Chapter Nine Continued
Drake grabbed Pyro by the collar again and dragged him down the steel steps. Willow ran closely behind them, her hand firmly clamped around her rucksack.
A scream erupted across the sleepy town, followed by the hiss of a cat. Drake skidded to a halt, yanking Pyro with him as he turned to look at the top of the stairs. A blur of orange had launched itself at Ozzy. The dwarf fell backwards and thrashed about on the ground, swearing loudly as he tried desperately to stop the cat from sinking its teeth into his thigh.
A smile erupted on Drake‘s face. Maybe he did like that cat. Drake shook his head. No, maybe not.
Scarface appeared behind Ozzy, who was still struggling with Fulcanelli at the top of the stairs. ‘THEY‘RE DOWN THERE!’ he barked, sending spittle flying from his grubby mouth which became trapped, like a fly on a web, in his blonde beard. He stepped over Ozzy and the cat and moved to the side of the balcony. ‘Get them!’ he ordered, standing upright like a victorious general, as four dreadlocked boggarts burst from the doorway and charged down the steps. ‘Tie Alchymia up,’ he shouted to no one in particular, ‘and Ozzy, when you’ve quite finished with that cat…’
‘Shysters!’ shouted Pyro, struggling to free himself from Drake’s grip so he could get back up the stairs. ‘I’ll have yez!’ he screamed, punching the air with his knobbly hands.
‘Behave,’ snapped Drake, whacking Pyro around the head.
‘What? Why are we running from them?’ shrieked Pyro, making curious hand signals to the dwarves above him. ‘I hate those dwarves!’ he spat, ‘Shysters!’
Drake rolled his eyes, grabbed Pyro and threw him over his shoulder before bounding down the steps three at a time. They had reached the last flight of steps as a gangly boggart, wearing a white vest and beige camouflage trousers that stopped just above his ankles, flew past them, screaming. He landed in a tangled mess on the ground, his legs at funny angles under his body, and his head was facing the wrong way.
‘Oh, that’s messy,’ said Pyro grimacing, and placing his hand over his mouth.
‘Which way?’ hissed Willow as they reached the bottom of the steps.
Drake swayed slightly on the spot as indecision gripped him. ‘Will you hold still?’ he snarled at Pyro, who was wriggling around like a fish out of water on his shoulder.
Truth was, Drake didn’t know which way to go. He hadn’t actually been paying too much attention when Fulcanelli was leading them to the house, he’d been too busy carting Willow around and struggling to keep his eyes on the stupid cat.
‘Hey!’ said Pyro, ‘This place looks familiar. Those timber towers look like freaky sunflowers from where I’m lying. Reminds me of Nowhere. Geez, I haven’t been there since 1415. Don’t want to go back there in a hurry either. Last time I was there, I got summoned to deliver a love potion to the local baker for some old woman who’d only been given weeks to live, before the Grim Reaper came for her, poor old gal.’
‘Pyro!’ screamed Drake.
But the djinn continued, his stubby arms flapping about as he was talking, ‘Anyways, I ended up getting sidetracked by a bit of business in the local tavern, The Old Draconian I seem to recall, so, by the time I’d got to the baker, the old lady was already dead, but not from her illness though, no, the baker’s wife had got wind of her plan and attacked her around the head with a baguette. The upshot was that I was charged with being an accessory to murder but I managed to do one before sentencing.’
‘What?’ asked Willow, her face screwed up in confusion.
‘It’s true,’ replied Pyro, nodding his head. ‘Blackthorn, you’re gonna have to put me down, my gases are starting to build.’
The boggarts were virtually breathing down their necks, Drake could feel it. ‘Come on!’ he shouted, bounding down the nearest passage, his eyes darting around for any sign of an exit, or any unwelcome movement.
‘Er Blackthorn,’ said Pyro.
‘What?’ he snapped.
‘Hate to break up the party, but don’t you think it’s a little too quiet down this way?’
Drake eyed his surroundings suspiciously. Pyro was right but he wasn’t going to admit it. Not out loud anyway.
All the passageways in this part of town looked the same, narrow and slimy with tall rickety buildings hemming them in, but he couldn’t go back, not into the hands of the dwarves and boggarts, so there was only one way to go and that was forward.
They raced down the passageway, emerging from the end into a wide cobbled street full of boarded-up houses and an inn that looked as if even the hardest of criminals would be too scared to enter.
‘The what?’ said Pyro, lifting his head to look at the sign of a muscular hand holding the bloodied, severed head of a green dragon, dangling limply from the crumbling wall of the pub, ‘The Old Draconian!’ he shrieked. ‘We’re in NOWHERE!’
‘Pyro,’ hissed Drake.
‘AAAAHHHH!’ shouted Pyro, ‘We’ve got to get out of here!’
‘Shut up, you-‘ but Drake stopped dead.
‘Drake, what the -‘ said Willow as she almost collided with his back, her eyes following his gaze. A troop of boggarts, dressed in nothing but kharki combats and with hairy chests exposed, were staggering up the road, bottles of half-drunk ale in their hands, pushing each other and shrieking loudly like a pack of hyenas.
To Drake, the thought of taking on a group of drunkard boggarts was only slightly more appealing than eating Dragon dung. His hand reached for his guitar; it wouldn’t take a second to get Pyro off his shoulder and get his Zephyr out. He could subdue the beasts with his music, it never failed to have them snoozing and sucking their thumbs like babies. He jerked his hand back; no, not here where other things lurked for whom the music had no effect.
‘Drake,’ screamed Pyro, ‘I think I’m gonna spontaneously combust!’
Drake wheeled around, they’d have to go back.
But as Drake turned, he came face to face with Scarface, Ozzy and Elvis, followed closely by another group of boggarts.
They were blocked in.
Scarface snarled. ‘Well, well…What do we have here?’
‘In here!’ said Willow, grabbing Drake by the arm and dragging him into the Draconian Inn. They smashed through the door, sending it flying into the wall on the inside of the pub, the glass in the frame shattering on impact.
‘Blackthorn, stop with the bouncing around will yez. I’m gonna blow!’ pleaded Pyro.
‘OI!’ shouted a dishevelled satyr, with dried vomit in his black beard. The satyr lunged at them but collapsed, instead, in a drunken heap on top of a small, brutal-looking leprechaun with bruised eyes and bulging arm muscles. The room erupted with fury as the leprechaun tried to throttle the satyr.
Drake and Willow ploughed on as all hell broke loose, trying to dodge the broken glass, flying chair legs and the bodies that were zooming in every direction. A scrawny looking minotaur smashed into the glass panels at the back of the bar sending the spirits flying. They, in turn, began shrieking as they flew around the room exploding glasses and bottles.
A large beer jug flew within inches of Pyro’s head as they reached the end of the bar. A small hag with a particularly bad case of nose rot followed it, headfirst over the wooden counter.
Willow and Drake dived for the door that led to the back of the pub, crashing through it, interrupting a game of Poltergeist poker. They emerged from the back of the pub into a small beer garden, covered in patchy brown grass and cigarette butts, surrounded by a six-foot brick wall. Drake, still clinging to Pyro, quickly grabbed an empty beer crate and turned it upside down then Willow placed another on top. Willow scrambled onto the rickety platform, jumped, and hauled herself up onto the top of the wall and then jumped down onto the other side.
‘Drake!’ screamed Pyro.
There was an explosion behind Drake as two colossal cluricaun, with great clawed eagle feet and two large fangs protruding from their mouths, burst from the pub snarling and baying for blood. No one started a fight in their Master’s pub without paying for the damage.
Drake grabbed Pyro so that he could launch him over the wall, but it was one step too far for the djinn and the situation hit critical. Like a great big whoopee cushion, the wind exploded from his bottom just as one of the snarling beasts lunged for Drake. The gas hit the cluricaun straight on and the dog immediately dropped unconscious. The other cluricaun’s long ginger tail disappeared between its legs and he whimpered, turning and running back into the pub. Drake looked at Pyro with a look that was a mixture of gratefulness and disgust and then threw him over the wall.
Willow caught the djinn and placed him down on his feet as Drake landed, like a black panther, beside them. As soon as his feet touched the ground he grabbed Pyro again and threw him back over his shoulder.
‘Be careful!’ warned Pyro, ‘I’m delicate at the moment.’
Off they went running again. Behind them was a violent crash, the sound of falling bricks and the pounding of boots on concrete.
They flew around the next corner, down another passageway, turned the next corner and the next, until suddenly, there was a pop inside Drake’s head, a rushing sound and the mind-bending feeling of running into something that didn’t yet exist, as the Purg-Atrium burst into existence before them.
‘Damn it!’ shouted Drake flinging his arms up in defeat, nearly losing Pyro in the process. Why had he brought them here? To the place they could easily be cornered like foxes trapped by a pack of hunting dogs?
The dwarves and one group of boggarts burst into the square behind them as another group appeared in front with most of the inhabitants of Nowhere. Shit. This is what they had wanted; they’d corralled them here!
‘No!’ screamed Pyro. Drake threw him on to the floor where the djinn proceeded to run around like a demented chicken, slapping himself on the face. ‘You will never take me alive! Come on! Want a piece of me?’
Drake turned to face the dwarves, his hands flexing at his side, Willow by his side preparing to fight.
And despite the sun in the cloudless sky, blackness closed in around them.