Nod and the Hydragon's Tooth   
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Introduction. Chapter three, in which our two Brownie friends, Nod and Blinkum, along with Speck the hobbit and Wizwoz the inept wood wizard, arrive back at Wizwoz's house to try and sort out the shape-shifting mess he's got them into. Elsewhere, Winkum gets an unexpected visit from a peculiar old lady with a strange tale to tell.

efore long, the party of friends, that is the Brownies Nod and Blinkum (who, if you recall, was until recently a caterpillar), Speck the hobbit sulcho mushroom and Wizwoz the wood wizard baby tooth (in carpet slippers and closer-upper lenses), reached Wizwoz’s house without further incident, and after spreading the accident-prone magician's yellowing parchments on the table, began to study them carefully. After reading through the part entitled “How to turn a caterpillar into a Brownie in three easy steps,” Nod noticed three letters at the bottom of the page: PTO.

"PTO?" asked Blinkum. "What's that? Is it something we missed? Is it an ingredient we should have used? Is that what caused all this trouble?" Nod looked across accusingly at Wizwoz and sighed. "No, it's much simpler than that. It means please turn over."

He turned the page over and read on. His face darkened. When he looked up he glared at the Wizwoz-tooth angrily. “Bah!” he snorted loudly, “here’s the explanation of the whole hopeless muddle.” He held up the parchment so everyone could see the words written there. It read: “It must be a hydragon’s tooth, mind……OR ELSE!”

“Bah!” he snorted again, “and Wizwoz the wand-waving wonder used a silly little baby tooth instead! No wonder everything went wrong.”

Speck collapsed on the table with a moan. “In other words,” he squeaked, “I’ll have to stay a sulcho mushroom until we’ve captured a hydragon and managed to pull one of its teeth out!” He kicked a small, rune-etched pebble in anger, only to stub his toe. “OOWWW!” he yelped, hopping around as he tried to blow on his poor, throbbing tootsies.

“Never mind that!” piped Wizwoz, nodding toward Speck. “I look much sillier than him.”

“Serves you right, too!” snapped Nod. “It’s all your fault anyway!”

At this, Wizwoz began to blubber again. “And crying won’t help matters,” shouted Nod. “What we need is action. But,” he added, “I’ll do all the acting from now on. Right then, first things first, we’ll take Blinkum back home. I expect Winkum will be getting anxious by now.” They all agreed on this point, and so the little party set off for the Brownie’s house.

“By the by,” said Nod, addressing Blinkum as they followed the path back to the little house he shared with his brother, Winkum, ”how’s your cold?”

“Hhm,” replied Blinkum,” I’d forgotten all about it, but now you come to mention it, it seems to have go….. haa…… Haaa…. HAAAA……. CHAAAAA!” Blinkum’s words were cut short by a violent sneeze. “Phew!” he panted. “It hasn’t gone. I……..what’s the matter now?” he asked Nod, who had begun to stare at him with eyes as wide as dinner platters. (I've removed the 'particularly' as Shab's suggested, but it may return at some point. I'm going to live without it for a while and see how it goes.)

“L…look at yourself!” gasped Nod. “Great cantering cave spiders!”

Blinkum followed Nod’s bulging eyes to the lower portion of his body and gave a squeal of fright. “ARRGH! Help!” he howled. “I’m half and half!”

Sure enough, poor Blinkum had sneezed himself into part-Brownie and part-caterpillar. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Nod’s attention was suddenly drawn by a series of excited squeaks from behind them.

It was Wizwoz, who was leaping up and down and goggling at Speck, who now had a mushroom head and the body of a hobbit. “I…it happened when Blinkum sneezed,” babbled Speck. “I suddenly got my body back. B…but my head feels funny,” he patted the sides of his swollen head.

“It may well feel funny,” answered Nod. “It’s still a mushroom. This is getting stranger by the moment. Let’s get back to Winkum as quickly as we can before Blinkum sneezes again and makes things even worse!”

So the strange party began to run through the woods as fast as their legs would carry them. “Oh dear!” panted Nod, “What a mix up! If only I could get hold of a hydragon’s tooth.”

Meanwhile, Winkum was having a spot of bother in the little house he shared with his brother, Blinkum. He had been waiting patiently for Nod to return with Blinkum when the door had burst open and Old Ma Greybark, an ancient Brownie woman, rushed in. She was in a state of great excitement. “Oh deary me!” she panted breathlessly. “Oh deary, deary me!” and collapsed on a stool, dropping her large shopping basket on the floor beside her. It fell over and out rolled a shiny bittersweet fruit and three empty bottles of malus cider. "That's for my cooking," she said, as she always did.

“Whatever is the matter, Ma?” asked Winkum, taken aback at her sudden appearance.

“Bolt the door!” gasped the old Brownie woman. “The whole wood’s bewitched and swarming with evil spirits. I’ve just seen a tree running….running, mark you……on legs!”

“A tree, running!” laughed Winkum. “Goodness, Ma. You must be, erm,imagining things again.” He leaned closer, trying to smell her breath.

“No…no!” cried the poor old woman. “I saw it with my own two eyes! I was on my way home from market when a tree…..a tree, I tell you…..came crashing through the wood…..ON LEGS! Oh deary, deary, deary me! I’m sure I’ll never get over the shock. Perhaps a wee drinky may help calm my tattered old nerves?” she enquired, hopefully.

“Rubbish,” laughed Winkum, “whoever heard of a tree with legs? Now, you just sit there quietly and I’ll make you a nice strong cup of sunsmile cha’ah. Black, I think would be best.”

Old Ma Greybark calmed down a little while Winkum busied himself with the cha’a things. Suddenly there came the sound of thudding footsteps outside. “AHHHH! IT’S THE TREE!” screeched Ma Greybark. “IT’S COMING FOR ME!”

Winkum looked up in alarm as the steps drew nearer. Trembling, he peered through the window…… and gave a sigh of relief when he saw Nod. And behind, half hidden by Nod’s body, he made out Blinkum’s face. He was a Brownie again! “'s alright, Ma,” Winkum beamed, “it’s only my friends Nod and Blinkum. Sit down and……” But just as he was speaking, the door opened, and there stood the results of Wizwoz’s magic.

“D…don’t be too alarmed,” said Nod. “There’s been a sort of magical mix up, but it’s nothing serious. All we need is a hydragon’s tooth and…..”

“Pay no attention to him!” screeched Ma Greybark. “Make a run for it before we’re both stricken by his meddlesome magic and become members of his horrible little freak show!”

“Now look here,” said Nod, “I’m not an evil spirit, nor a magician. If you’ll just give me a chance to exp……” He broke off mid-sentence when he felt something nudge his elbow. It was Blinkum, whose face had become quite karikrimson.

“I….I think I’b goig to sdeeze agaid,” he sniffled,” a….and it’s goig to…..ahh…… Ahhh….. AHHH….. AAACHHHAAAA!" Blinkum’s words were cut short by the most violent sneeze yet. The whole room shook and green smoke swirled everywhere as the magic became active again.
The results of the sneeze were terrible. Blinkum changed in a flash from half-Brownie, half-caterpillar into all-caterpillar, no-Brownie, and at once began to munch huge mouthfuls of Winkum’s prize winning roses from a vase above the fireplace. Speck, meanwhile, was staggering about shouting “I’ve got my head back! I’m all hobbit again!” Old Ma Greybark took one look at this frightful spectacle and, with a shriek of terror, dived straight through the window, which upset Winkum no-end as she hadn't bothered to open it first.

As the screams of Ma Greybark faded away into the distance, Nod gave Winkum a brief account of all that had happened since he took Blinkum to be changed back into a Brownie.

“……and this is the result,” he finished. “Now we’ve got a giant caterpillar on our hands, as well as a miserable baby tooth to look after.”

“Oh dear!” wailed Winkum, “whatever are we going to do?”

“Nothing,” replied Nod, “at least not until we’ve found a hydragon’s tooth.”

“I’m not so sure,” said Speck, brightening up a little. “I’ve just thought of something that may be worth a try. Listen, why not pay Mer the magician another visit, and try to persuade him to straighten out this muddle?”

“Hmmmm,” replied Nod, thoughtfully. “Alright,” he said at last. “We’ll go to Mer’s right now, and see if he’s in a better mood. You stay here with Wizwoz and Blinkum,” he continued, turning to Winkum. “We won’t be away too long…..I hope.”

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