“Disagreement?” laughed Rander. “It looked like the only thing they hadn’t agreed on was how they were going to dispose of you.”
“Hey, Buttercup!” the gnome called to Rander. “Do you mind? I was talking to Elf-Man over here. Just keep your mouth shut while the grown-ups talk.”
Rander was incensed “You have some nerve, talking to us like that after we saved your life.”
The gnome calmly walked over and kicked Rander in the shin with his boot. Rander bent down to grab the leg in reaction. Once his head had lowered, the gnome put his mouth by Rander’s ear and screamed. “I didn’t ask for your help! I don’t want your help! When I have something to say to you, I will say it to you! Now sit down and shut up.” The gnome chopped with his open hand at the back of Rander’s knee and the elf fell to the ground.
As Rander rolled around in pain, the gnome walked over to Linvin. “Bit of an annoying one you got there, aye, Elf-Man?”
Linvin was surprisingly amused. “He has his moments, my good gnome, but by and by, he is still my kin. He did not deserve your treatment any more than I believe you deserved the treatment by those men. I do not find your gratitude for our efforts to be in keeping with custom. Perhaps you wish we had not come along when we did?”
The gnome looked each party member in the eyes for a few moments at a time. Bander looked away from the gnome’s brazen stare. Rander was angered but also looked away, turning his attention to his pain. Anvar looked straight back like some curious flower had been brought to his attention. Linvin watched the gnome the entire time and did not blink when their eyes met. As if they had rehearsed, a wicked smile appeared on both their faces at the same time. They looked like they were the only ones in the group knowing the answer to a riddle.
The gnome spoke first, “I suppose you did make it a touch easier for me to disassociate myself with those ruffians. If your ego be in such need of stroking, then by all means, accept my most gracious and humble thanks.” The gnome placed his hand over his heart and bowed before Linvin.
The sarcastic remark and gesture enraged Rander as he regained his feet. Linvin, however, found entertainment in their new acquaintance. He held his open palm toward Rander in order to withhold his rage.
“Such sincerity in this day is rare, indeed,” Linvin said with tongue-in-cheek. “As long as we are exchanging pleasantries, I believe introductions are in order. My name is Linvin Grithinshield. These two over here are my cousins, Rander Greenlith and Bander Greenlith. The other fine gentlemen is our uncle, Anvar Greenlith.”
The gnome nodded as he followed Linvin’s references. “Rander and Bander, huh?” noted the gnome. “You must have a bunch of older siblings that used up all the good names for your ma to saddle you with those. Not to be mean, but you sound like carnival folk.”
Rander put his face directly across from the gnome and spoke in a loud but shaky tone. “You insult us for no good reason!”
“Now, that isn’t true,” the gnome quipped, as he gently created space between himself and Rander. “I insulted you with good reason. Your names are, for lack of a better word, stupid. Remember, I did say that I wasn’t trying to be mean.” The gnome cocked his head sideways to look around Rander and spy Linvin again. “Bit of a touchy one, this little guy here, aye, Elf-Man?”
Rander panted hard and gnashed his teeth as he stuck his face in front of the gnome once again. His eyes flashed with rage and his fists clenched. The gnome shook his head in disappointment and brushed him aside on his way over to Linvin.
“Please,” the gnome told Rander, “if you were going to make a move, you would have done it already. It’s not your fault, though. Probably nursed too long as a babe. Have cheer, young elf. I have not come near to pointing out your greatest shortcomings.”