Today’s blog is a section from The Darned Conspiracy, the sequel to my first novel In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
“I swore I’d never come here,” Fineflin groaned as he gazed upon the gaudiness that made up The Royal Port of Merchants.
“Yup,” Grimby nodded. “RPM hell, vacationer’s ‘paradise.’ Let’s get to the IBI office so we can check in and get to work. The faster we get out of here the better.”
Fineflin merged their rental car into traffic and they made their way down the busy thoroughfare. There was heavy volume, and it sputtered along as it was halted by the many traffic lights which dotted the road. The sidewalks were filled with a cross section of the beings who made up The Realm–gnomes, dwarves, centaurs, wizards, and even a few elves. The crowds were wandering up and down the wooden walks, looking in to various shops or scoffing some too-large food. The preferred color palette appeared to based on two words–“loud” and “clash.”
Fineflin groaned. “I feel my fashion sense oozing out of my eyeballs. I can’t believe there are elves who like coming here.”
Grimby leaned back in his seat and pulled his iron cap down over his eyes. “Even I know what you mean. I’m not exactly a snappy dresser…”
“…oh you’re fine. You just dress like a dwarf. An iron cap is an appropriate accoutrement for you.” He nudged his partner and pointed out the window toward a family of dwarves clad in bright outfits and lugging what appeared to be the makings of a small camp site down the walk. One of the kids saw Fineflin pointing an waved. “But folks like that? What are they thinking?”
Grimby cracked an eye open as he leaned forward, groaned, and leaned back again. “That looks like every vacation photo my brother has ever sent me. I don’t get it. You take a sensible dwarf, who leads a quiet life and wears ordinary clothes, but then you bring them here and all of they sudden they dress in fluorescent shirts and start wearing sandals everywhere 1.”
Fineflin sniffed. “The food smells good, though. Doesn’t it?”
Grimby inhaled. “Yes… it does. And that salt air is nice too.”
Fineflin stretched his neck while they waited at yet another stop light. “And the sun does feel good. I’m… relaxed.”
“Yah, I suppose there might be some appeal to the place. We’ll have to get a bite to eat, anyway.”
The elf nodded. “And maybe take a walk.”
“Yah, that too.”
They drove on for a few more minutes, past the shopping district and into what looked like a non-touristy downtown. The wooden walks were replaced with common sidewalks, and the shops didn’t share the more outlandish color schemes they’d passed.
“Huh,” Grimby grunted. “I guess regular people do live here.”
“I suppose the people who run the tourist traps have to live somewhere,” Fineflin replied.
The dwarf nodded. “It’s almost disappointing somehow.”
“But we’re still going for a stroll and getting some of that food?”
The elf grinned. “Good. But I’m not getting a pair of those sandals. They’re ridiculous.”
“Absolutely.” Grimby pointed up the road, “Ah, there we are.”
The IBI field office was just up the road. It was a small two story building, on which hung a small sign which read “Imaginary Bureau of Investigation.” A revolving door marked the entrance way, but there didn’t seem to be much in the way of foot traffic going into the place. Indeed, the entire block seemed empty. Fineflin pulled into a spot right in front of the field office and the partners emerged from the rental.
“Not very busy, is it?” remarked Fineflin as he scanned the street.
“And they don’t care much for security either, do they?” Grimby added. “I mean, there aren’t even cement barrier keeping traffic from plowing into the office.”
Fineflin shrugged. “I guess they’re a bit more relaxed than back in The Throne.”
The partners made their way through the doorway and emerged into a lobby as gaudy as anything they’d witnessed along the boards. There were cutlasses, random ropes, and depictions of beings wearing wicked grins painted on every wall. The reception desk looked as though it had been cut off from the bow of a ship, and appeared to be sailing out of the far wall and into an ornamental pond which covered half the room. A gangplank headed up the side of the ship to where single being was sitting back in a chair, snoring. The floor was covered in sand.
This image was too much for Fineflin, who reached up to his head and lean against a nearby pillar 2, “I think I may actually throw up.”
“Easy there, Fineflin. We’ll get through this.”
The echo of voices stirred the slumbering receptionist who looked up and waved, allowing the two agents to get a good look at him. He had sandy brown hair, a long curly beard, and around his head was tied a bandana. He didn’t wear the standard IBI uniform, opting instead for rumpled linens and a leather jerkin 3. And as he waved the agents noticed it wasn’t a hand waving, but a metal hook.
“Ahoy, dare me fine fellows. Wut brings ye hare tedey?”
The agents looked at each other and shook their heads in unison. Grimby sighed and called back, “Come again?”
“Arr, I sed wut brings ye hare to deh office o’dah Investigatory arrrhm of this judiciary?”
Grimby’s eyes rolled back as he tried to make out the sentence. He was prepared for the accent this time, so his braing didn’t deflect the words away from his ears, but it still took a moment. At last, he grinned.
“Ah. We’re agents Headsmelter and Overshoot, checking in as per protocol.”
The pirate breathed out a sigh of relief, set his hook down on the makeshift desk, and came down the gangplank to the two agents.
“Oh thank narrative. I didn’t get any sleep last night and the accent is difficult to do on a good day.” He held out an ordinary hand and said, “I’m agent Mait Ee 4, head of the office here. Welcome to The Royal Port of Merchants.”
Fineflin cocked his head. “The accent… is fake?”
Mait Ee smiled. “Oh yah, we keep it up for the tourists. They expect a bit of flare if they’re reporting a crime down here and it makes them happy for a bit as we try to track down who stole their wallet or purse. Folks are on vacation, after all.”
The piqued Grimby’s interest. “Why is an IBI field office searching for tourist’s stolen wallets and purses?”
Mait Ee pointed to himself, marking his outfit. “You see the outfit, right? RPM may have gone all tourist, but we’re pirate stock. Local constabulary wouldn’t work here, so the IBI steps in. Not that we do much, mind you, locals generally want us to keep a low profile until they want us around.”
Fineflin blinked. “That’s absurd.”
The pirate chuckled. “You drove through the boards on your way here, right? This whole place is absurd. You get used to it. Now come one, I’ve got a temporary office set up for you in the back. And I won’t even make you dress up like pirates.”
- Flip-flops were brought to unreality by some of the early gnomish shopping expeditions and became an instant hit in the RPM. Someone once declared that they must be a product of Applied Imagination, a claim Nobody discounted by saying, “Not even AI could come up with something that ridiculous.” ↩
- Which was made to look like a ship’s mast. ↩
- Though the color scheme was the same as standard IBI issue. ↩
- The accent was fake, sure, but he was still a pirate. ↩