Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chapter 2: The staff is everything.

Hodger awoke the next morning, eyes squinting at the sunlight coming through the window. He rolled over and then screamed, scrambling to put many pillows between him and the nearby chair.
“Good morning,” The chicken said, sitting in the chair, turning the page of the morning paper.
“What are you doing here?” Hodger said, “You got your night of sleep! Now go get roasted like decent poultry.”
The chicken folded the paper closed and set it aside, “That’s exactly why I am here. I know you’re not a Gnome, but you seem to have the uncanny ability to convince people otherwise. I, on the other hand, am an intelligent bird that can’t seem to get anyone to see me more than food, and I need some body’s help.”
“You need my help?” Hodger asked.
“Just to find someone here in Squaddlewog. Then I’ll leave you alone.”
“What’s in it for me?”
The chicken’s eyes turned back to the paper, “I said, I’ll leave you be. Otherwise I will find someone here to kill the evil Gnome lurking within the city.”
Hodger grabbed his candlewax staff and lit it with a lighter up his sleeve and pointed it toward the chicken, “What if I just roast you now and save you from speaking more about Gnomes.
The chicken looked at Hodger, and then at the staff. The chicken then blew out the candle. He turned back to his paper.
Hodger leaned back onto the bed defeated, “What is your name? It isn’t just ‘Chicken’, is it?”
“I am a studious chicken, that’s all you need to know.”
“Then I’ll just call you Stu.”
“Stu!” The chicken exclaimed, “What a preposterous name!”
Just then the door opened, and the smell of coffee and fried eggs came through the door. A young boy followed shortly after, pulling in a tray. He turned to the two guests and put his arms at his sides. He had dirty blonde hair in a bowl cut. His hair hung a little lower in the front, partially covering his blue eyes. His height and stature he looked no more than sixteen. The boy put his arms on his sides and smiled, missing a front tooth in his grin.
Though Hodger’s stomach grumbled and his nose sniffed, Hodger’s eyes could only focus on the gold bangle that hung loosely on the young waiters left wrist. If Hodger got anything from his unknown father, it was the love of gold. Hodger never had the desire to horde it, like most dwarfs, but to use it to buy things like food and more food.
“—And how many sausages, sir?” the boy said, interrupting Hodger’s trance.
“H-how many you got?” Hodger asked.
“Thirty-seven, but that’s meant for all—“
“That’ll do.” Hodger said.
When a slight frown, the boy picked up the pot and set it on a nearby table.
“Anything else?” the boy asked.
Stu requested a small plate of bacon and potatoes, refraining from the eggs altogether. Hodger stood and grabbed the pot of sausages and started scooping them into his personal bag, and then requested more if more should be cooked.  The Gnome then helped himself to eggs, bacon, and chilled milk.
As the boy turned from them to start putting things back together, Hodger’s eyes went back to the golden bracelet. He reached for it, and as he grabbed it, a shock went through him and sent him into the bedframe.
The boy didn’t notice, but smelled burning Gnome in the air, and turned. He yelped and rushed to the Gnomes aid, pulling him free from the bedframe.
“I told Lucille not to make those eggs, they were spotted funny!” He said as he pulled the Gnome free. Hodger fell onto the bed.
Stu rolled his eyes at Hodger, then turned to the boy, eyeing the bracelet, “What is your name young man?”
“Ralph, or Ralphie Junior as my friends call me.” The boy said, dabbing the smoking Gnome with a wet rag from his belt.
“Ralph Jr., are you the son of the great Rudolph?” Stu asked, hopping from his chair to the bed.
“The Hero of NorthPost is my pops,” Ralphie said smiling, “Though he is retired.”
“What is the son of a hero doing here?” Stu asked. Hodger rolled over and silently paid attention to his food, begrudgingly avoiding his eggs to thwart suspicion.
“My dad said a powerful wizards come through inns,” He shrugged, “I figure I might as well make some money while I wait.”
“You seek a wizard? Whatever for?” The chicken walked over the bed to Hodger’s bag and picked up a sausage and started to nibble. Hodger audibly growled.
Ralphie didn’t seem to notice, “My sword is stuck in a chest. My father said that only someone with magical powers can get it out for me.”
Stu turned to the Gnome, and raised one of his chicken eyebrows, “Well, it just so happens we are powerful wizards.”
The Gnome went cold and attempted to protest, but choked on his food.
“He is?!” Ralphie said looking at Hodger, “Oh Mr. Wizard, I’d love for you to help!”
We are.” Stu corrected, “And we’d be happy to help.”
Ralphie jumped up excitedly, “Yes! Thank you! Don’t-Don’t leave, I’ll be back in a half hour. I feel so silly now, I should have noticed his staff!”
“Why did you have to bring all of those sausages?” Stu asked as he and Hodger moved downstairs.
“Sausages don’t spoil. They are good for the road.” Hodger answered.
“You are a dolt. They do spoil.”
“Nonsense, they just turn into jerky. Everyone knows that.”
Stu was going to argue further, but decided seeing a sick Gnome would bring him far more amusement.
As they reached the base of the steps, both Ralphie and Lucille stood waiting. Ralphie smiled from ear to ear as the chicken hopped down the last step. Lucille also smiled, her teeth gleaming in the sunlight. She now wore goggles, the bright yellow eyes now contained. Even so, Hodger avoided looking at her altogether, as his wits told him to always fear demons. Instead, he looked at Ralphie, who now wore a wooden sword at his hip, his golden bangle hanging loosely on the wrist and rested on the pommel of the weapon. Hodger’s ears twitched upon the sight of the bangle, his left shrank and tilted forward while his right ear stretched and pointed outward. The Gnome shook his head and pulled on his ear.
“It looks like everybody’s here!” Lucille said. She picked up Stu and petted him. Stu was not amused.
Hodger nodded and walked in a wide circle around the new strangers paying him too much attention. He got to his exit, “Good day to you all,” he turned and quickly left.
He walked into the late morning air. Ralphie and Lucille followed him out.
“Where are you going?” Lucille said.
“Left.” Hodger said
“Straight to my house!” Ralphie said. “He’s definitely magical.”
“I, uh, meant right.”
“You said you’d help him.” Lucille said, petting Stu.
“I did not say I’d help him, Stu said he’d help him.”
“Who is Stu?” She asked.
Hodger pointed, “Stu’s the chicken.”
“That’s a silly name for a chicken.” Stu said.
“Actually, it works pretty well.” Lucille said, nodding.
Hodger turned toward Ralphie, whose face was full of utter defeat.
The Gnome looked down at his shoes and scratched his left foot with his right, “I-I-I am not the one you seek. I am a Gnome who seeks fortune, not adventure.”
Ralphie wiped his eyes, “If it is fortune you seek, my father has acquired a great wealth in his travels.
Lucille nodded, “No one is as rich as Rudolph the Great, only second to the king of Squaddlewog.”
Both ears perked up.
“D-d-does he have any of those bangles?”
Ralphie looked at his wrist, “Yeah, a lot of’em. This doesn’t do nothin’ though.”
Hodger twitched, “I sense great magic within it. It-it protects you.”
Ralphie raised an eyebrow, “Oh? I never noticed.”
Hodger twitched again, “I have. Th-that’s why I’m a great Gnome.”
Stu rolled his eyes. He then panicked as Lucille grabbed both of his legs tightly and lifted him into the air, turning him like a weather vane.
“Left?” Lucille said, pointing Stu in the proper direction.
Hodger nodded. Ralphie and Lucille took off in a run, Lucille refusing to lower Stu despite his demand otherwise. He flapped his wings in frustration. The Gnome took a match from his pouch and lit his candlewax staff and then walked forward after them.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Chapter 1: An Introduction of sorts

Hodger stood on his toes as he leaned forward to blow out the candle on his staff before walking into the well-lit streets of Squaddlewog on Squaddlewog Street. Squaddlewog was a place that even he, a tiny Gnome, could blend in. Or, at the very least, be ignored. He wasn’t a real Gnome, of course, his father being Dwarfish and his mother being elf descent. Their drunk one night stand left his mother pregnant and not on speaking terms with his father, whom Hodger had never met. Hodger was vertically challenged even by dwarf standards and hairy on spots where you shouldn’t be. He had ears that were often past his bald head. The ears changed length on a day to day basis.
Even with Gnomes being fictitious as they were, people still believed in them, and often confused Hodger with being one. The tales of these fictitious magical creatures would often end in gold or cookies if they were caught. Those stories were wrong, of course, as the original tales of gold and cookies were of leprechauns and not Gnomes.
The original stories of Gnomes were often horrific. Normally ending in maiming or being devoured alive. It is because of these original stories Hodger took a great amount of effort to grow a beard, and then sewed together a hat that allowed his ears to grow and shrink as they please, put a candle on top of a stick and called himself a Gnome.
People tended to stray away from things that could hurt them, and fire was understood among the well-adjusted people that it could hurt. For this reason, Hodger carried around his candlewax staff with a wick on the end, learning how to quickly light it with a trick of his hand. When approached for gold or cookies, he promised evil, fiery things to those closest. When Hodger didn’t go through with his threats, however, people started to ask questions, and Hodger always seemed to leave before those questions could be fully answered. Some of those unanswered questions is what drove Hodger to hide within Squaddlewog in the first place.
Squaddlewog was the biggest city on the East side of the Giant River. Where it was built must have been an afterthought of the forefathers, as the ground was harder than stone and made it very difficult to dig into. And, as it is read often in the history of Squaddlewog, that the architect who wanted to build the homes was outvoted, and a law was passed that each citizen of Squaddlewog would need to build their own. The first, built a simple home, and relaxed. The second, built his wide, and then promptly made a fire with the remainder of his building material. The architect, not wanting to be outdone, attempted to build a basement got heat exhaustion, and died. Teaching Architecture became a crime after that. After all, telling someone to murder themselves ought to be a crime.
The law of the forefathers caused many beautiful and strange tourist spots within the city. The local watch maker had built his shop so high that it became the town clock. One side of the tower slumped, causing the minute hand of the clock to go slower between 7 and 9, making those hours seventy-two minutes long each. However between the hours of 1 and 3, the hand would randomly stop and click forward after forty-two minutes had passed, and people thought that was close enough. The watch maker had a difficult time making wrist watches that clicked in such a way to follow the town’s time and he eventually closed his shop beneath the clock tower.
The rest of the town was built the same way. As more people moved to Squaddlewog, land was scarce among the downtown district, so people built their own homes and built upward to have more space. Most people’s living rooms were in their attic, basement on the second floor, and each home had two to three levels worth of kitchen, depending on how high they had built.
The city was full of all kinds of people of races, shapes and colors. The streets were full of Men and Elf through the day, and at night the streets were littered with Dwarf and Fairy. There were a mix of other less friendly races throughout the city as well, but through the years they tamed themselves into agreeing their bark (sometimes literally) was more menacing than their bite. After all, how scary is a Zombie if you think it is just another person handing you a flier?
Hodger adjusted his personal bag and stepped into the bustling Dwarf booths of Squaddlewog Street and was promptly ignored. He made his way through the market stalls, not paying much mind to anything around him, looking for the sign that was always in a big city. When he finally got to the crossroad of Squaddwog and Fergal, he found the sign he was searching for, ‘All you can eat breakfast’. The Gnome quickly stepped inside.
A wave of delicious smells hit the Gnome’s small nose, though it was an unnaturally large for a Gnome his size. He shivered and stood on his tip toes again, slowly walking toward the dining area.  He stopped following his nose as his eyes quickly focused on something more peculiar. A large rabbit sat at the front desk filing paperwork. She wore an apron and a little hat between her long ears that stood straight up. He walked up to the front desk and was ignored. He liked this place already. He stood there for some time to see if anyone would give him any attention, but it wasn’t until he rang the bell did the clerk even notice he had walked in. The rabbit looked around and then peered over the desk to see Hodger counting his change.
“Welcome to Bunnies Inn. What do you want?” The rabbit asked.
“A-a-a room please.” Hodger replied, wiping his mouth clean of the extra saliva.
“How long? The long-eared desk clerk asked.
“Full week, if you please.”
The rabbit tilted her head and examined him for a moment. She sniffed the air and then leaned forward closer and sniffed again.
“You a dwarf, or something else?”
Hodger adjusted his hat, “Gnome.” He said. His voice cracked.
The rabbit stared for a bit longer then shrugged. She prepped a room key as he placed a few copper pieces on the desk. She handed the key to the Gnome and motioned for him to go upstairs. He was about to comply when a young purple girl ran buy him, carrying several mugs and something sizzling. He wiped his mouth clean again.
“A-A-All you can eat breakfast?” He asked to no one in particular.
“Dwarf breakfast only has an hour left. Follow Lucille.” The rabbit said to him.
Hodger hopped before walking briskly into the dining room.
The dining room was large and was lined with benches and tables. A large stone fireplace separated the kitchen and cooks from the dining hall. There was a small hallway on the far end that lead into the kitchen, and Hodger groaned as he watched the girl Lucille disappear into the door. The rest of the room had a few guests spread among the tables including several dwarfs, a cat, a large rooster with a stringed instrument, and a chicken who was picking at a book.
Hodger decided to sit near the chicken. It was close to the fire where he could be alone and warm his body up after numerous nights of walking. He leaned his staff against the table, putting himself between his candlewax staff and the fire to prevent any unnecessary melting. He looked around the room, everyone happily ignoring him, and the girl with the tray of goodies had yet to return.
He quietly kicked off each boot one at a time, stretching his toes against the cold stone floor. As he looked down to move his boots next to his staff, two lights shined down onto his feet. Hodger looked toward the light and saw two large yellow eyes look at him and blink. He panicked and lifted his arms as he yelped and fell backward.
Lucille grabbed him by the collar and sat him back up.
“You’re not supposed to take off your shoes, mister.” She said. Her eyes looking down at her pad of paper. The paper lit up with her gaze.
“I-I I am so sorry, I’ll put them back on.”
She lifted a pen to her mouth and chewed on it, “It’s not a rule, per se, but this floor only gets cleaned once a week. Keep’em off if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn ya. Now what do ya want to eat?”
Hodger took a breath and then turned to the bright eyed girl, “Whatever you had on that tray would be nice. And a couple of those mugs you had as well.”
“That’s some sizzling raccoon and some Murky Water. Be right back!”
She closed her eyes and smiled. Hodger couldn’t help but notice her fangs before she turned and bounced away. It was then he realized what she had said, he turned in his seat to correct his order.
“Don’t worry about it.” A voice said behind him.
Hodger turned, but didn’t see anyone paying him any attention. He went to turn back around when the voice spoke to him again.
“Murky Water is just an ale,” the accented voice spoke again, “It’s just a rather unfortunate name.”
Hodger looked again, above and below the table, but couldn’t see anyone.
“My, my, you are a dolt.”
Hodger looked at the chicken, and noticed the chicken turn the page of the book.
“What… What are you doing?”
The chicken didn’t look up from the book but it replied, “I am reading. What does it look like I’m doing?”
Hodger scoffed, “I didn’t think chickens could read. A-are you a chicken?”
The chicken looked up from the book, “That’s a bit rude, isn’t it? Asking ‘What are you?’ as if you can’t tell that I am damn well indeed a chicken.”
“But you sound like a –” Hodger said.
Lucille walked through the kitchen door again, the sound of the sizzling made Hodger forget his question of unnecessary details and focused on his food. She set two mugs down first, then the plate of the sizzling meat mixed with a variety of colored vegetables.
Hodger took the mug and started chugging, only getting a small taste light ale poured into his system. He immediately felt a light buzz as he looked down to his food. He grabbed his fork and took a big piece and bit into it.
“I’d be careful,” said Lucille.
Hodger chewed his food and watched Lucille sit across from him. She grabbed the second mug and took a sip before placing it in front of her.
“The sizzling raccoon is spicy.” She finished, taking another drink.
The gnome started to feel the heat of the food as he swallowed his bite. He looked at his empty mug he had just chugged and then over to the second one, which Lucille has now claimed for herself. He hadn’t expected to be sharing. He stuffed a few vegetables in his mouth and chewed. After sweat had appeared on Hodger’s face, she poured some of her ale into his mug, which he drank immediately.
“So what are ya?” She asked after his second bite.
“Excuse me? Hodger said. He squinted as the light of her eyes roamed around him.
“I asked, what are ya? You a Dwarf? You don’t quite look like a Dwarf.” She said, her eyes squinting at him, “You don’t quite look like anything I seen ‘fore.”
Hodger looked over at the chicken, “My friend here thinks it’s rude to ask what you are. Don’t you chicken?”
The chicken said nothing, but Hodger could almost see a smirk within the beak.
“I am Hodger.” Hodger answered, “A powerful magically inclined Gnome.”
“Neat!” Lucille bounced in her chair.
“He’s lying.” The chicken said.
“And how would you know? Have you ever met a Gnome before?” Hodger said.
“No,” The chicken answered, closing his finished book, “but I’ve read about Gnomes. They are fictitious creatures.”
“He can’t be that fictitious, he’s sitting right here,” The purple girl responded.
“That’s right!” Hodger said. The sweat on his brow dripped, he wiped it with his hat and placed it back on his head.
The chicken looked at the girl, and then back at the Gnome, “Even if you were a fictitious creature from Fairy Tales, you aren’t magical. Gnomes are never magical in the stories.”
“What a studious little chicken.” Hodger said, “I have a staff.”
“Yeah, he’s got a staff!” Lucille said.
“What does that have to do with anything?” The chicken said.
“Staffs are magical.” Lucille said, nodding triumphantly.
“Staffs have nothing to do with magic.” The chicken replied, “Not directly anyway. I would know.”
“And how would you know?” Hodger asked.
“I am magical.” The chicken said.
“How so?” Lucille asked, her shining eyes forcing the chicken to squint.
“I am a talking chicken.” He said.
“Since when has talking been magical?” Lucille asked, “Seems to me that is just something people do.”
“But I’m a chicken. Normal chickens can’t learn to talk.”
“Now that’s just a rude thing to say about chickens. I’m sure they all could if they tried.”
The chicken rolled his eyes, “Just like this ‘Gnome’ can learn magic?”
Lucille nodded, failing to hear the sarcasm.
Hodger finished his meal and quickly stood, excusing himself and grabbing his room key from his pocket. Just as he was about to exit the dining hall, Lucille grabbed his sleeve and turned him around, putting the chicken in his arms, “Don’t forget your studios chicken, what would you do without him?”
She smiled again, unintentionally revealing her fangs. Those, with her bright yellow eyes, caused a shiver of fear to go through Hodger, “Th-th-thanks, but…”
The chicken plucked the key from Hodger’s hand and walked toward the stairs, “Room 27.”
Hodger turned back to the smiling Lucille and gave a nervous smile back before following his new roommate up the stairs.