Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
The train ride back to No Entry was a stark contrast to his previous train ride weeks before. The citizens of The Realm were streaming back to their homes, and Will witnessed many windows being freed from their plywood prison-bars as he passed. Towns were also coming to life again, and the young prophet was happy to see stores and shops opening up throughout their ride.
Still, reminders of the war remained. Some homes showed the damage of battle or occupation, and one town located on the junction of the University City Expressway and No Entry Way 1 showed signs of significant devastation.
“A scout force for the Horde holed up here and delayed the Southern troops meant for Isme’s advance. It got pretty bad,” was all Bug would say in response to Will’s inquiries.
The platforms were also filled with people, both refugees making their way home now the roads were open and friends and family eager to be reunited with their loved ones. Soldiers were also on the rails. Three stops before their train reached No Entry a group of uniformed gnomes boarded the train, and as they did the teen could heard applause breaking out in the car they had entered. Soon after the train had begun moving again will spied a number of these soldiers peeking into his compartment. Bug got so annoyed with the onlookers he shooed them away and pulled down their window shade.
Will grinned, “I guess it’s not every day people get to see the husband of the Sovereign in the flesh.”
“Kid, are you serious?” Bug snapped back. “They’re looking at you. You’re the prophet, remember?”
“Well I thought they were looking at me,” Nobody insisted. “On account of the sack I’m wearing over my head 2.”
“That could be it, Professor.” Bug agreed.
The train pulled into No Entry without incident and the three friends were permitted to disembark before any of the other passengers. The Harbor was more crowded than Will remembered, as it was still filled with many of the refugees who’d made it into the open port before the gnomes closed the doors. The teen supposed they were skittish about the prospect of leaving a safe place, even with the war over. He did notice something other than over-crowding in the Harbor, however, which he found interesting. There were more gnomes interspersed with the wizards, dwarves, elves, and centaurs than he’d witnessed in his previous passage. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but Will hoped it was a sign the gnomish fear of outsiders was beginning to wane 3.
And then he saw the customs gate. It’s uninviting chain-link fence stretched all the way up to the caverns ceiling, adorned with the words, “Gnomes Only From This Point.” Will found it depressing.
The lines which snaked out of the passage into Gnomedom proper were long, but Bug elbowed his way through to the front with only a few dirty looks. When they arrived a sour-looking guard spoke without so much as glancing up from his paperwork which covered his desk.
“No entry, gnomes only. The wizard will have to turn back.”
Bug grinned, but Nobody spoke before he could breath out a threat.
“Oh, Michael. It’s so good to see you! You know, Sindy was just speaking about you for some reason, so I was hoping to bump into you because it’s been years, but I can’t remember why your name came up. Bug, do you know why Sindy was so excited to have Michael working at customs now?”
Bug’s grin widened, “I think it might have something to do with this letter, Professor. Sindy was pretty insistent Mike get it.”
The guard’s face flushed white as he recognized who was standing in front of his desk.
“Uncle Nobody? Bug? What are you doing there? I though you were at The Throne!”
“Well, we were, but now we have to get back to Great Roll so Will here can go home. And you’re going to let us in so we can do that, aren’t you Mike?”
“But, Bug,” Mike pleaded. “It’s against the rules.”
All eyes turned to the professor, whose words were now echoing down the corridor.
“What’s ‘it?’ Professor?”
“That’s why Sindy was so pleased Michael was working here now, intimidation! I believe she wrote you a strong-worded letter, Michael, which will cause you to cower and then step aside so Will can pass though. Isn’t that wonderful?”
What little color was left in Mike’s face had now drained away. Stammering he whispered, “Does she…. yell?”
“Oh, she does more than yell, Mike. She promises a visit if you don’t let young Will, here, though.”
“Uhh, then I suppose I can make an exception. Just this once,” Mike replied as he stepped aside and wave the trio though.
“Don’t you want your letter?” Nobody asked his nephew as he passed.”
“No! I mean, ‘no, thank you 4.’”
“Great. Will, Prof, we gotta move. I wanna be on the 7:30 to Great Roll.”
With a shove from Bug Will stepped through the customs barrier and began the last leg of his journey.
- Many travelers miss that exit, for some reason. ↩
- Somewhere along the way Nobody had gotten the idea he was now famous, and would therefore be followed by people wanting interviews. His solution to this problem was to conceal his identity by wearing a large potato sack over his head. It did prevent people from speaking with him. But also provoked a great deal of staring, which pleased the academic a great deal. ↩
- It was. The gnomes returning from the war didn’t understand what was so special about Gnomedom, that they couldn’t invite their friends from the army to come visit. Two years after Will returned home non-gnomes were permitted entry into the Fifty-Peaks Mountains for the first time in four centuries. ↩
- It’s a shame Mike didn’t want his letter. Bug’s description aside, the bulk of the letter was spent asking about his children. It was touching, really. ↩