Bang… and other such alarming onomatopoeias had been berating Gassy Bedchambers’ ears for several hours now.
The unfortunately-named, plump little gnome was lucky enough to have a sturdy shelter from the increasingly persistent storm outside. At least, that’s what he would lead any lost, weary travellers to believe. Not that he’d seen any. He’d in fact chosen this place for its dangerous isolation.
When perusing for this precariously placed tower, Gassy’s first impression was how wonderfully awkward the journey was. From the nearest major town, you would need four separate horse-and-cart rides, three shoddily maintained rowboats, two slow (and surprisingly chatty) ooze-ogres, and one unpredictable and nippy giant vulture. Well, I suppose you could skip everything else and just go straight for the giant vulture, but only a maniac with a death wish would make that journey.
No, Gassy was quite certain he had found the world’s most secluded studio wizard’s tower. A purchase he’d made with a fortune that was ‘definitely legitimately earned and not at all gained from criminal activity’ as he repeatedly said to the estate agent.
Yes, he was absolutely alone. He was sheltered from the outside world. Just him, his work, his equally sheltered vegetable garden, and his extensive collection of rare erotic novels. Not a soul nearby.
“Hello?” a nearby soul said through the door, followed by a rather commanding knock.
“Umm…hello?” Gassy responded with unreasonably intense verbosity. His first discussion with a disembodied voice for quite some time and he thought it was going rather well, so far.
“Gassy?” queried the voice.
Golly, thought Gassy, this voice already knows my name. I’m better at conversation than I remember.
“Gassy. Let me in. I’ve come a long way.”
Well there wasn’t much point arguing with the muffled voice behind the door. Although he wasn’t quite as presentable as he had hoped, Gassy walked over to his home’s heavily reinforced entrance and unlocked the extensive series of locks. Behind the door was a familiar face.
“Borty Beetle-bowel! How in the gods’ names did you get here?” said Gassy.
“That’s a very good question,” replied Borty.
“Oh, thank you very much,” beamed Gassy.
“You’re most welcome.” Borty insisted as he strode as far as his short, gnomey legs would take him into the abode. “Gassy, I need you.”
“Oh my. That’s very forward of you and it is definitely tempting—”
“I need you to help me with a new heist I’m planning,” Borty continued.
“Ah…Of course. Just hand over the building plans and I’ll find you a way in,” Gassy said as he trundled over to his writing desk.
“No, Gassy! That’s no use to me. I need you. Crimicon is back on.” Borty trounced over to Gassy and grabbed him by the shoulders. “The Crimicompetition is back on.”
“No, no, and no again. There’s no way I’m going back there after what happened last time. There’s a reason they closed the doors on that convention.” Gassy slipped out of Borty’s grasp and hurried over to the comfort of his vast book collection.
“Don’t be so melodramatic, Gassy. What’s a Crimicon without a few deaths!”
The ‘few deaths’ Borty was referring to was actually somewhat closer to a ‘little massacre’. The Crimicon would bring in tens of thousands of criminals annually with a new exciting theme each year. One of Gassy’s favourites was the ladder theme. Being a fan of everything taller than him, Gassy adored walking around the convention, seeing the creative ways ladders were put to good use. Ladder-based shoes, ladders made of horses, horses made of ladders, even a ladder designed to go down as well as up. What marvellous creations, he’d think to himself. But not on that fateful day. Not on the day of ‘Crimicon: bottled crime’.
It might sound perfectly harmless to you. ‘Oh. What danger is crime if it’s in a bottle?’, well the answer is clear. Very dangerous. In fact, it’s so dangerous that exactly four-hundred-and-seventy-nine lives were lost according to statistics reported in a review of the event from The Rolling Gnomes magazine. The same review also went on a lengthy tangent about the origins of bottles and what a difficult childhood bottles had, so you make your own judgement on its credibility. Still, ‘Whatever happened?’ you may ask, ‘for such a scathing report of the event,’ you may continue. Well, it was an act of crime against criminals. Something so dastardly that even the sturdiest of the underworld daren’t speak it. Something so awful that only the greatest, most talented of authors could put to words the sheer agony of the crime. Unfortunately for you, this author is a bumbling buffoon with more hairs on his arse then words in his head, so instead we’ll just get back to the story.
“Melodramatic? I nearly died, Borty!” gassed Gassy, “I haven’t used a bottle since! Do you realise how inconvenient it is storing honey in a paper bag?”
“A paper bag? Why not just use a jar?”
“Because some chirpy, strangely sexy, bear kept sneaking into my house and eating my honey right out the jar,” Gassy was shuffling papers around with unreasonable force. “The only way to keep it out was to use a bag.”
“That makes a lot of sense. You did buy a place in a rough area as far as bears go.” Borty quickly realised their digression and brought the conversation back to the matter at hand. “Listen, yes, we all nearly died. Lots of people nearly die every day, you don’t hear them complaining.”
“I don’t hear much of anything from anyone these days.”
“Exactly! It’s about time you got out for a bit,” Borty argued. “If I’m being honest, I need this. It’s not been easy working jobs without you. I need this win, Gassy.” Borty’s silver tongue and extra two inches of height were too difficult for Gassy to argue against. How could he protest against such a magnificent gnome?
“But why me, Borty? There are plenty of other gnomes out there with the same set of skills.”
“Because I’m putting together a team. A small team. A really small team. A team I can trust. And I trust you.”
Gassy squeezed out a cautious smile. “I’m not sure I’m ready.”
“Gassy, it’s been years. We’ve all had bad heists before. There’s no better way to get past yours than to take on the biggest heist of the year.”
“You mean Crimicon. And what’s was this year’s theme again?”
Borty also smiled. He had already hooked Gassy, and knew it. “Crimicon: four feet under."
“Four feet under? That’s not the saying. Surely you mean six,” said Gassy.
“No, it’s definitely four. I’m certain of it.” Borty didn’t even blink.
“Right…” said Gassy with a fraction of a frown. “Fine. You know I can’t say no to you,” Gassy submitted, completely unaware of just how correct he was. In actuality, not once has Gassy turned down a request for help from Borty. He has tried, sure, but his resistance has never really lasted. This wasn’t exclusive to Gassy either. Most people Borty interacted with had trouble disappointing him. Any time he has ever asked for something, really asked for it, he’s gotten it. The satisfaction of Borty’s desires have even manifested in some truly bizarre ways. Unfortunately, this innate talent for persuasion has remained unknown to any living thing. Not even Borty is aware. Even more regrettably, this remarkable power continues to be largely unused due to Borty’s can-do attitude. He’s only ever asked for ten things in his life and three of those things were requests for songs on GGC’s Radio Gnome.
Gassy hurried over to the edges of his study and picked up a prepacked, travel-sized backpack that could easily be carried as a handbag. It overflowed with only a few books and a couple of other trinkets. Once he slipped-on his booties and gave a few of his potted plants a farewell kiss (no tongues of course, not in front of guests), Gassy rushed over to Borty.
“Were you already packed?” Borty asked.
Hesitantly, Gassy responded, “Yes. It’s just in case, y’know.” Gassy adjusted his overcoat and struggled to look Borty in the eye.
“In case of what?”
“Ohh, y’know… in case I need to leave in a rush.” Gassy shuffled on the spot. Anyway, we should hurry. We don’t want to miss the giant vulture.”
“The what?” Borty opened the door into the raging storm, squinting as the rain hit the side of his face.
“The thing you flew here on. It’s the only public transport onto this—” before he could finish that thought, Gassy was distracted by the most stunning beauty he had ever laid eyes on. A bouncing brunette with long dripping-wet locks draping across her carefully curving neck. Luscious lashes flicked with anticipation as her enormous brown eyes locked with his. Gassy’s presence was graced by her powerful thighs that seemed to go all the way up to her bountiful chest. A tight leather bodice just barely held her bulging bosom in place, but did nothing to hide her bodacious booty. He could see her bottom from the front, so he knew it would be a treat from behind. It was the most beautiful ass he’d ever seen.
“She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
“Woman? That’s a donkey.”
Gassy’s eyes widened. He inspected the ‘donkey’ with great attention. He then keeled over himself as he realised the beauty in front of him was indeed a donkey. Not a rude description of an aesthetically unappealing person, but an actual donkey.
You see, much to Gassy’s dismay, his extended period in solitude with his many erotic novels had changed his perception of women. Who would have thought it? After such a long time apart from women, he had begun to perceive them based on the overt objectifications of other hermits who had equally limited experience with the opposing gender. It may seem somewhat silly, but you’d be surprised at the amount of nonsense people are willing to accept into their reality with the right amount of miseducation.
“Enough smoodging around. Hop on the donkey and we’ll be off,” Borty suggested.
“Yeah. Okay.” Gassy’s posture instantly changed into a slink. Where his intellect had once been a source of pride, he was suddenly reminded of its limits. He at least found comfort in the thought that the donkey was indeed quite the looker, as far as donkeys go.
In a bit of a strop, Gassy clumsily straddled the donkey. Far more gracefully, Borty settled in behind Gassy in the spacious saddle.
“Mind your legs. Make some room for the wings,” Borty said. Gassy complied before getting caught on his words.
Yes, wings. A fact that taunted Gassy for years to come as they stretched out in front of him like a branch being pulled through tar.
“What’s wrong now?” Borty sighed.
Unsure how to react, Gassy gawked, “Why does it have wings?”
“It’s a donkey. All donkeys have wings,” said Borty, incorrectly.
For those unfamiliar with donkeys, they most certainly don’t have wings. This was something Gassy was absolutely certain about, but could he trust anything he believed anymore? Best not to question it, he thought, only to be immediately betrayed by his mouth.
“The wings are sticky too! Why are they sticky?”
“Are you seriously still talking about the donkey? Listen, I don’t want to hear another bad word about it for the whole ride. The donkey doesn’t like it.” Borty’s last few words really put the fear of the gods into Gassy. Did the donkey understand me? The question kept him quiet during take-off. And a rather shaky take-off it was. Once they left the immediate shelter of Gassy’s porchway, grumbling gales and raindrops as big as gnomes’ fingernails were crashing from all sides. Yet, the donkey powered through. Even with the extra weight, this typically flightless farm animal found itself comfortably airborne in seconds. Before long, Gassy watched his luxurious tower disappear behind thick, low-flying rainclouds as they breached the calm of the upper layer.
“Now it’s just a straight flight to town.”
“Where are we going?”
“To see an old friend. Stay wrapped-up, it’s going to get pretty chilly!” Borty yelled. And chilly it most certainly did get.