Gazing out at the cold grey dawn from an open window high in one of the fairy castle's towers, Titania sighed as her attendants dressed her, primping and preening her hair and wings. When one of them accidentally jabbed into her scalp with a jewelled hairpin, she backhanded the unfortunate fairy clear across the room before returning her attention to the smoke rising over the distant forest canopy; the Wyrm was at work.
It was at times like these, few as they may be, that she would really value the counsel of her consort, but where was Oberon? Drinking and whoring no doubt, Titania thought distastefully, certainly not here in attendance upon her, where he ought to be.
She had slept only fitfully, being woken frequently by her advisers with reports of the Wyrm's progress towards her kingdom. Most of the Pixie realm had been laid waste, and it was only a matter of time they felt, before the fell beast turned its attention toward her subjects. Border defences had been strengthened, all leave had been cancelled, there was nothing more Titania could do until the Wrym showed its hand. The UCF had been despatched to retrieve the Book, even in such dire circumstances she had made that a priority.
* * *
The Wyrm lowered its scaly head and sniffed the burrow opening. Pixies, it thought, recognising the familiar scent as it sent a jet of flame down the hole. There was no expectation of actually locating any live Pixies, the Wyrm had eaten enough of them to satiate its hunger, and it doubted if there could enough left alive to form the basis of mid-morning snack.
Smoke and embers from the Wrym's blast billowed into the dawn sky from the broken entrances of the Pixie citadel and from the many tunnels the Wyrm had dug while venting its anger. A mix of fury and pleasure coursed through its very being, fury at not being able to take its wrath out on those who had imprisoned it in the earth so long ago, and pleasure at the thought of its having finally being released from its earth-bound prison, for the first time in so many hundreds of years to stretch the kinks out of its sinuous body.
Scenting the air, the Wyrm's rage swelled even further as the faint smell of those who had caused its imprisonment drifted to it on the morning breeze. It bellowed, a deep-throated visceral roar, then rose up and dived towards the earth, burrowing quickly in the direction of the hateful aroma.
* * *
Marching directly into Oberon's chamber, Titania nearly tripped and fell over a pile of discarded nectar bottles just inside the door. Regaining her balance, she adjusted her crown and strode towards the bed, in which Oberon lay snoring, wrapped in the embrace of a young, blonde fairy. Titania grabbed the bottle from Oberon's bedside table and emptied the contents over his sleeping head.
'Wha...,' spluttered Oberon, jerking awake so suddenly he catapulted his bedmate onto the floor. Seeing the look on Titania's face, she beat a hasty retreat, wrapped only in Oberon's discarded cloak from the night before.
'Get your lazy arse out of bed!' Titania bellowed, seeing Oberon wince and clutch his head. 'The latest reports indicate the Wyrm is heading this way, so it's about time you got up, dressed, and took charge. You're not the commander of my army for the fun of it you know.'
Turning on her heel, Titania flounced out leaving Oberon sitting up in bed, rubbing his sore head and wondering how he ever let himself get talked into marrying her. As he pulled on his uniform he decided it was her legs, he'd always been a leg man.
Oberon reached the throne room just as a courier was reporting the Wyrm had been sighted heading towards the Fairy Kingdom's eastern border. Oberon belched loudly and all eyes in the room fixed him with steely gazes.
'We could, err...' he began.
'What?' snapped Titania.
'We could,' Oberon shuffled his feet, 'We could empty the camps and put the prisoners between us and the Wyrm.' He looked expectantly at Titania. 'That ought to buy us some time to get properly organised.'
Titania thought for a moment, then turned to a small group of officers waiting nervously in the corner of the throne room, trying to all intents and purposes to hide behind a single broad-leaved pot plant. Crooking her finger towards them, Titania called them forward.
'Proceed at once to the camps and give the order for the prisoners to be transported to our eastern border. They are to be held there awaiting further instructions.'
The officers made rapidly for the door.
'Wait a moment,' Titania commanded, 'Not the Gnomes. They stay. Anyway,' she added, 'I've always been quite fond of Gnomes, and we're going to have to fund this war somehow.'
The officers ran for the door.