Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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The Goblin's Whistle

by Bob Griffin

The door swung open and a disheveled man carrying paper and an inkwell stumbled into the tavern. He threw his hat on a barstool without noticing the sheets of paper he dropped. He grabbed a pen and began to write. Shaking his head with disappointment he yelled, "Barkeep, is this the Black Toad Tavern?"

A man with a soiled apron behind the bar spoke up. "Yes, it is. It has been known by that name for over a hundred years."

The stranger looked around with a frown. "It can't be! I see only thirsty woodsmen and a few travelers. Where are the wizards, barbarians, witches, and may I dare say demons?"

The bartender rubbed his chin and started to speak when the stranger extended his hand over the bar. "Where are my manners? My name is Richard Matthews and your tavern is well known for… a lack of better words… its ability to attract trouble."

The bartender shook his hand. "Mr. Matthews, my name is Bradson. Are you disappointed that a fire demon is not threatening my customers and burning my front door down?"

Matthews nodded his head. Dots of ink sprayed everywhere as he shook his pen. "I plan to stay a few weeks and write about the exciting adventures that occur here. This book about your tavern will be my masterpiece. A tale of ordinary men who are plagued by all manner of supernatural creatures. But this," he gestured to the contented patrons quietly drinking and eating their meals, "...is just boring."

The sound of breaking plates erupted from a backroom followed by a high pitched squeal.

Bradson sighed. "Don't get your hopes up. That's no demon but my helper. He is as lazy as he is clumsy."

Bradson yelled toward the backroom. "Sanibel, get out here and meet Mr. Richard Matthews. He wants to chronicle the odd comings and goings of our tavern."

A short, fat goblin waddled thru the door. "You should have been here a week ago. We had a doozy. A crazy wizard named Morel was certain the outhouse was inhabited by ogres."

A knight sitting at the end bar slammed his mug down on the bar "Bah! No good can come of sorcery."

Bradson shook his head and spoke, "Syn, we all know your feelings about wizards. If it was up to you wizardry would be outlawed."

Syn snarled, "The world would be a better place if everyone used a strong back and a sharp blade to solve their problems". Syn stood up and nodded to Matthews. "I am sorry for interrupting your conversation. Don't worry, you will find what you are looking for. It has been quiet far too long here."

Matthews eyes darted back to Sanibel. "What happened next?"

Sanibel looked confused and said, "What were we talking about?"

"The wizard, the ogres, and the outhouse!"

Sanibel jumped up on the bar and leaned into Matthews. "Morel sent a magical fireball into the outhouse. He almost killed the poor soul that was in there..."

Matthews scratched the top of his head. "Why did Morel believe that demons were in the outhouse?"

Bradson shook his head. "That would partly be Sanibel's fault. He made a batch of Goblin Chili which would have been okay if we had been feeding goblins instead of humans. Sanibel's chili did not agree with our customers and the outhouse smelled pretty bad that day."

"You mean the wizard mistook the odor from your outhouse to be the stench of ogres?"

Bradson nodded in agreement. "They were lined up to use the outhouse that day."

Sanibel looked down at his feet. "It was not my fault. I didn't know humans had weak stomachs."

Bradson grabbed a cleaning rag and tossed it to Sanibel. "For the time being you are not cooking anything."

Sanibel stared at the rag and grimaced. He was not looking forward to cleaning sticky ale and dry stew from the tables and chairs.

Matthews had an astonished look on his face. "What happened to Morel?"

Bradson shook his head. "That is a mystery. He disappeared into the woods after engulfing the outhouse in flames."

A patron with bandages and burn marks spoke up. "If I ever see that wizard again it will be too soon."

Matthews whispered to Bradson, "Let me guess -- he was the poor soul in the outhouse when Morel blew it up?"


That night after all the patrons had left Matthews asked Sanibel, "Did you fix the outhouse after the wizard blew it up?"

Sanibel grabbed a lantern and flashed a smile that showed off his sharp teeth. "I did better than that. I built a new one! I will show you where it is."

With obvious pride Sanibel patted the wall of the outhouse. "I dug the hole myself and scavenged wood from the previous outhouse."

"What's this?" Matthews pointed to a large pile of dirt.

"It's just dirt from the hole."

"No Sanibel, not the dirt but what is in the dirt."

Matthews scooped his hands into the dirt and pulled out an object that was protruding.

"What is it?" Sanibel asked.

Matthews held the item up to the lantern light. "It appears to be a whistle made out of bone."

"What does it sound like?" Sanibel grabbed the whistle and blew into it. Silence greeted his efforts.

Several moments later a red faced Sanibel handed the whistle to Matthews. "The whistle is useless, it did not make any noise."

Matthews examined the whistle. "Perhaps the whistle was not made for our ears."

"What do you mean not made for our ears?"

"Some whistles can not be heard by humans, or in your case, goblins. They are used to summon dogs or other beasts," Matthews explained. He twitched his nose. "Do you smell that?"

Sanibel placed his hand on his nose as an awful stench similar to spoiled meat rolled into them.

Matthew's eyes bulged. He pointed towards the woods. A dark shadow hovered into view.

Sanibel grabbed Matthew's sleeve. "I don't think it has seen us. Let's get back inside the tavern."

A few breathless moments later, Sanibel slammed the door shut and locked it. Matthews grabbed a chair and placed it in front of the door.

Bradson yelled, "What is it, Sanibel?"

Sanibel's wide eyes stared at Bradson. "There is an ogre outside. It appeared after the whistle was blown."

"What whistle?"

Matthews who was still shaking placed the whistle on the table.

Syn unsheathed his sword with and examined the whistle. The bone instrument was the length of his hand with intricate runes etched in it. "Where did you find it?"

Sanibel explained the events that led up to the current crisis.

Looking out the window, Syn said nothing. Bathed in moonlight, a giant creature stood near the outhouse. Sanibel jumped on a barstool and looked out the window. "Look -- it's sniffing the ground like it's trying..."

Syn finished the sentence for him. "...To pick up a scent." He looked at the whistle again and shook his head. "I don't understand all that has transpired, but you are in danger. That creature is a Blood Ogre. It must have been summoned by the whistle."

Sanibel leapt from the barstool and grabbed the whistle. "Since I summoned the ogre does that mean it has to obey my every command?"

Syn shook his head. "No, its only goal is to kill the person who disturbed it so it can go back to wherever it came from."

Bradson grabbed a wooden club. "I will go with Sanibel and we will flee to safety."

Syn spoke in a calm voice. "There is nowhere to hide. It will pick up Sanibel's scent and relentlessly track him down. In fact, I see that it has already found Sanibel's scent and is moving toward the tavern. As much I hate magic I wish we had a wizard with us."


Bradson gripped his club. "Sanibel? Where are you, and where is Matthews?"

Syn noticed the open door at the back of the tavern. "Damn! The goblin is trying to save us by running away."

A wave of nauseating odor swept into the tavern. The door crashed into splinters as the ogre burst into the room. Syn charged the creature and swung his sword hard at the ogre's neck. Despite the sharpness of the blade the ogre suffered only a small scratch. The ogre's left arm lurched out and struck Syn in the chest. The blow sent the knight flying into a wall and left him unconsciousness.

Bradson positioned himself between Syn's prone body and the ogre and swung his club. It struck the ogre between the eyes and splintered into fragments. Howling with anger the ogre shoved Bradson into a table. The heavy oak table lurched with the impact. Bradson stifled a scream as pain shot up and down his back. He tried to stand but fell to his knees. The ogre kicked once and Bradson could fight no more. Blackness washed over him.

With his enemies dispatched the ogre tilted his head to the ground until he again found the goblin's scent.


Sanibel stumbled, struggling to catch his breath. The woods were dark as the moon's rays could not penetrate the canopy of the trees. He was bruised and bleeding from several cuts as he had crashed into unyielding trees and one particularly large boulder. He sat down with his back against a tree. Maybe Syn was wrong and I am deep enough in these woods so that the ogre can not find me?

In the distance he heard the sounds of pursuit and realized the ogre was still after him.

With his strength gone Sanibel could not run but crawled deeper into the woods. He hoped to put enough distance between the tavern and the ogre to keep his friends safe.

Sanibel saw a torch light and stumbled to it. To his surprise Matthews was leaning against a tree and holding the torch.

"Going somewhere?"

Sanibel was startled. "What are doing here? Why are you here?"

"I am not an author. My story was a ruse so you would accept me into your tavern. There was no whistle in the dirt -- I just pretended to find it. I knew with your childlike impulsiveness you would have to blow the whistle, thus summoning your own death."

Sanibel raised himself to his knees. "Why?"

Matthews chuckled. "In life you are a useless, obese, and irritating goblin. In death your body will yield riches!"

"What are you talking about?"

"There are many magical spells that that require a goblin's heart, liver, blood and other parts. Your body is a smorgasbord of magical ingredients. After my ogre kills you your body will be dissected and collected into many spell components." He yanked Sanibel to his feet. "The chase is over, you are not going anywhere!"

Sanibel kicked out at Matthews' knees.

"Damn!" Matthews lost his grip as Sanibel reached into his pocket and pulled out the whistle. He then jumped up and down on Matthews' feet. With surprising quickness the goblin shoved the whistle into Mathews' mouth.

Matthews yelled in pain and inadvertently blew the whistle.

Realization struck him hard. Matthews pushed Sanibel away and staggered backwards. "Gods' blood! I blew the whistle. The ogre will be hunting me!"

Sanibel smirked, "You better get running. I can hear the ogre getting closer."

"Damn you, goblin!" Matthews disappeared deeper into the woods. A few moments later the ogre ran past, ignoring Sanibel as it pursued Matthews. As Sanibel had hoped, the whistle's curse had transferred itself to Matthews the moment Matthews's breath had driven forth that single breathy note.

Sanibel muttered, "Good riddance."


An hour later Sanibel was back in the tavern. Both Bradson and Syn were still lying on the floor, but to Sanibel's relief he could see they were breathing.

Pouring water on both Syn and Bradson revived them. They were bruised and extremely sore and were surprised and delighted to hear Sanibel's story of his adventure in the woods.

Syn held his hand out to Sanibel. "Give me the whistle, Sanibel."

Sanibel handed the whistle to Syn who promptly smashed it into bone dust.

From somewhere deep in the woods all three of them heard a man screaming. The sound was replaced by a primal howl of triumph.

Bradson looked at Syn. "Do you think that was --?" Syn nodded. "The ogre finally caught his proper prey."


© 2010 Bob Griffin

Bio: Bob Griffin's work has been published in the January 2010 issue of Orion's Child and the June 2010 issue of Kalkion Magazine. Bob lives in New Hampshire and tests software during the day and writes at night. During the Fall he coaches youth football.

E-mail: Bob Griffin

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