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Thursday, 13 January 2011

#FridayFlash: The UCF Stories #33: Of Draigs and Gnomish Builders

This is episode 33 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.

The draig paced inside its cage. Swazzle had been gone for hours and the draig was hungry again. The fortnight since Christmas had been a period of frenzied activity in the basement of Goddess Rising, activity the draig had not been invited to help with. It had spent much of its time cooped up in its cage and was beginning to resent this new arrangement.

If it could have asked him, the draig would have known how guilty Swazzle felt at keeping it locked up. His nocturnal wanderings took him farther and farther afield in search of this and that for Botchett, patrolling for any signs of fairy activity or procuring enough food for the draig. Privately Swazzle thought the draig was comfort eating. He was also convinced that, unless something could be done soon, it was only a matter of time until the local butchers reported the continuing thefts of sausages to the Big Folk's Police.

Pogmorton had proved a poor companion for the draig. Still weak from his ordeal, he spent much of his time in bed, or speaking in hushed tones with Rhusalka when she came to visit. The draig had tried to engage him in play, earning itself a smack on the snout when it snapped playfully at Pogmorton through the bars of its cage.

It was late in the evening when Swazzle arrived home, shaking the rain from his cloak as he stamped mud off his boots on the doormat.

'Blimey! It's pissing down out there,' he announced to the room in general.

Pogmorton opened a bleary eye. 'Eh? What?'

'I said it's raining. Absolutely chucking it down.' Swazzle dug in his satchel, producing a package wrapped in butcher's paper. He strode over to the draig's cage. 'Here you go, lad. No sausages tonight I'm afraid, but I've brought you a rabbit. I'll take you out for a walk later.'

The draig fell upon its meal, the taste of rabbit a welcome change from pork sausage. The draig had been thinking you could have too much of a good thing. The endless diet of sausages had begun to give it wind, and it didn't think Swazzle appreciated the sudden vents of fiery gas through the door of its cage at all hours of the day and night. In seconds the rabbit had been devoured and the draig sat, swishing its tail in front of the cage door.

'That thing eats like a unicorn,' mumbled Pogmorton.

Swazzle chuckled softly. 'Aye, it has quite an appetite and no mistake.' He turned to the draig, 'Come on then, lad. Let's go and have a wander.' Swazzle opened the cage door, deftly attaching the draig's lead as it attempted the dash past him, and waved to Pogmorton as he was dragged out the door.

* * *

Oberon had serious misgivings about the two gnomes as they clambered over the ruins of the fairy fortress, tape measures in hand, pausing now and then to scribble in small notebooks and suck their teeth. After an hour of such treatment, Oberon could stand the suspense no more and bellowed at the pair to tell him what was going on.

The gnomes trotted over deep in conversation, the fatter one holding up his pencil against Oberon's question while he concluded his conference. Sensing Oberon was about to explode, the fatter gnome reached into his waistcoat pocket and handed over a business card, which read: Messrs Flaecem & Scarpa, Structural Engineers. Oberon was almost sure he caught another line of text swim into view as the card was handed over: Fortress renovations a speciality.

'Hmmm,' considered Oberon.

'We can start tomorrow,' piped up the smaller gnome.

'I dunno.'

'We're very reasonable,' reassured the larger gnome.

'You don't employ goblins?'

The gnomes consulted. 'Nope, only gnomes,' they replied in unison. Oberon noticed the smaller gnome writing something in his book. Attempting to read it upside down, Oberon was sure he saw the words “false beards” before the gnome snapped the book shut and beamed a most disarming smile at him.

'I suppose it would avoid the whole tendering process,' Oberon mused, stroking his chin, 'And you reckon you can begin work tomorrow?'

'At first light,' chorused the gnomes.

'Oh, all right then. You're hired.'

'Champion,' said the larger gnome.

'See you in the morning,' said the smaller one.

It suddenly occurred to Oberon that he ought to get a price before the work started, but when he shouted down the castle wall, which the gnomes were scaling with alarming speed, they didn't appear to hear him. Oberon shrugged and walked back to the quarters he now shared with Titania. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with gnomish builders, he wondered.

* * *
Twinkle watched from her vantage point on the roof of Goddess Rising as Swazzle swung the air brick open and climbed out into the night, the draig close on his heels. Picking his way carefully between the piles of rubbish in the back yard Swazzle and his pet soon vanished over the top of the back yard wall.

Rubbing her hands, Twinkle beamed. So that was the way into the basement, she thought. Her ten day vigil behind the chimneypot had finally born fruit. She thought as she crept towards the edge of the roof, that she would not miss sharing the roof with the feral pigeons who seemed to take great exception to her presence. Brushing the last of their droppings from her cloak, Twinkle dropped silently over the edge, gliding down to the back step.

She made straight for the air brick, wondering how on earth she was going to get it open.



Anonymous said...

Delightful as always, Sam. Poor draig, cooped up like that. Glad he got a rabbit for dinner. Variety, and all that.

And I think the new Oberon may have been duped by those gnomes.

What's that Twinkle up to now? Ready for the next one. :)

John Wiswell said...

I always thought unicorns were light eaters. A vain species, so preoccupied with their shape and complexion. "No more cake for me, or I'll break out in horns."

Terrible things. Thank goodness for extinction.

(Welcome back, Sam!)

Rachel Blackbirdsong said...

Interesting point about the unicorns, they probably need all that fuel for when they chase virgins.

Love the ending. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I LOVE the draig. Am I his #1 fan yet? Poor little bugger, cooped up all day! No wonder he's so bored.

Laurita said...

You have so many neat little details packed into this one. I especially liked the unicorns.

Julie Lewthwaite said...

Great fun, Sam, really enjoyed that. Ta, chuck! :)

Laura Eno said...

Poor draig, all cooped up. "...eats like a uniform" made me laugh. Lots going on here!

ganymeder said...

I really enjoyed the dialogue in this one, especially 'it's pissing down out there!' and the reference to 'false beards.' *snicker*

Nice one!

Heidi said...

These are just so well done. I love reading from the Draig's point of view, what fun. Also, referencing the sausages causing him fiery wind made me laugh. And what a great idea that something as grand as a Unicorn overeats. Have you ever considered creating a stationary page that simply lists all your characters with brief descriptions? I don't get the chance to come here all the time and would love a quick refresher course when I do. Just a suggestion. Thanks for the wonderful post.

Sam said...

Gracie: Yes, poor Draig. Swazzle would never tell it, but in the aftermath of the cleaner's visit there is much to do to prepare for a possible hasty exit, and the other residents have said they don't want the Draig under foot.

I suspect you're right, Oberon may well be in for a shock when the "entirely Gnomish" *wink* crew begin work.

Twinkile, ah yes, Twinkle. I don't think she's ever going to forgive Swazzle for his escape from the fiary fortress.

John: I find unicorns make good hat stands, but only if you've only the one hat. Thanks for the welcome back, John.

Rachel: Ha! I'd never thought of that. Mind you, around these parts, I suspect the unicorns are comfort eating for lack of exercise. ;)

Icy: Yes, I do believe you are the Draig's #1 fan. When it goes on tour to promote its autobiography I'll be sure to have it stop by and say hi. :)

Laurita: Thanks so much! Funny, isn't it, how a throw away line about unicorns has generated so much interest? I was originally thinking of, "eats like a horse" but figured Pogmorton would be more likely to equate that saying with some magical creature or other, rather than a mundane animal.

Julie: My pleasure, glad you enjoyed it. :)

Laura: Thanks, Laura. At this rate I'm going to have to write an episode about the unicorns.

ganymeder: Thank you! "It's pissing down" is a common expression for heavy rain in these parts, I'm glad it raised a smile for you. :)

Heidi: That's a great suggestion, thanks! I may well add a character biographies section to the UCF Stories page when I get a moment. Thanks for those kind words too, I'm glad you enjoy your stops by The UCF Stories. :)

Eric J. Krause said...

What could go wrong with gnomish builders, indeed? Looking forward to seeing the answer to that question.

Jason Coggins said...

I'm hoping a consignment of "false beards" is winging its way to the local goblin enclave as we speak. Life and architecture and so much more enlivened with that gerblin touch.

Maria A. Kelly said...

Chuckled out loud at the "pissing down out there" and
"sudden vents of fiery gas." Poor draig. Glad he got something other than sausages. WTH is that Twinkle up to now???

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