When Zann awoke, he wasn't sure where he was. It was dark and a little chilly.
He rubbed his fingers together to create a light, but nothing happened. That made him wake up a little more.
As soon as he looked around, though, he remembered he was in the Hollow. Darb, Perda, Gliss, and Zing were lying nearby. They'd all spent a cold, uncomfortable night sleeping on the hard ground.
"Ugh," Perda mumbled as she woke up. "It's freezing!"
Indeed the predawn chill hung over the swamp like a damp blanket. Without thinking, Zann tried to conjure up a fire, but again nothing happened.
"Right, magic doesn't work in the Hollow," he reminded himself.
Perda rubbed her eyes. "Hey," she said, leaning over and poking Gliss. "Is that Darb'sjacket?"
"Yeah." Darb sat up and stretched. "Gliss was shivering last night, and I figured she needed it more than I did."
That was just like Darb. He was always willing to give up his own comfort to help someone else. Usually it was one of the things Zann liked about his friend. But today for some reason it annoyed Zann a little.
"Nice of you to offer the jacket to the rest of us," Perda told Darb sarcastically, obviously feeling the same way.
Darb didn't say anything, but Gliss sat up and looked at Perda. "Sorry," she said quickly. "I didn't ask him to give it to me. Anyway, you guys are the ones who talked me into staying out here."
"What else are we supposed to do?" Zann said. "Do you want to go sit in your house all alone and wait for Morb to come grab you?"
As soon as he said it, he regretted it. Gliss' face fell and a tear ran down her cheek.
Perda scowled at Zann. "That wasn't very nice."
"Sorry," Zann muttered.
"What are we going to do?" Gliss asked in a shaky voice. "Morb blasted through my parents' Shield spell like it was nothing."
"We've got to look for Boz's diary," Darb said.
"And then what?" Gliss asked. "Even if the diary survived the explosion, how are we supposed to get it to the palace? First City is halfway across Magica!"
"Why don't we take it to the mayor?" Darb suggested. "Maybe she'll know what to do."
Gliss nodded, looking hopeful for the first time. "Everyone says the mayor is the most powerful Red in Swamp Bottom." She shot a glance at Zann. "Well, except for Boz. But he's retired."
"And missing," Perda pointed out. "I think you're right about the mayor, Darb. She can help us if anyone can."
Zann shrugged. He was ready to get out of the Hollow. "Let's worry about all that later," he said. "First we need to find that diary."
Morb glared at the old woman facing him. Her sunken eyes burned with disdain.
"Why did you come today if you're not going to help me?" he demanded.
"I can't help you anymore," she croaked in a deep, dark voice. "What you are doing is too much. When we made our deal, I never intended—"
"That's enough!" Morb thundered. "Who are you to lecture me about right and wrong? You're no better than I am."
The old woman's eyes narrowed. "Perhaps not," she said in a low, ominous voice. "But I have lived many years and seen many things, including the downfall of others who tried to do more than their destinies allowed."
"I believe in making my own destiny," Morb retorted.
The woman shook her head. "Making your own destiny?" she said. "Or stealing it?"
Morb's face twisted with anger. Ready to send a Blast spell flying, he rubbed his fingers together; the friction made a crackling sound.
"You know better than that," the old woman said with a slight smile. "Like it or not, you still need me, Morb."
Morb lowered his hand. "Perhaps," he said. "But not for much longer."
For the first time, the old woman looked worried. "What do you mean? Without my help you could never—"
"I'm tired of this conversation," Morb interrupted loudly. He'd just noticed a swarm of flizzes zipping in through the window. "Leave."
The old woman hesitated, her deep-set eyes studying Morb's face with a mix of curiosity and dread. Slowly she turned and walked out of the room.
When she was gone, Morb stepped toward the flizzes. "What have you brought me, my pretties?" he asked.
Several of the tiny dragons were struggling to carry pieces of paper. Morb grabbed the papers and examined them. A smile spread across his thin face.
"Perfect," he said. "You've done well, my tiny friends."
Striding over to the Secret Eye, he paused and glanced at the map image hovering above it. It was still blank, with no red dots visible at all.
Never mind. The boy couldn't resist using magic forever. As soon as Zann slipped, Morb would be ready.
He looked once more at the blink images in his hand. One showed the Red girl whose parents now languished in one of his cells. The other picture was of the tall non-Red who had been with the others.
Morb stuffed both images into the Secret Eye alongside the blink image of Boz's grandson. Nothing happened. No red dots appeared on the map.
Morb scowled. He didn't have time to stand here waiting for those foolish children to use magic. His plans were underway, and there was still much to do. He summoned several trolls.
"Watch the map!" he ordered them. "As soon as it shows the location of the young fugitives, seize them and bring them to me."