Chapter Nine Continued
‘You will listen now Drake, and listen good, for you will need all the help you can get. There are things that you do not know yet, things that you will need to know if you are to travel to the Underworld and come out alive. As I have already told you, you will need a key to gain entry into the other realm and, as you have seen this fire-djinn with a Hand of Glory, it makes sense for us to summon him now, to see what information we can gather from him. If we are very lucky he may still have it in his possession.’
‘He’ll have hidden it,’ said Drake, huddled on his chair like a sulky child.
‘We will never know unless we give it a try,’ said Alchymia, turning her attention back to the spellbook in front of her.
‘As I was saying, Willow,’ said Alchymia turning back to look at Willow, ‘the last time I summoned a demon was over one hundred years ago, so I may be a little rusty. There are many ways to summon demons; some are benign, others quite evil, and, of course, all take different times to perfect and all produce different strengths of control. Are you with me so far?’
Willow nodded enthusiastically as she drunk in every word Alchymia said.
‘As time is not on our side, I think it would be a good idea to do a quick summoning spell although this means we will not have full control over our subject.’ Alchymia pointed over to a table by the wall covered in small bottles of oils, jars of ingredients, and different coloured infusions, the long sleeve of her gown skimming the pages of the spellbook. ‘Willow, would you collect together some of the infusions on the table over there for me? The Come to me, and Protection drafts as well as the crushed dandelion, sweet woodruff and the cardamom pods, oh, and bring the small bronze cauldron over too, would you?’
‘Okay, got them,’ said Willow, glass bottles jangling as she brought the ingredients over to Alchymia.
‘Right,’ said Alchymia. She clapped her hands together and the spellbook closed in front of her. She pointed to the bed and the book gently took flight, flapping its way over to the other side of the room, coming to rest gently on it. Alchymia rose gracefully from her chair, like a ghost. ’Drake, if you wouldn’t mind?’
Drake stood up and moved to stand by Willow as Alchymia thrust her hands out, commanding all the furniture and books to slide to the edges of the room, leaving the bare, wood-stained floorboards free to perform magick. With another flick of the hand she produced a white chalk stick from the air.
‘I gebannan fif-brond steorra e hring!’ she commanded, and the Chalk dropped to the floor as if guided by some invisible hand, and immediately began roughly marking the shape of a five-sided star, encompassed in a circle, onto the dark wood with thick, noisy strokes. Once the pentagram was complete, Alchymia sprinkled all of the dry ingredients into the cauldron and then tipped in the strong-smelling Come to me draft and the blood-red Protection draft before placing it at the north point of the star.
Alchymia stood over the cauldron, ‘Fyrwylm!’ she exclaimed and the cauldron burst into life, hissing and spitting as the ingredients fused together in a bubbling mass of sweet-smelling orange goo.
‘I think we are ready,’ said Alchymia, nodding appreciatively as she stood back to admire her work. She grabbed a small wooden box from a pile of boxes on the floor. ‘Drake, if you wouldn’t mind holding these?’
Drake took the box from Alchymia and clicked it open. ‘Iron filings?’
‘Yes, it is just a precaution, in case the djinn needs to be subdued for any reason.’
‘Iron makes them weak,’ explained Willow.
Drake looked at the small particles of black metal in the box and nodded his head in approval. ‘Must remember that.’
‘Out of your mood now?’ asked Willow.
‘Maybe,’ he shrugged.
Alchymia stood just outside the summoning pentagram, the potion in the cauldron bubbling away at the top-most point of the star, its sweet-smelling fumes making the air hot and heavy. She stood at the opposite side of the pentagram and lifted her arms as if in supplication to the Gods, exposing her delicate arms as the sleeves of her pale blue gown slipped past her elbows.
Alchymia closed her eyes and began to chant the words, ‘Aspryttan Pyro, I gebannan eow,’ over and over again, her voice barely raised above a whisper. The white chalk stick began to furiously scribble Pyro’s name, over and over again, inside the pentagram as its edges began to smoulder like tinder when it first catches the flame.
Suddenly it went dark, the room lit only by the orange flickering light of the pentagram as it began to burn more brightly. Alchymia continued to chant the spell until, finally, the pentagram burst into flames, snuffing out a few seconds later as the air was sucked from the room.
It was difficult to breathe; Drake could feel his lungs aching as he fought for air, the hot, sweet-smelling fumes from the potion, still bubbling fiercely in the cauldron, were catching in his throat, making him want to gag.
There was a whistling sound, like a kettle coming to its boiling point on a gas hob, accompanied by a cool breeze as refreshing air was pumped back into the room. There was a loud thump and the sound of someone cursing in the darkness in front of them.
Daylight flooded the room revealing Pyro bent double in the middle of the pentagram, dressed in brown chinos and a stained light blue shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his knobbly brown elbows.
‘Yeah,’ he screamed, to no one in particular, ’come on, you want a piece of me?’ He smacked his butt cheeks with the palms of his hands.
‘No!’ shouted Drake, as he bounded across the room and threw the small wooden box in his hands at the back of Pyro’s head.
‘Ow!’ said Pyro as he stood up, stroking the back of his head. ‘What did you do that for?’ He had a puzzled expression on his face and he was swaying like a branch in a gentle autumnal breeze. His eyes suddenly snapped shut and he crashed to the floor in a heap.
‘Drake!’ shrieked Willow, ‘What have you done?’ She ran over to where Pyro lay, ‘Look, he’s got a lump the size of the Orb of all Mystickal Magick!’
‘I couldn’t let him gas us all, could I?’ said Drake.
‘That was what the iron filings were for.’
Fulcanelli rubbed himself up and down the djinn’s legs, ‘I like him Mistresssss,’ he purred, ‘Can we keep him, pleaseeeee? He looked at Alchymia with his cute green crossed-eyes.
Alchymia was holding a glass of dark amber liquid in her hand. She swept over to where Pyro lay and bent down, taking his head in her free hand. ‘Here, have some of this,’ she soothed, pouring the cool liquid into his mouth.
Pyro’s eyes flickered. ‘Am I in heaven?’ he asked, a dopey looking expression upon his face. ‘I can hear the Cherubs playing their harps!’ But then he threw his hand up to his throat and gagged. He continued to clutch at it, grimacing. ‘Ah! What have you done, witch? Whiskey and hemlock?’ he screeched, as he jumped up and backed into the corner of the room, his face full of fear.
‘What am I missing?’ asked Drake. He was now standing in front of Pyro like he was a prize attraction in a Freak Show.
‘Whiskey and hemlock,’ croaked Pyro still clutching his throat.
‘It will neutralize the fire aspect of Pyro’s nature whilst we perform the interrogation-’
‘Interrogation?’ shrieked Pyro, quickly hiding his hands behind his back.
Alchymia glided over to Pyro, the hem of her blue gown smudging the chalk markings on the floor. She grabbed the top of his head and thrust a small celestial-blue Angelite crystal into his mouth and clamped it shut with her hands. Once she had counted to fifty-three she released him.
‘What…are you…doing?’ spluttered Pyro. spitting the crystal out on to the floor and clutching his throat again with his knotty hands. ’What is it with everyone?’ he cried, ‘How much has one djinn got to put up with?’
Alchymia grabbed Pyro’s face in her hands and inspected it, turning it this way and that in her long fingers, before turning her attention to the blue crystal. She picked it up off the floor and rolled it around in her hands.
‘So?’ asked Drake.
‘He has not been put under a Silence Spell but was Bound quite tightly to whoever summoned him previously.’ Alchymia swept over to Pyro, grabbing his face again in her cold hands. ’Who ordered you to steal the Hand of Glory?’ she demanded, her eyes locked onto Pyro’s.
‘What?’ said Pyro, shrinking further into the corner of the room.
‘The Hand of Glory.’
‘I don’t know. I already told Drake-’
‘Have you still got it?’ asked Alchymia, her eyes boring into him.
Pyro nodded weakly, his eyes wide with fear. ’In my right trouser pocket.’
Alchymia’s body relaxed, she sighed and turned to look at Drake. ’He still has the Hand of Glory, but as for who sent him to steal it, he was telling the truth, he did not see.’
‘Can I go now? I’m having a really bad couple of days,’ sighed Pyro as Fulcanelli began rubbing himself against his legs. ’I think…I need to sit down.’
‘We’ve got trouble!’ shouted Willow peering out of the window from behind the thick grime.
Alchymia and Drake swept over to her. ‘The dwarves,’ hissed Drake.
‘I was hoping we would have more time,’ said Alchymia, spinning on her heels, ‘I have so much I need to tell you.’
‘Time’s all used up,’ said Drake, ‘we’ve got to go. Will you be okay here?’
Alchymia laughed, ‘I think I can look after myself.’
‘Okay,’ replied Drake, ‘is there a way out of the back?’
‘Yes, Fulcanelli will show you in a moment.’ She pointed to the cat who was still beside Pyro, licking his paw. He stopped and heaved, ejecting a large orange fur-ball from his mouth onto the wooden floor. ’But first I must tell you all that I can. Promise me Drake that you will not leave Willow. You will need a witch to get through the Underworld alive. This,’ she said, producing a roll of brown parchment from within the flowing sleeve of her gown, ’is The Scroll of the Dead. It is what the Dwarves have come to Nowhere for. Only with this and the help of a witch can you hope to enter or leave the Underworld because only a witch can read it. This parchment contains all of the spells you will need to successfully reach the Iron Fortress. Guard it with your life.’ She handed the scroll to Willow.
‘Alchymia, we really need to go,’ said Drake, looking out of the window. He stooped down and grabbed his Zephyr and Willow’s rucksack.
‘You will also be needing this,’ said Alchymia, holding out a necklace with a silver pendant suspended from the bottom of the chain. The pendant looked like an angel to Drake, with its silver wings protectively curled around a vial of red liquid.
Drake threw the rucksack to Willow, who caught it in one hand before placing the scroll of parchment into it. He slung his Zephyr on his back and took the necklace. ’What is it?’ he said, placing the chain around his neck.
‘It is the Blood of Isis,’ said Alchymia, ‘an Amulet to give you protection against my sister, Brimo.’
‘Your sister?’ Why the hell hadn’t she mentioned this before?
‘Yes, Brimo is The Overseer, the Queen of the Dead. Be on your guard Drake because she will try and take your life.’
‘I will, thank you,’ said Drake.
Alchymia placed her icy hands on either side of Drake’s face, he could feel the cold penetrating deep into his skin. ’Your father would be proud of you, you have grown into a strong and brave young man. Be careful and next time, do not leave it so long before you visit me.’
‘I won’t,’ said Drake, his face turning slightly red, ‘and thanks, for everything…and I’m sorry, for earlier.’
Alchymia smiled, but it was a sad smile which did not reach her eyes. ‘Be careful out there Drake. And one more thing, what do you want me to do with the djinn?’
Drake laughed devilishly. ‘I’ve been thinking about that; I’m going to take him with us.’ If I can’t find the book on my own, well, he may as well come along for the ride too.
‘Drake,’ said Willow, her voice betraying her exasperation, ‘you can’t force him to come with us-’
‘I can and I am. Besides, you know what they say about keeping your enemies close. When they summon the little shit for the Hand of Glory, I want to know.’ He strode over to where Pyro was cringing in the corner of the room and bent down so that his face was level with Pyro’s. ‘Now Pyro, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way, that’s completely up to you. Either you come quietly or I carry you out of here, the choice is yours.’
‘I’ll come quietly,’ mumbled Pyro, a look of resignation on his face as his jowls drooped low. But Drake could see a look in his eye which made him suspect that, as soon as he could, he would try and get even. But he’d be ready.
‘Do not worry,’ said Alchymia, holding up a purple candle bound in gold ribbon, ’with this candle I have created a basic binding spell.’ She clicked her free hand and it sprang into life. ’It will prevent him from hurting you. That is, I am afraid, all I have time to do. If he thinks about, or is compelled to hurt you whilst this candle is still burning, he can only inflict minimal damage. The effects of the whiskey and hemlock will wear off very shortly. Fulcanelli, if you would show them the exit.’ Alchymia waved her arms in the air and the bed on the far wall disappeared to reveal a doorway leading into a bare room, dark except for small shafts of light escaping from the edges of a boarded-up window.
Drake grabbed Pyro by the collar. ‘Ow, you little-’
‘Oops, I guess the whiskey has worn off, but I can only cause minimal damage because of the candle.’ Pyro shrugged, ‘It’s just an allergic reaction I get to annoying people.’
Drake scowled and roughly shoved Pyro through the doorway.
Fulcanelli stopped abruptly by the door. ‘The stairsss down are behind thissss doorrr.’
‘But Alchymia told you to show us the way out,’ said Drake.
‘And I haveeee…must gooo…Mistress in dangerrrrr.’ Without another word the cat shot back across the room like a rocket and was gone.
Drake’s body tensed, his hands flexing at his sides. He turned his body slightly and looked back to where they had come from, then he looked back at the door.
‘What’s your problem?’ asked Pyro.
‘You!’ snapped Drake pushing Pyro out of the way. He smacked the door with his boot and it blasted outwards onto a steel balcony with a staircase that zigzagged down to the street below. Warm sunlight flooded the room, dazzling off the wet roofs of the timber houses lining the street outside.
Drake stepped out and closed his eyes, letting the sun’s rays warm his face. It had been so long, he thought, Nowhere might be primitive, but at least the sun does shine here. In the distance, he could hear the Healers’ chants rising and falling on the breeze as they made their rounds.
‘Excuse me, do we really have time for sunbathing?’ asked Pyro.
There was a loud bang from somewhere below. Drake snapped his eyes open and tilted his head to the side, analysing the commotion. There was another bang, the sizzling of laser fire and the rhythmic drumming of boots on floorboards.
The dwarves and boggarts.
They had forced their way into the building.
And they were advancing.