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The Odious Piskie



Some folks will say the piskies are good and others that they are mischievous nuisances and I am saying nothing. But there was a piskie called ‘Leg Ends’ that both humans and little folk detested. The reason he was called ‘Leg Ends’ was because at the end of every leg is a toe nail and everybody was too polite to call him ‘toe rag’ for that’s what he was. He was the most odious creature that ever walked this earth and you would be hard pushed to find anybody who had a good word to say for him. He was bone idle and hardly ever did a days work in his life. There was always some feeble excuse for his slothful lifestyle, he had a bad back, or some days it was his knees.  He made his coin by cheating, stealing or sponging off any of the single piskie maids who were daft enough to dip into their purses. So he basically spent his life dossing around on the moors and generally annoying everyone he came across.

One day the odious little piskie was idling his time away down by the river Walkham, it was about four o’ the clock and he was thinking where he could scrounge his supper from. Suddenly he heard some voices that appeared to be coming out of the ground, and on searching in the bushes he met a group of ‘Tommy Knockers’ coming out of an old mine adit. One of them was carrying a small bulging pouch and he was clutching it so tightly his little knuckles were white. Immediately the odious piskie spotted this and realised that there must be something valuable in the pouch. The ‘Knockers’ stood silently eyeing the odious piskie, unfortunately that had not heard of his reputation or maybe they wouldn’t have bothered to stop. Hello”, Leg Ends chirped, “where have you fine fellows been”? “Down in the mine”, they replied. “What, been looking for tin”? the odious piskie asked.“Maybe we have and maybe we haven’t”, they replied in unison.“Oh, don’t mind me”, the odious piskie drivelled, “I always like to know what is going on, I dooo so apologise if I have caused you fine fellows any offence”, he lied. The Tommy Knockers felt a bit ashamed at their apparent rudeness and the one carrying the pouch held it aloft and said, “no, no, we are sorry, it’s just that we have been into the secret cavern to get some crystals for the Elfin King”. The odious piskie’s piggy eyes bulged with greed, he slowly licked his lips at the thought of a quick profit. “My, the Elfin King”, he drooled, “what does he want with such treasures”? “It’s his birthday”, one of the other knockers exclaimed, “and he wants a new crown to wear to his party. As we are the only folk on the moor who knows the whereabouts of the secret cavern he asked us to fetch some crystal for him to put in the crown”. “Oh, I bet he will be delighted”, the odious piskie said, “and do you know the funny thing? It’s the piskie king’s birthday next week and all his subjects are wracking their brains as to what they can get him. I bet he would love a new crown, especially one that is studded with crystals from the secret cavern”. The Tommy Knockers said nothing as they could see where this conversation was leading. “I don’t suppose you fine fellows could take me to the secret cavern so as I could take a few crystals for the piskie king”, the cheating piskie whined, “I promise I will never tell a living soul where the cavern is”. The odious piskie faced a wall of slowly shaking heads, he could see that this was not going to be easy. “Tell you what”, he muttered, “If you blindfold me and take me to the secret cavern I can never reveal its whereabouts as I won’t even know it myself”. The Tommy Knockers went into a huddle for a ‘team talk’ and when they emerged the top Knocker said that provided he was blindfolded both going in and coming out from the secret cavern they would lead him there. The odious Leg Ends was made up, false gratitude poured out of him like grease from a leaking chip fryer. “I couldn’t impose on you further”, the odious one implored, “it’s only that I see you have a crib box and as I haven’t eaten all day I was wondering if you have any food left”? “Well”, said the knocker there’s only a couple of slices of bread left, but you are welcome to them if you are that hungry”. Leg Ends snatched the two proffered slices of bread, immediately ate one and put the other in his trouser pocket for later.

The Knockers securely blindfolded Leg Ends and just to make sure he couldn’t see swung a shovel infront of his face, the odious piskie was motionless and unfortunately the shovel didn’t connect. Convinced that he couldn’t see the Tommy Knockers lead him into the dark dank depths of the mine. They waded ankle deep through icy water and then began to scrabble downwards into what seemed to be the very bowels of the earth. Eventually the party stopped and the blindfold was removed and once his eyes had adjusted the odious piskie could see that the Knockers were pointing to a tiny hole in the wall of the tunnel. That’s the secret cavern“, they solemnly declared, “your crystal is in there but don’t take anymore than a handful“. The odious piskie squirmed and rung his hands, “actually my fine friends” he whinged, “I have a terrible back back and I know I could never crawl through such a hole, do you think you could do me one last kindness and get the crystals for me“?

As it was nearly suppertime and a hot steaming Whortleberry Pie was waiting at home, the Knockers decided it would be quicker if one of them went in and fetched the crystals. There was a sudden flurry and in no time a small pair of boots could be seen disappearing into the hole. Several sharp clanks rung out in the silence and then a small figure wriggled out of the hole holding a handful of crystals which gleamed in the candlelight. The odious piskie’s eyes just stared in amazement, a small trickle of saliva dribbled down his chin. Not wishing to waste anymore time, the knockers replaced the blindfold and traipsed out of the mine. Once back above ground they gave the odious piskie a small bag to safely put the crystals in and took their leave. As they trudged up the wooded hillside they could hear a strange gurgling sound and on looking back they could see Leg Ends crouched over the open bag stroking the glistening crystals. “My precious, My precious”, he kept repeating (apologies to Tolkien for the plagiarism).

The following day the Tommy Knockers put on their best suits and trundled off to see the Elfin King. When they showed him the crystals he was overjoyed and immediately sent for the court jeweller. He too was delighted with the stones and scurried off to his workshop to place them in the awaiting crown. The king ordered several huge plates of scones, jam, and cream to be brought for the knockers, who upon their arrival tucked in with great gusto and relish. About ten minutes later the jeweller returned and they noticed he had a very apprehensive look on his face. He nervously told the king that the crown needed just one more crystal and that he had run out. The king did not look happy at all and just as he was about to go off on one the Knockers announced they they would depart immediately for the secret cavern and return with one more crystal before the midday chime of the church clock. With that the group of knockers sped off with mouths stained with jam and scone crumbs studding their beards. They soon reached the secret cavern and armed with a pick the top knocker squeezed through the small entrance. Suddenly a loud yell emanated from within along with some awful language that is unfit to repeat here. The top knocker exploded through the tiny hole and angrily declared that somebody had torn out every crystal that studded the walls of the cavern, in effect it had been stripped bare. Immediately they knew who had done it because apart from themselves there was only one other person who new the location of the secret cavern – Leg Ends the odious piskie. But how did he manage to find the entrance? He was completely blindfolded when they brought him in and took him out. One of the knockers held up his candle and attentively looked at the floor, then he slowly started to make his way back down the tunnel, all the time with his eyes fixed on the ground.

That’s how he found the entrance“, he exclaimed, pointing at a small white crumb on the floor. “Do you remember that we gave him two slices of bread, and that he only ate one, the other he put in his pocket for later. Well, that slimy piskie must have had a hole in his pocket and when we came out he dropped a trail of bread through the hole which meant once we had gone he could come back by following the trail of bread“. The Knockers were beside themselves with rage, they sent the smallest one back to the Elfin king to explain what had happened and the remainder went off in search of Leg Ends.  The Knockers eventually found the odious piskie at one of his favourite haunts – a large hill known to the moorfolk as Black Dunghill. He was sprawled out on a peat hag stuffing his lying mouth with a porkie pie. He didn’t seem at all surprised to see the Knockers and greeted them heartily. The Tommy Knockers demanded to know why he had looted the secret cavern of all its crystal but the odious piskie pleaded ignorance and came up with a stream of pathetic alibis’. He couldn’t have possibly committed such a crime because as the Knockers knew he had a bad back, and of course he was blindfolded and so had no idea as to where the cavern’s entrance was. He whinged and whined and pleaded and begged and swore oaths on every imaginable relic that he was innocent. Luckily for him the Tommy Knockers were renown for being non-violent folk and quickly realising that there was no way this lying, cheating, odious thief was going to confess they headed off eastwards to Crockern Tor to consult with no lesser a person than ‘Old Crockern‘ the guardian spirit of the moor.  When they reached the tor the Knockers found Old Crockern sat on Parliament Rock eating a huge acorn pie. They explained their problem and as they did the Guardian of the Moor slowly crunched his way through the pie, every now and again slowly nodding his head. Suddenly the old spirit exploded with anger, he roared and moaned and sprayed the Knockers in a shower of pie crumbs. The whole of the moor seemed to shake and tremble and his loud booming cries echoed and ricocheted around the lofty granite outcrops. Crockern said how he had heard of the reputation of that little malcontent known as Leg Ends and even the vipers of Wistman’s Wood couldn’t slither so low as that foul creature. The old spirit slowly stood up and as he did huge granite flakes tumbled from his body, he slowly took an enormous gasp of air and then bellowed at the top of his voice. If anyone should dare scratch my back I will rip out their pockets, I have lived since the dawn of time and both time and patience I have by the cartload, so this maladjusted abomination of a piskie shall know that when I am ready I shall exact my revenge, this is the last I shall speak of the matter “. With that Old Crockern returned to his acorn pie and dismissed the Tommy Knockers with an irate wave of the hand.

For about two years nothing more was heard about the matter, that is until one day the Tommy Knockers met with a passing piskie who was out collecting cowflop flowers. They got to newsin’ and he happened to mention that there was to be a huge celebration over on Bellever tor. All the piskie folk would be attending and it was to be the biggest party they had ever held. There would be singing and dancing along with tables groaning with the weight of food of every kind. The knockers then asked what the celebration was for and was told that it was because the bane of their lives had been killed and the party was to celebrate his passing. Quizzed further the piskie revealed that the bane was none other than the odious piskie – Leg Ends. It transpires that a while ago he had found a cavern laden with the most perfect of crystal specimens. After stripping the cavern bare he sold the crystals to a local trader in Plymouth and made a tidy sum. Once he had frittered his ill-gained lucre away greed had got the better of him and he began searching the old mines of the moor for further treasures. One day he went down an old mine called Wheal Fortune and whilst he was rummaging around in one of the adits a pit prop snapped and fell down on him. The piskie explained that the weird thing was that the prop skewered him right down his left side and came out through his right thigh and that it literally, “tore his pockets out”.

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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