Jenna smiled. She liked the sound of that, but she was willing to bet Marcia didn't. She read the second section even more carefully.
SECTION II: PALACE SECURITYIt is for the P-I-W to deem if a matter relates to Palace Security. If she deems it to be so, she may Call upon the ExtraOrdinary Wizard or the ExtraOrdinary Apprentice to assist at Any Time. This Call will be given priority over all other matters at the Wizard Tower. So Be It.
Huh, thought Jenna. Sep had obviously not read this.
She reread the second passage, smiling at the hand-drawn, heavy red lines below the words "P-I-W," "Any Time" and "all." It seemed that she was not the only Princess-in-Waiting to have this kind of trouble. She particularly liked what was written at the foot of the page in a different but equally determined hand: "Wizards are replaceable. The Queen is not."
Jenna uncurled herself from her chair like a cat. She got up, dampened the fire and closed the door on the ReTiring Room, leaving it to settle into its stillness once more. She would go straight to the Wizard Tower and do a bit of deeming. Right now.
On her way out, Jenna bumped into Sarah who, with the help of Billy Pot and the cook, had begun to put up bunting in the entrance hall.
"Has Dolly gone?" asked Sarah.
"Dolly Bingle. She works in the fish shop down by the New Quay. I knew I'd seen her before. Funny how different she looks with a bit of gold flummery and her hair out of a fish net."
"The Bringer of the Book was Dolly Bingle?" Jenna was stunned.
"Yes, it was. And Dolly knows perfectly well who I am. I shall expect some cheap haddock when I next go there," said Sarah with a wicked grin.
Chapter 8 Chemistry
On the way down the Palace drive Jenna remembered her walk with Septimus the previous evening. The memory still upset her but now, with The Queen Rules safely in her pocket, it annoyed her too. Septimus had treated her as though she was no more than an irritating child. And here she was chasing after him again, about to give him the opportunity to behave in exactly the same way. Why did she need his opinion on what was going on in the Palace attic? He wasn't the only one who knew stuff - there was someone much nearer who would actually be glad to help.
A few minutes later Jenna was standing outside Larry's Dead Languages Translation Service. She took a deep breath and readied herself to step inside. Jenna didn't like Larry and Larry clearly didn't like her. However, she did not take this personally because, so far as she could tell, Larry didn't like anyone. Which made it very odd, she thought, that Beetle had not only taken a job as Larry's transcription scribe but, now that his mother had moved down to the Port, was living there too.
Bracing herself for the caustic remarks that always accompanied her entrance, Jenna put her shoulder to the shop door and shoved (the door was notoriously stiff - Larry liked people to really want to get into his shop). The door flew open with unusual ease, Jenna hurtled across the shop and crashed into a pile of manuscripts on which a tall, expensive-looking vase was precariously balanced.
Accompanied by the sound of Larry's throaty chuckle coming from the upstairs gallery, Beetle performed an impressive flying catch and saved the vase just before it crashed to the floor.
He helped Jenna to her feet. "Hey, are you all right?" he asked.
Winded, Jenna nodded.
Beetle took Jenna's arm and led her through the shop to the library at the back, saying loudly, "I have your translations ready, Princess Jenna. Perhaps you'd like to take a look?"
As they disappeared out of Larry's earshot, Beetle said, "I'm really, really sorry about the door. I didn't have time to warn you. Larry oiled it yesterday afternoon and set up the vase on top of the manuscripts. Since then he's sat upstairs in the gallery waiting for people to do exactly what you did just now. He's charged three people for breaking the vase - and they've paid."
"Yep. He sticks it back together after each time."
Bemused, Jenna shook her head. "Beetle, I really don't know why you want to work here - let alone live here. Especially as Marcia offered you a place at the Wizard Tower."
Beetle shrugged. "I love the old manuscripts and their weird languages. And I'm learning all kinds of stuff; you'd be amazed at what people bring in. Besides, I'm not Magykal. The Wizard Tower would drive me nuts."
Jenna nodded. The Wizard Tower would drive her nuts too. But so would working for Larry.
As if he'd read her mind, Beetle said, "You know, after working for Jillie Djinn, Larry's not so bad. And I like living on Wizard Way. It's fun. Fancy a FizzFroot?"
Jenna smiled. "You got one in chocolate?"
Beetle looked crestfallen. "Sorry, no. They only come in fruit flavors."
Jenna took her much-loved Chocolate Charm from her pocket. "We could try them with this," she said.
"Okay," said Beetle a little doubtfully. "Larry!" he called out. "I'm going for my break."
Jenna heard a gruff, "Ten minutes and no more," from the gallery and followed Beetle to a small, incredibly filthy kitchen right at the back of the shop.
"Happy Birthday," said Beetle. He looked embarrassed. "I . . . I've got something for you but it's not wrapped up yet. I wasn't expecting to see you until this evening."
Jenna looked embarrassed too. "Oh. Gosh. That's not why I came. I wasn't expecting anything."
"Oh. And, um, sorry about the mess," Beetle said, suddenly seeing the kitchen through Jenna's eyes. "Larry gets really angry if I clear it up. He says mold is good for you."
"Slime too?" asked Jenna, looking at a bag of carrots that were pooling across the floor.
Beetle felt mortified. "Let's go to Wizard Sandwiches," he said. "I'm owed some time."
Some ten minutes later - after Jenna had witnessed a new and impressive Beetle telling Larry he was taking his lunch hour now and it was actually going to be one whole hour - they were sitting at a small window table in Wizard Sandwiches' newly opened upstairs cafe. They made a striking couple. Beetle wore his blue and gold admiral's jacket and his thick black hair was, for once, behaving just the way he wanted it to. Jenna's gold circlet shone softly in the light of the small candle that stood in a pool of wax on their table. She sat with her red, fur-lined cloak still pulled around her, slowly warming up after the chill of the outside, while she gazed around the exuberantly painted room with its steamed-up windows. Jenna noticed with relief that no one was staring at her (the members of the Wizard Sandwiches Cooperative did not believe in hierarchical systems and acted accordingly). She felt like an everyday person - a grown-up everyday person going out to lunch. Even better than that, she had her happy and excited birthday feeling back.
"What would you like?" asked Beetle. He offered Jenna the menu, which was covered with Wizard Sandwiches in-jokes and colorful drawings of sandwiches but offered no clue as to what the sandwiches might contain.
Jenna picked a tall, triangular stack of small sandwiches called "Edifice." Beetle chose a large cube-shaped sandwich called "Chemistry." He took the menu and went up to the counter to order (Wizard Sandwiches did not believe in the servitude of waitstaff. This also kept the wage bills down.) Beetle returned carrying two WizzFizz specials, which were as near to a FizzFroot as it was possible to get. He set a pink and green drink in front of Jenna with a flourish.
"Minty strawberry," he said. "It's new."
"Thank you," Jenna said, feeling suddenly shy. Being out with Beetle like this felt different from being with Beetle in the everyday way she had become used to. It seemed that Beetle felt the same, as for some minutes they both looked intently out the window, although there was little to see apart from a wintry Wizard Way and a couple of people scurrying along with boxes of candles in preparation for the Longest Night illuminations.
Eventually Jenna spoke. "Actually, I wanted to ask you something," she said.
"Did you?" Beetle felt pleased.
"Yes. I asked Sep last night and he won't do anything."
Beetle felt rather less pleased. Jenna did not notice. She carried on, "Sep's weird at the moment, don't you think? I've asked him a few times now and he's always made excuses."
Beetle now felt distinctly un-pleased. He was tired of being second best to Septimus. It was, in fact, one of the reasons why he had refused Marcia's offer of a place at the Wizard Tower.