The Goblin King
Alex Hazlewood
March 2013

 

The old man picked up the stick. He pushed it into the embers of the dying fire. The guttering flames jumped into life, casting light on the gathered children. They watched his every move. His hand moved across his tattooed face. It brushed along the long scar on his chin as he slid the breathing pipe needed to supplement the weak air on this planet from his mouth, finally when he was ready, he lifted his gaze from the fire and started to speak.

“They say the gods, out of boredom, created humans. In those early days they hid in caves, scared to venture forth while the trolls and were-beasts roamed the lands. The trolls huge beast of evil, enjoyed nothing more than devouring  young children. If they managed to capture a foolish child , lost from its tribe they stakes the body to ground, careful not to damage this great price. First they ripped at the chest,  Eating the heart at its final beats tickled the tongue. Savoring the warm blood as it dripped down their face, then they peeled back the skin, Their skill at this was exquisite, children flesh, so soft makes wonderful pillows for their twisted skulls.

“Gruesome times. But over time as the creatures of darkness fought amongst themselves, their numbers dropped and the humans became braver. They left the caves and moved into the high places; they built castles with great walls and deep moats to keep themselves safe from the horrors in the night.

“The Goblin King’s short frame and knobbly body was covered in many battle scars. He had risen to become the leader of his kin after defeating the trolls and driving them back into the Dark Lands. But  his power was never enough for him and he yearned for more.
His greed would one day destroy a nation.”

The old man gestured with his pipe. He takes a long pull, and exhaled, then continues.

“Such was the time when the Goblin King first saw the princess.

“Her face was flawless, and at dusk the light from the moon glimmered on her silver hair. But her true beauty was her voice. At night she would walk around the battlements of her high castle, singing to the land in all its dark beauty. It was said that even the trees leaned closer to hear that magical voice. Returning from a battle, the Goblin King passed close to the land of the humans, and heard her her voice on the wind. Mesmerized by the sweet, pure tones, he followed the song over the hills, until he saw her, a dazzling beacon in the night.

“His wealth and power were no longer enough. Here stood a prize fit for his greed and station! But you do not get to be king by being stupid. Oh no. Looking down at his stout legs and mangled arms, he knew no beauty such as this would ever love him. But love was a thing of wishes and dreams, and as such … subject to magic.

“It took two years for the Goblin King to create the right love spell. His kingdom suffered, but he did not care. Each night he stole back to the castle and watched her graceful promenade around the castle roof, listening to music that only gods should hear. When at last he was ready, he led his  army into the mountains. Many died along the way, fighting the creatures that lurked in the endless shadow, but on they marched. At last, with only a handful of goblins remaining, he reached the summit of the tallest mountain and prepared to cast the spell.

“For twelve days he battled with the magic, harnessing the winds, casting back the rain and tempering the earth. Then the sky cracked—”

The old man banged his stick on the ground and the children jumped. After a weighty pause, he continued.

“Fire and lightning struck the land, some a  mere breath from where he stood. After the smoke settled, a simple silver ring, perfect and pure, lay at his feet. The only marks were an inscription inside. Its words are lost to time, but the power they invoked would kindle unending desire in the wearer. Satisfied, the Goblin King journeyed back to the castle, hell bent of making the princess take the ring, the visions of her beauty driving forward.

“His last remaining warrior died less than a league from their destination, fighting a mighty were-beast in the night. The Goblin King now alone with no kin left alive thought it strange that that he could not hear the voice as he drew close, or see her gliding around the parapets. The damage to the castle, however, was obvious. The crenelations had been blasted to dust and the right side shattered. Lightning and fire had broken its proud frame.

“His spell had been flawed. The Goblin King, realizing his folly, stared at the ring and anguish flooded over him. Casting it aside, he screamed at the sky and tore off his kingly robes. Wailing with anguish and loss, he fled into the night. His cries of despair echo still over that distant land.”

The old man paused. Opening his shirt, he pulled forth a silver chain. At its base hung … a silver ring.

The children gasped as light played on its surface. The merest hint of an inscription held every eye.

“Who here lusts for more than they have? Who would spend all on a dream? Who would destroy all they loved, like, like our forefathers before us?”

All was silent, but for the crackling of the fire.

Finally the old man released the chain and pulled his shirt together.

“Years later, a travelling peddler found the ring. But that is a story for another night.” Scratching his scar, the old man looked to the heavens.

“The twin moons are high in the sky, and it is  time for your bed. Until tomorrow then.”

He stood, stretched his back, and walked away; out towards the seed ship, their temporary castle on this new, hostile world.

[Word Count 895]