"That's what the Custodian Guards have been saying, isn't it?" asked Sally.
"Well, yes," admitted Sarah, pouring out the tea. "But they are her bodyguards, so they must know. Though why the Queen has suddenly chosen to be guarded by such a bunch of thugs, I don't understand."
Sally took the cup of tea that Sarah had placed in front of her.
"Ta. Mmm, lovely. Well, exactly . . ." Sally lowered her voice and looked around as though expecting to find a Custodian Guard propped up in the corner, not that she would have necessarily have noticed one amid all the mess in the Heaps' room. "They are a bunch of thugs. In fact, they are the ones who killed her."
"Killed? She was killed?" exclaimed Sarah.
"Shhh. Well, see here . . ." Sally pulled her chair closer to Sarah. "There's a story going aroundand I have it from the horse's mouth . . ."
"Which horse would that be, then?" asked Sarah with a wry smile.
"Only Madam Marcia"looking triumphant, Sally sat back and folded her arms"that's who."
"What? How come you've been mixing with the ExtraOrdinary Wizard? Did she drop by for a cup of tea?"
"Almost. Terry Tarsal did. He had been up at the Wizard Tower delivering some really weird shoes that he had made for Madam Marcia. So when he had stopped moaning about her taste in shoes and how much he hated snakes, he said that he had overheard Marcia talking to one of the other Wizards. Endor, that little fat one, I think. Well, they said the Queen had been shot! By the Custodian Guards. One of their Assassins."
Sarah could not believe what she was hearing.
"When?" she breathed.
"Well, this is the really awful thing," whispered Sally excitedly. "They said she was shot on the day her baby was born. Six whole months ago, and we knew nothing about it. It's terrible . . . terrible. And they shot Mr. Alther too. Dead. That's how come Marcia took over . . ."
"Alther's dead?" gasped Sarah. "I can't believe it. I really can't . . . We all thought he'd retired. Silas was his Apprentice years ago. He was lovely . . ."
"Was he?" asked Sally vaguely, eager to get on with the story. "Well, that's not all, see. Because Terry reckoned that Marcia had rescued the Princess and had taken her away somewhere. Endor and Marcia were just chatting, really, wondering how she was getting along. But of course when they realized Terry was there with the shoes, they stopped. Marcia was very rude to him, he said. He felt a bit strange afterward, and he reckoned she'd done a Forget Spell on him, but he'd nipped behind a pillar when he saw her muttering and it didn't take properly. He's really upset about that as he can't remember whether she paid him for the shoes or not."
Sally Mullin paused to draw breath and have a large gulp of tea. "That poor little Princess. God help the little one. I wonder where she is now. Probably wasting away in some dungeon somewhere. Not like your little angel over there . . . How is she doing?"
"Oh, she's just fine," said Sarah, who usually would have talked at length about Jenna's snuffles and new tooth and how she could sit up and hold her own cup now. But just at that moment Sarah wanted to turn the attention away from Jennabecause Sarah had spent the last six months wondering who her baby really was and now she knew.
Jenna was, thought Sarah, surely she must be . . . the baby Princess.
For once Sarah was glad to wave good-bye to Sally Mullin. She watched her bustle off down the corridor, and, as Sarah closed the door behind her, she breathed a sigh of relief. Then she rushed over to Jenna's basket.
Sarah lifted Jenna up and held her in her arms. Jenna smiled at Sarah and reached out to grab her charm necklace.
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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