Sometimes we all make mistakes. Mine was in allowing Ushguk to be interviewed by Anno the Tarn last week. Ushguk and Anno are just two of the characters from the Island of Dragonish – the world where my future fantasy novel series takes place. I was so busy revising my upcoming Dragonish trilogy that I thought I’d let Anno interview Ushguk, seeing as how (Tarn though he is) Anno lives for stories. (He’s the editor and publisher of the first newssheet ever invented on Dragonish.)
Here’s what happened. With apologies to Ushguk …
ANNO: Hail and well met. I’m Anno Einarsson, editor of The Weekly Inquisitor, and we’re here today to dispel those ugly rumours, once and for all, about Ushguk, that impressive specimen of … well, we don’t know what he is, exactly. Seven boot-lengths tall; half-Moraggim, half-Tarn; and most recently dwelling in a cave high up the side of Monadh nan Mórion—that translates out to the aptly-named “mountain of monsters” to you mere mortals. Ushguk, good of you to drop by.
USHGUK: What you saying, Mister Anno? Der no ugly rumours about Ushguk. Odder dan he Moraggim.
ANNO: Ah. So you wish to state for the record, I imagine, that you’re half-Moraggim, half-TARN, right?
USHGUK: Dat is true. On de outside, I am Moraggim. Inside, I am TARN!
ANNO: Hmm. Well, I would hardly call that a recommendation. You don’t know many Tarn, if you think we’re a nice lot.
USHGUK: My madder was nice.
ANNO: Aha! I thought it wouldn’t be long till we got around to talking about your, er, “madder”. Morwenna, daughter of Garanhon, wasn’t she?
USHGUK: Dat is correct. Most beautiful of all de Tarn.
ANNO: Captive slave of Burzu, chief of the Moraggim. And you were the product of that unholy union.
USHGUK: I not want to talk about Burzu.
ANNO: I just bet you don’t. You’ve previously assured me you’re not a cannibal. Tell me, Ushguk … Why are your teeth filed into points?
USHGUK: Dat teet’-filing happen when Ushguk was little broodling. Had no choice. Very painful.
ANNO: Oh, don’t give me that. I’ve heard all Moraggim are cannibals: Is it true that you eat the flesh of stray travelers foolish enough to take the Old Tarn Road under the mountain? Whoops, he’s growling, folks. Very alarming. Let me just retreat behind this desk …
USHGUK: I not cannibal. Never did I eat de flesh of mortals, Tarn or Moraggim. Dis, you know!
ANNO: Whatever you say, Ushguk. What do you eat? I’m sure our readers are just dying to find out.
USHGUK: I hunt de rabbits. Der are lots of dem in de mountains. And berries. Der are many roots and wild leaves down by de river. Make little dried meat strips from berries and meat. Sometimes I catch deer. And dere is nice little apple tree near de Pass of my Tarn grandfadder, Garanhon.
ANNO: Sounds a bit … sparse. Sure you’re not tempted by a nice bit of man flesh? Uh … just jesting with you, Ushguk. Just jesting. Tell me, what do you do for entertainment, holed up in that cave? I mean, there doesn’t seem to be much to do there, besides hunt a bit, and skin the odd rabbit.
USHGUK: Der lots to do. Keep de cave clean. Carve de little animals out of de wood and rock. Make de clot’es-
ANNO: Clodes? What are clodes?
USHGUK: Clot’es what you wear, cover up body. Except Ushguk not got waistcoat like Mister Anno’s, wid de fancy stitching and de sparkly clot’.
ANNO: Clot? Oh. You mean ‘cloth’.
USHGUK: Dat right. Dat what I said.
ANNO: But what do you do for, you know, female companionship, stuck up there in that cave all year round? Do the Moraggim females visit you?
USHGUK: Ushguk not like Moraggim females. Dey stink and dey mean. Granny Maberly visit him once every turn. Dat enough female companionship for Ushguk. Bring Ushguk t’ings like needle and t’read. New cooking pot. Nice herbs for de dinner—
ANNO: [trying not to snigger] But Granny Maberly stinks and she’s mean, so what’s the difference?
USHGUK: YOU NOT SAY DAT! Granny Maberly not stink!
ANNO: Alright, alright! No need to bang the desk! But I can’t believe a big, strapping young lad like you is content with a little chat once a year and a new cooking pot. Surely you must have some outlet for your … urges?
USHGUK: What is urges? Ushguk not know dat word.
ANNO: And then again, I hear you got into some … trouble over a sheep … Ooo, he’s blushing, folks! Come on, Ushy. Give us the juicy details!
USHGUK: Where you hear dat? Dat big secret. Promised Granny never to tell anyone!
ANNO: Oh, you’d be surprised, the things I hear.
USHGUK: Why you waggling de eyebrows like dat? You got itch?
ANNO: Come on, Ushguk. You and that sheep-
GRANNY: That’s quite enough of that, me lad! You got no call to cast nasty incinerations about Ushguk here. One more word out of you, and I’ll wash your mouth out with terebinthine!
ANNO: [Knocking over desk] Bloody gobs! Who let HER in here? Albert! ALBERT! How did you get past my shield? ALBERT, IT’S THAT MABERLY CRONE!
GRANNY: You call that a shield? Ain’t no shield big enough to stop me, Mister Oily. That sheep was a misunderstanding, that’s what it was. And nothing unwholesome about it, I’ll have everybody know.
ANNO: I never said–
GRANNY: The only unwholesome thing in here is you, Mister Oily. You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Call yourself a Tarn? You want to talk about unwholesome, I bet I could tell your readers a thing or two about you. Why, I’ve heard that you–
ANNO: Interview concluded! ALBERT! ALBERT! COME AND GET THEM OUT OF H-
Thanks to artist Joel Chaim Holzman for his wonderful concept sketch of Ushguk. It’s better than any photograph! (Which is a good thing, because they don’t have cameras on Dragonish.) You can find Joel’s portfolio at joelchaimholtzman.com.