh boy did I teach them a trick or two that first morning."

"I got a roll of twine, rope ladder, Pickhammer and compass out of my Handsack. Securing the ladder with my Pickhammer, I eased myself over the edge, dropped down, landing quietly in the dense flower patch."

While Gammelnok relives the story in his own mind, here is what actually happened.

Gammelnok stretched, yawned and finally got his pipe going. He looked around, trying to work out where North finished and South began.

He waddled around the pond and nearly fell over the edge into the garden below. "Skagerak!" he muttered. "This place is different from the old country. There it is so flat, you have to go downhill to get to the highest point."

Crawling clumsily down the rope ladder, he finally reached the bottom and tied the twine to the ladder. Taking a few "turns of the twine" he soon realised that if he tried to explore the whole of this garden, he would not get back before sunrise.

"Stop right there!" a voice said, loud enough to wake any Nisser. Gammelnok looked around, but could not see anything through the dense flower forest. "Where are you?" said Gammelnok "I can't see anything in here."

"Over here," came the reply from four directions, at seconds interval. Gammelnok being totally deaf on his left ear could not tell where the sound came from so he turned and turned, holding on to his twine for dear life, getting himself tied down so tight, he could not move, and fell over.

Looking up he saw four grey faces looking down at him.

"Got you," said one of the grey faces, twitching his bushy tail in delight. "Who are you? We have not seen you before."

Gammelnok who was still trying to entangle himself, finally managed to sit up. "Have I not seen you somewhere before?" he said, looking closer at the four faces. "What's your name? You first," pointing with his pipe.

"We don't have names," said the one sitting to the left of the one on the right. "There are too many of us, and we all look the same. I am 1066. We get a number from Herr ZigZag the Great Controller. He lives back there over the hill." 1066 pointed vaguely northwestwards. "He has this thing that generates the numbers and then keeps track of where we are."

"So he always knows where you are and what you are doing?" asked Gammelnok. "Do you like that? Can you talk to him? Can you change your number? Do they all add up? Does he ever get a wrong number?" He was getting all exited at the thought of so much control. Would it one day apply to him as well he wondered. A cold shiver ran down his spine.

"We do get to air our views once in a Blue Moon, but as you know, it takes 13 White Moons to make a Blue Moon, and new rules are issued every Black Moon, which falls between White Moons. But it is all for show. In the end our views don't count. Herr ZigZag is The Great Controller for sure." 479210 said unhappily.

"Bien," 482880 pitched in. "The Great Controller knows best. No argument. Capice." He had travelled a bit when young, and spoke many dialects.

"Must go now," 650640 said "or we will be late. Must always be on time. Can't be late. Must go now."

"Well help me unwind first," Gammelnok pleaded. "I have a long way to go before sunrise. Will I see you at White Moon for the Fest?"

"Of course, wouldn't miss it for the world. Lots of fun. Lie down now and we will help you unwind," said 1066, tail twitching. All four GreyFaces got on one side of Gammelnok and using their snouts rolled him until he was free of twine. The flowers had suffered a bit, but it didn't look anywhere as bad as when they all got together to make Circles at their Annual Corn Circle Event. "This will puzzle the Servants tomorrow though," thought 479210 with a big grin.

And of they went in all directions, running up walls and fences, jumping from branch to branch along the Squirrel Highway, chattering all the way.

Gammelnok shook his head, adjusted his hat, coat and Handsack, found the end of his twine and started to make his way back to his chair. He made it to the wall, and started the climb up to Level 5.

It was hard work, and when he finally got his head level with Level 5 he was quite exhausted. Looking up, he found himself staring into two small eyes as black as charcoal, set back from a pointed snout, which moved furiously from side to side, sniffing at his hat.

"Kattegat!" cried Gammelnok "Don't do that to me. You scared the living moonlight out of me. Move over, or better still give me a paw." He eventually made it over the edge, lay on his back and slapped off for a while.

"This is my patch you are using. I live here. That's my house over there by the pond. I saw you arrive yesterday. You slept a lot. You missed a lot. I am PigPig. I'm a hedgehog," said the stranger.

"Slow down," muttered Gammelnok, still slapping off.

PigPig rummaged around in the earth for a while, then turned away and headed of home. It was an only just that he could get through the porch of his house, but once inside it was nice and roomy, with straw on the floor and a nice chimney to take out unwanted smells. But lonely. "When will I ever be a couple," he thought "maybe at the next White Moon Fest there will be match for me." Then he lay down and went to sleep.

Gammelnok having finished slapping off, got to his feet, and realised he could just see his chair on the other side of the pond. "Øresund!" he thought "time to go to sleep. It is getting early. Mustn't get caught in the open." He made it to his chair, picked up his ridiculous fishing rod, adjusted himself to look like he had looked the night before and went to sleep. The birds had started singing by now, and a large orange sun was just beginning to crawl out of bed.

"So you see" said Gammelnok "the GrayFaces never stood a chance. I completely surprised them when I sneaked up on them. Next time they will be more careful."

With dawn well on the way, Gammelnok put his pipe away and went to sleep. The animals left the pond side, and all looked peaceful and normal again.

© Copyright January 2004
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