Chapter 7 The Wager
"Titus, I'm in deep poo." Pandora collapsed on her brother's bed with a small wail.
Titus didn' t respond, unless a grunt counted as an expression of brotherly concern.
"Listen up, Titus, I need your help."
"I'm busy," came the reply.
Pandora unfolded herself from the bed and came to stand by her brother. Titus muttered and tapped on a keyboard, seemingly oblivious to the presence of his sister.
"I can't tell where that stupid computer ends and you begin. Titus, if you don't stop and listen to me, I'm going to see if it likes Coke as much as you do."
Titus unglued his eyeballs from the screen and looked up. Pandora was unscrewing the cap from a vast bottle of brown fizz. He sighed.
"Ah! Eyeball contact," gloated Pandora. "Is there intelligent life on Planet Titus? Yes, there appears to be large amoebathing with an open hole in the middle of its head, but we are experiencing some difficulty in establishing communication."
Titus sighed again. "What is it?" he said.
"I've lost Multitudina."
"Big deal," said Titus, "plenty more rats where she came from."
Pandora glared at her brother. "And all her babies, Titus-all thirteen of them."
"They'll turn up," said Titus philosophically. "Floating in the
soup, down the toilet, hot-wired to the back of the fridge . . ."
"Titus. I shut them in here. Before breakfast. And when I came back upstairs with their bacon rinds, they were gone."
"What did you do with the bacon rinds?" asked Titus irrelevantly.
"Damp probably ate them. But that's not the point, the
"The point is, " said Titus, -that this is my bedroom, and you introduced fourteen free-range rats several bits of dead pig, and one incontinent baby into my space. Without my permission. That's the point."
"Your Highness. Accept my humble apologies. Entering your Royal Bedchamber without permission is a crime punishable by death, but, sire, I can account for said bits of bacon and smelly baby-one is inside the other, and both are in the nursery-but where are Multitudina and her tribe?"
"You're toast, Pandora," said Titus. "Mum'll be back tonight
and when she finds out
"Titus. . . " groaned Pandora. "Please.
"I don't like rats, remember? Frankly, I'm delighted that your disgusting rodent's done a runner."
"She's not disgusting."
"She's a foul-mouthed, yellow-fanged, smelly bit of vermin that's probably into cannibalism."
"She did not eat her babies, Titus. You've got to help me find them."
"If you're so brilliant, you find them."
"Bet I can," said Pandora.
"Bet you can't."
"A game of Monopoly?" said Titus with faint hope.
"NEVER," yelled Pandora. "Frankly, I'd rather swim a lap across the moat than play with you."
" Big words, big deal, Pandora. You're all talk and no action. Inside you're just a fluff-brained girl. You'd never dare."
Livid with rage, Pandora forgot to engage her brain before opening her mouth. "I bet I CAN find them," she shrieked. "AND I WOULD, TOO, DARE! AND I'M NOT JUST TALKING!"
"No," agreed Titus, "you're shouting. And your eyes have gone all funny."
"I'm not SHOUTING," Pandora insisted. "I'll find the rat babies or I'll swim the moat. Done. Satisfied?"
"You're kidding," gasped Titus. "You can hardly swim, let alone fight off crocodiles."
"You're the one who needs water wings and an inner tube, Titus." Her voice wobbled dangerously "And when I say done, I mean it."
Despite her bluster, reality was dawning. What on earth was she doing, agreeing to swim across the moat? Tock was starving.
Ravenous. Hadn't eaten a nanny for at least two weeks. "I mean it, Titus, but-"
"Ah! I knew there would be a but. No, you can't wear a suit of armor to swim in. Tock hates tinned food and, no, you may not feed Tock an elephant before you begin."
"You seem awfully confident that I won't find Multitudina's ratettes."
"You could say that," Titus said smugly "But before you ask, I haven't touched them, harmed them, or even seen the ghastly beasts since last night. Now ... but what?"
"But ... I need a week to find them."
"Five days, then. Come on, Titus, play fair."
"In five days, that disgusting rat slob could produce another litter."
"Give me five days to find the missing babies, and if I don't, I'll swim the moat," said Pandora, crossing her fingers tightly
"Deal," said Titus.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Pure Dead Magic by Debi Gliori. Copyright © 2001 by Debi Gliori. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.