Amazing Kids! Magazine

An Old Gnome, Chapter 2: In The Ant Hill

By Julia Melik, age 13, Prague

 

Editor’s Note: This is Chapter 2. To read the full story, begin by reading Chapter 1.

“So that’s why they all got kidnapped, but it is urgent to help them before it is too late!”

“I’ll help you, my friend,” said the spider firmly. “But my help is not enough; we need someone who can fly.”

“May it be a butterfly?” suggested the gnome.

“Ah, please, no, of course not, I’m still too young to take that risk. The case is something dangerous,” said Butterfly nervously, and snorted. However, excessive closeness of the Spider snapped her magically. She lifted her cute little nose and said, “well, I thought about it and decided, why not help my good friends? I will do it!”

“Perfect,” muttered Spider, who started to think of a plan.

The Gnome knew that all spiders were very smart. For some reason they reminded him of an octopus, which is an intelligent and unusual cephalopod of the inhabitants of the oceans with a beak like of a parrot. But he didn’t know exactly which way it reminded him in – by their mind or number of limbs. It’s a pity that the octopus didn’t go to their forest school or not been at least in some exchange programmes with Maritime schools.

And so the Spider said, “we the spiders, well, or rather some of us can fly on the webs, crossing the sea and flying over mountains and forests. Personally, I think people took from us this ability and began to make their parachutes and balloons. If we would talk in human language, then we would have demanded the bonus for the invention of it!” chuckled the spider.

“Now, there is a problem – Gnomi is much larger and heavier than those flying drones – so I will weave a giant web, and you, Butterfly, call your friends, maybe they will help us. Together, we’ll fly to the hill and there you will leave me and Gnome.”

Butterfly nodded and flew away. She wished she could brag to her friends that she was given such an important order. And she never, not even for a moment doubted that they would agree to help them. Butterflies were, of course, quite frivolous, but really kind creatures, nonetheless.

“Brilliant idea,” said the Gnome. “But how in the anthill would we find the gnomes, and who will handle the guards?”

“I will handle the guards,” smiled the Spider. “And you will look for your fellows. I hope you remember how in school we drew the structure of an anthill?”

“Certainly,” proudly answered Gnome. “And I got the best mark for it.”

“Well, fine then,” happily said Spider. “We will fly the next night, so we won’t be easily noticed, and now I will begin to weave a web.”

The whole next day, the Spider weaved the web while the Gnome found a Firefly and made a small flashlight with his aid. Fireflies communicate with each others with glow, and they decided to take part in the operation to rescue the good gnomes. Butterfly just fluttered, as she could not do anything.

And then came the night, the moon pulled the lacy clouds and five brave butterfly friends flew to them. Spider and the Gnome had tied webs around; butterflies grabbed over the web and took off. Naughty midges, usually playing and frolicking all night long, now all hid – it had started to rain.

This rain will help us, thought Gnome.

They flew up the anthill without any incident and just in time before the downpour. Butterflies landed them on top of the anthill and instantly flew away, far, far away. The guards hid from the rain, since none of them thought that someone could attack the anthill.

The spider began to gently pull the web, which was invisible in the dark, into the aisle and froze. He was an experienced hunter and had caught more in his life than one ant. Gnome also lurked around, barely breathing. Here, the gossamer jerked slightly, the spider pulled the end, something moved and the spider instantly appeared in the aisle, and, after a short struggle, crawled out of there with ants wrapped in the web.

“Congratulations,” the Gnome said solemnly, winking at his old friend.

“Much obliged,” laughed the Spider. “The business is launched. But where are our flying beauties?” he asked in surprise.

“Unfortunately they’re all gone,” sadly replied Gnomi.

“Yes, fickle they are, but ah, well, let’s continue our operation. You will be looking for the comrades, and I will monitor that no one will prevent you.”

Stealthily they crept through the hole. All around was darkness, no sound. But somewhere, inside, there was a little room. The room was used for a number of things, such as where orange slave-ants reared larvae of red ants, and ant-cleaners laundered their dirty counterparts. It was a room where orange slaves built warehouses with food, mycelium and shuttles, cross-linking between sheets. But now, everybody was soundly sleeping.

The Gnome knew that if his friends were alive, then for sure, at least in one of their pockets was hidden musty cheese. This cheese was a favorite delicacy for the gnomes. So, our Gnome started to sniff, looking around. And after a while of smelling, he finally and gently slid in the direction of where the smell came from. The spider crawled behind him on the ceiling, looking at the whole aisle in the back and the front, top, and bottom.

Finally, he saw (or rather felt) the room just in front of him. Apparently, the gnomes slept too, because he only heard their snores. He carefully took out the flashlight fireflies and opened the lid. A faint light illuminated the room where his companions slept on the floor with their heads on one another. The strongest of them slept close to the lattice of branches. Gnome called him softly and he opened his eyes, Gnome put his finger to his lips. He nodded his head and began to wake the others. There was a joy among them, though they were very quiet.

With hushed whispers they told him what happened with them during this time. Then the Spider asked everyone to move away from the bars, and with two hands, grabbed and pulled the lattice. It did not react. Then he was joined by the Gnome, then by other gnomes. And together, they pulled the lattice out. Then they all crawled in a single file line behind the Spider. He knew the way back as they tied the output cobweb and unwound it, following the Gnome. He was a hero, just like one of his distant relatives, when she helped someone to find their way out of the maze, in which lived a monster.

And finally they were out, remembering that they should cautiously and quietly go down, as dawn was coming. The same web was used to descend, as hard and as strong as steel rods. The spider was guarding the exit, and the Gnome kept the web, to make it more convenient to go down. Already, all the gnomes had gone down and stayed past the old, fat, and bearded gnome, before orderly following him. This gnome kept all the keys of the front door, so his name was Key Keeper. He was approaching the ground when he was badly bumped over the ledge of the nest, and rolled head over heels down. The bad thing was not the head over heels, but the huge rumble. From this the rest of the guards awoke, the gnomes fled, and ants followed them. But soon the ants were forced to return, as the rain that started last night turned into a heavy downpour.

After a small scuffle, Gnome and Spider were twisted, tied and brought to the ant Queen. The spider was badly bitten and could barely walk, and the Gnome was breathing heavily, his fists covered in blood.

To Be Continued