Garden Feud

A heroic fairytale fantasy novella with a twist.

A garden gnome becomes dead set on reclaiming the lower garden from battle-hardened toads when his amphibian foes develop a taste for porcelain flesh.

*First Draft: I'm just looking for general reactions and thumbs up (or down!) at this point. Cheers!

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2. Two

Jolly trailed his fingers down the splintered wood, watching it fray as he disturbed the loose pieces. How was he going to tell them? This was going to break them all over again. He closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the wooden panels of the shed.

Neville passed behind him for the umpteenth time, muttering to himself. He’d been wearing the floorboards down for roughly an hour. The other two men were silent and still. 

Jolly opened his eyes and glared at the tatty wood inches from his face. Regardless of exterior, no two gnomes were the same. No two reactions to violence were the same. But at their core was where their one similarity lay. Peaceful and fun-loving, Freddy had been the epitome of what it truly meant to be a gnome. Jolly would bet that it hadn’t even occurred to him to fight for his life. Not even as the beast crushed him from above. 

He dug his fingers into the old wood, leaving it unmarked with his nail-less hands. This was never going to end.

As Neville’s pacing brought him back round to the door once more, Jolly reached out as he approached. His mind clumsy and stuck, he threw his arm out into the pacing gnome’s path to stop him. 

Neville stopped short of the arm and fell silent. 

Curling his toes, Jolly pulled his arm back and placed a hand on Neville’s shoulder. They couldn’t put this off any longer. They clearly hadn’t been followed. “It’s time, friend,” he said, unable to look up from the dusty floor. 

Silence stretched as no one in the shed moved or made a sound. A solitary bird sang in the trees outside. 

Jolly fought the urge to squeeze the shoulder his hand rested on. It felt good to grip something. 

After a moment, Neville grunted. 

As he moved away, Jolly let his hand drop. He sighed and, for the first time in a while, turned to face the room. 

Larry and Harry sat in the far corner looking small, their cone hats pulled low over their eyes, rims resting on their little round noses. He couldn’t see their eyes, but somehow, he knew what they were feeling. Sad and lost. And helpless. 

“I’ll go get them then, shall I?”

Jolly jumped, spinning towards the gravelly voice. It was Neville. He put a hand to his forehead, gripping the rim of his floppy hat. “Y— yes. Yes, okay. Thanks.” Holy Moly. 

As Neville slipped out of the door, Jolly’s fears were confirmed. It looked like he would be the one to break the news after all. 

 

The shed was filling up fast. 

Neville had wasted no time in gathering the masses and within a few minutes, the others were filing in, one by one. Despite the sheer number of gnomes that were now packed into the small room, it was eerily quiet. They knew the drill. They knew something was wrong, and they knew he knew. Somehow, that made what he was about to say worse. They thought they knew what was coming. But Jolly was about to turn their upside-down world inside out. 

He waited until the last of them had squeezed inside the shed to close the door, then wedged the rubber lock underneath as a precaution. Jolly turned to face the waiting crowd. A sea of anxious faces stared back at him, worry plain in the sheen of their eyes, the slope of their mouthes. The wringing of hats. Oh, hell. 

Jolly looked for Neville. He was standing at the side, arms folded, his eyes fixed on the wall ahead. The tips of his white beard twitched in a rhythmic pattern, a sign that he was griding his mouth. Jolly was on his own. 

“Uh… Thank — thanks for coming.” He scanned the sea of twenty something gnomes, looking for two heads in particular. He could no longer see Larry and Harry and, after a moment or two, he gave up trying. 

Jolly fiddled with the back of his hat. “The truth is…” His eyes wandered to back Neville, who was now watching him along with everyone else. He sighed. “The truth is, we lost someone dear to us, today. And that’s not okay.” 

A rumble sounded within the shed as the anxious crowd began to lose their nerve. Jolly pushed straight on, before he lost his. “Earlier today, we lost a dear friend. His name… was Freddy.” 

At the mention of a name, the fragile silence that had been held in a careful balance shattered. The volume of the room crescendoed, rising to a cacophony of gasps, wails and angry shouts, mingling as one overwhelming blast. The noise was barely contained within the tiny shed. 

Jolly stood unmoving, unspeaking, waiting for the initial turbulence to subside. It was true, Freddy had been the best of them all. He would bet that every single gnome in the garden’d had some sort of relationship with him. This made the truth an even harder pill to swallow. 

Alright, folks,” boomed Neville from his spot nearby. “Let the man speak.”

The shed fell silent at his words and, once again, the focus was passed back to him. Jolly glanced at the bearded gnome, tucked away within the crowd, and frowned. They listened to him. He commanded their attention. Dammit, Neville, he thought, it should be you up here. Not me. 

He pressed on. “Thank you, Neville.” Jolly Stu cleared his throat. “Yes, as I said, our dear friend, Freddy was taken from us today. Attacked, of course, by a toad. And that in itself is reason enough for us all to gather here together. Because I know he meant a great deal to many of you.”

The crowd murmured, finding their voices once again. Jolly got louder with them, determined to get what he wanted to say out in the open. “But Freddy wasn’t just attacked. He was attacked in broad daylight, on a warm summer’s day. He was eaten alive.”

The shed fell silent in unison. Not a single gnome spoke as they processed those words. 

Jolly took advantage of their bemusement. “Tell me, friends; is this okay with you? If yes, when does this end? Where is the line? Are we just the victims of a brutal race of bloated bullies? Or are we gnomes that fight for what we believe in?”

Neville was staring, wide eyed at him, his expression matching that of the general crowd. Their horrified faces told him exactly what they were thinking, that he Jolly, had lost his mind. But he pressed on anyway. They needed to hear this.

“I have a plan. I say we don't let them win. Gnomes and Gnomettes — it’s time to fight back.” 

Jolly paused for a few seconds, before dropping the big question. “So… are you with me?”

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