In the confusion, Jenna and Boy 412 made it back to the rope ladder and down to the canoes faster than they would have thought possible. Nicko had seen them coming. They were just in time—the Unseen was wearing off.
Above them the commotion on the ship raged as torches were lit and all possible hiding places were searched. Someone cut the rope ladder and, as the Muriel Two and the Hunter’s canoe paddled away into the mist, it fell with a splash and sank into the dark waters of the rising tide.
Get them! I want them caught!” DomDaniel’s bellows of rage echoed through the mist.
Jenna and Boy 412 paddled Muriel Two as hard as they could toward the Deppen Ditch, and Nicko, who would not be parted from the Hunter’s canoe, followed them.
Another yell from DomDaniel caught their attention: “Send the swimmers out. Now!”
There was a lull in the sounds emanating from the Vengeance while the only two sailors on board who could swim were pursued around the deck and caught. Two loud splashes followed as they were thrown overboard to give chase.
The occupants of the canoes ignored the gasps coming from the water and pressed on toward the safety of the Marram Marshes. Far behind them the two swimmers, who had been knocked half unconscious by the huge drop, swam around in circles in a state of shock, realizing that what the old seafarers had told them was true: it was indeed unlucky for a sailor to know how to swim.
On the deck of the Vengeance, DomDaniel retreated to his throne. The deckhands had shrunk away after being made to throw two of their shipmates overboard, and DomDaniel had the deck to himself. A deep chill surrounded him as he sat on his throne and immersed himself in his Darke Magyk, chanting and wailing his way through a long and complicated Reverse Incantation.
DomDaniel was Summoning up the tides.
The incoming tide obeyed him. It gathered itself up from the sea and poured in, tumbling and churning past the Port, funneling itself up into the river, dragging with it dolphins and jellyfish, turtles and seals as they were all swept along with the irresistible current. The water rose. Higher and higher it climbed while the canoes struggled slowly across the surging river. As the canoes reached the mouth of the Deppen Ditch, it became even more difficult to control them in the tide race that was quickly filling up the Ditch.
“It’s too rough,” yelled Jenna over the rush of the water, fighting with her paddle against yet another eddy as Muriel Two pitched from side to side in the swirling waters. The flood tide carried the canoes along with it, taking them into the Ditch at breakneck speed, twisting and turning helplessly in the wild surge. As they were thrown along like so much flotsam and jetsam, Nicko could see that already the water was brimming to the top of the Ditch. He had never known anything like it before.
“Something’s wrong,” he yelled back at Jenna. “It shouldn’t be like this!”
“It’s him!” shouted Boy 412, waving his paddle in the direction of DomDaniel and immediately wishing he hadn’t as Muriel Two lurched sickeningly to one side. “Listen!”
As the Vengeance had begun to rise high in the water and tug on her anchor chain, DomDaniel had changed his Commands and was shouting above the roar of the tide. “Blow! Blow! Blow!” he screamed. “Blow! Blow! Blow!”
The wind gathered and did what it was Commanded to do. It came in fast with a wild howl, throwing the surface of the water into waves and pitching the canoes violently from side to side. It blew away the mist and, perched high up in the water at the top of Deppen Ditch, Jenna, Nicko and Boy 412 could now see the Vengeance clearly.
The Vengeance could also see them.
On the prow of the ship DomDaniel took out his eyeglass and searched until he saw what he was looking for.
And as he studied the occupants his worst fears were realized. There was no mistaking the long dark hair and the golden circlet of the girl in the front of the strange green canoe. It was the Queenling. The Queenling had been on board his ship. She had been running around, under his very nose, and he had let her escape.
DomDaniel became strangely quiet as he gathered his energies and Summoned the most powerful Storm he could muster.
The Darke Magyk turned the howl of the wind into an earsplitting shriek. Black storm clouds came sweeping in and piled high over the bleak expanse of the Marram Marshes. The late afternoon light grew dim, and dark cold waves began to break over the canoes.
“The water’s coming in. I’m soaked,” yelled Jenna as she fought to keep control of Muriel Two while Boy 412 frantically bailed out the water. Nicko was having trouble in the Hunter’s canoe—a wave had just crashed over him and the canoe was now awash. Another wave like that, thought Nicko, and he’d be at the bottom of the Deppen Ditch.
And then suddenly there was no Deppen Ditch.
With a roar the banks of Deppen Ditch gave way. A massive wave surged through the breach and roared out across the Marram Marshes, taking all with it: dolphins, turtles, jellyfish, seals, swimmers…and two canoes.
The speed at which Nicko was traveling was faster than he had ever dreamed possible. It was both terrifying and exciting at once. But the Hunter’s canoe rode the crest of the wave lightly and easily, as though this was the moment it had been waiting for.
Jenna and Boy 412 were not quite as thrilled as Nicko at the turn of events. Muriel Two was a contrary old canoe, and she did not take to this new way of traveling at all. They had to fight hard to stop her from being rolled over by the massive wave that was thundering across the marsh.
As the water spread across the marsh, the wave began to lose some of its power, and Jenna and Boy 412 were able to steer Muriel Two more easily. Nicko maneuvered the Hunter’s canoe along the wave toward them, deftly twisting and turning it as he went.
“That is the best thing ever!” he shouted above the rush of the water.
“You’re crazy!” yelled Jenna, still struggling with her paddle to stop Muriel Two from tipping over.
The wave was fading fast now, slowing its pace and losing most of its power as the water that drove it sank into the wide expanse of the marshes, filling the ditches, the bogs, the slimes and the Ooze with clear, cold salt water and leaving an open sea behind it. Soon the wave was gone, and Jenna, Nicko and Boy 412 were adrift on an open sea that stretched into the distance as far as they could see, dotted with little islands here and there.
As they paddled the canoes in what they hoped was the right direction, a threatening darkness began to fall as the storm clouds gathered high above them. The temperature dropped sharply, and the air became charged with electricity. Soon a warning roll of thunder rumbled across the sky and large spots of heavy rain began to fall. Jenna looked out over the cold gray mass of water before them and wondered how they were going to find their way home.
In the distance on one of the farthest islands, Boy 412 saw a flickering light. Aunt Zelda was lighting her storm candles and placing them in the windows.
The canoes picked up speed and headed home as the thunder rolled and sheets of silent lightning began to light up the sky.
Aunt Zelda’s door was open. She was expecting them.
They tied the canoes to the boot scraper by the front door and walked into the strangely silent cottage. Aunt Zelda was in the kitchen with the Boggart.
“We’re back!” yelled Jenna. Aunt Zelda came out of the kitchen, quietly closing the door behind her.
“Did you find him?” she asked.
“Find who?” said Jenna.
“The Apprentice boy. Septimus.”
“Oh, him.” So much had happened since they had set off that morning that Jenna had forgotten why they went in the first place.
“My goodness, you got back just in time. It’s dark already,” said Aunt Zelda, bustling over to close the door.
“Aargh!” screamed Aunt Zelda as she reached the door and saw the water lapping at the doorstep, not to mention two canoes bobbing up and down outside.
“We’re flooded. The animals! They’ll drown.”
“They’re all right,” Jenna reassured her. “The chickens are all there on top of the chicken boat—we counted them. And the goat has climbed up onto the roof.”
“Yes, she was eating the thatch when we saw her.”
“Oh. Oh, well.”
“The ducks are fine and the rabbits…well, I think I saw them just kind of floating around.”