Chapter Twelve Continued
Drake glared at Pyro and grabbed his Zephyr before he climbed out of the carriage. Pyro and Willow followed.
‘The Fortress is that way,’ said Charon pointing across the valley, ‘Goodbye.’
‘I’m going to complain, I am, only doing half a job, ‘shouted Pyro as Charon dashed around to the front of his carriage, ‘I ask you, what is the world coming to when even the ferryman of the Underworld won’t do his job!’
‘Good day,’ said Charon already seated at the front of his carriage. He turned to his kelpies, shouted ‘YAH!’ and they were off, thundering back to where they had just come from, ready to collect more fresh souls.
Drake slung his guitar over his back and looked down the disintegrating bridge, a thin crooked finger pointing the way to the Fortress, its iron bulk veiled by the tangled wall of miles and miles of brambles and trees. He inwardly sighed; they hadn’t even travelled half-way to the Fortress and they’d got so many more miles to travel. The road before them looked never-ending. How the hell were they going to get to the Fortress now?
‘Come on,’ he said, his voice a strange mixture of anger and misery, ‘be careful where you tread, I don’t fancy going for a swim-’
‘I need a break,’ said Pyro, plonking himself down, his stubby legs hanging off the side of the bridge.
‘Pyro!’ hissed Drake through clenched teeth.
‘What?’ asked Pyro, turning to look back at Drake, ‘I need some fresh air. If you don’t mind me saying, it was getting a little smelly in there.’
Drake glared back at him, trying to count to a hundred in his head, quickly, before he exploded.
‘Hey,’ said Willow, placing her hand gently on Drake’s arm, ‘Let’s take a few minutes and we can check out the Scroll.’
‘Okay,’ replied Drake, his hands pumping at his side as he tried not to put his hands around Pyro’s neck.
‘Show me the way,’ asked Willow, holding the Scroll of the Dead up for Drake to see. Black symbols began to burn brightly on the brown parchment in front of them.
‘What does it say?’ asked Drake.
‘It’s saying that-’
Drake spun on his heels. ‘Pyro?’ he screeched, as Pyro threw another fragment of the crumbling bridge into the lake.
‘What do you think you are doing?’
‘Trying to see if I can skim the water with these bits of rubble,’ said Pyro, holding up a handful of jagged pieces of the bridge in his hand. ‘It’s supposed to be good for relieving stress,’ he said, lobbing another bit of bridge into the water. The large fragment disappeared into the grey water with a loud plop. ‘Doesn’t seem to be working though. Maybe it’s my technique. I should’ve listened to my Great Aunt Gazit, she was Champion Skimmer in our village for five years in a row when I was growing up. Mind you, that could’ve had something to do with the fact that everyone was scared of her, she had-’
‘Shut up!’ screamed Drake.
‘Huh. You asked me a question-’
Drake turned his back on Pyro. ‘So what’ve you come up with?’ he asked Willow.
‘Can you hear that?’ asked Pyro, his knobbly hand cupped to his ear.
‘Pyro, we’re a little busy at the moment,’ said Drake trying, for Willow’s sake, to keep his anger under control.
‘I can hear it,’ said Willow, looking up from the scroll, ‘it sounds like dance music.’
They all stood still, listening to the dull thump, thump of music coming from somewhere in front of them.
‘That can’t be right,’ said Drake, unsure of what he was hearing, ‘there’s nothing here, just the lake.’
‘Well, that’s definitely dance music,’ said Willow.
Drake looked out over the grey waters of the lake; something was stirring in its depths sending great bubbles of white water up to the surface and waves were beginning to lap against the bridge.
‘What’s going on?’ asked Pyro, jumping up from his perch on the edge of the bridge, the bottom of his brown chinos wet.
There was a huge explosion of water, about thirty metres in front of them, and a great white yacht emerged from the depths of the lake like a shark. The vessel was enormous, probably around 100 metres in length, and great torrents of water gushed from its wooden decks as it surfaced. Dance music blasted from the vessel as it sailed towards them.
‘Wow! That is some boat,’ said Drake, as, within a matter of minutes, the yacht had drawn in alongside them.
‘Come aboard!’ shouted a man in a cream suit, peering from the deck as the gangway extended onto the bridge.
‘Blackthorn,’ said Pyro, tugging at Drake’s sleeve, ‘I don’t think we should. I’ve got a bad feeling-’
Drake pulled his arm away from Pyro. What was it with this guy? ’Thanks, but we need to go to the Fortress,’ he shouted back to the man.
‘That’s okay, we’re heading that way.’
‘But you’re in a boat,’ said Willow, pointing from the boat to the Fortress, ‘and the Fortress is over there. Behind a Forest.’
‘This is a special boat,’ replied the man with a huge flashy grin, beckoning for them to board, ’What harm can it do?’
‘Blackthorn, come on, let’s walk,’ said Pyro.
Pretend Pyro isn’t there before you explode, thought Drake. He turned to Willow. ‘Does it say anything on the Scroll?’
‘No,’ said Willow, taking a quick peek at the scroll.
‘Well then, it can’t be anything bad. Let’s give it a go.’
‘I don’t know, maybe Pyro‘s right.’
‘Come on, surely it’s better than walking for miles across this bridge and then having to fight through that lot,’ said Drake, pointing to the Forest. ‘It’ll be quicker.’
‘It’s a bad idea,’ said Pyro, stepping slowly backwards, away from the boat.
‘I could always knock you out with my music and drag you across,’ said Drake through clenched teeth.
‘Come on,’ said Drake, grabbing Pyro by the collar and pushing him up the gangway, ‘you first. Oh, and Pyro, if you do one, I will personally kill you!’
‘Welcome aboard the Arcadia,’ said the man in the cream suit, as Pyro, Drake and Willow climbed aboard.
‘What is this?’ asked Willow, her mouth wide open as she marvelled at the heaving crowd, all dancing to the music being played by a DJ in baggy t-shirt and low-slung jeans, mixing it up on the decks behind the swimming pool.
‘This little thing,’ replied the man, pulling his Ray-Ban’s down his nose so that he could look over them with his pale blues eyes, that sparkled like sapphires next to his tanned skin, ‘is something I dreamt up as an alternative to that dreadful man, Charon. So unrefined.’ He winked at Willow, ‘Just think of it as your last little bit of hedonism before you pass to the other side.’
‘Oh, we’re not dead,’ said Drake.
‘Really?’ said the man, flashing a gold tooth as a wide smile spread across his face. ‘Let me introduce myself, I’m Morpheus’ he said, pointing to his smooth bare chest peeping out from under his suit, a chunky platinum chain sparkling against his orange-looking skin, ‘and that’s Hypno, our resident DJ.’ Morpheus looked at the platinum Daniel Roth watch on his wrist, ‘We will be ascending in a minute as we begin our journey to The Fortress, so why don’t you relax and enjoy the ride.’
‘Ascend?’ asked Pyro, holding his stomach with one hand, his mouth in the other.
‘Yes, how else did you think we were going to get there?’
Pyro turned to Drake. ‘Did I ever mention that I’m not good with heights?’ he asked, his face had drained of colour, his skin taking on a green hue.
‘There’s everything you could desire aboard this vessel. What’s mine is yours; the swimming pool, beauty salon for the lady, or you could try the sundeck or Jacuzzi on the upper floor,’ said Morpheus, gesturing at the deck with his jewel-encrusted hand, as the boat began to rise gently into the air like a Hover-copter. The engine roared somewhere below deck before the boat turned smoothly in the air and began its journey south.
‘I really don’t like heights,’ said Pyro, grabbing tightly onto the nearest railing, his knuckles white.
‘We should be at our destination in about an hour, so enjoy yourselves.’
‘This is amazing,’ said Drake, smiling at a pretty dancer, dressed in a small pink top and white shorts, who had winked at him, ‘when I die I want to go like this.’
‘For sure,’ said Morpheus, grabbing a glass of clear liquid from a silver tray as a waiter, dressed head to toe in white, passed by. ‘Madame.’ he said giving the glass to Willow. He turned to Drake. ‘Is this music to your liking?’
‘We’re more into alternative stuff, that kind of thing,’ said Drake.
‘No problem,’ said Morpheus. ’Why don’t you come with me,’ he said, putting his long arm around Willow‘s shoulders, ’and we’ll sort that out.’
‘Okay,’ said Willow, after she had finished taking a sip of the clear liquid.
‘Don’t I know you?’ asked Pyro, still clinging tightly to the railing, before Morpheus could walk away.
‘I don’t think so, I don’t generally tend to hang around with demons,’ said Morpheus with a smirk.