The Towers of Learning
The dwarves? No, he must be more tired than he thought; why the hell would they be in Nowhere?
Drake turned his head slightly, his emerald green eyes scanning the location from beneath the safety of his black hood. Got them. Yeah, just as he’d thought; it was the dwarves and they were standing outside the Devil’s Head Pub, laughing and joking with a group of dreadlocked boggarts.
What the hell was going on? He turned away sharply, his body tense, the blood pounding in his ears so loudly that it was hard to think straight.
They couldn’t find him or Willow here, but if they did? No, he couldn’t think about that now; he had to focus. The dwarves had too many friends in Nowhere; it was, after all, the Elders of Nowhere who had invited the dwarves to join in the competition to hunt Falkor down and slaughter him in front of the baying mob. Fortunately, with Alchymia’s help, Drake had stolen their prize and robbed them of their glory.
But why were the dwarves here now?
Was it just a coincidence that they were in the same place as Drake at exactly the same time? Had they just come for the festivities?
No. Not possible. Drake knew for a fact that they rarely strayed from Devilsgate these days.
Drake’s stomach tensed, he could feel a ball of stone in his gut. They had to be after Alchymia. But why, and what did they want with her? Was it to do with The Emerald Key? And were they indeed working for Fenrik “The Spider“ Lasko as he suspected?
He looked at Willow. Her amber eyes stared back at him, defiant and waiting for action. But Drake couldn’t afford a showdown here, it was too dangerous.
At that moment a group of Healers, cloaked in the black robes of the order, appeared to the right of Drake and Willow, blocking Drake’s view of the dwarves as they glided past, chanting and swinging their sweet-smoking incense bowls. Drake took his chance and pulled Willow into the group hoping that, once they were hidden by the sea of cloaks, they could safely sneak past the dwarves and onto the path that snaked up the hill to Alchymia’s tower.
But suddenly Drake stopped, the hair on the back of his neck raising like the hackles of a dog.
What was that? What had Scarface said about Fenrik?
He looked over towards Scarface who was handing over a large wad of money to a spindly boggart with a gold ring dangling from the end of his long nose.
‘Consider it done, Scarface, consider it done,’ said the boggart, fingering the money as drool formed in pools at the corner of his lopsided mouth.
‘If you find them, you know what to do.’ Scarface grinned, revealing his yellow teeth.
The boggart stuffed the money in the back pocket of his leather trousers. ‘Don’t worry, no one will know,’ he said, placing a large hairy hand on Scarface‘s shoulder.
‘And, while you’re at it,’ added Scarface, ’when you do find her,’ but he stopped mid-sentence, pulling a stubby finger across his throat.
The boggart nodded his dreadlocked head in agreement, a wicked smile lighting up his face, his black teeth just about visible from under his hairy lip.
The anger whipped up inside Drake with the ferocity of a tornado. Stupid dwarves. And Fenrik… He curled one hand into a fist and cupped it in his other hand. What he wouldn’t do to wipe that smile off Scarface. If only he was in Devilsgate he’d go over and sort them out right now.
Drake’s head snapped around. Damn it, where did Willow and the Healers go? He was quite alone, exposed to the dwarves. He clenched and unclenched his fists at the side of his body, unsure of what to do, his eyes scanning the crowd, searching for Willow.
Got her. She was standing just a small way off by a stall selling animal chains and shackles, her eyes hunting for Drake.
Suddenly her eyes locked onto his.
Drake pulled his hood as far over his face as he could, dropped his gaze to the muddy floor and began the short, but very exposed, walk to her, every step feeling like it was taking a year.
No. No. No! Drake stopped, his heart thumping wildly in his chest like a big bass drum.
Drake flexed his hands at the side of his body, preparing himself for the fight. Slowly, he turned his head to meet Scarface’s gaze.
‘HEY YOU, FREAK! Fetch me some beer,’ said Scarface to a small gnome, dressed in black lederhosen with knee-length grey socks, who had appeared in the crooked doorway of the pub under a mountain of beer jugs. He jabbed at him with his leather boot and the gnome flew through the air sending the jugs and the beer smashing to the floor. There was a roar of laughter as the gnome struggled to his feet, his grey candy floss beard now dripping wet and clinging to his chin. Scarface waited until the gnome had managed to stand up before sending him flying again with another sharp kick to his bottom.
With Scarface’s attention clearly elsewhere, Drake hurried past them and over to Willow. She turned away from him, her face as moody as the sky over Devilsgate. She waited until he had passed her before she followed him up the hill and away from the fight that was now in full swing outside the pub.
Once they had reached a safe distance she spun around on her heels, her eyes blazing with fire. ‘What happened then?’ she snapped.
‘Nothing,’ said Drake, his fists still pumping at his side.
‘Did you want them to catch us?’
‘No,’ said Drake, holding his hands in the air like he was surrendering. ‘I overheard them talking, so I stopped to listen and when I turned around you were gone.’
Willow stared at him for a moment, the defiance still written on her face. What the hell had happened to her since he had left?
‘Why are they even here anyway?’ she asked.
‘I think they’re after the book; they were talking about Alchymia.’
Her eyes narrowed for a brief moment, then finally, she relaxed. ‘We need to find it first then, don’t we?’ She turned and walked off up the hill, away from the sound of smashing glass and cracking wood.