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Alexander White and the Pirates (and Goblins)

Chapter 2

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Goblin stories by Zsolt Kerekes

Alexander was too young to have seen the movies, Jaws, Jaws 2, Look at the Teeth on that Fish etc... but his goblin companions had seen the original uncut versions on Goblin TV, and subconciously the Jaws theme Da-Di-Da-Di-Da started going through their minds.

On his first approach the giant shark skidded to a halt about 20 feet from the bunk bed, by swirling his tail around. This splashed everyone on board with cold water, just in case anyone might be sleeping through this, and miss the best parts of the shark's performance later on. It also enabled the shark to stand up in the water a bit like a surfacing whale, except that most whales were a lot smaller.
click to  expand Map of Privett etc

"Look how big I am" he was saying in shark-speak. And then he dropped back down and disappeared under the water leaving a vortex of white foam. There was method in his madness, because sharks have a very sensitive sense of taste. And in the water, he could definitely smell the taste of carnivore.

There was something else too, a trace of something nasty, but identifiable. Maybe there was something in the mattress which had gone off. But it was the people on the mattress he was interested in eating. One normal sized child and three ugly looking midgets. Four little nibbles to follow the main course of the shark bomber (Hank who was eaten in part 1 of this story).

The thin little goblin Sleepsalot stuck his head under the blanket. It was wet there too. No chance of going to back to sleep and waking up when it was all over. But the shark had disappeared from view. It's when you can't see them, that they're most dangerous.

On his second approach, the shark decided to come up from below the bunk bed.

Crash! Everyone was thrown up in the air, as the bunk bed was lifted clean out of the water. The goblins hung tightly onto Alex, and he hung onto the head board. Then they all felt sick as the mattress dropped back down with a great splash. Cold green foamy waves came rushing over the bed to a depth of about a foot. When it bobbed back up again they were all still hanging on to each other. But for how much longer?

The fat little goblin, Eatsalot was very scared like the rest of them. And when he was scared, he found it was comforting to think about food. He was trying to work out how many millions of portions of fish and chips you could make from a shark that big. But you would need a lot of batter, and a very large frier.

On his third approach, the shark decided to show off his teeth.

This time he just swam in a leisurely way towards the end of the bunk bed with his jaws wide open, as if to say...

"I could swallow the lot of you in one go, if I wanted to. But I prefer crunching my food one toothful at a time."

So as he passed by he crunched off a corner post of the bunk bed to demonstrate his point. And just to repudiate the theory that some humans have, that once a shark starts to bite into a big stick it can't stop, and its jaws get stuck wide open. He spat it out again. Actually, I think that theory only works with crocodiles, and, maybe then, just in cartoons. But not in real life. This shark was not going to be stopped by someone sticking a bed post between its jaws.

All this was being observed from the pirate ship which was coming closer by sail, having let the shark loose earlier on.

"What be that shark of yorn a playing at Sharky?" asked captain Feary, who couldn't see properly because he was holding his telescope up to his eye patch.

"Can't rightly say cap'n" came the reply. "Looks like he's found a new toy."

"He'd better have his fun over and done with quickly" observed the captain, "because without shark power, we're very vulnerable to sneaky attacks from the Royal Navy."

"Shame we didn't manage to catch that really fast shark we saw earlier on cap'n" said Shiver-mi-timbers. "Makes me shiver just thinking how fast we could go with that thing a'pulling us. Permission to make some more tea cap'n? While we wait for our slow shark to finish having his bit of fun?"

"Good idea" said captain Feary. "Only don't make it weak like the last time. Put some of Helga's potato juice in with the rum. Two parts potato juice, to one part rum..."

"Aye, aye cap'n."

...Aye, aye, that's when the captain realised that he was not seeing too well through his special nautical telescope. He waited till no-one was looking and then quickly swapped hands, and brought the telescope up to his good eye.

"Belay that tea milads. We've got something very interesting here. Full sail ahead to the bunk bed."

Now, all the bobbing up and down of the bunk-bed was starting to have an effect on Buvealot, the visiting gallic goblin who had inherited the sea sickness genes from his illustrious ancestors. And, as he later explained, it was this factor, and not being scared at the prospect of being eaten by a big fish, which resulted in him throwing up just as the shark came in for the kill. Knowing that Joanna was very strict about goblins not leaving footprints on the bed clothes, or making any other kind of mess in the house, and notwithstanding the fact that the bed was already awash with briny green water, he did the only possible thing he could do in the circumstances.

On his fourth approach, the shark decided he would eat one of the people on the bed. He thought it would be nice to start off with one of the little ones first. And there just happened to be one, wearing a beret, leaning over the side. His mouth opened wide and he looked forward to a crunchy little morsel.

That's when Buvealot got sick into the shark's wide open jaws. And that's when the shark realised he had made a terrible mistake.

As we know from earlier in this story, goblins taste horrible. That's why nothing eats them. Not even mad dogs. The taste of a goblin is said to be so utterly revolting that you want to spit it out as quickly as you can, and you have to wash your mouth out with a bathful of soapy water, just to get rid of the horrible taste. And after that you have to eat some very hot chile to knock out your taste buds, because the soapy water doesn't clear all the goblin taste out. And after that, you can still taste it, and feel like drinking pints of vinegar. And just when you think that's cleared your palate, you remember how horrible it tasted, and the memory makes you start all over again. Goblins are imune to it, just as people who eat garlic don't smell the garlic on the breath of their companions.

As the goblin sick hit the back of the shark's throat, an ancient racial memory programmed into its DNA suddenly came to life, but too late to do any good.

Goblins taste revolting. Even if you're starving it's better to eat your own tail than eat a goblin. Goblin sick tasted even worse than that. He realised he would never be able to eat anything green ever again. Just the memory would make him feel ill. He did the only thing he could do in the circumstances. He swam back to the pirate ship and, while keeping his mouth wide open, swam round and around, very, very fast.

Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.

"Very fast giant shark swimming round and around in circles cap'n" said Sharky. "He's almost as fast as that one which got away. I'm going to get dizzy if I keep watching."

But captain Feary had been watching the proceedings through his telescope, and he was not at all surprised, having attended a special mixed school for the younger sons of pirates and goblins when he was a youngster back in the 18th century.

"That stupid fish or yorn, has tried to eat a goblin. That's what has put a rocket up his kyber. You'd best let him swim around a few hundred times more before attaching the tow rope, otherwise we'll be spinning round like a roulette wheel. Stand by to accept boarders."

Shiver-mi-timbers climbed threw down a rope to the appraching bunk bed, and Alex caught it and tied alongside.

"I don't like the look of that pirate ship" observed Alex.

"I don't like the look of any ship" said Buvealot, who was feeling a bit better now. "But she is bigger than we are, and she is out of the water."

"They might have some tasty food on board" suggested Eatsalot.

"They might have some warm dry beds" yawned Sleepsalot.

"Come on" said Alex. "Before that shark comes back for us."

And so, the four of them climbed up the side, with a helping hand from Shiver-mi-timbers. Sharky handed them some nice clean towels, which were embroidered with the message "Property of His Majesty's Royal Navy". And captain Feary leaned over and watched them with a curious scowl.

"And what do we have here milads, popping up from Davy Jone's locker and out of the mouth of man eating sharks. It looks very curious to me."

"One handsome looking fair haired boy and three not so handsome, green looking brothers" suggested Shiver-mi-timbers. "Maybe the green will wash off." He looked at the wet towels, but the goblins shook their heads.

"The green doesn't wash off" said Alex. "It's their natural colour."

"Garn. haven't you ever seen a goblin before?" said captain Feary embarassed at his crewman's ignorance.

"Sorry cap'n, I didn't have the benefit of your public school education."

"Are you feared o'me boy?" said captain Feary staring down at Alexander.

"No sir, not a bit" said Alex, who thought that being on the pirate ship was a jolly sight safer than being chased by a giant shark while clinging onto a sinking bunk bed. The captain seemed to think that was a good answer, because he smiled at that, but his face muscles weren't used to smiling, so it was a bit painful.

"What be your name boy?" asked the captain quietly.

"Alexander Woyte" came the reply.

"Alexander Woyte..." The captain echoed back the name and seemed to savour its sound. "That's a good old fashioned solid name. Not one of those sissy modern names like Nigel or Hank. And what about these here goblins boy?"

Alexander wasn't sure what was meant by this question, so he he introduced each of them in turn, "This is Sleepsalot, Eatsalot, and Buvealot." And as he did so, each one gave a polite little bow.

The captain shook his head. "Well bred little rascals, so I see. What I meant Alexander, was to ask if these here goblins are your own, or... Did you steal 'em?"

"We belong to Gunnar the king of the Old Wessex Division of the goblins "explained Eatsalot "except for Buvealot, who's on an exchange visit from Saint Malo. We're Alexander's minders."

At this, the goblins remembered that they were supposed to be looking after Alex, instead of the other way round, and they all tried to look fierce, which is a bit difficult when you've not long before been dripping wet and chased by a giant shark. The shark was still doing circuits of the pirate ship, but it was getting tired and had slowed down to about thirty miles and hour."

"Well, well, a Gallic goblin, mixing up with some Wessex goblins, I can see there's more to this story than meets the eye" said the captain, lifting up his eye patch and trying to get a closer look.

"And where do you live master Alexander, when you're not floating around on your bunk bed in the middle of the open sea?"

"Jibb Cottage in Privett" came the quick reply.

"That be a nautical sounding address, and very proper. Tell me young lad, have you ever thought about being pirate?"

Truth to tell, Alexander had given this some serious thought a few years earlier, when he was playing with a large plastic pirate ship. But now that he was five, and already going to school. he wasn't sure if that was the right sort of training. Also he wasn't sure if he would be disqualified from being a pirate, because his father, Andrew, was a lawyer.

"We're looking for a young apprentice pirate. Have been for a long time. There's a 'prentice pirateship vacancy at the present time," explained the Captain.

"What happened to the last one?" asked Alex suspiciously, thinking about the shark. The shark had slowed down now, to twenty miles an hour, but it was still whizzing madly in circles. From time to time it changed rotation from clockwise to anti-clockwise, and occasionally it found a morsel of the horrible taste in its mouth and put on an extra burst of speed. He felt a bit sorry for the shark, now that he was safely on a big boat.

Captain Feary mumbled something unintelligence.

"Pardon sir, I didn't hear that. Can you please say it again."

"Mumble, mumble kock out ant" came the reply.

Alex shook his head. His ears must have some water still in them

"Sorry sir, what did you say?"

"He ran away to shore to become an accountant" came the reply. "It's very embarrassing and I'd rather not talk about it."

And at that, Alexander laughed.

"I'll be very happy to be a prentice pirate, until my mum or dad take me home, as long as you don't make me or my goblin minders walk the plank."

The captain held out his hand. "Let's shake on it then" he said. "Your dad isn't a lawyer by any chance is he?"

At that one of the goblins squeaked in alarm. But Alexander said nothing, and just smiled. "What's for breakfast?" he asked, quickly changing the subject.

Dear listener, you may think that the idea of an apprentice pirate running away from sea to become an accountant on dry land is a mere fanciful invention. But every word of it is true. Let me remind you of the famous example of one John Major. Legend has it, that his family worked in the circus, but he decided to run away from the circus to become an accountant. Later of course, in the late 1990's he went into politics and became leader of the Conservative party, and thereby Prime Minister of England. So, in a way he had run away from one type of circus just to go into another for which he had no proper training. This kind of thing happens a lot more often than you might think.

Meanwhile, back on dry land, came the time for breakfast in Jibb cottage... No Alex. No bed, and no goblins.

"There's something fishy going on here" said Alexander's father, Andrew, who was still hopping about on crutches after a recent operation on his knee, caused by his horse riding too close to a tree.

"I think I know who's behind this" said Joanna, Alexander's mum. "I bet it's Gunnar the goblin He's probably grabbed Alex for one of those karaoke nights in the Waitrose car park, and they're all probably sleeping in a heap under the bookshop. When I find him, he's going to change from being a bass baritone to a tenor treble."

"Good luck dear" said Andrew kissing her goodbye. "Ask him when he's going to pay that bill for the pre nuptial contract for his trophy wife. I'm starting to get a bit tired of that cheque's in the post routine. If he hasn't got cash, ask him for an IOU. Don't worry, I'm sure Alexander's OK. He'll have his goblin minders looking after him, and he's probably having a jolly good time somewhere."

Joanna raced along the twisty road which connects the viallage of Privett to the Waitrose car park in Petersfield. Usually, that ride would take about twenty minutes. Today she did it in ten. It was busy and most spaces were taken, but there's always an empty space in the corner with the biggest puddles. Her car sprayed passing shoppers and their trolleys as it screeched to a halt, and she ran out to get a parking ticket.

Next to the ticket machine she noticed a scuffle in the rubbish bin.

"Come here goblin!" she yelled and reached in and grabbed a goblin minion by the scruff of the neck. "I need one of those special parking tickets now."

After the adventure the year before, when Alexander had been kidnapped by the goblins, his parents found out that visitors to the old book shop on goblin business can get special magic tickets for the car park. These come in handy for people who want to stay for more than a couple of hours because when the ticket inspector comes round, they always show a time that's still valid. Another feature is that the car to which the ticket is attached, is enchanted and slowly changes colour so that it looks different every couple of hours.

The goblin minion recgnised Joanna and gave her a ticket.

To the people in the queue behind her, the little goblin miniom was invisible and it just looked like she'd been lucky enough to find a ticket with some time still left on it in the waste bin.

After fixing the ticket to the inside windscreen, Joanna started walking briskly towards the entrance which leads to the old book shop. She was in a hurry so she didn't see that a man who had been standing behind her at the ticket machine was trying to explain to his wife why he was rummaging through the waste bin.

"You can get free tickets in here" he said.

She just hit him on the head with her umbrella.

"You'll use any excuse to get out of going to the supermarket, but madness won't work. Put your twenty five p in the machine and let's get on with it. Go and get a trolley."

When you go into the old bookshop from the street entrance the first part is full of new books, but if you walk past those and go up the stairs you get into the interesting part, which is a maze of dusty old shelves packed with books from floor to ceiling. In some parts of the maze books are actually heaped in the passageway, and if visitors aren't careful, they can easily get lost. Joanna knew where she was going. Straight to the old history book section. Up the stairs. Turn right, Down the stairs, and out of sight.

The filing system in this part of the shop is a bit erratic, because the goblins use the shop as their local lending library, and they don't always put things back in the right order. In the remotest section of the history shelves was the letter "A". She started scanning the titles carefully.

"Alfred the Great's - Camping Cookbook," no, a bit further on. That was filed by subject. Except it should have been in the cookery section.

"Bird, Isabella - My Life Among the Savage Goblins in Bisbee Arizona," still going in the right direction. That was filed by author, but in the correct history bookshelf.

"England's History 1650 to 1695 in Fifteen Volumes - by the Reverand V. Boring (C. of E. Retired)," there were hundreds more like that one.

"Famous French People Who Got Their Heads Chopped Off in the Revolution," getting a bit closer now.

"Goblin Myths and Legends by S. Pellerbyte." Joanna pulled this one out. This was a very fat book with a cracked brown leather cover which was caked in mud and dried melted chocolate. When she opened the front cover, the "Myths and Legends" part of the title page had been crossed out in red ink, and overwritten in a curly spidery hand were the words "Great Goblins I Have Known - awarded for first prize in History to Gunnar Junior - 3rd year preps 1776." In pencil was written - "not for sale, mine, hands off, or else." That was the right one. She reached into the gap behind where the book had been and pressed the secret button.

The lights in the shop flickered for a moment. A little head belonging to a watch goblin peeped out from a fake book on the top shelf, saw who it was, winked and reached down to pop another identical book back into the gap on the shelf. Then there was a feeling like being in a lift as the floor gave way and Joanna dropped about twenty feet onto a pile of cushions in the cellar beneath the shop. As Joanna knew from coming here before, this was just the first of many tunnels. There was a fifteen watt Mushroom powered electric lightbulb which hung from the ceiling above a signpost in the floor.

It took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust. There were four directions:- "Sandwiches and crisps" - that was back towards Waitrose. "Beer and skittles" that led underground into the cellars of one of the old pubs in the High Street. "Tradesmen and minions", that was the main route in, and finally "He who must be obeyed. Walk quietly!! Or else.". She went along this last route for quite a way until she reached a dark oak door which was covered in iron studs and cobwebs. Here there was another light and a sign which said.

"Knock quietly, except on Sundays, and not before eleven am, or else. Signed G."

Joanna was not in a mood to play games, so she thumped the door quite hard. She knew what the goblin king was like, so just to be sure she gave it a good solid kick. There was a sound like the jangling of keys and some mumbling. The door swung open to reveal a big ugly looking goblin in a dressing gown. Behind him in the sitting room, a fire was raging (I don't know what they did with the smoke - but it was probably funnelled into someone else's chimney). Gunnar, for it was he, had been sleeping on the settee. He was a night owl, if you can say that about a goblin. When he recognised his visitor, his scowl turned into a pleasant smile.

"Alexander's mum!" he said. "What a pleasant surprise. He turned around and shouted, "Darla, we've got a visitor."

In the sitting room behind him a pretty blond elvish looking goblin suddenly appeared. She was either wearing a very posh evening dress, or a very skimpy night dress. It was difficult to tell the difference nowadays. She was Gunnar's new trophy wife from Yorkshire. He'd swapped her for in return for Basingstoke, but she had come with a good dowry which included rights to live under a fanous tea shop in Halifax. Her original name had been "Betty Goblin" but she changed that by deed poll to "Darla" after a tasty looking vampire she'd seen on TV

Joanna skipped the formalities and poked Gunnar in the chest.

"Where's my son?"

Gunnar looked confused.

"He's not behind you is he?"

"No."

"At school?"

"No."

"Playing truant?"

"No, that's why I'm here."

"And what about his guard goblins?"

"I don't know. That's why I came here. They've gone too."

"Now that's serious," agreed Gunnar. He took Joanna by the arm and led her to the settee, from which Darla hastily removed yesterday's copy of the Wessex Goblin Times, also known as the "Screecher".

"Tea?" she asked.

Gunnar nodded. "You'd better make it strong, and add some sugar."

As she disappeared, he helped Joanna sit down. She was now in a bit of a daze.

"I really believed that you had him. After the last time..."

"A natural misunderstanding. Just tell me what happened."

"This morning, I went up to see him. We've been sleeping downstairs since Andrew broke his leg hitting that tree..."

"I heard about that" said Gunnar. "You know what you should do about that..."

"No. What?"

"Go back, and chop it down" he explained. "And then burn it on your fire."

"Is it some form of magic? Does it make the leg better?"

"No, but it stops it happening again. With the same tree at any rate."

Joanna realised that this was probably logical if you were a goblin, or Hungarian, but not to anyone else. But she filed it away for future reference, and then went on.

"He was gone."

"Aha" said the goblin.

"Not like the last time. Not through the window. This time, the window was closed, and this is the strange bit..."

Gunnar's eyes opened in anticipation.

"The bed was gone too, and your goblin minions. But there was a puddle left on the floor."

"I do apologize, those minions were supposed to be house trained."

"No it wasn't that" said Joanna crossly. "It smelled salty, and like chlorine. In fact a bit like the sea."

"Tea cakes for anyone?" Darla popped her head in from the door leading to the kitchen. They both nodded, and she went away again. they were disturbed by the sound of a whispered dispute which stopped them for a while.

"Mumble mumble" went one voice, which sounded like a house minion.

"Grumble grumble" whispered another voice which could have been Darla.

You know it's sometimes very fascinating eavesdropping on other people's conversations, especially if the subject in hand is more problematic. There was a clang like the sound of a frying pan hitting something soft, followed by a squeak. then... a hissed sentence like.

"I don't care if it is daylight!" Thwack. "...and if the cameras do catch you so what? You're going straight over to Waitrose this minute to get those Mrs Beatons teacakes or I'm going to stick you under the grill."

There was the sound of pattering feet and the slamming of a door. Then Darla came back in smiling.

"It'll just be a few minutes, she said, while I wait for the oven to heat up." She disappeared again.

"Got used to living in a tea-shop" said Gunnar by way of explanation. "Still not used to this grocery shopping business."

"You can do it on the internet now" said Joanna.

"We use goblin net" said Gunnar "and you wouldn't want to send your credit card details over that! Just hold on while I make a phone call. There's a mysterious element to this disappearance."

He got out his mobile phone. The person at the other end seemed to know who he was already. Joanna was used to that. You could see the incoming caller on her mobile too. But what was peculiar is that the person on the other end already seemed to know what the call was about.

"Were there any fish?" Gunnar asked suddenly.

"Fish?"

"Fish... You know, just lying around in the water."

"There was something. I'm not sure what it was. Our dog snoozy picked it up and ran off with it. I thought it was a toy. But it did look silvery."

Gunnar relayed this information to the person at the other end. Darla came in with a tray and some tea. Gunnar switched off his phone and stood up.

"I'm terribly sorry darling" he said. "There's no time for that, we've got to go."

Joanna stood up too.

"Where are we going? Is it far?"

"Yes, but it won't take long" he replied. "Follow me."

Darla just stood there with the tray, then smiled. "Never mind," she said, "You just pop along. I'll just drink this gallon of tea myself, and I'll have no difficulty polishing off these dozen toasted tea cakes." Steam started coming out of her ears but she was still smiling sweetly.

"Right you are then" said Gunnar, kissing her goodbye. "I'll just change out of my dressing gown."

He said this just in time for Joanna to quickly shut her eyes. She had been a nurse when she was younger and seen many bottoms, but what she had seen of the goblin king when dressed did not make her want to know any more. He was now dressed smartly in a silk italian business suit. He went over to the wall and opened the door of a built-in wardrobe which revealed a fill length goblin mirror inside. It looked to Joanna that it might have been a bit distorted but also it might have been his true reflection.

"Ready?" he asked.

"We haven't got time for that" said Joanna impatiently.

Suddenly there was whooshing sound and a mushroom shaped vortex puffed out from the mirror. Now Joanna understood. She'd seen Stargate SG 1 and knew that many film makers used goblin technology as their inspiration.

"Follow me" he said. Then he stepped into the mirror and disappeared.

She emerged in somewhere completely different. It looked like a gigantic cave. The floor was covered in long strips of paper tape, and there were hundreds of hedgehogs rolling around trying to get as many holes into the tape as possible. Then she saw a giant white mouse wearing a wizard's hat who seemed to be organizing everything.

"Hello Gunnar" said the mouse.

"Hello Mr. Spellerbyte" replied Gunnar nervously. "This, here" pointing to Joanna "is the person I told you about, who has the 'er problem."

Joanna wasn't sure how you introduced yourself to a mouse wizard. So she held out her hand.

"Joanna White" she said. "I'm Alexander's Mum. He's missing and I need you help."

"I'd like to help you now, but I really need to finish writing a new business plan first. If I don't get some money from investors soon, I'll have to sack all my programmers and tell them they won't ever get paid. Then they'll starve or freeze to death, because it's still the middle of winter outside."

"How have you been paying them up to now?"

"With ordinary shares, which they mainly convert into bedding for their nests. But I've run out of money and can't even afford to buy any more paper. That's why I need to write a business plan to attract new investors, preferably some rich venture capitalists based in California, who can pay me serious money in US dollars."

Looking around disdainfully at the scrolls of unfinished draft plans lying all over the floor, Joanna said.

"The secret in raising lots of money from venture capitalists is to have a business plan which is no longer than half a page. They're busy people, and don't have time to read more. That's why venture capitalists are called VC's, the Chief Executive Officer who gets to run the company is called a CEO, and the Initial Public Offering when they sell shares to the public is called an IPO. Whereas the terms and conditions in all their contracts are shortened to t's and c's. It all saves time you see."

Spellerbyte was suitably impressed. "Do you know a magic formula for writing such a plan?" he asked hopefully.

"Yes. I've got an MBA, which means I'm a qualified Mistress of Business Alchemy and I can help you write a business plan in about fifteen minutes. But I'll only do it, if you agree, that as soon as the draft is written, and the ink is dry, you'll use your magic to help me find Alexander."

"Agreed" said Spellerbyte. "I'm a wizard at finding things." He then spent a few minutes searching around the floor of the cave trying to locate the last scrap of unused clean paper, which didn't have any holes already punched into it by the programmer hedgehogs. Then with a flourish he dipped his goose feather quill into the pot of permanent blue ink. His favourite colour for ink was red, but he had done some research and found out that red is used by accountants to show a loss or negative balance, and he didn't want to start out by creating a bad impression.

"What's the magic formula then?" he asked.

Joanna pondered. She did know a bit about the storage business from some conversations she'd had at the last New Year party. One of Alexander's god parents ran a storage web site, and was always droning on about it. Their dog slept on the STORAGEsearch T-Shirt which lined her basket. The MBA, which she'd done some years ago now had involved reviewing lots of business plans and case studies... There was a formula, and she wished that Janet was here. Janet was another one of Alexander's godparents, and she ran courses on marketing. She dredged her mind until she found the right starting point.

"We'll need to start with the four P's" she began.

"Are they magic P's?" asked Gunnar, who was also interested in things to do with business. He ran his own business called Gunnar's Goblin Hammers, makers of the finest picnic protection tools since 1862. He pulled out his personal organiser and started doodling a giant magic beanstalk.

"No, they're marketing P's:- which are Price, Place, Product and Promotion."

For the next twenty minutes Gunnar couldn't understand any of what Joanna was saying, but Spellerbyte kept nodding and asking more questions. Then he heard something about "cash cows" and remembered that in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack had originally gone to the market to trade his mother's last cow for something, What was it?"

"Some products are rising stars" said Joanna "while others are dogs."

No it wasn't dogs. Thought Gunnar. But he couldn't remember what it was.

"And then we do a swot analysis (that's strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats) .... Mumble mumble, then a cash flow forecast..."

Joanna's voice seemed to be getting fainter. Gunnar yawned and settled down into a more comfortable position. He started having a dream about beanstalks and hole in the wall machines which mooed at you like a cow when when you typed in your pin number. And the cash which flowed out of the machine wasn't paper it was actually milk which had nuggets of gold in it. Was that the cash cow or the cash flow? It was starting to make sense now.

Then suddenly round the corner from the cash machine charged a giant carrying some golden eggs. It was being chased by a goose which was hissing and flapping with its neck thrust out in the angry goose position. Every now and again the goose caught up with the giant and nipped his legs, which just made the giant run even faster. Then the giant reached the bean stalk and climbed up. The goose swirled round the bean stalk and started pecking at it angrily. Every now and again it shot up into the air in surprise, and then crashed back down again.

And then down the road from bean stalk he heard a barking sound followed by another moo. And a dog was chasing a cow which jumped over the moon. Or was it a rising star? And then the goose switched its attention to chasing the dog.

Joanna's voice faded back in again. "But some people call venture capitalists vulture capitalists and the reason... " Joanna had a quiet voice and it was very relaxing to listen to. A vulture crept into Gunnar's dream. It flew up to the moon and started nibbling bits of cheese.

"And that's it!" Joanna exclaimed loudly.

Gunnar woke up with a start and found that he had been dribbling a bit. He was still clutching his organiser which was flashing the battery low warning at him. He snapped it shut.

"You're sure this will work?" Spellerbyte asked.

"Works all the time in real life" said Joanna. "A wizard like you should have no problems at all. If things get a bit sticky later on, just make sure that all the t's and c's ("terms" and "conditions" to you and me) disappear, or write the original business plan in disappearing ink."

Spellerbyte's software factory
The Prickly Spine Software Company used hedgehog programmers who rolled around in paper tape. The resulting software had some interesting features.

Gunnar's head was in a spin, but he decided to pretend that he had been awake all the time and taken it all in.

"This modern high finance is all very confusing. Luckily for me, I got my first business loan in the old fashioned way by stealing money from banks at night when there was no-one looking. My Gunnar's Goblin Hammers business has been international for over one hundred years now. I've got a very good accountant. He trained as a pirate, which is the ideal training to help you deal with loan sharks and other dodgy characters like tax inspectors. Now, Mr. Spellerbyte, it's your turn to help Alexander's mum."

Joanna and Spellerbyte looked at each other and smiled. Gunnar's snoring had been so embarrassingly loud that they had tried poking him to wake him up, then gently kicking him. But he was dreaming so deeply that they couldn't wake him up.So they had just ignored it.

"That's just what I was about to do when you rejoined us" said the wizard with a twinkle in his eye.

Then Spellerbyte opened a locked drawer in his desk, and pulled out a leather package which looked like a briefcase. He opened it up, and pulled out a Toshiba laptop PC. Unlike the models which Joanna was familiar with, this one ran Windows 3000, and used a 10,000 Gigaherz Intel Pentium processor. He switched it on, and while he was waiting for it to wake up, he pulled out from another drawer, something transparent, round and heavy looking. It was a Sony Spellman crystal ball. Carefully using a small pocket compass, he lined it up with the laptop and clicked on his FindWare search icon.

Joanne could see he was typing something in...

Alexander space White. Search. Click.

The search results flashed onto the screen.

"One hundred million pages."

"That's AltaVista. I can narrow it down a bit." He added quotation marks around "Alexander space White." Then typed Search, and click.

"Ten thousand pages."

"That's still quite a lot of places to look," said Spellerbyte a bit disappointed.

Joanna wasn't sure if this would work, but she made a suggestion. "He's got some globlin minders with him."

"Aha" said Spellerbyte "That's much better."

"How come?"

"Well, if he's with goblins, we can narrow it down a lot more by using goblinsearch.com."

He clicked an ugly looking green icon, and typed in Alexander space White, search click.

The PC made a whirring noise, and the crystal ball glowed brightly for a few seconds. Then the results came onto the screen.

"One page."

He clicked on the link, and the screen was replaced by something which looked like a movie. It was night, and a big dark shape was sneaking up on a small dark shape, which looked a bit like a pirate ship.

"I've got ScryWare loaded, so this is actually looking about ten hours into the future," Spellerbyte explained. "It looks like Alexander is sleeping on board a pirate ship, and that big blob there on the right is a Royal Navy destroyer. And if I'm not mistaken, they're about to attack!"

click here to see part 3 of this story

click here to see the first story
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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