Chapter Eight Continued
Alchymia and the Cross-eyed Cat
Alchymia tore her eyes away from the pages of the book and picked up Drake’s empty mug. She swirled the tea residue around the bottom of the mug, studying the patterns it formed, her brow wrinkled like a newly ploughed field as she turned the mug this way and that. She dropped the mug back onto the table before consulting the book again.
After a short time, Alchymia clapped her hands and a pack of vividly coloured tarot cards materialised before her, suspended mid-air as if some invisible hands were holding them. With a wave of her hand, the cards began to dance. She snatched a card from the pack; it depicted a man in bright purple robes brandishing a wand; The card of the Magician Hermes.
Alchymia leaned back in her chair and sighed heavily. She clapped her hands once more and the cards disappeared. ‘I trust you Drake, but I cannot say the same for this Funestus Black. I do not know him or his motives.’
‘I know that but-’
Alchymia continued. ‘The Emerald Key is a very powerful artefact which can be used both for works of extreme good and extreme evil. Such a dangerous object could bring about devastation on a scale not seen in this dimension before.’
‘That’s why I can’t let Fenrik get it, you know what will happen if he finds it first.’ Drake’s stomach constricted, he could feel the bile rising up his throat.
‘Yes, indeed.’ Alchymia’s eyes flicked back to the book and she sighed again, ‘But it is out of my hands-’
‘That’s it? You’re giving up on us?’
‘No. I mean, it is out of my hands. I too have no say in the matter; The Fates have decided I must tell you what I know. Unfortunately for you, Fenrik will prove more of a problem than you had hoped. He already possesses a portion of The Key-’
‘What?’ said Drake digging his fingers into his legs as he leaned forward in his chair.
‘The Aradian Codex,’ she gestured to the book floating before her, ‘tells me that when Hermes Trismegestus-’
‘The book’s Guardian on earth?’ asked Willow.
‘Yes. When he was given The Emerald Key, Hermes made plans to make sure that this most dangerous text was entombed with him when he died, so that, even in death, he might protect its secrets. However, all did not go to plan, for when his body was laid to rest someone attempted to tear The Emerald Key from him. Fortunately, only a part of the text was stolen and this is what has been handed down through generations of what are now called Guardians, although they were not really Guardians-’
‘Because they were only looking after a stolen part of the book?’ asked Willow.
‘Exactly, but truth be told, they probably never even realized that they were Guardians of a stolen object; that information was probably lost through the sands of time. It also explains why no one Guardian has ever been able to fully exploit the book’s enormous power, for although certain information can be accessed in its current state, if you know how to translate it, the text is only truly powerful when it is read altogether, as one.’
‘Until now,’ spat Drake. He jumped up from his seat, his fists clenched, his jaw tight. ’He wants to reunite the two parts, no wonder he’s trying to find it, you’ve got to help us-’
‘Sit down,’ commanded Alchymia, her anger, the hag hidden deep within, momentarily flashing across her face.
Drake did as he was told.
‘The Codex’s great wisdom cannot pinpoint the exact location of Fenrik’s stolen part of The Emerald Key. It seems he has a very powerful protective spell placed upon it, but it can tell me where the other part is kept, but, be warned, if you continue on this quest you will face a perilous journey that will affect you in ways that you could never imagine. You will face grave danger from things that no living being should ever have to encounter. Do you think you are strong enough?’
‘I have to get that Book,’ said Drake.
‘I cannot stand in your way, Drake. The Fates have made this your quest, it is up to them if you achieve your goal or not. To find the lost part of The Emerald Key you must venture through the Valley of Death.’
‘The Valley of Death?’ spluttered Willow, her voice breaking on the last word.
‘The Underworld…’ said Drake, ‘Why?’
‘The Underworld?’ asked Willow, her face beginning to drain of colour.
‘Hermes, as its original Guardian, still holds half of The Emerald Key and until he can reunite it with the missing half, his spirit clings on to this life, not daring to pass through into the Afterlife.’
‘Isn’t there anyone…you know…alive that can help us?’ asked Willow, her face now as white as a unicorn’s horn.
‘Unfortunately not. Hermes still has his portion of The Book,’ said Alchymia, running a pale hand over the book floating in front of her, ‘it has not been destroyed, no, for then Hermes would not be a spirit, he would have been released from his servitude. There is no other way. To find The Emerald Key you must travel to The Valley of Death and get him to relinquish his half of The Book.’
‘Can’t we just summon him?’ asked Willow trying to disguise the panic rising in her voice.
‘Yeah, Willow’s a witch. I’m sure she could help summon him,’ added Drake.
Alchymia raised an eyebrow. ‘You are a witch?’
Willow shrugged. ‘Not trained so I don’t possess a Book of Shadows, but I can do the odd spell or two.’
Alchymia considered this new information. ‘No. Even if you were an excellent witch, summoning spirits is far too dangerous.’
Drake rolled his eyes. ‘Others, the Demonologists, they do it, it can’t be any more dangerous than going to The Valley of Death, can it?’
‘There is a difference between summoning Demons and the Elementals, which are alive, and the spirits of the dead that dwell in the Underworld. When one summons a Demon, it is only the Demon you are calling that can travel to you. This is not so for spirits; some are malevolent creatures who can attach themselves to the dead spirit you are summoning, so, even if you only call forth the spirit of Hermes, there may be others that escape through the crack you create in the Spirit World. Whatever escapes and whatever havoc they create would be your responsibility and hence you might end up destroying the very things you are trying to protect. Where would the sense be in that? No, there is no choice; to get the information you need you will have to speak to Hermes directly. You must charm him, apply to his ego. As the Guardian of The Emerald Key, he will not want to give it up easily.’
‘How do we do that?’
‘That, my dearest Drake, is something you have to find out for yourself.’