The door swung open and Sarai stepped through followed by the others. On the other side of the door, a small stair led up to a platform by the panel. A short goblin was waddling down the steps, peering at the visitors with keen interest. He was no taller than Sarai's waist, but wore a metal helmet with a tall spike on top to try to make himself appear taller. It didn't help much.
Me: What do you think he was wearing?
Elie: Pants, a belt, and a shirt!
He wore short trousers held up by a belt almost as wide as they were tall. Above this, his shirt came just over his shoulders into short sleeves that exposed his thin green arms. He had two long, pointed ears, the tufts of which sprouted wispy hairs out to the sides. His face was mostly eyes and mouth, sporting a broad grin.
"Don't often get visitors around here," he said, his high-pitched voice ringing in the small corridor. "Glad to see a friendly face."
"We're hoping to meet the goblin king," Sarai repeated. "We hear he has the old king's crown...?"
"Well, I've heard so too, though I've never really seen it," the goblin sighed. "I'd lead you down to the Keep myself but I've been up here on guard duty so long I've rather forgotten the way."
With that, the small goblin grasped a tall pole, easily more than twice his height, with a hook on the top.
Elie: Why did he get a tall pole?
Me: To help reach things up high - he's rather short, you know.
This he used to help pull a latch to close the wooden door behind them and he went back to peering through a peephole at the empty tunnel beyond.
Sarai, Alatar, Mandalar, and Tiana walked easily down the sloping corridor, finding it grew more chilly and damp as they went. The tunnel seemed to go on endlessly and they were sure they must have reached the heart of the mountain by now. Their legs ached from walking so they stopped to rest.
Mandalar, hot in his heavy suit of armor, tried to lean back against the rock wall, but as his lifted his elbow to rest it on a large crag, he fell straight through what appeared to be solid stone.
"An illusion!" Alatar exclaimed. Tiana drew her daggers quickly and leapt through after him. Alatar and Sarai quickly followed.
On the other side of the wall, though, they found no enemies. They were standing on a wooden path fixed against the wall of an enormous cavern. It extended up so high that they couldn't make out the ceiling for all their straining. The cavern was deep, as well, and the lower tiers were lost to view.
All around the edge of the cavern were level after level of wooden walkways, fronting on shops, houses, and large open areas. Bridges spanned across at odd intervals and goblins could be seen going about their lives all around. Some were sitting down for lunch at open air cafes, others enjoying a life juggling and tumbling performance up to one side. On the other, a class was in session with students learning goblin history. Across from Sarai and her friends, a parade of goblins with pickaxes and shovels on their shoulders were off on their way to work in the mines.
The adventurers stared in amazement at the town, their mouths forming perfect Os as their jaws dropped at the sheer immensity of the goblin keep.
Each of these goblins was no more than three feet high, and most were shorter than that. One young goblin looked up at the newcomers and squealed, "Look mommy! Giants!"
All the bustle and noise of the town screeched to a halt. A thousand pairs of eyes turned and faced them from a thousand stock still faces, each a mask of surprise.
"Hi!" the young Goblin blurted out.
Me: What do you think Sarai said?
"What's your name?" the goblin asked.
Elie: "I'm Sarai. Who're you?"
"I'm Gerta," the young goblin bashfully replied. "What're you doing here?"
Elie: "We're looking for the goblin king!"
"Oh - you probably want to talk to them," Gerta answered, pointing at two guards near the entrance.
Sarai turned to the guards who looked her and her companions over. "Well, do you want to take the quick way down or the long way?" one asked after a careful inspection.
Elie: "Oooh! The quick way!"
The goblin grinned, "I was hoping you'd say that!" And before they knew it, the goblins had grabbed nearby ropes, tying one each fast around their waists.
"Have a nice day!" the other goblin called as they flung Sarai, Alatar, Tiana and Mandalar over the railing. The ropes looped through pulleys and hooks high out of view and they found themselves falling quickly through the open air, narrowly missing bridges and wooden beams and they sailed down. A cheer rose from several goblins they zipped past and Sarai grinned at the rushing air. Alatar appeared a bit queasy and held onto his staff extra tight. Tiana was quite at ease, of course, and Mandalar - well, he still had his helmet on so it was difficult to tell.
As they neared the bottom, the ropes grew tight and slowed them down to a gentle pace.
Elie: Was it soft at the bottom?
Me: Of course! They had a pile of mattresses and pillows for them to land on.
When they untied the ropes, several goblins at the bottom directed them into the goblin king's chambers. Down the narrow passage they went and into king's chambers. What they found was perhaps the greatest surprise of all.
Unlike all the goblins they had seen outside, the king was about the height of Tiana. His ears were small, not pointed, and his skin wasn't green either. In fact, he didn't look very much like a goblin at all. He looked more like a person!
"Ummm, how do you do?" Tiana asked hesitantly.
The goblin king looked up from a low table he was hunched over, almost as startled to see them as they were to see him. He quickly regained his composure, however, and smiled warmly. "Let's skip all the pleasantries, shall we?" he suggested. "You're probably wondering how me, a not so goblin looking guy, got to be the king of the goblins. Well, it rather surprised me too, but it's a bit of a long story. Perhaps we should all sit down?"
And so they did, squatting uneasily on chairs rather too small for them.
Elie: But why didn't he look like a goblin?
Me: That's the Goblin King's story, and we'll hear that next time.
Part of the "There Once Was a Kingdom" bedtime stories series.