To Jenna’s right was the furnace—still unlit—with its funnel of a chimney snaking up through the domed ceiling. In the center of the Chamber was a long table on which a line of candles was burning brightly. But something was missing.
“Where’s Marcellus?” asked Jenna.
Septimus shrugged. “I dunno. He’s always going off somewhere. He’ll be back soon.”
Jenna sat down at the long table. “So, where does he go, then?”
“I don’t know. He never says.”
“Don’t you ask?”
Septimus laughed. “I know you would, Jen. But it’s not polite for an Apprentice to ask things like that. He’d tell me if it was important.”
“Sounds weird to me,” Jenna said. “I mean, what else is there to do down here?”
The sound of footsteps in the Labyrinth stopped their conversation. A few seconds later, Marcellus Pye appeared through the archway. He looked startled.
“Septimus! What are you doing back so soon? Oh! And Esmeralda!” Marcellus was spooked. In the candlelight Jenna looked so much like his long-gone sister, Esmeralda, that he had forgotten for a moment what Time he was in. Being in the Fyre Chamber still took him back to the old times. Marcellus recovered from his Time Slip and offered Jenna the seat at the head of the table. “Please, Princess Jenna, sit down.”
Jenna took her seat and Marcellus sat down a little shakily on the bench at the side of the table, leaving Septimus to take his usual place on the right-hand side.
“Welcome to the Great Chamber, Princess Jenna,” Marcellus said rather formally. “I am delighted that you have come to see it so soon. It is an integral part of the Castle in which the Queens have always taken a great interest. Much greater, I believe, than in the Wizard Tower.”
Jenna nodded—she could believe that. Remembering what she had come for, she placed the leather bag on the table and took out the two bowls.
Marcellus looked at them with interest. “Ah,” he said. “The Triple. How nice.” He waited for Jenna to put the third bowl on the table.
“There isn’t another one,” she said. “The python ate it.”
Marcellus looked shocked. “You must get it back right away. Kill the wretched snake if you have to.”
“It’s not that easy,” said Jenna. “You see—”
Marcellus got to his feet. “Well, Marcia will just have to go without her silly shoes.”
“Shoes?” asked Jenna, confused.
“Her purple pythons. Isn’t that the only reason Terry Tarsal keeps that ghastly snake? Marcia may not believe it, but some things are worth more than shoes and this set of bowls is one of them. Terry Tarsal will just have to kill his precious python.”
Now Jenna understood. She sighed. “It’s not Terry Tarsal’s python, Marcellus. I wish it were.”
“Then whose python is it?”
“It isn’t anybody’s python. It’s the giant Marsh Python.”
Marcellus sat down. “Ah. Unfortunately not quite so easy to catch.”
“Well, that’s a great shame. To lose the Triple after all this time.”
“I told Jenna that you could Clone them,” Septimus said anxiously.
Marcellus laughed. “You have great faith in me, Apprentice. But there is much to do before we can even think of that.” He sighed and stood up as if to end the meeting. “I am so sorry, Princess,” he said. “I cannot Clone the gold for you now. We are not yet ready.”
“So that’s it, then,” said Jenna flatly. “She’s going to die.”
Marcellus looked shocked. “Who is going to die?”
“The Dragon Boat.”
“What, the Dragon Boat of Hotep-Ra?”
Jenna nodded, too upset to speak.
“If you will forgive the question, Princess, why do you think she is going to die?” Marcellus asked.
“I haven’t heard her heart beat for a whole five days now. I go every day in the Big Freeze. Aunt Zelda said I should. And I do hear it. Even though no one else can, I always do. And now . . . now it’s stopped. And the only thing my mother has ever asked me to do, I can’t.”
Marcellus thought that Jenna had the same look that his sister Esmeralda used to have when teetering on the edge of a tantrum. He decided to tread carefully.
“Tell me, Jenna, what is it that Sarah has asked you to do?” he asked gently.
“Not Sarah—not mum. My mother. The Queen.”
“The Queen? Her ghost has spoken to you?”
“We think we heard something,” Septimus said doubtfully.
Jenna was distractedly tracing her finger around the design of the sun cut into the ancient wood of the table. “Sep, I heard my mother. I know it was her.” She looked up at Marcellus. “Her ghost spoke when we were in the Queen’s Room.”
“Ah. Then it is your mother,” said Marcellus. “That is where the ghost of the previous Queen always resides.”
“Does she? Why didn’t you tell me?” asked Jenna.
“Well, I assumed you knew,” said Marcellus.
“No. No one tells me anything,” Jenna declared. “Not even my mother.”
Marcellus stood up. “Then it seems to me, Princess, that as your nearest relative on the royal side, it is time I stepped in. I will tell you all I know from my dear dead sister and my, ahem, less dear but thankfully dead mother.”
Jenna looked surprised. She had never thought of Marcellus as a relative, but it was true; he was in fact a great, great—and then some—uncle. Suddenly she felt a weight lifted from her shoulders. The Dragon Boat was no longer her worry alone. “Thank you,” she said, smiling for the first time that day.
“My pleasure, niece,” said Marcellus. “Now, I suggest we repair to the boatyard and open the Dragon House.”
“But what for? We’ve lost the Triple so we can’t revive her,” said Jenna, exasperated. She wondered whether Marcellus had actually listened to what she had been saying.
“There is more than one way to skin a cat,” said Marcellus.
Jenna’s patience ran out. Angrily, she stood up, scraping the old oak chair back across the stone floor. “Stop talking in riddles, Marcellus,” she snapped.
Marcellus put his arm out to stop Jenna from going. “Forgive my obscure speech, Princess,” he said. “What I mean is, there is more than one way to revive a dragon.” He stood up and put his arm around Jenna’s shoulders. “The Magyk way is beyond us now, so I shall show you the Physik way.”
Jannit Maarten was sitting in her snow-covered hut in the boatyard, cooking her favorite sausage and bean stew when, to her dismay, she saw the new Castle Alchemist walk by with the Princess, the ExtraOrdinary Apprentice and then—as her tiny snow-dusted window filled with green—ohnonotthatwretcheddragon. Jannit muttered a sailor’s curse and got to her feet.
During the Big Freeze, Jannit hibernated like a tortoise in her hut. She looked forward to the peace and quiet that the first flakes of snow brought with them. She sent her Apprentices and dockhands home, and waited happily for the day the Moat froze over and not even the Port barge could disturb the serenity of the boatyard. For the rest of the year Jannit worked day and night, eating, sleeping and dreaming boatyard business, but the Big Freeze was her holiday. As she had grown older, Jannit had begun to look forward to it so much that she had recently considered barring the way through the tunnel to ensure she was not disturbed by anyone from the Castle. The sight of three Castle dignitaries walking by her tiny snow-dusted window, accompanied by a notoriously heavy-footed dragon, made her wish she had done just that. There was a sharp rap on her door and Jannit briefly toyed with the idea of pretending she was not there in the hope they would go away. But the thought of them poking unsupervised around her boatyard and, even worse, the heavy-footed dragon trampling on the delicate shells of the upturned boats, got Jannit opening the hut door with a growled, “What?”
The new Castle Alchemist spoke. “Good day, Mistress Maarten, I—”
Jannit bristled. “I am no one’s mistress, Alchemist.” Jannit, who disapproved of Alchemie, managed to make “Alchemist” sound like an insult. “Jannit Maarten is my name and Jannit Maarten is what I answer to.”