To get the ball rolling, here is one of my older short stories, "The Goblin and the Ogre" which was written back in 2006. This was the first story in the Tales from the Green setting as well as the first introduction of Hoblin. The tone of all the TftG shorts is meant to read like a classical fairy tale, which is different than the more modern fantasy style of my novels. It could probably use some additional editing, but I still like it. Enjoy.
Author: Steven Best (who else?)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: ~2200 words
All rights reserved, please do not copy without my permission.
Far away, in the land beyond the mists, hides the world of things unseen. It is a place of mystery and magic, where dreams and legends walk freely, a land of soaring mountain peaks, deep dark caves, crystal seas, expansive deserts, and ancient kingdoms. In the center of all of this is the forest. None know how deep it goes, for walking its twisted paths is sure to get one hopelessly lost. As far as anyone is concerned, the forest simply goes on forever, endless woodland filled with ancient magic. The forest goes by many names, but to those who live here, it is simply the Green.
The Green is home to all the fae peoples, those mystical creatures great and small who have in times past once ventured into our own world. From sprites and tiny faeries to gnomes and trolls and leprechauns, and even some creatures whose names have never been heard by the ears of man, all of these live their lives in the great forest. Unfortunately for everyone, goblins also live there.
Yes, goblins, those filthy, mean, rotten, no good, stinky, bad-mannered, ill-tempered scoundrels who exist only to make everyone else’s life more difficult. They love to make messes, steal everything they can get their stubby little hands on, and worst of all they delight in spoiling other peoples’ games. Sure, most would say that trolls and dragons and other monsters are much more dangerous, but some hero always comes along to slay such foul beasts whenever they get out of line. Goblins, on the other hand, are just generally unpleasant to be around yet cannot be rightly considered evil enough to earn a good slaying. This means that really all you can do when a goblin is around is to chase it off or convince it there is more fun to be had elsewhere.
Of the whole lot, one goblin is different, though. Hoblin is his name, and quite honestly he is simply bad at being a goblin. Of course, being bad at being bad is good, at least in the eyes of most rational people, but that does little to comfort poor Hoblin. You see, Hoblin is too much of a nice guy to fit in with the other goblins. He doesn’t like to steal and rob and pillage and plunder, and while he often breaks things, he doesn’t mean to and is always very sorry. The other goblins, you understand, are simply taken aback by this niceness, and to them it means Hoblin is just another victim to their pranks.
One day, Hoblin had had enough. He decided that if the other goblins weren’t going to be nice to him, then he’d just leave. There were certainly other people in the Green besides the goblins, after all. Surely someone else would want him for a friend. Hoblin put on his best loincloth and set out, eager to impress the denizens of the forest.
Hoblin quickly left behind the Gobbledymuck, that dark swamp where all goblins lived, and ventured into the more pleasant parts of the forest. Well, it’d be pleasant for most folks, but to a goblin of the Gobbledymuck there was far too much sunshine and not nearly enough swamp gas. Still, he had a mission to complete: he wasn’t going back home until he made a friend. He’d just have to endure the discomfort brought by the warm spring breeze.
Soon he found himself in a meadow strewn with flowers. He had half a mind to turn back, as flowers give goblins terrible hay fever, but across the way Hoblin spied a band of wood sprites frolicking and dancing in the sunshine. Wood sprites are lovely little creatures, like children only smaller, with dainty wings that resembled the leaves on a tree. They were just the kind of fun-loving people Hoblin was looking for. He rushed to join their games, bounding out into the meadow with arms wide open in greeting.
“Oh no!” cried the wood sprites, seeing the goblin running their way. Surely the foul beastie was bound to do something rotten to them all. “Go away!” they shouted. “We don’t want any goblins ruining our fun!”
Hoblin, unfortunately, didn’t speak a word of the wood sprites’ language. Goblins never were ones to study. Seeing the sprites excitedly shouting and waving their arms, he naturally assumed they were giving him a hearty greeting and ran even faster to join them. The sprites scattered, but Hoblin was a very fast runner. Escape was impossible.
Hoblin decided to be on his best behavior with the sprites. Knowing how much they loved to play, he decided to show them all the best goblin games he had learned back in the Gobbledymuck. From “Throw the Mud” to “Hit with Stick” and even that most fun goblin game of all “Start a Fire,” Hoblin was being as fun as he could be. As you could probably guess, though, goblin games are a different kind of fun than most people are used to. No matter how hard Hoblin tried the sprites just weren’t enjoying themselves. What was he to do?
Suddenly, a great rumbling came across the meadow. The ground shook and the sprites quaked in their pointy little shoes. A shadow covered the meadow, a massive mountain suddenly blotting out the light of the sun. Normally, mountains were not inclined to just show up in forest meadows, but Hoblin wasn’t one to complain as the shade was rather nice after running around in the bright sun all afternoon. It did strike Hoblin as odd that this mountain had feet, though.
All around, the sprites ran and flew about in a panic, shouting “Ogre!” over and over. Hoblin didn’t speak wood sprite, but that word sounded familiar. He looked back at the mountain with feet, looking up and up to take it all in. Now that he noticed, the mountain not only had feet, but legs atop those feet, with a body and a knobby bald head topping it all off. Come to think of it, maybe this wasn’t a mountain at all.
The mountain, or ogre, or whatever it was didn’t even notice the tiny creatures below it as it stomped through the meadow, leaving deep footprints in the earth and generally wreaking havoc on the flowers. The wood sprites darted out of the way, taking to the air to avoid being stepped on, and even Hoblin, who had definitely decided that this was no mountain, had to dive out of the way to avoid being caught under a rather large foot. The lumbering beast reached the other side of the meadow and went back into the forest, knocking over trees and crashing through the undergrowth. Hoblin wasn’t familiar with much of the forest outside of the Gobbledymuck, but he did know that the ogre, for it was indeed an ogre, was heading straight into the Spritewood, home to all variety of sprites and faeries and other easily stepped-on people. That wouldn’t do at all, Hoblin decided. No, it was up to him to stop the ogre and save the sprites. Then maybe the sprites would want to be his friend. After all, everyone loves a hero.
He waved goodbye to the wood sprites he had been playing with and hurried off into the forest after the ogre. It left quite a path of destruction in its wake, leaving fallen trees and overturned boulders everywhere it went. It occurred to Hoblin that maybe stopping the humongous beast would be a little harder than he thought. Still, the Green was full of stories of heroes stopping dire monsters and saving the day, so it couldn’t be too hard. Hoblin sat down on a tree the ogre had knocked over to think for a bit. What did those heroes have that he didn’t? They had noble steeds, but he’d never be able to find one of those this late in the day. They had magic swords too, and it’s not like one could find those just anywhere. He’d need armor, as well. This hero business would be lot simpler if he had more time, he decided. Maybe he would just let this ogre go and stop the next one. But what if there wasn’t going to be another ogre, or what if this one squished all the sprites and he had no one left to save for next time? No, he’d just have to find a way to stop this ogre, steeds and magic swords aside.
Then he had a thought: the Gobbledymuck! Maybe he could find what he needed there. Heroes were always traipsing off into the swamp, for surely any place so dank and dreary held many heroic challenges, and since his goblin kin were so prone to robbery and theft, they were always losing their gear. It’d do those heroes proud to use their weapons and armor to save the helpless sprites! Hoblin leapt off the tree and ran as fast as he could back to the swamp. Fortunately for Hoblin, the other goblins weren’t very clean and tidy, and frequently left their ill-gotten gains laying about whenever they got bored with them. Under rocks and in the boughs of trees he found what he sought: a shield here, a belt there, a helm a little too big, some armor a little too small. Something was still missing, though. Ah, there, under some leaves, shining in what little sunlight could make it through the murk, a blade straight and true. This hero business was coming together easier than he had thought.
Hurrying back to the meadow, Hoblin set out to find the ogre and put a stop to it. Following it was easy enough, for it left quite a trail through the woods. Soon he could see the lumbering monster up ahead, steadily crushing all in its path. Soon the ogre would reach the city of the wood sprites, which Hoblin was determined not to let happen. With a mighty war cry, the goblin charged the ogre. Swinging his blade with all his strength Hoblin struck the ogre a mighty blow to the foot. Surely that would be plenty to fell the creature. Unfortunately the ogre’s foot, as well as the rest of the ogre, seemed quite unharmed. At any rate, at least the ogre had stopped moving towards the Spritewood. Hoblin reared back to attack the ogre again when a large hand-shaped shadow passed over him. Sure enough, it was a hand, the ogre’s hand to be precise. It scooped up the tiny goblin and brought him high into the air, over the tops of the tallest trees. Hoblin found himself looking at the ogre face to face, and the ogre did not look happy.
“Why wouldst thou attack me?” bellowed the ogre. “Have I done thee any wrong?”
Hoblin quaked in fear in the ogre’s open palm. This was not going as well as he had hoped. Gathering his courage, he stood on shaking legs and addressed the giant beast. “Well no, but you see you’re making an awful mess of the forest, and if you keep going the way you are you’ll walk right through the place where the sprites live. It wouldn’t do to have the little guys stepped on, you see.”
The ogre looked closely at the goblin in his hand, and then back down the path he had plowed through the forest.
“Forgive my clumsiness, little warrior. I had no idea that tiny people lived in these woods. Where wouldst thou suggest I go to avoid these ‘wood sprites’ you speak of?”
Hoblin thought long and hard. Where could a destructive (though surprisingly polite) ogre go where he would cause no trouble?
“I’m not sure where you can go,” admitted Hoblin. “Anywhere is fine, I guess, as long as you don’t step on anyone.”
The ogre shook his head. “With people so small underfoot, how am I to know where it is safe to go?”
“Well,” said Hoblin, “what if you had someone to guide you?”
The ogre looked at the goblin in his palm very closely. “Very well, you shall be my guide. We shall travel together, and you shall choose my path. Come, little one, there is still much day left and I’ve much walking to do.”
Now this is not what Hoblin expected at all. He was far too busy looking for new friends to be a guide to this ogre. Or was he? What if the ogre could be his friend? It’s not like the poor thing had any other ogres around to talk to, or anyone that was taller than his ankle, for that matter. Even better, this would let Hoblin save the sprites, as well as anyone else unfortunate enough to be in the ogre’s path.
“Alright ogre, I suppose I can walk with you for a while. It will be a pleasure. My name is Hoblin,” he said, extending his hand.
“Well met Hoblin,” said the ogre, setting his tiny guide back on the ground. “Lead and I shall follow.”
With that, the two companions went off to places unknown, Hoblin leading the way and the ogre crashing along after him. The wood sprites never did know the identity of the great hero who averted the ogre from walking through their part of the Green, though they remained forever grateful. As for Hoblin, he learned that not all quests end the way one expected, and that friends could come from very unlikely sources. It was a lesson that would serve him well in future adventures, for this was just the beginning of his journeys throughout the Green and beyond. Those tales, however, are best saved for another day.