The Gnome and I – Episode 7
The Tale of the Gninja Gnome – One Last Job
Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5 Episode 6
I awoke the next morning to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Where was I? I opened one eye half-way. I was in my own bed. I wasn’t dreaming. Henri made coffee?? Had I really seen him in a ninja costume the night before?
Walking into the kitchen I observed Henri had indeed made coffee and procured chocolate croissants!
“Madame, j’ai beaucoup à vous dire.” (Madam, there is much I must tell you.), Henri began slowly.
“After breakfast, si vou plais,” I replied, eyeing the meal with delight.
After fortifying myself with three croissants, an omelette au fromage and two cups of coffee, I asked Henri to enlighten me as to his cryptic statement. As if on cue, an arrow with a brown envelope wrapped around it came sailing through the open window. Thanks to my cat-like reflexes I ducked just in time to avoid being impaled. I raced to the window to see who the sinister delivery person was but only caught a glimpse of a man dressed in black speeding away on a motorbike.
Henri had remained strangely calm, as if he expected this to happen. I unwrapped the envelope which was addressed to me, Queen of Mermaid Castle. Inside were three blank sheets of paper. I gave Henri a stern look but he said nothing.
‘Probably written in invisible ink,’ I thought to myself. But what type? I held the first page over a lit candle. No message appeared so I surmised the message was not written with lemon juice or milk. I tried painting some grape juice at the top of the paper and voila!
Some words were beginning to appear: “From the Desk of Doubtpuppet” followed by a black triangle. The name sounded familiar. Of course! The dashing Mr Doubtpuppet, poet extraordinaire and famous blogger!
“Madame”, the first page began, “The information contained herein is from the confidential files of the Gnomic Gninjas. Henri is one of their elite agents. I have transcribed this from Gnomish to English in the form of a story with names changed in the event this communication was stolen before reaching you. Each page will self-destruct within five minutes of being decoded.” The page was already beginning to melt into a small purple puddle on the table.
I glanced at Henri quizzically but he remained silent. I applied the grape juice to the second page and began to read the intriguing tale.
Somersaulting from the cinema rooftop down onto the town hall, pursued by the frenzied Goblin horde, it occurred to Henri that coming out of retirement may have been a mistake. Hot footing over the groaning ancient slates of the town hall roof, he simultaneously tossed two shuriken sideways into the foreheads of two Goblins attempting an ill-advised flanking manoeuvre. He realised their numbers were legion and this chase was never going to end; so it was time to get the hell out of Dodge.
Like a fireman, he descended the drain pipe down to the deserted street. Then whistled for his Galapagos Attack Turtle, Cossimo, to rendezvous with him and make a speedy getaway. One hour later, sitting exhausted beside a pile of skillfully dispatched Goblin corpses muttering “Cet espèce de con tortue!”, he greeted an out of breath Cossimo, who had made haste to stage a daring rescue. Leaping onto Cossimo’s back, he shouted “YIIAAA!!! YIIIAAAAA!!!!” while slapping Cossimo’s shell with the black conical hat clenched in his hand. Cossimo took a moment to creak his wrinkled head up towards Henri and cast him an unimpressed glance as if to say “Don’t be ridiculous!”
After a thrilling two hour chase in which Cossimo employed stunning acrobatics and evasive manoeuvres to outwit his Goblin pursuers, they arrived back home in the next street. Amid the excitement, Henri had fallen asleep with exhaustion, rocked in the saddle by Cossimo’s tectonic swagger and his occasional expressions of “Oh, dearie me”.
“C’est pas comme c’etait auparavant, Cossimo” (It’s not like it used to be, Cossimo), Henri sighed as he dismounted.
He could still hear the bay of the Goblin hordes echoing on the night breeze. Left in the dust by Cossimo’s unforgiving pace, they had not been able to keep up or locate Henri’s secret oak tree hideout in the Muldoons’ back garden. But he knew it would only be a matter of time. They were friends of the arcane arts and had spies everywhere.
Mr and Mrs Muldoon had treated Henri like a son, but sadly, it was time to relocate. He hastily penned a goodbye note and pinned it to their back door, along with a scale model of their house he had been carving for their 50th anniversary tomorrow. There was no time to explain and he just hoped they would understand.
Henri sneaked across the night garden and touched a combination of stones on the rockery until a secret door opened in one of the rocks. He walked through the doorway and the door automatically slid silently shut behind him. Fireflies in jars slowly lit up revealing cave with a carefully laid out cache of small weapons adorning its left side – throwing stars, blowpipes, poison darts, daggers, garrottes, vials of poison, strange custom grenades of different types. Some with smoke clouds painted on the side, some with flame, some with noses. At the far end a wardrobe of Gninja-wear: black hats, slippers and pyjamas. And on the right side a dressing table and mirror, with a desk and computer. Squirrel Tech of course. Only the finest.
At this point the second page was beginning to drip onto the table. I tossed it into the sink and began to decode the final page.
Henri was sad. The Muldoons had loved having him there. He’d made a life for himself there. A regular at the local Gnomic Standing Stones, he taught elderly Wood Elves tai chi down in the dell on Saturday afternoons. And he was part of a barbershop quartet with a couple of Pixies and another retired Gnome. Of course, none of them knew about his secret identity. Henri, like his father and grandfather before him, had been in the service of the Gnome Royal Family. Taking care of … difficult woodland business on the down low. Trained in the Gninja arts from childhood, from the age of 113, he had carried out assassinations, kidnaps, and sabotage against the Goblin Kingdom to keep Gnomedom safe from its envious clutches. It was a heavy burden but somebody had to bear it. That was the life.
He’d been retired seven years now. Having an unnatural prescience, he knew well enough to keep practising his Gninja arts just in case he was recalled for duty, or in case old enemies came calling. And besides, it beat the hell out of tai chi.
When a Gnome emissary showed up at his door at 3:16am the night before, Henri was disappointed but not surprised. His reputation was such that he’d been given all of the biggest jobs. He knew it was only a matter of time until the uneasy peace with the Goblin Kingdom descended into the usual hostilities and his services would once more be required. When the King’s man came knocking, Henri couldn’t say no. It was a question of honour.
It was meant to be a simple take down. The emissary had been tracking a three-man Goblin hit squad who’d sneaked across the great river in coracles two nights ago. They had been camped out by the lake since; waiting to make a move on Prince Guillaume, the Gnome King’s son who had a chateau in a Beech tree the other side of the lake. Easy job. Clean in and out. Goblins snore like walruses so he’d wait until they were asleep, and climb the Hornbeam tree over their camp and drip poison into their open mouths down a silken thread.
But the job had gone south. When he overlooked the camp from the tree, there were no sleeping Goblins but a tape recorder playing Goblin snoring on a loop. He’d been set up!
Goblin hordes poured out of the bullrushes and the adjoining tree tops. It took all of his gymnastic abilities and artifice to get out of there alive. Swinging from branch to branch, leaving a trail of smoke and sulphur in his wake. If it weren’t for Cossimo’s lightning speed, he would’ve surely died there.
But now, the clock was ticking. He had to find somewhere new to hide out, and fast. He scanned the Gnominet for leads on potential hideouts. His old friend from Gnome Security sent him a blog post; a Mermaid ally had posted reconnaissance photos of a vacant Gnome hideout. It was a perfect location, and Henri had already fallen in love with the tree home in the picture. He opened up the back half of Cossimo’s shell revealing a spacious cargo compartment. After collecting his most precious possessions from his tree home in a knapsack, he started carefully transferring all of the clothes and weaponry. One last look into the cave, before strolling out and tossing a boom grenade back over his shoulder, timed to go off once they were clear.
He leapt onto Cossimo’s back, slapped his shell and dug his heels in. “Montre moi ce que veut dire la vitesse Cossimo!” (Show me the meaning of speed Cossimo!). And in a flash they were away. An hour later, they reached the threshold of the Muldoons’ property. As Henri glanced back, two simultaneous puffs of smoke temporarily lit up his old home and the cave. It was finished. No looking back now. New pastures waited ahead, new adventures, and a mystery Mermaid ally.
The third page was now purple liquid going down the drain. I was momentarily rendered speechless. As I was about to question Henri, the phone rang. It was Mr Doubtpuppet! “Madame, I trust you have committed what you read to memory and the originals have dissolved.”
I stammered in the affirmative and thanked him for this spectacular revelation. And wondered what other secrets Henri was keeping.
©Doubtpuppet 2017 <—To read more from Mr Doubtpuppet Many thanks for his superb story!