The bell sounded, one special night which let all of the sleeping villagers know that a goblin party had been spotted, and they had only minutes to hide their treasures and slip away into their hiding places.
The grey boy was a few fingers’ worth of counted months older, by now, having been cared for by the strange woman who was not his mother. Even though he was still not old enough to hold his own head up, the little boy loved to watch the goblins from the window by his bed, their fluid shadows flitting over rooftops and over corners, or galloping through the streets after some poor sap who hadn’t found himself a hiding place in time.
But the bells had only just had given their final warning, and the goblins had yet to break the first window, or bite into the first mouthful of flesh, so there was no screaming, not yet. There was only the gentle, faint, nearly inaudible sound of goblin feet pattering over the dirt road which scribed past the midwife’s house. The boy tried to sit his head up to watch them go, but confound it, it was too big for the rest of his body. He’d managed to just lift his neck when the screams began.
Goblins crawled over the houses like a swarm of ants on a lump of sugar. They stole food, shattered glass, ransacked houses for shiny trinkets—oh how they loved little treasures—and screamed. Their voices were like the bellowing growl of a horrible wind, twisted with the shriek of nails on a chalkboard, and cruel, manic laughter. It was a terrific sound you couldn’t forget, though, oh, you wished you would. The boy didn’t mind all that much though. It was little more bothersome than a crow’s caw, and since the loudest sound that occurred in the village was children’s laughter, he rather appreciated a change of environment.
The light folk began to scurry from their homes, at last. Goblins chased the tails of their dressing gowns and grabbed for their ankles. One goblin knocked an older man to the ground, bit down on his beaky nose, and ripped it from his face. His violent screams would tell you exactly how much it hurt, but you don’t want to know, anyway. The boy had nothing to fear from his place in the little warm box-house, because the kind lady never kept much treasure, and even if she did, the exterior of her home would certainly not say so. It was a modest place, and so it disinterested the goblins. They were none for modesty or mediocrity. Plainness and simplicity was poor taste, thank you very much, and they would have none of it. So, I don’t know why it was, really, that when the woman crept out of the house to offer her help in the chaos, a horribly hunchbacked figure slipped through the cracked door.
He walked on all fours, like many of his kind, but when he wasn’t running, he kept his twiggy fingers curled into a fist and walked on his knuckles. This made for a rather ugly cracking sound as he wiped his feet on the inside doormat. He said nothing as his vomit-yellow eyes scraped over every last square inch of the house. He spotted a small table, where three legs sprouted from the surface. On the bottom the knobs were plated in gold, and as goblins could rightly smell the exact carrot of any gold within five yards, he went to chewing them off of the carpentry.
The boy knew it had entered his place the moment he smelled the sour, decaying odor, like curdled milk and rotten fruit. Its presence didn’t matter, though—his obnoxious head was too heavy to turn to look, so he’d just as well keep on watching the sinister parade going outside his window.
The goblin continued his chewing, and had just freed the first golden knob from the table leg when a soft, tiny voice let out a little cough, and then a little sigh. He knew what it was, right away. He’d heard it several times before, during raids from times past. It was one of those little fleshy things with short funny legs and fat wrists, and large heads that were almost always bunched into wrinkles while they screamed out for reasons no one could tell. He often saw the fair folk with them, and wondered if they might be pets. They were more of a nuisance than anything, so he wasn’t sure why anyone would want one. He certainly didn’t. They were ugly and high maintenance. To further confirm this fact and, perhaps to have a reason to wrinkle his nose in disgust, he crawled over to the stilted cage the fair folk always put them in, and curled his knobby fingers around the bars, pulling himself up to look.
The baby had silver hair—to the smallish mind of the goblin. But really, he had fine wisps of dark and white tufts. Its skin was almost without pigment. It was more porcelain than the collection of pretty plates he had in his hut, at home. But unlike them, it… well, no, it couldn’t be. Was it really sparkling? A fine, fine glitter seemed to shimmer from underneath his skin. It was like stardust had been mixed with his flesh before its bones were covered. The thing’s head rolled over to face him, having just noticed there was a creature peering over at him. Two beautiful eyes stared back at the startled goblin—each a different color! One sapphire—no, more Apatite—and one malachite, sparkling and shining with blackness. He wore the eyes well, but the goblin wondered if they’d look better pickled in a jar. Maybe… maybe they were made of real gemstones! What if his skin really had diamonds in it? What if his bones were made of silver, and do you think he pissed wine and liquors? His hair must definitely be made of silk.
It didn’t matter if none of these things were true, for it was clear to the goblin that this particular fair folk pet was unlike any others he’d ever seen, and that made him a treasure.
The boy wondered if he should cry when the goblin’s arms curled under his body and pulled him from bed. Goblins never took anything they didn’t intend to keep or eat and, he rather liked remaining un-eaten, and liked being taken care of by his lady. So yes, he’d cry. He’d shout.
His screams were muffled as the bony arms pressed him against odorous flesh, but the smell made him scream all the more. He was then carried out of the warm cozy box, and his ears immediately met a violent chaos erupting throughout the village. Fires burned and cast dancing light over the goblin’s face. He wanted to lift an arm to shield his eyes from the light, but they were both occupied with the boy. His first instinct was to crawl and gallop through the disarrayed houses, but again, his arms were occupied with the boy. He wondered if he could carry it in his mouth, like he often carried his treasures—but a mob of folk and goblins distracted this thought as he dodged out of their way. The raid would be over soon, he knew, and it was time to head back.
On he went, through burning houses and over piles of broken glass and occasionally an unconscious villager, all the while the creature in his arms screaming for—well, whatever those things wanted when they screamed. Several goblins were likewise heading in the same direction as he, with gems and treasured metals in their mouths or fists. Most moved much faster than he, as very few of them walked on two legs—the ones who did carrying far more treasure than he.
At last, the screams and crackling fires were far behind him, and he was pushing his way through brush and trees in a fingery forest. The full moon pushed through the brambles of nearly naked limbs over his head, lighting the way just enough so that he could see his way to the great, rotten, lifeless tree in the corner of the woods.
Where there was no light, there was utter blackness, and so he was careful where he stepped. The clearing around the tree was littered with dropped treasure, and he so deeply longed to claim it for himself. But his treasure was worth more than all of those combined. Behind the tree was a great, stretching shadow. But the shadow was actually, in fact, a jagged hole, which seemed to be a bottomless pit. It wasn’t all that long of a fall, actually, the goblin knew. But the boy did not. And so when the goblin took a great leap into the portal, he screamed louder than ever before, until at last the darkness was shattered, and they came to daylight, in a place far away from home—but as close to home as the grey boy would ever have.