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.'
'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.
'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.