Millie, a ghost for 800 years wants only one man--Jonathan, and he's a zombie. To prove himself, Magician Dor volunteers to get the potion that can restore Jonathan to full life. But he has to go back through time to do it, to a peril-haunted, ancient Xanth, where danger lurks at every turn....
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December 31, 1978
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Excerpt from Castle Roogna by Piers Anthony
Chapter 1. Ogre
Millie the ghost was beautiful. Of course, she wasn't a ghost any more, so she was Millie the nurse. She was not especially bright, and she was hardly young. She was twenty-nine years old as she reckoned it, and about eight hundred and twenty-nine as others reckoned it: the oldest creature currently associated with Castle Roogna. She had been ensorceled as a maid of seventeen, eight centuries ago, when Castle Roogna was young, and restored to life at the time of Dor's birth. In the Interim she had been a ghost, and the label had never quite worn off. And why should it? By all accounts she had been a most attractive ghost.
Indeed, she had the loveliest glowing hair, flowing like poppycorn silk to the dimpled backs of her... knees. The terrain those tresses covered in passing was--was--how was it that Dor had never noticed it before? Millie had been his nurse all these years, taking care of him while his parents were busy, and they tended to be busy a great deal of the time.
Oh, he understood that well enough. He told others that the King trusted his parents Bink and Chameleon, and anyone the King trusted was bound to be very busy, because the King's missions were too important to leave to nobodies. All that was true enough. But Dor knew his folks didn't have to accept all those important missions that took them all over the Land of Xanth and beyond. They simply liked to travel, to be away from home. Right now they were far away, in Mundania, and nobody went to Mundania for pleasure. It was because of him, because of his talent.
Dor remembered years ago when he had talked to the double bed Bink and Chameleon used, and asked it what had happened overnight, just from idle curiosity, and it had said--well, it had been quite interesting, especially since Chameleon had been in her beauty stage, prettier and stupider than Millie the ghost, which was going some. But his mother had overheard some of that dialogue, and told his father, and after that Dor wasn't allowed in the bedroom any more. It wasn't that his parents didn't love him, Bink had carefully explained; it was that they felt nervous about what they called "invasion of privacy." So they tended to do their most interesting things away from the house, and Dor had learned not to pry. Not when and where anyone in authority could overhear, at any rate.
Millie took care of him; she had no privacy secrets. True, she didn't like him talking to the toilet, though it was just a pot that got emptied every day into the back garden where dung beetles magicked the stuff into sweet-smelling roses. Dor couldn't talk to roses, because they were alive. He could talk to a dead rose--but then it remembered only what had happened since it was cut, and that wasn't very much. And Millie didn't like him making fun of Jonathan. Apart from that she was quite reasonable, and he liked her. But he had never really noticed her shape before.