Breakfast was something of an ordeal for Catchpole. He sat awkwardly at the table, unsure of how to behave with Jenna and Septimus, let alone Marcia, who terrified him.
"I said keep the Wizards out, Catchpole, not my Apprentice. Can't you tell the difference?" Marcia told him crossly, while the stove let the coffee boil over for the second time that week. The stove was never at its best in the morning, and it always felt tense and anxious at breakfast. It was not helped by the fact that the coffeepot was upset at being shouted at and was not concentrating on the job at hand. To top it all off, there was a dragon chewing one of its feet. There was a loud hiss as the coffee hit the stove's hot plate and spilled onto the floor.
"Clean," snapped Marcia. A cloth leaped off the sink and quickly mopped up the mess.
Catchpole ate very little breakfast. He sat twisting his plaid hat in his hands, looking anxiously at Spit Fyre, who was in the corner by the stove, loudly gulping down great mouthfuls of porridge.
After breakfastwhich for Spit Fyre was two roast chickens, three loaves of bread, a bucket of porridge, a tablecloth, a gallon of water and Catchpole's hatSeptimus, Jenna and Catchpole sat at the table and listened to the sounds of Marcia taking the dragon upstairs, pushing it into Septimus's room and barricading the door. There was an awkward silence around the table. Catchpole sat holding a pair of damp, detachable earflaps from his hat, which Spit Fyre had coughed up shortly after he had snatched the hat from Catchpole's grasp and swallowed it.
Jenna stood up. "Excuse me," she said, "but I think I'd better get back to Mum and Dad now. You coming too, Sep?"
"Maybe later, Jen. I'll see what Marcia wants me to do first."
"I'll tell you want I want you to do," said Marcia, coming back into the kitchen, somewhat disheveled. "You are to go straight down to the Manuscriptorium and get a copy of The Draxx Dragon Training Manual. You want the original Wizard Fireproof Editiondon't let them put you off with the cheap paper one, it won't last five minutes."
"It's all right," said Septimus airily. "I've got this." He waved his copy of How to Survive Dragon Fostering: A Practykal Guide.
"That rubbish!" Marcia snorted. "Where on earth did you get that?"
"Aunt Zelda gave it to me," muttered Septimus, "and she said I should get"
"The Winged Lizard's Almanac of the Early Years," Marcia finished his sentence for him. "That's a load of rubbish too. Anyway, you won't find any of those as they were printed on some very flammable paper. It has to be Draxx, Septimus, nothing else will do."
To the accompaniment of some ominous thumps coming from Septimus's bedroom, Jenna and Septimus made a hasty exit from the ExtraOrdinary Wizard's rooms and set off in search of Draxx.
Jenna and Septimus walked along Wizard Way, half expecting a black horse and rider to appear again, but all seemed perfectly normal. It was midmorning by now, the sun shone down between a few drifting white clouds and the Way was busy with clerks on important errandsor looking as if they wereand shoppers browsing through the stacks of books and parchments laid out on tables outside the shops.
"What's up with Marcia?" asked Jenna as they neared the Manuscriptorium. "She's even more grumpy than usual."
"I know," said Septimus unhappily. "I think the Shadow is beginning to take her overI wish there was something I could do."
"Look, Sep," said Jenna, concerned, "maybe you should stay with us at the Palace for a while."
"Thanks, Jen," replied Septimus, "but I can't leave Marcia alone with that awful Shadow following her around. She needs me."
Jenna smiledshe knew Septimus would say that. "Well, if it gets too horrible with Marcia, you must come straight to the Palace and tell Mum, promise?"
"Promise." Septimus gave her a hug. "Bye, Jen. Say hello to Mum and Dad from me. Tell them I'll come and see them later." He watched Jenna carry on up the Way toward the Palace until she had safely reached the gate. Then he pushed open the Manuscriptorium door with its familiar ping and walked into the dingy front office.
"Wotcha, Sep.'" a cheery voice came from under the desk.
"Hello, Beetle." Septimus grinned.
"What can I do you for, oh wise Apprentice?" Beetle's head appeared above the edge of the desk. "Heyyou couldn't do me a quick Find Spell, could you? I've lost Old Foxy's best pen. He's back there having a blue fit."
"Well, I shouldn't reallyoh, here, use my Magnet." Septimus took a small red magnet out of his Apprentice belt and handed it to Beetle. "Hold that with the open end pointing to where you think the pen might be and then think hard about the pen. You need to be quite close, thoughthe Magnet's not very strong. I'll be getting a better one when I've finished my FindersSeekers Project."
"Thanks, Sep." Beetle took the Magnet and disappeared back under the desk. A few moments later he emerged triumphantly with a slim black pen stuck on the end of it. "Saved my bacon, Sep. Thanks." Beetle gave Septimus back his Magnet. "You come down for anything special? Can I get you anything?"
"Er, I need The Draxx Dragon Training Manual. If you've got one."
"Wizard Waterproof, Wizard Fireproof, Wizard Advanced? Talking print or moving pictures? Deluxe or Economy Edition? Green or red cover? New or used? Big or"
"Wizard Fireproof," interrupted Septimus. "Please."
Beetle sucked his teeth. "Hmm. Tricky. Don't know if we've got that one."
"But you said"
"Well, of course in theory we've got 'em. But in practice we haven't. The Draxx is very rare, Sep. Most of 'em got eaten pretty quick. Or burned. Except for the Wizard Fireproof, I s'pose." Then, seeing Septimus's look of disappointment, Beetle whispered, "Here, seeing as it's you, I'll let you into the Wild Book and Charm Store. That's where it will be if we have one. You can have a look for yourself. Follow me."
Septimus squeezed past the large desk, and, glancing around to check no one had seen them, Beetle unlocked a tall narrow door concealed in the wooden paneling that lined the outer office. Beetle pushed the door openwhich Septimus noticed was lined with heavy planksand put his finger to his lips. "Gotta keep the noise down, Sep. Not meant to be in here. Don't make any sudden movements, okay?"
Septimus nodded and followed Beetle into the Wild Book and Charm Store. Beetle closed the door behind them, and Septimus caught his breathhe felt as if he were back in the Forest, surrounded by wolverines all over again. The Wild Book and Charm Store was dimly lit and feral-smelling. It consisted of two long lines of towering parallel shelves fronted with iron bars, behind which the Wild Books were crowded together. As Septimus cautiously followed Beetle along the narrow aisle he was followed by a chorus of low growls, scratchings and rustlings, as the books jostled behind the rusty bars.
"Excuse the mess," whispered Beetle, scooping up an assorted pile of ripped and teeth-marked Charms which had lumps of fur stuck to them and were covered in what looked to Septimus like bloodstains. "Had a bit of a punch-up last night between the Charms from an Ahriman Aardvark Enchantment Guide and a Wolverine Hex Pamphlet. Some idiot who doesn't know their alphabet put them together. Not a pretty sight. Now let me see ... Dinosaurs ... Drosophilano, that's too far. Aha, Dragons should be here if we've got any. You have a look and see what you can find. I'll just go and check no one's looking for me up front. Don't want anyone to get suspicious." With that, Beetle scuttled off, leaving Septimus surrounded by fur, feathers and scales.
Holding his nose tightly, partly to keep out the smell, but also because he felt a huge sneeze coming on, Septimus peered into the gloom hoping to see something with Draxx written on it. The books did not like being stared at. They shifted about and one or two of the larger, more hairy ones emitted low, threatening growls. But was no sign of the Draxx, or anything to do with dragons at all.
Septimus was looking through the bars at a scaly book with no name on it when Beetle tapped him on his shoulder.
"Arrgh!" yelped Septimus.
"Shhh," hissed Beetle. "Your brother's here."
"What's Nicko want? Did he say?"
"Not Nicko. Simon."
The Hermetic Chamber
Simon!" breathed Septimus. "What's he doing hereagain?"
"He's seeing Foxy's dad. As usual." Beetle sniffed disapprovingly. "Thick as thieves, those two are. Here, come with me." Beetle grabbed hold of Septimus's sleeve and pulled him along to the very end of the caged rows. Beetle knelt down beside an air vent and immediately jumped back up again, unnerved by a loud hiss from the Zombie Snake Anti-Venom Formulae. "Eurgh, I hate snakes. Gave me a shock, that did. Here, Sep, you don't mind snakesyou go there. You'll hear what's going on better anyway."