First appeared in Monster Gallery, December 2011.
Away and Below
Amanda C. Davis
It was early in the spring planting season when the goblins stole my sister. We sowed seeds dressed in our mourning clothes; we watered them as we wept. My sister was the gem of our family, our most beloved. We relied on her smile to brighten our nights. Her marriage was sure to make us rich.
We mourned together and alone. But my brother showed only anger.
“How dare they?” he said, pounding his fists beside his untouched meal. “Those filthy cheating monsters.”
Of course we knew the answer. They dared because they were many. They dared because they took strength and cover from the night, while we took only fear.
“I don’t fear the goblins,” my brother said. “I’ll get her back.” He stood. “Will my sister come with me?”
His eyes locked on mine. The anger burnt fierce behind them.
I said, “I will.”
We took little. We had little to take. My brother and I asked the oldest woman in the village where to find the goblins, and she pointed a finger at the long, high mountain that blocked the sun in the west. Then her finger tilted down. Down and down. We were to travel below.
“Let’s go,” said my brother, hitching up his pack. “It might not be too late.”
We walked until we passed the green fields for growing, the bright thickets for hunting, the far deeper forest where woodsmen found the oldest and best wood. We walked until the foot of the mountain stopped us.
“Below,” said my brother. “Below.”
We found a tunnel behind a spindly bush. We stooped to enter, although the goblins would not have had to do so. We lit lanterns to see the path. The goblins would not have done that either.
At last the tunnel opened to a vast earthen chamber and branched. A dozen other tunnels stretched off high and low. I imagined them streets of a dark city. And my sister–was she wandering those streets, lost and alone? Or trapped in some goblin’s tower, made to be a wife? She would still be beautiful, I was sure. More beautiful for the sadness.
My brother put a finger to his lips and nodded at the largest tunnel. I nodded in return and followed.
Down–down–down–the tunnel curved sharp, dropped steep. I stumbled on my dress more than once. Had my sister stumbled the same way? I scraped my elbow on a rock. Surely my poor sister had done the same.
At the end of the tunnel was light, dim and blue–and there was the goblin city.
And there were the goblins.
They streamed from homes and alleys, gnarled as tree roots, sharp-nosed, thin-fingered, strange. They swarmed us. Surrounded us. I lost my breath among them. My brother lost his lantern. I strained to see my sister. Nothing but goblins.
They buzzed and whispered; then the crowd parted. A single old goblin moved through the crowd to us. She pointed a finger at my brother. She looked so much like our old woman, pointing at the western mountain, that I shook with silent, terrified laughter. What monsters! They even dared imitate our most revered.
My brother said, “Give her back.”
The old goblin said, “You no longer want a good harvest? Strong crops, a year of plenty?”
“Fools,” my brother hissed. “You took the wrong sister.”
His hands came hard at my back, shoved me into the crowd. Goblin arms caught me. Goblin arms held me. I had walked here, to the door of the goblin city, but they carried me the rest of the way–to my home, my palace, my prison–through earth and stone, through goblin streets, away and below.
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