Ol’ Grum: Tale 1 -Part 4 (end Tale 1)

“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.

Ol’ Grum: Tale 1 -Part 3

“Aren’t I meant to be helping you find your faerie?” Grum said. “And how am I going to do that if you go wandering off all the time? No wonder you got lost in the first place. If Neevya thinks there’s going to be some gullible gnome to lend a helping hand every time she misplaces an insect, then she’s got another thing coming. Or rather she doesn’t! She’ll have nothing coming, that’s what. Not from me.” Grum halted and watched the beetle veer into the bramble-lined forest. “I’m not kidding around you know. I’ll carry on without you and then where will you be? I’ll tell you. Even more lost than you were before, that’s where. Lostville. Population: one. One dumb beetle.”
Grum’s threats were empty, and he knew it. Heck, the beetle knew it too. The more Grum complained, the more the bug seemed to think Grum liked him. Maybe Neevya was right . . . maybe beetles did have good intuitions.
When all was said and done, despite missing some important nap-time, Grum didn’t abandon the beetle. Nor did he continue his search for a nice spot to lie down and catch up on some well-deserved sleep. He did none of these things because even though he hated to admit it, deep down he was a good fae. There had never been a time when he was overly proactive about this innate goodness, but if the chance for good was thrust upon him, more often than not he would seize it . . . albeit reluctantly.
“You’re going to take being lost to a whole new level if you don’t start listening to me, beetle,” Grum yelled as the beetle scampered out of sight.
When Grum finally caught up, he found the insect standing still with its legs extended. Its small head and long antennae waved in the breeze.
“What’ve you found, boy? Caught her scent have you? Or has all that faerie dust in the air got to ya?” Grum approached the beetle and laid a hand on its carapace. The beetle bolted.
Unfortunately, but perhaps serendipitously, Grum’s loose shirt sleeve caught on one of the many barbed ridges that adorned the beetle’s back. A material such as faerie-silk would have glided off the pointed hooks without so much as a ripple, but woven squirrel fur was prone to snags, and before he knew what had happened, Grum was yanked off his feet. The beetle scurried across the ground as if running away from a gargoyle. Grum bounced through brambles and over roots from one tree to the next. It was a good few minutes and many bruises later that Grum managed to haul himself astride the beetle, at which point he grabbed its antennae and pulled hard.
“What in the blazes are you playing at you demented invertebrate?” Grum yanked hard, pulling the beetle’s head to the left.
A little side note: you may be aware that an insect’s feelers, its antennae, whether they be centipede or wasp, mite, fly, or beetle are very sensitive. Grabbing them as Grum was now doing was not unlike poking you or me in the eyes. Evidently Grum was not aware of this.
The beetle bucked and yawed like a pixie surfing the wind gusts of a tornado. It careened through the forest. The only thing poor ol’ Grum could do was hold on for dear life. As the beetle drove them deeper into the forest, Grum began to fear that they might emerge in Zyang, the heart of Faerie. No sensible gnome should ever go to the most magical place in all of Faeyelwen if he wanted to keep his wits about him . . . at least that was the rumor among his race.
“Give it a rest you great black thing!” Grum’s mind raced about trying to determine how he could get the beetle to end its rampage. He didn’t know any beetle calls, nor did he know how to sing the insects to sleep. All he knew about beetles was what they liked to eat.
Grim released the beetle’s antennae. That calmed the beast down enough for Grum to take off his hat and rummage through it. Somewhere in there, right at the bottom, past the bread and butter, past his shirts and pantaloons, beyond his spare hat and pipe, and just a bit farther than all the other junk he had accumulated over the years was the one thing that beetles couldn’t resist. Dung.

Dung can be a very useful thing and isn’t quite as disgusting as you might think. It can be used to make the soil fertile, something the faeries would no doubt vouch for. If you want to set up camp at night (or in the day if you happen to be a gnome) you may use it to ward off dangerous wild animals. Other uses include fuel for fire. It has medicinal properties as well, and can even be used in pigments.
What is disgusting, though, is what beetles do with it. I shall let your imagination fill in the blanks and I hope that you are not currently eating your lunch as you read this.

Grum tossed the dung from his rampaging steed and was promptly thrown off as the beetle made a sudden U-turn to dive after the treat. Five, maybe six times Grum tumbled head over heels. He lost count. When his body settled at the base of a large oak tree, Grum was too tired to move and thought it was just as good a spot as any for a much needed and well-earned nap. As he drifted off to sleep, he saw the beetle coming toward him. Then he felt the insect’s weight on his head. He started to protest, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Grum closed his eyes and entered the realm of dreams.

 

Next Wednesday: The conclusion of Ol’ Grum: Tale 1