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Chapter Thirteen


The Full Moon Rule


Billy kept his promise to Crumbleceiling not to go looking for the Wardrobe to Iqaluit again, and for the rest of the Christmas holidays, the translucency tree remained folded up underneath his bed. Billy wished he could forget about what he’d seen on the other side of the wardrobe. He kept being distracted by thoughts of what if? What if people in this country treated asylum seekers with respect and dignity? What if this country didn’t think sacrificing children and the vulnerable was a reasonable price to pay so they could visit a pub? What if this country had strategic reserves of maple syrup, an annual bathtub race, and had been in an ongoing war with Denmark for over ninety years, which is fought using bottles of whiskey or schnapps to stake a claim to territory?

“Crumbleceiling was right, it’s hard not to think about how things could be different once you’ve seen it for yourself,” said Ed, when Billy told him about these thoughts.

Elahoraella, who had come back the night before term started, had a different view on things. She was torn between interest in what Billy had seen (“Maybe we don’t have to accept how things are at the moment? Change is always possible!”), and disappointment that he hadn’t been able to find out who Émile Arquette was.

They had almost given up entirely on their search for Arquette in any book now, even though Billy was certain he’d heard the name somewhere before.

For Ed and Elahoraella, the start of lessons the next day meant having less time to search, but for Billy, it meant having almost no time at all because Frogsports training sessions were now being scheduled nearly every night.

Plank was working the team incessantly. Even the endless days of rain weren’t drowning his spirits. Chad and Larry Beaversley kept saying Plank was becoming obsessed, but Billy was on Plank’s side. The Osphranters were in second place behind the Crocodilians on the table, but if they won their next match against Eudyptula house, they would move ahead.

Despite Plank’s insistence they also started fitting in extra training sessions before breakfast, so they could spend more time getting used to bouncing on a wet pitch, the whole team was in good spirits about the upcoming match. Then, during one particularly wet training session, Plank gave the team some bad news.

“Will you stop doing that!” he yelled at Chad and Larry, who were attempting to bounce high enough on their space hoppers to complete a backflip in midair. “That sort of messing around is exactly the sort of thing that could lose us the match. Grape is refereeing this time, and he’ll be looking for excuses to give penalties wherever he can.”

Larry Beaversley stopped mid-backflip and fell headfirst into a muddy puddle.

“Grape?” he said, through a mouthful of dirt. “But when has Grape ever refereed a Frogsports match?”

The rest of the team joined in complaining.

“I’m not happy about it either,” said Plank. “And neither is Professor McDouglass — you should have heard her. She asked me to help her move some bananas earlier, and she wouldn’t stop complaining about it the whole time. But she said it was on Professor Crumbleceiling’s orders and there was nothing she could do about it.”

“But he’s not going to be fair to us if we could overtake the Crocodilians.”

“It gets worse too,” said Plank. “I checked a calendar this morning and there are five Tuesdays this month. Not only that, either. There’s a full moon the night before the match, so none of you eat anything with chicken in on Friday.”

“There’s no collided fates, is there, Henry?” asked Amber Mackenzie, the Attacker.

“Thankfully, no. I’ve checked with the Eudyptula captain, and we don’t compliment. So we’re not playing under that rule or sudden death — but may we still play in tribute to Marcus Sullivan.”

“He was out Swatter last year,” Chad explained to Billy. “Committed a foul during a sudden death match.”

“Yes, and it cost us the game,” said Plank bitterly. Mackenzie coughed. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t honour his memory.”

While the rest of the team hung back after training to share memories of Marcus Sullivan, Billy headed straight up to the common room to find Ed and Elahoraella.

“What’s wrong with you?” asked Ed, as Billy sat down between them. “You look terrible.”

Speaking quietly enough to stop anyone from eavesdropping, Billy told them about Crumbleceiling appointing Grape as referee for the upcoming match.

“You mustn’t play,” said Elahoraella at once.

“You can’t play,” said Ed.

“Grape’s killed a man, Billy,” said Elahoraella.

“Many a man,” added Ed.

“I’ve got no choice, I have to play,” said Billy. “If I don’t, we’ll have to forfeit the match. The only other Swatter we have was sacrificed to the Ancient Egyptian Goddess Heqet last year.”

At that moment, Josh came into the common room. It was lucky the passdance had recently been changed to a waltz, because that was all his legs appeared to be able to do. With no control over where he was going, Josh danced into a table and fell over, his legs still moving around in the air as though he was a turtle someone had turned on its back.

Elahoraella got to her feet and pulled out her enchanted celery. With a quick flick towards Josh, his legs stopped moving, and he was able to get to his feet. “What happened?” Elahoraella asked him, leading him over to where they were sat.

This might have been a simple question, but giving an answer was anything but. For some reason, it also seemed Josh could only talk in limericks.

“Outside a classroom, Austin was on a hunt. He pulled out his celery, it looked rather blunt. Then he muttered a word, that could barely be heard, and I danced away from that —”

Elahoraella waved her celery just in time, and Josh fell silent.

“Oh — I can talk normally again. Thanks, Elahoraella,” he said.

“You need to go to Professor McDouglass,” said Elahoraella. “Report Austin.”

Josh shook his head.

“He’ll just come after me again if I do that,” he mumbled.

“He goes after everybody, Josh,” said Ed. “It’s what he does. He doesn’t care about anybody’s feelings or emotions, and he never takes the time to consider how his actions hurt them.”

“And that’s why we’ve got to stand up to him,” said Billy. “We’ll do it with you.’

“Thanks, Billy,” said Josh, and he seemed to cheer up a little. “I guess it’s like Émile Arquette says: allow the ecumenical mountain goats to establish the true circumference of the flan pudding.

“What did you just say?” said Billy.

“I didn’t say anything,” said Josh, but Billy, Ed, and Elahoraella were giving each other meaningful looks, which all said: “The first bit, not the crap he said after that.”

“At least Austin didn’t steal this from me this me,” said Josh, pulling his Reflyder out from his pocket. He let the Reflyder go, and it landed on his hand. “Émile Arquette is a famous magical fromager born 1411 in Montpellier. He is best known for his work on pataphysics with his partner, Richard Crumbleceiling, and for maturing the only known Bewitched Brie.”

Something very strange happened. Without realising they were doing it, all four of them sung together, “This is cheese as cheese should be. The Bewitched Brie is the cheese for me. HEY!” They ended by waving their hands in the air.

“What just happened?” asked Ed.

“I don’t know,” said Billy.

“I think I’m going to go to bed now,” said Josh, sounding scared.

As Josh left, the three of them leant in close to whisper.

“I’ve conveniently just remembered something,” said Billy. “Professor Quigley told us about Émile Arquette in our first lesson.”

“Oh, I’ve just conveniently remembered that too,” said Ed.

“And I’ve just remembered something else,” said Elahoraella. “I’ve conveniently been carrying around the correct book all this time.”

She pulled a giant leather bound volume from her bag and just happened to open it to the correct page first time.

“What is this book?” asked Ed.

“It’s called Brie and Me: All About What I’m Famous For by Émile Arquette,” said Elahoraella. “It’s part of his series called Fromage and Friends.

“That’s convenient,” said Billy.

“Yes, it is,” said Elahoraella. “But listen to this…” and she began reading from the book. “Following my success in maturing my famous Clairvoyant Caerphilly, the only cheese known to give the person eating it the ability to temporarily see into the future and thus warn of an approaching Englishman, I wanted to go further than ever before to discover the true power of fermented milk. Next, I created the Parapsychological Parmesan and the Philosophical Philadelphia. While the first of these was considered a delicacy, the second spread easily. I didn’t experience a real breakthrough in my studies, however, until I created the Bewitched Brie.”

It happened again. “This is cheese as cheese should be. The Bewitched Brie is the cheese for me. HEY!” They put their hands down.

“I don’t think we can say the name of the cheese without singing,” said Elahoraella.

“Weird,” said Ed.

“Hold on, there’s more in the book.” She read on. “The — cheese — has many mythical properties which are released upon consumption. The exact effect experienced is determined by the method of serving. Eaten cold, the Brie will grant a person infinite wisdom. Eating on a baguette will allow a person to speak fluent French. Baking the Brie first will render the person eating it immortal.”

“Immortal,” said Ed.

“It means you never die,” said Elahoraella.

“I know what it means.”

“I’m sorry, but some people struggle with that.”

“I think we know what Waddles is guarding now,” said Elahoraella. “It’s the Bewitched Brie.”

“This is cheese as cheese should be. The Bewitched Brie is the cheese for me. HEY!”

“Can you stop saying the name!” said Ed.

“No wonder Grape is trying to steal it,” said Billy. “Who wouldn’t want to learn French that quickly?”

“And the immortality,” said Ed.

“And whoever bakes and eats this cheese will never die, even after just one bite?” said Billy. “They don’t have to keep eating it?”

“After just one bite, yes,” said Elahoraella. “If they kept having to eat it, then it wouldn’t be immortality. Émile Arquette must have known somebody wanted to steal it, and he’s asked Crumbleceiling to help protect it.” She looked back at the book. “It says right here they know each other.”

“Did you say there’s a whole series of these books?”

“Oh yes — as well as Brie and Me, there’s also Chatting with Cheddar; Fraternising with Feta; Colluding with Colby; Having a Nice Chat with Monterey Jack; Perusing with Provolone; Dancing the Fandango with Grana Padano; Getting Ethical with Emmental; Having a Friend Over for Gorgonzola —”

“How many more are there?”

“Quite a few — Having a Clean With a Slice of Gubbeen; Scream a Little Louder for Here’s Some Gouda…

At dinner on Friday, Billy and Ed were still talking about what they’d do with the Bewitched Brie if they had it. It wasn’t until Ed said he’d sell it and get himself the best space hopper money could buy — The Bullfrog — that Billy remembered Grape was refereeing his match the next day.

“I’ve got to play tomorrow,” said Billy, reaching for a chicken wing. “If I don’t, all the Crocodilians will think I’m too scared to face Grape. But I’ll show them… it’ll really —”

“BILLY! NO!”

Plank was shouting at him from down the table. But it was too late. Billy had bitten into the chicken wing.

“There’s a full moon tonight, remember?”

“What does that matter?” asked Elahoraella.

Billy looked down at the chicken wing in his hand with horror. “Oh no! The full moon rule.”

“Excellent,” said Chad, clapping his hands together. “Always makes for a more interesting match when bouncing around with a live turkey under one arm.”

“Still, at least we’re not vegetarian,” added Larry.

They looked down at Sydney Jenkins, who was starting at Billy with a look that quite plainly, and quite sarcastically, said: “Thanks.”

Billy knew, when they wished him good luck outside the changing rooms next to a pen filled with poultry being watched over by a teenager wearing a Whole Foods uniform the next afternoon, that Ed and Elahoraella were wondering if this whole thing was starting to get out of hand. This wasn’t what you’d call comforting, with another four chapters left to go.

Too nervous about what Grape might do to stop the Osphranters from winning, Billy hardly heard a word of Plank’s pre-match pep talk as he put on his frog costume. But before they went out to the pitch, Plank took Billy to one side.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on you, Smith, but we could do with an early swat in this match. We need it over before Grape can show too much favour to Eudyptula house.”

Billy couldn’t help himself. He looked into the face of Plank’s costume and said, “Don’t worry, Henry, I won’t horse around.”

Out in the stands, Elahoraella was still telling Ed about cheese based books written by Émile Arquette.

There’s Measuring Wattage With a Tub of Cottage; Someone Will Sue Me For My Halloumi…”

“Elahoraella —” said Ed.

“… Everyone’s Hotter Holding Ricotta; Shouting Fore! With Montebore —”

“Look, they’re coming out,” said Ed, pointing over to where Plank was leading out the Osphranter team to join the waiting Eudyptulas and their captain, Swatter Rachel Miller, in lining up in front of the teacher’s stand.

As the house anthems player, Billy thought about he’d want you all to know that no chickens, turkeys, or indeed Whole Foods employees were harmed in the playing of this sport.

Eudyptula had won the toss to kick off, so with the anthems over, Billy went over to the middle of the Osphranter half of the pitch to get into position.

It didn’t take long once grape had blown his kazoo for things to get contumacious.

Within seconds, he’d blown the kazoo a second time to award the Eudyptulas two penalties after the Beaversley twins both started the match by aiming a blow dart at him.

“Don’t worry, this always happens to Chad and Larry,” Amber Mackenzie told Billy as the match was stopped, so the twins could each be given a live chicken to hold for the remainder of the game.

“Well, this does make things much more egg-citing for those of us watching,” said the commentator, as Grape blew his kazoo for play to restart. “They won’t be trying that again, though, or they’ll be required to egg-sit the match and be egg-spelled from Frogsports quicker than Karen the poultry-geist can speed dial your line manager.

“And play resumes — Sydney Jenkins has the ball for the Osphranters and passes it to fellow Attacker Amber Mackenzie — Mackenzie to Clarissa Stewart now — what an egg-cellent hen-semble of players this Osphranter team has — certainly high egg-spectations for their performance today after all that training around the cluck — they really are a high hen-durance team — if you’re laughing at any of these, your sense of humour is im-peck-able, by the way — Stewart back to Mackenzie then back to Stewart to avoid the Eudyptula Attacker there — they’ll have to set their alarm cluck earlier than that to catch Mackenzie — Stewart bok-bok-bocking down the field now, a clear run ahead of her — will she set up her shot on goal or just wing it? — here she goes — STEWART SCORES! — five points to Osphranter house and yes, there’s an egg-plosion of cheers in the stands — they’ll be celebrating that one until half-past hen on Fry-day!”

“Taking a risk with Snøfrisk; Resting My Head on a Pillow Next to My Quesillo; ‘ello ‘ello ‘ello, What’s All This Brin? —”

“Aren’t you watching the match?” said Ed. “We’ve just scored.

Back on the pitch, the situation was starting to resemble opening time of an electronics store on Black Friday.

Grape had blown his kazoo again to award a second penalty against Larry Beaversley, this time for aiming at the commentator. Unlike his shot at Grape, this one was on target, and the commentary fell silent to cheers from all sides of the stands.

After the chicken under Larry’s arm was replaced with a turkey, play restarted, but it didn’t last long. It was clear that despite having to inhale a balloon full of helium after every sixth penalty he awarded, Grape felt the risk of sounding like a cackling Ricky Gervais watching a poacher being attacked by a lion was worth taking if it meant he could punish the Osphranters.

This time he was awarding a penalty against Plank and Daniel Foster, and as far as Grape was concerned, there being two of them meant it counted as two penalties, and they both had to skip the chicken and go straight to the turkey. This made it considerably harder to move around inside the horse costume, and consequently, the Eudyptulas got on the scoreboard.

Half an hour later, there was still no sign of the platinum fly, and the score was eighty points to Eudyptula house and ninety-three to the Osphranters, though no one was quite sure where the three had come from. By now, most players on both teams were carrying poultry, while Sydney Jenkins, the vegetarian Attacker, was bouncing around, giving a piggy back to the Whole Foods cashier. Grape, meanwhile, was now higher than an out-of-work comedy writer.

And then Billy saw it. The platinum fly came straight past him. He turned around on his space hopper, taking care not to let go of Bernard Matthews under his arm, and gave chase. But then he heard something. A low buzzing from something electrical was behind him. He turned and saw Grape following, his enchanted celery in hand, ready to attack.

Billy leant forward to bounce quicker, but in doing so, he lost his grip on the turkey, and it flew off behind him, hitting Grape in the face and knocking him off his hoverboard. But he didn’t have time to watch now, the platinum fly was just ahead… he reached out his swatter and — yes, he hit fly to the ground.

“In Penny Lane, There is a Barber Showing Photographs of Every Curd He’s Had the Pleasure to Know, and finally, Encyclopaedia L’Explorateur,” said Elahoraella.

“Are you done now?” said Ed. “The match is over.”

“Oh, what happened?”

Billy bounced over to the rest of the team, his swatter held high in victory. He’d done it — they were now ahead of the Crocodilians. As the rest of Osphranter house spilled onto the pitch, he noticed Grape struggling to fend off the turkey with his enchanted celery. The turkey stepped forward and grabbed the celery in its beak — then Billy felt a hand close on his shoulder, and he looked up into Crumbleceiling’s smiling face.

“Excellent performance,” said Crumbleceiling quietly, so no one else could hear. “I see you picked up a few tips from watching the ice hockey during your time in Canada.”

Sometime after the match had ended, Billy left the changing rooms alone to return his BunnyRibbit Eleven to the storage hoppers. He couldn’t ever remember feeling like this before. Osphranter house were now top of the table. And even better than that, Grape hadn’t been able to murder him.

But speaking of Grape…

Billy could see a hooded figure striding out of the castle. Clearly wanting to avoid being seen, it disappeared swiftly around a corner. Billy recognised the limp; It was Grape, sneaking out of the castle while everyone else was inside the Banquet Hall eating dinner — what was going on? Billy jumped back on his BunnyRibbit Eleven and bounced after him.

When he turned the corner, Grape had disappeared behind, he couldn’t see him anywhere. But he could hear voices coming from the other side of a nearby wall. He bounced up to the wall and stopped.

“I don’t know why you wanted to talk this evening, Gallienus…”

“Oh, I thought we should have a little catch-up to see how things are going,” said Grape, his voice cold.

Billy began bouncing on the spot until he was bouncing high enough to see over the wall. Professor Quigley was stood facing Grape, and he looked terrified.

Billy gasped.

“What was that?” said Grape, but before he could look up and see Billy, he’d fallen back below the wall.

As Billy bounced back up, he noticed Grape looking around, suspicious.

“We can’t be overheard, can we? Students aren’t supposed to know about the Brie, after all.”

Grape turned back to Quigley.

“Have you found out how to get past that two-headed duck yet?”

“But, Gallienus, I —”

“It is much easier to be on the same side as me, Quigley,” said Grape, steeping towards him.

“Now you’re starting to sound like That-Evil One —”

“Don’t say that!” said Grape, panicking. But it was too late.

Just as Billy had come to expect by now, a small grey cloud appeared above Grape’s head, but what came next, he wasn’t prepared for. As the water rained down on him, the colour of Grape’s hair seemed to run, and a moment later, he didn’t have black hair, but strawberry blonde instead.

“You idiot!”

“I — I’m just saying, Gallienus, I don’t see why anybody but he would want to steal the Bewitched Brie.”

“This is cheese as cheese should be. The Bewitched Brie is the cheese for me. HEY!”

With his hands forced upwards to wave, Billy lost his grip on the space hopper and fell to the ground with a thud. He thought Grape and Quigley might have been too distracted to have heard him, but decided not to wait and find out.

“Billy, where have you been?” said Elahoraella as he walked into the common room a short while later.

“Yeah, come on,” said Ed. “You’re missing the party.”

“Never mind celebrating now,” said Billy. “I need to tell you about something…”

He led them over to a quiet corner of the room, looked around to check no one was standing too close, then told them about what he had seen and heard.

“Grape is a natural blonde?”

“That’s not important, Ed,” said Elahoraella. She turned to Billy. “Is he really, though? Did you see it?”

“Yes,” said Billy. “But don’t you see what this all means?”

“He’s polluting our waterways every time he dyes his hair black?” said Elahoraella.

“No — well, yes, that as well. But this means we were right about what that two-headed duck is guarding. Grape asked Quigley if he knew how to get past Waddles — but it can’t only be the duck that’s protecting the Brie, can it?”

“That duck could stop anybody,” said Ed.

Billy shook his head. “Barry kept him as a pet, he can’t be that threatening — I think there have to be other things protecting it too. Loads of sorcery, probably, and Quigley must have helped put things in place which Grape needs to find out how to get past —”

“So you mean Quigley is the only thing standing between Grape and the Bewitched Brie?” said Elahoraella with worry in her voice.

“This is cheese as cheese should be. The Bewitched Brie is the cheese for me. HEY!”

“It’ll be gone by the end of next week,” said Ed.

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