Gift

Image from Unsplash, taken by Thom Holmes

You can read the story from the beginning here

“What are you doing here?”

Noah jumped and then turned around with a sigh of relief. “Umbran! I’m so glad to see you. I thought I got the right door to go to the corner of the library that deals with beverages but I think that I took a wrong turn.”

Umbran nodded. “At least I can’t miss you.” He patted the bright yellow jacket. “And you stayed on the path.

Noah looked around the winter road and shivered. “I was warned, but I didn’t expect it.”

“You are in dangerous parts,” Umbran said. “Perhaps it would be a good idea to have someone take you to and from the library.”

Noah looked around and nodded. “Yes, I think that it would.” He pulled the coat closer around him. “So, which way is out?”

Umbran checked up and down the road. “This isn’t strictly part of Lady Freydis’ domain. Some parts are more… mutable than others. I’ll tell her about it so that she can sort it out.” He sniffed the air. “You can’t just follow the road. Instead, you have to push through the weak spots. You can’t get out unless you have some skill and inclination. Think of it as a trap or even a creature that preys on unwary travellers.”

“Excuse me!” a voice called out.

Noah and Umbran turned towards the woods as a figure stumbled out onto the road. “Hello?” Noah said cautiously.

“Hello there.” A tall, broad shouldered man strode across the road and held out a hand. “I’m Lord Devlin Farnley, from just south of Leeds, in Yorkshire. I’m deuced glad to see you. I’m afraid I’m a little lost.”

Umbran introduced them. “How did you find yourself here? And where are you going?”

Lord Devlin hesitated. “After these last few weeks, I’m not sure if I should trust you, but I suppose that I haven’t much to lose.” He looked up and down the dark road. “I got a gift that brought me to Fairyland. I won’t say I wasn’t happy to get it, and it’s been a wondrous adventure, but I really should be getting back.”

“A gift?” Noah asked.

Lord Devlin grinned. “Well, that’s what he called it. A man calling himself Lord Cerdig showed me a way in to these strange lands. We’d travelled back from London together after celebrating the coronation.” He looked around again. “I don’t suppose we can start on the way out? If you’re willing to be so kind?”

“Of course,” Umbran said. “Follow me.” He led the men along the road a little before it twisted and dawn light started streaming through the branches. “So you’d been to the coronation?”

“Damn, that’s better,” Lord Devlin said. “Dawn always looks good in these strange lands. Yes, I’d been to see the coronation and catch up with a few old friends from my army days. I’ll miss Sailor Billy, I won’t deny it.”

“Sailor Billy?” Noah asked, taking a deep breath of what was now spring air.

Lord Devlin grinned. “Good King William IV. And he was a better king than many. I don’t know how long that slip of a girl will last on the throne, and Victoria’s no name for a queen. It should be Elizabeth or Mary or something. Anyway, we’d been gaming most of the journey back from London and he’d had a run of rotten luck. I’d just about cleaned him out.” He stretched as the sun started to warm them on the walk along the brightening road. “I think I must have taken over a hundred guineas from him. But he was sporting enough and said he’d give me a gift to show that there were no hard feelings.”

“What sort of gift?” Umbran asked quietly.

“He said he’d show me the way into Fairyland. And I was all for it, you know. But I was only planning on staying a few days. It must be over a month now and I’ve had some rare adventures. But it’s time for me to go home. My family will wonder where I am.”

 “You have been here some time.” Umbran put a steady hand on Lord Devlin’s shoulder. “Time runs in strange ways in Fairyland. You’ve been here for over a hundred years.”

Lord Devlin froze for a moment. “I suppose he was a devil of a sore loser,” he said. “It’s been an adventure and I’m glad I’ve had it, but…” He swallowed and turned around to look at the sunny meadows either side as they approached a dark oak door. “It’s funny, you know. The word gift in German means poison.”

This chapter is in response to Writing Prompt Number 20

Writing Prompt 23

Photo by Frank Eiffert on Unsplash

Quotation:

Patience is the companion of wisdom – St Augustine

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Prayer Book

You can read the story from the beginning here

“You should have gone in with Noah,” Kadogan said. “It’s not like you can’t go into a church.”

“I have often attended religious services,” Lady Freydis said. She leant against the churchyard wall and fixed her eyes on the church door.

“It is an extremely pleasant day,” Kadogan said. “You could walk among the graves and perhaps converse with any ghosts.”

“Ghosts are self-indulgent,” Lady Freydis said, keeping well outside the churchyard wall.

“So are you,” Kadogan brushed a dandelion seed off his shirt sleeve.

“So obviously I don’t want to talk to them,” Lady Freydis said. “Are you going to relocate the White Hart?”

“No,” Kadogan said. “Why did you send in Noah alone?”

“Because Mina is inexperienced and naïve and ministers are not always saints,” Lady Freydis said. “Are you going to close the White Hart?”

“No,” Kadogan said. “Some ministers are saints. Any woman would be safe with Darren.”

“Darren is not a saint,” Lady Freydis said. “And he is moving away. And you are talking about moving the White Hart away.”

Kadogan looked at her suspiciously. “What are you asking Noah to do?”

“I need a book,” Lady Freydis said. “And it is owned by that church.”

“Steve suggests opening a second shop away from York,” Kadogan said. “Because it’s hard to find space in York and once the candles are being made, with possible soap, there will be an even greater demand for space.”

“But I couldn’t make coffee away from York,” Lady Freydis said.

Kadogan looked at her with as much compassion as any elfen could manage. “The White Hart in York could never manage without you.” He brushed a stray blossom from her shoulder. “You would be here and the keeper of the coffee machine that you train will be there.” He watched as Lady Freydis relaxed an infinitesimal amount. “Why do you want the book and why can’t you get it.”

Lady Freydis couldn’t meet his eyes. “I feel uncomfortable for wanting the book,” she admitted. “It has writing in that is less than… Darren would not approve of the writing. I couldn’t make myself approach.”

“Darren approves of little,” Kadogan observed. “Here is Noah.” He watched as Noah chatted easily to the vicar before wandering over to them.

Noah knocked dust off his shirt and grinned. “That is a cute church. I’ve never seen anything so…” He looked back at the stone chapel. “I’m sure that there’s been problems, but it looks like a church where they really do religion – like faith, you know, not just words.”

Kadogan glanced over at Lady Freydis. “The diocese has always been encouraged to place good ministers here. Did you get the book?”

Noah knocked some more dust from his jeans. “It took a while to find. They don’t use this prayer book anymore so I had to dig through the old cupboards. In the end there were some packing cases under the dais in the church hall and I found this in the third one.” He handed over the nondescript book. “The vicar doesn’t mind if I go back and have another look if it isn’t the right one,” he added. “And I’m tempted to make him a deal. There’s a market for old prayer books.”

Kadogan looked interested. “Perhaps we should speak to Steve. He is the master of trading.”

“And Mina is knowledgeable about books,” Lady Freydis said. “Did you pay a fair price for the book?”

Noah nodded. “The vicar didn’t want to take money off me, so I bunged twenty quid into the donation box. I’ll check online when we get back to get a sense of the value and I can always send more.” He watched as Lady Freydis frantically flicked through the small book. “Some of the older ones would be in demand for the Instagram market. Some could be cut up for crafts. The market for that is growing as well.”

Lady Freydis pulled a face as she leafed through. “That sounds far too disrespectful,” she said, then sighed with relief. “This is the correct book.”

Kadogan leaned over her shoulder to read the strange writing. “So that’s what you’re up to,” he said. “It’s a risky endeavour. Darren would not approve at all. And the thought of it meant that you couldn’t approach a church.” He raised an eyebrow. “That should tell you something.”

Lady Freydis waved a dismissive hand. “It’s just a mental block. And I won’t be dissuaded.”

This story was inspired by Writing Prompt Number 19

Stickers

Photo by Fiona Murray on Unsplash

You can read the story from the beginning here

Sir Thomas, newly created Knight Templar and defender against vampires, werewolves, boggarts and miscellaneous dark creatures, peeled off a shocking pink unicorn sticker from his face as he followed Dave into the Paladin’s Citadel. “Is it always like that?” he asked.

Dave led the way past the study and dining room to the kitchen. “I stay away from drink, usually, but today is worth a beer.” He peeled off a bright orange star sticker from the back of his hand before opening the fridge and pulling out a beer to hand to Sir Thomas. “It could have been worse.” He took a beer for himself.

Sir Thomas popped the tab and took a long drink, absently pulling a rainbow stick from his hair. “It wasn’t really the stickers,” he said. “It’s more the way Miss Marianne threw a table at Kadogan.” He opened the fridge and pulled out a prepared casserole. “And it wasn’t even the table flying two inches about my head. It’s more the gleam in Kadogan’s eye when he chased Miss Marianne out of there.” He looked at Dave. “Is it safe to eat a casserole made by a boggart?”

“It’s not only safe, it’s a necessity,” Dave opened a cupboard and pulled out plates. “Mrs Tuesday is an amazing cook. Even better, she lives to feed us up. I hand over money on a Friday and I get home cooked goodies all week. Mind you, Mrs Anderson and Mrs Cadwallader are pretty good as well. I think they collude on it.”

Sir Thomas gave the casserole a doubtful look before piercing the cling film and sliding into the microwave. “I’m not sure about eating something that’s part collusion.” He took another long draught of his beer and set the timer. “What was going on between Lady Freydis and Umbran?”

Dave set the plates down onto the kitchen table. “I’m not exactly sure,” he said. “I think it goes something like this. Lady Freydis is in charge of the non-normals in York and she’s currently feuding with Lord Cerdig. Umbran has been the power behind Lord Cerdig for around 150 years now. Lord Cerdig would have sunk long ago without Umbran’s support. But now Umbran is here and saying that he wants a change and Lady Freydis is suspicious.”

Sir Thomas dug out the cutlery. “I’d be suspicious,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t have him in the shop.”

“But if Umbran’s in the shop, Lady Freydis can keep an eye on him and try and pry out what he’s up to,” Dave said. He drained the last of his beer. “I normally never have two beers, but Luke has us covered tonight and I think it’s worth it.”

Sir Thomas watched the microwave as it counted down. “When I came to York, I expected to be confronting dark horrors and sinister beings. Today has been…”

“It’s a hell of a first day,” Dave said. “Noah got pulled into the argument about candles, Kadogan was flirting with Miss Marianne, Mrs Tuesday didn’t help when she was arguing about the new range of coffee flavoured muffins and Lady Freydis was being deliberately disruptive with the stickers. She knew that Kadogan wanted classic styling for the candle range.”

“What were Fiona and Steve arguing about?” Sir Thomas asked. “They’re co-owners with Kadogan. Surely they should be leading things.” He picked up a serving spoon. “Or does anything happen as a result of planning.”

Dave watched Sir Thomas dish up two large servings of lamb casserole. “Nothing happens here as a result of careful planning,” he said, grabbing the ketchup and two more beers from the fridge. “Remember, I’m the Tarot Reader and I don’t believe in Tarot cards.” He set the beers and ketchup on the table. “I’ve no idea what Fiona and Steve are up to. I’m more worried about Lady Freydis.”

Sir Thomas quickly washed his hands in the kitchen sink and several more stickers fell into the water. “You mean when she threw the small hurricane of stickers?”

“No, that’s not usual but it’s not worrying. She’s a powerful elfen and you can expect a few demonstrations of her capabilities now and again. My concern is that she’s collecting a certain set of books that seem unrelated to each other and I’ve heard her talking with Steve about picking up so magical supplies that we don’t usually carry. The White Hart caters to practically every magical tradition out there. We stock everything. She’s up to something and I don’t know what.” Dave followed Sir Thomas and washed up before sitting opposite the Knight Templar, shedding a few stickers from his t-shirt. “The pink hurricane was a response to Umbran’s compliments on the rockery.”

“I heard him say that there was a nice rockery,” Sir Thomas said. “I saw it on the way out and it’s pretty good. I like a bit of gardening and to get that sort of growth and have the rocks weathered like that takes skill and time. It looks like someone has devoted themselves to that feature for years and it’s worth it.”

“Lady Freydis is scarily powerful,” Dave said. “You don’t get to be the prince of a domain being good with stickers.” He added a liberal amount of ketchup. “You want to know about dark horrors and sinister beings? That rockery wasn’t there this morning.”

This story was written in response to Writing Prompt Number 18

Writing Prompt Number 22

Photo by Josh Duke on Unsplash

Quotation:

There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their words – Robert Frost

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Happy April 23rd

It was a cold, wet and miserable night, the sort that chills you to the bone and soaks you through. Fred bitterly regretted his decision to try and get ahead of his work as his battered car was wheezing up the hills and the engine temperature was nudging upwards. His phone was out of charge, he was tired and hungry and he was pretty sure that he was lost.

There was a brief glimmer of hope as he spotted a pub and he pulled up outside with a sigh of relief. The only lights light up the sign of the George and Dragon and the doors were shut up, but at least it was somewhere to stop. The rain chilled him to the bone as he banged hard on the door. Above him, a window opened and a woman stuck her head out. “We’re closed!”

“Can you make an exception, love,” he called up. “I’m happy to pay – I’m on expenses. I won’t be any bother and it’s a brutal night out here.”

“No exceptions!” The woman shouted down. “I know your sort! You’ll nick nuts from behind the bar and leave the taps running. Go away!”

“Please, missus, it’s freezing out here. My car needs a break and I’ve no charge on my phone. I promise I won’t be a bother.”

“Go away!” The woman said and slammed the window shut.

Fred stepped back for a minute, exhaustion sweeping through him. He looked up at the pub sign. St George didn’t seem to be bothered by the cold rain as he perpetually spitted the twisting dragon. He thought for a moment, then turned back to the pub and banged again on the door. The window flew open again.

“I told you, go away!” The woman yelled.

Fred shook his head. “This place is the George and Dragon, right? Well I’ve spoken to the dragon, and now I want to speak to George.”

Writing Prompt Number 21

Quotation:

The best way out is always through – Robert Frost

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

A Different Problem

You can read the story from the beginning here. While there are references to characters that have appeared in previous stories. You don’t need to know about those characters to enjoy this instalment.

“So how are you coping with this?” Noah asked as he escorted Mina through the arched tunnel that was the new short cut between the library and the café annexe.

Mina wrinkled her nose. “Working with the candles is chaotic. Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming but sometimes it’s fun.” She grinned happily up at him. “But I’m getting caught up in the arguments between Kadogan and Miss Marianne and while that’s entertaining, I’m not getting much done.”

“Didn’t she throw a steel wax melting jug at him?” Noah asked.

Mia nodded. “He ducked so it got dented and then she burst into tears and flounced off. I think that they’re flirting.”

“Seriously?” Noah shifted the box of books in his arms. Lady Freydis had been very clear that he needed books for the chaotic research. “Whatever happened to just going for a drink?”

“Elfen have their own ways,” Mina said. “And with them both being obsessed with candles, it gives them something to bond over. And at least it takes the attention away from Martin.”

Noah nodded and then stopped at the arch between the annexe and the main shop. Mrs Tuesday was furious.

“You march in here, throwing accusations around, giving out orders like lord of creation, when you’re nothing but a snotty nosed, jumped up, piece of…”

“I can take it from here,” Fiona said, walking past Mrs Tuesday and glaring at the stranger.

Noah assessed the scene. A stranger was ignoring Mrs Tuesday’s glare and looking around. It was still an hour before opening and while he knew in theory that Lady Freydis and Mrs Tuesday weren’t the helpless ladies that they appeared to be, Fiona was definitely vulnerable. He pushed himself between Fiona and the stranger. He didn’t want this man to think that the ladies were an easy target. “What’s going on?”

“This is Sir Craig,” Mrs Tuesday spat. “A Knight Templar and scum of the earth.”

“This man is being difficult,” Lady Freydis said. “And he says that he’s from the government this time.”

“We’ve been through this before,” Fiona said. “We have all the permits for the new candle business…”

“And possibly soap,” Lady Freydis added.

“Everything will be done in accordance with the rules and regulations,” Fiona added.

“There is concern about you running these establishments while being understaffed,” Sir Craig said. “I’ve come across a few complaints from people about your attitude to shoplifters.” He gazed straight at Noah. “And if there aren’t enough bodies in the shop then shoplifting is more likely to happen.” He looked at Lady Freydis. “And more chance of someone accidentally wandering into the Fairy realm without anyone realising. I’ve had a few words with Dave and I’m not happy about how you added this extra room.”

“You leave Dave alone!” Mrs Tuesday snarled. “He’s a good lad that can do without your interference.”

“I know that you’re running short staffed, especially now that Jasmine has moved to Leeds,” Sir Craig said. “And I know that even with your new colleague, Mina, the brownies have their hands full working for Kadogan and Miss Marianne. You usually call on Adele, but she’s got caught up in her family business and Elaine is rushed off her feet keeping up with Dave. Half of the werewolf pack that would help out got drafted to help out that ongoing issue in Otley and the brownies are always booked up.” He sighed. “I want to help. I’m not here to cause trouble.”

Mrs Tuesday snorted. “That makes a change.”

Sir Craig cast a wary glance at her. “As you know, sometimes the Knights Templar get fixated on one type of non-normal. It can lead to complications.” He looked around, unafraid but guarded. “If we could have a regular placement here for our Squires who are training, it could help give them a more rounded look.”

Mrs Tuesday narrowed her eyes. “Are you trying to stop another incident like Jason.”

Sir Craig looks straight at Mrs Tuesday. “Sir Jason was my comrade and like a brother to me. We got things wrong. You may not believe me, but I’m glad that he’s getting his best life.”

“I’ll have to discuss this with Steve and Kadogan,” Fiona said. “I’m not sure that some of our clients would appreciate having Knights Templar on the premises.”

“I’m not sure if some of your knights will be happy washing up and stocking shelves,” Mrs Tuesday said.

“You’re short of staff and have a limited number of people who could work here.” Sir Craig said. “Who else is going to apply?”

The bell on the door rang and everyone instinctively turned towards the sound. “I’ll apply,” Umbran said.

This post was written in response to Writing Prompt Number 17

Outside

You can read the story from the beginning here – Back at the White Hart

“The thing is,” Lord Cerdig said as he paced in front of the illusory fire. “The thing is, she’s never given me a chance.”

Umbran watched him impassively. “I fail to see what I can do,” he said. “She’s elfen, old, powerful, unpredictable and skilled. She also has a devoted husband and loyal allies.”

“That White Hart thing has brought so much power and influence to York,” Lord Cerdig grumbled. “Ragnar was weak and ready to fall, but now…” He looked around him. “I need you to help me.”

“And what can you offer me in return?” Umbran asked.

“Dammit, I don’t like talking about this sort of thing,” Lord Cerdig said. “But when it all comes down…” He paced around Umbran’s study. “You’ve stayed buried under Warrington for over a century. You stay in your three rooms and worry. I know that you get all the books and papers, and I know that you have the internet. But it’s not much of a life.” Lord Cerdig poked an angry finger at him. “I’m supposed to be your prince, the one who looks after his people. The loyalty is supposed to go both ways. I’m supposed to look after you.”

“I’m happy here,” Umbran said.

“No you’re not,” Lord Cerdig contradicted. “You feel safe, away from all the scary things that you imagine up there.” He frowned. “Don’t make me talk like this. It isn’t natural. Just go and speak to Lady Freydis. It won’t kill you.”

Umbran looked up at the dim ceiling. He wasn’t an elfen, not exactly, but he had more than enough power to carve out this tiny domain, safe away from the worry of what the normals would do next. “I may not be happy, but I am not unhappy.”

“Don’t tell anyone that I’m this sentimental, but try and imagine being happy instead,” Lord Cerdig snapped. “As your prince, I’m ordering you to go and speak to Lady Freydis. And yes, I know that I can’t force you but I’m saying it anyway.” He grimaced. “And this planner is supposed to help with anxiety. Try using it.” He pulled a flowery notebook from his pocket and slapped it into Umbran’s unresisting hand. “I swear I’m going soft. But dammit, just go outside.” He spun on his heel and left Umbran to his imagination.

This chapter is inspired by Writing Prompt Number 16

Writing Prompt Number 20

Image from Unsplash, taken by Thom Holmes

Quotation:

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind – William Shakespeare

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!