Swooping in so close his transparent beard fluttered just inches from Zach’s face, Henry roared, ‘Endra’s fate lies in your hands Zach Black. You’re not destined to die today. Not if I’ve got anything to do with it. Besides, I have my own score to settle with these demons. Now be gone with you!’
‘But you won’t stand a chance! There are too many of them!’ Neanna cried, swinging her sword above her head in preparation for battle.
The Demonic Guardians were a football pitch length away now, and their eyes burnt red and plumes of grey smoke squirted from huge black nostrils.
‘Zach Black!’ they screamed, running forward.
‘GO!’ The Knights roared as one, ‘GO NOW!’
Turning on their heels, Zach, William and Neanna ran as fast and hard as they could away from the approaching soldiers. Zigzagging between the rocks, they tried to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Guardians.
Tripping over a jagged stone, Neanna’s cloak snagged and she became entangled. Running back towards Neanna, Zach and William fought to free her. Glancing back to see how close the Guardians were, Zach watched the seven brave Knights hold firm against the fast approaching army.
‘Rise Cathedral Knights!’ Henry roared, raising his shield and swinging his mighty sword above his head. On his command the ground began to open as hundreds – no thousands of spectral apparitions seeped up into the night.
‘There’s a whole army of those knight’s’ Zach yelled in triumph, pulling at Neanna’s cloak.
The thousands of wispy streams of vapor swirled in the air as they opened like flowers to form the shapes of Knights. They stretched across the Grey-yard for as far as the eye could see. The Demonic Guardians charged them, their swordsticks raised like javelins.
‘Hold the line!’ Henry shouted. ‘Hold the line!’
Yanking on Neanna’s cloak one finale time, William heard the sound of tearing fabric. Freeing her from the rock, they turned their backs on the thousands of screaming Guardians and brave Knights. Racing away through the lashing rain, they could hear the sounds of swordsticks and swords clash together as battle commenced behind them.
William bounded ahead and Neanna blinked her way across the Grey-yard. Every time that Zach got close to her she was gone again, reappearing several meters away. With his heart thundering in his chest and ears, his arms working like pistons, Zach propelled himself forward. Way behind him in the distance, he could hear the shrill screams of death and the earsplitting clatter of weapons. Zach hoped those terrible cries of agony were the sound of the Guardians being slaughtered and not those of the Knights, but he couldn’t force himself to look back.
William stopped ahead and howled, ‘I can see the shore!’
Neanna blinked the last few hundred yards and reappeared beside him. ‘C’mon Zach!’ she called, urging him on.
With a stitch burning in his side as if he had been stabbed with a smoldering poker, Zach forced himself onwards. Reaching his friends, Zach slumped forwards, fighting to suck mouthfuls of icy cold air into his lungs.
‘Look! Can you see it?’ William barked, pointing into the distance.
Looking up, Zach could see they had come to rest at the edge of the Grey-yard. The razor-sharp rocks had come to such a sudden end it looked as if someone had erected an invisible wall. The rocks gave way to a cove of sandy dunes which sloped down onto a dark and deserted beach. All along the shoreline, thick black waves like tar crashed against the sand.
‘The onyx sea?’ Zach gasped, struggling to catch his breath.
‘That’s right,’ Neanna told him. ‘Now all we have to do is find a way across it.’
‘We better find a way quick,’ William growled, staring past his friends and back into the Grey-yard.
Whirling round, Zach and Neanna looked in horror at the regiment of Demonic Guardians racing towards them.
‘They must have beaten back the knights,’ William shouted over the sound of the black waves crashing against the shore.
Zach glanced down at the sea that rolled to and fro like a giant oil spillage. It was then that he saw the door shining like a star in the darkness on the beach.
‘Look! There’s a doorway!’ he shouted, sprinting down the sandy dunes towards the shore.
Blinking her way onto the beach, Neanna was there before Zach’s leather boots had even touched the sand. William came bounding after them, thick plumes of breath pouring from his mouth like clouds. The door stood white and gleaming, the gloomy waves seeping beneath it.With the wind rushing about them, they raced forward, the doorway getting nearer and nearer. Then something bright and orange soared over their heads and smashed into the sea setting the waves alight. Without stopping, Zach stole a quick look back to see hundreds of the Demonic Guardians swooping down the sand dunes after them. They seemed to move at a terrifying pace and with every bloody heartbeat they got nearer. All along the crest of the sand dunes stood a vast line of the Guardians and each of them had a seething fireball dancing between their fingers. In unison they launched the balls of flames from their fists. They rocketed through the night sky like comets, a blazing trail of burning light screaming behind them.
Racing towards the doorway, fireballs exploded in the sand around Zach, William and Neanna’s feet. Clouds of sand erupted as if they were navigating a minefield.
‘They’re almost upon us!’ William roared, leaping past Zach.
Zach didn’t need to look back to know how close the Guardians were. He could hear the sounds of their heavy footfalls right behind him and feel the hot air from their nostrils breathing down his neck. Pushing himself as hard and as fast as he could, Zach wondered if his heart would explode in his chest like an over-filled balloon.
The door was so near now, Zach refused to be caught this close to his escape. William reached the doorway moments before him. Grabbing for the door handle, Zach curled his fist around it. Blinking beside him, Neanna screamed:
‘What you waiting for?’
Looking into her eyes, Zach could see the reflection of a firebomb hurtling towards him. Yanking the door open, electricity leapt through his fingers and scampered up his arm. Without looking back, the three of them hurtled through the doorway. The door slammed shut as several fireballs exploded against it.
Zach was sitting down. The chair was comfortable, though there wasn’t very much leg-room in front of him. He felt sick and disorientated. There was a loud humming noise and it took a moment for him to realise it was the sound of engines – powerful engines. A voice cut through the fogginess shrouding Zach’s senses.
‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking,’ the voice said, and it sounded to Zach as if it were coming through an intercom of some kind.
‘Please fasten your seatbelts as we make our final approach into London Gatwick airport. Thank you for flying Atlantis Airways.’
Wasp saw the dome of green light below through the snow that swept all around them. Warden smelt it and both of them shuddered under the sound of the explosion.
They stood on a jagged ledge of rock at the foot of the Snowstorm Mountains. The mountains towered above them, dark and menacing, forming a horseshoe around the eastern cove of the Onyx Sea. The mountain summits were hidden by purple-black clouds which were bloated with snow. Wind howled all around them like the cries of ravenous wolves. Warden’s once copper-brown hair now shone white beneath a coating of snow. Wasp buzzed at his heel and sniffed at the air.
‘So it has started,’ Warden said, his words being eaten up by the blizzard that whipped all around them.
Wasp buzzed in response.
‘We can only hope that they make it to the prisoner before they are captured,’ Warden added.
Buzzing, Wasp shook a spray of snow from his sleek coat.
‘I know Wasp, but they have to make this part of their journey on their own. We will have plenty of battles of our own to fight. Now lead on my friend. We have work to do.’
Pulling against the tether, Wasp led his master deep into the caverns of the Snowstorm Mountains. Within moments, Warden’s enormous footprints had been filled with fresh snow, hiding any trace that either he or Wasp had ever been there.
The police officer handed Fandel Black the tissue and said, ‘Mr Black, Please don’t upset yourself. I’m sure your nephew will be just fine.’
Fandel wiped his tear-stained cheeks with the tissue and then blew his nose into it.
‘I’m sorry for making such a fool of myself,’ he sniveled. ‘I blame myself.’
‘You have nothing to blame yourself for. He’s at that age. I have one of my own and if I had a pound for every time he threatened to run away I’d be very rich indeed,’ the police officer said, completing the missing persons report.
‘I just wished I’d noticed the signs. I knew poor Zach had been unhappy because of his parents tragic death, but I never in my wildest dreams thought he would run away.’
Shuffling his paperwork into a neat pile, the police officer looked at his watch. His shift ended in five minutes and Manchester United were in a cup-tie with Chelsea tonight on the T.V. and he didn’t want to miss it – not one second.
Standing up on the other side of the table in the small interview room, the police officer opened the door.
‘As soon as you’ve gone, I’ll pass the picture and paperwork over to our force intelligence officer who will send out an all force report.’
Sensing the police officer’s wish to be rid of him, Fandel wiped his eyes one last time for effect, and then placed the tissue in his pocket. Standing, he went to the door where the police officer was checking his watch again. Fandel didn’t care that the police officer wanted to get rid of him. He didn’t want to stay in the police station any longer than he had to. He had never liked the police; they made him nervous.
‘What’s your name officer?’ Fandel asked.
‘Constable Moody,’ he replied, ushering Fandel towards the door and out into the front office.