Read an Excerpt
Fionna’s sweaty palms dampened her skirt as she lifted its hem and stepped onto the gangplank leading up to P. Gumball’s massive yacht. She tried to focus on the ship’s deck, just ten feet away, and on the laughter and music the wind carried to her ears. Just ten feet and she’d . . .
Be on a ship. Which was about to set sail. On the ocean.
Fear washed over her and she froze. She couldn’t stop looking at the water, imagining the creatures lurking beneath its mercurial surface. Creatures with tentacles, spines, teeth as long as her arm, creatures that would be able to get her if she fell in. All it would take was a single misstep on that thin, slick plank . . . She shuddered. Despite her best intentions, Fionna’s thalassophobia was getting the better of her.
“Glob, what’s the problem?” Lumpy Space Prince whined. He tugged at her hand as he bobbed in the air beside her. “You wanted to go to this stupid party, so, like, let’s get going.”
Sweat stood out on Fionna’s forehead. She licked her lips as a paper streamer floated past her. “I . . . I dunno. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
Lumpy Space Prince heaved a sigh that was overly dramatic, even for him, and folded his arms across his chubby chest. “This is so like you, Fionna. You drag me here all the way from Lumpy Space for this lumping party, and now you don’t even want to go? Like, I totally should have expected this. You’re the worst pretend girlfriend ever.”
Fionna swallowed. She did want to go to the party. She’d been so excited when she and her roommate, Cake the Cat, had received their invitations just two days ago. The invites, pressed onto glittering sheets of ruby-red Candy cardstock, had been hand-delivered by a sharply attired Green Gumdrop. Fionna had been too shocked to say thank you as the Gumdrop tipped his bowler hat and took his leave.
“Actual invitations!” Cake had exclaimed. “Hon, that’s incredible!” Her tail fuzzed with excitement. P. Gumball’s parties were infamous. “And we each get to bring a plus one! I know who I’m asking—Lord Monochromicorn!”
Fionna’s heart fluttered. P. Gumball was a famous recluse—everyone in Candy Kingdom had a fanciful story they’d heard from the son of an aunt of a brother of a sister of a father of a mouse, but who knew if any of those stories were true? According to the gossip she’d heard, Gumball was simultaneously ten feet tall, a half-orc, a ghost, and a werewolf. She’d heard that he had earned his wealth through mysterious, unsavory means involving demons and the Nightosphere; by falling into a sinkhole and discovering an enormous cache of diamonds; by keeping a herd of captive rainicorns who wept tears of pure gold; through an inheritance left to him by a kindly great-great-great-grandfather who had died of natural causes at the ripe old age of six hundred and five.
Fionna was no fool—she knew most everything was probably nonsense, but that only heightened her curiosity. And now she’d finally been given a chance to attend one of his parties, to meet the mysterious millionaire himself. She wasn’t about to let a fear of the ocean get in the way of that.
Or so she’d told herself.
The wind picked up, luffing the yacht’s sails, rocking the gangplank beneath Fionna’s feet. Her stomach quivered. She swallowed hard and, struggling to calm herself, focused on the letters painted in gold on the ship’s hull: The Banoffee.Glob, what kind of a name was that?
“Fionna! What the lump? Like, come on!”
Lumpy Space Prince was moments away from sinking into a good long pout, she realized. She struggled to hide her annoyance. He hadn’t wanted to go, and she hadn’t wanted to invite him, but everyone else had already paired up. She’d been determined not to be the only person without a plus one.
“A-all right.” Lumpy Space Prince was right. They were already late. Cake had left hours ago, astride Lord Monochromicorn’s rippling back. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, dashed up the gangplank, and leaped onto the deck.
There. She breathed a sigh of relief. That was better.
“Like, finally. Well, we’re here. What do you want to do now?”
On deck, the music was much, much louder. She could barely hear Lumpy Space Prince’s complaints. As she took a look around, her jaw dropped. The entire deck was crowded with a dizzying array of guests. They milled about, talking, dancing, playing games. She caught sight of a huge buffet table loaded with cakes, pies, and pastries to her left. To her right, a group of golems and beetles were holding a painting competition involving eggs and large jars of mustard.
“This is the most amazing party I’ve ever been to,” Fionna said, grinning.
Lumpy Space Prince scowled. “I’ve been to better.”
“So where is he?” Fionna craned her neck. “Where’s P. Gumball?”
Lumpy Space Prince shrugged. “Like, how am I supposed to know? I want some cake. I’ll see you around.”
“Wait—” Too late. Lumpy Space Prince was already floating away from her. “Well, fine,” Fionna muttered. She didn’t need him around to have fun. Scanning the deck, she spotted Cake and Lord Monochromicorn dancing.
Fionna waited until there was a lull in the music and waved her hand frantically over her head. “Cake!”
Cake waved back, smiled, and stretched herself in an arch over the crowd. “Here, lemme give you a lift,” she said, holding out her paws. Fionna grabbed on and bit back a yelp as she was whisked up and away, then set down gently beside her friends.
“I was starting to get worried about you,” Cake said, smoothing wrinkles from Fionna’s skirt. “Why are you so late?”
Fionna rolled her eyes. “I came with Lumpy Space Prince.”
Cake snorted. “Enough said.”
Lord Monochromicorn stamped his left hoof, five slow taps, followed by three quick ones. Fionna glanced at Cake, waiting for her to translate. “He says you’re here now, so you may as well start having a good time.”
Fionna grinned. The wind had died, and the ship was almost motionless. The sky was cloudless and glassy with stars. It was easy to forget they were on the water. She spread her arms and pirouetted on the deck. Cake formed her body into a ring and spun around Lord Monochromicorn’s long neck.
“Look!” Cake shouted. “I’m a Hula-Hoop!”
Gasping with laughter, Fionna whirled to a stop. Dizzy, she stumbled back a step and bumped into a pink-haired young man carrying a silver tray. The young man fumbled and nearly dropped the tray.
“Oh!” Fionna said. “Excuse me.” He must have been the caterer—his tray was piled with multicolored pastries.
“Not a problem, I’ve got it.” He smiled and held the tray of deliciousness out toward her. “Please, try one. They’re fresh out of the oven.”
Fionna’s eyes widened. They all looked amazing and smelled great, like lilacs and strawberries. She hesitated, then selected a lime-green puff pastry that was absolutely dripping with glaze.
“How is it?” Cake asked as Fionna popped the treat into her mouth. A delicate mixture of fruit flavors exploded across her tongue.
“Amazing!” she said.
The caterer inclined his head. “Thanks so much.” His eyes were a deep, glittering purple. Fionna felt her cheeks flush and she nervously patted at her hair. Too late, she remembered the glaze coating her fingers.
“Here, lemme try one,” Cake said. She shoveled a fistful of pastries into her mouth. “Glob! These are so good!”
Grateful for the distraction, Fionna yanked her hand away from her hair and wiped her fingers on the back of her gown.
“You’re really talented,” Cake was saying. “You’re definitely gonna have to cater my next party.”
Fionna rubbed her arms. The night had grown cold. Her breath fogged in the air. A handful of white flecks fluttered past her face. Confetti?
No, she realized, not confetti. Snow. “What the—”
A huge bolt of lightning stuttered across the sky, followed almost immediately by a peal of thunder so loud Fionna clapped her hands over her ears. The music jangled to a halt and, in the sudden silence, a swirling cloud of freezing-cold air billowed across the center of the deck. People screamed and staggered clear as the vapor thinned, revealing a tall, stately figure clad in an elaborate royal-blue gown.
“The Ice Queen!” Fionna whispered.
“Where is he?” the Ice Queen shouted at the terrified partygoers. “Where’s Gumball? Don’t force me to turn everyone into popsipeople!”
The caterer stepped past Fionna and cleared his throat. “I’m P. Gumball,” he said.
A collective gasp filled the air. The caterer? Fionna’s jaw nearly hit the ground. The caterer was the famous, mysterious, inscrutable P. Gumball? She couldn’t believe it. Gumball held the tray of desserts out toward the Ice Queen. “Pastry?”