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 fun.”
“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 werewolves?”
Dave shrugged. “I suppose we can wait and see.”
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 trouble.”
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 so unreasonable.”
“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 awkward.”
“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 right, miss.”
“You’re not going to eat it, are you?” Elaine asked.
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 quite…”
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 the way?”
“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!