Unwelcome Instructions

Mike was head of the local werewolf pack, and not easily intimidated. He still stayed close to Richard, the senior of the two local vampires as they stepped into Lord Henry’s domain. The tunnel was dark compared to the daylight on the moors above, and the air was heavy and thick compared to the sharp wind they had left behind when they entered Fairyland. “This place smells dead,” Mike said.

Richard nodded. “I don’t have your senses, but there’s not much life down here.” He looked around. “I’ve been in other domains with marble stairs and fine tapestries. This is…”

Mike aimed his torch down at the rough floor of the tunnel, then flashed it around. “It’s like an old mine. It never used to be like this,” he said. “I remember it being like a Tudor house.

Richard aimed his own torch around and nodded. “I first saw it as a Norman keep, but now it’s more like the caves south of here, in the Peak District.”

“It’s a large domain.” A voice floated out of the darkness. “It stretches from Skipton in the north down to Ashbourne in the south, with Leeds and Sheffield to the east and Manchester in the west. It’s the wild spine, or it was. And, as ever, my court reflects all of my domain as well as my mind. Come closer.”

Richard and Mike exchanged looks and headed towards the voice. The tunnel wound slowly round and opened into a dimly lit cavern. It was wide and rough walled, with wooden benches gathered around a fire pit that sent smoke and sparks up into the darkness. Tapers were wedged in cracks in the rock and gave a little light and added to the dancing shadows. Lord Henry sat facing the entrance, looking thin and stooped. A few gaunt looking elfen lounged around the fire and a goblin tended a spit at the side where some rabbits were turning. The werewolf and vampire bowed respectfully. Richard straightened and forced a calm expression. “Good day, my lord.”

Lord Henry sighed deeply and waved a languid hand. In the shadowed cavern, the cloth of his coat shimmered between a Regency coat and a medieval cloak. “Greetings. Sit and be welcome. You may eat and drink freely here without fear or favour.” He smiled thinly at Richard. “That is, if there is anything here that you would eat.”

“I am grateful for the kind thought,” Richard said smoothly.

Lord Henry looked Mike up and down. “No doubt your puppy would like some bones?” He laughed at Mike’s suddenly fixed expression. “I jest only.” He sighed heavily and waved towards the logs. “Please sit with me and my last few counsellors.”

Richard and Mike took seats and looked at the hopeless expressions of the elfen around them. “You summoned us, my lord,” said Richard. “How may we aid you?”

“I loathe Halifax,” Lord Henry said. “Our kind, the waifs and strays of our shadow world…” He glanced at Mike’s rigid features. “No offence, Michael Dixon, no offence. But as I was saying, I put a ward around Halifax so that our kind would be deterred from visiting. They would find it easy to leave, but hard to enter.” There was a long pause as Lord Henry stared at the fire, lost in thought, before he shook himself and continued. “The ward should be removed. It has no place in these modern days. Alas, I have misremembered my magic and I cannot think how to remove it.”

“I have some skill in magic,” Richard said respectfully. “It will be my pleasure to remove that ward.”

Lord Henry nodded. “I know, Richard Dark, I know. Removing it can be your first act when you take over as Prince, at All Hallows Eve. That is but half a moon away, is it not?”

“Er…” Richard stared at him in horror.

“It is not conventional to have a vampiric prince, but I believe that it worked well in Huddersfield, with whatever he is calling himself now. And I am fading. None of my counsellors have the power to take control, so it must be you. I am sure that you will make an excellent prince as I return to the earth.”

“Er…” Richard scrabbled for words.

“Take the counsellors with you, to that manor of yours, and they will instruct you in everything necessary. Gareth here will remain here until Samhain.” Lord Henry waved a thin hand at the despondent goblin turning the spit. “Return here then and I will hand over the power. That is all.”

Mike looked at Richard’s shocked face and grabbed his friend’s arm, urging him to his feet. They bowed stiffly to Lord Henry and then Mike dragged Richard back down the tunnel, aware of the elfen trailing behind them. “I told you that you could be a Prince,” he murmured to Richard.

Richard looked at Mike, his face paler than ever. “And what the hell am I going to tell Carol?”

If you are interested in the world this is set in and have questions, you can check ‘The World of the White Hart’ for information or leave a comment. And you can read the story from the start here, Under Dark Hills. I hope you enjoy!

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