The Dastardly Deed by Holly Grant

The Dastardly Deed by Holly Grant

Author:Holly Grant
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Published: 2016-02-22T16:00:00+00:00


A Queenly Secret

AMIDST THE HULLABALOO of screaming and gagging, the young poisoners were able to pussyfoot from the garden cavern without anyone spotting them. They escaped down a side corridor, Ludowiga’s shrieks echoing around them.

“Search the palace! FIND THE ASSASSINS!”

“Quick! In here!” Anastasia flung a door open and the criminals tumbled through. Gus slammed the door shut and they sprawled on the floor, panting.

“Do you think Ludowiga and Saskia and those other ladies will die?” Ollie quavered.

“All that vomiting might be a good thing,” Gus suggested. “Maybe they’ll get all the poison out of their systems.”

“Yes,” Anastasia agreed uncertainly. “They’ll probably just be sick, Ollie. You’re alive, and you ate that gloop before anyone else.”

“I only tasted a tiny bit,” Ollie said. “Oh, why didn’t Marm Pettifog tell us those mushrooms were toxic?”

“She probably didn’t think anyone would be crazy enough to eat them!” Gus said.

“Kids eat paste all the time,” Ollie pointed out.

“Not in fifth grade!”

“Do you think we should be planning our escape?” Ollie asked. “Just in case?”

“Maybe…” Gus frowned and scrunched his eyelids. “Where are we, anyway? Is this some kind of office?”

The cavern into which they had belly-flopped was very large and very dark, lit by a single lamp glowing on a big black desk. Behind the desk loomed a tall-backed chair, topped with a carved crescent moon. Anastasia staggered to her feet and crossed to the midnight escritoire, her gaze roving over the items scattered on its top: a sheaf of pale envelopes, several sticks of purplish sealing wax, a heavy ring. Anastasia peered at the golden circlet’s flat face. A crescent moon embossed one cheek, a tiny butterfly the other.

“What’s that?” Holding his side, Gus limped to her. “Is that a signet ring?”

“I think so. Look.” Anastasia touched one of the envelopes. A gob of smashed wax, bearing the moon and butterfly design, gummed its fold.

“That’s the queen’s royal seal,” Gus said. “This must be her office.”

“The queen’s office?” Ollie darted beside them. “Do you know how much trouble we’re in if we get caught? We’re trespassing!”

“Not really—Anastasia’s the princess, you know,” Gus reasoned.

“But I’m still not supposed to be in here. Aunt Penny told me it’s off-limits.” Anastasia shivered, imagining Wiggy’s wintry eyes finding her in the forbidden cavern. She had only bumbled into the queen’s solemn orbit a few times since arriving in the Cavelands, and those brushes had included neither smile nor hug nor cozy bedtime story. Even when sitting beside the queen at the dinner table, Anastasia felt as though her grandmother were a planet glimpsed through a telescope: appearing close enough to touch but in reality existing great starry leagues away.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said.

But voices sounded in the hallway. The children eyed each other, trapped.

“Lord Monkfish,” Wiggy said, “let’s step into my office and I’ll give you those papers.”

Anastasia’s heart leapfrogged into her mouth. “Quick! Under the desk!”


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