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The Outrageous Insult that was Never Revealed
(a funny 2nd look at The Elf Mound Fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen)
By Sergio Palumbo
‘However long the night, the dawn will break, sooner or later’, or so the old saying went. And when the sun rose, the multitude of birds on the branches would feel the light and begin to sing. But there was something unusual about today, some unexpected events were happening in the forest.
Rumbling and odd noises came out of the old Elf Mound where the king’s palace stood, so clearly something was afoot within that great building - but the cause of the sounds was still pretty unknown to the wildlife that passed by. Perhaps they stopped for a while trying to figure out what all the bustle was about and then proceeded again along their way in search of food, water or a hiding place, of course. Some animals had heard that the housekeepers were expecting a few special guests from abroad, but no one seemed to know who they were, or simply didn’t want to tell the truth. But an important event was supposed to be held inside the Elf Mound soon - at least that was what many believed.
Voices said that invitations had been already sent, that only the upper echelon was invited and that soon the ones requested would come. Many simply said: “Let’s just wait and see what happens,” and this was exactly what most did, in the end.
Finally, one day, the first guests began arriving. Among them, apart from the many Elves, there were some Dwarves, the old man of the stream, a few old Trolls, a group of pixies and some young dryads, too. But the neighbors were sure that some other individuals were yet to arrive. Probably the most important guests of all were already on their way.
There was a strong wind that blew continuously outside the main window in the room. While polishing his glitzy crown in mid-morning, the fair-skinned elderly King of the Elves had many worries on his mind, for sure. The party ballroom had to be entirely cleaned up, along with the hall and the stairs leading to the upper floor of his palace. Then, the delicacies and the drinks were still to be brought inside and the servants didn’t have much time left before the important guests began to arrive. The kitchen was indeed one of the busiest places around the forest at present. Of course, he had already attended many festivals and festivities which had been held in such royal premises on several occasions, but this one was simply different. So, everything had to be perfect, obviously!
The party the old Elf had managed to organize was going to be full of wondrous courses, with lots of delicate food, great beverages and all the rest. After all, it wasn’t everyday that two of your daughters were going to be wed to people so notable. This was a circumstance that would bring them luck, huge riches and new lands to rule over. His late wife, the queen, would certainly have objected to this point, if she had still been alive – but his wife was dead and gone.
Actually, the king had heard something about the roughness and the lack of manners of the honorable guest’s two sons, but he was sure he could keep them in-check. As a matter of fact, he had dealt with many violent, wild and ignorant people over the course of his life, so he didn’t doubt he was the right person to handle the situation.
Soft music could be heard coming from downstairs which told him that the Elf maidens were attempting another rehearsal for the dances that were meant to take place later on. All of that helped to reassure the king, as it clearly demonstrated that everybody was trying hard and were dedicating themselves to the best possible result.
Suddenly, he heard an agitated noise and his five long-haired daughters -- all as short of stature as the old Elf -- appeared at the door of the room he was in, a knowing look on their faces.
“Dear father,” said Saevl, the eldest among them, who was already 22-years-old even though her features were childlike, the same as all the Elves. ”May we ask you something?”
“Of course, my darling daughter,” the king replied, who stopped cleaning his crown immediately.
"Our Goblin guests from far Norway, when will they be here?"
"That depends on the wind and the weather," he stated. "They are very good travelers, so their ship should have already reached the coast. Then they have to go through our land and, if everything goes well, they should be here by sunset.”
“Thanks, father,” the eldest one said.
Soon thereafter, the old king made a wide gesture and invited the five daughters to come nearer. “Tonight, when it is your turn, you must dance better than you have ever danced before. It will be your chance to get a rich and important husband, the son of the Goblin king, so don’t waste your opportunity.”
“We’ll do that, father!” all of them replied together in reassuring tones.
“And don’t take any offence at the words or the jokes the two sons might say during the party… They are young, and they are male and warriors, so their tongues can move faster than their minds or their own thoughts. It’ll be up to you to behave well and be patient, you know.”
“We’ll do this too, father!”
“Now, just go and prepare what you’re going to wear, make it brilliant and sumptuous, and don’t forget what I told you.”
All the five Elf girls nodded and then went downstairs again.
‘What good daughters’ the old king considered. Everything had to be perfect tonight! Had he already said that?
All the paths in the forest leading to the Elf King’s palace were lit with brilliant torches and the Moon was high in the sky as the group of guests from abroad came to the hall riding their small hairy mounts and going at a jog trot. The group included the well-known Goblin king - the chief of his kind in the whole of Norway - along with his two young sons.
Wearing garments that were cut in the waist, with green leather strips sewn along the sides and long sleeves laced with leather straps, they all wore strange trousers with a mantle on their back - but it was the one who was the leader who appeared most brilliant and in the best condition, without a doubt. Being roughly half the size of an adult human, pale gray-skinned and with pointed ears, Goblins were probably not very well thought of because they lacked refinement - and everyone was afraid of them as they were usually fierce warriors, aggressive and warlike creatures.
The rich and powerful leader, who lived in the old Dovrefjeld Mountains, had a gold mine and castles much better than people could imagine. He was on his way here only for one reason: he had decided that each son had to get a wife and what better choice than two beautiful daughters of the King of the Elves of Denmark? Actually, the middle-aged goblin had had many other proposals before, but all of them had turned out to be inappropriate or unsuited for either of his sons. He had also had some problems while kindly refusing them. On the other hand, some of those proposals had been dropped simply because of a few incidentals, as the two young Goblins were a bit nutty, but what was done was done, anyway.
Since his young wife had passed away, eaten by chance by some Mountain Trolls that had mistaken her just for a tasty greenish plant (as those monsters were renowned to be a little stupid and not capable of remembering the plain difference between green and gray color, generally speaking…), this had been the main objective of his life, to have the two fixed up with stable spouses. He simply wanted to watch his little grandchildren grow up with the passing of the time.
After all, he was not asking too much, maybe this night would prove to be the right one, finally.
The Elf maidens who were daughters of the king appeared much like common elves, except for their very pale complexions and unusually large ears, much bigger than the ones the representatives of this species commonly had. But this was a typical trait of the Elf king’s family, or so it was commonly said. Their eyes ranged from light blue to dark chestnut color, but it was their peculiar and thin features that made them look so beautiful, different from any other elves of the north. Not taller than 2 feet 4 inches tall –- which was usual for the Elves, of course -- and very slender, with delicate hands, waists and necks, their appearance would have easily made anyone of their kind fall in love at once. But the old King wasn’t sure that the two sons of the honorable Goblin main guest would be immediately attracted, as they were very exacting and were searching for many other useful qualities in a future wife other than a just wondrous face and a pleasant young body. What practical individuals those creatures were!
Sturdy, warlike and strong people, these were the traits the Goblins were known for, even though their coarseness and awkwardness were usually better remembered by anyone who met one of them. But things had to go right this night, the elf king told himself again as his guest king and the king’s sons began to approach his throne. The small group had a soldierly bearing while crossing the ballroom within his great palace. The whole crowd looked at them in admiration but also a bit warily.
There were formal bows on both sides, and then the old Elf welcomed the three to the party. “Greetings, dear Byuchyuch! You made it right on time. Did you have a peaceful and easy journey across the sea?”
“We all did, apart some tumultuous waves along the coast and a strong wind that made our landing a bit difficult. Anyway, we’re of Goblin birth, we are used to such voyages, of course.” The guest leader continued in a low tone: “And here are my two sons: Trlew, the elder one, and Thaung, the younger. They are both skilled warriors and accomplished swordsmen; I can guarantee their ability for protection, for sure!”
“I do not doubt it…” the other stated. “Then Byuchyuch, allow me to introduce my five daughters who are next to me: Saevl, 22-years-old; Laevt, 20; Yjrneha, 19; Sryln, 18 and Kejul, the youngest and loveliest one, of only 16.”
“They are all beautiful and refined, Elf king,” the middle-aged Goblin replied while staring at them for a while.
“But let’s not stand on ceremony any longer!” said the elf king. “Let the party begin and all the dancers enjoy their time!” That being said the musicians started playing their music as the grand Elf gestured to them.
So the many guests who filled the ballroom mixed together, the oldest ones quickly reaching the wonderful food spread and the drink tables – set out for everyone to help themselves. The youngest guests began dancing
It didn’t take too much time before the Elf king’s daughters made their first moves, dancing for half an hour so that everyone who was at the ball was impressed because of their different abilities and some incredibly striking somersaults accomplished over the course of their dancing.
Afterwards, the dancing stopped and the two Goblin sons were aware of the fact that they had the chance to finally meet the five Elf daughters in person, as there was some time to make each other‘s acquaintance according to the old traditions under such circumstances. The elf maidens approached the main table in a slow and order fashion, waiting for the two male Goblins’ first move. This was where the various drinks and some hors-d’oeuvres had been placed previously. At the same time, the two kings withdrew to discuss their own business, the main one being how to arrange the two probable marriages.
Trlew was the first one to get to the daughter’s table, followed by his younger brother, and he forcefully grabbed a bottle of red wine and began swallowing with no respect for formal manners, before the wide open eyes of all the daughters. But they were Goblins, they knew it –- or this was probably what the girls told themselves -- so there was no reason to be surprised about their lack of protocol. Moreover, they had all noticed that the common features shared by the young sons and their father looked a bit different, becoming bigger and more pointed with the passing of time, at least according to how their father looked. But young goblins seemed to be relatively appealing and seductive - before they grew too old.
When Thaung, the younger Goblin, came around the table, he only took a little food in a more polite way. So, the elf king’s daughter named Saevl, pretending that she just happened to be walking past, drew nearer and let him notice her. A bit of experience, given her older age, meant something, of course.
Thaung, the Goblin son, turned to the Elf girl and stared for a while at her wondrous clothing: the medium skirt she wore let the viewer immediately figure out she dared something more than her younger sisters given her older age, probably. The whitish dress seemed to be made from refined textiles, adorned with golden trims, soft green lining and exquisite buttons. Back lacing ensured a comfortable, yet shapely fit, perfect for the night dance. The sleeveless blouse was front-opening with beautiful buttons and ruffles along the neck line enhanced the upper part, while the back drawstring allowed for adjustable shaping.
“I admired your ability as a dancer before, my elf lady,” the younger son addressed her with a smile.
“Thank you, Goblin knight,” she replied, looking at him with her blue eyes that were brilliant like stars in the night sky.
But they didn’t get a chance to chat very long, as the other daughters approached their sister, too, as they saw that she was getting on with this son and they didn’t want to lose their chance. As a matter of fact, that young Goblin undoubtedly looked more preferable than his elder brother, and much more handsome, actually.
In short, Thaung found himself surrounded by all the five sisters. Laevt – one of the sisters, he tried to remember her name - had on a violet lock-lace bodice which featured a low-cut bodice that was a perfect lift. Her double-layer skirt in contrasting colors was gathered-up with the outer one and was fully layered and made from a gold and billowy soft white cloth. Both were sewn together at the waist, where a drawstring created an easy, comfortable wearing. Bands of gold trim held the upper part in a fairy-tale like fashion and it had a soft and velvety feel.
Another of the sisters, Yjrneha, 19-years-old, had on a dress that was a stunning alternative to the ones the other girls had on. It was made of lightweight fabric, with lace-up sides, back and sleeves allowed for a perfect fit, all in cream color.
And Sryln was trying to get his attention as well. Her soft, brushed, raw clothing, with a delicate blue bodice, appeared to be very long and heavy.
The youngest one had a gathered skirt made of soft textile that resembled waves in the ocean. A double set of lacing holes in the back of the waistband allowed for adjusting the fit and helped to keep the blouse in. The under-bust bodice had an eyelet and drawstring closure, easily adjustable, giving her a lovely shape.
“It’s a surprise to see some of you Goblin warriors behave so mannerly at a party, as we Elves thought you were more suited for a field of battle or a tournament,” Saelv said.
“As we goblins say: ‘Live For Today, plan For Tomorrow and party for Tonight!’ Feasts and parties are not so uncommon in our homeland, after all,” the other replied.
“We elves have three famous reasons to party as much as we can, that is: because it's daytime, because it's nighttime and because every day it’s the right time,” the eldest daughter added.
“These are all very good reasons, very close to what we say while back home…”
While they all began talking to each other, the older goblin son seemed to mind only his own business, almost never turning to the group nearby. Then, appearing to be a bit absent-minded, Trlew took the pointed hunting knife he had in his boot used it to cut a fruit in half, cleaning its spotted iron on an embroidered towel afterwards, which once again pointed out his roughness in a clear way. The elf girls made a face at that coarse gesture, but then they reminded themselves of their father’s words about the lack of politeness of the goblin guests. When he removed the other boot and set it aside to scratch his foot, some of them even made fun of him, in secret.
At that point it was clear to all the elf daughters that, between the two, the younger goblin guest seemed to be the more likeable and well-mannered, actually. Thaung displayed a peaceful behavior, expressed himself using educated speech and was much more attentive not to make gestures that might offend someone or make him appear as a wild, dull individual from abroad as the common people usually thought the ones of his kind were. In fact, he remained surrounded by most of the elf daughters in the ballroom who frequently sat next to him, talked to him and were attracted by his two deep and bewitching orange-colored eyes.
“Do you want to try a special beverage from my home town?” Thaung dared to offer the eldest elf girl named Saevl who stayed right next to him. “But, please, I warn you…it is a bit strong. This drink is not something for the weak ones…”
She thought about it and then gladly accepted. So the Goblin took his travel flask out of his greenish cloak and poured out a reddish alcohol-like liquid. Another daughter, who was nearby, showed off her stubbornness and came forward in order to have a glass for herself, too, saying, “I’m not too delicate either, honorable goblin.”
“Of course, my dear young elf. I’m happy if you want to try some, as your elder sister has already done.”
A second after, all the other three elf maidens asked for a glass of that beverage, as they didn’t want to appear to be less than their sisters, of course.
So they slowly sipped that reddish alcohol and made no face, strangely. After having drunk it, the eldest daughter stated, “That’s not so strong, actually it’s a bit tasty, really a very good drink.”
“You’re right!” the others added.
“Glad you like it, young maidens - maybe you’re sturdier than I imagined. That’s a beverage that even the most famous warriors in my people are afraid to drink at times…”
There was a brief sneer on all the daughters’ face.
“Isn’t there a place where we can go that is more secluded?” Thaung asked them at a certain point. “Is there somewhere we can talk pleasantly about your wonderful country, your traditions and all the rest?”
“Sure, there is!” Saevl immediately replied. ”It’s in the other wing of the palace, I’ll take you there.”
“You’re going to lead us all there, eldest sister,” one of the other elf maidens stated. Her sisters nodded all together at once.
While the daughters exchanged some grumpy looks, the goblin exclaimed, “Well then, so let it be as you please, my young Elf ladies, certainly! We’ll all go there together.”
After that, things became a bit more confused. The party kept going on and many other beverages, laughs, talks and dances filled the ballroom as the night went by.
In the course of time, however, something unexpected happened. And things suddenly changed.
There were some dazed cries and a few screams of surprise late that night, then one of the daughters came running across the wide ballroom and reached the elf King himself. When she got to him, she whispered something into one of his long ears, and the king became upset, incredulous and deeply worried.
’I knew it, I felt that, it was an ill wind that blew nobody any good…” the old Elf told himself, regretfully.
It was mid-morning and a freezing wind had started blowing across the woods when the group of three Goblin guests rode away from the palace of the King of the Elves. The oldest among them, who was the leader and the father of the other two, looked a bit tired and regretful. Without a doubt, there were many worries and thoughts that crossed his mind as the small mounts went along.
The party of the night before hadn’t ended well, of course, and they had thought it best to move away as soon as possible. The Elf King had appeared very embarrassed for everything that he had been forced to do, as he had never cancelled such a great festivity previously without giving any clear explanation to all his many guests, but there was nothing else he could do. The thing that had happened was too outrageous and too unfair to let it be easily forgotten. Maybe there would be another time, the old Elf had told the Goblin chief, and maybe they would make new preparations and choose another date for all that, but not today. Now it was time to reflect on the matter and let some time pass.
The Goblin king knew the reason why their expulsion had occurred. He knew the reason had to do with one of his two sons, and that made him upset and disheartened, actually. While slowly riding through the trees he looked askance at the younger son and lingered over him briefly, without saying anything. But you could easily figure out from his eyes and the face he made that he was very worried and not pleased at all.
“Another mess, another time…” the King pointed out.
“Father, you know…” Thaung said, as he noticed the clear disapproval his parent displayed in his reddish-orange eyes.
“I know about your passion for the princesses’ underwear and slips, even though I don’t understand it after all,” the middle-aged goblin added. “I am your king and your father at the same time, other than that you are my beloved son, but I’m afraid that sooner or later, you’ll end up causing some serious trouble.”
“Why do you think it’s me and not my elder brother…? Why do you blame me and not someone among the huge crowd of the guests in there?” Thaung retorted.
“Because it has already happened three times before when we were invited to other Elf Courts, and I watched over you carefully during the course of those festivities.” He paused for a while, then continued. “This time you pilfered through deception the slips of all the Elf King’s daughters at once! You must stop asking our Court mage to prepare those magical dusts that you add to the beverage you keep into your travel flask. Making the girls take such a predatory drug unwillingly and making them unconscious because of the forbidden liquid is not allowed among the civilized and well-mannered people like us. You are not supposed to be a thief or an outlaw!”
The younger Goblin didn’t reply.
“As far as your brother, he can be many things, like a wild warrior or he may even a bit distracted at times, but I know something about his sexual tastes, and I do not believe he likes girls so far, even though I’ll keep trying my best to find him a wife one day…” the king continued.
“So, that leaves me, father. What do you plan to do now?”
“Nothing, but you must stay out of trouble, or I’ll be very angry, anyway. I don’t want the good name of our goblin family to be damaged. Besides, the Elf Courts in the north lands are not never-ending. I can’t start it all over again and make other preparations or arrange new parties for your marriage every single time you, well, you know…”
The youngest son smiled. He had understood, no more problems publicly. After all, the goblin had almost completed his valuable collection of elf girls’ slips. Now, maybe it was time to start that other project of his, which was collecting the underwear of some famous male goblin knights. Well, in any case, Thaung didn’t feel ready yet to confess to his father that he was a bisexual, anyway…
Of course, he thought it would be better to use much more discretion next time.
micheledutcher - It's fun to see a fantasy story about shenanigans happening in a traditional fantasy world. So much fantasy is just killing and blowing things up and quests - it's fun to see a story about fathers throwing a party so their children can take a look at each other. I enjoyed this story.
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