Dragon Rider – Part Six

Dragon Rider

Chapter Four

Funestus Black

Black’s mansion made all the other houses in the immediate surroundings look cheap by comparison.  Its vast Ionic-columned porch was topped with a pediment complete with marble sculptures depicting the moment the Faeries took over Devilsgate and behind it sat a huge golden dome that dazzled like the sun.  Not that the sun had shone in Devilsgate for a very long time.

Drake and Gizmo climbed the marble steps up to the red lacquered front doors.  Gizmo grabbed the gold doorknocker and paused to look over his shoulder at Drake, ’For some reason Willow trusts you, don’t blow it, a lot is riding on this.’  He turned back to the door and rapped the knocker twice.

‘Okay,’ sighed Drake, ’but I’ve already told you, I can’t promise anything.’

Moments later the sound of shuffling feet could be heard behind the over-sized doors.  There was a brief pause before the doors slowly opened.

Drake took a step back and shuddered.

A grey hunched-back demon, dressed in a white shirt and pique vest, appeared from behind the door.  He bowed low, so low in fact that he nearly scraped his rather long nose on the marble floor.  ‘Good afternoon.’

Drake cringed.  Demons; he hated demons.  They were the lowest, selling their souls to anyone that would have it them off them.

‘Hello, it’s Lomax isn’t it?’ asked Gizmo.

‘Ah, Mr Chetana.  I do apologise, I didn’t recognise you in present company.’  The Demon eyed Drake up and down suspiciously, his nostrils flared in disgust.

Drake squeezed his hands into fists.  That demon had some nerve.

‘We have an appointment with Mr Black at three,’ said Gizmo.

Lomax’s green eyes traced over the marking on Drake’s face.  ‘Are you sure you have an appointment?  Mr Black is very busy with guests at the moment,’ he said, speaking to Gizmo but not taking his eyes off Drake.

‘Could you please just check for us?’ snapped Drake.  This Demon was starting to do his head in.

Gizmo glared at Drake before turning back to Lomax.  ‘Please Lomax?  I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important and we do have an appointment, I booked it with Funestus myself.’

Lomax sighed.  ‘Alright.  You may come in and wait.’  He bowed low again and backed into the hallway whilst gesturing for Drake and Gizmo to follow.

The hallway was huge, probably half the size of a small house.  A large staircase, carpeted in unicorn hair that had been dyed crimson, dominated the back wall, its large oak bannisters, dripping with carved grapes and vines, twisted elegantly up to the next floor.  And from the domed ceiling hung a diamond chandelier the size of a medium sized dining table.

Lomax knocked on black double doors to the right of the hallway.  A muffled voice told him to enter and he disappeared into the room.

A few moments passed, in which there were raised voices and a thumping sound, before Lomax shuffled out of the room, pulling the doors closed behind him.

‘Mr. Black will be out to see you in a short while, if you would like to wait in his study.’  Lomax led them through double doors on the opposite side of the hallway and into Funestus Black’s study.  He motioned for them to sit down on two antique chairs, bowed low, and backed out of the room.

‘Nice pad,’ said Drake, running his hand over the top rail of one of the mahogany chairs.  His eyes lingered on Funestus’ uncluttered walnut desk and then to the bookshelves behind it stuffed full of books, both old and new, on a vast array of subjects from the antique leather-bound “Approaching the Ars Magica”, to “Demons: Techniques in Domination and Detention” and the new paperback by Zion Collins, “Zoning into Zoroastrianism”.

Drake turned as the mahogany Grandfather Clock in the corner of the room struck three.  Rare piece, thought Drake, not many human clocks of such size or decoration survived the Appropriation Riots as the Faeries seemed to like chopping them up for firewood.  That clock, sold on the black market, would feed the Lost Souls for a while and would get him off the hook.  Would be a bit of a problem getting it out of the house though.

He smiled, shook his head and walked over to the walnut bureau sitting beside the clock.  It was adorned with photographs of a blonde haired man shaking hands or accepting gifts and accolades from various celebrities including Stud Buchanan, the lead singer of Drake’s favourite band, The Skulls of Destiny, Daniel Powell from The Witch Factor and Gizmo’s actor father Yash.

Gizmo coughed and fidgeted in his chair.

‘Relax,’ said Drake spinning around, his boots squeaking on the parquet floor, ‘I’m not going to touch anything, mind you, this whole room would probably keep the Lost Souls going for a good few-’  But Drake stopped as he caught sight of an oil painting, with a thick gilt frame, hanging over the great baroque pavonazza fireplace on the far wall.

Drake swept over to it.

‘What’s up?’ asked Gizmo, as he turned in his chair to get a better look.

‘Look at this,’ said Drake, ‘I’ve…I’ve never seen anything like it before-’

‘Yes, it is exquisite, isn’t it?’ came a silky voice from behind them.

Drake turned his head to see a slight man, dressed in a ruby red silk smoking jacket, standing in the doorway, his aftershave filling the room with the fragrant smell of crushed orchids from Shangri-La and the aromatic teardrops of the weeping blossom tree that blooms only once every fifty years.

‘That is the legendary Fiery-death, the dragon fashioned out of pure copper by Vulcan at the behest of the Gods.  It is supposed to inhabit the bowels of Hell, if you believe in such things.’

‘It’s so…vivid.  It looks so real.’

‘Yes, the artist, Joseph Banks, was very talented.  See how he has blended the gold, reds and oranges over there,’ said Funestus, coming to stand right behind Drake, his slender hand pointing to the bottom of the painting, ‘it actually seems as though the flames are projecting out at you and look here at the eyes, the eyes of the beast blaze with such a ferocity that you can feel its hatred.’  Funestus turned and extended his pale hand from under his silk jacket to Gizmo.  ‘Ah Gizmo, how nice to see you again.  How is your father?’

‘He’s good thank you, busy filming in the Honduras, and you?’

‘Oh, you know how it is, busy, busy, busy, and this is?’ he said, turning to Drake, his one eyebrow arched high, hidden under his floppy blond fringe.

‘This is Drake Blackthorn,’ said Gizmo.

‘So you are the young man that Gizmo and Willow have told me about.  Pleased to meet you.’  He shook Drake’s hand loosely, his cold hand barely touching Drake’s skin.

Drake remained silent and unrelenting as he watched Funestus’ blue eyes lingering on his own face, on his tattoo.  He was almost immune to the stares now but this guy, this guy made him feel weird, unclean even.

‘To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be seeing you.’  Funestus swept behind his desk and perched himself upon the arm of his red leather chair.  ‘I didn’t think that they’d be able to persuade you to come.’

‘Well, as Willow explained-‘ started Gizmo.

Funestus held a pale hand up to silence him and turned his gaze to Drake.  ‘Now, now Gizmo, let me talk to the young man that I’ve heard so much about.’

‘So talk,’ said Drake, his eyes not faltering under Funestus’ scrutiny.  He could feel Gizmo cringing beside him, but he didn’t care.  He disliked Funestus already; he was clearly playing games and Drake hated games.  The guy was asking for all he got.

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Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty-Two

Joe followed Mrs Crow through the door at the back and down the long corridor that seemed to grow darker the further we went. Mr Crow, the fat man, and the tall man all followed behind. Lola, who hadn’t wanted to enter the first time I’d entered the home, was now trotting beside Mrs Crow quite happily. Joe, although he loved Lola with all his heart, couldn’t help feeling a little bit betrayed.

Mrs Crow entered an open doorway at the end of the corridor. Joe followed but stopped still in the doorway frozen not by fear but by a strange sense of foreboding which he couldn’t quite explain.

There was a large oval oak table polished to within an inch of its life with a large skull etched into its surface. A long scythe ran along the back of it which reminded Joe of the table used in one of his favourite programs, Sons of Anarchy. There were thirteen chairs arranged around the table.

‘Hello,’ said Mrs Crow to the room. She turned to Joe and said, pointing to an old woman wearing an oxygen mask, ‘Joe, this is Febris.’

Febris nodded.

Joe said hello to the old woman who looked like she was only inches from dying.

‘Next to her is Limos.’

‘Hello,’ said Joe.

Limos looked up, said hi, then went back to playing with his belt over which his large belly hung. Joe could see his stomach poking out from under his Metallica t-shirt. Joe couldn’t tell you why but he really took a liking to Limos.

‘And this is Marcus.’

Marcus stood up, shook his blonde hair and held out a hand to Joe. Joe took his hand in his and shook it. Marcus’ handshake was loose and his hands were very soft.

‘Hello,’ said Joe.

‘And I’m Lucifer,’ said a husky voice.

‘Lucifer?’ asked Joe, turning to where the voice had come from. He was sure that somehow all of this was a big fat joke and that at some point someone was going to jump out at him and shout “Surprise! Got you!”

Lucifer, if that was who he was (and Joe doubted this very much), was huge, both in width and height and he had a great mane of orange hair with a bushy beard and moustache. When he took Joe’s hand in his, Joe thought he was going to crush his hand to dust.

‘Yes. Pleased to meet you. And you are..?’

‘The answer to our problems. Hopefully,’ said Mrs Crow. Joe also doubted this very much. At no point in his life had he ever been the answer to anyone’s problems.

‘Sorry, but I didn’t quite catch that,’ said Marcus taking his seat.

‘Come and sit down, Joe,’ said Mrs Crow pointing to the seat at the side of her.

Joe did as he was told.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Five tips to help you when you’re feeling like you’re drowning.

Life sucks. And then some.

Sometimes life just gets too much, too hectic, and we can feel like we have no control over our own lives. In fact, it’s happened to me recently and that’s why I’m writing this post. I want to share with you the top five things that helped me get back on track and gain control of my life.

I’m so busy! But then, who isn’t? I write this blog, have three shops, need to make products for those shops, as well as look after my family and my dog. Oh, yeah, and myself!

I’m not moaning. I love my work. I wouldn’t have it any other way but sometimes it feels like there’s just too much stuff to do!

So what do you do?

Tip One:

Take one day at a time!

Rome wasn’t built in a day (I know, it’s a terrible cliche but still very true!). You don’t have to do everything in one day. Prioritise what needs to be done.

I follow a red, amber and green system where assign every task a colour ( red being the most urgent, green the least – I know, I know, it took me ages to think of that ;)). I make sure I do the urgent (red) jobs first. Usually, this is based on time constraints and as we progress through the week or month some jobs that were green will go to red. To do this you need to:

Tip Two:

Make lists! Every week I write a list of things that need doing. This is a big list with everything on, even things that I know can wait for a while. Then I assign them a colour so I know what needs to doing and when. I update the list every day, knocking items off that I’ve completed (Sooo Satisfying!). At the end of every working week, I rewrite the list fresh for the next new week.

person holding blue ballpoint pen writing in notebook
Photo by picjumbo.com on Pexels.com

Tip Three:

I print off a calendar which allows me to plan long term. This is especially good for planning blog posts and, in my jewellery and gift business, allows me to plan for big occasions such as Halloween, Christmas and Mother’s Day. It also allows me to see when my kids are going to be on holiday so that I can do all the planning, writing of blog posts etc. in advance rather than trying to do it all with the kids off.

flat lay photography of calendar
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Tip Four:

Even with all this planning, I can still get that awful overwhelming feeling that I’m sinking into the mud, never to return.

Lists are great for planning but sometimes looking at a long list can give you the heebie-jeebies. When this happens I walk away.

It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But, it really works. Go and have a cup of tea, take an hour off, go for a walk, watch your favourite T.V. programme. Whatever you need.

OR…

Just take the day off. You’re not a machine. Sometimes when you’re feeling like this it’s because your body and your mind need a break!

Just because you’re sitting at you’re desk doesn’t mean you’re actually working!

If you take the day off you’ll probably find you’ll come back fresh the day after and actually get more work done!

Blimey, there were a lot of exclamation marks in those last few sentences, weren’t there?

Tip Five:

Learn to chuck things in the fuck-it bucket!

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Ask yourself; do I really need to do this? Does this add anything to what I’m doing? Do I really need to go to Aunt Sara’s party tomorrow when she can’t stand me and I haven’t seen her in ten years?

Learn to say NO. Learn to turn things down.

And, I’ll say it again for everyone at the back; LEARN TO SAY NO.

This, my friends, is very important because the majority of us are brought up to be people pleasers and that means we’re not very good at saying no.

A great resource I go to whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed and needing help to sort my head out (and my priorities sometimes) is the fabulous book by Sarah Knight, called, The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving A Fuck. I urge you to try it. It’s full of useful advice. As I said in a previous post (Books that have helped me with my writing), this book has changed my life! Knight teaches you “how to stop spending time you don’t have doing the things you don’t want to do with people you don’t like.”

Oh, and an extra tip; look at pictures of cute animals. Like this:

close up photo of dog
Photo by Juliano Ferreira on Pexels.com

Damn it, cute animals get me every time 🙂

What tips would you give to people who are feeling overwhelmed?

Death’s Apprentice – Part Nine

A shiver zig-zagged down Joe’s back as the horse-drawn carriage pulled up alongside him.

The driver lifted the brim of his hat and said, ‘Joe Bones?’

He didn’t know why but Joe looked around him before he answered with a short, ‘yes.’

‘Jump aboard,’ said the driver with a gesture of his hand.

‘Who are you?’ Joe asked. He might have been seventeen but the old saying of not getting into cars with strangers sure seemed appropriate now. The guy was giving him the creeps. He looked like a corpse with his shrunken face and yellowing skin. And his eyes, his eyes were red with large black pupils and they looked at him like a vampire looked at its prey in those old horror movies. Joe didn’t like the look of this at all. No. Not one bit.

‘I’m your ride,’ the driver said, with a bow of the head he added, ‘the names Azrail Bartholomew Brown.’

‘Where we going?’ Joe asked. His stomach was tight and there was a little ball of dread growing in his gut.

‘Angel Gate Cemetery.’

‘At midnight?’

Azrail smiled, allowing Joe a glimpse of his jagged yellow teeth. ‘Are you getting in, or shall I tell Mrs Crow that the trial is over?’

Pull yourself together, said Joe to himself. He took a deep breath, took hold of the silver handle at the side of the carriage and pulled himself aboard.

The black leather squeaked as he sat down. He could smell leather, cigarette smoke and something funny, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on but it reminded him of his nanna.

Azrail gave a flick of the reins, shouted “Yah!” and the horses took off at break-neck speed into the night.

Joe’s knuckles turned white as he tried to find some grip on the black leather seat. Vomit threatened to explode up his oesophagus as the horses and the carriage zigged and zagged across the town.

‘Do you think,’ said Joe, swallowing down the bile, ‘we could slow down?’

‘Eh?’

‘Can we -‘

‘I can’t hear you, hang on a minute,’ said Azrail. The horses came to an abrupt stop. ‘What did you say?’

‘I was just wondering if we could slow down.’

‘Ah, not good with travelling, eh? No matter,’ said Azrail with a wink, ‘we’re here now. Although, if you want to keep this job you need to sort that travel sickness out. Anyway, we’re here.’

Joe smiled weakly. He could hear the horses panting hard, their hot breath steaming in the air.

They were indeed in front of Angel Gate Cemetery.

The old Victorian Cemetery was on the outskirts of town, its sprawling grounds rambling in between farms and the odd expensive house. Angel Gate took its name from the two angels, Nox and Morta, who stood draped in their heavy marble robes, beatific smiles on their skeletal faces, their hands beckoning the weary traveller to step inside. Two big iron gates stood between them, bound together by thick iron chains and a large padlock.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Seven

‘Too skinny,’ she said, holding my arm in the air.

‘We can’t be too choosy,’ said Mr Crow, ‘he’s the only applicant we’ve had.’

‘He’s too skinny. He won’t be able to do the lifting,’ she replied.

‘I’m strong,’ I said.

‘You’ll be carrying dead weights, you need upper body strength for that.’

‘Corvina…’ said Mr Crow, with a slightly desperate edge to his voice.

‘What!?’ Snapped Mrs Crow.

‘We are a little short on time, and you’re not yourself at the moment, what with…you know,’ he said, with a flick of his head.

Mrs Crow snorted.

‘Although, having said that, he’s not, you know…,’ said Mr Crow, with another flick of his head. Joe was beginning to think he was having a fit.

‘He’s not what?’

‘You know…’

‘No. I don’t or I wouldn’t be asking, would I?’ She placed her bony hands on her hips. ‘Well? Out with it!’

‘The Chosen One -‘

‘Of course, he’s not the Chosen One. How can he be when we buried the Chosen One two weeks ago?’

‘Corvina, darling, we’re out of options. We’re never going to find the perfect candidate, not when the Chosen One is indisposed of, are we? Beggars can’t be choosers, isn’t that the way the saying goes?’

‘Thanks,’ said Joe, unsure whether he should be offended or not.

‘And he’s the only applicant we’ve had…’

‘Doesn’t mean we have to accept any riff-raff off the street, does it?’

‘Wow,’ said Joe.

‘We’re running out of time. We’ve only got 33 days left and…’

‘No.’

‘But Corvina…’

Joe turned to leave. He’d had enough of this shit. He needed the money, yes, but not enough to deal with this crap. He heard Lola whining for him from outside. And yet, he needed to look out for her. He needed to leave the shithole that was home. He spun on his heels.

‘Give me a trial.’

‘What?’

‘A trial. One week, for free,’ said Joe, unsure of why he was saying he’d work for free, ‘and then, if you like what you see and you want to hire me, you can add the week’s wage onto my pay after -‘

‘But that’s not working for free then, is it?’

‘It is if I don’t get the job.’

Mrs Crow swept over to him, faster than a lady of her age should be able to. She pushed her rimmed glasses up to the top of her nose and stared at him for a few moments before spitting on her palm and holding her hand out for Joe to shake. ‘Deal,’ she said.

Joe cringed inside. There was no way he was going to spit on his hand too, that was just too disgusting. ‘Okay,’ he said, taking her hand. Her grip was unusually strong for such an old woman. ‘Deal.’

She let his hand fall.

‘Good. Although, I think we’ll start the trial tonight. Be back here at midnight -‘

‘Midnight?’

Death’s Apprentice – Part six

Mr Crow had a slight limp which I found myself replicating as I followed him. We walked past a room with two cream sofas, and a half-dead pot plant on a small coffee table, and down a long corridor that seemed to get increasingly darker the further we went. There were lots of closed doors with small plaques tacked on to them, saying intriguing things like; embalming room, coffin workshop, and Place of Rest. We turned right into another even darker corridor lit by lamps that looked like they belonged in the last century. The air was hot and humid and smelled of paraffin and mint imperials.

Finally, we came to a square waiting room lined with wood panelling. Mr Crow directed me to sit down on one of the mahogany chairs. It sounded as if I’d farted when I sat down.

‘I’ll be back presently,’ he said, with a quick nod of the head before he disappeared behind of the two doors in front of me.

I looked up at the large chandelier hanging low above my head. It clearly hadn’t been dusted in a long while as a grey spider’s web trailed from it onto the far wall. I followed the trail with my eyes to where it reached the top of the left door frame. The mahogany door had a plaque which read; Hell. I smiled. They sure had a sense of humour.

Despite the fact I was there for an interview, I felt calm, although I wish I’d had more time to make myself look presentable as the big hole in the toe of my trainer wasn’t the greatest look.

Mr Crow emerged from the door which read; Mrs and Mr Crow.

‘If you’d like to come this way,’ he said, standing by the door and gesturing for me to enter.

‘Josiah,’ screeched a female voice from behind the door, ‘stop acting like a prick and get the boy in here.’

I watched as Mr Crow’s eyes narrowed, and his lips pursed.

‘Shut up woman, will you,’ he shouted back to her.

‘You better come in before she loses her head,’ he said.

I did as I was told.

I entered the office of Mr and Mrs Crow. The room was quite small but I guessed it would be a lot bigger if it wasn’t for the stacks of paperwork overflowing from every surface. There was a large desk in front of me, covered in ledgers and piles of paper that looked like it had come from a historical movie set. There was a rotary dial phone in black, an ink well, a quill and a wooden blotter. There was a wooden chair behind the desk, and behind that, the wall was covered floor to ceiling with a mahogany filing cabinet. From the few open drawers, it looked like it contained index cards, rows upon rows of yellowing index cards arranged in alphabetical order. In the left corner, just in front of the cabinet, sat an old woman in a rocking chair. She looked like she’d died because her mouth was gaping open and her bottom set of false teeth were producing from her mouth. She was dressed all in black and her grey hair was arranged in a neat bun on the top of her head.

‘Is she okay?’ I asked, pointing at the lady. She reminded me of nanna the day she’d passed away.

‘Depends,’ said Mr Crow, sliding in behind the desk. He opened the ledger before him, picked up the quill, licked the nib before plunging it into the thick black ink.

‘Name?’

‘Joe Bones.’

‘Okay,’ said Mr Crow, sticking out his tongue as he wrote my name onto the ledger in beautiful cursive script.

‘Age?’

’17.’

He looked at me over the top of his glasses. ’17, eh?’ He nodded as if answering some internally asked question.

‘Address?’

’51 Moon Lane,’ I said, in little more than a whisper, knowing that this information alone would make them not want to give me the job.

‘Mmmm,’ he said, looking at me over the top of his thick-framed glasses, ‘Moon Lane, eh?’

I jumped as the old lady, who looked like she’d been dead only a few minutes early, was now standing by my side.

She grabbed my arm and began feeling it.