I discovered a possible new species in the Enchanted Forest today: culvert goblins. At the end of NaNoWriMo no less. I should be focusing on my novel, not documenting a new species, but such is life as Keeper of Imaginary Beasts.
After some trial and error, I discovered the culvert goblins respond well to promises of hot cocoa and frozen blueberries. They may well have been starving in their respective culverts, or are possibly ruled by cravings of sweet things at both extremes of temperature.
Once inside the house, they huddled around the fireplace and its crackling fire, making me wonder if they have evolved from a medieval species of hobgoblin, bottlenecking to the culvert niche. I suppose the things are plentiful enough and tunnels have always had a mystical portal element that imaginary beasts are attracted to.
After consuming their promised treats, the sugar elicited an energetic response, causing them to grow too destructive for keeping indoors. The collection of dragon scales donated by the lunar dragons on their last visit was damaged, but I believe I can repair them with a bit of glue and time.
I was forced to turn them out-of-doors again when they refused to stop knocking at the fairy doors. Better cold than turned to toads or inside out by infuriated fairies. They returned to their respective culverts, muttering about the cold and offended by my refusal to let them hibernate in the kindling basket by the stove.
I’ll keep an eye on them throughout the winter, and am planning a trip to the local thrift shop for wool blankets to keep them cozy in their winter hibernation. I look forward to studying them more fully in the spring, but for now, its back to NaNoWriMo. The end is in sight!
The family got Shadow from the SPCA. She seemed like a fine dog for a young and growing family, barking at squirrels, night noises, and investigating scurrying sounds in the woods. Accompanying the children as they played in the forest proved to be her favorite job as family dog.
Little did any of the family members know their shelter dog’s first owner had been a poacher of the worst kind. The kind who hunted mythical beasts by using his dog to sniff them out in their houses. Once caught, he sold the poor creatures to the highest bidder. His career ended when he tried catch a fairy-goblin hybrid (also known as a fairlyn) and she used her hybrid magic to turn him into a mosquito. Rumor has it he was swatted years ago.
The fairlyn considered Shadow to be innocent of any crimes, and dropped her off at the SPCA for safekeeping. Just the same, Shadow’s early training stayed with her all her life.
The children regaled their parents with tales of the goblin feasts and weddings they crashed thanks to Shadow, the fairies she rooted out to show them, and the boggarts that rode clinging to her collar as she charged through the woods. Their parents gave indulgent smiles at their children’s imaginative tales and wondered if they weren’t spending too much time in the woods.
It is a testament to their own lack of imagination that it never once occurred to them the stories might be true.
She peeked over the edge, hoping to count the rings in the stump and figure out how old the tree had been. She never expected a goblin to be staring back at her. With a shriek, she ran and hid behind the nearest tree.
“Wait! I’m sorry! I know I’m spooky-looking, but I never meant to scare you!”
The girl poked her head out from the tree, taking another look from her safer distance. The monster’s mouth opened into a terrible, splitting gash, but she supposed it wasn’t his fault. “Have you ever lived under a bed?”
“No, just this old stump.”
“Do you know the boogeyman?”
“Never heard of him.”
She took a step towards him. “Promise you won’t eat me?”
“Okay, then.” She hopped over and grinned into his horrible face. “I’m Paige.”
Deep in her dreaming, she found the forest she once knew as a child. The pixies who told her stories, the goblins that played hide-and-go-seek in the gullies, even the mean old witch who lived in the hollow tree – they were all still there.
“Of course we’re still here,” said the pixies. “This is our home. You’re the one who left!”
“You abandoned us for your growing up, didn’t you?” The witch’s voice still sounded as hoarse and bitter as she remembered. “Didn’t you ever realize that growing up and friends like us are not mutually exclusive?”
She sat down on a fallen tree as the realization washed over her. “I never did.”
“At least you’re here now,” said the goblins, hugging her knees. “We’ve missed you so.”
Before him lay the finest sort of goblin feast: a pocketful of chanterelles in a bed of sweetfern. He drooled with delight, but he hesitated. It could be a trap. After all, who left feasts just sitting around, waiting for random goblins?
His stomach rumbled its displeasure. “Quiet, you.” He peeked under every leaf, checked beneath every stone, and even looked behind the farthest tree. Nothing and no one. He slurped up his drool. Well, maybe just one tiny nibble on the smallest of the chanterelles…
On the other side of a state-of-the-art, suspended blind, a grad student put his face in his hands. “No one’s ever going to believe this.”
A second one groaned. “Our careers are over.”
“Mom was right, I should’ve been a writer,” said a third. “Maybe there’s still time.”
A renegade wind stole a few wishes and whooshed them over the land. They bounced over meadows and tumbled through thickets before landing in a garden.
They set about making more wishes right away, much to the bane of the grumpy goblin gardener. He called them weeds and never thought to question why his dearest desires were always being met.
Meanwhile, the wind kept stealing wishes, thwarting goblin gardens, and making all their dreams come true. The goblins didn’t like it, but they all lived grumpily ever after, thanks to the renegade wind.
He threw down his pen, disgusted with himself. Everything he wrote today felt so bleak. Where were the goblins, the dragons, the boggarts, and the banshees? Hiding in the folds of tomorrow, he bet.
He had an idea.
Running to the kitchen, he grabbed a moon shell and filled it with water. If he held it just so in the light of the moon, sometimes he could scry the future. Why wait ’til tomorrow when he could get a head start on its writing today?
The waters flowed into the pool, refreshing and cool. Within moments it mixed with fairy droppings, the tears of a frustrated dragon, and a drop of diluted ink from the first book ever printed.
“That is the secret recipe we goblins have been guarding these many years, but we’re tired now, and we haven’t got paid in centuries, so there you have it. It’s yours now. Use it wisely,” said a goblin who’d been cooling his feet in the pond. He picked up his satchel and headed off into the shadows with two other goblins.
The bewildered family watched them go, unsure of what to say and wondering what the recipe might be for. It had been an odd vacation thus far.