Gnome Country for Old Monsters, Part One
The heart of Gnome Country was an actual heart. The proverbial center of the area was marked by stones in a lavishly voluptuous heart. A platform in the middle formed a dais for a throne, a small end table with two tiny champagne flutes, and a free-standing ice bucket with the neck of a bottle showing.
Grendel was still letting the tiny gnome hold his finger, giggling and acting ridiculous all the way there. Hansel questioned Gnash and found out Grendel’s crush was the Queen of the Gnomes, that she did this every time she met some tall, hairy stranger, and that Gnash was not going to tell him any more than that. The gnome looked nervous about how many beans he’d spilled already. He slipped away into the sea of pointed hats.
GnaGna let go of Grendel’s finger and mounted the dais, sitting in the little throne and snapping her fingers. A male gnome rushed forward and filled the tiny glasses. She dismissed him with a wave of her hand, never looking at or otherwise acknowledging him as he scurried away. Hansel thought it was weird that she was so over-the-top accommodating to Grendel and imperious to her subjects, but he didn’t have a long history of royal socializing to compare to.
Grendel looked around and found Hansel without much trouble, since he was three feet taller than everyone else and not wearing a pointed hat. Brown monster eyes met aquamarine boy ones, and Hansel didn’t like the dopey look in the brown ones. The monster limped over next to him, a tiny champagne flute pinched between two large claws.
“Isn’t she great?” he whispered. “I mean, what a great girl. So great.” He sighed happily.
“I don’t know, Grendel, and neither do you. I mean, you just met her an hour ago. She might be a witch for all we know.”
“Oh, what do you know, you’re nine. I think I’m in love.”
“No, you’re not. You’re just being dumb because she’s being nice to you and you’re lonely.”
This was too big a bite of truth for Grendel, and he shook his head and moved away. Hansel felt very small and alone in the crowd of gnomes.
“SILENCE!” yelled a gnome, and the sound of chimes wafted over the crowd. A gnome without a hat ascended to stand behind GnaGna. He stood like a Secret Service agent. He was very intense, with a weird, dark, retro haircut that made Hansel think “groovy” for no reason. He intimidated the crowd into complete, breath-holding silence with his own silent stare. Thirty seconds passed. “You can breathe,” the gnome said quietly and there was gasping all around Hansel. The Queen’s security was scarier than the actual monster.
GnaGna stood up. “I have a wonderful announcement to make!” She giggled and clapped her hands together. “Your queen, I mean ME, has finally found a soulmate! Now I know I’ve said that before, but this time it’s true! Meet Grendel!” She gestured for Grendel to come up to the front, which he managed to do without squashing any gnomes permanently. He gazed happily at GnaGna and then waved a little finger wave at the audience.
“Isn’t he perfect?” GnaGna gushed. The crowd didn’t gush back.
Weird haircut gnome stepped forward. “Your Queen asked a question. I believe you know the answer.” Gnomes began weakly cheering, gaining confidence as more voices joined in.
“Thank you, Agnton.” She favored the scary gnome with a benevolent smile. He did not smile back. “Now, another announcement! There’s going to be a royal wedding!” She widened her eyes in mock surprise. “MINE!” she squeaked. The gnomes looked at Agnton, who raised one thumb and jiggled it skyward. Cheers erupted. GnaGna reached out and grabbed one of Grendel’s fingers.
Grendel was smiling a big stupid smile through all of that, making Hansel wonder if he’d heard anything GnaGna had said. Because he was watching the monster closely, he got to see the exact moment it registered. First he was carried along in the rejoicing of the crowd, then confused, then mildly aghast, considering, aghast again, and finally a smile that looked like a preschooler had drawn it on, badly. Hansel felt his stomach drop in empathy.
“Grendel and I will be married on the morrow!” yelled GnaGna. The gnomes kept cheering until Agnton drew one finger across his throat and silence fell like a hanged man. Hansel heard the tiny champagne glass shatter between Grendel’s fingers.
Grendel turned to GnaGna. “Can you excuse me for a moment, darling?” he whispered, the big, fake smile still in place. GnaGna smiled benevolently back. “Of course, beloved betrothed. Come back soon, I just can’t live without you.” She made air kisses at Grendel and he belatedly pretended to catch one, freeing his finger. The Queen giggled. Grendel tried not to run to where Hansel was standing.
“Come with me,” the monster said as he kept walking. Hansel fell into step beside him, jogging through the parting sea of gnomes.
“What are you—”
“Not here” Grendel hissed. They kept a brisk pace until they were outside the big stone heart and into the forest. Grendel stopped next to a large tree and rested his forehead against the bark.
“Congratulations, I guess?” Hansel said with minor snark.
“Oh, yeah, thanks. Is that how you say ‘I told you so’ in annoying boy human?”
“Well, I did tell you so. Now what are you going to do? Send out invitations?”
“Okay, fine, yes, you told me, but we need to move on.” Grendel said. Hansel smirked and nodded. “I have been thinking for the last few minutes, and I think it would be best if I wrote GnaGna a nice letter and left it on her chair.”
Hansel considered. “My friend Joey did that when he didn’t want Jennilee saying they were going together, but it backfired because Jennilee put the letter on the projector and the whole class saw how he doesn’t know how to spell.”
“I do know how to spell. I suppose it is sort of rude to break up without at least making an effort,” Grendel mused, the far off look creeping back in.
“Is ‘making an effort’ getting married? That seems like a lot of ‘effort.’” Hansel needed to break through the newborn stars in Grendel’s eyes.
Grendel glared meteorites at him. “Do you have a better idea?”
“Maybe tell her the truth, you got caught up in the idea but you’re a giant monster and she’s twelve inches high and it would never work out?”
“OH, I wouldn’t do that,” a small voice interjected from behind a bush. “That will bring you nothing……but……DOOM!”