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Authors: Kate McMullan

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BOOK: School's Out...Forever!
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“Both true,” said Angus as he dipped his scrub brush into the suds.

As Wiglaf scrubbed off
Mordred smells like old beans!,
he caught sight of the headmaster hurrying down a hallway. Count Moneypots, Lady Drippingwealth, and Sir Fuzzydice were with him. Wiglaf thought he had never seen Mordred so happy.

That evening in the Winds of Fortune Dining Room, Frypot called, “All stand for the headmaster!”

Everyone popped up and Mordred swept in. His violet eyes sparkled as he made his way to the head table. Lady Drippingwealth, Count Moneypots, and Sir Fuzzydice trailed behind him and sat down.

Mordred remained standing. “Tomorrow,” he bellowed, “is Graduation Day at DSA!”

“Hooray!” cheered the Class III lads and lasses. “We're outta here!”

“Not just you,” said Mordred. “It's Graduation Day for one and all!”

“Uncle!” cried Angus. “What can you mean?”

“I mean you're all graduating! Every last one
of you!” Mordred smiled, and his gold front tooth glimmered in the torchlight.

Wiglaf felt sure that the headmaster meant they would graduate to the next class. That he and his friends would move up to Class III.

“I sent Yorick out to invite your families to the ceremony,” Mordred went on.

“How kind of you, sir!” cried Torblad.

“Graduation tickets cost ten pennies each!” Mordred rubbed his chubby hands together. “By tomorrow, I'll be rich! And DSA will be no more.”

Cries of “What?” and “Why?” and “About time!” filled the dining hall.

Wiglaf was stunned. DSA would be no more? Mordred couldn't mean it!

“Brother Dave?” called Mordred. “Where are you?”

“Hereth!” answered the little monk from a table in the back.

“I need diplomas!” thundered Mordred. “Make one for every lad and lass. Don't bother with fine penmanship. We need speed here!”

“I shalt doeth it,” said Brother Dave. “But please, telleth us—why?”

“My partners”—Mordred grinned over at his three visitors—“and I are turning this money-losing dump—I mean school—into a casino. Gambling! Betting! Games of chance! That's how fortunes are made! Not by trying to educate a slew of hapless nitwits!”

“Are you talking about
us
?” cried Baldrick.

“You bet I am!” boomed Mordred. He looked around. “Lobelia? Make yourself known to me!”

“Sitting next to you, Mordie,” said Lobelia.

“Ah!” said Mordred. “You're in charge of caps and gowns, sister. Don't spend any money on 'em. All right! Questions?”

Dozens of hands went up.

“No questions. Good!” Mordred smiled. “Diners dismissed!”

“But we haven't finished our supper, sir!” cried Baldrick.

“Take it with you!” cried Mordred. “Empty the room! I've got painters waiting to get in here. Out, you little blighters. Scat!”

That night, Erica built a campfire in the castle yard. Many lads and lasses sat around it.

“What do you plan to do after graduation, Wiggie?” Angus asked.

“Keep on questing until I find Worm,” said Wiglaf.

“You can't,” said Dudwin. “Once Father learns that school is closing, we'll have to go back home and pick cabbages.”

Wiglaf sighed. “Back to my eleven brothers who punch me every chance they get.”

“They won't punch you now that you're a dragon slayer, Wiggie,” said Dudwin.

“Yes, they will,” said Wiglaf. “They punch me because I'm not big nor beefy nor yellow-haired like they are, Dud. They do not like me.”

“I'm big and beefy and yellow-haired, and I like you,” Dudwin insisted.

“After graduation, I shall become a wandering knight,” Erica put in. “I shall slay wicked dragons—the gigantic ones that flame villages and eat toasted villagers.”

Wiglaf shuddered at the thought of such dragons.

“I shall go to the Knights' Noble Conservatory,” said Janice. “I heard that they have real horses for their jousting team.”

“I,” said Torblad, “shall transfer to Toenail Junior High.”

“Do you need good grades to go there?” asked Baldrick, wiping his nose on the hem of his tunic.

“I hope not,” said Torblad.

When the talking ended, Wiglaf wrapped himself in his blanket and watched the campfire burn down. He'd been at DSA for nearly two years. In that time, a ghost had haunted the school. A fake Sir Lancelot had come for the day. And Mordred had tried to marry him off to a rich princess! Yet the school went on. Now DSA was closing. And with the high price of tickets, his parents could never afford to come and see their boys graduate.

The food at DSA was ghastly. Wiglaf hadn't learned a thing in any of his classes. But for the first time in his life, he'd had friends and adventures. He would miss that! And he would miss Worm.

Wiglaf rolled onto his back and looked up at the moon and stars. As long as he was at DSA, Worm knew where to find him. But he was leaving. After tomorrow, would he ever see his dragon again?

Chapter 7

T
he next morning, everyone helped ready the castle for graduation.

“I'm doing all this work,” Angus complained as he and Wiglaf helped Frypot build a platform in front of the stables. “And my mum's off in Hogswallow and can't even come to graduation.”

No sooner were the benches set up facing the platform than trumpets sounded and a pair of white steeds pulled a gigantic, golden carriage through the castle gate.

“My parents are
always
the first to arrive,” said Erica. “Aw, flea bites!” she added. “Look who's sitting atop the carriage with the driver. My horrid cousin, Rex!”

Prince Rex wore a doublet and a pair of puffy pants. A purple velvet hat covered his blond hair.
He looked very royal, and yet something about him reminded Wiglaf of his own yellow-haired brothers.

The carriage stopped beside the practice dragon. A footman hopped down and opened the door.

“Hallo, subjects!” called Queen Barb, waving as she climbed out of the carriage. “What? Nobody kneeling? That's fine. No need to, really. Hallo!”

“I say!” exclaimed King Ken as he popped out of the carriage.

“Mumsy! Popsy!” cried Erica, running toward them with her arms spread wide.

“Poppet!” cried Queen Barb, hugging her daughter. “And look who came along with us!” she added as a slim woman stepped out of the carriage. Her hair was done up in a golden hairnet, and a small gold crown sat atop her head. She was followed by a tall man who looked like a younger King Ken.

“Aunt Marge!” cried Erica. “Uncle Hom—”

“Greetings, royals!” Mordred called, cutting Erica off. “Here are your graduation tickets! Only ten pennies each!”

“Royals never pay!” exclaimed Queen Barb.

“Never?” yelped Mordred. “Well, do you play poker? Blackjack? Roulette? By next week, we'll have it all. But first, graduation. Come! Let me sew you to a sheet.” He took Queen Barb's arm. “I mean, show you to a seat.”

“Be gone, man!” said the queen. “I am perfectly capable of finding my own seat.”

“Yes, Your Queensiness,” mumbled Mordred as he scurried off.

“Look out below!” yelled Prince Rex. He jumped from the top of the carriage, landing with a thud.

“Ow!” he cried. “My foot!” The lad hobbled around, howling.

“Rexie!” Queen Marge rushed to him.

“Fooled you!” shouted Rex, and he raced off across the castle yard.

Dudwin laughed, and Wiglaf thought that the rest of his yellow-haired brothers would have liked Rex's prank as well.

“Always joking.” Queen Marge sighed. “We don't know where he gets it.”

“Wiglaf and Angus!” exclaimed Queen Barb when she spied the lads. “Hallo!”

Wiglaf and Angus bowed. Queen Barb beamed a great, big smile at Wiglaf.

A queen is smiling at me,
Wiglaf thought.
The minstrel's fortune has come true.
Still, he felt disappointed.

“Let me present Queen Marge and King Homer,” said Queen Barb.

The lads bowed again. When Wiglaf straightened up, he found Queen Marge looking at him with a curious expression.

“Have you ever been to Palmlandia, lad?” she asked.

“Never, Your Highness,” answered Wiglaf.

“Yet I feel sure I have seen you before.” Queen Marge reached out and ruffled his carrot-colored hair.

“I've got news for you, poppet!” Queen Barb threw an arm around Erica as she led everyone toward the benches. “This graduation could not have come at a better time. Now you can come home and rule the kingdom.”

“What?” cried Erica. “No!”

“It's your turn!” said King Ken. “We're jolly well sick of it.”

“We've been sitting on those hard thrones for decades,” said the queen.

“Hurts the bum,” added King Ken.

“We need to get away,” the queen went on. “Look.” She reached into her royal pocketbook and handed Erica a flyer.

SEE THE WORLD

from the comfort of a

padded deck chair on the

Viking cruise ship
Sea Cucumber
!

Deluxe cabins still available.

“See there?” said the king, pointing. “
Padded
deck chairs.”

“You're…going on a cruise?” said Erica. “But I don't know how to rule the kingdom!”

“You'll learn, poppet, and quickly, too,” said the queen. “We set sail next week.”

Erica looked stunned.

“You do enjoy telling others what to do,” Wiglaf said to cheer her. “And the minstrel said you would be a popular princess. Remember?”

“And you're also very good at deciding things,” added Angus.

“I am,” agreed Erica. She seemed to be warming to the idea.

“Homer and I will stay and help you until your parents return,” said Queen Marge.

“I say!” said King Ken. “When does this wedding start?”

“It's not a wedding, Popsy,” said Erica. “It's Graduation Day at DSA!”

Wiglaf was happy for Erica, going home to the palace. He wished he were going anywhere but back to a hovel filled with brothers who liked to pummel him black-and-blue.

He heard a commotion. He turned and saw a crowd barreling through the castle gate. It was his parents!
And his eleven yellow-haired brothers! He was going to be black-and-blue much sooner than he'd expected.

Molwena hurried toward Wiglaf, tossing salt over her shoulder for luck as she came. As always, she wore a basket on her head for protection in case the sky should fall.

“There's our boy, Fergus!” she cried.

“Which one?” asked Fergus.

“The carrot-top,” said Molwena. “You know, the odd duck. And there's our Dudwin.”

The lads ran to greet their family.

Fergus greeted them with, “Knock knock!”

Wiglaf groaned. He had not missed his father's knock-knocks.

But Dudwin answered eagerly. “Who's there?”

“Howard!” boomed Fergus.

“Howard who?” said Dudwin.

“Howard you like to hear me new belch?”

And without waiting for an answer, Fergus let out a long and deafening burp.

“Wiglaf!” Molwena hugged him. “Still string-bean skinny, but you've grown a little.”

Wiglaf smiled.

“And what a big, strapping lad you've become, Dudwin!” Molwena hugged him, too.

“Welcome, peasants!” cried Mordred, rushing toward Wiglaf's family. “I mean
parents
. I have your graduation tickets. Ten pennies each.”

“Who are YOU?” cried one of Wiglaf's yellow-haired brothers.

“Headmaster of the school,” said Mordred.

“We wants to see yer school, don't we?” yelled a second brother.

“And we ain't paying for it, neither,” cried a third. The brothers swarmed toward the castle like a plague of yellow-haired locusts.

“No!” cried Mordred, chasing after them. “Nooooooo!”

BOOK: School's Out...Forever!
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