11. The Hollow
"Where do you think they took my parents?" Gliss asked tearfully.
"I don't know." Zann tried to answer patiently, even though Gliss had asked the same question about fifty times already.
"It'll be okay." Perda put an arm around Gliss' shoulders. "We'll figure out how to save them. And Boz and all the others too."
An hour had passed since Zann had zapped himself, Darb, and Zing to within a few paces of the Hollow. Zing had whimpered as soon as he'd realized where they were. But Darb had coaxed the nervous dragon into following him and Zann into the Hollow. They'd peered out as Morb appeared. He'd looked around in confusion, muttered a few angry words, and then zapped himself away again. Darb's plan had worked! Being in the Hollow had blocked whatever spell Morb was using to track Zann. A few minutes later, Perda and Gliss had arrived on foot.
Now it was getting dark, and they were all still in the Hollow. The Hollow was a low, grassy spot protected by a thick tangle of thorny vines. The only entrance lay between the gnarled trunks of two ancient mood trees, and nobody who didn't know it was there would ever notice it. Not even Morb—whoever he might really be.
"We need to figure out how a Void got such strong magic," Zann said. "Enough to perform Flash Freezes, and whatever Tracking spell he was using to follow me."
Gliss looked confused. "How would a Void get any magic at all?" she asked. "It's impossible, isn't it?"
"Not totally," Zann said. "I knew a Void when I lived in First City. His mom was a Red, and she infused a pair of gloves with a little bit of magic he could use each day. Just enough to conjure up lunch and stuff like that."
Zann was surprised that Gliss didn't know about that sort of thing. Then again, she'd lived in Swamp Bottom all her life. There were only a few Voids in town, and most seemed content to rely on others for what little magic they needed to get by. It was different in the larger towns and cities, where people weren't as neighborly.
"But that's not the kind of magic we're talking about," Perda said. "No magic-infused glove could do a Flash Freeze. The magic would be too weak. You couldn't even use it to zap yourself six inches away."
"I know." Zann was thinking hard. "The Directory said Morb worked in the research lab at the university, remember? Maybe he learned about some stronger kind of infusion. Researchers are always working on new forms of magic there."
Perda looked skeptical. "If researchers were working on something that big, we would've heard about it," she said. "Every Void in Magica would be lining up to try it. Right, Darb?"
Darb shrugged and kept petting Zing, who lay beside him looking anxious and miserable. "I wonder how Morb got those trolls to work with him," Darb said.
Perda shuddered. "Those trolls were scary! I never saw a real one before. Only pictures in books."
Gliss wasn't paying much attention to the others. "I can't believe my parents are gone," she moaned. "We need to find them!"
"I know," Zann said. "I'm worried about my grandfather too. But Morb got a good look at all of us. Who knows what he'd do if he saw us again?"
"We already know what he'd do to you two." Perda glanced at Zann and Gliss. "He'd summon his trolls to carry you off."
Darb stepped toward the entrance and looked out. "Maybe I should sneak back to town," he suggested. "I could let our families know what happened and see what I can find out."
"No way," Zann said. "It's too risky."
Perda nodded. "If we hide out here for a while, the grown-ups will take care of everything. Right?"
Nobody said anything for a long moment. Zann felt sick and scared. He'd always longed for adventure and excitement. Now he'd found it. But somehow it wasn't nearly as much fun as he'd imagined it would be.
Darb was still staring out into the night. "Look!" he said suddenly. "Here comes a message moth. We'd better see who it's for."
Zann's heart thumped. "Are you sure that's a good idea? What if Morb can track us through it?"
"I doubt it," Perda said. "Otherwise he would have found me and Gliss when you sent us that message earlier."
"Right. It seemed like his Tracking spell worked by locating the person who was creating the magic," Darb said in his logical way. "It probably doesn't track the moth itself, or the person that it's going to."
"I hope you're right." Zann stepped outside with the others. The moth immediately fluttered over to him. He gently held the creature in his hands, peering at it in the moonlight. "It's from Boz!" he said when he saw the name etched on one wing. The message on the other wing was inscribed in Boz's sloppy handwriting, not the neater letters that appeared when he wrote mentally. It read: Morb no good. Find my old diary and show it to palace.
"That means he's alive!" Perda cried. "The Reds who disappeared are alive!"
Gliss looked relieved. "We have to find them and save them!"
Zann knew she was right. But it wasn't going to be easy. To find Boz's diary, they'd have to leave the safety of the Hollow and return to where Zann's house had been. Then they would need to figure out how to get to the palace in First City.
And they'd have to do it all without any magic.