Sarah remembered that all right.
But Sarah soon loved her little baby girl as much as she had loved her Septimus. For a while she was afraid that someone would come and take Jenna away too, but as the months passed and Jenna grew into a chubby, gurgling baby, Sarah relaxed and almost stopped worrying.
Until one day when her best friend, Sally Mullin, arrived breathless on the doorstep. Sally Mullin was one of those people who knew everything that was going on in the Castle. She was a small, busy woman with ginger wispy hair that was forever escaping from her somewhat grubby cook's hat. She had a pleasant round face, a little chubby from finishing off too many cakes, and her clothes were generally covered in sprinkles of flour.
Sally ran a small cafe down on the pontoon beside the river. The sign over the door announced:
The Sally Mullin Tea and Ale House
Clean Accommodation Available
There were no secrets in Sally Mullin's cafe. Anything and
anyone arriving at the Castle by water was noticed and commented on, and most
people coming to the Castle did prefer to arrive by boat. No one apart from
Silas liked the dark tracks through the Forest that surrounded the castle. The
Forest still had a bad wolverine problem at night and was infested with
carnivorous trees. Then there were the Wendron Witches, who were always short of
cash and had been known to set traps for the unwary traveler and leave them with
little more than their shirt and socks.
Sally Mullin's cafe was a busy, steaming hut perched precariously over the water. All shapes and sizes of boats would moor up at the cafe pontoon, and all sorts of people and animals would tumble out of them. Most decided to recover from their trip by having at least one of Sally's fierce beers and a slab of barley cake, and by telling the latest gossip. And anyone in the Castle with half an hour to spare and a rumbling tummy would soon find themselves on the well-trodden path down to the Port Gate, past the Riverside Amenity Rubbish Dump, and along the pontoon to Sally Mullin's Tea and Ale House.
Sally made it her business to see Sarah every week and keep her up to date with everything. In Sally's opinion Sarah was much put-upon with seven children to care for, not to mention Silas Heap, who did very little as far as she could see. Sally's stories usually involved people Sarah had never heard of and would never meet, but Sarah looked forward to Sally's visits all the same and enjoyed hearing about what was going on around her. However, this time what Sally had to tell her was different. This was more serious than everyday gossip, and this time it did involve Sarah. And, for the first time ever, Sarah knew something about it that Sally did not.
Sally swept in and closed the door conspiratorially behind her.
"I've got some terrible news," she whispered.
Sarah, who was trying to wipe breakfast from Jenna's face, and everywhere else that the baby had sprayed it, and clean up after the new wolfhound puppy all at the same time, was not really listening.
"Hello, Sally," she said. "There's a clean space here. Come and sit down. Cup of tea?"
"Yes, please. Sarah, can you believe this?"
"What's that, then, Sally?" asked Sarah, expecting to hear about the latest bad behavior in the cafe.
"The Queen. The Queen is dead!"
"What?" gasped Sarah. She lifted Jenna out of her chair and took her over to the corner of the room where her baby basket was. Sarah lay Jenna down for a nap. She believed that babies should be kept well away from bad news.
"Dead," repeated Sally unhappily.
"No!" gasped Sarah. "I don't believe it. She's just not well after her baby's birth. That's why she has not been seen since then."
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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