The Magnificent 12

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Authors: Michael Grant
yet.
    Hardest of all was the massive statue of the Pale Queen that would dominate the altar. And that was Gil’s special, personal responsibility.
    Gil had assembled the finest sculptors from all over Babylon and the nearby kingdoms of Ur of the Chaldees, Um of the Chaldees, Mill Valley, and Hork-Bajir. But since the Pale Queen would not sit for them, they had to operate on Risky’s description of her. Risky was not good with descriptions and offered only that her mother was a controlling witch who never let Risky have any fun. As a result, the statue, which stood two hundred hands high (don’t even ask), looked a bit like Pikachu (who also would not be invented for thousands of years) but with white hair and a gown made of the tears of children. But Gil thought he’d managed the whole thing pretty well. Probably. And anyway, the Pale Queen would surely be understanding.
    Right? he asked himself nervously. Right?
    Risky had not seen the final product. It was covered with a cloth—a very big cloth—and awaited the unveiling before the Pale Queen herself.
    Now the great day was at last at hand. A thousand sacrificial animals had been stocked in the fenced enclosure outside. Pigs, cows, sheep, unicorns, 30 baboons, auks, rocs, hipsters, hippos, and ducks all waited to be ritually slaughtered for the glory of the Pale Queen.
    If that seems harsh, bear in mind that it had taken all of Gil’s influence to keep humans out of it, and the truth was, even then, there were a few unfortunates who’d wandered too close and been reclassified as “goats” in order to round out the numbers.
    Gil gave Risky a hug. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, your mother will love it.”
    â€œI hope so. Because if she doesn’t, she’ll eat you,” Risky said, giving him a little peck on the cheek.
    â€œSay what now?” Gil asked.
    â€œAnd did you finish the story you’ll be reading to her?”
    â€œThe epic?” Gil sighed. “I only hope it lives up to its name. I’m afraid there are some plot holes.”
    â€œTry to clean those up. Mother is a stickler for plots that make sense.”
    â€œAh. And if she . . .”
    â€œYes, my love, she’ll probably eat you. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that even if everything goes perfectly, she’ll eat you.”
    This was news to Gil, who was not happy. “Shouldn’t you have warned me about this?”
    Risky made a pouty face and stabbed an angry finger at the murals that lined the walls. Each of them showed the Pale Queen in one fabulous outfit or another eating various legendary and historical figures: Adam, Eve, Zoroaster, Dagan, Astarte, Noah, and various pharaohs. “It’s like you didn’t even pay attention to your own artwork!”
    â€œI didn’t think it was literal. I thought it was more metaphorical. I thought eating people symbolized, I don’t know, the state of a corrupt society.”
    â€œNo, she eats people.”
    â€œSome family you have,” Gil snapped.
    â€œOh, do not go there,” Risky said, waving a scolding finger in his face. “Do not dis my family.”
    â€œLet’s not squabble,” Gil said. He tried out his most winning smile, but the truth was, he was feeling a little sick to his stomach. What if it was his own blood in the blood gutter? Would that be irony? 31 He had a lot of plans for the future, and none of them involved being chewed on by a malevolent, demonic goddess.
    â€œHey, look at the time!” he said, glancing at his wrist only to discover that watches had not been invented yet. “I, uh . . . There are some things . . . Hmm, I have a thing to do. Some, uh . . . writing. Yeah.”
    â€œIs it a love poem?”
    â€œWhat? Yeah, that’s right. You guessed it! I was going to write you a love poem. Aww, now you ruined the surprise, but I’m still going to write

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