"No!" Morb howled, lunging toward the pieces of the broken jawbone.
"Get him!" Vig shouted, raising his sword. A blast of energy shot out of it, but Morb dodged the blast.
Morb snarled, looking around for somewhere to run. But he was surrounded. He rubbed his hands together, using his last bit of magic to levitate to a second-story balcony.
"Stop him!" the king shouted.
"Quick—get a Shield spell up around the palace!" another Red added.
Perda, Darb, and Gliss sprinted over to Zann. "Wow, you were great!" Perda exclaimed.
Zann stared at the balcony where Morb had disappeared, and then at the enormous glowing bubble that had just engulfed the entire palace.
"Morb will never get through that shield," said Boz.
"Morb has no intention of getting through the shield," said Zann, still looking at the balcony. "We need to go after him—now!"
Zann rubbed his hands together. "Levitate!"
As Zann rose into the air, Fala, Boz, Teplo, and all of his friends followed him. In a moment the whole group was on the balcony.
"What do you think Morb is up to, Zann?" Boz asked.
"Just come with me." Zann sprinted down the hall and burst into the storage room.
"Stop!" he shouted.
Morb was there, standing in front of the open wormhole. He glanced over his shoulder at Zann and the others.
Boz rubbed his fingers together. "Freeze!'
The spell flew directly at Morb, but before it hit him, it spun out of control and disappeared into the vortex.
"Immobilize!" said Fala. Her spell veered into the wormhole too, and Morb laughed again.
"Where do you think you'll go, Morb?" said Boz. "You can't run forever."
Morb glared at Boz for a moment and then looked at the others. His eyes rested on Zann.
"I don't plan to run forever, Boz," warned Morb. "Magica hasn't seen the last of me!"
With those words Morb stepped into the wormhole and disappeared.
"I've never been so terrified in my entire life!" Gliss exclaimed, peeking through a heavy velvet curtain.
"Really?" said Zann. "After everything we've been through, you're scared of a little crowd?"
"A big crowd," Perda corrected. "I think at least half of Magica is out there!"
It was a few days after Morb had disappeared, and Magica was slowly returning to normal. Zann and his friends were waiting in a small room beside the ballroom. They were about to be officially named "Heroes of Magica" by the king and queen.
Darb was sitting on an overstuffed chair patting Zing, who wore a jaunty ribbon around his scaly neck. The little dragon was so excited that there were singe marks all over the room. Zann stepped over and repaired a burnt spot on Darb's shirt.
"Thanks." Darb sounded distracted.
"Are you okay?" Zann asked.
"I guess." Darb shrugged. "Do you think Morb will ever come back?"
Zann sighed. "It's better not to worry about it. If Morb does return, Magica will be ready for him."
Just then they heard a shout of greeting from the doorway. Several of the kids' friends from Swamp Bottom rushed into the room.
"You came!" Perda exclaimed, racing over to hug some of them.
"Of course we came!" another kid exclaimed. "Everyone wants to see you guys get your reward!"
Jev was there too. He walked over to Gliss, smiling sheepishly.
"Hi, Gliss," he said. "I wanted to say I'm sorry. You know . . . about what I said to you before."
"It's okay, Jev." Gliss smiled back at him. "You did a lot to help us."
Jev looked relieved. "Cool." He grinned and reached for Gliss' hand.
But Darb got there first. He slid his hand into Gliss', and she squeezed it.
"Yes, we really appreciate what you did to help us," Darb said.
Jev's face went red as he realized what was happening. "Whatever," he muttered.
Zann grinned. He couldn't blame Jev for being surprised. Zann hadn't noticed how close Gliss and Darb were getting either. But he was happy for them.
He was still smiling when Perda rushed over. "Are you ready?" she asked breathlessly, looking prettier than ever in her formal gown. "It's time for us to go in!"
Moments later Zann, Perda, Gliss, and Darb were marching up a long aisle, with Zing flying joyfully alongside. The enormous ballroom was filled with a cheering crowd, and even more people spilled into the courtyard. Colorful puffs of energy popped and sparkled overhead. The king and queen stood on a dais at the far end of the room. To their right stood the entire Red Council, and to their left were Boz, Teplo, and Fala.
Zann felt self-conscious but proud as he walked up the long aisle with his friends. Still, looking at all the faces in the crowd, Zann couldn't help thinking that there were two very important people missing from the celebration. Were his parents still alive somewhere, trapped between worlds? What if Morb really was the sole person who knew where they were? Had Zann given up his one and only chance of finding them?
He dismissed these thoughts. Morb's offer had tempted him, but Zann had made the only choice he could make—his parents would never have wanted him to sacrifice Magica just to save them.
Reaching into his pocket, Zann touched the stone Wyssa had given him. His gaze wandered upward, toward the storage room with the wormhole. He didn't need Morb to find his parents. He just needed the courage to take a step into that vortex on his own. The wormhole was still up there—it would always be up there—waiting for him.