Met with such a wave of excitement that the news of their recent demise had proved pre-emptive, Swazzle and Pogmorton could do nothing as they found themselves swept along into the Officers’ Mess, and were only able to excuse themselves after three huge plates of slowworm stroganoff, several flagons of acorn beer, and having recounted the story of their near-death experience in the Other World numerous times.
Feeling somewhat light-headed and extremely full, Swazzle and Pogmorton finally managed to escape the festivities and headed off in the direction of Flaarti’s lab, deep in the maze of tunnels under Pixie Defence Force (P.D.F.) headquarters.
They were discussing just how they were going to explain their lateness in reporting to Flaarti, when round the corner came a small figure, dressed in something which looked like a cross between a clown costume and a court jester.
‘Salkeld? Is that you?’ Swazzle asked, stifling a giggle. ‘What on earth are you wearing?’
‘It is Salkeld!’ exclaimed Pogmorton, ‘and it looks as though he’s lost the bet. Again.’
‘Actually,’ Salkeld replied, drawing himself up to his full height, his nose level with Pogmorton’s chest, ‘I got my promotion – it’s Trickster Sergeant Salkeld to you.’
‘That’s Trickster Sergeant Salkeld to you, Captain Pogmorton. Sir,’ corrected Porgmorton.
‘Trickster Sergeant?’ asked Swazzle incredulous, ‘How did a little worm like you manage that? Things must be bad if they’re employing you to hide the Big Folks’ car keys.’
Ignoring the rebuke, a sly look crept across Salkeld’s face.
‘Oughtn’t you be on your way to see Flaarti?’ Salkeld asked smugly, ‘I saw him earlier and happened to mention you were back. Sir.’
‘Happened to mention? Happened to mention, my arse!’ growled Pogmorton, ‘For once in your miserable life Salkeld, why can’t you just keep your nose out of other Pixies’ business? Eh? Remember what happened the last time – you nearly got us drummed out of the service.’
The smirk was short-lived as Swazzle, whipping out an evil looking little wand from inside his uniform remarked, ‘I think we can do something about Pixies poking their noses in where they’re not wanted,’ and, with a flick of his wrist, Salkeld’s nose detached itself from his face and spiralled off into the darkness.
‘Aargh! By dose,’ whined Salkeld, frantically feeling the newly flattened part of his face above his top lip.
‘Well, must get on,’ said Swazzle affably, ‘so bugger off Salkeld, there’s a good chap. We’re busy.’
Swazzle and Pogmorton hurried away, leaving Salkeld groping around in the shadows for his nose, and grumbling quietly to himself about all the things he’d like to do to the pair of them.
* * *
Professor B. Flaarti, Major (retd), Director of the P.D.F.’s Repugnant and Dangerous (R & D) Division looked up over his pinz nez spectacles, no mean feat there being thirteen lenses in each glass, as the heavy oak door to the lab swung slowly open.
His irritation at the sight of Swazzle and Pogmorton, resplendent in the scarlet frock coats of their dress uniforms, cuckoo feather epaulettes marking them out as fully fledged Captains of the Special Operations Directorate (S.O.D.), was tempered just enough by thoughts of what they ought to be bringing him.
He regarded the approaching Pixies with a steely gaze, twenty-six steely gazes in fact.
Avoiding Flaarti’s gazes, Swazzle glanced around the lab, suppressing a shudder at the sight of a fully dissected fairy floating in a large jar of formaldehyde. Other unmentionable things were being worked on by a variety of Pixie and Goblin technicians, and in the far corner stood a large iron cage containing a rather weak and sickly looking fairy.
‘Well, where is it?’ Flaarti barked, marching over to meet Swazzle and Pogmorton as he spoke.
‘You were under orders to report to me immediately upon your return,’ he continued, punctuating his speech by poking Pogmorton in the chest with a bony finger, ‘not,’ he paused, ‘to go carousing in the Officers’ Mess. It’s a good job I ran into Salkeld…’
Flaarti voice trailed off, his attention suddenly focussed on the small wooden box Pogmorton held out towards him. Putting the bony finger away in the pocket of his lab coat, Flaarti gingerly took the box from Pogmorton and carried it over to a brass-bound, wooden box-like contraption on the nearby bench.
The apparatus looked to Swazzle like a cross between a cuckoo clock and an old fashioned gramophone, a huge trumpet sticking out of the top of it. He watched as Flaarti opened a small door in the front, put the box inside, and began to turn a handle on the side of the machine.
Almost at once, the trumpet atop the apparatus began screaming a warning before a jet of violet flame shot out of the top of the machine, incinerating both it and its contents. Immediately Flaarti began bellowing orders to the lab staff, who frantically started packing things into boxes they conjured out of thin air.
‘Tainted,’ Flaarti screamed at Swazzle and Pogmorton, ‘that Fairy Dust was tainted. Twinkle must have added something to it, an Ethereal Tracking Potion by the colour of the flame. It’s a good job no one ingested any,’ he looked pointedly at Pogmorton, ‘or else the Fairies may well be able to track their every movement. You’d better make yourselves scarce, I have to move the lab, just in case.’
With that he turned and waded into the mayhem, directing the packing…
Pogmorton looked at Swazzle, ‘Oh shite.’
* * *
In the Scrying Citadel of the Fairy castle, operators sat hunched over their glasses in the darkness, scanning the Magical World. One operator suddenly looked up from his glass and called an officer over. After a muttered conversation the officer returned to where Twinkle was waiting.
‘We have the location of Flaarti’s lab,’ he said with grim satisfaction.
‘Right,’ replied Twinkle, ‘Let’s go get my sister back.'