Phil Phorce: The Hermit

“Is that it?” asked Thoris.

Percival looked up at the insignia carved into the rock above the cave mouth.  “It is.”

“I knew that, of course,” said Thoris.  “I just wanted to make sure.”

“Of course.  Can we go in?  Is he inside?”

“On most days, he’s in.  Though on some days he goes to market.”

“To buy a fat pig?” asked Percival with a smile.

Thoris didn’t understand the joke.  “Hedgehogs, more often, and he prefers them to be thin.”

“Oh.  Can we go straight in?”

“Be my guest,” Thoris said, shrugging his massive shoulders.

“No, it’s his guest I want to be,” Percival corrected him.  He knocked on the cave wall with his cane.  “Hello?” he called.

“What?” snapped a voice from inside.

“It’s King Thoris and a friend,” called Thoris before Percival could say something less-than-cordial.

“Come in, Phils,” said the voice.

As they went in, Percival’s eyes adjusted to the light of the single oil lamp in the corner enough to see his surroundings.  The walls were covered in woven tapestries he thought he remembered from the Castle Under the Cloud’s formal dining room.  The floor was sectioned into a few pens, containing hedgehogs.  The open area contained a fireplace and a rock table and chair.  All in all, not a bad hermitage.

Percival was at a loss for what to say, however.  He couldn’t just ask, “Are you going to have a descendant named Ralph anytime soon?”  And, since he didn’t know the man’s name, there didn’t seem any other way to broach the subject.

The hermit broached it for him.  “Hello,” he said cordially, offering a hand.  “I’m Tom, Lord of the… Cave.”

Percival shook the hand, but Tom resisted.  “No, you must do it correctly.  Watch me and the King first, and then try.”

Thoris and Tom shared a rather complex handshake including various gestures which made absolutely no sense to Percival.  When Tom turned to him he imitated it to the best of his ability.  The hermit sighed but didn’t complain too vehemently.

“Sit, please,” said the hermit, gesturing to the floor.

Percival sat.  Thoris tipped and settled.

Thoris began.  “We’re here to talk about—“

Percival held up a hand, cutting him off.  “Are these hedgehogs?” he asked, pointing to one of the pens.  When Tom nodded, he asked, “Are they related to wild gophers?”

Tom shrugged.  “It’s possible.”

“May I see one?”

“Go ahead.”

Percival picked up and inspected a hedgehog, especially around the mouth, as Thoris continued to speak.

“We’re here because he wanted to see you,” said Thoris, pointing at Percival.

Percival pried the animal’s mouth open and looked inside.  “That’s right,” he said.  I understand you’re the man with this sign—“  He drew the sign from outside in the dirt.

Tom nodded.  “I am.  As were my fathers.  We were a family of hermits.”

Percival let it slide.  “Would you be interested in purchasing a strangely-placed castle anytime soon?”


“Why be Lord of the Cave when you could be Lord of the Castle?”

“Where is this castle?”

“It’s upside down, on a cloud that could be anywhere over earth at the present.”

“How do you know where it is?”

“I don’t yet.”  Percival turned to Thoris.  “The last time I came, did I give anything to you?”

“Yes, a chart,” said Thoris.  “Why?”

“I need it.”  Percival turned back to Tom.  “I can find out where it is, however, and you can take possession.”

“Is it empty?”

“Of course.”

“Who built it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who owns it?”

“No one, I hope.”

“You hope?”

“Yes.  It’s a nice thing to do when you aren’t completely sure.”

“And I’m just supposed to take you up on your word and become Lord of this castle?”

“That’s about it.”

“Why aren’t you its Lord?”

“For all I know, I could be.”

Tom and Thoris looked very confused.  Percival was still looking down the hedgehog’s throat.  “Have you ever had evidence of things travelling through time in a hedgehog’s mouth?” he asked casually.


“Of course not, of course not.  Can I borrow a rock?”

“Of course.”

Percival picked up a rock from the floor and fed it to the hedgehog, who coughed it back up immediately.  “So it isn’t true…  Perhaps if he swallowed it?”

“Stop that,” cried Tom, grabbing the rock from Percival as he tried to force it down the hedgehog’s throat.  “These are my livelihood!”


“No, the hedgehogs.”

“Pretty flimsy livelihood.  Who buys goph—hedgehogs around here?”

Tom pointed at Thoris.

The fat man shrugged.  “The Phils have been buying hedgehogs from Tom for a while now, building up to a massive practical joke one of our number thought to play on the Not-So-Black Knights.”

“You’re going to get rid of them with hedgehogs?” asked Percival.

“It was the best we could come up with,” said Thoris apologetically.

Thinking hard, Percival held up a finger.  “I’ve got a better way to get rid of them.”


“Phoenix, how do you feel about being sacrificed?”

Phoenix’s head snapped up to glare at Liam.  “What?” she snapped.

“I’ve offered you as a sacrifice to the Aardvark’s army.  I hope you’re okay with that.”

“I thought you were joking…”she said quietly.

“You won’t die, of course,” said Liam.  “I think.”

“You know, you can be really comforting when you want to,” said Phoenix sarcastically.  She bent back over the music score in front of her.

“You’ll be burned at the stake.”

Phoenix looked up, a smile beginning to form.  “Great,” she said.  “When do we start?”

Leave a comment


  1. Charley R

     /  July 22, 2012

    Hehehe, hedgehogs vs Not-So-Black Knights, now there’s something I’d like to see! Though I do wonder what Percival’s insidious plot is . . . ooooooh! 😀

    • Unfortunately, as Percival predicted, the hedgehogs were not necessary. You’ll see how it turns out, however… Next Phil Phorce post is Wednesday.

      • Charley R

         /  July 23, 2012

        B-But I’m not HERE on Wednesday! *weeps*

      • There, their, they’re… *pats on the head* I know you’re sad to miss the premiere, but it’ll play again any day after that.

      • Charley R

         /  July 23, 2012

        Yay! *doesn’t hug you, just offers cookies*

      • Absolutely… And, by the way, thank you. For your own sake, don’t hug me.

      • Charley R

         /  July 24, 2012

        I still remember what happened last time in the TARDIS. I will not give up, though. I’m just biding my time.

      • You do that. Meanwhile I shall study hug-repelling methods from the hedgehog and skunk.

      • Charley R

         /  July 26, 2012

        *snarls and vanishes in a puff of acrid black smoke. Because she ran out of purple smoke*

      • I should just take hug-repelling classes from you! You’re so good at it already…

  2. Percival and the hedgehogs is going to be quite the plot! 🙂
    Aha, so now I see…Phoenix being burned at the stake…ooh this is gonna be good!

    • I sure hope you see it that way by the end. I think it’s rather spectacular, but you know how I am.

      • I’m still in defense of the innocent hedgehog, though. Certainly it’s not hard to find that gopher he’s after, is it?

      • Actually, it is. That little rodent is a notorious assassin and spy. You do not find him, he finds you.

      • Assassin spy gophers….so you mean he could be standing behind you….right….NOW? Or me for that matter, but hey.

      • My sources tell me he’s currently hunting down a certain lumberjack in Saskatchewan (can’t believe I spelled that correctly on the first try), but if you want I can recruit him as a bodyguard, sure.

      • Aye, Saskatchewan is a toughie to spell. Congrats on your victory.

        For now, I believe I shall pass on the bodyguard, but thank you for the offer. Perhaps in the future I will use the gopher’s services.

      • No, it was me the bodyguard was for. You requested it, concerned as you are for my safety, did you not?

      • Now I’m utterly confused. Why would you want this assassin spy gopher as your bodyguard?

      • Because you requested it for me.

      • Either I have no recollection of doing so, or I’m going mentally insane…..

      • Going insane? Go look at your blog’s title.

        Allow me to remind you: you told me that the gopher could be standing behind me right now, but he wasn’t. This I took as a suggestion; that gopher ought to be standing behind me. Was it something different that you meant?

      • Oh. Derp.

        Alas, I was in fact hinting that perhaps the gopher could be hunting you down and therefore be standing behind you with some sort of gopher weapon. No, I don’t think the assassin should be standing behind you. You never know what it could come up with…these creatures are crafty….

      • My sources now tell me that he is in fact standing behind a quite irate cow as it tries to set a barn on fire with a flamethrower. All I can figure is that there’s someone in that barn who is worthy of that cow’s anger. I also know the gopher’s next target.

  3. Can’t wait to read the rest!

  4. Robyn Hoode

     /  March 3, 2013

    “You hope?”
    “Yes. It’s a nice thing to do when you aren’t completely sure.”
    THAT is a wonderful line! You should stick it in a novel. You could be famous for it! Do you know that a lot of people quote Tolkien’s “Not all who wander are lost”? Misquote, but it’s is still widely quoted. Your line is along those lines and “Keep calm and carry on.”
    *takes a breath and clears throat* Yes. Anyway, this chapter was good. So… if something went down a wild gopher’s throat, it would time travel?
    And I loved the plan with the hedgehogs. 🙂


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