This episode is number 26 in my ongoing web serial, updated weekly as a part of #fridayflash. If you are new to The UCF Stories, you can read from the beginning here.
Master Jamieson was halfway across the landing, on his way to discuss accommodation arrangements for the newly-arrived escapees, when the other front door opened and Swazzle stepped inside, the little wyrm at his heels. Jamieson took one look at the beast, let out a very Scottish sounding squeak and fled back into his Butler's Pantry, slamming the door behind him. Swazzle listened curiously to the lock being thrown, the door bolted, shrugged and headed for the stairs.
Botchett was in his kitchen and in a foul mood to boot when Swazzle arrived.
'There are times, Mother,' Botchett said to his wife, 'When I could cheerfully strangle that bloody witch, like.' He cast an angry glance towards the ceiling.
'Yes dear.' Mistress Botchett continued stirring the huge pot of pease pudding on the stove.
'I mean,' Botchett thundered, 'Is it my fault Lady Mandrake's the only person in these parts who could've supplied the amulet we needed? Well, is it?'
'So Aveena owes her a favour, like. So what? It could have been a lot worse. She's had a few favours out of me over the years, and I'm still here, aren't I Mother?'
'And will you stop saying “yes dear,” “no dear,” “three bags full dear.” This is serious, like'
'Yes de... Oh look, it's Captain Swazzle! How are you, bonny lad?'
Swazzle nodded to Mistress Botchett.
Botchett gave his wife's back a hard stare. 'Aye, well...' he muttered, trailing off as the little wyrm poked its snout around the leg of the kitchen table. Botchett's eyes widened and he leapt backwards off his chair. 'By the god's balls, bonny lad! What's that doing in here?'
'Hello, Master Botchett.' Swazzle indicated the little wyrm, which was now rubbing its head against the table leg. 'What, him? Followed me home from the fairy castle raid. Cute isn't he?'
Botchett had gone pale, sweat beading on his forehead and there was a definite tremor in his voice when he spoke. 'Do...do...do you know what that is, like?'
'Some sort of baby wyrm?' Swazzle shrugged.
'Bonny lad, that,' Botchett pointed shakily at the little wyrm, 'Is a young Welsh Draig.'
'Oh good,' beamed Swazzle, 'I'd hoped you might know what it was. I'm going to need a hand looking after it.'
'Looking after it?!' Botchett's eyebrows climbed into his hairline, his eyes now the size of saucers. 'Looking after it?! It's not stopping here, Captain. No way, like.'
'Why ever not?'
Botchett took a few deep breaths. 'You wouldn't happen to know what Draig's eat, would you, bonny lad?'
'No.' Swazzle skritched the Draig behind its ear. 'I was rather hoping you could enlighten me on that score.'
'Gnomes, bonny lad. Gnomes!' wailed Botchett. 'Pretty much anything else as well, but Gnomes is their favourite, like.'
Swazzle looked crestfallen. This could be a problem, he thought.
'And it's not just that,' Botchett ticked points off on his fingers. 'Draig's only understand Welsh. And need a fire to sleep in.'
Swazzle noticed the Draig eyeing Mistress Botchett's stove covetously.
'And they're totally untrainable,' Botchett continued. 'No, bonny lad, it'll have to go. Off back to Wales with it, and the sooner the better, like.'
'What about the Welsh Gnomes?' Swazzle asked, stalling. 'Won't they object?'
'Aren't none,' replied Botchett, 'Bloody Draigs ate 'em all, like.'
As if on cue, the Draig made a sudden break for the stove, growling and snapping at Botchett as it rounded the table. Mistress Botchett shrieked and fled into her husband's arms as the Draig leapt, squirming into the firebox until only the tip of its tail hung down the front of the stove like a limp, scaly bell-pull.
Botchett glared over his wife's shoulder at Swazzle, who, hands raised in supplication, backed out of the kitchen intent on finding someone who could make him a stout cage with central heating.
* * *
When dawn broke, the wyrms broke off their attack against the fairy fortress and all uninjured personnel set themselves to the task of searching the rubble for survivors. Titania thundered into the courtyard just as Oberon tumbled unsteadily from a hole beneath a heap of stones.
'Seize him!' Titania bellowed, fairies from the nearest rescue party jumping to her command. Grabbing Oberon they dragged him unceremoniously to where Titania stood seething, the guard captain, shirtless and slicked with sweat, snapped a salute.
Titania sniffed Oberon's breath. 'Drunk. Again.' Oberon stared blearily back at her, belched, then grinned. 'Oh, I have had enough of this,' she sighed turning to the fairy guards, 'Hold him still.' This should have been done a long time ago, she thought.
'King Oberon, you have, and not for the first time, been found drunk when this kingdom needed you, when your people needed you. You have run from conflict, endangering your people and your Queen. The finding of this summary court is that you are guilty as charged. Our sentence is banishment.'
Oberon's legs gave way as sentence was passed, a dark stain spreading down the front of his hose. His eyes pleaded with Titania to give him just one more chance, his body sealing his fate by at that moment letting loose a stinking fart that made his guards gag.
Titania raised her wand, flicked her wrist, and Oberon vanished in a cloud of silver sparkles.
Turning to the guard captain, her eyes appraising the rippling muscles of his slick torso, Titania slung a languid arm round his shoulders.
'Plantain, my Queen,' he replied as Titania steered them toward her private apartments.
'Plantain, eh?' she purred, 'I'm not so sure I'm keen on that.' She thought for a moment. 'I know! I'll call you Oberon.'
If Titania had but looked she would have seen the dubious look in Captain Plantain's eyes.
This week also marks the release of the ninth episode in The Great Chocolate Conspiracy multi-part story. You can find episode 9 over at Icy Sedgwick's blog Icy's Blunt Pencil. Don't forget to follow the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter for more updates on this project. For more information, and to read from the beginning, please go here.