They walked along the Mott path, skirting the mound of snow that covered the remains of the ancient Roman temple where the Dragon Boat had once lain. Septimus stopped a moment and looked at the mound, remembering the first time he had seen the beautiful boat. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” he said quietly.
“You still can’t hear her?”
“No. It can’t go on any longer, Sep. We need to do the Triple properly this time—with the Tx3 Revive I got from Broda. No more excuses. No more ‘when the time is right, dear’ from Aunt Zelda. I’ll need you there, of course.”
“Just say when and I’ll be there. You know that, Jen.”
Jenna smiled. “Thanks, Sep. I do.”
At the far end of the island past the cottage, two figures, dark against the snow, came into view.
Jenna waved. “Hey! Wolf Boy! Aunt Zelda!”
The shapes were unmistakable. The large slow triangle was Aunt Zelda and the thin, loping creature topped with a mane was clearly Wolf Boy, helping the triangle up the steep slope to the cottage.
“Jen,” said Septimus, “does 409—I mean Wolf Boy—does he know?” He still thought of his old friend by his Young Army number: 409. Just as Wolf Boy thought of Septimus by his Young Army number: 412.
“Know? About the Dragon Boat?”
“No, Jen—about being a triplet, with Marcus and Matt.”
Jenna slowed down. With all her worries about the Dragon Boat she had forgotten about Wolf Boy’s lost brothers. “Well, no, I don’t see how he can know. We were going to tell him at Simon’s wedding, weren’t we? Only Aunt Zelda forgot to come.”
“I thought you might have seen him already,” said Septimus.
Jenna shook her head. “Nope.”
“I really want to tell him myself. Do you mind?”
“Of course I don’t mind, Sep. It’s only right that you tell him.”
“Thanks.” Septimus remembered the time he had discovered who his family was—it had been on this very island almost four years ago. Now, he could hardly imagine being without his family and with no identity—but 409 still was. Septimus had suggested to Wolf Boy that he go to the Young Army Record Office to see what he could find out, but Wolf Boy had refused. He knew he was alone, he’d said, and he didn’t see the point of finding that out for sure.
They arrived at the cottage just as Wolf Boy was helping Aunt Zelda inside.
“Well, look who’s here,” said Aunt Zelda, breaking into a big smile. “How lovely to see you both.” She perused Septimus with a puzzled air. “You look different somehow. It’s . . . well, I don’t know why, but you do, dear.”
“Oh, it’s my Alchemie Apprentice robes, Aunt Zelda,” explained Septimus.
“Alchemie Apprentice. Goodness. Is that what you are now?”
“Only for this month, Aunt Zelda. In fact, only until tomorrow.”
Aunt Zelda shook her head. Things changed too fast for her nowadays. “Well, come inside, dears, and we’ll have some tea.”
After what Sarah had said, Jenna was relieved to see that Aunt Zelda seemed to be her normal self as she bustled about. Jenna sat by the fire and listened while Wolf Boy, pleased to have new company after many weeks of solitude with Aunt Zelda, talked nonstop.
Aunt Zelda brought in buttered toast for Jenna and Wolf Boy and a cabbage sandwich for Septimus, then she settled down beside the fire with her own favorite—a bowl of pureed cabbage leaves and marshberry jam. She regarded her visitors with a happy smile.
“It is so wonderful to see you,” she said. “What a lovely surprise. Now, tell me all the news.”
Jenna knew that she should tell Aunt Zelda all about Simon and Lucy’s wedding, but the Dragon Boat had to come first. She took a deep breath. “Aunt Zelda, it’s not good news. I’ve come because I can’t hear the Dragon Boat’s heartbeat anymore.”
Aunt Zelda paused with a spoonful of purple puree halfway to her mouth. Jenna saw a flash of concern in her blue witch’s eyes. “It can be very faint in the winter, you know, dear. And very slow,” she said.
“I know,” said Jenna. “I’m used to that. This is the third winter I’ve listened to her. But I have heard nothing for four days now. Nothing.”
Aunt Zelda put the spoon back in the bowl. “Are you quite sure?”
“I am absolutely sure.”
Aunt Zelda put the bowl of puree down on the floor. “Oh, dear,” she murmured to herself. “Oh, deary deary dear.”
“Aunt Zelda,” Jenna said. “I think she’s dying.”
Aunt Zelda gave a small moan and put her head in her hands.
Jenna pressed on. “We must do the real Revive now, with the potion I got from Broda. Please, Aunt Zelda, can you get the bowls for the Triple and come back with me and Sep now—please?”
Aunt Zelda looked distraught. She heaved herself out of her seat, walked slowly over to the Unstable Potions and Partikular Poisons cupboard and squeezed inside with some difficulty. Jenna glanced anxiously at Wolf Boy.
“Is Aunt Zelda all right?” she whispered.
Wolf Boy waggled his hand to and fro in a so-so gesture. “She forgets stuff and loses things. It upsets her, you know?”
“But she still keeps the cottage really tidy,” said Septimus, thinking that he had never seen the bookshelves look so organized. “And the potion bottles so sparkly.”
Wolf Boy grinned. “I’m not a bad housekeeper,” he said. “And I wield a mean duster.”
Aunt Zelda emerged from the cupboard carrying a very battered ancient wooden box on which was written in old script: THE LAST RESORT. She sat down by the fire and handed it to Wolf Boy. “Here, dear. You’re good at opening things.”
Wolf Boy slipped the catch and went to give the box back to Aunt Zelda, but she was reluctant to take it. “No, dear. You take the bag out for me.”
Wolf Boy drew out an old leather pouch.
“Take out the bowls for me, would you, dear?” asked Aunt Zelda.
Wolf Boy took out a bowl and balanced it snugly in the palm of his hand. Jenna and Septimus recognized the small hammered-gold bowl with the blue enamel edging that they had last seen when they and Aunt Zelda had performed the Transubstantiate Triple on the gravely injured Dragon Boat.
Jenna felt relieved. Aunt Zelda’s reluctance to do the Triple had made her wonder whether she had lost the bowls, but all seemed fine.
Wolf Boy plunged his hand back into the pouch and brought out another bowl identical to the first. “Pretty, aren’t they?” he said, balancing a bowl in each hand.
“Yes. And there’s one more,” said Jenna.
Aunt Zelda closed her eyes and began to mutter something under her breath.
Wolf Boy shook his head. “No more,” he said. “That’s it.”
“No more?” asked Jenna.
“No. Sorry. Here, take a look.” Wolf Boy passed the bag across to Jenna. She put her hand inside and felt nothing more than cold, dusty leather. Hoping that maybe the bowl was hiding in some obscure Magykal way, Jenna handed the pouch across to Septimus, who felt inside. He shook his head.
“Sorry, Jen. No bowl.”
“Aunt Zelda,” Jenna said gently. “You know there should be three bowls in the bag? Do you know where the other one is?”
Aunt Zelda sighed. “The Marsh Python ate it,” she said.
Night was closing in. Wolf Boy got up from the gloomy group by the fire and lit the lanterns in the deep-set windowsills, while Aunt Zelda began to explain.
“It was a lovely sunny day and I’d left the door open. I was organizing the potion cupboard and I thought I would give the bowls a clean, so I put them on the desk over there”—she waved at an odd-looking desk that had feet like a duck—“and I went to get the GoldBright from the top shelf at the back behind the stairs. Well, I couldn’t find it, so then I had to sort through everything. I suppose I took a while looking for it. You see, it was hidden behind the Frog Fusions, which was next to the Marvel Mixture, which I am sure it never used to be, but the Marvel Mixture always shines so much that you can’t see anything unless you almost close your eyes and of course Frog Fusions is a really big bottle as we have so many frogs here and it seems a shame to waste them but the trouble is you can’t see anything through that murky green stuff, but I found it at last wedged behind the bottle in a little crevice thingy and when I went back to the desk I tripped right over it.”