Authors: Angie Sage
For Karen and Peter Collins, with love. May you never meet a
lick. Flick. Flick.
walked slowly around the darkening Observatory,
the candles. He was using the old
trick of clicking finger and thumb together to produce a small black flame. It was the first thing he had mastered when he arrived at the Observatory some six months previously, and although he had learned
and more dangerous skills since then, he was still proud of his
. Simon touched the wicks of the candles that he had placed on the old slate worktops, which were built into the circular walls of the underground chamber in the manner of a laboratory. Soon an orange glow took hold and began to light the large dismal space. Simon knew he shouldn't be cheered by the light of a flame; he understood only too well that he should love the dark and damp shadows of an October evening, but he didn't. He missed the light and warmth of a fire; he also missed the prospect of a hot supper in the company of friends. And even though he tried his hardest not to think about it, he missed his familyâwell, most of his family. He didn't miss his new so-called youngest brother one little bit.
. The thought of the scrawny kid who now called himself Septimus Heap and who was living in splendor at the top of the Wizard Tower, prancing around being ExtraOrdinary Apprenticeâtaking the Apprenticeship that Simon had dreamed one day would be hisâmade Simon seethe. Fueled by his anger, the
flame on his thumb leaped high into the air and very nearly singed his eyebrows.
Simon approached the last candle with trepidation. Fat and white, it stood alone at the far end of the benchtop opposite the stairs. But it was not the candle that filled Simon with dread; it was the thing that sat beside itâthe skull of his Master, DomDaniel. Simon's hand shook as, under the disapproving glare of the skull, he put the flame to the wick and watched the yellow light flare up, sending dark, dancing shadows deep into the eye sockets.
Simon shivered and pulled his black woolen cloak around him. The cloak, heavily embroidered in
symbols, was one of his Master's castoffs. According to DomDaniel it was steeped in
, but so far all Simon had found it steeped in was the smell of old sweat. He had also found a damp toffee stuck to the lining, three dead spiders squashed inside the collar and a mouse skeleton in one of the pockets. Simon sighed. He glanced at the rest of his Master, which was propped up in a carved oak chair a few feet away, guarding the top of the stairs. The headless skeleton gave him the creeps, and the two nasty green faces on the thick gold ring that was wedged tight on DomDaniel's left thumb bone stared at Simon malevolently. The prospect of the long, cold night ahead with nothing but
bones for company filled Simon with gloom.
. The candle flame went out. Simon looked down and saw, to his shock, that the skull was now hovering in the air. As he watched, the form of his Master's face slowly became visible, with DomDaniel's lips pursed in blowing-out-a-candle mode.
Simon stared in amazement. DomDaniel had been trying to get his
Clothing Bones Spell
right ever since his bones had been picked clean by the Marsh Brownies when his ship, the
, had sunk with all hands. However,
was, DomDaniel informed Simon, the kind of
that was very difficult to do for oneself. To DomDaniel's frustration, Simon had been no help at allâ“
about as much use as a chocolate teapot
.” But after witnessing several failed attempts by DomDaniel to
his bones, Simon had begun to wonder whether his Master really was the powerful and talented Wizard he had made himself out to be when he had recruited Simon into his service.
But now at last DomDaniel was having some success. Simon watched with a kind of revolted fascination as the outlines of the skull slowly faded below the blobby contours of DomDaniel's face, and the old Necromancer's cylindrical stovepipe hat appeared out of the shadows and planted itself onto the thinning hair. DomDaniel's head was now looking unpleasantly realistic. The disembodied head, which was hovering some six inches above the workbench, turned an almost complete circle until it was facing its bones, which satâstill
and displaying a distinct lack of interestâin their chair. The head now set off to join them. Floating about four feet off the floor, it traveled sedately across to its bones, lined itself up with the top vertebraâthe atlasâand then slowly descended until once again it sat upon its body.
The head swiveled around and gave Simon a triumphant smirk.
“Amazing,” said Simon. “Quite superb.” Simon knew that the easiest way to keep his Master happy and to stop him from indulging in petty little nuisance Spells like hair-tangling, itching in embarrassing placesâor, even worse, itching right in the middle of his headâwas to lay on the flattery with, as his mother would have said, a trowel.
“It's nothing compared to how I used to be,” said DomDaniel's rather squeaky voice. “But I'll show them, Heap. I
. And then they will all be â¦” His voice faded away into the clammy night air.
“Sorry?” Simon finished for him.
The head nodded and began to topple. Simon leaped forward and caught it as it tumbled toward the floor. It glared at him ungratefully. Very carefully, his hands trembling slightly, Simon balanced the head on top of the broad, flat vertebra and snatched his hands away. He felt quite sick.
“Not like that, you idiot!” said the head, beginning to wobble. “Push it down, man. It's got to fit. Properly.”
Simon swallowed hard. DomDaniel's head was cold as ice, and although the
skull did have substance, it felt unpleasantly squishy and Simon was afraid his fingers might push through its surface at any moment. Gingerly, he pushed the head down until he could feel the connection between the base of the skull and the atlas.
For once, the expression on DomDaniel's face was one of satisfaction. “Ooh, nearly there â¦ a bit to the left â¦ yes, yes â¦ now
. Got it! Hey, Heapâwhere are you going?”
But Simon was gone, racing to find a bucket to be sick in.
He returned, white-faced and shaky, to find DomDaniel standing at the top of the stairs, waiting impatiently. The Necromancer had wrapped himself in his newest
cloak and was wearing a stout pair of boots. But beneath the cloak, Simon glimpsed white bones going into the boots and he knew that there was no more than a skeleton beneath the dark folds of cloth.
“Ready?” DomDaniel demanded.
“Er, yes,” said Simon, wondering what it was he was meant to be ready for.
“Get a toad, will you, Heap? A nice big one. Then we'll be off.”
“Oh. Right.” Simon quickly unscrewed the top of the toad jar and peered in. A large, particularly googly-eyed toad blinked up at him. Simon grabbed it and held it out to show his Master.
DomDaniel eyed the toad with approval. “Very nice. It should go down well. Put it in a toad bag, Heap.” Simon took a black, shiny bag from beside the toad jar and dropped the toad into it. The newly
skull smiled. “Off we go!” it said.
Simon followed an unusually jolly DomDaniel as he began to lurch toward the stairs. Suddenly something clattered to the floorâsomething white and thin.
Arm bones, thought Simon, steeling himself to pick them up.
DomDaniel looked impatiently at Simon trying to put together all the little wrist bones. “Oh, put them in the toad bag for later. Give me your arm, Heap.”
Simon looked horrified. “But â¦ but â¦”
A slightly hysterical laugh echoed around the Observatory like a door swinging wildly on its hinges. “To lean on, Heapâ
to lean on
. Ha ha ha.” And then, menacingly, “Don't go giving me ideas, will you?”
Simon and DomDaniel began the long descent down through the cold slate cliffs. At the foot of the stairs outside the Magog Chamber, DomDaniel stopped and drew his lips back into what Simon guessed was meant to be a smile. Taking courage from the smile, Simon asked where they were going.
DomDaniel looked exasperated. “Why do I always get the stupid ones? Toad, boyâ
“Oh,” Simon said, none the wiser.
“We are going to pay a little visit to our fan club in the Port.”
“That's nice,” Simon said politely, although he had not heard of a Port DomDaniel fan club. He supposed that was because it was rather small.
DomDaniel seemed to find Simon's puzzled expression funny. A series of squeaky chuckles came from somewhere in his neck. “You didn't know I had a fan club did you? Ha ha!
Ha ha ha!
” DomDaniel's head rocked from side to side as though it were on a hinge.
Simon looked horrified.