Dragon Rider – Part Eighteen

Dragon Rider

Chapter Nine

Foxes

‘Okay, so we figure that out later,’ said Drake more to himself, ‘first we need to get into the Underworld.  I don’t suppose?’

Alchymia tilted her head and flashed a brief smile at Drake.  ‘According to the Codex, the entrance to the Valley of Death lies where the names of the dead can be heard as a whisper on the wind, a place now known as New Haven.’

Drake rubbed his chin.  ‘Never heard of it, but I’m sure with Gizmo’s help we’ll find it.’

‘You have another problem.  As you and Willow are not dead, you will not have the aid of a psychopomp to help unlock and travel through the gateway between the Land of the Living and that of the Dead.  You will therefore need a key, but unearthing such a key could be a whole quest in itself.’

‘A key?’

‘Yes, but not like the ones we use to lock our doors at night.  A key, in this instance, is a magickal artefact used for unlocking the gateway between the two worlds.  There is Proserpina’s Mirror, an artefact created by Proserpina to allow her mother to travel through the Realms with ease, but the last time the Mirror was seen was over two and a half thousand years ago.  There are spells that can act as keys, but they need macabre items such as Grave Dirt and Corpse Water and would take years to perfect.  Hecate’s Torch is another option but to find it would be a near impossible task.’  Alchymia leaned back in her chair, ‘The only other option is to find a Hand of Glory, but, as only a few exist-‘

‘A Hand of Glory?’ asked Drake.

‘Yes, it’s a pickled-‘

‘Hand,’ continued Drake, ‘taken from an executed criminal with a candle stuck in between its fingers.’

Alchymia sat upright in her seat and looked at him with an alarmed expression.  ‘How do you know about such a dark object?’

‘From a Fire-djinn, a petty criminal by the name of Pyro.  I picked him up yesterday and he had one in his pocket, reckons that he was summoned and compelled to steal it for some guy who he never actually saw.’

‘Summoned by someone he did not see at all?’

‘Yeah, apparently the bloke who summoned him hid his identity from Pyro, I thought it was a bit sus,’ said Drake shrugging, ‘but Falkor didn’t react when Pyro spilled his guts to me about it so-‘

‘That does not necessarily mean that the Fire-djinn does not know who it was that compelled him; he could have been placed under a very strong spell, such as the Bind of all Binding Spell, making it impossible for this Pyro to divulge any information-‘

‘But to get it past Falkor?’ interrupted Drake.

‘He’s not completely infallible Drake, especially if the person who called Pyro knew his real name.’

‘His real name?’

‘Yes,’ said Willow, ‘a person’s, or thing’s, real name is essential for really potent magick.  If you’ve got their real name you’ve got complete power over the thing that you’ve summoned.’

‘Okay, so say they’ve got Pyro’s real name, I still can’t believe that Falkor wouldn’t pick it up.  Anyway, I know it’s Fenrik who compelled him to steal the Hand of Glory, it’s got to be.  He’s after the other part of The Book and he’s a Demonologist-‘

‘You do not know that for sure Drake,’ said Alchymia, her eyes staring straight through the flames of the roaring fire.

‘It could’ve been anyone,’ said Willow, ‘you’ve got no proof.’

‘I don’t need proof, I know it was him.  Funestus Black told me Fenrik was after The Emerald Key and there’s Pyro just wandering around with the Hand?  No, Fenrik knows he needs to find Hermes in the Underworld and that this Hand is the key to get in,’ a big smile broke across Drake’s face, ‘I’ll just have to take it off the useless piece of-’

‘Drake!’ gasped Willow.

‘What?’ said Drake, smiling even more broadly, ‘it’ll take Fenrik ages to find another key and by that time we’ll already have seen Hermes.’

‘Drake,’ said Willow, ‘I don’t think-‘

‘So how do we find Hermes?’ cut in Drake.

Alchymia run a pale finger over the lines of text that materialized on the pages of the Codex.  ‘Hermes can be found in the Iron Fortress that lies at the end of The Valley.’  She clicked her fingers and The Codex snapped shut sending a shower of dust shooting into the air.  ‘The Iron Fortress is not only protected by the Forest of Suffering, which lies between the two great Mountain Ranges of Sorrow and Regret, but also by other more gruesome things.’

Drake opened his mouth to speak but Alchymia stopped him with a quick flick of her hand.  ‘Do not ask for details Drake, I cannot say; The Fates have forbidden it.  You must be careful, for one wrong move and you will never be able to return, you will be doomed to a half-life of suffering that you will never escape.’  Alchymia looked at Drake with a stern expression.  ’You cannot leave the way you entered and whatever you do, you must ask for permission from The Overseer of The Fortress to see Hermes.  Choose your words carefully and be aware, that if your request is granted, they will seek to take your life as payment.  And if they do not, your life will be forfeit already.’

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Dragon Rider, so far, so good? – A review

I am thoroughly enjoying revisiting my very first novel, Dragon Rider. Some of it is making me cringe but, overall, I’m actually really proud of what I’ve written. It’s also allowing me to see how far I’ve come with my writing.

And, if I can progress in my writing, so can you!

What I don’t like:

Cringey, cringe – I’ve noticed a few errors. For example, I have used the word took when it should have been taken (eek! That’s embarrassing).

I’ve also noticed that some of the sentences are a bit stiff and long.

I do like to connect separate sentences with commas! (I did it so you don’t have to! Do not repeat my mistake!!!).

Falkor

How I picture Falkor.

And, maybe the story is a tad confusing? That’s one of the pitfalls of writing a story; sometimes because you’re the one in charge of the plot and you know the whole story you don’t know for sure if you’re actually explaining it to the reader properly (this is where beta readers come in handy).

It needs a good edit.

What I do like:

I still love how I have set the story up. Right from the opening lines, the tone is  dark and mysterious:

“A scream exploded somewhere in the distance but broke off before it reached its terrifying conclusion.  Another life sucked dry, thought Drake, as the bitter smell of blood rolled in on the mist, along with the dead leaves and the smell of decay.  He pulled his black hood over his head and slunk back into the shadows like a black panther stalking its prey, his vivid green eyes alert, his body pumped for action.

There was movement in the alleyway opposite, a slight rustle of paper, a scraping sound.  He stopped breathing momentarily, his hands curling into tight balls at his side as he listened harder.  Had his senses failed him, were the Shadow Walkers really that close?”

Personally, I think that works but what was your impression of the beginning of the story?

Drake Blackthorn, my main character is, in my opinion, written well (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?). Willow was going to be my main character. This all changed when I began writing; Drake just kept popping out at me, almost begging me to use him as the hero. I did as I was asked and I don’t regret the decision. He’s angry, he’s distrustful of people and faeries, he’s hell-bent on revenge, stubborn, and a general pain in the ass but I love him!

Willow

This is a picture I did of Willow Ravenwood.

I like the way the story begins with a chase scene as Drake and his dragon tease the dwarves as they compete to capture Pyro, the fire-djinn, who has a massive bounty on his head. When I wrote this scene I was using action films as inspiration. Most good action films begin with some sort of chase scene, don’t they?

And, Falkor, Drake’s dragon; where have I got his name from? Does anyone recognise it? It’s from one of my favourite childhood films; A Neverending Story.

My favourite character by far though is pyro. I think, even to this day, he’s probably the best character I’ve ever written. He’s so funny and I wish I had a friendly fire-djinn just like him to keep me company.

The setting is working too. The dark brooding city of Devilsgate compared to the wondrous magic of Nowhere. I do worry about myself sometimes though when I reread some of the weird and wacky ideas I’ve come up with!

Blackthorn - Revenge of the Dragon Rider

The first cover for Dragon Rider with its old title “Revenge of the Dragon Rider” under my pen name Nikki Morgan. I don’t use the pen name anymore so I can blame her for the awful book cover. Wtf was I thinking? That cover is shockingly shit, lol!!!

I’m actually quite chuffed when I look back on what I wrote all those years ago. If anything, this has actually put a fire in my writing belly. I think I might get it edited all over again and try and improve it because, for my first attempt, I don’t think it was half bad at all.

sketch of Drake

A really bad, unfinished, drawing of Drake

But, I’m not the one that matters. What do you, dear reader, think of Dragon Rider? What do you love and, perhaps more importantly, what do you hate?

Please, let me know!

 

 

Dragon Rider – Part Sixteen

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eight Continued

Alchymia and The Cross-Eyed Cat

‘You think that I can help you locate it?’ said Alchymia, still running her hand absentmindedly through Fulcanelli’s thick mane.  He purred and tilted his head, offering her his ear.

Drake’s stomach tightened and he was suddenly aware of beads of sweat forming on the back of his neck.  He hadn’t seen Alchymia for years and here he was expecting her to drop everything to help them.

And if she didn’t want to help them, there would be no arguing with her.

Alchymia was not all that she seemed.  Drake thought of her as a woman because it made her easier to comprehend, but she was much more than that.  Alchymia was a Light Being; not quite solid but fluid, like running water in a river.  But there was also a dark side to her that Drake did not wish to see and he hoped that in coming here, he wasn’t going to meet that side of her again.

‘Who wants you to find the book?’  Alchymia raised her head as she spoke, her face expressionless, her voice tinged with a touch of frost like the first days of winter.

‘Funestus, Funestus Black.’  Drake shifted in his chair, ‘The Head of the Enforcerer’s Office in Devilsgate.’

Alchymia raised an eyebrow.  ‘I would have thought someone of such importance would have plenty of people at his disposal, so why has he chosen you?’

‘He didn’t choose me, I kind of got dragged into it.  Look, it’s a long story and the only thing that really matters is that, if I don’t find that book for him, a lot of people will be in real danger.’  He sighed and shook his head, ‘I can’t let that happen.’

‘No.  No, you cannot.’  Alchymia leaned back in her chair, her brow heavily creased.  ‘I suppose the next question to ask is, why Funestus Black would want such an artefact-’

‘To stop Fenrik Lasko getting his filthy hands on it.’  Drake bit out the words.

‘and what he intends to do with it,’ continued Alchymia.

Drake dropped his mug on the table, the milky dregs splashing over the side like little teardrops.  ‘I don‘t know,’ he said, slumping back into his chair.

‘But what if -‘

‘There can be no buts, I have to find The Emerald Key,’ said Drake, running his fingers through his shaggy black hair.

‘And your desire to help Funestus Black is not because of your vendetta against Fenrik?’ asked Alchymia.

‘Vendetta?’

‘Fenrik and his brother remain unpunished for your father‘s death-’

‘You think I’m doing this just to get back at Fenrik?’

‘Are you not?’

‘No.’

‘So this hatred you carry for them is not clouding your judgement?  You really have no other option than to find The Emerald Key?  To find it for a man of which you hardly know anything?’

‘I need to find that book, if I don’t, Fenrik will, and the entire human population of Devilsgate will be destroyed.  Come on Alchymia, you know what he’s like-’

Alchymia held up her hand to silence him and Drake did not argue.  He knew better than to do that.  Instead, he watched in silence as she rose from her chair and floated, like a ghost, over to a stack of books by the bed, strands of her silvery-blue hair stirring around her like leaves kissed by a summer’s breeze.

With a quick flick of her hand, the pile of ancient books rose into the air releasing a heavy brown volume, decorated with strange symbols in gold leaf, from the bottom of the stack.  As the other books rearranged themselves into a neat pile, the book flapped into the air like a bird and followed Alchymia back to her chair, where it floated down in front of her, stopping a few centimetres above her lap.

She clicked her fingers and the brittle pages began to flick backwards and forwards.  With another click, the book fell still and she ran her eyes over the open pages.  ‘Hello Willow,’ said Alchymia, her eyes not moving from the yellowing pages of the book.

Willow sat up and rubbed the back of her head.  ‘What just happened to me?’ she asked, wincing as she found the small bloody lump there.

‘Ah, that would be Fulcanelli,’ explained Alchymia, pointing to the cat, ‘I told him that I did not want you to see where I was hiding until I had met you.  Unfortunately, he used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  He is a little theatrical, a simple blindfold would have sufficed.  Please, come and join us,’ said Alchymia, pointing to a mahogany chair with a plump red seat that had materialised next to Drake.

Willow stumbled over to the chair and sat down.  Her eyes sparkled with delight as Fulcanelli circled around her, rubbing himself against her legs.  Eventually, he settled and looked up at her with his big green, crossed-eyes.

‘He’s so cute!’ she cooed.

Dragon Rider – Part Eleven

Dragon Rider

Chapter Six Continued

Going Nowhere, Fast

Drake slung his guitar over his back and headed for the door.  There was no point taking anything else as it would only slow him down and he could easily find food from somewhere, even if he had to be a little creative to get it.  And anyway, he didn’t intend on being away too long.  The only trouble was going to be getting used to the lenses Gizmo had given him to keep him in contact with the warehouse.  He could feel them irritating the lining of his eyes, but he’d give anything a go at least once.

He halted at the exit to the warehouse.  He could see the Metatron with Willow sitting on top of it, bent double under a bulging rucksack.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ growled Drake, his hands clenched firmly at his side.

‘I’m coming with you.’

Drake’s jaw tightened.  ‘Look, thank you for letting me use the Metatron, but I said I was going alone.’

‘I know what you said Drake, but I’m just not listening,’ she said, putting her hands on her hips.  ‘I can help, I have magick, you never know when you might need me-’

‘I work alone.’

‘Not this time Drake.  This concerns all of us and I’m not prepared to just sit here and do nothing.’  Willow huffed and crossed her arms over her chest.

‘They hate human witches in Nowhere even more than here,’ spat Drake.

‘I don’t care, I’m used to it,’ replied Willow.  A few silent seconds passed before she looked at him from under thick black eye-lashes.  ‘I’ll let you control the bike.’

Drake looked at Willow sitting stubbornly on the bike.  Damn it, there was no point arguing.  ‘You do as I say, okay?  And for God’s sake what have you got in that rucksack?’

Willow began to run through the list, counting them off with her fingers, ‘I’ve packed some food, rope, my make-up-’

‘Get rid of it.’

‘But Drake, I-’

Drake cut Willow a hard stare.  ‘Get rid of it.’

She heaved herself off the bike.  ‘Okay, Okay but I get to take my make-up-’

‘Whatever, just get on with it.’

Willow returned five minutes later (a couple of tons lighter) and climbed onto the bike behind Drake.  He turned the key to power the machine up; it growled at him as the jets burst into life, the blue-orange flames exploding from the back of its silver body.  It slowly rose into the air, where it hovered until Drake hit the acceleration and they sped off in a blaze of fire.

Their journey to Nowhere was swift; within half an hour they had left the oppressive darkness and squalor of the City behind and were travelling through vast forests of leafless trees peppered with the remains of devastated towns and cities.  They saw no one; Drake deliberately avoided the other cities, choosing instead the more scenic route through the Wild Country, emerging from the mountain passes as the sun was beginning to fall beyond the horizon and into Mithra’s Realm.  In the distance, Drake could see the fortified town of Nowhere, its great timber buildings silhouetted against the setting sun.

Before they hit the main elevated mud road into Nowhere, Drake and Willow discarded the Metatron beneath a pile of dead leaves and branches, under a leafless Sycamore tree; they’d have to come back for it later.  The people of Nowhere were not into the gadgets of the modern world, so they continued the journey into town on foot.

Once they’d reached the vast moat that encircled the town they dipped behind a rocky outcrop and observed the Search and Security Team controlling the heavy flow of traffic passing through the gate.

‘How are we going to get past those?’ asked Willow, as she watched a Security Troll pick up a leprechaun by his oversized collar and toss him into the moat.  He landed with a great splash and then began swimming to the side, spluttering and panting.

Drake took in the town’s defences; the eight metre high walls with sharp wooden stakes arranged at forty-five-degree angles at their apex, the hulking goblins patrolling along the battlements and the slimy, suckered tentacles of the Kraken surfacing from the murky depths of the black moat as it attempted to devour the flailing leprechaun.

‘We’ll have to wait for a load big enough to hide in,’ he replied, ‘there’s no other way.’

Once the sun had finally said goodbye to the market town, leaving in its wake a grey-blue dusk, Drake and Willow slipped out from behind the rocks and crept closer to the road.  They lay down on the great earth embankments, waiting for a suitable load to pass in which they could hide.  The road was heaving with traffic; farmers escorting their herds through the gates, long trains of carts filled with cured meats, terracotta pots, and silverware, and brightly clothed entertainers juggling or eating fire.

A farmer with a bad limp headed along the muddy road with his three sons, shepherding a large herd of Tri-horn Hairy Fairy cattle.  These huge beasts were much sought after for the magickal properties of their horns, urine and red pelts which were used to make flying carpets in the Middle East.  They were completely placid, unless you were trying to brand them with a piece of searing hot iron on their bottoms (not a good idea, as the farmer could testify), and a perfect Trojan horse to get Drake and Willow into Nowhere as they smelt worse than horse poo.

Drake pulled on his hood and motioned for Willow to follow him up the embankment and into the herd of cattle.  They thundered along the road at a great speed, which was probably a good job as the air around them was putrid and full of large meat flies which had attached themselves to the cows’ bottoms.

Soon they were passing through the town gates and under the humungous hairy noses of the Search and Security Team and, although the farmer was questioned and his sons were not allowed to take in their broadswords, the group entered Nowhere fairly easily.  Once they were safely past the trolls and deep within the Common Marketplace Drake and Willow extricated themselves from the cattle and tried to take a breath of fresh air.

Only the air wasn’t fresh.

The Marketplace was worse than being stuck in the middle of the cattle; it was thick with the smell of rotting fruit, dung and urine.  They didn’t know about hygiene or street cleaners in Nowhere; it smelt like one giant toilet that hadn’t been flushed for over ten years.  Carts, laden with all types of produce from small milk containers that held infinite amounts of liquid to embroidered silk that kept the wearer toasty warm even in the Artic, trundled over mouldy vegetables, dung and more indescribable things.

Cloaked wizards were enchanting balls of blue light to hang in the air above the market stalls and tiny flower faeries were being strung up around the perimeter buildings.  In the background, Purple-haired Pygmy Pigs and Disappearing Dung Donkeys brayed and grunted amongst the chatter and singing of the excited townspeople.

Despite the bright light and the sheer amount of people in the Market place, Drake felt as relaxed as he ever would do in Nowhere.  He couldn’t believe their luck; they’d arrived on the Eve of Samhain, a Festival celebrating the end of Summer and the coming of the Dark Days, which entailed lots of drinking, dancing and the slaughtering of lots of animals.  Even though he was far from welcome in Nowhere (which would never change because he’d taken off with their dragon) he knew that they were far too preoccupied to notice him or Willow.  And if they did, they drunk so much before, during and after feasting, that they would probably think he was part of the entertainment, for at least a little while anyway.  All he and Willow had to do was to stay out of trouble as they crossed the market square and get up to Alchymia’s tower at the top of the hill before they sobered up.

But if he did get caught here, well, the consequences would bring more than tears to his eyes.  The whole place reeked of the Darkest Ages when humans were rounded up and eaten alive.  And if they caught Willow?  Well, let’s just say, they hated human witches more than they hated Drake and they would, no doubt, love to make a great spectacle out of killing both of them.

Drake and Willow made their way swiftly across the packed market, both of them keeping on their hoods as a precaution.  Drake knew Willow was the weak point at the moment; he could feel her prancing after him, her mind being seduced by the riotous entertainers as they practiced their fire dancing skills.  Why had he let her come?

Suddenly he stopped; he could hear a familiar gruff voice rising and falling over the general commotion.  He took a sharp intake of breath and waited for Willow to catch him up, not daring to look around or move one more step.  As soon as she’d reached his side, he grabbed her to hold her back.  He felt her body tense as his cold fingers closed around her arm.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could just see Scarface and the other two dwarves, Ozzy and Elvis.

 

 

Dragon Rider – Part Nine

Dragon Rider

Chapter Six

Going Nowhere, Fast

Drake was sprawled on a threadbare sofa, his Zephyr guitar lying across his chest. He couldn’t play here, not when he would end up bewitching Willow and Gizmo. Instead, he pretended to run his fingers over the strings, mentally playing the chords to soothe his aching brain.
But no matter how hard he concentrated on the music in his mind and tried to ignore the millions of questions that rattled around with it, he couldn’t; they kept bubbling to the surface, forcing him to think.
He stopped and gently dropped the guitar to the ground, trying hard not to look at his reflection in the shiny bridge of his instrument. But just like the questions that refused to go away he could neither ignore or liberate himself from the tattoo-like marking that blighted his face, “The Devil’s Mark”, a black swirl that ran from his right eyebrow, around his eye and then down his cheek; The Mark of the Dragon Rider.
It had begun to develop when he was four years old and, from that point in his life, he had either been an object of terror or one of curiosity and infamy. The latter helped him greatly in his work, for some people couldn’t help but be attracted to him (like his informant, Heaven Cadenza, Funestus Black’s Personal Assistant in the Law Department) but Drake had learned the hard way that this attraction was not really for him, but rather for what they thought he stood for, and what they thought they could get from him. In the end, this sort of attraction was very short lived.
The only person who had seen through all of the trappings of his heritage and had loved him, not because of it, but in spite of it, was Willow. But that was long ago, in the past, before he had run out on her. And what did she know of him now and what he’d been up to in those intervening years? Did she still feel that way, or had she turned on him also, throwing him out to a dog like Funestus?
Drake closed his eyes but the heat of his anger wasn’t helping to ease the knot in his stomach. Every vein and sinew in his body shrieked at the idea of working for Funestus; he wanted to finish Fenrik off on his own, not as part of some mad quest to find something that probably didn’t even exist. But it had also become painfully clear that he couldn’t walk away from Funestus’ offer. And that troubled him. Greatly.
‘If you’re with us,’ argued Willow, bringing Drake back into the present, ‘we’ll find the book quickly; Gizmo can do the techie stuff, I can do the magick and you’ve got experience from whatever it is you do when you’re out doing whatever it is you do. It’s simple really.’
Drake huffed. ‘Simple,’ he muttered under his breath.
‘Maybe you shouldn’t help us to find it,’ snapped Gizmo, tapping codes and text onto the virtual keyboard.
‘What? Don’t say that Giz, we need him,’ said Willow, pulling up Drake‘s legs and flopping onto the sofa next to him.
‘Do we?’ asked Gizmo spinning around in his chair. ‘He doesn’t seem to be that bothered.’
Drake reluctantly opened his eyes and swung his legs down from Willow’s lap. His eyes lingered on Willow, his mind trying to work out if she’d sold him out. He sighed and shook his head. ‘When do we start?’
‘Now,’ said Willow.
Within minutes Ailsa was dispatched to Funestus Black’s residence with a message accepting his offer.
Funestus’ reply was stark; No book, No money, No protection. Find it fast before Fenrik’s Demons did.

Dragon Rider – A Story – Part Five

Dragon Rider

Chapter Three Continued

Willow

It was mid-afternoon when Drake and Gizmo left the warehouse.  The heavy cloud cover threatened rain, making the City even darker than usual, and a bitter wind had whipped up, the crisp packets and screwed-up newspaper somersaulting across the streets like tumbleweed in an old Western movie.  The streets were almost deserted, the remaining people scuttled away like cockroaches, whether from the impending rain, the threat of the Shadow Walkers or from the sight of Drake himself, he couldn’t tell.

‘So how come a rich boy is hanging out with the Lost Souls anyway?’ asked Drake, trying to break the awkward silence that was opening out like some great chasm between Gizmo and himself.

‘What, because I come from a wealthy family I shouldn’t hang out with them?  Is that what you’re saying?’

Drake shrugged.  ‘It just doesn’t strike me as a rich guy’s thing.’

Gizmo stopped and stared at Drake, his amber eyes tracing the Devil’s Mark snaking around Drake’s right eye.  He opened his mouth as if to say something, then shut it again and instead shook his head and turned away.  ’I wouldn’t expect you to understand,’ he muttered to the floor as he strode off down the road.

‘Fair enough,’ said Drake striding after him.  He preferred silence anyway; he was only making an effort for Willow’s sake.

Before long, after a hushed exchange of words between Gizmo and two burly security guards, they had entered the exclusive gated community of Fordbrooks, the place where the rich played safely whilst the rest of Devilsgate burned.

On the face of it, Fordbrooks was impressive with its vast mansions, swimming pools and luxury cars, but Drake would much rather have the honesty of the desperate people of the slums – they were what they were, nothing more, nothing less – and they didn’t hide it or pretend to be something that they weren’t.  And, as anyone knows, the biggest crooks live in some of the biggest houses, Drake thought to himself.

Selling just one of those Garelli cars with their fine leather seats and gold trimmed panelling, would probably feed the Lost Souls for an eternity.  Maybe he should just take one now, save him the bother of meeting this Funestus Black.  Not that feeding the Lost Souls was his problem; he’d enough trauma just looking after himself and Falkor.

Falkor?  Now, how would that go down with the rich kid?

Gizmo suddenly stopped in the middle of the street and spun around on his heels.  ‘What exactly are your intentions?’

This took Drake by surprise.  ‘My intentions?’

‘With Willow-’

‘Oh,’ said Drake smiling, ‘you think that Willow and I, you know-’

‘No.  I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking,’ said Gizmo, pushing his glasses up his nose.

‘Relax,’ said Drake holding his palms up in surrender, ‘we’re just friends.’

‘That’s exactly what she said,’ said Gizmo.

‘Well, maybe you should listen to her-’

‘But if that’s the case why was she so cut up when you left?’

Those words sliced through Drake’s heart like a sabre.  Drake rubbed his hand across his chin, not knowing what to say.  ‘I…’

Gizmo sighed loudly.  ‘Why did you have to come back to Devilsgate?’

Drake could feel a bolt of anger flash inside him.  This was a conversation he was not going to have with Gizmo.  ‘That’s my business.’

Gizmo glared at him, his body tense and as tight as a knot.  ‘Are you going to hurt her again?’

Drake took a deep breath and closed his eyes.  ‘No,’ he said, rubbing the top of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.  ‘No, I’m not.  Look, me and Willow, it’s not what you think.  We grew up together in the orphanage.  We were like brother and sister then I left-‘

‘Why didn’t you take her with you?’

Drake looked at Gizmo, and sighed; whatever he said would not be enough for him.  ‘I couldn’t.  I could only just about look after myself.  I went back to see her but every time I left her again it hurt more and more.  In the end, I just stopped going.’

Gizmo turned and started walking away.  ‘Just don’t run out on her again, okay?’

But Drake didn’t reply.

 

Dragon Rider – Part Four

Chapter Three Continued

Willow

Drake closed his eyes and exhaled deeply.  ‘Don’t be stupid, if you’ve got to go-’

‘And so said the Faery,’ replied Gizmo, his eyes still glued to his computer screens.

Drake winced at Gizmo’s reply, but tried, all the same, to ignore it.  For now.

‘No,’ said Willow unclasping her legs, ‘we’re not going anywhere.  We’re going underground,’ said Willow, the conspiratorial defiance clear in her voice.

‘We’ve been keeping an eye on the Authorities,’ said Gizmo pointing to his screens, ‘I use this to track their movements so that we can stay one step ahead.’  Gizmo began to flick at the screens in front of him again.  Once he’d found the one he wanted, he tapped a code into the virtual keyboard.  ‘Say hello to Ailsa.’

Drake opened his eyes.  There was a crackle in the air in front of him, a flicker of blue light as a small child-like figure appeared in three-dimensional form.

‘Wow,’ said Drake, his eyes wide as he leant forward to run his hand through the holograph.

‘Do you mind?’ said the figure, its nose pointed in the air, its arms firmly crossed over its chest.

‘Sorry,’ said Drake, jumping back in his chair.

‘She’s Gizmo’s creation,’ said Willow, ‘Ailsa is an Artificial Intelligence.’

‘We use her to munch through the Enforcerer’s Systems.  She searches for any information we can use.  But we’re having trouble,’ continued Gizmo, ‘The Enforcerer’s Department has installed some new Demon-ware that’s doing a damn good job of keeping us out.  We should have it sorted soon, there’s bound to be a back door-’

Ailsa spoke to Gizmo, her eyes still locked onto Drake, a distinct look of disgust on her face.  ‘Route 2267 is blocked, we need to try another path.’

‘Okay,’ said Gizmo, ‘we’ll try route 3345 now.  Report back as soon as you can.’  And with that Ailsa disappeared.

‘And how do I fit into all of this?’ asked Drake.  Just as he had expected, this conversation was beginning to go down a long road that he had no desire to travel on.

‘We need you to help us find something-’

‘Willow, I-’

‘Just hear me out,’ said Willow putting her palms up to pacify him.  ‘We need to find a book for a friend-’

‘How’s finding a book going to help?’

Gizmo stopped flicking through the screens and finally looked at Drake.  ‘My father is friends with the Chief Law Enforcerer-’

‘The guy who runs the Law Department?’ asked Drake.

‘Yeah,’ said Gizmo nodding.  ‘He approached me a few days ago, said that he knew what we were up to, but he promised he’d keep quiet if we did this little favour for him and find the book-’

‘Must be some important book,’ said Drake, unable to keep the scepticism from his voice, ‘if he’s willing to protect you in exchange for it.  You know, a man in his position wouldn’t usually help if there wasn’t something really good for him at the end of it.’

‘Funestus isn’t like that,’ said Gizmo.

Drake rubbed his hand across his chin, the desire to tell the rich kid – in his expensive leather jacket and designer glasses – the truth, was almost too much to bear:  Men like Funestus were always out for themselves.  ‘The guy is in charge of the Department that is kicking you out of Devilsgate and blocking Ailsa with Demon-ware-’

‘To be honest Drake, I don’t care, I just need to find the book because I’m not leaving Devilsgate,’ said Willow, her face full of steely determination.

‘I’m not a treasure hunter Willow,’ said Drake.

‘I know, but I thought you might help…you know…for old times’ sake.’  Willow stared off into the distance as she said this, and Drake was sure he could hear a trace of bitterness in her voice.

‘I don’t know.’

‘We’d let you have a percentage of whatever we make; 60:40.’

Drake laughed.  ‘I don’t think so.’

‘Please Drake,’ said Willow, but it was not a question.  ‘I’m going to find it anyway, with or without you-’

Drake crossed his arms over his chest.  ‘This isn’t what I came back for-’

‘You’re more experienced than us at finding things-’

‘Yeah, people and creatures, not books.’

Willow looked straight into Drake’s eyes.  ‘Just meet the guy and talk to him.   He’ll be able to explain what he wants better than us, and then you can make your mind up.’

Drake rubbed his forehead.  This conversation had definitely had gone down a route he didn‘t want to take.  He hadn’t come back for this, to take on other people’s problems.  He’d got enough of his own and doing this for Willow would only delay him.  But there was something pulling him towards her.  Guilt for leaving her alone in Devilsgate all those years ago?  Shit.  What the hell was he going to do?

Drake leaned back on the sofa and ran his hands through his thick black hair. ‘Okay, let me ask you this; if everyone else in this City is in Fenrik’s pocket, what’s to say Funestus isn’t?  I mean, chances are he’s the same as everyone else who gets in power; they turn into greedy, power-hungry gits who’ll do anything to make more money and get more power-’

‘No, he isn’t.  I’ve known him for most of my life and he’s not the power hungry type.  He hates what’s going on here as much as we do, he’s just trying to change things from the inside out, that’s all,’ said Gizmo.

‘Just meet him?’ asked Willow.

Drake sighed loudly.  ‘Okay, but I’m not promising anything, right?’