Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
The train pulled into Great Roll Station around 7:30 the following morning and Bug helped the two agents disembark. He patted his pockets and grumbled.
“You two stay here, I must have left my keys in my compartment.”
Fineflin stifled a yawn. “No problem. Just point me to some coffee, I didn’t sleep well after getting back to my bunk.”
“Uh…” Bug murmured. “Ah, there you go.” The gnome pointed to a busy stand just outside the main thoroughfare through the station. “There’s A pop up Apollo’s,knock yourself out. Though… you may want to let Grimby order.”
Fineflin rolled his eyes. “It’s really that bad?”
“Look, I gotta get back to my compartment before the train is locked up, so I can’t argue. But, yes, it is. Remember, up until a couple of years ago you couldn’t even be here.”
“Fine, I’ll keep a low profile.”
“Great, see you in a minute. Order me a large black.” With that, Bug hopped back on to the train and disappeared from sight.
Grimby scratched his beard. “You’re gonna try to order yourself, aren’t you?”
The elf nodded. “Yes I am. I mean, look at the garish colors these gnomes are wear. No fashion sense and no common sense either. I’m a Throne’s Agent and I’m going to act like one.”
Grimby nodded, but cringed as he spied the looks passing gnomes were giving his partner. A few looked as though they were contemplating saying something when Fineflin mentioned “garish colors,” but a glare from the dwarf caused them to think twice. It was clear to him they were a long way from The Throne. He wasn’t so sure his partner had caught up.
Unaware of his partner’s misgivings, Fineflin started off toward the pop up Apollo’s. The draw of caffeine blocking out all other stimuli, Grimby hurried to catch up and fell into step next to the elf.
“So this MIT Character really thinks every elf is behind this plot?”
Grimby shrugged. “If you ask me, he wasn’t playing a full game of hopscotch. If you know what I mean 1. He was basically a delivery service, from what I can tell, and he says he overheard something about the elves being in charge. But, he’s a gnome. And gnomes have some prejudice against elves in general, if you haven’t noticed.”
Fineflin glanced around at the glares being directed toward him and nodded. “I have, as a matter of fact.”
“So he probably heard something, but blew it up a bit.”
“And you couldn’t convince him to go into protective custody?”
Grimby snorted. “No. But, like I said, partial hoptscotch 2. He was all clandestine about inviting me to talk, and then let me see his face when I got to the compartment. Which was also his compartment, by the way.”
Fineflin’s eyebrows arched. “How do you know that?”
“Because he’d laid out his clothes in the closet. Which he’d left open.”
The elf rubbed his temples. “So, not a professional.”
“Hardly,” Grimby snorted. “We have the compartment number and I have a description. When we get to the field office I’ll look him up. I’d have arrested him this morning but I don’t want to draw any attention to this wannabe. I get the feeling he thinks he’s in a spy movie or something.”
“Great. It’s so much fun when we’re dealing with people trying to live out fantasies.”
Grimby nodded as the two got to the back of the Apollo’s line. “Right up until the fantasy becomes real, yes. Then it’s, ‘Why didn’t you protect me?'”
The pair fell silent as they waited in line for several minutes. Once they reached the counter the gnome at the register looked up at Fineflin, blinked twice, and then turned toward Grimby.
“Good morning, welcome to Apollo’s. What can I brew for you today?”
Grimby sighed and waited for his partner’s reaction to being passed over. He didn’t have to wait long.
“Excuse me, I believe I was next in line. And I’d like to order now, please. Besides,” Fineflin pointed down at his partner. “I’m paying for him, he’s broke.”
Grimby nodded, hoping to diffuse the situation. “That I am. My friend here is buying this morning until I can get to a PAC to get some cash.”
Grimby’s efforts were not rewarded. The register gnome now glared at the partners and said, “Oh, you’re a friend of this elf? Then you can both get out of the line.” He turned toward Fineflin and added, “Your money’s no good here. Now go away or I’ll summon security.”
Grimby heard a few other patrons grumble about an “arrogant elf” as his partner turned red with fury.
“And what’s that supposed to mean, that my money is no good here?”
“It means I we don’t take stinky socks in these parts. And, seeing as Great Roll has never set up a sock exchange, it looks like you’re as broke as your friend. So please get out of line and let the paying customers order their drinks.” A chorus of murmured “yah’s” now passed down the line.
Fineflin had been bent over a bit to order, but now drew himself up to full height–towering over the gnome at the register. He huffed with frustration and replied, “I don’t intend to pay with socks, I have pennies. You know, the legal currency of The Realm? And if you refuse accept payment, then you’re insulting The Throne. Oh. And breaking the law. So why don’t you let me order, and I won’t have you arrested?”
“Oh yah?” The Gnome screamed. “I’d like to see you try!”
The crowd behind the two agents was growing, both in size and hostility. Grimby was about to tug on his partner’s sleeve and recommend discretion over caffeine, but before he could do so a new voice entered the fray.
“You have got to be kidding me. I knew gnomes were daft idiots who tend to hold on to old ways of thinking long after they’ve passed their usefulness. The pointy hats you all are wearing is a good indication of that. But pettiness hasn’t been something I’ve ever associated with gnomish kind. Until now.” Bug broke through the crowd, turned, and shouted, “You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”
The cashier gnome’s mouth dropped open. “You… you’re… Bug Moume?”
Bug spun on the young gnome and nodded. “That I am.” He leaned forward to examine the gnome’s name tag and added, “Bill.”
“The…the spouse of The Sovereign?”
“Right again, kid.”
“Are these…” the young gnome pointed toward the two agents, who were now transfixed on Bug’s ability to silence the crowd. “Friends of yours?”
“Right again. And not only friends of mine, friends of narrative. So, instead of being a petty little gnome, how about you be an excellent barista and get me three large cups of coffee.”
“Uh, yes sir.” The gnome spun and grabbed threw cups from the stack next to his register. Before he began to pour to turned an added, “Uhhh, on the house?”
“Right a third time, kid. Well done.”
As the gnome poured three cups of coffee Bug spun on Finfeflin hissed, “I hope you’re happy. That little stunt just told my security team where I am. I thought you were going to let Grimby order.”
“I felt I needed to make a point,” Fineflin sniffed back.
Bug examined what was left of the crowd, which had quieted but continued to throw hostile glares toward the elf. Bug was holding the mob back by sheer force of reputation, and he wasn’t sure how long it would last.
“Well, great job with that. Now let’s get our coffee and get out of here before those folks decide crossing me is worth smacking you. OK?”