Chapter Twelve Continued
The journey continued in silence as they passed through the Forest of Suffering with its thickets of sword-like brambles that writhed across the path like slimy wyrms and the gnarled fingers of the trees that reached up to the sun-less sky like snakes on the head of the Medusa. Every now and again, a terrifying scream would rip through the silence of the forest, interrupting, for the briefest second, the elephant-like snores of Pyro and the intermittent rumble of his farts.
Drake’s mood was worsening with every second that passed as the coach rocked to and fro wafting the vile smell around. How he would like to play his Zephyr and knock them all unconscious, maybe then he could finally get some peace. But then, Pyro would still smell, he always did.
Light flooded the carriage as they emerged from the pulsating shadows of the forest. A vast lake lay in front of them, its deep and un-naturally still water surrounded by weeping willows, their elegant branches drooping sorrowfully onto its glass-like surface.
Charon directed the coach over the long crumbling stone bridge that ran over the lake, its surface scarred with a spider’s web of deep cracks and crevices. The wheels bounced up and down over the bumpy surface, jolting Pyro awake.
‘So,’ yawned Pyro loudly, ‘What have I missed?’ The djinn let out another blast of smelly wind. ‘Oh, sorry,’ he said, slapping his chops and scratching at his belly.
Drake remained silent but his green eyes bored into Pyro.
‘How long have we been travelling?’ exhaled Willow, her face looking pale from holding her breath.
‘I don’t think-’
‘No, you don’t think, do you? That’s the problem!’ snapped Drake.
‘You know Blackthorn, I’m not really feeling the love at the moment,’ replied Pyro, ‘I think you’re a bit tense, need to chill a bit. If you don’t you’ll only end up having indigestion or worse. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about-‘
‘Tense?’ said Drake, his hands clamped onto his legs as he tried to stop himself from exploding. ‘Tense? Maybe that’s because you wind me up Pyro. I don’t like you!’
‘Oh,’ said the djinn, his bottom lip curling under, ‘if you’re going to be like that.’
‘Drake!’ said Willow, ‘You’ve hurt his feelings.’
‘It’s okay,’ said Pyro. He turned to Drake, pulling his shoulders back. ‘Why bring me here then? I never asked to come.’
‘Because,’ hissed Drake, ‘you’re working for the man I hate, the man who ordered the death of my father-‘
‘Drake, you don’t know that,’ interrupted Willow, ‘not even Pyro knows who got him to steal the Hand of Glory-’
‘You’re working for him Pyro, and I want to know the minute he summons you again.’ Drake looked out of the window, ‘I hate him,’ he spat, ‘and I hate you.’
Suddenly the carriage ground to a halt, smacking Willow’s and Pyro’s head off the back of their seats.
Drake bolted upright in his seat, all hostilities momentarily forgotten. For the moment anyway. ‘Are we at the Fortress?’
‘No, I don’t think so,’ said Willow wiping the sleeve of her hoodie over the wet glass, ‘The Fortress is still miles away, we haven’t even crossed the bridge yet but…oh-’
Charon appeared at the carriage door, his white face screwed up in disgust. He took out the handkerchief from his top pocket with a flourish and placed it on the silver handle of the door before slowly opening it.
‘Problem?’ asked Drake.
Charon took a deep breath and tried not to retch as he spoke. ‘Yes, a very big problem. I am sick of hearing you three arguing. It’s worse than listening to the Harpies’ screeching! And what,’ he said, his voice so high now that it was more of a whisper, ‘is that smell?’
Pyro smiled meekly and shrugged.
‘I’m warning you, I will abandon you,’ said Charon, close to hyperventilating as he heard Pyro release even more wind, ‘in the Forest.’ He paused to retch again as the smell wafted towards him before he slammed the door shut and then spun around and returned to the front of the carriage.
‘You can’t do that!’ shouted Willow, ‘the Underworld Act, remember?’
Charon gave a warning hiss.
‘What’s his problem?’ asked Pyro. There was a long silence and then Pyro let rip again. ‘Oops, sorry, don’t know what’s wrong with me.’
Drake took a deep breath and counted to ten. ‘For Heaven’s sake Pyro, do you have to?’ he said through gritted teeth, ‘Can’t you control yourself for just two minutes?’
‘Oh, excuse me for breathing, have a go at the djinn why don’t you. I’m not feeling myself at the moment, I think I’m coming down with Low Altitude sickness or something-‘
‘Well, it’s being underground, it’s not natural for a djinn to be so constricted and I bet there’s iron down here, no wonder my digestive system is all to pot!’
‘Pyro,’ said Drake, his teeth still tightly clamped together, ‘You’re a demon, demons are used to being underground -‘
‘I AM NOT A DEMON!’ screeched Pyro, his face blazing orange.
‘Actually Pyro, I think you’ll find djinns are a type of demon,’ interjected Willow.
‘Oh, what is this? Gang up on Pyro day? Are you trying to tell me what I am? Do you think I have a personality disorder?’
‘I’m not a demon, end of,’ said Pyro folding his arms across his chest.
The coach screeched to a stop again. Charon sprinted to the side of the carriage and wrenched the door open. ‘OUT!’ he screeched. ‘I’ve had enough,’ he said flinging his arms in the air, ‘of you arguing and I cannot stand that smell any longer! Get out!’
Drake, Willow and Pyro just stared at Charon.
‘GET OUT, GET OUT!’ shouted Charon. ‘I am not paid enough for this! GET OUT!’
‘But you can’t,’ said Willow, ‘The-’
‘Underworld Act,’ interrupted Charon, ’I know, I’m sick of you telling me. But, if I may draw your attention to Section 10, sub-section 5 c, Exclusions and Exceptions, it clearly states that I can throw you out of the carriage if my life is endangered or threatened.’
Willow laughed, ’Threatened?’
‘That smell,’ said Charon, his hand clamped over his nose, ’is in danger of suffocating me. Now, GET OUT!’
Willow took the scroll out of her bag and unfurled it. ’Game over. He’s right.’
Charon stepped aside and motioned for them to get out quickly.