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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. Day 4: Alix reaches a set of standing stones, and the king of goblins appears to offer her advice, then vanishes–and then the sea bird whose nest she rescued days ago appears.
Previously: “Well, where’s my clue?” Alix asked the sky.
A piercing cry, a rolling ‘keer-reet,’ split the air in response.
Alix searched the horizon, and soon she spotted a familiar gray and white bird winging above the trees. It wheeled, circling, and then swooped down, landing on the lintel of a stone two doorways down from where she sat.
“What are you doing all the way out here?”
It squawked at her in response, beady black eyes fixed on her, wings spread like a dark omen, and stayed on its perch.
“If you’re trying to communicate with me, bird, I don’t know what you’re trying to say.”
It made that rolling, whistling cry again and again, filling the air with noise, otherwise unmoving.
Alix stood, and walked toward the bird.
It fell silent.
Alix paused in her walking, and the bird immediately began squawking again.
Feeling like an episode of some old t.v. show, she asked, “Am I supposed to go through that one?”
The bird folded its wings, and shook itself, then tucked its head under wing as if sleeping.
“Now I’m not only talking to a bird, I’m taking advice from it,” Alix said, though part of her wasn’t as surprised as she ought to be. Drawing in a deep breath, she squared her shoulders, resettled her backpack, and strode through the doorway with the bird perched on top. Just before she passed underneath it, the bird emitted another short, rolling, whistle of a cry.
Once again as soon as she moved under the gate stone, the world went strange between one step and another, from a sparse forest bordering the shore, to another place entirely. Taking stock, she studied her surroundings. She now stood in an old growth forest, full of pines, spruces, oaks, and ash, and some trees that resembled elms and walnut trees, though not quite the same. The smell of dirt and leaves and rotting plants filled the air, and over it, a sharp, sweet floral scent she couldn’t place.
* * *
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.