The gavel fell, and the twisted little wretch was hauled off to the burners.

Harsh, maybe, but it was a harsh world these days, thought Theodoric XXIV. Still, they had their traditions in music and jurisprudence; Those who suffered from the blue light at night would find blue flame in the day.

Few grew tall and strong nowadays. Most were as twisted and short as the last criminal, not a meter fully-grown, brought to judgment for a loaf stolen from the lovely fishwife that His Holiness had invited to his chambers later for a little “Induction into holy secrets”.

But for now, duty called, and he straightened his cowboy hat and his denim robes, hefted the holy shotgun, and strolled into the kitchen. His beverage, as tradition demanded, was waiting for him in a frosty can. The One True Heir of St. Peter settled in to watch the festivities.

The gaslight flared, the conductor struck up the band, and the soprano began: “Gnome; gnome on the range… where the beer and the antipope play…”

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