We are coming down to the end of existing Tales from the Green shorts, but I have a few more in various stages of completion should I ever feel like posting more. Today we have "What a Gnome Wears", a look at life in the city of Ghome. Get it, gnomes live in Ghome? Silent g's? No?
Anyway, the main character of this piece, a gnome by the name of Coen Bachmeir, used to be named Edmund VonHalderson up until just recently. However, the name Edmund was later used for a gnome in my first Tales from the Green novel. As the current Edmund is nothing like the gnome in this short, a name change was in order, which coincidentally created a new character for me to use in the future.
Length ~2060 words (I'm starting to notice a similarity in the length of my older short stories)
All Rights Reserved, same as always.
What a Gnome Wears
The Green, that forest primeval that lies just beyond the Veil, is home to a myriad of creatures. Each creature is special in their own ways, be it the enduring patience of the treefolk, the nobility and grace of the elves, the magic of the faeries, not to mention the goblins and their…uh. Anyway, each race of fae creature is special, but none are more special than the mighty gnomes of Ghome. None can argue this fact, as the most scholarly and wise gnome scientists and philosophers have long since proven this to be true. It is settled science.
In fact, one needs to go no further than to the famous gnomish poet, philosopher, and tailor Mr. Thaddeus Hildebrand and his revolutionary Hildebrand Table of Civilized Tailory. This oh-so-easy to read chart neatly categorizes every single living creature of the Green and parts beyond into four convenient categories. Here they are now, in ascending order of social value: Those Who Wear Nothing (truly scandalous!), Those Who Wear Loincloths (primitive savagery!), Those Who Lack Ties and Hats (uncultured dregs!), and finally, Those Clad in a Finely Tailored Suit (like those found at any Hildebrand’s retail location). The elite of gnomish society, who themselves adored fine clothing, embraced this groundbreaking scientific theory as undeniable proof of their own superiority, and have since made it the standard by which all of gnomish civilization is judged. In the city of Ghome one must dress their best or be judged a lesser creature, as is fitting.
Of course, certain ill-dressed scalawags who dare call themselves gnomes have for many years questioned this state of affairs. These critics often argue out that Mr. Hildebrand was not a true scientist and that his marvelous chart was not a peer reviewed thesis so much as it was an advertisement for his chain of Hildebrand’s Suit Emporiums, which incidentally became extremely popular in the years after the chart was published. Furthermore, these troublemakers often point out that “Tailory” isn’t even a real word, which throws the entire theory into question based off of semantics alone. For the most part these nay-sayers are written off as being both unscientific and poorly dressed and are properly relegated to the fringes of society. After all, none can deny the allure of a gnomish man in a Hildebrand original.
All of this brings us to the rather sad tale of one Mr. Coen Bachmeier. Mr. Bachmeier had always been a respectable gnome, despite or maybe even because of his humble beginnings. For generations the Bachmeier family toiled away as members of Ghome’s rather large working class, those gnomes upon whose backs the great city is built. Though their work is important to the prosperity of gnome-kind, nevertheless these poor peasants don’t quite fall into the all important fourth category of the Hildebrand chart. Though they were still physically gnomish in appearance, their state of dress relegated them to the position of a lesser creature, a sort of sub-gnome, if you will. Still, they aren’t complete loincloth-wearing savages like the sprites and goblins who live in the untamed forest beyond Ghome’s sturdy walls, so there is as least some hope for them.
It is the dream of any such gnome to work his way up into the upper class, to don the finer things that mark one as being truly important, and Mr. Bachmeier was no exception. From a young age Coen toiled extra hard, earning his keep and striving ever more to move upwards in life. After years of scraping together his savings he founded a tiny ramshackle widget repair shop in the city’s industrial district. Through expert management and good relations with the local business bureau he managed in only a few short years to expand his humble shop into a full-blown widget assembly, production, and distribution plant. Widgets, as you no doubt already know, are instrumental to all gnomish industry and commerce, the pivot on which the whole civilization turns, so to speak. Why, without widget-driven technology, all of Ghome would break down and the forest would grow back, reclaiming the land the gnomes had worked for centuries to tame! So, when it came to this all-important component, Mr. Bachmeier simply made the best widget money could buy, and people did buy.
Thus, success in the widget industry put Mr. Bachmeier on the fast track to fame and fortune. His peers marveled at his ingenuity and genius for rarely does a lesser gnome rise above his station so quickly. Yes, life was good, and there was no finer day in Mr. Bachmeier’s life than the day he stepped into his local Hildebrand’s and was fitted for a beautiful three-piece suit. From that day on Mr. Bachmeier was ushered into gnome high society. Gone were the days of toiling from sunup to sundown, and gone were the days of socializing with ruffians. He was a shining example of the gnomish dream, which makes it all so much more tragic what happened to him.
You see, deep down, Mr. Bachmeier had liked socializing with ruffians. He had been born and raised as one of them, and in his mind no one knew how to have fun like a working gnome at the end of the day. Impossible as it is to believe he actually preferred the company of his lifelong friends to the lavish parties of his new, socially better acquaintances. Strange, indeed, that such an upright and proper gentleman would yearn for such base behavior. However, it simply would not do to return to his old life. His old friends agreed, rightly refusing to treat their new superior as an equal no matter how much he pleaded. Such a thing was simply not done! It was always “Yes sir, Mr. Bachmeier,” and “Oh, I’m sure your to busy to come with us, Mr. Bachmeier,” and “Don’t you have that gala to attend Mr. Bachmeier, sir?” Perfectly respectable behavior, but for some reason it never sat well with him. His yearning for a simpler life got so bad even thought about ruining his own business in order to sully his sterling reputation. However, as a gnome of principle he was unwilling to cause the loss of employment to so many lesser gnomes who depended on him for their welfare. Mr. Bachmeier felt trapped; his own expensive silk tie was a chain around his neck.
Still, on the surface Mr. Bachmeier tried his best to make do. After all, he was where all gnomes strived to be. He lived his life to the fullest, buying the most extravagant items and attending the best of parties with all the most important people: diplomats and nobles and wealthy bankers and the like. Fate would have it that it would be an event at one of these parties that would ruin it all. Young Coen, having somehow grown tired of the stimulating conversation of his peers slipped outside of an event at the president’s mansion. Needless to say, one simply does not leave a party at the president’s mansion without being properly dismissed, but he did it all the same. That alone was scandalous enough to make the morning paper (it would be mentioned on page C13 of the Ghome Daily News the next day), but unfortunately it was not the worst thing that would happen that night.
From the hilltop upon which the mansion had been constructed he could see the entire city of Ghome laid out before him in all its glory: well-cobbled streets, the fog from all the steam engines running nonstop, gnomes coming and going, business and industry churning. Then, for perhaps the first time, he looked beyond all that. He looked out over the high walls of the city, into the sea of trees that lay outside, out into the wild Green. Something in his brain must have come loose, for at that moment it struck him then that there was a whole wide world out there outside of Ghome that he had never even considered. How wonderful it would be to see it all rather than spend his life trying to impress other gnomes with his social clout. Ah, but the Green was dangerous and no place for a gentleman. Like most gnomes of Ghome he had spent his entire life in the confines of the city. Beyond the gates was naught but uncharted wildernesses filled with primitive peoples, savage beasts, unpredictable magic, and who-knew-what else. No, it was best that he remain in Ghome.
It was then that he heard it: the Song. It was the most wonderful thing he had ever heard, a melody of joy and freedom that rang out from far in the distance. The voice was like silver, no! It was purest gold. He listened for many long moments, mesmerized, before he came to a sad realization: no one else in the city could hear this. Down below, gnomes were far too busy trying to earn their way up the social ladder, and inside those already atop that ladder were too busy prattling about the latest hats and cufflinks and widget production quotas to hear anything else.
That did it for Mr. Bachmeier. What was left of his decency and some say his sanity left him, and with a mighty roar he ripped off his exquisite suit. He ran back inside through the president’s mansion in only his undergarments, singing the song of freedom he had heard at the top of his lungs. In between verses he stopped to tell this gnome or that exactly what he thought of them: that they were all self-obsessed snobs who should look past their own mirrors and remember for once in their miserable lives that the world was going on outside the city without them. It was a shocking sight to behold, a total scandal that would rock the elite social circles for years to come. To think that such an outstanding example of what it meant to be a true gnome would willingly do such an act is unthinkable. Why, by the Hildebrand chart at that moment Mr. Bachmeier would only classify as a member of Those Who Wears Loincloths, the second lowest order one could be. He was no better than your average goblin!
He ran through all of Ghome in this sad state of undress all the way down to his factory. There he swiftly signed the whole operation over to his second cousin Milford Bachmeier, who of course was more than happy to receive such an opportunity. As it so happens Milford became quite successful at running the place and later went on to become vice chairman of the Ghome Council on Haberdashery, a prestigious position that managed to save the family name from complete disgrace.
Meanwhile Coen (Mr. Bachmeier was far too formal a title for him now) packed up a few meager belongings and his old workman’s clothes, which he had kept stored away for all these years. That very same day he disappeared into the Green. Take comfort in the fact that he at least put on proper peasant clothing before leaving, so he did not revert to a complete savage.
From this point on, little is known about the fate of Coen Bachmeier. Still, stories do drift in from time to time from the few gnomes who live outside the grand city. They speak of a wild gnome, a warrior and adventurer, champion of all goodly people of the Green. The stories of his travels are the stuff of legend, and it is said that through all of it he searches for the source of the Song he heard that fateful day. The poorest of gnomes praise the name of Coen Bachmeier as an inspiration, and the wealthiest curse the same name as a source of trouble. More than ever now gnomes question the undeniable science of Thaddeus Hildebrand, a truly horrendous upset to the natural order of things. One can only hope that with time that this abomination among gnomes fades from the public’s memory so that life can continue as it should. After all, there is business to be done in this, the greatest of cities. For of all the varied peoples of the Green, at least one race must maintain a proper civilization.