“Oh ... 409,” gasped Jenna, who had picked up Septimus's habit of addressing Wolf Boy by his old Young Army number. "Where's Aunt Zelda—I've got to see Aunt Zelda.
Wolf Boy needed no excuse to leave his early reader potion book by the fire and come over to Jenna. He had never mastered the art of reading, having been completely terrified of his reading and writing instructor in the Young Army. And now, no matter how hard he tried and how patient Aunt Zelda was with him, the way the letters stuck together to make words—or not—still made little sense to Wolf Boy. “She's not here, Jenna,” he explained. "She's out gathering marsh herbs an'
stuff. Hey, aren't those 412's boots?"
Jenna nodded miserably. She had been sure that Aunt Zelda would know what to do, but now ... She leaned against the cupboard door, suddenly exhausted.
“Can I help?” Wolf Boy asked quietly, a concerned look in his dark brown eyes.
“I don't know...” Jenna almost wailed and then stopped. She must keep calm, she told herself. She must think what to do. She must.
“412's in trouble, isn't he?” asked Wolf Boy.
Jenna nodded again, not trusting herself to say anything. Wolf Boy put his arm around Jenna's shoulders. “Then we'd better get him out of trouble ... yeah?”
“I'll come with you. Wait, I'd better leave a note for Aunt Zelda and tell her where we've gone.” Wolf Boy rushed over to Aunt Zelda's desk, which looked faintly ridiculous with duck feet on the ends of its legs and a pair of arms to help with the paperwork, both courtesy of Marcia Overstrand. Aunt Zelda hated these additions but Wolf Boy had learned to use them to his advantage.
“Piece of paper, please,” he asked the arms. The rather clumsy hands on the ends of the arms scrabbled around in the desk drawer, took out a crumpled piece of paper, smoothed it out and put it neatly on the desk.
“Pen, please,” asked Wolf Boy.
The right hand picked a quill pen from a tray on top of the desk and held it surprisingly delicately, hovering above the paper.
“Now write: Dear Aunt Zelda—what's the matter?” The left hand was impatiently drumming its fingers on the paper. "Oh, sorry. Ink, please. Now write: Dear Aunt Zelda, Jenna and me have gone to rescue 412. With love from 409. Oh, and Jenna.
Love from Jenna too. That's it, yes, thank you. Thank you, you can stop now. Put the pen away. No, you don't need to blot it, just leave it on her desk and make sure she sees it." The hands rather fussily put away the pen, and then the arms folded themselves somewhat crossly, as if dissatisfied with being asked to write so little.
“Let's go,” said Jenna, stepping back through the door of the Unstable Potions and Partikular Poisons cupboard.
“Coming,” said Wolf Boy, and then remembering something, he dashed back to the fire and picked up an uneaten cabbage sandwich.
Jenna eyed the sandwich warily. “Do you really like those?” she asked.
“No. Can't stand 'em. But 412 does. Thought he'd like this one.”
“He's going to need a whole lot more than a cabbage sandwich, 409.” Jenna sighed.
“Yeah, well. Look, I'll follow you and you can tell me about it. Okay?”
Wolf Boy and Jenna emerged from the cupboard in the Queen's Room with Wolf Boy in a somber mood. Jenna had told him what had happened. They walked past the Queen's chair, unaware of her shocked expression at the apparently sudden change that Septimus had undergone—from neatly dressed Apprentice to a half-wild-looking boy. As Wolf Boy passed the ghost, he felt the hair on the back of his neck rise; he looked around like a wary animal and a low growl rose from the back of his throat. “Something funny in here, Jen,” he whispered.
Jenna shivered, unnerved by Wolf Boy's feral growl. “Come on,” she said. “Let's get out of here.” She grabbed Wolf Boy's hand and pulled him through the door. Jillie Djinn, recently Chosen Chief Hermetic Scribe, was waiting for them.
“Miss Djinn!” gasped Jenna, taken aback at the unexpected sight of the Scribe's indigo robes with their impressive gold flashes. How did Jillie Djinn know where she had been? And how come the Scribe knew where the Queen's Room was? Even Marcia did not know that.
“Your Majesty.” Jillie Djinn sounded a little breathless. She inclined her head respectfully, her new silk robes rustling as she moved.
“Please don't call me that,” Jenna said angrily.
"Call me Jenna. Just Jenna. I am not Queen yet.
And I don't ever want to be either. You just end up being a horrible person doing horrible things to everyone. It's awful."
Jillie Djinn looked at Jenna with a concerned expression and was not sure how to reply. The Chief Hermetic Scribe had no children and, apart from a very solemn and precocious Temple Scribe in a Far Country some years ago, Jenna was the first girl of eleven that Jillie had spoken to since she herself was eleven. Miss Djinn had devoted her life to her career and had spent years traveling in the Far Countries learning the arcane secrets of the many and varied worlds of knowledge. She had also spent some years researching the hidden secrets of the Castle, which she was pleased to see had not been wasted.
“Jenna,” Jillie Djinn corrected herself, “Madam Marcia wishes to see you. Her Apprentice is missing and she fears the worst.” Jillie Djinn's gaze alighted on Septimus's boots, which hung by their laces from Jenna's right hand. “I assume that I am right that something of that nature has occurred?”
Puzzled, Jenna nodded. She wondered how Marcia could possibly already know what had happened. And then she sniffed. And sniffed again. A strange smell of dragon poo was in the air. Jillie Djinn sniffed too. She scraped her right shoe—a neat black lace-up—vigorously on the floor, inspected the sole, then scraped it again.
“Would I be right also, Princess, if I were to say that there is a Glass in the Queen's Room?” Jillie Djinn's bright green eyes fastened onto Jenna expectantly. Jillie had many theories about many things and she was excited to think that one of them might be working out right now.
Jenna did not answer, but she did not need to. The Chief Hermetic Scribe was not the best person in the Castle at reading people's expressions, but there was no mistaking the look of astonishment on Jenna's face.
“You may not be aware, Princess Jenna, but I have made an extensive study of Alchemical Glasses— extensive—and we actually have a specimen in the Hermetic Chamber. This morning, I saw a disturbance in that Glass. I made haste to the Wizard Tower to report the disturbance, which we are duty-bound to do by our Charter, and I met Madam Overstrand leaving in a distressed state. I have drawn my own conclusions and now respectfully ask if you will consent to accompany me to the Manuscriptorium,” said the Scribe, as if addressing a lecture hall of particularly slow scholars. “I have also asked Marcia Overstrand to meet us there.”
Marcia was about the last person Jenna wanted to see just then, as she knew she would have to tell her that she had caused Septimus's disappearance. But Jillie Djinn's mention of another Glass in the Manuscriptorium had raised her hopes.
Could it be possible that the old man in the Glass was just one of those weird old scribes from their spooky Spell Vault that Septimus used to talk about? Maybe he had just pulled Septimus through to the Manuscriptorium? Maybe Sep was waiting for her there right now, and then he'd spend the rest of the day telling her all about it until she was completely fed up? Maybe...
Anxious now to get to the Manuscriptorium, Jenna followed the bustling, bright-eyed Scribe down the narrow winding steps. Wolf Boy, who had been hanging around in the shadows, blending into the background like the Forest creature that he was at heart, joined them, causing Jillie to jump in surprise. At the foot of the steps, Jillie scraped her shoe once more and then took the side door out of the turret.
“I must say,” said Jillie self-importantly as she strode along the path around the back of the turret, “it is most gratifying when a theory is proved right. I had narrowed the whereabouts of the Queen's Room down to two positions. The first was down there—” Jillie Djinn waved her hand toward the old summer house by the riverbank, whose octagonal golden roof was just visible above the early-morning river mist. “Of course, Princess Jenna, I knew that your key would open both, but nothing else about the summer house made sense, although I did wonder whether its legend of the Black Fiend had been put about by the various Queens to keep people away. But naturally, by looking at all the facts and giving them due consideration, I chose the right place. Most interesting.”