Dragon Rider – Part Sixteen

Dragon Rider

Chapter Eight Continued

Alchymia and The Cross-Eyed Cat

‘You think that I can help you locate it?’ said Alchymia, still running her hand absentmindedly through Fulcanelli’s thick mane.  He purred and tilted his head, offering her his ear.

Drake’s stomach tightened and he was suddenly aware of beads of sweat forming on the back of his neck.  He hadn’t seen Alchymia for years and here he was expecting her to drop everything to help them.

And if she didn’t want to help them, there would be no arguing with her.

Alchymia was not all that she seemed.  Drake thought of her as a woman because it made her easier to comprehend, but she was much more than that.  Alchymia was a Light Being; not quite solid but fluid, like running water in a river.  But there was also a dark side to her that Drake did not wish to see and he hoped that in coming here, he wasn’t going to meet that side of her again.

‘Who wants you to find the book?’  Alchymia raised her head as she spoke, her face expressionless, her voice tinged with a touch of frost like the first days of winter.

‘Funestus, Funestus Black.’  Drake shifted in his chair, ‘The Head of the Enforcerer’s Office in Devilsgate.’

Alchymia raised an eyebrow.  ‘I would have thought someone of such importance would have plenty of people at his disposal, so why has he chosen you?’

‘He didn’t choose me, I kind of got dragged into it.  Look, it’s a long story and the only thing that really matters is that, if I don’t find that book for him, a lot of people will be in real danger.’  He sighed and shook his head, ‘I can’t let that happen.’

‘No.  No, you cannot.’  Alchymia leaned back in her chair, her brow heavily creased.  ‘I suppose the next question to ask is, why Funestus Black would want such an artefact-’

‘To stop Fenrik Lasko getting his filthy hands on it.’  Drake bit out the words.

‘and what he intends to do with it,’ continued Alchymia.

Drake dropped his mug on the table, the milky dregs splashing over the side like little teardrops.  ‘I don‘t know,’ he said, slumping back into his chair.

‘But what if -‘

‘There can be no buts, I have to find The Emerald Key,’ said Drake, running his fingers through his shaggy black hair.

‘And your desire to help Funestus Black is not because of your vendetta against Fenrik?’ asked Alchymia.

‘Vendetta?’

‘Fenrik and his brother remain unpunished for your father‘s death-’

‘You think I’m doing this just to get back at Fenrik?’

‘Are you not?’

‘No.’

‘So this hatred you carry for them is not clouding your judgement?  You really have no other option than to find The Emerald Key?  To find it for a man of which you hardly know anything?’

‘I need to find that book, if I don’t, Fenrik will, and the entire human population of Devilsgate will be destroyed.  Come on Alchymia, you know what he’s like-’

Alchymia held up her hand to silence him and Drake did not argue.  He knew better than to do that.  Instead, he watched in silence as she rose from her chair and floated, like a ghost, over to a stack of books by the bed, strands of her silvery-blue hair stirring around her like leaves kissed by a summer’s breeze.

With a quick flick of her hand, the pile of ancient books rose into the air releasing a heavy brown volume, decorated with strange symbols in gold leaf, from the bottom of the stack.  As the other books rearranged themselves into a neat pile, the book flapped into the air like a bird and followed Alchymia back to her chair, where it floated down in front of her, stopping a few centimetres above her lap.

She clicked her fingers and the brittle pages began to flick backwards and forwards.  With another click, the book fell still and she ran her eyes over the open pages.  ‘Hello Willow,’ said Alchymia, her eyes not moving from the yellowing pages of the book.

Willow sat up and rubbed the back of her head.  ‘What just happened to me?’ she asked, wincing as she found the small bloody lump there.

‘Ah, that would be Fulcanelli,’ explained Alchymia, pointing to the cat, ‘I told him that I did not want you to see where I was hiding until I had met you.  Unfortunately, he used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  He is a little theatrical, a simple blindfold would have sufficed.  Please, come and join us,’ said Alchymia, pointing to a mahogany chair with a plump red seat that had materialised next to Drake.

Willow stumbled over to the chair and sat down.  Her eyes sparkled with delight as Fulcanelli circled around her, rubbing himself against her legs.  Eventually, he settled and looked up at her with his big green, crossed-eyes.

‘He’s so cute!’ she cooed.

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Dragon Rider – Part Seven

Dragon Rider

Chapter Four Continued

Funestus Black

Funestus remained still and quiet for a few moments, his gaze almost unable to leave Drake’s face.  Eventually, he sighed and slipped into his chair.  ‘Please, sit down.’

Drake did as he was asked.  ‘Let’s just cut to the chase.  You need to find a book?’

The slight curl of Funestus’ lips hinted at a smile.  ‘Alright, as it seems you prefer straight-talking.’  He sighed and placed his elbows on his desk, bringing his hands together as if in prayer, ‘Yes.  I need to find a book but this book is not just any book, it-‘

‘And you want me to find it?’ asked Drake, his patience even shorter than usual.  ‘Surely you could buy someone qualified to do your dirty work?  I don’t find books.’

Funestus’ face lit up with a crooked smile.  ‘No, I suppose you don’t,’ he said, leaning back in his chair.  He studied Drake in silence for a few moments, before continuing.  ‘But as a Bounty Hunter you have the skills required for such a task and as for your heritage,’ he said pointing at Drake’s face, ‘that can only be a bonus-’

‘Why not the dwarves?  They’re bounty hunters.’

Funestus cackled.  ‘The dwarves?  Yes, well, what can I say?  I need someone who can actually do what they’re supposed to.’  He reached into a drawer in his desk and removed a tattered notebook.  He turned its stiff and groaning pages, his blonde hair flopping over his face and covering his pale blue eyes.  ‘I need you,’ he said dropping the open book on the desk in front of Drake, ‘to find that; The Emerald Key.’

Drake looked at the notebook; its yellowing pages revealed a delicate sketch of a green book decorated with the silver crescent of a moon superimposed upon a flaming sun, and strange symbols and text, foreign to Drake, were scribbled all around it.

‘That’s a sketch of a book, not a key,’ said Drake.

‘Indeed.  Let me explain,’ said Funestus, standing up and striding over to the heavily draped curtain.  ‘What you must understand Drake, is that The Emerald Key is not just a book,’ he pulled the crimson velvet curtain back slightly to peer out into the deserted street beyond, ‘it is a key which can unlock all of the secrets of the universe.  It is the first book ever to be written and it contains all the spells, rituals and names of power that you could possibly need to control everything and everyone; humans and Faeries alike.’

‘One book can do that?’ asked Drake, the scepticism thick in his voice.

Funestus turned abruptly.  ‘The Emerald Key can do all of that and more!  Someone without inborn magickal ability can wield magick by using this book.  They can control absolutely every demon just by uttering their true name, can summon the Beasts of Hell at will!  Reincarnate any dead being!  Everything, everything,’ said Funestus, now lowering his voice again, ‘would be within that person’s grasp, simply there for the taking.  Every selfish whim or desire could be accomplished in the blink of an eye-’

‘Do you know where is the book is now?’ interrupted Gizmo.

Funestus shook his head.  ‘No.  It has disappeared.  The trail disappears with this notebook.’

‘Maybe it doesn’t exist, or maybe it’s been destroyed,’ said Drake, unmoved by Funestus’ outburst.

Funestus ignored him.  ‘It is critical that I find that book…if not…well, the consequences are not worth thinking about.  In the wrong hands, it would be a ticking time bomb, a weapon of devastating power that could destroy the whole of the human race.  He swept across the room and sat back down at his desk.  He took a deep breath and steadied himself before continuing.  ‘For your help, you would receive this,’ he said, reaching for a silver case that lay at his feet.  He dropped the case upon his desk and clicked open the clasps.  He swung the case around to face Drake and Gizmo.  ‘One hundred and fifty thousand pounds.’

Gizmo’s mouth dropped open.

‘More than you could possibly make in ten, maybe even fifteen, years.  Find that book and all of this is yours, Drake.’  Funestus turned to Gizmo, ‘Think about all of those adorable children that you help Gizmo.’

Drake remained quiet, unfazed by the sight of the money.  ‘I don’t know.’

‘What?’ asked Gizmo turning in his chair to face Drake.

He shook his head.  ‘I don’t know.’  Drake’s gut feeling about doing this for Willow was not good and now he had met Funestus, and the conversation had progressed, the more that that feeling had grown.  It was now clear to Drake that Funestus wasn’t interested in Gizmo or Willow finding the book, it was Drake he wanted.  Trouble was, Drake didn’t know why.

‘You do realise Drake, that, as the Chief Enforcerer, I have the power to banish you from Devilsgate?

Drake nodded.  This had been a bad idea coming here, putting himself on the radar of the Law Department.  He may as well of run around with a big flashing neon sign on his head.  All of his plans…

‘I could make life really difficult for you Drake and what about the Lost Souls?  Blood will be on your hands.’

‘Drake, you have to help,’ pleaded Gizmo.

‘I can help you Drake.  You do this for me and I will protect you and the Lost Souls.’

Drake felt hot.  He could feel the pressure building behind his eyes, he felt like a tiger caught in a trap, with only one way out; into the hands of the hunter.  ‘I don’t know-’

Funestus stood up.  ‘Well, I am rather busy this afternoon.  I don’t want to push you out,’ he said, moving to the front of the desk, ‘but I do have guests waiting for me in the other room.’  He swept to the door of his office and turned once more to look at Drake and Gizmo.  ‘One other thing.  It has come to my attention that other, more unscrupulous people, are after the book…’  He let his words dangle in the air, like an angler waiting to tempt a fish with bait.

Drake bolted upright in his seat.  ‘Who?’ he asked, knowing the answer to his question already.

‘I have received information that Fenrik “The Spider” Lasko has learnt of the existence of the Emerald Key.  If he were to find it Drake-‘

The hairs on the back of Drake’s neck stood on end, the heat of his hatred ripped through his body like a lightning strike; he could feel the red of his face, the white of his knuckles as he clenched his fists tight.

‘I see that you have had dealings with Fenrik?’ asked Funestus, tilting his head slightly.

‘Yes,’ said Drake.  As you obviously know.

‘Well, it would be in both of our interests to stop him then, wouldn’t it?  You know what he will do with that kind of weapon, Drake.’

Drake slumped back into his chair and rubbed his forehead.  Fenrik was always there, skulking in the shadows, working towards the day when Devilsgate would finally succumb to his awesome power.  But Drake was working too, towards the day when he would destroy Fenrik by whatever means necessary.

But was this the way?

‘You have until noon tomorrow to give me your answer.  My Butler will see you out.  Until tomorrow, good day,’ and, without another word, Funestus turned and swept out of the room.