Chapter One
Fear . All I felt was fear. From the top of my head right down to my grubby, dirty feet, I was numb with anxiety and disbelief. I dropped the intricately carved box in my hands and stared, shocked, at it. How could this be? It couldn't be true! I picked it up, locked it, and opened it again, just to see if some magical force would bring back the necklace. Unfortunately, the magical force didn't seem to be working with me.
I searched the tiny cottage from top to bottom, in every nook and cranny, under every table and chair. I searched outside; in all the plants, everywhere in the grass, I even dug around a bit in the dirt to see if it had been buried. It wasn't.
I flopped down on the grass. Why me? Why me, of all lowly servants and peasants? As I uprooted the grass and threw it into the moat to calm me down, I recalled the events of the past week and wished I wasn't alive.
It all started when Queen Delilah summoned me to her bedchamber "to talk". This was a big thing, because Her Majesty never usually summoned servants to "talk" unless they'd done something terribly out of the ordinary. I tried to remember doing something very noble or wrong lately, but I couldn't think of a thing. Needless to say, I was very confused, and even a bit scared, of what Queen Delilah wished to speak to me about.
I got to her bedchamber where I was greeted by Lady Gwen with an indignant sniff and a warm smile from Her Majesty. I dropped to my knees, but she quickly told me to sit in a chair. I made a small curtsy at sat down, back stiff as board and legs crossed in a lady-like fashion (Which made me almost fall over. Thank the Good Lord I did not!)
"Rebecca," she said in her royal manner. "I have something of importance to discuss with you." There was a quite awkward pause. Lady Gwen sniffed again in that absurd, annoying way of hers, and went out.
"Yes, please go on." I said. Was I supposed to speak? Oh, I don't know.
"Rebecca, you have been one of my most loyal servants since, well, since the day you were born. I've always appreciated how hard you work and what an effort you make to please me, which you do." She added quickly. "I've come to a point where I feel that I can trust you with anything, and I am going to see if I can." She picked up a wooden box from the bedside table and opened it, revealing a large, breathtakingly beautiful necklace made of diamond and ruby. "I am going to trust you with this necklace. Besides being worth a great deal of money, it is also an important heirloom in my family, that's been passed down for ages. While I am away at the wedding of the Prince of Rowlingham in a neighboring country, I'd like you to keep it safe for me. I'll be gone al little over two weeks."
I must have turned white because she laughed and said, "Are you not up to the task?"
I said in a shaky voice, "M-my G-g-good Queen, can you n-not u-use a safe?" She brushed the suggestion away like it was a fly on her food.
"Too many courtiers already know the combination. And not all of them are to be trusted."
"M-m-My G-good Queen, I s-say this with the utmost respect, b-but are you sure you want me to guard it for you?" I asked.
"Yes." She said, as though it was the most obvious thing on earth, and in a tone that would not be contradicted.
"A-and, if-f you don't mind me asking," I said, dreading the answer to this next question, "W-what should happened if I f-failed you?"
Queen Delilah's brow furrowed. Finally, after a long pause, she said, "Well, I suppose I should have to put you in the dungeons. Not because I want to, my dear, but because it's written in the first laws of our good kingdom, Whiddlebirch. And those laws, of course cannot be changed by anyone, including me. "In any event, Lady Gwen, and Princesses Nicolette and Veronica will be watching over everything while I'm gone, and even they do not know about it. It is of the utmost secrecy." She pushed the box into my hands. "Now, my dear, I'm very sorry, but I will be departing shortly, so I must get my things together."
"Yes, Your Majesty." I said as I curtsied and left. I remember running all the way back to my cottage and hiding it under my bed, the only real hiding place in the small cottage I lived in. I didn't know how I would keep it hidden from Nancy, Lucy, and Gretchen, the three sisters I shared the cottage with, for long. They had a rather annoying tendency of finding out everything having to do with my personal life. Yes, it was nice to have them around (especially Lucy, seeing that she's my age) if I was lonely or sad, but quite frankly, they never shut up. They were always talking about marrying handsome princes and going to live in castles and become queens, and, well, I'm not interested in that sort of rubbish, mostly because I know that (1.) I'm not princess material and (2.) Nobody would EVER want to marry me. I mean, I have thin hair that is the color of mud (and usually full of it, too), spindly, scarred legs, rough, coarse feet, a big nose, and freckles (I do so hate those spiteful freckles!). And besides looking like a monster, I have a temper that is as easy to ignite as a match. I'm not clever or witty, actually I'm downright dumb, seeing that everything I know I've learned on my own, because I have no parents to speak of. But anyway, I'm getting off track. Where was I? Oh, yes.
So, I hid the necklace, and I checked on it every free moment I had when I wasn't being watched. And it went quite well, actually. Up until now, when I discovered it missing. And that is how I got here, in a nutshell.
So, as I was saying, I was lying on the ground, throwing grass into the moat when I realized that a funny little green frog was sitting on a nearby bush, staring at me with a funny look on his face. Being a nature freak (to some extent), I picked him up and looked at him.
"Oh, little frog, you are so lucky. My life is such a mess at the moment and you just sit there staring." I moaned.
"I can help you."
I jumped. "Who said that?" I asked, looking over my shoulder.
"Over here." It was the frog. The frog had said it. I laughed.
"I'm sorry, I thought you just spoke." I giggled.
"I did."
That was it, I had finally lost it. The frog was talking. I saw it move its lips. I was going crazy. I dropped the frog.
"No need to be afraid, I want to help you." it said. "My name is Double Fudge." I picked it up again.
"You are talking, aren't you?" I asked in utter amazement.
"Oh yes," said Double Fudge, hopping gleefully around on my palm. "Listen, I know where that necklace that you lost is. I can help you find it."
"Where is the necklace, you spiteful creature?!" I shouted, shaking the frog. "You took it, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?!"
"Easy there," said the frog, cool as a cucumber. "I didn't take it. I know where it is. I'll take you there, but you'll have to do something for me."
"Will I?" I said in a sarcastic tone. "How about killing you?"
"But if you kill me, how will you know where the necklace is?" he asked, still annoyingly calm and collected.
I grumbled all sorts of things and waited a very long time before muttering, "Okay, what is it you want?"