“It is said the Queen doth seek eternal life upon this Earth. That, indeed, she is close enough to it that she desireth no heirs, for she will hold the Queenship forever more.” Sir Hereward heaved a sigh. “So it seemeth that throughout eternity our Queen will ever be Queen Etheldredda.”

“No, she won't!” cried Jenna.

Sir Hereward looked at Jenna with a faint ray of hope in his eyes. “Will she not, fair Jenna? Methinks to make certain of such a thing, thou must escape thy many-times-great-grand-mama,” he said, “for thou art no safer here than the little Princesses and poore Esmeralda were. I am but a ghost but even a ghost may Cause a lock to open.” Sir Hereward placed his only hand with its battered and rusty gauntlet on the door. After some minutes, and a great deal of huffing and puffing from the old ghost, Jenna heard the lock click open.

“Thou art free, fair Jenna. Fare thee well. I trust we will meet again.”

“We will, Sir Hereward,” said Jenna.

Jenna was free, but she knew she would never truly be free until she found Septimus.

She decided to head for Wizard Way; there was a saying in the Castle that if you stood under the Great Arch long enough, all who lived in the Castle would pass by.

It was as good a place as any to start looking, and the sooner she got there the better.

With a wave to Sir Hereward—who raised his arm in a respectful salute—she set off.

The Palace corridors were bright and busy, much to Jenna's surprise. She was used to the night being dark. In her Palace the night was lit only by a few candles, for Sarah Heap found it hard to leave her frugal habits behind. The candles were placed at long enough intervals from one another to provide plenty of deep shadows in which a fugitive Princess could hide. But this Palace was a different matter; Bertie Smalls, the Royal CandleTrimmer saw to that. Bertie, a tall thin man, waxen pale with a mop of flame-red hair, patrolled the nighttime corridors with great dedication. It was a matter of honor for Bertie that not one candle ever went out under his guardianship.

Although Jenna was tempted to take one of the myriad shortcuts and servants'

passageways through the Palace, she decided it would be too risky, for a Princess would never dream of using them and she would quickly be noticed. Jenna decided that she would have to brazen it out; after all, who was to know that Queen Etheldredda had made a prisoner of her? And so, head held high, hoping that people would assume that Princess Esmeralda had a perfect right to walk the Palace corridors, Jenna set off.

She made good progress, and was even beginning to enjoy people curtseying and bowing to her and the excited whispers that followed in her wake, when she had the misfortune to see the Knight of the Day coming toward her. The good-natured knight smiled and bowed, and then to his horror remembered that he had been told to keep Princess Esmeralda locked in her room. With a sudden vision of his head stuck on the North Gate gatepost, the Knight of the Day stepped in front of Jenna to bar her way.

“Prithee, Princess Esmeralda, allow me to escort thee to your Chamber before thy deare Mama doth—”

“Sorry,” muttered Jenna, “I've got to go.” She ducked under the Knight of the Day's outstretched arm and ran.

Faced with what he was sure was a straight choice between letting Jenna go and keeping his head, the Knight of the Day chose his head. He chased after her, shouting out to passing servants and officials for help. Soon Jenna was being pursued by a long and ever-growing line of servants. Now was the time to use those shortcuts. Jenna dived behind a thick brocade curtain, which still hung, although in tatters, in her own Palace. She dashed down a short flight of steps, along a three-cornered passageway, threw herself inside a small doorway and stopped by a flight of spiral steps to catch her breath and listen for her pursuers. The great clattering of feet along the three-cornered passageway told her she had not escaped them.

Jenna knew what she had to do. She rushed up the steps, her legs burning with the effort, and hurtled across the small landing at the top, all the while fumbling to unclip the large emerald and gold key from her belt. Behind her, the thud of heavy boots on the steps made her hand tremble as she placed her key in the central keyhole of the emerald and gold door to the Queen's Room. Her pursuers arrived just in time to see the Princess apparently walk through a solid wall. A great cry of amazement came from the overcrowded landing.

The Knight of the Day sank to the floor with a groan and put his head in his hands, which only had the effect of reminding him of how very attached he was to his head—although not, he feared, for very much longer.

36

Broda Pye

Jenna stepped into the Queen's Room with a feeling of relief. She knew she was safe, no one could follow her. The room was just as it always was, the same small fire burning in the grate, the same old armchair and rug beside it—except for the ghost sitting in the chair. Instead of the ghost of her mother, whom Jenna had yet to see, the chair was occupied by the ghost of Queen Etheldredda's mother. Queen Etheldredda's mother was as different from her daughter as it was possible to be. The elderly ghost had been slumbering in her chair, her crown slipped forward over her wispy white hair, and a contented smile on her face as she dreamed of the happy times she and her husband had had at the Palace and all the friends she had known. If a frown did occasionally flicker across her brow, it was when the teenage tantrums of the young Etheldredda intruded into her dreams, but they soon vanished, replaced by the many good memories the much-loved old Queen had stored up. As Jenna came into the Room, the Queen opened her eyes and, thinking she was seeing her granddaughter, smiled and returned to her reveries.

Jenna was about to sit down in the old chair by the fire and wait until everyone outside had given up and gone away, but there was something about the chair that told her that it was not hers to sit in—not yet. She wandered around the tiny room while the old Queen slumbered, oblivious to the presence of her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great Interested to see if the Unstable Potions and Partikular Poisons cupboard had changed in any way, Jenna peeked inside. To her surprise, instead of the bare shelves she was used to, the cupboard was full of exquisite little bottles in a hundred different shades of blue, green and red glass, which sparkled in the glow of the firelight. In each bottle was a gold-topped cork, and the long lines of gold corks twinkled like a precious golden chain.

Intrigued by the bottles, Jenna slipped inside the cupboard, and the door closed behind her. To Jenna's surprise, when the door closed, a line of tiny candles on the bottom shelf burst into flame and filled the cupboard with light. Jenna was curious to see what was now kept in the little mahogany drawers, so she opened the top drawer.

It was full of what looked like thick gold coins, but they smelled like mint chocolates. Jenna picked one up, scraped away some of the thin gold leaf and tentatively licked the dark, bitter chocolate. Unable to resist, she popped the rest of the mint into her mouth. It melted in the most wonderful mix of mint and chocolate that she had ever tasted. Jenna closed the drawer before she was tempted to take another and, one by one, opened the rest of the drawers, which were neatly packed with yet more bottles lying on soft unspun wool.

Preoccupied by deciding whether to have just one more mint chocolate after all, Jenna opened the bottom drawer, and—too late—she heard the telltale click as the door to the cupboard locked itself and the Queen's Way was set in motion.

Everything went black and then someone trod on her toe—and screamed. Very loudly.

"Aargh! Broda, Broda! Mama is in the closet. She hath Come Through.

Brodaaaaa! "

The cupboard door was thrown open with a bang, and a girl rushed out, still screaming. Ears ringing, Jenna nervously peered out of the cupboard and was confronted by the bizarre sight of what appeared to be her twin hurling herself at a very beautiful young woman with long, dark curly hair and brilliant witch-blue eyes.

“There, there, Esmeralda,” shushed the young woman, gently stroking Esmeralda's hair, "cease thy Din. Thou art safe now, and thy mama will not Dare to venture through the Way, for thou knowest thy grandmama will forbid it. Shh ... there now.

Oh! " Broda Pye gasped at the sight of another Esmeralda stepping out of the Unstable Potions and Partikular Poisons cupboard.

“Uh ... hello,” said Jenna uncertainly.

Esmeralda stared at Jenna, and Jenna returned the stare—unable to believe that she was not looking in a mirror and seeing her own reflection. They were the same height, their brown hair was the same length and they both wore identical gold circlets. Suddenly Esmeralda started sobbing. “My Time Is Come. I see my Doppelganger. All is lost— aieeeeeeee! ”

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