““What did you just do!” Looking more like a dwarf going to war than a Healing Gnome, Sammy stormed up the steps of the discharge desk and grabbed Alba by the arm, making heavy flakes of birch shower onto the vanilla colored laminate. The elf raised his free hand in a clear threat.
“Let go of me Sammy, or I’ll club you right off the desk.” Glancing to the right while he spoke, Alba’s aggressive glare twisted into a look of horror as the marigolds curled simultaneously downward, all of their heads turning a crunchy brown. “Shit!” A trio of perfectly spherical, translucent orbs blinked into sight and hovered against the wall on the opposite side of the hall. Twisting his arm in the gnome’s grasp, Alba tried to not look at the orbs while nervously shedding more bark onto the desk.
“Don’t bother trying to look busy,” Sammy hissed as he glanced back at the trio. “The marigolds have obviously talked against you.” Planting his feet, the gnome pulled on Alba’s arm until the elf yanked back, then he abruptly let go. He chuckled rudely as the clerk squinted in pain, a small sliver of bark having flown into the corner of his eye. “Tell me where that beam sent Tink. Where does the smell of oranges go?”
“In…your…butt.” Alba blinked rapidly. “Ugh! I never have enough sap in October.”
The ring of a large gong sounded through the hall, making every creature in sight stop, turn to face the orbs and bow. Snatching his hat from his head, Sammy spun around and bowed deeply to the trio while Alba slapped his hand around the counter top muttering that the hospital deliberately allowed their tissue supply to get low in the fall. The gnome tapped the toe of his boot rapidly at the elf.
“I hate you so much right now,” Sammy whispered without turning his head. “But if you don’t stand up and bow you’re going to be the next one through that beam.” Alba creaked as his branches rubbed together in pain. “Oranges!” he hissed.
Jerking to his feet the clerk blindly faced the orbs and bowed violently, his face striking the edge of the counter with a painful sounding crack! Several of his smaller hair branches whipped forward and down, across the opposing edge of the hard Formica and the small sounds of snapping twigs was clearly audible. The gnome’s face became a silent circus of merriment as he sucked his lips and a fair amount of his own beard, between his teeth and bit down. His entire body vibrated and tears poured down his cheeks. One of the three orbs flashed a very faint pink for a bare millisecond, then returned to its uniform state of transparent.
Everything became very still as three chimes sounded, one after the other in ascending pitch. The orbs vanished from sight.
Sammy folded onto the steps yowling with laughter while several Engorged Water Sprites, having been monitoring the water cooler when the gong sounded, leaned against each other for support, their laughter flooding the hallway with the sound of deep, fast-moving rapids. Alba sat back down in his chair and groaned, covering his face with his hands.
“I hope you all catch a grossly, disfiguring disease,” he moaned. “I’m in real pain here.” Carefully he felt the deep gash across his forehead. “Of course,” he sighed. “There’s the sap I needed to get the splinter out of my eye.” Straightening, he whacked one hand on the counter. “Stand up you self-gratifying-gnat-of-a-gnome and find me a bandage!”
Visibly straining to get control of himself, Sammy stood up and wiped at the tears glistening throughout his beard. Shooting a conspiratorial look at the Water Sprites gurgling a few yards away, he faced Alba and bowed deeply. The sprites exploded into a waterfall of hysteria. Sammy held onto his stomach and gasped for air as he took in the elf’s fractured hair twigs hanging low and very out of sorts to the rest of the branches. Alba glowered at all of them in turn. Then he scowled specifically at the gnome and shrugged.
“Oh well, I guess you never really cared about that lazy, good-for-nothing EX Night Terror anyway.” Turning his back he started to stalk off.
“Not so fast!” Sammy wheezed and pointed down at Alba’s desktop. Hiccuping with the aftershock of hard laughter, he still managed to look quite satisfied when the elf’s eyes tightened in fear.
“Oh fertility,” the Birch Elf whispered. The pot of marigolds was gone.