A few days later, Ergo and Dotty were having a gossip in the kitchen. Ergo told Dotty a joke about two pigs and a gravy boat.

“Don’t mention pigs to me”, groaned Dot, -”my brother was killed by one of the evil pigfrog warriors who live in Everywhere Else and come out every December. They are so horrid, I can hardly speak.” Ergo was shocked. The hairy bits under his slimy bits stood on end.

“Sounds ghastly”, he sympathised. “What exactly is a pigfrog, and why do they only come out in December?”
“They’re seasonal” replied Dotty, importantly, as if that explained everything.

“Oh”, said Ergo. “So we’d better not go to Everywhere Else in December, then.”

Which they didn’t.

Actually, they did (I was lying about that). Later in the story, when we get to the bit about the Wars between the slugs and the pigfrogs, you’ll see what I mean. Pigfrogs were nasty pieces of work. The hills, before they ever became alive with music, were infested with pigfrogs, back in caveman days. They would creep up behind people and jump on them from a great height, using their enormous pink hind legs to launch the entire bulk of their sweaty, fleshy pink bodies’ skywards, and then plummeting down vertically, onto their victims. To be landed on by a pigfrog was certain death, and what is more, very irritating indeed. The pigfrog warriors gave out a fierce scream as their battle cry. They dribbled on people, too. Even the friendly ones were horrible (and there weren’t any). Now, after the purge of Slunder (a secret story only told to gold subscribers of the Don't Be So Ridiculous Valley annual) they had retreated from the borders of I Thought I Told You Not To Be So Ridiculous Valley and That’s Better Valley and had hidden in the caves of Everywhere Else, coming out every December, mainly for the purpose of spoiling Christmas. Which they didn’t. Well, Ok then, they did. Let’s be honest.

“Do you mean that you can quite literally be strolling along on the 30th of November, in Everywhere Else, minding your own business, and suddenly nothing happens; yet on the first of December, you’ll be doing the same thing and you suddenly cease to exist because some pigfrog you’ve never even met has crept up behind you and changed your shape from lumpy to flat?”

“Yes, that’s the sort of thing, Ergo” said Dotty.

“Flipping Heck!” exclaimed Ergo. “That’s not very fair! I don’t think it should be allowed”.

“Life wasn’t meant to be fair”, said Mr F. “Look at me; I have to play the harmonica while Dotty only has to do the housework”.

“I’m going to do something about it!” said Ergo, with new anger.

“No, really, it’s fine”, said Mr F, “I’m quite happy playing the harmonica, and the housework does Dotty good”.

“No, not that”, replied Ergo, frustrated. “I mean the pigfrogs. I’ll recruit an army and we’ll march on them and destroy them. We’ll rid this peaceful land of the scourge of these evil monsters once and for all...”
Mr F was, by now, playing a stirring, patriotic piece on the harmonica, and Dotty was wiping a little tear from his cheek. Mr F had a highly developed sense of occasion and was prone to these involuntary displays of raw emotion.

“.. So that little children will sleep easily in their cots and old people can live in peace and die at their leisure, or preferably even later” continued Ergo.

By now, he was red in the face, and looking up into the sky (through the kitchen window) with fierce eyes and a noble expression.


***************************

The next morning, the soft smell of breakfast wood smoke hung in the air.

Ergo galvanised himself into action. In the Farnsbarneses’ household, Euphoria had broken out.

“Catch Euphoria and chain her to the sink again, will you, Mr F” shouted Dotty, from upstairs where she was doing her make-up. “Yes, Dear” said her husband, shooing the cat back to its basket with one of Dotty’s copper-bottomed frying pans.

“There’s a wonderful smell hanging in the air” said Ergo. “What exactly is it?”

Mr F reached for the spray and looked at the label.

“Let me see now... BREAKFAST WOODSMOKE.. It’s a new one. We’d been getting a little tired of Cheese and Onion, - it gets in your clothes and hair and you just can’t get rid of it.”


Reaching for Dotty’s pretty little Woodlands Telephone Service handset, Ergo punched in four digits and waited, listening to the soft burr of the ringing tone at the other end.

“Hello” said Ergo’s mother.

“Mum!” shouted Ergo. “It’s me!”

“Well, blow me down - if I wasn’t already down - what with being a slug and all!” exclaimed his mother, in amazement.

“No time for jokes, Mum, this is important” interrupted Ergo. “Look, I’m sorry I disappeared, and I’ll explain later. Right now I’m urgently trying to recruit a mighty army, so I won’t pass the time of day, if you don’t mind. Can you run down the road (in a manner of speaking) and get Sodge to come to the phone. It’s really, really important, Mum”.


His mother left the phone dangling as she raced down to Sodge’s house. Sodge was Ergo’s best mate. They had been in some real scrapes together or at least pretended they had, for not much actually happened in Don't Be So Ridiculous Valley.

“Sodge, Sodge, come quickly, it’s Ergo on the blower!” shouted Ergo’s mum, as she bashed on the little wooden door.

“OK Mrs E!” answered Sodge. (Parents were always addressed by the initial letter of their first-born child). Sodge was soon at the telephone, greeting his old pal.

“Look, Sodge, get your sweet little slimy bits down here as fast as you can” urged Ergo, not saying where he was, “I’ll explain later”.

“Or maybe I ought to explain now. It’s just that there are these horrible things called pigfrogs and they creep up behind you and jump on you in December, and you die. And they dribble a lot, and Dotty’s told me all about them, and it’s got to stop, if you see what I mean”.

“I know exactly what you mean!” said Sodge. “I’m your slug! You can count on me. Shall I get the others?”
“Yes, please, Sodge. I’ll get Dotty and Mr F to come over in the helicopters. Can you find any nasty, vicious weapons to bring? You know the sort of thing”.

“Trouble is, we won’t be much use against these pigfrog efforts, what with not being able to walk for a start” offered Sodge.

“Good point, Sodge. I’ll have to think about that one”. Ergo wasn’t unduly worried. This was an adventure, and he was sure it would have a happy ending.

“One thing, Sodge. Could you please bring my gramophone and my George Formby records?”


***************************

Mr Farnsbarnes emerged from his workshop with a bewildered look on his face. He was an excellent inventor and was always tinkering with little gadgets like delay mechanisms for Helicopter Colour Drift Syndrome, underwater onion peelers and cat detectors. The cat detectors never caught on because most people can detect cats anyway.

The reason for the look of bewilderment was that he had been designing a prototype set of Slug Wheels for Ergo. They would be like a cross between an invalid carriage and a skateboard, but he was stuck on the power source. He had decided that Lemonade power would be too expensive, - and petrol was too boring. Electricity was too obvious, and gas was, well, too gassy. Suddenly, he had a great idea.
“I’ve got a great idea!” he said.
Onion Power was his idea. Why hadn’t he thought of it before? Here’s how it worked! A small person or woodland animal would sit at the back of the little tray upon which the occupant slug would lie. The person or woodland animal would eat onions, taken from a trolley attached to the back of the slug tray, and would breathe into a sensitised wind-sock linked to a power transformer which would burn the onion gas, and a gear system which would then drive the vehicle along. The slug could steer and control the power. It was quite brilliant. Nothing could go wrong! He began building the new system immediately, and about two pages later was ready to demonstrate the technology to Ergo and the bizarre crew of slug comrades who by now were disporting themselves around the tree in which the Farnsbarneses lived.
Nige was pleased with himself.
“Ergo! Listen, Mate,” he began, “I’m so flipping enormously pleased with myself I can’t begin to tell you!”
He stood the slugs (in a manner of speaking) in a horseshoe shape, and pulled The Wheels out into the centre of the group. They were as I described before, - a skateboard, at the back of which sat a small, bored-looking woodland creature called Kevin. It perched on a sort of tennis umpire’s stool. A trolley of onions was attached at the rear.


“This”, he explained, “is the historic moment when I reveal to you the means by which you will transcend an entire evolutionary stage! I present to you the invention by which I hope I shall be remembered when I’m dead, or hopefully even earlier: Nige’s Wheels!” he announced.

“Hop in, Ergo!”

Ergo mounted (in a manner of speaking) the slug tray part of the apparatus.

“Press the green button, to start the power!” urged Nige.

Ergo did, using a slimy bit. A small green light shone up into the woodland creature’s eyes.

The woodland creature, on cue, took a healthy bite from one of the onions and breathed out demonstratively into the windsock. Loud orchestral music began, and the engines kicked into action.

“Ooh” said the slugs on the left.
“Aah” said the slugs on the right.

The next days were spent recruiting and equipping the slug force. Ergo’s Army was now several hundred strong, and growing. He had almost run out of slugs to recruit, and was trying to decide how many extra fighting bodies he would need when Dotty came rushing into the room waving a telegram from her little sister, Elsie, or Else, as she was called. Little Else was coming to stay. Hip, Hip, Hooray.

“Ergo, would you be a dear and go with Nige to pick up Little Else from the station?” said Dot.

“Well I suppose I can continue my plan to rid the world of evil pigfrogs when I get back”, said Ergo, sarcastically. “Put the kettle on, Dotty.”

He and Nigel got into the correct helicopter, which was now pink (for it was after lunch on a Wednesday), and took off, arriving at the station just in time to see the little train pulling into the station.

“Little Else!” shouted Nige, as a small, rather attractive fairy in a tweed suit got out of the train.

“I’m Ergo” said Ergo, accurately.

“You’re probably right”, said Elsie. She smiled. “Sounds like Latin”, she added.

“I can’t carry your bags because I’m only a slug” apologised Ergo.

They walked back to the helicopter. On the way home, Little Else explained that she had come so that she could look after Chez Farnsbarnes while everybody was out conquering the pigfrogs, or whatever. Ergo was delighted.

“That means Dotty and Nige are coming with us!” he deduced.

That evening, they held a council of war. After some discussion, it was decided that more intelligence was needed. Not enough was known about the enemy. Dotty had explained that the pigfrogs were able to creep up on people very quietly before letting out that horrible scream - “a scream that the victim would only hear the first half of” as Dot said.

“Don’t end a sentence with a preposition” said Nigel, tetchily.

“A pigfrog is about twice the size of a slug, and twenty times meaner” said Dotty.

“Slugs aren’t mean at all” said Sodge.

“What is all this leading to?” said Dotty.

“Please don’t end sentences with prepositions!” said Nigel, in an unusual show of anger. He burst into tears.

“The nasty thing about pigfrogs is that they don’t really need to jump on people at all”, Dotty continued. “They don’t eat you or anything. It’s not as if they needed the meat. They only do it for fun.”

“Fun?” bellowed Ergo. “For flipping fun! Ooh, I can’t tell you how cross I’m getting.”

It was decided that an advance party would make a trip out to Everywhere Else, crossing the Mauve and Avocado Mountains at the most cold and difficult point, the Avocado Basin. This would be far more fun than going by Woodland Railway, which was free, and only took forty-five minutes. If you went the easy way, there wasn’t such a sense of achievement at the end, and you didn’t get to cook your food on a little fire and sing rude songs, Ergo had said.

Ergo looked across the room. Something about the way Little Else was smiling, - something in her manner, had caused him to stop for a minute. Could it be that he was falling in love? Oh, no! But, yes, he did seem to be unusually excited by the soft, undulating tone of her voice and the way she stood with her hands on her cute little hips.

Oh, No! Thought Ergo. Not a good thing! What with her being a real live girl-type fairy person, and him only being a slug. Fat chance of her feeling the same! And even then, what an annoying and distracting thing to happen on the eve of the wars between the slugs and the pigfrogs! There they’d all be, off up the mountains with war in their souls, and what would Ergo be doing? Thinking of Little Else. Not good. He would try to put it out of his mind. Ignore it. Forget about it.

Forget about what? he thought. Good, it had worked.

He surveyed the motley array of recruits which were spread out before him. They were good types, all of them. By now, his slug Elite Corps had been augmented by a good few humanoid-types, - either fairies or gnomes. And there were one or two travelling accountants, bored with their usual profession and seeking a little excitement. These were gnome-folk who wandered around, making their homes among whoever it was who would hire them to count their money. They were called gnome-adds.

As for the slugs themselves, there was old Erk, the brave campaigner who had beaten off eleven enemy single handed, in the Greenfly Wars. “It was nothing” he would say. Nobody disagreed. Then there was Fudgebrother The Younger, - an artist by profession, who had been one of the earliest to respond to the call. Then came Froon, the library monitor; Slarjk, the flower-cutter; Spittoon, the schoolmaster, and Sir John Marvellousbloke, the name-giver. It was he who thought up everyone’s name. Not always a popular slug. A little selfish. But brave. Ergo had to admit, they were all brave and true.