"Faster!" Septimus urged the sled. "Faster!" It did not respond but bumped slowly over a patch of rough ice - the kind that is often found below an ice hatch. Anxiously Septimus looked back to see how fast the warrior jinn were gaining on them. At first he was reassured - they appeared not to have moved at all. He could see a steady flow of tiny silver lights moving down from the Ice Tunnel hatch and then it was hard to tell what was happening. The jinn did not seem to be getting closer and yet the clud-clump sound of their marching feet reverberated through the tunnel. Puzzled, Septimus stared into the dark, and then he realized something rather important - the pinpoints of light were receding. The jinn were marching in the opposite direction. Septimus could not believe what had happened. The sled had gone the wrong way. The Wizard Tower sled came to a halt. At first Septimus thought it had stopped because it had realized its mistake. But then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the shape of an ice hatch above and remembered what he had told the sled: "Nearest hatch. Fast as you can." Septimus had assumed that the nearest hatch would be in the Castle. In his anxiety about Beetle, he hadn't given any thought to where else the Ice Tunnel might go. In fact, he had assumed that it didn't go anywhere else - after all, where would it go?
He was about to find out. Beetle was dangerously cold, and he had to get him out of the Ice Tunnel fast. Septimus climbed up the icy rungs on the side of the tunnel, UnSealed the hatch and pushed it open. Immediately in front of him was the now familiar black shine of a moving chamber.
Septimus decided to leave the sled free. He pushed Beetle up to the hatch, pulled him through and Sealed it. Then he propelled Beetle into the moving chamber. He placed his hand on the orange arrow and felt the chamber shift.
Where, he wondered, was it taking them?
Chapter 48 On Tentacles
Unlike Septimus, Lucy had been having a great time - and not a little success. While directing the turtle around Star Island, she had discovered the Marauder, complete with Milo's crew and Jakey Fry, hiding out in the old harbor. Lucy knew an opportunity when she saw one, which was why she was now standing in the well of the CattRokk Lighthouse directing operations. Milo's crew was reinstating the Light, Miarr was back where he belonged and Lucy Gringe had kept her promise.
Suddenly a narrow black door under the stairs flew open.
"Hello, Septimus," said Lucy. "Fancy seeing you here."
Half an hour later, on the rocks below the lighthouse, a conference was in progress. Septimus was pacing up and down. "I'm going back down the Ice Tunnel; I don't see any other way. We have to try and stop them."
Beetle shivered. He was warm now in the sun, but the very word "ice" chilled his bones.
"You don't stand a chance, 412," Wolf Boy said. "Remember what they used to say:
'Ten against One and You Are Done'? Well, it's true. One against four thousand is crazy."
"If I go right now there will be fewer - maybe four or five hundred."
"Four hundred or four thousand, it makes no difference. Still outnumbered. 'Use Your Head or You Are Dead.'"
"Oh, do stop it, 409 - that stuff gets irritating. I'm going now. Every second counts. The longer I leave it the more jinn there will be."
"No, Sep," said Beetle. "Don't. Please don't. They'll smash you to pieces."
"I'll do an UnSeen - they won't know I'm there."
"And can the sled do an UnSeen too?"
Septimus did not answer. "I'm off," he said. "You can't stop me." He raced away up the rocks, taking them all by surprise.
Lucy and Wolf Boy jumped up and tore after him.
"I'm stopping you," Lucy said, catching him and grabbing his arm. "You are not going to do anything so stupid. What would Simon think if I let his little brother go and get killed?"
Septimus shook her off. "I should think he'd be pleased. The last thing he said to me was - "
"Well, I'm sure he didn't mean it," Lucy cut in. "Look, Septimus, you're clever. Even I know what those purple stripes on your sleeves mean, so - like Wolf Boy said - use your head. Think of something that isn't going to get you killed. What about your turtle down there?" Lucy pointed at the little harbor far below. "Can't he help?"
Septimus looked down at the Marauder - to which, he now noticed, someone had tied a large and extremely unhappy turtle.
"He changes into things, doesn't he?" said Lucy excitedly. "Can't he change into a bird and fly back to the Castle? He can warn them, and then they can Seal stuff and it will be all right."
Septimus looked at Lucy with grudging admiration. She had surprised him with her skill in the sick bay, and she was surprising him once again.
"He could," he admitted. "But the trouble is, I don't trust him on his own."
"Then make him be big enough to take you. Make him be a dragon!" Lucy's eyes were shining with excitement.
Septimus shook his head. "No," he said slowly. "I've got a better idea."
Back on the rocks above the harbor, under the beady yellow eye of an extremely disgruntled turtle, Septimus outlined his plan. Beetle, Lucy and Wolf Boy listened, impressed.
"So, let me get this straight," said Beetle. "Jim Knee's bottle was gold, right?"
"And the jinn tubes in the chest were made of lead?"
"And that's important?"
"I think it's crucial. You see, in Physik and Alchemie I learned a lot about lead and gold. Lead is considered to be the less perfect form of gold. And always, always, the thing is: gold trumps lead. Every time."
"So?" asked Wolf Boy.
"So, in the jinn pecking order, Jim Knee's the tops. He's from gold; they're from lead. He's much more powerful than those warriors are."
"You're right!" Beetle said excitedly. "I remember now. Someone gave Jillie Djinn a pamphlet called Habits and Hierarchy of the Jinn as a joke - which of course she didn't understand. I read it one quiet day in the office, and that is exactly what it said."
Septimus grinned. "So Jim Knee can Freeze the warrior jinn. He'll stop them in their tracks."
"Brilliant," said Beetle. "Absolutely brilliant."
"There," said Lucy, "see what you can do when you try?"
Wolf Boy was not so sure. "It's still four thousand to one," he said. "As soon as he Freezes one of 'em, the other three thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine will be after him."
"No," said Beetle, "I don't think so. I reckon these jinn are basically one organism - look at the way they all move together. Freeze one and you Freeze the whole bunch."
"That's right," said Septimus. "They only needed one Awake, didn't they? After that they just kept on coming."
"Trouble is, Sep," said Beetle, "there's only one way to find out for sure."
"Yep," agreed Septimus. "Now where's that turtle?"
A sodden Jim Knee sat on the harbor steps spitting out turtle spit and moving his fingers separately, just because he could.
"Jim Knee," said Septimus, "I command you - "
"You have no need to command, Oh Forceful One," said Jim Knee, wiggling his toes experimentally. "Your wish is my command."
"Good," said Septimus. "I wish you to Freeze the warrior jinn."
"How many, Oh Vague One?"
"All of them."
Jim Knee was aghast. "All? Every single one?"
"Yes, every single one," said Septimus. "That is my wish. And my wish is what?"
"My command," Jim Knee replied glumly.
"Right then. Come on. We'll take you to them."
Jim Knee looked up at his Master. "I could do with a nap first," he said.
"Oh, really?" said Septimus.
"Yes, really," said the jinnee.
Jim Knee did not know what hit him. One minute he was sitting, eyes slowly closing in the heat of the sun, and the next he had been grabbed, hauled to his feet and frogmarched down to the smelly fishing boat he knew too well.
"We've got him, Sep," the dark-haired boy with the viselike grip on his left front flipper - no, his arm - was saying.
"And we're not letting go," said the boy with the rat's nest on his head, who had an equally nasty hold on his right arm.
"Good," said his Master. "Get him on the boat."