" 'Course I will, Jen. But I've got some stuff to do first. Simon is here."
"Well, not here. He'she's down there." Septimus pointed downward.
Jenna looked puzzled. "What, under the floor?"
Septimus lowered his voice. "There are Ice Tunnels under the Castle, Jen. He's in them. Skating."
Jenna burst out laughing. "Don't be daft, Sep. It's summer. There's no ice in summer."
"Shh," hushed Septimus. "We don't want anyone else to hear." He smiled at the Wizards, who were retracing their footsteps. "Good morning, Pascalle. Good morning, Thomasinn. Good morning, good morning."
"Good morning, Apprentice," came the chorused reply.
Septimus waited until the Wizards had wandered out into the sunshine. "And that's not all, Jen," he said. "It's true, Simon has got the Flyte CharmI've seen it. He left it in the Hermetic Chamber. I would have got it too, but his belt Transformed into a snake and"
"Ice tunnels ... the Hermetic Chamber ... a snake?" Jenna said, her eyes widening in disbelief. "Sep, what on earth have you been doing? You only went to get a copy of Draxx."
"Yes, well, I met Beetle and things just sort of ... happened."
Beetle shifted about self-consciously. He felt like a fish out of water standing in the Wizard Tower next to the Princess. Not that she had noticed him of course. And his best friend, Sep, was suddenly a different person, no longer someone you could muck about with and squirt FizzFroot out of your nose at.
"Oh, hello, Beetle," said Jenna, much to Beetle's amazement.
"Whah-how d'you know my name?" stammered Beetle.
"I read it on the floor." Jenna grinned. "I figured it was you. You look just like Sep said."
"S-Sep told you about me?" Beetle went red.
"Of Course he did. You're his best friend."
"Oh..." Beetle couldn't think of anything to say. He followed Septimus and Jenna as they wandered to the stairs and nearly fell off in surprise when the silver spiral started turning. By the time they reached the top, Beetle felt extremely dizzy. Give me the Ice Tunnels any day, he thought, as he staggered off after Septimus and Jenna. And then Beetle had to swallow hardhe had just seen the massive purple door that led to Marcia's rooms and he couldn't believe ithere he was on the top landing of the Wizard Tower outside the ExtraOrdinary Wizard's Rooms. No one, not even Old Foxy, got to the top landing. If they needed to see the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, they were always met in the Great Hall. They never came upstairs.
Catchpole was dozing quietly on his chair. Septimus stepped past him and, as usual, the heavy purple door recognized the Apprentice. It swung open and Septimus gave Beetle a friendly push across the threshold. "Come on, Beetle." He grinned. "It's not that smart in here."
It certainly wasn't. Marcia's normally neatly tended room was in chaos. A swath of broken furniture was strewn across the floor, topped off with assorted smashed pots, plates and vases.
Beetle said nothing. For all he knew the ExtraOrdinary Wizard's place always looked like this, and he had heard a few stories about the way Wizards lived from his uncle who did house clearances over at the Ramblings.
"What has happened?" gasped Jenna.
Septimus gulped. Something was missing; something that had dominated the room for almost a year was gone. And then Septimus realized that it was still therebut in pieces. "The ShadowSafe," he gasped. "It's been ripped apart. Andand where's Marcia?"
"Maybe the Shadow got her, Sep..." Jenna whispered. Suddenly she grabbed Septimus's arm. "Look" she gasped, pointing to something moving under a pile of purple curtains that had been torn down from the window. "Thethe Shadow. It's under there."
"Quick, let's get out of here," said Septimus. But as Septimus, Jenna and Beetle backed toward the door, the thing under the purple curtains rushed toward them, tripped over a pile of torn velvet cushions and crashed into an occasional table, sending it smashing to the floor. Then a long green tail swept out and upended the last unbroken vase.
"Oh, Spit Fyre, you bad dragon," Septimus gasped with a mixture of dismay and relief, "what have you done?"
On hearing his name, Spit Fyre emerged from under the curtains. The dragon, which was now the size of a small pony, galumphed across the room to greet Septimus, tail swishing from side to side with excitement at seeing his Imprintor.
"Sit, Spit Fyre. Sit!" said Septimus, with no effect whatsoever. Spit Fyre rubbed his head against Septimus's tunic and banged his tail on the floor with a reverberating thump that sent soot cascading down from the chimney.
"Is this your new pet, Septimus?" A familiar voice came from the pile of soot. Alther picked himself up from the grate and floated out of the fireplace. "I'm amazed you've managed to persuade Marcia to let you have a dragon here. I take my hat off to youor I would if I had one. Ah, hello, Princess. And the lad from the Manuscriptorium too."
"Hello, Alther," said Jenna, thankful that Alther had, as he so often did, turned up just when they needed him. Beetle, lost for words, just managed a faint smile.
Septimus said nothing. He was busy tussling with Spit Fyre over a piece of the ShadowSafe, which the dragon was determined to chew. Septimus wrested a long black bar from Spit Fyre's grasp, but the dragon snatched it back and swept its tail right through Alther's knees.
Alther did not like being Passed Through. It always made him feel sick. "You really ought to get a copy of Draxx," he said, somewhat tetchily.
"I know," Septimus replied, distracted. He and Spit Fyre had reached a compromise. The dragon had one half of the bar, and Septimus had the other, which he was staring at with a shocked expression.
"Alther," said Septimus, "there's something in the middle of thisit looks like a bone."
Chapter 37 The Placement
Spit Fyre was snoring loudly beside the fireplace. Alther had tried to get the dragon back to Septimus's room, but Spit Fyre's last growth spurt meant that there was no way he could fit up the stairs. Luckily, Septimus had found the half-chewed remains of How to Survive Dragon Fostering: A Practykal Guide and had managed to decipher a soggy Sleep Suggestion, which to his amazement had worked.
Jenna, Septimus and Beetle were now in the middle of a grisly task. They were collecting the smashed ShadowSafe and removing from each piece an assortment of boneshuman bones.
"I thought we did some weird stuff at Number Thirteen, Sep, but this is something else. D'you do stuff like this every day?" Beetle was painstakingly taking apart some curved pieces, which had been at the top of the ShadowSafe, and were turning out to contain a full set of rib bones.
"No, not every day," Septimus replied with a grimace as he extricated a long thin bone from a narrow section that had formed one of the corners. "But this is the last Thursday of the month, Beetle, so what do you expect?"
Beetle handed yet another rib to Jenna, who was laying out the bones on the floor. "You do this every last Thursday" He caught Septimus's smile. "Oh, ha ha, Sep. Nearly got me there. I make that fourteen now, ma'am."
"Jenna," corrected Jenna. "Call me Jenna, Beetle."
"Oh. Sorry ... Jenna. Well, that's fourteen ribs so far and there are still some more in here. Look how neatly they've been fixed inside. They're so well hidden that you'd never know. Not in a million years. Ah, here comes another onefifteen."
"Mm, lovely. Thanks, Beetle."
Jenna surveyed the gruesome collection, carefully laid out like a bizarre jigsaw puzzle. There, on Marcia's best Chinese rug, the shape of a human skeleton was slowly forming, as Septimus and Beetle handed her a succession of bones.
"How much have you got there now, Jen?" Septimus asked after a while.
"Well,"Jenna tried to remember what she knew from her Human Anatomy lessons at school"there's almost two arms, and, um,eight fingers, no thumbs yetI don't think so anyway. There are lots of little bones but I don't know where they go, maybe in the wrist ... there's one whole leg still missing and no skull yet, thank goodness."
"Aha," Septimus said grimly as he pulled out a long thin section from under the upturned sofa. "I think leg number two is in here."
"This is so weird," muttered Beetle, as he handed Jenna a succession of small bones. She placed them carefully where she thought they belonged, then she stood up and surveyed her creation. She now had what looked like a full skeleton minus the head. Alther floated next to her, shimmering slightly and looking more transparent than usual. Jenna knew that was a sure sign that Alther was worried.