Grum woke slowly, trying to hold on to the last scraps of a particularly vivid dream he was having, something about winning first place in a giant frog rodeo. As the sunlight reached his eyes, the image of his being tossed into the air by a wild toad slipped away. Grum rubbed his eyes and retrieved a spotted handkerchief from deep within his oversized pointy black hat. After he wiped his nose, he stuffed the hankie back into his hat and pulled the hat down well over his ears. The morning was a touch on the chilly side for his sensitive ears. Now that they were snug and warm, Grum stood and began searching for a nice place to have a much needed nap.
The forest of Ayin had been his home for some time. The folks were nice enough, that is to say they left Grum well enough alone. For the most part the faeries stayed out of his way. They seemed to enjoy hanging around in the higher branches of the trees that they diligently tended. It was, after all, their job to occupy themselves with the wellbeing of the forest. Grum quite enjoyed spending a great many moments puffing on his clay pipe with an acorn shell full of ambrosia in his hand as he watched the comings and goings of the faerie folk. They were an industrious lot, always with something to do.
On this day Grum decided it was time to move on from his habitual sleeping spot and find a new perspective. With the changing of the seasons, Father Sun would move ‘round to favor another part of the forest and Grum did not want to miss out on any of the light. There was nothing like having a “light” snooze, pun intended, to get a gnome going in the morning.
Grum ducked under leaves and padded down paths that snaked strategically across the forest floor. Gnomes may be seen as a lazy lot, but when determined, they get where they want to go. After sauntering for some three hours with a red toadstool (also known as a gnomestool) hoisted over his shoulder, Grum reached his destination . . . a lush bed of grass near the faerie king’s palace. He looked at the palace’s twisting spires and climbing vines. “Bah, faeries,” he said under his breath as he dropped his gnomestool and planted it in the grass. Grum propped himself against the gnomestool, ready to catch a few Z’s, when a young female faerie came fluttering by.
Just how you were meant to tell the males from the females Grum didn’t know. They all looked the same to him; perfect smiley faces, glittering wings, and pointy ears, all jolly and charming and thoroughly unlikable for it.
“Hello Grum,” she said as she landed beside him, “I wondered if you could help me.”
“Hrrmpff,” he replied in his most courteous voice. He knew this faerie. She was quite possibly the peskiest and peppiest of the lot. Her name was Neevya. As far as faeries were concerned, Grum thought she was just about an inch from being intolerable – but then again, she had helped him out of a few doozies. The most embarrassing time was when she had to rub salve over his skin to soothe a nasty rash he had acquired while sleeping in a patch of poisoned ivy. It had been the best night’s rest of his life, but the next day was brutal.
“As you know it is my duty to catch sunbeams so I can pass them on to those less fortunate plants who have grown up in the shade,” the faerie said. “The problem is that I’ve gone and lost my beetle.”
Grum pulled his pipe from his hat and wedged it in the corner of his mouth. “Your beetle? Since when did you start working with beetles?”
“I’m trying something new. They’re very intuitive you see, and they can track down plants in need of sunlight almost as well as any faerie can.”
“The beetles track the dead twigs to eat them. It has nothing to do with being intuitive. You hang around ‘em enough and you’ll see.” Grum puffed on his empty pipe. The faeries wouldn’t allow him to put even the tiniest leaf into it. Not only did the fairies claim smoking was bad for his health, but apparently the plants had rights too. According to them, even the dead leaves disliked being burned outside of ceremony. So all he did was chew the pipe. He supposed it did the job of getting the bad taste out of his mouth that this faerie was currently giving him. He wanted to give her a taste of annoyance and drove his point home. “That’s what beetles eat isn’t it? Dead things and dung?”
Neevya’s shoulders slumped as her enthusiasm seemed to drain away from her.
Grum smiled inwardly, but then his frown returned when Neevya perked back up and said, “Well yes, but I don’t like to think about that. Instead I prefer to focus on the positive. My beetle helps me find the weaker plants and I make them strong. What he does in his own time is up to him.”
Grum liked messing with the faerie, but thought he’d pushed it well enough for one day. As it turned out, he didn’t really like to see sadness in her eyes. “If I see a beetle I’ll tell him you’re looking for him.” He kept the next part to himself: It’s not like there are thousands of the blighters crawling around everywhere. He looked around as if trying to be helpful and said, “I suppose I’ll tell him to meet you at that terrible eye-sore your king insists is a palace. Boy is King Kearoth mistaken…”
Neevya turned to look at the Great Hall. “It’s not all that bad. Imposing, but shows strength. It has a certain elegance I think. There’s a legend that it was a gift from the humans. I’m no so sure I believe in humans. Do you?”
Neevya frowned, “Well, if humans are real, I’m not so sure I’d like to meet them someday.”
“Yeah because mixing with that lot always turns out peachy,” Grum said. Then he eyed her suspiciously. “So you have your eye on the castle do you?”
“On what?” Neevya said, her rainbow colored butterfly-like wings twitching a little nervously.
“The palace. Kearoth better watch his back I reckon.” Grum snorted down his pipe.
“Oh Grum you’re too much sometimes.” The faerie took to the air once more and hovered above him. “If you see a beetle who looks sort of lost, send him my way will you? Now good day.”
And with that the faerie was gone. Grum settled back onto his gnomestool, crossed his hands over his belly, and closed his eyes. Now this was the life.
Join us next Wednesday to find out what Ol’ Grum gets into next!