"I don't see why he didn't just Conceal it in the Castle," said Septimus. "It was a dangerous journey to make with a precious Charm. Weren't the Marshes much worse in the old daysstuffed full of carnivorous pikefish and all sorts of Darke Things? Well, you wouldn't think he'd risk losing the Flyte Charm in some horrible bit of Quake Ooze, would you?"
Aunt Zelda looked up and regarded Septimus over the top o: her spectacles. "There is more than one way to kill a cat," she said cryptically. And before Septimus could ask her what she meant, Aunt Zelda dumped the heavy Witch and Warlock Pharmacopoeia in his lap. "Have a look at that one," she said, pointing to the scorched page. "I think it might do the trick. It s got a genuine Boris Boil Reverse, so there's a bit of Darkenesse in it. What do you think?"
"Black Burn Brewa Cats Claw Concoction," Septimus read. "For added efficacy in suspected Darke contamination we recommend forming an Admixture with Boris Boil's Reverse remedy Number III. Caution: DO NOT BOIL. See page xxxv for Final Formula. Apply immediately. Stable for thirteen minutes precisely. Dispose of with extreme care." Septimus gave a low whistle. "That sounds really complicated."
"It is really complicated," replied Aunt Zelda. "It will take me an hour or so to Mix it. But I know I've got all the ingredients. I always keep a bottle of Boil's Bane in the safe, and I bought some Cat's Claw from the year-and-a-day market last year." She got up and disappeared back into her potions cupboard.
Septimus stayed beside Wolf Boy, who lay white and still like a rock in the sun, burning up inside with a Darke fever. Anxiously, Septimus watched the firmly closed potion cupboard door. He remembered it well from his previous time with Aunt Zelda. Inside was a small, dark cupboard crammed full of all manner of Aunt Zelda's most precious and delicate potionsand a trapdoor to the tunnel that had once led to the old temple where the Dragon Boat had lain under the earth for hundreds of years. But since the walls of the temple had been washed away in The Great Storm, the tunnel now went to the cabbage patch and Aunt Zelda had got into the habit of using it as a shortcut.
Jenna appeared, silhouetted in the bright light of the doorway. "How is he?" she asked in an anxious voice.
"I don't think he's very well," Septimus replied quietly. "Aunt Zelda's doing a really complicated potion for him."
Jenna sat down beside Septimus. "Do you think he'll be all right, Sep?" she asked.
"I don't knowoh, that was quick"
Aunt Zelda had burst out of the cupboard looking flustered.
"Marsh Bane. I need fresh Marsh Bane. Would you relieve itfresh. Wretched recipe. Go ask Boggart, would you? Now. Please."
Septimus jumped up.
"No, Sep. You stay with him. I'll go," Jenna said.
"Tell Boggart it's urgent," Aunt Zelda called out after Jenna's departing figure. "Just ignore it if he makes a fuss."
The Boggart did make a fuss. Jenna had to call him three times before the large brown marsh creature surfaced from his mud patch in a sea of muddy bubbles.
"Can't a Boggart get no sleep on the hottest day of the year?" he demanded, his black eyes blinking crossly in the rn^ht sunlight. "Waddyou want now?"
"I'm really sorry, Boggart," Jenna apologized, "but Aunt Zelda urgently needs some fresh Marsh Bane and she"
"Marsh Bane? I gotto go an' get Marsh Bane?"
"Please, Boggart," pleaded Jenna. "It's for the boy with the burned hands. He's very ill."
"Oh. Well, I is very sorry to 'ear that. But I is also sorry to be out again gettin' sunburned and havin' no sleep. Not ter mention havin' ter ferret around under all them dis-gustin' slugs." The Boggart shuddered and blew a large bubble out of his snub, seal-like nose. Jenna caught a whiff of the fabled Boggart Breath; she stepped back and swayed slightly. Boggart Breath was even stronger in the hot sun.
"Tell Zelda I'll bring the Marsh Bane around as soon as I finds some," said the Boggart, and with that he sank back into the mud.
A few minutes later Jenna saw him surface in the Mott, a wide channel that ran all the way around the island. She watched the Boggart make speedy progress along the channels and ditches that led from the Mott out into the Marsh until, some distance away, he came to the Hundred-Foot Pit where the Marsh Bane grew. Jenna watched him raise his head from the water, take a deep breath and disappear from view.
The Boggart closed his ears and nostrils and sank like a stone into the Hundred-Foot Pit. He was an expert per and could hold his breath for at least an hour, so he did not mind the ping part of his errand at all. What he did mind, however, were the things he knew he would find on the bottom of the pit. The Boggart was not a squeamish creature, but the Great White Marsh Slugswhich were forever in a state of semi-decompositionmade even him shudder. A pile of the giant slugs lived at the bottom of the pit, and it was underneath these that the Marsh Bane flourished, nourished by the rotting slug flesh. Marsh Bane was a powerful catalyst for any potion, but fresh Marsh Bane ... the Boggart shook his head disapprovingly. He hoped Zelda knew what she was doing, messing around with the fresh stuff.
Jenna sat beside the Mott, waiting for the Boggart to resurface. To while away the time she picked up a few small gray pebbles and stroked them, in the hope that one of them might be her old pet rock, Petroc Trelawney. Silas had given her Petroc for her tenth birthday, but he had wandered off during Jenna's last MidSummer Visit. Jenna still hoped she might find him, but none of the pebbles she stroked stuck their stumpy little legs out as Petroc would have done. She sighed and threw them one by one into the Mott and hoped that the Boggart would not be too long.
Jenna was not the only person waiting for the Boggart. Beside the Hundred-Foot Pit, lying on a patch of soft grass, lay the long, thin figure of a boy. He was dressed in a pair of ill-fitting patchwork trousers and a loose tunic made from some rough woven cloth. Despite Aunt Zelda's best efforts to feed him up, Merrin Meredith, ex-Apprentice to DomDaniel, was still as thin as a stick. It was now well over a year since Aunt Zelda had nursed him back to life after he had been Consumed by his old Master, but echoes of the experience still hovered in the haunted look in his deep gray eyes. On his good days Merrin did not mind Aunt Zelda's company, but on his bad daysand this was one of themhe could not bear to be near her, or anyone else. On these days, Merrin still felt as if he were Consumed and did not really exist.
Merrin was cross. He had felt cross ever since a talkative rat had arrived with an urgent request for the Boggart to go out to the Port side of the Marsh and take the canoe to collect the horrible Princess girl. Merrin had hung around by the channel that came in from the Port side, and when the canoe came into view he had felt even more cross.
Sure enough, there was the stuck-up Princess girl sitting in the front of the canoe, just as he had expected. But there were three others with her. Three. One of them didn't look too bad. He was a thin, grubby boy who reminded Merrin of the pet wolf his old Master had kept for a while. But the other two were the last people in the world that Merrin wanted to see. There was that nasty Nicko boy who had once fought him and called him a pig and twisted his arm so that it had really hurt. But worst of all there was that Septimus Heap kidthe one who had stolen his name. His own name. It was no good that Aunt Zelda kept telling him that his real name was Merrin Meredithwhat did she know? He had been called Septimus Heap all his life. It may have been a stupid name, but it was all he had known.
In a bad temper, Merrin had gone off to his place by the Hundred-Foot Pit. He knew he would not be disturbed until Aunt Zelda called him back at dusk, but now, to his irritation, he had been disturbedby the smelly old Boggart.
Merrin lay angrily jabbing a pointed stick into the mud, waiting for the Boggart to go away and leave him alone. After what felt like an age, there was a spluttering gurgle beside him, and he saw the Boggart's head break the surface of the thick brown water. Merrin said nothing; he was wary of the Boggart, as he was of most creatures. The Boggart shook his head and spat out a spray of foul-smelling water, some of which landed on Merrin.
"Disgustin' " the Boggart told Merrin. "Filthy things. There's more of 'em down there than ever. Had to shovel 'em out of the way. I'll be pickin' bits a slug outta me nails fer days. Eurgh." The Boggart shuddered. "Still, I got Zelda's Bane." He held up a fistful of wriggling white streamers that immediately began to shrivel up in the sunlight. "Oops," said the Boggart, plunging them back under the water. "Mustn't let 'em dry out." With that he was off along the channels to the Mott where Jenna saw him and ran to the bridge to meet him.