"Yes, do you know him?"
"He's not so bad. Well, apart from his breath, that is. That's pretty bad. I must have a word with him about it sometime. Anyway the past is the past. We should welcome him in. Well, we will be welcoming him next week with the traditional Wizard Warming Supper, and as Apprentice you will of course be there."
Septimus looked gloomy.
"All part of the job, Septimus," said Marcia briskly. She looked at her glum Apprentice standing by the door weighed down by his heavy backpack. His green eyes looked sad. His sister had chosen to go away on one of his few days off, and it was hard on the boy. Marcia knew that Septimus was very close to Jenna after their experiences together in the Marram Marshes.
"Look, Septimus, if you want to take your adventure bag or whatever it is you've got there and go outside the Castle to wait for Jenna to come back, that's fine. Off you go. It's a lovely day and you could walk up to the One Way Bridge and watch out for her."
"All right," he said doubtfully.
"I'll see you later then," said Marcia with a fond smile. "And don't forget to take Jenna straight back to the Palace. Why don't you stay the night? Then you can spend some time with Jenna and your parentsand come to think of it, you can make sure Jenna gets off to the Marram Marshes tomorrow. The boat has been ready for her at the Palace Quay for a week now, and I am really worried that she won't leave in time. Your mother does tend to leave everything to the last minute." Marcia sighed. "You know, I am sure when the Queen used to go for her MidSummer Visit she must have left earlier than this, although the funny thing is I can't ever remember her going. I mean, she must have gone on the royal barge, but I don't remember it and neither does Alther. And how did she get across the Marsh? Sometimes, Septimus, I worry about Jenna. There are so many things her mother would have told her about, and who can do that now? How will she ever know how to be Queen?"
"I suppose we all have to help her," said Septimus. "Which is what I'm trying to do."
"Yes, of course you are," said Marcia soothingly. "Now you go and have a nice day. Give Jenna my love when you see her, and tell her I hope she has a good MidSummer Visit."
Marcia made everything sound so normal that Septimus started to allow himself to believe that Jenna really was coming back. "Yes," he said, a little more brightly. "All right then. I'll do that. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Off you go," said Marcia as the huge purple door to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard's rooms threw itself open for the Apprentice.
'"Bye," replied Septimus. He stepped onto the silver spiral stairs and they began to move, quickly taking him out of sight. The purple door closed itself quietly, and Marcia did something she had never done before: she wandered upstairs and went, uninvited, into Septimus's room. She walked over to his window and waited for him to emerge from the Tower. Then she watched his progress across the Wizard Tower courtyard, a small figure in green carrying his heavy backpack, his unruly, pale, straw-colored hair making it easy to see him even from twenty-one floors up. As Septimus disappeared into the shadows of the Great Arch, Marcia walked away from the window and out of the room, gently closing the door behind her.
Septimus took the shortcut to the North Gate. The shortcut was a high path set into the Wall that surrounded the Castle. It was narrow and unfenced, and was somewhat alarming if you did not have a head for heights, which Septimus did not. On the right-hand side of the path was a sheer drop of about twenty feet onto roofs, into backyards or, in one terrifying stretch, a drop of fifty feet straight onto the Ramblings Road, which led to The Ramblings. The Ramblings was a huge warren of a building that formed the east wall of the Castle and sprawled for three miles along the river. It was a noisy, busy place filled with a maze of passages and rooms where many of the Castle inhabitants lived and worked, and it was where the Heaps had lived before their sudden move into the Palace.
On the left-hand side of the path were the thick stone battlements of the Wall. As he walked along the path, Septimus stared fixedly at the worn yellow stones of the ancient Walls and told himself not to look down.
Once Septimus had made the mistake of glancing to his right just as he was walking above the Ramblings Road. A feeling like an electric shock had run through him, starting at his feet and ending in his head, making him sway dangerously. He had had to sit down, then close his eyes and crawl to the nearest exit steps. But Septimus believed in conquering his fearswhich was what always took him up to the Wall, rather than through the longer, but much less scary, alleyways and sideslips to the North Gate.
Today, as Septimus hurried along the path, he paid little attention to the heighthe was too busy thinking about Jenna and planning what to do. Although he had begun to wonder whether Marcia was indeed right and Jenna was on her way back, something deep down told Septimus that Jenna was in trouble.
And if Jenna was in trouble, he was going to help herwhatever it took.
Chapter 10 Jenna's Journey
Septimus was right. The horse, and riders that Marcia had found in her Remote Search were in fact Jake and Betty Jago, who ran a small market garden in the Farmlands and were on their way to visit Betty's mother in The Ramblings. But far away, trotting through the apple orchards of the lowland hills, was another black horse with two riders: one small and dark-haired, with a gold circlet around her head, the other tall and wild-eyed, with his long straw-colored hair streaming back from his face as he pushed his tiring horse onward.
As he rode, Simon was occupied with his thoughts. He was amazed that it had all been so easy. When he had ridden into the Palace, Simon had expected, at the very least, to be stopped and questioned. But there had been no one there, and so, he thought with a grim smile, the Heaps only had themselves to blame. Because Simon had not really expected to snatch Jenna so easily, he felt a little scared of his own success. He was afraid she might be troublesome; he knew she had a mind of her own and remembered her throwing some serious tantrums when she was little, although he had always been able to make her laugh and forget about whatever was troubling her.
Simon shook his head crossly to rid himself of any fond memories he might have of his little adopted sister whom he had lived with and loved for the first ten years of her life. That, he told himself sternly, was the past. Marcia Overstrand had marched into their lives on Jenna's tenth birthday and ruined everything, and that had been the end of his family as he knew it. The last straw was when his parents were duped by that boy from the Young Army into thinking he was their precious seventh son and, to top it all, the upstart got the only thing that Simon had ever wantedthe ExtraOrdinary Apprenticeship. Now he cared for no oneexcept for Lucy Gringe.
If Simon had not been able to snatch Jenna, he had planned to take Lucy away with him that day. But work had to come first.
Simon was a conscientious Apprentice, who had been busy doing his Master's bidding for the past year. He had not been looking forward to snatching Jenna, but orders were orders. It had to be done. Lucy would have to wait a little longeralthough just at that moment, Simon would have much preferred it be Lucy sitting on his horse, laughing as they cantered through the apple orchards, rather than Princess stony-faced Jenna, who sat like a rock in front of him.
Apart from her few months spent in the Marram Marshes, Jenna had never been out of the Castle before, and she was struck by how green and varied the Farmlands were. If she had been with anyone but Simon it would have been a wonderful journey. The sun was hot but not oppressively so; since the bright blue skies of the early morning, a few clouds had drifted in from the west and taken the edge off the heat. Simon had allowed Thunder to slow down to a brisk trot and occasionally the horse fell into a leisurely walk as they reached a small incline. Jenna could not stop herself from gazing around and being amazed at how beautiful the countryside was.
Jenna was not going to give Simon the satisfaction of seeing how scared she was. She sat stiff and upright, using her riding skills to go with the horse as he made his way along the endless dusty tracks weaving through the Farmlands, which stretched for miles on the other side of the river.
They had stopped once by a stream on the edge of a hay meadow to give the horse a drink and to allow him to graze for a while. Simon had offered Jenna some food, but she had refused; she was not hungry. Like the horse, Jenna drank from the stream, and when Simon had said it was time to move on she had made a run for it, dashing across the shallow stream and down a narrow track. At the end of the track Jenna could see a small house with an old woman sitting outside, dozing in the shade. But as she hurtled along the dusty path, she heard the sound of Thunder galloping up behind her, and in a moment Simon had grabbed her and lifted her roughly back into the saddle. They did not stop again.