‘No he’s not!’ The Delf smirked. ‘He’s just being friendly.’

‘If that’s him being friendly, I’d hate to see him when he takes a dislike to someone.’

‘With any luck you will!’ The Delf dribbled.

Fandel climbed onto Max and sat just behind the Delf. Her stench was so overpowering that Fandel could taste it.

‘Take hold of me,’ she cackled.

‘No, you’re alright,’ Fandel grimaced. ‘I think I can manage.’

‘It’s up to you!’ she laughed, digging her sandals into Max’s flanks, encouring the animal to race away from beneath the granite tree.

Lurching backwards and fearing that he would be thrown clear, Fandel leant forward and threw his arms around the Delf’s waist.

Chapter 31

Anna staggered out of the town of Thud. The sun hung in the sky and its heat was blistering. Although she was burning up, she held the blanket she had been wrapped in above her head to shade herself. Anna’s mouth burnt with thirst and was sore from the spiky tablets.

Peering from beneath the blanket, she tried to get her bearings and figure out where she was. As she had lain in her uncle’s arms pretending to be unconscious, she had been aware that he had taken her through some kind of doorway, but why and to where she didn’t know. This didn’t look like Cornwall in the middle of December. For starters, she hadn’t been aware that the west coast of England had a desert running through the middle of it and more curious, she had never known such heat during the winter. All of her senses were telling her that she was no longer in England.


But where am I now? Anna wondered. Her uncle hadn’t flown her to another part of the world and he hadn’t driven her anywhere as their journey had lasted mere moments. Although Anna’s head was a hive of buzzing thoughts, her thirst was her priority and she knew that she had to get water soon or she would be in trouble.

Anna hobbled forward, not because she was in pain, but because the baked earth beneath her was burning hot and scorched the soles of her feet. For what seemed like hours, she limped further across the desert, her lips cracked and broken and her tongue feeling like a sheet of glass-paper in her mouth.

Max carried the Delf and Fandel through the empty streets of Thud, its long snout darting from road to pavement as it sought out Anna’s scent.

‘Where did you last see her?’ The Delf asked.

‘I’m not sure. This place looks different by daylight,’ Fandel replied, his eyes swivelling in their sockets. He glanced up side-streets and alleyways as he sought out any shop, building or landmark that seemed familiar to him.

‘Look, the more time we waste the more distance she puts between us,’ the Delf reminded him as if he didn’t already realise this.

Then, in the distance he saw the rocking chair where he had rested the night before.

‘That chair over there!’ he said. ‘That’s where I rested and my niece disappeared!’

The Delf dug her sandals into the beast’s sides and steered it towards the rocker. Max sniffed the air, and then licked the pavement with his dribbling tongue. The creature picked-up on something and walked away from the chair, its snout passing to and fro over the street like a vacuum cleaner. It headed towards the gutter where it came to a sudden halt.

Max licked something small and yellow which was covered in spikes. He yelped and awaited the Delf’s approval as he turned his head holding the tablet between his teeth. The Delf reached forward and took it from between Max’ jaws. She held it up to the light and grinned.

‘So your niece spat the tablet away!’ she croaked and a sea of maggots wriggled between the gaps in her teeth. ‘How cunning!’

Fandel’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the pill and learnt how he had been cheated.

‘She couldn’t have gotten far,’ the Delf said, yanking on Max’s leash. ‘Find the girl for mummy. There’s a good boy. Find the naughty girl for mummy.’

Max reared-up on his hind legs and howled, his stumpy tail swishing from side to side. Then with a deep snarl and brandishing his razor-sharp teeth, he bounded through the streets of Thud led by the scent that Anna had left trailing behind her.

Just as Anna stepped from the streets of Thud and into the desert, Warden reached the caverns deep within the Snowstorm Mountains. With flakes of snow covering his long beard and freezing the top of his head, he looked just like a Yeti. Wasp buzzed around his ankles, pleased with himself that he had led his master to the Noxas who hid deep within the mountainous region.

The caverns were quiet and still, and Warden, like his guide sniffed the air. He howled, causing a shower of powdery snow to fall from the icicles hanging high above him. The inside of the cavern looked like an enormous cathedral sculpted from ice.

On hearing his call, the other Noxas bounded from their caves and entered the main chamber. Some crouched on all fours above Warden on icy ledges. Others came forward and patted him on his wide back.

‘It’s good to see you again,’ a giant of a man said, clasping hold of Warden’s hairy hand and pumping it up and down.

Warden recognised the smell of his friend at once and said, ‘it’s good to be home Wozel.’

‘Where’s the boy?’ Wozel asked, bending down to pat Wasp on the head.

Before Warden had a chance to explain what had happened, a female stepped from amongst the throng of Noxas that had gathered.

‘Where’s our son?’ she asked.

Hearing his wife’s voice, Warden rushed forward and held her in his muscular arms.

‘My beautiful Willow,’ he whispered into the thick golden hair that hung in neat woven braids from her head and face.

She kissed Warden’s cheek and held him close.

‘Where’s William?’ she asked again.

Letting go of his wife, he spoke to the Noxas that had gathered around him. ‘My son has found Zach Black.’

Hearing this news, the other Noxas howled and barked as they punched the air in approval.

‘What does this human look like? Is he a great warrior?’ asked a voice from high above them.

At once they all bowed their heads in reverence, as their high priest Wilberforce stepped out onto a snow covered ledge high up in the roof of the cavern. He was tall as the other Noxas, but slender – frailer looking. Lengths of silver hair hung from his head and face, and covered his hands like silk-gloves.

Keeping his head bowed low, Warden said, ‘no my gracious Wilberforce. He is just a boy really.’

‘A boy?’ Wilberforce said. ‘And what is this boy like?’

‘Scared, I think,’ was Warden’s honest reply.

‘Scared?’ howled Wozel. ‘How is a scared little boy going to save Endra?’

The Noxas began to grumble and the cavern soon echoed with their murmurs of confusion and concern.

‘Hush!’ barked Wilberforce from above. ‘Let Warden finish, after all he has met this Zach Black.’

All of the Noxas turned to face Warden, and although he couldn’t see them, he knew they were looking at him.

‘When I say scared, I think he has no idea of his true importance. But I believe he is special,’ Warden explained to them.

‘Special?’ Wilberforce contemplated, stroking his silver beard. ‘In what way is this boy special?’

‘He came into this world carrying the weapons of a peacekeeper.’

Hearing this, the Noxas began to whisper amongst themselves.

‘But the peacekeepers are extinct. Wiped out by Throat,’ Willow said, moving closer to her husband and placing a slender hair-covered hand over his.

‘I’ve heard rumours that some still hideout in the town of Tux,’ said Wozel.

‘Rumours or not,’ Wilberforce barked. ‘If what Warden says is true about this boy then there is at least one.’

‘But what good is one against Throat’s armies?’ Willow asked.

‘The peacekeepers were natural leaders,’ Wilberforce reminded them. ‘People trusted in them and followed them…’

‘To their deaths,’ Wozel interjected.

‘Into battle,’ Wilberforce corrected him. ‘They fought Throat’s demonic forces until their own kind were on the cusp of extinction. Wasn’t it right that the people of Endra fought along side them? Was it just the peacekeepers charge to protect Endra?’

Wozel hung his head as Wilberforce chastised him.

‘But if the peacekeepers along with the rest of Endra couldn’t defeat Throat before, what makes you think we can beat him now?’ Willow asked.

‘I’m not sure about anything,’ Wilberforce howled. ‘But one thing I am certain of is that we can’t hide in these caves for the rest of our lives, waiting for the desert to take us. We can’t let our friends the Slath spend the rest of eternity trapped somewhere between life and death. If what the Weaver’s son say’s about this Zach Black is true then we must be ready to stand alongside him, shoulder to shoulder and do battle with Throat.’

‘But our number is too small!’ shouted another of the Noxas from the crowd.

‘We are less than two hundred!’ roared another.

‘Then we shall call on the rest of our kind,’ Wilberforce roared. ‘The ones that have gone through the doorways into Earth and have not returned.’

‘Maybe they haven’t returned because they’re already dead,’ shouted Wozel.

‘But thousands have crossed over in our history,’ Warden pointed out. ‘None of us have ever been through a doorway to Earth. We wouldn’t even know where to begin!’

Bounding from the icy ledge, Wilberforce landed in front of Warden, sending up a shower of snow with his huge hands and feet. His robes fluttered about him, and his cloak rippled like a clean sheet being thrown over a bed.

‘There is one of our kind in Earth who will be able to help us. He has been there for many years, living amongst the humans,’ he told Warden. ‘He has become somewhat of a chief to the Noxas and the Slath that live in secret there. He heads a secret society called the League of Doorways!’

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