"What are you doing here?" she called out, surprised at Septimus's sudden appearance behind Una. "It's meant to be your day off, Septimus. I don't want your mother complaining again."
"It's Jenna!" yelled Septimus, expertly dodging Una Brakket as she reached out to grab him and setting off through the haze toward Marcia.
"What? What's Jenna?" asked Marcia, confused, her head still spinning from the endless mathematical formulae that Professor Van Klampff had been explaining in an effort to show Marcia why the ShadowSafe was taking so long to make. He had been busy showing Marcia the amazingly complex molds that were used to construct each interconnecting part of the ShadowSafe when Septimus had rung the doorbell and Una Brakket had very reluctantly gone to answer it. Marcia had been glad to see the housekeeper go, for Una was hanging around like an irritating bluebottle, which Marcia had had great trouble resisting the urge to swat.
"She's gone!" yelled Septimus, reaching the ExtraOrdinary Wizard just before Una Brakket could grab him. He ducked behind Marcia, leaving her standing between him and the irate housekeeper.
"Well, I'm glad to hear it," said Marcia, confused at the dance Septimus and Una appeared to be doing around her. "I thought Sarah was leaving it a bit late to get her off to the Dragon Boat. It's only two days to MidSummer Day."
"No!" said Septimus. "She's not gone to Aunt Zelda's. She's been kidnapped."
"What?" Marcia dropped the glass tube she was holding. The Professor and Una Brakket both gasped in dismayfor the tube contained the Amalgam for the ShadowSafe.
"Is this some kind of joke?" Marcia asked, staring at the glistening black sludge that now covered her purple snakeskin shoesand at Professor Van Klampff, who had fallen to his knees and was desperately trying to scrape up his precious Amalgam.
"No," said Septimus bleakly. "I wish it was."
"Oh, it's bound to be a joke. Or more likely a fib," Una Brakket said bitterly as she joined the Professor on the floor and took a large metal scraper to Marcia's shoes.
"Get off my shoes, will you?" said Marcia icily. "I don't want this stuff rubbed into them." Marcia fixed Una with a glare. "Anyway," she declared, "Septimus always tells the truth."
"Huh," said Una Brakket, angrily scraping. "Just look what's happened. You let a boy into the Laboratory and something gets broken. I knew it would."
"Jennakidnapped?" said Marcia, trying to move away and finding that her feet were stuck to the floor. "How..."
"Simon," said Septimus, anxious to be gone. "Simon took her away on his horse. We have to go after her, we should send some Trackers out and"
"Don't do that, Una. Simon who?" asked Marcia.
"Simon. My brother. Come on, Marcia, please hurry."
"Yes. I tried to stop him. I Transfixed his horse but"
"Did you? A whole horse," said Marcia, pleased with her Apprentice. "Well done. If you can Transfix a horse you can Transfix anything. But he Overcame you?"
"Nowell, yes, I suppose so, sort ofbut that's not the point." Septimus's voice was rising to a despairing shout. "The point is that Jenna has been kidnapped and we're not doing anything!"
Marcia put her arm around Septimus's shoulders. "It's all right, Septimus. Simon is Jenna's brother; she's quite safe with him. You really mustn't worry so much. I'm afraid that spider bite has put you a little on edge. It's one of the side effects of Darke Spider Venom, you know. But I can see it's time we went."
Marcia addressed Weasal Van Klampff, who was staring woefully at the black sludge that Una Brakket was painstakingly scooping up and putting into a jar. "I am going now, Weasal. I shall expect the piece tonight."
"Tonight?" gasped the Professor. "But, Marcia, I thought you understood how complicated it is. How difficult the mold is to configure and"
"You've already done the mold, Weasal. You've just showed it to me. All you have to do is make some more of that stuff and pour it in. I don't see what the fuss is about."
The Professor looked anxious. "But Una is going out tonight," he said. "Country dancing."
"Well, jolly good for Una," snapped Marcia. "Just stop dithering, Weasal, and get a move on."
Weasal Van Klampff cast a worried glance at Una Brakket, who was wearing an extremely disgruntled expression. "B-but," he stuttered, "if weI mean I, ermake the Amalgam too quickly,it's possible that a Shadow might Appear here. In the Laboratory..." whispered the Professor.
"Well, I'm sure Una will take care of it," said Marcia crisply. "I will be down to collect the piece tonight."
"And what time tonight would that be, Madam Marcia?" Una inquired frostily. "Approximately."
"Approximately when I get around to it," Marcia replied in glacial tones that would have sent anyone other than Una Brakket into a complete panic. "And now, Mrs. Brakket, if you would care to show my Apprentice and myself out?"
Una Brakket smiled for the first time, or rather, the corners of her mouth moved upward and showed her teeth, which glowed blue in the Laboratory lights.
"With great pleasure," she said.
Chapter 8 Number Thirteen
Septimus trailed along behind Marcia and Alther as they walked and floated down Wizard Way back to the Tower. He was listening intently to their conversation.
"If I were you, Marcia," Alther was saying, "I'd do a quick Search of the Farmlands north of the Castle. Simon can't have gotten that far yet. He'll still be riding through them on his way to the Border Country, and I'd bet my lifewell, I'd bet my, er, ponytail, that's where he's leading. You could Travel across the Farmlands in no time. I'd go myself but I wouldn't be much use. Never did like farms much when I was alive. Too many smells and unpredictable animals with pointy horns for my liking. If I went out there I'd just spend all my time being Returned. And frankly, Marcia, being Returned takes the stuffing out of me. I still feel quite winded."
To Septimus's dismay, Marcia was not convinced.
"Look, Alther," she said, as she kept up a fast pace along Wizard Way, leaving Septimus breathless, "I have no intention of leaving the Castle if the Princess is no longer within the walls. You know what happened last time we were both goneDomDaniel just walked in. Who is to say it may not happen again? But no one needs to go after Jenna; she'll be back soon. I really don't think there's anything to worry about; all we know for sure is that Jenna has gone off riding with her brother"
"Adoptive brother," interrupted Alther.
"All right, if you want to be picky about it, her adoptive brother, although Jenna is as much a Heap as any of the boys, Alther. She sees them as her brothers and they see her as their sister."
"Except for Simon," said Alther.
"You don't know that," objected Marcia.
"Oh, don't be so awkward, Alther. How can you possibly know that? Anyway, as I was saying, Jenna has gone off riding with her adoptive brother, and all we know is that he didn't want her to get off the horse when Septimus asked her to. If you ask me it's just Simon not doing what his little brother tells him to. It's hardly surprising, really. He's jealous of Septimus being my Apprentice. He's hardly going to do what Septimus tells him to,now is he?"
"Marcia, Septimus believes that Jenna has been kidnapped," said Alther solemnly.
"Look, Alther, Septimus is not quite himself today. He was bitten by one of those Darke spiders this morning and you know how paranoid that can make you. Remember when you got bitten by one when you were Fumigating that old Capnomancer who was causing a health hazard above the pie shop in The Ramblings?"
"You mean the mad mouse-woman?"
"Yes, her. Well, you spent the rest of the day thinking that I was trying to push you out of the window."
"Did I really?"
"Yes, you did. You Locked yourself in your study and Barred the windows. It wore off by the evening, and I'm sure that by this evening Septimus will be fine, Jenna will be back from a nice ride with her brother and we'll all wonder what the fuss was about."
Septimus had heard enough and, angrily, he slipped away. He realized that he was going to have to do something himself, without Marcia's help. There was someone he wanted to see.