“How, exactly?” snapped Jannit, worried now, realizing that the mob was not going to go away and was unlikely to stop at smashing up just the Dragon Boat.
“The way it was opened. With Fyre—Dragon Fyre.” And then Jenna's face fell as she remembered. “Oh,” she said. “Spit Fyre can't do Fyre.”
“Yes, he can,” said Jannit, who had heard all about Spit Fyre's hatching from Nicko.
“Did it when he hatched.”
“That's just Infant Fyre. All dragons do that when they're first hatched.”
The noise of splintering wood echoed through the boatyard.
“They're nearly through the doors,” said Jannit in her matter-of-fact tone. “Not much time left. Excuse me, I'm going to go get my ax. If they're looking for trouble, they're going to find it.”
Jenna knew that there was nothing else to be done; she must try to Ignite Spit Fyre.
Taking her Navigator's toffee tin from her tunic pocket, Jenna opened it and fished out the red piece of dragon skin. She unfolded it and, to her surprise and dismay, there was only one word on it: Ignite. How could that possibly be enough?
But Jenna knew she had to try. She raced back to Spit Fyre.
“Excuse me, 409,” said Jenna, breathless, clambering back onto Spit Fyre. Wolf Boy began to climb up too, but to his relief Jenna said, "I've got to do this on my own.
I've got to make Spit Fyre breathe Fyre."
Spit Fyre pricked up his ears. Fyre? Now? But what about breakfast?
A chorus of yells rose from behind the boatyard door, and Rupert's voice could be heard shouting, "If you want rats, Matey, you've got 'em. Great big ones with axes.
Come on then!"
As if in response to Rupert Gringe's kind invitation, the RatStranglers gave one massive heave at the door. There was a splintering crash and the mob surged through. A tremendous noise erupted as a fight broke out at the gate. Rupert, Jannit and the yard hands put up a good fight and seemed to be winning, but a few of the RatStranglers evaded the hail of blows.
Led by the tall, spiky woman, they broke away, and brandishing an assortment of makeshift weapons, they headed toward the Dragon House, yelling, “Get the dragon, kill the dragon, kill, kill, kill!”
Fyre and Seek
Jenna and Spit Fyre were airborne. As the breakaway party of RatStranglers headed across the boatyard below them, Jenna guided Spit Fyre toward the small golden plaque set into the wall above the arch at the entrance of the Dragon House. Spit Fyre was flying beautifully, his wings beating against the air slowly and with great control; he responded to Jenna's every command. Soon the dragon was hovering in front of the plaque, nice and steady, as though he understood exactly what Jenna wanted him to do. In front of him the disc of gold was dull in the chill, damp air, but below him the RatStranglers were now running single file between the two tall-masted ships. They were nearly to the Dragon House.
“ Ignite!” Jenna yelled at the top of her voice. “ Ignite, Ignite, Ignite!”
Nothing happened. Afraid that there was indeed more to the Ignite, Jenna was horrified to see the spiky-woman RatStrangler emerging from between the tall ships, brandishing a large plank studded with nails. She was heading toward the sleeping head of the Dragon Boat.
“Please, Spit Fyre, please. Ignite!”
And then Jenna felt Spit Fyre shudder. From deep within the dragon, a subterranean rumble began. It started in the pit of his fire stomach, gathering force until it burst through the fire valve and shot into his great, thick dragon windpipe. Jenna felt the wave of it travel up his neck. Spit Fyre coughed as if in surprise, instinctively flared his nostrils and a great rush of gas came shooting out.
“ Ignite!” yelled Jenna at the top of her voice. With a tremendous whoosh, the gas Ignited. The jet of flame leaped forward and enveloped the golden disc, and for one awful moment Jenna was afraid that the heat of the flame would melt the gold, for the disc glowed and shimmered so that it looked almost liquid in the red light. And then, far below her, Jenna heard a great yell of surprise from the RatStranglers. She glanced down to see if they had reached the Dragon Boat, and to her amazement, all she could see was the great expanse of stone of the Castle wall.
Spit Fyre had done it! The Dragon House had disappeared as though it had never existed. Once again it was Sealed behind the Castle wall as it had been ever since the time of Hotep-Ra.
Jenna threw her arms around the dragon's neck. It was hot, almost too hot to touch, but she did not care. “Thank you, Spit Fyre, thank you. I will never, ever complain about cutting your toenails again. I promise.” Spit Fyre snorted, coughed out more superheated gas, and another great plume of Fyre sent the RatStranglers diving for cover. It also set fire to a pile of paddleboats that Rupert Cringe had brought in for repair.
Jenna and Spit Fyre flew back to the collapsed trawler. Jenna guided Spit Fyre down beside the smashed-up remains of the boat, and keeping his wings outstretched for a quick takeoff, the dragon waited for Wolf Boy to take his place behind Jenna.
“Excuse me, Your Majesty,” came a familiar voice beside Jenna's left foot, “could you budge up a bit? Then Dawnie and I can squeeze in behind you.”
Jenna knew that voice. It always seemed to turn up when she least expected it. She looked down and there, as she had guessed, was Stanley—ex-Message Rat, one-time Secret Rat. Current position: fugitive from the RatStranglers.
“Come on then, Stanley, quickly, before the RatStranglers see you.” Jenna leaned down to help Stanley up.
“I'm not getting back on that—that thing,” said the small fat rat who was with Stanley.
“But, Dawnie dear, it's our only hope.”
Suddenly the clamor of the RatStranglers changed.
“She's over there,” said the shrill voice of the spiky woman. “ She did this. She should answer for it. Now. ”
“Now, now, now!” the chant began. “Now, now, now! ”
“They're coming this way,” said Wolf Boy. “Quick, Jenna. Leave the rats if they don't want to come. We've gotta go.”
Jenna reached down to grab Stanley's paw.
“Don't leave me, Stanley!” wailed Dawnie. She launched into a superb tackle and brought Stanley down by the ankles.
“Dawnie, let go! ”
Jenna hauled up the two squabbling rats, one in each hand, and placed them firmly between two large spines behind her, one behind the other. A moment later Spit Fyre was airborne, followed by a hail of trash can lids and a nasty-looking plank with nails stuck in it.
Two hundred feet above the Castle, the squabbling continued. “I hope you realize you nearly had us both killed, Stanley.”
“Me? I nearly had us both killed? That's rich, that is, coming from you. If you'd had your way, Dawnie, which may I say you usually do, we'd have both been strangled by now and hung up on the tally board.”
“Sometimes you say the crudest things, Stanley. My mother was right.”
“There's no need to bring your mother into it, Dawnie. No need at all.”
“Well, it's nice to see that you got back together,” said Jenna cheerily, trying to change the subject.
Both rats were unusually silent.
Taking advantage of the silence, Jenna passed the Navigator's tin back to Wolf Boy.
“Can you fish out the green piece of, er ... stuff?” she asked. “It's got Seek written on it. That's the one I need to get Spit Fyre to find Sep.”
“ Seek?” asked Wolf Boy in a panic. “What does Seek look like?”
“S-E-E-K,” Jenna spelled out, shouting above the whoosh of the dragon's wings.
“Big black letters. Can't miss it.”
“I can,” Wolf Boy muttered to himself. “What's the ... S thing look like?” he yelled back.
“Like a snake! S for snake, see?”
Jenna was guiding Spit Fyre so that the dragon kept following the Castle walls. She had decided to take him around in circles until she could do the Seek properly. It was also an excuse to look at the Castle, which, spread out far below like a map with ants moving slowly across it, fascinated her. It reminded her of a much-treasured map that Simon had given her one MidWinter Feast Day. It had shown every rooftop, tree, roof garden, alleyway and secret hideaway in the Castle. In fact, as Spit Fyre flew leisurely toward the old Message Rat headquarters, the East Gate Lookout Tower, Jenna wondered if the mapmaker had not had his own dragon, so like the map was the vista spread below her.