Death’s Apprentice – Part 38

Dragon Rider

Chapter Sixteen Continued

The Iron Fortress

‘I’ll keep it for you,’ said Willow, holding out her hand to Pyro who was standing still, his mouth agape.

‘Thanks,’ he said, sulkily handing the necklace to Willow who quickly placed it around her neck.

Soon they could see the two troll guards towering over a long queue of people, their broad shoulders blocking the gateway.  The guards stood behind a red cord which they unhooked every time they allowed someone to enter.  They were both dressed in black suits with black shirt and tie.

‘Name?’ asked the one on the left to a petite woman trembling before them.

‘Millar, Mrs Sarah Millar.’

The troll scanned a list of names on his palm-held computer.  ‘Sorry, names not down love, you’ll have to go back,’ he said, pointing a stubby green finger at the end of the queue, ‘to the end.’

‘But…but…my husband just went it…I want to go in…I have to go in!’ she screamed, in between rapid breaths.

‘Sorry, no can do,’ shrugged the troll.  ‘Your details haven’t been processed yet love, so you’ll have to be patient and go to the back of the queue.’

‘I can’t.  I need to be WITH MY HUSBAND!’ she screamed hysterically, pulling at her long brown hair.

‘I’m warning you, love,’ he said, tapping at a sign behind him with a fat green finger.  ‘We will not tolerate any sort of violent behaviour.  Now go back to the end of the queue.’

‘NO.  I WANT TO GO IN!’  Mrs Millar took a running jump at the bouncers.  The guard on the right calmly reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small can.  He pressed its nozzle once and a fine blue spray hit the woman straight in the face and immediately she fell in a crumpled heap on the floor.  Two imps emerged from the shadows brandishing a stretcher.  They scooped Mrs Millar up and dragged her right to the back of the queue.

Drake grabbed Willow with his free hand and dragged her and Pyro to the front of the queue, to the jeers of the crowd.  Well, he had to try something; they were a bit short on time.

‘What are you doing?’ hissed Willow through gritted teeth.

‘Trust me!’ said Drake.  He took a deep breath, puffed out his chest and turned to the guard on the left, ‘We need to get in, it’s urgent.’

‘Names?’

‘You don’t need our names, just let us through.’

‘Look, joker, we need names.’  The troll leaned in towards Drake, Pyro and Willow to take a closer look, his fat green nose widening as he sniffed at them.  Willow and Pyro smiled sweetly.  ‘You smell dead but you’re not.’  He took out a small black gadget from his suit pocket and traced it over Drake’s chest.  The gadget bleeped twice.  ‘No, your name is Drake Erick Blackthorn and you’re definitely not dead, I can detect a heartbeat.’  The troll turned his attention to Pyro, running his gadget over his chest, ‘Ignatius Crisp III, djinn, sub-species fire and you’re alive.’

Drake looked at Pyro and smirked, ‘Ignatius -‘

‘Keep quiet joker.  I need to check the girl.’

‘Willow Ravenwood,’ said Willow.

‘Well, we’ll see about that won’t we?’  The troll, his green chubby face sullen, run his sensor over her chest.  ‘Willow Circe Ravenwood, alive.’

‘That’s all very reassuring to hear,’ said Drake with more than a pinch of sarcasm, ‘but can we go in now?’

‘Look you,’ said the guard, jabbing a fat finger in Drake’s direction, ‘I don’t take too kindly to jokers.’

The second troll cracked his knuckles in a show of solidarity.

‘Oh yeah?’ said Drake.

The guard grabbed Drake by the collar, ‘Right you, in ‘ere!’  he said, hauling him over the cord and into a small room on the left.

Willow scrambled after them, dragging Pyro behind her.

‘You’re in trouble now!’ said the troll clenching his green fist in the air.

‘Now, now, let’s not get too hasty!’ said Drake, holding his hands up in surrender as the troll threw him at the wall.  Drake cringed as he heard the Zephyr crack as it hit it.

‘Not such a big man now, are you?’ said the troll.  He grabbed Drake by the neck and hoisted him off the floor.

‘STOP IT!’ shouted Willow, aiming her fist at the troll’s trunk-like leg.  ‘OW!’ said Willow as she massaged her ballooning knuckles.

The troll didn’t feel a thing.

‘Let me…down…’ rasped Drake.

‘I don’t think so, I’m looking forward to pounding you to a pulp!’

Drake raised his hand and began flapping the tickets Arthur Tinks had given him in the troll’s face.  ‘I’ve got something that you might like.’

The troll loosened his vice-like grip and Drake crashed to the floor.  The troll snatched the tickets from Drake’s hand and studied them with interest.  ‘Where did you get ’em?  They are legit aren’t they?’ asked the troll, one bushy red eyebrow arched.

‘Completely legit.  I wouldn’t offer anything to you that wasn’t.  A little bird told me that these tickets are like gold dust and that you would like to go.  I just thought that if I gave you the tickets you might want to, you know, help us out.’

The troll’s face softened a little.  ‘Okay,’ he said rubbing his stubbly chin, ‘what do you want for them?’

‘We just want to get through to the other side,’ replied Drake.

‘To see Brimo,’ added Willow.

‘You want to see the Queen of the Dead?’  The troll guffawed.  ‘You’ll be lucky, I’ve been here years and I’ve never seen her, she never leaves the safety of the Control Room in the Main Tower.’  The troll looked long and hard at Drake and then at the tickets clasped in his hands.  ‘Okay, you can go through, but don’t tell anyone about this or I will have to find you and break every bone in your body so that you can legitimately join the back of the queue.  Capisce? ‘  He cracked his knuckles to underline what he had just said.  ‘I’m only doing it, mind, because its Ernie’s birthday,’ he motioned to the other troll who was still on crowd-control duty, ‘and he really wants to go to the Blue Pearl.  Now go on, get on wiv yah!’

Without being told twice, Willow and Drake, with Pyro in tow, bolted past the troll and into The Processing Centre.

The Main Tower of the Fortress, a soaring mass of impenetrable iron decorated with giant skulls that belched out liquid fire, lay at the rear of The Processing Centre and in front of it, sat a collection of various sized buildings with green plastic signage with white lettering.  A rather grim-looking building covered in thick barbed wire had a sign saying “Murderers this way for Judgement,” with an arrow pointing at the thick steel door and other signs pointed outbuildings such as The Waiting Room and the Sorting Office for Magickal Beings.  An iron rampart, running from either side of the Fortress, separated the Centre from The Land of The Dead that lay at the other side of the wall: The Final Destination.