Fiction Tuesday – The Road South

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

“So, kid, do you have a lot of experience choosing national leaders?”

“Stop it, Bug!” The gnome had been needling Will for the better part of an hour, ever since they’d escaped the political ambush which had been arranged for Isme.

“I’m just saying, we can probably stop off at a library somewhere and pick up some books if you want to bone up on the subject.”

Bug chuckled playfully, while Will scowled teen angst in the passenger’s seat.

“Leave the boy alone, Bug,” Sindy spat from the rear. “I’m sure he’ll do a fine job. Just as long as he doesn’t choose any of the idiots those senators put forward. The last thing The Realm needs is a lackey on the throne.”

“Well, I’m excited by the prospect. Imagine, Will, you’ll set the course of the future for the whole Realm. And it was me who said you needed to come in the first place.”

Will rolled his eyes. “And you have no idea how pleased I am for that, Professor.”

Nobody beamed and sat back in his seat. For all his genius, sarcasm remained beyond his social abilities.

Bug laid off poking his friend for the next twenty minutes or so as their convoy sped down the empty roadway. The parade of vehicles had grown since emerging from the pass, as those who’d travelled up to meet Isme upon his return wanted to be present when the new sovereign was selected. Mr. Purple had even attempted to board Will’s transport for “consultation,” but the steam whistling from Sindy’s ears frightened him off.

As they travelled the roadway approached a division, with the left fork reading “Empty Throne” and the right fork reading, “University City.” Will, anxious to complete his task, was surprised to see the lead vehicle veer to the right.

“Where are we going? I thought we were heading back to The Empty Throne.”

“Ah, I forgot to tell you. University City wanted to hold a big celebratory parade. Most of the refugees have taken off for home, but there’s still a huge crowd waiting to cheer on Isme… and those who helped him out. You’re a celebrity now, didn’t you know?”

Will did know and, truth be told, he found it rather flattering. A parade also sounded cool, but he didn’t want Bug to think he was too eager so he said, “I guess. I dunno 1.”

Bug smirked. “That’s the spirit, kid 2.”

They drove on for several minutes, until a nagging question was able to work its way out from Will’s mask of indifference.

“Wait. Where’s University City? I’ve never heard of it.”

Bug turned his head toward will in confusion, veering the car off to the right a bit as he did so. He over-corrected a bit was he brought the car back into line, causing the passengers to jerk about in their seats.


“Oh, that was fun. May we do it again, please? It’s given me an idea for a new amusement park ride.”

“Watch where you’re going, you ignorant gnome!”

The radio also cracked to life as Sills voice came through. “Bug, you OK up there?” The IBI agent was now driving Isme in the next car of the convoy.

Bug keyed the radio, “Uh, yah, just a bit sleepy. Sindy punched me in the arm, though, and the prof looks like he’s fishing out some chocolate covered coffee beans. I’ll be ok.”

“OK. Well done, Sindy, keep him awake. We’ll be stopping in University City in twenty, Sills out.”

Will repeated his question, “Bug, where is University City?”

This time, the gnome kept his eyes on the road as he answered. “What do you mean ‘where is university city?’ You’ve been there!”

“Uhh, no I haven’t. I think I’d remember if I had.”

“Kid, come on. It’s the place where we picked up Oscar and set off for Firewall Control. Remember?”

Will cocked an eyebrow as his face wrinkled in confusion. “You mean Boarsblemish?”

“Boarsblemish? Who in their right mind would name a place ‘Boarsblemish?’ I mean, come on, does a pig with warts sound like an appealing name to you?”

“Bug, in all my time here in The Realm what you’re calling University City has always been Boarsblemish. You’ve all called it that!”

“Not me, kid. I’ve never even heard that goofy name, much less said it.”

“Me too,” echoed Sindy.

“Hmmm…” began Nobody as he scratched his chin. “Well, that is interesting.”

“What’s interesting, Professor?”

“Well, Will, it appears you may have a small allergy to satire.”


“Yah, Prof, what he said.”

“When the Satire Shield was running it seems Will wasn’t able to see the underlying meaning behind the shield’s effects. So, in effect, he heard what we said rather than what we meant. I find this fascinating, because this is the way the shield was intended to work on the denizens of the Horde. Natives of The Realm have always been able to filter the words so they recognized was meant instead of what was said.”

“Wait, Prof. You mean for all those years the shield was running everyone in The Realm was calling University City… what was that stupid name again, Will?”


“Boarsblemish… and no one realized it?”

“In general, yes. Though I suspect some of the dryads deep in the forest of classics may had partial immunity to the shield. It’s got something to do with being made of wood.”

“Then thank Narrative the war’s over and that stupid shield is off, then,” Sindy sounded off. “Because that’s the most ridiculous name I’ve heard in my life.”

“I do wish they’d have left it on for the parade, though.”

“Why is that, Dad?”

“I was so looking forward to pushing that rather large button which I found myself holding after our last transit. Do you remember it?”

“Yes, Dad. It had ‘do not press’ plastered all over it.”

“I know,” Nobody sighed. “Something marvelous would have happened when pressed, I’m sure 3.”

  1. The phenomena of watching teens realize “cool people” are really a bunch of wannabe doofuses has been under-studied. It’s one of the great holes in academic research. 
  2. Bug recognized a wannabe when he saw one. 
  3. The professor was wrong. Had Nobody pressed the button he would have been rewarded with a note, written to himself, which read, “Stop pressing random buttons.” It was a message he had written on a whiteboard in his laboratory, in permanent ink. In remarkable moment of clarity, the academic decided to work this reminder into his comments in the Satire Shield codebase.