An hour later I was heading off to the Dragonlands again, the Rolls-Royce bedecked with Fizzi-Pop stickers. Painted on the door was a big sign saying: Dragonslayer Personally sponsored by Fizzi-Pop, Inc.
The Drink of Champions Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do for the greater good. After Mr Hawker's warning I had dashed out and collared the Fizzi-Pop representative who had been camping outside the Dragonstation. He and his opposite number at Yummy-Flakes breakfast cereals had quickly called their bosses and bid over the phone for my endors.e.m.e.nt of their product. Yummy-Flakes had pulled out at M95,000 but Fizzi-Pop had gone all the way to my asking price of M100,000. It was a simple deal: I was to wear one of their hats and jackets whenever in public, and the Slayermobile had to be similarly adorned. I had to appear in five commercials and do nothing to impinge on the good name of the product. The alternative was debtor's prison so I didn't have much choice. Hawker, as you might expect, was furious. He had called his lawyers and tried to find a way round the problem, but this was something they had not expected. It wasn't the end of it, I could see that, but at least it was the first round to me. And actually, I quite liked Fizzi-Pop.
I saw as I approached that even more people had gathered at the Dragonlands. Just behind the marker stones there was now a 500-yard-deep swathe of tents, mobile eateries, toilets, marquees, first-aid posts and parked cars. The word was spreading, and citizens were arriving from the farthest kingdoms of the land. It was rumoured that claimants were arriving from the Continent and masquerading as unUK citizens in order to be able to stake a claim. A coachload of Danes had been detained at Oxford, a boot-load of rollmop herrings having given them away.
Sunday at noon was a little over twenty-four hours away, and if the premonition came true there would be an unseemly rush to claim everything there was as soon as the force-field was down. It was estimated that a total of approximately 6.2 million people would claim the 350 square miles in under four hours, and the vast majority would be disappointed. The injury rate was pegged at about two hundred thousand, and the fight over land would, it was thought, lead to an estimated three thousand deaths.
I b.u.mped on to the Dragonland and drove up the hill towards Maltca.s.sion's lair. It was a beautiful day and peace and tranquillity still reigned within the lands. Birds were busy building nests and wild bees buzzed among the wild flowers, which grew in cheerful profusion on the unspoilt land. I found Maltca.s.sion scratching his back against an old oak that bent and creaked under his weight.
'h.e.l.lo, Miss Strange!' he said in a cheerful tone. 'What brings you here?'
'To speak with you.'
'Well, cheer up, old girl, your face looks long enough
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