[short fiction] The Cupbearer (Plus a Quick Update & a Spooky Image)

It’s amazing what can happen in the span of six weeks. In the past three days alone, I’ve seen family I hadn’t seen in years, watched my sister get married, survived two hours in 4-inch heels, shouted an f-bomb at some poor person on the other end of an accidental dial, mourned the murder of my second tomato by some unknown assailant, and wrote the short story after the jump.

My creative mind tends toward the dark for some reason in the midst of grand life changes, regardless of whether I’m feeling happy, sad, overwhelmed or totally zen. Speaking of dark…

The Lost Bride

I love this image I snapped of my sister before her “first look” pictures with her then-soon-to-be-husband. She looks like a painting of a bride lost in the woods, with the greenery threatening to swallow her. That’s kind of creepy, I know, but that’s why I like it. Luckily for my sister, the wedding went off without a hitch (except for a near bee attack of the bridesmaids during the ceremony), and she is currently enjoying her honeymoon at The Happiest Place on Earth.

It’s safe to say I’ve felt all of those emotions in the past six weeks, but that’s life for you.  Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve shared a short story here, and while I feel this one is kind of a strange bird, I’m sharing it anyway.


It was a day like any other when the goblin felt its trap jerk.  He hoped for a healthy buck.  It had been too long since he’d dined on anything other than rodents.

He clawed his way to the surface and peeked through the dry underbrush.  He was older than everything here, and he made no sound.  His ancient eyes were met with something new, something he’d nearly forgotten from the legends passed down to him.

The figure rose from the ground, looking back to see what had harnessed her foot.  The goblin marveled at the shine of her hair and the glisten of her brow.  Her garments were foreign to him, but even he knew that time brings unexpected changes to everything under the sun.

Paralyzed by her strangeness, he watched her eyes search and find nothing.  She shrugged, pressed a little box with vines coming out of it leading to her ears, and ran away at a confusing pace — neither a leisurely walk nor a frightened sprint.  The goblin jumped from his hiding spot.  His meal was escaping, but he was consumed with a different hunger now.  He descended into the earth once more.  Something in his shriveled heart told him she would be back this way again.

He slid through the tunnels to the king’s chambers.  He would bear the punishment of having no tithe, but he would bear it happily knowing the reward he would receive once his news was delivered.

A stone knife barred his way into the chambers, and he found the red eyes belonging to the hand that held it.

In a tongue long buried with magic and witches and fairytales by the sediment of history, the guard asked his business.
The goblin’s reply was simple: A woman.

The red eyes went wide, and he pulled the goblin through a wall of roots.

It had been many years since the goblin had had the honor of setting foot into the cavern that housed the king.  It glittered with gold and green and stone, and its fires burned blue, though the race did not need them to see — they remained only to serve as a reminder of the king’s ancient power.  The goblin trembled against his will.

In the darkest corner, he could hear the crunching of bones and the slurping of sinew.  His stomach growled with jealousy, but he knew his feast would come.

The guard slithered toward the corner, and a second later, there was silence.

Into the blue-light, the Blackest stepped into sight.  Around his neck was a necklace of teeth — they had belonged to last queen of their race.

Is it true? he asked.

The goblin nodded.

How long until she reappears?

The goblin considered her odd pacing and was glad he’d taken note of it.  He walked to the single beam of light that fell onto a table of stone, etched with barely visible markings.  He picked up a small, thin bone from the ground and moved to place it on the table.  His hand hovered for a moment, and then he dropped it.  He met the king’s eyes.

We must prepare.  The king nodded to the guard, and he scurried away.

The king looked back at the goblin.  Now, we wait.

The goblin wanted to ask what would happen if he were wrong, or if the guards failed, as he had, to capture her.  His eyes traveled to the red-stained corner, which he could now see clearly, and he bit his tongue.

As the sunbeam approached the thin bone, his blood began to boil.  He could feel the king’s eyes upon him, boring into his soul, but he kept his own on the stone table.

He knew he could not bear the agony much longer, and he wondered how many bones would have to break before he descended into darkness.

A piercing scream unlike any he’d ever heard pierced the silence.  He looked to the king, and the king smiled at him.

You have done well.  When our new queen arrives, I will make you her cupbearer.

The goblin’s breath caught in his throat, and he dropped to his knees, prostate in gratitude.  The legends were true.  It was more than he’d ever known to hope for.

© 2012 Elizabeth Ditty

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