Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-Nine

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twelve Continued

Dreams

‘I’ said Pyro weakly as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath to try and stem the feeling of nausea, ‘am a djinn and NOT a demon!’

‘If you say so,’ said Morpheus, his arm still protectively around Willow.  ‘It doesn’t matter.  If you don’t want to ride with us that is your prerogative but I suggest you look at what you’ll have to contend with down there before you decide.  Shall we go and sort the music out?’ he said, turning to Willow.

Willow nodded and giggled like a little girl.

‘Oh, help yourself to a drink from the bar below deck,’ shouted Morpheus over his shoulder as he walked away with Willow.

‘Blackthorn, I don’t think-’

‘When are you going to get it into your thick skull that we don’t want you to think, eh Pyro?’ said Drake, tapping Pyro on the side of his head.

‘Blackthorn, think about this!’ pleaded Pyro, ‘Willow is acting bizarre, why would she just walk off with a stranger?’

‘I don’t know,’ shrugged Drake, as he strode over to the side of the boat.  ‘Maybe she’s also fed up of hanging around you.  Besides, this boat will get us to the Fortress quicker than fighting through that lot,’ he said, pointing to the ground below them.

Pyro gulped loudly as he glanced fleetingly over the side of the boat.  From this vantage point, he could see a whole menagerie of monsters lurking in the labyrinthine Forest, from a Nemean Lion and a Chimera, to a flock of Stymphalian birds feasting on the flesh of a man.  ‘I think I need to sit down,’ said Pyro, ’this is just turning into the worst day ever.’

‘Well, I’m going for a drink,’ said Drake.  He turned and walked away, leaving Pyro curled up at the side of the boat.

Drake wound his way through the mass of dancing bodies and down the short staircase at the front of the ship just as the music changed.  He smiled in approval as Skulls of Destiny’s “Trash-time Valentine” blasted from the upper deck just as he grabbed a tall glass of clear liquid from the bar.

He took a huge gulp of the soothing drink, which tasted like cotton candy, and slumped into the nearest comfy chair.  He was so damn tired.  Why couldn’t he just go to sleep, forget everything, just be normal for once?  He took another gulp of his drink.  God, it was good, but he was so sleepy.

But something didn’t feel quite right.  It was if he could feel all of his worst fears, his nightmares, closing in around him, dancing at the very edge of his consciousness.  He could almost taste Fenrik’s cigars, could hear Vigor rasping, could taste Willow’s tears, feel the pain as Falkor was ripped to pieces.  He didn’t want to close his eyes, to see the phantoms plaguing his dreams.

‘It’s okay.’

Drake’s eyes shot open.  Had he already fallen to sleep?  He looked at the pretty girl sat next to him, dressed in black with long purple hair.  He was sure she was the girl that had winked at him before, but it couldn‘t be.  He shook his head and tried to dispel the mist that was beginning to cloud his mind.

‘It’s okay,’ she repeated, ‘everyone feels like that at first.  Take another sip, it will make it better and it will all go away.’  She smiled sweetly and lifted Drake’s glass to his mouth.  ‘Go on,’ she soothed, ‘take a sip.’

Drake took another swig.  He was so sleepy…

*****

‘Blackthorn, Blackthorn!’

‘Go away!’ snapped Drake.  He didn’t want to wake up, not yet, sleeping was just too good.  It was bliss not having to think.

‘Hey Blackthorn, get up!’

‘What do you want Pyro?’ groaned Drake, not wanting to open his eyes, ‘Can’t you just leave me alone?’

‘Blackthorn, we’re in danger,’ said Pyro, shaking Drake, the sharp edge of urgency in his voice, ‘I need you to snap out of it now!’

‘Where’s the fire Pyro?  Ha!’ grinned Drake stupidly, ‘You should know, you probably started it!’

‘You’ve been drugged!  Come on!  If you stay here much longer you will forget everything.  That drink you’ve got is Lethe-’

‘Lethe?  I don’t care what it is, it’s like ambrosia for the Gods.’  Drake hiccupped, ‘I think I need another one!’

‘Blackthorn, you idiot, Lethe is the water from the lake the boat came from, the Lake of Forgetfulness-’

‘Forget about it, Pyro, chill man!’ said Drake trying to tap Pyro on the shoulder but missing.

‘DRAKE BLACKTHORN!’ screeched Pyro, ’wake up now!’  He grabbed a silver bucket of ice from the wooden bar and threw it at Drake.

‘Wow! What was that for?’ asked Drake looking down at the water dripping from his head onto his black tee-shirt and coat.

‘And you think I’m stupid.  Look, I know you don’t like me but I really need you to listen to me now, AND FOCUS!’ said Pyro, slapping Drake across the cheek.

‘Hey!’ said Drake feeling the side of his face.  He looked up at Pyro in a sulk, ‘What was that for?’

‘I‘ve been knocking around for a good few millennia, and you need to trust me when I say that, in my time, I’ve met a few shysters-’

‘Like me?’ asked Drake, thumping his chest with his hand and slumping back on his velvet-backed chair, grinning.

‘No, not like you.  I mean guys that would pull your eyes out just for the pleasure of it.  Don’t you think it was funny Willow just walking off like that?’

Drake shrugged.

‘Or that all the monsters we saw in the Forest of Suffering were all from Greek and Roman mythology?’

‘So?’

‘So, when I said I knew that guy when we came aboard, you know, Morpheus?’

‘Morpheus,’ repeated Drake, nodding.

‘Well, I do, and that DJ guy, Hypno, they’re Greek Gods, brothers from like way back in time.  They prey on abandoned souls and steal their dreams, that’s what keeps them immortal.’

Drake guffawed.  ‘What?  No!’

‘Yeah, so you can imagine how they felt when we came aboard.  Two live ones to feed off.  Your dreams would keep them going for a very long time.’

‘What about your dreams Pyro?  Do you dream in fire?’

‘Can’t feed off a djinn, we don’t dream in the same way you do.  Lucky for you too, else you’d be gone.’

‘Gone?’

Pyro nodded and run a finger across his throat.

‘Why are you dressed like a pot plant?’ asked Drake, his face screwed up in confusion as he stared at Pyro.

‘Because,’ said Pyro, closing his eyes with a sigh, ’I am trying to go incognito, so they don‘t recognise me.’

‘I don’t think it suits you, green just isn‘t your colour.’

‘Come on,’ said Pyro, grabbing Drake’s Zephyr from the floor in one hand and Drake with the other.  He propped Drake up, managed to get the Zephyr onto Drake’s back, and then dragged him across the bar and into a hallway behind it.

‘You’ve got to get a grip!’ said Pyro, looking anxiously up and down the hallway, ’If Morpheus finds us-’

Drake smiled gormlessly at Pyro and slid down onto his bottom with a thump, his Zephyr squealing in pain as it scraped off the wall.  ’I love you Pyro.’

Pyro shook his head and tutted.  ’Stay here,’ he ordered, ’and don’t move.  I need to find some Dandelion and Burdock, and chocolate, that’ll sort you out.’  Pyro took one last look at Drake, shook his head again and disappeared off down the hall.

Drake remained seated on the patterned carpet, which looked as if someone had been sick all over it, and smiled.  He felt really sleepy and really happy as he stared at the white walls.  It was like heaven; he could stay here forever, no problems.

‘Hello again!’ he said, as Pyro reappeared ten minutes later, minus the greenery, glowing slightly orange and looking rather harassed.  ‘Did you miss me?’  Drake winked and gave Pyro a toothy grin.

‘Get this down you,’ said Pyro, tipping the contents of a brown can into Drake’s mouth.

Drake took a big gulp.  ‘Pyro, what are you doing?’ snapped Drake, shoving Pyro’s arm away before clambering up from the floor.  ’God’s sake,’ he said cradling his head in his hand, ’What the hell has happened to me?’

‘Good to see you’re back to your normal “happy” self, eat this,’ replied Pyro, unwrapping the purple foil off a chocolate bar and handing it to Drake, ’Don’t thank me for saving your butt!’

Drake shrugged.  ‘Okay,’ he said.

‘Next time maybe you’ll give me a little more respect and listen.’

Drake stared at Pyro but said nothing.

‘I did warn you not to come on this boat.’

Whatever.  ‘Where’s Willow?’

‘I locked her in the steam room for safety.  It’s on this floor, at the back.’

‘Let’s go, got any more of that stuff ?’

Pyro tapped his trouser pocket.  ’Yeah, only one can and four chocolate bars so don’t take anymore Lethe.  Come on,’ he said, leading Drake down the corridor.

‘Do you know how to get off the boat?  If it’s in the air we’ve got serious problems-’

‘It’s not in the air,’ said Pyro sheepishly.

‘Good, it’ll be easier to sneak off-’

‘Or maybe not.’

‘What do you mean?’ said Drake grabbing Pyro by the collar and pulling him around to face him.  ’Pyro?’

‘Blackthorn, you’ve been out for ages.  The Arcadia is submerged in the Lake of Forgetfulness.’

‘What?’

‘We’re totally submerged,’ said Pyro, holding out his knobbly arms, big sweat patches under his armpits on either side of his blue shirt.

‘What?  We can’t be!  How the hell are we going get off?’

‘I don’t know,’ replied Pyro shrugging.  ‘And Anyways, I don’t think we’re supposed to.’

‘We’ll see about that,’ said Drake, ‘take me to Willow.’

 

 

Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-Eight

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twelve Continued

Dreams

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.

PLOP!

‘What does it say?’ asked Drake.

PLOP!

‘It’s saying that-’

Drake spun on his heels.  ‘Pyro?’ he screeched, as Pyro threw another fragment of the crumbling bridge into the lake.

‘Yes?’

‘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-’

‘Pyro?’

‘Yes?’

‘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.

‘Well-’

‘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.

‘No thanks.’

‘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.

Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-Three

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eleven

Escape

Willow grabbed Drake’s arm, ‘Look, Look!’ she cried, pointing at the sky.

Falkor hovered above them, like some primordial guardian angel, his lustrous azure body, almost invisible against the sky, sparkling in the mid-morning sun.  He roared defiantly, pinned back his wings and plummeted to the ground, his enormous jaws gaping open.  The air was thick with the smell of gas as blue-hot flames jettisoned from the back of his throat.  The sound was terrifying, like ten jet engines starting up.

The crowd scrambled for cover, screaming, as Falkor swooped in front of them, unfolding his azure wings and flashing his sabre-like fangs.  Scarface pulled Elvis in front of him to shield himself from the onslaught of fire.

Unfazed by the screaming crowd, Falkor gently landed on the cobbles, and stretched out his wings, allowing Drake and Willow to haul themselves onto his bare back.  Before the crowd could react, Falkor kicked back and propelled himself into the sparkling sky.

‘DON’T LET THEM GET AWAY!’ came the shouts from the crowd, as the Elders tried to put order to the chaos.

‘Pyro!’ hissed Drake.  He could just see the djinn’s bald head bobbing up and down as he made a run for it, as fast as his short legs would carry him, through the chaos of the crowds, to a dark alleyway and his freedom.

‘Leave him,’ pleaded Willow.

But it was no good, Drake was damned if they were going to lose Pyro and the Hand of Glory.  He didn’t have to say anything; Falkor was on to it before Drake had even finished thinking about capturing the djinn.

‘No!  Not again!’ screamed Pyro, running as fast as he could, but that wasn’t very fast as his legs had seemed to have stopped working the second he had seen the dragon heading for him.  ’AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!’ he screamed, as Falkor swooped over and scooped him up from the crowd, like an eagle grabbing a salmon from a stream, his muscular feet clamped around the top of each of the djinn’s arms.  In a beat of a wing they were once again ascending into the air and over the crowd which was now resembling more of a riot.

Once Falkor had reached a safe distance, Scarface threw Elvis to one side and clambered to his feet.  ‘Shoot that dragon!  Come on, what you waiting for?  Take him down!’ he ordered.  The boggarts immediately started shooting and the sky was suddenly alive with electricity, large bolts of lightning streaking from their stun guns, the blue tendrils crackling and fizzing millimetres from Pyro’s dangling body.

‘NO!  DON’T SHOOT AT THE DRAGON!’ screamed Pyro, ’I DON’T WANT TO LOOK LIKE A PASTA SIEVE!’

Luckily for Falkor, the boggart’s aim was abysmal.  It was just a shame, thought Drake, that they hadn’t managed to hit the djinn because that scream was starting to do his head in.

Drake peered down.  He could see the dwarves and other members of the crowd scrambling around, throwing whatever they could find into the air; shoes, stones and bits of rotting fruit, but they all missed Falkor and, instead, rained back down upon them.  He chuckled as a boggart grabbed Elvis by one of his ankles in desperation and threw him at the disappearing dragon.  The chubby dwarf failed to gain much height and instead plummeted back to earth, landing straight on top of the boggart’s head, knocking him out cold.

Within a few wing beats, Falkor had risen above the bizarre buildings of Nowhere and had cleared the town walls where the Security Goblins were trying, unsuccessfully, to load their cannons.  The Kraken was emerging from the moat, its slimy suckered tentacles slithering up the walls as it opened its gargantuan fang-filled mouth to catch the falling dragon, but Falkor was miles away before the first shot was even fired.

Drake waited until Falkor had cleared the Wild Mountains before he contacted Gizmo.

‘Gizmo, are you there?’ he said, pressing the button on the side of his watch.

There was a brief silence before Gizmo’s holographic form appeared before him, flickering like a ghost.  ‘Hiya.  See you’ve found Falkor then?’ said Gizmo, pushing his glasses back up his nose, the slight sound of frostiness in his voice.

‘Er…yeah,’ said Drake, ‘any more trouble back there?’

‘No,’ said Gizmo, shaking his head, ‘all’s quiet at the mo.  Is everything alright?’

‘Yeah, everything’s fine.  We need your help.  We need to get to New Haven, can you help me out and send a map?’

‘Okay, no problem; the map will be with you in a mo.’

‘Cheers Gizmo  Has Ailsa managed to find anything in Fenrik’s systems yet?’

‘No.  She’s been munching away but they’ve got it protected by one serous fire-wall, she came back an hour ago quite frazzled.  Didn’t take much to repair her though.  Oh, I nearly forgot, she managed to intercept some chatter before she got fried; it seems that that guy you picked up, er, Pyro wasn’t it?  Well, he’s been released already.’

‘Yeah, I know,’ said Drake looking at the petrified body of Pyro clamped tight in Falkor’s claws, ‘I’ve seen him hanging around.  Keep working on the computer Gizmo, and stay safe, we’ll be back as soon as we can.’

Gizmo’s image evaporated, revealing a rotating 3-D map.  Drake scanned the map, correlated Falkor’s trajectory and then pushed it into the corner of his vision with a flick of his eyes.

He could feel the pressure in his head again, he could feel the adrenaline surging through his body, plumping up his veins in his arms and on the back of his hands, and he could feel his hatred boiling in the pit of his stomach.  This was Fenrik Lasko’s fault.  It always was and always would be.

Until Drake finished it.

Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-two

Dragon Rider

Chapter Ten

Fresh Meat

 

Fenrik snapped the Grimoire in front of him shut and looked over to where Vigor stood, eyeing himself up in the full-length gilt mirror in the corner of his office.

‘It won’t be long now,’ he said, resting his hairy hands on top of the Grimoire.

‘Oh brother, I hope so,’ said Vigor, stepping closer to the mirror and pulling down the corners of his black eyes to inspect them, ‘every day I seem to be shrinking a bit more.  My skin is becoming so tight that it looks like I’ve wet myself every time I walk.  I’m beginning to think it will never-’

‘You don’t trust me?’ asked Fenrik, clenching his fists tight and pounding the book’s cover like a gorilla.

Vigor turned around to look at Fenrik, his sunken eyes almost disappearing into their sockets, ‘Of course I trust you, it’s just that…we have tried so many different ways…and nothing has worked so far.  I don’t know how long-’

‘No more of this self-absorbed nonsense!  I will not have it Vigor.  Do you understand me?’

‘Yes, brother.’

‘I brought you back to life, didn’t I?  Do you think I would let you die again?’

‘No…I…sorry brother,’ said Vigor bowing his waxy head, which was resembling the skull candle holder on Fenrik’s desk more and more every day.

Fenrik leaned back in his black leather chair and folded his hairy hands on his huge stomach, his hairy belly button peeping through a gap in his light blue shirt.  ‘Lately, I have,’ he said, twirling his thumbs around themselves, his thick gold rings glinting in the light from the tallow candle, ‘been thinking a lot about your predicament and I think I have finally found the perfect solution to our problem.’

Vigor looked up at Fenrik and clasped his hands in front of him, ‘Yes brother, go on.’

‘Your body is fading fast and up to now, we have found no cure for this, despite trawling through every Grimoire I can get my hands on.  But in this one Vigor,’ said Fenrik tapping the book in front of him, with the red dragon on its cover, ‘has provided some new insights.’

‘Yes?’

‘It seems that the dead bodies our demons exhumed were not suitable because they had no Life essence still left in them at all.  That is why the bodies provided by the Shadow Walkers have proved unsuitable too.’

Vigor nodded his head.  ‘But they were fresher.’

‘But not fresh enough to allow your essence to pass over into the new body,’ said Fenrik.  He leaned forward in his chair, and rested his clean-shaven chin on his hand, his thick gold bracelet falling beneath his shirt sleeve.  ‘What if,’ he said, his eyes locking onto Vigor’s with a burning intensity, ‘We use fresh meat?’

‘I don’t follow,’ said Vigor.

‘Funestus Black.’

‘Funestus Black, brother?’

‘Yes, what if, instead of using a dead body as a vessel for your life force, we simply transfer your essence into a living person?  Funestus would be the perfect candidate.’

Vigor tried to smile but his skin was stretched too tightly over his skull.  ‘That is perfect,’ he said, clapping his hands together in glee.  ‘Do you think it will work?’

‘As soon as the complete Emerald Key is in my hands we can do it.  The Red Dragon,’ said Fenrik, patting the book’s cover in front of him, ‘alludes to a spell that we can use for the procedure but the details are a little sketchy.  There are some preparations we can make but we will need the completed Key before we can proceed any further.  The Key will give us the magick and the instructions on how to do it.  I have no magick of my own, I can only summon demons, but once we get the two halves of The Emerald Key re-united, all that will change.’

‘Let me fetch it.  Let me fetch it!’ said Vigor, clapping his hands together excitedly like a seal.

‘Patience brother,’ said Fenrik, holding up a hand to silence his brother, ‘Only if Drake fails will I allow you to fetch it.’

Vigor nodded his head, his hands moving in front of his body like wriggly spiders.  ‘Oh brother, to have a new body!’ he said, turning back to look at his reflection in the mirror.  He tried to smile, flashing his jagged teeth and then ran his skeletal hand through his wispy hair.  ‘And one with such beautiful hair and such pretty eyes!’

 

 

Death’s Apprentice – Part Thirty-six

The girl placed her arms behind her back and began to swing from side-to-side. She looked up at him and said, ‘You’re alive.’

No shit Sherlock is what he wanted to say but instead, he replied with a curt, ‘Yes.’

‘Why?’

‘What do you mean why?’

‘Why are you alive?’

‘Because I’m not dead.’

‘I think you’re being a little impertinent.’

Joe didn’t even know what that meant. ‘If you say so,’ he said. He really just wanted her to go so he could look at the Book of the Dead in peace.

‘Why are you here?’

‘I’m on holiday.’

‘No, you’re not.’ The girl thrust her owns out to the side, her fist rolled into tight little balls. The hounds surrounding her all stood up and began to give throaty grumbles.

It was a little orchestra of growls that put Joe on edge.

‘What’s your name?’

‘Joe.’

‘Joe what?’

‘Joe Bones,’ he replied.

‘Why are you really here?’

What to do? Tell her the truth or find some excuse? Joe decided on a solution somewhere between the two.

‘I’m here to find something for someone.’

‘What?’

‘I can’t tell you.’

‘Why?’

‘Because…’

‘Because what?’

‘Because I don’t know who you are.’

‘Well, that’s easy. I’m Hel,’ she said, thrusting out a little pink hand towards Joe, ‘pleased to meet you.’

Joe took her cold hand in his. It was ice cold. ‘And I’m Joe.’ All the hounds relaxed again.

‘I know,’ she said, ‘you told me.’

‘Well, it was very nice meeting you but now I have to go.’

‘Go where?’

‘Through the Forest of Suffering.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I need to.’

‘But why?’

‘To get to where I’m going.’

‘Where are you going?’

‘Through the Forest of suffering,’ said Joe through clenched teeth. Boy, he was glad he didn’t have a sister. Well, not one that he knew of anyway.

‘You’ll never make it through there,’ she said. She folded her arms across her chest.

‘Well, I’ll take my chances. Besides, Charon said I wouldn’t make it past Cerberus -‘

‘Cerberus? Why? Cerberus won’t hurt you. Not when I’m around.’

Joe stifled a laugh. ‘Okay, if you say so.’

‘I can help you through the forest.’

‘I’m okay thanks.’

‘I don’t think you are.’