"Are you sure? I want no mistakes this time," he said menacingly.
"Our spy, my lord, has suspected a child for a while. She considers her to be a stranger in her family. Yesterday our spy found out that the child is of the age."
"What age exactly?"
"Ten years old today, my lord."
"Really?" The Supreme Custodian sat back in the throne and considered what the Assassin had said.
"I have a likeness of the child here, Lord. I understand she is much like her mother, the ex-Queen." From inside her tunic the Assassin took a small piece of paper. On it was a skillful drawing of a young girl with dark violet eyes and long dark hair. The Supreme Custodian took the drawing. It was true. The girl did look remarkably like the dead Queen. He came to a swift decision and clicked his bony fingers loudly.
The Assassin inclined her head. "My lord?"
"Tonight. Midnight. You are to pay a visit towhere is it?"
"Room 16, Corridor 223, my lord."
"Heap, my lord."
"Ah. Take the silver pistol. How many in the family?"
"Nine, my lord, including the child."
"And nine bullets in case of trouble. Silver for the child. And bring her to me. I want proof."
The young woman looked pale. It was her first, and only, test. There were no second chances for an Assassin.
"Yes, my lord." She bowed briefly and withdrew, her hands shaking.
In a quiet corner of the Throne Room the ghost of Alther Mella eased himself up from the cold stone bench he had been sitting on. He sighed and stretched his old ghostly legs. Then he gathered his faded purple robes around him, took a deep breath and walked out through the thick stone wall of the Throne Room.
Outside he found himself hovering sixty feet above the ground in the cold dark morning air. Instead of walking off in a dignified manner as a ghost of his age and status really should, Alther stuck his arms out like the wings of a plane and swooped gracefully through the falling snow.
Flying was about the only thing that Alther liked about being a ghost. Since he had become a ghost he had lost his crippling fear of heights and had spent many exciting hours perfecting his acrobatic moves. But there wasn't much else about being a ghost that he enjoyed, and sitting in the Throne Room where he had actually become oneand consequently where he had had to spend the first year and a day of his ghosthoodwas one of his least favorite occupations. But it had to be done. Alther made it his business to know what the Custodians were planning and to try and keep Marcia up to date. With his help she had managed to stay one step ahead of the Custodians and keep Jenna safe. Until now. From far away in his distant hideout up in the Badlands, DomDaniel had been trying to track Jenna down since his first Assassin failed to complete the task ten years before. After DomDaniel had killed the Queen, he had sent in his emissary, the Supreme Custodian, along with his henchmen, the Custodians, and an army of Custodian Guards, to take over the Castle and hunt down the baby Princess, or the Queenling, as DomDaniel disdainfully called her. It had been ten long, frustrating years, during which every attempt to find her had been foiled by Alther Mella.
DomDaniel, however, did not realize that his old Apprentice was still intent on thwarting him. None of the ghosts in the Castle would Appear to him on account of his connections with the Darke, and DomDaniel was completely unaware of their presence, Alther's included. He blamed the exasperating Marcia Overstrand for his failure to find the Princess, and he was growing increasingly impatient. However, although DomDaniel did not know it, he had recently had a stroke of luck.
When the Supreme Custodian took over the Castle, one of the first things he did was to ban women from the Courthouse. The Ladies' Washroom, which was no longer needed, had eventually become a small committee room. During the past bitterly cold month, the Committee of the Custodians had taken to meeting in the former Ladies' Washroom, which had the great advantage of a wood-burning stove, rather than the cavernous Custodian Committee Room, where the chill wind whistled through and froze their feet to blocks of ice.
From Magyk: Septimus Heap Book 1 by Angie Sage. Copyright Angie Sage 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Harper Collins. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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