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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 5: Having gone through a standing stone gate to a new part of the kingdom, Alix struggles to move forward.
Previously: 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.
The going proved slow, Alix having to retrace her path around impassible thickets, or crumbling dirt hills, or deeply carved rivers. “What are you, some kind of evil forest?”
Off to the right, she heard a snuffling noise, and froze.
“I wasn’t asking you to prove me right,” she hissed, and something crackled through the undergrowth. She stared that direction, frozen, as a dark shape resolved into a black bear with white splashed across its chest.
Alix beat a hasty retreat as its head turned her way, and when she judged she was safe, kept going until she found an open spot to search for the elusive moon.
“Stupid never-ending twisty woods,” she grumbled, and kicked a rock, which ricocheted off a tree, bouncing right back at her, barely missing as she dodged away.
“Maybe don’t do that again,” a female voice said, sounding amused–from up in the topmost branches of the tree, yellow eyes peered out at her, glowing faintly in the leafy shadows.
“Won’t do it again!” Alix squeaked, and resumed walking, trying for nonchalant and aware she was failing miserably, because she couldn’t keep her gaze from darting up to the tree until it was out of sight.
* * *
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.