Dragon Rider – Part 47

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eighteen Continued

Reciprocal Damage

‘What did you just do?’

Drake spun around to see Willow sitting up, nursing her head like she’d got a hangover, dirt patches smeared over her face.  Impressive, didn’t last long, he thought.  ‘I was just helping Falkor,’ said Drake, not meeting her gaze, knowing that this was not what she was getting at.

‘Did you just drug me with your music?’ she asked, as she jumped up from the floor.

‘How do you know about the music?’

‘What do you think I’m stupid?’ she bellowed, hands on hips.

Drake shrugged.  Something told him that, at some point in the future, he was going to pay for that.  Heavily.

‘Do you think that just because you walked out of my life ten years ago I don’t know anything about you?’

Drake didn’t know what to say.  He looked away.  This wasn’t the time for this conversation, he’d got Falkor to sort out.  But he wouldn’t tell her how bad things were.  He couldn’t.

‘I have been searching for you, getting any information I could, hoping that one day I would find my big brother again!’

He could feel the lump of ice in his chest where his heart should be.  It was choking him from the inside out.

‘I..’ she looked away, her big brown eyes hidden behind her pink fringe, ‘I didn’t know about…your father.  Did Fenrik really murder him?’

Drake nodded.  He wasn’t going to talk about this.  He shrugged and managed a weak, ‘I’m sorry.’

‘For what?’

‘For taking you out with the music.’

‘Hmph!’ fumed Willow as she stomped towards Drake, her eyes blazing with fury.  She smacked him hard on the shoulder.

‘What?’ asked Drake as she stomped past him.  ‘You were collateral damage.’

‘Thanks,’ she snapped.

‘I had to take them out, didn’t I?’

‘Not when I was just about to smack the ugly one again!’

Drake scratched the side of his head.  The ugly one?  He couldn’t see any difference if he was honest.

‘So, how did you know he was working for Fenrik?’ she asked, in a slightly gentler tone.

Drake took a deep breath and steadied himself; he could feel a burning sensation in his limbs, the lactic acid building up in Falkor’s muscles.  ‘I,’ he bit down on the pain, ‘I didn’t for sure, but seeing him, like that, all crazy and with the dwarves, it all kinda fit together.  I suppose, deep down, I always knew.’  But, Funestus was, if he was truly honest with himself, a means to an end.

‘So what’s the plan?’

‘Can you fix Falkor?’ asked Drake, pointing to the gash on his belly.  God, he hoped she had some kind of spell or something; he could feel Falkor weakening at a sickening pace.  ‘It looks quite deep and he’s quite weak.’  He would not tell her just how bad this was.  He couldn’t do that to her.

Willow stooped under Falkor.  ‘It looks nasty.  I don’t know any Healing Spells, I could try the Book of Shadows?’

‘The one you got from Arthur Tinks?’

Willow bit her lip and nodded her head, ‘I know it’s a risk but it’s all I’ve got.’

‘Okay-’  Shit.  Well, if that’s all they had.

‘You’d really let me practice magick on Falkor?’

‘I trust you.’

Willow looked at him with one of those “I’m not buying it” looks that really freaked him out.

‘Okay, so I don’t trust you that much but, like you said, it’s all we’ve got,’ said Drake, shrugging.

‘Thank you for at least being honest,’ she snapped back, shrugging the bag off her back.  Before the bag was off she hit her forehead with the heel of her hand.  ‘I don’t need the book,’ she said, ‘not when I’ve got these!’  She threw her bag to the ground and fetched the leather necklace from around her neck.

‘The mermaid’s tears!’

‘You don’t have to sound so happy,’ she snapped, as she yanked the cork stopper from the vial with her teeth.  She handed the necklace to Drake and he poured some of the shimmering liquid onto her hands.  She rubbed the solution into the palms of her hands before placing them on Falkor’s underbelly and then focused her thoughts upon healing his wound.

A golden light radiated from the tears on her hands, a thin thread of healing magick which penetrated through Falkor’s flesh, knitting his wound back together and making him stronger.  Once she had finished she stepped back and admired her work, a big smile lighting up her face.

Drake could feel the strength return to Falkor’s body, he could feel the magick running through his veins, cleansing both Falkor and himself.  He studied the spot where the wound had been; there was a single white scar running across Falkor’s underbelly which looked as if it had been there years, not a matter of seconds.  Falkor shifted his weight and flexed his wings then shattered the tumbling darkness with a thunderous roar.

‘Wow,’ said Willow studying the afterglow of the tears on her hands.

‘You’ve done a good job, thanks.  He looks as good as new.’

Willow‘s face quickly turned to thunder again.  ‘So what do we do with him?’ she asked, poking at Funestus’ head with her pump.  ‘We should keep him tied up here, let him rot,’ she spat.  ’When I think that he’s the Chief Enforcerer and he’s been helping Fenrik all this time…’  Willow sighed, ’It just makes my blood boil.’

Drake bent down and rolled Funestus’ body over.  ‘I’ve got a better idea.’

Willow stared at Drake, her head tilted and eyes narrowed.  ‘What?’

‘I’m letting him go-’

‘Are you out of your mind?’  Willow grabbed Drake’s shoulder and forced him off the ground.  ‘He’s dangerous-’

‘Hey, relax,’ said Drake putting his palms up, ‘We can use him to lure Fenrik out.’

‘Lure Fenrik out?  We’re not in some stupid action film, this is real life, Drake!  Those kids are depending on us but you’re too messed up in there,’ said Willow jabbing at Drake’s temple with her finger, ‘to care about that.  I know he murdered your father Drake, but your obsession with him is going to get us all killed!’

‘I’m not, listen-’

‘No, you listen.  You have half of The Emerald Key,’ she said pointing to the book, ‘the bit that Fenrik is missing.  Just destroy it!’

‘I can’t do that.  We let him go, then we get Fenrik and you’re problems are over.  For good.’

Willow huffed and shook her head, her arms knitted around her chest.

‘I am going to get Fenrik, with or without you, and I am going to take him down.’  Drake turned away from her, ‘Falkor!’

Falkor grumbled but shuffled forwards to where Funestus lay and clamped his foot around the top of Funestus’ body.

Drake bent down and slapped Funestus on the cheek.  ‘Wake up!’  But Funestus remained asleep, drugged by Drake’s music.  ‘Come on!’ spat Drake smacking him on the cheek again.  He huffed, closed his eyes and tried to steady his breathing.  Now really was not the time to get worked up.

‘Move out of the way!’ snapped Willow, shoving Drake sharply with her arm.  ’You shouldn’t be doing this.  But I suppose you’re going to do it anyway.’  She grabbed her bag and pulled out the scorched Book of Shadows.  ‘Can’t think of a better person to experiment on,’ she said as she flicked through the book’s burnt pages.  ‘Here we go,’ she said, turning to face Funestus.  She uttered a single word.  ’Bregdan.’

Funestus opened his eyes and took a sharp intake of breath like he’d just been dragged out of the water.

‘Nice of you to join us,’ said Drake with a smirk.  ‘I do hope you understand the predicament you’re in.’

Funestus’ eyes were wild, bulging from their sockets, but Drake didn’t know if the fear was due to Falkor or the fact that the effects of the Absinium were wearing off.  Or both.

‘Don’t…hurt me,’ whimpered Funestus, ‘Please, I’ll do anything, but please, don’t-’

‘Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t let Falkor to crush you to death right now.’

‘No!’ screeched Funestus.  ‘You can’t.  Please.  Let me go, we can work this out.’

‘Work what out?’ asked Drake, feigning confusion.

‘Our little problem, you know, Fenrik.’

‘Go on.’

‘Call the dragon off me, I beg you, and we can talk properly-’

Drake smiled.  ‘No.’

Dragon Rider – Part 46

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eighteen Continued

Reciprocal Damage

Drake froze.  Despite the stillness of his body, inside his heart was now beating wildly and his mind was starting to ignite with questions.  How long had he got before he collapsed from the Reciprocal Damage of Falkor’s injuries?  How long had he got to free Falkor  Why was Funestus here?  What did he want with him?  Despite the many questions, he remained still, unsure of what to do.  He could smell the stench of treachery hanging heavy in the air and he didn’t like it.  Not one little bit.

‘Unfortunate, casualty.  Sorry about that,’ said Funestus, following Drake’s gaze to the injured dragon.  ‘But as you’ll both be dead in a minute, his suffering won’t last too long.  Hopefully.’

Scarface sniggered as he wiped neon blood off his hands onto a red handkerchief.

Drake curled his free hand into a fist.  ’How did you find us?’

‘The break-in at the warehouse?  That was me with a few hired Demon thugs; they’ll do anything for a good scrap.  We went there to spook your dragon knowing that he would want to find you.  All we had to do was to plant a tracker on his tail,’ said Funestus, with a sweep of his hand, ‘and he led us straight here.’

‘But why?’ asked Willow, stepping forward, her face tilted as she searched Funestus’ face for answers, ‘I don’t understand.  You asked me and Giz to get you the Book, I would’ve brought it to you-’

‘Ah, why indeed.  The most important question I feel.’  Funestus strode over to Drake, ’The Book, if you please,’ he said, stretching out his thin pale hand.

Drake could smell the mint and aniseed on Funestus’ breath.  He was sweating hard, his wild eyes red and puffy.  Had Funestus been on Liquid Madness?  Drake scrutinised Funestus in silence, taking in every line on his face, every feature.  The eyes were the key; he was running scared.  It all fell into place in Drake’s mind.  ‘No.’

Funestus cackled.  ’I don’t think you quite understand the predicament you’re in-’

‘Oh, I do,’ said Drake, his stance proud and defiant.

Funestus looked at him in surprise.  ‘Well, if that truly is the case, enlighten us,’ he said, regaining his calm as he gestured to himself and then the dwarves.

‘You’re scared.’

‘Scared?’  Funestus threw his head back and cackled, ‘No Drake, I’m not scared.’

‘Do they know,’ said Drake, pointing to the dwarves, ‘what you’re up to?’

‘What?’ asked Scarface stepping closer.  ‘What’s he up to?’

Funestus thrust his face into Drake’s.  ‘Just give me the Book.’

Yes.  Funestus was running scared; he could smell the fear on him.  ‘So when are you going to tell them?’ asked Drake, trying desperately to shut out Falkor’s whimpering cry.  He could feel his friend’s weak life force and it didn’t fill him with hope.

‘Tell us what?’

‘Well,’ said Drake turning to Scarface, ‘I can’t see Fenrik letting this loser get the book all by himself, can you?  And Vigor’s not here so, chances are, Fenrik doesn’t know our mutual friend here is collecting the Book-’

‘Funestus, what’s he talking about?’ asked Scarface, his eyes unreadable behind his thick black shades.

‘Shut up!’ screeched Funestus.  ‘You don’t even know that I am working with Fenrik.’

Drake turned to Scarface and addressed him directly; there was nothing as easy as dividing and conquering.  ‘I’d watch your back Scarface, he’s doing the dirty on Fenrik!  Fenrik doesn’t even know he’s here.’

Ozzy and Elvis were now standing by Scarface.  ‘Funestus?’

‘Of course he knows I’m here,’ snapped Funestus, over his shoulder, ‘Now give me the Book.’

‘I knew it!’ said Drake, shaking his head.

‘You’re working with Fenrik?’ asked Willow, her face pleading with Funestus for answers.

‘Of course I am, stupid little girl!’

‘No.  He doesn’t know you’re here, does he?  What do you want the Book for?  What have you done?’ asked Drake quickly, taking advantage of the confusion.  Wouldn’t be long before Funestus slipped up.

‘Just do us all a favour.  Give me the Book and then die,’ snarled Funestus.

‘Certainly,’ said Drake.  He seized his chance; stepping forward, he smashed The Emerald Key hard off the side of Funestus’ face.

Funestus hadn’t got time to react.  The Book hit him hard, sending blood and two teeth flying into the air.  He tried to keep on his feet but the blow had taken him off guard.  His eyes wouldn’t focus, his legs crumpled beneath him and he crashed to the floor.

Scarface whipped out his stun gun as Elvis charged at Drake and Willow, but, as his left arm was bandaged tightly to his chest and his face was puffy and covered in bruises, Willow stopped him without even breaking into a sweat, with a right hook to the side of his face.  He toppled backwards, unable to keep his balance.  Ozzy slowly limped towards them, wincing every time his right leg touched the ground after his run-in with Fulcanelli.

A blue bolt of electric fizzed within centimetres of Drake’s chest.  In one fluid motion, his Zephyr was off his back and in his hands.  As soon as he struck the first chord the music began to act like a drug, a lullaby of exquisite beauty, gently rising and falling as it invited its victims in, luring them into a world of dreamless sleep.  And when it begun there was no stopping it, not until the great tentacles of delicious music had mercilessly hunted each and every one of them down and had them in its shadowy iron-like grasp.

‘What’s-‘ said Willow, stumbling as she aimed her fist at Elvis for the second time.  She missed completely and crashed to the floor, face-first onto the grass, her fist still clenched and her bottom stuck high in the air.

Drake had to work quickly.  He didn’t know how long any of them would be out for; for some, it was a matter of minutes, like Pyro, but for others, it was hours and, very rarely, it could be days.

He pulled the vial of sleeping draft from his pocket and placed a drop in each of the dwarves’ mouths.  He grabbed the key in Scarface’s hand, then raced over to Funestus who was twitching and writhing on the ground.  Drake bent down to give Funestus a drop of the sleeping draft.

‘Fiery-death,’ mumbled Funestus, ‘Fiery-death, Fiery-death.’

Drake stopped.  Where had he heard that before?  He rubbed his chin and studied Funestus’ face.  He knew he’d heard that name before.  He put the stopper back on the vial and stashed it back in his pocket.

No.  Funestus would have to wait.  For now.  He’d got too many questions to answer and he’d deal with him once he’d sorted out Falkor.

Falkor’s cries of agony were stabbing Drake in the gut, like a blade.  He ran his hand over the dragon’s head; Falkor was clammy, his pulse weak, his strength almost spent.  He needed to get Falkor back on his feet before it was too late for both of them.

‘I’ll get you out,’ he whispered, ’just keep still.’  The dwarves had deliberately slotted the iron chains under Falkor’s teardrop scales to inflict maximum pain and damage as they forced the main body of the scales away from his flesh.  Drake could clearly see that in some parts, the chain had dug deep into his flesh exposing bone and causing the dragon to lose quite a bit of his precious neon blood.

Drake growled.  He found the padlock, placed the key in it with trembling hands and turned it.  The lock sprung open and Drake carefully began to peel the chains away from Falkor’s body, clenching his teeth, fighting the pain as he felt every last chain coming away as if it were from his own body.  Falkor attempted to raise himself off the floor as Drake pulled the very last chain away, but he was too weak, his legs infirm from being pinned to the ground and he fell face-first into the glutinous mud.

‘Come on,’ soothed Drake, trying to hide the pain in his own voice, ‘you can do it.’  Drake stroked Falkor’s neck.  ‘Come on boy,’ he said, placing his hand under Falkor’s head to try and coax him to raise it up a little.

Falkor dug the elbows of his wings into the muddy ground and with an almighty push he lifted himself up.  He stretched out his wings to balance himself and then roared defiantly, but Drake could feel the reality of Falkor’s weakness; his muscles were beginning to ache and his legs felt like jelly.  He inspected the dragon’s underbelly; a deep gash still oozed blood and he could see a long tear had punctured the membrane of his right wing.

If Falkor’s wing was broken and they couldn’t fly, what hope was there?

Dragon Rider – Part 45

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eighteen Continued

Reciprocal Damage

 

God, he hoped that he wasn’t too late to save Falkor.

There was a muted blast from outside the pod as the doors to the room were ripped from their hinges and soldiers poured in under a cloud of grey smoke.

‘YOU WON’T GET AWAY!’  It was the Overseer.  Her voice blasted inside the pod from two small speakers attached to the inside of the cask.  The Overseer was clutching the microphone on the desk, her crazy eyes bulging out of their sockets, her red hair wild, bursting from its bun.  Beside her, soldiers were pressing the buttons on the control pad, desperately trying to open the cask.

A small grizzled soldier, fed up with playing with buttons, fired at the pod but recoiled in horror as the toughened glass repelled his bullets.  Instead, they ricocheted around the room sending everyone, including the Overseer, diving for cover.  Smoke began to pour from the control panel as the bullets became embedded in it, shrouding the soldiers from view.

‘IMBECILES!  STOP THEM!’ screamed the Overseer from somewhere behind the veil of smoke.

The pod burst into life, there was a deafening sound, like nails on a blackboard, and bright white light swamped them.  Almost immediately, Drake could feel himself flying forwards at a terrifying speed but it was too fast for his mind to keep up with.  He tried to close his eyes, to stop the sensation, but he couldn’t.  He screamed, but no sound escaped from his mouth, as he realised his mind had freed itself from his body.  He looked down in horror as he saw his body lying beneath him, still and lifeless.

Then the sensation was over.  His eyes snapped shut as his mind re-entered his body and once again he could feel his heart beating, pumping his life-blood around his body.  He could feel the warmth of Willow’s breath and smell her scent of strawberry and vanilla.

The pod went black.

Now he could see a bright light radiating and throbbing from the end of the tunnel.  And they were hurtling towards it, so fast that the pod felt as if it had stopped moving.

The pure light consumed Drake and Willow entirely, coating every part of their bodies, enveloping them like they were in some primordial womb.  They were suspended in the light, but for how long, Drake could not tell.  It could’ve been seconds, years or just the blink of an eye.

And then it was gone.

Drake could feel something real and solid beneath him; the hardness of the earth accompanied by the comforting smell of damp grass and moss.

They were home.

Drake dug his hands into the soft earth, scraping up the grass and moss with his fingernails.  He didn’t want to open his eyes, to ruin the moment.  He felt strangely at peace as his heartbeat slowly in his chest, a gentle thrumming of a drum, and his head felt strangely empty of the confusing mess that usually bubbled and churned there.

He didn’t want to think about anything, he didn’t want to have to deal with any of it.  Not now, not when he felt so calm.  He didn’t want to break the moment.

Willow’s voice broke the silence.  ‘Drake.’

Drake felt Willow leaping up from the floor.  But he didn’t want to move, he wanted to stay here and breathe in the cool air, to feel it brushing against his skin.

‘Thank you for joining us Drake, I did wonder when you would show, if at all,’ said a silky voice, fracturing his euphoria.

No.  No.  No.  Drake’s body was screaming at him; this wasn’t right.  Drake forced his eyes open and jumped up from the muddy floor, still grasping the Emerald Key tightly to his chest.  But his mind, although clear, was slow.  ‘Funestus?  What-?’

‘Yes, thought I’d come and surprise you.’

It was only now that Drake saw the dwarves standing close by, huddled around the crumpled body of Falkor who was pinned tightly to the ground under giant iron chains.  Scarface stepped forward, his black leather trousers and skull tee-shirt were covered in mud and a neon blue substance; Falkor’s blood.

Dragon Rider – Part 44

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eighteen

Reciprocal Damage

‘Pyro, don’t you dare!’ shouted Drake, as Pyro dropped back down onto the seat, his eyes blank, staring out into the unknown.

And then, right before their eyes, he disappeared with not even a speck of blood to show that he had even existed.

‘Drake, do you think?’ asked Willow, her voice trembling.

‘I don’t know,’ said Drake, shaking his head.  Shit.  This was not supposed to happen.  Not this way.  What if he was dead?  He wasn’t supposed to die!  What had he done?

‘Maybe he’s been summoned,’ said Willow.

‘Maybe,’ replied Drake, fixing his eyes on the small battalion of soldiers gathering at the foot of the Main Tower.  ‘When we get back, you find out.’

‘I don’t know if I can, I-‘

‘We know his real name, right?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then we’ll do it.  Somehow.  We owe him that much.’

‘STOP THE CART AND PUT YOUR HANDS UP!’  The Overseer’s voice rang out from the speakers situated all around the compound.

‘What the hell do we do now?’ said Willow.

‘This!’ said Drake, ramming his foot down hard on the accelerator so that the cart shot forward, straight towards the soldiers preparing to fire in front of them.

‘Have you got a death wish or something?’

The cart crashed through the soldiers sending them scattering like dominoes.

‘GET UP!’ ordered the Overseer over the tannoy.  ‘STUPID FOOLS, STOP THEM!’

The soldiers scrambled to their feet and followed the cart as it plunged over the bridge, straddling the fiery moat, and into the foyer of the Main Tower.

Drake immediately took his foot off the accelerator and slammed it on the break.  The cart screeched in fury as it struggled to stop on the slippery floor.  It finally came to rest just short of the main desk.  The receptionist behind it was standing open-mouthed, clutching an empty cup that had held the coffee she was now wearing.  Beside her stood the woman in the khaki uniform who had asked them to fill in the questionnaire.

Drake smiled at her and winked.  ‘Sorry!’

Behind them the soldiers were fighting their way through the foyer, slipping and cursing as they chased after them.  Drake turned on his heels and catapulted himself into the gaping mouth of the lift.

Willow jumped in behind him clutching The Emerald Key and breathing hard.  She leaned over and slammed her hand on the “close doors” button.  The doors began to slowly glide shut.  ‘Come on, Come on!’ she said, pressing the button again and again.

‘Please refrain from pressing the button more than once,’ said the chirpy lift-voice.  ‘Which floor do you require?’

Before Drake had a chance to answer, two strong arms, belonging to a man-mountain of a soldier with a hawkish face, began to push the metal doors back open.

‘What’s happening?’ asked the lift-voice.

‘Nothing that you need to worry about,’ said Drake, punching the soldier on his beak-like nose.  The soldier stumbled backwards, momentarily losing his grip on the doors as he cradled his nose which was pouring with crimson blood.  The doors slowly began to close, but the soldier launched himself at the doors, growling as he pushed them apart again, the muscles in his arms nearly popping with the effort.

Willow hit the soldier’s bloodied hands with the book as he tried to scramble into the lift, the other soldiers behind him now forcing him forward.

‘Exit please,’ said Drake.  He rammed his boot into the soldier’s stomach sending him flying backwards and onto the soldiers behind him, his enormous bulk pinning them to the ground.

‘That was close,’ gasped Willow as the doors finally closed.

The lift quickly dropped to the basement.  The doors opened and they pelted out, the shrill alarm still blaring around the compound.

They were now in a large rectangular hall with steel double doors in front of them.  Two small flies buzzed around the flickering florescent strip light running along the centre of the dirty polystyrene-tiled ceiling, adding to the air of abandonment in this part of the tower.

They ran over and entered the room beyond the large double doors.  The room looked to Drake like some sort of old control room, maybe a relic from the human era, as it reminded him of pictures he had seen, when he was a small boy, of the NASA control room in the 1950 s, with its large control panel on the side of one wall and its old-fashioned lights that flashed green and red.  A large microphone covered in grey foam sat at its centre, in front of a blank green computer screen.  To the right of the panel hovered a cylindrical glass pod, in front of a dark chute, its door hinged open at the top with small chrome fixings.

‘That’s got to be the way out!’ said Drake, pointing at the pod, ‘Now if we can just get it to-’  He doubled over, cradling his stomach in both of his trembling hands, as pain gripped him in her tight claws.  He clenched his teeth and let the agonizing feeling pass.

‘Are you okay?’ asked Willow, her hand on his shoulder as she bent over to get a good look at him.

He nodded, unable to speak.  But he knew something was horribly wrong.  He just didn’t know what.

‘Okay,’ said Willow, but Drake could tell she didn’t believe him.  But then again, he wasn’t really hiding the fact he was in trouble.  ‘I’ll see if I can get the pod working,’ said Willow, stuffing the Emerald Key under her arm as she turned her attention to the control panel.

Once the pain had subsided, he managed to wedge the door shut with an old wooden chair.  He didn’t know how long they’d got before the soldiers got here, but even if it didn’t hold the doors shut for long, it might just give them the valuable seconds they needed to get out of this place.

Willow was desperately pounding at the buttons on the control panel.  She hit a green button and almost immediately there was a sound like an engine starting up and the pod began to shake violently, the computer screen now lit up with a picture of the pod’s sparkling interior.

Drake froze as more pain wracked his body, but this time it was like his flesh was being cut from his skin.  He gritted his teeth as the pain took control.  He stumbled, his eyes unable to focus, as his stomach tightened as nausea swept over him.

There was shouting outside the room and the double doors began to shake as the soldiers tried to ram their way in.

Drake was shaking and he could feel sweat, clammy and wet, under his tee-shirt and coat, where his Zephyr lay.  Suddenly, it felt as if someone had grabbed his arm and had ripped it off backwards.  He let out a muffled cry of pain and then gagged as bile rose up his windpipe.  He closed his eyes, bit down on the pain and fought to keep control, to not let the pain take him.

Willow grabbed his arm.  ‘Are you-‘

‘Yeah,’ he said, a little too harshly, ‘I’m fine.’  As the pain started to subside, Drake was now gripped by the crushing fingers of dread; Falkor was in deep trouble and Drake now knew that he was feeling the Reciprocal Damage.

Goddammit.  He’d got to get back, to see if Falkor was okay.  ‘QUICK!’ he shouted, running over to the pod.  He turned and beckoned for Willow to hurry.

Willow looked at the hourglass still clasped in her hand; there was only a drop of silver, no more than the size of a tear, left in the top half of it.  She threw it on the floor where it smashed into tiny pieces, the silver liquid oozing out over the floor like quicksilver.

Willow thrust the Emerald Key at Drake then threw herself into the pod.

Drake climbed in beside her, clutching the book to his chest.  He could feel his Zephyr underneath him, its bridge jabbing into his back.

The pod snapped shut behind them.

Dragon Rider – Part 43

Dragon Rider

Chapter Seventeen Continued

Hermes Trismegistus

‘Come on,’ said Drake, ‘we need to get out of here before he changes his mind.’  Pyro and Willow followed him out of the cave just as a scream pierced the silence.  Outside Mr Nansi was pursuing Hermes around the boulder, the magician’s skeletal arms were flapping wildly, his toga falling off both of his shoulders.

‘Get away!’ screeched Hermes, ‘You said you wanted The Wisdom!’

‘There came a big spider,’ laughed Mr Nansi as he slunk around the boulder, ‘who sat down beside him and frightened Hermes away!’

‘You got what you asked for!’

‘Are chu sure about that Hermes?  I’ve had a good long time to chew things over.’

Willow, Drake and Pyro jumped back into the cart.  Drake thrust The Emerald Key at Willow and then fired the cart up, ramming his foot on the reverse pedal for a second, before slamming it on the emergency brake whilst locking the steering wheel left, so that the cart spun one-hundred and eighty degrees. Then, as he hit the accelerator, the cart shot forwards.

‘Where the hell did you learn to drive like that?’ spluttered Willow, her knuckles turning white as she clung onto the book.

Drake shrugged. ‘You should know, living on the streets you learn things.’  He kept his eyes fixed on the reception of the Waiting Room.  The cart was spluttering and making a strange banging sound, large plumes of black smoke spiralling from its rear end as Drake pushed it to its limits.

‘Hold on!’ screamed Drake, as they approached the building.

‘I‘m not good with speed,’ screamed Pyro from the back of the cart.

‘Drake!’ shouted Willow, ‘You’re supposed to slow down when you get close to…buildings!’

The reception doors glided effortlessly open and Drake ploughed on through the reception.  ‘Get your head down!’ he screamed at Willow and Pyro, just as the cart was about to hit the glass doors at the front.  There was a loud crack on impact and tiny shards of glass were thrown into the air before they tumbled back down to the earth like droplets of rain.

The guard outside jumped sideways, howling an alarm call.  He held his modified gun up and began firing red bolts of hot light at the escaping cart.

A shrill alarm began to resonate around the compound.

‘Drake, not a good idea,’ shrieked Willow clutching The Emerald Key even harder.

Drake brushed shards of glass from his coat with his left hand.  ‘No, probably not one of my best,’ he said, smiling devilishly, ’but then I think Brimo will probably be angry at us anyway, for taking The Key.’

‘What?’

‘We’re not supposed to take anything from the Waiting Room, remember?’

One, two shots zipped past them, missing them by inches.

Drake glanced over his shoulder; another shot had been fired and it was aiming straight for the back of his neck.

‘Get down!‘ shouted Drake.  But it was too late, he felt a white-hot pain stabbing his chest.  He looked down, but he could see nothing; no wound, no blood.  What the hell?

Before he had time to think, to process what was happening, he felt movement on the back seat.  He turned just as Pyro leapt up and twisted around, taking the full impact of the red hot bullet.  ‘NO!’ screamed Drake.

‘Pyro!’ screamed Willow.

 

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 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!’