Zann let out a yell, and Zing let out a blast of flame before they both realized who had just burst into the cave.
"Perda!" Zann exclaimed. "You shouldn't sneak up on people like that!"
She smirked, quickly rubbing her fingers together and touching her arm to repair the spot where Zing had just singed her. "If you didn't want me in here, you should have used a Shield spell," she said.
"What's the point?" Zann said. "You know all my passwords. You'd get past a Shield spell too."
"True." Perda's smile faded quickly, and her eyes filled with worry. "But listen, I'm glad I found you. Did you know your house—"
"Just blew up?" Zann finished grimly. "Yes. Zing and I barely got away."
"What about Boz?" Perda asked anxiously.
"I don't think he was there," Zann said. "Here's what happened . . ." He told her the same story he'd just told Darb.
Perda listened quietly. "Wow," she said when Zann had finished. "And you didn't recognize the guy?"
"I've never seen him before in my life," Zann replied.
"Did you check the Directory?"
Zann blinked. Why hadn't he thought of that?
"Um, not yet," he said, shooting a sheepish glance toward Darb. "We, uh, were just about to do that."
"Here, I'll pull it up." Perda snapped her fingers.
A book-like image appeared in midair, floating at eye level. "Identification needed," Zann said. "Adult male."
Instantly the book disappeared, replaced by a long list of names. The names were in tiny print, since they represented every adult male in Magica. A picture floated beside each name, though the images were far too minuscule to be seen clearly.
For a second Zann was tempted to check the list and see if his father was listed, or Boz. But he resisted the temptation. He had checked his father's listing before. It was still there, but with a special notation at the top: "Missing, presumed deceased or permanently off-world." As for Boz, it was too soon for his Directory status to have changed, no matter what had happened.
"Well?" Perda said, sounding impatient. "Is there anything else you can remember about this guy? You need to narrow the search down a little."
"I know, I'm just thinking." Zann tried to remember what the stranger had looked like. "Uh, taller than average. Thinner than average. Between thirty and fifty years old." He watched as the list rearranged itself, the names getting bigger as their numbers became fewer. "Pale skin. Long, thinning dark hair."
"What color were his eyes?" Perda prompted.
"I'm trying to remember. I wasn't exactly gazing into his eyes at the time, you know," Zann said.
"Here, I'll help." Perda held out both her hands.
"Help with what?" Zann understood that she was offering to combine her magic with his. Anyone could do that to make a spell stronger. What he didn't understand was what spell she thought they should do.
Perda sighed. "Don't you ever pay attention in Mental Magic class? We just covered Enhanced Short-term Memory spells last month!"
"Oh, right." Zann lifted his own hands and rubbed his palms against hers. Sparks began to crackle between them. "Recall," he murmured, trying to focus on the memory of the man's face.
Just like that the image popped into his head. It was as clear as if the stranger were standing right in front of him. Zann shuddered, quickly dropping his hands from Perda's.
"Amber eyes," he said. "Small, mean-looking amber eyes, to be precise. Narrow face with sunken cheeks."
He went on, adding as many details as he could. With each one the list of names grew shorter. Soon there were only a few names left on the floating screen. By now both names and images were large enough to see easily.
"Do you recognize any of the pictures?" Darb asked, peering at the Directory.
"I'm not sure . . ." Zann scanned the entries. "Wait! There he is—that's him!" Zann pointed at one of the images. Instantly all the other entries dropped away. "Full entry, please."
More words appeared beneath the name and picture.
"'Name: Morb,'" Perda read. "'Home: Dragon's Peak, Mount Mystery. Current Occupation: Unknown.'"
"Dragon's Peak?" Zann said. "Isn't that the village that's always having trouble with trolls?"
"Wait, this can't be the right person after all," Darb spoke up. "Look—he's a Void." He pointed to another part of the entry.
"A Void?" Zann echoed. "But that doesn't make sense. This is definitely the guy that was at my house. Yet there's no way a Void could do what he did! The entry must be wrong."
Perda moved her hand, causing the Directory to scroll down. "It can't be wrong," she said. "There are lots of mentions of him being a Void. See? It even says he used to work as an animal caretaker. That's a Void job."
Zann glanced at the entry. "Wait, go back," he said. "Check it out. This Morb guy used to work at my parents' research laboratory at the university!"
"Really? Then maybe Morb isn't connected to the royal warning at all," Perda suggested. "He might have been looking for your parents or something."
"But he said he knew where Boz was. And why would he try to use the Flash Freeze on me? That doesn't make any sense."
"Zann's right. This has to be connected to the disappearances of Reds somehow," Darb said.
"I guess you're right." Perda gasped. "Gliss!"
"Huh?" Zann said.
"She's a Red, and so are both her parents," Perda said. "If Morb is after Reds, he'll probably try to get them too. We have to warn her!"