Chapter 1: One Down
It was a warm July evening in the middle of London. There was a slight breeze blowing, each individual wisp bringing a temporary relief to the locals who had just survived one of the hottest summer days since records began over a hundred years ago. The sun was just beginning to say its daily goodbye, leaving a glowing reddish-orange fire spreading across the wide sky and reflecting off the many glistening glass windows and sides of buildings that was nowadays London.
It was Saturday and most of the local residents had spent the whole day hiding in their houses, behind closed windows and with air conditioners running full blast, each trying to bring an edge of sanity to the crazy temperatures of the day. Some were even now daring to venture outside, opening their windows and their patio doors, exhibiting their tropical wardrobes to their neighbours and anyone else who would look without sniggering.
Not a lot was stirring down on the streets, except in Cromwell Road SW7, close to the Natural History Museum. A shortish man in his early forties with neat well-trimmed dark brown hair, quite a little overweight, wearing thick black rimmed glasses and dressed in a chef’s white apron, was running as fast as he could up the large bank of steep steps towards the museum doors. This would normally not be so strange, except that in this case the man was French, was muttering Gallic curses as he climbed the steps, and the museum was in fact closed. These things however did not seem to upset or deter the man from continuing along his chosen path; he seemed in a hurry, as if running scared from something. Had someone not liked the food he had just cooked and had refused to pay his or her bill? Or was this more serious?
Gavin, a quiet man, was the head chef (and a damn good one, at that) at a restaurant some miles away from the centre of London and was well-liked in his local neighbourhood. Gavin was now however, in the middle of a bitter struggle of life and death with the most sinister of evil forces that the planet Earth had seen in its short but violent history, and he now approached the museum as if it was his destiny.
As he reached the top of the steps, slightly out of breath, he found the doors locked shut. This did not bother him at all; he just held his hand over the electronic keypad and a thin, concentrated beam of white light shot from the palm of his hand and hit the keypad, causing the door latch to click open. Gavin pushed the door open and dashed inside, followed instantly by the very loud sound of highly agitated bells and sirens: his opening of the door had worked but it had not disabled the alarm system.
As he disappeared into the museum a sinister dark shape emerged from a street along the side of the building. It was the silhouette of a rather thin, middle-aged man, wearing a black cloak that covered his entire body. He had a hood over his head, obscuring his short blond hair, and as he passed a nearby street lamp, it lit up the central features of his face – pale white skin, blue eyes, a small nose, and a delicate mouth which, if not closed tight with anger, would have revealed a male model perfect set of teeth. But these facts should not mislead you, for this man, if it was correct to call him a man, was pure evil, and he was in hot pursuit of Gavin du Faire, his intentions far from pleasant.
Lord Dell was the name that this dark stranger used in his normal life. He was active in the highest of social circles within the United Kingdom. He was almost an untouchable, presenting on the outside a very handsome, respected, polite, and wealthy gentleman, who used these facets of himself as entry cards to get wherever he needed to. Once in he could turn to his darker side to unleash whatever evil and punishments he deemed fit.
Lord Dell dashed up the steep steps of the museum, followed by his two not-so-able-bodied sidekicks. The first one, Mike Johnson, was forty-five years old and slightly over weight. He had a very rough exterior, obviously someone whose trade entailed that he spent most of his life exposed to the outside elements. His companion in arms was Dave Smith, aged forty-three, who was in good-shape even if not gifted with looks like his master: Mr. Smith, it seemed, had had a nasty bout of chicken pox when he was younger, and looked as though he had ignored every mothers advice, proceeding to scratch each possible pox into non-existence, with the ultimate result that their scars would stay in existence until the end of his natural life. As they all dashed up the steps, Lord Dell gave instructions to his two obedient sidekicks.
“Wait by the entrance” he shouted to them, trying to make himself heard above the noise of the sirens. “If I am not finished before the police get here then you must keep them busy until I return for you.”
“Yes Boss” they both replied quickly, for they had learnt that to not follow their master’s instructions to the exact letter would lead to the most awful punishments.
Gavin du Faire ran deep into the museum and headed straight for the Great Hall, which housed the main dinosaur displays. He was now clearly out of breath, for being a chef did not really go hand in hand with being the fittest individual in the country. A test of this and a taste of that all added up in the longer term to a bit too much of this and a bit too much of that, and quite a bit too much around his middle.
Gavin was crouching down and attempting to hide behind the solid underneath of a glass cabinet, one of many that were in the Great Hall, exhibiting different artefacts from the prehistoric age.
Lord Dell raced through the museum in hot pursuit of Gavin du Faire. He could sense where Gavin had gone, in the same way some could track their prey, and as he entered the Great Hall he stopped running and looked around at the many exhibits that now stood in front of him.
The inside of the hall was quiet; there were no alarms going off inside the building. The quietness was eerie; the skeletons of the huge monsters of the planet from a previous era, lit up by the lights of the modern age, were all looking down onto the single, most evil monster ever to have roamed the planet.
“Ah, my pets” muttered Lord Dell, as he looked up longingly and fondly at the skeletons that stood high above him. “It seems like only yesterday when we were having such fun together.” Then a grim expression came across his face, an expression of such anger, mixed with a tinge of fright and maybe the glistening of a tear in one eye. “Not even I could stop that bloody rock” he said quietly, as if talking, almost apologising, to the dinosaurs.
It was a strange and timeless scene; it was as if different eras from the history of the planet Earth had been brought together under the roof of the Great Hall, brought together by the single entity that had seen and lived throughout them all: the Evil Lord himself, masquerading as Lord Dell.
Lord Dell leant back, stretched his arms wide open, and sniffed in a big lung full of air, as if trying to smell his potential victim.
“I know you are here, Guardian” he called out in his dark voice, a voice that sent shivers of fear running down the spines of mere mortals.
However, Gavin du Faire was also no mere mortal; while not as powerful as the Evil Lord he was a Guardian, and as a Guardian he could definitely look after himself, as well as the object he had been entrusted to guard.
“I can smell your fear, Guardian” he called out, taunting Gavin du Faire. “The Evil Lord wants you to bow before him. Come to me Guardian, I grow weary of this pursuit and I want what you protect.”
Gavin du Faire looked out from the cabinet under which he was hiding. He could see the back of the Evil Lord from where he was crouching, but the Evil Lord could not see him.
‘Now is my opportunity’ he thought to himself and, in an instant, he stretched out his right hand and raised his palm towards the Evil Lord.
“NEVER!” he shouted.
The Evil Lord turned to face him and as he did a concentrated jet of brilliant white light, just like a strong laser beam of pure and raw energy, left Gavin du Fair’s palm and headed straight towards the Evil Lord, where it hit him on his left side, knocking him several metres backwards, and forcing him downwards, causing him to fall and land on his back, on the cold museum floor.
“You fool” cursed the Evil Lord. “Your pitiful strength is no match for me, Guardian” and he pointed his right forefinger towards Gavin, releasing another concentrated beam, but this time of red light, and so powerful that it screeched as it left his finger and shot straight towards where Gavin du Faire was still crouching, straight towards its target.
Gavin however had already been expecting this and had started to move away before the words had even left the Evil Lord’s mouth. He had dived over to his right just in time as the ray of power shot passed and hit a glass cabinet behind him, which subsequently exploded, sending shattered glass and dinosaur bone all over the place.
“You will never succeed” shouted Gavin, in a defiant voice. The situation may well have been hopeless for him, but he knew that he would fulfil his task to the best of his ability, to the very end. “There are five of us, and we will protect the clues to the location of the Prize, even if it means our own deaths” he bellowed, mocking the Evil Lord.
“Then you will die” spoke the Evil Lord, in his cold cruel voice, and he pointed his right forefinger again towards where Gavin was now lying. Gavin however had again rolled out of the way just in time and there now appeared a small crater in the floor where he had been lying but a few moments ago.
Gavin was worried. He knew that he was no match for the Evil Lord himself. He wondered how the Evil Lord had found him for he had been so well protected, he thought.
Now it was Gavin’s turn to miss: he sent a bolt of white power heading straight for the Evil Lord, who moved out of the way, just in time – causing the beam to hit another cabinet, which subsequently exploded into a thousand pieces.
“We are running out of cabinets for you to hide behind, Guardian” called the Evil Lord, mockingly. “I will soon catch up with you.”
The battle continued for several minutes more; at least twenty cabinets now lay shattered, wrecked ruins lay all around the hall, and the air inside was full of the smell of smoke from the residue of the battle. As the Evil Lord had predicted there were now not many cabinets left intact and only one was close to where Gavin du Faire was now hiding. The Evil Lord on the other hand was openly walking in the hall, not feeling the need to hide. He knew that he was winning and very soon the victory would be his.
“It is time” called out the Evil Lord, and he pointed his finger at the last cabinet that Gavin was hiding behind and it promptly exploded, leaving Gavin lying spread-eagled on the floor, looking up at the Evil Lord as he slowly but steadily approached him.
“I am not completely without mercy” said the Evil Lord, as he looked at Gavin with a strange expression on his face. “Tell me where the clue is that you protect, and I will spare you.”
“Never” replied Gavin as he looked up into the cruel face of the Evil Lord, refusing to give him the pleasure of victory. “You will never succeed. A new one has been selected and he is being groomed to succeed and to defeat you, as before, and as ever more” continued Gavin, with a tinge of defiance in his voice.
“Your leader is growing weak” replied the Evil Lord. “His time is running out, just like yours is about to as well, Guardian. One last chance, where is the clue?”
Gavin however was not saying anything, he was preparing for his death. He was remembering the times he had enjoyed during his life before becoming a Guardian and the fun he’d had since that delightful day some six hundred years ago when he joined the ranks of the Guardians and pledged to serve the Good Lord.
‘These six hundred years have been wondrous’ he thought silently to himself. ‘It is time for me to go on now, for I have done my task and I have had enough, it is now time for someone else. To want more is to be greedy’. And with those last words he smiled to himself and looked defiantly into the eyes of the Evil Lord.
“Kill me then, for you will get nothing from me” he stated.
“Then so be it” replied the Evil Lord in his cold, cruel, merciless voice.
He then raised his right forefinger towards Gavin, who remained where he lay, looking up at the Evil Lord with his arms by his side and a smile across his face. His whole being was content with its imminent destruction.
“Your leader is growing weak, Guardian, and his time is running out” continued the Evil Lord. “Your death will make him even weaker.”
Within a millisecond of finishing his words, another jet of pure violent red energy left his right forefinger, screeching as it flew towards, and hit, Gavin, straight in the chest.
The result of this was immediate. Gavin, with a smile still on his face, became frozen stiff and all life was instantaneously gone from his body. His stiff torso lifted slowly off the ground to about one metre high and then hovered there for a few seconds. Then a thick beam of brilliant white light shot out from the now dead body and made its way up to the top most parts of the Great Hall, where it formed itself into a sort of cloud, which just floated high in the ceiling, as if waiting for something to happen.
“COME TO ME” called out the Evil Lord as he leant back with his arms wide open and his chest held as far out forward as it could possibly go.
The white cloud of light, as if responding to its new master, reformed itself into a beam, and then shot down from the ceiling and hit him straight in the chest, causing him to scream with delight, as if consuming the best meal he had ever tasted. This lasted for around five seconds, after which he collapsed to the floor on his knees, at the same time as the lifeless body of Gavin du Faire also fell to the ground, twisting as it did to land face down on the cold museum floor.
The Evil Lord was out of breath; he was exhilarated and he was stronger. He jumped to his feet, stretched out his arms, raised his head and shouted out “YES!”
The power emanating from his body became so immense, so bright and so strong that everything, including all of the not yet destroyed cabinets and displays, were shattered instantly into pieces. The only thing remaining intact in the Great Hall, apart from the Evil Lord himself, was the lifeless body of Gavin du Faire, lying in the middle of the wreckage, facing downwards into the dust. The Evil Lord walked over to him, and kicked him over onto his back so that he could look deep into his still-opened eyes.
“One down, four to go, and then I will reach you” he said directly into the dead man’s face. He then smiled, turned slightly on the spot, and vanished.
Meanwhile in a grassy field many miles away, an old horse was looking deep into his water trough. It was as if he had been watching the whole sad, sorry tale unfold. Tears were falling from the eyes of the old horse and anger was raging in his face. He lifted his head away from the trough and made a loud and long “neeeiiigh.” He then turned around and galloped away into the distance, jumping over a small riding fence as he went.
Back at the museum, the police had started to arrive outside of the main entrance. Someone named Williams was shouting instructions to his team as he led them up the steep steps. Johnson and Smith were still hiding just inside the main entrance and were about to start firing on the police when their master suddenly appeared beside them.
“Quick, come, it’s done” he said to them. “We must leave here now; we do not want to be seen. Quick, grab hold of my shoulders.”
Smith immediately grabbed hold of his master’s shoulders, followed by Johnson, who inadvertently knocked his hand against the side of Lord Dell’s head. Nevertheless, Lord Dell turned slightly on the spot and all three of them vanished without a trace, just as the police were running up the final steps into the entrance of the museum.
“Did you see?” asked the officer leading the charge to his colleague behind him.
“See what, Sir?” he replied.
“Err, nothing” said the officer, looking, and feeling, a tad confused. “I thought I saw three people here, just behind the doors, as we were coming up the steps.”
“Well there’s no one here now Sir” said the second officer, as he looked down onto the bright red carpet, and then rushed passed him into the main building.
It did not take the police long to find the place where all of the evening’s action had taken place, for these were London’s finest, headed by Inspector T Jones (and yes the ‘T’ stood for Tom, and he had heard all the jokes before).
When the police entered the Great Hall, they were immediately met with a sight of total devastation. There was broken glass, smashed cabinets and the powder of pulverised dinosaur bones lying all over the floor of the Great Hall. In fact, the only thing not literally broken was the body of the dead man lying in the middle of the building. Apart from the fact that he was totally and utterly dead, his body showed no signs of any foul play.
The museum was a secure establishment, full of the latest security systems to help the police in the rare event that someone would actually break in. Even the video surveillance system was state-of-the-art and had been working the whole evening. The strange thing about it though, was that it had not recorded anything happening in the Great Hall that evening, just a series of blank screens.
The police were baffled, to say the least. All they knew was what the contents of the dead man’s wallet told them: that he was a Mr Gavin du Faire who owned a restaurant in Cambridge. Apart from that, it was almost as if he did not really exist: the local police had no information on him, not even a parking ticket. Inspector Jones knew from the very first moment he saw the crime scene that this was going to be a long and difficult investigation. He doubted if he would actually solve this one before he retired, which was due in five years time.
Nevertheless, he was a professional who knew what he needed to do. He would pursue and follow-up on the leads and take the case as far as it could possibly go. He owed the family of the victim that much.
The Quest for the Prize book series. > The Quest for the Prize (Vol 1) by Keith Dyne, published by Raider Publishing International >