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Here’s a WIP from NaNoWriMo 2017, currently titled King Under the Mountain. Set in Casper, Wyoming, in a world where goblins trade in magical goods with humans, traveling from their world to ours through stone circle gates. But if humans aren’t wary in their dealings with goblins, they can find themselves stolen away!

Stephanie and Alix, cousins, are biking home from a party, a bit drunk, and Stephanie vanishes in a ring of toadstools. Alix calls for the King Under the Mountain, and is allowed to try to bring Stephanie back, going through a gate into the other world. On the second day, after she rescues an angry bird’s nest from the tide, she speaks briefly to the king, who provides her with a little supplies, and then she encounters a group of goblins fishing. (There are three races of goblins: hobs, erlkings, and kibi)

Previously: “I can’t give up and go home, I’ve just started!” Alix protested, even though her feet ached, the bird attack injuries throbbed, and her stomach cramped around the unexpected meal.

“In just a few hours you will have been here for two full days,” he said, offering an insincere smile, “a valiant effort, and the area is not without its dangers, as I am sure you have noticed.”

“What is in the water, anyway?” she asked, remembering the surge of a large shape from the waves, and the flash of long, curved teeth.

“Many things, much like your oceans,” he shrugged, “Though you likely saw a serpent. Our other large shore predator… well, let us simply say that sea dragons are extremely aggressive when it comes to unprepared beach-goers.”

“What—what qualifies as unprepared?”

“Small groups and a lack of ranged weaponry, if you’re dealing with dragons, usually.”

“So I could have gotten eaten by a dragon yesterday?” Alix squeaked, and he shrugged in response.

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By the time Alix had reached the foot of the dune, the five goblins had gathered in a loose clump some distance from their boat, all their faces turned toward her. Two of the males jostled each other, laughing, one pulling the other into a headlock until a third man thumped them both equally on the heads.

“Hello,” Alix smiled weakly at the hob woman, who hadn’t participated in the roughhousing, and stood a little to the front, if off to the side.

“Hello, tamlane,” the hob replied, “Are you seeking assistance?”

“I need to find my cousin,” Alix began in a breathless rush, “I… she accidentally stepped into a fairy circle, and I—”

“No need to explain,” one of the two erlkings held up a hand to stop her, the hob who’d pinned him now having only an arm draped across his shoulder. “We know what you are–you’re a tamlane, and you seek the teind. We can’t bring you all the way to your destination, but we can take you closer.”

“Yes, of course we can,” the other erlking said, smiling sunnily at her, his amethyst eyes lit with laughter. Most of the goblins were smiling at her, in fact, and something about the ring of happy grins sent a trickle of unease down Alix’s spine.

*    *    *

I took inspiration from “The Ballad of Tam Lin,” and Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market.” The idea of people being stolen away, and a loved one journeying to get them back (though Tam Lin was stolen by the Queen of the fairies), and the bustling goblin markets with their dangerous fruit from Rosetti’s poem sparked this adventure. Alix and Stephanie are college freshman, 18 and 19 respectively, and cousins sharing a dorm room. They left an off-campus party where they did some drinking, and while biking back to the dorms, Stephanie steps into a fairy circle and is taken to the kingdom under the mountain, where she will stay forever as a goblin unless rescued.

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

26 responses »

  1. Ed Hoornaert says:

    I’m guessing that you should never trust anyone who’s smiling and helpful in goblin territory.

  2. She’s right to be nervous. Cheerful, friendly goblins don’t sit right with me either!

  3. Author Jessica E. Subject says:

    Yes, that is the question. Can she trust them? Great snippet!!

  4. Jenna Jaxon says:

    Yeah, those smiles are not a good sign. And if they’re calling her “the tamlane” trying to get to the teind, they are certainly not going to help her steal the sacrifice. Chilling, but awesome snippet!

  5. Looks like she’s going to get more trouble than she bargained for…

  6. Alexis Duran says:

    I was wondering why goblins would be so helpful, and your last line confirms my suspicions. Great snippet.

  7. Botanist says:

    I get a sense there’ll be a cost to their help!

  8. Yeah, they all seem just a wee bit too happy and helpful. I hope she’s going to be cautious! Loving the story – great snippet!

  9. Carrie-Anne says:

    There must be a catch to their offer of help, even knowing goblins aren’t seen negatively in all cultures.

  10. Oy! The things we do for family. 🙂 I have a cousin who would come find me, too. 🙂

  11. Karen Michelle Nutt says:

    I sure hope she is going to be cautious.

  12. Closer, like to their campsite to eat her or something. That must be a lot of teeth in those smiles.

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