"Morb took them!" Perda hissed into Zann's ear. "He took the king and queen!"
"Yeah." Zann held on to the bars at the end of the tunnel and peered into the room inside the palace. "I saw."
Zann didn't know what to think. He'd been counting on the king and queen to help them. Now they were gone. Just like his parents. Just like Boz.
"Look," Darb said. "Everyone's waking up."
The people in the room were stirring. A woman with sleek, dark hair sat up, looking confused. "Your Majesties?" she called out.
A man who had been frozen shook off the spell. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and young, with a friendly face and spiky blond hair.
"The king and queen are gone," he said hoarsely. "I saw it happen. A man zapped in with a bunch of trolls and took them."
"What man?" the woman asked.
"His name is Morb!" Perda called out.
The man and woman spun around. "Who said that?" the man asked.
"We're in here," Zann called.
By now most of the other people in the room were awake too. A man with a pale, narrow face looked down sharply.
"Rixa, Yog! Don't go over there!" he said with a suspicious frown. "It could be a trap."
"It's not a trap," Gliss said. "We're just kids. Please let us out of this tunnel."
"Can't you zap yourselves out?" the woman, Rixa, asked.
"We can't use magic right now," Zann said. "If you let us out, we'll explain everything, including who took the king and queen."
"How would you know that?" the pale man retorted.
"Relax, Slib," the young man, Yog, said. "Let's hear what they have to say."
He snapped his fingers and the bars melted away. Zing was so relieved to be out of the tunnel that he flew around whistling.
"Thanks," Zann said. "We were trying to reach the king and queen so we could—"
"Hold on, young man," Slib interrupted. He rubbed his hands together and then pointed at the kids. "Reveal," he intoned.
Zann felt a spark run through him, and Gliss let out a squeak of surprise. Suddenly their red hair and freckles were visible again!
The adults murmured in amazement. "You're Reds!" Rixa exclaimed. "How have you escaped the trolls?"
"That's not important." Zann pulled out the diary. "We need to show you what's in this diary. It belongs to my grandfather, Boz. He's a retired Magic Master, and—"
"Boz?" an older man interrupted. "Did you say Boz is your grandfather?"
Suddenly everyone in the room was staring at Zann. "Um, yeah," he said. "Do you know him?"
Rixa chuckled. "We all know Boz. He was one of the finest advisers ever to serve at the palace. When the last queen retired, the current king and queen begged him to stay. But Boz wanted to spend more time with his family."
"Boz worked at the palace?" Perda glanced at Zann. "You never told me that."
"I didn't know." Zann could hardly believe his ears. He knew that his grandfather had once been a powerful Magic Master. But Boz had never mentioned that he'd also been a royal adviser.
Zann didn't have much time to think about it though. Almost everyone was rushing over to ask him questions. Zann introduced himself and his friends, explained how Boz had been taken, and started to tell the adults about Morb.
"I've heard enough," Slib interrupted after a few minutes. "This Morb fellow sounds dangerous. We need to decide who's going to take over until the king and queen return."
Rixa looked uneasy. "Let's not be hasty."
"I won't sit here and wait for something even worse to happen," Slib said. "We must protect the citizens of Magica."
"Boz seemed to think there might be answers in here." Zann held up the diary again.
Slib grabbed it. "Fine. Now come along, children. I'll show you out."
"No!" Yog looked alarmed. "They won't be safe on the streets."
"He's right," another man said. "Boz would want us to protect them."
"Besides, we haven't told you everything we know," Perda put in. "We've seen Morb a bunch of times and—"
"Yes, yes." Slib sounded impatient. "Come with me then. We'll go somewhere more private to discuss it."
"Good idea," Yog said. "I'll come too. I'd like to talk more with Boz's grandson." He smiled at Zann. "I was only a boy when Boz was here, but he was always kind to me."
Rixa nodded. "I'll come as well. I know the perfect spot for such a conversation. Follow me."
Slib looked annoyed. "Where are we going?" he asked as Rixa led him, the kids, and Yog down a hallway. Zing flew along just above Zann's head.
"You'll see—we're almost there." Rixa led the way into a large sitting room, filled with fancy decorations and exotic furniture. Two doors on the far side of the room opened into equally luxurious bedrooms.
"Wow, this place is nice!" said Gliss.
"Please relax, kids," Rixa said. "You'll be safe here while we figure out what to do."
For a moment Zann didn't understand. Then he noticed Rixa and Yog backing out of the room, pulling Slib along with them.
"Wait!" Perda said. "Where are you going?"
"This is for your own protection," Rixa said.
"No!" Zann protested. "You can't shut us in here!"
Yog smiled kindly. "Please don't try to use magic to get out. You already told us it's not safe for you."
"Besides, this suite is protected by extra-strong Shield spells," Rixa added. "Nobody can zap in or out without knowing the password."
"Wait!" cried Zann.
But the door had already slammed shut.