"It Takes One To Gnome One: Short Tales" by Awdz Bodkins of Order
The young gnome clambered over the fence amidst her siblings and cousins. Shouting, “Race you to the knoll!” she scampered across the field to a small hill. From atop the hill, she could see where Bessie, the family cow, was standing. Turning to her flush-faced companions, she smiled mischievously.
“Who wants to be the champion today, and fend off the evil dragon?”
Gwillimena rolled her eyes at Awdz's question, deeming it a bit silly to consider a cow such an adversary. Gadzooks hopped up and down excitedly, “Oooh, me! Me!” Awdz considered; Gadz had not had the chance to be the hero yet… “OK, Gadzooks, it's up to you; what's our battle plan?”
“Yes!” Gadzooks gave a great leap, then turned to look at Bessie chewing her cud next to a tree. “She's terrorizing that forest, we need to drive her off into the mountains!” He waved his hand to indicate the direction of the barn.
“OK, everybody get your weapons ready!” Each young gnome picked up a stick, some branches with leaves, others small bare pieces barely longer than their hands. The routine was well established now; as a crowd the young gnomes would make lots of noise and run toward the cow, who invariably would turn and head for the barn where she could be sure of peace.
As Bessie headed into the barn, all the young gnomes gave an enthusiastic cheer and congratulated Gadzooks on “saving” the land. With the field clear, they could now hunt for strawberries, interesting rocks, odd bugs, and anything else that caught their fancy in the pasture. In particular for today, the gnomes would work on a rabbit trap of their own devising.
“No, Gadzooks, the stone goes on the other end of the board,” Gwillimena instructed. Awdz had spotted the target hole as she startled a rabbit into it two nights earlier, and the whole group had gotten into planning how they would capture the “killer rabbit”. A true gnomish contraption, the trap involved multiple steps to be activated before the basket would come down atop the bunny. Now they carefully placed all the parts and pieces as closely to the design as they could on the uneven terrain.
The young gnomes finished setting up the trap and scurried behind bushes to watch. After a few minutes of minor scuffling, they quieted down enough for a rabbit to poke its head out of the hole and then start for the nearby clover placed in the trap. Excitedly and with lots of “SHHH!!”-ing, each pair of gnome eyes watched the trap as it was sprung, the rabbit froze in place, and each component of the contraption did its work.
Triggered by the rabbit bumping a string as it exited the hole, a small block was removed from a hole in a keg, the liquid inside it poured down the pipe into the cup, causing the piece of wood in the cup to float out and pull the string attached to it, thus loosing the ball which rolled and dropped onto the board, causing the rock on the other end to arc over and knock the weather vane around into the basket. When the basket actually fell to trap the rabbit, a great cheer went up.
Gwillimena ran fastest to the trap and stopped the rest of the youngsters from inadvertently loosing the rabbit. Carefully, she managed to grasp the rabbit to carry it to Gama Gwill's house. Awdz, Gadzooks, and the rest of the gnomes followed triumphantly, hollering to one another and creating general mayhem.
Gama Gwill met them at her door. “Oh dears, what have you brought me this time?” she asked, eyebrow raised.
“A new pet for you, Gama!” shouted Awdz. “What are you going to call him?”
“Dinner,” Gama muttered under her breath, then looked at the expectant eyes watching her excitedly. “Dears, I'll take him in now, but I cannot keep him…I will find a proper place for him soon enough, though. For now, come inside, I have cookies and juice for you.” With that, she took the rabbit from Gwillimena and ushered them all into her dining room for snack. The young gnomes ate heartily, and never knew their dinner stew the next night was Gama's “pet”.
E. Gadfly Gazortenblatz, commonly known as Egad, was a top-notch tinker as gnomes went. Having crafted a cargo disk capable of holding more than any other known in Istaria, he traveled to Aughundell in hopes of fetching a fine price for it.
“Holds a lot, ‘e says?” a dwarven armorer named Garthor eyed him suspiciously. “Just what does a gnome think is a lot?” Egad looked around the training center of Aughundell and spotted one of the huge dwarven ale casks along the wall.
“Looks like one of those casks holds half of a lot,” the gnome told the dwarf. At that, all the dwarves in earshot roared with laughter, not believing the tinker's boast. Egad grew annoyed at the disbelief, and said, “Don't believe me? Try filling it!”
Narrowing his eyes, Garthor pulled the cargo disk over to the cask. He unstoppered the full cask and watched its contents pour slowly into the disk. As the cask emptied, he peered into the disk and looked up, astonished.
“There's still room!” None of the other dwarves were laughing now, but most still did not look convinced that two casks full would fit in the disk. The dwarven craftsman towed the disk over to a second cask. “If it does hold two full casks worth, ye've got a sale!”
“And another one!” shouted a second dwarf. “And another!” Multiple cries went up. The dwarven craftsman pulled out his hammer and approach the cask.
“Let's hurry this up. I canna stand the suspense!” So saying, Garthor hammered a couple of big holes into the cask, causing the ale to rush out in fast streams into the cargo disk. The proprietor who owned the cask came running up, fuming. “Hey!! Ye've just bought yerself a caskful of ale and a useless barrel!”
As the last of the golden liquid flowed into the disk, the armorer grunted in approval. “Tis a mighty fine cargo disk ye make,” he told Egad, then faced Hebur Hammerfist. “And worth the extra barrel.” Turning to address the crowd around him, he shouted, “And any o' the rest o' ye that wants a drink, ye can have it a' ha' price, I need ter empty me new disk!”
As the business deals were struck, Egad sipped carefully at a mug of ale. Stowing most of it for another time, the tinker packed up the rest of his things and made ready to leave.
“You headin' out on the back road?” the dwarven craftsman asked Egad. Nodding, the tinker wondered why the dwarf cared. Indicating the empty cask with holes in it, the dwarf continued, “Mind takin' this pile o' junk with ye, up to the wildlands? It's nae fit for use now.”
Egad chuckled, nodded, and picked up the empty cask. “I'll take care of it for you, you've helped my trade today.” Tottering somewhat under the unwieldy cask, he headed for home.
The young gnomes in Rachival were heavily into the “Apple Wars” – a futile attempt to clear out a nest of bees by throwing rotting apples at them – when an odd shape with the sun behind it appeared over the crest of the hill, moving toward them. Awdz paused instead of throwing her next apple to stare at the large round silhouette on two small legs. Gwillimena turned to see what had distracted her cousin, and after a moment shouted, “Uncle Egad!”
As Awdz and Gadzooks ran to hug their Da, all of the other young gnomes stopped throwing apples and ran to cluster around the adventurous tinker. Only a step or two behind Awdz and Gadzooks, Gwillimena held back the others until the gnome elder put down his load.
“What did you bring us? What is it?” Excited youngsters hopped around the huge cask which Egad had set on the ground. Arms full of Awdz and Gadzooks, he sat and chuckled, a mischievous glint in his eye.
“I brought an empty dwarven ale barrel for you to play in,” Egad told them. “The silly dwarves thought that since it had a couple of small holes in it, it was worthless. But I thought you might find a use for it.” He stood up as the crowd of young gnomes cheered. “Mind you be back to Gama's house for supper though!” With that, he gave his kin one more hug each and headed off to his workshop.
The gnomes circled the giant keg, inspecting it. A couple of holes larger than Awdz's head were in its sides, as though something had been slammed extremely forcefully into it.
“How do we get in?” Gadzooks wanted to know.
“That's easy,” replied Gwillimena. “Just tip it on its side!” Immediately all the other young gnomes around the cask started pushing on it.
“No! No! Stop! You have to push from just one side!” shouted their spontaneous instructor. Awdz realized what Gwillimena was saying, grabbed Gadzooks and pulled him away from the side of the cask they had been pushing. The huge barrel tipped over toward them, and as the other gnome youngsters stepped back from it, the two siblings jumped into it with their cousin right behind them.
“Wheee! How fun!” cried Awdz, immediately clambering up one side to look out the hole there. Gadzooks quickly followed while Gwillimena stood at the end where she entered. Unfortunately, the hole was on the downhill side of the barrel, and the shift in the gnomes' weight was enough to start the cask rolling down the hill.
“Whoops!” “Whoa!” “Hey watch it!” “Owies!” “Oof!” “Oh no!” Scattered cries came from the rolling barrel as the young gnomes tumbled about inside, the other youngsters left on the hillside behind them. After a few moments, the barrel slammed into the side of the barn, scaring Bessie the cow into the field. As the cask paused in its rolling about, Awdz, Gwillimena and Gadzooks regained their footing and readied themselves for more.
“Let's see how far we can get this to go!” shouted an over-excited Gadzooks, already sporting a bump on his forehead. Gwillimena glanced at Awdz, who looked back at her with gleaming eyes and a split-lipped grin.
“Ready? One, two, three!” The youngsters started running along the inside of the barrel to get it moving again, and the cask careened down the hill. It snagged a laundry line full of clothes drying in the sun, and set the clothes free one by one as it rolled on. A flock of chickens scattered out of its way, as well as several gnomes who stared at it after it had passed.
Unable to direct where it was going, the young gnomes were flung down when the cask crashed into the wall of another building. Gangaf Tagley came running out of his craftshop, a gear hanging from a spring stuck in his apron, a sprocket in his hair, and an angry look on his face.
“Hoodlums! I'm working on my most delicate creation, a formulatron, and you just set me back months if not years! Gama Gwillimena and Egad are going to answer for this!” Gangaf stormed and ranted at the youngsters. Looking at each other with that “Let's get out of here quick!” expression, Awdz, Gwillimena and Gadzooks started the barrel rolling again in a random direction. Gangaf shouted reprimands after them, but his voice was soon lost in the distance.
Panting, Awdz asked Gwillimena, “Can you tell where we're going?” Gwillimena looked out the open end of the barrel and considered.
“I think we've passed out of the edge of town; I see the mine entrance where Ellynor goes a lot for jewels… Oh no! The lake!” Frantically the young gnomes tried to reverse the direction of the rolling cask, but to no avail. With a huge sploosh, it landed in the water and began to fill.
“Quick! Get out and get to shore before it goes too far out!” hollered Gwillimena. The young gnomes all jumped into waist-deep water and waded to shore. The huge cask sank to the bottom about twenty feet from shore, with about half of the barrel still above the water.
“Aww, crumblies!” Awdz exclaimed. “We were just getting it going well, too! Now we can't reach it anymore!” She began to pout and Gadzooks looked dismayed, but Gwillimena put a stop to that.
“What are you going on about? Haven't you ever heard of a bridge?”
The three wet gnomes looked at each other with dawning excitement for their next project.