Derek Hexflame and the Thirteenth Key – Part 6 – Final Chapter
Derek Hexflame and the Thirteenth Key
– Part 6 –
Derek slowly opened his eyes, but he couldn’t immediately make sense of what he saw. The room was lit with a dim flickering purplish glow and he could hear a low talking or moaning coming from somewhere, but it was indistinct. His hands and feet were bound by something cold and sharp – soul chain, most likely.
“Boss.” he heard in a low whisper. He turned his head slightly and saw Fred’s eyes looking at him from under a wooden table. The look of relief on the dragon’s face when Derek nodded in his direction was absolute.
“Where are we?” Derek mouthed the words without making a sound. Fred looked around carefully, then flicked his tongue quickly in and out several times before slinking silently over to Derek.
“Some weird cave, Grubb is here, so is Harold, and Simon of all people.” Fred said as he began to slowly work on the mystical chains that bound Derek fast. “I slipped in hidden inside a Gobbler’s lunch box.” Derek looked at him and the dragon gave a shudder. “Some things… you just can’t unsee, you know that I mean, boss?”
“Can you get the chains off?” Derek asked, trying to move his hands to help Fred free him.
“They’re soul chains, which is both good and bad.” Fred said, and Derek could feel him tugging at them and hear the scraping of claws against mystical metal. “Good, because you’re not a ghost, so they can’t hold you completely.”
“And bad?” Derek asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“Well, they’re, you know.. chains. I can’t exactly chew through them…” Fred said, tugging more frantically while trying to keep silent.
“My wand?” Derek asked. “Maybe I can-”
“One of Grubb’s lackey’s took it when they pulled you out of the rubble. Here, I’ve almost got-”
“Shhhh.” Fred hissed, ducking behind a pile of trash. Derek shut his eyes and pretended to be unconscious as a guard walked in, made a cursory look around, and then shambled back out scratching himself. Fred returned a moment later.
“I can’t get this chain…” Derek heard a clink and a low stream of dragonish language that he was sure he wouldn’t want translated into common, then the cold iron of the soul chain loosened and he was able to wriggle his hands out. He was standing a moment later, Fred still sitting on the floor, his broken fingernail in his mouth.
“Thanks buddy.” Derek said, and the dragon glared at him – then smiled.
“Just glad you’re OK boss. What’s our move?”
“Well, I need a wand, and then we find Grubb and figure out what’s going on in here.”
“And then?” Fred asked, flapping beside him as he searched the room silently. Derek smiled.
“Then – we do what we do best…”
“So, blow stuff up then?” Fred asked, tail swishing. Derek nodded.
“Yes, because that always goes so well…” Fred said under his breath.
They heard the guard coming down the hallway and Derek hung in the shadows by the doorway. As soon as the gobbler entered, Derek incapacitated him and Fred helped to tie him up and drag him into a corner. Derek searched the Gobbler’s pockets but came up empty. “No wand – it couldn’t be that easy, could it?” he muttered.
The pair crept silently down the purple-lit hallways, looking for Grubb and, most importantly, a wand for Derek.
“That’s him.” Fred said, seeing a large, dumb-looking guard lumbering down a hallway. Derek saw that his onyx wand was indeed tucked into the belt of the lumbering gobbler.
“Get his attention.” Derek said, hiding in a dirty alcove.
“Why do I always have to get their attention?” Fred asked as he stood in the middle of the dim hallway and whistled.
As the guard saw Fred he stood there momentarily with a blank look, as if it was taking his brain a while to process this new situation, then he lurched towards the small Dragon, a heavy gnarled club raised high. As he stumbled past Derek’s hiding spot, Derek jumped out and grabbed his wand from the guards’ belt, then hit him in the back with a stunning spell, causing the gobbler to crumple to the floor a foot from where Fred stood.
“Well, at least he didn’t fall on me.” Fred said as he flapped over to Derek.
“I knew you’d be fine. Did you see the reaction time on that guy? You could have stepped out of the way and then had lunch before he actually noticed you had moved.”
“So that was your plan – he looked slow?” Fred said sarcastically, eyes rolling. “Next time, YOU get to be the distraction…”
“Buy you do it so well, buddy.” Derek whispered, “Now come on, let’s finish this.”
The pair crept along the dimly lit corridor until they heard raised voices. Derek looked at Fred, then moved forward to the entrance to a large room lit with multiple braziers full of leaping purple flames. The Librarian, Harold Argleston, was lying on the floor in heavy chains, and another wizard was tied to a rough wooden chair with his back to Derek, bound tightly. Grubb was there, tall and menacing. Derek stifled a gasp as he saw the black key Grubb held in his withered hand, and then the crude door that stood anchored to the cavern wall.
“You’re lying, you’re trying to keep the secret from me…” Grubb was saying, his voice thick and rough. “Ambrose can’t keep me locked in here any longer… Tell me how to activate the door.”
There was a small sound from the chair and a gasped “I don’t know, I just set up the dorm rooms for the kids, I don’t know how it works…” Simon – so that’s why Grubb grabbed him.
Grubb howled and raised his hand when a blast of blistering fire energy hit him in the chest. The hit barely phased him, but did manage to take his attention away from Simon and focus it completely on Derek and Fred, who stood in the entrance ready to fight.
“I really wish that had at least looked like it hurt him.” Fred whispered, but Derek was already casting another spell, his hands moving fluidly through the air as a ring of flame surrounded Grubb. Grubb responded with a shout and a wave of his blackened wooden staff, and a wraith, seemingly made of shadow and smoke, erupted from the floor and slammed Derek against the wall, dazing him.
“Not good.” said Derek as he rolled to the side, avoiding a blast of wicked looking purple energy.
“Magma Shark?” Fred said, trying to take Grubb’s attention off of Derek.
“Only works on incorporeal beings…” Derek said, and blasted Grubb with another blast of pure fire energy. This time Grubb at least stumbled a step back, but seemed otherwise unhurt.
“You cannot stop me…” said Grubb, his malevolent voice echoing through the chamber. “Bow to me and pledge your allegiance in my new order, and I will spare you. You are a powerful wizard, I have use for you in the world I will create from the ashes of Wizard City.”
“Hasn’t Ambrose told you anything about me?” Derek said, a firey Sun Bird erupting from his wand and attacking Grubb with blazing wings. “I have a real problem with authority.”
Grubb howled and a huge ethereal black dog erupted form the shadows and attacked, slamming him to the floor and biting him with icy cold, needle like teeth before disappearing back into shadow. Derek was hurt badly and struggled to get back up on his knees.
“Boss!” shouted Fred and then, glowing and shimmering in midair, he cast a small, fairy-like pixie at Derek, filling him with warm, healing energy and revitalizing him.
“You dare try and rob me of my victory, vermin?” Grubb yelled, blasting Fred from the air with an orb of pure death energy. The dragon was knocked against the wall and fell to the floor, unmoving.
Derek stood and faced Grubb, anger and fear driving him as he focused all his energy into a summoning spell. The ground cracked apart and Grubb roared in fury as an ancient red dragon rose out of the chamber floor, engulfing him an a massive gout of fire, setting him ablaze, but not quite knocking him down.
“You fool, you have no idea how powerful I’ve become.” Grubb taunted through the flame, and Derek knew he had only one option… He knew it might always come to this, had known as soon as Merle had given him the job.
“You’re wrong, Grubb…” Derek said, his hands before him, his concentration on the crude doorway that was still chained to the cavern wall. “I do know, and that’s why I can’t ever let you back out into Wizard City, no matter what it costs me.”
“Boss, no…” Fred said weekly. He was alive, thankfully, but Derek could tell he was hurt.
“Sorry buddy…” Derek said, then rushed at Grubb at full speed, crashing into the gaunt, cadaverous frame with his shoulder and then kicking open the crude spiral door that he had energized with his own will, hoping the connection he had forged would work. Grubb shrieked as the pair crashed through the door and, instead of hitting the stone wall behind it, they flew into a swirling purple vortex and vanished. The door slammed behind them and then fell apart, with nothing left but a smoldering pile of wood on the floor.
Grubb – And Derek – were gone.
Fred, Simon, and Harold Argleston blinked as they forced their way through the small rift from Sunken City into the dank chamber known as NightSide. Fred had explained Gamma the Owl’s plan for extracting them, giving them the small enchanted silver dagger Derek had insisted he keep safe, and the two wizards were able to manage the spells that opened the rift and allowed their escape.
“He knew he wasn’t coming back.” Fred said, clinging to Harold’s shoulder. He had hurt his wing when Grubb slammed him into the wall.
“Well, He knew there was at least a chance.” Came a familiar voice nearby. Derek and Merle Ambrose were entering NightSide from under the hidden waterfall entrance.
“Derek!” Fred said and tried to fly to his friend, but was unable to due to his damaged wing. Derek hurried over to help. “What happened? We saw you sucked into some vortex… we thought it was…”
“No, it wasn’t.” Derek said, settling Fred on his shoulder. “But it was close. Too close.”
“What happened?” asked Simon. “That spiral door, it shouldn’t have even worked.”
“And, it did not…” said Headmaster Ambrose. “Not in the way a spiral door works, in any case. It couldn’t work, not from within Sunken City. It couldn’t really connect with The Spiral, no matter what key was used to open it. Our very clever mister Hexflame, however, realized that with the right ‘push’, it COULD go somewhere.”
“Where did it take you?” Fred asked. “And more importantly, where did it take Grubb?”
“You house.” Harold Argleston said suddenly. Fred jumped.
“Precisely.” Headmaster Ambrose said with a smile. “A simple enchantment that even a new student of Ravenwood is given access to. Partially as a convenience and partially as a safety precaution, each Ravenwood student is given the ability to teleport to their dorm room or – in Mister Hexcrafter’s case – their home. It’s a simple spell that most people don’t even think about, but it works from anywhere in the spiral and – joined with the power already give to Grubb’s counterfeit door – outside The Spiral as well.”
“So, you took Grubb… to our house?” Fred asked, disgusted. “I just mopped… Ugh. But, can’t he just use the Thirteenth Key in our Spiral Door?”
“He can, and probably already has.” Derek said with a sigh. “I got through the door back to Wizard City before Grubb recovered, but it won’t work for him – part of my home security. He’ll have to use a key to open it, and the only key he’s got…”
“Will connect your home to nowhere, yes.” Headmaster Ambrose said sadly. “As long as we prevent anyone from every connecting to your house again – something we can easily do – the damage will be confined, and The Spiral will remain safe. But it could have been far, far worse, Derek. Once again, I’m afraid we owe you a great debt of gratitude.”
“And a new house.” said Fred, his tongue flicking agitatedly. “And a new bed. And -”
“Can we be sure he’s gone?” Derek asked, cutting off Fred before he got on a roll.
“We cannot.” the headmaster said, shaking his head. “We can never open the passage to your home again, for fear that it now leads to nowhere, so I’m afraid we can never be sure, though I’m unsure how Grubb could have escaped otherwise.”
“Then all we can do…” Derek said, stroking Fred’s head kindly. “Is hope. Hope, but remain vigilant.”
Merle Ambrose nodded, and there was once again the hint of a smile on his wizened face.