Fiction Tuesday – Tales of the Capital

Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes

“You mean that’s more than a name?”

Bug snorted. “Yah, cause we Realm-folk are so unimaginative. Of course it’s more than a name.”

“But… why is it empty? Doesn’t The Realm need a leader?”

“It’s all due to Narrative, Will,” Sill’s voice broke into the conversation over the noise of the train.

“Narrative my floppy hat! The Throne’s empty because the Governors can’t see past their own noses to settle on who sits on it! They’re a bunch of selfish schemers who can’t stand to think of anyone telling them what to do, and it’s been that way for five hundred years 1!”

“Yes, on that we can agree.” Sills nodded.

“So the throne is empty because no one wants anyone else to be on it?”

“Pretty much, Kid. Yah.”

Civics wasn’t Will’s strong suit, but something about the situation described to him didn’t make sense. “But you’re at war. Don’t you need a head general, or president, or something?”

“Absolutely,” responded Sills.

“So why don’t the Governors select one?”

Sindy barked a bitter laugh and set her face in a grimace. Will cast her a quizzical look but she shook her head and crossed her arms, refusing to speak.

Will felt as though he’d stepped over a line. “I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?”

“Oh not at all young man! Not at all,” offered Nobody. “My daughter is simply a bit embittered by politics at the moment.”

“She’s not the only one,” growled Bug.

“Absolutely,” nodded Sills.

“But why? I mean, there’s a war going on, right? Shouldn’t you all be coming together?”

“Certainly, Will, certainly! And I admire your civic spirit!” Nobody crowed. “But there are issues, you know. All sorts of schemes and conniving and subtle plays so each group gets what it wants. It’s quite exciting, when you think about it,” the old gnome grinned.

Steam began pouring from Sindy’s ears at the use of the word “exciting,” causing Will to hold his breathe in preparation for the inevitable verbal assault he assumed must follow. As she opened her mouth to engage the tirade, however, Sills cut her off.

“Professor, I’m not sure ‘exciting’ is the word for it.”

“Oh but it is! Very exciting! The Elves almost blocked the deployment of the Firewall with their insistence on switching The Realm to the sock standard. The Dwarves of Redmine insisted on writing the code for the Firewall in an inferior language simple because they wanted to be assured the income from upkeep maintenance contracts, which sent the Dwarves from Appletosh to court to block that, and the Classic Representatives insulted everyone and said they didn’t believe they needed the Firewall as protection because injunctions had no effect on them. Their bickering nearly brought down the entire Realm! It is quite exciting. Granted it’s short-sighted, petty, and terrible — but it is very exciting. I even had a haughty centaur call me a, ‘pale imitation of ancient folklore, not worthy to be called a gnome.’ It was a splendidly cruel insult.” The old gnome smiled delightedly, as if being so insulted was one of the most interesting things which had ever happened to him.

Sindy had heard enough.

“Yes, and when all these exciting things were going on and you were being so delightfully insulted, gnomes were dying. These idiots at The Throne kept delaying and conniving and arguing so much it delayed the deployment of the firewall for months. During which they killed mom!” Sindy screamed her last words, before breaking down in angry sobs.

Bug reached out an took his wife’s hand while Sills shot an annoyed glance which, to Will, said, “I really tried to save you there 2.” Nobody bowed his head, wounded.

“Did I remember to say it was terrible and shortsighted,” he finally asked, causing his daughter to groan in frustration.

“Yah, you did, Prof. But you probably shoulda led with that.”

“Dear me, really? I thought normal convention was to put the most important bit last.” The chagrinned gnome sighed, “I’m afraid I’m all out of social insights for the year.”

Will, who didn’t want to involve himself in any situation where Sindy seemed ready to explode, couldn’t help but recall Nobody’s statement. His mind hadn’t returned from it’s short-term rumination before he heard his mouth utter, “Wait, so if the most important thing was last, why did you end with the insult?”

Bug glared at Will in exasperation, but his words instantly delivered the Professor from his pouting. “Oh that! Well it was the most important thing. I’d just finished me presentation on why the delay of the Firewall was risking the existence of The Realm itself, when this Centaur insulted me and got up to leave with the Classics delegation. Not only was it incredibly rude, which I am proud to say I concluded all on my own. Their departure would have delayed the firewall another six months, which would have cost us the war. I was so aggravated by his behavior I blocked his way and called him a ‘selfish nag who had no idea the danger he was in and slapped one of the translation bracelets recovered the Horde after the fire Battle of Outland Pass. Then I shot him.”

Sindy’s eyes widened, “You did what?”

Sills smirked, “He shot him. He gave him a fleshwound near the hoof. I was there.”

Even Bug was dumbfounded, “You shot a Governor.”

“Well, it was the only way to show him he wasn’t as immune to injunction rounds as he assumed.”

Bug’s jaw dropped. “You took an injunction round into the council, and shot a governor with it?

“Oh yes. He was quite perturbed.”

“I can imagine.”

“But when his color sight began to fade he became much more willing to vote in favor of funding the firewall.”

“Dad, don’t take this the wrong way.”

“I don’t think he can, dear.”

“But why aren’t you in jail?”

“Oh, well. They wanted to, but I told them I was a few weeks away from finalizing my treatment for fading, and if they tossed me in jail I’d never be able to finish it. I even teated the Centaur with a prototype treatment and he was amazed when his color sight returned.”

“He got his color sight back?” Sindy asked, in awe. “But the treatment you use now doesn’t restore that!”

“Well, there were side-effects so I had to stop using that particular formula.”

“Like what?” asked Will, intrigued.

“Well, he can only walk sideways now. Which is difficult for someone with four legs. He also hiccups constantly.”

“And serves him right, the pompous classicist,” Sills added.

Will was about to ask about the firewall people kept mentioning, but his words were suddenly forgotten as a voice echoed in his head.

Hey, how ya doing?

“Oh, no,” he muttered as he lowered his head into his hands.

  1. Hello, it’s me. You know, the Narrator? I’d like to explain the difference between the way time flows in The Realm and the Unimagined World. Normally, Time in The Realm flows much faster. Five Hundred years in Realm time was roughly sixty years in Unimagined time. This differential is nullified when beings from either world cross-over physically, or come into communication. At these moments the two worlds travel through time in sync. I don’t know why this is, I’m just the narrator, not the author. 
  2. Will isn’t all the great at interpreting non-verbal communication. It really said, “Wow, you’re a class-a idiot.”