It was Wolf Boy who settled the argument. “Why don’t we check out the Triple rules first?” he suggested. “There are lots of books here that you don’t have in the Castle—you know, witchy books. We might find a way around needing the third bowl. Witches are good at finding their way around things.”

“That’s a good point, Jen,” said Septimus.

Jenna could only agree with Wolf Boy. Witches clearly were very good at finding their way around things. “Okay,” she said. “We’ll stay tonight. And look through all the books.

Supper was pig-foot pie garnished with steamed eel heads followed by a large communal bowl of cabbage leaf and marshberry jam puree, into which Aunt Zelda suggested they dip dried wormsticks, although no one did. The usual pushing of food around plates occurred, and even Septimus, who had once loved Aunt Zelda’s cooking, found the pig foot on his plate hard to swallow. They helped Aunt Zelda clear the table and wash the plates; then Aunt Zelda went upstairs to bed, leaving them feeling queasy but still very hungry.

Wolf Boy fetched three straw mattresses and laid them out beside the fire along with three pillows and quilts. As the gentle sound of Aunt Zelda’s snores drifted down the stairs, Wolf Boy began setting up a tripod over the fire, from which a large hook dangled.

“What’s that for?” Jenna asked.

“The cooking pot,” said Wolf Boy. “Like we had in the Forest. ’Scuse me a moment.” He got up and went into the kitchen, returning with a round black pot, which he carefully hung on the hook. He threw another log on the fire and they watched the flames jump up and curl around the side of the pot. “Rabbit stew,” said Wolf Boy. “Proper rabbit stew. With good stuff in it like—”

“Rabbit?” asked Jenna.

“Yep. With potatoes and onions and carrots and herbs.”

“No eels?” asked Septimus.

“No eels,” said Wolf Boy firmly. “No wormsticks and positively no pigs’ feet.”

As the cooking pot bubbled gently, a delicious smell filled the room and ushered out the lingering taint of eel. Jenna felt ravenous. “Do you always cook your own stuff?” she asked.

“I’d be as thin as one of those brooms up there if I didn’t,” said Wolf Boy. “Zelda doesn’t mind. She goes to bed early, I clean up and then I sit here with my cooking pot and memorize some potions or something.”

“You don’t get lonely?” asked Jenna.

“Nah. I’m not alone. Zelda’s upstairs, Bert’s here and the marsh is outside. I love it.”

To Jenna’s dismay, the search through Aunt Zelda’s witchy library yielded nothing at all. As the moon rose high above the snow and its silver light filled the cottage, they settled down for the night, pulling the quilts around them to keep off the chill that was creeping in. The cottage grew quiet and they began to drift off to sleep, lulled by the silence of the frozen marsh.

Suddenly Wolf Boy sat up. “Hey!” he said.

“Wassamatter?” Septimus mumbled blearily.

“So what am I called?” asked Wolf Boy.

“Huh?” asked Jenna.

“My name? What’s my name?”

“Wolf Boy,” said Jenna, confused.

“No. I mean my real name. There’s Matt and Marcus, but what about me?”

“Ah,” said Septimus. He glanced at Jenna.

“Your surname is Marwick,” said Jenna. “That’s a good, ancient Castle name.”

“Marwick . . . yeah, that’s nice, feels right, somehow,” said Wolf Boy. “But what is my first name?”

“Well.” Septimus sounded reluctant.

Wolf Boy was getting impatient. “Oh, spit it out, 412. It can’t be that bad.”

Septimus thought it could. “Mandy,” he said.

“Mandy?” Wolf Boy sounded incredulous. “Mandy?”

“Yeah. Sorry, 409.”

Wolf Boy buried himself in his quilt. “Sheesh . . .” Jenna and Septimus heard him muttering. “Mandy . . .”

10

THE CLOUD FLASK

“Morning, Mandy,” said Septimus, stepping over the recumbent Wolf Boy. A wiry arm shot out and a hand fastened itself around Septimus’s ankle. A growl came from beneath the quilt. “Don’t . . . call . . . me . . . Mandy.”

“Ouch, 409, that hurts.”

“Good.” Wolf Boy sat up, his long matted tails of hair fuzzed by sleep.

“So what do we call you?” Jenna’s voice came from the far end of the room. The marsh light had woken her early, as it always used to, and she was gazing out of the window watching the snow falling thick and fast across the marsh. “You’ve got three different names now.”

Wolf Boy considered the matter. “Yeah. Well, Marwick’s good. I like Marwick. Or Wolf Boy is fine. Don’t think much of 409 anymore—not after what they did to us. No more numbers, hey, 412?”

“Yeah,” agreed Septimus. “No more numbers.”

“That’s a deal,” said Wolf Boy. “So . . . I think I’ll use Marwick officially, like when I have to sign my Keeping papers and stuff like that. But Wolf Boy’s good for the rest of the time.”

“Until you’re too ancient to be called ‘boy’ anymore,” said Jenna.

“Yeah. Then I’ll be plain old Marwick. Sorted.”

Aunt Zelda got up late. She looked tired and drawn, Jenna thought, as she walked slowly and heavily down the stairs, her grizzled hair unbrushed and her large patchwork dress looking gray around the edges. A pang of pity went through Jenna—suddenly, Aunt Zelda was old. Jenna rushed over and wrapped her arms around her great-aunt.

Aunt Zelda looked a little overcome. “I thought you might have gone. I was afraid . . .” The words seemed to catch in her throat. “I was afraid you might never come to see me again.”

“Of course I’ll come to see you again,” said Jenna. “And don’t worry about the bowl. Marcellus will make another one.”

Aunt Zelda didn’t think such a thing was possible, but she merely sighed and said, “Well, I do hope he can, dear.”

“Okay, Sep?” said Jenna. “Shall we get going now?”

Aunt Zelda twisted a patchwork handkerchief in her knobbly fingers. “Come and tell me when the bowl’s ready, won’t you? Please?”

Jenna gave Aunt Zelda another hug. “We’ll need you to do the Triple with us, Aunt Zelda. Come on, Sep. I’ll take you through the Queen’s Way.”

“Yes—oh, bother. Wait a minute, Jen; I’ve got to get the flask. I promised Marcellus.”

“Okay. But hurry up.”

Jenna waited impatiently by the fire while Septimus explained to Aunt Zelda what he wanted. Aunt Zelda looked surprised. She led him over to a door set into the wall at the back of the cottage and, fumbling in her pocket, she drew out a set of small brass keys. Septimus waited impatiently while Aunt Zelda frowned at the keys.

“Would you like me to find the key?” Wolf Boy asked gently.

Gratefully, Aunt Zelda handed him the keys. “Yes, please, dear.”

A moment later Wolf Boy had unlocked the door and opened it to reveal the flask.

“It’s massive!” Septimus gasped.

Wolf Boy shrugged. “Yeah, well, it is quite big, I suppose. But then Cloud Flasks have to be, don’t they?”

“Do they?” Septimus knew nothing about Cloud Flasks and Marcellus had certainly not enlightened him. He had imagined a small glass jar that he could put in his pocket. But the thick glass flask that sat on the cupboard floor was as wide as Aunt Zelda and a good foot taller. Its round bowl filled the cupboard completely and its tall neck rose up above Septimus’s head.

Septimus glanced anxiously over to Jenna, who was pacing up and down by the fire—there was no way he could get something this big back through the Queen’s Way. “Um, Jen . . .” he ventured. “Can you come over here, please?”

Jenna was not pleased. “It won’t go through the Way, Sep.”

“I know.” Septimus sighed. “I’ll have to take it back to the Port on a sled and then get the Port barge.”

Jenna was aghast. “No, Sep! We have to get to Marcellus today. It’s a matter of life and death.”

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