“Now take thee this,” said Marcellus, to Septimus's surprise, handing him the Keye.

"It will open the Glass at the top of the lapis steps, which is where thee must Go Out.

It is thine to keep, I shall make another for myself. I shall place thy Physik Chest sub rosa in the cloaks cupboard at the top of the steps to the Wizard Tower. Use it well, thou hast the makings of a great Physician."

“I will,” Septimus promised. He took the Keye and placed it around his neck. It felt heavy and was still warm from Marcellus's touch. “But how,” he asked, “shall I get the Tincture to you?”

“Fear not, I wouldst not ask thee to bring it through the Glass, for I know the horror thou hast of such a thing. Place the tincture, pray, in a gold Box marked with the Symbol of the Sunne and throw it into the Moat beside my House. I will find it.”

“How will I know that you have found it?” Septimus asked.

“Thou shalt know by the presence of the Golden Arrow of Flyte, which I didst see upon my Ancient Person. I shall place it in the Box by return. Art thou a fisherman?”

“No,” replied Septimus, puzzled.

“Methinks thou wilt become one,” Marcellus chuckled. “The Golden Arrow of Flyte will be my thanks to you and will bring you great freedom.”

“It already has,” muttered Septimus, “until you took it.”

Marcellus did not hear; he had turned his attention to Jenna.

“Fear not that my mother should continue to Haunt thee in thine own Time,” he told her. “Although she hath drunk of my Tincture which, while incomplete, may give her Spirit some Substance, she shall not trouble thee. The ExtraOrdinary Wizard and I shall Entrance her into her portrait. Methinks I shall also hunt down the Aie-Aie, for did it not too drink of my Tincture? It truly is a most Poisonous Creature and doth carry a Pestilence in its bite, which Mama hath used to terrify all who displease her. So, Jenna, it is decided: I shall Entrance them both into the portrait and Seal them in a room that None shall find.”

“But Dad Unsealed it,” Jenna gasped.

Marcellus did not reply. Something in the Glass had caught his attention.

“Dad did what?” asked Septimus.

“He and Gringe Unsealed Etheldredda's portrait. You remember. It was hanging in the Long Walk—”

Marcellus's voice interrupted Jenna. With an unmistakable note of panic, he said,

“Pray do not tarry, this Glass hath become Unstable. I can see cracks appearing deep within. It will not hold for long, I fear. Go you now—or never!”

Deep within the Glass Septimus saw what Marcellus had seen. Beyond long, lazy swirls of Time moving within it, fissures were materializing around the edges of the Glass. It was indeed now or never.

“We've got to go!” yelled Septimus. “Now!” He grabbed hold of Jenna with one hand and Nicko with the other and ran at the Glass.

At the very last moment, Nicko wrenched away. “I'm not going without Snorri,” he said.

“Nik—you must come, you must,” said Septimus desperately.

“The Glass will not wait,” said Marcellus, urgently. “Begone, begone before it is too late.”

“Go!” yelled Nicko. “I'll see you later. I promise!” With that, Nicko ran from the Great Chamber of Alchemic and Physik.

“No, Nicko. No!” Jenna yelled.

“Come on, Jen,” said Septimus. “We've gotta go.”

Jenna nodded and together, with a small orange cat, they stepped into the Glass and walked into the liquid cold of Time.

44

The Find

The Great Doors of Time swung silently closed behind them.

“Nicko,” sobbed Jenna. “Nicko!”

“It's no good, Jen,” said Septimus wearily. “He's five hundred years away now.”

Jenna looked at Septimus in disbelief. She had expected to walk straight out into the Castle—not find herself in a dingy tunnel lit with weird glass globes. "What ... you mean we're already back—back in our own Time?"

Septimus nodded. "We're home now, Jen. This is the Old Way. It's really, really old. It runs far below even the Ice Tunnels."

“So where's the old Marcellus?” Jenna asked wearily. “You'd think he'd be waiting for us, since he knows we're coming.”

“Five hundred years is a long time to remember stuff, Jen. I don't think he knows what's going on anymore, really. He'll be around somewhere. Come on, let's get out of here.”

With the air of a seasoned traveler, Septimus set off along the Old Way, with Jenna, clutching Ullr to her, trudging behind. They walked along in silence, each deep in their own thoughts about Nicko.

After a while Jenna said, “If Nicko ever does Come Through, how will he find his way back?”

“Nicko will find a way, Jen. He always does,” replied Septimus, sounding more hopeful than he really was, for it was not long since Nicko had mistaken an ant for a footpath and gotten them both lost in the Forest.

“And Snorri ...” said Jenna. “I really liked Snorri.”

“Yeah. So did Nik. That was the trouble.” Septimus sounded mad.

All the time, Ullr made no sound. The small orange cat with the black-tipped tail sat quietly in Jenna's arms, his spirit elsewhere—with his mistress in a distant Time.

Five hundred years away, Snorri Snorrelssen was sitting lost and miserable on a riverbank. But, as she gazed into the distance, she Saw the Old Way and the long lines of globes of Everlasting Fyre, and though she did not understand what it was she was Seeing, she knew that she was Seeing through Ullr's eyes.

It was bitterly cold in the Old Way. Jenna and Septimus pulled their UnderCooks'

coats around them, but still the chill worked its way through and made them shiver.

The rough fabric of the coats brushed along the wide, smooth pavement, and the faint rustling sounds filled the air like the flapping of bats' wings at twilight.

Marcellus was waiting for them at the foot of the lapis steps, slumped against the stone with his deep-set eyes closed. Jenna jumped at the sight of the ancient man and squeezed Ullr tightly to her—so tightly that far away, Snorri gasped at the sudden pain around her ribs.

“He ... he's not dead, is he?” Jenna whispered.

“Not yet,” came a quavery voice. “Though there is not much difference, 'tis true.”

Old Marcellus licked his dry lips and stared at Septimus as if trying to remember something. “You are the boy with the Tincture?” he asked, looking at them with his rheumy eyes. Septimus thought he could still see something of the young Marcellus's expression in those eyes.

“I am going to make it tomorrow at the Conjunction,” said Septimus. “Don't you remember? You told me to drop it in the Moat inside a gold box marked with the sun?”

The old man snorted. “What care I for the sun?”

“I shall put it in the box, just as I said I would,” said Septimus patiently. “And then—do you remember?—you will let me know you have it by returning the Flyte Charm.”

Marcellus smiled and his tombstone teeth glowed red in the flames of the globes. “I remember now, Septimus. I do not forget my promises. Be you a fisherman?”

Septimus shook his head.

“Methinks you will become one.” Marcellus chuckled.

“Good-bye, Marcellus,” said Septimus.

"Fare thee well, Septimus. Thou wert a good Apprentice. Fare thee well, my dear ...

Esmeralda." The ancient man closed his eyes once more.

“Good-bye, Marcellus,” said Jenna.

At last they reached the top of the long, winding lapis steps and came face to face with the Glass. Septimus remembered the last time he had stood there, and could hardly helieve that this time he would be able to go through it. He looked at the Glass, hardly daring to place the Keye into the indentation above it. He could see that this Glass was not the same as the True Glass of Time. Gone were the heady sense of depth and the intricate swirling patterns of Time—this Glass looked dull and empty, seeming to be nothing more than a poorly silvered glass.

“Time to go home,” whispered Septimus. “So ... we just go through here and come out into the Robing Room?” asked Jenna.

“I guess so. Come on, let's go.” Septimus took hold of Jenna's hand, but Jenna resisted, glancing behind her one last time. “Nik hasn't Come Through, Jen,”


Tags: Angie Sage Books Septimus Heap Series Books Fantasy Books
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