Watch and Wait

Richard looked out of the study window and sighed. The light was fading and the rain was setting in. Autumn was already rolling around. He watched Mike’s Range Rover pull up and saw him walk towards the kitchen door. It shouldn’t be up to him and Mike, but what was the alternative? He was a vampire, Mike was a werewolf, but they were the ones that would be protecting normals from non-normals. There should be a paladin and a prince, but there weren’t. There was just him and Mike.

The study door opened and Mike came in. “It’s rough weather out there.”

“It is indeed. And someone or something is lost out there,” Richard said, waving Mike to one of the comfortable leather armchairs near the fire. “I’m sure that the problem is a non-normal.”

“It has to be a brownie,” Mike said, sinking into the chair with a sigh.

“You’ve found something?” Richard asked.

“I’ve not had a chance to look. We’ve been tied up with a new build down by Mytholmroyd, and there’s a problem with the foundations. I haven’t had a chance to think. But what else could it be? Someone homeless doing chores for food?”

“I wish I knew,” Richard said. “But you know how the gossip runs around the area. Someone is breaking into houses, cleaning them, taking food and leaving without a trace. I don’t know many normals who can do that, or who would want to.”

Mike looked uncomfortable. “Times are getting hard, Richard.”

“We both know that,” Richard said. “But it’s the ease of getting in and out. No locks are forced and no windows broken. There isn’t even a record on alarms or door cameras. There’s no damage done, so it couldn’t be a boggart.” He thought for a moment. “Well, it’s unlikely to be a boggart. Your pack haven’t sniffed out a strange werewolf and a vampire wouldn’t have much use for food.”

“I’ve never heard of a rogue brownie before,” Mike said. “They’re usually law abiding, quiet and their cleaning services are booked up for years. Most of them have more money than you and me! Not that they do anything with it.”

“Not all of them have money,” Richard said. “There was that family over in Todmorden, and there was a whole group of them that lost their savings to the djinn, you know the ones, the Bestwich family, over near Sowerby Bridge. It was heart-breaking.”

Mike grunted. “Yes, but you got most of the money back for them and explained to the djinn what would happen if he tried it again around here.”

“I hope the paladin gets here soon,” Richard said as the door opened. Carol walked in with a tray.

“What’s a paladin?” she asked.

“It’s complicated,” Richard said.

“You may see them first,” Mike said. “You are out and about quite a lot.” He looked apologetically at Richard. “She needs to know. After all, it’s likely to be centred around here.”

“What is?” Carol set out two cups and saucers and looked warily between the two men.

Richard sighed and watched her pour the tea. “In brief, most areas have a prince, someone who keeps the non-normals like Mike and I in order, and a paladin, someone who protects the normals from the non-normals. Our prince is Lord Henry, but he hasn’t been seen since…”

Carol looked at him as he tracked back through his memories. “Is he a vampire?”

“No, not at all!” Richard said. “He’s an elfen – think psychotic nature spirit with impulse control issues and a lot of power. The princes all have domains in the Otherworld – think Fairyland – and Lord Henry retreated there after he returned from the battle of Corunna.” He saw Carol’s blank look and flicked through the internet on his phone. “1809, according to this. It was one of the battles of the Napoleonic Wars.”

“I’ve only seen him a few times,” Mike added. “To be honest, I think that he’s fading.”

Carol frowned. “What about the paladin?”

Richard ran a weary hand over his face. “Something, some higher power, appoints a paladin. It’s usually someone ex-army or police who understand about patrols and stuff. The last one was Makepeace Chambers. He was a good man.”

“When did he leave?” Carol asked.

“He died,” Richard said with soft sadness. “I was sorry when his time came, but he had a good life and a long one and he passed quietly.” He thought for a moment. “I think it was about the time of Queen Victoria’s coronation.”

Carol looked between the two of them. “So shouldn’t there be another one after that?”

Richard looked helplessly at Mike who looked at Carol. “No-one turned up. That’s what happens, they just turn up.”

Carol thought for a moment. “Why do you think one is coming now?”

“Nathan has had premonitions,” Richard said flatly.

“And there’s almost certainly going to be a new prince soon,” Mike added. “There’s going to be a lot of stuff going on for the non-normals, so it makes sense that a paladin will be around, to keep it out of the papers.”

Carol looked between the two men. “What about Paul, at the cottage? Could he be the paladin?”

Richard shook his head. “There are two reasons he couldn’t. First of all, he replied to a job advert. No paladin would turn up just for a job. And, while he is great at working with the papers, that’s all he does. He’s a clerk. Clerks don’t become paladins.”

Mike nodded. “There was a boggart over at Leeds that got into some bad mullein and it took half the local werewolf pack, a couple of elfen and a vampire to stop it from ripping up the town centre. A clerk can’t deal with that.”

Carol looked at him blankly. “I’ll take your word for it.” She hesitated for a moment. “It’s not likely to get scary, is it? I mean, there’s not going to be too much weird stuff?”

Richard shrugged. “I may have lived centuries, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It should be a peaceful handover, but with Lord Henry already so faded, it’s unpredictable.”

“Don’t worry,” Mike said. “We’ll look after you. Besides, you’ve already fought off a demon.”

“I don’t want to be reminded of that,” Carol said tartly. “So some paladin is going to turn up and you want me to keep an eye out. What should I look for?”

“I have no idea anymore,” Richard said. “We just have to watch and wait. They will probably be male and who looks like they can handle themselves and keep calm in a crisis. They may have a sword tattoo visible. And someone who’s ready to fight vampires and werewolves.”

“Not on these clean carpets,” Carol said.

“And that reminds me,” Richard said. “The Phantom Cleaner is probably a brownie that’s gone rogue. If you see anyone, be careful, but if you can point them in the direction of me or Mike, we’ll look after them.” He caught Carol’s speculative look. “And I couldn’t be a paladin. Vampires can’t.”

“Dinner will be in half an hour,” Carol sniffed, and left.

Mike waited until the door snapped shut behind Carol and looked thoughtfully at Richard. “But there’s no reason that you can’t be a prince.”

The full story so far can be read here

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