Chapter 1 – The Gnome’s Arms

Agatha’s eyes tend to swap between the basegame eyes and CC eyes. It seems that everyone else is fine, but whenever I mess with any part of Agnes and Agatha, the game thinks they’ve been horribly tainted and makes a new version of them 😂 I had 4 Agneses and 6 Agatha’s running around by the time I realised that, ha.

As Kip entered Henford-on-Bagley, coming to a halt right across the village threshold, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of ease and comfort wash over him. The charming buildings, winding streets, and lush greenery around him all seemed to welcome him with open arms. The fresh air was a pleasant change from the smog and noise pollution that he’d grown accustomed to. Kip found himself breathing deeply, in and out, as he slowly took in his surroundings.

It was… beautiful.

He hadn’t been able to make it this far easily. It had been a real challenge. Kip’s thoughts drifted back to the office, a pang of guilt immediately washing over him. He knew that his colleagues were swamped with work, He couldn’t help but feel like he had let them down, like he had abandoned them in the middle of it all. He knew that they thought less of him for taking time off.

But… he also knew that he had been pushing himself to the brink. He couldn’t go on like this. It wasn’t fair on any of them, including himself, if he collapsed completely. Kip needed a break. The salaryman took a deep breath, mentally reminding himself that he was there for a reason. This vacation was his chance to step back and recharge. Maybe the change of scenery would do him some good.

And, heck, he was already there. There was no going back now – he might as well enjoy it, right?

As Kip slowly walked down the winding cobblestone streets, he couldn’t help but admire the charming cottages with their thatched roofs and brightly painted shutters. The lush greenery and the scent of Spring flowers in the air made Kip feel like he was a million miles away from the stress of the city. Everything seemed so calm and peaceful. Almost idyllic.

Kip strolled through the Finchwick town square, taking in the sights and sounds around him. A vegetable stand caught his eye, with a merchant enthusiastically offering samples of her produce to passing customers. Kip couldn’t help but notice how fresh and vibrant the fruits and vegetables looked. He wondered if the people in Henford-on-Bagley grew their own food?

It wasn’t the only stand, either. There were three more, two of which appeared to be food stalls. As he continued walking, he also spotted a flower stand on the opposite end of the square. The colorful blooms added a cheerful touch to the already picturesque scene. Kip couldn’t help but feel a sense of peace wash over him as he observed the hustle and bustle of the small town.

But it was the final thing he spotted that made him finally stop in his tracks.

His eyes caught a glimpse of a garden gnome wearing a hat adorned with sunflowers. The bright, vibrant colours of the gnome’s hat immediately reminded him of Agatha’s colourful clothes and bubbly personality. It had been her that had directed him here to begin with. For a moment, Kip wondered if he would ever run into her again, or if she’d just been a friendly face passing through Bridgeport. Despite not knowing where she was, Kip felt grateful to Agatha for introducing him to-

“Kip! Sweetheart, is that you?!”


A familiar voice suddenly called out his name from across the square. Kip looked up to see Agatha, her colourful clothes brightening up the already vibrant atmosphere. She was skipping towards him with a wide smile on her face, her arms outstretched as if to welcome him back. Kip blinked, confused. He hadn’t expected to see her so soon. He hadn’t expected to see her at all.

What was she doing here?

“It is you!” Agatha said, beaming as she came to a standstill in front of him. “I’ll say, when we parted ways in Bridgeport, I didn’t think I’d cross paths with you again! What a wonderful surprise. How lovely to see you, dear. Have you come to spend your holiday with us?”
Kip was still a bit stunned.
“With- wait, you live here? I thought you were from Bridgeport, too—”

“Ha! Goodness, no,” she chuckled. “I was born and raised right here in Henford. I absolutely adore this place, I do. It’s just so charming, isn’t it?” She gestured around them at the bustling town square with its quaint shops and merchants. “And as for you, my dear,” she continued, “you are in good hands. Trust ol’ Agatha, now – you’re going to have a wonderful time. I guarantee it.”

That was a surprise. Part of him couldn’t help but feel like he’d been deceived somehow – but Agatha’s bright, bubbly smile was so contagious that the thought quickly faded into the background.
“I hope so. Thank you, Agatha,” he said.
“How long are you here for?” she asked curiously.
“A week,” Kip replied, immediately noticing the disappointment that flashed across Agatha’s face.
“That’s awfully short,” she exclaimed, frowning. Kip shrugged. For the dozenth time that day, he could feel a vague sense of guilt creeping over him. As a city salaryman, Kip was used to working long hours. Taking time off was such a taboo that it almost felt like a crime. Kip struggled to understand why Agatha was so disappointed; wasn’t a full week a rare treat?
“Well, all right. No matter. Have you found a place to stay yet?” Agatha asked, changing the subject.


Kip’s mind drew a blank. He… hadn’t thought about that. He had been so preoccupied with getting away from Bridgeport and reaching Henford-on-Bagley that he hadn’t even considered where he would stay once he arrived. In hindsight, the salaryman felt foolish. He had spent hours scrolling through nature articles, admiring pictures of birds, rabbits, and llamas, but he hadn’t made any accommodation arrangements.

“Actually, I… haven’t decided on a place to stay yet,” Kip admitted sheepishly. “I was thinking of looking for a hotel or something—“

Agatha’s eyes twinkled mischievously as she looked at Kip.
“Oh, no. There’s no hotels here, dearie,” she said with a chuckle. “The last one went out of business more than a decade ago. The only patrons they had were drunken farmers whose wives threw them out for the night.” Agatha’s smile grew even wider as she seemed to recall the absurdity of the situation.

“There’s… no hotels?” Kip repeated, hoping that he had misheard.
“None. Just a wee pub,” Agatha replied, sympathetically. “But the owner has a spare room available for travellers just like yourself.”
“I… see,” he said. Kip was hesitant. He had never stayed in a pub before, and the idea of sharing a room with strangers didn’t appeal to him.

But Agatha’s demeanor remained upbeat as she reassured him:
“Oh, don’t worry, love. I’ll get you set right up. You trust in ol’ Agatha, now.”
With a playful wink, she gestured for him to follow her.
“This way.”

Agatha eagerly skipped ahead of Kip, practically bouncing with excitement. The elderly lady was surprisingly spry for her old age; he actually had to pick up the pace just to keep up with her.

Agatha led Kip down the cobblestone path that he’d come from, stopping at a building that was slightly larger than the rest. Stone steps led up to a wooden porch, with a sign hanging right by the entrance – but instead of your typical pub sign, instead Kip saw a giant, angry garden gnome with bulging biceps. The text underneath read—

“Here we are, love. The Gnome’s Arms,” Agatha beamed as she pointed to the door. “You’ll find the cosiest room you’ve ever slept in upstairs, I promise. Now you go right inside and find the pub owner. Her name is Sarah. You go greet her and tell her that ol’ Agatha sent you.”

Agatha’s words were reassuring, but as Kip stepped towards the entrance of The Gnome’s Arms, he couldn’t shake the feeling of anxiety that bubbled inside of him. He had no idea who Sarah was. What if he called out to the wrong person? What if he angered someone, and they’d throw him out for being rude? Kip hesitated, looking back at Agatha.
“You’re not… coming in?” he asked, worried.

Agatha shook her head in response, smiling playfully.
“Goodness, no. I have a flower stall to run. It’s the lovely green one across the street. I’ll be right there if you need help. But you’re a big lad – you can handle this, right?”
Kip felt a twinge of embarrassment at the thought of Agatha seeing him as incapable. But her words didn’t feel like an insult. Instead, they were oddly comforting, like that of a lovely, fussy old grandmother. He found himself nodding along.
“I… yeah. Of course.” he said.

It were just introductions. Simple. Easy enough that even he couldn’t mess it up… right?

“I can do that.”

With a deep breath, Kip stepped through the door, bracing himself for what awaited him inside.

And what he found…

Was a pleasant, welcoming sight. Mismatched chairs were arranged haphazardly around small wooden tables, and an old jukebox hummed quietly in the corner. Kip could feel his nerves beginning to settle as he approached the bar area. The only other patron in the pub was a grizzled old man who was chattering excitedly to the bartender. She seemed to be mostly ignoring him, however.

As soon as the door closed behind him, her head whipped towards him, and the bartender called out with a confident voice.
“Rahul, I told you we’re not serving… huh.”

Kip felt his face flush with embarrassment as the woman’s eyes lingered on his office attire. He had tried to pick out something more “rural,” but as he had stood in front of his worn-down closet that morning, he had realized that business suits and ties were all he owned.

“Now here’s an unfamiliar face. I don’t believe we’ve met,” the bartender said, her tone friendly but curious as Kip carefully sat down on a bar stool. The old man next to him immediately grumbled at the lack of undivided attention and picked up his drink to go sit elsewhere.
“Where are you from, city mouse?”

“Bridgeport, miss…?” Kip responded tentatively, unsure of how to proceed. What if he said the wrong name? What if she was married, and she’d get angry over the term ‘miss’? What if she wasn’t, and using ‘missus’ made her even angrier? Kip was wrong, he couldn’t do this, he’d mess it up like always, he had to go back outside and ask Agatha for instructions—

“Sarah,” she supplied with a smile.
“I… I’m Kip. Agatha sent me to meet you.”
“Did she, now?”
For a second, Kip could swear that he saw an odd expression flash by on her face. The next second, that moment had passed. Her smile was so full of casual confidence that it immediately made Kip think he’d imagined it.
“A pleasure to meet you, Kip. You’re a long way from home, aren’t you?” Sarah inquired, her gaze lingering on his city clothes for a second time. “What brings you all the way to Henford?”

“Oh, uh…”

Kip felt a pang of discomfort as he was reminded of the series of events that led him here. He took a deep breath, trying and failing to keep a straight face. How could he explain his sudden decision to come here? He couldn’t even fully understand it himself.
“I, uh…”
All Kip knew was that he needed to escape. He had to get away from the suffocating routine of his office job before it sent him over the edge. Kip cleared his throat, struggling to find the right words.
“I, uh… I just needed to get away for a bit, you know? From… everything. I needed a change of scenery.”

Sarah smiled, noticing Kip’s nervousness.
“That’s a good a reason as any,” she said. “A change of scenery is what Henford is famous for, after all.” Her easy-going demeanour surprised Kip. He hadn’t expected her not to pry. In a way, it put Kip at ease, as he found himself relaxing in her presence.

“Oh, I know. I have just the thing for people like you.”
Kip watched as Sarah disappeared beneath the bar for a moment, before re-emerging with a fresh, tasty-looking waffle .
“Fresh out of the oven. Courtesy of the Gnome’s Arms kitchen. You look like you could use a good breakfast.”

“Did you see him just grab a bag? Who does he think he is? It wasn’t even meant for him!”
“Freeloaders like him should get kicked out. I’m serious. They’re parasites on society.”

Kip glanced at the waffle with hesitation. It didn’t look store-bought. It looked home-made. He instantly felt guilty for being offered something for free.
“I really can’t accept this,” he said quietly.

Sarah smiled kindly in response.
“Sure, you can. It’s on the house. I always like to welcome new faces with food. Besides, you look like you could use a good meal, city mouse. Welcome to Henford.”

She placed the plate in front of him. Kip nodded, still feeling a small twinge of guilt, but grateful for Sarah’s kindness. Kip hesitantly took a bite of the waffle, expecting it to be like any other waffle that he’d had back in Bridgeport—


The opposite was true. It was fluffy, light and delicious. The texture was perfect, with a rich taste that completely blew him away. It was nothing like the dense, pre-packaged waffles he had become accustomed to.

“Wow, this is amazing,” Kip said, forgetting his manners as his mouth was still full of crumbs. “It’s nothing like the ones I’ve had before. What’s your secret?”

“Ha!” Sarah smirked, his words visibly pleasing her. “My secret is my husband. Simon’s an aspiring baker. He’s been experimenting with waffle recipes all week. He’s still getting used to life in Henford, but the tourists are crazy about his baking skills. You should see what they do for a slice of apple pie.”

“I can believe that,” he said with a smile. “They are very good. This is way better than anything I’ve tasted in a while.”
Sarah grinned, glancing towards a door in the back.
“Don’t let him hear you say that. Winning the Finchwick Baking Fair has completely gone to his head. Or maybe it’s all the sourdough he’s been experimenting with.”
She poked her tongue out, making a face but clearly speaking in jest. Kip could hear in her voice how much affection she had for him.
“Do you work here together?”

“Sure do!” Sarah replied with a smile. “Simon’s the town baker, and I own the pub. I’ve always wanted to run a pub, but I also love the countryside, and Simon dreams of having a dozen kids.”
“A dozen?!”
“Well, maybe not that many,” the bartender chuckled. “If I can help it, at least. But we really are planning to have a big family. It’s Simon’s dream. Settling and starting a family, raising rebellious teenagers, growing old together. Finding this place was a stroke of luck for both of us. Henford has a great community, and everyone’s been so welcoming. It’s really started to feel like home.”

As Kip listened to Sarah happily chatting away, he couldn’t help but think about the bartenders he’d encountered back home. They’d been friendly enough, but they never seemed interested in sharing much about themselves. Sarah, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. In two minutes, Kip had already learned more about her family than most of the colleagues he worked with.

It was… different.

“Truth be told, my husband isn’t the biggest fan of the countryside,” Sarah admitted. “But he packed up and moved here for me, and that means a lot. It’s not easy to leave everything you know behind and start fresh in a new place.”
Kip nodded in agreement.
“He must care for you a lot.”
Sarah’s smile widened as she replied, “Oh, he does. And I love him for it. Once we have kids, he can handle the teenage stupidity, though,” she concluded, chuckling. “I’m not burning my hands on that.”

“I’m just looking forward to the sound of little feet on the floorboards,” she concluded, smiling as she balanced a cup on one finger. After she spun it around a few times, her attention trailed back to the man in front of her.

“What about you, buddy? What have you got to look forward to?”

It wasn’t a hard question. Anyone could have asked that at any point. It should have been simple to answer.


It wasn’t.

Kip didn’t know.

“Go on, city mouse. Have another one.”

17 thoughts on “Chapter 1 – The Gnome’s Arms

  1. Your opening shots are absolutely gorgeous, and so bright and hopeful compared to the ones from the city!

    Also, I now have the image of Agatha being a mystical fairy godmother, who mysteriously appears to guide disillusioned salaryman toward a more hopeful future, and vanishes thereafter — why was she in Bridgeport anyway? Until I see her interact with anyone but Kip, this is my working theory. xD

    Kip overthinking and struggling to interact normally with people, in no small part because he’s used to the cold temperaments of the city, is painfully relatable. Here’s hoping that Sarah’s act of kindness will help to break him out of his shell a bit! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Henford is such a joy to take screenshots in. I love the sunset, sunrise and pretty night sky. The clouds make it look like it’s all a painting, too.

      Haha, Agatha the fairy godmother! I like it! Who knows? Maybe she really is the wandering office man’s patron deity 🤭 Why was she in Bridgeport, indeed…

      Overthinking and thinking the worst is the bane of many people’s existence, I’m sure. Including myself. 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your pictures are so beautiful. I can’t get tired of looking at them 😍
    It must be so overwhelming for Kip to be met with so much kindness when you consider where he came from. I look forward to seeing what comes next 🥰

    NB: The error you mention with the multiple Agatha and Agnes Crumplebottom has been mentioned before in a Forum thread. I can send you a link to Answers HQ where it is reported.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Henford has a unique beauty that no other neighbourhood has, in my opinion ❤

      Thank you for the links! I've taken a look at them, though part of my is giddy with glee at the thought of a whole army of Agneses with killer purses. Ooooh how I want to set them all loose in Camelot…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. An Agnes army in Camelot!? 🤔
        It could be really exciting. I think they have room for a lot of potatoes in that handbag. It will give them a special weight 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The contrast with the last chapter’s colours is impressive, that’s true!
    Kip really seemed in a hurry to leave the city not to check any accommodation before leaving, but fairy-Agatha found a solution anyway (I like the fairy godmother interpretation as well XD )

    The conversation with Sarah also seems of the kind to give him quite a bit to think about, I have the suspect that (somehow) he could end remaining there for longer than just one week…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, compared to the last batch, the ones with Kip and Agnes almost seem oversaturated, don’t they? 😆

      He sure is getting some food for thought there (ha, I didn’t even intend for that one). It’s up to him to do something with it, though. Fingers crossed that his week off is enough to realise that there’s more to life…


  4. “He couldn’t help but feel like he had let them down, like he had abandoned them in the middle of it all. He knew that they thought less of him for taking time off.”

    Oh, Kip. Poor Kip. His colleagues don’t even seem to like him and yet he feels like this. They (these people who make him work on Sundays) should be telling him to take time off to make up for their mistreatment of him. I’m super privileged in that I picked my current job based on the people and I desperately want him to understand that he doesn’t deserve to be treated so harshly and disrespected at work. Realistically, there are bad bosses that can’t always be escaped but at least some of his colleagues should have his back. To be fair, though, he didn’t even think of accommodations! If he’s this distracted generally, he may be bad at his job and get on his colleagues’ nerves for that reason… Regardless, they still shouldn’t be rude to him.

    I love how you’re telling his story and introducing us to Henford-on-Bagley lovely screenshot by lovely screenshot. I like Kip because he and I are opposites. “Kip couldn’t help but feel a sense of peace wash over him as he observed the hustle and bustle of the small town.” On vacation, I’m okay with the slow pace of small towns and can even enjoy it. But long-term it definitely doesn’t fill me with peace. It would bring out the opposite of that in me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Poor Kip has internalised all of it to be his own fault. Is their treatment of him solely on them, or has Kip antagonised them in the past and is he reaping the consequences? Both options are possible. Either way, when you’re convinced you can’t do anything right, and your surroundings perpetuate this idea, you subconsciously start to behave like it, and it creates a downward spiral.

      Haha, the two of you sure sound like polar opposites 😊 I’m much like Kip in that I love the countryside and can’t stand the city, but I can absolutely imagine that working the other way around. Henford is many things, but fast-paced and dynamic it is not.


  5. The visual contrast with the previous chapter works so well here. It creates a feeling of having stepped into a magical “other world”. I love it!

    Kip’s internal anxieties are so relatable for me. My heart goes out to him. He does seem a little naive though. I want to protect him.

    Favorite line this chapter: “My secret is my husband”. 😂 My husband is a good baker too. And cook. And this is going to be my new catch-phrase. I like Sarah’s personality already.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, she’s proud of her husband and doesn’t shy away from showing it. They’re a happy couple 😊 poor Kip has a very skewed social meter that needs some massive tinkering to fix. His thoughts are relatable to me, too 😅


  6. I love Agatha, but there’s also something that if I met her would feel very mocking even though that isn’t her intention. Like she’s that very overly bubbly person you meet and you wonder how they got to forty with their brain still intact. XD OH NO POOR KIP I FEEL HORRIBLE FOR HIM. And how much his colleagues traumatised him…Yowch. Think I got a new relatable Yimi character XuX

    Eat the waffle Kip! You deserve it and more! And a hug! And a cottage! And a dog! And a cow! And a sheep! And a horse! And a-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I can understand that. Agatha is wonderful but she’s also very pushy and depending on your perspective, can seem condescending. Nobody is perfect, after all 🤭

      New relatable Yimi character! Kip deserves all the things 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Me and Kip getting through burnout together, one chapter at a time, LOL. Seriously, though, I am really loving this story. Kip is so full of anxiety and self-doubt, and just exhaustion, and everyone in Henford is like the hug he needs.

    Now, onto my suspicions. AGATHA IS SUSPICIOUS. There. I said it. Idk what’s going on with her, but she had to get back to that flower stall mighty quick. And Sarah’s face when he mentioned Agatha?


    I’m on the case.

    Just so you know.

    (Kip is precious and must be protected at all costs)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One step at a time 😊 “just exhaustion” describes Kip pretty well at this point.

      Haha, Suspicious Agatha is suspicious! Is it your imagination? Is something more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about? Find out next time on Detective Ferosh! 😁 all joking aside, Henford is way more wholesome than Camelot, but it’s still me. If it seems like something’s there, that’s probably because there is. 🤐

      Liked by 1 person

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