Crispin Scales and the City of Doors
CHAPTER 1 PREVIEW
I couldn’t move, my whole body frozen by fear.
A great screaming monster was barrelling down the tunnel towards me, white beams of magic shooting from its eyes blinding me in the sooty darkness. I tried to will some magic into my hands to slow the monster down, but I had nothing, not even the tiniest spark.
Typical, I thought.
“You!” Someone threw me with inhuman force against the wall. The monster thundered by, the noise deafening as its cold skin passed only centimetres from my nose.
“It’s called a twain, Cwispin,” said Greg, his black eyes glinting in the light from the train’s windows, the people inside oblivious to the vampire and boy watching them pass.
“And it won’t eat you, stupid. Huwwy, we need to get out of hewe. Another will be coming past in a few moments, and I have better things to do than wescue silly Wealmers from the powtal all day.”
Greg ran along the edge of the tunnel, his black leather coat billowing in the waves of hot air that blew across the tracks. A loud tooot declaring the imminent arrival of another train, and without warning, he darted into a dusty alcove, yanking me after him and slamming a metal door shut just as the train rattled past.
We were in a long corridor, grimy light bulbs glowing weakly along one wall, a putrid ribbon of water trickling alongside the other.
“Where is this place?” I asked, covering my nose with my hand.
“It’s a service cowidor for the wailways, quite conwenient for getting awound the tunnels,” chirped Greg, striding briskly ahead while I struggled to keep up.
“No,” I said. “What world are we in?” And why are you here? I was about to ask, when Greg stopped and turned, his sharp vampire fangs extended in a frightening scowl.
“You ask too many qwestions boy,” he snarled, then with a strange flicker of his eyes, smiled sweetly. “Come on silly, I have someone who wants to meet you.”
Slightly perturbed by Greg’s sudden aggression I followed him through the labyrinth of corridors. A fine veil of dust drifted down from the brick ceiling as we walked, shaken loose by the constant rumble of the passing trains.
I don’t know what I had expected when I stepped through the time portal in the Great Library, but it certainly wasn’t this dull, and extremely smelly corridor.
Not long ago I was a dragon. Admittedly not a very good one, but I was happy enough. Of course all that changed when King Gary decided to invade my beautiful Aequor, destroy all that I loved, then kidnap my best friend, the Princess Marlo.
Oh, and I died. That was probably the biggest development – when I died and came back to life as a human boy.
Most people would have given up there and then. I certainly wanted to. But the real kicker is that I am the Chosen One. The Unam Mandrax. Destined to save the world, yada yada yada. And you know what? I thought I had when I saved Marlo from King Gary’s tower in Jrepil-Z. When I crushed the evil, armoured dragon Lux. When I saved my mother Hawkmoth from certain death.
But nope. Apparently a Chosen One’s work is never done. Because now I was here, sent into the portal to destroy Lux, his power restored with dark magic. Oh, and to find my mad brother Marcus (a dragon with issues). I was in a dank, dusty corridor, being led by an extremely annoying vampire, to who knows where.
And of course chasing after two headstrong and extremely impulsive girls. I should have known Chance and Marlo wouldn’t stay out of trouble for long, but to run into an unknown portal without a plan was pretty reckless.
Where were they?
I jogged after Greg, wondering if he knew where the girls were, but too afraid, and frankly too breathless to ask. He seemed agitated and was muttering to himself as he zoomed, vampire style, ahead of me, the thin cloud of dust in his wake coating me in a sooty, black film.
Finally Greg stopped, watching me curiously as I caught up, gasping to catch my breath. He opened his mouth to say something but stopped, his lips pursed in a thin line. Shaking his head he turned to climb a rusted metal ladder, the rungs wet and slippery in the damp air. At the top was a small landing and a metal door, a round iron wheel in its centre the handle. An unmistakable spiral was painted into the circular arch of the door, the black paint faded and peeling.
“Come on,” snapped Greg, turning the handle and opening the door, the rusted hinges screeching in protest. “Neither of us can turn back now, even if we wanted to.”
I hurried up the ladder, wondering vaguely what he could possibly mean. Gripping the slimy rungs carefully, I climbed to the top and stepped through the door into fresh air and sunlight.