43. Good and Bad Surprises
Perda sat near a big tree, thinking. A few hours had passed since she, Fala, Darb, and Gliss had joined the rebels. But to Perda it felt like a few years. Nothing was happening except lots of talking. And Zann still hadn't shown up. What if he hadn't been able to escape from the palace after that fall?
Gliss and Darb wandered over to her.
"What are the adults talking about now?" Perda asked.
Darb sat down and gave Zing a pat. "Same stuff," he replied. "Half of them want to try Fala's plan to ride our dragons to the fortress and free Morb's prisoners. The others think we should just stay here and spy on Morb until we know what he's planning to do next. They say that until we know Morb's plans, there's no point in doing anything."
Perda looked at the group of adults. Fala was still huddled with her friend Shem and some of the rebel leaders. "Seems like the only thing these rebels do is talk," Perda said.
Gliss glanced up at the patch of sky that was visible through the trees. "It'll be getting dark soon," she said. "We should check the meeting spot again to see if Zann's there yet."
A whisper of excitement ran through the camp as a spy fly buzzed into the clearing and headed for Vig, the leader of the rebel group. He was a tall, lean man with droopy eyes.
"What's the spy fly showing you, Vig?" someone asked after the fly had burrowed into Vig's ear.
Perda held her breath; the rebel leader closed his eyes to focus on the spy fly's message.
"It found Morb," Vig said after a moment. "I'm not sure this place is the palace though—I also see a dungeon. I’ve never heard of a dungeon at the palace."
"There is one," said a woman. "It dates back to the Old Times. But our king and queen have never imprisoned people—they just use it for storage."
"Not anymore." Vig closed his eyes again. "It's full of Red prisoners now."
Perda gasped. "Did Morb recapture the people we rescued from the zoo?"
"I don't think so," said Vig. "I see Boz. The king and queen are there too."
There were murmurs of confusion from all around.
"Are you sure you're seeing the palace and not Morb's fortress?" Fala asked.
Vig nodded grimly as the spy fly flew out of his ear. "I'm sure. It looks like Morb somehow transported all of his prisoners to First City." Vig gulped. "I can't imagine how much magic that must have taken."
Shem spoke up. "We need to go back to the palace and rescue those prisoners."
"How do you propose to do that?" asked a woman.
"We must attack Morb at once," said someone else.
"Morb is much too powerful," muttered an older man.
The adults continued to argue about what to do next. Perda had heard enough.
"Let's go check for Zann," Perda whispered to Gliss and Darb.
The three of them slipped away from the clearing, with Zing flying just overhead.
"I wonder if Zann knows that Boz is in the palace now," Darb said as they walked.
"Do you think my parents are there too?" Gliss sounded anxious.
"Probably," Perda said. "But why would Morb bring all those Reds to First City? Isn't he worried that they'll be easier to rescue there?"
"I doubt it. Morb thinks he'll be able control everyone's magic soon," Darb pointed out.
By then they had reached the clearing, where the two cloud gliders grazed in the tall grass. Light from the setting sun shimmered gently across their scales. "Nobody's here except the dragons," Gliss said.
Perda's heart sank. "I hope Zann is okay."
"I'm sure he's fine," said Gliss.
"Yeah," said Darb, "Zann knows how to take care of himself. He'll find a way out of the palace"
Perda wasn't reassured. "Maybe we can convince the rebels to send out a search party tomorrow morning to look for Zann."
Just then a twig snapped as a figure walked into the clearing.
"You don't need to send out a search party," said a familiar voice. "I'm right here!"
After checking on the prisoners in the dungeon, Morb returned to the upstairs room to await Wyssa. "Where is she?" he muttered. "It's bad enough she protected Boz's grandson. Now she keeps me waiting!"
Morb needed Wyssa for one last, very important errand—to fetch a batch of blue leeches. Then his machine would be fully operational, and he would no longer have to rely on the old woman.
It was past nightfall, and Wyssa still hadn't arrived. Morb grew furious. "This is ridiculous! Where is she?"
He waved a hand and called up the Directory. "Wyssa!" he commanded when the translucent screen appeared before him.
Wyssa's entry slowly formed. It was short, and many of the sections were blank. There was a notation at the top: "No longer a resident of Magica."
"There must be some mistake," Morb grumbled. He glared at the Directory and cleared his throat. "Provide details," he ordered loudly.
"Individual not currently in Magica. No possessions of individual currently in Magica. Individual is presumed to be permanently off-world."
"No!" Morb gnashed his teeth. In a fit of rage, he blasted a hole in the wall. "Without those leeches, my machine is useless!"
Morb stepped over to look out the big hole. Slib was hurrying past in the courtyard below. Morb's fury faded and was replaced by determination. Wyssa was gone, but maybe Morb didn't need her. After all, he was the king, and he had absolute authority over his subjects.