Your only,

Simon But Lucy was tired of waiting, and she now knew that Simon could never return to the Castle, so she had set out to find him. And so far all she had done was fall asleep and wake up to find her boat gone. It was not a good start. Wolf Boy's voice broke into her thoughts.

“I found your boat,” he said, breathless.

“Where?” asked Lucy, hastily folding the precious note and jumping to her feet.

“Nicko's got it.”

“Nicko Heap? Simon's brother?”

“Yeah. Suppose he is. He can't help that though.” Wolf Boy, who had been on the receiving end of one of Simon's StunFlashes, had a poor opinion of Simon Heap.

“What do you mean he can't help that, you rude boy!” Lucy's brown eyes flashed angrily.

“Nothing,” said Wolf Boy, who could see that Lucy was trouble. He was beginning to wish that he hadn't bothered to ask her if she was all right earlier, when he had seen her tearfully searching the riverbank.

“So where is Nicko Heap?” demanded Lucy. "I shall go ask him just what he thinks he's doing stealing my boat. The nerve of it.

Knowing that he probably shouldn't, Wolf Boy waved an arm in the general direction of the Alfrun and watched Lucy stomp off along the riverbank toward the Trader barge. He followed at a safe distance, which, with Lucy Gringe, was a long one.

As Wolf Boy neared the Alfrun he heard the sound of raised voices.

“Give me back my boat!”

“It's Rupert's boat, not yours.”

“Rupert says I can use his boats anytime, so there.”

“Well, I—”

“And I'm using it now, Nicko Heap—got that?”

“But...”

“Excuse me. Get out of my way, will you! ”

Wolf Boy arrived just in time to see Lucy Gringe running across the deck of the Alfrun and tripping over the sleeping Spit Fyre's tail. But nothing put Lucy Gringe off her stride for long. She picked herself up, held her nose as another bubble of gas erupted from Spit Fyre and lowered herself over the side of the Alfrun.

Nicko followed her. “Where are you going in that?” he asked, concerned.

“None of your business, nosy boy. Are all Simon's brothers such irritating busybodies?”

Snorri added Simon to the brother count. How many did Jenna have?

“That paddleboat is not safe on the river,” Nicko persisted. "It's no better than a toy.

They're only meant for fun on the Moat."

Lucy jumped into the paddleboat, which rocked alarmingly. “It got me this far and it'll get me to the Port, just you see.”

“You can't go to the Port in that!” said Nicko, aghast. “Have you any idea what the tide race is like at the mouth of the river? It will spin you around and drag you out to sea—and that's only if you haven't already been sunk by the waves that run in off the Great Sandbar. You're crazy.”

“Maybe. I don't care,” said Lucy sulkily. “I'm going anyway.” She untied the rope, took up the paddle handles and began turning them furiously.

Nicko watched the little pink boat wobble its way out into the river until he could stand it no more. “Lucy!” he yelled. “Take my boat!”

“What?” Lucy shouted above the clattering din of the paddles.

“Take my boat— please!”

Lucy felt relieved, although she was not going to show it. She had a terrible feeling that Nicko was right about the paddleboat. With some difficulty—and only by rapidly turning one paddle and then another for at least five minutes—Lucy steered the boat around and arrived back at the Alfrun, breathless and hot and still in a bad mood.

Jenna, Snorri, Wolf Boy and Nicko watched Lucy Gringe set off once again, this time in Nicko's deep and seaworthy rowboat.

“But how are you going to get back now?” Jenna asked Nicko. “You're not going in that paddleboat, are you?”

Nicko snorted. “You must be joking. I wouldn't be seen dead in one of those, especially one that stupid color. I'm coming with you to find Sep, silly.”

Jenna smiled for the first time since Septimus had disappeared. Nicko would make everything all right. She knew he would.

25

The I, Marcellus

From the Diary of Marcellus Pye:

SunnDay. Equinox.

Today has been a Wondrousyet most Fearfull day.

Though I didst Forecast this Happening in mine Almanac (which will be the Laste Parte of my Booke, the I, Marcellus). Truly, I did not believe that it would come to Pass.

At the Appointed Hour today, Seven minutes past Seven of the Clock this morning, my new Apprentice didst Come Through. Though I was up betimes this morn and made sure that I was beside the Great Doors to Await their Opening, great was my surprise when they did part and Reveal my Glass. Beyond the Glass, dimly didst I see a boy with Feare in his eyes.

His garb was a strange green tunic with a silver belt, he wore no shoes, and his hair was ragged but he had a pleasant Face and I liked him well enough at first sight. But what I didst not like, what indeed I hated and feared, was the sight of the Creature behind him. For this Creature I know to be none other but my Poore Self—in five hundred yeares' Time.

The Boy came through the Glass well and is here in my House now. I pray that his Despair will soon abate when he sees the wonders of which he is destined to partake and the good that he will do.

Woden'sDay It is some three days since my new Apprentice hath Come Through. He seems a promising boy, and as we are Approaching the Conjunction of the Planets for which I have long waited, I do begin to have hope for my new Tincture.

I pray that it may be so, for yesterday I foolishly didst ask my Apprentice,

“How was the Ancient Dribbling Ghastliness, my Poore Self, who tookyou fromyour Time? Was he—was I—so very repulsive?” My Apprentice nodded but would not speak. I pressed him to tell me and, seeing my Concern, he did relent. How I wish that he had not. He has a strange way of speech, yet I Feare I didst Understand him all too well.

He didst tell me in much detail how my stench was most unbearable, that I shuffled like a Crabbe and cried out in pain at each step, cursing my fate.

He didst Saye my nose was ridged and like unto the hide of an Elephant (though I know not what that Creature be but suspect it to be a most foul Toad) and my ears were like great cabbages and spotted also and full of slugs. Slugs—how can tbis be? My nails were long and yellow like great claws and filthy with hundreds of years of Grime. I do detest dirty fingernails—surely I will not come to this? But it seemeth so. I have Five Hundred Yeares of Decay and Mouldering to endure. I cannot Beare to think on it.

After this I didst detect a lightening in my Apprentice's Gloom, but an increase in mine Own.

Freya'sDay. The Conjunction of the Planets.

A day of Hope. Septimus and I didst mix the Tincture at the Appointed Hour. Now it is set to Ferment and Stewe in the cabinet in the Chamber, and it is for Septimus to know when I may add the Final Part. Only a Seventh Sonne of a Seventh Sonne may tell this to the Moment, I know this now. It grieveth me that I didst drink of my first Tincture before Septimus Came Through. Mama was right, for hath she not always said, “Thy Hastiness and Haughtiness shall be thy Undoing, Marcellus”? Indeed, I was both too Hasty and too Haughty to think that I could make the Tincture perfectly without the Seventh of the Seventh. Alack, it is true (as Mama also do Saye) I am but a Poore Foole. <>I pray that this new Tincture will work and give me not only Everlasting Life but Eternal youth also. I have faith in my Apprentice; he is a most talented and careful Boy and has a great love for Physik , just as I did at his age, though I am sure I was not so given to Despondency and Silence.

Tir's Day It is some months now since we didst mix the new Tincture and still Septimus will not say that it is ready. I do grow impatient and afraid that something will happen to it while we wait. It is my Last Chance. I can make no more, for a Conjunction of these Seven Planets will not come for many hundreds of yeares hence, and I know that In my State to Come I will not be Fitte to make Another. Daily Mama grows insistent on her own Tincture. She wheedles from me all my doings and I cannot keep anything from her.

Loki's Day I write with some Excitement, for this Day we do Seal my most Precious Booke, my I, Marcellus. My young Apprentice, who hath now been here One Hundred and Sixty Nine days and hath worked so well, is completing the last few checks upon the final Pages. Soon I must away to the Great Chamber, for all there do Await me.

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