Dragon Rider – Part Twenty-Six

Dragon Rider

Chapter Twelve

Dreams

Drake rubbed his aching forehead; he felt confused and so very tired, a tiredness that was seeping into his bones.  He just wanted to be alone, to go to sleep.  ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying,’ he said.

The hooded figure stepped out from the shadows, his black cloak barely making a sound as it brushed against the cobbled floor.  ‘You must do it, you must finish it,’ he said,  pointing straight at Drake with his gloved hand, a finality in his voice that made Drake nervous.

‘Why me?’ asked Drake, wrapping his arms around his chest to protect himself from the cold, but the cold was already biting into his flesh, making his body tremble.

‘Because you are my son and you WILL avenge my death.’

‘How do I do that?’ asked Drake, the sense of foreboding seizing his heart in its icy grip making it feel like a lump of ice, cold and unmoving inside of him.

‘You know what you must do,’ said the figure coldly, as he pulled back his hood letting his shaggy black hair loose around his muscular shoulders.  ’I cannot rest until my death is avenged, Drake, and you are the only one left who can do it.’

‘I can’t…I’m not strong enough-’

‘Don’t ever say that!’ said Erick Blackthorn, his green eyes blazing with fury, ’You are a Dragon Rider,‘ he said pointing at the tattoo around his right eye and then pointing at Drake’s.

Drake could feel the swirling black of his mark burning into his skin like a scalding hot brand, the Devil’s Mark, tainting him for life.

‘You must avenge my death or I will never rest.  And neither will you: I promise you that!’

‘But-‘

‘It was Fenrik Lasko who ordered my death, son.  He stood there, smoking his putrid cigars, as his demons pulled my dragon apart, limb from limb.  He was there as the dagger was plunged through my heart, as my last breath was taken.  He is the one who took me away from you.  He is the one with blood on his hands.’  Erick Blackthorn pulled the black hood over his head and stepped backwards, disappearing into the darkness.  ’Of this, you can be sure!’

Anger ripped through Drake like a fiery tornado, shattering the ice that had crippled his heart.  ’I will, I’ll do it!’ he roared after his father.  ’I promise you I will finish it, even if it’s with my last breath!’

Drake could hear other voices emerging from the darkness, intruding whispers pulling him back from the shadows.  He could make out Willow and Pyro’s voices clearly now as he was yanked from his dreams.  He groaned silently inwards as everything came flooding back to him…Funestus, The Emerald Key, The Valley of Death…Willow…Pyro.  The enormity of it all choked him, rendered him silent, so he kept his eyes clamped shut and listened instead, as he tried to push it away and make-believe, if only for a while, that none of it was happening.

But, as they travelled onwards, the anger, re-ignited in his dreams, burned brightly inside him.  He only wanted to avenge his father’s death, how the hell had he managed to end up here?

Drake shifted in his seat; he’d got a pain in his bottom from the stiff, spring-less, seats and a throbbing head from the incessant prattling of Willow and Pyro.  ‘When are you two going to shut up?’  he snapped, as Pyro asked Willow, for what seemed like the millionth time, to show him the spell to change her nail varnish colour.  What he wouldn’t do for two minutes of quiet.

‘You awake?’ asked Willow, sarcastically.

‘Yep.’  Unfortunately.

‘Your attitudes stinks,’ said Pyro, ‘I think you should be encouraging your friend in her experiments with magick, it‘s not her fault she hasn‘t been trained.’

‘What?’  Oh, he couldn’t be bothered with them.  He slumped back into his chair, the red leather squeaking beneath him as his bottom slipped down the seat.  He huffed and stared out of the misted window.

Willow jumped around in her seat to face Drake.  She held out her hands to show him her bright purple nails.  ‘What do you think?’ she said, wiggling her fingers at him, ‘I think it’s the most delicious shade of purple I’ve ever seen.  In fact, it’s so good that I’ve turned a whole bottle of my old stuff into it.  I’ve called it Purple Passion.’

Drake shrugged, still gazing out of the window.  ‘That’ll really help us find The Emerald Key, won’t it?’ he snapped, ‘You could do that before.’

‘You really don’t know how to play nicely do you?’ said Pyro.

‘What is it with you two?  How come you’ve become best friends all of a sudden?’

‘I like to make the best out of a bad situation,’ said Pyro, ‘I mean, you dragged me here but-’

‘You’re a djinn, Pyro, you get dragged around all the time-’

‘Oh, it’s like that is it?’

‘Like what?’ asked Drake looking at Willow.

Willow shrugged, ‘Don’t get me involved, I happen to like him-’

She liked him?  A djinn that was into setting fire to things?  A djinn that worked for Fenrik?  Drake opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again.  He really couldn’t deal with them now; he was too tired, his whole body felt heavy, like it was shutting down.  He slumped back into his seat and covered his eyes with his hand.

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Dragon Rider – Part Three

Dragon Rider

Chapter Three

Willow

Drake had handed Pyro into the Enforcerer’s Department, coming away with a small wad of cash for his trouble, enough to keep him going for a good few days anyway.  He’d spent the rest of the night holed up just outside the City, a few miles north of the reservoir that supplied Devilsgate with all of its water, under the wings of Falkor, as he had done every night since he had rescued him from the clutches of the dwarves.

At nine o’clock in the morning, Falkor had dropped him just outside the City walls and had disappeared into the thick cloud cover that strangled Devilsgate like a noose.  Drake had continued on foot to the warehouse that was home to the orphans, or the Lost Souls as they were now known.  The old orphanage, Drake’s home for six years before he had fled its walls, was now a burnt out shell, just another victim in the wars between humans and Faeries.  Not that Drake was sorry to hear of its demise; it held too many painful memories which he’d hidden at the back of his mind, locked up so tight that he wouldn’t be able to unlock them again.  Or so he hoped.

The warehouse was a relic from the human era, a four-storied Victorian red-bricked building which was rumoured to have once housed mental patients.  Most of the windows were boarded up from the inside; the glass smashed by the bullet fire that rained down on Devilsgate during the Appropriation Riots, the shrapnel still embedded in the holes peppering the front wall.  As if those human weapons would have held back the tide!

The air was thick with the smell of congealed blood from the adjacent meat factory where fresh animal carcasses hung from great steel hooks, waiting to be transported around the City, and the clogged up drains that were full of the detritus of life.

Drake didn’t really know why he was here; when he’d got the note from Willow asking him to come to the warehouse to discuss a proposition, he knew instinctively it was a bad idea, but even so, he found himself stood at the front steps of the crumbling building wondering.  Wondering how the years had treated her since he had left, whether she was the same person or if she had changed like he had.  He really hoped not; she had been the only thing in Devilsgate that had been good in his life.

He meandered through the corridors of the once magnificent warehouse, its walls now covered in graffiti and posters of missing people, the floorboards bare and crumbling.  Every corner seemed to be crammed full of kids, battered sofas, mattresses or books and the air sang with the shouts and laughter of the kids that now called this place home.

A small boy with fuzzy blonde hair and an oversized grey t-shirt had reluctantly shown him up to the top floor where Willow hung out.  His small blue eyes only moving from the tattoo, the Devil’s Mark, on Drake’s right cheek when Drake had placed a green note in the palm of his hand.  Even so, the kid did a runner as soon as he’d shown him upstairs, not wanting to be alone with Drake for any longer than he had to, not even if Drake had offered him another crisp green note.

Drake stood at the doorway.  He could hear the rise and fall of voices from inside.

‘What time is it?’ asked a male voice, full of exasperation.

‘Don’t worry Giz, he’ll be here,’ came the reply.

‘Nine-thirty,’ said Drake stepping into the room, ‘just like we’d agreed.’

Willow threw the book she had been reading onto the floor and leapt over to Drake.  ‘Drake-‘

‘It’s been a long time, trouble,’ he said, as she flung her arms around him.  ‘Wow, there!  I need to breathe, you know, it’ll help keep me alive.’

‘Sorry,’ she replied, relinquishing her grip on him, a huge smile lighting up her face, ‘it just seems like it’s been-’

‘Forever,’ finished Drake.  He looked at her and his heart felt heavy.  She looked exactly the same as when he had left, except that now she was a young woman with several piercings and bright pink hair.  For a second he could still see the sadness, the reality of life, etched in her almond-shaped eyes, then it was gone, replaced by a hardness which was unfamiliar.

Willow’s companion rose from his swivel chair.  ‘I’m Gizmo,’ he said, offering Drake his hand.

‘Drake,’ said Willow, gesturing at Gizmo, ‘this is Gizmo, Gizmo Chetana.’

‘Nice to meet you,’ replied Drake, taking Gizmo’s hand firmly.

‘And you,’ replied Gizmo smiling, but Drake could tell the guy was tense, almost uncomfortable in his presence and the smile didn’t extend to his amber eyes.  Interesting, thought Drake.

‘Why don’t you take a seat,’ asked Willow, pointing to the nearest threadbare sofa, the arms black with dirt.

Drake took the Zephyr from his back and propped it up the side of the sofa, before slumping onto it.

Willow jumped into the seat next to Drake, her eyes drinking in every part of him.  ‘It’s been so long, you haven’t changed a bit.’

‘Neither have you,’ replied Drake, knowing that they were both lying to each other.  He could feel an invisible wall between them, built by the years of separation.

Gizmo coughed.

Drake looked over to him; Gizmo was now back on his chair, three virtual computer screens flashing in front of him.  ‘This is some set up you guys have got,’ said Drake, his eyes lingering on Gizmo’s desk which was crammed full of cables, black boxes and circuit boards.  ‘So, I’m assuming you didn’t just ask me here so we could go over the good old days,’ he said, turning back to Willow.

‘No,’ she replied, pulling her legs up onto the sofa and curling her arms protectively around them.  ‘We’re in trouble Drake, we need your help.’

‘What kind of trouble?’

‘Major league,’ she replied, picking at the frayed sleeve of her black hoodie.  ‘I don’t know how much you know about what’s happening in Devilsgate-‘

‘I know Fenrik’s still in charge, so if I were a betting man, I would say things are still the same as when I left.’

‘No, they’re not the same,’ said Gizmo, casually flicking boxes of text on his screens away, back into cyberspace, ‘they’re much worse.’

Drake could hear a trace of bitterness in Gizmo’s voice.  ‘Worse how?’ he said, turning back to look at Gizmo, but Gizmo ignored him and continued flicking through the text and images.

‘Drake, the University is planning a purge of humans.  They want all of us out of Devilsgate.  We’ve got six days left and then we have to pack up and leave.’

‘And go where?’ asked Drake, bouncing around in his seat to face Willow.

‘They don’t care as long as it’s not here.  Anyway,’ said Willow, her eyes looking off into the distance, ‘it doesn’t matter what they want because we’re not leaving.  This is my home.‘