Lady Freydis didn’t even flinch as Kadogan stepped out from a doorway, matching her step as she walked through York from the White Hart to her domain. “Kadogan, it is good to see that you are safe.”
“I am conflicted, Lady Freydis.” Kadogan said “I still mourn Lord Ragnar, but you need to marry. You should marry soon. I can feel the tension in the realms.”
“Is that why you came back?” Lady Freydis said, sliding gracefully through the crowds of tourists as she headed towards the Shambles. “To give advice.”
“To give counsel to the widow of a good friend, yes, I came back for that. And also to put right my mistakes.” Kadogan slipped almost unnoticed between a couple staring at the buskers as they crossed Parliament Square.
“What errors are those?” Lady Freydis looked at him with genuine curiosity. “You were loyal to your lord, you repaid your debt to Fiona Adderson, you gave great leadership in the White Hart – I cannot see an error.”
Kadogan sighed. “I can see many. I should have counselled Lord Ragnar in different ways.”
“We both tried, Kadogan.” Lady Freydis said quietly. “It was his fate. He was a good man who had faced cruel tricks.”
Kadogan managed a shrug. “And then there is the White Hart. I am not sure that I should have started that.”
Lady Freydis stopped dead and stared at him. Kadogan realised she had stopped two steps further on and had to turn around to see what had happened. Lady Freydis placed a tentative hand on his chest. “Are you well?” she asked. “Are you Kadogan?”
Kadogan hunched his shoulders and looked miserable. “Fiona Adderson is sad. I can feel her sadness as a deep well. She feels that Steve Adderson does not sufficiently love her due to the nature of their courtship. She also fears the influence of Elaine.”
“Elaine is lusting shamefully after the paladin, Dave Kinson.” Lady Freydis said, waving a dismissive hand. “It is quite outrageous how she is flirting, and it is reciprocated, I believe.”
“Fiona Adderson does not see it that way.” Kadogan said quietly. “She saved my life, but now she is sad.”
“I can feel her pain when she sees Adele and Jeanette reading through wedding magazines.” Lady Freydis said. “And I must also take some blame for that.” She suddenly looked smaller. “She has a kind heart and has never flinched.”
“I must take action, and I urge you to take action as well.” Kadogan said. “But I do not know what that action should be.”
“We will take counsel, among the fae.” Lady Freydis said firmly. “Both Steve Adderson and Fiona Adderson are well liked. Between us, how can we get it wrong?” She looked at the hesitation in Kadogan’s face. “You and I have separately made bad decisions, but the wisdom of a fairy council is deep.”
“Do you think we should consult Mrs Tuesday?” Kadogan asked.
“Hmm?” Lady Freydis looked thoughtful. “No, she is busy with the weddings and her nephew. Besides, this is our error and it is our duty to put it right. We will take council tonight.”
Darren sat quietly in a corner amidst the bustle of York Minster. It was a good place to go when he needed to be undisturbed as none of the locals he knew came to the Minster on a regular basis. He watched the tourists taking their time around the amazing architecture, reading the plaques and memorials and getting lost in the medieval stained glass. He wasn’t likely to be disturbed.
For the first time in years, he didn’t know what to do. His certainty had kept him alive in Afghanistan, Iraq and a few other places that he wasn’t supposed to talk about. It had kept him safe in battles against ghosts, demons and malevolent non-normals. Now he was dating a werewolf that was far too young for him and had had an unwilling elfen forced into the role of servant as a sort of compensation for a misplaced love potion.
It was a mess. Darren loved Jasmine completely. He had never felt like this before and couldn’t imagine feeling like this again. These feelings had started long before the mix up with the potion but before his drink was spiked he had been strong enough to resist them. Now he wasn’t sure if he could do the right thing and give Jasmine a chance to live her life. She deserved better than him.
Then there was Egerton. Darren had braced for the sort of mischief an elfen could manage. Any elfen could make a three act tragedy out of a request to pass the sugar, and anything more complicated would be creatively misunderstood until the poor normal went mad. However Lady Freydis had extorted a promise that Egerton would serve Darren properly and in good faith, and Darren was now bewildered by Egerton’s attempts at genuine helpfulness. Egerton had even learned to use the washing machine.
Darren bent his head. So where did that leave him? He was a minister of the church and an exorcist, with a werewolf for a girlfriend and a magical being as a servant. All he could do was pray and hope.
Dave chose his moment. Elaine had finished serving the last customer, the shop was empty and Lady Freydis had gone with Mrs Tuesday to clear the tables in the annexe. He swooped in from the space behind the till and kissed Elaine quickly on her cheek.
Elaine jumped and, after a quick check to see if it was all clear, turned around and kissed him on his lips. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Dave grinned. “Are we still on for tonight?”
“You haven’t told anyone, have you?”
Dave shook his head. “It’s completely our secret.” He said. “I’ll bring in wine, you get pizza and we can stay in and chill, away from the crowds. Just us.”
Elaine sighed happily. “I’ve seen what’s happened to the romances here. Jeanette and Adele are fine, but Fiona is still upset about missing out on the wedding she wanted. It’s not like she wanted anything too fancy. She just wanted a choice.”
Dave nodded. “We keep this quiet.”
“And you’ve definitely got the night off?” Elaine asked.
“Absolutely.” Dave kissed Elaine quickly. “Luke has promised that he’ll be keeping an eye out. But it’s all quiet. Even the goblins down near Fulford have been behaving.” He jumped away from Elaine as Ian came racing in.
“Dave, you’ve got to come with us tonight.”
“What?” Dave tried to look casual as he stepped away from Elaine.
“Luke thinks he’s found the nest of those skeletal hands.” Ian said. “There’s an abandoned chapel on the edge of York, not far from the old paladin’s house, and Luke says it’s absolutely full of them. Well, full of moving hands, dead rats and disjointed arm bones.”
“Lovely.” Elaine said. “I’m glad I’m staying at the shop.”
“Darren thinks we should spend some time observing.” Ian shrugged. “I thought a few gallons of petrol and a few matches would be a better way, but who knows.”
Dave carefully didn’t look at Elaine. “No problem. Are we going there now?”
Ian shook his head. “No, Luke thought we would be better going after dark, just in case. We don’t want to worry the neighbours.” He turned to Elaine. “By the way, Dave doesn’t like chicken on pizza, he prefers ham or pepperoni. Thought you would want to know.” He grinned at Dave’s appalled expression. “I’ll meet you at the new citadel tonight, around eight.” And he jogged out of the shop.
Just a note – I will be changing up the format of the White Hart over the coming months. In part it’s because I have had a real struggle with some of the characters which led to the huge break we have had, and also to make sure that I leave enough room for my other writing. I hope you will still enjoy the stories. Let me know what you think.