This is episode 32 of my ongoing web serial, updated weekly as a part of #fridayflash. If you are new to The UCF Stories, or have missed an episode, you can find a full index of the episodes here.
Bishop Barclay's visit provoked much debate among the basement residents, the general consensus being the Bishop hadn't noticed anything amiss. Even so, a lot of surreptitious packing took place that night amid much shushing in case the neighbours heard. The neighbours were, of course, engaged in much the same activity. This included Swazzle, who was shoving the last of his belongings into a bag when knocking rattled his front door.
'Who is it?'
The muffled response made Swazzle sigh as he went to open then door.
A group of rather shifty looking Goblins crowded around the doorstep, behind them a large cage teetered on top of a child's go-cart. One of the Goblins shoved its way to the front of the group.
'Cage,' it growled. 'For dragon. We hook up?'
Swazzle recognised the voice as belonging to the Balkan Goblin he'd commissioned to construct the draig's kennel and, despite some misgivings about having Goblins in his quarters, invited them in.
'No fit,' announced the Goblin after much huffing and puffing. 'We take door off.'
Before Swazzle had a chance to object the Goblins set to work and shortly afterwards Swazzle's front door and much of the front wall of his hut lay neatly stacked in the street. As the cage slid in through the widened gap, a familiar voice called from outside.
'Got the builders in, Captain?'
'Not exactly, Salkeld. It's your mates delivering the draig's new kennel.'
'Ohh, champion! You want me to let Master Botchett know?'
'Tell him I'll be over later for the draig,' replied Swazzle, distracted by the sound of sawing wood. He swung round to find a pyramid of Goblins supporting one of their number who sawed a hole in his ceiling.
'For gas pipe,' a Goblin growled in response to Swazzle's expression. 'No gas, no fire. Unhappy dragon.'
Swazzle gestured at them to continue, wondering idly how long this job was likely to take.
* * *
Botchett was trying to enjoy his pipe when Salkeld stuck his head round the door. After a few seconds his eyes alighted on Botchett, sitting scrunched up on a stool in the corner furthest from the stove, his eyes fixed on the scaly tail dangling from the firebox.
'Good evening Master Botchet. Captain Swazzle asked me to let you know he'll be collecting the draig shortly.'
'And not a moment too soon. That thing's eating me out of house and home, like.' Mistress Botchett appeared in the pantry doorway. 'The children are terrified to leave their room for fear of being eaten, and he,' she stuck a thumb in Botchett's direction, 'is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.'
'Now listen here, bonny lass,' began Botchett.
'Well you are. You've done nowt but sit in the corner since yesterday, like.'
Salkeld excused himself and set off in the direction of the hospital to visit Pogmorton, relieved to be putting distance between himself and the Botchett's “domestic.”
* * *
Swazzle was a little wary of leaving the Goblins to finish off unsupervised, they assured him they'd tidy up after themselves and put the cage fire on for his return as they bundled him out the door. Reluctantly he set off up the street, arriving outside Botchett's home in time to hear crockery smashing. Fearing the draig had gone on the rampage, Swazzle dived through the door right into the path of the bowl Mistress Botchett had launched at her husband.
'Ow!' wailed Swazzle as the bowl caught him full in the face.
'Oh, sorry kidda.' Mistress Botchett's hand flew to her mouth as she bustled over to make sure Swazzle wasn't injured. The floor around Botchett's stool was peppered with crockery fragments.
Swazzle rubbed his nose ruefully. 'I've come to collect the draig.'
'About time, bonny lad,' called Botchett, brushing the remains of a plate from his lap.
'Thank you, thank you,' Mistress Botchett clapped him on the back. 'I don't know what would have happened if we'd had to keep it here for much longer, like'
'We'd have run out of plates for one thing,' muttered Botchett, thinking better of adding anything further in response to his wife's venomous look.
'Err, any idea how I'm going to get it to come out?'
'You'll need a stout collar and lead,' said Botchett, 'and summat to tempt it out, like.'
Swazzle held up the lead and collar the Goblins had pressed into his hand as they'd shoved him out of his house.
'Aye, that ought to do. Have we got any of those sausages left Mother?'
'No, and well you know it! You could try a bit of ham though.' Mistress Botchett proffered a thick slice of her home-baked gammon.
Three hours later and Swazzle had resorted to wearing one of Botchett's shoulder-length Wyrm catching gauntlets and was rummaging about up to the elbow in the firebox, thankful the glove was both heat and teeth proof.
The draig was proving a wily customer, but eventually Swazzle managed to secure the collar round the beast's neck and drag it out onto the kitchen floor. The draig tumbled from the firebox in a shower of hot embers and stood glowering at it's new master, the expression on its face leaving Swazzle in absolutely no doubt how it felt about being forced to leave its nest.
The Botchetts stood silently in the corner of the kitchen as Swazzle coaxed the draig towards the door, only rushing forward to beat out their smouldering rug once the pair had finally left.
* * *
Getting the draig into its new kennel proved easier than Swazzle thought. Presumably the draig was cold from its short walk and scampered straight into its new cage, snuggling down in the fire and falling straight to sleep.
Swazzle took a few moments to check on the state of his home, but it appeared the Goblins had been true to their word, leaving the place as they'd found it. Not until the early hours when Swazzle was woken by a freezing draught coming in under the bottom of the badly re-fitted front wall did he consider more than a cursory glance at the Goblins' handiwork might have been an idea.
'Bloody Goblin builders,' he muttered, pulling the blankets over his head.