Yestin was the fourth son of a fifth son of a sixth son of the Pendergast family. Each successive Mrs.Pendergast, much to her family’s dismay, ceased producing children one son too early. This dynamic amused outsiders, who noted that the previous Mrs. Pendergast had done the same thing. Some family members claimed that earlier generations had produced as many as twelve heirs in one family. “Look at us now, dwindling into oblivion,” the grandparents would mourn, shaking their grey heads ominously. Although in Yestin’s mother’s case, she shocked everyone even more and had two daughters after Yestin. So no one quite knew what to think of them, even though they were a respectable family and Mr. Pendergast assisted the mayor of Maydown.
The children suffered no such uncertainty between themselves. Roger, the oldest son, had gone to work a year ago with an eccentric young inventor in Halfpenny Gate. (Certain relatives objected to this too, naturally.) Then there was Richard, who always had his head in a book. Then Yannick, who was interested in following his father in “politics and legislation” when he grew up. Next was Yestin. Yestin spent all his spare time outside, and trying to get his brothers to join him. Yannick often did; Richard did less, and even then his nose was still in a book. Yeltsin’s sisters, Sybil and Signe, loved their older brother, because he was old enough at eight years of age to accompany them to the meadows outside of town. And he always had time to bring them along.
One afternoon all five children were just behind their house. Far to the north, the river flowed, but all they could hear was a faint humming.
“No, Yannick, we don’t want to play ‘court’ again,” protested Yestin.
“We want to play explore!” declared Sybil, and Signe nodded in agreement.
“Oh very well,” sighed Yannick. At ten years old he played a pretty good martyr.
“Richard can be the dragon we capture,” said Yestin said with a smirk.
“Splendid idea,” droned Richard from behind his book. He clearly thought some response was in order; he clearly did not know what was said.
“I know! I’m going to get something.” Yestin ran off for the house. He rounded the corner where the big bay window wall made a corner against the kitchen wall. He stopped.
“Who moved the bathtub?” It was really a small metal laundry washtub, but they used it for other things. All the siblings, even Richard, looked up. No one had seen it lately. Everyone vehemently declared they had not moved it.
“It’s not the only thing missing,” said Signe. “Yesterday there were three loaves of bread in the kitchen. But last night, there was only one.”
“That’s easy,” laughed Yannick. “Richard ate a whole one!”
“No I didn’t,” replied Richard. “I was reading in my room all night.” That was most likely.
Even with seven mouths to feed, that didn’t quite explain the missing bread. Mother had made a roast duck and potatoes last night for guests (the boring kind; Yestin didn’t bother remembering their names the next day).
That night long after Yestin had gone to sleep, he was jolted awake by Signe and Sybil both shaking his arm.
“Wake up!” Sybil squealed loud enough to wake the other boys. Groans of protest rose from the other beds.
“What is it?” Yestin yawned.
“There’s something outside our window!” hissed Signe.
“It’s probably a raccoon.” Yestin flopped down onto his pillow.
“No, silly! It’s a little person! We saw him!”
Yestin shot back upright. Richard and Yannick were silent but listening. Could it really be…? Thought Yestin. Yannick had the same thought.
“A gnome…” he whispered. “No one has seen one in years!”
“They aren’t real, numbskull, ” said Richard. “Anyway, even if they were, they wouldn’t be this far from the Woods.”
“Just what kind of books do you read anyway?” said Yestin in disgust. Richard had apparently flopped back down and was snoring loudly.
“You have to go capture it,” said Yannick, looking at Yestin. “I have to…um…go look up the legal implications of finding a gnome on Maydown property.”
Yestin snorted. “Fine. I’ll go.” His sisters squealed as if they had discovered something fantastical, which they had. “If you’ve made this up,” he warned, pointing an accusing finger at them, “I won’t take you outside for a week.”
Easing the back door open, Yestin crept into the side yard of the house. Moonlight shone on the grass and turned the leaves of the line of oaks silvery. All was quiet-no, there was a rustling coming from a low hedge that formed the border north of their home. Yestin sprinted to it and looked over.
It was a gnome! Yestin caught his breath. The little person was hastily gathering odds and ends out of the small wash tub that had gone missing, shoving them into a dirty make-shift sack. There was a chunk of bread among the things.
“I see you,” hissed Yestin. The gnome froze. “Don’t even try to run, because I’m eight years old and I can catch anything.”
The gnome swiveled to look at him with round, black eyes. His face was filthy; he had the rounded, impossibly tiny ears of a gnome, but he had no beard.
“You sure you’re a gnome?” Yestin asked. “Where’s your beard?”
The gnome’s face turned red. “It hasn’t made its appearance yet!” he whispered indignantly. “I am only a hundred.” He drew himself up to his full height. “I need to get to a forest again. Kindly point me in the right direction.”
It struck Yestin that the gnome did not seem to assume that Yestin would do anything but help him.
“Why not go back to Rosslea Woods?”
“It is no longer my home.” a slight expression of panic appeared on the gnome’s face and in his voice. “Please, tell me where the woods are.”
Yestin frowned. He couldn’t remember the name of the small forest near Halfpenny Gate, or exactly where it was. But he felt sorry for this gnome, who was alone, without even one brother or sister, who, for all the annoyances that come with them, were still just there when no one else was. Then Yestin had an idea.
“Follow the sound of the water,” he said. “There’s a place east of here with stepping stones across the river, even you could make it across those, because a girl not much older than me did it once. I can’t remember the name of the woods but I think there’s one near the village of Halfpenny Gate. If you need help-look for Roger Pendergast. He’s in the inventor’s shop on the south side of town.”
The gnome was already shuffling off before Yestin finished. “Wait!” Yestin whispered loudly. “My name’s Yestin and I told you my brother’s. What’s your name?”
The gnome turned back briefly. “Cadmus,” Yestin heard, and then the little figure disappeared into the night.
Tales of Enndover #8
For the other Tales, click on the category “Tales of Enndover” on the right of the page. Start from the bottom of the page, with “Cadmus”.