39. Changing Plans
Acting on instinct, Zann rubbed his hands together.
Zann immediately felt himself slow down. Soon he was drifting down no faster than a leaf.
"It's a good thing we just got tested on deceleration in Safety Spells class," he thought as he landed gently on the palace roof.
"Zann!" someone shouted from far overhead.
Zann's friends were still trying to evade the wild dragons. Fala was attempting to steer her dragon closer to him, but the thunder chargers kept blocking her.
"Go!" Zann shouted, using a Sound-Shifting spell to carry his words to her. "It's too risky. I'll meet you back in the woods!"
"Are you sure?" Fala sent her words back to Zann the same way.
Zann nodded and gave her a thumbs-up.
Fala and Darb steered the cloud gliders back toward the forest. The wild dragons chased them for a while and then stopped, disappearing into the clouds.
Knowing that his friends were safe, Zann looked around for a way into the palace. He was standing on the apex of a steep roof. Looking down he could see the top of a small dormer jutting out.
"Maybe there's a window on that dormer," he thought.
Zann was nervous about using any more magic than he needed to—especially with Morb so close. Keeping himself as flat as he could, he inched his way down slowly. When Zann was about halfway down, he lost his grip.
"Oh no!" he cried, sliding fast. Zann could see the edge of the roof quickly getting closer. He slid past the dormer and then he was in midair.
Zann cried out, "Decelerate—"
"Ouch!" Zann looked at the small balcony he'd just landed on. Then he saw the door. With a sigh of relief, he got up and headed into the palace.
Morb and Slib walked down the cracked steps of the ancient staircase. "This is what you call a dungeon?" said Morb, wrinkling his nose at the awful smell.
Slib bowed. "Forgive me, Your Highness. It hasn't been used since the Old Times."
The place was a mess. The stone walls were cracked and crumbling, many of the iron bars were either missing or badly rusted, and everything was coated in a thick layer of dust.
"A few Voids have already arrived in response to your invitation," Slib went on in that servile tone that Morb already found annoying. "Perhaps we could put them to work cleaning and repairing this place."
Morb shot him a sharp look. "Is that all you think Voids are good for?" he demanded. "Cleaning up others' messes?"
Slib looked confused. "I only meant—"
Morb didn't let him finish. "How many Reds have turned themselves in so far?"
Slib's expression changed to nervousness. "Uh . . ."
"None, Your Majesty," Slib said. "But that's typical of Reds, isn't it? Always thinking they're too good to follow the rules."
Morb gnashed his teeth. He was so furious that he almost struck Slib down with a Blast spell.
"Never mind," Morb muttered. "Soon it won't matter."
"Pardon me, Your Majesty?" said Slib.
Morb glanced at him. "Stand back," he ordered.
Touching his fingertips together, Morb pointed at the dungeon. The walls quickly rebuilt themselves out of the rubble. Strong iron bars grew out of the hard stone floor and formed new cell doors.
Slib gasped. "Your Majesty!" he exclaimed. "Such power!"
Morb ignored him. Closing his eyes, he summoned up the energy for a much more difficult task.
"Come to me," he murmured.
In a flash all the Red prisoners from the fortress appeared in the cells. Morb hardly heard Slib's exclamations this time, or the cries of the surprised prisoners either. He'd used up much of his energy last night, and this task had drained him again. He would need another magic infusion soon.
"Slib," he ordered hoarsely, holding onto a pillar for support, "tell the trolls to bring more leeches immediately."
Slib gulped. "Your Highness," he said, "there aren't many leeches left. You used most of them last night."
"Just bring them to me," commanded Morb.
In order to restore himself the night before, Morb had been forced to use almost all of his leeches on the non-Reds in the palace. As soon as the old woman arrived with his sea sponge, he would have to send her out for more leeches.
"Are you okay, little buddy?" Darb asked, peeling Zing loose from the cloud glider's back. The fire whistler had been hanging on for dear life the whole way back to the forest.
"Never mind him," Perda said. "What about Zann?"
Fala slid down from her dragon. "He told us to go," she said. "We never would have gotten past those thunder chargers anyway. Zann can take care of himself—he'll get out of the palace."
Perda glanced around. "How will he find us? We must be miles from where we started. Maybe we should fly back to the original spot." But one look at the exhausted cloud gliders told Perda that that wasn't practical right now. "We should at least send him a message moth."
"Good idea." Fala snapped her fingers to summon a moth. After scribbling a message, she released it.
It was midday by now, and it was getting hot. Perda wandered toward a shadier spot with the others trailing behind her.
Suddenly Perda felt magical energy surround her as she was lifted into the air. "Hey!" she shouted. She struggled against the magic, but it was useless. She could see that her friends were being lifted as well.
"Do not try to resist," a voice commanded from somewhere in the forest. "You're surrounded."