With firm instructions to Spit Fyre that he must behave himself and go straight to sleep when he had finished the sheep, Jenna and Nicko left the dragon crunching his way through the Sacred Herd of Sarn and followed Alice and Alther to the top of the warehouse.

The NightUllr growled as Jenna and Nicko walked in.

“Ouch!” Nicko gasped. At the sight of the panther's green eyes shining in the light of Alice's candle, Jenna had grabbed his arm hard. Which was, thought Nicko, unusually jumpy for Jen.

Snorri sat up, woken by Ullr's rolling growl. Her sleepy eyes focused with surprise on the two newcomers. “Kalmm, Ullr,” she said.

“Snorri?” asked Jenna, recognizing the white blond hair in the dark.

“Jenna? It is you?” Snorri untangled herself from the wolfskin and, with the NightUllr padding at her side, she stumbled across the rough wooden floor to greet Jenna.

“Hello, Snorri.” Nicko's voice came out of the dark and gave Snorri a shock. "Nicko ... I ... I did not know you were coming to the Port also?" she said in her singsong accent that Nicko liked so much.

“Neither did we,” said Nicko grimly. “Stupid dragon circled above the Port for hours. Thought we'd never land. Freezing cold up there.”

“I would rather be in my boat.” Snorri smiled.

“So would I,” said Nicko. “Give me a boat anytime—even a paddleboat. I saw Wolf Boy paddling over to the Forest and I'd have swapped that dragon for one of those any day—even a pink one.”

“I don't think Wolf Boy's right about Septimus being lost in the Forest,” said Jenna.

Nicko shook his head in agreement. “He may as well look, though, since there was no way he was going to get back on Spit Fyre.”

“Did he get to the Forest all right?” Jenna asked Snorri.

Snorri nodded. “He whistled and a boy came to meet him.”

“That will be Sam,” said Nicko. “He'd have been fishing.”

“Sam?” asked Snorri.

“Yes, Sam. He's my—”

“Brother!” Snorri laughed.

“How did you know?” asked Nicko, puzzled.

“They always are,” said Snorri, and just kept on laughing.

Alice returned with some blankets from a pile tumbling out of a chest marked PRODUCIA DE PERU. DUTY UNPAID. IMPOUNDED. “Well, well, so you all know one another,” she said. “Here, Jenna, Nicko, wrap yourselves up in these and get warm, you're both shivering like a couple of jellyfish on a plate.”

Wrapped in the brightly patterned blankets, which smelled strongly of goat as the damp from their tunics crept in, Jenna and Nicko stood steaming in the heat of the briskly burning logs inside Alice's stove. While they slowly warmed through, they watched Alice place a pot of water to boil, mix up some chopped oranges, cinnamon, cloves and honey in an earthenware jug and then pour the boiling water over the mixture. A warm spicy smell filled the air.

“You must be hungry too,” said Alice. Nicko nodded. As he slowly became warm and forgot about the hours he and Jenna had spent on Spit Fyre circling in the drizzle above the Port, he realized that he was ravenous. Alice disappeared into the shadows at the far end of the space that she called home and returned with a tray laden with a huge fruitcake, a large loaf of rough Port bread, great chunks of Port herb sausage and half a spiced apple pie.

“Now everyone, eat—you too, Snorri.” Alice noticed that Snorri, unsure, was hanging back.

Snorri took her place at the table. She sat next to Alther and smiled at him. “I ... I think I have seen you at the Castle,” she said.

Alther nodded. “You are a Seer?” he asked.

Snorri blushed. “I do not always wish it, but it is so,” she replied. “Like my grandmother.”

“And like your mother?” asked Alther.

Snorri shook her head. She was not like her mother. No way.

After the fruitcake, bread, sausage and most of the pie had disappeared and Alice had made two more jugs of spiced orange, she looked at Jenna and said gently,

“Would you like to tell us what happened today? Alther and I ... well, we would like to know.”

Alther smiled. He liked the sound of “Alther and I” and he liked the way Alice considered his concerns to be hers too. He reflected that just then he would have felt perfectly content if it had not been for the awful business of Septimus.

Jenna nodded. It was a relief to tell them. She took a deep breath and began her story, starting from when Queen Etheldredda had Appeared in her bedroom the previous night. Alice and Alther listened somberly, and when Jenna told them about Septimus and the Glass, Alther became almost transparent with concern. Then it was Alther's turn to tell bad news. When Jenna heard what Marcia had found in the I, Marcellus, she gasped and put her head in her hands. Septimus was gone. Forever.

And it was her fault.

Nicko put his arm around Jenna's shoulders. “You mustn't blame yourself, Jen.”

Jenna shook her head. She did blame herself.

“Well, I think...” said Alther suddenly. Everyone looked at the ghost, who was sitting between Snorri and Alice, his purple robes becoming surprisingly substantial in the candlelight as a small ray of hope flickered in Alther's mind. “I think there might—just—be a way to find him. It's a long shot, of course, but...”

And so, on the top floor of Warehouse Number Nine, one Night Creature and four Living humans sat in the firelight, listening to a ghost as he began to explain how they might, possibly, be able to rescue Septimus.

On the ground floor of Warehouse Number Nine, the Sacred Herd of Sarn was slowly disappearing—gnawed, crunched and gulped down until there was nothing left but a few empty boxes and a long, satisfied sheepskin-smelling burp.

Not so very far from Warehouse Number Nine, a Royal Barge made its stately progress over the Marram Marshes, floating in on a ghostly flood from more than five hundred years before. It drew up at a long-gone landing stage and lay shimmering in the moonlight, rocking gently, while its occupant stepped ashore and, with a disapproving expression, picked her way up a muddy path that led to a little thatched cottage.

Queen Etheldredda Passed Through the door and the cottage's inhabitant—a comfortable-looking woman dressed in a large patchwork tent—looked up from her seat by the fire, puzzled at the Disturbance she had felt blow into the room. She shivered as Queen Etheldredda drifted by, sending the candle flames guttering. Aunt Zelda got to her feet and, through half-closed bright blue witch's eyes, she surveyed the cozy room, which suddenly no longer felt quite so cozy. But for all Aunt Zelda's Looking, she could not make out the ghost of Etheldredda as she drifted about, searching for Jenna.

Aunt Zelda was spooked. She could see a Disturbance pass across the walls of books and potion bottles as Etheldredda inspected them for signs of a hidden door, but found only a cupboard hiding a giant flask. And as Etheldredda ascended the steep stairs to the attic, her pointy nose leading the way, Aunt Zelda followed, though she did not know why.

Convinced that Jenna was there, Etheldredda searched the little attic room from top to bottom. Etheldredda Blew back the covers on all three beds, fully expecting to find Jenna hidden under one of them—but found nothing. Then she stuck her pointy nose under the beds—there was nothing—and looked in Aunt Zelda's closet, which was full of identical patchwork dresses—and still found nothing.

Aunt Zelda was, by now, frantic. She knew there was an UnQuiet Spirit in her cottage. She ran downstairs to find her Expell Spell, leaving Etheldredda poking around the attic. It was then that Etheldredda found something that Aunt Zelda had promised to keep safe for Jenna: her silver pistol. With a great effort of will, Queen Etheldredda picked up the pistol, while downstairs Aunt Zelda began to chant the Expell. In a rush of stale air—for Aunt Zelda's spell was old and had been kept in a damp cupboard—Queen Etheldredda was Expelled from the cottage and hurled into the low-tide mud of the Mott. Etheldredda picked herself up, and clutching the pistol, she reembarked on the Royal Barge.

Sitting in her cabin, away from the prying eyes of Aunt Zelda, Etheldredda inspected the pistol. Then she drew out the small silver ball that she had taken from Jenna's room. Holding the bullet in her increasingly Substantial hand, Etheldredda inspected it closely and smiled a grim smile. It was inscribed with the letters I.P.—short for Infant Princess—and had been Named for Jenna when she was a baby. It had been a stroke of luck, thought Etheldredda, bumping into the ghost of the spy who had betrayed the Heaps all those years ago. If the UnQuiet Spirit of Linda Lane had not crawled out of the river and hauled herself up onto the Royal Barge, Etheldredda would never have known about the power of a Named bullet. And luck was still on her side, because now she had the silver pistol to go with it—all she needed was the princess to point it at.

Angie Sage Books | Fantasy Books | Septimus Heap Series Books
Source: www.StudyNovels.com