The Enclave of Whispers fell silent.
Everyone except Elrondas stared at the stone column in amazement. Elrondas gazed up at the hole in the glass roof, barely able to contain his anger. When the ring landed on the floor in two neat halves, Elrondas continued to gape at the hole.
Gimlit glanced around at those summoned to the meeting. “Um, sorry about that,” he said, his gruff voice masked his sincerity.
“You broke my roof,” said Elrondas.
“The ring…” Arrowroot pulled on his gloves and picked up the two halves of the ring. “You did it, Gimlit.” He placed the ring on the column and slapped his dwarf friend on the back. “Well done my stout chum!”
Legolad stepped forward to examine the broken ring. His blue elf eyes narrowed and he flicked back a lock of white hair. “The rat eater has done what no mortal has. This is surely a momentous day!”
“Break out the ale,” said Arrowroot. “We celebrate this night.”
Gandolfus scratched his beard and smiled. “What Fellowship?” he said and laughed.
“You put a hole in my roof,” said Elrondas. He walked around the courtyard, eyes fixed on the broken pane.
“Does this mean we can go home now?” asked Sammy Gam. On tip-toes he looked at the broken ring. “Mister Froyo? Are we to be heading home, back to The Mire?”
Froyo tried to hide his disappointment. He shrugged. “I guess.”
Murry and Poppenfresh glanced at one another then let out a whoop of joy. Neither of them were up for an adventure, they lacked the stamina for marching through the woods and vomited every time Lambas Bread was mentioned.
Borrowme grasped his shield and gave a loud snort. “Pah! This is folly. We have been summoned for nothing. I shall return to Grandor forthwith. I’ll invoice you for my time.”
“My father made that roof,” said Elrondas. No one was listening.
“Can’t we fix it?” asked Gimlit. He remained posed with his giant hammer in both hands.
“Don’t speak of such things, hole-dweller,” snapped Legolad. “Without his ring the Dark Nerd can’t expel his magic.”
Gimlit was known for being a bit slow. “So it’s okay then?”
“Better than okay master dwarf!” Arrowroot embraced Gimlit. “You have ended the war without a fight!”
Sammy Gam frowned. “There’ll still be a war,” he said. “Now we’re stuck with millions of Orcs looking for a job.”
Gandolfus waved a hand at him. “Worry not your tiny head, Sammy Gam, we’ll put the Orc population to work making robes, wine and digging up carrots. They’ll work for minimum wage too.”
“For a thousand years that roof has sheltered the Enclave of Whispers,” said Elrondas. “My father said it was the finest roof in all of Riverdale.”
Sammy Gam clasped his hands together. “Right then Mister Froyo. I’ll book us seats on the next boat out of this meddlesome place of magic and pointy ears, that okay with you?”
Froyo shrugged again. “Sure. Why not?”
“But first we celebrate,” said Arrowroot. “We shall drink until we pass out and then -“
“Drink some more!” said Gandolfus.
Casks of ale were wheeled into the courtyard by Elven serving wenches, people cheered and tankards were clanged together. It was a jolly time for all, except Elrondas who continued to fret over his broken window, and Gimlit who worried about the broken ring. Nothing so pretty or powerful should so easily be broken.
“I got some Gnome pals who can prob’ly fix it up just fine,” said Gimlit. He hunkered down by the column and stared at the ring. “Precious thing like that belongs in a museum. I’ll be back in a jiffy, keep me an ale.”
The merrymakers were merry. The worriers were worried. The night seemed to last forever, which in Riverdale meant it lasted until the sun rose the next morning, around six.
The Morning After
Not since the victory party after the Great Wand Wars had the Enclave of Whispers looked so ruined. Empty casks of ale were strewn all around the courtyard and armour and weapons lay where they were thrown during the drunken singing contest. Snores emanated from Human, Dwarf, Elf and Hoppit alike.
The peace was shattered by Gimlit when he raced into the courtyard.
“I’ve done it!” He banged his great hammer against armour, much to the annoyance of the all night party crowd. “I’ve fixed it!”
Elrondas lifted his head out of a cask of ale. “My roof?” he asked.
“Fixed what?” Gandolfus pulled a piece of pepperoni out of his beard. “Lower your voice master dwarf or I’ll get all magicky on you.”
“The ring. I’ve fixed it.” Gimlit stood proudly by the column.
“It is forever broken by your good hand,” said Arrowroot. He lifted himself out of the flowerbed and stumbled over to Gimlit. “Don’t you remember the party? The singing contest? The serving wenches with their silky hair and big – “
“Balloons,” interrupted Sammy Gam. He stared at the blue sky. “I love balloons.”
“No. I don’t remember any that,” said Gimlit.
“I remember my roof has a hole it in,” grumbled Elrondas.
“Then you weren’t drinking enough ale,” said Arrowroot. He shook his head at Gimlit. “You dwarfs talk the talk about roast pork and quaffing endless flagons of ale, but when it comes to walking the walk…you’re nothing but a bunch of light-weights.”
Gimlit smacked Arrowroot across the face with the back of his hand. “While you drunkards were busy mucking about with balloons and serving wenches, I was fixing the ring. I was doing something productive.”
The crowd gathered around the column and stared at the ring. It was whole again. Kind of. It lay on the top of the stone column, held together with globs of green goop. Gimlit gestured to it and smiled at the crowd.
“Told you I had some Gnome pals who’re into this kind of thing,” said the dwarf.
Arrowroot wiped greasy fingers through his dirty hair and examined the ring. “What’s that stuff that looks like snot?”
“Gnu-Tack,” replied Gimlit. “The Gnomes came up with it. Isn’t it awesome?”
“No. It looks like snot.”
Gandolfus supported himself against the column as a hacking cough fought to rip his throat apart. “That’s the last time I spoke an entire pouch of Hoppit Long Leaf in one night. My tongue feels like the inside of a dung heap. What’s this about snot?”
“Gimlit has stuck the ring back together with a load of his bogey’s,” said Arrowroot.
“You did what?” Gandolfus was suddenly wide awake and angry.
“Now we can take it to Moredoor,” Gimlit replied with a big smile. “Just like we planned.” He looked around at the expressions of horror. “Right? Like we talked about? The big adventure, mountains and caves and stuff, come on guys, you can’t have drunk that much ale.”
“I don’t want to go on an adventure,” said Sammy Gam. “And neither does Mister Froyo. I know what’s best for him, so I do.”
Froyo glanced nervously at Sammy Gam. “Well I never actually said that but…”
“Hoppits don’t do adventures, Mister Froyo.”
“My Uncle Bulbous went on one,” said Froyo with a frown. “Killed a dragon too.”
Sammy Gam pointed a finger at Froyo. “No! Bad Hoppit. It’s back The Mire for you.”
“Not so fast,” said Gandolfus. He wavered on his feet and closed his eyes. “I can feel the Dark Nerd watching us. His power is growing. It won’t be long before he calls for the ring. Broken or not he knows it is kind of fixed. The war isn’t over.”
“It hasn’t technically started,” Murry said.
“I’m going to fry up some sausages,” said Poppenfresh. “Anyone hungry?”
“Two for me, with eggs,” said Arrowroot. He caught Gandolfus staring at him. “What? I’m hungry.”
“So the Fellowship is back on then?” asked Legolad.
“Yep.” Gimlit beamed at the Elf.
“Why would you do this?” Arrowroot asked the dwarf. “Think of the bloodshed. Think of the lives wasted.”
“Come on guys,” said Gimlit. His smile was fading. “Adventure. Camaraderie. Those bleak moments where everything seems lost only to find a glimmer of hope to spur us on to victory. Dark days, endless fighting, monsters and stuff. And what about the dragons in the sky, the smell of wet armour, Orc blood all over your face. You’re telling me none of you fancies a bit of fun?”
“Fun?” Gandolfus stared hard at the dwarf. “I think fun is letting off a few fireworks and scaring Hoppits. Dashing halfway across Midland to have a fight with a million insane Orcs armed with a bit of wood and cotton robes is not my idea of fun.”
“Well you could have said.”
“I thought it was implied,” said Gandolfus. “Remember? Stopping the war before it starts, any of that ringing a bell inside your thick skull?”
“You were joking?”
Gandolfus muttered a spell and set Gimlit’s beard on fire.
“So we’re to set out on our perilous adventure after all,” said Legolad.
“No. Not us.” Sammy Gam folded his arms and shook his head. “We’re going back to The Mire. I’m not having Mister Froyo getting into any of your adventurous shenanigans. Not a chance.”
“But someone has to take the ring, covered in snot as it is, to the fires of Mount Scary,” said Gimlit.
“Yes, me. Why not me?”
“Rat eating hole dweller!” spat Arrowroot. “Dwarves cannot be trusted.”
“And Humans can? Last time I checked it was your ancestor that got us into this mess in the first place,” Gimlit replied. “Greedy little Humans.”
There was a moment of silence then everyone erupted in argument. Dwarf blamed Elf, Human blamed Dwarf, everyone blamed the Hoppits because…well, because they’re an easy target. The wizard heard a voice speaking softly amid the chaos. A tiny humble voice he wished was loud enough to hear over the din. Slowly they stopped fighting. Froyo stepped forward, timid eyes glancing around, avoiding the angry stare of Sammy Gam.
“I will go,” he said. “I lost my map so I don’t know the way, and I’ll likely get lost at some point, attacked by some scrawny idiot gold-digger. But I’m not afraid.”
“You will be,” said Sammy Gam. “You will be.”
“Oh great,” said Arrowroot. “Now I’m going to feel guilty if I don’t come and protect you.”
“I’d give you my axe, but it’s real heavy,” said Gimlit. “So I’ll come along on your crazy adventure and chop up some Orcs for you.”
Legolad rolled his blue eyes and pointed to the ornate bow on his back. “This is my bow. There are many like it but this one is mine. Got that?”
Froyo nodded. “Thanks Elf.”
“Don’t you forget it.”
“My magic is yours,” said Gandolfus. “Well, not literally, but I’ll hurt people with it if they come too close.”
Elrondas pulled himself away from his broken window and looked at the group. “So, the Fellowship of the Gnu-Tack of the Ring. Long may you live to rid our world of this dreadful thingy.” He gave Gimlit a quick look of disgust. “And come back to repair my roof. No get out of here. I’ve got a wedding at noon.”
The Fellowship gathered outside the gates of Riverdale. Their horses were weighed down with too much junk and everyone made humorless jokes about Orcs. Gandolfus was the last to arrive, robes flapping around him like bits of old tent wrapped around a fishing pole.
“Guys, wait a moment,” he gasped. “I’ve just had a fantastic idea. We don’t need to trek all the way after all.”
“Yes. We do,” said Gimlit sternly.
“No. Seriously. Watch this.”
Gandolfus put his fingers in his mouth and whistled. Out of the sky a giant eagle swooped down and landed a few feet away. Gandlofus hoisted Froyo onto its back then whispered into the part of the eagle’s heard where he assumed its ears were.
The eagle cawed and took to the air.
“Mister Froyo!” Sammy Gam ran after them. “Don’t leave me!”
“What did you just do?” asked Gimlit.
“I’ve sent Froyo to Moredoor and Mount Scary,” said Gandolfus. He smiled through his beard. “He’ll be there in a day, two tops. Then all he has to do is drop the ring into the volcano and fly back. No need for any adventuring at all.”
Gimlit stared at the wizard. “But what about the crazy fighting? We’ll miss out on all the sights, the grand vistas, the running, the epic battles, the jokes…the fun.”
“Serving wenches and ale are all the fun I want,” said Gandolfus.
“I’m with the wizard,” said Arrowroot.
Gimlit gazed at the sky and the eagle. “But…”
“Race you to the nearest ale house,” said Arrowroot.
The group turned and started back to Riverdale. Gimlit scowled at them.
“I want my adventure,” he grunted.
In a flash of anger he snatched Legolad’s bow, knocked an arrow and shot it into the air toward the eagle.
This strange short story was inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press – a challenge to write a 1500 word piece of fiction using one of 4 photos as a prompt.
This weeks challenge was about things fixed and things broken. I suspect my inspiration for this story is due to watching Lord of the Rings again last night! I suddenly wanted to tell a different story to that of Fellowship of the Ring, how things might have turned out had Gimli actually broken the ring in Rivendell after all. I like the idea of a bunch of Gnomes working in their miniature laboratories to perfect a sticky substance like Gnu-Tack.
Honestly, I have no idea why they would do this or what made me think they would even bother. Bah. Gnomes!
I do feel a bit sorry for Elrondas and his broken window that never got fixed!
Excellent picture prompts from Indigo. If you want to join in and write a short piece of fiction clicky-click Indigo Spider’s link above and wrap your imagination around one of the pictures.