The Goblin approached the throne and bowed low.
“Majesty,” he said, modulating his voice so that it could be heard by human ears. “I bring you a gift.”
The King, always keen to receive handouts, arched a regal eyebrow. “Capital!” he rubbed his hands together. “What is it, I prithee?”
The Goblin straightened up and looked the monarch in the eye.
“Your Highness had, I believe, a daughter…”
“The Princess Isobel,” the King bristled at the mention of his deceased daughter. “What of her?”
“She would have come of age next month, sire, if I read the almanacs aright.”
“I know all this already,” the King was finding the interview tedious, “Get to the point, man. Get to the gift.”
“What would you say, sire, if I could show you your daughter now? How she would appear, had she lived?”
“I’m listening,” said the King, although he was wary of being taken in by charlatans.
“Then what if I tell you, sire, that you may see your daughter whenever you wish, for evermore?
The King sat up. “I’m listening…”
The Goblin clapped his little hands, pink and scaly like pigeons’ feet. Tendrils of smoke appeared in the air. They swirled and coalesced until they formed a shape – the shape of the Princess Isobel – and solidified.
“Daddy?” the Princess Isobel frowned and ran to her father’s side.
“I don’t understand,” said the King. He couldn’t look away from the apparition. It had his daughter’s eyes and smile, and there were hints of her mother in the shape of her face.
“I can teach you the spell, your highness. You only have to think of your daughter and she shall appear before you. A kind of Royal summons, one might say.” He laughed, a grating, high-pitched cackle that hurt the ears.
“And what is the cost?”
“Majesty, there is no cost. It is, as I say, a gift to you.”
The King rubbed his shapely beard. He looked at his daughter whose anxious expression gave him pause. He reached for her hand and patted it. It felt cold and clammy to his touch – like a Goblin’s claw.
“No,” he intoned. “I shall decline. My daughter must be left to rest in peace. We shall meet again when the time is right.”
At those words, the Princess Isobel vanished into thin air. The King was astonished and his heart hurt to see her go.
“Ah, well,” said the Goblin with a smirk. His plan to distract the King off the throne had failed. “It was worth a try.”
He put two talons in his mouth and emitted a whistle that shattered the stained glass in all the windows. Goblins poured in from every side. The guards were quickly overwhelmed, the flesh stripped from their bones in seconds by the swirling swarm of invaders.
The King stood, resigned to his fate.
“Take my kingdom, then,” he said, removing his crown. “At least I shall see my daughter for real.”
The Goblin leader cackled and put on the crown. Immediately his head caught fire. He screeched as the flames consumed him. As he died, the other Goblins burst like bubbles.
“Fool of an imp,” said the King, giving the charred and shrivelled corpse a kick with a Royal slipper. “My family has not kept this kingdom safe from your kind for generations without coating everything we own with Goblin-bane.”
He stooped to retrieve his crown. It would be good to be reunited with his daughter, his wife, and all the others he had loved and lost.
But not just yet.