Authors: Lisa McMann
At one point Thatcher caught Henry staring and smiled at him, raising a hand in greeting. Henry smiled back and quickly looked down at his cuttings. “I might need to take a class soon,” he said to nobody in particular. He gathered up his cuttings, and then walked in a wide circle around the students to keep from getting accidentally struck by a poor throw.
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On the day after Alex finished expanding the world, he walked past the hospital ward on his way to the kitchen to get a snack and noticed that every bed was empty for the first time in a long time. He paused, then went in, seeing Henry working alone at the laboratory table with something bubbling merrily in a beaker nearby.
“Congratulations, Henry,” Alex said. “Empty beds. Now that's an accomplishment!”
Henry looked up. “Thanks. The last one checked out a couple days ago. Did you finish the expansion in Quill? Anybody give you trouble?”
“Yes, it's done,” Alex said. “No real trouble to speak of, but I'm whipped. Do you have anything that'll help my sore shoulders feel better? Those were some long, hard days of spell casting. More than I've ever done in one stretch before.”
Henry reached up and pulled a small container of herbal lotion from a shelf. “This should do the trick. Find a nice girl to rub some of this on your shoulders. It'll feel better in no time.”
“Because of the lotion?” Alex teased. “Or because of the girl?”
“It doesn't really matter, does it?”
“I guess not,” Alex said. “Are you speaking from experience? Do you have a girl rubbing lotion on your shoulders that I don't know about?”
Henry grinned. “I'm not really into girls. But no.”
Alex returned the grin and patted Henry on the back. “Thanks,” he said, taking the lotion. “Do you want me to make this room smaller again? Or do you like it all big and empty like this?”
“I wouldn't want to tax your poor aching muscles,” Henry said.
“Why, Henry Haluki,” Alex said, “I think you're mocking me. You used to be such a serious and respectful young lad.”
Henry shrugged. “I guess I've been jaded by all the battles you've dragged me into,” he said brightly. “You can leave the room big. I like it like this. It gives me lots of room to spread out my plant cuttings to dry.”
“All right,” Alex said. He turned to go, and then paused and looked over his shoulder. “You should go outside and get some fresh air sometime, you know? Try some new spells. Swim. Have fun.”
Henry looked up from his work again. “This is fun,” he said. He got up from his chair. “But I do need to go outside, actually, to get some more roots.”
“Great. I'll tag along. Maybe you can teach me something.”
“Doubtful,” Henry said with a smile, “but I'll try.”
The two headed outside past Simber and Florence and strolled over the lawn toward Henry's greenhouse area. But they didn't get far before Alex noticed Spike Furious circling just offshore.
“Hmm,” Alex said, narrowing his eyes. “One second, Henry.” Alex jogged to the water's edge. “Is everything all right, Spike?” he called out to the whale.
“The Alex!” shouted Spike. “I have been waiting for you with important news!”
Henry joined Alex.
“News from whom?” asked Alex.
“It is from Pan, the coiled water dragon who rules the sea!”
“Really?” Alex said. “She came to you? What did she say?”
Spike trumpeted water from her blowhole. “She said these words exactly: âTell Alex that Karkinos the crab is gravely ill and rapidly losing strength, and he has begun drifting westward. Have you found a way to save him? There isn't much time.'â”
“Oh no,” muttered Alex. “He's headed toward the waterfall.” He took a few steps into the water, muttering something unintelligible. And then he called out, “How much time does Karkinos have to live?”
“Only days,” Spike said. “I can feel his approaching death in the water.”
“Cripes,” muttered Alex.
“Alex,” Henry asked, “what's this all about? Lani mentioned once that Karkinos was sick, but I didn't know it was this bad.”
Alex turned and waded back to shore. “ItÂ .Â .Â . well, to be perfectly honest, Karkinos hasn't exactly been my top priority with everything else going on. But Pan told me he was getting worse a few months ago when we rescued Kaylee and Aaron.” Alex shoved his hands in his pockets, feeling helpless. He gave Henry an imploring look. “How much medicine have you got on hand?”
“It depends,” said Henry. “What kind do you need? What's wrong with him?”
“Nobody really knows,” said Alex. “But if he drifts over the waterfall, he might not be the only one who dies. We have to do something.”
Henry looked perplexed. “Karkinos is enormous,” he said. “Even if I knew what kind of medicine he needed, I wouldn't have enough.”
Alex shook his head. “Islands aren't supposed to die,” he muttered. Quickly he went through his options. If they couldn't save Karkinos, they had to at least save Talon, Lhasa, BockÂ .Â .Â . He began listing off the inhabitants to see if they all would somehow fit in the magical white boat. But Talon was likely as heavy as Florence, and then add to that all the hundreds of dropbears and the hibagon and Vido the roosterÂ .Â .Â . He shook his head. Even if Talon could fly the whole way, there was no way they could fit even a small percentage of the others on the boat.
“We'd have to take the pirate ship to rescue them,” Alex said, looking at the patched but seaworthy vessel standing in the lagoon. “But it would take days to get there in that thing. There's not enough time!”
Henry racked his brain, mentally going over all the medicinal stores. He had quite a lot now, but what a waste it would be if they used it all on Karkinos and it didn't work. Plus, after all ArtimÃ© had been through, Henry didn't ever like being without enough medicine. But if it could somehow save the crab's lifeÂ .Â .Â .
Henry's eyes widened, and he sucked in a breath. “Wait a second,” he said. His hand went to his component vest, to the special pocket with a spell-protected lock, and felt the container that he'd kept there ever since Ishibashi had given it to him.
“Alex,” Henry said, his voice measured, “what's the absolute fastest way to get a single person to the Island of Legends?”
Alex frowned, thinking of all the options. “Either Simber or Spike would be faster than the boat or the ship.”
Henry tapped the container through his vest thoughtfully. “And Spike can talk to all species, right?”
“Right,” said Alex. “But neither one of them can carry all the creatures here to ArtimÃ©, so we need a boat. Why?”
Henry set his jaw and nodded firmly. “We don't need a boat. Get Spike ready.”
“What? I don't understand,” said Alex.
Henry's eyes gleamed. “I'm saying I've got the right medicine, Alex. I can keep Karkinos aliveÂ .Â .Â . but only if I can get there in time.”
Planning a Journey
hat's an awfully long ride on the back of a whale,” Alex said to Henry. “And what if the medicine doesn't work? You wouldn't be able to save everyone.”
Henry stared out over the sea, thinking fast. Was the small container of seaweed enough to save such a large creature as Karkinos? Ishibashi had only used the tiniest pinch of it to heal a sea turtle. Henry's container was packed full. He wouldn't have time to go all the way to the Island of Shipwrecks for moreÂ .Â .Â . but he didn't think he'd need to.
“Henry?” Alex prompted.
“What if it doesn't work?” Alex said again. “You wouldn't be able to save Talon and the others.”
“Well, do you have any other options?” Henry asked impatiently. “You said the pirate ship can't get there in time. If Karkinos is drifting toward the waterfall, all the inhabitants are going to get pulled down it and their lives will be in danger if they can't get everyone tied down in time. To stop that from happening, we need speed first of all. And I'm telling you I've got the right medicine. I'm sure of it! I just need to get there.” He jiggled his foot, ready to spring into action as soon as Alex gave the word.
Alex studied the young man. Henry had grown up fast by necessity. He was one of the most responsible and selfless people Alex knew. He'd been by Alex's side in the gray shack when all was lost, and he'd stayed loyal and focused ever since.
“All right,” Alex said. “I believe you. But you and Spike aren't going alone. Let's go talk to Florence and see what she recommends.”
“Great!” said Henry. He started toward the mansion while Alex thanked Spike and told her what was happening. “I need you to swim as fast as possible. Can you do that?”
“I can swim like a bullet, the Alex!” said Spike, sounding extremely happy to be chosen as the fastest ride in ArtimÃ©. “I will go tell Pan and return shortly to take Henry to the Island of Legends.”
Alex watched the whale swish through the water in search of Pan. He'd never witnessed her top speed before, but it was trueâhe'd instilled great speed in her when he'd brought her to life. Now it would come in handy.
He jogged to the mansion, finding Henry and Florence deep in conversation, with Simber standing silently by.
Florence's face wore a pained expression. “I want to go,” she said softly. “I have to.” She and Talon had grown very fond of one another during their visit to Karkinos, and had made plans to see each other again once life in ArtimÃ© settled down. And now she feared she might never see Talon again if Henry's plan was unsuccessful.
Henry looked to Alex for help.
“Hi, Florence,” Alex said, coming up next to Simber. “You heard?”
“Yes,” said Florence.
“Obviously Henry can't go alone with Spike,” said Alex.
“I want to go,” Florence said again.
Alex pressed his lips together, perplexed. “I know,” he said, his voice gentle but firm. “I'm sorry, Florence. I just can't see how that's possible without slowing Spike down considerably. And speed is of the utmost importance.”
Florence lifted her chin and looked away, trying to hide her feelings. Her heavy ebony body had been a benefit in so many ways, but it had its drawbacks, too. She knew what Alex said was true. But how she wished there was a way. She blinked and looked at Simber. “If only I could borrow your wings, my friend,” she said.
“Talon has wings,” Simber reminded her. “He doesn't need to go down the waterrrfall with the rrrest of the island.”
Florence laughed bitterly. “Do you really think he'd stay back and watch everyone go over the edge?”
Simber looked down. “No. Of courrrse he'll stay with them, just as Alex chose to do with ourrr ship.”
“If we don't hurryÂ .Â .Â .Â ,” Henry prodded. He was ready to jump on the whale's back and go at a moment's notice.
A flash of light through the window caught Henry's eye. “Spike is out there circling again,” he said. He moved to the window and his eyes opened wide. “Wowâwhat the stink is
thing next to her?” he breathed.
Alex rushed to his side to look. Coming up out of the water and walking onto the shore with her oversized dragon head, snakelike body, and four stocky legs growing from the thickest part of her trunk, was Pan herself. Her long, whiplike tail snapped and curled like a lasso behind her, her clawed feet dug divots into the lawn and shot bits of grass into the air behind her, and the plume of scales that burst from her head sparkled a myriad of colors in the sunlight.
“It's Pan,” Alex said. “Come and meet her.” He rushed to open the door and ran outside, the others following.
Alex greeted the dragon, his heart pounding from being so close to the great beast. She seemed immensely larger on land than she'd seemed in the open sea. Her sprawling body made Simber look small.
Simber stood back, wary of the dragon's potential fiery breath.
Alex introduced Florence, Henry, and Simber.
“Greetings,” said Pan. “I have seen you from afar. It is good to meet friends of the sea in these dark times.” She eyed Florence. “You are the one Talon speaks of.”
Florence's face grew hot. “Is he well?” she asked.
“He is lonely,” said Pan.
“Oh my,” said Florence, looking completely lost for words.
Simber rescued her. “How is it that we haven't seen you beforrre?” he asked Pan.
The dragon stretched out her neck to look across the island. “With pirates in my waters capturing and selling sea creatures these many years,” she said warily, “it has been in my best interest to stay hidden.”
Florence, Simber, and Alex exchanged glances, all of them realizing the same thing. The pirates weren't just capturing sea creatures. They intended to sell them! But to whom?
“We understand,” Florence said. “We're pleased you trust us enough to venture on land.”