"Hurry!" Zann urged the prisoners. "We need to get out of here fast!"
He had opened all the cells, and now Boz and Teplo were helping him guide the released prisoners up the narrow stairway. When everyone was at the top of the stairs and out of the Dousing spell's range, some of the stronger Reds began zapping the weaker Reds to safety.
The king approached Zann.
"Well done, young man," said the king. "You're a hero. I'm going to recommend that you . . ."
Just then Zann heard a faint sound—it sounded like a heartbeat. He tried to ignore it, but it was impossible. It was as if the sound wouldn't let him think about anything else—it was forcing him to listen.
"Your Majesty," said Zann, interrupting the king. "I'm sorry, but do you hear that sound?"
The king gave Zann a funny look. "What sound are you talking about?"
"It sounds like a heartbeat," said Zann.
The king listened but didn't seem to hear it.
Boz and Teplo hurried over to them.
"Did you say you hear a heartbeat?" Teplo asked, looking anxious. "It's probably a Guiding spell! You said Fala is here in the palace, yes?"
Zann had no idea what Teplo was talking about. "What's a Guiding spell?" he asked.
"It's a very old-fashioned spell," Teplo explained. "I taught Fala how to do it. Hardly anybody uses a Guiding spell these days—ever since message moths were discovered. But you never know when you might find yourself in a precarious situation without one of those moths."
"You and your strange old tricks!" Boz laughed.
"Focus on the sound, Zann," Teplo said. "Fala is directing it to you, so you're the only one who can hear it. The closer you get to Fala, the louder the sound will get."
Zann focused on the heartbeat. He noticed that he could hear it slightly better if he turned toward the long hallway. He took a step in that direction and the sound became much more distinct.
"I think we're supposed to go this way," said Zann, pointing down the hallway.
"That leads to the ballroom," said the king.
"To the ballroom!" Teplo commanded.
Zann headed along the hallway, followed by all the freed Reds. With each step he took, he could hear the sound become louder and clearer. Soon they rounded a corner and arrived in the ballroom. Fala was there, along with Perda, Gliss, Darb, and all the rebels. As soon as Zann saw Fala, the sound stopped.
The rebels gasped when they saw the freed Reds come into the room.
"Mom! Dad!" Gliss cried, flinging herself into her parents' arms.
"Gliss! You're safe!" Her mother hugged her tightly.
"We were terribly worried about you," her father added. "And so was your uncle Gar."
"I'm glad you're okay, Gliss," said Uncle Gar, who had just walked over.
Meanwhile Perda and Darb rushed over to Zann, along with Zing. "You did it! You found the dungeon!" Perda exclaimed. Darb grinned and clapped Zann on the back while Zing flew in circles overhead, whistling.
Zann was happy to see his friends, but he also felt nervous. Morb could show up at any moment.
Nearby Fala was speaking with the king.
"Your Majesty, Morb left the palace a short time ago," Fala told him. "But I'm not sure why, and I don't know when he'll return."
The king nodded. Still weakened from the leech treatments, he spoke quietly to the crowd.
"Citizens of Magica, I hereby declare Morb to be an enemy of our world," said the king. "Not since the Dark Times has Magica faced such a serious threat. Morb is to be arrested immediately when he returns."
"Your Majesty, that might not be as easy as it sounds," said Boz. "Morb has become quite powerful in the last few days."
"Even with all the Reds, we still might not be able to apprehend him," Vig added.
"Then what are we going to do?" asked the queen.
"We need a plan to ambush Morb," someone said.
Growing impatient, Zann looked for his friends. Darb and Perda had gone over to join Gliss and her parents. Zing was nearby, nosing at a beetle on the floor.
The far end of the ballroom opened out to the courtyard where Zann had seen Morb's magic-sucking machine. Zann wandered over, and he could see the machine crouched out there like a dark, terrible monster. Something new had been added to it since Zann had seen it yesterday. Perched at the very top was a strange-looking object.
"What is that?" he murmured to himself.
Zann stepped outside for a better look. When he got closer, he could see the new item more clearly. It was the jawbone from some kind of animal, perhaps a dragon. It was lined with large, razor-sharp teeth.
Zann stood in front of the machine, staring at the pythons writhing in a tube filled with silvery liquid. Below that was a basin of dark water. Floating in the water was a multicolored, spongelike creature. Zann leaned in for a closer look. He'd never seen anything like it. Suddenly he heard a soft thump. Zann looked up to see that one of the pythons was looking right at him. Startled, Zann leaped backward with a gasp.
Walking around to the other side of the machine, Zann examined the complicated network of bones and wire. How had Morb ever built such a thing? Just then Zann heard footsteps entering the courtyard. He quickly ducked behind a large plant and held his breath. His heart pounding, Zann peeked between the leaves and saw Morb, flanked by several ugly trolls.