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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. She meets Nissa and Aengus, who explain the tithe/teind and give her a ride. (There are three races of goblins: hobs, erlkings, and kibi) Day 4: Alix reaches a set of standing stones.

Previously:  “You seem not to like the tithe, but are you alone in that opinion?” Alix asked.

“No, we are not,” Nissa said, “though I believe more support the teind than do not. Like many customs that carry with them a mix of shame and relief, it’s difficult to discuss.”

“I… I don’t understand.”

“Yes, I imagine you do not,” Nissa said, though not unkindly. “Goblins live a very long time compared to humans, but we do die from accidents, illness, and other reasons now and then. And our birth rates… we do not easily bear children.”

Nissa paused, and Aengus touched her hand, before she continued, “You may have noticed that this is a world of empty spaces.  Humans have filled your world to the bursting, but we have always been a drop in the ocean. And as time passes, we dwindle instead of grow.”

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Alix came upon a standing stone circle, a much larger one than she’d seen so far.

“You’ve arrived here already, human? Well done, I expected it to take you another day at the least,” a male voice said off to her right.

The king under the mountain stood a few feet away, wearing another short cape, this one a deep rich red, a black tunic embroidered in geometric patterns in gold thread, and what looked like a kilt in a black, gray, and red plaid.

“Nice legs,” she said in response.

He blinked at her, amber eyes startled, and she had a moment to wonder if she’d overstepped, and then he laughed. “I am here to warn you, mortal. One of these doorways will take you closer to your cousin, but the rest will take you elsewhere, away from your goal. Some of the doors lead to places most perilous for the unprepared, and one will take you back to your home plane. So think carefully, and choose wisely.”

*    *    *

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.

23 responses »

  1. Ed Hoornaert says:

    That ‘think carefully’ comment implies there may be clues that can help her choose the right door.

  2. Author Jessica E. Subject says:

    Hmm, I wonder if she’ll get more clues to help her decide which door to take. Great snippet!

  3. This is wonderful storytelling, Caitlin. These two snippet pulled me into this world. Disbelief is suspended! I would read this book.

  4. Now that’s very cool, with all the doorways! Can’t wait to see if there are clues, as others have speculated, or just what will happen. This has been such a fascinating story (as always with your writing). Another great snippet!

  5. daryldevore says:

    OOh – I like that – which door??? Tweeted.

  6. Botanist says:

    Hmmm, “choose wisely”? How is she supposed to do that. Is there something to sense, some clue to guide here then? It sounds like more involved than pure luck.

  7. Hywela Lyn says:

    I could visualise this scene vividly, with your description of the king – and i wonder if there’s some trickery afoot to try to make her choose the wrong door. Great snippet as always.

  8. Frank Fisher says:

    Oh! Which door to choose? I think no matter what, she’ll choose the wrong one! Interesting snippet!

  9. Yikes, what a choice! I wonder if she has the information she needs to truly choose wisely.

  10. nancygideon says:

    Love this, Caitlin! A choice is always tricky business . . . especially when goblins are involved.

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