"Let us out!" Zann pounded on the door. "You can't hold us prisoner—we didn't do anything wrong!"
Zing sensed the frustration in his master's voice. Leaping forward, the dragon tried to burn a hole in the door.
Suddenly—zap! Zing disappeared!
"No!" Darb cried. "What happened to Zing?"
"It's okay," Yog called from out in the hallway. "I'll look after him."
"Let us out!" Gliss cried.
The only answer was the sound of footsteps hurrying away. Perda kicked the door. "This is horrible!" she exclaimed.
"I know." Zann clenched his fists. "I say we test that Shield spell. I bet if we all focus our energy together, we can beat the spell."
"No!" Gliss looked alarmed. "If we use magic, Morb will know exactly where we are! He got into the palace before."
Darb nodded. "Besides, that Shield spell was probably installed by skilled Magic Masters."
"And we're just a bunch of kids," Perda added. "It's not worth the risk."
Zann frowned, ready to argue, but he realized his friends were right. "Okay," he said. "But zapping can’t be the only way to get out of a room. Let's see if we can figure out another way to escape."
"What's the point?" Gliss sighed. "Like Perda said, we're just a bunch of kids. We can't possibly beat someone as powerful as Morb."
"We can't do anything while we're trapped in here," Zann said. "If the people at the palace don't want to help us, we need to find someone who will. I still remember where a few of Boz's powerful Magic Master friends live, including his best friend, Teplo. Maybe some of them have managed to avoid being caught by the trolls. If we find Boz's friends and tell them what we've learned, they might know what to do."
Perda looked hopeful. "That sounds like a good plan," she said. "It's too bad that Slib took Boz's diary though. We might need it."
Zann shrugged. "I remember most of what was in there. Come on. Let's figure out how to escape."
The kids spent the next few minutes searching for an exit. First they tested the main door. But it was thick, solid wood, and the lock was strong.
There were only two other doors in the room, and they just led to the bedrooms. The windows behind the elegant curtains were crisscrossed with strong iron bars. And the air vents were too small to offer escape.
"It's no use," Perda said at last. "We're trapped."
Gliss collapsed onto a velvet sofa. "At least we're trapped in a nice place. Probably a lot nicer than wherever Morb is keeping his prisoners."
Morb waved a hand to light another torch on the wall of the large, gloomy underground room. It was dark, and the ancient texts were difficult to read.
He leaned closer to the dusty old book, studying the scrawled lines on the page. Then he glanced across the room at his newest contraption: a menacing creation built of bones, wire, and other various objects. It hadn't been easy to get some of those things, even with his new power. But the magical device was almost ready. A few more items, a touch of magical energy, and all of Magica would be forced to bow before him.
Hearing footsteps, he turned. The old woman had arrived. Morb's amber eyes went immediately to the large, lumpy sack she was holding.
"You're late. Are those the paralyzer pythons from Fardark?"
"Yes." She lifted the writhing, hissing sack. "Acquiring them involved great trouble and risk."
"Give them to me," he ordered, striding forward and grabbing the sack.
She stared at him. "What need do you have for such creatures?" she asked. "Their magic is unpredictable and can be deadly."
"Don't question me." Morb tossed the sack into a corner. He would add the pythons to his contraption after the woman left. He didn't want anyone else to know how the thing was constructed, least of all an old busybody like her.
She was still frowning. "I've done all you asked of me," she said. "My debt to you is repaid twice over. This will be the last time I help you."
"Not so fast," Morb said. "I still need a few things that only you can get."
Glaring at him, she stretched to her full height. "And if I refuse?"
Morb shrugged. "If you refuse, I will be forced to tell everyone your unpleasant secrets." He smirked. "Besides, if you wish to remain in Magica, you shouldn't anger me, Wyssa. My power grows with every passing day."
To demonstrate, he touched his fingers lightly together. Sparks flew everywhere from the slight friction, bouncing off the walls and turning the room into a fireworks display. The old woman ducked as a spark lit her skirt on fire.
Morb smiled as he felt energy surge through him. Capturing Boz and some of the other Magic Masters had given him a taste of true power. The king and queen had increased his strength even more.
"Impressive display, Morb." The old woman calmly touched the flames on her dress to put them out. "But don't forget that the power you steal through the leeches is temporary."
Morb's eyes shifted toward his contraption. True, the leeches couldn't keep him strong forever. But soon he wouldn't need their temporary magic anymore.
Suddenly he couldn't wait to get back to work on his project. It was time to finish it and seize his destiny. The trolls would just have to manage without him for the next day or two.
"It is time for you to go, old woman," he told Wyssa. "I have much to do."