There, between the black and red robes of the Alchemist and the purple cloak of the Wizard, she saw the life-size portrait of herself and her Aie-Aie.

Etheldredda knew enough about Magyk to know what was about to happen, but there was nothing she could do. Despite her kicking and biting, punching and scratching, Julius Pike and Marcellus Pye dragged the Substantial Spirit of Etheldredda into her likeness, where she joined the Aie-Aie, which Marcellus had captured and killed the previous day.

They propped the portrait up against the wall and Sealed the room. And there she and the Aie-Aie stayed, until Silas Heap UnSealed the room five hundred years later.

Princess Esmeralda

After Marcellus had Sealed Etheldredda into the portrait and was sure that her Spirit could do Esmeralda no harm, he went through the Queen's Way and told Esmeralda the news. At first Esmeralda was pleased that she was no longer in danger from her mother, until it dawned on her that her mother was actually dead. After that Esmeralda spent a long time wandering the Marram Marshes, thinking about her mother and her lost sisters. She refused to come back to the Castle and spent her teenage years living with Broda. But, when the Time was Right, Esmeralda did return and take her rightful place as Queen.

Esmeralda did her best to rule well, although she never quite got rid of the nervousness brought about by having Queen Etheldredda as a mother. She married a handsome and very steady farmer from the apple farm just across the One-Way Bridge and had two daughters, Daisy and Boo, who both became Queens in their turn, for Daisy had five sons but no daughters.

After the Great Alchemie disaster—when for seven days and nights she helped Marcellus with the Sealing of the Ice Tunnels—Esmeralda developed a headache and spent most of her time in the small sitting room at the back of the Palace with the curtains closed, while the very capable Princess Daisy took over the Palace.

The Crowns

For as long as there had been Queens in the Castle, the True Crown had graced their heads. It was reputed to have been made from the finest and most Magykal gold ever known—the golden thread spun by the Spiders of Aurum. It certainly predated Hotep-Ra, who had founded the Wizard Tower. But, with the demise of Etheldredda, the True Crown was lost and Etheldredda's prediction came true—Esmeralda never did wear the True Crown.

But Esmeralda didn't care about that. The True Crown was gone, and good riddance to it. Esmeralda wanted a brand-new sparkly crown all her own and in the fashion of the day, which was rather overwrought. Esmeralda was her mother's daughter, and what Esmeralda wanted, Esmeralda got. She was crowned in the throne room of the Palace on a rainy Mid-Summer's day, and then, resplendent in her new Crown, went to see the Dragon Boat. The dragon raised an eyebrow at the sight of so many diamonds and gems but said nothing. For some time Esmeralda would not be parted from her crown and wore it everywhere, until she got a stiff neck and reluctantly took it off when she went to sleep.

It was this crown that, many hundreds of years later, the Supreme Custodian ran off with, leaving Jenna with no crown of her own—until the True Crown rolled out of the BoneFyre and found its rightful owner once more.

The Aie-Aie

Etheldredda found the Aie-Aie in the Palace gardens when she was a little girl. The creature had jumped ship after realizing that the ship's cook was planning to boil it for supper in revenge for a nasty nip on the ankle the Aie-Aie had given him that morning. Later that night the cook became delirious, and the ship's crew went without supper. Three weeks later the cook died—for the Aie-Aie carried the Sickenesse in its bite.

But Etheldredda soon realized this and found the Aie-Aie to be a most useful weapon. Her mother was terrified of her new pet but dared do nothing, for Etheldredda (or Ethel-Dreadful, as she was known) wanted the Aie-Aie, and even when she was only nine years old, what Etheldredda wanted, Etheldredda got.

The Aie-Aie was a long-lived creature despite many surreptitious attempts on its life by numerous Palace servants. It was said that Etheldredda cared more for the Aie-Aie than she did for her own daughters—which was, of course, true.

The Bumptious Barrelle of Larde

Although the Bumptious Barrelle of Larde was not called that as a child, his own name was almost as bad: Aloysius Umbrella! Tyresius Dupont. His second name was a mistake on the part of the Registrar at the naming ceremony, in response to a barked instruction from the infant Aloysius's father to his wife to take the umbrella off his foot.

The young Aloysius Umbrella! was an only child who always knew best. When he was ten his mother, tired of being told how to darn his socks properly, secured a job at the Palace for him as an UnderMessenger to the Fourth Secretary of the Keeper of the Royal Doorstop. There was no stopping Aloysius Umbrella! after that—he worked his way up through the complicated Palace hierarchy until he was himself the Keeper of the Royal Doorstop at the tender age of fourteen.

At the age of twenty, Aloysius Umbrella! stepped in as deputy Steward to Queen Etheldredda after the actual Steward had been laid low by a mysterious bout of food poisoning—one of many he had suffered since Aloysius Umbrella! had begun to sit next to him at the weekly Servants' Supper. The Steward never fully recovered and Aloysius Umbrella! was offered the post full-time. Although Aloysius Umbrella!

was by then known as Bumptious, he did not acquire his full nickname until he had spent a further three years overindulging in Palace food.

After he fled the Palace in terror, having slapped Queen Etheldredda, Aloysius Umbrella! took the night boat to the Port and left on the first ship he could find. He spent the rest of his days in a small town in a very hot Far Country, where he worked as a drain inspector during the day and spent his evenings carefully ironing the tattered remains of his Palace ribbons.

The True Glass of Time

In Ancient Times there were many True Glasses of Time, but over the centuries they became lost, destroyed or—like Marcellus's Glass—they disintegrated under the opposing forces of Time. By the time Marcellus Pye was a promising young Alchemist, all were lost.

Marcellus read all he could find about the Glasses of Time. He discovered many things: that you needed a linked pair, and that whatever happens to one will happen to the other. He also discovered that when you walk through one you find yourself in a place that has no Time, and to go into another Time you must go through the other of the pair. But nowhere could he discover the secret formula of Time.

Marcellus became obsessed with discovering the formula, and after three years of searching he had a stroke of luck. One wet winter's afternoon, when he was meant to be visiting his mother, he stumbled across it in an ancient text buried under a dingy stack of books at the back of the Manuscriptorium. Marcellus memorized the formula and immediately burned it in the flame of his candle, for he wanted no one else to discover the secret. He soon regretted this, for the first two Glasses he made did not work properly. They merely transported him through a solid wall, which, though marvellous in itself, was not enough for Marcellus, whose ambition was to move freely through Time.

Marcellus decided that even so, these Glasses could be useful. He Locked each Glass so that only his Keye could control it and put them in ornate gilded frames. He gave one to his mother as a peace offering after one of their frequent arguments.

Etheldredda did not care for it; she put the Glass in her Robing Room and promptly forgot about it. It was this Glass that Septimus was dragged through.

Marcellus gave the other to the Chief Scribe of the Manuscriptorium, who was a vain man and was thrilled to have his own looking glass—an incredibly expensive item in those times. He did not realize that Marcellus was using it to secretly gain access to the Hermetic Chamber. This was the Glass through which Jenna, Ullr, and Septimus returned to their own Time.

After these two disappointments, Marcellus locked himself in his room and hypnotized himself until he remembered every last nuance of the formula for the True Glass of Time—or so he thought. In a daring innovation, Marcellus fused the pair of Glasses together, and they worked. The True Glass of Time was huge, immensely fragile—and dangerous. After Marcellus installed it in the Great Chamber of Physik he sent a number of scribes through but none returned. After his best friend disappeared through it, Marcellus decided not to risk using it himself and Locked the doors.

Now Marcellus was getting confident. He started to experiment. He wanted something light and transportable that he could use to gather secrets from the Darke Alchemists in the Lands of the Long Nights. After the passage of an auspicious number of days—one hundred and sixty-nine (thirteen times thirteen)—Marcellus successfully made a matched pair of Glasses. Keeping one at the Castle, he secretly sent the other through the Queen's Way to his wife, Broda Pye, with instructions for Broda to get it to the Port. Marcellus traveled to the port and supervised the Glass being loaded onto his ship—but while he slept, his first night on board, the Glass was promptly unloaded by the unscrupulous, debt-ridden captain and sold to Drago Mills as a Luxury Novelty Glass. Unaware that he had been double crossed, Marcellus traveled all the way to the Lands of the Long Nights and did not discover the deception until the hold was emptied. Furious, he returned to the Port, intent on reclaiming his property, only to find that it was impounded in Warehouse Number Nine. Try as he might, Marcellus could not get it back. This was the Glass that Jenna, Nicko, Snorri, and Ullr went into—and Spit Fyre smashed.

Angie Sage Books | Fantasy Books | Septimus Heap Series Books