In the Hall of the Gnome King
1138 words long
The bigger they come, the harder they fall--if you can manage to topple them in the first place, that is. Which isn't a given.
Notes from the author:
The King of Pentacles, or of Coins, indicates wealth, business and financial transactions, and hard-earned success. He is a figure of both authority and responsibility. His suit is that of the element Earth. The Vertigo deck takes that elemental association literally; McKean depicts him as crowned with, surrounded by, and even partially composed of fossils.
Partly because of that artistic portrayal, but undoubtedly also because of books such as The Silver Chair and Ozma of Oz, the Vertigo King of Pentacles immediately makes me think of an underground monarch with mastery over the Earth and all that lies beneath its surface. So here you go.
Lieutenant Harry Henderson stood trembling before the throne of the Gnome King. He did not like admitting that he trembled, not even to himself, but he could hardly deny it. His hands shook. His knees quaked mightily in his new leather boots. His teeth would have chattered had he not clenched them tight. The letter in his right hand flickered like an aspen leaf, the creamy vellum of the written side alternating rapidly with the kingdom standard emblazoned across its reverse: On a field vert, a locomotive argent.
The Gnome King sat upon his throne some five meters away, which, given the Gnome King's remarkable height, required Harry to crane his neck quite far back in order to look the foreign monarch in the eye. The throne itself was the size of a small cottage, and the Gnome King was of a size to recline upon it comfortably. He did not recline, however, but sat bolt upright, his fingers curled around the foremost edges of the armrest. His gaze, far from commanding Harry's, was lost somewhere in the darkness far, far above the Fendrish lieutenant's head.
"You will not know how long you must stand there," Salamandra had warned him. Salamandra translated for him and advised him on matters of court protocol. "You must wait without speaking until he acknowledges your presence."
"Do you suppose that His Majesty would give so great an insult as to not acknowledge a royal ambassador?" The idea went against every principle of diplomacy Harry knew.
Salamandra's only answer, at first, was that puzzled half-stare with which Harry was becoming increasingly, resignedly familiar. Every second remark he made seemed to evoke that expression. She lifted her eyes to a point just above his head, as though whatever he'd said to cause her such consternation were written there, and she could examine it for clues. Her mouth half-opened then closed again several times.
"No," she said at last. "His motive would not be to give insult. He would have no motive toward you in the least, you understand. His kingdom is vast, and his responsibilities often carry him elsewhere."
"But he would not be elsewhere," Harry had protested. "You have told me yourself, he will be right there, seated upon his throne."
"He is always seated upon his throne. It is his attention that travels the kingdom. You will have to wait until his attention returns to the audience chamber. You may have to wait a long time. As I said, his kingdom is vast and greatly complicated...."
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for March 25, 2016. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1138 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.
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