His grandmother was less thrilled. “That tail could put all the windows out,” she said.
Septimus slipped down from the Pilot Dip and patted the dragon’s nose. “Well done, Spit Fyre. Go home!”
But Spit Fyre didn’t want to go home. He could see that there was another dragon right beneath his feet and he wanted to meet it. He thumped his tail in disapproval.
The little boy in the attic squealed with excitement. His grandmother threw open the window. “Careful!” she yelled.
“Sorry!” Septimus shouted. He looked at his stubborn dragon and a whisper of the Synchronicity between him and Spit Fyre came back—now he understood why Spit Fyre wanted to stay. Septimus put his hand to his ear, which was the sign that told Spit Fyre to listen. Spit Fyre dutifully dropped his head down so that Septimus could talk at dragon-ear height.
“Spit Fyre. The dragon is very ill. She may even be dying. If you stay you must be very quiet. You must not move. No tail thumping, no claw scratching, no snorting, no anything. Do you understand?”
Spit Fyre blinked twice in assent. Then he lay down on the ice and mournfully rested his head over the parapet: a dying dragon was a terrible thing. Septimus patted Spit Fyre’s neck and left his dragon to be watched over by a nervous grandmother and her excited grandson.
With Jenna’s cry of “she’s dead” still echoing in his head, Septimus raced down a narrow flight of stone steps that led to the opposite side of the Cut. As he made his way along the foot of the wall toward the Dragon House, a faint movement and a slight cooling of the air told Septimus that he was walking through a throng of ghosts. And from the restrained, somewhat regal atmosphere he guessed they were ancient Queens and Princesses, anxiously watching.
Septimus moved slowly through the ghosts toward the open mouth of the Dragon House. He now saw what Spit Fyre’s Fyre had revealed. It was eerily beautiful. The Dragon Boat, stark white against the deep blue lapis of the Dragon House, lay deathly still, encased in a frosting of ice. A shaft of light from the winter sun glanced in and made the ice sparkle with such movement that for a moment Septimus thought that all was well and the Dragon Boat was breathing. But the concerned faces of Marcellus and Jenna—and even Jannit Maarten—on the opposite side of the Cut told him otherwise.
Septimus walked quickly across what was left of the ice, reached the boatyard side of the Cut and followed Marcellus and Jenna into the chill of the Dragon House. The air inside reminded Septimus of the Ice Tunnels—stale, strange and icy cold. He made his way along the icy marble walkway and joined Jenna and Marcellus where they stood, looking down at the Dragon Boat’s head.
Her head rested on a rug laid on the marble walkway. The swanlike curves of her neck, the fine detail of the scales, the intricate contours of the head all showed through the ice frosting, like a finely carved statue. In fact, it seemed to Septimus that the dragon had turned to marble, so cold and stonelike did she look.
Marcellus nodded to Septimus. “I have been explaining to Jenna that a dragon is a reptile with blood that cools but does not freeze, with blood that allows her to become deeply unconscious and yet still return to life. Indeed, some say dragon blood has the property of eternal heat. What I am saying is that it is good she is covered in ice.”
This made sense to Septimus, but from Jenna’s expression he could see that Marcellus still had some persuading to do.
“So,” said Marcellus, “shall we go aboard?”
“Aboard?” The thought of stepping onto the Dragon Boat made Jenna feel very uncomfortable. It felt disrespectful—like walking over a grave.
“Naturally. It is what we need to do. Or rather, what you need to do.”
“It is the Queens who have the touch. And, I believe, a small bottle of Revive.”
“Oh!” Jenna took the tiny the blue bottle from her pocket. On its small brown label was written Tx3 Revive. “So I can use it, even without the Triple Bowls?”
“Of course. There are many ways to use the Revive.”
“So, what do I do? Put it on her nose or something?”
“Something,” said Marcellus. Very carefully, he stepped onto the deck of the Dragon Boat and held out his hand for Jenna, who took it and stepped lightly in beside him, followed by Septimus. Almost reverentially, Marcellus moved toward the center of the deck, where there was a pair of tiny doors leading to a locked cabin. No one had ever been able to open the doors. When Jannit had repaired the boat, she had become quite spooked by the fact that there was a part of it she could not get to. And there were times when she thought she could hear something in there.
Marcellus kneeled down at the doors, which were mistily visible through the ice. He unwrapped his black velvet scarf and began to gently rub the ice until it was clear of hoar frost, and peered through the glassy surface of the ice to the mysterious azure blue doors below. “Apprentice, I wonder if you have something that would melt this ice?”
Septimus fished a small candle-end out of his pocket. “I’ve got my tinderbox. I can light this.”
Marcellus heaved a sigh. “That will take hours, Apprentice. Do you have, er, anything else?”
Septimus grinned. So much for Marcellus insisting on no Magyk while you’re my Apprentice. “You mean something like a spell?” he asked.
“A spell will be fine, thank you.”
Septimus kneeled down beside Marcellus and placed his hands on the ice that covered the doors. With his palms threatening to stick fast, he quickly muttered a simple Melt. Then he leaned all his weight onto his hands and pressed hard. He felt the heat of his palms spread out into the ice and soon there were two rapidly growing hand-shaped holes in the ice, water was running down the inside of his sleeves and his hands were through to the smooth wood below. Septimus rocked back on his heels, shook the warmth back into his freezing hands and watched the ice retreat to reveal two shiny, deep blue lacquered doors, each with a simple dragon symbol enclosed in a lozenge shape.
“Stop now,” said Marcellus. “I think it is safer to keep the temperature low until we find out what . . . what we are dealing with.”
“You mean, until we find out if she’s dead,” said Jenna.
“Personally, I do not believe she is dead,” said Marcellus. “Now we must open the doors.”
Septimus shook his head. “They don’t open. In fact, I think they’re false doors. Just one piece of wood.”
“That, Apprentice, is what they are made to look like. But they are not. I have opened them once before.”
“When before?” asked Jenna.
“You forget I was the husband of a Keeper,” Marcellus answered. He took off the heavy gold disc that hung around his neck—his Alchemie Keye—and placed it in a shallow indentation where the doors joined, saying, “My dear Broda once had a similar panic as you, Princess.”
“I am not panicking.”
“During a particularly cold Big Freeze she too was sure that . . . aha, the doors are opening!”
Jenna and Septimus crouched down beside Marcellus and watched the doors swing open to reveal a deep, red-tinged darkness. Gingerly, Marcellus leaned forward and looked inside; then he sat back on his heels and beckoned to Jenna to come closer. “Can you hear anything now?” he said in a hushed voice.
Jenna leaned forward through the hatchway into the dark. A sense of being deep inside the Dragon Boat made the hairs on the back of her neck rise. She could smell something like warm iron; it was rich and strange and made her feel a little queasy. “Is this where her heart is?” she whispered.
Marcellus nodded. “Wait a few minutes. Her heart beats slowly when it is so cold.”
Like surgeons gathered around a patient on an operating table, they waited for a heartbeat. Marcellus took out his timepiece and looked at the second hand moving round. It made three sweeps of the dial, then four, then five.
“Nothing,” Jenna said miserably. “Nothing.”
“No,” said Marcellus heavily. “You are right, Princess. Of course.”
“She’s dead,” said Jenna despairingly. “She’s dead.”
“I do not think so. If she were dead I believe she would be frozen all the way through. But possibly she is getting near to it.” Marcellus looked up at Jenna, a serious expression in his eyes. “As your mother so rightly said, only you can save her.”