"Trolls!" Zann shouted. "Run!"
"Run where?" Perda exclaimed. "We're surrounded!"
Zann rubbed his hands together, preparing to zap away. But one of the trolls was looming over Darb. There was no way Zann could grab his friend and escape. Besides, the biggest troll had just grabbed Gliss by the arm. They were trapped!
Suddenly a sheet of flame surrounded the big troll. The troll grunted, a dull look of surprise crossing its singed face. Gliss shrieked and pulled free.
"Zing!" Darb cried.
The dragon spat out another burst of flame at the second troll, who tried to grab him. But Zing flew up and circled overhead, whistling the song his breed was named for. It sounded like an ordinary tune to people. But for most other creatures, the song had a hypnotizing effect. The trolls turned in circles, staring up at Zing.
"Zing's song is distracting them!" Zann cried.
The trolls didn't look fully hypnotized, though; they just looked confused. Zann knew they would probably recover in a second.
"Go!" he urged, giving Darb a shove to get him started. The kids pushed past the confused trolls and sprinted toward the swamp.
"Do you think Morb sent those trolls?" Gliss called out.
Zann glanced back at her. "He must have. I guess that proves he's tracking all of our magic, not just mine."
"Faster!" Perda panted as she passed Zann. "We have to get out of sight before Morb shows up to see what's taking the trolls so long."
Darb jumped into the lead. "Come this way. I know a shortcut back to the Hollow."
They all changed directions to follow him. As a Void, Darb had to rely on his own two feet to get places most of the time. He was sure to know the shortest route.
They had almost reached the Hollow when Zann felt something splash onto his head. "Uh-oh," he said. "It's starting to rain."
Perda made a face as a drop of orange water hit her arm. "Ugh. It's an orange rain this time," she complained.
Zann's fingers twitched, but he stopped himself from conjuring up an umbrella. Orange was his least favorite type of rain. It stained clothes and skin worse than any other color.
By now they were in sight of the Hollow. They heard a triumphant whistle, and Zing came speeding past. He did a flip in the air and landed in front of Darb.
"Good job, little buddy," Zann told the dragon, scratching him under his scaly snout. "You saved us."
They all ducked into the Hollow as the rain started coming down harder. But there was nothing to cover them, and they were all soon soaked to the skin.
"I wish we could conjure up some shelter," Gliss complained as they huddled together for warmth.
"Me too." Zann sighed.
An hour later the rain finally stopped. The entire swamp had a bright orange sheen. "Let's go find that diary," Zann said.
"Maybe we should split up," Perda suggested. "Two of us could look for the diary while the other two go tell the mayor what we know about Morb. She might be able to help us contact the palace."
"No!" Gliss exclaimed. "Please, can't we stay together?"
"She's right," Darb said. "It's definitely safer if we all stick together."
Zann nodded. "We'll find the diary, and then we can all go see the mayor together."
This time they let Zing come to town with them. The dragon whistled suspiciously when they passed the spot where the trolls had ambushed them. But there was no sign of the huge creatures now.
When they reached Zann's house—or what was left of it—Zann gulped. Two walls were still half-intact, along with a few overhead beams, but the rest of the place was mostly rubble. The orange rain was already drying and fading, but a few rusty puddles remained, making things look even worse.
"Oh, Zann!" Gliss cried. "This is horrible! You must be so upset!"
"It's just a house," Zann said quickly. "Boz can fix it when he gets back." He stepped forward. "Let's start searching. The diary is small and has a bronze cover that looks like dragon scales."
They climbed onto what used to be the inside of the house. Most of the furniture was smashed to bits. Zann paused and looked at his favorite lamp, which was broken in half. Then he kept going.
He climbed over some fallen chunks of the walls, aiming for where the main room had been. Then he started digging through the rubble. When he moved a chunk of the ceiling out of the way, he saw that the table was mostly undamaged.
"Aha!" Zann murmured as he peered under it. There was a book lying there—the diary!
As he reached for the diary, he heard a sudden crunch of breaking wood. He jumped to his feet and realized that Perda and Gliss were standing near the side wall. One of them had just shoved aside a broken bookshelf, which had been holding up a large wooden beam. The girls were peering at something on the floor, completely unaware that the heavy beam was toppling right toward them!
Zann gasped. Without thinking, he rubbed his fingers and pointed at the falling beam.
The beam stopped short and floated in midair just above the girls' heads. Gliss and Perda glanced up, and then dashed away from it.
"That was close!" Gliss exclaimed.
Before Zann could answer, there was a blinding flash, and Morb appeared before them in a swirl of smoke!