Septimus snatched his foot off the power pedal. “Jen—brake, brake, brake!”
In the bright beam of light of the Tube, Jenna and Septimus saw the most bizarre sight. Poking up from the floor of the Ice Tunnel were the head and shoulders of a man. He was staring at the oncoming Tube in utter horror. Jenna slammed her foot on the brake and the Purple Tube skidded to a halt just in time. The head-and-shoulders stayed where it was and continued to stare, its mouth opening and closing like a goldfish thrown out of its bowl.
“Jeez. It’s Marcellus.” Septimus reached over to the hatch dial and clicked it up, the pilot hatch swung open and in seconds he was up and out into the chill of the Ice Tunnel, clambering down the ladder and running and sliding across the ice toward Marcellus, closely followed by Jenna.
Blinded by the headlight, Marcellus was convinced that he was about to be run down. He heard Septimus’s voice but thought he was imagining it. It was only when Septimus shook his shoulder that Marcellus realized he was not—just then, anyway—going to die.
Jenna slid to a halt beside them, shocked at what she saw. Marcellus was in a terrible state. He was covered in dirt and streaked with dried blood that ran down from a huge bump on his forehead. “Marcellus!” she gasped. “Your head! What has happened?”
It was too much for Marcellus to explain right then. “Stuck,” he replied.
“Okay. Let’s get you out,” said Septimus.
Jenna grasped one shoulder and Septimus the other. “One, two, three—pull!”
“Ouch!” Marcellus yelled as he was wrenched from the tiny escape hatch and pulled out onto the ice—which felt, Septimus thought, unusually soft. As Marcellus lay groaning on the ice, Septimus briefly caught sight of a small, dusty face with squashy, broad features and a pair of large, round, black eyes staring at them from the ice. But before he could say anything, the little eyes were gone.
“Marcia . . .” Marcellus said feebly. “See Marcia. Got to tell her.”
Septimus was beyond being surprised by anything—if Marcellus suddenly wanted to tell all to Marcia, that was fine by him. “Okay. Now, Marcellus, can you stand?”
Marcellus nodded and then groaned once more. His head hurt badly. He allowed Jenna and Septimus to help him to his feet and walked unsteadily between them to the Purple Tube.
Unseen, Duglius popped his head out of the hatch once more to make sure his Master was safe. He saw Marcellus being helped to climb up the rungs on the side of the Tube and deposited with some difficulty through the hatch. He saw the Apprentice and the Princess clamber in after him and when the Tube hatch hissed closed, Duglius dropped back down the Drummin burrow escape hatch and pulled it shut too. Then he took a shiny mat—known as a slider—from a stack just below the hatch and sat down. With one push Duglius was away, hurtling down the escape burrow, GloGrubs jumping out of his way, dust kicking up into his face. It was something he had not done since he was a young Drummin, so very, very long ago, and once again Duglius felt the sheer joy of being alive. And as he headed down, Duglius was determined that he, his Drummins and his Fyre were going to stay that way.
Inside the Purple Tube, Marcellus was slumped on the bench seat behind the pilot’s. Jenna sat with him. “Marcellus,” she said, “we have to get to the Palace Ice Hatch. It’s really important. Can you tell us the way?”
“Not Palace,” mumbled Marcellus. “Marcia.”
“Palace first, then Marcia,” said Septimus firmly. Marcellus’s eyes were beginning to close. “Jen, keep him awake.”
“Marcellus—Marcellus!” Jenna gently patted Marcellus’s bloodstained cheeks to keep him awake. “Please. Marcellus. This is very important. We have to get to the Palace Hatch. Marcellus. The Palace Ice Hatch. Which way?”
The urgency in Jenna’s voice at last got through and Marcellus dragged himself back from the comforting sleep that beckoned to him. Marcellus knew every inch of the Ice Tunnels and even in his confused state he was able to direct them to a signpost that read TO THE PALACE.
Septimus took the turn and coasted to a halt beneath the Palace Ice Hatch. He took his Alchemie Keye—a round gold disc—from around his neck and handed it to Jenna, saying, “Press it into the dip in the middle.”
Septimus opened the passenger hatch and Jenna scrambled out. Water dripped on her head as she stood on top of the Tube and pressed the gold Keye into the indentation in the silver hatch above. “It’s open!” she called down. “I’ll be as quick as I can!” With that she was gone.
Septimus stared through the greenish glass at the ice outside. Something was wrong; the ice looked different. And then he realized what it was—it had lost the frosty sparkle that he had always loved. Septimus opened the pilot hatch. “Marcellus, I’ll be back in a minute,” he said, and swung himself up and out of the hatch and down onto the ice. Septimus was shocked. It was slush.
He looked up at the curved roof of the tunnel high above and a splat of water landed on his face. Rubbing his eyes, Septimus clambered back into the Tube. Now he knew for sure—the Ice Tunnels were melting.
Jenna pushed open the trapdoor at the top of the flight of steps that led up from the Ice Tunnel. She threw aside a heavy (and horribly dusty) rug and found herself in the coat cupboard just off the Palace entrance hall. Coughing and sneezing, she threw open the door, rushed out and ran straight into Sam.
“Jen!” Sam gasped.
“Sam. No time to explain. Small gold pyramid. Very, very important. We have to find it. It’s somewhere in the Palace.”
“Where in the Palace?”
“Sam, if I knew that I wouldn’t be looking for it, would I?”
Sam looked at his little sister. “It’s really important, isn’t it?” he said.
The enormity of the search almost overwhelmed Jenna. “Oh, Sam . . . yes, it is. I don’t know how I’m going to find it. I really don’t.”
“I’ll get the boys. We’ll find it.”
“I gotta go and check somewhere out first, Sam. I’ll be back here in ten minutes, okay?” Jenna rushed off.
In the Queen’s Room Jenna and the ghost of her mother had another confrontation.
“Ah, the little gold pyramid. So heavy for something so small,” said Queen Cerys.
“Where is it?” Jenna asked.
“Where is it what?”
Jenna took a deep breath and counted to ten. “Where is it, please.”
“Where is it, please what?”
Another count to ten. “Where is it please, Mama.”
“Daughter, you cannot have everything at once. This mystical treasure is for Queens only. You must wait until you are crowned.”
With great difficulty Jenna subdued the urge to jump up and down screaming.
“Mama. This is not for me. It is for the Castle. If we do not have it now, then there may not be a Castle by the time I am crowned.”
“Daughter, do not exaggerate.”
Jenna took yet another very deep breath and said in a barely controlled voice, “I am not exaggerating. Mama. Please. Do you know where the little gold pyramid is?”
“I know where I left it,” said Queen Cerys. “But given the disgusting mess, I could not say where it is now.”
“So where did you leave it?” asked Jenna.
“I shall tell you where when you are Queen. And not before.”
Desperately, Jenna tried another tack. “Is Grandmamma here?”
“No, she is not. You will have your little pyramid when you are crowned and I shall say no more on the subject until then. Now, daughter, go and calm yourself.”
Jenna gave up the struggle. “Aaaaaaaargh!” she yelled at the top of her voice and rushed, screaming, out through the wall.
Sam had rounded up Sarah and the boys, and they were waiting for Jenna in the entrance hall.
“No luck?” Sam asked, although Jenna’s face already told him the answer.
“Oh, dear,” said Sarah. “If Queen Cerys doesn’t know where it is, I don’t know what we can do. It could be anywhere.”
Jenna sighed. “It could be anywhere” was another of Sarah’s phrases when she was looking for something—but a much less hopeful one than “it must be somewhere.”