“Isn’t it a lovely evening,” Tim breathed breathily.
“Yes,” Adric agreed, “I wish we could go for some kind of moonlit stroll.”
“Well,” Tim said, “why don’t we?”
“I don’t think I can walk,” Adric said, “on account of all the stitches and blood loss and such like. That’s why they’re keeping me in for a day or two, anyway. Something about me needing to rest up.”
Tim smiled wickedly.
He left the room with a swoosh, and returned a few moments later pushing a wheelchair, much better than the one Bracken abandoned earlier on.
“Easy now,” he said, lifting Adric out of the bed and into the chair.
“Tim, you’re so impulsive,” Adric giggled coquettishly as his partner wrapped blankets around him to keep out the cool November air.
“That’s what you love about me, surely?” Tim said, grabbing the handles of the chair and whirling it to face the door.
“One of the things,” Adric smiled, snuggling down into the covers. He was still in quite a lot of pain, but a mixture of morphine and adrenaline made it mostly bearable.
“I’ll have you back before you know it,” Tim promised, “or more importantly before the staff notice and ban me from visiting you.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Cheeky,” he chided, “we said we’d never mention that again.”
“You said we’d never mention it again,” Adric pointed out, “I never agreed to any such thing.”
They were talking in low voices as they wheeled silently the way Al had led Tim a mere two hours ago, but as they emerged from a fire exit and out into the drizzle they relaxed enough to talk normally.
“The woodland path?” Tim asked softly.
“You don’t think it’s too wet? If the ground’s gotten boggy the wheels will sink and we’ll never get out again.”
“We can always turn back if the terrain looks like a no go,” Tim wheedled. “And if all else fails I’ll carry you back myself.”
“Try me,” he said, pushing the chair towards the entrance of the woodland path, conveniently situated adjacent to the hospital.
The rustlings in the trees as owls ate voles and snails built their winter nests formed a sort of forest choir as the two men ambled along the path. Tim was careful not to bash the wheelchair against any of the numerous tree roots that reared up out of the path like long woody fingers, and Adric was careful not to say anything about the fact that the morphine was wearing off and some of the stitches in his back seemed to have burst.
“So you think he’ll manage to find the amulet,” Adric said conversationally, to distract himself from the pain as much as anything else.
“I hope so,” Tim replied darkly, “its one of the most dangerous pieces of jewellery in history. The person who owns that thing can do all manner of crazy voodoo.”
“The power of the voodoo!”
“Remind me of the babe…”
They smiled at a shared memory of watching Labyrinth at four in the morning, each realizing at the same time that the other knew it off by heart as well. That had been the evening of their first kiss.
“What sort of thing though,” Adric wondered aloud, his thoughts returning to the amulet.
“It can bring the dead back to life,” Tim began, dodging a low hanging branch. “You can distill a very special sort of poison using it – I’m not sure of the exact details. It’s also part of a spell to erase people’s memories.”
“Can it be used the other way? To bring memories back?”
“I honestly have no idea,” Tim said, surprised. “Maybe. I wonder whether anybody’s ever thought to try. The only records about it detail the evil deeds wrought using it, surprisingly enough. Media always want to report the bad stuff.”
A raven croaked, and the men looked up. There was a small child sitting in a tree above their heads. It looked androgynous because it was wearing dungarees and had longish hair, and it glowed ethereally.
“Hello, Dennis,” Tim greeted the figure. “How’s it going?”
“That’s Dennis?” Adric asked incredulously.
“Problem, pal?” Dennis queried.
“No, not at all, just…” Adric paused and looked round at Tim, who shot him a warning glare. “I was expecting someone taller,” Adric finished weakly.
“Aye well, maybe I woulda been taller, one day,” Dennis said, “if someone hadn’t killed me when I was still a kid.”
“Dennis, I don’t know how many times I have to apologise for this,” Tim said, “I didn’t know you were a kid, I thought you were a gobline.”
“Oh and that makes it alright, does it?”
“The goblins in that quest had given me nothing but grief. They nicked my stuff, they called me names, one chewed off one of my fingers-” he held up a stump where the index finger on his left hand should have been – “they were working for, like, the most evil warlock in the Northern Hemisphere – ”
“Alright, alright,” Dennis replied, “you’ve made your point. Mistaken identity.”
“I’ve struggled with that mistake my entire life,” Tim said, his voice thick with regret.
“It’s true,” Adric backed him up, “he has night terrors and everything.”
Tim nodded vigorously.
“If I could make it right then you know I would,” he added.
“So you say,” Dennis drawled, “but if that’s the case why have you stopped working on the amulet prophecy?”
“The amulet of H’garard,” Dennis said. “Shiny blue thing with scary black tentacles in? Made by the thing that invented the kraken? Said to contain the power to bring people back to life?”
“Well yeah,” Tim said, “but only so they can wreak horrible pain and destruction on the world. Haven’t you read up on that thing? It’s all there on Wikipedia… it could bring you back to life, but only in the body you died in, which would remain in exactly the rotten state it’s got into since you were killed. You’d never grow older – in essence you would be a gross, decomposing zombie. And you wouldn’t have your own mind either, all you’d be able to remember is the instructions of whoever brought you back.”
“That’s no kind of life for a little girl,” Adric said helpfully, pulling the blankets closer round his shoulders. It was nippy out here in the November evening drizzle.
“I honestly think it’s better being an angry ghost,” Tim said.
“Well you would think that,” Dennis said angrily, “you’re alive.”
“Come on though.”
“Whatever Tim. If I come across that amulet before your new pal does, I’m using it.”
Dennis then vanished in a shower of sparks, singing the wing of the raven as he went.
‘Krark,” the raven commented grumpily, clumsily flitting away.
“Should I text Al to warn him?” Adric asked.
“Well,” Tim said, “its kind of poor form in this genre for a warning to reach the hero in time for him to do something about it… but there again, he’s a novice, and he has a lot to contend with. Go on.”
“Damn,” Adric said, “my battery’s dead.”
“We’ll send a carrier pigeon,” Tim said, summoning one with a click of his fingers. “Shall we go back now? It’s getting a bit nippy.”
“I don’t mind, Adric said nonchalantly. “It’s bracing.”
“You’re such a liar,” Tim smiled, “I can feel you shivering.”
“Yeah OK, I would quite like to go back,” he admitted. “But this has been nice.”
“One of our shorter dates,” Tim remarked ruefully, pushing the chair back in the direction of the hospital. “But at least you got to meet Dennis at last.”
“Yeah, your dream boy. You think he’ll find the amulet before Al does?”
“Doesn’t matter really, does it.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, he’s a ghost. They can’t pick things up, can they. Not corporeal enough.”
“I think Al’s got more to fear from the clan of the cape.”
“The what now?”
“The clan of the cape. I battled them before, a few quests ago. Remember?”
“Could you give me any more information?”
“They’re a very old family, and they have various nefarious plans for world domination. They were founded by some doctor from the olden days and he got his whole family involved. Passed down the evil over generations, as you do.”
“Not ringing any bells,” Adric said apologetically.
“They used to disguise themselves with capes made out of various animal pelts, hence the name, clan of the cape.”
“That makes sense… But I still don’t remember.”
“Well, it doesn’t really matter. The current head of the clan is a bit of an enigma. We assume that he’s a descendant of the original guy, because it was very much a family operation. But beyond that we’re in the dark really.”
“Is he not on facebook or linkedin or anything?”
“Not that I could find. But of course we don’t know his name, so it’s a bit difficult to type him into a search engine.”
“Oh yeah, I guess.”
“There’s loads of stuff for clan of the cape though. Some of its quite racy.”
They were greeted at the door by an irate woman in a nurse’s outfit.
“Where have you pair been?”
“Just went for a little walk,” Tim said, “the patient needed some air.”
“You are so banned from visiting,” she said angrily. “This hospital does not need another law suit on its hands.”
“Don’t worry,” he whispered to Adric, “I’m a master of disguise. They can’t keep me out.”
“I feel sick,” Adric said, trying not to follow through by throwing up.
“You, piss away off,” the nurse said, pointing at Tim. “You, back to bed before you catch your death.”
She took hold of the chair.
Tim blew him a kiss and headed off into the night, as was his wont.
“And now,” said the woman in the nurse’s outfit, “it’s time to take you home.”
She jabbed a syringe into Adric’s side, and he squeaked in surprise before sinking quickly into unconsciousness.
“Who are you,” he slurred as his eyelids closed.
But he never heard the answer.