Zann watched the blob make its way toward the group.
"Do you think this thing can swallow a person?" he muttered to Perda.
Perda gulped. "I don't know, and I have no intention of finding out."
The blob spread out and formed a circle around the group. Then it started moving inward, forcing the group into a smaller and smaller space.
"Everyone, keep together!" ordered Vig.
Zann looked for an escape, but he didn't see one—they were surrounded. Zing was by Zann's feet, chattering nervously. Zann had an idea.
"Zing," Zann whispered. "Sing!"
Zing leaped into the air and began whistling. Zann held his breath, hoping the song would distract the creature. But the blob kept closing in.
"Maybe it doesn't work on creatures from other worlds," Darb said.
Zing stopped his song and let out a whistle of frustration. Then he swooped down, shooting flames at the blob. To Zann's astonishment, the flames didn't burn the blob. Instead they were absorbed into the creature, making it grow even bigger.
Then something strange happened. The blob started to move away from Zann and the others, eagerly catching every flame Zing shot at it. As it moved away, the circle it had formed was broken, and the blob no longer surrounded the group.
Still shooting flames, Zing started flying away. The blob followed, absorbing all the fire it could, growing bigger each time it devoured a new flame.
"That thing is getting enormous," Darb said nervously.
"Yeah," said Zann. "It's also getting farther away. Follow me!"
Zann bolted for the closest door and wound up in a deserted sitting room. A second later Perda, Gliss, and Darb were right beside him. Zann looked back at Zing. His pet dragon was still flying above the blob, shooting flames at the creature. Fala, Shem, Vig, and the others were running through a door at the other end of the entrance hall.
"It looks like everyone's safe," Zann reported. "But that blob is bigger than ever!"
"Let's get going," Darb said. "We don't know how fast it can move if it decides to chase us!"
Zann whistled for Zing, who stopped breathing fire and flew to him right away. Then they all ran down a hallway until they were sure they'd left the blob far behind.
"Where are we?" Darb wondered, after they'd stopped to catch their breath.
"I've seen that painting of the king and queen before." Gliss pointed. "I think we're near the suite where Rixa and the others locked us in."
"We should look for the dungeon," said Zann. "If that blob thing tells Morb we're here—"
"How can it do that?" Perda interrupted with a laugh. "It doesn't have a mouth!"
Meanwhile Gliss was walking ahead. "Here's the suite," she called, pushing open a door and peering in. "Oh! Is that the magic-sucking machine?"
Zann, Perda, and Darb all looked into the room. In the center was a large contraption made of bones, books, stones, and other items.
"No," said Zann. "This is something else." He looked at the grinning white skull perched on top. "Look! There's a map of Magica above that skull."
"What are those red dots on the map?" Darb wondered.
"I don't know," said Perda. "It looks like they're all clustered around the palace."
Gliss gasped. "Morb's prisoners are in the palace—the red dots must be Reds!"
"This machine is probably what Morb has been using to track us—and all the other Reds," said Zann. "I bet if we destroy it, we can use magic again!"
Zann rushed into the room, grabbed a metal candlestick, and began hitting the machine with it. His friends joined in, using whatever objects they could find.
"Look out!" Darb shouted suddenly.
Spinning around, Zann saw a flock of tiny dragons zipping into the room. They swarmed the kids, stinging them.
"Ignore them!" Zann called. "We have to—ouch!"
One of the dragons had stung his hand. Zann dropped the candlestick, and it rolled under the machine.
Zann looked around for another weapon, but he didn't see anything. He was about to kick the machine when he had a better idea. Standing on tiptoe, he reached up and grabbed the skull off the top.
The map instantly blinked out of existence, and a strong shock of energy sizzled through Zann's entire body. Sparks swirled all around him, and his eyes began to feel strange. As he gripped the skull, energy jumped off his hands, and power surged through him.
"Zann!" Perda shouted. "Your eyes are glowing!"
Zann didn't answer—he had never felt so powerful. He took one hand off the skull and pointed it at the machine. Instantly a Blast spell shot from his hand, and the machine exploded. Perda, Darb, and Gliss shielded their faces as pieces flew everywhere. Then Zann heard Gliss scream as another tiny dragon stung her.
Zann pointed at the nearest dragon. Another Blast spell shot out, even more powerful than the last. Gliss screamed again, jumping away just in time to avoid the blast. The spell vaporized several of the dragons—along with all the furniture that had been behind them.
"Zann!" Perda cried. "What's happening to you?"
"What do you mean?" asked Zann. He could feel magical energy shooting all around him like fireworks. "I've never felt better!" A new rush of energy coursed through his body. Zann sent out more Blast spells, obliterating every tiny dragon he saw. Soon the entire room had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Sunlight poured in through the holes Zann had made in the exterior wall.
Perda and Gliss stared in horror.
"It's that skull!" Darb exclaimed. "Zann, you have to drop it!"