"Hello!" Yog sang out, appearing suddenly in the middle of the sitting room.
Zann spun around, startled. Over an hour had passed since he and his friends had been locked in the suite. Darb and the girls were playing with a deck of cards they'd found. But Zann was too restless to sit still. He was wandering from window to window, staring out at the palace courtyard while trying to figure out what to do.
Jumping to her feet, Perda asked Yog,"Did you come to let us out?"
Yog smiled. "Sorry, no. I'm here to conjure your dinner."
"Where's Zing?" Zann demanded.
"Who? Oh, the dragon," Yog said. "Don't worry, he's fine. Zing's having a great time hanging out with some cute female vapor bounders in the palace menagerie."
"You can't keep us here." Gliss frowned at him. "It's not right."
Yog sighed. "Look, you have to understand it's not safe for you out there. Especially you two Reds. There are still trolls all over the city. You're better off staying here, under the protection of the palace."
"The palace didn't protect the king and queen," Perda pointed out.
Zann nodded. "We need to figure out what Morb is doing with all those Reds."
"We're working on that," Yog said. "We have spy flies everywhere."
"So what have you found out?" Perda asked.
Zann didn't expect Yog to answer. But he did.
"Morb has changed his method," Yog said. "When he took the king and queen, he and his trolls zapped away with them immediately."
Gliss looked sad. "Yeah, that's what happened with my parents."
"The spy flies show that the trolls are still grabbing Reds," Yog went on. "But now they're holding them prisoner right here in First City."
"Really?" Darb said. "Where?"
"The wild dragon pen at the zoo," Yog replied. "It's the only natural vacuum within the city limits. Dangerous dragon species are kept in that pen because dragons aren't able to use their magic in there."
Gliss gasped. "The trolls are throwing the Reds in with a bunch of wild dragons? Even if the dragons can't use magic, the bigger ones could still kill someone!"
"The dragons aren't there anymore." Yog paused, looking worried. "Nobody's sure what happened to them."
"Why would Morb keep his prisoners in the city instead of zapping them away?" Zann wondered.
Yog shrugged. "Nobody knows. But Slib is supposed to be figuring out a plan to rescue the prisoners before Morb takes them away."
Zann traded a glance with his friends. It sounded as if Yog didn't think much of Slib.
"Maybe we could help," Zann said. "If you let us out—"
"Nice try." Yog gave him a sympathetic smile. "Now, what would you like for dinner?"
Yog conjured plenty of food for them, along with pajamas and everything else they asked for. When Zann and his friends were busy eating, Yog stepped to the center of the room.
"Good night," he said. "I'll be back in the morning to make you breakfast."
Then he covered his mouth with his hand and whispered something. A second later he was gone.
"Did anybody hear the password?" Zann asked.
Darb shook his head. "I was too far away."
"We all were," Gliss said. "We would've needed a Swelling spell to hear it."
"Oh well," Perda said. "Maybe we could try to hear it when he comes back in the morning."
"I wonder why Morb is keeping the prisoners at the zoo." Gliss took a sip of her drink. "Why wouldn't he just zap them away like the others?"
"Maybe he left the trolls in charge," Darb suggested. "Without extra magic they can't zap anyone anywhere."
Zann hadn't thought of that. "Trolls can't do much magic, can they?" he said.
Darb shook his head. "They can't even conjure up enough food for themselves. That's why they're always causing trouble, raiding villages near their territory. Morb must be providing extra magic so they can zap themselves long distances and do everything else they've been doing lately."
"So why did he stop?" Gliss wondered.
Perda shrugged. "Maybe kidnapping the king and queen weakened him."
Zann was already losing interest in the conversation. He didn't want to sit around, talking about Morb's trolls. As far as Zann was concerned, they needed to find Boz's Magic Master friends as soon as possible.
He pushed away his plate. "Who cares why? Let's get some sleep so we'll be ready to find a way out of here first thing tomorrow."
"Okay," Perda said. "Come on, Gliss. We'll take the big bedroom. The boys can take the other one."
It had been a long, exhausting day, and despite his worries, Zann fell asleep almost immediately. He wasn't sure how long he'd been asleep when he was startled awake by something brushing against his face.
"Who's there?" he blurted out, wondering if he was still dreaming.
There was no answer except a soft snore from the direction of Darb's bed. It was dark in the room, but something pale was fluttering around Zann's head.
It was a message moth! Zann sat up quickly, holding out his hand. The moth landed on his finger.
Zann climbed out of bed, hurried to the window, and pulled back the curtain. It was almost dawn, and there was just enough light for him to see.
Zann peered at the moth's wings. To his surprise one of them was blank. Whoever had sent this moth hadn't signed it.
"That's weird," Zann thought, quickly turning his gaze to the other wing. Just a few words were scrawled there, and Zann's eyes widened as he read them.
The password is zipflower.