The Spider’s Lair
Fenrik Lasko sat lazily flicking through the bruised pages of a book, bound in yellowing human skin, with a red dragon crudely painted on its front cover. The stiff pages of the Grimoire creaked angrily as he turned them over, its ancient writing and symbols raging under the flickering light of the tallow candle placed next to it on the large oak desk, perched high upon the top of a human-looking skull. Beside it, lay the skull of some long-dead animal, holding down a stack of vellums and parchments thick with dust.
Cigar smoke hung thick in the air like ghostly spider webs, dripping down from the ceiling and smothering the vast bookshelves, overflowing with dusty tomes, glass jars full of pickled animal body parts and other sinister substances, such as grave dirt, corpse water and a small golden cask containing the last dregs of Fenrik’s stash of dragon’s blood.
Fenrik stirred as a gentle rap came from the other side of the large door to his office. He snapped the Grimoire shut, pushed it aside, and grunted as an ugly green demon, no bigger than a six-year-old child, floated into the room, struggling under the weight of the large silver tray he was carrying. The demon placed the tray in front of Fenrik, spilling a small amount of green liquid from a silver goblet. Fenrik removed the silver cover from the platter at the side of the goblet and hit the demon on the head with it, sending him crashing into the full-length gilt mirror that stood before one of the bookcases. The mirror landed heavily on the demon but didn’t smash, so he carefully pushed the mirror off himself and back into position. He then scrambled to his feet, trying not to anger his master anymore and bowed low before sheepishly backing out of the room.
Fenrik’s eyes bulged at the sight of the large plate of meatballs, smothered in a blood red tomato sauce, lying on a bed of steaming yellow spaghetti. He grunted in appreciation as he shovelled meatballs into his gargantuan mouth, tomato sauce dripping down his crisp blue shirt like splatters of blood.
The door to his study opened again, this time revealing a lofty figure wearing a black pinstripe suit with a trilby hat pulled down low over his white candy floss hair. The figure’s skin was waxy and yellowish-green as if he were an ancient Egyptian mummy that had been unwrapped for the first time. He walked across the room and sat down on an oak chair in front of Fenrik’s desk.
This was Vigor Mortis, Fenrik’s half-brother, a creature that was neither alive nor dead after an accident with a dragon and its rider seventeen years ago. Unable to cope alone, Fenrik had dug his brother’s body from its grave and re-animated it with Unmentionable Magick, which had left Vigor with a sallow complexion and a body that looked as if someone had stuck a vacuum up his bottom to suck the life out of him; a vacuum-packed version of Fenrik, but taller and with a lot less hair.
Fenrik dropped his fork noisily onto his plate and then wiped the tomato sauce off his chin with a napkin. ‘Ah, brother, good news I hope?’
Vigor took off his hat and smiled, flashing his jagged teeth at Fenrik. ‘It is as you suspected. Gizmo and that Dragon Rider turned up whilst I was there-’
Fenrik raised a bushy eyebrow, ‘but they did not see you?’
‘No brother,’ said Vigor shaking his head, ‘Funestus was keen to keep us apart, and I played along with his game. Lomax filled me in on everything this morning.’
‘Are they going to find the missing part of The Emerald Key for him?’
‘Funestus is still awaiting their answer but I think the deal is already done. From what Lomax heard, Funestus used you as a bargaining chip to get the Dragon Rider involved.’
Fenrik smiled. ‘Good.’
‘So, what do we do now?’ asked Vigor, playing with the trilby in his hands.
‘Nothing?’ asked Vigor, his sunken black eyes looking up at Fenrik, ‘Don’t you want me to kill the Dragon Rider at least? Oh please brother?’
‘No,’ said Fenrik, holding his hand up to silence the excitable Vigor, ‘Not yet.’
‘But I want to crush his skull in my bare hands for what his father did to me!’ said Vigor, clasping his trilby too hard.
Fenrik gave Vigor a warning look that silenced him. ‘We leave things as they are. For now. Let them try and get The Key,’ he said, shrugging, ‘it makes no difference to me. If they come out alive and they have it, it saves you a trip. Rather he goes down there to fetch it than you Vigor.’
Vigor nodded his head in agreement.
‘If they die,’ said Fenrik, shrugging, ‘so be it, you will just have to fetch it as planned. Either way, I will get the missing part of The Emerald Key and the Dragon Rider will die. Whether it be today, tomorrow, or next week; it does not matter. He is an insignificant fly that can be squashed at our leisure.’ Fenrik wafted his hand in the air as if he were shooing away a fly.
‘May I have the pleasure, brother?’
‘It has been a long time since we were able to harvest dragon parts, I’m down to my last drop of dragon blood,’ said Fenrik, instinctively stroking the dragon skull on top of the vellums. ‘A new candle holder would be useful too,’ he said pointing to the human-looking skull holding the candle, ‘Erick seems to be a little down in the mouth of late. A new model might be just what I need.’
Vigor cackled. ‘Oh brother, you are evil!’
‘It is a talent I possess.’ Fenrik paused, picked up his fork, and stuffed another meatball into his mouth. ‘And the Hand?’ he asked, as he chewed.
‘It is still with Pyro.’
‘But not for much longer, it would seem. I’m surprised Funestus hasn’t confiscated it already.’
‘He tried, he sent the dwarves to get Pyro but the Dragon Rider got there first.’
‘The dwarves?’ asked Fenrik, looking up at Vigor. ‘So Funestus uses our own men against us? And the dwarves don’t know a thing?’
‘No brother. When I saw Scarface earlier he was worried that you would be angry at him for losing the Hand. I didn’t let on that you knew nothing about it-‘
‘Good. The less that the dwarves know, the better.’
‘But why would Funestus let Pyro keep the Hand when it was within his grasp? Why send the dwarves for it but then let it go when the Dragon Rider brings it in? The Dragon Rider will need it. It doesn’t make sense, not when Funestus could have handed it over to him-‘
Fenrik moved a meatball around the edge of his plate. ‘It would seem that we aren’t the only ones being played,’ he said, spearing the meatball with his fork before continuing, ‘He doesn’t want the Dragon Rider to see any connection between me, the Hand and himself. By leaving it in Pyro’s possession, he’s trying to distance himself from the artefact, and denying he has any knowledge of it. He’s being careful and very, very clever,’ said Fenrik, shovelling the meatball into his mouth, ‘or so he thinks.’
‘Oh, I see,’ said Vigor, a look of confusion still on his face, ‘So, what do you want me to do with Funestus?’
‘Nothing. Yet. We send the dwarves to see Alchymia as planned-’
Vigor sat up straight in his chair. ‘But won’t the Dragon Rider go there, you know, given his history with her?’
Fenrik shrugged. ‘Probably, but if Funestus wants to play games, then who are we to deny him that pleasure?’
‘But what is the point of sending the dwarves to Alchymia if you intend the Dragon Rider to fetch The Key?’
Fenrik dropped his fork down onto his plate and sighed. ‘Are you questioning me brother?’ he asked, looking up from under his bushy eyebrows, ‘because you know that I do not like to be questioned.’
Vigor threw his bony hands up in placation, his hat falling to the parquet floor. ‘Of course not brother, I would never-’
‘Good,’ said Fenrik, his wolf-like eyes locking onto Vigor’s. ‘Everything will work out. If we change plans now, Funestus will know we are on to his double-crossing ways. We wait, see how the game plays out for a while. I have other plans for Funestus.’
‘Yes brother,’ said Vigor, bowing his waxy head in agreement.
‘When we get our hands on the missing portion of The Emerald Key we will have our own magick and then we will wreak our revenge upon this City and those who seek to double cross us,’ said Fenrik, pounding his fist upon his desk, ‘but until then, we wait!’
‘Yes brother,’ said Vigor, ‘but let me have the Dragon Rider when it is time!’
‘When the time comes, he’s yours.’