Dragon Rider – Part 56

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twenty-One Continued

A Fiery Death

 

Drake jumped down to sit on Falkor, leaning his body forward and digging his legs into the dragon‘s side.  At once, Falkor duplicated Drake’s pose so that his head pointed towards the ground, their bodies shaped like a bullet.

Eyes sharp, bodies alert, two beings became one.

They hurtled silently downwards, focused only on their target.

One hundred metres suddenly became seventy-five.  Seventy-five became fifty and only a fraction of a second had gone by.  Forty…thirty…

They were nearly there; they could smell Fenrik‘s cigars, taste the smell of animal blood in the air, feel his wild excitement as he stood in the centre of his circle, the Emerald Key open in his hands.

Shit! Thought Drake, as he realised Fenrik was holding the complete Emerald Key in his gorilla-like hands; he’d already managed to bind the two parts of the book together.  Now, Drake knew, he was summoning the Fiery-death to complete his supremacy over Devilsgate.

Drake tightened his hold on Falkor and he, sensing Drake’s urgency, cranked his speed up to its limit.

Twenty metres…

Fifteen metres…

Nearly there…

Drake could now smell the more intricate aromas of lavender and the sweetness of honey intermingled with a more foul odour; sulphur, ammonia, the putrid smell of the grave and petrol.

The petrol smell of Pyro.

Pyro.

Drake cast his eyes over to the Demon.  Shit, no!  Fenrik was using Pyro as a vessel to receive the Fiery-death!  He was mumbling an incantation, the foreign, otherworldly words rose and fell rhythmically as Pyro’s body convulsed and swelled.

Pyro was no longer recognisable; his burning body, still smelling of petrol, had expanded.  His head was grotesquely misshapen with several glistening fangs emerging from under his snout and two twisted horns breaking out from his forehead.

‘PYRO!’ shouted Drake, but his shout was lost as a blood-curdling scream ripped through the darkness as two great wings burst forth from Pyro’s arms.

Pyro was no more; in his place stood a majestic Fiery-death, the Demonic Dragon and Slayer of Cities, conjured up from the deep bowels of Hell.

‘DESTROY!’ commanded Fenrik.  His voice was cold, crazed, bordering on the hysterical.  He turned abruptly to look at Drake, his eyes glowing a fearsome white, his mouth twisted in a strange, unnatural way.

The Fiery-death exploded off the ground, its sole purpose to destroy Drake and Falkor – raging in its eyes.

Drake snapped his body up and dug his feet sharply into Falkor’s side.  At once Falkor threw open his wings and extended his back legs, his splayed out claws acting like brakes.  Within seconds the energy stored within Falkor’s body propelled him skywards, away from the ground, and away from Fenrik and his demonic creation.

They had to lure the Fiery-death away from Fenrik and into the wide-open skies if they were to stand any chance of winning this battle.

Fifty metres…

The Fiery-death was fast, already it was snapping at their heels.

One hundred…

Two hundred and fifty metres…

The sky behind them cracked, a great bolt of lightning split through the clouds illuminating the air around them.  Electricity fizzed in the atmosphere, its crackling clearly audible above even the pounding of Drake‘s own heart.  The threat of rain loomed once more as the clouds swirled menacingly above them but a demonic dragon such as this could not be vanquished by mere rain.

Drake wrapped his hand tightly into Falkor’s crest and gave the instruction for Falkor to turn and face their enemy.

The Fiery-death, now fully formed and twice the size of Falkor, had an angular snout with a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth, two long twisted horns perfect for gouging, knife-like barbs running along its arched back and a muscular tail that cracked at the air like a whip.  But probably its most potent weapon was the fact that the dragon was a living, breathing fireball; a flying inferno.  It looked like molten rock oozing from a volcano.

In one swift sweeping action, the Fiery-death opened its gigantic mouth and spewed out white-hot fire.  The erupting fireball hissed and sizzled as it hit the cold air then evaporated, leaving only the smell of petrol behind.  Why would it last any longer when the briefest of touches could extinguish the enemy in seconds?

Its demonic roar, summoned from deep within the belly of the beast, shook the very foundations of Hell itself.

Eyes raging with the desire to kill, it launched itself at Falkor.

Dragon Rider – Part 55

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twenty-One

A Fiery Death

 

Drake turned on his heels and shot back up the stairs to the office:  There was only one way out now.

He raced through the office to the other side of the building and into a beamed room where a lot of the older kids slept.  The floor was scattered with books, mattresses and clothes.  Drake scrambled over them to one of the boarded-up windows at the far end of the room.

He kicked hard at the boarded-up window until his foot crashed right through.  Again and again, he kicked until he had removed all of the planks of wood that had covered the glassless hole.  Then Drake carefully climbed through, on to the crumbling window ledge, and took a gulp of fresh, clean air.

In front of Drake lay the meat factory, its flat roof peppered with pools of rainwater and soggy leaves.  The gap was too big; he knew he couldn’t jump it safely.  He steadied himself against the side of the window, cupped his hands to his mouth and called into the night.

And then he waited.

Through the dark of the night, he could hear the familiar sound of beating wings.  He closed his eyes and fell into the darkness.

He landed like a panther on Falkor’s back but spasms of pain ricocheted through Drake‘s body.  Thankfully, it would take Falkor a lot longer to feel Drake’s Reciprocal Damage.  Because Faeries are weak, thought Drake.

Behind him, he could see the blazing inferno – great towers of acrid smoke rolling upwards on the breeze, disappearing into the night and merging into the vast blanket of cloud that strangled the city – and the fat fingers of fire squeezing the life from the warehouse.  The oppressive smell of cremated wood, incinerated animal flesh and scorched earth fought to dull his senses like some unrelenting drug.

He had done this.  He had brought the warehouse and The Lost Souls to the point of destruction.

Drake flexed his hands, he could feel his veins pumping under his skin, feel the anger revitalising him.  He stood up tall, his chest puffed out, his hands curled into tight balls at his side.  ‘Fenrik, I’m coming for you!’ he roared into the darkness.

I am going to put this right.

Drake remained standing, like a surfer, on Falkor.  He could feel the dragon’s displeasure at being ridden like this, but Drake knew it provided the perfect view of the city below; his vision sharpened, even in the dark, by his closeness to Falkor.

They had flown only a few blocks when they first caught sight of Fenrik, his gorilla-like form hunched over the pavement outside the restaurant.  Drake was unnerved at the sight of him out in the open, for he knew that, for the spider to be out of his lair, he must be close to finishing what he had started.

Drake could feel Falkor’s tense energy beneath him as they hovered silently, camouflaged against the night’s sky by the black plumes of smoke.  They watched as Fenrik put the finishes touches to a summoning circle, its wet red edges illuminated by the raging flames of a small fire.  No.  It wasn’t a small fire.  It was Pyro.

‘You useless piece of -’ cursed Drake.

Pyro danced wildly at Fenrik‘s side, his body blazing.  Drake now understood how the warehouse, already a tinderbox with the amount of wood and rubbish, had ignited even more rapidly than he had expected.  Fenrik must have sent Pyro with Vigor to set the building alight.

The little creep had been helping Fenrik all along.  Just like Drake had suspected.

Drake could feel the anger inside him raging like a firestorm.  He could sense Falkor feeding off this anger as his nervous energy built to a crescendo.  He had to control that energy, harness and channel it into the fight.

Dragon Rider – Part 54

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twenty Continued

Black Veil Rising

Drake slowly opened his eyes.  The room was dark, quiet, but he could see he was lying on a pile of discarded papers and there was a small pool of blood.  He felt his throbbing head.  Damn it, he thought, as it smarted under his light touch.  He inspected his fingers; the blood had congealed.  How long had he been out?

He stumbled over to a pile of rags in the corner of the room, pulled out a sheet and, holding one corner in his mouth, he ripped strips off.  Slowly he lifted his tee-shirt to reveal his ribcage, which had turned purple and black, and tightly wound the strips of sheet around his chest.  Finally, he made himself look over to the chair and where he’d stashed The Emerald Key.

Gone.

Drake slumped to the floor and closed his eyes.

He snapped his eyes open as the acrid, suffocating smell of smoke hit him.

Drake dragged himself off the floor and stumbled into the corridor.  It was coming from downstairs.  He flew down the steps, the smell becoming stronger and thicker the further he travelled.  The heat was building, the flames were eating their way through the building, the tentacles of black smoke reaching out like giant hands creeping towards his throat.

He slouched over on the staircase as the smoke’s hands started to tighten around his neck.  The black veil was rising, shrouding him in darkness.

There was nothing he could do; the warehouse was already in the fire’s ferocious embrace.  A derelict building made of rotting wood and filled with old combustible sofas and wooden pallets stood no chance.

There was no hope.

Vigor had seen to that.

 

In need of help!!!

I’ve been redesigning the covers for all my books. Now I’m on Dragon Rider but I can’t decide which cover I prefer. Please help me out and tell me which one is better – A or B?

A.Dragon Rider

 

B. Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Bones

Thank you!

Or are they both shit? (Lol!!!)

Please let me know in the comments 🙂

 

Dragon Rider – Part 42

The open mouth of the cave loomed like the mouth of a monster waiting to gobble them up.  There was no light coming from it, only the faint stirrings of a breeze.

Drake entered first, his hand ready to grab his Zephyr despite the fact that it would render both Willow and Pyro unconscious.  He could take no more chances.

An amused chuckle shattered the foreboding silence.  ’Chu won’t be needing that.’

‘What?’ asked Drake, his eyes straining against the dark, frantically searching for whatever lay in wait, poised to attack.

‘Chu won’t be needing the Zephyr, it won’t work on me.’

‘I…’

‘Come closer so I may see chu,’ came the deep, forbidding voice.

‘Drake, I don’t think it’s a good idea,’ said Pyro, clinging to the entrance of the cave.

‘Don’t worry yourself, Mr. Crisp, I’ve already eaten today and besides, chu know he won’t listen to chu.’

‘What?  How do you know my name?’ asked Pyro, his hand clasping his pounding chest.

There was another deep chuckle.  ’I know everyone’s name, Mr Crisp.  Now, Mr Blackthorn, chu would be looking for a book would chu not?’

‘Er, yeah,’ said Drake, his eyes still searching the dark corners trying to find the owner of the mysterious voice.

‘So the Great Hermes himself, gives up dis book’s location for a bag of make-up?  See how even the great falter?’  There was a pause, in which all that could be heard was the gentle drip, drip of water.  ‘Now, come closer Mr Blackthorn, my eyes are not what they used to be.’

Drake took a step further into the cave, all the time his fists pumping at his side as he waited for the attack.  He didn’t like this one little bit.  It felt like he was walking into an ambush and there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.

He could feel a cool breeze blowing, the sound of feet scraping against stone.  Something brushed his face and he flung his hand up to flick it away, but his hand caught on something else.  Sticky, like candy floss; cobwebs.

‘Ms. Ravenwood, chu is very quiet.  Why don’t chu cast a spell to light the torches?’

There was silence, a brief pause.  ‘What?  How?’ gasped Willow.

Another peel of laughter echoed through the cave.  ‘All important questions, ‘tis true.  But for now, the spell.’

‘Er…Lichte?’

One by one, a series of oil lamps sprang into life, flooding the cave with a flickering orange light which danced off the walls and illuminated even the darkest of corners.  A giant petrol-black tarantula moved sluggishly towards them, its great saucer-like eyes clouded over with a milky-white layer of cataracts.  He stopped and lifted two of his hairy legs off the ground and laughed.

‘Are chu scared of lil’ old me, Ms Ravenwood?’

‘I…’ was all that Willow could manage as she tried hard not to faint.

‘Do not worry yourself.  I think chu would give me indigestion with all your piercings.’  The spider’s laughter rumbled through the cave.  ‘Come into my parlour said the spider to de fly.  Closer Mr Blackthorn, come and see Mr Nansi.  I will not bite.  Not yet, anyway.’  The spider laughed again.

Drake took another step closer as the spider lifted another two of his legs off the ground so that his abdomen was exposed.

‘I take it, dis is whatchu are after?’

‘The Emerald Key?’ asked Drake, his voice betraying his confusion as he saw the brown inside pages of the book strapped to the stomach of the spider with thick, white strands.

‘Yes.  He strapped it to me belly over two thousand years ago with me own silk.  The trickster tricked, chu might say, but that is a very long story and not one to be told at dis time.  Still, he is the poorer.  Look at him, two thousand years he has been sitting on that there boulder, trying to remember what was in the stolen part of dis book, trying to piece together the thing that would make him great, bring him back to life.’  The spider sighed and shook his cephalothorax in bewilderment.  ‘How many more lives are to be wasted whilst the egocentric pursue their pitiful ends?  Tis a waste.’

‘You’ve been in here for two thousand years?’ asked Pyro, ‘Geez, I thought I had it bad!’

Mr Nansi belly-laughed.  ‘Do not worry yourself young djinn, two thousand years is but a blink of the eye for me.  Now, to the matter at hand; move closer Mr Blackthorn, come claim de prize.’

Willow coughed nervously and stepped backwards, away from the spider.  ‘Mr. Nansi, no disrespect but, how does Drake know you won’t eat him?’

‘No disrespect taken,’ laughed the spider.  ‘Simply; he doesn’t.’

Drake moved closer to the spider.  He could see Mr Nansi’s fangs twitching, a small drop of clear venom dangling precariously from each one.  He looked away, concentrating instead on the book; the last thing he needed was trembling hands from thinking about what was above him when he was unsticking the book from the spider’s abdomen.

Before he could talk himself out of it, he grabbed a torch from the wall and eased himself gently under the spider (being careful not to scorch the delicate pages of the book or the spider with the flame) until he was completely enclosed on each side by Mr Nansi’s great black hairy legs.

‘Aren’t chu scared Mr Blackthorn?  I could easily bite chu where you lie.’

‘You could,’ said Drake coming to rest under The Emerald Key, ‘but I would take you with me.’

Drake could feel the spider’s abdomen bouncing up and down as Mr Nansi laughed once more.

‘Too true,’ said the spider, ‘I dare say chu would.’

The acrid smell of burnt silk and singed hair caught at the back of Drake’s throat as he melted the sticky silk threads from the book.  He worked quickly, from the top, trying not to breathe in too much of the fumes.  Finally, the last thread dissolved and the Book fell heavily onto his stomach.  Although it was ice cold, Drake could feel its energy radiating out from where it lay, powerful and dangerous.

‘Oh my,’ said Mr Nansi rearing up and stretching every aching muscle, ‘that sure feel good.’  The spider laughed.

Drake didn’t dare to breathe as the spider began to move his hairy body steadily over him.  But, as soon as the spider had passed over, Drake jumped from the floor, the Emerald Key clasped to his chest.  ‘Is that it?’ he asked, studying the spider, expecting an attack or some sort of nasty surprise.

‘Well, that is whatchu wanted, is it not?’

‘Yes but-’

‘Well ask no more questions.  Time is slipping chu by.  I say go, leave me be.  I have a score to settle with a certain magician.’

‘Hermes?’ asked Willow cringing as the spider eased itself passed her.

‘It would seem so.  Two thousand years I have protected it and he gives it away for some make-up.  He deserves to have his ass kicked.’  Mr Nansi’s laughter rung out once more.

‘You’re not going to eat him?’ asked Willow, her face grimacing at the thought.

Mr Nansi stopped and turned his milky-white eyes upon her.  ‘I don’t eat bones, Ms. Ravenwood,’ he said, turning back to face the mouth of the cave, ‘but he doesn’t know that.’  And with his laughter still ringing in their ears, the spider vanished from the cave.

Dragon Rider – Part 41

Dragon Rider

Chapter Seventeen

Hermes Trismegistus

They drove closer until they could see Hermes.  He was sitting in front of the gaping mouth of a cave, on a lichen-covered boulder under the leafy canopy of a Fig tree.

They jumped from the cart and walked over to where he was sitting.  Hermes was muttering to himself whilst writing notes on a piece of yellowing papyrus.  ‘That’s it!’ he said, tapping his reed pen against his bright red lips,  ‘If I multiply the quantity of lead by four and then reduce the amount of sulphur before I distil the mixture…it might just work…’

‘Er…hello’ said Willow, ‘are you Hermes, Hermes Trismegistus?’

The old man looked up, ‘Yes, Yes I am,’ he beamed, pushing his half-moon spectacles back up his crooked nose.

‘You’re Hermes?’ asked Drake, eyeing Hermes suspiciously.  He took a long step backwards as the smell of Retsina floated towards him from Hermes’ direction.

‘Yes,’ said Hermes pulling his pink toga back onto his bony shoulder.  ‘Can I help you?  Only I’m just in the middle of something-’

‘Yeah,’ said Pyro, ‘looks like it.’  He turned to Willow and tapped the side of his head, ‘Cuckoo,’ he muttered under his breath.

‘Sorry,’ said Drake taking in the white make-up that adorned Hermes’ face and the two pink rouge circles that smothered his cheeks, ‘it’s just you don’t look-’

‘What this?’ asked Hermes gesturing to his made-up face and then to his pink toga.  ‘Had a bit of an accident old boy.  I was trying to discover my feminine side whilst trying to combine the Spirit of Mercury with the Spirit of Sulphur, tricky business, very smelly,’ he said grimacing, ‘had the potential from the off to be very messy but, still, one has to push the boundaries.  It was something that I had read about in The Emerald Key.’

Drake’s eyes widened ‘The Emerald Key?’

Hermes coughed and continued, ‘Anyway, to marry the two elements together,’ he said, resting his pen and papyrus on his bony legs before clasping his hands together, ‘I had to do it in the presence of a man and a woman.  I hadn’t a woman to hand so I tried to experiment, but it didn’t go quite to plan, the whole thing exploded.’

‘You blew yourself up whilst dressed as a woman?’ asked Willow shaking her head.

‘Well, it wasn’t the outcome that I had intended.  No.  But stiff upper lip and all that, you’ve just got to get on with it and make the most of it, haven’t you?  A couple of the girls here have been showing me how to achieve different effects.  I’m going for the Geisha look at the moment,’ he said, pointing to his face and pouting.

Willow nodded her head in approval.  ‘Yeah, you’ve definitely achieved the look, it suits you.’

‘Well, thank you.  Oh, how rude,’ said Hermes, hitting his bald spot with the heel of his hand, ‘I haven’t asked you your names, you must excuse me.’

‘I’m Willow, Willow Ravenwood and this,’ she said, pointing towards Drake, ‘is Drake Blackthorn and this is Pyro.’

Pyro smiled at Hermes and bowed.

Hermes smiled back and extended his hand.  ‘Pleased to meet you Pyro, and you Willow.’

Willow took his cold hand and shook it carefully, not wanting to break him.

‘Oh my, what a pretty colour,’ cooed Hermes holding up Willow’s hand to his face.

‘Thanks, it’s called Purple Passion.  I invented it myself.’

‘Oh, it’s beautiful, so glossy, I’ve never seen such a wonderful colour.’

Drake rolled his eyes.  ‘Yeah, I’m sure it’s a very nice colour, very…purple…but we really need to ask you about the Key.’

Hermes dropped Willow’s hand.  ‘The Key?  No,’ he said shaking his head, ‘never heard of it, old boy.’  He turned his attention back to the papyrus, ‘Now if you’ll excuse me-’

‘But you’ve just said that you read about your experiment in The Key.’

Willow glared at Drake before turning her attention back to Hermes.  ‘Sorry about Drake, he can be a bit…direct sometimes.  Look, I’m not going to lie to you; we need to find that book, but-‘

Hermes shrugged, ‘I can’t help you, I haven’t got the foggiest idea what you are talking about -‘

‘But I think you do.  If we don’t find it a lot of small children are going to lose their home, they’ll be thrown out onto the streets, alone…hungry…with no one-’

‘Stop!  Stop!’ said Hermes, flinging his arms in the air as if he were squatting a fly.  ‘I know about The Emerald Key, yes, but I still can’t tell you where it is.’

‘But think of the children-’

‘I cannot reveal the location of The Book; I have sworn to protect it with my life,’ said Hermes, pounding his chest with his hand so hard that Drake thought he was about to break.

Pyro huffed, ‘But you’re already dead so what difference does that make?’

‘All the difference, thank you.’  Hermes pretended to lock his lips and then throw away the key.

‘There’s somebody else after it, you know, and he won’t stop until he gets it.  He’s the reason most of these kids haven’t got families.  We have to stop him.   We have to find that book first,’ said Willow.

Hermes scoffed.  ‘That won’t happen; it’s very well protected.’

‘You don’t know these people, they have all kinds of Unmentionable Magick at their disposal-’

‘Fenrik Lasko, the man after The Book, he ordered his demons to murder my father.  He was the one that sat smoking cigars whilst my father and his dragon were ripped to pieces.’  Drake crouched down in front of Hermes.  ‘My father’s body was never found, but the rest of the stuff, the dragon’s body parts,’ Drake’s voice was now barely a whisper, ‘were sold to the highest bidder.’  He turned to look at Hermes; fire and fury blazing in his eyes, ‘Can you imagine what he could do with The Emerald Key?’

Pyro pulled a handkerchief, the size of a table cloth, out of his pocket and blew his nose.  ‘Sorry,’ he blubbed, ‘I get very emotional when I hear real-life stories.  I spend a fortune on those weekly magazines.’

‘I’m sorry,’ Hermes shrugged, and his toga fell off his shoulder again, ‘but I cannot help you-’

‘You can’t even give us a clue?’ pleaded Willow.

‘No.’

Willow sighed.  She turned to look at Drake, waiting for the angry exchange.

‘What if we were to give you something in return, something unique, something that the girls in here would love?’ asked Drake, as he stood up.  The fire inside him had, for the moment, gone out.  They’d come too far for him to ruin it now; he could feel how close they were to getting The Key.  This better work, he thought.

Willow turned to Drake, her brow riddled with creases.

‘No,’ said Hermes pushing his glasses back up his crooked nose.

‘Not even for Willow’s Purple Passion nail varnish?’ asked Drake.

‘No.’

‘Go on Willow show him your wonderful nail varnish,’ said Pyro stuffing his handkerchief back into his pocket, ’I told you it was amazing.’

Willow slipped off her rucksack and pulled out her pink sequined make-up bag.  ‘Look,’ she said holding up the small bottle containing the shimmering purple varnish.

‘It is an amazing colour,’ said Hermes adoringly.

‘You could have all the make-up if you want.’  Drake let the suggestion dangle in the air.  It was like he had always thought; everyone had their price.

‘What?’ asked Willow horrified, ‘all of it?’

Hermes’ eyes shifted from the pink make-up bag to Drake and back again.

Drake gave Willow a sharp nudge.  ‘You can replace it when we get back,’ he hissed.

Willow huffed, ‘Okay.’  She opened the bag and flashed the contents at Hermes.

‘Oh, it smells so delicious…mmm…what is that smell?’

‘That’s the strawberry lip-gloss, and this,’ said Willow, finally warming to the bribery as she pulled out a long blue container, ‘is the best no-smudge eyeliner you can get.  The technology used in make-up these days is amazing.  Everyone here will be dying to try it out.’

Drake coughed.

Willow placed the open make-up bag into Hermes’ hands.  ‘Oh…oh…I shouldn’t but…’ said Hermes, gazing lovingly at the bag.  He raised his hand in the air, like a child with a bag of sweets, trying to decide where to start first.  ‘The Book’s in there,’ he said, giving a sharp flick with his head whilst not taking his eyes off the make-up.  ‘The cave behind me.  But you still won’t be able to get it.’

‘What?’ screeched Willow, ‘I give you all my make-up and we don’t even get The Book?’

Hermes just shrugged.

‘Never mind that, Look!’  Drake pointed at the hourglass that Willow was still clutching in her hand.  Only a small amount of the silver liquid remained at the top of it.  ‘I think we’d better go, thanks, Hermes.’  But Hermes was too busy applying a violet lip gloss to his frail white lips.

Dragon Rider – Part 40

Dragon Rider

Chapter Sixteen Continued

The Iron Fortress

‘Alchymia sent us,’ said Willow cutting through Brimo’s train of thought.

Drake glared at Willow.  Why couldn’t she just keep her trap shut?

‘What?’ screeched Brimo turning to look at Willow, her green eyes blazing with thunder.  ‘My sister has sent you?  It can’t be that important if she sends three miscreants to do her bidding!  Mind you, being down here does play havoc with her skin!’  The Overseer’s raucous laughs echoed around the room, then stopped abruptly.  ‘How do I know you tell the truth?’ she demanded, as she swept around to face Drake, her claw-like finger dangerously close to the end of his nose.

‘She gave me this,’ said Drake reaching for the Amulet of Isis but his fingers found only cold skin.  ’Damn!’ he cursed, as he remembered trading it with Arthur Tinks.  ’I forgot, I-’

The Overseer lurched at Drake and he froze still as her fiery hand felt the top of his chest.  He thought he heard a deep hiss, too low for many normal people to hear, as she removed her hand with a sneer.  Curiously the skin she had just touched felt icy cold, almost like it had been frozen using liquid nitrogen.  He looked down and there upon his chest was burned the image of the Amulet of Isis.

‘My sister has helped you too much!’ screeched Brimo.  ‘How dare she presume to send others down here to do her dirty work!  She disrespects me, always has!’  Brimo began to pace up and down ranting to herself.  ‘So, she wants to play games, does she?  Too precious to come down here and see me.  Sends these instead…insults me.’  Suddenly she stopped pacing and turned to face them, her eyes narrowed into slits.  ‘Hermes, you say?’

‘Yes,’ replied Drake.

Brimo stared off into the corner of the room.  ‘Hermes?  What could she possibly want from him?’  She turned to face them again, ‘What does Alchymia want from him?’

Drake studied her for a few moments before finally, he spoke.  ‘She wants to know where he hid The Emerald Key.’  Well, there was no point lying about it now, was there?  Not now Willow had dropped them in it.

‘I see,’ she sneered.  ‘You may seek out Hermes, he is in the Waiting Area.’

‘The Waiting Area?’ asked Drake, unable to believe it would be that simple.

‘Yes, still has unfinished business, poor fool.  You can talk to Hermes and only Hermes.  Do not talk to any other soul, or remove anything from the Waiting Area, if you do, you will be claimed by me to stay here forever, my sister cannot stop that, do you understand?’ asked Brimo, her eyes narrowing to slits again, like a snake waiting to strike.

Drake and Willow silently nodded.  Pyro was skulking at the back of the room, clearly terrified.

‘You will need these,’ said the Overseer thrusting three small cards at Drake, all with “Visitor” printed on them in bold black letters with the Overseer’s signature underneath.  ‘You have one hour to find Hermes and then to leave this place.  If you exceed that time limit your lives will be forfeit and you will languish here forever.  That is my price, my conditions, do you accept?’

Drake nodded his head once.  ‘And how do we get out of here?’

Brimo smiled broadly.  ‘As if I’m going to make it easy for my sister!  I will help you with one last thing though.  Take this.’  She reached into a small filing cabinet and took out an hourglass the size of a teacup, turned it upside down and gave it to Drake.  The liquid inside the glass began to drop down to the bottom part of the figure of eight, drop by silvery drop.  ‘I can give magickal gifts too,’ she cackled, ‘now be gone before I change my mind.’

Without any hesitation, they sprinted away from the Control Room, took the lift to the ground floor, ran across the foyer and into the yard, then followed the signs for the Waiting Room.

The Waiting Room was a single-storeyed building covered in a cream lime rendering with bay trees in terracotta pots dotted along its exterior.  A burly soldier, dressed in a dark blue uniform with a modified MP5, stood at its entrance.

‘Passes please!’ he barked, as the three of them approached.  Drake flashed the passes at him.  The guard grunted and stepped aside to let them enter.

The foyer was sterile in appearance with white walls, white ceiling and mottled floor tiles.  In the far corner a squat receptionist, dressed in a white dress two sizes too small for her with a white cap perched on top of her brown bun, sat behind a mammoth white desk, her chin barely reaching the top of it.  ‘May I help you?’

‘Er yes, we’re here to see Hermes.’

‘Hermes who?’

‘Trismegestus.’

‘Sign in please,’ she said, pointing a chubby finger at an opened book on top of the desk, its pages blank.  Drake grabbed the blue biro at the side of the book and did as he was told.  She flicked through the database on her palm held notebook, ‘You’ll find him behind the Cypress Grove, under a Fig Tree in front of the sacred cave in the upper left quadrant of the yard.’

‘Thanks!’ shouted Drake, and they raced out of the automatic double doors and into the yard beyond.

The yard was covered in lush green grass surrounded by Oak trees, their leaves burning red against the dead sky of The Underworld.  A row of mobility carts sat idle just outside the foyer.  ‘Come on, we haven’t got much time, let’s take one of these,’ said Drake jumping into the nearest one.  He gave the hourglass to Willow, turned the small silver key in the ignition, and the cart spluttered into life just as Pyro scrambled into the back.

The cart chugged through the Waiting Area, struggling with the different types of terrain it had to cover, from lush grass to mud, then to baked, rocky earth.  They passed the silent figures of Geishas making tea under the pink blossoms of cherry trees, a pirate shouting commands from the helm of his battle-scarred ship, its skull and crossbones flag in tatters and faceless Spirits trudging continuously through knee-high mud, their Tommy guns held aloft as invisible shells blasted the mud around them.

Willow held up the hourglass; only half of the silvery liquid remained.  ‘We haven’t got much time left.’

‘It can’t be much further,’ said Drake staring out into the distance to where ten armoured Gladiators practised their sword strokes against the backdrop of lofty cypress trees.

‘Look!’ squealed Willow, ‘A cypress grove!  That’s where Hermes should be!’