Excerpt from Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

By R. L. LaFevers

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

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Print Excerpt

December 17, 1906

I don’t trust Clive Fagenbush.

How can you trust a person who has eyebrows as thick and black as hairbrushes and smells of boiled cabbage and pickled onions? Besides, I’m beginning to suspect he’s up to something. What’s worse, I think he suspects I’m up to something. Which I usually am.

Not that anyone would take the word of an eleven- year-old girl against that of the Second Assistant Curator—even if that girl just happens to be the daughter of the Head Curator of the museum and is rather cleverer than most (or so I’ve been told; oddly, I don’t think they meant it as a compliment). As far as I can tell, it doesn’t make any difference to adults how clever children are. They always stick together. Unless you are sick or dying or mortally wounded, they will always side with the other adult.

That’s certainly the case here, anyway. My father oversees the Museum of Legends and Antiquities, the second largest museum in London. As a result, I spend most of my time clattering around this old place. I don’t mind. Really. Well, not much anyway. Though it would be nice if Father remembered I was here once in a while. . . However, I’ve got plenty to do. The museum’s got loads of secrets, and I’ve discovered I’m very good at ferreting out secrets. And curses. You’d be surprised at how many things come into the museum loaded with curses —bad ones. Ancient, dark, Egyptian-magic ones.

Take this morning, for example, when a crate arrived from Mum.

At the sound of the buzzer, I hurried down to Receiving. Dolge and Sweeny, the museum’s two hired hands, were just opening the doors to the loading area. Yellow fog began oozing into the room like a runny pudding. Outside, I could make out the drayman, blowing on his fingers and stamping his feet, trying to stay warm as he waited next to his cart. His carriage lanterns were lit and looked like two fuzzy halos in the thick fog. Sweeny hopped off the dock and together they lifted a crate from the back of the cart and carried it inside. As they made their way past me, I craned forward to read the label. It was from Thebes! Which meant it had to be from Mum. Her first shipment from the Valley of the Kings! The first of many, most likely.

Once they’d placed the crate on an empty worktable, the drayman tipped his cap and hurried back to his cart, anxious to be on his way. Dolge closed the door behind him with a resounding clang.

By this time, the curators had arrived, and we all gathered round to watch Father open the crate. As I inched closer, I saw that, once again, he wasn’t wearing any gloves. My own gloved fingers twitched in dismay.

“Um, Father?”

He paused, his hands hovering over the crate. “Yes, Theodosia?”

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll get splinters?” Everyone turned to stare at me oddly.

“Nonsense,” he said.

Of course, I didn’t give a fig about splinters. They were the least of my worries. But I didn’t dare tell him that.

With everyone’s attention once again focused on the crate, I shuffled closer to Father’s side, trying to reach him before he actually touched whatever it was that Mum had sent. I made it past Dolge and Sweeny with no problem, but I had to hold my breath as I sidled past Fagenbush. He glared at me, and I glared back.

When I reached Father’s side, I dipped my hand into the pocket of my pinafore just as he plunged his hands into the crate. As unobtrusively as possible, I slipped a small amulet of protection out of my pocket and into his. Unfortunately, my action did not go unnoticed. He paused and scowled at me. “What on earth are you doing?”

Excerpted from Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L.LaFevres, Copyright © 2007 by R.L.LaFevres. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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