"I'll do it for ten minutes, no longer, Oh Wearisome One," he said. "You'll do it for as long as I say," his Master retorted.
"No more than twenty minutes, I pray you, Oh Pitiless One," Jim Knee wheedled.
"You'll do it for as long as it takes to get us safely to shore. And you will Transform large enough for us all to get on at once."
"All of you?" Jim Knee surveyed the gathering with dismay. He was going to have to be a very large turtle indeed.
"Yes. Hurry up."
"Very well, Oh Ruthless One," said Jim Knee gloomily. It did not bode well if the very first thing his new Master asked him to do was to Transform into the creature he hated the most - the turtle. He was going to be trapped inside a shell, the owner of four flippy, flappy flippers instead of hands and feet for as long as his Master wanted - it was his worst nightmare. The jinnee took a deep breath - his last for how long that would not taste of turtle spit? Then he climbed onto the gunnels, held his nose, jumped from the Cerys and splashed into the clear sea below. A moment later a huge turtle with yellow eyes surfaced.
Nicko was ready with a rope. He secured it to a cleat and threw it over the side. The turtle took its passengers, as directed, to the rocks at the very end of the spit, opposite Star Island, safely out of sight of the Cerys. The rocks were not easy to negotiate and after misjudging the width of its shell, the turtle managed to get firmly wedged between two of them. Luckily for its passengers the rocks were in shallow water, and they were able to disembark and wade ashore. Less luckily for the turtle, it remained wedged tight and - despite much pushing and shoving - had to wait until it was allowed to Transform before it was free.
Jim Knee found himself lying facedown in two feet of water. He sprang to his feet, spluttering and choking, then waded to the rocky shore, where he sat in the sun to dry out. His hat, he was sure, would never be the same again.
His ex-passengers watched the jinnee pointedly choose a rock some distance away. They too were recovering from their journey. The turtle had not been very considerate - it had chosen to swim about six inches below the water in a highly erratic fashion, as if it were trying to get rid of those riding on its back.
"Nicko," said Milo as he finished wringing out the hem of his nightgown, "I owe you an apology."
"Oh?" Nicko sounded surprised.
"I should not have blamed you for grounding the Cerys. I believe this island is Enchanted. I believe you were Called by a Syren."
Septimus looked at Milo with new interest - maybe he was not the insensitive twit he had taken him for.
Beetle glanced at Septimus, eyebrows raised.
"Thank you, Milo, but that is no excuse," Nicko was saying. "The ship was under my control - I was responsible for what happened to her. It is I who must apologize."
"I'll accept your apology, Nicko, but only if you will accept mine."
Nicko looked as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He smiled for the first time since the Cerys had grounded. "Thank you, Milo. I accept."
"Good!" Milo jumped to his feet. "Now I must see what is happening to the Cerys. I think we shall get a good view from those rocks over there, don't you, Nicko?"
Everyone, it seemed, wanted to take a look at the Cerys - apart from Jim Knee, who Septimus very nearly forgot until Beetle reminded him. Having a jinnee took a bit of getting used to, Septimus thought. It reminded him of taking Maxie, Silas Heap's arthritic wolfhound, for a walk. Maxie had a very similar habit of lagging behind, and Septimus often forgot about the hound and had to go back to find him. The group, complete with Jim Knee, set off to the rocks Milo had pointed out. It was a good choice; there was a clear view of the ship and the beach and enough cover not to be seen. They settled down behind the rocks, and Milo took out his telescope.
"Oh, my goodness," he gasped. He passed the telescope to Nicko. Nicko put the telescope to his eye and uttered a long, low whistle.
"What is it, Nik?" asked Septimus impatiently.
"Ants," muttered Nicko.
"Yeah - like ants leaving the nest. Look."
Septimus took the telescope. Immediately he saw what Nicko meant. A black stream of warrior jinn was pouring down the side of the Cerys. He watched them descending, their movements eerily synchronized - left, right, left, right - until they reached the surface of the sea and disappeared beneath it without a break in step. As the waves closed over the winged helmet of one jinnee, another stepped onto the ladder at the top. Septimus let out a whistle uncannily similar to Nicko's. Beetle, unable to contain his impatience any longer, snatched the telescope.
"Crumbs," he said. "What are they doing?"
"Well, I don't think they're off for a picnic," said Septimus.
"They'd be enough to spoil anyone's picnic," said Nicko. "Imagine finding them crawling all over your sandwiches."
"It's not funny, Nik," said Septimus. "This feels really bad."
The telescope was passed around the group; Jenna was last to get it. She looked quickly at the jinn - which gave her the creeps - then swung it away from the ship and surveyed the beach - the beach that until that moment she had thought of as their beach. But what she saw made her realize that it did not belong to them anymore. In the eye of the telescope she saw Tertius Fume standing by the water's edge, his face almost alive with excitement. And in the sea, just below the surface of the water, Jenna saw a dark shape surmounted by a silvery glint. As she watched, the silver-winged helmet of a warrior jinnee broke the surface and, water cascading from the joints in its armor, the warrior jinnee marched out of the sea, onto the beach and saluted Tertius Fume.
Septimus saw Jenna's expression change. "What is it, Jen?"
"Tertius Fume," Jenna replied. She pointed down at the beach. "Look."
Oblivious to the gasps around him, Milo got to his feet. "Good!" he said. "I'm glad he's made the effort to come and work this out. You see - I wasn't double-crossed at all. Most conscientious of him, I must say." Milo brushed the sand off his nightgown. "I shall go and ask him for the Awake, then we can put all this behind us and get the Cerys safely home with her cargo." He smiled benignly down at the group. Septimus jumped up. "Are you crazy?" he said, asking the question for real. "Have you actually seen what Fume is doing?"
"My spectacles are, unfortunately, still on board," said Milo, peering shortsightedly into the distance. "Nicko, pass me the telescope please." Milo took the telescope and saw what everyone else was looking at. Forgetting that he was no longr onboard his ship, Milo swore. "So Grub was right," he muttered. "I've been double-crossed good."
"May I have another look?" asked Septimus. Milo passed him the telescope. Septimus swung it across to the Cerys and then back to the beach, where a steady flow of jinn were emerging from the sea. As the jinn reached the beach they were confidently marshaled by Tertius Fume, who had an expert touch that Septimus could not help but admire. At some time in his life Tertius Fume had been a soldier - that he could tell. Septimus passed the telescope on to Wolf Boy and continued watching the exodus from the Cerys. Without the telescope the jinn looked like a long line of black rope being pulled over the side of the ship, under the water and up onto the beach. There was no doubt about it - the island was being invaded. But why?
"I'm going to check on Spit Fyre," Septimus said suddenly. "We might need to move him. I could use some help."
"We'll all come," said Jenna. "Won't we?"
"Snorri and I need to watch the Cerys, Sep," said Nicko apologetically. "She's still in danger from the rocks."
"That's fine, Nik. See you later."
"Yep." Nicko looked up at Septimus. "Don't get too near to those things down there, little bro - okay?"
"I'll try not to," said Septimus. "You staying here, Milo?" he asked, hoping that Milo would.
"Yes," Milo said irritably. "And you can give me the telescope. I want to watch my army. Goodness knows I paid enough for it."
Septimus made Jim Knee take off his precious hat - which stuck up like a marker buoy - and, in single file, they left the rocky spit and headed for the dunes above Spit Fyre's rock. Jim Knee came second to last, corralled very effectively by Wolf Boy, who had discovered that the jinnee had more respect for a decomposing tentacle tip than he did for his Master.