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


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

Business Talk

You can read the story from the beginning here. This chapter was inspired by Writing Prompt Number 15

“I thought that door was locked to prevent the desperate from entering,” Lady Freydis said, glaring. “The shop is not open to the public for another thirty minutes and it’s never open for riff raff.”

Miss Marianne shrugged. “Locks are unimportant,” she said, striding across the shop and up to the counter. “Love is important.” She dumped a large basket of flowers onto the counter. “Where is Martin?”

Kadogan stalked in. “I am going to make candles,” he announced.

Fiona looked up from where she was re-stocking the greetings cards. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“We expend money on purchasing candles,” Kadogan said. “It would be economically sensible to produce those candles.”

“No-one has a love for Martin like I,” Miss Marianne said.

Noah wandered in from the back room. “What’s going on?” he asked Mrs Tuesday.

She grinned. “Sit back and enjoy,” she said.

“Making candles is complicated,” Fiona said. “You need wax and things, and more space than we have. It’s complicated.”

“I know Martin better than anyone. I’m his soul mate. I’m his twin flame,” Miss Marianne wailed.

Noah winced. “Is this about the candle making business that Kadogan got me to buy?” he asked.

Fiona snapped her head around to stare at him. “What business?” she asked.

Kadogan waved a hand airily. “Just the equipment and supplies,” he said. “They were remarkably inexpensive.”

“Probably because the person selling failed to make any money with it,” Fiona said. She turned back to Noah. “What do you mean, you bought the business? And didn’t you think to check?”

“I’ve brought flowers with me,” Miss Marianne cried. “Where is my true love?”

Noah took a step back. “There’s loads of those sort of businesses online,” he said. “And it was just small scale stuff.” He looked hesitantly at Kadogan. “A lot of influencers have a candle making business but they make most of their money from their blogs and merch.”

“What is merch?” Lady Freydis said, keeping her eyes on Miss Marianne.

“You know, merchandise like t-shirts or mugs or candle making supplies,” Noah said. “They usually write a book or two…” He stuttered to a stop as he realised his mistake.

“Excellent,” Lady Freydis. “You may write this book. And the enfluencer thing – you can organise that, yes?”

Noah shrugged. “I’m not sure. I can come up with some ideas but I can’t promise anything.”

“You will be perfect,” Lady Freydis said. “And you will instruct Mina as well.”

“Nobody is listening to me!” Miss Marianne wailed.

“Do you like candles?” Kadogan asked.

“Only if they are well ordered,” Miss Marianne said. “And the new soy wax blends are a significant improvement on the tallow dips.”

Kadogan’s eyes narrowed. “You should supervise the brownies that I have employed,” he said.

“We have more employees?” Fiona whispered.

“I shall escort you to the premises that I have secured for the candle making,” Kadogan said, courteously taking Miss Marianne’s arm.

“We have more premises?” Fiona whimpered.

Miss Marianne turned her head to glare at Lady Freydis. “Give Martin the flowers, trollop, and don’t tell him about the flowers.”

Lady Freydis ran a cloth over the coffee machine as she watched Kadogan and Miss Marianne leave. “This is going to be so much fun,” she said.

Books and Candles

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

“Are you sure about the candles?” Noah asked.

Mina nods. “The library is enchanted against most fires. A candle isn’t a problem.”

“Of course it’s enchanted,” Noah grumbled. “It’s in fairyland.”

“It’s in Lady Freydis’ domain,” Mina said primly. “You’re taking the whole fairy thing very well.”

Noah grunted and peered at the shelves. “Why are the bookshelves so dark?”

“To make a nice contrast between the dark of ignorance and the light of knowledge in the books,” Mina said. “To be fair, it wasn’t all Lady Freydis’ idea. I’ve redecorated a few times, but she likes to keep the books in a dim light.”

“I’ll wear one of those headlamps next time,” Noah said. “Is there a system? I’m supposed to be finding books on candles.”

“I’ve tried to keep a system,” Mina said. “However this library is used by elfen. Werewolves are pretty good at putting things back where they found them and so are vampires and even boggarts, but elfen seemed to see an organised library as a challenge.” She led Noah over to the shelves and ran a knowledgeable finger along the spines. “You want a book on candles to distract Kadogan, right?”

Noah glanced at her. “I was ordered to come here and get a book on candles to help me write a book.”

“Because Kadogan has a thing about candles,” Mina said. “And he’s just split up with his girlfriend, so he’s looking for a distraction.”

“I didn’t realise that he had a girlfriend,” Noah said. “What was she like?”

“I didn’t really see her,” Mina said. She glanced over at him. “I don’t really leave the library much, but I met her a few times. She seemed nice, but she was far too calm with Kadogan.”

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Noah said.

“The best elfen relationships usually involved furniture being thrown,” Mina said. “Lady Freydis had that with her first husband, but it got complicated. It’s different with vampires.”

“And Martin is a vampire,” Noah said. “They seem really happy together.”

“They absolutely are,” Mina said.

“Are you a…” Noah trailed off.

“It’s very rude to ask,” Mina said. “As it happens, I’m a normal, just like you.”

“But you said you didn’t leave the library much,” Noah said.

Mina shrugged. “I came here when I was quite young,” she said. “And I’m comfortable here.” She turned. “Here you are. The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday. It was first published in 1861. I’m sure that it’s the sort of thing that Kadogan expects you to read.”

“I hope that he’s not expecting a lot of readers for this book,” Noah said uneasily.

“Probably not,” Mina said. “Why don’t you come back tomorrow? I’ll dig out the old household books on candle making and anything I can find on coffee for you.” She smiled with an unexpected glimpse of mischief. “And I think I have a lead on one of the books that Lady Freydis wants. I’ll double check it, but it may need another trip to Ferdi.”

Noah grimaced. “He’s a slimeball,” he said. “What are those books about anyway?”

“Lady Freydis is researching a spell, that’s all I can say,” Mina said. “It was considered powerful enough or problematic enough for the creator to spread the ideas and notes over several books. They originally were all in one library but they got scattered. Tracing them is a little tricky, especially as they were a random lot.”

Mina shrugged. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said. “I’ll have more for you then.”

Noah looked at the young woman thoughtfully. “I’m sure you will,” he said.

Unrequited Love

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

“A little bit to the right,” Noah said as Callum posed with a tray of coffee cups. “That’s perfect, thank you.” He quickly took the pictures then relaxed. “We’re done.”

Callum’s shoulders sagged. “That was harder work than I thought it would be,” he said, putting down the tray and jogging towards the back room. “I’ve got to go – the delivery will be here any minute.” He disappeared through the back room on the way to the warehouse.

“So now you know that the warehouse man is a werewolf,” Martin said.

Noah jumped. “I didn’t hear you,” he said, not quite meeting Martin’s eyes. “I felt a bit bad making him stand for the shot. It’s hard holding a position, but Callum was very patient.”

“Possibly more patient than your ex-girlfriend,” Martin said. “And you also know that I’m a vampire.”

“Yep,” Noah said. He slipped his camera into its case and pulled up the tripod. “Mrs Tuesday explained everything.” He forced a smile. “It’s okay.”

“I promise you that I won’t feed on you,” Martin said. “I’m not some ravening beast.”

Noah shrugged. “I’m adjusting,” he said. “But it’s…” He looked Martin in the eye. “You know something, it’s fun. It’s crazy. I have no idea what’s going to happen, and if it’ll be dangerous or even make sense. But it’s an adventure.”

Martin grinned. “You’ll be alright. And it’s not likely to be dangerous, apart from to your mental health. After all, you work with Mrs Tuesday.” He glanced over at the old boggart who was busy switching on the grills. “We’re almost ready to open up.”

“And I’ve got all I need to push the coffee evening that’s set up for tonight,” Noah said. “There’s been a lot of hits on the posts so it should be good.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Martin said. There was a banging on the door. “I’m sorry, we’re not yet open,” he called.

There was a pop and the door flew open. “Martin!” Miss Marianne cried as she ran into the shop. “How could you do this?” She brandished a rather tired bunch of pink roses.

“What?” Martin said.

Noah took a step back and looked across at Mrs Tuesday. She urgently beckoned him over and he took it as a sign to pick up his equipment and get out of the blast zone.

“I remember when you were Aelfhelm,” she said. “You always smiled at me, you always knew my name.”

Noah caught Martin’s helpless glance. “Miss Marianne was surprised to hear about your marriage,” he said, carefully stressing the name.

“You are a charming lady,” Martin said carefully. “But I never meant to mislead. My sincere apologies, but I am a married man.”

“He’s mine!” Lady Freydis snapped as she followed Miss Marianne through the door. “Go and find yourself a werewolf.”

Miss Marianne whirled around, flinging the hapless roses to one side. “Tramp! You’re whoring around on my love just as you did with poor, poor Ragnar. You’ve enchanted him!”

“Lady Freydis glared at Miss Marianne. “I’ve been faithful to Martin since Ragnar died, how dare you suggest otherwise! And at least I’ve never pined over someone who couldn’t remember my name. If I’ve stayed faithful, at least it’s with someone who shared my bed – and not just for sleeping if you know what I mean!”

“Martin, you can’t love this!” Miss Marianne called.

Martin backed away and bumped into the display of herbs. “I took an oath to be loyal to Lady Freydis of my own free will,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d notice.”

Mrs Tuesday leaned against the counter and narrowed her eyes. “We’ve got fifteen minutes before we’re due to open to the public and a coach tour with sixty passengers due in an hour,” she said to Noah. She looked around the crowded shop with all the breakable ornaments and overstuffed shelves. “We may have a problem.”

“How could I not notice my beloved?” Miss Marianne bellowed. “My twin flame!”

“Of course you believe that stuff,” Lady Freydis spat. “You didn’t even notice when he awoke. Get out of my shop.”

Noah slid his camera onto the safety of a shelf and, with all his courage, walked towards the two women. “Ladies,” he said. “I know that feelings are running high, but no well mannered and gentle lady would want to have this sort of discussion in a shop of all places. Especially as customers could be in here at any minute and they could be anybody.”

Lady Freydis looked at him sceptically but Miss Marianne bought into it. “I will not be a spectacle for tradesmen,” she said. “Martin, follow me!” She stalked out of the White Hart.

“Martin is not following you anywhere,” Lady Freydis snarled, following her out.

“I’d better switch on the coffee machine myself,” Mrs Tuesday said. “It looks like Lady Freydis is going to be a bit occupied.”

“I don’t remember even seeing that woman before,” Martin said, looking shocked.

“It’s elfen,” Mrs Tuesday said. “You know what they’re like. Which is the one that’s in love with the scrapyard again?” She grinned at the man who had just walked in. “That’s Jack,” she told Noah. “Don’t trust him an inch but enjoy the ride.”

“Why is Lady Freydis brawling in the car park?” Jack asked as he wandered towards the café area.

“Hell’s Teeth!” Martin said and sprinted out of the door.

“May I trouble you for a ginger tea?” Jack asked. “And perhaps one of your incomparable muffins? And please, if you love me, what the hell is going on?”

Qualified Success

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

Noah got out of the car and looked up and down the quiet street. “What’s the big deal?” he asked. “I’m just here to pick up a book.”

Ian didn’t meet his eyes. “I’m not going to interfere with the way Lady Freydis does things,” he said. “And I’m not going to talk about what I think she should have done, because I’d be here all day. I’m just here to keep an eye on things.” He glared at the pristine front door in the well kept street. “You may see some weird stuff,” he said. “Keep an open mind.”

“How weird?” Noah asked. “I work with Mrs Tuesday.

Ian snorted with laughter. “Fair point,” he said. “But it could get weird and it’s not necessarily safe.” He shook his head. “I don’t know what Lady Freydis is up to, and I really dread to think what she might be plotting. Just trust me and I’ll get us out of there if things go south.”

Noah rapped on the door. “I’m just picking up a book,” he said. “What could possibly go wrong with that?”

Ian looked at him. “You’ve met Mrs Tuesday,” he said. “How do you think she’d be if she wanted to be awkward? I mean, more awkward than usual.”

Noah shivered and knocked again. “That’s worrying.”

A tall, pale figure answered the door. “You must be from Lady Freydis,” she said. “Come in.”

Noah followed with Ian close behind. “Thank you for seeing us, Miss Marianne,” he said. “Lady Freydis confirmed that you had the payment.”

“I have indeed received payment,” Miss Marianne said. “It arrived this morning.” She led them into a living room that was overflowing. “It is always gratifying to find someone willing to pay in yarn.”

Noah looked around. Every surface was covered with miscellaneous balls of knitting yarn. “It looks very colourful,” he said.

“It is a fair trade for a book,” she said. “And it’s the least I can do for poor, poor Lady Freydis, left a widow.” Miss Marianne picked up a book. “She must be so lonely.”

“She was widowed?” Noah asked, looking at Ian. “I didn’t realise. Still, at least she’s happy now with Martin.”

Miss Marianne stiffened. “Martin?” she asked, dangerously quiet. “The Roman Martin?” She carefully placed the book on the table.

“Yes, they were married a few summers ago,” Ian said. “I thought that you knew.”

“How dare she!” Miss Marianne snapped. “How DARE she!” She paced up and down amongst the yarn. “Martin is mine! He has always been mine! That trollop has always been a nasty, dirty…”

“Don’t talk about my prince like that,” Ian warned.

“I’ve been waiting for Martin to reawaken for centuries,” Miss Marianne snapped. “That slut never appreciated Ragnar and whored around with any leech that would have her.”

“I said don’t talk about Lady Freydis like that,” Ian growled.

Noah, his eyes wide, quietly picked up the book and slipped it inside his jacket. “I’m sure that you’ll find someone special just for you,” he said, the platitude slipping out before he could stop it.

Miss Marianne threw back her head and howled. Yarn lifted into the air and started spinning through the room. “Martin should be mine. He is mine. You wait! She’ll regret the day she stole my man.”

Ian snarled at her. “Does Martin know that he’s supposed to be yours?” he snapped. “Because it was Martin chasing Lady Freya. She could have had her pick of non-normals – from inside York and anywhere. Martin won. He wanted her and no-one else.”

“Not helping, man,” Noah muttered, trying to duck the flying yarn. A magazine from the table was joining them with a sheaf of papers. He edged towards the door.

“Martin must have been enspelled,” Miss Marianne yelled. “I’ll rescue him.”

“You can’t rescue him from his own desires,” Ian yelled. “And who would want you when they could have Lady Freydis? You’re a pale shadow!”

“Really not helping, man,” Noah tugged on Ian’s arm as he retreated further. He managed to force a smile at Miss Marianne. “It was lovely meeting you, ma’am.”

“Get out!” Miss Marianne screeched. “And tell that cheating whore that I’ll be rescuing Martin from her dusty fingers before she can blink her crusty eye.”

“What did you say?” Ian growled.

“I look forward to meeting you again, Miss Marianne,” Noah said, opening the door behind him and ducking a hail of yarn as he tugged Ian out with him. “Bye!”

Back in the car, Noah sat and tried to work out what had happened. He turned to Ian. “Is there something that you’re not telling me?”

Ian winced. “Lady Freydis is never in a hurry to explain things, but she’s an elfen, I suppose you could call her a fairy. She’s powerful, ancient and complicated. She’s in charge of all the non-normals in York.”

“Non-normals?” Noah asked.

“You know, vampires, werewolves, boggarts, brownies, goblins – that sort of thing,” Ian said uncomfortably. “I’ll get Mrs Tuesday to explain it to you.” He rested his hands on the steering wheel and grimaced. “But we didn’t get the book.”

Noah pulled Modern Machines and Power Generators by Rankin Kennedy, 1904 edtition, from his jacket and checked the page for Vortex engines. The now familiar script curled around the margins of the page. “We got the book,” he said. “But perhaps we need to warn Lady Freydis.”

“I think it’s Martin we need to warn,” Ian said, getting out his phone. He looked back at the green door that was slowly turning black. He hit dial and passed the phone to Noah. “You talk, I’ll get us the hell out of here.”

A New Batch

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

“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?”

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 can find the story from the beginning here – Back at the White Hart

“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 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.

You can read this part of the story from the beginning here.

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.”

You can read this story from the beginning here and if you want to see how it all began, check out Tales from the White Hart, my novel on Amazon, here.