by Trevor Hopkins

It turned out that Nether had become the resident leprechaun at Chill's Bar. No doubt he looked the part, habitually wearing a green tweed suit with clashing puce waistcoat, and a bowler hat several sizes too small which emphasised rather than concealed his ears.

For the price of a stiff drink from one of the regulars - he seemed to have been smart enough to remain hidden when a stranger was in the place - he would entertain the clientele with tales from the Lower Realms translated, as best he could, into that over-simplified language known as English. He would perform tricks of sleight-of-hand or use rudimentary home-made glamours: the same stunts that he used to use to entertain my childhood self.

There are a few charms that all Goblins know: one of them is good-luck glamour which delivers a limited form of prescience. I prefer not to rely on them, since they are more than likely to show you a true but utterly misleading version of the future. But they can be manufactured at home, if you have the time and the patience.

Nether had demonstrated his worth during that period known in certain parts of the Upper World as Prohibition. During this period when alcohol was officially banned, Chill's bar masqueraded as a coffee house. Drinks were still served, of course, from under the counter, and supplies shipped in from the underworld - that is, the human underworld - sources to satisfy the thirsty public. Nether's glamours gave reliable warnings when a police raid was imminent, so that the alcoholic drinks could be spirited away and innocuous substitutes provided. Chill's Bar, and presumably Tighe himself, had prospered, and it was perhaps no surprise that he had been permitted to take up residence there.

Nether sauntered casually around the bar, ducking slightly under the counter-top in a casual motion. We sat on stools at a table in a dark corner, a table which was markedly lower than all the others, a table intended to be comfortable for a Goblin to use. I got the impression he just wanted to talk. Perhaps it was just that he wanted to use the Goblin tongue - presumably a language he had not spoken much for decades. He told me about his recent life while the two of us shared a bottle of whiskey; actually, he drank most of it, but then again, that was fair, since he did most of the talking, too.

He had been living in the bar itself or, more precisely, in some spaces off the beer cellar below. Goblins prefer the sense of security of being underground and he had converted some of the rambling space into a bedroom. He showed it to me. It was untidy and barely furnished, but it was at least warm and dry.

I asked him what had possessed him to disappear like that. He didn't like the question, avoided it, the first time I asked. I asked him again. Eventually, and after more whiskey, he admitted he had simply not been able to cope with the pressure of his old life, that he left unable to live up to the expectations of our Father to succeed.

He finally asked what I was doing here. I conveyed the message I had sought him out to deliver, that Mother was dying and wanted to see him. He appeared unimpressed, dithered about the possibility of returning below. I was unimpressed, and said so, loudly. He shouted at me, I shouted back. He told me to go to Hell and scuttled behind the bar out of sight before I could reply.

To be fair, he did appear at Mother's bedside a couple of days later, sober or some fair approximation thereto, to say his farewells. After Mother's funeral, he disappeared again. I couldn't be bothered to go looking for him.

Part 7 Part 9