Invitation Accepted Chapter Twenty Nine

“It’s been a week,” Sir Philip said. “That’s seven full days since we got rid of Edragor.”

Gareth nodded, almost too exhausted to speak. “There’s no sign of either Kidder or the Orache Stone,” he said. “Which could be good news.”

“Tyler is about to have a nervous breakdown waiting for the challenge,” Sir Philip said. He looked up as Mortimer called out that dinner was ready. “We’re going to have to abandon the search, or at least scale it down. We can’t carry on like this.”

Gareth followed slowly into the kitchen. “Darren is on the point of collapse,” he said. He sat slowly at the table. “This looks good, Mortimer. Thank you.” He worked his shoulders. “And I’m back in the office from Monday. Everything’s back in place now.”

Sir Philip raised a sceptical eye. “Everything?”

“Okay, it’s still like a battlefield, the weavers are learning the new looms, which still glitch now and again, and the canteen is just microwaves and kettles, but the office is set up and Carli has a dozen new designs she’s working on.” Gareth took a spoonful of the soup and sighed. “This is amazing.”

“We’re trying to convince Darren to stand down for a whole week,” Sir Philip said, digging into his own bowl of soup. “They’re sending someone from Canterbury to cover.” He took a mouthful of soup and looked hard at Gareth. “You’re the one who makes the call on this.”

Gareth sighed. “I’m worried that I’m selfish,” he said. “I’m weary to the bone. I want to spend some time with Carli.” He stirred his soup slowly. “And Luke is setting me up for a role as assistant manager. Work is going to be crazy.”

“Luke thinks that Gareth is going to marry Carli and he can leave the mill to the two of them,” Bron said. “He thinks that they make a cute couple and they’ll look after the mill.”

“He’s not wrong,” Sir Philip said, grinning.

“I think that they make a charming couple,” Mortimer said as he brought over two mugs of tea.

“Are you joining us?” Sir Philip asked.

Mortimer shook his head. “I ate earlier,” he said. “And I’m not as active as you.”

“I think we have to call it,” Bron said. “We have to call off the search for now. We’ll keep an ear out, but we can’t keep chasing our tails like this.” He shrugged. “Brutally, if the Orache Stone has got its talons into Kidder, he’s lost to us already. And the longer he is bonded with the stone, the weaker he’ll get. If we keep our eyes and ears open for the sort of trouble that the transfer of power would cause.”

Sir Philip nodded sadly. “It’s war, Gareth, and we lose people,” he said, his brown eyes sympathetic. “I guess that you’re new to this.”

“You’ve come a long way, lad,” Bron said. “This is just another painful step.”

Gareth looked, unseeing, past the kitchen walls as Mortimer replaced the empty soup bowl with a heaped plate of sausage and mash. “I didn’t realise that I’d face this,” he said quietly. “I was just trying for a better job.” He managed a faint smile of thanks to Mortimer as he poured a generous lake of gravy over his dinner. “But I got the job and I got this.” He took a breath. “And I don’t regret a damned thing. It’s not easy…” He picked up his fork. “We call off the search. I’ll call Tyler after dinner.”

“He’ll have a fit,” Bron said. “But he can just deal with it. And it’s not like we don’t have enough to do.”

“That’s absolutely right,” Sir Philip said. “And it’s why Darren has been run so ragged. The echoes of death and magic are still bouncing around and causing trouble. We won’t exactly get bored.”

“We’ll call it,” Gareth said. “And watch our backs.”

******

Kidder licked his lips nervously as he walked slowly towards the solicitors.

“I could have got more money for you,” Yvonne said. “We could have taken over the pack.”

Kidder projected an image of Fang after he got the Orache Stone and piles of awkward paperwork. Yvonne understood images better. “A small lottery win as seed money works best,” he said. “We don’t want to have our pictures shared for publicity. We need to lay low for a bit.”

Yvonne responded with an image of Kidder, relaxed and happy, hanging around with Gareth, Sir Philip and Mortimer. “Just a little more comfortable,” it said.

“We’ll do this right,” Kidder said. He sighed mentally and smiled at Yvonne. “Sometimes I wish that I could give you a hug and let you know that it’s okay,” he said. “Take a moment.” He looked around at the crisp, autumn day with the bright, thin sunshine streaking across the pavement. “This is a good day.”

Yvonne responded with an image of the solicitor. Kidder always thought of lawyers as male and old. Caitlyn wasn’t much older than him and she was beautiful. She was also professional, icily competent and, according to the ring on her left hand, married. “You need to make a friend family,” it said.

“One step at a time,” Kidder said. He was on his way to sign the papers for his first property. Okay, he was living in a room as a lodger, but once he’d signed the papers he would be a landlord, owning a shabby, low cost flat on the edge of Shipley with a sitting tenant. With his under the table job working on a building site, he could start building up a bank balance and a life. “I’m not going to pursue friends,” he told Yvonne. “I’m going to see who I meet and look for good people. I want to find friends worth having.”

“Like Gareth and Bron?” Yvonne said.

“Yeah, like them,” Kidder said.

“You don’t think that you’ll find anyone as good as them,” Yvonne observed.

“It doesn’t matter,” Kidder said. “All I can do now is find my feet and work things out.” He paused. “And at least I have you.”

“You will always have me,” Yvonne said.

To be continued…

Watch out for Kidder’s return in Spellburned. Meanwhile, look out for the Prince and the Paladin, set in Leeds and following on from these events.

And you can read the whole story from the beginning here

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