38. A Surprise Attack
"What do you mean?" Zann asked Fala. "What's happening?"
"Early this morning a group of people marched on the palace," Fala replied.
"What people?" Perda asked. "The Reds we freed?"
"A few of them were there." Fala started pacing. "But the marchers were mostly non-Reds. They demanded that Morb leave and return the rightful king and queen."
"What did Morb do?" Darb asked.
Fala grimaced. "He had his trolls throw the leaders into the river. Then he stopped the rest of the marchers by turning the cobblestones in the courtyard into burning coals."
"Ouch!" Zann winced, imagining the burn on his feet.
"That put an end to the rebellion," said Fala. "Most citizens are staying home now and waiting to see what will happen next." She sighed. "It's been a long time since anyone in Magica had to worry about this sort of thing."
"Everyone is probably waiting for the Red Council to rescue them," Gliss commented.
"Too bad most of the Red Council is in Morb's dungeon somewhere on Mount Mystery," Perda said.
"Morb announced that all Voids are invited to accept jobs as palace servants," Fala went on. "They'll be rewarded with amulets to provide them with enough magic to perform most daily tasks."
"That at least doesn't sound too bad," Gliss said, shooting a look at Darb.
"That's not all," Fala said. "Morb ordered all remaining free Reds to report to the palace immediately. Then he warned that more changes will be coming soon."
"Like that horrible new machine Gliss told us about?" Perda wondered.
"Perhaps," said Fala. "In any case, there's no time to waste. If we don't act now, Magica could be lost forever."
"Then let's do something!" Zann exclaimed. "Should we go back to the palace and try to fight Morb?"
"No," Fala replied. "I have a better idea."
"Wow," Zann said. "You really did it!"
Fala nodded, looking tired. She'd zapped them all from the safe house to the woods outside the city.
Zann was impressed. He'd zapped himself and Darb often enough to know that it took more energy to zap two people than one. He'd never tried zapping five people and a dragon before—especially such a long distance. Despite not being a Red, Fala's magic was very strong.
"Is this the right spot?" she asked once she'd caught her breath.
"Yes," Darb said. He led the others along a trail to the large clearing, where the two cloud gliders were grazing peacefully.
Fala stepped toward the dragons. "Nice beasts," she said approvingly. "I learned to ride on a cloud glider."
"You know how to ride dragons?" Perda asked.
"Sure." Fala stepped toward the larger dragon and gave it a pat. "I'll steer this fellow if one of you wants to take the other."
"I'll do it," Darb volunteered. "Gliss, want to ride with me again?"
"Sure," Gliss said. "Perda can join us, and Zann can go with Fala."
Zann was a little disappointed that he and Perda wouldn't be riding together. But it was too late to say anything—everyone was already climbing onto the dragons.
Fala's plan was to ride the dragons to Morb's fortress on Mount Mystery. There they would sneak in and free all the Red prisoners while Morb was busy at the palace.
"Follow us, Zing," Zann called as the dragons took off.
"Hold on tightly," Fala told Zann over her shoulder. "I want to get high up in the sky before we cross over the city."
Zann grabbed her around the waist as their dragon flew higher and higher. He could hear Zing whistling behind them.
Soon both cloud gliders and Zing were soaring high over First City. Zann peered down and spotted the palace almost directly below them.
"How long will it take to reach Mount Mystery?" Perda called over to Fala.
"Probably three or four hours," Fala replied. "We—"
She was interrupted by a terrifying scream.
An enormous purple dragon burst through a cloud and headed straight toward them.
"Look out!" Darb yelled. "It's a thunder charger!"
Fala gasped. "I think that's one of the wild dragons that disappeared from the zoo!" she cried. "Morb must be using them to guard the air above the palace!"
"There's another one!" Zann exclaimed as a sleek green-and-orange beast appeared, followed by three more scary-looking dragons.
The cloud gliders snorted with terror, doing their best to dodge the attacking wild dragons. "Hang on!" Fala yelled to Zann as their dragon swooped downward.
Zann tried not to let go. He glanced over and saw the girls clinging to Darb, who was steering the other cloud glider through the attack. Then Zann looked down. The city looked much closer now, especially the palace.
Zann nearly lost his grip as his dragon dived downward again, barely escaping the thunder charger's electrical bolt. Nearby Zing was weaving back and forth to avoid the bigger dragons. Another bolt of electricity singed the tip of Zing's wing. The small dragon let out a squeal of pain and attempted to fly to Zann.
"Come on, Zing! You can make it!" cried Zann.
Zing flew as fast as he could, desperately trying to keep up with the cloud glider. Once Zing was close enough, Zann put out a hand for him.
At that exact same moment, Fala changed directions again. Zing quickly leaped onto the cloud glider's back, but Zann was thrown off-balance. He reached for Fala, but the cloud glider lurched forward to avoid another attack and Zann's hand swiped nothing but air.
Zann called out. "Help!"
By the time Fala realized what had happened, Zann was already plummeting toward the palace far below.
"Zann!" screamed Fala.