Chapter the Nineteenth: Tea with Hermann?
As the great green gnord turned and led the way toward the Timnel, Jonathan silently mouthed the following to his companions: (“Now what do we do?”)
(“We may as well follow,”) Fulsome mouthed back with added gestures.
As much by his expression as by the silent words, Scramble added, (“I think I shall be ill.”)
Fulsome suppressed a snort but failed to mask a smirk, eloquently expressing his opinion that the poor chipmunk had already been ill, thank you very much.
“And how is it that you were expecting us?” Jonathan ventured.
“The roots of the Gardens run deep in the earth,” Hermann began to explain. “They intertwine and communicate at a level below words, though perhaps more effective. Whatever happens in one part of the Gardens of Isapher is immediately known to all of the Gardens. We animals have no idea how this is done, only that it appears to be true. Mere observation told me the Gardens were a bit agitated today, then that someone had entered. Of course, one hardly enters the Gardens without their consent, so you must be good chaps. And how could one resist visiting this historical treasure?” As he said this, the Gnord’s sweeping forepaw indicated the castle before them. “All I had to was await you.”
At that, Hermann launched into the mode of a tour guide. “Isn’t the Timnel magnificent? It was constructed by Thumnet the Ambitious, twelfth thane of Isenwild, some six centuries ago. It was his father, Raunchpot the Sensitive, eleventh thane, who did most of the basic work on the Gardens. He was very fond of flowers and trees. The façade, however, is a later addition completed under Zymel the Retoucher, fourteenth thane of Isenwild and last of the royal house of Gorcester. They were replaced, you know, by the bastard line of the Chlougheigns, who then reigned gloriously for many years from the Timnel.”
Jonathan heard nary a word of the gnord’s incessant historical trivia. Mindful of his appointed task, he kept looking for the gnord’s weak spots in anticipation of the inevitable conflict. It was difficult to notice any beneath the shining wings which lay folded over his back, a dancing rainbow like shimmering mother-of-pearl. The green scales which covered his body looked not unlike the famous and impervious scales of dragons, about which Jonathan had read in chivalric romances. “Then again,” he mused to himself, “they may just look hard as adamant when in reality they are as insubstantial as gelatin desserts,” but this thought did not convince him in the least. Hermann’s armpits, however, definitely looked soft and most admirably penetrable. So did his neck. Ah yes! Decapitations are unutterably heroic and undoubtedly final. Look at what Judith did to Holofernes. What a splendid solution this might be. In addition to which, pendant from the gnord’s neck swung a silver key studded with blue stones, retained by a finely wrought silver chain. Jonathan knew how to recognize the key to Timnel Tower when he saw it, being a clever sort of chap, and he surmised this would be the key to unlock the door of the chamber containing the shocking orange parasol—supreme object of his quest. Decapitation was just the thing to serve his purpose. It would not only eliminate the threat of the gnord, whose stench was rapidly becoming worse, but would also liberate the key.
“…and this lovely door with its intricate carvings of the Norman Conquest and its soundless hinges was added in the reign of the Late Lady Isapheria, God rest her soul, the last ruler of the Timnel and the Isenwild, who had the doors imported from Crumbly-on-the-Mither to replace those lost in the Great Fire.”
(“I knew they were Normans,” Fulsome thought darkly.)
So there the thoughtful three were, in the Timnel at last, as guests—or was it prisoners?—of Hermann, the Gnordic Guardian of the Gardens. Hermann graciously ushered them from the high and narrow entry hall with its exquisite marble and gold appointments into a smaller room with walls adorned with warm-colored tapestries. Here they sat on silken cushions in hand-carved walnut chairs—Scramble chose a footstool—and waited while Hermann excuses himself to prepare tea.