Mo and Nan came down to the lake the very next night, just as the sun was setting. They knew they had to be quick, if they had a chance of saving the sea dragon before the fisherman got there.
“It’s a purple flower,” Nan said to Mo. “It grows in among the wild garlic. Quick, look for it. I’ll stand guard.”
She gripped her handbag tight and Mo felt his heart hammering in his chest with fear.
“What if the fisherman comes?”
“Leave him to me,” said Nan. “Now go. Get that flower.”
Mo started looking under the trees, in among the wild garlic, but the light was fading quickly, and his eyes couldn’t adjust to the dark. He stared and stared. He was on his hands and knees searching. Then, suddenly, he heard it.
Nan coughed, loudly. It was the signal.
A shiver went down Mo’s spine. He hunkered down in the wild garlic, hardly daring to breathe.
He heard a voice, low and threatening. It was the fisherman. “What you doing here, old lady?”
“I’m just out for an evening stroll,” Mo heard Nan say. “What about you? You’re dressed a bit strangely for this time of year, I must say. And is that a spear?”
“None of your business, you old bat. Now, move along, before I make you.”
“Of course, sir,” Nan said, in her best pretend-polite voice. She raised her voice a little bit. “But, you know, I might have a little scratch right by a TREE TRUNK as I go.”
“What you whittering about? Get moving.” The fisherman sounded terrifying, and Mo heard Nan’s footsteps recede. He was all alone. And he didn’t have the purple flower.
What had Nan been going on about? Tree trunks? Had she been trying to wind the fisherman up?
Tree trunks!! It had been a message for him!
As quietly as he could, he scrambled to the bottom of the nearest tree and began to feel in the earth. His fingers touched something: a small, delicate stem and a bobbing, soft-petalled head. He blinked, willing his eyes to see in the darkness. Was it his imagination, or was the flower in his fingers a bright purple colour? It had to be.
He cut the stem, gently, so as not to disturb any of the other plants growing nearby. He put it in his pocket. He waited, with bated breath, hoping against hope.
He heard the sound of the fisherman squelching down to the water’s edge and, slowly, entering the lake. Then there was silence. It was a cold, empty, silence. There were no bird sounds. No scuttlings in the undergrowth. Everything was waiting to see what would happen.
Then – PANDEMONIUM.
Bursting from the lake came the sea-dragon, panicked, in terror for her life. In a huge spray of sparkling drops she heaved herself from the water and began to flop over the ground towards the woods where Mo was hiding. Mo willed her to move quickly. He did not think that the fisherman would let her go that easily.
“Come here! Come to me! I’ll help you!” he hissed, as loudly as he dared, and then almost regretted it, because a huge panicky sea dragon lumbering towards you is not a pleasant sight.
She stopped short at the sight of him, eyes huge and wide and terrified. “Please,” said Mo, “I’m going to help you. I’m going to find a way for you to escape to safety. I need you to open your mouth.”
But she was shaking her huge horned head. The spell, Mo thought, she can never leave because of the spell. She has to protect the king’s treasure no matter what. Just as this thought occurred to him, he heard something else.
“MOOOOO!” It was Nan. Back. She’d not gone far, she would never have abandoned him.
There she came, thundering through the woods towards him, handbag flying. “Quick, do it now!” she was shouting. “The fisherman is following!”
Sure enough, there was the glint of silver as the fisherman appeared, dark and monstrous in his wetsuit, from the lake, eyes a-gleam with triumph as he raised the spear high, ready to launch it at the sea-dragon. But – THWACK! Nan had fetched him an almighty smack over the head with her handbag.
“Do it now!” she yelled at Mo.
“I need you to trust me,” Mo said to the sea-dragon.
The sea-dragon turned her big dark eyes to him. She opened her mouth.
The fisherman rose from the lake once more, teeth gleaming with hatred, turning his spear on Nan.
Horror filled Mo.
THWACK – Nan’s handbag landed on the fisherman’s head for the second time and he reeled back into the water.
And Mo put the flower in the dragon’s mouth.
And everything changed.