❯ Picking Up The Pieces – Getting it Together ( Chapter 2 )
Picking Up the Pieces.
An ‘Adventures of the Gummi Bears’ fanfic
By Niki « NeeP » Paradis
Chapter Two: Getting it Together
The next morning had five Gummi bears and one bird sitting around a table in the still slightly damaged breakfast area. While they were having their breakfast, they were listening to the not so quiet voices of Grammi and her patient.
« I told you to get back into bed! »
« But I feel fine! »
« You’re sniffling, sneezing, coughing and running a temperature. You are NOT fine! »
« But… » there was a loud sneeze, « I don’t want to be stuck in here all day. »
« Gusto, you can be stuck in bed for one day. It’s better than catching pneumonia. You’re gonna stay in that bed if I have to tie you to it! »
The argument went on.
Artie flapped over to Gruffi. « I think I will hang out with you today, » he said as he settled on Gruffi’s shoulder.
« But aren’t you his friend? » asked Gruffi as he stood up from the table.
« Not when he’s sick, » replied the bird. « I find it isn’t a good idea to be around that bear when he is sick. »
« What do you mean? »
« You know how you find him annoying sometimes? »
« Yeah? » To Gruffi, that meant most of the time.
« That is absolutely nothing compared to when he is sick. »
The brown bear’s eyes opened wide in horror. « Hoo boy… »
« Exactly. » The toucan nodded.
« So, Duke Igthorn, » asked Lady Bane, « Do you thing you would have any problem remembering the location of the Gummiscope? »
The two villains were seated to breakfast, one evil human at each end of the table. Breakfast was carried in by well trained and well cowed troggles who were well aware of the price they would have to pay if they were to drop anything.
« There will be no problem at all, my dear Lady, » replied the duke. Duke Igthorn looked much better for the full night’s rest. He has managed to shave and clean himself up. He felt a bit more like himself again, knowing that to be a strong leader, it helped to look the part. « I know exactly where the remains of the Gummiscope is. »
« Then perhaps we can make a day of it, » suggested the sorceress smoothly. « Perhaps have a picnic? »
Ah, thought Duke Igthorn. Perhaps the cold lady is finally warming up to me. Now how can I work this to my advantage? « An excellent idea, Lady Bane. It would be wonderful to spend a day in the company of a wonderful lady such as yourself. »
Got him, thought Lady Bane to herself smugly. « Then we will do just that. »
Both villains sipped at their morning tea.
Cubbi and Tummi followed Gruffi down through one of the older hallways. Being pulled behind them was a small cart full of lumber. They stopped at a pile of rubble which was blocking the way.
Artie settled on Gruffi’s hat. « I think it looked better from the outside, » he commented.
« You mean this is where we did all the work yesterday? » asked Cubbi.
« That’s right, » replied Gruffi. « Now that it looks normal on the outside, we have get the inside looking normal too. »
« Wow, » commented Tummi. « That’s gonna take some time. »
« Exactly, » agreed the older bear. « But we have to get started now, or else more soil and rocks could fall in and all of the work we did topside would have gone to waste. »
« What do you want us to do? » asked Tummi.
« Well kid, you and Cubbi will have to start cleaning the rest of this dirt up and carting it out. Then we have to put up these boards for the new walls. When Gusto’s up and about again, he can do the plaster work. »
Gusto sighed as he lay back amongst the pillows. Grammi said it was fortunate that the termite didn’t get this particular room, but to be honest he would rather be anywhere than this room. It’s a nice room as far as rooms can go, but he just moved out of here, back into his studio a few weeks ago and he was hoping not to be back here until late fall. Well, so much for that idea.
He was bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored… He had napped earlier, but now he found he had no sleep left in him and only boredom. He mentally cursed himself for taking all of his art supplies back to his studio and not leaving himself anything for times like this.
He sat up. The heck with this. He will just have to sneak back to his studio while the others were busy with the cleaning up. It’ll just be for a little while, then he will come back with no one the wiser. He threw the covers back, sneezed once, he pulled of his night-cap and pyjamas and bundled them up in a little ball and threw them across the room. His clothes were lying on a chair against the wall. He started towards them and hit his head on something unseen and hard.
« Yowch! » he cried out. He rubbed his head ruefully and tried to find the offending object. There was nothing there that he could see. He put his hands forward and came into contact with a wall. A hard wall.
« What in the world…? » he muttered to himself as he pushed against the invisible barrier.
The bedroom door creaked opened. « Going somewhere, Gusto? »
The blue bear spun around to look at Zummi at the opening, leaning on a crutch. The old bear looked at him knowingly and adjusted his glasses.
« Well, maybe… » admitted the young artist. « But what is this?!? » For emphasis, he pounded on a spot in the air.
« It’s a containment spell, » replied the magician, « meant to keep a certain Gummi Bear from sneaking outside. »
« Oh, for the love of fur… » groaned Gusto.
« It’s pretty interesting, actually, » chuckled Zummi. « We have learned a lot about you and your habits since you have come to live with us. »
« I’m very flattered. »
« What’s going on, Zummi? » asked Grammi as she walked in with a tray of soup.
« Gusto has discovered the containment spell, » replied the older bear.
« Ha! I knew he would try to sneak off! » the old lady bear chuckled. Then she looked at the younger bear. She almost dropped the tray. « For land’s sake, Gusto! Put your pyjamas back on! »
« Wha? » He looked down at himself then dived for the bed and under the covers.
« Don’t you have any common sense?!? » demanded Grammi. « You’re going to catch your death of cold, standing around with no pyjamas! »
« Um, where are your pyjamas? » asked Zummi.
A blue arm reached out of the blankets and pointed to the far side of the room. « That way, » came the muffled voice. He poked his head out. « This is a highly cruel and unusual punishment, » he said. His face was an unusual shade of violet.
« Oh, for crying out loud… » sighed Grammi as she put the tray down on the end table, walked through the invisible wall, over to the other side of the room and picked up the bundle of clothes. She deposited them onto Gusto’s lap. « Get dressed, » she commanded.
« But I don’t want to stay in here any more, » complained the young adult bear. « I am so bored, Grammi. Can’t I get up yet? »
The Gummi Bear matriarch grunted and grabbed the pyjamas off of her patient’s lap. She forced the item of clothing over his head and then shoved his nightcap onto his head.
« I’m sorry Gusto, but you’re not well enough yet to get up. Tell you what, we’ll try and find one of your sketchpads and some books to read and if you are feeling better tomorrow, you might be able to get out of bed. How does that sound? »
Gusto sneezed as he pushed his arms through his pyjamas. « Sounds better than being bored all day, » he commented. « I appreciate it, Grammi. »
« But you have to behave yourself today –and stay in that bed! »
« Yes’m. »
« But first you have to eat your lunch, and I will have Sunni go find one of your sketchbooks. »
« Yes’m, » he said again.
All of the picnic supplies were being loaded up onto a coach. A bunch of troggles nervously loaded up the baskets and dishes.
« And don’t you dare drop anything, » commanded their mistress. « Or else I will be using you to sit on at the picnic. »
« Don’t drop, don’t drop, » muttered the troggles in fear.
Others of the scruffy creatures were holding shovels and picks. They were to provide the actual labour in digging out the site. They knew they were in for a rough day.
Lady Bane and her escort were standing in the doorway watching the commotion in the courtyard. She was wearing a rich blue velvet dress, and her hair was loose, only held back by her usual circlet. Igthorn was wearing his customary chain-mail suit, now cleaned and oiled until it shined under the sunlight.
They look good together, thought Toadwart from his spot behind the couple in the shadowy doorway. Never have two evil stinkers belong more together.
Duke Igthorn breathed in the morning air. « What a splendid day. It’s perfect for making life miserable for those Gummi Bears. And to share such a day with such a beautiful and intelligent woman –it is more than an evil man like myself could ask for. »
The sorceress paused in yelling at her subordinates and glanced sidewise at her erstwhile partner. What an idiot, she thought to herself. But he does have a way with words…
A shaken merchant, stripped to his long-johns, stood in the middle of the throne room of King Gregor.
« Let’s see if I have this correctly, » asked King Gregor, « You say you have been attacked by trolls and ogres? »
« Yes sire, » whimpered the shaking man.
The king looked towards the squire standing next to Sir Tuxford. « You are correct, Cavin, » he said. « It does look like the ogres and trolls have teamed up. »
« And they took everything, Sire, » said the merchant. « They even took my horse and cart. Poor Osbert, he’s been a good horse, he doesn’t deserve this… »
« And where was this again? »
« Just at the edge of the woods, Sire, » quavered the shivering man.
The king turned to his best knight, « Sir Tuxford, take out the remaining knights and go investigate the site where this man was attacked. »
« Of course, Sire, » replied the older knight.
« And please get this good man a blanket! » he demanded of the rest of the court.
A heavily laden cart was travelling along the road. It was being driven by the leader of the trolls and was loaded with stolen loot. The horse pulling the cart was nervous and edgy. It was being followed by the rest of the trolls and ogres.
« Excellent! » cackled the troll leader. « Just a few more hauls like the last one, and then we can leave for greener pastures. »
« But what about Dukey? » asked Zook. The purple ogre towered over the cart and its driver.
« Yeah, » added Gad. « How is getting gold gonna help us find Dukey? »
The other trolls looked to each other nervously.
« Everything is easier to do when you have money, » replied the green bandit leader easily.
« Got plenty of money, » commented one of the other ogres.
« Yeah, » nodded Zook. « Zook says we go look for Dukey now. » The other ogres cheered.
« Hey, wait a minute! » shouted the leader. « I’m the leader here… »
« Leaders are easy to squish, » said Gad.
« Very easy, » agreed Zook.
The other trolls were starting to back away. The last thing they wanted to do and get caught by these incredibly huge, strong, and heavy ogres.
The leader of the green bandits swallowed heavily. He thought it was a stroke of luck when he and his band first were untied by the hulking brutes. The trolls by themselves were often considered threatening by the people they robbed. But the threat presented by the trolls was nothing compared to their presence backed up by the brute force of the ogres. Money was practically being thrown their way as their victims ran away. It was great.
But now, the ogres are threatening him. Him! How dare they? He thought about the situation for a moment. Well, the reason the ogres were obeying him was because he convinced the dumb creatures he would be able to find their ‘Dukey’, whoever that was. But, the ogres were now getting impatient. Maybe now is a good time to change tatics. He had more than a decent amount of money and later on, he could lose the hulking creatures and the rest of his loser gang as well.
« Um, maybe you’re right. There’s plenty of money. So why don’t we start looking for your Dukey? Do you recall when you last saw… it? »
« Dukey not it, » said Gad. « He human. »
« Last saw Dukey back home, » said Zook.
« We were home, but no Dukey, » commented another ogre.
« Hmmm… » interjected the troll leader. « Why don’t we head back to your home, and look for clues for him there? »
There was complete silence as the thought was processed by the thick heads of the ogres. Then there was a flurry of nods.
« Yeah, » agreed Zook. « We look for clues back home. »
« Follow us! » called out an ogre as he turned down a different road.
The rest of the ogres followed and the trolls and the cart began moving again.
Grammi brought the tray, filled with empty dishes back from Gusto’s room. She sighed as she put it down on the nearby table.
« Something wrong, Grammi? » asked Zummi with concern. He was sitting at the table, repairing some of the damaged books.
Grammi fell back into her favourite chair by the fireplace. She sighed again. « I once thought there was nothing more aggravating than dealing with Cubbi when he was sick. Then I thought there was nothing more annoying than Gruffi when he was sick. But I tell you, Zummi, Gusto takes the cake. »
« That bad, huh? » asked the oldest Gummi as he straightened his glasses.
« Worse than the cubs and Gruffi combined, » she agreed. « Right now I have Sunni watching him. »
« Um, is that a good idea, Grammi? » asked Zummi.
« Right now, she is just posing for Gusto’s sketches, and in a little while, I will go and rescue the boy from Sunni’s affections. But at least for now, he isn’t bored and he is keeping quiet. »
« How sick is he? »
« He’s got a bit of a chest cold, and some fever. With bed rest and some more soup, he should be able to get out of bed tomorrow, but I rather he didn’t go outside for another day or so. » She picked up some sewing and began to work.
Zummi glanced over in mild curiosity. « What’s that you’re making? » he asked.
Grammi held up most of a shirt, made of white homespun. « It’s for Gusto, » she said. « It’s going to be one of the conditions he’ll have to follow if he wants to get out of that bed tomorrow. »
« Good idea. » Zummi went back to his books. « He still hasn’t adjusted to this cooler climate. »
« Hold that board steady, Tummi… And Cubbi, I need some more nails. »
« Right. » The pink cub was already reaching into the box of nails.
« Could you hurry it up? » asked Tummi. « This wood is getting heavy… »
« Hang on a sec. » Gruffi turned towards Artie. « How does it look? » he asked.
« Your end needs to be raised a touch, » commented the toucan. Years of experience of being Gusto’s critic was being used today. He could easily tell if a line was off, or if something was not balanced right.
Gruffi moved the heavy board slightly. « How’s that? »
« Looks good, » said Artie.
« Good. » Gruffi was happy. Things looked bad at first, but everything is coming together. He was working on repairing his home. It was something he has always enjoyed. He loved it when everything was coming together. « Cubbi, I need you to hold the wood here for a moment, while I get these nails in. »
« Okay. »
A few moment’s later, Gruffi drove some nails into the wood on Tummi’s side. « Okay, Tummi. You can let go. »
« Oh, good. » The big bear stepped back and looked at what they accomplished. « I think it’s starting to look good, » he said.
Gruffi was whistling as he packed up his tools. « That it does. We’ve done real good today. Let’s go have some lunch, then we’ll tackle the job in the hallway by the old oak. »
Over seven hills, green with new grass and spotted with spring flowers, a horseless carriage travelled. Behind it, trudged a troop of badly dressed creatures.
« How much further? » demanded Lady Bane.
« It’s not far now, » replied Igthorn.
Soon, they reached the mountains and a pile of rubble which looked it sat for a few seasons. Bits of weathered brass and broken glass were mixed with the rock and dirt.
Both villains got out of the carriage.
« Yes, » said Igthorn softly. « I do remember this place. » He pointed to an area of the forest nearby, where a straight line of older trees were burned away, and new trees were starting to grow in. « Look, my Lady, » he gestured to the new trees. « Witness the destructive power of the Gummiscope! »
« Yes, » said Lady Bane, « I see. » She spun around sharply and screamed at her flunkies. « What are you dolts waiting for?!? Start digging! »
« Digging, digging, » replied the troggles as they set upon the rubble.
« You too, Mush for Brains, » commanded Igthorn to Toadie.
« Of course, your Dukiness, » said the little ogre glumly and picked up the shovel. As he headed towards the pile, the troggles paused momentarily and gave him a sympathetic look. Together the small ogre and furry creatures started to take apart the rubble.
« Oh, look, » said Lady Bane nastily. « Your ogre has made some friends. »
« So I’ve noticed, » replied Igthorn. « Shall we eat? »
The two humans sat down on the picnic cloth spread out for them. Igthorn poured a glass of wine for the Lady. « It won’t be long now, » he said as he set the decanter down. « Soon we will have the means to defeat those Gummi Bears. »
« And get my –our hands on their magic book. » She smiled and sipped from her wineglass.
Sunni sat on the foot of Gusto’s bed. « Is it safe to move yet? » she asked him.
« Just about… » The sick bear finished a few more pencil strokes. « There! » He turned the pad around and displayed it proudly to his model. « What do you think? »
« It’s great, » she said with delight. « It looks just like me. »
« Yup, » replied the artist as he put his pad and pencil down on the end table. He brought the blankets of his bed up to his shoulders and shivered.
« Are you still cold, Gusto? » asked the teenage-girl bear.
« A little, » he admitted. « Are there anymore blankets around? »
« I think so, » she said. « I’ll go find you some. » Sunni got up, and went to the door. « I’ll ask Grammi to bring you some more soup too, okay? »
« Sounds good to me. Thanks, Sunners… » He smiled at her.
Sunni left the room with a big smile on her face. Gusto was paying attention to her! It was more than she could hope for in her teenage world. Perhaps he wasn’t treating her like a girlfriend yet, but perhaps if she is willing to help him out, he will come to appreciate her and who knows what could happen in the future. She ran towards the common room to look for Grammi and some clean blankets.
She found Gruffi and the others in the main room as well. They were having soup and sandwiches.
« How’s the patient? » asked Artie, observing the dreamy look in Sunni’s eyes.
« Huh? » was the reply.
« Snap out of it, Sunni, » grumbled Gruffi. « Why are you out here? »
The young girl bear shook her head. « Um, right. He’s asking for some more blankets and some soup, » she replied.
Grammi sighed as she looked in the metal pot by the fire. « There isn’t much left, » she said.
« Yeah, » agreed Tummi. « And I only had four bowlfuls. »
« And Gusto only had three, » growled Gruffi. « Who knows what happened to the rest of the soup, » he said sarcastically.
« It disappeared? » asked the big bear in disbelief.
« Stop teasing, you big windbag, » commanded Grammi as she waved her ladle around. « There’s enough for two more bowlfuls. But I will be starting dinner soon, so I could use an empty pot. »
« Grammi..? » began Tummi hopefully. « Could I..? »
The matriarch sighed. « Yes Tummi, you can have one of the bowls. »
« All right! » he cheered as he picked up a bowl.
« But you have to divide the soup evenly. »
« Of course Grammi. » Tummi grabbed the ladle from Grammi and reached for the pot.
« Do we have any more blankets, Grammi? » asked Sunni.
« We should have a few clean ones left in the storage room, but we’re going to have to do laundry this afternoon. »
Sunni sighed, « Yes Grammi. »
« Then as soon as Tummi’s done with his soup, » said Gruffi, « he, Cubbi and I will go to work on the hallway by the old oak. »
Tummi put down his bowl. « I’m ready now, » he said.
Grammi carried the tray into the room and set it down on the end table. She watched as Gusto’s head turned towards her.
« How are you feeling? » she asked.
« Dunno, » sighed the patient. « Am I dying? »
« Of course not! » Grammi snorted. « You’ve got a cold. » She grabbed a small bottle off of the tray and a spoon. « Now sit up so you can eat. »
Carefully, the sick artist eased himself to an upright position and nervously eyed the bottle his care-taker was holding. « What’s that? » he asked.
« It’s something to ease your coughing, » she replied smoothly. « We just need to get a couple of spoonfuls into you. » She poured some thick brown syrup into the spoon. It took almost a minute to fill the spoon.
« Um, I think I’ll pass. I feel much better already. »
« I’m not giving you the option. So open your mouth. »
« Nuh uh. »
« Open! »
« No! » He pulled the covers up to his nose.
« Gusto! I swear! Sometimes I can’t tell if you are an adult or a cub! If you don’t take this medicine, I will take away your sketchbook! »
« Now wait a minute! I –Ulp! » Gusto’s tirade ended short as Grammi shoved the spoon into his mouth.
« There, » she crowed triumphantly. « Now just one more spoonful. »
Gusto made a face as he swallowed. « Bleh! Talk about the cure that can kill you. » He watched as another spoonful was poured out.
« Oh, hush. If the medicine didn’t taste bad, it wouldn’t be effective. » She held out the spoon expectantly.
Gusto took the medicine reluctantly.
Grammi put the cork back into the bottle as Sunni walked in with the blankets. The young gummi took one look at the face Gusto was making and giggled.
« I see you just had some of the cough syrup. It tastes awful, doesn’t it? »
« But you have to admit that it works, » replied Grammi as she unfolded one of the blankets. « Often one dose is all a gummi needs. »
« That’s because you try extra hard to become better so you don’t have to taste the stuff again, » whispered Sunni to Gusto. Gusto smothered a chuckle.
« All right, Sunni, » said Grammi after she spread the new blankets on top of Gusto’s bed, « I need you to go and find as much dirty laundry, including blankets that you can find. »
« Awww… » groaned the young bear as she headed out of the room.
« And as for you, » Grammi said to Gusto. « Eat your soup and drink your tea and see if you can sleep for a while. Sleep will be the fastest way of getting better. »
« But I’m not tired, » said the blue bear.
« We’ll see, » replied Grammi.
Corroded metal, broken glass and splintered wood was piling up. Lady Bane was admiring the way some of the old gears were put together. Perhaps there is more useful information to be gathered from the old Gummi artefacts besides Gummi magic, she thought. Other means to power for instance. Igthorn was busy berating the work crew, trying to get them to work faster. It wasn’t as effective as the Duke thought it would be as only one of the diggers held sufficient fear of the man.
One of the troggles uncovered something new. Excitedly, he gestured to Toadwart who went right over. Gingerly, the small ogre used his hands to brush away some of the dirt to reveal a stained leather cover. With renewed enthusiasm, Toady and the troggles dug out what seemed to be a huge leather bound book. The book was tattered and stained, but when Toady peered at the title embossed on the front, he was able to make out the words: Gummiscope Manual.
« Found it! » shouted the little ogre.
Lady Bane picked up her skirts and strode towards the rubble. « Let me see! » she commanded. Trembling, Toady held up the damaged book for her inspection. She snatched the book out of his hands and opened it. Some of the pages were stained and unreadable, but others were perfectly legible. She passed the book to Igthorn who came over to see the commotion. « I believe we have found what we have been looking for, Duke Igthorn, » she said.
« Excellent, » roared the Duke. He turned to his partner and said to her, « I love it when a plan comes together, don’t you my dear Lady? » and he laughed evilly.
Lady Bane looked at her current partner for a moment with a speculative look on her face, then she joined in the sinister laughter.
Gusto was lying back, propped up with pillows. His sketchbook was on his lap with his pencil resting on it. Get some sleep, he snorted, what was she thinking? He wasn’t a cub and shouldn’t just be expected to lie down for an afternoon nap. Ha! He’ll sketch instead.
He started to lay a few lines down onto the paper and then yawned. He sketched out a few more lines then rubbed his eyes.
« I’ll just rest my eyelids for a few moments, » he said to himself and lied back into the pillows.
A few moments later, the pencil fell to the floor, followed shortly by the sketchbook.
Zummi was helping Sunni sort laundry in the kitchen when Grammi came in with the tray.
« How is he, Grammi? » asked the older bear.
« He’ll be sleeping for most of the evening, » said the Gummi matriarch with a smile.
« How can you be so sure of that? » asked Zummi.
« Because I made his tea with sleepy herbs. »
Sunni giggled and Zummi chuckled.
Grammi joined in. « I need the peace and quiet. It was a simple plan, but it looks like it will work. »
One of the two villains pored over the old instruction book. The other was pacing around, moaning.
« I can’t make sense of this, » growled Duke Igthorn. « Different Gummi towns, cities, warrens, lookout posts! How do we figure it out? »
« Shut up, you fool! » grumbled Lady Bane as she scanned through the pages. A page of vellum was already starting to fill up with small cramped notes. Every so often she would scratch out a word and replace it with something else, muttering as she wrote.
Toadwart was trying to assemble some of the parts that have been salvaged from the rubble. He was being assisted by the troggles, but the work was going slowly.
« Wait a minute, » muttered the sorceress. She did some quick calculations on her page of notes, then put the quill down. « I do believe I have it, » she said with satisfaction in her voice.
« You do? » asked Igthorn with interest. « Wonderful… So what would you have me do, my Lady? »
« I will go over the generalities in the morning, Duke Igthorn. What I have here will need some of the details smoothed out. But it is getting late and I would like to have a good night’s sleep so I can enjoy humiliating the Gummi Bears. »
The troggles and Toadie yawned and stretched at the announcement. « Bedtime sounds good to poor overworked Toadie, » said the small ogre. The troggles dropped all of the parts they were working on. The evil lady turned to glare at the work crew.
« You are NOT going anywhere, » she snarled. « I need to have these gears fully reassembled by morning, or else your hides will be decorating my halls. »
« Halls! Halls! » whimpered the troggles and Toadie swallowed heavily.
Igthorn laughed. « Oh, my dear Lady Bane, you have such a way with words! »
The sorceress smiled at him. « Why, thank you, Duke Igthorn. »
Gruffi and the others came home late that evening. The older bear was beaming, proud of a job well done. Grammi had stew ready for them.
« You look like you had a good day, » said Grammi as she served the meal.
« You bet, » agreed Gruffi. « There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a job well done. Tummi and Cubbi both worked hard and we got most of the work done today. »
« I still find it amazing that one little termite could cause so much damage, » said Tummi. « I guess I am lucky that it doesn’t like to eat the same things I do. »
« Yeah, » replied Gruffi. « Otherwise we’d starve. »
« Oh, be quite, you windbag and eat, » growled Grammi.
« But it’d be nice to be done with these repairs, » sighed Sunni from the nook by the fire.
« I know what you mean, » said Cubbi.
« Unfortunately, » interrupted Zummi, « we still have bite a quit –I mean quite a bit of work to do. And it’s not something we can ignore. »
« But there’s been enough done today, » said the Gummi Matron. « What we can all use is a good night’s sleep. »
« I’m not gonna argue with that, » yawned Tummi.
The morning light gleamed over the newly assembled and oiled gears and cogwheels. The evil Lady Bane stood in the doorway to her laboratory and smiled at the sight of her exhausted minions and at the sight of a plan coming together. Thanks to the toil of her minions, she did not have to wait before the next part of her plan. Also many thanks to that buffoon, Igthorn, for handing her the key to catching those dratted Gummi Bears. With the codes from the ruined book, she now had the ultimate way of bringing those wretched bears out into the open.
« Porridge again? » asked Sunni as she half-heartedly took her bowl from Grammi.
« I’m afraid so, dear, » replied the orange bear as she ladled out helpings for the other. I don’t have a working stove or oven, so I can’t fry or bake anything. Everything has to be made over the fire. »
« Fine, » grunted Gruffi. « Hint taken. I’ll start on the kitchen today. With Tummi’s help, we should have the stove cleared and the new counters set up before the end of the day. »
« What do you want me to do? » asked Cubbi.
« Cubbi, I’m going to need you and Sunni to start going through my workshop and the damaged storage rooms and sort everything out. Find boxes and jars and sort the small stuff. If you find a damaged tool, put it aside. We’re going to need all the nails, pegs, screws and tools to get this place back into shape, so don’t dawdle. »
« How about the other hallways? » asked Zummi.
« The other hallways aren’t as damaged as the first two. Gusto will do the plaster work in the two hallways we’ve already repaired, then if you think you are up to it, you can begin clearing out some of the other hallways. »
« Sure thing, » agreed Gusto as gulped down his breakfast.
« Hold it, Gruffi Gummi, » interjected Grammi. « Both Zummi and Gusto should not be working too hard. Zummi needs to keep off of that foot and Gusto shouldn’t go outside at all. »
Gusto put down his bowl and tugged momentarily at the sleeves of his new white wool shirt. « I should be warm enough Grammi. I’m sure I can lend a hand topside… »
Grammi turned suddenly to face the young artist.
« No. You are to stay indoors today, Augustus Gummi. If I find out you have been going outside against my orders, I will make sure you regret it. From bed –where you would be staying for the next week. » She shook the ladle at him.
« That’s harsh, » mumbled Gusto with a wounded expression.
« That’s my offer –Freedom within Gummi Glen or no freedom at all. You are not going to be catching pneumonia on my watch. »
« Yes’m, » said Gusto meekly. Behind him, Artie made a squawk that sounded suspiciously like a laugh.
Grammi smiled triumphantly. Then she looked around to see the other bears staring at her. She gave a little cough. « Ahem. So do me a favour and just stay inside. Okay, Gusto? »
« Um, sure. When you ask so eloquently, how can I refuse? » He gave a weak laugh.
« What are you going to do, Grammi? » asked Tummi as he held his bowl out hopefully for thirds.
« Well, Tummi dear, there is still quite a bit of the washing and cleaning to do. I also have to attend to my gardens. » She poured some more porridge into the bowl.
« Um, if you got a moment, could you take a look at my garden too? I haven’t the chance lately. I think the rabbits have been at my carrots lately. »
Gruffi waved a hand. « You go do that first, Tummi. It’ll take a little time before we can start anyway. »
« Thanks, Gruffi. It shouldn’t take too long. »
The trolls and ogres were standing in a desolate place. In front of them were the foundations of what appeared to be a great and foreboding castle.
« We home now, » said Gad happily.
The leader of the trolls swallowed heavily. He knew of this place, he often went out of his way to avoid it. But it was obvious that some of the dolts he led were not as bright.
« What is this place? » asked one of the flunkies.
« This is Drekmore, » replied another of the ogres. « This our home. »
The troll leader swallowed again. He knew he had to take control of this situation somehow, and fast. « So, this Dukey you are looking for is…? »
« Duke Igthorn, » supplied Zook.
« We call him Dukey, » said yet another ogre.
« But Dukey not here, » another ogre replied.
« You gonna help us find Dukey, » said Gad, « like you said. »
« Or else Zook gonna squash you flat. »
The other ogres nodded and cheered. They liked the thought of stomping things.
The troll leader swallowed one more time and smiled sickly. « Of course. We’ll find your Dukey. » He turned away and walked back towards the stolen cart. « I’m doomed, » he muttered to himself. He contemplated running away, but realised the ogres are longer legged than he was and much heavier –not to mentioned more clumsy. An average ogre is just as capable of accidentally stepping on him as to deliberately stomp him flat. He’ll have to bide his time until he was certain he would be able to escape –safely.
He turned back to face the ogres and the other trolls. « Okay, you lot, spread about and look for clues. Footprints and the like. We will have to find Duke Igthorn quickly. » And not soon enough!
A sound not unlike thunder could be heard as the ogres and trolls scrambled about to look for clues.
A horseless carriage was heading away from an elegant looking castle. The sun was shining overhead and the birds were singing their songs of Spring. Behing the carriage, troggles were pulling a heavy cart, carrying the re-assembled and modified Gummiscope.
Toadie was sitting on the top of the carriage and was watching for any signs of Gummi bears, witnesses, unlucky omens and the like. He was also close enough to hear the plans discussed inside.
« The whole of this plan is pretty well based on a comment your little ogre made a few nights ago, » said Lady Bane, playing with the beard of her partner.
« Really? » asked Igthorn bemusedly. « And which bit was that again? »
« The part where the Gummi Bears are lonely. Surely you’ve noticed that there isn’t really all that many Gummies around. We’ve already determined there are seven that we know about operating locally. »
« Yes, that’s true, » agreed the evil Duke. « Mind you, there is basically only one that I am interested in. »
« Yes, the old lady Gummi, the orange one. To make the juice… What was her name again? » Idly, the sorceress thumbed through a little notebook. « Ah, yes. ‘Grammi’. Personally, I am interested in the one called ‘Zummi’. He has a medallion like mine and is most likely to know where the Great Book of Gummi is located. »
The coach rolled on.
« And soon, we’ll be able to bring those dratted bears to us. »
Gusto was sitting on top of a ladder, calmly smoothing the plaster over the walls. It wasn’t the most exciting of jobs, but anything was better than being stuck in bed again. After he was certain there was enough plaster on the walls and the surface was sufficiently flat, he started to work on some swirls which caught the eye in a pleasing way. He even whistled while he worked.
« You’re in a good mood today, » commented Artie, perched on the handle of a nearby wheelbarrow.
« I can’t help it, buddy. It’s great to be out of that bed and mobile again. I don’t handle being sick very well. »
« Believe me, I know it, » retorted the toucan. « It’s no picnic being around you when you are sick either. And after all this time, I can say I’m glad there is someone else to tell you to stay in bed –and actually have the muscle to see you do. »
Gusto snorted. « Thank you very much, my friend. » He paused in his work and put down his trowel for a moment and looked to the bird. « Ah, don’t mind me, Art. I know that Grammi’s right –I guess it’s just that it’s been so long since I actually had someone take care of me when I sick. Besides you, I mean. » He sighed.
« True enough. » Artie coughed and changed the subject. « You might want to smooth that particular swirl out, » he said and gestured with his wing.
« Got it! Thanks pal. » Gusto reached out with his trowel and made the adjustments easily.
Zummi was about to turn the corner when he heard the conversation between the bear and the bird. He paused as he didn’t feel right at interrupting such a sensitive moment. He shook his head in sympathy. He wasn’t too surprised to find that Gusto was still homesick. Every so often, the young artist would mention something from his past and usually it was with bright-eyed quickness that would not provide time for anyone press for more details. My old warren this, and my old friend that –it offered a miniscule glimpse into Gusto’s past and that was it. There wasn’t enough information even for speculation. But with his usual positive attitude and his quick witticisms, it was obvious he didn’t dwell too much on it. Or at least he didn’t show it.
After waiting for five minutes, Zummi turned the corner and watched as Gusto finished making a swirl on the upper edge of the new plaster.
« How’s it going, Gusto? » he asked in an off hand tone of voice.
« Hey, Zummers. Nearly done here, and then I thought to check out some of the other hallways. »
Zummi waited as Gusto made a final swirl and then jumped down off of the ladder. He put the trowel down and brushed the plaster dust from off of his shirt sleeves. « You’re not planning on going outside, are you? » he asked in innocent sounding voice.
« No way. It’s not worth it, » said Gusto. « I’m not about to go against Dr. Grammi’s orders –Especially if it may cost me my ability to move about. I may be crazy, but I’m not foolish. »
« That’s good to hear. »
« How’s your leg? » Gusto was busy packing up the plaster tools and covering the plaster mix.
« Much better, I think. »
There was the raising of the eyebrow. « But you are supposed to stay off of it, right? »
« Well yes… » Zummi looked to the younger bear. He noticed the thoughtful speculation in Gusto’s face. He then smiled and gestured to himself. « But as you can see, I’m using this crutch and I have put barely any weight onto this foot at all. I have no plans to go against Grammi’s orders either. So, don’t think about using me for an excuse for you to go against them. »
« Yeah, I guess you’re right. »
Artie cawed with laughter. « He’s definitely got you figured out, » he chuckled, while swaying on the wheelbarrow handle.
Gusto had at least the decency to look sheepish.
It was mid-afternoon and Tummi was taking out a tub of debris to one of the safe disposal areas when he saw the beam of brilliant light. He stopped for a moment and stared. Another moment went by and he dropped the tub as he realised what he was looking at.
« A Gummiscope… » he breathed.
He turned around and was about to run back to the Glen when he stubbed his toe on the dropped tub. He looked down and saw all the trash scattered at his feet.
« Oh, no! » he cried and quickly gathered all the debris back up and practically ran to the disposal site. As anxious as he was to tell the other of the beam, chores are chores and they have to be done first. He is going to prove to the others he was as responsible as the adults.
Gruffi was securing the new mantle to the fireplace when Tummi burst into the main room. He heard the heavy thud as the wooden tub the nearly adult bear was using crashed to the floor.
« Tummi! What on earth is going on?!? » he demanded, as he turned to the younger bear.
« Where’s Zummi?!? He’s gotta see this! You gotta see this! » Tummi was pointing and guesturing upwards.
« For Land’s sake, Tummi, » interrupted Grammi as she came from the kitchen. « Calm down and tell us what is going on. »
« It’s a Gummiscope! » gasped Tummi. « From a different direction! »
« You sure? » asked Gruffi.
« Yeah! »
Cubbi, who had overheard the word ‘Gummiscope’ when he entered the room, started bouncing on his feet. « I’ll go get Zummi, » he said.
Zummi was walking beside Gusto as the artist cheerfully pushed his wheelbarrow down the hallway.
« So now all that’s left is the other hallway, » explained the artist as he and the older bear walked down the dim corridor. « After that, I will start on the new doors for the cupboards in the kitchen –Mind you, I will have to wait until Gruff is done making the cupboards first. Gotta have the right size… »
Cubbi came running up the hallway. « Zummi! Zummi! » he shouted as he ran up to the two bears.
« What’s all the commotion? » asked Zummi as he watched the excited young bear.
« It a Gummiscope! » shouted Cubbi. Both Zummi’s and Gusto’s eyes widened at the news.
« From Ursalia? » asked the older bear.
« No! That’s just it! This beam is coming from a different direction! »
« You’re kidding! » burst out Gusto.
« I’m not. That’s why I’m here to find Zummi. »
« I’ll be there as soon as I can, » replied Zummi as he got a new grip on his crutch.
« No time for that! » exclaimed Artie.
« He’s right, Zummers! » grinned Gusto. He gestured with the wheelbarrow. « Hop on! »
Zummi was hesitant and a little slow. Gusto scooped him up from behind with the wheelbarrow and started to run.
« Get goin’, Cubbi, » the wild artist shouted with a laugh. « We’ll be there shortly! »
« You bet! » agreed Cubbi as he took off with Artie following right after him.
Gruffi was looking through the periscope towards the beam of light outside.
« What does it say? » asked Sunni excitedly.
« I have no idea, » grumbled Gruffi. « Only Zummi has the code memorised. So we have to wait for him. »
Zummi and Gusto arrived with the wheelbarrow shortly after. Zummi tumbled off the wheelbarrow and stumbled over to the periscope. Excitedly, he grabbed it from Gruffi and peered through.
« Oh my, » muttered the older bear. « Oh dear, oh dear… »
« What does it say, Zummi? » asked Grammi anxiously.
« It’s a request for help, » said Zummi in a worried tone.
« For help? » asked Gusto.
« Who’s it from? » asked Tummi.
« It doesn’t say. It just says: ‘Please send help immediately.' »
« Sounds fishy to me, » said Gruffi darkly.
« Put a sock in it, Gruffi Gummi, » snarled Grammi as she waved her wooden spoon at him. « Someone needs our help. »
« I dunno, » muttered the dour bear. « It may be a trap… »
« Who else beside Gummies would have the codes to the Gummiscope? » asked Artie.
« Where’s the source, Zummers? » asked Gusto.
« That’s the strange part, » said Zummi. « This appears to be a smaller beam than usual and it doesn’t seem to be originating all that far from here. »
« Then we gotta go help them! » exclaimed Cubbi.
« I agree with the Cubster, » nodded Gusto. « So let’s get going. »
« Hold it! » commanded the Gummi matriarch. « You’re not going anywhere, Gusto. You’re still too sick to go outside. »
« Hey! » protested the blue artist.
« And you should remain here too, Zummi, » suggested Gruffi. « You’ll only slow us down, and it would be a good idea for someone to remain here in case there is trouble. »
« I suppose so, » sighed the grey Gummi. He really wanted to go.
Down below in the Quick Tunnels, Gruffi was going through a checklist.
« Let’s see, we’ve got rope… »
« Check, » agreed Tummi as he finished coiling it.
« Bandages and first aid supplies… »
« Check, » agreed Sunni as she closed the pack she was carrying.
« And we got the gummiberry juice. »
« Of course we do, » said Grammi. « Let’s get a move on. Those other Gummies need help now! »
« I know that, » protested Gruffi, « but what good are we going to be if we aren’t prepared? »
« I think we got enough, » said Cubbi.
« Yeah, » agreed Sunni. « We really should hurry. »
« Okay, okay… » Gruffi waved his hands. « We just have to load the stuff onto the quick-car, then we can go. »
« Oh boy, » grinned Tummi despite the situation. « We’re going to meet other Gummies. » He packed the supplies into the trunk. « I can’t wait. »
« If there really are other Gummies… » muttered the dour brown bear. « Zummi! » he called to the top of the stairs. « You’re sure about the place? »
« Um, uh, yes… » Zummi stumbled over the words as he fumbled through some papers. « According to my calculations, the origin of the beam is just outside Dunwynn Forest. It’s going to be dark soon, so be careful. »
« We will, » agreed Gruffi as he shut the lid to the trunk.
« Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go, people! » squawked Artie as he settled on the back of one of the seats. The other Gummies were already buckled in.
« I’m coming, I’m coming. Keep your feathers on! »
The quick-car rolled off and disappeared down one of the tunnels shortly after.
Zummi walked into the small alcove with the periscope in it. It was slow going with the cast and crutch.
« I guess they’re off then, right? » asked Gusto as he peered through the device.
« Yes, they’re gone, » replied the older bear. « Any changes in the message? »
Gusto removed his eye from the periscope and looked towards him. « I don’t think so. Mind you, I can’t translate the message, but the pattern hasn’t changed. And you know how good I am with patterns. »
Zummi nodded absently as he limped over to the periscope. He set the crutch aside and put his eye to the device and looked out. Gusto was right, the pattern still hadn’t changed. It repeated the same message over and over again –a request for help. « I hope the others make it over there in time, » he said softly.
« I’m sure they will, » assured Gusto leaning against the doorframe leading outside the room. He straightened and stretched. « I’m gonna scare up something to eat. Did you want anything, Zummers? »
« If you could put the kettle on by the fire, I’d appreciate it. I think a cup of tea would be a good idea. »
« All right. » The blue artist agreed. « Just holler if you need anything else. » He turned to walk away. He stopped as he heard the other bear gasp.
« The message stopped! » exclaimed Zummi. « The others must have made it! »
« All right! » said Gusto. « I’m gonna celebrate and eat. »
Much later, after a meal of toast and sausages roasted over the fire, the two bears sat in silence. Both were tired, but reluctant to go to bed. They both wanted to meet the newcomers.
Zummi got up and stirred the fire. He placed another log on it. « I wonder how much longer they are going to be? » he mused out loud.
« That would be hard to say, » replied Gusto. « Who knows what’s happening… »
They heard a thudding coming from the fireplace. Suddenly the small hatch over the fireplace opened, and Artie flew in.
« We gotta help the others! » he shouted. « They’ve been captured! »