Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
It took just over two hours to make their way from The Bar’s encampment and through the pass. Several checkpoints had to be cleared, and they were forced to halt twice while a few stragglers shot at their vehicles. Will was relieved when the walls of the surrounding mountains climbed up around their transports, it meant they’d soon be entering The Realm.
As the looming mountains began to open up in front of them, Will caught his first glance of the Pristined Lands South of the pass. Green fields and lush forests spread out toward the horizon as they made their descent from the mountains. But as the convoy navigated the last switchback out of the pass Bug growled.
“Oh great. What are they doing here?”
“What is it?” replied Will, leaning forward so he could see out of the windshield.
“It looks like we’ve got a welcoming committee.”
Sure enough, there at the bottom of the road Will spotted a large crowd, many of whom appeared to be seated in several large grandstands of dubious quality. Across the road stretched a banner which read, “The Realm’s Governors welcome our heroes.”
“Oh yah,” dripped Bug. “This is going to end well.”
Sindy’s voice echoed her husband’s sentiments. “It appears the rodents have found their way out of their holes now that everything is settled.”
“What do they want?” Will asked.
“They probably don’t want Isme getting ideas of sitting himself on the throne. This is their way of saying, ‘Thank you, now go away.’””
“Does Isme want to be king?”
“Kid, I don’t know. But after the mess those idiots down there made of the entire war effort we could certainly do worse.”
“I don’t see why everyone is upset,” Nobody interjected. “It’s a party, let’s enjoy it!”
Bug drew his lips into a thing line, but made no reply. Taking his cue, Sindy and Will also remained silent.
As the convoy approached the grandstands, they were directed to a staging area to the right of the road by a uniformed IBI agent. Up on the platform were a number of Governors Will recognized as survivors of the bombing attack weeks before. Each had a smile plastered on their face, but Will noticed something different in their eyes.
They’re worried. Echoed the now-familiar voice in his head.
“Should they be worried?”
“You’re darn right they should be,” Bug replied.
The convoy’s vehicles emptied and were arranged in groupings by a harried dwarf. He tripped over his beard several times while checking those present against the names listed on a clipboard he was carrying.
“OK, so. General Isme, if you would please line up here. And, then Professor Nobody and Will, please. Yes, excellent.”
As Isme’s aides, followed by Bug, attempted to join their commanding officer the dwarf held up his hands and said, “Oh, no. Thank you. That will be plenty on the stage. It’s not very stable, you see. If you officers would join your subordinates in the grandstand behind the platform, that would be wonderful. And then we can get started!”
Isme was not pleased at being ordered around without consent, and even less thrilled he was being separated from the aides who had helped him negotiate the temporary peace between The Realm and The Bar. Bug had turned bright red with rage, and Sindy’s ears began whistling steam for the first time in days.
Will also thought the arrangements were a bit odd, and then he noticed it. Other than those who’d arrived in the convoy, nowhere in this celebratory crowd was any sign of The Realm’s armed forces.
All smiles, the dwarf motioned everyone to follow him up on to the platform. But Isme refused to move.
“Agent Masterful and Captain Moume will accompany me on the platform.”
“But, Sir, there isn’t room. The platform…”
“…can accommodate two more. We aren’t sitting, anyway.”
His smile faltered, but the dwarf rebounded and it reappeared as he nodded his head.
“Yessir. I will fetch them now!”
“You do that.”
Bug and Sills were retrieved from the soldier’s grandstand and positioned in line with the others who’d already been slated to stand on the platform. Once they were in place, Isme smiled and nodded toward the harried organizer.
“You may proceed.”
“Thank you, Sir,” the dwarf breathed a sigh of relief and motioned them to follow. As will approached the platform he was shocked to see Stevens had already been escorted to the platform, where he was being fawned over by the remaining Governors.
“That little weasel,” Bug murmured.
Isme held up his hand, “Quiet, Captain. I’ll handle this.”
With that, Bug closed his mouth and allowed his eyes to do his grumbling for him.
As Isme ascended the platform he was met with the Governor’s applause, which was taken up by the gathered crowd. Will thought it seemed a bit rehearsed.
A purple-robed wizard stepped forward with his hand outstretched, which Isme declined to accept. Nonplussed, the wizard recited his lines.
“General Isme. On behalf of the Board of Governors, and the whole Realm, I welcome you back as a true hero!”
The wizard beamed a smile as the crowd chimed in with a cheer on cue. He waited a bit for the roar to quiet before continuing.
“You, as well as all the soldiers of The Realm, have delivered us from a terrible fate. A fate which Mr. Stevens assures me was implemented by rogue elements of his people.”
Isme nodded, but kept a blank stare on his face.
“And now, with a ceasefire in place, we may begin the process of negotiating a lasting and just peace between The Realm and The Bar.”
Isme smiled, but a shrewd coldness in his eyes sucked away any warmth from the gesture.
“And who says any of you will be negotiating that treaty?”
The wizard Will had begun to think of as “Mr. Purple” stepped back from the general as the color drained away from his face.
“General Isme, may I remind you the military is under the authority of the civilian government. Not the other way around. You have done your duty, and any accolades which are now shown you are well-deserved. But it’s time for the government to negotiate the peace.”
Isme scowled. “What government? A few weeks ago you people had all vanished. Without me, the Hoard would have been marching through the streets of The Empty Throne long before The Bar was able to intervene, and the Penny Ore Detonator would made this entire war even more pointless than it already was.”
Nobody raised his hand, trying to attract Isme’s attention. “Umm, about that.”
“Not, now Professor,” snapped Bug as he yanked his father-in-law’s hand back down.
Mr. Purple had now reddened with outrage, creating a furious clash with his robes. “So you think we ought to have someone sitting on the throne then?”
“As a matter of fact, I do think that. Yes.”
“And I suppose you would be the one you see sitting there. Not satisfied with being a conquering hero, you’d set yourself up as a tyrant!”
The crowd in the grandstands had fallen silent, but Will noticed a number of uniformed IBI agents beginning to encircle the stage. Will was about to warn Bug when his attention was jolted back to the platform by the sound of laughter.
“You think I want to sit on the throne? Is that what this is all about ?” Isme laughed even harder, which only served to deepen the red of Mr. Purple’s face.
“You’re out of your minds, all of you. I want nothing to do with politics, or running The Realm. I’ve fought my war, I just want to go home. But we do need someone on the Throne, to keep the Governors honest for a change.”
Mr. Purple flashed an acidic smile. “And just whom do you think should sit on the throne? And, without the Governors, by what authority will they be established? The Board has been wrestling with this problem for centuries, General, and I don’t see it being resolved any time soon.”
Hey Will, that’s your cue.
“Oh, OK.” Will weaved his way in front of General Isme, until he came between the General and Mr. Purple. He was too frightened to look out at the crowd, but he had a feeling everyone within a ten mile radius was watching him as he stumbled forward 1.
“Hi, I’m Will. And I’m supposed to put someone on the throne before I go home.”
- He was wrong. The events at the pass were being broadcast throughout The Realm. Had he being thinking to listen for it, he would have heard a collective gasp coming from the entire population of the region. ↩