Bønt Ynderhand was a wandering elf-dwarf. Like all of his kin, he was a nomad, travelling from market to market eking out a meager living selling magic spells of dubious value to gullible folk.

This particular summer’s day was mindbogglingly beautiful. The market teemed with Oneborns visiting Bønt’s stall every minute. Some bought spells, others took away a list of his wares.

Near the end of the day, a lady goblin stopped at the stall and bought a fleas-for-your-neighbor’s-dog spell. Just the slightest tantalizing hint of her form under her bulky clothing and the merest hint of her scent as she swept away into the crowd was all it took. Bønt was smitten.

“I’m leaving you to pack up, Troon,” he said to his diminutive assistant. “Follow the instructions on this list. Can you manage on your own?”

“Yes, of course, Master. Where are you going?”

Troon got no answer. His master was gone.

Bønt followed the trail of the lady goblin’s scent to an ancient castle. At the portcullis his way was barred by a sentry with a double-edged sword.

“Where d’you think you’re going?” said the sentry.

“A lady goblin passed this way. Did you see where she went?”

“You mean Lady Dillwither? This is her father’s castle. What business do have with her, dwarf-elf?”

“I sold her a casting spell at the market,” said Bønt. “I forgot to offer the lady one of our assurance policies. We have a list of options from the one-year parts only cover to our luxury parts and labor five-year extended warranty. ”

“Be off with you,” said the sentry, shaking his sword at Bønt.

Bønt eyed the sword. Both edges looked scary sharp. “All right, I’m leaving, but I’ll be back. And just for your information, I’m no dwarf-elf. I’m a proper elf-dwarf.”

“Skedaddle, shorty,” said the sentry.

Bønt retired to the safety of the tavern, bought a double stein of frothy, pulled out his pencil and notepad and made a list.

1. Compose a love song for the Lady Dillwither
2. Play the love song to the Lady Dillwither
3. Marry the Lady Dillwither
4. Live happily ever after with the Lady Dillwither

He scratched his head. There was a problem with his list: he lacked a musical instrument. He tore it up and started again.

1. Acquire a lute-organ (secondhand)
2. Learn how to play the lute-organ
3. Compose a love song for the Lady Dillwither
4. Play the love song to the Lady Dillwither
5. Marry the Lady Dillwither
6. Live happily ever after with the Lady Dillwither

He sent the diminutive Troon with a message to his friend, Lunk, the musical gnome. ‘Meet me at the tavern. I need your help.’

While he waited for Lunk, he slipped out to the local pawnshop in search of a lute-organ. There weren’t any within his price range, but he found and bought a brass lyrophone at a reasonable price.

The gnome arrived within minutes.

“I’m in love with a lady goblin,” said Bønt. “I need to learn to play this lyrophone so that I may write her a song and sing it to her.”

“I can see you’re serious,” said Lunk, trying not to laugh. “We could start lessons right away. I charge 25 shinys per hour.”

Bønt handed over one whole gold piece, enough for four lessons. Lunk tested the coin between his teeth, pocketed it, and licked his lips. He ordered a frothy.

We’ll draw a veil over the next three months. Lunk was no common-or-garden musical gnome. His teaching skills were legendary, but Bønt was no run-of-the-mill student. The music lessons were torture for both of them. It was fully 10 weeks before Bønt managed any sound from the lyrophone that could be called remotely musical.

“I don’t think this is going to work,” said Lunk. “Maybe you should try a different instrument.”

“There isn’t time,” said Bønt. “Tell me again where I should put my left thumbs.”

As a result of his failings as a musician and his shortcomings as a songwriter, fall turned to winter before Bønt was ready to approach the object of his desires with his song.

It was a cold and chilly night. Icicles hung from the tassels of his lyrophone. Positioning himself outside the castle’s sleeping quarters he blew on his hands and struck up the first chord of his song. As everybody knows, the lyrophone is notoriously temperamental in low temperatures. That and the obvious absence of a word in Goblin to rhyme with Dillwither resulted in a dismal all-round performance.

As he neared the end of verse five he spotted the Lady Dillwither at a window above him. He finished the verse with a flourish and a minor chord that he probably shouldn’t have attempted.

“Oy! There’s goblins trying to sleep up here,” she shouted.

“But Lady Dillwither, my love. I wrote this song especially for you. There are only eight more verses.”

A chamber pot appeared in her hands. With a quick twist of her wrist she emptied the contents on his head. “Sling your hook, shortarse.”

Bønt abandoned his lyrophone and made his way to the tavern where Lunk and Troon were waiting. Head in hands, he told them what had happened.

“That song was the problem,” said Troon.

Lunk shook his head. “The lyrophone was the problem. You should try something different. What you need is a good harpsipipes. I can give you lessons if you like. My fee for the harpsipipes is only 50 shinys per lesson.”

Bønt pulled out his notepad and pencil and made a list:

1. Acquire a harpsipipes (used)

(C) Copyright JJ Toner