"What do you mean, the trolls got Gliss?" Perda exclaimed.
Darb was breathing hard; he'd obviously run the whole way to the meeting spot. "We landed by the riverbank, just like Zann told us to," he said. "At first we thought we were okay. Then some trolls appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Gliss before we realized they were even there. I tried to stop them, but they pushed me down and carried her away."
Zann was too stunned to speak for a moment. "This is all my fault," he blurted out at last. "I told Gliss she'd be safe, and she believed me."
"It's not your fault, Zann," Perda said. "We all knew we were taking a risk."
"We need to rescue her," Zann said. "We have to go to the zoo and find the wild dragon pen."
Perda shook her head. "Sounds like a great way to get all of us captured. We need to stick to our plan and find the Magic Masters you've been telling us about. They might have some ideas about how to rescue Gliss."
For a second Zann wanted to argue. He knew that Gliss must be terrified, and he wanted to rescue her if he could.
But he also knew that Perda was right. Rushing to the zoo would only get them all captured. They needed help.
"Okay," he said. "One of Boz's friends lives really close to here. Let's try him first. Follow me."
Zann led his friends to a house a few blocks away. When he knocked, a young woman opened the door. Her eyes looked red, as if she'd been crying.
"Yes?" she said, sounding suspicious. "What do you want?"
"Uh, hello," Zann said. "We're looking for Lonz. Does he still live here? He's an old friend of my grandfather's, and . . ."
His voice trailed off as the young woman started sobbing. She hid her face in her hands.
"Lonz is my father. He was one of the first Reds they took!" she said, her words muffled and sad.
Zann's heart sank. "I'm sorry," he said. "My grandfather was taken too. I'm really sorry."
"Now what?" Darb asked a moment later as they walked away. "Do you think Morb already captured all of Boz's friends?"
"I hope not," Perda said, sounding worried.
Zann tried not to think about that possibility. "Boz's friend Saffa lives right across the river from here," he said. "Let's try her house next."
They walked as quickly as they could, watching out for trolls. Every time they saw one, they ducked into a doorway or behind a tree.
Finally they reached a neighborhood of brightly colored homes with small but tidy front yards. Zann had to stop to think about which one belonged to Boz's friend. "I wish we could check the Directory for the address," he said.
Perda frowned. "Too risky," she said. "Just try to remember."
"I'm pretty sure it's that one." Zann led his friends to a nearby house. Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door.
A middle-aged man answered. "Yes, can I help you?" he asked in a weary voice.
"I'm looking for Saffa," Zann said. "Is this the right house?"
The man's face crumpled. "Yes. But my wife isn't here anymore. The trolls came for her the day before yesterday. Saffa tried to zap away, but she wasn't fast enough."
"We're sorry to bother you," Perda said. "I hope she comes back soon."
Perda, Zann, and Darb returned to the street. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea," Darb said. "You said these people are all famous Magic Masters, right? Morb might be keeping an eye on their houses to try to catch their friends."
Perda gulped. "Or us."
"Maybe," Zann said. "But we have to save Gliss, and I don't know how we can do that on our own. Besides we haven't tried going to Teplo's house yet. If anyone could hide from Morb, it's him. Boz always said that Teplo was the most creative magician he ever knew."
"Really?" Perda said. "What's he like?"
"I never met him," Zann admitted. "He was away studying the nomads on the Far Frontier the whole time I lived in First City. But Boz has told me all kinds of cool stories about him."
"Okay, let's go find him," Darb said.
Perda nodded grimly. "And let's hope Morb didn't find him first."
Soon they reached a house that looked different from any of the other homes on the block. It was tall and narrow, with oddly shaped windows and a statue of a gangly bird atop the pointy roof.
"Are you sure this is the right place?" Darb sounded dubious.
"Yes. Boz pointed it out to me a few times." Taking a deep breath, Zann walked up the steep front steps to the wooden porch. He signaled for Perda and Darb to follow him. Zann hoped the porch might hide them if any trolls wandered by.
He knocked on the door. A young woman with black hair and an intelligent expression answered.
"Hi," Zann said. "We're looking for Teplo. Is he here?"
The young woman shook her head. "Sorry. He's gone, just like the rest of the Reds in town." The young woman closed the door in his face.
"I can't believe Morb already captured all the Magic Masters," Perda exclaimed.
"I can," Darb replied. "He captured Boz, didn't he?"
Zann shrugged, opening his mouth to answer. But before he could say a word, he felt the porch floor shudder beneath his feet.
A second later a trapdoor fell open, sending all three kids tumbling down into total darkness.