Septimus picked up the completed Flyte Charm and held it between finger and thumb. It was hotalmost too hotto the touch. A buzzing sensation ran through his fingers and Septimus suddenly found he had an overwhelming urge to fly. He leaped to his feet and went over the small turret window that looked out over the Palace gardens. He saw the long shadows of the midsummer evening and heard the rooks cawing in the trees, and all his dreams of flying came back to himhe imagined himself swooping across the lawns, scattering the rooks and skimming out low over the River ... with some effort, Septimus shook himself out of his reverie. He was busy putting the Flyte Charm into his Apprentice Beltout of temptation's waywhen Jenna stepped through the wall.

Septimus leaped to his feet. "Jen " he began, and then stopped in astonishment as Aunt Zelda and Wolf Boy followed her onto the landing.

"Oh, Septimus," said Aunt Zelda, as Septimus stared, open-mouthed. "It is so wonderful to see you safe ... but there is no time to lose. Follow me. We must get straight to the Dragon Boat." Aunt Zelda clattered down the narrow stairs, and Septimus heard a yell of surprise as Aunt Zelda bumped into Spit Fyre.

"Down, Spit Fyre. Yes, it's lovely to see you too. Now get off my foot, please."

Septimus had no need to untie Spit Fyre as the dragon had already chewed his way through the rope. They followed Aunt Zelda and Jenna out the side door at the foot of the turret and down to the Palace Gate. Aunt Zelda kept up a brisk pace. Showing a surprising knowledge of the Castle's narrow alleyways and sideslips, she hurtled along. Oncoming pedestrians were taken aback at the sight of the large patchwork tent approaching them at full speed. They flattened themselves against the walls, and, as the tent passed by with the Princess, the ExtraOrdinary Apprentice and a feral-looking boy with bandaged handsnot to mention a dragonin its wake, people rubbed their eyes in disbelief.

Soon Aunt Zelda and her retinue emerged from the tunnel that led under the Castle walls into the boatyard. They were met by the sound of Jannit's voice echoing across the upturned boats. "Heave ... heave ... heave..."

Aunt Zelda gave a scream of dismayfor slowly, very slowly, raised by a gang of yard-hands pulling rhythmically on a rope, the dripping, mud-caked hull of the Dragon Boat was rising from the water. The green tail with its golden barb hung down while the Dragon Boat's head was still slumped onto the side of the Cut. Nicko sat cross-legged, slowly stroking the dull green scales on the dragon's long nose.

Rupert Cringe was on the deck of the Dragon Boat. He was caked in mud and soaking wet, having just ped into the Moat and at last fixed the huge canvas slings in place beneath the keel. With his mask pushed up out of his eyes, Rupert darted from one side to the other, constantly checking the ropes.

Horrified, Aunt Zelda ran across the boatyard, dodging between the ropes and anchors, discarded masts and stays, and sat down with a bump beside Nicko.

"Aunt Zelda?" said Nicko, not quite believing his eyes.

"Yesit's me, dear," replied Aunt Zelda, breathless, reaching out to touch the dragon's motionless head. She rested her hand there for a moment, shaking her own head in disbelief. "Jenna, Septimusquick. Come and sit here beside me. All three of usthe Keeper, the Young Queen and the Dragon Mastermust do this," she said.

"Do what?" asked Jenna.

"The Transubstantiate Triple," said Aunt Zelda, ferreting through her many patchwork pockets.

"HeySep can do that," said Jenna, excited.

"No, I can't," said Septimus.

"Yes, you can. Well, you nearly can. I've heard you tell Godric."

"Only because when he first asked me I said no, I couldn't, and he got really upset and started wailing. Then all the other Ancients in the Palace began wailing too. It was awfuland they wouldn't stop. I had to go and get Marcia, and she told me to stop nitpicking and humor the old fool for goodness' sake. But I read about it anyway, just in case Godric asked me questions. It's the four elements, isn't it, Aunt Zelda?"

"It is indeed, Septimus," Aunt Zelda replied, taking an ancient-looking leather pouch from one of her pockets. "This has been handed down from Keeper to Keeper for longer than anyone can remember. We keep it in a Locked box called the Last Resort. Every Keeper hopes that she will not have to use it, but every Keeper knows that one day the Time will Come. There's a prophecy written on the box

The Time will Come, for it must be,When She will Fly with Two of ThreeFor Then must Ye full Ready be,And Keep the Triple Close to Thee.

"No one really knew what it meant, but when Septimus found the Dragon Ring, I realized that once again, for the first time since Hotep-Ra, we were Threethe Dragon Master, the Queen and the Keeper. And then when you and Jenna flew off with the Dragon Boat, I knew that the first part of the prophecy had happened, that the Time had Come. So I was ready for something, but when Jenna walked out of the potion cupboard, just as her dear mother used to do every MidSummer Day, Iwell, I nearly inhaled my cabbage sandwich. Now let's see what we have here."

Aunt Zelda tipped the leather pouch and three small hammered-gold bowls, with blue enameling around their rims, fell onto Jannit's muddy rug. She gave the leather pouch a shake but nothing else fell out. She put her hand inside the pouch and felt around, but it was empty. Aunt Zelda's face fell. "There must be more than this, surely," she said. "No instructionsnothing. It's that Betty Crackle, wretched woman. She was so careless. What can we possibly do with three empty bowls?"

"I think I know what to do with them," said Septimus slowly.

Aunt Zelda looked at him with new respect. "Do you?" she asked.

Septimus nodded. "You place the bowls in front of the Being you wish to Restore..." he said, thinking hard. Septimus had read all he could find about the Transubstantiate Triple, but when he asked Marcia about the whereabouts of the Triple Bowls, she told him they had disappeared many hundreds of years ago.

"You do it, Septimus," said Aunt Zelda. "As Dragon Master it is only right that you should."

The dragon's eyes did not flicker as Septimus, Jenna and Aunt Zelda arranged themselves in a semicircle around her head. Nicko quietly got up and moved away, taking Wolf Boy with him. Nicko could feel strong Magyk in the air and he preferred to keep his distance. Wolf Boy looked scared; his eyes were open wide and his yellow teeth were bared as he watched his old Young Army comrade in his strange new roleweaving powerful Magyk.

"The four elements in this Conjuration," said Septimus in a low voice, "are Earth, Aire, Fyre and Water. But we choose only one of these to Restore the dragon. I think it should be Fyre."

Aunt Zelda nodded in agreement. "She has had too much of the others," she murmured.

"Jen?" asked Septimus.

Jenna nodded. "Yes," she whispered, "Fyre."

"Good," said Septimus. "Now each one of us must choose an element from the three that are left."

"Earth," said Aunt Zelda. "Good honest earth for growing cabbages."

"Water," said Jenna. "Because she looks so beautiful on the water."

"And I choose Aire," said Septimus, "because I flew the Dragon Boat today. And because I can Flye."

Aunt Zelda shot Septimus a quizzical glance, but he was too busy arranging the bowls to notice.

"Now," he said, "we each take a bowl and place our element in it."

Jenna scrambled up and dipped her bowl into the Moat. Aunt Zelda reached down from the pontoon and scraped up some dry earth. Septimus looked at his bowl and wondered what to do. As he looked and wondered, a purple mist appeared at the bottom of the golden bowl. Aunt Zelda gaspedshe could see the signs of Magyk appearing around Septimus; his fair curly hair was outlined in a purple shimmering light, and the atmosphere felt charged, like the air before a thunderstorm.

Aware that Aunt Zelda and Jenna were watching him closely, Septimus gathered up all three bowls and, holding them tightly together, quickly turned them upside down. The earth and water fell straight onto the rug, but the purple mist sank slowlyits progress closely followed by one pair of green eyes, one pair of violet eyes and one pair of witch's blue eyesuntil it met the muddy mess on the rug and exploded into flame. Septimus gulped; this was the part he was dreading. He reached out to grab the flame, and a yell came from Wolf Boy, who had been watching with awe behind a boat.

Angie Sage Books | Fantasy Books | Septimus Heap Series Books