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Friday, 18 June 2010

#FridayFlash: UCF Stories #13: Wyrm Hunting


A light drizzle began to fall, the kind of soft rain that soaks everything in minutes without appearing to be raining at all. Swazzle and Pogmorton sat hunched under a Hawthorn bush, large drops of water running periodically from its leaves straight down Pogmorton's neck; he was beginning to think Wyrm-hunting was not quite as exciting as Botchett would have him believe.

'Bugger!' he grumbled as another drop fell with unerring accuracy into the gap between his neck and his collar. 'It doesn't seem to matter where I sit, I'm getting soaked. You'd think these raindrops were doing it on purpose.'

Swazzle chuckled.

'It's all right for you,' continued Pogmorton, 'the smell's probably keeping the rain away from you.' His stomach rumbled.

'By the gods, Botchett, I nearly swallowed my tongue!' exclaimed Swazzle as Botchett's head appeared between the branches of a nearby Blackthorn bush.

'Hehe,' replied Botchett. 'Time we were about our business, like. The Wyrm lies not half a league from here,' he paused, 'One thing first though...'

Botchett dug around in his backpack, emerging with a small sachet wrapped in muslin, which he instructed Swazzle to rub all over himself and then tuck away in an inside pocket.

'Ancient Gnomish magics?' Swazzle asked as he rubbed the sachet over his clothes.

'No, bonny lad, it's some of Mistress Botchett's pot pourri. To help with the smell, like.'

Swazzle scowled. Pogmorton collapsed in a fit of silent giggles.

'Right then, this is the plan...'

Botchett proceeded to explain how he intended to capture the Wyrm, illustrating his lecture with diagrams scratched in the earth at his feet with a stick. Swazzle and Pogmorton looked on with increasing unease, it appeared someone would be required to get rather close to the beast in order to lure it into the trap.

Swazzle and Pogmorton exchanged glances. Botchett was obviously too old and they doubted whether he would be able to move quickly enough to avoid being eaten. That meant one of them would have to be the bait. As if anticipating their thoughts, Botchett looked pointedly at Pogmorton.

'Err, no...'

'It'll have to be you, bonny lad. I can't move fast enough any more.' Botchett looked apologetic and patted his leg. 'Rheumatism, bonny lad. And before you say it, it's no good sending Captain Swazzle, ol' Wyrmy won't be able to get his scent, even with that pot pourri, like.'

Swazzle beamed as he clapped Pogmorton on the shoulder in congratulation. Pogmorton looked anything but relieved, and was still grumbling as the three of them set up Botchett's Wyrm trap.

A large silvery net was strung from the trees just to the east of the ruins of the Pixie citadel. Strong iron pegs were driven into the ground at intervals along its perimeter ready for ropes to be attached, and Botchett closely supervised the set-up of a nefarious looking, box-like contraption at the end of the net furthest away from the anticipated direction of the Wyrm's arrival.

Once preparations were complete, Botchett pulled from his backpack three unfeasibly long iron-bound staves, topped at each end by wickedly barbed iron points.

'Just on the off-chance, like,' he said, handing one each to Swazzle and Pogmorton. 'Jam it into the roof of Wyrmy's mouth,' he mimed a demonstration, 'and you should have time to get clear, like. With a bit of luck.'

Swazzle and Pogmorton did not look the least bit reassured; no-one had mentioned any possibility of being eaten.

Satisfied with the preparations, Botchett gave Pogmorton his final instructions then settled down to wait with Swazzle as Pogmorton crept quietly away in the direction of where Botchett had last sighted the Wyrm.

Once Pogmorton was out of sight, Swazzle turned to Botchett. 'What are his chances?'

'Can he run, bonny lad?'

'Err...I think so. We Pixies can transport ourselves if we can't run fast enough.'

'No good. The Wyrm'll lose the scent if you try those sort of shenanigans, like.'

Swazzle looked even more worried. He crossed his fingers and muttered a quiet prayer to the gods for Pogmorton's safe return.

* * *

'Yes, she's here...yes, just as you said she would...Where? Downstairs in the shop with Simeon...' Rev. Beresford took a mouthful of scotch from his glass, listening with increasing irritation to the caller. 'Yes, yes, of course I will.' He replaced the heavy Bakelite receiver with a sigh. This was likely to become complicated.

A wave of light-headedness washed over him and he had to grab hold of the back of his armchair and set his whisky glass down carefully on the side table. Hobbling over to the large antique sideboard that occupied the wall next to the fireplace, Rev. Beresford took from his pocket a small brass key and, with shaking hands, unlocked the mahogany box on top of the sideboard.

He felt faint as he fumbled to open the box, sweat running down his forehead partly obscuring his vision, it made him squint as he regarded the wild-eyed, emaciated fairy secured within the box. Below the fairy an inscription in copperplate handwriting read, “Fairy: Oberon, captured circa 1930.”

'Sorry, old lad,' murmured Rev Beresford as he leaned into the box, the fairy recoiling as far as its iron shackles would allow. As he ran his tongue gently over the fairy's wings it tried to growl and spit but was restrained by a padded gag; all that escaped was an angry whimper. Locking the box once again, Rev Beresford could already feel the fairy dust beginning to work, and with a welcome euphoria he sank gratefully into his armchair before the fire.

* * *

Pogmorton picked his way gingerly towards the spot where Botchett said he had seen the Wyrm, dropped to his belly and crawled slowly to the top of the small rise. From the crest he could see past the forest edge to the Fairy kingdom's border and the fairies' frantic preparations. Closer, just the other side of the slope, lay the Wyrm, intermittent wisps of smoke rising from its nostrils, the tip of its tail twitching back and forth like a hunting cat.

Pogmorton took a deep breath and wriggled forward.



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31 comments:

phonelady said...

sam my dear friend across the pond please tell me you are going to put these stories together and put them in a book and get them published . I think they are great and please dont miss this opp for a book .

Laura Eno said...

I guess being smelly came in handy for Swazzle...and the Rev is addicted to fairy dust!

Another great installment, Sam!

Sam said...

phonelady - The idea of collecting these stories together into a single volume for publication is an intriguing one. I am, shall we say, mulling over the possibilities, all I can say is, watch this space...

Laura - I think Swaqzzle's relief is palpable. Oh yes, there's still more to the Rev than meets the eye. ;)

alisonwells said...

Definitely reads like a real book, vivid characters once again.

Emma Newman said...

I never thought I'd say this, but I feel sorry for the fairy. But this is your universe and not mine, so I guess that's ok :o)

Sam said...

Alison - Thanks so much for the lovely feedback. I still have a way to go and lots to learn, but at least by the sound of things I'm making a reasonable job of my characterisations.

Emma - After some of the things you've done to fairies in the Split Worlds?! O.O Don't blame the Rev too much, all will be revealed in a later episode...

Deanna Schrayer said...

Once again Sam, your descriptions are so astute I am at once taken to this fairy tale land, and am grateful for it. I just love these characters. Keep it coming!

T.S. Bazelli said...

I'm really curious about what happened with Oberon and the Rev! I like how the story switched in tone from absurd and playful, to far more sinister. I guess I'll have to tune in next week ;)

Valerie said...

Holy cow, I was SO not expecting the ending, there. Poor Oberon. Say no to drugs, kids, fairy dust included.

Sam said...

Deanna - Thanks so much! I've been trying to work on my descriptions, looks like the hard work is beginning to pay off.

T.S.Bazelli - Ah, I'll have to leave you hanging just a little longer on that one - all will be revealed in a future installment. I look forward to welcoming you back next week. :)

Valerie - Hehe, oh yes, it's powerful stuff.

Mari said...

Cliffhanger, ahhhhh!

Love the description of the addicted reverend, heh.

It seems that on next installment Anne will finally have another take of her byrger? lol

Danielle La Paglia said...

I'm new to #fridayflash, so I'm really going to have to go back and read these from the beginning. I do love you characters and I've got to know what's up with the fairy-licking Reverend. :)

mazzz in Leeds said...

Oooh Sam - cliffhanger!
Although I suspect Pogmorton will be able to look after himself :-)

Heh, as a dweller of Leeds, I am completely and utterly familiar with exactly the kind of rain you mention in the opening couple of sentences!

PS - my CAPTCHA is "yonsityp" - that's got to be good name for a pixie or a fairy!

ganymeder said...

Oh. Poor Oberon! I have to say the bookshop guy does not have my sympathy.

Well written.

Cecilia Dominic said...

I don't keep up with this series nearly as well as I'd like, and I definitely have some catching up to do, but it's very entertaining every time I stop by. Will definitely pop in next time to see what happens with the Wyrm!

CD

Sam said...

Mari - Thanks. The byrger may have to wait a while yet, I have a feeling Botchett has plans for the Wyrm.

Danielle - Thanks for the feedback. I hope you enjoy the previous episodes as much as this one. All will be revealed about the Reverend, stay tuned...

mazzz - I'm glad it's not just me who is familiar with that sort of rain. Thanks for your CAPTCHA word, duly noted. :)

ganymeder - There's more to the story of Oberon than I've revealed so far, I intend weaving am few more threads into future episodes.

Cecilia - Thanks for your lovely feedback. I hope when you pop back the Wyrm doesn't disappoint. :)

Tomara Armstrong said...

I love your character, I am starting to feel a bit anxious and worried for Pogmorton.

I look forward to reading what happens next. Great post!
~2


DOGS FTW! ;-)

David G Shrock said...

Ack.. cliffhanger. A good one, too. I expect Wyrm should be good.

Laurita said...

All the little details are what make this series so charming, that and the characters you have created. They'd make a wonderful book.

Eric J. Krause said...

Another excellent installment. Loved the cliffhanger in this one. Well done!

John Wiswell said...

Since I have no coherent feedback for you, Sam, I want to repeat that you have some of my favorite names in Fantasy. Swazzle and Pogmorton are almost Pratchett-like, but a little further down the adorable range. They're perfect duo names.

Sam said...

Tomara - To be fair, I'm getting a bit worried for Pogmorton too. Thanks for the feedback, I'm glad you enjoyed this episode.

DOGS?

David - Thanks. I hope the Wyrm lives up to expectations. :)

Laurita - Thanks for those kind words, I do appreciate them. There appears to be somewhat of a growing interest in these stories being a book, I will be giving it some serious thought.

Eric - Thanks, Eric. I've been trying to improve my cliffhangers.

John - Thank-you. I am honoured to be mentioned in the same sentence as Pratchett. :)

Aislinn O'Connor said...

Definitely agree about the book - would make a terrific animation, too!! Not sure that I'm supposed to be concerned for the safety of the Wyrm, but I've always been perverse... :D

Terrific instalment, as always.

Sam said...

Aislinn - Thanks so much for those kind words, I'm giving the idea of a book some thought, though I'd never even considered an animation; I wonder if it would translate into comic format too?

I wouldn't worry, I have a feeling the Wyrm can take care of itself, and Botchett does have a soft spot for the beasts.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Oh yeah, it is time for the Wyrm to pounce! I'm anticipating a big meal for him, but then again, maybe not? Can't wait to find out.

I agree - you really do need to get these great stories into book form! The characters are stupendous!

Sam said...

Anne - Thanks so much, I'm beginning to think everyone can't be wrong about these stories being book-worthy.

I'll have to leave you hanging just a short while longer to find out what happens next...I am working on the next episode though.

estrella05azul said...

LOVE this wonderful flash, Sam, I'm sorry I missed it last week... but am so happy I got to make up for it :)

Hope you feel better very soon, am sending lots of healing thoughts your way!

Aislinn O'Connor said...

Have just read your reply to my comment, & yes, I think it would translate inro comic format perfectly! Could be on a real money-spinner there, & it deserves to be.

Delighted to hear the Wyrm is so resilient... :D

Sam said...

estrella - Thanks so much, both for your kind words and for the healing thoughts. I really do appreciate both. :)

Sam said...

Aislinn - Thanks! Looks like I might need to find myself an artist, as I have the drawing ability of a damp Haddock! ;)

Mari said...

You shouldn't listen to dead people Sam, heh.

You're on! :D

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