Derek Hexflame and the Thirteenth Key – Part 2
Derek Hexflame and the Thirteenth Key
– Part 2 – (Read Part 1)
“So what’s with this key, boss?” came a dusky low voice behind Derek. “Sounds important.”
Derek turned to see a smallish red-orange dragon sitting on the top step, it’s long scaled tail wagging lazily. It puffed a small smoke ring in the air and looked at Derek expectantly.
“It’s a spiral key. Some have called it the thirteenth key. It’s bad news, Fred old friend. Very bad news.” Derek said.
“Where’s it lead to?” the fire dragon asked. “Wisconsin?”
Derek glared at him. “It leads to nowhere.” he said, heading into the house, running his fingers through his tangled hair.
“That doesn’t sound so bad. At least it’s not Wisconsin.” said Fred sarcastically, flapping in after his master.
Derek shook his head and stared at the dragon. “Yes Fred, Merle Ambrose took time out of his busy day to come over here and ask me to come out of retirement and track down a key that’s ‘not so bad’. That makes perfect sense.”
“Then what’s the problem, boss? It’s a spiral key that doesn’t go anywhere.”
“I didn’t say it doesn’t go anywhere, I said it goes NOWHERE. And nowhere is NOT a place you want to be.”
“I don’t get it, what’s the difference?” asked the dragon, now perched on the back of a chair watching Derek dig through a chest of wands and amulets.
“The nowhere, it isn’t just ‘not a place’, it’s an absence of everything, a complete mystical void. think of it like a black hole. If one of the spiral doors connects to it, that void, that nothingness, it will come through, and it will spread.”
“You mean it could destroy Wizard City?” Fred asked, suddenly sitting very still and staring at Derek.
“No, Fred. Think about it – the nowhere engulfs Wizard City, erases it from the spiral. Then someone from Mooshu opens the spiral door to come visit Wizard City… “
“And Mooshu is also wiped out.” The dragon stared, wide-eyed.
Derek nodded. “And Marleybone, and Krokotopia, and – “
“I get it, I get it.” Fred said, now flapping his wings, agitated. “So what’s our move, boss?”
“First, we need a place to start, and I’ve got an idea of who we can talk to. Ready for some traveling, Fred?”
“Do I have a choice?” the dragon asked, smiling and flicking a forked tongue. “Let’s go save the worlds. Again.”
Derek smiled, changed out of his gardening robes and pulled on a red and gold enchanted cloak and mystically armored robes, grabbed several pouches of magical tools and wands, then headed for the weathered looking wooden door that stood in an out of the way corner of his front yard. He looked at Fred, nodded, and held out a hand, fingers splayed, focusing his energy on his destination, Wizard City.
The spiral door opened and, after a moment of dis-orientation, Derek and Fred found themselves standing in the very heart of Ravenwood Academy, the spiral chamber inside of Bartleby, the mystical world tree.
Derek remembered the first time he had ever set foot inside the enormous chamber, staring up in wonder as he saw and felt the swirling mystical energies that infused all of the worlds of The Spiral. He had been so young then, he had no idea of the existence of magic, or wizards, or the magical worlds that existed beyond the small New England suburbs he had known his whole young life. Sometimes he wondered if he would have been better off never answering that call across the worlds, never stepping foot in Wizard City; but he knew better. He knew every person drawn into The Spiral was there for a reason, each was needed in their own way, and he knew his own powers had been desperately needed when he was called. He might have his regrets, and there were plenty of ghosts haunting his past, but did he regret coming to Wizard City, regret going to Ravenwood? Never…
“Boss, why are we walking?” Fred asked as the pair wandered down the wide cobbled streets towards Unicorn Way. The sights and smells flooded Derek with memories, both good and bad.
“Because we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves, Fred. We’re in recon mode; if someone has the key, the last thing we want is to let them know we’re looking for it. We don’t want them to go to ground and the LAST thing we want is them trying to escape by using that key. Besides, you’re not walking, you’re riding on my shoulder. What have I told you about that?”
Fred huffed a small smoke ring and flapped off of Derek’s shoulder. “I trimmed my claws.” he said, swishing his tail with an annoyed flick.
“Tell that to my cloak… and my shoulder.” Derek said with a light-hearted smirk.
“Where are we headed anyway? Unicorn Alley?”
“Gladys.” Derek said.
“Blackhope?” Fred said, hanging back and hovering in the middle of the road. “Lady Blackhope? Did you forget that she hates you?”
“If any unusual mystical items have turned up, chances are she would know about them.” Derek said. “Besides, I’m sure she’s forgotten all about that, it was years ago…”
“GET OUT!” The shadow-shrouded figure shrieked, raising her hands above her head, fingers crackling with malevolent purple and black energy.
“Hold it, hold it Gladys!” Derek said, ducking behind a crate, hands held high. “I’m not here to fight, I just wanted to ask you a question!”
A dark pixie shimmered into existence and streaked at Derek, showering him with swirling death energies, like ice cold needles that pierced his very soul. Derek put up a basic shield and most of the death magic was harmlessly deflected.
“Come on Gladys, just give me thirty seconds! I swear, I‘m not here to fight! I didn’t realize she was your cousin, I promise! Just give me half a minute!”
The mystical assault subsided and Lady Blackhope floated there in the middle of her tower, eyes blazing black as she stared at Derek. Fred peeked his head out from behind Derek’s legs.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve showing up here, Hexflame!” she hissed, death magic still crackling from her fingertips. “What do you want?”
“Just a question, Gladys, that’s all!” Derek said, hands held high, palms out. “Any new items pop up in the sub-market? Maybe something nobody recognizes? Something unusual?”
Lady Blackhope eyed him suspiciously. “I might have heard something, some whispers… Why should I tell you, though? You working for Ambrose again?”
“Don’t worry about who I’m working for, that’s not important. This item is dangerous, even if it doesn’t seem to be.”
“I’ve heard about something new, something that showed up where it shouldn’t have. It didn’t seem dangerous, but it shouldn’t have been there, so word got to me.”
“Was it a spiral key?” Fred asked excitedly. So much for subtle, Derek thought, rolling his eyes.
“Where does it lead?” Blackhope asked, obviously interested.
“Where is it now? It’s critical that I find it.” Derek said with force, dropping all the subterfuge.
“Ask the Librarian – if you can find him. As I heard it, the key was returned to him.”
“Wait – Harold’s missing?” Derek asked, frowning. “Are you sure? And it’s tied to the key?”
“As I said, I’ve heard whispered rumors and little else… I heard that It was brought to him, yes, and I’ve also heard that he’s not at work today… and apparently he’s not the only one…” Lady Blackhope said. She looked at him curiously, her head cocked a little to the side. “There’s something going on, I can feel it. The energies are all mixed up, chaotic… I like it. This key, Derek – Is it really dangerous?”
“Hope you never find out.” Derek said, turning to leave. “Thanks for the info, Gladys. And I really am sorry about your cousin. If I had known…”
“Oh please, we both know you still would have gone out with her… Just go, find that key. I’ll tell her you said hi.”
“Thanks Gladys – and you might want to think twice about telling her I said hi… You know, just in case there were some hard feelings.”
Lady Blackhope eyed him maliciously as he stepped out of the tower and back into the daylight of Unicorn Way.