TITLE: The Key in the Castle
GENRE: MG Fantasy
Malory’s Guide to Britain, page 364
Overton Keep Inn: If you’re looking for lodging that’s fit for a duke or duchess, make sure to visit the palatial bed & breakfast at Overton Keep. It might be a little off the beaten track, but this privately owned castle on a lake is worth a visit. Guests can tour the ruins of the surviving 11th century structures, which are some of the finest preserved pre-conquest ruins in the country and rumored to be haunted. Book early because the well-appointed rooms are often reserved quickly in the summer months.
Chapter 1: The Clause in the Will
Emily hadn’t meant to wear a party dress to her great-grandmother’s funeral. As the only girl in four generations of the Keold family, she stood out even more against a sea of somber black suits in her flouncy dress with pink polka dots. She tried to stand very still so that her tap shoes wouldn’t clack (her only black shoes), but they were two sizes too small and were pinching her toes terribly.
There hadn’t been time for Emily’s mother to take her shopping for funeral clothes before they had to board the plane from Baltimore to London, so her sixth-grade graduation dress and dusty tap shoes had to do. No one had expected Great-Grandma Anne to die at 100. She had been so insistent that she would live to be 101 that everyone in the family believed it. Even the lawyer who had come to read Great-Grandma Anne’s will seemed surprised. He was staring so intensely at the papers in front of him that he had gone cross-eyed.
Great-Grandma Anne’s five sons, and their sons, and their sons (and Emily) had crammed into the library of the Overton Keep Inn after the funeral. Inheriting an Inn that was also a thousand-year-old castle on a lake was a pretty big deal. The younger men and boys shifted their weight or bounced on their heels, while the older men sat in straight-backed chairs reading the newspaper or napping. Great-Uncle Richard eyed the sparkly Faberge eggs on the mantel. Occasionally a cough echoed up into the cobwebbed ceiling rafters.
Emily scratched her nose and did her best to look solemn and sad. Honestly, she was more depressed about missing her soccer game this weekend. It was hard to be sad about the death of a woman she had never met and who had lived a long life.
Finally, the solicitor looked up from the yellowed sheets of paper. (Emily’s father whispered that lawyers were called solicitors in England. Sometimes they were called barristers too. It was rather confusing.)
“This is most unusual,” the solicitor said. “Most unusual indeed.”
Uncle Philip grabbed the papers from the frazzled solicitor’s hands. “It all seems in order to me,” Philip said. “The estate passes to the oldest son and her personal possessions are split amongst the rest. Quite standard.”
“Yes, but look here,” the solicitor said, pointing to the bottom of the page.