Alther opened his eyes and saw what Alice could not see. In a streak of panic, the ghost hurled himself across the lawn toward the river.

“Alther!” said Alice, following at top speed. "Alther, what is it?

As Queen Etheldredda stepped daintily from the Royal Barge, Jenna felt a chill envelop her and, as though doused with a bucket of cold water, her head suddenly cleared. There was a pistol hovering in the air. Her pistol. The one the Hunter had used to hunt her. The one that Aunt Zelda was keeping safe for her. So what was it doing pointing at her? "

Queen Etheldredda raised the silver pistol and took aim at Jenna just as Alther arrived like a whirlwind. “Go!” he yelled to Jenna. He threw himself at Etheldredda, but she Passed Through Alther like a knife through butter. Alther collapsed, poleaxed by the Substantial Spirit's malice.

Jenna hesitated.

Etheldredda pulled the trigger.

There was a loud crack of the pistol shot, Alice Nettles threw herself at Jenna, and the silver bullet found its target.

The bullet went into Alice's heart—and there it stayed. A small silver ball with the letters I.P. scribed into the metal. Alice Nettles—named lona at birth by her mother, Betty Pot—had been brought up by her aunt, Mary Nettles, who had always liked the name Alice. But there is no fooling a silver bullet.


The BoneFyre

There was no hope for Alice. Pale and still, she lay on the landing stage with a peaceful smile on her lips.

Around her knelt Silas and Marcia, who had come running at the sound of the shot, and Alther and Jenna, who held the unconscious Ullr in her arms. Beside Alther lay the silver pistol, which Etheldredda had thrown down in disgust. As Alther gently stroked Alice's hair he began to realize that at last—at long last—he and Alice would be together. He could not help but wonder if Alice had been thinking of that when she had thrown herself in the path of the bullet—and if that was why she looked so peaceful now.

Marcia broke the shocked silence that surrounded Alice. “Jenna,” she said,

"I want you to stay close to me from now on. You are not safe while Etheldredda remains UnSealed. Now where is that wretched dragon? I think for once we may have a use for him."

Jenna nodded. Wishing that Snorri were there to help, she glanced around for any sight of Etheldredda. She saw nothing, but Jenna realized that nothing was exactly what Etheldredda wanted her to see. Warily she got up and laid Ullr on her blankets.

The orange cat stirred, opened his eyes and gazed at Jenna with his faraway, unfocused look.

Jenna scooped up the little duckling, which was shivering, and settled it in between Ullr's paws for warmth. Then she and Marcia went to find Spit Fyre. The dragon was in the kitchen garden gulping down cooking apples with enthusiastic snorting noises.

Septimus had heard the pistol shot, but he had assumed it to be some part of the dragon's digestive process. He was waiting impatiently while Spit Fyre sucked up the last of the windfalls and did not notice Marcia and Jenna's arrival. Neither did he see that right behind Jenna lurked Queen Etheldredda, though if he had looked closely Septimus might have seen a murkiness in the air, for Etheldredda was becoming increasingly Substantial.

But through Ullr's eyes, Snorri Saw Etheldredda stalking Jenna as a tiger stalks its prey.

Marcia marched up to Septimus. “Get that dragon organized, Septimus,” she said.

“We need Fyre—right now.”

“He can't do Fyre,” said Septimus.

“Yes he can,” corrected Jenna.

“No he can't.”

“He can. Look at his eyes. He's got the red ring of Fyre.”

Septimus stood on tiptoe and stared into Spit Fyre's unblinking dragon eyes. Sure enough, the bright green iris was ringed with a thin red circle. “How did he get that?”

Septimus asked suspiciously.

“I had to do the Ignite,” Jenna explained.

“But he's my dragon,” Septimus said, annoyed that he had not been there at such an important time.

“Enough of that,” said Marcia. “It doesn't matter whose dragon he is. Follow me.”

She strode out of the kitchen garden. Spit Fyre, at the sight of his Seek rapidly disappearing, gulped down the last cooking apple, emitted a cider-smelling belch and rushed off after Septimus. He very nearly trampled Queen Etheldredda into the ground, but to Snorri's dismay, she sidestepped the dragon just in time and carried on stalking Jenna.

Etheldredda was not about to give up. She might have missed her chance with the pistol, but she would not be thwarted—from now on she would Follow Jenna wherever she went. She had all the time in the world and her chance would surely come. Jenna only had to step too near the edge of a parapet, stand too close to a running horse, warm her hands beside a blazing fire ... and she, Etheldredda, rightful Queen, would be there— ready.

As Jenna followed Marcia across the Palace lawn, she shivered and rubbed the back of her neck—it felt strangely cold. She glanced behind her but saw nothing.

Marcia stopped in the middle of the lawn between the Palace and the river. “Here will do,” she said. “Septimus, I need Fyre—now.”

“I don't know how,” said Septimus, a little sulkily.

“I'll show you, Sep,” Jenna said, fishing her Navigator Tin from her tunic pocket.

She prised it open and offered Septimus the Ignite. Septimus did not look impressed, but he took the piece of dragon skin and examined it carefully. “Is that all you have to say?' he asked. ”Just Ignite?"

Jenna nodded.

“You sure there's not something missing, Jen?”

Jenna sighed. “Of course I'm sure,” she said, suppressing another shiver. “I did do it, you know.”

Septimus did not look convinced, but he took a deep breath, looked Spit Fyre in his red-ringed eye, and said in a loud voice, “ Ignite! ”

With plenty of fuel—the dragon's fire stomach was still uncomfortably crammed with the Sacred Herd of Sarn—Spit Fyre was only too happy to oblige. Deep in his fire stomach a rumble began; it grew and grew, shaking the ground and filling the air with low, unsettling reverberations as the gases built up until they reached an unbearable pressure—and the fire valve opened. With a rush that shocked Spit Fyre as much as anyone else, the gases shot from the dragon's flared nostrils, hit the air and Ignited into a roaring jet of flame.

Everyone jumped back. Queen Etheldredda rubbed her hands together with glee; she had not expected an opportunity to present itself quite so soon. What could be better than a quick stumble into the path of a dragon's Fyre? No one would be able to save Jenna in time. Not with flames like that. Who would have thought that the interfering Marcia Overstrand would have so thoughtfully provided her with such an early opportunity? Etheldredda hovered, waiting impatiently for Jenna to get just a little closer—just enough for one tiny push...

Far away, across Time, Snorri was frantic. She Saw Etheldredda, she Saw the Fyre and Called to Ullr, but the orange cat, still stunned, did nothing.

“Keep the Fyre going, Septimus!” Marcia yelled above the roar of the gases and flames. “And now for the BoneFyre. Stand back, everyone.”

Once again the Magykal haze surrounded Marcia. When the ExtraOrdinary Wizard was sure that her Magyk was complete and she was fully protected, she went up to Spit Fyre, the Fyre still pouring from his nostrils. The dragon looked at her warily through his red-ringed eyes, but he did not move. Then, to the amazement of Septimus and Jenna, Marcia put her hand into the jet of flame and Took a handful of Fyre. She rolled it between her hands until it looked like a great ball of red-hot dough, threw it high into the air and chanted:

"Pure Fyre Burn higher Make a Pyre,

A True BoneFyre"

Marcia's handful of Fyre exploded into a great fireball. With intense concentration Marcia guided the roaring ball of fire down until it was a few feet off the ground.

There it hovered, burning with a brilliant orange flame and a deep purple center, casting long, dancing shadows across the lawn. The BoneFyre was ready.

Spit Fyre, his fire stomach exhausted, Ceased his own Fyre. As the roaring from the BoneFyre settled down, Septimus and Jenna drew closer to the flames to watch as Marcia began the second part of her plan—the Fetch. Un-Seen by anyone, even Alther—who was too taken with his Alice to notice—Etheldredda's pointy features lit up with excitement. Jenna was once again within stumbling distance of the fire.

Tags: Angie Sage Septimus Heap Fantasy