"You'd think after all these years stuffed into a tiny bottle in Aunt Zelda's cupboard he'd be wanting to rush around doing things, wouldn't you?" Septimus said to Beetle.

"There's no understanding jinn, Sep," said Beetle. "They never do quite what you expect them to."

They reached Spit Fyre without incident. The dragon was sleeping peacefully, but at Septimus's approach, Spit Fyre opened one eye and regarded him with his familiar quizzical expression.

"Hello, Spit Fyre," said Septimus, gently patting the dragon's nose. Spit Fyre gave an irritable snort and closed his eye.

"How is he?" asked Beetle.

"Fine," Septimus said with a grin.

Septimus gave Spit Fyre a long drink from the WaterGnome and checked out the dragon's tail. It was healing well - the Magykal shimmer had all but disappeared, and it seemed that Syrah's spell was very nearly done. The image of Syrah casting her Magykal healing spell over Spit Fyre was so vivid that, when Syrah actually spoke to him, Septimus thought she was still part of his thoughts.

"Septimus!" She sounded breathless. "Oh, I hoped I would find you with Spit Fyre."

It wasn't until he heard Beetle saying in amazement, "Syrah?" that Septimus realized Syrah was actually there - for real.

He looked up and saw Syrah standing bemused, surrounded by Lucy, Wolf Boy, Jenna and Beetle. "Who...who are all these people?" she asked. "Where are they from?"

Suddenly Syrah noticed Jenna and, beneath her sunburn, the color left her face. "Princess Esmeralda," she gasped. "Why have you come here? You must flee this place. It is cursed."

Jenna looked shocked. "But I'm not - " she began.

"It's all right, Jen, I'll explain later," said Septimus, running to Syrah's side. He took her hand and led her gently away from the group. "Syrah," he asked, "are you all right?"

Syrah was far too agitated to answer his question. "Septimus, please, you must keep the Princess safe. Maybe it is good she is away from the Castle." She pointed across the dunes to the warrior jinn. "I do not have long. The Syren has sent me to greet Tertius Fume - evil old goat, I shall not do it - but she may Call me at any moment. Septimus, it is happening. Last night the ship with the army on board sailed past the dark CattRokk Light as they had planned. It came within the Syren's range and she Called it."

"Why...exactly?"

"Because they have come to invade the Castle."

"What?" chorused everyone - except Septimus, to whom it all made hideously perfect sense.

"That is why I wanted you to Seal the Ice Tunnel. To stop them."

"Yes, I see that now."

"But I don't get it," said Wolf Boy. "What are they doing here if they want to invade the Castle? Why didn't they just stay in the ship and sail there?"

"Fume is going to march the warrior jinn along the Ice Tunnel, right into the middle of the Castle," said Syrah. "They will be there before anyone knows what's happening. Oh, I am Called," Syrah gasped suddenly. "Septimus. Please. Stop them." And then she was gone. Pulled through the sand dunes like a doll dragged by a careless child, she ran impossibly fast, with no regard to the sharp grass tearing at her legs or the stones cutting her feet. The violence of Syrah's sudden flight shocked everyone into silence.

"Are they really going to the Castle?" whispered Jenna.

"Yes," said Septimus. "I think they really are."

Chapter 46 The Silver Snake

They sat among the rocks just above Spit Fyre, watching one warrior after another wade out of the sea. Beetle looked at his timepiece.

"They're coming out twelve a minute," he said. "That's the same rate as they came out of the hold. So, if there really are four thousand jinn in there, like Grub says, it's going to take them...um...just over five and a half hours."

"Beetle, you really are like Jillie Djinn," Jenna teased.

"No, I'm not," Beetle protested. "She would have figured it out to a tenth of a second."

"Bet you could do that too."

Septimus got to his feet. "Well, at least that gives me enough time to Seal the Ice Tunnel," he said. "And this time I'm going to get it right."

"Sep - don't go back there," Beetle said. "Send Jim Knee to do it."

"Jim Knee?"

"He's your jinnee - that's his job: to do dangerous stuff for you."

Septimus looked at Jim Knee. The long, lanky jinnee was lying in the sand, clutching his precious hat to his chest like a soggy teddy bear. He was fast asleep. Septimus shook his head. "Beetle, he's hopeless. He'd probably fall asleep on the way. Or he'd wait until they were all in the tunnel and then Seal it. We can't risk anything going wrong. I have to do it."

"Then we're coming with you," said Jenna. She looked at the others. "Right?"

"Yep," said Beetle and Wolf Boy.

"Sorry," said Lucy, "I can't come. I promised to do something else. And so did Wolf Boy."

Everyone, including Wolf Boy, looked puzzled.

"Like what?" said Jenna incredulously. "Go to a party or something?"

"Very funny. Not. Wolf Boy and I" - Lucy gave Wolf Boy a meaningful stare - "we promised to help Mr. Miarr get his Light back to the lighthouse. Those horrible Crowes over there - " Lucy waved her arm at the Cerys. "They tried to kill him before, and if they see him on top of that rock thingy with the Light, they'll do it again."

"You mean there's someone up there with that weird light?" asked Jenna, shielding her eyes and looking toward the Pinnacle.

"Of course there is," said Lucy, as though it were obvious. "Mr. Miarr is the lighthouse keeper. And we promised to take him and his Light back to the lighthouse - didn't we?" She looked at Wolf Boy.

"Yeah," he admitted. "We did."

"We have to do it now, before anything bad happens." Lucy stared at everyone, daring them to contradict her. No one did.

"But how?" asked Wolf Boy.

"Easy," said Lucy. "We'll borrow Jim Knee - Septimus doesn't want him. He can be a turtle again."

It was okay with Septimus. It was not okay with Jim Knee. However, okay or not, in a matter of minutes, there was a giant turtle in the water awaiting Lucy's instructions. Jenna, Septimus and Beetle watched the turtle swim out toward Star Island, taking a wide detour around the Cerys. It swam surprisingly steadily, with Lucy and Wolf Boy sitting comfortably above the water.

"You don't mess with Lucy Gringe," said Beetle admiringly. "Even if you're a jinnee."

On the beach, the number of warriors was steadily growing. Tertius Fume was forming the emerging jinn into a long line that folded back on itself. It reminded Septimus of the anchor rope that Nicko had once made him lay out on deck when they had taken a boat to the Port. The rope had zigzagged up and down the deck like a snake, so that when the anchor was finally ready to go, it would drop into the water with no knots or hindrance.

"Flaking the anchor," Nicko had called it. Nicko's pickiness about the rope had annoyed Septimus at the time, but when they had to throw the anchor overboard in a hurry, he had seen why it was so important. And now he realized that that was what Tertius Fume was doing. He was preparing the jinn to move quickly, easily and without confusion, while keeping a large number of them in a small area. And, Septimus suddenly realized, the ghost did not have to wait until they were all off the Cerys.

"I gotta go," he said. "Now."

"We've got to go, you mean," said Jenna.

"No, Jen."

"Yes, Sep."

"No. Jen, this is dangerous stuff. If...if anything goes wrong, I want you to tell Marcia what happened. I don't think Nik quite understands it. But you do - and Marcia will listen to you."

"So...is Beetle going with you, then?"

Septimus looked at Beetle. "Beetle?" he asked.

"Yep. I'm coming," he said.

Jenna was quiet for a moment. "It's because I'm a girl, isn't it?" she said.

"What is?"

"You don't want me to come with you because I'm a girl. It's this stupid Young Army stuff you've been doing. All boys together."

"It's not that, Jen."

"So what is it then?"

"It's...well, it's because you're the Princess - because you're going to be the Queen. You're important, Jen. Marcia can get another Apprentice, but the Castle can't get another Queen."

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