15. Dangerous Ideas
"Good, you're all here," Morb said, sneering. "You may have been able to trick those idiotic trolls, but you won't escape from me this time."
"Run!" Perda yelled.
"Not so fast." Morb waved his hand. A translucent green bubble appeared over the entire house.
Perda skidded to a stop in front of the glowing green wall. "You can't do this!" she yelled. Rubbing both hands together, she aimed a Blast spell at the shield. The blast bounced off and shot back at her. She ducked, and it blew up a chair behind her.
Morb threw back his head and laughed. "I should have used a shield sooner. That would have saved me a lot of trouble. But who could have guessed a few kids would be so hard to capture? In any case I've got you now." He turned and smirked at Zann. "Even you. Your grandfather is eager to see you. Perhaps you two can share a cell in my dungeon."
Zann's heart pounded. "Now what?" he thought. They were truly trapped this time. Even Zing was shrinking away from Morb.
As he looked around, desperate for ideas, Zann noticed something. That heavy wooden beam was still hanging in midair where his spell had frozen it. And Morb was just a few steps away!
Zann gulped. Since early childhood he had been taught by his parents that one law in Magica was more important than any other. That law could be summed up in just a few simple words: Do no harm to others.
But this was no time to worry about following the rules. He stepped sideways, so the beam now hung above the space between him and Morb.
"Hey, Morb," he said. "I've got something to say to you—unless you're too scared to face a Red."
Zann's friends looked startled, but Morb just chuckled. "Me, afraid of you?" Morb took a step toward Zann. "You obviously overestimate your own powers—just like your know-it-all grandfather."
Morb took another step. The beam was now just above his head. If he looked up, he'd see it and move away. Zann had to act immediately.
"Free," he whispered.
The beam plummeted down and hit Morb square on the head. Morb grunted in surprise and crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
As soon as Morb fell, the shield blinked out of sight.
"Wow!" Perda cried. "That was great, Zann!"
"Yeah. Let's get out of here!" Gliss added.
Zing was already flying away from the ruined house. Darb, Perda, and Gliss followed.
"Hurry, Zann!" Darb called.
"Coming." Zann quickly reached under the table and grabbed the diary. Shoving it into his pocket, he raced after his friends.
The group was soon back at the Hollow.
"You don't think the beam killed Morb, do you?" Zann asked.
"Definitely not," said Perda. "I saw him breathing when I ran past him."
"But the way the shield just disappeared . . ." Zann began.
"We learned about that in school," Gliss reminded him. "Certain types of spells require constant focus to maintain them. I guess it was one of those."
"Don't worry, Zann," Darb said. "Even the do-no-harm-to-others rule makes an exception for emergencies."
Zann flashed his friend a grateful smile. It was amazing how Darb could almost always guess what Zann was thinking, even without using any magic.
"Okay," Zann said. "But that means Morb is going to be really angry when he wakes up. We'll have to be more careful than ever."
Perda bit her lip. "He'll probably be watching for us at your house. How are we going to find that diary now?"
"Oh!" Zann stuck his hand in his pocket. "I almost forgot—I found it." He pulled out the book. "That's the good news."
"What's the bad news?" Perda asked.
Zann grimaced. "It got damaged in the explosion."
From the outside the diary appeared to be in pretty good shape. But as soon as Zann flipped it open, his friends could see that many of the interior pages were ripped, scorched, or missing altogether.
"Wow," Perda said. "Do you think whatever Boz wanted the king and queen to see is still in there?"
"Maybe I should read it and try to figure that out," Zann said.
Gliss looked impatient. "We don't have time to sit around and read. We need to get that diary to the palace."
"How are we supposed to do that?" Perda asked. "It would take days to reach First City on foot. And we can't use magic, remember?"
"Plus traveling to the castle might not be worth the risk if the diary is damaged," Darb put in. "Zann's right. He should read it before we start a dangerous journey across Magica with Morb on our trail."
"But we need to figure out what Morb is doing with my parents and all those other Reds," Gliss argued. "It seems like nobody else has ever even heard of Morb. Jev didn't recognize his name."
Zann shrugged. "That's because Jev is an idiot."
He expected Gliss to protest since she seemed to like Jev. Instead she looked thoughtful.
"We could try sending a spy fly to spy on Morb," she suggested. "That might tell us what he's doing, and give Zann time to read the diary."
"But we can't send a spy fly without magic," Perda reminded her. "And we can't use magic, or Morb will know exactly where we are."
"We can't use magic," Gliss said. "But someone else could use it for us. Someone who isn't being tracked by Morb. And I know the perfect person for the job."
"Who?" Zann asked.
Gliss smiled. "Jev, of course."