Back at the White Hart

The Most Important Meal of the Day

“Why can’t I pour coffee on this muesli thing?” Lady Freydis asked plaintively. “I like coffee.”

“You’re supposed to put milk on muesli,” Jasmine said helpfully. “That’s what it says on the packet.”

“I’ve known some people put vodka on muesli,” Mrs Tuesday said as she bustled around setting up the grill. “But that’s not something I fancy.”

“I’m sure you’ve driven a few people to have vodka for breakfast,” Fiona said. She took a deep breath. As part owner of a magical supply shop at the edge of York, she had to navigate between keeping things discreet for the visiting tourists and allowing her very miscellaneous staff to blow off steam. The hour before opening, as Mrs Tuesday and Lady Freydis set up the café and Jasmine helped Fiona set up the shop, was usually chaotic. Coffee on muesli, however, was new. “Why are you eating that stuff anyway?” Fiona asked as she carried a large box of palo santo incense over to the display unit. “Don’t you usually eat sugar with a light dusting of frozen blueberries?”

“It’s supposed to be healthy,” Lady Freydis said.

Fiona paused to look at her. “You’re an immortal elfen,” she said. “Why are you worrying about being healthy?”

“I don’t want to live forever with bad health,” Lady Freydis said primly.

“You could have a milky coffee on it,” Jasmine said helpfully as she carried a large box of books over to the shelves. “That’s a mix of both.”

Lady Freydis looked at the young werewolf thoughtfully. “You mean like a latte?” she asked. She put down the bowl on the counter and pushed it away from her. “What did you have for breakfast?”

“Bacon, sausage, fried egg and tomato,” Jasmine said happily. “I like to start the day with something inside me.”

“Only a werewolf could eat that every morning and stay so slim,” Lady Freydis said.

“Sometimes I have baked beans as well,” Jasmine said as she energetically shelved the books. “By the way, Fiona, we’re almost out of the Green Witch Journal.”

“Before you ask, I had a slice of toast,” Mrs Tuesday said, whisking the bowl out of Lady Freydis’ reach and substituting with a bowl of spray cream, frozen blueberries and sugar. “And I’m glad you all had plenty of fuel, because that coach party that booked at the last minute is early.” She nodded through the large front windows. Two large coaches were pulling up.

Fiona hurried across the floor to open the door. The coaches weren’t due for another two hours when more staff would be around to deal with 150 eager customers. She hoped that her small bowl of cereal would be enough to keep her going. At least she hadn’t poured coffee on it.

This is my response to last week’s writing prompt. I have missed the characters of Tales from the White Hart so I thought I would have a little look to see how they were doing these days.

Artiste in Action

“I don’t know how much longer I can deal with this,” Martin said, striding into the White Hart. “I’m going to lose my mind.”

Mrs Tuesday raised an eyebrow. “We don’t want an insane vampire running around.” She handed over an Americano. “What’s your wife done this time?”

“Callum got placed in an art show,” Martin grumbled. “I told Lady Freydis that it reflected well on her, but she’s insistent that she learns to ‘do art’ better.”

Mrs Tuesday frowned. Martin usually handled his marriage to the erratic and absolute ruler of York’s non-normal community with devoted ease. Seeing him so rattled was worrying. “What sort of art?” Mrs Tuesday asked.

Martin looked hunted. “She’s been reading books, and you know what she’s like when she reads books.”

Mrs Tuesday tapped her fingers on the counter. The shop was quiet but it was early yet with only a couple of werewolves checking out the dog treats. “Lady Freydis is late,” Mrs Tuesday said. “And that’s worrying.”

Martin shook his head. “She’s obsessed with being a barista. The most powerful creature in York and she makes coffees.”

“Maybe she needs some books about coffee,” Mrs Tuesday said.

“She’s read all of them,” Martin said wearily. “Believe me, I’ve checked.”

Lady Freydis swept in, unhampered by her armfuls of bags. “Martin, darling, could you fetch the rest from the taxi?” She disappeared into the back room. Martin briefly cast his eyes up to heaven before striding out to the taxi. Mrs Tuesday grinned as he stalked back in with another armful of bags.

“I’ll leave these here while I fetch the rest,” Martin bit out, dumping the bags next to the till and turning back to the door.

Lady Freydis wandered out, tying on her apron. “I thought that I should show support for Callum’s efforts,” she said airily. “And I’ve often been told that I have an artistic side.”

“The brownies always comment about your artistic displays around the coffee machine,” Mrs Tuesday said. The shop’s cleaners grumbled about the dried grasses and ribbons being in the way but it was a comment.

“I am very artistic with coffee,” Lady Freydis agreed. “But I should support Callum.”

Mrs Tuesday picked her words. “You’re a good prince to have such care of your people,” she said. “But perhaps you should encourage Callum rather than outshine him. You could sponsor a display of his work as support while concentrating on your skills with coffee.”

Lady Freydis shoulders slumped as she looked at the supplies. “I read the books to understand Callum,” she said. “And they are so pretty. But it isn’t coffee.” She ran a tender hand over her coffee machine. “Why are there no more books about coffee?” she asked plaintively. “I wouldn’t have to buy art supplies if there were more books about coffee.”

Martin strode in with another armful of bags. “Maybe you can make pictures with coffee,” he suggested, dumping them next to the collapsing heap near the till.

“Maybe you should write a book about coffee,” Mrs Tuesday suggested, ignoring the sudden look of horror on Martin’s face. “After all, you know all about the stuff.”

Lady Freydis took a deep breath and smiled happily. “That’s a perfect idea!” she said. “I’ll start at once.” She hesitated. “Well, after I’ve made all the coffees.”

Pursuits and Distractions

Image from Unsplash, taken by Oli Bekh

Fiona watched Martin stride into the White Hart with another bag of books. “We sell books here,” she said. “We have books on Tarot, Wicca, Meditation and a whole lot of the spiritual side of things.” She looked at the bulging bags. “We don’t usually store books on flower arranging.”

Martin turned haggard eyes to her. “I’m desperate,” he said. “Do you have any idea what it’s like living with someone who’s trying to write a book? It’s hell.”

Mrs Tuesday wandered up, grinning. “What have you got today?”

“Crochet!” Martin announced. “There is a crochet thing called Amigurumi.” He pulled out a handmade rabbit. “She’ll have to fall for this.”

“Didn’t you get that yesterday?” Fiona asked.

“That was origami,” Martin said with a shudder. “She took the book and paper down to her domain and now the court is infested with flying paper cranes. They’ve started attacking the cats that get in and have built nests in the library.”

Fiona was sympathetic. Martin’s wife may be the ruler of all the vampires, werewolves and assorted non-normals, but Lady Freydis had her own way of exerting authority. She operated mainly through fear, apprehension and chaos and it was once again echoing through the faery realm and spilling over to the shop. “The back room is full of books,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Mrs Tuesday nodded. “You can’t move back there.”

“Ian has been encouraging her to make cards with Jeanette,” Fiona said. “And Jeanette told him what she thought of that idea.” She moved off to help a couple who were deliberating over some Tarot cards.

“I can see his point,” Martin said. “Ian’s the head of the werewolf pack. He’s got his hands full. He doesn’t need the distraction of my wife being, well, her.”

“Jeanette’s the wife of the head of the werewolf pack, with all that goes with it, and runs a gardening business with two young kids,” Mrs Tuesday said tartly. “She has more than her hands full. Fortunately Lady Freydis agrees with me.”

“She needs a hobby, or at least a short term distraction,” Martin said. “She’s bored, and we know how much trouble that causes.”

Lady Freydis strolled in, also carrying bags full of books. She side stepped the shoppers and slipped behind the counter. “I’m determined to encourage Callum by using my time fruitfully.” She ignored Mrs Tuesday’s snort of disbelief.

“That would be an interesting change,” Martin said. “But look!” He held out the crocheted rabbit like a talisman. “Wouldn’t you like more of these?”

Lady Freydis looked at it thoughtfully. “It has a certain charm, but it isn’t pink,” she said. “I suppose I could ask the brownies for some.”

“But it’s creative,” Martin said desperately.

“There are books about everything,” Lady Freydis sighed. “So many lovely books telling you how to do things. So I bought some books on how to write books.” She disappeared into the back room and returned without the bags and tying her apron. “I’ll start reading them as soon as I’ve finished my shift.”

Conversations

“She’s up to something,” Mrs Tuesday told Fiona as they watched Lady Freydis pace behind the counter.

Fiona shuddered. “It’s probably about the book,” she said. “She’s still obsessed with that.”

“There’s not that much to write,” Mrs Tuesday said as she watched Lady Freydis wander over towards Kadogan.

Fiona frowned. “Kadogan has been a bit twitchy as well,” she said. “He’s complaining about our lack of social media.”

“We haven’t got social media,” Mrs Tuesday said. “The elfen can’t cope with computers because of the flicker of the display, the boggarts all use the newsletter and the werewolves and brownies go straight to the website.”

“He’s part owner,” Fiona said. “That means he has a say. He could insist.”

Kadogan was brooding next to the candle display. “Lady Freydis,” he said, bowing. “I have some concerns and would like advice.”

“I, too, would like your considerations,” Lady Freydis said, returning the bow.

Kadogan marshalled his thoughts. “Writing is hard,” he said.

“Indeed it is,” Lady Freydis said.

“And only three candles have been ordered on the website,” Kadogan said. “So few know of that website as we do not have the things…” He scrambled for the words. “On the internet, the Instagram and suchlike.”

“I have worked so hard to write the book on coffee,” Lady Freydis said sadly. “And it would be a great addition to the shop.”

“The candles are neglected,” Kadogan said. “As the newsletter merely talks about herbs and incense.”

“I would love to give my benevolence to the shop with the coffee book,” Lady Freydis said. “But ruling takes so much of my time.”

“The candles are popular in the shop,” Kadogan said. “But they are neglected and unsold elsewhere.”

“I am confident that the elfen princes would buy my book,” Lady Freydis said mournfully.

“She’s not wrong there,” Mrs Tuesday said. “It would be a best seller for the non-normals, just for novelty value.”

“If only there was someone who could write about candles on … things for us,” Kadogan said.

“If only there was someone who could write the coffee book for me,” Lady Freydis said.

Fiona looked at Mrs Tuesday. “I can see where this is going,” she said.

“A ghostwriter is not a ghost,” Lady Freydis said carefully.

“Is a ghostwriter someone who writes about ghosts?” Kadogan said. “Could they write about candles?”

“A ghostwriter is someone who writes what they are told to,” Lady Freydis said. “For example, a ghostwriter could write a book about coffee, under my complete direction, and put my name as the author.”

Kadogan looked thoughtful. “Or candles. This ghostwriter could write about candles. They could write about candles on the things.”

Lady Freydis nodded. “They could write about coffee and candles on the things and they could write books on coffee and candles,” she said.

“And at least some of the rest of the shop,” Kadogan said airily, waving his hand over the 97% of the shop that was neither coffee nor candles. “Fiona, we need a ghostwriter. Please find one.”

“I will contribute to the hiring costs,” Lady Freydis added. “After all, they will be writing about my coffee here.”

Fiona ran a tired hand over her face. “This is going to be hell, isn’t it?”

“It’s going to be hilarious,” Mrs Tuesday said. “I can’t wait.”

Just the Job

Noah carefully stretched the whisk by the cord and hung it over the chopping board. “How about that?” he asked.

Naomi tilted her head to one side. “Hmm. I little more to the left,” she said.

Noah carefully didn’t look at the woman that was supposed to be his girlfriend. It felt more like a cross between slave driver and pet owner. “How about this?” he asked.

“Hmm,” Naomi said. “Perhaps back a smidgeon.”

They had started off okay but then her Instagram had started getting likes. Then they’d got a website and blog. “How about this?”

“Hmm. I guess so, but move the brush a little higher,” Naomi said. “No, the other brush.”

It wasn’t even a whisk. It was a fancy egg separator that had been send as part of a deal. When things had taken off it made sense for them to quit their jobs to concentrate on their social media content. “How about that?” Noah asked.

“Hmm. How about a tiny whisker higher?” Naomi said.

She was playing games again. As the Instagram account had all been in her name, the money followed it. Noah moved his hands across the brush without actually touching the thread. “How about that?” he asked.

“That’s way too high!” Naomi said. “Lower it back down.”

And various demands had drained his savings so that he was completely reliant on his earnings as Naomi’s assistant. “How about that?” Noah asked.

“That’s better,” Naomi said. He could sense her frowning behind him. “Are you sure about that rolling pin?”

“It’s part of the deal,” Noah said. Naomi had thrown a fit when his aunt died and left him a few hundred in her will, money that he had immediately stashed away while lying about paying for car repairs.

“Hmm. The deal is pretty sweet,” Naomi said. “Perhaps a smidgeon higher.”

Noah adjusted the rolling pin. “How about that?” he asked. He did as least as much work as Naomi but he didn’t have enough money to replace his worn jeans while she wore designer shoes.

“Hmm. Yes, that’s perfect. Can I leave it all in your capable hands?” Naomi said. “I need to head to the spa. I need to be glowing for the collaboration tonight.”

“Sure, no problem,” Noah said. He was used to taking the pictures, captioning, posting on Instagram, X, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Slack, Substack, the website, blog and adding to the newsletter. It was second nature to him now. Besides, if Naomi was going to the spa then straight across town for the collaboration, that gave him plenty of time to grab the few things he wanted to take with him, sell his car and get a train ticket to York.

The job advert had obviously been posted by a lunatic, offering a small salary and accommodation in York in return for ghost-writing and ‘social media things.’ Kadogan sounded a little crazy, but after talking with Kadogan’s rep, it sounded like a reasonable sort of crazy, and that had to be an improvement.  

A New Start

Noah followed the elderly lady through the shop and up the stairs. “You sell magic stuff here?” he said. He really should have asked more questions.

“There’s a mix,” Mrs Tuesday said. “There’s knickknacks for the tourists, basic stuff for those who like to pretend and a few bits of the good stuff for those who appreciate it.” She bustled along the corridor at the top of the stairs. “Your office is there, and this is your bedroom. She ushered him into a bright, clean space. “The bathroom’s through there and there’s a kitchen down the hall. Tea and coffee and that are included but if you want evening meals you need to tip up £10 every Friday.” She gave Noah an unnervingly long look. “And you look like you need feeding up. It’s cottage pie tonight.”

“That sounds nice,” Noah said weakly.

“It is,” Kadogan said, appearing suddenly. “You are Noah Pickering and are here to write internet things.”

“That’s right,” Noah said cautiously.

“You must write about candles,” Kadogan said.

“And coffee,” the stunningly beautiful woman behind him said. She pushed past Kadogan and smiled at Noah. “I am Lady Freydis and I require that you write a book about coffee.”

“What sort of book?” Noah asked bewildered.

Lady Freydis looked confused. “The sort of book that people read to learn about coffee,” she said. “I have some notes.” She pushed a large, pink gift box towards Noah. He dropped his bag on the bed and grabbed the box.

Noah looked helplessly at Mrs Tuesday. “What sort of timeline?”

“I wish to see progress before the winter solstice,” Lady Freydis said. “Last week was the spring equinox. You should work several days a week, but not Sundays.”

“And write about candles,” Kadogan added.

“Why don’t you leave Noah to unpack,” Mrs Tuesday said. “I’ll show him everything and he can make a start tomorrow morning.” She shooed the two powerful elfen away and then looked back at the stunned Noah. “They mean well.”

Noah opened the box. Inside was a drift of notes on random items. “This book on coffee?” he began, rummaging through the napkins and paper bags. “How technical does it need to be?” There were even tiny notes scrawled over a train ticket.

Mrs Tuesday patted his shoulder. “It should say that coffee is brown and hot,” she said. “Fiona will be able to talk to you tomorrow and she’s the sensible one. She’ll sort out time off, hours, what’s needed and all that.” She grinned. “And Kadogan said that you liked gin, so I’ve left you some in the cupboard.”

Noah watched her leave and then looked around. His accommodation may be a bedsit, but it was spacious, comfortable and welcoming. The crazy collection of coffee trivia looked daunting but it made him smile. And it sounded that he would get time off, a wage and even food. He took a deep breath. It was a new start. Perhaps he would have a chance to be happy.

The Lake House

Noah sighed. He’d got the social media accounts up and running and scheduled a week’s worth of content. He’d made a list of blogs and listings pages that may be interested in running features on the White Hart. He’d coaxed a few of the White Hart staff to create their own pages and then had a difficult conversation with Mrs Tuesday to persuade her to only like and share family-friendly content. He couldn’t put it off any longer. He had to start on the coffee book.

He pulled a pizza delivery menu out of the box and read the flowery script inked along the edges. Coffee comes from the mystical lands of Arabia and Abyssinia, fabled home of the phoenix and source of the mystical frankincense (available at the White Hart starting at £5.99 for 50g plus post and packaging and the packaging is really nice).

Noah winced. Apart from anything else, you couldn’t put a price in a book that could be around for years. He tapped the content into his word document, carefully editing ‘£5.00’ to ‘competitively priced’. He could hear Lady Freydis outside the door.

“I don’t see the problem,” she said.

“You didn’t paint that picture,” a man’s voice growled. “You bought it from eBay. Callum is working very hard to be an artist.” He sounded like Jeanette’s husband.

“I want to be supportive,” Lady Freydis said.

Noah shook his head. The next quote was scrawled across the back of a supermarket receipt. Great fortunes were won and lost in shares traded in the coffee houses of London, although the South Sea Bubble was somewhat of a problem. Note to ghost – was the South Sea Bubble Tudor or Victorian? I can’t remember.

“He’s worked so hard on his art,” the man said. “You could hold an exhibition of his stuff instead of printing off a picture of a lake house.” Noah stood ready to dash out if needed. Lady Freydis was a major nuisance and definitely willing to be the grit in someone’s Vaseline but he didn’t want her intimidated. “You know what the lad went through.”

Noah heard the grim determination in the man’s voice and opened the door to lend support.

“He kept his fur flat and his tail high,” Ian said. “You know what he was like when we found him.” He caught sight of Noah and stuttered to a halt.

Lady Freydis opened and shut her mouth a few times. “We play at things,” she finally said airily. “It’s like roleplaying. I play a fairy princess and Ian plays a werewolf, like Callum and Jeanette.”

“Fairy princess?” Noah said limply. He glanced at Ian and flinched. The man looked like he’d killed too many people and was glaring at Lady Freydis like he wanted to add her to the total.

“I would be very grateful if you could consider Callum’s feelings in this, your highness,” Ian snapped before bowing, spinning on his heel and storming off.

Noah looked blankly at Lady Freydis. “Fairy Princess?” he repeated.

“Twinkle,” she said brightly.

The Plot

Noah walked into the kitchen and then ducked as a plate sailed past his head and smashed into the wall behind him.

“I hate him!” Lady Freydis said.

Mrs Tuesday eyed her carefully. “Which one is it now?” she asked. “Hello, Noah. It’s curry and chips tonight.”

“That sounds amazing,” Noah said.

“He thinks he’s so smart!” Lady Freydis snapped. “I’ll show him.”

“Where’s Martin?” Mrs Tuesday asked. “Your husband is good at plots.”

“I’m good at plots as well!” Lady Freydis said. “And coffee. I’m good at coffee.”

“You’re excellent at coffee,” Noah said, sliding past her and heading to the cupboards. “Should I lay the table?”

Mrs Tuesday shook her head. “Not until she’s stopped smashing china. How’s it going?”

“Not bad,” Noah said. “I’ve got some ideas for a campaign to promote the candles.” He looked carefully at Lady Freydis. “And I need to ask about promoting coffee evenings.”

Lady Freydis looked thoughtful. “I’m extremely good at plots,” she said. “I’m almost as good at plots as I am at violence.”

Noah looked at her doubtfully. She looked toned in an understated way, but her blonde loveliness looked too elegantly classy. On the other hand, the floor was covered with smashed plates. “And research,” he said quickly. “The notes I found on the bus ticket were incredibly helpful and sent me in a new direction.”

“I want that book!” Lady Freydis announced.

“I’m working very hard on it,” Noah said carefully.

Lady Freydis waved an airy hand. “Well, the coffee book is nice but this is a different book, and old book. Lord Cerdig has it but I want it.”

Mrs Tuesday narrowed her eyes. “Martin threatened to rip out Lord Cerdig’s spine if he ever caught him with you,” she said. “And I think the last thing you said to Lord Cerdig after you broke his arm was that if he touched you again, you would disembowel him and eat his spleen.”

“Seriously?” Noah stared at them.

“I was practising being reasonable,” Lady Freydis said. “Though Martin is still angry. I should have broken both arms.” She paced up and down the kitchen. “But I want the book.”

“He’ll only trade it for kisses – or worse,” Mrs Tuesday said.

“I can’t use the computer thing,” Lady Freydis said. She turned to Noah. “You can use the computer thing.”

“Yes?” Noah said apprehensively.

“Lord Cerdig is an idiot,” Lady Freydis said. “He wishes to put on a great feast for the Spring Equinox, but fears to approach us for the supplies. He desires edible glitter, fears to buy elsewhere but is terrified of Martin and I.” She sighed in satisfaction. “We have edible glitter and gold sprinkles and spray cream and he has the book that I want. It should merely be an equitable trade. However, he is a slug.”

“That’s insulting slugs,” Mrs Tuesday said. She nodded to Noah. “You can set the table now.”

“Noah Pickering, you will contact an evil person called Ferdi on the computer thing. You will say that you have overheard conversations and are willing to provide such items as Lord Cerdig desires for a price. As you are risking your existence by sending such things to our enemy, the price is high.”

Noah blinked. “But I won’t really be risking my existence, will I?”

Mrs Tuesday patted him on the shoulder. “You’ll be fine. Probably.”

“The price you will ask is the book,” Lady Freydis continued. “As you are now known as a researcher, this will be seen as a rational request.” She paced faster in the small kitchen. “Why aren’t you serving curry with rice?” she asked Mrs Tuesday.

“Because I’ve always done it with chips,” Mrs Tuesday said.

Lady Freydis turned to Noah. “You must insist that the book isn’t delivered here because you will tell that loathesome toad Ferdi that you do not want it near me. I’ll provide a location where Ferdi can leave it. You can retrieve it.”

“Ferdi might follow him,” Mrs Tuesday pointed out.

“Not if I decide to give him a lesson in behaviour,” Lady Freydis said. “He’s been importuning the brownies again. I was going to set an example anyway. I’ll just ensure that it happens during the pick up time.” She smiled a little maliciously. “And if it’s seen that he’s in disgrace, that slug Lord Cerdig won’t suspect that I’m using him and neither will Ferdi.” The smile grew wider. “I could have so much fun with this – after I’ve got my book.” She turned to Noah. “I will extract the contact information from Steve today and you can immediately contact the toad Ferdi.”

“It can wait until after dinner,” Mrs Tuesday said. “And I’ve done sponge pudding and custard for after.”

Noah looked at the two women and shook his head. He ought to worry. He ought to wonder what craziness he had got caught up in. But all he could think of was how much fun it sounded. “I can’t wait.”

The Deal

“Lord Cerdig got the delivery,” Ferdi said. “He’s thrilled. And you managed to get some of that edible gold dust included.” He shook his head and then looked around cautiously. The cheap café was crowded and Noah and Ferdi were safely ignored but Ferdi was rigid with tension. “The thing is, Noah, me old mate, I don’t suppose you could get those shiny sugar pearls in pink?”

“Lady Freydis tracks pink things,” Noah lied. “Kadogan is obsessed with candles and Lady Freydis is all about coffee and pink. I don’t think that I can sneak that stuff out.”

“Lord Cerdig would be very generous,” Ferdi said.

“I’m still waiting for the book,” Noah said.

Once again Ferdi looked around furtively before sliding a packaged wrapped in a plain brown cover. “Lord Cerdig isn’t going to rat on a deal.”

Noah mentally rolled his eyes. This ugly little guy in front of him had watched far too many bad movies. He pulled out Beeton’s All About Gardening and started leafing through. He carefully didn’t stop on page 115 where the notes on Espalier Roses were covered by a strange script but stopped at page 129 and the entry for Fleming’s Machine. I should have been a spy he thought. “This is the copy,” he said. “We’re good.”

“What do you need it for?” Ferdi asked. “And get it out of sight. We could be being watched.”

Noah slipped it into his jacket pocket. “I need it for private research,” he said loftily urgently.

Ferdi frowned at him. “Why are you doing this?” he asked.

Noah felt a twinge of apprehension. “What do you mean? Like I said, I want the book for research.”

“No, this White Hart promotion stuff,” Ferdi said. “I did some research. Your early stuff really rocked before you hooked up with Bethany. You were building followers like crazy. You could drown her out. I saw the ‘mutual parting’ posts that she put up but it didn’t fool me. She lost her meal ticket and she’s steaming. People are starting to comment on the lack of decent content. You did that. Why are you slumming it with Lady Freydis?”

 Because I wasn’t sure that I could even do a basic promotion and content job, Noah thought. Because I thought I was helplessly underqualified for making Instagram posts. I’d forgotten that I’d done it by myself in the past. “There are resources in York that aren’t easily available elsewhere,” he said loftily. “Research can be… tricky. And access to Lady Freydis makes some things easier.”

“If you’re hoping to get into the Rose Library, I’d give up now,” Ferdi said. “No-one gets in there.

Noah shrugged. He had no idea what the Rose Library was, but he wasn’t going to admit that. “And I got access to this book because of my position,” he added.

Ferdi leaned forward. “Listen, anything you can get for Lord Cerdig, any gossip, any early access to news and even any pink shiny cake decorations, get in touch,” he said urgently. “We can make a lot of money out of this. I can get stuff to Lord Cerdig without anyone in the White Hart suspecting a thing, and he’ll pay. He’s obsessed with Lady Freydis.”

“I’ll think about it,” Noah said, carefully not to look eager.

Ferdi checked his phone and winced. “Fiona needs me to meet up with Lady Freydis and I think it’s going to be a little harsh.” He straightened his jacket. “But I can always smooth talk the ladies.” He stood. “But don’t forget what I told you and stay in touch,” he said.

Noah watched Ferdi leave and then looked down at the book. Maybe he should go back to his dormant accounts and see where he could go with them. He’d talk to Lady Freydis and Kadogan about borrowing equipment and keep it all above board and honest. And what the hell was the Rose Library.

The Librarian

This is a book that I own and I can’t bring myself to write over it like the magician that annotated the version belonging to Lady Freydis, so I added some decorative pieces that were close.

“You’ve been decorating again,” Lady Freydis said. “It’s very soothing.”

“I felt like something calm,” Mina said, looking around the library. “I’m not sure about the candle, though.”

Lady Freydis raised an eyebrow. The library sprawled over four levels and had vast swathes of bookshelves filled with thousands of flammable books. “It’s not often that you see a candle in a library,” she said. “But it’s not near any books.”

Mina looked at the candle, carefully placed next to the window overlooking the garden and well away from the bookcases. “I just felt that it gave a good glow,” she said. “If I could rely on electricity, I could get one of those LED lights that flicker, but I don’t think that they feel the same.”

Lady Freydis shrugged. “You are in fairyland,” she said. “That’s why you can move the walls around and alter the time of day. I’ll enchant the candlestick so that nothing other than the candle will catch fire while it’s in Faerie.”

“Thank you,” Mina said. “I like a candle now and again. Oh, before I forget, I’ve found another part of the ritual.” She pulled out an elderly book and opened it at the entry regarding the velocity of elevators. “Here, the notes down the side add another part of the invocation.” She looked a little warily at Lady Freydis. “Will it be safe?”

Lady Freydis waved a hand, dismissing the thought. “How long have you been in Faerie?” she asked.

Mina thought for a moment. “I can’t remember,” she said, then turned back to the book. “I can’t read the writing here, but it looks like the rest of the script.”

“Time passes strangely here,” Lady Freydis said, ignoring the book. “Are you happy?”

Mina looked at her carefully. “Yes?” she said. “I mean, I am happy. I gossip with the brownies, I get good food, I’ve got a warm bed and all the books that I could ever read.”

“What about sex?” Lady Freydis asked.

Mina flushed scarlet. “Lots of women don’t have sex,” she said. “Like nuns. Or teachers.”

Lady Freydis’ eyes narrowed. “I think that you don’t know teachers as well as you thought you did,” she said. “What year was it when you came here?”

Mina thought for a moment. “It was my birthday,” she said. “14th September 1994 and I had just turned 14. You found me and brought me here and it was the best birthday present ever.”

Lady Freydis thought back to the skinny homeless girl she had brought in on impulse after rescuing her from an unpleasant situation. The girl had been fed, housed and clothed, and the brownies had taught her a semblance of manners, but Lady Freydis had an uncomfortable feeling that she should perhaps have done more. “What about your education?” she asked.

“I read all the time,” Mina said. “Are you wanting to get rid of me?”

Lady Freydis was famous for her hard heart but it cracked a little at the fear in Mina’s voice. “Not at all. After all, you are an excellent librarian. But I feel responsible for you. And you do not have the internet thingy.”

“I don’t need the internet,” Mina said. “And I promise that I’ll work harder.”

Lady Freydis waved a hand. “I shall find someone to teach you the internet thingy,” she said. “And I shall also make it possible for you to perhaps have willing sex, though not necessarily with the same person. And I will find a good way to reward you for finding all these references.” She nodded firmly. “I shall return soon.”

Mina watched Lady Freydis leave before gently placing the book on the main desk. She doubted that it would help with the turbulent times ahead.

The New Batch

“Are you feeling okay?” Noah asked as Lady Freydis staggered into the kitchen and bounced off the kitchen table.

A tall, dark man followed, grimacing when he saw Noah. “You must be the new social media officer,” he said. “I’m Martin, and I’m the husband of Lady Freydis.” He turned to his wife. “How much have you had?”

“You like pink,” Lady Freydis told him. “And you are soooo sexy.”

Martin took a steadying breath. “What have I said about this?” He turned to Noah. “Could you make some coffee, please.”

Noah eyed the swaying Lady Freydis and nodded. “No problem.” He filled the kettle. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Noah, and I suppose I’m the ghost writer. Is she alright?”

Martin glared at Lady Freydis. “She is for now,” he said grimly.

“Not coffee!” Lady Freydis said. “Not that instant stuff. I need proper coffee, in a copper coffee pot.”

What?” Martin said.

Mrs Tuesday strolled in. “I thought I’d hidden it well enough,” she said. “I think she caught me making the new batch this morning.”

“What’s going on?” Noah asked.

Lady Freydis spun around and lay on the table, kicking her legs as her golden hair fell down, swinging wildly. “I’m not a teapot,” she told Martin.

“Give me the bottle,” Martin ordered.

“I make a liqueur of sorts,” Mrs Tuesday said to Noah. “It’s mainly apples with a few extra ingredients and it’s supposed to sit for a year. I make a new batch as soon as the last batch is ready. If Lady Freydis saw me making the new batch this morning, she may have gone looking for the stuff that’s finally ready.” She shook her head. “You may want to avoid drinking any yourself.”

“You can’t have my bottle,” Lady Freydis giggled. “I’m a prince.”

“You’re also a wife,” Martin said. “And you’re currently a disgrace. What would Lord Lothair think if he saw you now? And how about Lord Cerdig?”

Noah spooned generous amounts of instant coffee into a large mug. “A nice cup of coffee will make you feel better,” he said, more in hope than expectation. “And I’ll write a chapter about coffee being good for clearing the mind.”

“Mina is better at reading books,” Lady Freydis said. She pulled a bottle from her jacket and managed to sit up at the third attempt. “But she doesn’t know the internet thingy.”

“Reading books is good,” Noah said, pouring boiling water on the borderline illegal quantity of coffee granules.

“How have you managed to drink all that?!” Martin said staring at the dregs left in the bottle. “You must be mad!” He turned to Mrs Tuesday. “You need to call Dr Williamson. Noah, get that coffee over here now.”

Noah topped up the thick brew with enough cold water to make it drinkable and hurried over to the table where Martin was struggling with Lady Freydis.

“Give me the bottle!” Martin said, wrestling for what looked like a reused novelty gin bottle. “You’ve drunk over half!”

“I’ll mix up a mustard plaster,” Mrs Tuesday said.

“I haven’t had sex with Mina,” Lady Freydis said. “But I think that she should. But not with you either. She’s keeping a secret.”

“What sort of secret?” Martin finally prised the bottle away from his wife and handed it to Mrs Tuesday.

“It’s a special secret which you can’t know,” Lady Freydis said.

“Who’s Mina?” Noah asked.

“That’s a very good question,” Martin said as he turned back to his wife. “Who is Mina?”