Beetle arrived at the Wizard Tower breathless and flustered. Hildegarde opened the door to him. She looked surprised.
"What are you doing here?" she said. "You and Princess Jenna have just been the subject of a nine-nine-nine from Gothyk Grotto. You should be there waiting for the Emergency Wizard."
Beetle fought to get his breath back. "I . . . she . . . they . . . let us go. Must see Marcia . . . now . . . urgent."
Hildegarde knew Beetle well enough to send an express messenger straight up to Marcia's rooms. While the messenger set the stairs on emergency and disappeared in a whirl of blue, Beetle paced the Great Hall impatiently, not daring to hope that it would have any result. He was as amazed as Hildegarde when, no more than a few minutes later, a flash of purple appeared at the top of the spiral stairs and whizzed its way down. In a moment Marcia was hurrying across to the agitated Beetle.
Marcia listened to Beetle's story of Merrin in the Palace attic, the Two-Faced Ring, the Darke Domaine and finally, Jenna's disappearance, with increasing concern.
"I knew it," she muttered. "I knew it."
Marcia heard Beetle out and then sprang into action. She sent Hildegarde up to the Search and Rescue Center on the nineteenth floor of the Wizard Tower to begin a Search for Jenna at once.
"And now," said Marcia, "we must do a Call Out to the Palace. There is no time to lose."
It was a relatively easy matter to Call Out all the Wizard Tower Wizards. The Tower had an extremely ancient Magykal intercom system that no one understood anymore, but which still worked - although Marcia did not dare use it too often. A fine spiderlike web of Magykal threads connected all the private rooms and public spaces in the Tower. The control point was a tiny circle of lapis lazuli set high up in the wall beside the Wizard Tower doors. Beetle watched Marcia ball her right hand into a fist and then throw it open, letting go a well-aimed stream of Magykal purple that hit the center of the circle, whereupon a wafer of paper-thin lapis detached itself and floated down into Marcia's outstretched hands. Marcia pressed the flimsy circle of blue into her left palm. Then she held her hand up to her mouth and addressed her palm in an oddly flat monotone.
"Calling all Wizards, Calling all Wizards. This is a non-optional Call Out. Please make your way immediately, I repeat, immediately, to the Great Hall."
Marcia's monotone sounded in every room in the Wizard Tower, as loud and undistorted as though she were there in person - much to the dismay of one elderly Wizard taking a bath.
The effect was immediate. The silver spiral stairs slowed to steady mode - a setting that allowed easy access for all - and a few seconds later, Beetle saw the blue cloaks of the first Wizards descending.
Wizards and Apprentices gathered in the Hall - the Wizards grumbling that the ExtraOrdinary Wizard had chosen to do a Call Out practice just as they were about to have tea, the Apprentices chattering with excitement. Beetle kept an eye on the stairs for Septimus, but although plenty of green robes were mixed in with the blue, his was not among them.
The last Wizard stepped off the stairs and Marcia addressed the crowd. "This is not a Call Out practice," she said. "This is the real thing."
A surprised murmur greeted her announcement.
"All Wizards are required to form a Cordon around the Palace within the next half hour. I intend to put the Palace into Quarantine as soon as possible."
A collective gasp of shock echoed through the Great Hall, and the lights inside the Tower - which, if there was nothing else to do, reflected the Wizards' collective feelings - turned a slightly surprised pink.
Marcia continued. "To that effect I am asking you to exit the Tower with Mr. Beetle. En route to the Palace you will provide backup to Mr. Beetle while he Calls Out the Manuscriptorium Scribes."
It was Beetle's turn to look shocked.
Marcia continued. "You will then proceed to the Palace Gate and assemble there silently please. I must impress the need for absolute silence upon you all. It is imperative that our target in the Palace does not realize what is happening. Understood?"A murmur of assent ran through the Hall."Raise your arm, Beetle, so that they all know who you are."Beetle obeyed, thinking that it was pretty easy to see who he was, as he was the only one wearing an Admiral's jacket. But right then - after learning that Merrin had been living in the Palace for nearly two years and Silas Heap had not noticed - Marcia had a poor opinion of the observational powers of the average Ordinary Wizard. She was taking no chances."Beetle, I now declare you to be my Call Out Emissary," Marcia said rather formally. From her ExtraOrdinary Wizard belt she took a tiny scroll tied in a wisp of purple ribbon and gave it to Beetle.The scroll lay in Beetle's palm, surprisingly heavy for its size."Gosh . . ." he said."The scroll is a twice-tap," Marcia informed him. "Make sure you hold it at arm's length when it is Enlarging, as they can get a bit hot. Once it's full size, all you have to do is read out what it says. Emissary scrolls are reasonably intelligent, so this one should respond to most things Miss Djinn throws at you. I have given you the adversarial model." Marcia sighed. "I suspect you will need it."Beetle suspected he would too."Also Beetle, although the Chief Hermetic Scribe is obliged to let all Indentured Scribes go on a Call Out, she herself does not have to attend. And frankly I would prefer it if she didn't. Understood?"Beetle nodded. He totally understood.Marcia raised her voice and addressed the assembled Wizards and Apprentices. "Now, please leave the Tower with Mr. Beetle in an orderly fashion.""But Septimus hasn't come down yet," said Beetle."No, indeed Septimus hasn't." Marcia sounded annoyed. "At the very moment when I should be relying on my Senior Apprentice, he has chosen to absent himself and go listening to some ridiculous twaddle peddled by Marcellus Pye. I shall be sending a Wizard to get him." And, thought Marcia, to tell him that he will most certainly not be beginning his Darke Week that night.Now Beetle understood why he was Emissary - once again, he was Septimus's replacement. It took the shine off it a little. But only a little.And so, while Marcia embarked on the more time-consuming Castle Call Out, Beetle led the Wizards and Apprentices out of the Wizard Tower. Like a gooseherd with a gaggle of disorderly geese, he took them down the wide, white marble steps, across the cobbles of the courtyard, shining and slippery with watery sleet, and through the lapis lazuli-lined Great Arch into Wizard Way.Beetle's entourage created quite a stir amongst the Longest Night promenaders. Even the brightest window display could not compete with the impressive sight of a Wizard Tower Call Out. The gold braid on his Admiral's jacket glinting in the torchlight, Beetle walked proudly along Wizard Way at the head of a sea of blue flecked with green, and the crowds parted respectfully to let them through. It was a wonderful moment but all he could think about was - where was Jenna?On the nineteenth floor of the Wizard Tower, Hildegarde was sitting at the huge Searching Glass, scanning the Castle. The three portly and somewhat self-important Search and Rescue Wizards were annoyed at not being asked to conduct the Search themselves, especially as Hildegarde was only a mere sub-Wizard, but as she had been sent by the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, there was nothing they could do but proffer patronizing advice and hover irritatingly close by.Hildegarde studiously paid them no attention. She focused all her energy on the Searching Glass, bringing her slowly growing Magykal powers to guide it. But all the Glass did was insist on focusing on Doom Dump, which was where Hildegarde knew that Beetle had last seen Jenna. She wasn't very good at this, she thought gloomily. Jenna was sure to be far away by now.