‘Freshly caught fairies. Only ten Bindis a jar.’
Robin Pindrop Lightfoot, himself a fairy but in disguise to avoid being caught and put into a jar of course, sat on the roof of a hot snail nut stall in Madworld market. He stopped swinging his five legs and listened. The stall holder’s voice came loud and clear above the deep grunting of Neemies hunting for bargains, the squeak of bickering Ruffs and the squelch of Snotwarblers gossiping.
‘Come on now! Freshly caught fairies, just in today.’
‘Aha!’ Pindrop exclaimed and stood up. ‘I think I’ve found the kidnapped princess. Commander Stumptoe will be pleased.’ It was Commander Yatalan Stumptoe who instructed that Pindrop should be transformed into a five-legged, three-eyed giant toad to blend in with the other strange creatures of Nightmare Island to search for the princess. Although Pindrop was grateful for the disguise that enabled him to pass by the shadow guardians without being torn apart, he wished he hadn’t been given such a big bottom. It bounced on the ground each time he hopped and was also very, very itchy.
‘Nice, glow-in-the-dark fairies. Use them as night lights or hand warmers on those frosty days.’
Pindrop reached his webbed hand around his green, bloated body and scratched his bottom. ‘Think I’d better get over to that outlander stall. I’ll have those fairies but I won’t be buying.
With a flip of his legs, Pindrop leapt off the roof and plopped onto the muddy ground between two neemies who were so old they have twingle snoot growing from the wrinkles in their grey armoured hides. Looking like rhinos standing upright on two grey stumpy legs they both turned at the same time, their unihorns clashed together sending a shower of blue sparks over an unfortunate ruff. The ruff’s mane caught fire and he exploded in burst of jelly rain. In the chaos of hysterical grunting from the ruffs and cries of ‘do it again’ from a visiting group of kidlings following their mentor, Pindrop hopped through the crowd. He stopped before an outlander stall and looked up at the counter on which stood two jars each containing a single fairy.
‘Oh great,’ said Pindrop, though any of the creatures standing nearby would have just heard him give a wet croak. ‘Which one is the princess? Guess I’ll have to snatch them both.’ Making the swishy sounds as he swilled sticky saliva around his long tongue which he curled inside his mouth, Pindrop made ready to snatch both fairy jars. But before he could carry out his plan, something even more slimy than his skin slapped down onto his head pushing him into the mud.
‘Huh, huh, huh.’
Annoyed at being caught on the hop, or as in this case, not on the hop and blinking away the mud, Pindrop looked behind. There stood the wartiest snotwarbler that he had ever seen. Like a huge black slug but with blue slitted eyes and human arms and hands, the snotwarbler stretched its huge mouth into a grin. Dribbledrool slipped from its bottom lip dripping over Pindrop’s body which was flattened under the snotwarbler’s left hand.
‘Ow mush for dur fairies, moy dear?’ said the snottwarbler looking down at the outlander stallholder, who was actually a stick-thin female human with a bald head.
‘Er, um,’ said the stallholder and then dived for cover as the snotwarbler made a grab for her with its free hand. Pindrop saw the hand continue its sweep past where the stallholder had been and toward the two fairies.
‘No you don’t,’ Pindrop croaked and shot out his tongue. The pink belt wrapped around the jars snatching them off the counter and out of reach of the snotwarbler’s fingers. Pindrop twisted his body, the slippery mud allowed him to squirm out from under the snotwarbler’s hand. With a giant series of hops that bumped aside nenemies and squashed the occasional ruff, Pindrop fled through the market leaving behind a chaos of tumbled mud-splashed bodies, upturned stalls and a screaming snotwarbler. Pindrop hopped into a quiet alley behind two rows of stalls and stopped to catch his breath.
‘There goo go fairwees. Yooo am wescued,’ mumbled Pindrop, unable to form his croaks due to his tongue being wrapped around the jars. The response from one of the fairies, who heard his croaks as a series of belly-wobbling burps was an angry twittering and Pindrop understood every word.
‘How dare you treat us this way? You revolting creature.
Pindrop let both jars plop onto the mud and looked down at the fairies. The female in the larger jar stood legs astride, arms folded and was glaring at him with her incredibly blue eyes glinting like diamonds. Her four wings were stretched stiffly out, two on either side of her very thin body that was draped in a red gown that was peppered with embroidered white roses. The other fairy was clad completely in a pale blue gown and her long green hair flew around her face like rampant sea weed as she repeatedly threw herself against the side of her glass prison crying, ‘ouch! Ouch! OUCH!’ Pindrop decided that this must be the maid that was kidnapped with the princess and was obviously not the brightest of their kind.
‘Hey you! Revolting frog-thing. Let us out.’
Pindrop glared at the red fairy. ‘I might be revolting but show some gratitude. I’ve just rescued you.’
‘An amphibian that can talk. Whatever. Just let us out you slimy mound of-.’
The red fairy stopped talking. The blue fairy stopped hurling herself against the glass wall. Both pointy faces become even pointier as their mouths and eyes stretch wide in horror. Pindrop started to look behind just as everything went dark he was lifted and tumbled over and over in a slippery wave of warmth that smelled of bad wood mushrooms. The tumbling settled to a gentle swaying and the darkness became illuminated by red and blue fairy lights. Each fairy shimmered inside their own jar like little glow wicks.
‘Congratulations, slug-face,’ said the red fairy getting to her feet. ‘You’ve just got us eaten by a snotwarbler.
Pindrop saw by the faint light that they were inside something that was like a big, slimy cave with wobbly walls. Yep, they’d been swallowed by the Snotwarbler all right. The dumb blue fairy again began slamming herself against the side of her jar, again shouting ‘ouch’ with each collision. The red fairy was standing, legs apart, arms folded and glaring at Pindrop who though she could do with some cheering up.
‘Good morning princess. I’m here to rescue you.’
‘I’m the princess,’ screamed the other fairy and flung herself even harder against the wall of the jar. Pindrop concluded that this princess didn’t exactly seem to be the brightest of creatures.
‘Just wait, your Ladyship,’ Pindrop felt obligated to advise. ‘If you don’t quieten down you’ll overheat and-.’
‘There you go,’ Pindrop said as she dropped unconscious onto the bottom of the jar. ‘That’s typical of you female fairies when you get over-stressed. Now us male fairies are tough, brave, intelligent and-.’
‘You, a fairy? Ha, ha ha, ha,’
‘Why are you rolling on the floor of your jar holding your tummy?’ asked Pindrop, knowing it was a silly question. ‘I’m in disguise,’ he insisted. ‘So that I can rescue the princess.’
‘Ha, ha, ha. Hoooooo.’
‘Stop laughing. Please.’
‘I’m sorry,’ said the fairy. ‘It’s very rude of me.’ She stopped rolling around, stood up and gave a bow. ‘My name Misteena Da Rose. My friends call me, Misty. I’m companion to her,’ she gestured at the snoring blue fairy. ‘Princess Emmy Breezewalker.’
‘And I’m, Robin Pindrop Featherfoot.’ Pindrop made to bow but realized that didn’t have a neck and did a five-legged curtsy.
‘Okay,’ said Misty. ‘Now how are you going to get us out of here?
‘Right. First I have to get you both out of those jars,’ said Pindrop. ‘Prepare yourself.’
‘Why,’ said Misty. ‘What are you going to-.’
Pindrop’s tongue flashed like a pink whip, wrapped around the lid of Misty’s jar and spun the lid which flew off but caused the jar also to spin, tumbling out Misty and sending her skidding across the slimy floor and squelching into the flabby belly wall of the snotwarbler.
‘Thanks, I think,’ said Misty staggering to her feet and shuddering the slime free from her wings.