"You cold, Jen?" asked Septimus. He clicked his fingers and some small kindling sticks jumped into the fireplace and set fire to themselves. Then a couple of big logs heaved themselves out of the log basket, thumped down on top of the kindling and obligingly burst into flames. Soon the warm firelight filled the room and Jenna began to feel less spooked.
"Come on," said Septimus, "you can have the visiting Wizards' room. It's really nice. I'll show you." But Jenna hung back. She thought of the Shadow upstairs waiting beside Marcia.
"Thanks, Sep," she said. "But I'd rather stay down here by the fire."
Septimus glanced at Jenna's pale face. Being with all that Darke stuff at Simon's place had not done her any good, he thought. "Okay, Jen," he said. "I'll stay with you."
Sometime later, a tall figure stood in the doorway and saw two forms asleep under a pile of her best purple blankets. Marcia lingered for a moment and smiled. That irritating ex-Message Rat had been right. They were safe. Well, of course she had known it all along, but even so, it was good to see them back again.
Marcia tiptoed away. The Shadow lingered and cast a malevolent glance at the two sleeping figures, its eyes briefly flaring a dull yellow, and then it turned and followed Marcia back up the chilly stone stairs.
Chapter 34 In Search of Draxx
"What on earth is that?" Marcia demanded crossly, quickly forgetting how relieved she had been the night before to see Septimus and Jenna back safely. But Marcia was not feeling her best. She had woken to see the Shadow lounging on her pillow. This was not unusual, for over the past few months the Shadow had been growing more visible, especially first thing in the morning. But it had always been silentuntil that moment. What had actually woken Marcia was the sound of a low, sepulchral voice calling her name over and over.
"Marcia ... Marcia ... Marcia..."
In a fit of anger, Marcia had thrown one of her best purple python shoes at the ghastly Thing, but the shoe had, of course, gone straight through it. The shoe had shot across the room and smashed a small glass pot that Alther had given Marcia when, as his Apprentice, she had finally mastered a particularly difficult Projection. The broken pot had upset Marcia more than she expected, and she had stormed downstairs in a bad temper. She had had quite enough of the Shadow, she decided as she threw open the kitchen door and yelled at the coffeepot to get a move on will you. After breakfast she decided she would go straight down to old Weasal and insist on getting the Stopperthe very last piece of the ShadowSafeimmediately.
"Septimus," said Marcia in a loud voice.
Septimus sat up with a start and for a moment could not remember where he was. Marcia soon reminded him. "The Wizard Tower," she said, folding her arms crossly, "is a place of Magyk. Not a menagerie."
"What?" asked Septimus.
"Look at my best blanketsfull of holes. I don't know where you found that giant moth, but you can take it straight back."
"What giant moth?" asked Septimus, wondering if he'd missed something.
"Huh?" mumbled Jenna, emerging from under the pile of blankets.
"Oh, hello, Jenna," said Marcia. "Nice to see you back. The rat saidwell, that wretched rat said a lot of things, most of it rubbish as far as I could tellbut he did say that you made it to the MidSummer Visit. Well done."
"Thank you," said Jenna sleepily. She sat up and stuck her foot through a large hole in the blanket. She wiggled her toes as if surprised to see them and suddenly something green pounced. "Ouch!" she yelled.
"Spit Fyre!" gasped Septimus, taken aback. Aunt Zelda had told him that the dragon would grow in sudden spurts but he had not expected this. Spit Fyre had eaten his way out of the dragon-proof bag and was now the size of a small dog. Septimus grabbed hold of the dragon and pulled him off Jenna's foot. "You all right, Jen?" he asked.
"Yes. I think sostill got ten toes," Jenna rubbed her foot, which was a little scratched from the dragon's claws. "Sep," she said, looking at Spit Fyre, whose small green tongue was flicking over Septimus's hand, hoping for breakfast, "he wasn't as big as that last night, was he?"
"No," muttered Septimus. He could tell this was going to be trouble and he hardly dared look at Marcia. He knew what she would say. And, sure enough, she said it. "I told you, Septimus. No pets. No parrots, no iguanas, no tortoises, no"
"Butbut Spit Fyre is not a pet. He's a Magykal tool. Like the practice rabbit in the courtyard."
"Septimus, a dragon is nothing like a practice rabbit. You have no idea of the trouble"
As if to prove Marcia right, Spit Fyre wriggled out of Septimus's grasp and made a beeline for Marcia's feet. He had spotted the purple python shoes. Something in Spit Fyre's ancient dragon memory had just told him that dragons and snakes were enemiesand a nice purple snake would make a good snack before breakfast too. It did not occur to the two-day-old dragon that Marcia's shoes were only the skin of a snake, or that the feet inside them belonged to an irritable and powerful Wizard who had a particular fondness for her shoes and no fondness whatsoever for baby dragons. A streak of glistening green shot across the floor, latched itself onto Marcia's right foot and started chewing.
"Ow!" yelled Marcia, frantically shaking her foot. But Spit Fyre had learned his lesson since Septimus had shaken him off his finger two days earlier. He hung on tight and sank his sharp little dragon teeth into the snakeskin.
"Teeth Releath!" Marcia spluttered with some difficulty. Spit Fyre dug his teeth in harder.
"Teese Release!" Marcia yelled. Spit Fyre hung on and gave the python skin a good shake.
"Teeth Release!" Marcia shouted, getting it right at last. Spit Fyre let go of the purple python shoe, and, as if purple snakeskin was now of no interest to him at all, the dragon sauntered back to Septimus's side, sat down and regarded Marcia with a baleful expression.
Marcia collapsed onto a chair nursing her foot and gazing at her ruined shoe. Septimus and Jenna held their breath. What would she say?
"I suppose, Septimus," said Marcia after a long pause, "I suppose thatthat pest has Imprinted you?"
"Um. Yes," admitted Septimus.
"I thought so." She sighed heavily. "It's not as if I don't have enough to worry about, Septimusdo you know how big they get?"
"I'm sorry," muttered Septimus. "I promise I'll look after him. Really I will. I'll feed him and housebreak him and exercise him andand everything." She looked unimpressed.
"I didn't mean to get one," said Septimus gloomily. "He hatched from Jenna's rock."
"Did he?" Marcia calmed down a little. "Did he really? A Human Hatching ... well, well, that's quite something. Anyway, he will have to stay in your room for the time being. I'm not having him messing up any more things." Andalthough Marcia did not want to tell Septimusshe did not want the impressionable dragon tainted by any contact with the Shadow. If this was to be Septimus's companion then it must be kept as free from Darke Magyk as possible.
Marcia insisted on hearing all the details of Jenna's escape from Simon, and when she was told about the flight of the Dragon Boat to the Castle, she looked just a little triumphant. "So I am now the Keeper," she muttered.
Septimus was surprised. "I don't think so," he said. "I'm sure Aunt Zelda is still the Keeper..."
"Nonsense," Marcia retorted. "How can she be? Stuck miles away out on those Marshes. The Dragon Boat is here at the Castleand quite right, too. She's a sensible boat, that dragon. Well, this Keeper won't let her down. Catchpole!"
Catchpole pushed the door open nervously. "You called, Madam Marcia?" He gulped.
"Yes. Take thirteen Wizards down to the boatyard at once. They are to guard the Dragon Boat with their lives. Got that?"
"Thirteen Wizards ... Dragon Boat ... um, guard with lives. Er, yes. Thank you Madam Marcia. Will that be all?"
"I should think that is quite enough for you to manage at one time, Catchpole."
"Oh. Yes. Thank you, Madam Marcia."
Catchpole stopped his anxious retreat. "Er ... yes, Madam Marcia?"
"When you've done that you may join us for breakfast."
Catchpole's face fell. "Oh," he said. And then, remembering his manners, "Oh, thank you, Madam Marcia. Thanks so much."