Derek Hexflame and the Thirteenth Key – Part 3
Derek Hexflame and the Thirteenth Key
– Part 3 – (Read Part 2)
“Well that went better than I expected.” Fred said, flapping around Dereks’ head as they walked across the brightly lit commons. “She barely even tried to kill us on sight.”
“That was all for appearances – she knew that spell wouldn’t hurt us. She knows something is up, something bad, but she didn’t want to appear too helpful, she has a reputation to maintain.”
“Do you think the Librarian really has the key?” Fred asked, agitated again?
“If he did, and he’s really missing, things are worse than I thought.”
“How so?” Asked Fred, settling on Derek’s shoulder again. Derek barely noticed, he was deep in thought.
“Because it means someone knows about the key and is trying to keep it away from the good guys. I just hope Harold is OK – if he was taken, it was by professionals… you know he’s always got that pack of high-end spells in his back pocket.. It would take a lot to get the drop on him.” He turned the corner and headed towards the Wizard City Library. He walked casually, but every part of him was tense, ready for action. He had the sensation their presence had not gone unnoticed.
When they arrived, the library was cold and, as Lady Blackhope had said, eerily deserted. Derek called out to the librarian, Harold Argleston, a few times, but there was no answer. The library seemed completely empty.
“I don’t like this.” Fred said, his tail coiling. “Trap?”
Before Derek could answer, a shimmering bolt of ice magic slammed into him and threw him to the floor, sending books and cards everywhere. Derek rolled to the side and got up on his knees, spreading his hands and summoning a shield, looking around the room.
“Sense anything?” he asked Fred. The dragon swung his head around and scanned the room, forked tongue flicking in and out rapidly.
“Top floor, right side.” the dragon hissed quietly. “Single caster, cant’ really tell if- “
Another icy barrage rained down, this time an ice-modified glacial meteor strike. The worst of the damage bounced off Dereks’ shields, but he still took a few cold hits, causing him to wince.
“You OK boss?” Fred asked, zipping to his side.
“I’ve had worse.” Derek grunted, then drew a wand. The wood felt warm and made his hand tingle. He focused his energies and aimed the wand up to the upper balcony where the assailant lie in wait. The stairs and the area around them burst into yellow-blue flame and the area was engulfed in a thick grey-black smokescreen, temporarily hiding them from their attacker so Derek could get under heavier cover and work out what do next. More icy bolts went wild, smashing into shelves and knocking papers and knickknacks off the librarian’s desk.
The problem with fire magic was that it wasn’t very subtle. Derek could drop a meteor on someone or summon the might of an ancient dragon, sure, but to stun an opponent and leave them still able to answer questions – this was not Derek’s specialty. He needed to question his attacker, though, that much was clear – even if he didn’t learn the whereabouts of the key, he still needed to find Harold and, more than likely, rescue him.
“Fred, do you remember Mooshu?” Derek asked, an idea suddenly coming to him.
“You mean that fight against -”
“No, no, I mean Halloween three years ago, The Jade Oni’s party, the ice wyvvern – “
“That is a TERRIBLE IDEA boss!” Fred said, shaking his head. “That was a practical joke, this is combat!”
“We need to interrogate whoever that is!” Derek said. “And this is a library – I can’t exactly jump out blasting when that smoke clears!”
“This is still a terrible idea!” Fred said, shaking his head. “Do you even have anything with you?”
Derek took a small blue-purple bottle of shimmering liquid out of a pouch on his belt. “How about Lost Shade?” he said.
“Nobody is afraid of lost shades, boss. Not even little kids are afraid of lost shades. Kittens are not afraid of – “
“OK, I get the picture, it’s not scary enough…” Derek said, putting the vial away and rummaged in the worn leather pouch hanging from his waist.
“What else have you got Boss?”
“I’ve still got this” Derek said as he took an amulet out of the pouch – it was hot to the touch and shimmered red and gold.
“Oh great, that again – THAT’S never gotten us into trouble…” Fred said, rolling his eyes and taking the amulet in his mouth.
“Be careful, buddy.” Derek said, and the dragon glared at him and flapped up to the second floor, making sure he kept to the smoke and shadows so he wouldn’t be seen. He had to get as close to behind the enemy as possible, and hope that their opponent scared easily.
Derek sat behind the book counter with a smooth black wand in his hand, waiting for the signal. He didn’t have to wait long. As the smoke started to clear, he heard a bellowing roar and then a scream. An oddly shaped, hooded figure rolled down the stairs, bouncing and tumbling end over end, making little ‘oof’ sounds as he hit each step. He was followed down the stairs by the spitting image of the War Oni, a great elephantine demon with a massive sword, wreathed in flame. The War Oni trumpeted another war cry and stomped down the stairs.
“OK Fred, he’s out cold, you can change back.” Derek said, kneeling over the hooded figure laying at the bottom of the stairs. The figure of War Oni shrank before his eyes, replaced by Fred the dragon, once again holding the glittering red amulet in his mouth.
“Great job, Fred.” Derek said, turning over their attacker for a better look.
“You do realize that this amulet is just a Halloween costume, right? I mean, it doesn’t give me the powers of the War Oni, it’s just an illusion. If he had blasted me instead of tripping over his cloak and tumbling down the stairs…”
“Oh don’t be such a baby, it worked, didn’t it? Come here and help me tie him up.”
“Who is he?” Fred asked as he flapped down and gave the amulet back to Derek.
“It’s more like WHAT is he?” Derek asked as he pulled down the heavy cloak. “What is a Gobbler doing outside of Colossus and why did it attack us?”
They tied the gobbler up and Derek splashed it in the face with icy water. It jerked awake and immediately cowered. “No hurt, no kill.” it said in a tremulous voice. “No hurt! Peeze no hurt Gorthus!”
“Gorthus, is that your name? Well, this is up to you, then.” Derek said, waving his ebony wand in front of the gobbler’s face. “Where’s the librarian?”
“Don’t know, don’t know!” the gobbler stammered in a panic. It looked around the room with frantic eyes, as if waiting for something to happen.
Derek made glowing red sparks shoot out of the wand tip, close enough that the gobbler could feel the heat. It whimpered.
“I am short on patience and even shorter on time, so we’ll either do this the hard way, or the pyromancer way – and the pyromancer way involves meteors. It’s your choice – What were you doing here and where is the librarian?”
“Don’t know, was left here, not told where dog person taken, was only told to stay.” the gobbler stammered, staring at the glowing red tip of Derek’s wand.
“Stay and do what? What were you supposed to do here?” Fred asked, puffing a smoke ring in the oddly shaped creature’s face.
“Distract, just distract.”
Derek cursed under his breath. “A distraction – we’ve wasted half an hour here and he doesn’t know anything.”
“Who told you to distract us?” Fred suddenly asked, circling the gobbler with quiet menace. “Who are you working for? One of the Barons?”
“Not gobbler, gobblers no pay, bad times for Gobblers since pies market went under. Work for the dead man.”
“Dead man?” Derek spun around, looking at the gobbler.
“Dead man, yes. Smell bad, smell very bad, but pay well, give us much jewels, much pies.”
“And the dead man, he has the librarian?” Derek asked, clutching his wand.
The gobbler nodded fearfully, trying to back away from the angry pyromancer. Derek had that effect on people sometimes…
“Where did they take him?” Fred asked with a snarl.
“Me not know, not know! They take librarian when me get here, put him with the other wizard, tie them both with silver ropes…. me told to stay and distract, no tell about librarian.”
“What other wizard?? Did the librarian have the key?” Derek asked, very close to losing his temper.
“Not know other wizard, not know… What is key? Gorthus not know about key, Gorthus just know dead man needed dog man. Dead man not speak of key.”
“So what was he doing with Harold?” Derek asked, more to himself than anyone else. “And where is that key?”