"Oh, Silas," wailed Sarah. "What are we to do?"
"We'll have a talk with him, Sarah," said Silas soothingly, "and see what he has to say. Now stop worrying; there's nothing we can do. Simon is grown-up now."
The two Wizards standing by the door stood back respectfully for the ExtraOrdinary Wizard to walk through. Jannit shot the bolts, turned her heavy brass key in the lock and pulled open the thick iron door.
"Simon!" said Sarah, rushing into the lock-up before anyone could stop her. "Simon ... Simon?"
"Did you know about this?" Marcia demanded as Jannit Maarten stared uncomprehendingly at the shiny metal trapdoor in the middle of the dirt floor of the lock-up.
"No," said Jannit curtly. She didn't like the way Marcia was talking to her, and she certainly did not like having yet another thing in her boatyard that she knew nothing about.
"Whatwhat is it?" asked Sarah, clinging to Silas for support, distraught that once again Simon had run away.
"It's nothing," said Marcia briskly. "Nothing that you need to know about anyway. I want this trapdoor Sealednow. Where's Alther?"
Alther Mella wafted over to Marcia.
"Alther, are there any Ancients left who have walked the tunnels? I want each and every trapdoor guarded until all Seals are checked."
"The only suitable Ancient who is not completely gaga is on the Wizard Tower trap, Marcia," said Alther. "I never went down to the tunnels myself. No one ever did in those days."
"No one should in these days either, Alther. Except for the Inspection Clerk. That Hugh Fox has a lot of questions to answer." Marcia thought for a moment. "Alther, please would you take a Wizard down to the Manuscriptorium and bring some SealingWax back? At least we can get this trapdoor Sealed."
"Excuse me," interrupted Jannit, "the Port barge has arrived. I'm expecting a delivery." With that Jannit was off to the pontoon to meet a long narrow boat piled high with boxes and baskets.
Jennawho had no wish to go anywhere near Simon Heapwas back with the Dragon Boat, gently stroking her head and murmuring words of encouragement in her ear, looking desperately for a sign of life, while Nicko and Rupert struggled to place two huge canvas slings underneath the damaged hull. As the Port barge drew up to the pontoon, Jenna glanced up and saw Jannit catch the rope and secure the barge to a couple of large bollards. Then, to her horror, she saw something else or, rather, someone elsethe dark stranger from the Port.
The tall man stood poised on the deck, watchful and waiting to jump ashore. His long dark hair was held in a silver headband and his red silk tunic looked crumpled and travel stained. Jenna froze. She ducked down behind the Dragon Boat's head and heard the stranger's low, slightly accented voice ask Jannit, "Excuse me, ma'am, but I understand that the Princess is to be found hereabouts. Would this be so?"
"And who might you be?" Jannit asked suspiciously.
The stranger was evasive. "Just someone seeking the Princess," he replied. Suddenly his eye caught the activity over at the lock-up. "Would that be the ExtraOrdinary Wizard over there, ma'am?" he asked.
"It might be," said Jannit, busying herself with a knot.
"Excuse me, I must go and see him."
"Her," corrected Jannit, unheard as the stranger strode off.
"Excuse me," the stranger raised his voice as he approached the group by the lock-up. "I wonder if I might speak to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard?"
Marcia turned around and the stranger looked confused. He stopped for a moment and fumbled in his tunic pocket, looking for something. "Alther?" he said. "Alther, is that you?"
Marcia did not answer. She looked white.
"Aha, found them." With an air of triumph, the stranger drew out a small pair of gold spectacles from his pocket and carefully put them on. His expression changed to one of amazement.
"Marcia Overstrand," he said. "ExtraOrdinary Wizard! Well, well, well."
"Milo?" asked Marcia faintly. "Milo Banda? It is you, isn't it?"
The stranger appeared a little overcome. He nodded wordlessly and to Jenna's horror, Marcia enveloped him in a huge hug. "Where have you been all this time?" she asked. "We thought you must be dead."
As Marcia let go of the stranger, a loud yell came from the CutNicko had just dropped one of the canvas slings in the water.
For the first time Marcia saw the terrible state of the Dragon Boat. "Jannit!" she yelled. "Jannitwhat has happened?"
Jannit was in no mood to reply. She was determined to raise the Dragon Boat before nightfall, and she had had enough Wizards messing about in her boatyard to last her a lifetime. Wearily she said, "Go get another sling, will you Nicko? Then we'll try again."
Jenna had been watching Marcia greet the dark stranger with mounting disbelief. Now, as Marcia set off across the boatyard toward the Dragon Boat, bringing the stranger with her, Jenna leapt to her feet. Before anyone could stop her, she headed for the tunnel that led out of the boatyard.
Chapter 43 The Queen's Room
Jenna tore through the alleys and passageways, heading for the Palace. In her hand she clutched the gold key that Aunt Zelda had given her, the key to the Queen's Room. Too bad she had no idea where the Queen's Room might be, and too bad there would probably be nothing there to save the Dragon Boat. But it was the only chance she had, for Marcia was obviously in league with the stranger and could not be trusted.
Now Jenna knew how Septimus had felt when Marcia would not believe that Simon had kidnapped her. She hurtled around a corner and ran straight into Spit Fyre. "Ouch!"
"Jen!" said Septimus, surprised. "I thought you'd be down with the Dragon Boat. I was coming to see you. And then Spit Fyre wouldn't stay in the courtyard. Well, he ate most of the Dragon Kennel that the sub-Wizards were making for him and" Septimus broke off, noticing Jenna's distraught expression. "Hey, Jen, what's the matter?"
"Oh, Sep, the dragonshe's dying. And now the stranger from the Porthe's here. He's come to get me!"
"And what's worse, Marcia knows him! She was really pleased to see him. She hugged him."
Septimus was shocked. Marcia never hugged anyone. Ever.
"Sep, come with me. I'm going to the Palace. I'm going to find the Queen's Room. Maybe, just maybe, there'll be something there to save the Dragon Boat. A-a potion or something ... I don't know."
"Okay, it's worth a try. Come on, Spit Fyre. This way. No, this way. Hang on, Jen, you don't know where the Queen's Room is."
"I know, but Aunt Zelda said I would find it when The Time Is Right. So maybe The Time Is Right now."
Jenna and Septimus made good progress until they were halfway down Wizard Way, when Septimus dropped behind to attend to Spit Fyre, who had just given Septimus an embarrassing moment. Jenna stopped to see what was keeping Septimus and saw him staring at a large pile of dragon droppings in the middle of Wizard Way, wondering what to do. He decided the best thing to do was to ignore it and keep going.
"Hey, you with the dragon!" a voice shouted after him. Septimus turned to see a thin, earnest-looking man in a striped homespun tunic chasing after him with a sack and a shovel. The man caught up with him and presented the two items to Septimus. "Wizard Way Conservation Society ... Street Fouling Enforcement Officer," he puffed. "It is an offense to foul the Way. Please clean up your animal's mess and take it with you."
Septimus looked doubtfully at the large sack that the man had thrust into his hand. "Okay," he said, "but I don't think it's all going to fit in there."
Septimus got busy with his shovel while Jenna impatiently held the sack open for him.
The sun was setting, and Billy Pot was wheeling away his Contraption at the end of a particularly trying daythe lawn lizards had been acting up again. His face brightened when he saw Jenna, Septimus and Spit Fyre coming across the lawn. Billy Pot had once smelled dragon droppings on his Lizard Keeping Diploma course and had never forgotten itin fact most people, once they had smelled dragon droppings, never forgot it.
"Excuse me, young sir," said Billy Pot, running up to Septimus. "Please forgive me for being so presumptuous, but I wonder ... well, I wonder if you would consider parting with the contents of your sack. I would be eternally grateful. There's nothing like strategically placed dragon droppings to keep the lizards in order. And I'm that desperate; ever since that horse ran over the Contraption they have been uncontrollable and"