"Well, he's worried, that's for sure," said Wolf Boy.
"I think it may be that he has something here to worry about," said Snorri slowly.
"What do you mean?" said Jenna. She found Snorri's way of speaking hard to understand at times.
"There are ancient spirits on board this ship. I feel them now. I did not before. And Ullr feels them too, see?" Snorri held up Ullr, whose fur was sticking up on end. He looked like an orange puffball.
"Ullr is not funny," said Snorri reprovingly. "Ullr Sees things. He Sees that something is here, and that is not for laughing at. I am going to help Nicko." Head held high, Snorri stalked off after Nicko.
"Oh." Jenna was suddenly thoughtful. She had spent some months looking after Ullr and had a lot of respect for the cat. While she was quite happy to ignore Snorri, Ullr was a different matter.
They turned a corner and found Snorri pushing her way through the crowd outside the sick bay. Inside was a scene of utter chaos. One of the crew - not much more than a boy - had collapsed in a pool of blood. Bandages were flying everywhere and a large bottle of Gentian Violet had spilled, covering everyone in splashes of purple. No one seemed to know what to do.
"It's crazy in there," said Septimus. "I'm going to help. 409 - I could do with someone who knows his potions."
"Okey-dokey," said Wolf Boy with a grin. Potions, he could do.
"I'll do the bandaging," Lucy offered. "I'm good at bandages. They're like ribbons, only stretchy."
Septimus did not agree. "They are not like ribbons," he retorted. He pushed through the throng and disappeared into the sickbay.
"Sep," Jenna called after him. "I'm going up on deck."
"I'll come with you," said Beetle.
Jenna and Beetle set off along the corridor, at the end of which was a ladder to the middle deck. They climbed the ladder and made their way through the deserted stateroom and along the corridor past the empty cabins. As they neared the steps that led to the top deck, they heard a series of thump s behind them from inside the cargo hold. Jenna turned to Beetle. She looked worried. "I think you should go and get Sep," she said. "I have a feeling we might need him."
"But what about you?"
"I want to go up and see if Nik needs any help."
"I can do that. Why don't you go for Sep?"
"No, Beetle. I'm never there when Nicko needs me. This time I'm going to be. Go and get Sep - please."
Beetle could not refuse. "Okay. Won't be long. Jenna...be careful - promise?"
Jenna nodded and disappeared up the steps.
Beetle was surprised by the difference in the sick bay. No more than a few minutes had passed, and yet Septimus had everything organized. The boy collapsed on the floor was now lying in a bunk. Septimus was attending to him and discussing with Wolf Boy which potion to use for a nasty-looking stab wound. But what surprised Beetle the most was the sight of Lucy Gringe - looking the very model of efficiency - neatly bandaging a crew member's arm. Septimus ran a good sick bay, he thought admiringly. One by one the tended crew left to go up on deck. Beetle was anxious to get on deck too, but he did not want to interrupt. He leaned against the doorway, watching Septimus at work. He looked, thought Beetle, completely at ease.
Septimus glanced up and saw Beetle in the doorway. "Okay?" he asked.
"Dunno, Sep. Jenna wants you to come up on deck. Something's not right."
Right on cue, a deep thud vibrated through the ship.
"Oh. Right. Nearly ready. Just want to check this one again. He's lost a lot of blood."
"Sounds like the ship's shifting on the sandbank," said the first mate, who - apart from the young galley hand in the bunk - was the last one left. He got up and winced.
"I'll be needed on deck. You coming, Miss?" he asked Lucy.
"I'm all right here," said Lucy.
"No, Lucy, you go," Septimus told her.
"Quite right, sir," said the first mate. "Best be up a' top when a ship's shifting. We'll be down to get you if there's any trouble, lad," he said to the galley hand. Beetle watched Lucy and the first mate leave. As he waited, a little less patiently now, for Septimus and Wolf Boy to finish, he felt something brush his foot. He looked down and saw a long line of rats, nose to tail, running past him along the companionway, heading toward the ladder at the end. Beetle shivered, and not because he didn't like rats. Beetle had a great respect for rats, and these rats, he thought, knew something. They knew that the Cerys was no longer a safe ship to be on.
"Sep..." said Beetle anxiously.
Septimus was washing his hands. "Coming," he said. "Ready 409?"
"Yep," said Wolf Boy.
Septimus cast a last look around. All was shipshape, and the wet-iron smell of blood had been replaced by the scent of peppermint. He breezed out of the sick bay with the confidence of a job well done.
Beetle propelled him and Wolf Boy down the corridor - fast.
"Hey, what's up?" Septimus asked.
"Jen wants you up on deck. There's something weird going on - and the rats know it."
"Yep. I just watched them leave."
Septimus shared Beetle's respect for rats. "Oh," he said.
As if to prove Beetle's point, a series of rhythmic thud s shook the ship's timbers.
"Come on," said Wolf Boy, who had had quite enough of being stuck belowdecks.
"Let's get out of here." He raced toward the ladder that led to the middle deck. At the foot of the ladder they scooted to a halt - someone was coming down. A tall, willowy man dressed in yellow and wearing what looked to Septimus like a pile of yellow doughnuts on his head stepped off the ladder. He turned, looked straight at Septimus and sighed heavily.
"Be you Septimus Heap?" he said in a resigned tone.
Both Septimus and Beetle knew enough to recognize a jinnee when they saw one, and Wolf Boy knew quite enough to recognize something extremely weird.
"Sep - he's found you!" whispered Beetle excitedly.
"Wow," breathed Septimus. "Yes," he replied. "I be Septimus Heap."
Jim Knee looked despondent. "I thought as much," he said. "Just like the old witch described. Bother, bother, bother. Oh, well, here we go again: What Do You Will, Oh Great One? "
In the excitement of the moment, Septimus was suddenly unable to remember the fail-safe form of words that should always be used in response to the all-important Second Question - if you don't want your jinnee to mess you around forevermore. He looked at Beetle and mouthed, What are the words?
Jim Knee tapped his foot impatiently - were all Septimus Heaps this slow?
"I will...you to be...faithful servant...loyal to me. To do what is right...and for the best...to do it all...at my behest," whispered Beetle. Thanks, Beetle, Septimus mouthed. Then in slow, clear tones, he repeated what Beetle had told him word for word.
"Well, at least you're better than the last Septimus Heap, I suppose," Jim Knee said grudgingly. "Not that that would be difficult."
Beetle nudged Septimus. "Ask him if he has a name," he whispered. "Someone might have already Named him, and if you don't know it you won't be able to Call him."
"Oh, thanks, Beetle. Didn't think of that."
"Yeah, he's a tricky one. I reckon he's hoping you won't ask. Just say, ' Jinnee, how are you Called,' and he'll have to tell you."
Septimus repeated the question.
Jim Knee looked extremely grumpy. After a long pause he answered reluctantly,
"Jim Knee," and then added, "Oh Clever One."
"Jim Knee?" asked Septimus, not sure if he had heard correctly.
"Yes. Jim Knee," Jim Knee said irritably. "So, Oh Doubting One, do you want anything done right now, or can I go off and get some sleep? There are some very pleasant cabins up there."
Another spate of thump s vibrated through the ship.
"As it happens," said Septimus, "I think I could do with your help right now."
Jim Knee was finding it hard to get used to his sudden loss of freedom. "Very well, Oh Exacting One," he said. "Your wish is my command, and all that. I'll find that nice little cabin later."
Beetle shot Septimus a quizzical look. "He's not quite what you'd expect, is he?"