And so, unknowingly, for once the Custodians were one step ahead of Alther Mella. As a ghost, Alther could only go to the places he had been to in his lifetimeand, as a well-brought-up young Wizard, Alther had never set foot in a Ladies' Washroom in his life. The most he was able to do was hover outside waiting, just as he had done when he was alive and courting Judge Alice Nettles.
It had been late one particularly cold afternoon a few weeks previously when Alther had watched the Custodian Committee take themselves into the Ladies' Washroom. The heavy door, with ladies still visible in faded gold letters, was slammed behind them, and Alther hovered outside with his ear to the door, trying to hear what was going on. But try as he might, he was not able to hear the Committee decide to send their very best spy, Linda Lane, with her interest in herbs and healing, to live in Room 17, Corridor 223. Right next door to the Heaps.
And so neither Alther nor the Heaps had any idea that their new neighbor was a spy. And a very good one too.
As Alther Mella flew through the snowy air pondering how to save the Princess, he absentmindedly turned two almost perfect double loops before he dived swiftly through the drifting snowflakes to reach the golden Pyramid that crowned the Wizard Tower.
Alther landed gracefully on his feet. For a moment he stood perfectly balanced on the tips of his toes. Then he raised his arms above his head and spun around, faster and faster until he started to sink slowly through the roof and down into the room below, where he misjudged his landing and fell through the canopy of Marcia Overstrand's four-poster bed.
Marcia sat up in a fright. Alther was sprawled on her pillow looking embarrassed.
"Sorry, Marcia. Very ungallant. Well, at least you haven't got your curlers in."
"My hair is naturally curly, thank you, Alther," said Marcia crossly. "You might have waited until I had woken up,"
Alther looked serious and became slightly more transparent than usual.
"I'm afraid, Marcia," he said heavily, "this won't wait."
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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