“Interesting?” muttered Jenna under her breath, wondering if Septimus's disappearance was no more than a diverting academic exercise for the Scribe.
With Wolf Boy and Jenna in tow, Jillie Djinn rounded the base of the turret and emerged at the front of the Palace. She set off across the lawns toward the Gate, and as their feet made dark footprints in the dew, the Chief Hermetic Scribe continued to expound on various pet theories, for Jillie had a captive audience and she was not about to waste it. Her audience was not, however, appreciative; Jenna was too preoccupied with worrying about Septimus to listen and Wolf Boy gave up after the first sentence. The way that Jillie Djinn talked made his head ache.
Despite her diminutive size, Jillie kept up a fast pace and they were soon rushing along Wizard Way, which was beginning to stir. Wizard Way was one of the oldest streets in the Castle. It was a broad, straight avenue lined with beautiful silver torch posts. It ran from the Palace Gates at one end to the Great Arch of the Wizard Tower at the other. The houses and shops were built from the oldest yellow limestone from quarries emptied long ago. They were weathered and crooked but had a friendly feeling to them that Jenna loved. The Way was lined with countless small shops and printers, selling all manner of printed papers, inks, books, pamphlets and pens, plus an assortment of spectacles and headache pills for those who had spent far too long reading in dark corners.
As the shopkeepers and printers peered through their misty windows and decided against putting out their wares in the damp air, the first thing they saw was the Chief Hermetic Scribe striding down the Way, accompanied by an odd-looking boy with tangled hair and the Princess, who was carrying an old pair of boots.
Two-thirds down the Way, the trio stopped outside a small purple-painted shop with its window stacked so high with papers and books that it was impossible to see inside. On the door was the number 13, and over the window was the inscription: Magykal MANUSCRIPTORIUM AND SPELL CHECKERS INCORPORATED. Jillie Djinn, her ample figure almost filling the narrow doorway, regarded Jenna and Wolf Boy with a solemn air.
“The Hermetic Chamber is not to be entered by anyone who has not been inducted into the tenets of the Manuscriptorium,” she informed them ponderously. “However, in these difficult circumstances I will make an exception for the Princess, but the Princess only. Indeed there is a possibility of precedence as I have reason to believe that some of the more ancient Queens have been admitted to the Chamber.” With that, the door to the Manuscriptorium opened with a little ping and Jillie Djinn stepped inside.
“ What did she say?” Wolf Boy asked Jenna.
“She said you can't come in,” said Jenna.
“Well, not into the Hermetic Chamber anyway.”
“The Hermetic Chamber. I don't know what it is, but Sep told me a bit about it. He's been in there.”
“Maybe he's there now,” said Wolf Boy, brightening.
“Well, I—I suppose he could be,” said Jenna, hardly daring to hope.
“You go in and have a look. I'll wait outside like she said, and I'll see you and 412 in a minute. How about that?”
Jenna grinned. “Sounds good,” she said, and she followed Jillie Djinn inside.
The Navigator Tin
As Jenna walked into the front office of the Manuscriptorium, she heard a strange noise, rather like the stifled squeak of a distressed hamster, coming from behind the door. She peered around and saw the shadowy figure of a slightly chubby boy with a shock of black hair wedged behind the door handle. “Beetle?”
she asked. “Is that you?”
The distressed hamster, who was indeed Beetle, holding the door open for his Chief Hermetic Scribe, replied with another squeak, which Jenna decided to take as a yes.
Jenna glanced about the Manuscriptorium with some trepidation, but to her relief there was no sign of Marcia.
“This way, please, Jenna. We shall have to proceed without Madam Marcia.” Jillie Djinn's voice came from somewhere at the back of the office and Jenna hurried toward it, skirting a large desk at the far end. She joined the Scribe beside a small door in a half wood, half glass partition wall. Jillie Djinn pushed open the door, and Jenna followed her into the Manuscriptorium itself.
A hushed silence hung over the Manuscriptorium, broken only by the sound of the scratching of pens and the occasional twang of a broken nib. Twenty-one scribes were hard at work copying out Incantations and Invocations, Chants and Charms, Summonses and Spells and even the occasional love letter for those who wanted to make an impression. Each scribe was perched at a high desk, laboring under a small pool of yellow light cast by one of the twenty-one oil lamps, which were suspended on long and sometimes dangerously frayed ropes from the vaulted ceiling.
The Chief Hermetic Scribe beckoned Jenna to follow her. Jenna found herself tiptoeing through the tall banks of desks while each scribe turned to look at the Princess, and wondered what she was doing and why she was carrying a pair of old boots. Twenty-one pairs of eyes watched Jenna follow Jillie Djinn into the narrow passageway that led to the Hermetic Chamber. Surprised glances were exchanged and a few eyebrows were raised, but no one said anything. As Jenna disappeared around the first corner of the passageway, the scratching of nibs on paper and parchment resumed its normal level.
The long, dark passage that led into the Hermetic Chamber turned back on itself seven times to cut short the flight of rogue spells and anything else that might try to escape from the Chamber. It also cut out the light, but Jenna followed the rustling sound of Jillie Djinn's silk robes and before long she stepped into a small, white, round room. The room was virtually empty; in the center was a simple table on which was placed a lit candle, but it was not the candle that drew Jenna's eye, it was the Glass—a horribly familiar, tall, dark Glass with an ornate frame propped up against the roughly plastered wall of the Hermetic Chamber.
Jillie Djinn saw Jenna's hopeful expression fade. There was no Septimus, just the sight of another Glass, which was the last thing she wanted to see again.
“From my studies,” the Scribe said, “I understand that the early Glasses were simple, one-way-only openings. And from my calculations, I would say that this Glass is an early model and was made at the same time as the Glass in your room. I suspect this one actually comes back from that place.”
“The place where Septimus is?” asked Jenna, her hopes rising yet again.
“Indeed. Wherever that may be. So tell me,” Jillie said, “does this look the same as the Glass in the Queen's Room?”
“Well, it wasn't exactly in the Queen's Room,” said Jenna.
“Oh.” The Scribe sounded surprised. “Then where was it?” She picked up a pen and a notebook from the table and stood poised to write down the information. It was not forthcoming.
“I cannot say,” said Jenna, adopting the Scribe's officious tone. She felt grumpy at the intrusive questions—the secrets of the Queen's Room were none of the Scribe's business.
Jillie Djinn looked cross but there was nothing she could do. “But this Glass does look the same as the other Glass— wherever that may be?” she persisted.
“I think so,” said Jenna. “I can't remember all the details of the other one. But it's got the same black glass and ... the same horrible feeling.”
“That is not entirely illuminating,” said Jillie Djinn, “for a Glass will, to some extent—depending on your susceptibility to such manifestations that may or may not be apparent—reflect your own expectations.”
Jenna had an inkling of how Wolf Boy had felt earlier. “They do what?” she asked.
“You see what you expect to see,” said Jillie Djinn briskly.
The Scribe sat down at the table and opened a drawer. She drew out a large leather-bound notebook, a sheaf of papers covered in columns of figures, a pen and a small bottle of green ink. “Thank you, Jenna,” she said without looking up. “I believe I have enough information. I will now proceed.”
Jenna waited patiently for a few minutes and then, when the Scribe showed no sign of stopping her scribbling, she asked, “So ... Septimus—he'll come back here, will he?”
The Chief Hermetic Scribe looked up, already lost in another world of calculations and conjunctions. “Maybe yes. Maybe no. Who can say?”