35. King Morb
"What's he doing here?" Perda whispered, peering into the throne room at Morb.
Zann pressed a finger to his lips. He didn't know why Morb had returned to the palace. But he wanted to find out.
All over the throne room, people were reacting to Morb's arrival. "Someone call the guards!" Rixa shouted.
"What have you done with the king and queen?" someone else demanded.
Another man marched over to Morb. "Your presence here is highly unacceptable!" he declared.
Morb just sat there, smiling calmly. "Is that any way to speak to the new king of Magica?"
"This has gone on long enough!" Rixa shouted. "It was a mistake for you to show your face here again. By the power of the government of Magica, I hereby pronounce you under arrest." Rubbing her hands together, Rixa pointed at Morb. "Immobilize!" she intoned.
Energy shot from her fingertips. Chuckling, Morb casually held up his hand to block the spell. The spell bounced off Morb's hand and struck Rixa instead.
"No!" she cried as her entire body went stiff. "You can't do this!"
"Ah, but I can." Morb leaned back on the throne. Glancing around the room, he added, "Would anyone else like to try to arrest me?"
Nobody said a word. Zann spotted a few people exchanging nervous glances, while others stared fearfully at the hulking trolls.
"Nobody? Are you sure?" Morb stared at a white-haired old man. "How about you? Speak up, man!"
Morb pointed his finger at the old man. Energy sizzled outward, dragging the man forward as if he'd been caught by a fishhook.
"We have to do something!" Perda whispered as Morb pinned the white-haired man against the ceiling with a Levitation spell.
"Like what?" Zann said. "If Morb sees us, we're doomed!"
Tired of toying with the old man, Morb let him fall. Fortunately the man quickly rubbed his hands together and slowed down just in time to land safely on the floor.
"Anyone else?" Morb asked.
Slib cleared his throat and stepped forward. "I have something to say," he announced loudly. He bowed toward Morb. "I will be honored to serve the new King of Magica."
There were murmurs of dismay from all over the room. Morb raised one eyebrow. "I see," he said, sounding amused. "What's your name?"
"I am Slib, Your Majesty. At your service."
Zann didn't hear what Morb said next. Zann had just noticed Zing pawing at a beetle on the floor nearby.
"Zing!" Zann whispered as loudly as he dared. "Quiet!"
Zing glanced at him. The beetle took the opportunity to dart into a crack in the floor. When Zing realized the beetle had escaped, he let out a whistle of annoyance.
"Zing, hush!" Gliss whispered anxiously.
Zann peeked into the throne room. Morb and the others were too far away to hear Zing's whistle. But something else had heard it. Zann gasped as he saw a bunch of the tiny, stinging dragons swarming toward them.
"Run!" Zann whispered frantically.
The tiny dragons were fast. They caught up with the kids halfway down the hall.
"Get away!" Gliss cried, batting at the creatures buzzing around her hair.
Zing let out a whistle as another tiny dragon darted in and stung him. He blasted it with flames, but three more flew over and took its place.
"Should we zap away?" Perda exclaimed.
Zann grimaced as one of the dragons stung him. "We can't," he said, gritting his teeth against the pain. "Not with Morb so close. He might still be tracking us."
"Zann's right." Darb ducked as a dragon tried to strike him. "We've got to lose them some other way."
"But how?" Gliss was trying to shield her head with her arms as she ran.
The kids rounded another corner. Just ahead was a small courtyard with a large fountain in the middle.
"There!" Zann cried, pointing. "Run under the fountain. Maybe that'll slow them down."
He led the way out to the courtyard, leaping into the water and racing through the spray. As soon as the stinging dragons flew under the water, they were knocked into the pool. They popped up, sputtering and drenched.
Zann and the others raced into another room on the other side of the courtyard. Darb glanced back. "The dragons are still coming!" he cried.
"What dragons?" a new voice asked.
Zann saw someone step into the room. It was Yog!
"What's going on?" Yog looked confused as a few tiny, wet dragons buzzed into the room. "Where did those come from?"
"Morb brought them!" Perda said breathlessly.
Yog rubbed his hands together. A glowing purple wall sprang up, blocking the stinging dragons.
"There," Yog said. "Now, what's this about Morb? He's here in the palace?"
Zann and his friends told Yog the whole story. Yog healed their stings while he listened. By the end he looked grim.
"A magic-sucking machine, huh?" he said. "I've heard stories about that machine. I always thought they were just tall tales from the Old Times."
"They're not," Gliss said. "At least Morb's trolls don't think so."
"I'd better go see what's happening in the throne room," Yog said. "You kids should get out of the palace before Morb realizes you're here."
"But we want to help!" Perda said.
"You can help by finding Fala and telling her what happened," replied Yog, already heading for the door. "She'll know how to contact Venna and the others. There's no time to lose!"
"He's right," Darb said.
Zann nodded. "Let's get out of here. I think the exit is this way."
He raced down the hallway and around the corner.
"Oof!" he grunted as he smacked headlong into a running troll.