This story was co-written by E. P. Marcellin for a fun little contest we came up with, and I think she did a brilliant job of it.
I’d be interested if anyone could tell where one of us stopped writing and the other picked up.
Rupert was affronted. His neighbours had no manners at all. They plucked his opulent blooms right out of his garden, never mind the picket fence! When he complained, they had the audacity to imply it was his own fault they picked his flowers. “If your repugnant odour were not so overpowering, we would have no need to bury our noses as we passed by,” they would holler at him from the lane, pilfered blooms unabashedly in hand.
Repugnant odour, indeed! Rupert could not believe that elves, even wood elves, could be so rude. A mountain elf himself, he should have been cool, icy calm. He was not. Crouched behind the glazed glass of his window, peering out at the thieving wood elves, he seethed inside, anger twisting him into untangleable knots. Narrowing his eyes in hate, he bit ruthlessly into a garlic bulb, enjoying the satisfying crunch and subsequent burst of sharp flavour, barely noticing the intense aroma that made his eyes sting. How could they say he smelled anything but pleasant, surrounded by flowers as he was?
Then one day, as Rupert watched from the shadows, a statuesque elf snapped off his biggest, most beautiful begonia. He did not notice the pleasure the bloom gave her, the way it lit up her gorgeous face, how she tenderly carried it home. All he saw was the naked stem, and a terrible rage gripped him. If his neighbours were going to act like goblins, snatching up beauty and sneering at him, then goblins they should be!
Stony-faced and silent, Rupert donned a light cloak and disappeared into the night, slipping away from the elf village. Filled with malicious intent, it was no great difficulty to find those of like mind, the dark elves who thrive on hatred. They danced under the glaring eye of the moon, capering to a drumbeat that matched the rhythm of Rupert’s heart.
“What do you here?” demanded an old elf who watched from the verge as Rupert approached. She looked like weathered wood, spindly branches for limbs, fingers like twigs that reached for him.
“I wish to cast a spell,” he said, shrinking back slightly from her knobby, grasping fingers. Ignoring his movement, she caught hold of his face, turning it this way and that, studying him in the moonlight.
“Your heart is twisted and dark,” she muttered. “This is magic we can work. But all spells come with a price.”
“I couldn’t say,” the old elf cackled. “The price names itself! What spell would you cast?”
“I wish to curse the village of wood elves. Turn them all into the goblins they are at heart!”
“Dear boy, that is a simple matter,” she said, spindly fingers digging into his arm as she led him into the cavorting circle of dark elves. They ceased as the wizened elf held up her hands. “Children,” she called, “we have a spell to cast!” Looks of glee danced from face to face as the other elves bared their sharp teeth in feral grins. They joined hands in a long line, then twisted into a spiral with Rupert and the aged elf at the center, chanting and swaying as she turned her face to the rotund moon. Her skin, like translucent parchment, seemed to take on the moon’s glow as she gathered power, lank hair suddenly turning to silken tresses. The wrinkled skin that hung on her bones smoothed to perfect alabaster. Fresh pink, like rose petals, infused her cheeks; her lips, red as spilled blood, continued the chant. Soon a vision stood before Rupert, a startling combination of pale skin and jet hair, eyes black pools he could drown in.
“Speak your curse,” she said, her voice the whisper of the wind through the trees.
“Wood elves, tremble, for your doom is upon you,” he said, chest puffed out in a theatrical gesture. “You think yourselves garden goblins, so you shall become. As you stole beauty, so it shall be stolen from you. I curse you!” The dark elves groaned in unison as power was released from their leader, a shockwave that swept through the forest, bending the protesting trees before it.
“It is done,” the leader said, wrapping her soft arms around Rupert’s neck. Leaning in, she kissed him, slow and lingering. Her ruby lips tasted of honeysuckle; her body, pressed against his, banished thought of all else. Gathering her in his arms, he would gladly have stayed in that moment for eternity. And then she shrank back to a bag of bones, the skin pulling back from her teeth against his lips. Revolted, he pulled away.
“So the price has been named,” she said with a half-smile. “Your seed shall dry up and never be planted in fertile womb. No woman will come to your bed, you half man. You wished to pay the price? Well, live you now in celibacy.”
Walking away from the chuckling circle of dark elves, Rupert was not certain he had gotten the better end of that deal.
For the next several days, he sat and watched from his garden. No visitors! No thieves! He capered and danced and spun, until he fell down dizzy. Those silly little wood elves, acting like goblins. Why, now they were goblins, and they would bother him no more!
Rupert slept that night with a grin. After eating a garlic and black bean dinner, of course. He loved the way the tastes comingled in his mouth and roiled in his gut. Such a sensation! He’d mailed the recipe off to the best chefs in the land, hoping to sell it. The responses he had received had all been rude. Tasteless philistines.
Morning came, and Rupert rush to his window, peering out over his garden. His blooms, they were intact. Intact intact intact. The old crone really had worked her magic. He must send them a gift of radishes dipped in cayenne powder. Then again, maybe he should wait until a woman came to his bed. If not, he’d probably paid quite enough.
“Wait…” Rupert pressed his nose to the window. “I see a small red cap growing from the bush. A mushroom? I don’t grow mushrooms there! My mushrooms are round the back, in a tasteful little circle around the old tree stump.” Stomping out to remove the offending mushroom, Rupert recoiled in horror.
“A gnome! There is a garden gnome! Eek!” Rupert hid behind the nearest tree, shivering. He hated gnomes and their bulbous noses and red peaked caps. He peered closer. Oh, a statue of a garden gnome. How cute.
Those elves must have pranked him in the night! That’s where the statue came from. Glaring horribly, he picked up the gnome by its silly red cap and threw it over his picturesque white picket fence. “And stay out!” Rupert yelled in satisfaction. Now to tend the poison ivy garden.
The next morning, he woke with a smile. The ragweed should be blooming, and the begonia might have another blossom. He peered. “Is that, is that!” Not one, but two garden gnomes sat right out in the open, on the little stone pathway! Why those cursed little demon elves, playing twisted jokes.
Although when Rupert thought about it, none of them had walked past his front door since the curse. Curious. Still, there were those stupid garden gnomes to get rid of. He threw them over the fence.
A nice walk in the woods would calm him. And he could pick some of those lovely little berries off the bushes, the ones that dyed your pee purple. That was always good for a laugh.
Rupert came back to a garden covered in gnomes. Hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of gnomes. They’d covered every inch of his beautiful flower beds except the stone path, and he swore their perky red caps turned to face him when he arrived.
Rupert ran down the path and cowered inside his house, barricading the door and peering out the window. No movement. But gnomes, oh the gnomes. He slammed the shutters. They’d be gone in the morning, right? Right. Of course they would.
He fixed himself a casserole of pepper, avocado and forest mice and went straight to bed.
“So, Rupert, how do you like your garden goblins?”
He opened his eyes to find the crone perched on the end of his bed, a stormcrow of doom in her image.
“Wha… wha.. what are you doing here?!”
She cracked the knuckles in her hands. “Your curse wasn’t strong enough, and a wood elf came to me and asked what I could do, and I offered him the same services that you engaged.” Her voice rasped across his ears, bones tumbling against one another.
“You cursed me? What? How?!”
“May you be lusted after by a thousand virile male gnomes!”
She flung open the door, and in poured the garden statues.