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United we stand

    by Derick Wilcox

“Blossom! What brings you to my little pond?”

The fairy pouted. “Trying to get away from that perishing goblin, Horncrake.”

“By Titania's wings, yes!” said the naiad. “He was here yesterday! Thank goodness I swim faster than he can.” She looked at Blossom. Her friend was looking very dejected. “He didn't, er, get to you, did he?”

Blossom fixed Arania with a straight look. “No, because I have wings and he doesn't! I have never - ever - come across a goblin with such an active libido.”

Arania nodded. “He got Bellina. She couldn't swim fast enough.”

“Bellina? Isn't she the new one? Joined last century?”

“That's right. She's only trapped about a hundred mortals so far. She said any one of them would be preferable to having Horncrake touch her again. At least she could enchant the mortals.” Arania sighed, looking at her friend again. “Is something else bothering you, Blossom?”

The fairy nodded. “Oberon.”

“Ah,” said the naiad. “What's he done now?”

“He and Titania had the most fearful row; I'm surprised you couldn't hear it from here. Now he's gone off and joined Horncrake. The two of them are ravishing every female of the magick folk that they can trap.”

“Oh, dear,” said Arania. “Like last time Oberon went silly?”

Blossom shook her head. “Worse. Horncrake has quite strong magic himself.” She sighed. “What I need is a spell which will throw his misdeeds back at him. Preferably doubled; or better, tripled.”

“You've tried, I take it?”

Blossom nodded. “Twice. He has a guard spell on him, a strong one. I suspect Oberon had a hand in it.”


The fairy shrugged, wings quivering. “I don't know.”

“Who would?”

“Titania might.” Blossom shrugged again.

Arania made a face. “She'd never tell us, not without some incentive. Merely luring Oberon back to her side won't be enough. They fight all of the time anyway!”

“How about drugging him?” Blossom brightened for a moment, then her pretty face fell. “No use. The guard spell would probably detect it.”

Arania frowned again, a look so alien to her that it startled Blossom. Arania looked up at the fairy. “Do we know any one of the magick folk with enough power to block the spell?”

Blossom shuddered. “Only Belhaza,” she whispered, trying to look back over both shoulders at once.

“No!” said the naiad. “No. No. Definitely not. No.”

Blossom smiled weakly. “I'm pleased you agree.”

“We do not want to owe any favours to him!” Arania shuddered, the movement lending interesting accents to her naked naiad charms. She looked up at Blossom, who seemed abstracted. “Blossom?”


“Any ideas?”

“Perhaps. Have you seen Thistle?”

“She was hiding in Five-acre Wood, with Buttercup and one or two others, or so Moth said. Dili's tree, I think.”

Blossom shook her head. “That goblin has a lot to answer for.” She frowned. “Any idea how much recovery he needs if we try to dis-spell him?”

Arania shook her head. “No idea at all. It must take something out of him, surely?”

“We need a volunteer, a fairy, nymph or naiad who's willing to risk getting into Horncrake's ugly hands.”

“You have an idea!”

Blossom smiled slowly and spread her wings, hovering for a moment over Arania's pond. She pointed. “There's a mortal coming. I'll see you later, after…”

Arania grinned. “Yes, after. Not too soon after, please. Some of these mortals are good for seconds, sometimes thirds.”

Blossom grinned back at her friend. “You should really let the occasional one go, you know, let him spread the word about the beautiful creature who satisfied his every carnal desire.”

“And wanted more,” Arania said with a gurgling laugh.

“Yes, and wanted more. Here he comes, I must fly!”

Five-acre Wood was quiet, apparently empty of the magick folk. Blossom lighted on a branch and whistled a light trill, just off-key. A fairy figure popped out of the apparently solid tree.

“Blossom!” said Thistle. She peered over Blossom's shoulder. “Alone?”


“Come on in.”

There were four fairies, two nymphs and a dryad hidden in the hollow tree. Blossom bowed to the dryad.

“Greetings, Diliana. I honour your tree.” She bowed again, then smiled. “Horncrake been around here, Dili?”

The dryad shuddered. “Ugh, yes. The only thing that kept him away was my lovely tree. I can climb it faster and further than any goblin!”

A slim fairy in the corner leaned hesitantly forward. “Is there anything we can do to stop him, Blossom?”

Blossom grimaced. “Buttercup, I just don't know. He chased me two days ago. Only the fact that I can fly and he can't kept me safe.” She gave a mirthless laugh. “He can't fly, so I got away. He can't swim quite fast enough, so Arania got away, but Bellina didn't. Dili here climbs trees faster, so she got away.”

“Is it true that Oberon's joined him?” asked an older fairy.

“I'm afraid so, Moth,” said Blossom. “Never mind, we know Titania will sort him out soon enough.” She smiled reminiscently. “Being caught by Oberon isn't so bad, as long as Titania isn't anywhere near.”

“But being caught by Horncrake is,” said Diliana. “Elsalia here was. She's still sore.”

“Very,” said the nymph, with a grimace.

“His magic is strong,” said Blossom. “We need to work as a team. If we can use an augmentation spell, I think we can stop him. But first we need to get him away from Oberon and somewhere we can set a trap.”

“If we can get them together, I can get Oberon away,” said Moth. “He owes me for that fairy gold he used to lure that poor stupid musician.”

“We need a volunteer to lure Horncrake to where the rest of us are waiting. For a location I suggest Arania's pond. There's a nice tangle of bramble on one corner. If we get him in there, he can only come out the way he went in.”

One of the nymphs stood. “I'll do it. He caught me three days ago. I can pretend that I thought he was so virile I must have him again.” She shuddered. “Please stop him before he touches me again!”

Blossom hugged the nymph. “You're a braver creature than I am, Fellona, much braver.”

“I don't feel brave,” Fellona said wanly, “but he has to be stopped.”

“When?” said Moth.

“Tomorrow morning?” said Blossom.

The others looked at one another. There was no dissent.

“Right,” said Blossom, “this is how we'll do it.”

* * * * *

Operon and Horncrake were staggering along, sharing a flask of fermented honey-juice, singing bawdy songs at the top of their voices, when Moth landed lightly on the path before them.

“Moth!” said Oberon, looking around for an escape as Horncrake leered at the fairy. “How nice to see you. What can I do for you?”

“It's about that fairy gold. I was wondering if we could discuss it, see if we can come to some agreement.” Moth fluttered her eyelashes.

Oberon hiccuped and brightened. “Perhaps we can.”

Moth smiled, licking her lips. “That would be nice,” she murmured. “Alone,” she added, trying not to notice Horncrake's unfocussed leer and the suggestive way the goblin was touching himself.

“Alone. Of course,” said Oberon. “Horncrake? Get lost!” Oberon turned back to the fairy. “Where should we go, my dear little Moth?”

“In the bower over there, perhaps?” said Moth, with a blush and a giggle.

“Come, my dear,” said Oberon, hiccuping again.

“Huh,” said the tipsy goblin, watching their retreating backs. “Some people have no gratitude.”

“But I do,” said a soft voice behind him. The goblin spun around, almost falling. A nymph was smiling at him, eyes downcast modestly, hands clasped behind her, one foot toeing the ground in coy embarrassment.

“Ah!” said Horncrake. “Um, er, um ...”

“Fellona,” said the nymph in a vexed voice.

“Fellona! Of course. Over here, perhaps,” said Horncrake, reaching for the nymph.

“Oh, no,” said the nymph, pirouetting out of Horncrake's grasp, “I know a much better place.” She giggled. “But you have to catch me first!” She spun lightly and dashed away, just as Titania's angry voice rose from the direction Oberon and Moth had taken.

Startled into immobility for a moment, the goblin laughed, then let out a triumphant yell and set off in haphazard pursuit of the nymph.

Fellona ran as fast as she could, for she knew the goblin was fleet of foot, but he wasn't quite sober, the distance wasn't great and she reached the bramble tangle ahead of Horncrake. She ran in and turned to face her pursuer, flushed, breathing heavily.

As the goblin ran in after her, Fellona held up her hand in an imperious 'halt' gesture. Horncrake skidded to a stop, triumph in his face, hands on hips, wobbling a little.

“Stop? Me? You must be out of your mind, nymph. Here you are and here I'll have you!”

There was a flutter of wings, and a splash from the pond alongside the thicket. Horncrake turned, startled to see five fairies, two naiads, a dryad and a nymph behind him. Fellona took advantage of the moment and sidled past him to join the others.

Horncrake laughed. “And just what do you pretty girls hope to achieve? You know I have Oberon's protection.”

“Ah,” said Blossom, her wand coming up slowly to point at the goblin, “so you do.” Her attention seemed divided, because she appeared to be listening for something. An owl hooted a complicated pattern and Blossom smiled. “Or rather, you did.” Her wand flashed and to his horror the goblin felt the spell protecting him ebbing away. “That was Moth's signal, to say that Oberon agrees to lift his protection.” Blossom turned to the others. “Ready?”

“Yes, Blossom, we're all ready. The link spell works, so let him have it!”

All of the fairies and naiads, nymphs and dryad joined hands and closed their eyes. Horncrake began to feel a strange sensation rising in him and to his horror realised that he was frightened.

“Ready, Horncrake? Ready to receive all of the misery you've dished out, all in one go? Ready or not, here it comes!”

Blossom's wand flashed again and Horncrake felt himself immersed in misery, pursued by torment, sinking into a vast pool of anger and loathing.

“No,” he screamed, “you can't do this to me!”

Blossom and the others never heard him. They were staring at the spot where the goblin had been. Having experienced just a flash of what he was feeling they all felt sick.

“Will he live?” whispered Fellona.

“Oh, I do hope so,” said Blossom. “With the booster that Titania gave me, he'll be in torment for a hundred years.” She sniffed. “Serves him right!”

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