We have landed near a mighty mountain that's so tall its peak is capped with perpetual snow even in this late summer heat. Brak has landed us in a beautiful mountain meadow on the mighty mountain's lower side that is loaded with flowers of every color. We were smelling the flower scents wafting in the air and marveling at the grassy meadow, complete with a bubbling brook, when a local Gnome Of Police, known as GOP, arrived. I don't know how those GOP gnomes travel but he just seemed to appear, with no apparent vehicle, certainly no flashing lights.
He held his GOP badge up and pointed at it with his other hand, “Look here, see?” He looked over at Jant who was by the Rivitir. “You too, come see,” he ordered. “Look at it!” he barked as we stood there looking at his badge. It was very shiny, silver with a gold background and gold GOP lettering, nicely fitted in a smart black wallet that was folded behind, held high in the gnome's hand as he ordered us to look at his badge, making sure we each got to see it close up. “Look at it!” he commanded each time. When we all saw it at least a couple times he looked at the Rivitir. “Anyone inside?”
“No sir,” I replied, hoping for a quick, peaceful resolution. “We're all here. I'm the Captain of that vessel, which is called the All-Vehicle Rivitir by the way.”
“Them's your crew?” he asked, nodding at the others.
“That's right. That one is Rover, our navigator, next is Brak, our ace pilot and that one by the Rivitir is Jant, our communications specialist.”
He was polishing his badge with a handkerchief from his pocket. “That so,” he huffed. “So, are you criminals?”
“No sir, we are not,” I answered firmly. “We're peaceful adventurers.”
“Hmmm,” he murmured, admiring his badge. “So, what'd you think of my badge?”
“Huh? I mean, er, well I thought it was impressive,” I replied.
“It is impressive,” he agreed, then looking at Rover, “And you?”
Rover grinned and wagging his tail said, “Woof-woof!” I'd heard that line before and couldn't help but scowl.
“Hmmm,” the gnome said, also scowling.
I decided to mediate. “Rover is saying wonderful, wonderful in dog language,” I explained. It did sound plausible.
Now the gnome was scowling at me. “It is wonderful,” he agreed, while still scowling. He looked at Brak. “What'd you think?”
“I thought it was fabulous!” Brak told him enthusiastically.
“It is fabulous,” the gnome said, nodding his head. He looked enquiringly at Jant.
“Oh! Well I thought it was okay,” she said.
“Okay?” the gnome snapped, “Okay?” Jant was backing up. “Well I didn't shine it for you!” the gnome screamed, then marched away in a huff.
“Now that was weird,” I said, shaking my head when he was gone. “Reminded me of something, but I don't know what.”
“The Lizard Queen is having a ball!” a squeaky voice behind me chirped. I turned and there was a white rabbit watching me, but as quickly as I turned, it took off, bounding across the meadow.
“I'm beginning to think there's more to this meadow than appearances would suggest,” I said, watching the rabbit disappear into the shrubs.
“This whole place is weird,” Jant said, scowling and also watching the spot where the rabbit disappeared.
A squirrel sitting on a branch of a nearby tree spoke up, “It wasn't weird until you got here.”
“Huh?” I said, “What'ya mean by that?”
“Just what I said. We was all normal, then you come along and now this.” He pointed to a figure approaching across the meadow. Even far away we could tell instantly that it was a camel.
“Yes, that is weird,” I conceded, “but I don't see what it has to do with us.”
“You need to visit the Lizard Queen,” he chirped, then he scurried up the tree and disappeared into the branches.
“Jant, stay with the Rivitir. Rover and Brak, come with me,” I said, starting to walk across the meadow, following the faint trail the rabbit had left. “I think there's a mystery here that we've stumbled upon and whether or not we're needed for its solving, it's still likely the reason for our being here. I suspect this Lizard Queen has the answers.” I looked back at the far distant camel but it was just plodding along, seemingly unconcerned with our actions. In the bushes I discovered a small path and we began following it. After a pretty long time we stopped to rest and consider. Where did the path lead to? Why were we following it? It seemed to be getting better though, a little wider and apparently more well traveled as we progressed, although we haven't seen another being so far.
“I think we're in Mish,” Rover said, looking around.
I looked again at the mountain. “How can you tell?” I asked, “I mean I thought this was the far northeast of Elvenstead, you know, where the super tall mountains are at.”
“Hmmm, yeah, okay I can see that,” he said, looking again at the mountain. “So this is either Elvenstead or Mish,” he stated, as if that settled it. But it certainly did not settle it since Elvenstead and Mish are on opposite sides of the continent, thousands of kilometers apart.
“You can't get any more precise than that, navigator?” I asked, emphasizing navigator.
“Well, it's not Joten,” he replied, looking into the forest.
Before I could say more, and I did have more to say, a gnome, partially hidden in the trees but clearly watching us, began to sing.
“Here, here the Queen is here, where do you think you're going? Here, here the Queen is here, everyone is waiting, all anticipating, here, here get over here!”
The last few words of his song were accompanied by stamps of his foot. And despite gnomes normally wearing placid expressions, this fellow was grinning wide. We turned and headed cross country toward him but as we approached, he started fading and when we arrived there was nothing left but a big grin floating in the air. Brak reached up to touch it but as soon as he did, it popped, like a balloon, leaving nothing, not even shreds like a balloon would do. Further, this small glade was empty of gnomes, queens, or anybody. No one at all to question.
“I think we can all agree,” I stated, “that this place is really weird.” Brak nodded, looking around. Somehow it reminded me of something, but I couldn't recall what.
“Captain!” Rover barked, “this could be the wilderness north of Joten.” He'd unrolled one of his maps and was studying it, comparing it to the landscape around us.
“Wilderness?” I asked, somewhat more nonplussed.
“Something's coming,” Brak interrupted, cocking his head, and looking back in the direction that I'm pretty sure we'd come from. We all stayed silent, listening. Then we could hear, in the distance, the sound of a large animal following the forest path we'd been on. We crouched in the shrubbery, watching. The animal was slow, plodding along, clomp, clomp, clomp. Then we saw it, unmistakable in the distance, a camel. It stopped at the exact point where we'd left the trail at the behest of the gnome and turned its head to look right at us. Then it began walking toward us, slowly following the course we had come on. I was completely taken aback. Should we run? The camel seemed calm, just plodding along, slowly coming toward us, crashing through bushes we'd crashed through, following our exact trail, and not trying to sneak up. Sooner than you would think, it was here.
It looked at me. “Captain Rivitir, I presume?”
“Oh! Uh, well, yes, that's right. And who may I ask, are you?”
“I'm Sedgewick. The Queen sent me to take you to her.” He looked around. “I see the forest gnomes have been playing with you. You're quite a ways off course.”
“We are?” I asked. “I mean, we didn't exactly have a course. No plan at all really, so how could we be off course?”
“Yes, precisely my point,” he said, looking down his nose at Rover. “Now, if you'll just follow me, I'll take you to the Queen, the wonderful Queen of Snozz.” Then he turned and began walking back the way we had come. Everything seemed reminiscent of something else but I couldn't place it.
“Is she the Lizard Queen?” I asked.
Sedgewick snorted, “Idle gossip spread by ignorant peasants!” he hissed, “Just like the tricksters you first met up with. No ma'am, she's a genuine gnome, just like me, for sure.”
I wondered if I should tell Sedgewick that he was really a camel but thought better of it. Besides, I was still miffed at being tricked, over and over, so I accepted his explanation. Soon, I was embarrassed as we passed the Rivitir going the other direction, clearly backtracking, but Rover seemed unconcerned, grinning his grin as he trotted along.
Jant waved at us and Brak called over, “We went the wrong way!” She gave us a thumbs up, as we followed Sedgewick across the meadow.
At the top of the meadow, where Sedgewick had first appeared there was another path. A well-maintained path that was much wider and paved with some sort of brick that was painted yellow. It was pretty smooth and traveling was easy. We passed a corn field with luscious ears of ripe core hanging from the stalks. Rover grabbed one in his mouth and walked along with it, seeming quite pleased. I paid him no mind, just Rover being Rover.
Suddenly a loud voice yelled, “Stop! Stop thief!” We stopped, genuinely shocked but Sedgewick continued plodding along.
“Don't listen to him, but do leave the corn,” he told us without glancing back. Rover dropped the corn but kept looking back as we walked. When we came to a rise, I could see who was yelling. It was a scarecrow, stuck on a pole! He kept pointing at us as he yelled his accusations. I blinked, thinking it could be the wind moving his arm, pointing it at us, but the voice was real enough.
Then, every so often as we continued on, the voice would shriek, “Thief!” or “Burglar!” and each time the wind would obligingly lift its arm. I took it as mere taunting though, as there was really nothing anybody could do. Sedgewick plodded on and we followed. He was quite reticent, offering few words and answering questions with short ambiguous phrases.
We had come a long ways and I was about to ask for a break when we rounded a corner and there was a magnificent green city, emerald green, almost faceted. We stared in amazement. Sedgewick plodded on. The city's gates opened for us as we neared and we followed a broad boulevard up its center, toward an amazing green glass castle, whose wide doors opened for us to a spacious hallway leading to a brilliant green glass throne where sat a stunning regal figure, at least three meters tall, her face somehow shrouded.
Sedgewick stopped. “Here they are Queen, ma'am. The gnomes tricked 'em to going the wrong way so it took awhile, but here they are, just like you ordered.” There was no response. He looked at me, and said, “Well, nice a meetcha.” To which he turned and walked away. I watched him go in stunned silence, then I looked up at the figure on the throne but it seemed just an immobile giant with a grim visage, its staring eyes piercing the veil like laser beams. We three stood watching it, waiting for something to happen.
It was difficult to see the figure's face for some reason. Shadows or something, so I called out, “Hello! Can you hear me?”
A booming, amplified voice answered slowly, enunciating each word clearly, “Yes, I, can, hear, you.” There seemed to be an odd echo somewhere. Then the figure began emitting sparks and flashes while strange lights began flashing. It repeated, much louder this time and it stamped its scepter down making a thump for the first word. “YES, Dammit, I, can hear you!.”
The echo was louder too and I looked over at a curtained alcove where it seemed to have come from. I walked over. There appeared to be someone behind the curtain, but I was thinking, Oh no! This cannot be true! Emerald city? A yellow brick road? A wonderful Queen being run from behind a curtain? This was too much.
The curtains fluttered a little and something peeked out. “PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE CURTAINS!” the Queen image shrieked, “I COMMAND YOU TO COME BACK, STAY AWAY FROM THE CURTAINS!” The voice was almost screeching as I pulled the curtains aside. “IGNORE THE LIZARD BEHIND THE CURTAIN!” a little round lizard lady with white hair yelled into a microphone. Then she turned and looked at me with a guilty, yet angry expression. “You looked behind the curtain, didn't you? You just hadda look behind the curtain, something I explicitly told you not to do. But you just went and did it.”
“What's this all about?” I asked. I couldn't believe how this whole experience seemed to be mimicking another famous experience. Could this be the Lizard Queen? I was steaming up. Brak and Rover joined us wearing angry looks. I continued, “I'm getting sick and tired of all this running in circles and all the weird goings on and,” I stopped when the old lady held her hand up to stop.
“I guess I got a little carried away,” she admitted, “it's just that normally all these lights and that amplified voice really impresses the gnomes. They do whatever I want and, well, they can be a bother if you let them.” I nodded. We knew. “So I thought that'd impress you all too, and that you'd listen, then perhaps I could, you know, as Queen, maybe give you a certain command, that maybe I could,”
“A certain command?” I interrupted.
“Well, yes.” She paused, looking around. Then she whispered, “Do you see any gnomes anywhere?” We all looked around carefully but didn't see any gnomes. Then, still whispering, she continued, “I could order you, well request really, I could make a royal request that you take a certain little old lizard lady, who is clearly not the Queen, mind you, back with you, back to the real world.” She looked contemptuous. “You cannot believe these gnomes! Always pulling pranks but too stupid to run their own government, so what do they do? They kidnap me, the Lizard Queen, to do it for them. But they're powerful and must never know I'm escaping! They must believe their Queen remains here as I, er, the little old lady, leaves.” She looked furtively around.
“I see,” I muttered, understanding a little more now. “Yes, of course, I'm sure we can do that,” I said, looking at Rover and Brak.
“Yeah, we can do it,” Rover said as Brak nodded agreement.
She smiled at us, murmuring, “Thank you,” as she pulled the curtain back into place. Through the curtain she whispered, “Go back and talk with the Queen. The gnomes will be here soon.”
We returned to the throne. Then the Queen's amplified voice, much less strident now, began speaking, “I have sent for the Ministers of This, That and Poddunk too, so that I can tell them of this, and of that, and about our discussion too.”
I was pretty sure I knew what she'd said and nodded. “Okay, Queen, uh, oh, by the way, what's your name?”
She stuck her head around the curtain, whispering loudly, “I'm Igor, the Lizard Queen, but known hereabouts as the wonderful Queen of Snozz.”
“Igor?” I asked, dumbfounded yet again.
“Yeah, you gotta problem with that?”
“No!” I said quickly, “No problem at all. Its a fine name, a uh, a queenly name.”
“Sure is,” she agreed, “I come from a long line of Lizard Queens, all named Igor.”
Just then the door opened, and she disappeared behind the curtain. A gnome stepped in and announced, “The Ministers of This, That and Poddunk are here, yer Queenship, ma'am.”
We stood humbly before the throne as three officiously solemn looking gnomes marched in, wearing long robes of various colors and elaborate headpieces.
“Listen Ministers,” the Queen began, “these here elves have agreed to take another lizard, a lizard spy in fact, that was recently caught here by some secret police that you don't know about, nothing to do with me of course, but this other nefarious lizard was caught right here by these brave police, maybe trying to steal my luxury job, maybe stuff from you and we gotta deport her back to lizard land.” These gnomes seemed to know that their Queen was a lizard. “So let 'em go,” she finished.
The gnomes looked suspiciously at us, and more so when Igor came out, carrying a suitcase. “To a gnome, all lizards look alike,” she explained, as we calmly walked out and began down the boulevard. I could see gnomes watching but no one tried to stop us.
Walking down the boulevard, and for a while down the road, Igor would loudly proclaim, “I coulda snuck up and took that Queen job easy! And lots of other stuff too!” or “I'd be a lot better Queen than what you got!” So that the gnomes would think that Igor was still back there, being Queen like always.
We hurried to the Rivitir where Brak got us outta there Hypergosh fast. Back in Elvenstead we dropped Igor off in Bakeoven, her high desert demesne where her people welcomed her joyously with music and dancing for days. Yaaaay! They sang, the Lizard Queen is back! Igor is certainly happier and much more believable as a dancing Lizard Queen than she is as the wonderful Queen of Snozz, that's for sure.