Jones has a gnome problem. And who wouldn’t think it’s a problem to have gnomes out to kill you? If that isn’t bad enough, he just broke up with his girlfriend and his neighbor, who is a fairy, just drank his last beer. The world of magic isn’t all fun and Hobbits and old wizards who smoke too much. Sometimes, it’s threatening and sinister and not some place you’d like to go for vacation.
“Friggin gnomes,” I muttered. I’ve never liked gnomes. Filthy little thieves is all the really are. You can always tell when gnomes are around because shit starts disappearing. Shit like lighters, clothes, knick-knacks, jewelry, etc. The little bastards even stole my bartender’s tool! You can’t be a proper bartender without a bartender’s tool. Needless to say, I lost that job and have hated gnomes ever since. And now they were trying to kill me. Everything comes full circle I suppose. “I just broke up with my girlfriend. I don’t need this shit.”
Doloria rolled her eyes. “Get over yourself. You’ve got bigger things to worry about.”
I glared at her, but she was right. “O.K. So what stops a gnome??” I said and began pacing.
“You mean besides your blade in its gullet?” giggled Doloria. “I like a pixie stick.” She swung an invisible wand at an invisible gnome.
“I’m not a fairy. I can’t use a pixie stick.”
“Make a circle of protection then. With a gnomish twist.”
“I’d rather not. I don’t like using magic. Why don’t you keep watch. Just for tonight? I’ll figure something out in the morning, I promise.”
“Uh no. I’ve got plans. Looking for my sister. She’s been gone a few days. Other fairies have gone missing too.”
“Want me to help?”
“Uh, no. You have your own problems.” She guzzled the remainder of her beer and burped loudly before springing to her feet. “Well as much as I love our little chats, I gotta run.”
“Protection circle it is,” I sighed and prepared to create it. I do all my ceremonial magic automatically. I can’t tell you how I do it. I go into a trance and the magic preforms itself. That’s why I’m not a wizard. I’m not casting spells out of dusty tomes or trying to conjure demons. I just think about it and it kind of happens. After I was done I dug an old book of matches out of the kitchen drawer and lit a smoke. Now, at least, no gnomish assassins would sneak up on me in my sleep. And tomorrow…tomorrow I’d start finding answers.
The best place to find answers to my questions was a flea market. Gnomes love the shit out of flea markets. They get to buy, sell and trade any “treasures” they’ve come across. My bartender’s tool probably ended up in a flea market. Plus, flea markets usually have a fat Elvis impersonator. Gnomes go ape shit for fat Elvis.
Just like any other weekend, the flea market was was overcrowded and stank of body odor and fried food. Junk peddlers called to the second hand shoppers, proclaiming their junk better than their rivals’. I know what you’re thinking. How was I going to find a gnome in all that? But spotting gnomes in a flea market is easier than you think. When the fey disguise themselves as human, they don’t glamour themselves as Oompah Loompahs or munchkins. Nope. They are usually the huge, loud and dirty fools running around slamming into people and spitting in improper places. The trick is to separate the glamoured fey from the actual huge, loud and dirty fools that populate the flea market.
This is most effectively done with a holey stone. A round stone with a hole through the center. Old magic and simple. It allows you to see through illusions and glamour. Of course this meant I was wandering around covertly peeking through a hole in a rock. But, hey, it’s the flea market. Crazier people wander around there every day. That’s where they go to hide.
It didn’t take long to find a gnome running a booth. He was disguised as a monster of a man: well over 6ft and half way through 300 pounds. His shirt and jeans were colorfully stained and he had a huge bushy beard which stored leftover bits of food.
“How’re ya today?” he asked as I browsed his wares.
“Great. Just great. I’m looking for a bartender’s tool. Have one?”
He scratched his beard and belched thoughtfully. “Been a while since the last one passed through my hands.”
“That’s a shame. I have good money to spend.” Mention money and a gnome’s eyes instantly widen. But when I pulled out the golden coin his eyes widened for a different reason: fear.
“You! You’re supposed to be—“
“Dead? Yeah, I know. Funny how life works out, isn’t it?”
He chuckled nervously and darted quick glances around his shoulders.
“What’s your name?”
“Skittleshanks.” He eyed me up and down. I could tell he was trying to tell if he could get past me without blowing his glamour.
“Look. If you insist on causing a scene I’ll bind you and get my information that way. Or–and this is the option I’d choose if I were you– you take a lunch break and we talk about this like civilized folk. And maybe get a fat Elvis set in, too.”
Fifteen minutes later I was sitting across from Skittleshanks watching him devour double cheeseburgers and funnel cakes.
“Where does something so small put so much food?” I wondered, mildly impressed at his display of wanton gluttony.
He burped in my face in response and wiped his mouth with the back of his meaty hand. “What is it you want, exactly?”
“I want to know why your cartel is trying to kill me.”
“You mean you can’t figure that out for yourself? Someone is paying us to. It’s business.”
“Who paid you to?”
He finished off a jumbo soda before answering, “I dunno.”
“Don’t play with me, gnome,” I threatened. “I need answers before things get ugly.”
“Oh things got ugly the moment I laid eyes on you. I told you I don’t know who put out the contract on you. I just know it’s there. Management doesn’t let us in on all the juicy details, see?” He looked over my shoulder and nodded. “This is him, boys.”
“What’s going on?” I demanded as I was hauled to my feet by two buffoons as equally large and filthy as Skittleshanks.
“These are my brothers Skeetshills and Spittlespew.”
A word of advice: Never get captured by gnomes. There’s few things in life worse than death and most of them have to do with gnomish captivity and torture. “Let me go!”
Skittleshanks guffawed. “Or what? You’ll bind me, Mr. Mystic?”
One of the lugs holding me clocked me upside the head and sent my world spinning. Then they dragged me out and threw me into the trunk of their beat up Continental without drawing a second glance from any of the flea marketers, like nothing at all was out of the ordinary. And through it all fat Elvis sang “Are You Lonesome Tonight” in the background. And that,folks, is why I love flea markets.
From the story “A Night In Summerlands” in Twisted Yarns by Jason DeGray.
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