“You look beautiful.” Steve looked at Fiona with his heart in his eyes. She had never looked lovelier.
“So do you.” Fiona looked up at Steve. He was tall, slim and as elegantly dressed as ever. “Or handsome.”
“Handsome is better.” Steve took a breath.
“It’s been a crazy few years.”
Fiona nodded. “I can’t remember what it
was like before I met Kadogan. Now I’m used to werewolves and vampires and all
sorts that I had written off as fiction.”
“I know. And you’re married to someone who
has elfen blood running through their veins. I could become elfen at any time.”
Steve squeezed her hand.
“I’m happy now.” Fiona said. “There’s no
need to change.”
Steve held her close. “Adele is happily
married to Callum.”
Fiona smiled. “It was amazing. The police
were called four times, and none of it was for the werewolves. Half the family
got barred from every supermarket in York and some of them are going to paying
off the fines for diverting the National Grid for years.”
“Ian is happily married to Jeanette.”
Steve said, gently stroking Fiona’s face.
“And the baby is doing fine.” Fiona said.
“Though I feel sorry for the poor girl. Ian is going to be a very protective
“Lady Freydis married Martin.” Steve said.
“And Dave and Luke are still finding drunk elfen in all sorts of places.”
“She seems really happy.” Fiona said. “And
so does he. There is a sort of glow over them, when they aren’t causing trouble
at the White Hart.”
“There are hundreds of skeletal hands
disguised as cats roaming York and catching rodents.” Steve said. “This is
causing a few problems with pet gerbils and hamsters, but it’s mainly a good
“And Darren and Jasmine have adopted two
for the vicarage.” Fiona said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t settle
“An exorcist and a werewolf?” Steve said.
He shrugged. “It could be worse.”
“And I think that Mrs Tuesday may
be having some sort of affair with Eorl Brand.” Fiona said. “Of course, no-one
has got the nerve to ask.”
“Jack would,” Steve said, “But he’s too busy
getting into trouble. Did you know he got into the electronics at York Races
and nearly caused havoc. Dave caught him just in time.”
“I wonder what will happen with Dave and
Elaine.” Steve said. “I hope they will be happy.”
“That’s up to them.” Fiona said. “Just the
same as our happiness is up to us.”
“We’ve got the White Hart which is
thriving.” Steve said with some satisfaction. “And the new shop on the
outskirts of Leeds should be just as successful.”
“Second hand household wares from the
house clearances of non-normals.” Fiona shook her head. “And second hand
magical goods. I’m still not sure about that bit.”
“It will work.” Steve said. “Though I
think we’ll see a lot of counterfeit stuff coming through in the next few
Fiona smiled up at him. “And we’ll deal
with it. Just as we have dealt with everything else.”
Kadogan rushed in. “Everyone is waiting
Steve looked at his love. “Are you ready?”
Fiona smiled up at him. “Always.”
In deference to Steve’s heritage, they
walked into a corner of the faerie realm. A soft summer breeze blew over them
as they walked underneath great stands of trees and boughs of cherry blossom.
The benches were full of friends and loved ones, and a sigh went up as Fiona,
in a simple but elegant white dress, walked arm in arm with Steve, to where
Darren was waiting to bless their marriage and renew their vows. And for one,
gentle, singing heartbeat, all was well.
I originally started the stories of
the White Hart to see if using a blog format for a novel would work. That was
back in January 2017. Since then there have been 71 instalments and I have had
fun writing all of them. I’ve loved the characters and the setting, and I’ve enjoyed
the stories that flowed from them. Sometimes I have started writing a story
just to find out what was happening next.
All good things come to an end. I’ve
realised that while a blog is great for ongoing soaps and serials, it’s no good
for a novel, which is where I would like to concentrate. The last few months
have been tough for me, and finding the time to write more Tales from the White
Hart has been incredibly difficult. The complicated cast of characters demand and
deserve more time and attention from me than I can give them. The last few
weeks have been particularly difficult to find writing time, so I made the
decision I am making this brief chapter the last entry in Tales from the White
Hart, at least for now.
I have plans for novels which
feature many of the characters, and I will be continuing to write regular flash
fiction on my writing blog ‘Always Another Chapter’. I hope you will be able to
keep reading and enjoying.
Over the next few weeks I will be
sorting out this blog, playing around with some of the pages and the order of
things and making it easier to go back and dip into your favourite chapters. I
may even try and get it out as an ebook somewhere. Tales from the White Hart
have always been free to read online, and I while I don’t know if I can afford
to keep this site going permanently, it’s going to be here for a few months
more at least.
The most wonderful part about this fantastic journey has been the company of those who have joined along the way. The comments, support and kindness that you incredible people have shown has been amazing, and I don’t think that I have any way to thank you enough. Your encouragement made these stories possible. Thank you.
Jack grabbed Fiona’s arm and dragged her
around the corner of the marquee. “My fair Fiona, help me!”
Steve followed quickly. “They’re having
the first dance. What’s going on?”
Jack held up a necklace. It shimmered in
the late December sunlight, emeralds glimmering on the fine silver chain.
“Brand is planning to propose to Lady Freydis tonight using this. We have to
keep it away from him.”
“Brand seems to think that because it’s
Ian’s second marriage and Jeanette isn’t bothered that it doesn’t matter.” Jack
looked around. “But Ian would quite literally shred him and now is not the
“How did you get hold of it?” Steve asked.
“I picked his pocket.” Jack said, glancing
around the corner. “But I need to hide it. He’ll suspect me straight away.”
“I can’t imagine why.” Steve said.
Jack thrust the necklace at Steve. “Keep
it moving! It’s got all sorts of magic on it, and it’s probably got a caller on
it.” He frowned. “Like ‘find my phone’ but for jewellery.”
Steve glanced down at Fiona’s engagement
ring. “It’s a spell that has its uses.”
“But not right now.” Jack said. “Must
dash.” He shot out of the corner and almost collided with Brand. “Isn’t it a
As Brand grunted some sort of reply, Steve
and Fiona slipped away. Fiona looked at Steve. “He wouldn’t propose now, would
“He’s been pretty determined.” Steve said.
“And all hell would break out if he did. There’s not just one pack here, and
each one would want to show that they knew just how bad behaviour should be
Fiona felt a chill run through her. “Lady
Freydis would be furious as well.”
“But there’s all of Brand’s friends, and
some of those are feral. They don’t see normals from one century to the next.”
Steve slid discreetly back into the big marquee to applaud Ian and Jeanette as
they finished their dance.
“She looks so beautiful.” Fiona sighed.
“But I’m still grateful that we had our wedding our way. The last few
weeks have been bedlam.”
“We need to get this necklace hidden.”
Steve said. “And I haven’t got an isolation room set up at the house.”
“A what?” Fiona tugged at Steve’s hand.
“Come on, just a little dance.”
Steve stopped and looked down at his
beautiful wife. He dropped a quick kiss on her forehead. “We will definitely
have a dance, but later. An isolation room is somewhere hidden from magic.
They’re hard to set up and I’ve not had a chance yet. Watch out – here’s
“I’ll stall him.” Fiona said. “You find a good
Steve picked his way through the crowd.
Ian and Jeanette had done the legal part in the middle of the week, taking only
Callum and Jasmine as witnesses. They were making up for it today. Two hundred
had sat down to the meal and at least double that were already filing in for
the evening. Ian’s old pack had all turned out, along with Kieran’s pack and
quite a few representatives from nearby packs to show approval of how he had
dealt with Callum, Jasmine and Trent. Then there were the staff from the White Hart.
Ian was determined to do it right and show some prestige. There were the boggart
kits who had worked part time and their parents, cubs from half the country and
a selection of Adele’s family who had all been warned not to start anything.
And then there were Jeanette’s family.
There were a few werewolves tasked with making sure that they didn’t suspect
anything about the people at the party. Steve thought that was a forlorn hope
and that the best bet was to get them so drunk that they couldn’t remember
seeing a boggart, completely without a glamour, hairy arms flying as they did
For a moment Steve considered leaving the
necklace with them. But even though everyone had been warned, he couldn’t trust
Brand to stay away from them. And it was no good putting it behind the bar.
Steve spotted Brand heading towards him, forcing his way through the throng. He
had to lose the necklace. He spotted Darren who was holding hands with Jasmine
in a corner. That was it. He had to keep the necklace moving.
Darren was not impressed when Steve
interrupted him. “I’m not on any sort of duty.”
“Seriously, you have to keep this moving.”
Steve surreptitiously slid the necklace into Darren’s pocket. “Brand is going to
use a necklace to propose to Lady Freydis this evening.”
Jasmine stared. “Ian would literally kill
him,” she said. “He’s been the one stressing about the wedding being perfect.
He’ll murder anyone who upsets Jeanette tonight.”
“Jeanette isn’t stressed about the wedding.”
Darren felt carefully in his pocket.
“At the moment she’s doing a lot of
crying.” Jasmine said. “Even when she’s happy. It’s hard on Ian.”
“And Jeanette.” Steve said. “Look, see how
I’m asking advice about where to stash the necklace.” He pointed to the house,
apparently trying to shield his gesture from Brand. “Keep the necklace moving.”
As Steve moved with purpose towards the house,
Darren leant forward and lightly kissed Jasmine. “Would you like to dance?”
Jasmine sighed. “I’d love to dance, but I
know that you will just be using it as an excuse to palm off the necklace.”
“Absolutely correct.” Darren said. “I’m
going to try and palm it onto Mike, who is another one who will kill Brand if
he disturbs the wedding.” He paused for a moment, standing close to Jasmine. “You
look so beautiful.”
“Thank you.” Jasmine smiled up at him. “You
look pretty good yourself.” She followed Darren to the marquee where the huge
dance floor was already filling up. “A lot of people are fine with proposals at
weddings, but not Ian.”
“I know.” Darren held her close for a
moment before doing his best to move to the music. He was not a natural dancer,
but the mood was for enthusiasm over style and no-one was taking notes. “Besides,
having a proposal rejected with enthusiasm and vigour wouldn’t help at all. You
can’t expect Lady Freydis to be subtle.”
“Who do you think she’ll marry.” Jasmine
asked, as they worked their way across the dance floor.
“Whoever she pleases.” Darren said. He
swore suddenly. “Dammit, the necklace is enchanted. Brand’s looking for it. I
can’t give it Mike. I need to find someone with a few magic skills.”
Jasmine looked down at Darren’s pocket,
which was glowing faintly. It was hidden by the growing press on the dance
floor, but it was only a matter of time before Brand caught up and it could get
nasty. “But who can you give it to? I can’t see Jack, and Steve is a suspect.
If any of the elfen find out, there’ll be trouble, and Ian would genuinely kill
“Can you see Mrs Tuesday?” Darren asked.
“That’s a great idea.” Jasmine said. “Everyone’s
scared of Mrs Tuesday.”
“No, I can’t give it to her. There would
still be a scene.” Darren glanced around and saw Ian and Jeanette making the
rounds, both of them glowing with happiness. “But her friend knows what he’s
doing with magic.”
“Really?” Jeanette looked around. “Ian
just told me never to be alone with him.”
Darren looked back at her. “He’s alright.”
He saw Brand trying to push his way through the dance floor. “I’ll explain
later, but come on, let’s start looking at the bar.”
The bar was almost as full as the
dancefloor. The pack had set it up with plenty of tables and chairs scattered
around, along with some beanbags and comfortably padded rugs. Some of the older
werewolves had already gone to fur and were lounging in the corner with dog bowls
of beer in front of them. Mrs Tuesday was sitting with a glass in front of her
with some of the other boggarts while Jason was at the bar, yarning with some
of the older werewolves that were still in clothes. Darren rushed up to him,
Jasmine trailing behind him.
“Jason, can you help me out?”
“Sure.” Jason smiled politely at Jasmine. “The
blessing was beautiful.”
“Thanks.” Darren pulled out the necklace. “Brand
is planning to propose to Lady Freydis with this necklace this evening. We’ve
got to keep it away from him until after the party has finished.”
The werewolf next to Jason, a big man that
looked like he could juggle tractors, and who had already shed his jacket and
tie, stared. “Ian would rip him to pieces. It would be a bloodbath.”
Jasmine nodded. “We can’t let that happen.”
The werewolf had had a few drinks. “And
Mike would rip him to pieces. I mean, I know what happened, but Mike’s still
very fond of Ian.”
“I know.” Jasmine said.
“And then Kieran would rip Brand to pieces.”
The werewolf shook his head. “There would be blood everywhere.”
“It would be dreadful.” Jasmine said.
“I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t want to
rip him to pieces.” The werewolf took another draught from his pint. “I mean, young
Ian may have made mistakes, but he kept his fur flat and his tail up…”
Darren pulled Jason aside. “It’s being
tracked by magic. Can you do anything?”
“Hang on.” Jason frowned. “I think I know
something. Can you get me a clean glass? And do you have a mirror?”
“Do I look like I carry mirrors around
with me?” Darren said.
“Yes,” Jason grinned. “How about your
“I’ve got something.” Mrs Tuesday had come
up without Darren noticing and handed over a small handbag mirror. She looked to
where Jasmine was nodding politely as the werewolf worked his way through the
list of people who would rip Brand to pieces. “What’s going on?”
Darren explained as Jason carefully slipped
the necklace and mirror inside a clean pint glass and concentrated. Mrs Tuesday
shook her head.
“Lady Freydis would have an absolute fit!”
she said. “She’s very fond of Ian and Jeanette.” She thought for a moment. “And
she would enjoy having a chance to show off her skills at disciplining
“She’s very good at that.” Darren said. He
felt the metallic sensation of magic working and saw Jason slip the glass behind
the bar. “Will it work?”
“We’re about to find out.” Mrs Tuesday
said, settling her handbag more firmly on her shoulder.
Brand came in with purpose and then
paused, looking around as the brownie quickly slid the glass into a tray and slipped
away to the kitchen. Brand didn’t notice. He looked around, glowering, then
stormed back out to the bar, fuming.
The wedding was finally winding down. A
local taxi firm had been hired to take people back to York and quite a few were
staying at the house. The local packs were camping out in the marquees and at
least one seemed to be a heap of fur. It had been a beautiful wedding, and
Fiona was almost sad it was over. There hadn’t even been a fight.
Steve met her as she checked in the kitchen,
which the brownies had left immaculately clean. “I’ve got the necklace. We can
give it back to Brand now.”
“Where is he?” Fiona asked.
Steve looked around the large garden
almost entirely hidden by marquees and at the sprawling house and sheds. “That
is a good question. Let’s try the bar.”
Snow was starting to fall in tiny, delicate
flakes as they headed into the bar. Brand was there, leaning against the bar
next to a few werewolves snoozing next to their beer dishes. Jason was
listening with interest as Brand discussed the issues with the nixies in the tarns
at his home. Steve approached carefully and tapped Brand on the shoulder. “I
Brand took it and shook his head sadly. “It’s
no good. I have given up all hope. I found Lady Freydis having sex with Martin.”
“That doesn’t actually mean anything.”
Steve said cautiously.
Brand shook his head. “It was an unnatural
position. I shall go back to Nidderdale.”
Steve opened his mouth and then shut it
again. He looked at the sparkling snow settling gently over the lawn. “At least
she made sure that it was a white wedding.”
Ian was glad to get out of the cold and while
the living room in Steve’s home still had a faint smell of paint in the air,
the fire crackled and the chairs were comfortable. “I see the paint is still in
Steve grinned. “Armani has been given
instructions by Lady Freydis. It should last until the wedding. Only a few days
Ian looked around and sank into an
armchair. “Don’t say anything to Jeanette, but I sort of envy your wedding. Between
being pregnant and all the stress, I think it’s too much for her, even with
Adele and Jasmine helping her out. She was almost in tears yesterday over the
colour of the tablecloths.”
“But they’re white.” Steve said.
“I know.” Ian said helplessly. “She’s
always wanted white. They turned up and were white. I don’t understand.”
“You could ask Mrs Tuesday about it.”
Ian shook his head. “I just hug Jeanette,
tell her it will be alright and hope for the best.”
“The wedding will be fine.” Steve said. “The
brownies are in charge of the catering, the guest list is mainly well behaved,
Lady Freydis has decided that the weather will be crisp and dry and the house
is ready for visitors.”
“I know.” Ian said. “I’m more worried
about the stress on Jeanette and the baby. She’s looking really tired.” He
looked at Steve. “Don’t suggest talking to Mrs Tuesday.”
Steve grinned. “It’s a last resort.”
Ian looked thoughtful. “It’s been a
strain, but Jasmine and Adele have been wonderful to Jeanette. Jasmine has
really come on.”
“She’s a good kid.” Steve said. “While you’re
here, I could do with your opinion on a book.” He jumped to his feet and then
paused. “Why are you here? Hiding from the wedding?”
“All the women have turned up at our
house.” Ian grumbled. “Callum disappeared to the shop to do some stock taking
and Trent said he had to go to the library to do his homework.”
Steve laughed. “Well, wait until you see
Steve came back a few minutes later with
two mugs of tea and an old book tucked under his arm. “I found this in the
lining of a chair I was recovering. It feels ‘off’ to me, but I’d like to know
what you think.”
Ian took the book and started leafing
through. “Well, it’s not a medieval grimoire.” He held the book up to the
light. “But it’s old.”
Steve nodded. “It’s some sort of notebook,
and it’s survived for years in the upholstery, but it’s the content. There’s
magic in there.”
“The handwriting is appalling.” Ian said. “But
you can read most of it.” He frowned. “This looks familiar.”
“A summoning?” Steve asked.
Ian shook his head. “It’s a trap spell. I
don’t know exactly, but it looks like something to trap an elfen, or similar.
Like the spell that held Jack.”
“I’m beginning to hate Jack.” Steve said.
“He’s not that bad, is he?” Ian said,
flicking through the notebooks. “This is only one notebook in a series. There will
be others out there.”
“He is driving me crazy.” Steve said. “I
can really understand why someone wanted to trap him.”
Ian looked up from the notebook. “You can
cope with Lady Freydis and Kadogan without too much trouble. You just go with
the flow and divert them when you need to.”
Steve shook his head. “Jack is always
hanging around Fiona. Look at that.” Steve gestured to a vase with a casual
arrangement of hawthorn berries, dried roses and ivy set next to a cool window.
“He brings in flowers for her, jokes around, and I swear he is flirting with
her. Fiona won’t have it, but he is. Maybe I could use a trap spell.”
Ian didn’t like the dark look on Steve’s
face. “He’s probably just trying to show his gratitude. Don’t worry. And Fiona’s
not likely to get carried away.”
Fiona sipped her oolong tea and sighed.
Darren’s vicarage was the opposite of every vicarage in films or books. It was
clean, uncluttered and, even in winter, filled with lots of light. There were
no sooty open fires, no dust trap coving, and no draughty wood floors. She
loved her new home, and wouldn’t swap it for anything, but Darren’s study was a
nice change. “Jasmine adores you.”
Darren hunched over his glass of water. “It
all comes down to one basic fact. I’m too old for her. She hasn’t had the
chance to find out what she really wants.”
“I think a year of living on the streets
gave her plenty of opportunities.” Fiona said. “She doesn’t want to look
elsewhere.” She took a deep breath. “Yes, there has been discussion of this in
the White Hart. Mrs Tuesday will stay out of things in general, but she has her
opinions. And she thinks…”
Darren held up a hand. “I don’t think I
can bear to hear this.” He said quietly.
Fiona placed her mug down on the glass
coaster. “You have to hear this. Jasmine is beautiful, I mean, really
beautiful, and she’s a werewolf. She could have men queuing around the block
and down the street for her.” She frowned at Darren. “Let me speak! But how
many of the men would really see her. She has had some tough times and
has amazing resilience, but there are times that she needs reassurance. It’s a
dream for a predator. But you wouldn’t harm her.” Fiona tried to gather her
thoughts together. “If something bad happened to Jasmine, you wouldn’t turn
your back on her, would you? If she lost her looks or got scarred from silver,
I don’t think you would even notice.”
Darren shook his head. “It’s an easy thing
to say, that you love the person on the inside, but Jasmine has such a shining
spirit. I can’t imagine turning my back on her.”
“Of course you would be there for her.”
Fiona said. “And if she went a little crazy after the years as a stray, you’d
be there for her, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes, of course.” Darren said. “That’s
never the problem.”
“And if she went bad, if she needed to be
stopped, you would stop her, wouldn’t you?” Fiona said.
“I’d do my duty.” Darren said, “But I
would have failed if that happened.”
“And she knows that if she does get it wrong,
if she goes bad, she can be stopped. It’s like a safety net for her, so she
doesn’t have to be on high alert against herself. You wouldn’t be cruel, but
you would be there.” Fiona took Darren’s hand. “Mrs Tuesday thinks you are the
best possible thing for Jasmine. You won’t take any nonsense, you’ll always
love the bones of her, no matter what, and you’re as gorgeous as she is.”
Darren looked blank. “What’s looks got to
do with it?”
“Everything?” Fiona said. “People are less
likely to bother Jasmine if they know she has a tough, good looking boyfriend.
You’re like a layer of protection for her as well as the pack.”
“Ian’s not happy.” Darren said.
“Ian isn’t that stressed about it.” Fiona
said. “He knows that you will look after Jasmine, and that she’s safe with you.
You won’t hurt her, play mind games or cheat on her. You won’t break her heart.
If it has to be anyone that isn’t a werewolf, it would be you.”
Darren stared into space for a while. “I
would do anything for Jasmine, absolutely anything. I loved her long before the
love potion. Life without her would be bleak.”
“Then don’t think about life without her.”
Fiona said. “Just enjoy time with her.” She picked up her tea again. “Is that
why you wanted to talk to me? About Jasmine?”
Darren grimaced. “I’ve been asked to make
sure that you and Steve are okay, that you’re happy.”
“I wish the elfen would stay out of this.”
Fiona said. “And I don’t think Steve and I have been happier.”
Steve looked doubtful. “Are you sure?” He
peered around the corner from the back room out into the shop. Jeanette was
sitting at the till, checking some sort of list with Adele.
Fiona nodded. “Jeanette asked, and it
seems the least we can do. They have had such a wild time of it, and I think
Jeanette’s feeling under pressure from Lady Freydis.”
“Is Lady Freydis still furious that she
won’t get a fancy Easter Wedding from them?” Steve asked.
Fiona nodded. “But a romantic winter
wedding will help, perhaps. And Jeanette has enough on her plate with getting
ready for the baby.”
Steve gave Fiona a quick hug. “You won’t
Fiona hugged him back. “To be honest, I’m
sort of glad I don’t have that pressure on me. As long as I know you love me, I
can look back and say that it was the perfect wedding for us.”
Steve remembered their wedding. Both of
them had worn bedraggled clothes and neither had been at their best. Fiona was
pale and still bandaged after the attack by Rey, and he had been suffering from
the crash after using so much magic and running on such an adrenaline rush.
Darren had worn jeans, but at least he was wearing a dog collar, and the middle
aged nurse and the chaplaincy visitor had been visibly touched to be the
witnesses. It had been intimate and loving, a solemn vow before God to love
each other, without all the fuss and expense that Jeanette and Adele seemed to
be dealing with. “It was perfect for me, because you were there.”
“You say the best things.” Fiona said. “So
I said that of course they could have the wedding at our house.” She grimaced.
“But that means we need to get the house sorted. I’m not sure we have time.”
Steve stroked Fiona’s hair. “Ian’s already
sorted out the plumbing, so that’s not a problem. We’ve got plenty of rooms for
the wedding party, and we can get it decorated in the next week or two.” He
thought. “What are they doing about food and stuff?”
Fiona stroked his hand. “Jeanette said
that Ian was insisting on brownie catering, and we can get some marquees in the
garden. The grass is short enough.” She grinned. “And you won’t be doing
any of the decorating. You’ve got that big deal going down in Cardiff.”
Steve groaned. “I can’t really miss it.”
“I know,” Fiona said, “And we’ll be fine.
I’ll see if Dave will help out. He says he’s a bit quiet for the next few
“Get the pack to help out as well.” Steve
said. “In fact, talk it over with Ian and Jeanette. I think they may be very
precise about how things are set up.” There was a crash outside, followed by a
thump. “I think we had better see what is happening.”
They went into the shop and Lady Freydis
was looking coldly at a tall, blond elfen who was looking confused. She picked
up a battered brass teapot and handed it gently to him. “I refuse to throw
things at you, and this is junk.”
“But Lady Freydis, I thought you liked junk.”
The elfen took the teapot and looked at it blankly. “You have lots of junk,
from Mr Albert.”
Fiona glanced at Atherton who was sitting
at one of the tables and trying not to laugh. “You can’t leave that in the
shop.” She pointed at a supermarket trolley filled with miscellaneous brass and
Lady Freydis turned to Fiona. “Do you know
what Cameron said? He said that he’s brought tribute and trusts it will allow
him to not marry me. Can you believe that? He says he doesn’t want to marry me!
That is not possible! It’s reverse psychology.”
“Please take the junk.” Cameron said. “And
while you are truly beautiful, I am in love.”
“You are always in love.” Lady Freydis
snapped. “What is it this time?”
Cameron frowned. “That is uncalled for. I
am sometimes in love with people.”
Lady Freydis avoided looking at Atherton
who was trying to stifle laughter. “You give the elfen a bad name. What are you
in love with this time?”
“I am no longer so shallow.” Cameron
sighed. “I have found a special place. She means a lot to me, you know, and we
have such an amazing connection.” Atherton fell off the chair.
Lady Freydis took a breath. “Cameron, when
most people say that they have fallen in love with a place, they don’t usually
mean in a romantic way.” She turned pointedly away from Atherton who couldn’t
get up. “Where is this place? How have you come to form a connection?”
“She is a scrapyard, and I call her Rose,
as she is so fair.” Cameron said.
“But it’s going to be full of iron?” Lady
Freydis said. She looked at him suspiciously. “Are these stolen?” Jack had
turned up and was laughing while trying to help Atherton who was gasping for
“It’s okay.” Sir Ewan walked in with Sir
Craig. “We were a little concerned, but it turns out that young Cameron here-”
“I am not young!” Cameron said.
“Mr Cameron here has been helping out the
scrapyard over the summer with some maintenance.” Sir Ewan said. “They paid him
a fair amount, and gave him a discount on some…” He trailed off and looked at
“It’s tribute and a chance to explain to
the beautiful Lady Freydis that I am not available for romance.”
“Is he alright?” Sir Craig said, looking
at Atherton rolling on the floor in hysterics. “The scrapyard looked lovely, by
the way, very artistic, even at this time of year.”
Fiona knew that the elfen could amazing
things with plants, if they wanted to be bothered. “Where is this scrapyard?
I’m sure it looks beautiful.” She caught sight of Cameron’s expression. “I’m
sure she looks beautiful.” Atherton howled.
“There’s some most well kept thingy.”
Cameron waved a hand. “And a magazine will visit. I don’t know the details. I
thought it was the least I could do for Rose, and if the stupid manager was
willing to give me money for it, then I was happy to take it.”
“You were trying to get immunity to iron,
weren’t you?” Sir Craig said.
Cameron looked furtive. “Perhaps
initially, but that was before I met her.” He sighed.
“Just take this stuff away.” Fiona said.
“It can’t stay in the shop.”
“Too late.” Cameron said. “It is given as
“Can I tell Callum that we’re putting some
stuff from a scrapyard in warehouse?” Mrs Tuesday said innocently. “I just want
to see his little face.”
“He’s a little stressed with the wedding.”
Fiona said. “Perhaps we should let him get on with it. You know what Adele’s
family can be like.”
Mrs Tuesday looked past the trolley.
“Jason! You managed to get here!”
Steve looked over to a dangerous looking
man who had just come in. He was tall, broad shouldered and his eyes were a lot
older than his face. Mrs Tuesday bustled out from the café and gave him a hug
as Sir Craig tensed.
Mrs Tuesday turned around. “This is Jason
Keys, the one I told you about. He’s staying in York for the next few days.”
She turned to Jason. “Where are you staying?”
“I’ve got a place in a B&B out in
Fulford.” Jason said.
“I believe a lot of the places out there
are run by werewolves.” Sir Craig said. “It’s probably not a good idea. Which
one are you staying at?”
“I’ll be fine.” Jason said coolly.
“Why can’t you stay here?” Lady Freydis
asked. “I am sure there is no issue with a good friend of Mrs Tuesday spending
a few nights.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Sir
Craig repeated. “Jason doesn’t always deal well with non-normals.”
“But Mrs Tuesday is a boggart.” Lady
Freydis said, looking between Sir Craig and Jason.
“It’s okay,” Jason didn’t flinch from Sir
Craig’s hard stare. “I’m okay with non-normals these days. I’m not a danger to
“It’s not that.” Sir Craig said awkwardly.
He looked around. Atherton had stopped laughing and got to his feet, ready to
protect his prince. Jack was clearly assessing Jason, a frown on his face, and
Mrs Tuesday was looking daggers at Sir Craig. Cameron was starting to edge out
of the shop.
Jack broke the tense silence as he strolled over to Fiona and draped a casual arm around her shoulders. “I think Jason should stay here and enjoy Mrs Tuesday’s cooking.” He grinned. “And I shall stay out of the way so I cannot cause any problems. Perhaps I should I take a leaf out of Cameron’s book and sort out the garden of my Fair Fiona?”
Steve did not look impressed.
Some may recognise the name of Jason Keys, as that of Sir Jason Keys, who had a hard time in Digging Up the Past. I have made some small changes in the last few pages of the book, so Jason can continue to cause trouble. Leave a comment below if you need me to let you know about the very minor changes.
Fiona approached the White Hart with
caution. Anything could be waiting for her. Elfen had a magpie attitude to
presents, so she could expect anything from a pretty feather to a diamond ring
for her birthday. Kadogan had taken her digging for buried treasure one year,
and last year he had taken her for a wonderful picnic in one of the corners of
fairyland, where the sky shone with northern lights and the flowers had sang in
the wind. She was sort of hoping he would take her back this year.
“Happy Birthday!” Mrs Tuesday called as Fiona
sidled in. “Come and get your presents before the shop opens.”
Fiona felt hugged as she opened the gifts.
Adele and Callum had got her some fancy soaps in her favourite rose scent,
Jeanette had knitted her a gorgeous woollen shawl in a cascade of blues and
greens from her and Ian, and Mrs Tuesday had bought her a pair of woolly
“I know it’s going to be cold in that new
house of yours, and I can’t knit for toffee.” Mrs Tuesday said. “You’ll need
something to keep your feet warm.”
Jasmine handed over her package. “What did
Steve get you?”
Fiona opened the box set of her favourite
series. “Thank you, this is perfect.” She concentrated on opening the card.
“Steve has been busy for the last few weeks, so he said he’d make it up to me
“I know he adores you,” Lady Freydis said.
“And I am confident that a wonderful gift will soon be in your hands.” She
handed over a large bag of ribbons. “You could use these in your cards, of
course, but you could just keep the bag as it is.”
Fiona held the bag up to the light. It was
such an elfen gift, with strand after strand of ribbon in all shades and
widths. Some lengths sparkled with glitter or gleamed in the shop light. Some
were soberly matt, twined with iridescent and transparent ribbon. “It’s
“I called in at that shop in Coppergate
and asked the lovely people there for a yard of every type they had, in
a bag.” Lady Freydis sniffed. “They only did metres.”
Fiona wondered if she was catching
something from the elfen as there was something fascinating about turning the bag
and seeing the colours intertwining. There had to be hundreds of metres of
ribbon in there. The shop assistants must have hated Lady Freydis. “I think
I’ll keep it just as it is.” She looked around. “I’m going to put these in the
back, because we need to get decorating. We’re probably the last shop in York that
hasn’t got their Christmas decorations up.”
Lady Freydis frowned. “It is
inappropriate.” She grumbled. “And far too early. We are still in November.”
“I know, but some shops had their
decorations up in September.” Fiona said. She gathered her presents. “I’ll
leave these here for a second and go down to the warehouse and get the
decorations. It’s going to be a nuisance for the brownies.”
“They’ll love it.” Mrs Tuesday said.
“They’ll enjoy all the fiddly bits and you won’t even see a speck of misplaced
glitter.” She glanced quickly at Lady Freydis. “But perhaps you should take it
easy on your birthday. Callum can bring the stuff up.”
“But there’s loads.” Fiona said. “Steve
brought some trees this morning and there’s about a dozen boxes of ornaments.”
“I agree with Mrs Tuesday.” Lady Freydis
said. “It is inappropriate to work on your birthday. Allow me to make you a
steamed chai, while Adele informs Callum of the needs.”
“I’ll go down now.” Adele said, and
disappeared down the stairs.
“Steamed chai sounds lovely.” Fiona said,
“But I’m looking forward to decorating the shop. I hope you won’t stop me doing
Adele rushed into the warehouse where
Steve and Callum were staring at Steve’s phone. “Is it here yet?”
“According to the app, it’s two stops
away.” Steve said. “Those dwarfs from Bludenz sent it surface instead of
airmail. It should have been here last week.”
“She’ll understand.” Callum said. “And
it’s not like Fiona to make a fuss about something that can’t be helped.”
“But that’s the thing.” Steve said,
closing his phone and slipping it into his pocket. “She’s spent the last few
months ‘being understanding’ and ‘not making a fuss’ when she was getting
really upset and I didn’t realise. I just wanted something special for her.”
“If it’s anything like the picture, she’ll
love it.” Adele said. “It’s perfect for her.”
Steve pulled his phone out and checked
again. “We’re the next stop.”
“I was reading online that some couriers
don’t bother calling, they just mark you as out if they are too busy.” Adele
said, then shut up when she saw Steve’s expression.
“At least the dwarfs said that they packed
it well.” Steve said. “It shouldn’t be easy to lose.”
“There’s the van!” Adele said. “You sign
for it. Callum and me will take the decorations upstairs and send Fiona down to
“But it won’t be wrapped.” Steve said,
“If Kadogan catches Fiona crying over you
again, there’ll be a war.” Callum said. “Go and get the damn parcel.”
Jack sauntered in later in the afternoon.
The shop was busy and felt crammed as four trees were parked around the store
and four more in the annexe. Fiona had employed a couple of young werewolves
specifically to keep an eye out for elfen caught by the glitter. Swags of
scented leylandii branches hung above the bookshelves and doors, with sprays of
painted ivy leaves entwined and trailing between the swags. Baubles gleamed and
twinkled and dark green and crimson tinsel was swirled around the cases.
“Happy birthday, my fair Fiona.” Jack
said, helping Fiona down from the step ladder. “You have covered the room with
boughs, but they will not last long in the heat of the shop.”
“I know.” Fiona sighed. “It seems a shame.
But I have to respect the people who are coming, and most would prefer
something natural. We’ll be replacing them every week.”
“I commend your diligence.” Jack bowed.
“And it will be beautiful, right up until Christmas.” He looked around. “I am
unused to preparing for Christmas so early. But enough about that.” He took the
stepladders from Fiona. “Let us speak of your birthday. I have a gift, but not
something that you can hold in your hand. It is a gift for you to experience.
Do you remember you were showing me that card maker in your magazine?”
“Those intricate folds? Have you found a
class?” Fiona asked.
Jack shook his head and grinned. “I found
a way to persuade the lovely lady herself to give you an afternoon of lessons.
I have her details.” He handed over a small but exquisite handmade business
card. “Just say that this is the deal with Jack Green.” He smiled properly at
Fiona’s delight. “Perhaps afterwards you could take your gift from Kadogan and
go boating on a summer river.” He noticed the necklace. “Is that a birthday
Fiona stroked the delicate gold necklace
with the single, gleaming topaz in an intricate, lace-like setting. “Steve got
it for me.” She smiled, radiating happiness.
“Expensive jewels from foreign lands.”
Jack said, narrowing his eyes, “And wrought by dwarfs as well. That is a chain
that will never break.”
“It’s perfect.” Fiona said, as Jack nodded
Jasmine called in to see Darren as he was putting
up the hymn numbers for the next service. She stopped dead as she came in and
stared around. “What happened here?”
Darren turned around and smiled at her,
before remembering she asked a question. “It’s Egerton. He’s been stress
Jasmine turned around on the spot. The
church gleamed. The pews glowed with fresh polish, the elderly radiators
for the rickety central heating shone like silver and the stone floor was burnished
underneath the sand. “Why is there sand on the floor?”
“It’s to stop people slipping on the
stone.” Darren said, moving back from the brass lectern that gleamed like pure
gold. “Apparently they did it for horses at some point, to stop them slipping on
the cobbles. That’s what he told me, anyway.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything
like it, even when the brownies have been working.” Jasmine bent down. “Even
the undersides of the pews are polished.”
Darren walked up to her and gave her a
hug. “You know that Egerton is supposed to serve us? Well because I’ve stuck up
for him with Jack, he feels even more indebted. He’s cooking dinner for us.”
“Can he cook?” Jasmine asked, leaning
“We are going to find out.” Darren said.
“Did Fiona like the Box Set?”
“She did.” Jasmine said. “She told me that
she had had an amazing birthday, and she’s going to a special card class Jack
sorted out, just for her.” She sighed. “That’s an amazing present.”
“What did Steve get her?” Darren asked as
they walked out of the church together.
“He got her a necklace from some dwarfs in
Austria.” Jasmine hesitated. “It’s really beautiful, and she loves it, but…”
She trailed off.
“Jack and Kadogan have already told me
that Steve’s present wasn’t appropriate.” Darren said. “They were a little
vague about his present, but very clear about me sorting out Steve and Fiona.
They said that I didn’t have the hands to deal with any more, so I had plenty
of time.” He looked at Jasmine. “What’s wrong with the necklace? I mean, if
it’s dwarf made and from Austria, he must have gone to some effort.”
“That’s it.” Jasmine said. “Jack got her a
card making class by someone she admires. Kadogan is taking her for a trip on a
summer river. Mrs Tuesday got slippers for her, because she was worried about
being cold and that’s why Jeanette made her a shawl. I mean, everyone got her
something that was meaningful, but I don’t know how meaningful the necklace
is.” They strolled down the vicarage path. “I suppose that’s what Jack and
Kadogan are on about. They are worried about Fiona.”
“But Steve adores Fiona and Fiona adores
Steve. What’s the problem?” Darren opened the vicarage door and blinked.
“Egerton, that smells amazing.”
“I don’t think Steve sees the problem
either.” Jasmine said. She smiled at Egerton, who was wearing chefs’ whites.
“It smells lovely.”
“A Moroccan lamb tagine, with fresh
spices.” Egerton announced proudly. “Served with couscous and followed by
Jack sipped a lemon and ginger tea,
liberally laced with honey. “So what made you start the shop?”
Kadogan perched on the edge of a table in the
back room. “Fiona saved my life. Her heart’s desire was to own a shop. So I
opened a shop.” He shrugged. “It was that simple.” He frowned. “But a shop is
not simple. For example, the candles are very complicated. I am always checking
how many there are and how many there should be and when the deliveries are
due. I have spent many hours counting candles.”
“And those who work here are also complicated.” Jack leaned forward to peer through the doorway into the shop. Mrs Tuesday was quietly terrorising a young goblin who had left a mess. “They must take some organising.”
“Fiona deals with the people.” Kadogan
followed his gaze. “Though half of those working here seem to have somehow
happened by accident. Lady Freydis hired herself. I had no idea that the Tarot
reader would be a paladin. I took Ian in as a favour to Lord Spike in
Huddersfield, which led to the employment of Callum and Jasmine – both wonderful
servants of the shop.” He looked down at his hands. “I invited Mrs Tuesday here
to help with the relationship between Steve Adderson and Fiona. It may have not
been a good thing to interfere in their relationship, but Mrs Tuesday has been
a valuable asset.”
“I can tell.” Jack said. He looked around
the well organised back room, with the meeting tables and stock cupboards, the
scrubbed steps leading down to the warehouse and the slant in the ceiling that
showed the stairs that went from behind the tills up to the Tarot reading room
and the lodgers’ quarters. “It’s very well set up. Do you ever regret it?”
Kadogan glanced at the goblin, hunched at the counter and nearly in tears. “It has been most entertaining.” He smiled malevolently at some of the memories. The smile softened. “And there is a wonderful comradeship.”
“But there is the issue of the marriage
between Fiona and Steve Adderson.” Jack said. “She saved you and she saved me,
and she is unhappy in love. We need to encourage this Steve Adderson.
Who is he, anyway, to upset our beloved Fiona?”
“He is the son of Lord Marius and an extremely
powerful sorcerer.” Kadogan said. “I don’t think I know any elfen that could stand
“That complicates matters.” Jack said. “But
we still need to take him in hand.”
“What if we get it wrong?” Kadogan said. “Perhaps
a beating would be inadequate.”
“I would feel better after watching Fiona
sobbing.” Jack said, “But it may upset Fiona, and could perhaps just make extra
work for her with nursing and such.”
“Steve is in love with Fiona. It beats
through him like a pulse. I wish that he could show this to Fiona.” Kadogan
Jack frowned as a ginger tom cat strolled
across the floor with a limp rat in his jaws. “The padre promised to help mend
Steve and Fiona’s marriage once the issue with the hands had been sorted out. I
think we can consider the matter of the hands sorted.” He grinned. “I think we
can leave this to the Reverend Darren King. Shall we go and break the good
“One moment.” Kadogan was listening. “I believe
that this is the Lady Freydis arriving in her van. It could be entertaining,
and then we can inform Reverend King of his duties.”
Dave lay back in bed and listened to the
afternoon rain patter against the window. Elaine cuddled up to him and he
stroked her hair. “We are going to have to get our days off together more
“Absolutely.” Elaine stretched next to him
and then propped herself up on her elbow next to him. “And what are we going to
do for lunch? We could grab a sandwich and get back to bed.”
Dave sighed happily. “That sounds like a
great idea.” He reached up and kissed her. “I’m starving.” His phone rang and
Elaine fell back onto the pillows and
stared at the ceiling as she listened to Dave’s side of the conversation. “You’re
on call?” She watched with appreciation as Dave rolled out of bed and started
dragging his clothes on.
“I’m always on call. And Luke is busy with
that business just outside Kirkham Abbey with the barghest. They want me to get
down to the White Hart as soon as possible, though I’m sure it could wait.”
“What’s it about?” Elaine smiled as Dave
paused, t-shirt in hand, his hair rumpled and his jeans still unbuttoned.
“Apparently Lady Freydis brought in some
stuff to sell.” Dave said. “And nobody’s quite sure how she got it.”
Darren got to the White Hart around the
same time as Dave. “What’s going on?”
Dave looked at Lady Freydis’ van, backed
up to the doors and blocking half the entrance. “I’m not sure.”
Fiona met them when they came in, wiping
their wet feet. “It’s all Jack’s fault.” She glared at Jack who was grinning as
he lounged against the counter. “Though I don’t think it was deliberate – this time!”
Jack shrugged with supreme lack of
concern. “My sweetest Fiona, you underestimate me.”
“You just take credit for mayhem whenever
you see it, whether you caused it or not.” Fiona said. She looked at Dave. “Lady
Freydis is getting into a state.”
Jack strolled over to Fiona, swept a bow before
her and kissed her hand. “You have such a clear view of me, your insight is
penetrating.” Behind him, Kadogan gave him a suspicious look.
“I swear, it was a surprise!” Lady Freydis
said, rushing out of the back room. “I had no thought of goods. And of course
he adored me.”
“What?” Dave asked.
“Mr Albert.” Lady Freydis said, waving her
hand. “I have the papers here.” She shoved a large, disintegrating envelope
into Dave’s hands.
“But you said he had no family.” Fiona
said. “So it’s not like anyone has lost anything.”
“My reputation is dear to me.” Lady
Freydis said, glaring at Jack. “I do not defraud someone by accident.”
“Indeed, my prince, you only defraud with
malice aforethought,” Jack said.
“Exactly.” Lady Freydis said. “And here is
Dave ran a weary hand over his hair and
tried again. “What?”
“We’re going to have to get that van moved
as there’s a coach party due soon.” Mrs Tuesday said, smiling at Brand.
“I could lift it out of the way, no problem.”
“Don’t do that!” Dave said hurriedly. “Besides,
Lady Freydis has a lot of skill driving a van and I am sure she can park it
with precision in the back yard while I look at these papers.”
“He could lift the van, you know.” Mrs
Tuesday tried not to laugh.
“Perhaps he can demonstrate it on a van
that isn’t in front of hundreds of tourists and doesn’t belong to Lady Freydis.
I have no idea what she could do to the van, but I heard all about the time it
got stuck in a tree.”
“I shall move the van, with skill.” Lady Freydis
said. Jack watched with interest as Lady Freydis climbed into the van, twirling
her keys, and then lurched backwards with a grinding of gears.
“I don’t know if that is skilful.” He
Lady Freydis stuck her head out of the
He laughed, waved a casual hand and Lady
Freydis reversed smoothly at high speed and then shot around to the back of the
White Hart. “What is life without a little danger.”
Brand winced. “She is not to be trifled
“Perhaps not too often.” Jack said. He
glanced again at Fiona. “After all, what is life without a little danger and
“A pleasant change.” Mrs Tuesday said, putting out the tea cups.
Dave started working through the papers. It seemed straightforward enough. Mr Albert Kellet had lived for 102 years, had no surviving family and died, leaving everything he owned to Freydis Green, also known as Lady Freydis, Prince of York and could she get his flat cleared by next Wednesday. “It seems straightforward. What’s the problem?”
“I did not influence him to leave me
everything.” Lady Freydis stamped back in. “I wish to declare before a Paladin that
this was honest gain.”
“And nothing at all like that business
with the Cliffords.” Jack said, lounging against the till next to Fiona.
“What business with the Cliffords – and who
were the Cliffords?” Dave said, looking up from a list.
“That was before your time.” Lady Freydis
waved a hand while looking smug. “I believe that the last of the family died
out several years ago.”
“How many years ago?” Dave asked.
Lady Freydis and Jack exchanged glances. “It
was several.” Lady Freydis said. “But it was before the railway came.”
“It was before Queen Anne died.” Jack
added. “That parson was far too easily bought.”
“I didn’t pay a penny,” Lady Freydis said
with a feline smile. “He had other weaknesses.”
“But it was the new faith,” Jack said. “Was
it before or after the Siege of York?”
“I get it. It was centuries ago.” Dave
went back to the papers. “There isn’t a lot of money, but there’s four storage
“He liked collecting things.” Lady Freydis said. “He looked for the strange and the unusual, and sometimes he bought things because they were inexpensive. Sometimes he just bought to make contact with a person.” She sat down at one of the tables. “He had been to many lands, and fought in wars. He used his computer and would play me strange songs from far countries and tell me tales.” She smiled sadly. “I could listen to him for hours. And I would tell him stories of the Legions and the Picts and the Vikings and he would listen and marvel. I shall miss him a great deal.” She brightened. “But perhaps I can sell his collections from the White Hart and pay for masses for him.”
There was a brief pause while Jack and Kadogan
had a murmured conversation in the background. Darren broke the silence.
“I can include him in prayers, if you
like.” He said. “He sounds like a character. Do you know what wars he fought in?
I can perhaps find out about his regiment and comrades for you.”
“That would be a kindness.” Lady Freydis
said. She jumped to her feet. “The coach party will be here in seventeen
minutes. We must stir ourselves.”
There was a slam as Callum came storming
out of the back room. “Who the hell left those boxes of junk in my
Darren sat Egerton down at one of the café
tables. “You need to get over this fear of Jack. I mean, he didn’t do anything
to you at the Halloween party, did he? You can’t let your fear of him rule your
life. After all, you courted Lady Freydis, and that’s the actions of a brave
“He is not predictable.” Egerton said. He
took a deep breath. “I owe you a great deal, Darren King, so I will take your
advice and have a beverage here.”
“Right, it will be fine.” Darren said,
trying to believe it. How had it come to this – he was babysitting a neurotic
elfen who was almost vibrating with nervous tension. “I’ll get you a herbal
“Coffee is a herb.” Jack said, strolling
up behind Darren.
Darren shot a dark look at him and then
looked back at Egerton who was holding onto the edge of the table so hard that
the plywood was starting to split. “I think a camomile tea will be fine.”
“Nggnnnnngnnn.” Egerton said.
“It’s okay, Findlay, I’m not going bother
you. I have other fish to fry.” Jack followed Darren to the counter. “I would
like one of your divine lattes, Miss Jasmine.” He smirked as he caught Darren’s
“On the house, Lady Freydis orders – if
you behave.” Jasmine couldn’t help returning Jack’s charming smile, before
catching Darren’s eye and blushing.
Jack ignored Darren. “Thank you, my
sweet.” He picked up the cup and wandered over to where some goblins were
having a furtive game of cards.
After giving Jasmine a thoughtful look,
Darren took his drinks back to the table, putting a camomile tea in front of
Egerton. “What is Jack?”
Egerton wrapped his hands around the
comforting warmth of his mug. “Jack is complicated.” He looked over to where
Jack was getting dealt in. “Those goblins will lose their money to him, but
they would lose it anyway, possibly at the bookmakers, so I suppose it is irrelevant.”
He started adding packets of sugar to the camomile tea. “Jack isn’t quite an
elfen, and he’s certainly no boggart or goblin. He’s been in York a very long
Darren watched the emptied sugar packets
mount up. “So, like a nature spirit, but not elfen.”
“Quite.” Egerton stirred the syrupy
mixture. “I think he was called a god by the locals at one point, before the
time of the Legions, when this was just the rivers meeting place.” He sighed. “Those
must have been hard times to be a normal. There were no paladins or exorcists
then, but some normals had power and used songs and paint…” Egerton trailed
off, looking back over millennia. “When the saints came, they called Jack a
demon. But he isn’t quite a demon, you know. I’ve met some, and Jack is quite
“I’ve met a few demons myself.” Darren
said, looking over to where Jack was grinning as a goblin laid down their hand.
“Jack isn’t a demon.”
“He may not be a demon, but he isn’t safe.”
Egerton said. “And should he marry Lady Freydis, he will be an influence on
Darren looked down at his own plain tea. “Martin
would be worse, wouldn’t he? I mean, he’s a vampire, and look what happened
“Martin is very different from Rey.”
Egerton said primly. “He understands duty. And Lady Freydis has changed.”
Egerton frowned. It was notoriously hard for an elfen to be sympathetic, but it
was obvious Egerton had thought about this. “Lady Freydis felt very unloved,” he
said quietly. “I feel that led to lapses in judgement. Lord Ragnar also felt
unloved. This was an unfortunate combination. Whoever is her next partner, I am
confident that there will be better choices.” He flinched.
Darren looked behind him and watched Eorl Brand
stride through the door. In deference to modern York, Eorl Brand had altered
his glamour so that his bright red hair was slickly styled, his beard was short
and neatly trimmed, the jeans and boots were clean and well made and the shirt
that stretched across his massive back was the latest trend. He still looked
like he arrived on a long ship and could bench press a Harley Davidson. He
strode up to the counter like someone used to striding across the Dales.
“I will have a drink,” Eorl Brand hesitated
and looked around at the shop. It was only half full but enough normals were looking
with interested at the red-head towering over the counter. “Yes, I’ll have a
drink, er, miss. Whatever you chose.”
“We have some nice teas?” Jasmine said. “We
have Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, Russian Caravan, Gunpowder, Green, Rose…”
She caught his expression. “How about Yorkshire Tea?”
“That sounds fine.” Eorl Brand said. “And
Jasmine bustled about as Eorl Brand looked
around. He noticed Mrs Tuesday. “Jane Tuesday! I haven’t seen you since that
business with the gnomes up in Swardale. How are you doing?”
“I’m doing well, Brand, better than you.”
Mrs Tuesday said, grinning. “I’m surprised you can get here after the way Lady Freydis
went after you.”
“I’d forgotten how lively she is.” Eorl Brand
smiled back at her. “I admit it, she bested me. And I don’t hold that against
her. Join me, Jane?”
“Why not. Jasmine can cope.” Mrs Tuesday
took a cuppa with her, keeping an eagle eye on the queue.
“I’m fine!” Jasmine said, “And Mrs
Anderson and Mrs Cadwallader will be here in a minute.”
“And then perhaps you can have a drink
with your lover.” Eorl Brand said, taking his tray of tea things and sinking into
a chair, laughing as Jasmine blushed again. Then he caught a glimpse through to
the back room. “Jane!” he bellowed, and then looked around quickly. “Jane,” he
lowered his voice, “There’s an imp in the back room stroking a skeletal hand
disguised as a cat.”
“There’s a lot going on in York that you
wouldn’t think.” Mrs Tuesday said. “You spend so much time in your domain in
the Dales that you’ve lost touch about the modern world.” She looked a little
sad. “It’s hard to keep up.”
“I can see that.” Eorl Brand said, looking
around the shop. “But I see that Lady Freydis keeps her standards up. I can
tell the work of brownie cleaners.” He took a mouthful of tea. “But it is
indeed different from my halls.” He clasped Mrs Tuesday’s hand. “Why don’t I
take you to dinner tonight? You can tell all the tales of this place, and what brought
you to Yorkshire. It will be like old times.”
“I tell you what, I’ll cook us something good
and we can eat in private upstairs.” Mrs Tuesday smiled. “We won’t have to worry
about being overheard.” She looked up. “I have to go, Brand, a coach party have
just arrived and we’re going to get busy.”
As Mrs Tuesday bustled behind the counter,
Eorl Brand leaned over to Darren. He ignored Egerton’s flinch and muttered, “What
does a gentleman bring when invited to dinner, Father? I mean, apart from
Darren took a moment to look down at his
tea and gather his wits. Now he was being asked to advise on how to charm an
elderly, terrifying boggart. “Perhaps a bottle of wine, although I think Mrs
Tuesday brews her own.”
“She always was a resourceful boggart.” Eorl
Brand said. “Thank you, Father.”
“Just call me Darren.” Darren said to Eorl
Brand’s back as he leapt to his feet and strode towards the door, the coach
party crowd parting before him.
Jack sauntered over to Darren. “Perhaps
you can advise me, padre. I wonder if I should tell Lady Freydis that she has a
rival in Mrs Tuesday.”
Darren looked over at the shivering
Egerton, and then back at the grinning Jack. “Proverbs, 26:20. Now, if you’ll
excuse me, Egerton has some work to do back at the vicarage.”
Lady Freydis sat perched next to Martin on
the Pikeing Well, looking across the River Ouse to Rowntree Park. The sun was
setting and the cold October damp was falling. “Brand is eating dinner with Mrs
Tuesday tonight. I believe he is bringing her flowers.”
“I never doubted his courage.” Martin
said. He looked at the lights reflected in the water. “And Mrs Tuesday is one
of the best to tell him how things are. They are very different from when he
was last in York.”
“To think, I have a love rival in an
elderly boggart.” Lady Freydis shook her head. “It is very depressing.”
Martin laughed. “If you took Eorl Brand
“He will stamp around and be loud for a
bit before he becomes tired of the city and retreats back to his domain.” Lady
Freydis said. “He has to look a little important so he has come up with this
tale of wooing me, but he would not last a week with so many people around.”
“And speaking of people, we had better
return to your court.” Martin said, helping Lady Freydis to her feet. “I’m sure
there will be entertaining people there.”
“Of course!” Lady Freydis said. “We shall be present.”
For those vaguely interested but can’t be bothered to look, Proverbs 26:20 roughly says something along the lines of ‘stop stirring up trouble’, depending on the translation
It was like something from a film set. Lady
Freydis’ reception was in one of her favourite corners, an autumnal forest just
after sunset, with a soft glow in the west and the stars slowly coming out. A
faint mist hung around the roots of the huge oak trees and the air was heavy with
the spicy scent of fallen leaves. Toadstools sprouted in odd corners and acorns
were littering the floor with beechmast and fallen blackberries. A bonfire
crackled in a fire pit in the centre of the clearing with two pigs roasting
over it. Tables were heaped with apple pies glistening with sprinkled sugar,
gleaming sausages, jugs of cider and dark wine and wheels of cheese stacked
next to baskets of fresh bread and new butter. For the first time Lady Freydis
had allowed baked potatoes which were heaped in a dusty brown heap with more
butter and a heaping froth of grated cheese. There were discreet barrels of
craft beer, lager, and some smaller barrels of brandy and rum. There was even a
pallet of bottled water, stacked discreetly behind an oak trestle groaning with
roast chestnuts and dusty bottles of elderberry wine.
Steve and Darren stayed close. Darren had reluctantly
come as Jasmine’s ‘boyfriend’ and Steve was, of course, a member of Lady
Freydis’ court, but there was something going on and neither could quite follow
it. Ian and Kieran were making forced polite small talk, nodding and carefully
smiling. Every woman from the werewolf pack was clustered in quietly gossiping
groups, glancing around furtively and pausing when the men came too close. A
few of the men of the werewolf pack were looking equally bewildered and
throwing anxious glances around as they tried to get into the spirit of the
evening. Lady Freydis, her face like thunder, was having a low-voiced
discussion with Martin.
“What is going on?” Darren asked Steve
quietly. “Is it safe?”
Steve looked around. “I have no idea.” He
took a sip of his tonic water. “I think it has to be mainly safe. Ian would
never allow Jeanette, Adele or Jasmine here if it wasn’t.”
Jeanette, Adele and Jasmine were huddled
with Mrs Tuesday, Fiona and Elaine, all of them shooting anxious glances at
Ian. Darren started to feel worried. “I don’t know about dangerous, but I think
it’s going to be a pain in the neck.”
Ian looked like he was describing a car
route to Kieran. Steve noted the expressive hands pointing left and right and
the completely neutral expression as Kieran listened with carefully constructed
interest. “It’s the werewolves. There’s something happening in the werewolves.”
Darren took a deep breath. “Great. Jasmine
is finally feeling secure. I don’t want anything to upset her.” He frowned at
his mineral water.
“I don’t think she will be upset.” Jack
lounged up behind him, his eyes gleaming with mischief. “Lady Freydis is
furious, Ian and Kieran are working out how to hide how thrilled they are and
all the women will be worried that the men will be difficult.” Jack looked at
Steve and Darren’s blank expressions. “Jeanette is in an interesting condition.”
“What, is she ill?” Darren looked at
Jeanette who was looking pale and sitting on one of the comfortable wooden
benches strewn around the clearing.
“She’s expecting – she is pregnant.” Jack
grabbed a cup of spiced elderberry wine from one of the brownies circulating. “And
everything is suddenly complicated. You see, the head of a pack decides who
gets to have children, and transgressors are severely punished. Ian is the head
of a sub-pack and Kieran has to be fine with it. He is, of course. He’s very
proud of the work Ian has been doing and they have worked together extremely
well, though they don’t admit it. All the ladies are having fits about what Ian
will say and Lady Freydis is fuming.” Jack sighed happily. “She is failing to
have the happy Easter joint wedding that she desires, and Fiona is being firm
about having another ceremony.”
Steve looked at Darren. “Is the pregnancy
Darren shook his head. “I once married someone
who was in active labour. It wasn’t ideal, but I believed that they truly loved
each other and were committed to each other for their lifetimes. That’s my
line.” He grimaced. “I’m not keen on marrying divorcees. Lots are divorced for
good reasons and there is every reason to think that they will make it, but the
divorce rate for second marriages isn’t good and I worry.” He took another
mouthful of drink. “But who am I to refuse to bless the marriage? Won’t it be
better with God? I never know what to say.”
“And Ian was married before.” Steve said.
Darren nodded. “The divorce wasn’t
anything to do with the marriage. It’s just that he summoned a demon and the
pack kicked him out and insisted that he divorce his wife. I believe she has remarried.”
Jack looked impressed. “I didn’t think Ian
had it in him to summon a demon. My respect for him has grown.”
Darren ignored him. “Ian was uncomfortable
with a church ceremony anyway. His faith is important to him. I don’t doubt his
commitment to Jeanette, he’ll never leave her, and I don’t doubt her commitment
to him. But I think both Ian and me would prefer a quick civil ceremony and a
blessing. I’d feel privileged to bless their marriage.” He looked over at
Jeanette who was sitting miserably in the centre of a knot of anxious women. “And
to be fair to Jeanette, I don’t think she was keen on the big wedding either.”
Jack looked at Jeanette. “They will be
happy together.” For a moment he looked slightly wistful before grinning in
mischief. “And Adele will have a fancy wedding, just as her mother demands.”
“I don’t get to do many weddings.” Darren
said. “I’ve done more than my share of funerals, and a few baptisms, sometimes
in unusual situations, but I don’t seem to get many big weddings. And after
listening to Adele’s mother for five minutes, I’m grateful.”
“That bad?” Steve asked.
“She got upset when I wouldn’t put glitter
on the altar.” Darren said. “As in, literally stick glitter to the literal wood
of the alter. The woman is insane.”
“Hang on.” Jack said, standing straighter.
“Things are becoming interesting.”
A sudden chill shot through the air, and
every elfen stood bolt upright. Steve swore. Darren looked around. “What’s happening?”
“Someone wants to make an entrance.” Steve
Lady Freydis jumped to her feet as a
sudden curtain of snowflakes drifted across the clearing, hissing gently on the
roasting pigs. “How dare you!” she snapped. The snowflakes shifted into
golden ash leaves which the brownies hastily brushed away from the food.
A huge figure strode out of the shadows, a
man wearing a crimson tunic with dark breeches and a long fur cloak, followed
by a dozen men, all dressed much the same. He looked like some Viking, towering
over Lady Freydis and almost as broad as he was tall with flowing red hair
braided back and a thick, red beard. “I have come to claim my bride.”
“And who may that be, Eorl Brand?” Ice
dripped from Lady Freydis’ words.
“Do not play games with me.” Eorl Brand
strode closer to the fire. “You may be a fine lady, but you understand the
levers of power. You need a strong lord in York, and I do not hear of any
strong men in your court.”
There was a slight movement and then Lady
Freydis was surrounded by stern looking subjects. Kadogan and Atherton were on
either side of her and Martin and Jack loomed either side. Suddenly Ian and Kieran
were no longer looking neutral but instead were taking up a flank while Steve
and the senior boggarts were ranged on the other side. Lady Freydis smiled
coldly. “I have plenty of strength in my court, and plenty of subtlety. And
better courtesy than to walk into another’s domain and shift the weather. How dare
you? And how are you going to make amends?”
“My bride should have come to me already.”
Eorl Brand said. “I have ruled Nidderdale on your border for centuries. Now is
a time for to unite.”
Callum, in full fur, shot into the White
Hart, yelping frantically, following by – Fiona blinked – dozens of flying,
sparkling hearts about the size of her hand. They were twinkling and sparks
were falling everywhere as Callum ran frantically around the athame display
“We’re about to open!” Adele yelled. “We
can’t have this mess.”
Mrs Tuesday couldn’t stop laughing.
“Callum, stand still, they won’t hurt you.”
Fiona picked up a sheaf of flyers and
started wafting helplessly at the hearts. Dozens of them were in the shop now,
and the scent of roses was becoming intense. “What the hell is this?”
Mrs Tuesday was holding onto the counter,
crying with laughter. “Love letter.” She gasped out.
“I bet it was addressed to Lady Freydis.”
There was an indignant ‘Woof’ from Callum
as he skidded around the corner of the athame display case and headed towards
“Well I didn’t think you would open
something not addressed to the White Hart, but that’s what it looked like.”
“Annexe.” Mrs Tuesday managed to gasp out,
wiping tears of laughter from her face.
“But Lady Freydis isn’t here.” Fiona said.
“She’s setting up the feast for tonight.” She looked around. Not all of the
hearts were chasing Callum. Some were nestling together in the corner of the
room, shedding crimson sparks that thankfully disappeared before they landed on
anything. Others were perching on the edges of the bookcases and one or two
were hanging on the light fittings and casting unusual shadows. “Let’s get them
into the annexe. We can’t leave them out here.”
Jasmine came in from the back room.
“What’s been happening in the back room? It looks like there’s been a fight,”
she said, taking off her jacket and shaking out her apron. She looked around
and stopped dead, staring. “These are terrifying!”
Mrs Tuesday had nearly got control of
herself, but this set her off again. “Get them into the annexe.” She wheezed.
“I’m not going near any of them.” Jasmine
said, her eyes wide. “They smell weird.”
Callum was backed into a corner by the
herbs, his ears flat and his tail tucked between his legs. Adele ran over.
“I’ll get this.” She started swatting the hearts away, although they kept
dancing around as near as they could.
Fiona whistled for Armani. He flapped
slowly downstairs and then lurched in mid-air, before landing on Fiona’s
shoulder. “Bloody hell, miss, who sent that lot?”
“Help us get them into the annexe –
gently!” Fiona said. “Jasmine, stay in clothes. They aren’t going to hurt you.”
“Are you sure about that.” Jasmine was
almost frozen, her back pressed against the big fridge behind the counter. Mrs
Tuesday lost her grip on the counter and slid onto the floor in near hysterics.
It took some time to get the flapping
hearts into the annexe, where they settled around the room, humming gently.
“What are we supposed to do?” Fiona snapped as Mrs Tuesday, still sniggering,
started to switch on the grills. “We should have opened five minutes ago.”
“It’s all non-normals.” Adele peeked under
the blinds. “And I think someone wanted an audience.”
Callum got out of fur. “The box was
clearly addressed to the White Hart. I heard some movement and I double
checked. I don’t make the same mistake twice.” He glared at Armani.
“The kitten was fine.” Armani hunched down
Adele unlocked the door as Fiona wafted
the last heart into the annexe. A few of the customers gave Callum interested
looks, but most were used to naked werewolves and were more interested in the
hearts who were grouping together mid-air to form the shape of a rose. Callum
and Jasmine huddled together as the humming became more tuneful and the hearts
were singing, “To lovely Lady Freydis… to lovely Lady Freydis… from loyal Jack…
from loyal Jack…” With so many gathering at the White Hart for gossip, at least
twenty non-normals heard the gentle notes sung by the hearts who then sighed
and dissolved into a fine, rose scented powder scattered across the tables and
chairs. Jack strolled in a second later, bowing a graceful acceptance to the round
of applause from the audience.
“That box was addressed to the White
Hart.” Callum snarled at Jack.
“I know.” Jack grinned wickedly, looking
around the room.
“You should have at least put Lady
Freydis’ name on the parcel.” Callum said, giving Jasmine’s hand a brotherly
squeeze as she slowly started to relax.
“But Lady Freydis wasn’t the intended
audience.” Jack said. “These were.” He nodded to the non-normals queuing for
their drinks and chattering excitedly. “Don’t you think you ought to put some
Callum glared at him and stormed into the
back room, Jasmine following him.
Fiona looked at the mess over the floor.
“The brownies are going to really hate us.”
Fiona checked herself again in the mirror.
She had no idea what to wear for a Halloween event in an elfen domain. It
hadn’t been agreed what to call the event, either. Some were calling it
Halloween, others calling it Samhain and one or two were calling it a pain in
the neck. Lady Freydis had mentioned that the evening may be chilly so Fiona
was wearing a long, black velvet skirt and matching jacket with a dark grey
silk blouse and had a large woollen wrap over it all. It looked sombre.
“You look very pretty, miss.” Armani said,
from his perch on the mantelpiece.
“Thank you,” Fiona said, aware that a
fashion compliment from an imp with dirty jeans and a ragged t-shirt wasn’t
exactly an award, but it was the best that she was likely to get. She looked
around as Steve walked in. “What happened to your face?!”
“There were some minor issues.” Steve
glanced in the mirror and winced. A livid red mark ran up his neck and splashed
onto his cheek. “But we managed to hack the enchantment. All the skeletal hands
now look like cats.” He shuddered. “But I don’t want to go through that again.”
He glanced at the clock. “I’ll get a quick shower. I won’t be long.” He paused.
“I nearly forgot. This is Mercator and he’ll be on duty when we move to the new
He placed a large box on the table and rushed
into the bathroom. Armani flapped down. “Is this what I think it is, boss? For
“No, it’s a member of the household.”
Steve yelled through the bathroom door. “Be nice!”
Armani slowly lifted up the flaps of the
box and then grinned from ear to ugly ear. “Hello, Mercator. I’m Armani.”
What appeared to be a large ginger tom
hopped gracefully out of the box and onto the floor. It gave Armani a look of
utter disdain and started washing his face. Fiona bent down and tickled him
behind his ear.
“You’re actually a hand, aren’t you?”
Mercator looked at her carefully, then rubbed his chin against her hand before
going back to his wash. Armani was almost vibrating.
“It’s a cat! I’ve got a kitty!”
“It’s a skeleton hand disguised as a cat
that’s going to work with all of us in the new house.” Fiona knew she was
talking to empty air. “But why don’t you see if you can cuddle it.”
Armani took a deep, wheezy breath and
flapped slowly down to land next to Mercator. Mercator stopped washing and
stared deeply into the imp’s dark eyes. There was a long, anxious moment and
Fiona held her breath as the sound of Steve’s shower seemed to echo through the
house. Then Mercator leaned forward and gently touched his nose to Armani’s
nose before flopping down in front of Armani in a blatant invitation to a
Armani swallowed before gently scratching
Mercator’s head, a tear slowly trickling down his face. “I’ve got a kitty.”
Martin found Lady Freydis deep in her
fairy domain, sitting at the foot of a huge oak, leaning back, her arms clasped
around her legs. Stars wheeled above the clearing which was filled with oddly
shaped stones and tree stumps. Martin sat down next to her.
“This is where Ragnar’s funeral feast was
held, isn’t it?”
Lady Freydis looked around. “It’s where
you declared me Prince. So many people were watching to see what I would say,
whether anyone dared make a move against me, whether they could seize the
moment. But you stood with me, you and those from the White Hart. I felt I had
a shield wall for me.”
“You looked so beautiful.” Martin said. “I
remembered how you stood strong during the attack on Lord Ragnar and his halls.
I wonder how many people knew how much you had done all these years. Lord
Ragnar was lucky.”
Lady Freydis hugged her knees tighter. “I
have thought so much about it, how I loved him and he loved me, but we didn’t
know and what if we had?”
Martin slid an arm around her and Lady
Freydis snuggled close to him. He smiled sadly. “The saddest words in the world
are, ‘it might have been’.” His free hand closed over hers. “It’s from a poem I
read a long time ago. It’s very true.”
“I wonder if we really loved each other,
or loved the idea of each other?” Lady Freydis moved closer. “Whether we really
knew each other. Lord Ragnar hated that I could work with the fairy worlds.”
“Deep down, he was a great warrior and a
good man.” Martin said. “He is gone and it leaves a shadow. But this is now.
You have a wedding to plan.” He looked down at her. “You’re not planning on
having the wedding in the same place as Lord Ragnar’s funeral, are you?”
Lady Freydis laughed. “That would be quite
the insult to my husband, whoever he is. No, I will find somewhere else. I’m
practising with the Samhain feast next week. I’ve shaped some halls and I’m
planning wonderful decorations. It should be splendid. Everyone is invited.”
“It should be interesting. I shall enjoy
watching all your suitors.” Martin relaxed against the tree.
“I know who I’m going to pick.” Lady
Freydis said. “I’m just not saying anything until Easter, so I can have more
“What if he says ‘no’?” Martin said,
dropping a kiss on the top of his head.
Lady Freydis relaxed and snuggled closer.
“I’ll have to find a way to change his mind.”
Amani flapped awkwardly through the shop,
swaying and lurching in the air as the tabby cat he was clutching fought to
escape. Elaine watched as the cat defied all natural laws, nearly turned itself
inside out, spat, swore and caught Armani with a swipe that scratched across
his cheek and over his ragged and pointed ear before twisting free and
dropping. It shot into the back room.
Elaine turned to Dave. “Do cats like
Dave shrugged. “I suppose we can wait and
There was another indignant howl and the
cat shot back out, across the floor, ran up the bookcase, freaked as the books
it had dislodged clattered to the floor and started to race around the herbs.
Elaine rushed over to the door and opened it. The tabby saw its chance, ran across
a display of china fairies, and out through the door. Elaine leaned forward to
the small knot of non-normals waiting outside. “We’ll be open in around ten
minutes.” Before she could shut the door, however, Jack raced in followed by
four skeletal hands.
“I said I was sorry.” He yelled as he
raced towards the back room. “Lady Freydis, aid me!”
Adele stopped sweeping up the fragments of
the china fairies and watched with interest as Jack raced around the herb
racks, the hands in hot pursuit. “Lady Freydis isn’t here, something to do with
the Samhain feast.” She watched Jack vault over the case with the athames. “I
like working here. It’s a lot more interesting than the sandwich shop.”
Jack skidded into the café area where a
fifth hand tripped him. He landed with a bone shuddering thud. “I’m sorry! What
more can I say?”
The nearest hand jumped on Jack’s chest,
wagging a finger.
“I know! It’s not my fault.” Jack said. “I
can’t help what people say.”
The hand bounced.
“No, I can’t do that! I’d get into
The hand bounced again.
“That is quite unfair. I don’t get into
that sort of trouble. I get into interesting trouble.” Jack pushed himself up
into a sitting position but the hand clung to the front of his shirt. “I would
thank you for not repeating that.”
Callum stormed out of the back room and
glared at Jack. “Did you just send a cat down into the back room?”
“I am getting falsely accused of so many
crimes.” Jack said, gently disentangling the hand and setting it softly on his
shoulder. “The cat had nothing to do with me.”
“Cats do not like werewolves unless they
grew up with them.” Callum said. “It’s cruel to send a cat towards werewolves,
and I can’t stand cruelty.”
“It wasn’t me.” Jack said, getting slowly
to his feet. “I have my own issues.”
The hand tugged on his shirt collar.
“But what am I supposed to say? People are
“It was Armani.” Elaine said. “He still
wants a pet cat.”
Callum stared. “But he’s an imp. Cats
freak out at imps.”
Adele smiled at Callum, her heart in her
eyes, before remembering about the broken china. “Armani is just being
“Hang on,” Dave looked at Elaine. “When
that Leanne creature was impersonating you, she suggested making a glamour part
of the magic of the hands.” He looked at the bony hand on Jack’s shoulder.
“That could solve a lot of problems.”
Jack looked at the hand. “I don’t know if
that’s possible.” He said doubtfully. “I remember these creatures being created
and it was a complex magic.”
“What’s that?” Steve came out of the back
room. “Armani, you’re bleeding on the floor. You have to leave cats alone.”
Armani huddled down and took the tissue
Elaine held out to him. “Sorry boss. I just want a kitty.”
“Why?” Elaine asked.
Armani huddled lower. “It just feels
“You’re not going to eat it, are you?”
Armani looked offended. “Not at all, miss.
I just want a little companionship in my humdrum life.”
Steve looked at Jack. “Did you teach him
that?” Jack shrugged.
Dave looked at the hands jumping up and
down and tugging at Jack’s jeans. “The hands seem keen on the idea, and Armani
could have a sort of kitty. Everyone would be happy.”
Steve frowned. “That’s a tricky ask.” He
looked at Jack. “Did you create these?”
Jack shook his head. “An incredibly
talented sorcerer was overrun by mice and I believe he got drunk. The magic is
Steve pulled a magnifying glass from his
pocket and muttered a few words before pointing it at the hands, who jumped up
and down and made rude gestures. “Hang on.” Steve said. “If you want the magic
to show you as cats, you have to let people look at the magic.”
“They got out of control last time, but
no-one could deal with the magic.” Jack said. “I believe they were buried under
the floor of the paladin’s kitchen, in their old lair. What happened to it, by
“It blew up.” Steve said, peering through
the magnifying glass. “The magic is a mess. There are connections all over.”
“There is no need to be smug about it.”
Jack said to the hands. “It just complicates things.”
Adele wandered over to Callum and gave him
a brief hug before interrupting Jack and Steve. “We’re about to open the shop.
Can you take this to the back room?”
The hands shot across the floor into the
back room, followed by Armani, slowly flapping and holding a tissue to his
battered face. Elaine shook her head and then smiled.
“You are absolutely right, Adele. This is a lot better than working in a sandwich shop.”
I will be winding down the White Hart and ending this series soon. There are three main reasons. The most important is that it is interfering with writing other stuff within this setting. I have around three novels in the pipeline and I keep having to jiggle things around to keep things consistent with the White Hart. This is a nuisance, and is slowing things down. The second reason is that I am running out of good stories to tell here. There are still stories, and I may post occasional pieces over on ‘Always Another Chapter’ but I am worried about keeping up any sort of quality. I sometimes I look back and because I am always scrambling to publish weekly, I don’t always give the White Hart the care and love it should have. I feel like I let readers down. And don’t pretend you haven’t spotted spelling mistakes – I am mortified sometimes! The third reason is that it is taking time away from me writing other stuff that I could get paid for. If I hit a block with the White Hart, I end up spending my energy trying to work around it instead of shaking things up, because I want to aim for a Friday deadline.
This blog site is coming up for renewal in the next few months. Depending on how things are, I may not renew this site but instead find another way to make the content on here available without charge. I have had so much wonderful support on here, for which I am incredibly grateful, and I am not going to forget that. You are all awesome. Thank you!