Dragon Rider – Part Nineteen

Dragon Rider

Chapter Nine Continued

Foxes

The gates to Nowhere were locked tight, with one-hundred bolts, one-hundred keys and a whole lot of magick, at twelve p.m. sharp to prevent the murderous redcaps (rat-like creatures who soak their hats in the blood of their victims) rampaging through the town.  Mind you, how they got past the Search and Security Team and the Kraken was anyone’s guess.  But as it was well past eleven o’clock when they had finally finished their conversation, Drake and Willow had no choice but to stay the night with Alchymia who had lightened the mood with a banquet fit for a King.

Drake hadn’t put up much of a fight and instead had taken his fill of the mountains of cooked meat, bread and treacle sponge that Alchymia had conjured out of thin air, before he slumped, belly full, beside Willow, in front of the crackling fire.  Alchymia proved to be an excellent host, amusing them with ancient stories of myth and mysticism.  He knew she was trying to ease their worries for one night, but the more she tried, the more he could feel the dread growing in the pit of his stomach like a heavy stone.  To even contemplate going into Death’s domain was crazy, but Drake knew there was no escaping from it now; his fate was sealed and had been from the moment he’d agreed to Funestus’ proposition.

At one o’clock Willow and Drake had collapsed, as far apart as possible, on the comfiest bed that they had ever slept on, and had instantaneously fallen into an enchanted, dreamless sleep.

Drake woke to the sound of birdsong floating in on the warm autumnal sunshine peeping in through the grimy window.  It was peaceful here, in this room.  For a few precious moments, it felt like he was home, and then it was gone, interrupted by the sound of Willow snoring next to him.  He lifted himself up on his elbows; he could see Alchymia sitting in front of the roaring fire toasting crumpets for breakfast.  Fulcanelli was nowhere to be seen.

He swung himself off the bed and went to sit down next to Alchymia.  He picked up a crumpet from the blue china plate beside her and speared it onto a long rod, a huge grin on his face at her attempt at domesticity.

‘You don’t usually cook, do you?’ he asked, as Alchymia tossed a blackened crumpet into the fire.

‘No,’ she said, spearing another crumpet onto her rod, ‘I do prefer to use magick; it is much more controllable.’

‘I think we can manage without breakfast,’ he said smiling and prodding at the fire.  But, despite the fire, the room had suddenly grown frosty.

‘I know what you are thinking,’ said Alchymia abruptly, ‘and I will not allow it.’

Where the hell had that come from?  ‘Excuse me?’ asked Drake, turning to look at her, the smile evaporating quickly from his face.

‘I am not going to let you leave without her,’ said Alchymia, motioning at Willow with a quick flick of her head.

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ said Drake, a black cloud suddenly falling over him like the night.

‘So you weren’t planning to slip out whilst she was asleep?’

Drake fidgeted in his seat.  ‘No.’

Alchymia raised an eyebrow.

Drake sighed; there was no point arguing.  ‘Okay, okay,’ he said raising the palm of his free hand.  ‘How did you know?’

Alchymia’s face softened and she smiled at him warmly.  ‘I know you Drake, I know how your mind works.’  But the warmth soon turned to a mixture of concern and disbelief.  ‘Do you think that you will not need help on this quest of yours, did you not hear me when I told you how dangerous it is going to be?’

‘Of course I heard you,’ said Drake, prodding the fire again with his iron rod, ‘I just work better on my own.’

‘How do you know that when you never let anyone help?’

Drake seemed to be studying the sizzling flames of the fire as they licked his increasingly blackened crumpet, but really his eyes were unseeing, his mind elsewhere.  Finally he took the crumpet out of the flames, looked at the burnt lump welded onto the end of the rod and threw it back into the fire.

‘Why do you insist on pushing people away?’

‘I don’t.’  He spat out the words with a little too much venom.  Why the hell did he sound like a sulky child whenever she questioned him?

He slumped back in his chair, resting his elbow on the broad wooden arm of the chair, covering his face, his mark, with his hand.  If only he could gouge the mark out with a glass shard, make it disappear forever.

‘Your burning hatred and uncontrollable desire to avenge your father’s murder will destroy you Drake, not the fact that you are the last Dragon Rider in existence.  You push those that care away, afraid that they might get too close and see the real you, the part of you that cares, that loves.  Do you think that protects them?  Or is it yourself that you are protecting?’

What did she want from him?  Did she want him to admit that life was just easier if he only had himself to rely on?  He sat there in silence, unwilling to give her what she wanted.

‘If you continue to allow your hatred to fester inside you like this, it will kill you.’  Alchymia leaned back in her chair, her face seemed to have aged greatly in the space of a few moments, as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders.  ‘A wise man once said that those with revenge in their hearts must dig two graves; one for their enemy and one for themselves.’

Drake flexed his hands, the anger was pulsing through his veins waiting to strike like a poisonous snake.  ‘Are you lecturing me?’ he spat through clenched teeth, ‘You’re not my mother!’

The watch on Drake’s wrist began to bleep.  ‘I have to take this, it’s Gizmo,’ he said, leaping up from his chair.  The desire to get out of the room was almost as overwhelming as the need to argue back, to vent his frustrations.  He glared at Alchymia for a few seconds and then, without another word, he bounced out of the room.

He could feel the pressure in his skull again, it was stabbing at his brain like an ice pick.  Why did she always make him feel like a little kid?

‘Okay, Okay!’ spat Drake to the watch, as he sat down on the crumbling staircase in the other room.  He could hear the rise and fall of voices behind him; Alchymia must’ve woken Willow up so his hopes of escaping from Nowhere without her were well and truly shattered.  Despite what Alchymia thought, Drake knew Willow would only slow him down and right now all he wanted to do was to find the book, get back to Devilsgate and sort out Fenrik.

Drake pressed the button on the side of his watch and Gizmo’s heart-shaped face appeared in front of him.

‘What’s wrong Gizmo?’ asked Drake, noticing immediately that Gizmo looked nervous, his appearance not as immaculate as usual.

‘Look, don’t worry,’ said Gizmo, looking furtively over his shoulder, ‘but we had a bit of trouble here last night.  There were demons-’

‘How many?’

‘I don’t know, four or five, hard to say,’ said Gizmo shrugging, ‘it was dark.  I think they were after the computer stuff, anyway, we managed to get rid of them but-’

‘Are you okay?’

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine but-’

‘And the warehouse?’

‘Yeah, they tried to set it on fire but we stopped them, Falkor scared the living dead out of them-’

Drake’s eyes narrowed.  ‘Falkor?’

‘Er, yeah-’

‘Gizmo?  What aren’t you telling me?’

Gizmo scratched his head and grimaced.  ‘He’s bolted Drake, don’t know where he is or-’

Drake closed his eyes and sighed, as he tried to keep that angry serpent inside him under control.  ‘Okay, look, it’s not your fault.  Keep everyone together, watch each other’s backs and make sure you keep a lookout, okay?’

Gizmo nodded.  ‘How’s Willow?’ he asked.

‘She’s fine,’ said Drake, ‘We’ll be back soon.  Look after yourselves.’  Drake pressed the button again and Gizmo’s face disappeared.  He hadn’t got the patience to deal with Gizmo’s sentimentalities.

Complications, always so many goddamn complications!  And where the hell was Falkor?  If he got caught…No, he couldn’t even try to think about that now, there was too much crap in his head already.

Drake stood up, his head pounding, and he swept back into Alchymia’s room.

Willow was sitting by Alchymia.  A heavy book, bound in a rich red cover, floated before them, its thick pale brown pages open.  ‘I do not summon Demons as a rule, indeed-’

‘They’ve attacked the warehouse…lots of them…last night…’ said Drake, kneading his forehead with his hand.

‘Slow down Drake,’ said Willow, her face ashen, as she shifted around in her chair to see Drake, ‘what’s happened?’

Drake halted his frantic pacing.  ‘It must be Fenrik…it must be…’

‘What’s happened?!’ repeated Willow.

‘There was an attack on the warehouse last night.  Demons tried to nick the computers and set them on fire.  Falkor helped scare them off but now he’s bolted…If they get hold of him…’

‘But The Warehouse is okay?  And Gizmo?’

‘Yes, yes, they’re all holed up there, but Falkor…’

‘Falkor will be fine,’ said Alchymia who was now flicking her eyes over the book in front of her.

‘How do you know?’ snapped Drake, his anger still boiling over from their conversation, or Alchymia’s lecture, depending on your perspective.  She didn’t know everything; she didn’t know how intrinsically linked he and Falkor really were.

Drake knew that for the moment at least, Falkor was unhurt because if he was damaged in any way he would feel it deep down in his very core.  This was the bond that held them together; Reciprocity; the effect whereby any injury caused to himself or Falkor was felt by the other in all of its agonizing glory.  If Falkor was killed, well, Drake would feel that too, and Drake would eventually die heartbroken, that much was certain; but Drake’s own death would be slow and painful as the link between dragon and rider gradually dissolved.  Slowly, madness would spread through Drake like a poison, infecting every part of him until, eventually, his own madness would force him to end his own life; only then could he join his dragon forever in the afterlife.

This was Reciprocity in its most raw state.

‘Because he is a dragon, a wild animal who is perfectly capable of looking after himself,’ said Alchymia, not lifting her ice-blue eyes away from her spellbook.

‘Drake,’ said Willow.

Drake didn’t hear her, his mind was racing.  He started pacing up and down again mumbling to himself.

‘DRAKE!’ shouted Willow.

‘What?’ snapped Drake, spinning on his heels to face her.

‘You might want to sit down-‘

‘Willow,’ sighed Drake, rubbing his forehead with his fingers, ‘I haven’t got time to sit down!’

‘Sit down,’ commanded Alchymia.

Drake stood still, his eyes flicking from Alchymia, to Willow, to the chair and back again.  He huffed and finally sat down.

‘Gizmo will be fine, he’ll deal with it; we’ve had enough practice.  Anyway, we’ve got our own stuff to worry about.’  Willow coughed nervously and leant forward in her chair, like she was expecting a bomb to go off.  ‘Drake,’ she said, looking at him sheepishly, ‘we’re going to summon Pyro-’

‘You what?’ shouted Drake, bouncing back out of his seat almost the second his bottom had touched it, ‘What are you talking about?  Why?  I don’t think so, I don’t want that foul little-‘

Fulcanelli dashed out from under the bed and gave Drake a quick nip on his leg.

‘Drake, sit down, you are scaring my cat,’ commanded Alchymia.

‘I’m scaring your cat?’ said Drake, sitting down, rubbing his leg.  ‘He just bit me!’  He looked at Alchymia, but the look on her face told him to leave it.  He crossed his arms, slumped in the chair and turned his gaze to the fire.

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