It reminded Hotep-Ra so much of the time long ago when another Queen had said a tearful farewell, that he looked around to check there was not a pair of Darke Wizards swooping down upon them. Hotep-Ra smiled. Of course there wasn’t. At last the two evil beings that had destroyed his own family, his wife and children, and then pursued him three times around the world were gone forever.
Hotep-Ra regarded Jenna pensively. She looked so much like his own dear Queen from long ago, with her gold circlet shining in the sunlight, her long, dark hair blowing in the breeze and concern in her eyes. She would be a good Queen, thought Hotep-Ra—not one of the crazy ones, not one of the silly ones and definitely not one of the nasty ones, although she might possibly be one of the more determined ones.
Jenna was clutching her beautiful new binding of The Queen Rules. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for everything.”
Hotep-Ra bowed. “I merely showed you how. You were brave enough to actually do it.”
“Bye, Jen. See you later,” said Septimus, as casually as if he were just going down the road.
Jenna sighed. She hated the thought of Septimus going back to the House of Foryx. “Bye, Sep. Come back soon. Promise?”
Septimus jumped onboard and joined Hotep-Ra at the tiller. “I promise, Jen. Bye, Beetle. See you.”
“Safe journey, Sep.”
“Thanks. Time to go. Byeeeeee.”
Jenna and Beetle watched the Dragon Boat sail out into the middle of the river and turn so that she was facing into the wind. Septimus took down the sail and the mast. Then the Dragon Boat raised her green wings high and brought them down with a swoosh, sending waves rippling out, splashing up against the landing stage. They watched her take off, rise up into the sky and fly out across the Farmlands, heading for the open sea beyond the Port. They waited until the Dragon Boat was no more than a little speck in the sky and then turned and walked slowly back together toward the Palace.
It was midnight when the Dragon Boat landed in her usual place outside the House of Foryx. Hotep-Ra insisted that Septimus spend the night there. “You cannot fly back tired, Apprentice. It is dangerous. Sleep here and return tomorrow.” And so, trusting his Questing Stone to bring him out into his own Time, as it had done before, Septimus went into the House of Foryx once more. But before he did, just to be certain that he was back in his own Time when he came out, he wrote the date in the snow: 4TH JULY, 12,004.
It was the next morning—or so Septimus hoped—and Hotep-Ra was escorting him down from his rooms, when something very strange happened. They had reached the balustraded landing, which looked out over the huge entrance hall, and Septimus stopped for a moment to look down at the crowded scene below, misty with candle smoke. Suddenly, the doors to the outside lobby flew open and a young man strode in. He was wearing ExtraOrdinary Wizard robes.
“Simon!” gasped Septimus. “It’s Simon!” He turned to Hotep-Ra in panic. “Something has happened to Marcia! And not Simon, no—he can’t be ExtraOrdinary Wizard. He can’t.”
Hotep-Ra smiled. “Well that settles a little bet I had with your Alchemist,” he said. “Your heart is with Magyk.” Septimus did not reply—he was staring in utter dismay at the young ExtraOrdinary Wizard, who was now pushing his way through the crowd and glancing nervously up at the landing. “Which is a good thing,” Hotep-Ra continued, “because that young ExtraOrdinary Wizard is not Simon Heap. He is Septimus Heap.”
“Me?” gasped Septimus. Dumbstruck, he watched himself coming up the stairs.
“Good-bye, Apprentice.” Hotep-Ra held out his hand and Septimus shook it, aware that he was getting nearer. “We will meet again,” said Hotep-Ra. “As you can see.”
Septimus managed a strangled “G’bye” and turned to go. Two steps down he met himself coming up. He looked at his older self, who put his hands up as if to stop him. “Whoa, don’t speak. Bit dangerous, Timewise, apparently. I wondered when we’d meet—if it might be this time.”
Septimus didn’t think he could speak if he tried.
“Marcia’s fine,” said his older self. “And that is all you want to know right now.”
It was true; that was all Septimus wanted to know.
Outside the House of Foryx, Septimus stared at the Dragon Ring that was now safely back on his finger, and shook his head in amazement. Then he checked that he was indeed back in his own Time—sure enough there was the date, still fresh, scrawled in the snow. Dazed, Septimus and the Dragon Boat headed off home, back to the Castle where one day he would be its 777th ExtraOrdinary Wizard.
Which, he now knew, was exactly what he wanted to be—Septimus Heap, ExtraOrdinary Wizard.