“Mr. Grum . . . Mr. Grum. You awake?” A high pitched squeaky voice sounded in Grum’s ear.
He opened one beady eye and squinted up at the pesky yellow faerie.
“Don’t you know better than to wake a gnome from a nap? I don’t understand you faeries, respecting the plants and all but not giving a gnome some peace and quiet.” He waved his arm as if to shoo the faerie away and rested his head back onto a root he had snuggled into.
“I see you found my beetle.” The diminutive voice sounded too cheerful for Grum’s liking.
“And I see that you’re not going to leave me alone.” With great effort, Grum pushed himself into a seated position. He yawned and worked to get his muscles to cooperate for a small stretch, but he was sore and his arms fell heavy and limp to his sides. He worked his finger in the dirt next to him.
“I am so pleased Mr. Grum. I can’t thank you enough for your help.”
He looked around for the darned beetle and found it grazing on some grass. The most annoying thing was that Neevya wasn’t even watching over it. “Aren’t you worried that your little friend is going to leg it again?”
Neevya glanced over her shoulder. “He seems to have calmed down.” She shrugged, “I’ve raised him since he was a hatchling, and we’re quite attached. He’s my first pet beetle. I was ever so worried about him. I thank you Mr. Grum, from the bottom of my heart.”
“Well I’ll give you something from the heart of my bottom if you don’t let me get some rest. It’s all very well messing around with the local wildlife but if you’re not prepared to take good care of it then you shouldn’t be allowed within ten feet of it. There should be some kind of beetle license as far as I’m concerned. A bloody menace is what they are.”
Grum was about to launch into a tirade against the perils of beetle ownership and how stricter sanctions should be put into place, along with more rigid guidelines about correct handling of all insects, but he abruptly stopped when Neevya planted a smacker on his cheek. Until that moment, and in all his years, Grum had never been stunned into silence.
Neevya smiled and said, “Really Mr. Grum. I truly appreciate your assistance. You’re the noblest gnome I know.” He stood without moving as he watched Neevya drift away on the wind, her loyal beetle jogging along at her feet. She turned, faerie dust drifting from her wings, and gave him one last smile and a little wave before she disappeared into the forest.
Grum settled back into the tree roots, but he couldn’t sleep. That kiss played over and over in his mind. No matter where he put down his hat, whether it be in the thick moss under the elms, or in an abandoned rabbit hole, a nook in the branches, or one of the many beds available in the tavern he found after wandering aimlessly for a couple of hours, he simply could not sleep.
“Frogwash!” Grum stamped his foot and looked at the setting sun. It was then that the idea of a quest came to him. He would have to go beyond Ayin to find somewhere to sleep. Somewhere without any beetles and definitely no faeries; too damn pretty were faeries by half.
Grum took off his hat and reached inside. After a little searching he produced what he was looking for. It was a portrait of his eldest brother Lam.
Those of you in the know will recognize that portraits have a great deal of power and can be used to travel across great distances to meet the ones depicted. And this is exactly what Grum did. He replaced his hat and stepped through the portrait portal to visit his brother in Gwyndovia, the land of the Gnomes.