But in his desire for power, Fandel readily believed Throat’s promises that one day he could be a king. All Fandel had to do was to kill his niece. A small sacrifice, Throat assured him, for the rewards he would receive. But what about Fandel’s brother? His brother’s wife and the other child – the boy, Zachary Black? Fandel had wondered. Throat had promised to deal with them and he had. The parents’ plane – a freak accident – blowing into smithereens as it touched down at Manchester Airport. And the boy? He was proving harder to dispose of – but the Delf knew in her heart that her brother would keep his promise. He always did. When she had begged him to send someone to fill her lonely nights, he had sent Fandel.

The Delf remembered how disgusted Fandel had looked on arriving at her little shack beneath the granite tree. He had almost vomited into his hanky as he looked upon her bloated and maggot-infested face. He had heaved as she had belched and farted – but with a little magic, Fandel found it nearly impossible to leave her. He was starting to fall in love with her. But she hadn’t been able to snare him for more than a few months, as Throat had other plans for him. The time had come for Fandel to take the yellow spiked tablets back into Earth and feed them to sweet Anna Black.

The Delf had cried black tears of anguish as Fandel had left that night, back through his doorway into Earth. And for the first time since looking beautiful, she’d had strange yearning feelings in her bloated belly. She had fallen in love with him. She liked his darkness, his cunning and cruelty. That’s why she yearned for him. The Delf knew that feeling wouldn’t pass until she had him completely. Throat had promised her that that day would come. Throat always kept his promises.

With those feelings for Fandel Black newly awoken inside of her, she slowed Max to a gentle stop. The Delf farted as she climbed from the oversized dog. Taking her bag of potions, she sat in the dark on the desert floor. With her dirt-ridden fingers, she rummaged through her bag until she seized what it was she had been looking for. Taking a small wooden box, she opened it and looked down at the black dust inside. With her thumb and forefinger, she pinched some between her broken fingernails. Raising her hand in the air, she faced the wind and released the pinch of black dust. It shone like glitter in the air, but instead of blowing away on the wind, it hovered just above her head where the Delf had released it. It twinkled like a tiny cloud of glitter in the night.

The Delf tilted her head back, her yellow eyes rolling back into their sockets. Her blistered lips began to open and close as she started to chant.

Dust of night, Dust so bright

Show me the soul, of the man I control

Is he in danger? In Earth or in Endra?

Dust blow away and create me a doorway!

Over and over the Delf chanted the words, until the sparkling black dust above her formed a hole in the night. A bright white light shone out of it, illuminating her craggy face. The Delf rolled her eyes down and peered into the light. She could see Fandel, and he was in trouble.

Chapter Fourteen

Willow followed Wally Willabee down into the hollow. The mist swirled around her giant flanks like dry-ice. She watched as Wally scraped away a mushy pile of wet leaves to reveal a metal grate. Gritting his teeth, he hauled it up to reveal an opening that spiraled deep into the ground.

“Follow me,” he grinned back at Willow and climbed into the hole.

Willow looked back one last time at the woods, then guessing it was safe to follow Wally, as he had once been a friend of Warden’s, she scrambled into the hole. She found herself teetering on a ledge, and using her giant paws, she steadied herself. Wally stood beside her, and reaching up, he closed the grate back over the hole, throwing them into darkness. She heard Wally rummage through his pockets. There was a clicking noise and then a white beam of light. Willow yelped as the light from the device he held in his hand shone brightly into her eyes.

“Sorry,” Wally said. “I guess this is the first time you’ve ever seen a flashlight.” He pointed the light away to reveal what appeared to be a slide that coiled around the inside of the shaft Willow now found herself peering into. However bright the light from Wally’s flashlight, it did nothing to penetrate the deep well of darkness beneath her.

Wally sensed her fear and said, “Don’t worry, Willow Weaver, you haven’t got to climb all the way to the bottom. There is a quicker way.”

Wally bounced the beam of light off the muddy ledge they stood on and down the length of the slide. It was green and covered in what looked like silky lengths of grass and patches of moss.

“This is the Green slide,” Wally beamed with excitement.

“Is it called that because of its colour?” Willow asked, watching the way the long blades of grass seemed to wave back and forth like thin fingers.

“No,” Wally said. “It’s named after its inventor. Her name was Jennifer-The-Martian-Green.”

“Where is she now?” Willow asked him.

“She went through a doorway and never came back,” Wally said with a sense of sadness.

“So how can she take credit for inventing a slide?” Willow asked. “I thought they had been around for hundreds of years? We have them back in Endra.”

“This is no ordinary slide,” Wally exclaimed, his eyes suddenly burning as bright as his flashlight. “This slide doesn’t just carry you downwards – it carries you back to the top! Jennifer-The-Martian-Green was a genius!”

“Carries you back up?!” Willow barked.

“Let me show you!” Wally beamed, lowering himself onto the slide.

Willow watched as Wally settled on the blades of grass covering the slide. Then the blades of grass lent forward as if caught in a breeze, and carried Wally a short distance down the slide.

“See? Isn’t it incredible!” Wally exclaimed. “Now watch this!”

Wally stood up and turned around so he was facing the top of the slide. Again, the silky blades of grass lent forward, carrying him back to the top.

With a wide smile spread across his face, Wally howled, “Incredible! I’m telling you, the girl was an utter genius. It’s such a shame she left and never came back.”

Watching Wally going back and forth on the slide like an excited child, Willow couldn’t help but sense that he was lonely somehow – that he missed his friend. “Do you miss her?”

Wally stopped sliding up and down, and with a sorry look on his face, he looked up at Willow and said, “Yes. She was my friend. She was a bit cheeky at times for my liking, but she was a dear friend.”

“Maybe she’ll come back one day,” Willow said.

Wally sat quietly for a moment as if remembering his friend. Then, forcing the look of sadness from his face, he smiled up at Willow and said, “I’ll race you to the bottom!” Then he was gone, whisked away into the darkness, carried on those blades of grass.

Willow gingerly stepped onto the slide, the grass seeping through her paws. Then they were moving, and she raced downwards as if being carried on a wave. The slide spiraled below, her long, sleek coat and whiskers billowing out behind her. At the bottom, the blades of grass stopped rippling, and she slid gently off the slide. Wally was waiting at the end, where he skipped excitedly about from foot to foot.

“I won! I won!” he howled with excitement. “Willow, I won!”

On all fours, Willow walked towards him, her bushy white tail waving behind her. “You cheated, you had a head start,” she said. “And besides, I haven’t come through the doorways to race you – I’ve come for your help.”

Wally stopped skipping on the spot. He turned off the torch, throwing the cavern at the bottom of the slide into darkness. Moments later, a series of lamps flickered on. Their warm orange light lit the rocky enclosure, and Willow glanced about. The room was circular, and the walls had been cut out of the rock deep below ground. It smelt damp, and large parts of the walls were covered in moss where water dripped from high above. In the middle of the chamber was a solitary door. Willow looked at Wally, then back at the doorway. She slowly moved towards it, her claws making a ‘clacking’ sound on the stone ground beneath her paws. The door was made of rusty coloured woods. It looked old and warped out of shape. Large, dark brown knots covered the door like bruises. As Willow drew closer to it, she noticed that the door had been fixed to the floor with iron clasps. The top of the doorway had similar looking clasps attached, which stretched out on either side and were screwed into the walls.

“I’ve trapped it,” Wally said, coming towards the doorway.

“Trapped it?” Willow woofed. “I’m not sure that I understand.”

“The doorways have a habit of moving,” Wally said, stroking the long, fine beard that grew from his chin. “They’re not stable anymore. There was a time when you could predict – know for certain – where you would step out on the other side of your doorway.”

“What changed?” Willow asked him.

“Throat changed everything when he took the Queen prisoner,” Wally said.

“So you do know then what’s happening on the other side of the door?” Willow quizzed him.

With a look of shame, Wally nodded his head and said, “Yes, I know what is going on.”

“So why hasn’t the great League of Doorways come to Endra’s rescue?” Willow asked, staring at him with her deep crimson eyes.

“Because, like I’ve already told you, there is no League of Doorways, it’s just me,” he said, breaking Willow’s stare and going to an odd-looking table that jutted out of the ground like a pillar of rock.

“So why is Wilberforce under the impression that there is this mighty League, made up of the Slath and Noxas, who have travelled into Earth over many hundreds of years?”

“I don’t know,” Wally said, shrugging his huge shoulders.

“You lied to him,” Willow yelped, understanding now how Wilberforce had been deceived.

“I didn’t lie, I just…” Wally started, still unable to meet Willow’s stare.

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