18. What the Fly Spied
When Zann and his friends burst out of the Hollow, Jev was trying to fend off the buzzing spy fly.
"Wait, you crazy thing!" Jev complained as it flew at his head.
"It's back!" Perda exclaimed. "What did it see?"
Jev flapped his hand at the fly. "I don't know yet," he said. "I hate spy flies—I didn't want it in my ear more than once."
"Well, we're here now," Zann said, trying to hide his impatience. "Let's hear what it saw."
"Fine." Jev lowered his hand. The spy fly buzzed into his ear, burrowing deep inside. Jev grimaced.
"What's it showing you?" Gliss asked.
Zann held his breath as he waited for the answer. He'd used spy flies enough to know exactly what was happening. The little creature had found Morb, as Jev had ordered. And it had recorded everything it saw and heard in its tiny brain. Now it was back, ready to pour that information into Jev's mind.
Jev closed his eyes. "It's flying toward some huge stone castle," he reported.
"Is it the palace in First City?" Gliss asked.
"No. It's on a mountain with forest all around. The fly is looking in some windows." Jev gasped. "Whoa! There are trolls in there!"
"Trolls?" Zann exchanged a look with his friends. It sounded as if the spy fly had found the right place!
"Okay, now it's looking in the window at a dungeon. There are people in cells, and—hey! There's your grandfather, Zann!"
"Boz?" Zann exclaimed. "Is he okay?"
"Are my parents there?" Gliss cried.
"I don't know; I can't see them. But there are lots of people in the other cells. I think they're all Reds," Jev said. "Gross! The trolls are pulling leeches off Boz!"
"Leeches?" Zann echoed, picturing the tiny, harmless creatures from the local swamp.
Jev nodded. "I guess that's what they are. I've never seen leeches like these, though. They're huge—and blue! Boz is yelling at some tall, skinny guy who's watching. Is that Morb? Oh wait—now the fly is going to a different window. The tall guy just came in. More trolls too. They're carrying a big black pot . . ."
He went on, describing everything the spy fly had seen: Morb lighting the fire. The leeches burning to a crisp. Morb breathing in the blue steam. His triumphant laugh.
"Now Morb is leaving," Jev said. "No, wait—he just turned around. Wow! He totally blasted that black pot to smithereens, just by pointing at it! I didn't even see him make any friction before he did it!" Jev's eyes flew open. His usual cocky expression was gone, replaced by nervousness. "That's it," he said quickly. "There's no more."
"Are you sure?" Perda asked.
Jev shook the spy fly out of his ear. The creature buzzed around in a circle, and then flew off.
"I'm sure," Jev said, his voice shaking. "And look, if you want any more favors, find someone else, okay? I'm done with this."
"What?" Perda exclaimed. "But Jev . . ."
"I told you we couldn't trust him," Zann put in.
Jev shot him a glare. "Don't worry; I'll keep your secrets. But that's it. I'm not risking my own neck for a couple of Reds."
Gliss looked hurt. "I thought we were friends!"
Jev shrugged. "See you guys later," he muttered without meeting anyone's eye.
He took off without another word, running a few steps and then zapping himself out of sight.
"What a jerk," Zann muttered.
"Forget him," Perda said. "Let's figure out what this means. Where do you think that castle could be?"
"Mount Mystery," Darb said immediately. "There's an ancient stone fortress up there."
The others stared at him in surprise. "How do you know that?" Zann asked.
"I read a lot." Darb looked thoughtful. "Morb must have found some bigger leeches and figured out how to make his old method of stealing magic work better. First the leeches suck the magic out of his prisoners. Then he cooks the leeches and breathes in the magic when it comes out as steam."
Gliss shuddered. "That's horrible!"
"But where would he find big blue leeches?" Perda said.
Zann and Darb traded a look. "Probably the same place he got those stinging dragons," Darb said.
"Huh?" Perda said.
"I bet Morb got those leeches from a different world!" Zann said.
"You mean like the ones your parents visited?" Perda asked.
"Exactly. If Morb worked at their lab, he might have figured out how to access a wormhole."
"But how could he—" Gliss began.
"I don't know," Zann cut her off. "I don't have all the answers yet. But I know one thing. We've got to warn people about this."
Darb nodded. "Let's go find the mayor and show her the diary. She'll know how to get word to the palace."
"Good idea," Perda agreed.
But when they arrived at the town hall, Zann and his friends got a nasty surprise. The mayor was gone! People were frantically running around and shouting, and nobody paid any attention to the kids.
"I guess Morb broke through the mayor's Shield spell," Perda said as they watched from behind some shrubs.
"Now what?" Gliss' voice shook a little.
Zann took a deep breath. "We have no choice. Tomorrow we'll have to bring Boz's diary to the palace ourselves. We can also tell the king and queen what we learned from the spy fly."
"But how are we supposed to get all the way to First City on our own?" Perda asked.
Zann noticed that Darb was looking thoughtful again. "What?" Zann asked him.
Darb smiled. "I have an idea."