Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
“Bug,” said Grimby as the gnome began walking toward the city proper. “I’m not sure we’ve got time to eat right now. Fineflin and I need to be on a train to Great Roll as soon as we can.”
Bug halted and spun around, a grin flashed on his face. “Yah? Well the next train doesn’t leave for three hours, and you can’t board for two. So…” the gnome waved the two agents to follow him. “…let’s eat.”
The partners shrugged and fell in line behind their friend. They exited the station and stepped out on to the busy streets of No Entry. The roads were lined with restaurants and night clubs, and beings from various species were hurrying along the sidewalk on whatever business drove them. Fineflin couldn’t help but notice a lot of the construction seemed new.
As if sensing Fineflin’s thoughts, Bug spoke up. “This all’s been put up in the last three years. After the gates opened the gnomes here realized there was money to be made by being the place to be on the other side of customs. Some wizards followed suit, boy was that fun to watch happen. No non-gnome had ever owned property inside the mountains before.” Bug smiled, “The Mayor was peeved. Served the pompous snot right, too.”
Fineflin cocked his head. “I… like it. This reminds me a lot of the restaurant district down in The Throne.”
“Yah. That’s what’s it’s modeled after,” Bug agreed. “The Prof says No Entry might be the second largest true interspecies city in The Realm now, and it took three years. If those idiots up the line don’t screw things up it may end up being the largest.”
“Right now, Bug, we’re more worried about the idiots way up the line.”
Bug nodded as he walked, “Fineflin, I know you’re an elf and all. But I’ve got no idea what the Lintheads are trying to pull. Pushing the sock standard for everyone would ruin us all.”
The elf’s mouth tightened, “The Lintheads are… extreme. But would it really be so bad if we moved to socks for power and currency? There’s whole shoals of socks out we’ver never even tapped.”
Bug grunted. “The Prof says it would be catastrophic, so…yah. I think it would be that bad.”
“And I’ve got no reason to disagree with Nobody. But I know him, there’s a lot of elves out there who don’t–and they’re saying he just wants to protect gnomish influence on our culture.”
“Right,” Bug replied, pointing toward a billboard celebrating the newest snack flavor from the “Snack Like Nobody’s Business” munchie empire 1. “Because Nobody really needs to make sure he’s on top. This is the gnome who, when he caught a corporate spy looking up his formulas on his computer, told the gnome where to look. He doesn’t think that way. He just wants to share ideas, sometimes they’re genius.”
“And sometimes they’re insane to the point of genocidal,” added Grimby.
“You take both the good and the oblivious with the Prof, Grimby. There’s no other way.”
“Look, Bug. I know this. I know Nobody. But other elves don’t, and it opens them up to seeing the worst.”
“Especially when a real penny narrowly misses blowing up The Throne. Right?”
Fineflin sighed. “Yes, it doesn’t take much to push people off a cliff.”
Grimby cleared his throat. “And did you catch that bit of info on the news, Bug?”
Bug flashed his cockeyed grin, “Grimby, Professor Cooly Nobody is my father-in-law. He doesn’t leak, he turns on the hose and drowns his friends with information.”
The dwarf sighed. “Sometimes I don’t even know why we try to have security.”
Bug shrugged. “I’m sure I don’t know. I ditch mine every chance I get 2.” The gnome stopped and looked up, “Great, here we are. ‘The Creampuff Penny.’ This place has the best pulled pork in the Fifty Peakes.”
The establishment Bug had halted before was a narrow storefront, with a sign reading “The Creampuff Penny” blazoned on the front. Two outdoor seating areas were filled with patrons, and the main indoor area was projecting a muffled roar of conversation. It was rather crowded.
Grimby pulled his cap and scratched his head. “Eh, Bug. I know you said we had a couple of hours. But we can find some place else.”
Bug’s grin returned. “You think I’m waiting? Grimby, I spent years being the punching bag for establishment gnomes who thought the Prof would never amount to anything the rest of The Realm didn’t have any impact on gnomish culture. And now my wife’s the sovereign, and the rest of The Realm has come knocking, and Realmian politics has got a lot to do with gnomish culture. I’m not a vindictive gnome, but I don’t wait anywhere in the Peaks anymore.”
Fineflin smiled. “You remind me of Sills back when she was a field agent, always trying to throw her weight around just out of principal.”
“Yup. Only there’s one big difference between her and me. ”
“I like it. A nice gnome, I am not.”
Grimby replaced his hat, “Well, OK then, first being of The Realm. Take us to dinner.”
“Right you are. And since this is a mixed crowd you two won’t stick out as much. ‘Cause, Fineflin, you aren’t going to find much of a warm welcome here. Gnomes are really peeved.”
“I’m just here to do my job, Grimby, and find out what’s going on with the penny supply.”
“Yah, I know that. But they…” Bug waved his arms to indicate the city. “…don’t. You make sure you keep your head on a swivel. And if there’s any rough stuff going on, you let Grimby handle it. Understood?”
“Very much so, yes. Though Grimby has a tendency to knock people out for several hours if I leave him to handle the ‘rough stuff.'”
“Hey! It’s a cultural expression of authority. I can’t help it if other folks have weak knees!”
Bug shook his head. “I can see I bailed you two out just in time. Now let’s eat. We’ve got a train to catch.”
“We?” Grimby asked.
“You don’t think I’m letting you two run through the Peaks unsupervised, do you? I’m coming along. Besides, Sills asked me to. It’ll be just like old times.”
“That’s what Sills is afraid of,” Fineflin groaned.