Thanks for following along on my serialization of “Strike Breaker,” a story about a princess whose elf-staff has gone on strike. Here is part 4!
Strike Breaker, Part 4
As the smoke cleared a strange figure stood in the kitchen.
Periwinkle came to Princess Amadea’s side, and they both gazed at the figure. He was all skinny legs and arms, and he stood a bit taller than one would expect for a resident of this kingdom. He wore a scarlet morning coat, a blue silk tie, dark blue trousers, and on his head, a gleaming top hat. When he saw the two women staring at him, he removed the hat and held it in his hands.
Periwinkle gave a little gasp. Amadea, too, was surprised to see his ears were long and pointed.
Periwinkle crossed herself superstitiously.
“Good-day,” he said. “Have I the pleasure of addressing her Royal Highness Princess Amadea?”
Amadea nodded, still coughing slightly at the smoke. “And you are –?” she asked.
“My card,” he replied. With a flourish, the odd creature took out his card and offered it to Amadea. It read, “Ezriel, Goblin Master.”
Periwinkle gave a sharp intake of breath. “Not goblins!” she exclaimed.
Amadea had only a vague notion of what goblins were. She had never seen any, nor could she remember her father mentioning them to her as a child. She had an impression they weren’t the most trustworthy of creatures, but she didn’t think that was reason enough to fear them, as Periwinkle seemed to. But then Periwinkle had always been superstitious.
Ezriel’s smile never wavered. “Oh, there’s been bad talk about goblins for ages,” he said. “But I’ve found through my work that goblins are in fact most easily trainable and highly well-adjusted creatures. I think you’ll find their services can be quite satisfactory, especially on an emergency basis –”
“Goblins are trouble!” Periwinkle broke in. She gave Ezriel a look of pure revulsion.
“There has always been a lot of nasty prejudice against goblins,” he said.
“Prejudice! What a lot of nonsense!” Periwinkle went on. “They’ll rob you. Steal the children –”
Ezriel sighed. ” – curdle the milk, make your livestock go barren –” He shook his head, an indulgent smile on his face. “It’s sad, really, that the old stereotypes continue to be perpetuated.”
“What do you want from me?” Amadea asked.
Ezriel bowed again. He said, “I understand you’ve got a bit of a situation here. The Banquet of Lords is to be held here tonight, and your union of elves has inconveniently gone on strike . . .” His smile was sympathetic.
“We’ll manage,” Amadea asserted, just as she’d said to Mitchell.
“I believe I can be of service,” Ezriel continued. “I can arrange it so your guests will not notice anything out of the ordinary, so that everything goes perfectly –”
“You could get rid of the elves?” she asked.
“Not remove them. I could mask their disturbance, however. Not only that, my goblins could provide the palace service that is normally done by your elves.”
“And what would be the cost for such a service?”
“Well,” Ezriel said smoothly, “normally I do charge a premium for such service. But, in this case, I am willing to forego my usual charge in exchange for certain considerations.”
“That you consider replacing the elves with my goblins . . . permanently.”
“Your highness!” hissed Periwinkle. “Not . . . goblins!”
Amadea considered the situation. She hated to go against Periwinkle’s judgment, but she couldn’t afford to settle with Mitchell. Perhaps it would work out. What choice did she have?
“How soon can your goblins be here?” she asked Ezriel, ignoring Periwinkle’s gasp.
Ezriel smiled even wider. “Everything will be arranged immediately,” he said.
“And you’ll do something about the picket lines out there?”
He nodded. “It’s as good as done, your highness.”
A sense of relief swept over Amadea. Soon everything would be taken care of. It would all work out.
She had a momentary concern that Periwinkle might abandon her, given her loathing of goblins. But after a long silence, Periwinkle said, “Well, you’ll need someone to protect you, with those dirty devils about. Let the heavens protect us now!”
(To be continued!)