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.’
‘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!’