US and THEM Index
Fresh Air, At Last!
He opened the door. For the first time in countless generations, the gate laid open right in front of him. Still under the influence of the barrels of wine he and his family had drunk during the night, he put a foot outside. And then the other one. Grimble Gromble then revolved, looked inside the cave for one last time, and walked away, strolling in an unknown world.
Gnomes were confined in that cave long time ago, when Gribo Gromble, king of Glauria and Grimble's ancestor, was defeated by a troll called Wrojax. That evil being then took the title of king and, with the help of his fellow trolls, drove all the surviving little men, including Gable Gromble, Gribo's youngest son, inside the cave. Strangely enough, in these dark lands, plants could grow and animals could be bred so the gnomes didn't lack anything and lived rather happily, eating, sleeping and drinking their wine. But that morning was different for Grimble. He had a terrible argument with his father, and couldn't stand him anymore. The only way to escape his authority his drunken mind could devise was to leave the cave. Of course he knew terrible trolls roamed all over Glauria, but, for his altered perceptions, these looked a minor treat compared to his father's anger.
So, while everybody was sleeping, he filled his pack sack with food, wine and lots of useful stuff. Then, while passing in front of the Glaurian museum, he devised his Machiavellian scheme. He entered, stole the blue-green hood of the kings of old, an enchanted hat that protected everyone wearing it. According to legend, Gribo owned his defeat to the fact that he had left it in the palace. Now, Grimble, feeling his time had finally come, was all set, and so he left the cave.
Outside, the grass was very high, raising almost to his navel and he couldn't walk fast. The cave's entrance was set at the foot of a low mountain, in that grassy plain he was now wandering. Fatigue soon overtook him and he rapidly fell asleep. He was awakened by a soft voice. Now sober, he looked in amazement all around him as the details of his folly slowly came back. By his side, a girl of about his age looked at him. -I am Lolly, a young fay, she said. Don't be afraid, and follow me to my village, poor traveler, you'll find a shelter there. Don't you know King Wrojax VI forbids sleeping in the open air? -King who? Grimbo replied. An evil tr...-He doesn't like strangers either, so come, fast!
When he got to the nearby village, set on the shore of a raging river, he caused a sensation. The elder, a four hundred years old faiman, rocking in his chair, instantly recognized the blue-green hood. "Oh my lord, he cried, it's the rightful king ! He came at last! Get here, little gnome, before the guards capture your weak body and steal the crown that only a Gromble can wear. Their kings have searched for it for three hundred and fifty years, in order to destroy it and settle their power. Now, come here!" Grimble and Lolly then entered the old one's house and followed him to the attic. There, a huge sword was laid behind a protective glass. The elder open the cage and took the weapon, gracefully. "Take this sword, descendant of Gribo, rightful heir to the throne of Glauria. Before dying, your ancestor handed me his sword: 'Give this to my son, he told me, for only with the combination of this magical sword and the power of the blue-green hood will these evil trolls be defeated once and for all.' I promised I wouldn't fail. But when I got to the palace, it was already deserted of all gnomes. I learned you had moved into the cave, but trolls were keeping the entrance. So I and the faimen settled here and, protected by the sword, were spared by the trolls, but also kept prisoner of my oath. I guessed the guards were sleeping when you came, for they are still keeping the gate... Take the sword, heir to the throne, and deliver us of this unwanted yoke." As soon as Grimble had taken the sword, the old one died, a smile of satisfaction on his face. He had kept his promise.
It was now up to the young gnome to show his courage. Hiding the sword under his scarlet tunic and placing a large hat over the hood, he walked, with Lolly as a guide in the strange realms of Glauria, towards Wrojax VI's stronghold, situated in a cave way deeper and darker than the gnome's. Two repulsive trolls were standing in front of the huge iron gates. They blocked the passage with their long spears. Grimble, sure of himself, asked for an audience before the king. After a short time that seemed longer than years, a third troll, as dumb looking as the previous ones, showed up and brought them to the throne room, in the deepest section of this underground land. Looking at the young fay, Wrojax grinned: "At last, your little petty village is ready to surrender to the powers of the king! Ha Ha Ha!!" "Exactly, Lolly said as Grimble unveiled hood and sword, but only to the rightful one!" Wrojax and his counselor's faces became as white as a clean blanket.
"Who let this gnome in???", he yelled in fear. Ajax, the bravest of all the trolls, then approached the young couple holding a powerful sword; anger and hate radiated from his face. Lolly, now wielding her small dagger, jumped away. At the center of the room, a forceful combat raged between Grimble and Ajax. Their swords hitting in thunder-like clashes. On the sides, Lolly was killing all the lesser servants, but while transpiercing the last one's heart, she received the latter's knife straight in her shoulder. She fell on the floor, now a bath of poisoned troll's blood. Seeing this, Grimble dropped a terrible shout and, a stare of death in his eyes, drove his sword right between Ajax's eyes. The sword, glowing with magical power, easily pierced the beast's skull, consuming its brain. Ajax fell on the ground, burning from the inside. Grimble then ran to Lolly, got her up. It was now the hood's turn to glow, as it's power ran through her blood, disinfecting it, then healing the wound.
Thanks to the effectiveness of Lolly's attack, of all the trolls in the room, Wrojax was the only one still alive. He glanced at Grimble, grinning again: -Reviving her was useless, he mumbled, I still have a lot of men at my command, and they'll kill both of you as soon as they arrive here. -Then I bow before you, king of Glauria, replied the gnome, before the fay's incomprehension. As he knelt down, he threw the hood up, high in the air. Wrojax, too greedy and proud of his gain, didn't react and received the gnome's crown right on his greasy hair. Once again, the powers of the hood showed themselves, this time in the form of an aging Wrojax, suddenly looking like a worn out old hag and, seconds later, like a long-dead worm-eaten corps. As his servants slowly gathered in the room, they all bowed before Grimble, third of the name, the new king of Glauria. He then went back to the fay village, announcing the news. They then partied with the wine and the food Grimble had brought from the gnome's cave. The village priest married Grimble and Lolly, for it was said that, when peace would finally be brought again between all the people of Glauria, a gnome king would wed a fay. The festivities lasted a whole week during which faimen, dwarves, men and even trolls (who had had enough of Wrojax's tyranny) came and declared allegiance to their new king and queen.
Only then did Grimble remember his fellow gnomes, still prisoners in their cave. So he went back inside, and told them they where now free from the trolls. With enthusiasm, they came out of the hole, for the first time in more than three centuries and joyfully, even his father, accepted him, their savior, as their new leader.
"Look at the sky, look at the river, he told them, isn't it good?" "Ooh my, ooh my..." they said, seeing such long time forgotten wonders. Now winding, finding places to go, they built new villages all around the kingdom. The gnomes were happier than ever, proud again of themselves. Never again in the reign of Grimble III, and that of many subsequent generations during which the blue-green hood was majestically worn, was the magic sword needed.
Story based on the song "The Gnome" written by Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd), c1967
By Jean-Frederic aka ZeBlob