10. Pursed by Evil
"Who are you?" Gliss' mother screamed at Morb. "How did you get past our Shield?"
"It's him!" Zann shouted. "The man we were telling you about!"
Morb ignored him. "Freeze," he intoned, pointing at Gliss' parents.
Instantly her parents froze in place. Her mother's eyes were wide and frightened. Her father's mouth was open in the middle of a shout.
"Mom! Dad!" Gliss shrieked.
Morb made a beckoning motion. A second later two large, hideous trolls appeared!
"Take them to the dungeon," Morb ordered the trolls. Another quick flash and the trolls disappeared—along with Gliss' parents.
"No!" Gliss screamed.
"We have to get out of here!" Zann shouted. He rubbed his hands together.
Perda was already doing the same. But not Gliss. She just stood there.
"She's in shock," Zann said. "Even if we get away . . ."
There was no time to say more. Morb had turned toward them. He glanced at Perda with disinterest. But when he saw Gliss, he smirked.
"Another Red," he said, raising his hand.
"No!" Darb cried. He reached into his pocket and flung a handful of panic bugs into Morb's face.
"Ugh!" Morb exclaimed as the little insects panicked, releasing their foul-smelling odor. "Get away from me, you repulsive creatures!"
It only took Morb a few seconds to blast the bugs to smithereens. But that was enough time.
"Get her!" Zann shouted at Perda.
Perda grabbed Gliss. Zap! They both disappeared.
Zann dived for Darb. His hand closed on his friend's arm just as Morb spun toward them.
The man's eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare!" he exclaimed. "This time you're not getting away from—"
"Drat!" Zann cried. "How come I always land in the swamp?"
"Forget that," Darb said breathlessly. "At least you got us out of there!"
Zann nodded. "Good thinking using those panic bugs. You probably saved us all."
"Thanks." Darb looked sad. "I wish he hadn't blasted them though."
Zann wasn't going to waste time mourning a bunch of smelly insects. "We'd better find the girls." He waved a hand to summon a spy fly.
Suddenly Morb materialized in front of them. "Stop right there!" he exclaimed.
"What?" Zann cried, startled. "How did you—"
He didn't bother to finish. Grabbing Darb, he zapped them away again. This time he aimed for the cave where Zing was waiting.
"Whew!" he said when they landed. "That was close. How in the world did he—"
Again Morb appeared. "Give up, Red! You can't escape!"
Zann instantly grabbed both Darb and Zing. This time he didn't have time to think of a destination.
"Ouch!" Darb exclaimed as they landed on a craggy boulder.
"How's Morb doing this?" Zann cried. "He can't follow us through a Zap unless we leave him a trail!"
Darb didn't answer. He just grabbed Zann as Morb appeared again.
Morb cackled. "I told you, it's no use trying to escape. My magic is far superior to—"
Darb yanked on Zann's arm as they landed near a stream where they'd often fished for moon minnows. "Come with me," he urged.
"What?" Zann was rubbing his hands, preparing to zap again. He hoped his magical energy held out until he could figure out what to do.
"Come on!" Darb took off running, with Zing flying behind him.
"Darb! Wait!" Zann chased after them. "You'll never escape that guy without magic!"
Darb didn't answer. He dove into a thick clump of bushes.
Zann followed. "What are you doing?"
"Hush!" Darb crawled forward, peering out from among the dense branches.
Morb soon appeared in the spot where the boys had landed. "This game is becoming tiresome." He glanced around. "You might as well give up. Trust me, you do not want to anger me further."
"Quick, let's zap away again before he—" Zann hissed.
"No!" Darb cut him off. "Don't you get it? He's tracking your magic somehow."
Could Darb be right? Zann had never heard of someone tracking people through their magic.
Then he remembered. "I think we studied that last year," he said. "But that kind of magic has been banned since the Old Times."
"Flash Freezes are illegal too," Darb reminded him. "And Morb has been using them."
"So what can we do?" Zann felt helpless. If Morb could find him every time he used magic, there was no escape.
"Let's get to the Hollow," Darb said. "His magic can't find us there. It'll give us time to think."
Zann gulped. The Hollow? He would feel even more helpless there!
But Darb was right. They had to get away from Morb long enough to figure out what was going on.
"Okay." Zann sneaked another peek at Morb. "But first I've got to use magic once more to let Perda know what's happening."
Darb looked worried. "Morb will know where you are as soon as you summon the moth. You won't have time to inscribe the message."
Zann bit his lip. "Good point."
Darb smiled. "Then again I just happen to know that message moths like to rest in shady underbrush. So if we can find one without using magic . . ."
He carefully crawled around, peering under leaves. Seconds later he cupped his hands around a fluttering insect.
"Awesome!" Zann whispered. Grabbing the moth, he quickly inscribed his message onto its wings: Don't use ANY magic! Meet at the Hollow.
Darb was peering out. "He's getting closer," he whispered. "Better do it now."
"Perda," Zann told the moth. He rubbed his fingers together and released the creature.
"Aha!" Morb howled triumphantly from very close by.
"Zap!" Zann yelled, focusing on the spot right outside the Hollow.