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Alexander Woyte and the Goblins
Privett is a sleepy village in Hampshire in Old
England. It's a very traditional place and nothing exciting ever happens there.
Or at least that's what most people think...
Gunnar, king of the Old Wessex Division of the goblins, had a
problem. His old slave, Eric, had died. That usually happened to humans once
they became about seventy or eighty, and there was nothing you could do about
it, except get a new one. The king had grown quite fond of Eric who had been
captured by the goblins in 1925 as a young boy. It was best to catch them
young. There had been a hue and cry. There always is, when a man child
disappears. You can't hush these things up. Some people blamed the gypsies.
Others said: perhaps he had wandered off to join the circus.
Eric's parents had been very upset, but then after a few years they had another son. They never really gave up hope of finding Eric again, and just to be on the safe side, because they were country folk and remembered some of the old traditions, they used to leave presents like milk and chocolate outside the back door at night to keep on the good side of the fairies.
"You're mad" their neighbours used to say. "It's
only being eaten by rats, or hedgehogs."
Now that Eric was dead, Gunnar needed to get a replacement.
Having a human slave was one of the status symbols that went along with being
the goblin king. It was traditional. This was similar to the fashion, in rich
humans, of having a posy car like a BMW, or a trophy wife.
Gunnar's father had known Jane Austen. She was a local girl who
lived in nearby Chawton. When she was writing a book called "Emma",
he used to read over her shoulder. One day he complained about the picnic scene
at Box Hill.
In the old days, when the goblins wanted to solve a difficult
problem, they all used to assemble in a goblin meeting just outside the
bookshop. Nowadays, the best place to go was over the road from the bookshop in
the car park outside Waitrose. They usually held their meetings at about three
o'clock in the morning. That way it was likely there would be less people
strolling about to notice. The few people who did happen to stumble across a
large group of goblins on a wild winter's night usually assumed they had been
drinking too much at the pub before. The Salvation Army always got some new
recruits after a goblin meet.
Although, like many supermarkets, the Waitrose building in Petersfield was
built in a horrible modern style, it did have one definite advantage. The
smaller minion goblins could climb in through the air conditioning vents, and
then pass out packets of ready made sandwiches, beer and crisps.
"If I ever get my hands on the practical jokers who tamper with these tapes, they're for it."
When all the goblins and the local mischievous animals were gathered together, the goblin king explained the situation. "Some of you are too young to remember what Eric looked like when he first came here, but my ideal candidate for a new slave would be someone similar to what he was when he started. A young boy, ideally no more than about four years old, with blonde hair. Preferably living in the countryside hereabouts. Not too close, or the police might discover our hide out. But not too far away either, because we've got to carry him back here in one night. Now does anyone know of any suitable candidates?"
There was a cockerel in the car park. He didn't have much of a brain, but he liked hanging out with the goblins at night because they had good parties. Neighbours in the area always assume when they hear a cock crowing in the middle of the night that it's got something to do with the full moon, or the light from a passing car. As if a cock can't tell the difference between those things and the rising of the dawn. Rubbish! When goblins have a party they always get to the stage in their proceedings when they start to sing. The older ones sing folk songs like "Greensleeves". Some of the younger ones like rock and roll. There's nothing like a bunch of drunken goblins at a karaoke night singing "Blue suede shoes" to get you in the mood. Unfortunately cocks have a limited range when it comes to singing, and whatever they sing always seems to come out more like "Cock a doodle do." Anyway, this cock hopped up and down until he got noticed. (He was under strict instructions not to crow while in the car park, because townsfolk who aren't used to hearing this sound might get suspicious and investigate.)
"And what have you got to say for yourself Mr Cock?" asked the chairman of the goblin meeting.
"Please, sir, I think I know just the sort of person you're looking for. I used to live in the garden of a cottage where they had a little fair haired boy. He should be just the right age by now."
"What do you mean? Used to live "
"When they discovered" the cock blushed "My hidden talents, they sent me away to the farm."
"You mean when they discovered your singing talents, more like" commented one of the younger goblins.
"OK, let's not start that" said the chairman. "Where does this boy you're talking about live?"
"Privett" said the cock, giving the young goblin an evil look as if you say "Your singing's not much better."
"I know where that is," said Gunnar the goblin king. "I remember them building that pointy church when I was a young lad. "That's certainly in the right area. What's the name of this young boy?"
"Alexander" said the cock. "Alexander Woyte."
"OK" said the king. "I'll send one of my minions over there tomorrow to have a look. You can give him the address."
There were no more suggestions at the meeting, so all the goblins went back into the bookshop and the animals all went home. On his way back to the tunnels, as he was passing the shelves of rare old history books, Gunnar stopped to borrow a first edition copy of Robert Louis Stephenson's book called "Kidnapped".
"Might get a few useful ideas from this" he thought.
The next morning, one of the goblin king's minions went over to Privett to spy out the lie of the land. He waited outside the group of cottages which the cock had described to him. Several cars departed with their adult occupants, on their way to work or the shops. Then, finally in the middle cottage the back door opened to reveal a tall woman holding a baby, followed by a small Jack Russell dog, and, last of all, a smiling fair haired boy.
"That will do nicely" said the minion to himself. "Very nicely indeed."
That night Alexander's parents read him bedtime stories as usual. The last one was "Good Night Gorilla" by Peggy Rathmann.
Everyone was feeling very sleepy, and Alex was asleep before they even put him into the top of his bunk bed. Then his parents, Andrew and Joanna went downstairs, and all was quiet, as they fell asleep under the charm of a goblin spell. Even the dogs next door were quiet, and even their own little dog was quiet, and nowhere to be seen.
Just then the window in Alexander's room crept open, and in
popped five goblin minions. Alex woke up. He wasn't scared. He sometimes had
adventures in his dreams, and he thought this was one of them.
Before Alex could say anything, they popped a bandage over his mouth, and four minions quickly tied him up. Then, very carefully, taking care not to bump him on the way, they lifted him out of the window, where another bunch of minions were waiting to catch him.
"Be careful" said the chief steward minion from inside. "He's very precious, and not be bumped or injured in any way in transit."
In a few seconds all the goblins had hopped it out of the window, which closed quietly.
Then from under the bed, a little dog appeared. It was Snoozy. She had been sleeping under the bed, which she wasn't supposed to do. But because she was already asleep, the goblin spell didn't affect her. She knew what she had to do, and raced downstairs to the sitting room where everyone was sleeping.
First she jumped onto Andrew's lap. (Andrew was Alexander's father). She licked and licked at his face. That usually worked to wake him up. But tonight it had no effect.
Then she jumped onto Joanna's lap. (Joanna was Alexander's mother). Snoozy licked and licked at her face. That usually worked to wake Joanna up. But tonight it had no effect.
Then Snoozy went over carefully to Charlie's cot. (Charlie, was Alexander's baby brother.) Snoozy licked and licked, and Charlie woke up. Charlie looked around and realised it was a long time since he had last eaten (it wasn't actually, but babies aren't very good at telling the time). Charlie saw that everyone was asleep, so he started to yell. He yelled and cried as loud as he could.
The cry of baby has a special power which is even stronger than a goblin spell. Andrew and Joanna woke up straight away. Snoozy was running around in circles very excitedly, and she wouldn't stop until someone realized what she was trying to say.
"I think that dog is trying to tell us something" said Joanna. "She's trying very hard."
Finally Snoozy managed to say "The goblins have taken Alex out the window. We've got to get him back."
"I've never heard that dog talk before" said Andrew. "Have you been giving him lessons?"
"No, wait a minute" said Joanna. "It sounds like she's talking nonsense, but I'm not so sure."
Of course a few minutes later when Snoozy had explained what she heard, and they went upstairs, they realized that Alex had gone. They also found a goblin hat, which had fallen on the floor, and Alexander's little plastic fireman toy.
"He wouldn't have gone anywhere without this" said Andrew. "He must be in trouble."
"You'll need a horse to go after them" said Joanna. "I'll
phone Mervyn, and some people from the hunt. You go off to the farm."
Back at Jibb Cottage Andrew had never put on his coat and his
boots so fast before. Just as he was going out the door, an idea struck him,
and he went back inside to pick up his old cavalry sabre. It was an antique, but
something told him it might come in useful, on this of all nights.
As luck would have it, they chanced across a big fox just as they were going down the track from the farm. The fox was very surprised. It had never heard of the hunt going out at night. They must be practicing new tactics to cope against the new anti-hunting legislation that the Labour government was planning. He'd heard about it on Fox FM. He knew that his time had come, but he was prepared to give them a good run for their money.
"Bugger off" said the lead fox hound to the fox. ""We're not chasing foxes tonight. We're hunting a little boy called Alex."
The fox didn't really believe his ears, and was still wondering if he had heard right, long after the riders and hounds disappeared out of view.
"Hunting little boys? Whatever will they think of next?"
the fox wondered. "I don't think anyone is going to believe this."
Horses travel faster than goblins, so it wasn't long before
they caught sight of the goblins who had kidnapped Alexander. Unfortunately for
the would-be rescuers, these goblins were being met by a much larger band headed
by the goblin king himself, who had come out from his dark tunnels, impatient
to see how things were going.
"That doesn't sound, to me, like a fair deal at all" said Andrew. "If you win, you get to keep my son, whereas if I win I keep him? But Alex was already my son to start off with, so that makes me no better off. You'll have to think of something better than that, mate!"
"OK, how's this" said the king. "If I win the contest, I keep Alexander as my slave, but if you win, I will name him a Goblin Friend. I've taken a shine to him, I really have. That means I'll allocate some of my minions to be his guardian goblins, who will always be there to help him out, in case he ever gets into any magicy kind of trouble."
"A bit like a guardian angel? you mean " said Andrew."
The king hissed. "We don't use that kind of bad language. But basically yes."
"That sounds like a deal then" said Andrew, little realizing how many interesting complications this might cause later on. At this time, as you can imagine, his sole interest was to get Alex safe and home and tucked up in bed.
The king stepped forward and held out his right hand. It looked a bit revolting, but Andrew recognised the gesture, which was the same with human beings.
"Let's shake on it then" suggested the king.
Suddenly alarm bells went off in Andrew's brain, and he remembered something which he had read so long ago, it seemed like in another world.
"Not so fast mate" he said. "I remember doing GoblinPrudence in my first year studying law at Hull University. Let me think, what did it say?" He gazed up at the moon as if seeking inspiration, and his tone changed as he switched over to his posh lawyering voice.
"Domesday book, Northern edition, page 427, paragraph 2, the bit next to the ink stains at the bottom of the page....
Verbum Rex goblinorum bolluxus est. Sed vera quando libro scriptus writtus mustus.
Which, loosely translates as:- the word of a Goblin King isn't worth a fart:- unless it's written down."
"Bugger" said the king.
"My pen" said Andrew, and reached into the cavernous pocket of his great coat, from which he withdrew his special lawyering pen, made from the quill feather of a surprised goose. He also pulled out a bottle of permanent ink, some parchment, and a little folding riding table.
"You never know when these things will come in handy" said Andrew, by way of explanation to the gobsmacked onlookers. He quickly scratched together the appropriate legal phrases, signed his parts, and offered his quill to the king.
"If you would be so kind, your majesty, your autograph here, here and here."
Gunnar realized that he couldn't back down now, so he signed with a flourish. Then the witnesses queued up and signed. Then Andrew reached into another cavernous pocket in his great coat and pulled out a little battery operated Canon photocopier. After running off 3 copies to be retained by each party, each copy itself being marked with an "X" by 2 witnesses from each side, they were ready to proceed onto the deadly matter of the trial by combat.
"Your choice of weapons, as the injured party is traditional" said the king. Drawing aside his coat to reveal a short goblin dagger at his belt.
Andrew already knew what he was going to choose.
"Blades" I think, said Andrew, and pulled out his old cavalry sabre from its leather scabbard.
"Agreed" said the king, with a sly grin as he unsheathed his little dagger.
It was only about six inches long, and Andrew was a bit surprised. Andrew was a bit more than surprised a few moments later - when Gunnar flicked a switch on the handle of his dagger, and suddenly, as if by magic, out popped a six foot long horribly sharp, notchy sword with dark stains along the edge, like those really evil looking ones which the baddies always have in horror films.
"Oh shit" said Andrew, realizing he had been tricked.
They circled each other warily for a few seconds while the minions and the members of the hunt stepped a long way back our of harm's way. As innocent bystanders, they had no desire to get nicked or pricked or sticked by slashing blades in the moonlight.
"Let's begin then" said the king, as he poked forward with an exploratory lunge.
Andrew easily avoided that one. But he knew he had to be very careful. More than his own life depended on the outcome of this fight. If he lost, Alex would spend the rest of his days in the dark tunnels underneath the old Petersfield bookshop, only popping out, if he was lucky, to have a quick trip into the Waitrose car park, on the nights of the goblin meetings. (It wouldn't have been as bad as all that, but Andrew wasn't to know that the slave of a goblin king could have quite an interesting time.)
In the moonlight, their shimmering blades smacked together. They tinged and tonged and clattered and battered. With his long sword, the king had a great advantage and he also had a lot more practice at sword fights (which he always won). The nearest that Andrew had ever come to waving a sword in anger, was when he was chopping wood with his axe for the fire. He realized that the king was winning, and if he didn't try something different soon he would be utterly defeated. He didn't fancy going home to tell Joanna that he had fought the goblin king and lost.
But Andrew was good at war games and tactics, and suddenly he got an idea. As they clashed an bashed, Andrew realized that timing was everything. Just as it looked like he was losing, and the king got ready for his final stroke Andrew called out...
"Your flies are undone!"
Too late, the king realized, even as he started to look down, that this was only a trick. That was the last thing that went through his mind as ---- SWISH ---- Andrew's sabre whizzed across from shoulder to shoulder.
The king's head popped twenty feet up into the air, and rolled away down the grassy slope landing in a rabbit hole. Then his body keeled over, stone dead. Not a twitch. And everyone fell silent.
A famous writer in Oxford who wrote about goblins, said that the game of golf was invented when the great Bullroarer Took, whacked off another goblin king's head in a place called the Shire. All I can say is, that Shire goblins and Wessex goblins are probably quite different, as we shall shortly see.
As I said before, everyone was stunned into silence. Andrew wiped his sabre on his coat. There were lots of other revolting stains on the coat, so another one wouldn't really show. One of the goblin minions remembered to untie Alex, and just as he was handing him back to his father, a squeaky voice seemed to come from the rabbit hole.
"Someone get me out of here."
It was the king, except his voice was higher. But they instantly obeyed.
"Someone put my head back on my body. No not that way around, you fools. That's better."
His voice dropped down to its normal deep pitch.
"Ah yes" he said by way of explanation. You've won, and all that, but luckily for me I guessed that your sabre was a traditional human one made out of steel."
He realized that Andrew didn't understand what he was talking about. He went on to explain.
"You see, if it had been made of silver, then instead of just having a bit of a sore throat for the next couple of weeks, I really would be dead."
He came up to Andrew to shake his hand.
"You won this fight, fair and square, by goblin standards anyway. I suppose I'll have to give up my idea of having a human slave. It's getting a bit unfashionable anyway. I think I'll have to get a BMW or a trophy wife instead."
"I can help you with that" said Andrew, hastily explaining "getting a good deal on a BMW, I mean."
"And you, my young man" the goblin king clasped Alexander's shoulder. "Alexander Woyte. I name you Goblin Friend. If anyone messes about with you or gives you gyp, just let me know, and I'll sort them out. I'll send some of my minions round later. They won't get in your way, but if you need them, just holler."
Nothing exciting happened on the way back to Privett. Alex rode in the front of Andrew's saddle. Along the way, Andrew fell off. Alex stayed on. Andrew go back on. When they got home, Alexander's mother already knew what had happened because someone in the hunt had phoned on their mobile.
The next evening, before Alex went to bed, his parents read him bedtime stories as usual.
The last one was "Good Night Gorilla."
It went through the litany of the "Good nights" finally ending with:-
"Goodnight Gorilla" read Mummy.
"Good night Alex" said Daddy.
"Good night Goblins" said Alex looking at the window.
There was a pause, then.
"Good night Alex" said the goblins.
They would always be there in the dark, making sure that he would come to no harm.
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2000 to 2003 Zsolt Kerekes
This is a work of fiction. All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to actual goblins living or dead is purely coincidental or due to ensorclement beyond our control