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Authors: Kate McMullan

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BOOK: School's Out...Forever!
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“Thirteen.” Molwena smiled. “Stocky, yellow-haired
lads, just like my Fergus. Except for Wiglaf. Who he takes after, I'm sure I don't know.”

“He does seem different from his brothers,” said Queen Marge. She paused. “Molwena, have you ever been to the Pinwick Fair?” she asked.

“We never miss it!” exclaimed Molwena. “Why, the year Wiggie was a babe in arms, there was a two-headed calf!”

“We saw it!” said Queen Marge. “In fact, Homer bought that two-headed calf.” She turned to Queen Barb. “Do you remember what a scare we had that afternoon?”

“Do I ever!” cried Queen Barb. “Your nursemaid put baby Rex down under a shade tree and sneaked off to watch the juggler. Careless girl! Imagine, leaving a newborn all alone.”

Rex stuck his head out the carriage window. “Stop talking, Mumsy!” he shouted. “I want to go home NOW!”

“In a moment, Rexie!” called Queen Marge. She turned back to Molwena. “I know this is an odd question. Perchance, did you put your baby down while at the fair?” she asked.

“That I did,” said Molwena. “Oof, was he heavy. Such a big, strapping baby, Wiglaf was. Funny how he's turned out
so skinny. All me other boys are sturdy as oak trees.”

“Like me!” Dudwin piped up.

Molwena smiled. “I put baby Wiglaf down to nap under a shade tree, too,” she went on. “I remember, for I went off to see the fire-eaters!”

Queen Marge nodded. “Your Wiglaf,” she said, “has hair the color of carrots. Does anyone else in your family have hair like that?”

“Oh no,” said Molwena. “Only Wiglaf is so unfortunate.”

Queen Marge took off her crown and laid it in her lap. “In my family,” she said, loosening her golden hairnet, “we're all carrot-tops.” She pulled off the hairnet, and long, orange tresses fell down upon her shoulders.

“Zounds!” exclaimed Molwena. “'Tis no wonder you wear that hairnet!”

Wiglaf stared at Queen Marge. He had never seen another living soul with hair the color of his. What did it mean, all the talk of the Pinwick Fair and the careless nursemaid and leaving babies alone?

As Wiglaf tried to puzzle it out, the carriage door flew open and Prince Rex bolted out.

“Stop talking!” Rex shouted. “I want to go back to the palace and play my combat game!” He began running in circles around the hillock, chanting, “Wanna go home! Wanna go home! Wanna go home!”

Queen Marge rose and walked down the hill to Rex. The others followed her.

“Come here, lad,” she called to Dudwin. “Stand next to Rex. We want to see who's taller.”

“Me!” shouted Rex as he dashed over to Dudwin. “See? Me!”

Queen Marge eyed the lads as they stood side by side.

“They look alike, don't they?” she said.

“So they do!” exclaimed Molwena.

Rex had on puffy pants and a fancy doublet. He wore a velvet hat over his yellow hair. But in every other respect, the lads looked like two peas in a pod.

“Rexie,” said Queen Marge. “I have big news for you.”

Rex stuck out his tongue and blew a raspberry at the queen.

Queen Marge turned to Molwena. “Would you like to tell him?” she asked.

“Indeed I would!” said Molwena. Then she frowned. “Tell him what?”

“About the baby swap,” said Queen Marge.

Molwena scratched her head. “What baby swap are you meaning, Your Queenieness?”

“The one at the Pinwick Fair,” said the queen.

“I must have spent too long watching those fire-eaters and missed that,” said Molwena.

“Molwena,” said Queen Marge, “when you came back to the shade tree to pick up your baby—”

“Oh, I didn't come,” said Molwena. “Sent me two big boys to fetch their little brother.”

“Do you think,” said Queen Marge, “they might have picked up the wrong baby?”

Molwena gasped. “Is that what happened?” she cried. “I always thought a bewitcher must have come along and put a curse on Wiggie as he slept, and that's why he turned out such a scrawny, little carrottop.”

“That scrawny, little carrottop was my baby,” said the queen.

Wiglaf's head was spinning. “You mean…,” he began. “You mean…”

“She means that Rex isn't my cousin, Wiggie,” said Erica. “You are!”

“I am?” said Wiglaf.

“She means you're a prince, Wiggie!” exclaimed Dudwin. Then his face fell. “But that means we're not brothers.”

“A prince?” said Wiglaf. “Me?”

Suddenly Queen Marge was in front of him.

“I thought as much from the moment I saw you today,” she said, and she threw her arms around him. “I am your mother, and you are my son. I named you Rex, but now you shall be Prince Wiglaf.”

“Ince-pray Iglaf-way!”
exclaimed Daisy.

“That pig is bewitched!” Molwena cried, reaching into her bag and tossing salt over her shoulder in case it was catching. “Come along, Wiggie,” she said. “You, too, Dudwin. High time we started for home.”

“Molwena!” cried Queen Marge. “Don't you see? Wiglaf is my son. Your son is Rex.”

“Is he, now?” exclaimed Molwena. “Wait till I tell Fergus!” She tried to hug her long-lost son, but he ducked out from under her arms.

After that, the kings got out of the golden carriage, and there was much hugging and exclaiming of “Zounds!” and “Egad!” and “Gadzooks!” When everyone had calmed down, Dudwin spoke up.

“Will you live in the hovel with the rest of us now?” he asked Rex.

“I'm sure he'd rather go back to the palace,” Molwena said quickly. “But he'll always be welcome in our hovel.”

“Do those lads who tossed the water balloons live in your hovel?” Rex asked.

“They do,” said Molwena.

“And what about the man who burped and told the funny knock-knock joke?” said Rex. “Does he live there, too?”

“Ah, yes,” said Molwena.

“That's where I want to live!” said Rex. He turned to Queen Marge. “Don't cry,” he said. “I'll visit you at the palace, and I'll bring along all my new brothers!”

“They'll be welcome,” said Queen Marge. “One or two at a time.”

“Where will you live, Wiggie?” asked Dudwin.

“In the hovel, Dud,” said Wiglaf.

Dudwin looked glad.

“Don't be a fool, Wiggie!” said Molwena. “You never did fit in. Off with you to the palace! Fergus and I will come and visit anytime you say.”

Wiglaf frowned. He would not miss most of his brothers. But he would miss Dudwin.

“I cannot go,” he said. “Not without you, Dud.”

“I'll come with you, Wiggie!” said Dudwin.

“Excellent!” said Queen Marge.

“What about Daisy?” said Wiglaf. “I would never leave her.”

“Bring Daisy,” said King Homer. “She can keep company with Moo-Moo, my two-headed cow.”

“Et's-lay o-gay!”
cried the pig.

The footman put Wiglaf's and Dudwin's packs on top of the golden carriage with the rest of the royal luggage.

“I say!” exclaimed King Ken. “Good thing we brought the extra-large carriage today.”

Then Wiglaf, Dudwin, and Daisy climbed inside with Erica and the rest of the royals, and the carriage began to roll.

Dudwin and Wiglaf leaned out the window and waved to Molwena and Rex.

“Farewell, Dudwin! Farewell, Prince Wiggie!” Molwena smiled. “Won't Fergus be surprised?”

Rex burped. Then he shouted, “Knock knock!”

But the carriage picked up speed, and Wiglaf never got to hear the end of his joke.

Inside the royal carriage, Wiglaf pinched himself to see if he was dreaming. No, this was real. He was a prince! And he was going to Palmlandia.

Queen Marge sat across from him looking very happy. And it dawned on Wiglaf that this was the moment the minstrel had foretold: A queen was smiling at him.

“The minstrel was right about everything, Wiggie,” said Erica. “Even about your crisscross palms saying you weren't who you seemed to be.”

“And the brave prince who stood his ground when the dragons landed?” said Dudwin. “That was you, Prince Wiggie.”

“It was,” murmured Wiglaf, hardly believing it himself. He tried to picture himself wearing a crown. Not a big crown with diamonds and rubies like the one King Ken
sometimes wore. A simple, golden crown. That would do for Prince Wiglaf.

“'Tis a long ride to the palace,” said Queen Marge. “Long enough for us to tell you lads and Daisy all about Palmlandia.”

“Palmlandia is an island kingdom in the south,” said King Homer.

“'Tis warm there,” said Erica, “with sandy beaches and palm trees.”

“It—it sounds very peaceful,” said Wiglaf.

Life at DSA had been full of adventure. He might miss that. And the minstrel had said that heroic deeds lay ahead of him. How could he become a hero in such a quiet spot?

“'Tis very peaceful,” agreed King Homer. “Except when the sea serpents gang up on the dragons.”

“Or when the giants come out of their caves to brawl.” Queen Marge shuddered.

“Or when Viking pirates surround the island with their ships,” King Homer said.

Wiglaf looked at Dudwin and grinned. Life in Palmlandia sounded just about perfect. He could hardly wait to get there!

BOOK: School's Out...Forever!
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