Howdy, Horror-loving Humans!

     This week’s storytime will be the conclusion of my time at a gnomish carnival. I had been dragged along with Geldrin to this “Fool n’ Fly” festival at a nearby village. Me, in gnomish form adorned with a fantastic ghost costume, and Geldrin wearing a surprisingly fearsome dragon costume (the dragon being me!), had entered the festival in the hopes of winning the coveted “Giant pumpkin filled with sweets.” Upon encouraging my tiny friend to let out his most fearsome draconic roar, he was met not with fear, or even startled surprise, but instead by mocking jests. What’s worse is that these pathetic mortals did not only judge Geldrin’s attempt as unfrightening, but they had the AUDACITY to disparage dragons as a whole! This was turning out to be a very unpleasant festival already!

     As much as I’d like to report that I consumed these two mortals on the spot and reduced their village to cinders, it seemed that my gnome friend immediately read my mind and decided to intervene.

     “Ohhh… umm… HA HA, GRENDEL!”the gnome laughed awkwardly. “They’re… only just joking. You can see that, right? I always knew you had the bestsense of humor.”

     I was still smoking a bit in my rage, but I forced myself to give a small nod under my ghostly sheet.

     “Good! Good,”The gnome continued, sweating like an ice elemental in a volcano. “No need for violence! Ha… let’s go get some ciders, why don’t we?”

     He gestured for me to follow him and scuttled his little legs over to a well-decorated table standing in the middle of the festivities. On it, dozens of mugs were being filled with a brown liquid from a large barrel. Geldrin grabbed a few and held one out for me, his tiny face still sweating under his dragon helmet.

     “Here, try this. I always loved the stuff as a kid. It’s a gnomish specialty!”

     I took the cup, swirling it a bit as I lifted up my ghostly sheet. My gnomish form’s face must have betrayed my apprehension, as Geldrin immediately attempted to convince me.

     “I promise it’s really good. Apples and spices, all brewed together in a delicious cacophony of flavors. We only ever get it once a year at this festival. My parents always—”

   FLLLRRPPHHHHH!!! Geldrin was drenched in a violently spewed mouthful of cider. I had taken a big gulp, and immediately spat it out as quickly as I could. Sure, there were apples and a few spices, but hidden among them was the unmistakable flavor of…

     “CINNAMON! HORRIBLE!”I spat. “Geldrin, why in all of the worlds would you attempt to feed me CINNAMON?! Are you trying to kill me?”

   A small crowd of gnomes were gathering to see the spectacle, laughing and giggling at the cider-soaked mortal as Geldrin attempted to calm me.

“Sir, I am SO sorry! I completely forgot your disdain for the spice! Please, forgive me,”He begged, once again looking as though I were a kettle about to boil over. At this, I noticed why he was so concerned—though I was containing my rage at the evening’s misadventures, smoke was beginning to pour out of me from nearly every part of my miniature gnomish body. I don’t know if it was me being compressed for so long, or just the anger at the disrespect I had been experiencing, but a steady stream of smoke was flowing under and out of my ghostly sheet.

     At this, a group of gnomish children foolishly approached.

 “Wow, cool wispy ghost costume,”one said.

     “Glad you didn’t try to scare me!”said the other. “That’s a good enough effect that I probably would have given you a few pieces of my candy just because!”

   At this, apparently, Geldrin and I had the same idea, for we both looked at each other with a renewed sense of determination. From then on, we tried a different tactic to win the Grand Pumpkin. Together, we shocked and surprised many a festival-goers with a fantastic new scheme. First, Geldrin would jump out of some bushes or from behind a table, attempting his best dragon roar. When the costumed patrons would inevitably laugh at his pathetic attempt, I would let the smoke pour from me, quietly appear behind them, and in my deepest voice ask, “WHY DO YOU LAUGH?”

   Time and time again, this would cause the victims to absolutely LOSE IT, dashing away, sometimes dropping their sweets in a panic, and sometimes even throwing candies at me in an attempt to drive away the misty spirit.

     This lasted for an hour or so, and by the end of it, our bag was nearly filled to the brim with pilfered goodies. After a bit, my gnome friend had relaxed some, and for the first time in years, it seemed like he was actually having fun. I would have as well, if it hadn’t been for one nagging realization: these gnomes thought ghosts were more frightening than dragons! This is foolishness! Sure, it was actuallya gnome pretending to be a dragon, while it was an actual dragon doing the scaring, but still. Not ONE victim had been at least partially frightened by Geldrin’s very good dragon costume. I had even donated a few cast-off scales in its design!

     This was still nagging at me when it happened—Geldrin jumped out from behind a tree, giving a small growl in an attempt to distract a group of teenage gnomes in troll costumes. I was standing behind them, and right before I gave my smoky scare, the bratty gnomes said the most unwise of words:

     “OH! This is just DELICIOUS. You’re dressed like that local dragon, aren’t you? The one who owns the book printing place?”

   Geldrin’s eyes widened as he looked from the troll to me, and back again.

     “If you’re trying to be scary, that’s the LAST dragon you should have picked. Everyone knows that one’s a big softy.”

   Geldrin began shushing them as best he could, but the troll continued.

     “They say it even takes orders from a GNOME! HA! Can you imagine? Some big ol’ dragon bowing down to little creatures like us?”

   Geldrin was shaking his head at the troll and making frantic mouth-closing gestures.

     “Next year, be literally anything else and maybeI’ll be scared.”

   Needless to say, I think the angry smoke pouring out of me must have been filling the forest. I don’t really remember what happened then, other than that I no longer held my gnomish form. The ghostly sheet was torn apart as great wings, a tail, and a very furious dragon’s face formed from the tiny gnomish ghost. I stomped violently, roared, and blasted the night sky with a blast of fire. Turning back to the scrambling crowd at my feet I bellowed,


   Gnomes flew from the clearing, knocking over tables and diving under chairs in an attempt to get away from my horrible form. Screams rang out as every gnome from tiny toddler to wrinkly elder realized their folly. After a few moments of fear, and another couple of roars, silence fell over Clipclop Hollow.

     Then, an incredibly odd thing happened. From behind a tiny house, a small clap rang out. Then another. Then a second set of gnomish hands joined the first in a small, uncertain volley of clapping. Moments later, a few older gnomes, one wearing the outfit of a mayor, and the other wearing the wrappings of a mummy stepped out from their hiding spots. They were both applauding me in earnest now, and slowly the crowd from under their tables and behind their trees began appearing and a full applause grew from the previously frightened crowd.

     Cheers, whistles, and shouts rang out as the gnomes began to cautiously gather around my feet. I was still furious, sure, but I will admit I’m a sucker for applause. My billowing smoke began to subside as the crowd continued their approval.

     “FANTASTIC!”one gnome called out.

     “That was the scariest thing we’ve had here in years!”shouted another.

     I couldn’t disagree. Finally, the gnomes were acknowledging what a truly frightening being I was. Then the gnomish mayor stood up, silencing the crowd with a few waves of his tiny hand.

     “People! Please!”he beckoned until they silenced their cheers. “Thank you. Well, I don’t know about you, but that truly sang the bugs out of me!”

   I have no idea what that meant, but I understood the meaning.

     “Now, this may be a bit odd, but I think if we went around and collected all the treats that are sitting around on the ground here, we’d have more than enough to award the Grand Pumpkin to this year’s winner—this fearsome, frightening dragon!”

   A thunderous applause broke out among the costumed gnomes as they all began shouting my praises. In all of the commotion, I spotted Geldrin crawling out from underneath the cider table, soaked in toppled cinnamon nastiness, but looking incredibly relieved.

     “His name is Grendel, and he’s the most frightening dragon in the world! And don’t you all forget it!”he shouted. The gnomes began to chant “Grendel! Grendel! Grendel!”and everyone cheered.

     A few dozen gnomes carried the big pumpkin over to me as my well-earned prize. Graciously, I picked it up and tossed it into my massive maw. A few bites of pumpkin flesh were quickly met with an onslaught of sugary sweetness, but this was completely ruined once again by a flood of cinnamony wickedness. I spat out the great pumpkin, nearly crushing a few gnomes in the process. Geldrin looked horrified. It was a great time.

     A few hours later and we were walking back to the lair, Geldrin eating his well-earned bag of sweets while I nibbled on the charred remains of a pig that I found on the outskirts of the village.

     “So…”Geldrin asked. “What did you think in the end? Was the Fool n’ Fly festival as pointless as you thought it would be?”

     “No, I suppose not. It ended up being a pretty good time ,”I returned.

I doubt I’ll ever go back, and while I’m still a bit angry at what the gnomish brat said, I still ended up having fun. I have no idea if it’s anything like the “Hall of Weens” that other mortals keep going on about, but I now see the value in celebrations like this. Though I will stand by my notion that they have far, far too much cinnamon! Until next time, continue to season your spooky minds with knowledge!