Excerpt for Millie Morlock and What Happened At Nightshade Inn by , available in its entirety at Smashwords






Millie Morlock

and


WHAT HAPPENED AT

NIGHTSHADE INN



Marea Carey












Millie Morlock and What Happened at Nightshade Inn


by Marea Carey


Copyright © 2017 Marea Carey. All rights reserved.



No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, written, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.


Cover design by Jean Murray



ISBN: 978-0-9956669-0-0


Reference: Juvenile Fiction


CHAPTER 1: WEIRDER AND WEIRDER


The summer holidays had barely started at Dundrum Castle Boarding School, but Millie Morlock couldn’t have felt less holiday-ish if she had tried. She tossed down her pen, sighed dramatically (a total waste of breath since there was nobody around to hear her) and re-read the journal entry she’d just made:


All the other girls went home yesterday. But I’m stuck here until Dad comes to get me. And that won’t be for another THREE WHOLE WEEKS! Why can’t he have a normal job like other parents??? Why does his work always have to be in the middle of nowhere?

I hate being the only student left here at school and I really miss my friends. Jasmine tried to talk her parents into letting her stay with me, but they said no. Then Deirdre said I could go to her place for three weeks, but Dad said no, he’d be happier knowing I’m safe here at Dundrum!


But moaning and groaning into her diary wouldn’t change anything, Millie thought miserably. So for the next three weeks her only company would be a laptop, a library of dusty old books and the two school custodians: cranky old Mr. Skulsludge, who barely talked, and cheery Mrs. Chilblain, who rarely stopped.

All things considered, she figured it wouldn’t take long until she’d actually be grateful for Mrs. Chilblain’s constant chatter. Pathetic.

Wrapping her arms around herself, she left her bedroom and started down the long, dim corridor, her footsteps echoing as she hurried past the rows of empty rooms that were normally full of laughs and squealing chatter. Rushing down the wide staircase, she went around behind it then tugged open the heavy oak door that led out to the school gardens.

Despite the low clouds, Millie instantly felt more cheerful once she was outside. Humming softly, she picked her way along the crooked path towards the walled garden where Mr. Skulsludge was growing all kinds of weird things, like flowers that blossomed in the rain and shrivelled in the sunlight, and … she suddenly stood still and tilted her head to one side, listening … listening …

A strange, shrill noise that sounded like an injured animal was coming from the garden. Standing on her tiptoes, she cautiously peeked over the high, moss-covered wall.

And instantly jumped back.

She shook her head and blinked. She had to be imagining things. Taking a deep breath, she looked over the wall again.

A tiny, perfect person with shimmering silver wings was lying flat among the strawberry plants. When she saw Millie she glared furiously up at her, then raised her head and chirped something that sounded like “Essee twee! Help me!”

“Who ... who are you?” Millie’s eyes opened so wide it felt as if they might pop right out of her head.

“Help me! Get me out of here!” The little person, who couldn’t have been more than two feet tall, pointed at the ground with a dull black stick. “Away from all this yucky sleef! This yucky salt! Help me and I’ll grant you seven whole years. I promise!” Then her head dropped back and her eyelids fluttered half closed.

Millie hadn’t noticed the white trail but now she saw a ribbon of salt encircling the strawberry patch. Hurrying through the gate, she kneeled down and lifted the little creature. She was practically weightless. “What happened? Are you hurt?”

“Put me down! Right over there. Now!” she ordered, squirming in Millie’s arms and pointing the black stick at the stone wall. “Let me rest and I’ll be right as rain in no time. As soon as I get away from all that salt!” Suddenly her fine eyebrows drew together and she hissed like a cat.

Millie set her leaning against the wall then hunkered down beside her. Dad had always told her never to stare, but right now there was no way she couldn’t stare. The little person was wearing a soft gold vest covered with pockets and a long, filmy lilac dress. Her feet were bare, a fine gold chain encircled one ankle and her eight miniature toenails (Millie counted twice) were blue. A ring of tiny yellow flowers sat crookedly on her long, black hair.

Millie shook her head: she had to be dreaming. She pinched herself, but with no effect: the little creature was still there. Then she bit the inside of her cheek, with the same result. “What … who …?”

The tiny stranger glowered up at her. “What are you staring at?” she demanded, her voice growing stronger with every word. “I already said I’d grant you seven years, so what’s your problem? Twiss dandit loofah! I don’t lie!” Her purple eyes glowed iridescent.

“I didn’t say you lied, I just don’t know what you’re talking about. Seven years of what?” It sounded sort of ominous, Millie thought, like seven years of bad luck for breaking a mirror.

Shaking her head in exasperation the small person brushed her hair from her eyes, drew a handful of sparkling blue dust from her pocket and before Millie realized what was happening, tossed it in her face.

Millie sneezed three times, hiccupped twice, and coughed once. Her eyes watered and her ears were ringing.

“That’s better,” the little person continued. “Can you understand me now? Speaking human is just too tedious. You don’t have enough words. I don’t know why anybody even bothers speaking human!”

“What … what do you mean?” Millie spluttered, rubbing her eyes. It felt like she’d been peeling seriously strong onions.

“What do you think I mean? Now you can speak and read Bweelish. With just a smidgen of fairy dust, even a dumbly human like you can understand it!”

“Huh? Bweelish? Fairy dust?”

“Anyway, as I was saying, it’s all written in The Ancient Law of Faerie. Section B2, Paragraph 12. Or whatever, I can’t remember. I hate those stupid old laws. Sukie would know of course, because she just loves all that boring junk. I never paid any attention because I never got caught before. But now I’ll have to pay attention and it’s all your fault!” A single tear rolled down her cheek and she scrunched her tiny nose as if she’d smelled something rotten, then began wailing like a banshee.

“What are you talking about? What’s my fault?” Millie said. This couldn’t really be happening. “Seven years of what? Who’s Sukie? And who are you?”

Leaning away from the wall the small figure sniffed loudly, straightened her shoulders and tilted her chin in the air. “I,” she announced grandly, “am Dulcie, and Sukie is my twin. But even though everyone says we’re identical, I’m really much smarter and more beautiful than she is.” As she spoke her silver gossamer wings unfolded from her back and she glanced over her shoulder, as if checking for damage. The wings’ edges were lined with tiny silver bells that tinkled softly as she flapped them.

Millie stared even harder. There was no doubt about it, she had to be dreaming. Because people who weren’t dreaming simply didn’t find miniature fairies lying in strawberry patches.

But it was an interesting dream, so she’d just go along with it. Not that she had much choice. “And so you’re a fairy?” she asked conversationally, as if meeting a fairy was a regular, everyday occurrence.

Tsk! Of course I’m a fairy, what else could I possibly be? Can’t you see my wings? Humans can be so stupid. And look!” The fairy shook the black stick. “He even ruined this.”

“Who ruined what?”

“Nasty old lizard guts and his salt trap ruined my wand.” She shook the stick again, then blew a loud raspberry.

“Who’s lizard guts?”

Frowning, Dulcie flapped her wings once more, then settled down as if about to recite a very long story to a very young, rather stupid child. “It’s like this. I’d only eaten about ten strawberries when I began feeling quite queasy. Because I hadn’t noticed that awful horrible salt, and had landed right in the middle of it! That sly old goat had hidden it beneath the strawberry plants. It was a trap, don’t you know? But by then it was too late, because I was already weak as a firefly. Even my wand had lost its power!”

Millie nodded at the stick. “You mean to say that thing’s a wand?”

Dulcie rolled her eyes. “Of course it’s a wand! Anyway, it’s probably good that you came along, otherwise I don’t know what might have happened to me. I can’t even bear to think about it!” Another tear suddenly rolled down the other cheek and she sniffed, then plucked a dandelion leaf and daintily wiped her nose with it.

“So you mean salt makes you sick?”

“It does more than that! It destroys all my fairy powers. It’s totally devastating!” Dulcie exclaimed, rubbing her stomach. The shimmering blue of her tiny fingernails changed to purple whenever she moved. “But I still feel yechy. Maybe it’s the strawberries,” she added, waving the wand through the air in a large figure eight with no noticeable result.

“Maybe you just ate too much,” Millie suggested. Dulcie’s face was turning pale green and although Millie wasn’t exactly sure what fairies’ complexions should look like, she was pretty confident that green wasn’t good. “After all, ten strawberries is a lot for someone your size.”

“Maybe.” Dulcie’s mouth turned down at the corners as she frowned up at Millie. “Anyway, it’s getting late. Where do we go now?”

“What do you mean?”

Dulcie put her hand over her mouth and burped delicately. “You really don’t know much, do you?” And suddenly she was in the air, hovering over Millie’s head then swooping around in a large circle before settling back against the wall with her thin legs stuck straight out in front of her. She’d turned an even stranger shade of green. “Ughh! I need a dose of ground-up bat whiskers.”

“Bat whiskers? Why do you need bat whiskers?”

“Why do you think? Airsickness, of course!”

“So where can we get bat whiskers?” Millie asked, while wondering at the absurdity of a fairy getting airsick.

“We can’t get them here, stupid! I buy them at Wing’s Pharmacopoeia, even though that miserable old toad-brain charges about ten times what they’re worth. But if I didn’t go there, I’d have to fly all the way to the next Glen.”

“What Glen?”

Dulcie just groaned, waved her wand dismissively and shut her eyes.

“I have stuff in my room for motion sickness and upset stomachs. I’ll go and get it for you,” Millie offered. As well as being weird, this dream was getting kind of long.

“Wait! I’m going with you!” Dulcie exclaimed, opening her eyes. She stood up and clutched at the wall. “I’m not staying here alone! What if I vomited? I absolutely detest vomiting!” She fluttered up and settled on Millie’s shoulder. “But you’ll have to carry me because I still feel quite flittish. And be sure to walk smoothly because I’m extremely delicate, so don’t bump!” she ordered, grabbing a fistful of Millie’s hair.

“Ouch! Not so hard!” Millie winced. She hadn’t realized that dreams could hurt.


CHAPTER 2: THE TRAP IS SET


Back inside Dundrum Millie carefully climbed the stairs with the fairy still perched on her shoulder. When they reached the second floor Dulcie hopped down then half-skipped and half-flew along the corridor, her tiny feet barely touching the floor. “I’ve never been up here before. You must be very rich to live in such a huge place!”

“It’s not my – “

“And if you’re rich you must have oodles and oodles of gold and jewels,” Dulcie interrupted. “Where do you keep it? I absolutely adore gold. And what do you do with all this space? Do any other humans live here?”

“The other students all left for the summer, but I’m stuck here for three more weeks. That’s when Dad comes for me. He’s an archaeologist and he’s in the rainforest right now. His work’s at a really crucial stage, so he can’t come and get me until – “

Whatever,” Dulcie interrupted again, obviously not interested in Millie’s father or the rainforest. “I really don’t like it here, it’s way too quiet.”

“It’s not usually so – ”

“Where do you store all your food?” she demanded.

“Downstairs in the – ”

“Do you have any chocolate smoke puffs?” Dulcie cut in once more. “They’re my absolute favourites! Sweetspot’s Bakery makes the best smoke puffs in the entire First Glen.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of them. But I could probably get some chocolate brownies from –“

“And where will I sleep? I’m extremely sensitive, so I need a very comfortable bed, or else my wings will hurt,” Dulcie whined. “Actually I’m quite tired now; I think a batnap would do me good. But I already know I’m going to absolutely detest living here!” She looked along the hallway and pouted.

“You mean you’re really staying?” Millie’s eyebrows shot up. Then she reminded herself that this was just a dream.

“I already told you. I have to stay with you for seven years! Because you saved me.” Dulcie made a face then abruptly tossed her wand in the air. It fell to the floor with a hollow thunk. “Stupid thing,” she muttered, fluttering over to retrieve it.

“Where’s this Glen you mentioned?” Millie asked as they reached her bedroom. It really was weird to be having a perfectly normal day-to-day conversation with a self-centred fairy. When she woke up she’d write everything in her journal before she forgot it, then in September she’d do an essay. Miss Mudie, the English teacher, was really into magic.

But Dulcie just ignored her and scowled as she looked around the room. “I thought it would be much fancier than this. Don’t you have any place nicer where I can stay?” She flew over to the bed, sank daintily onto a pillow then unscrewed one end of her wand. A stream of black powder instantly spilled onto the quilt. “Fiddlystix! No wonder the stupid thing won’t work.”

“What’s that stuff?” Millie said.

Dulcie sighed loudly, as if it were the silliest question she’d ever heard. “What do you think it is? It’s wand fuel, and it’s supposed to be gold, not black! But sometimes it recharges itself,” she added, blowing on the pile of dust so it flew back into the wand in a narrow stream.

“Can you get more if it doesn’t?” A broken wand wasn’t much use, even in a dream.

“I could get some in Tir na Gleena.”

“Where’s that?”

“Tir na Gleena is made up of the Five Glens. I live in the First Glen. I could take you there for a visit, if you’d like. Then we’d come right back here,” Dulcie added, glancing slyly at Millie. “You’d really, really like it! And you could see all kinds of magical things.” She was no longer green and she flitted to the top of the dresser where she spied a carved jewellery box that had belonged to Millie’s mother. She tapped it three times with her wand but nothing happened. She tossed the wand aside, pulled the box open and began rummaging through it.

“Don’t damage that box,” Millie warned, then remembered she was dreaming.

“What’s this? Jewels! And here’s your gold, I found it!” Dulcie gasped, pulling out a bracelet. She fastened it around her neck then hovered in front of the mirror while she readjusted the flowers in her hair and admired herself. “I think I’ll keep this. I look absolutely stunning!”

“It’s not real gold, but keep whatever you like,” Millie offered. It was easy to be generous in a dream.

“And this. And these!” Dulcie draped an amethyst necklace around her waist, and poked silver earrings into her hair. Then her eyes lit upon the opal pendant around Millie’s neck. “A real opal!” she squealed. “That’s the most magical gemstone there is! Can I have it?”

“My Dad gave it to me; it was my Mum’s. Sorry, but I never take it off.” Not even in dreams. Millie tucked it safely inside her T-shirt.

Dulcie scowled briefly then her eyes began roaming the room once again. She spotted Millie’s digital camera. “Look! Is that a really and truly cameron?”

“You mean camera? I joined the school photography club this year and - ”

“I’ve heard about camerons!” Dulcie interrupted. “I always wanted to have a picture made with one. I’d be a perfect model!”

“Then stay still and say cheese!”

“Say what?”

“Cheese. It means you’re ready,” Millie said, snapping a photo.

Dulcie screwed up her face and blinked. “I think your cameron just exploded!”

“That’s the flash making sure there’s enough light,” Millie said, showing her the digital image.

Ooh, I look totally gorgeous!”

“I’ll print it for you, so you can take it with you,” Millie volunteered as she scrolled back through the photos she’d taken just yesterday. Deirdre and Jasmine’s smiling faces looked out at her from the back of the camera and there were several selfies of the three of them crowded together. Which was kind of weird: was it normal to have total recall in dreams?

She snapped a couple more pictures, then Dulcie hovered over her shoulder, mesmerized as they appeared on the computer monitor. She grabbed them as they emerged from the printer, closely examining each one. “This is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me since … since forever! My very own pictures made with a real cameron!”

“What’s the big deal? Can’t fairies do all kinds of magic?”

“Ours is just old-fashioned magic that’s been around forever, but this is modern magic. It’s so much better than all that ancient stuff back home. That’s why I love coming here!” She looked around the room. “But where’s your telebishon?”

“I don’t have one in my room. And it’s television, not telebishon.”

“Whatever.” Dulcie suddenly frowned. “Where do I sleep? This bed’s too big.”

“So you’re really staying?” Millie repeated. Dream or no dream, she couldn’t fathom sharing a room with a fairy.

“How often do I have to tell you? You saved me, so now I’m stuck with you for seven years.” The corners of Dulcie’s mouth turned down again. “But I’ll really, really miss Sukie. We’ve never been separated before.”

“I don’t mind if you leave.”

Tsk! You don’t understand, I have to stay with you. It’s one of the Ancient Primary Laws that nobody has any control over. I’ll already be in trouble for coming here, but if I don’t stay with you for seven long, long years, I’ll be in humungous trouble!”

“But I wouldn’t tell anybody.”

Dulcie shook her head emphatically. “They’d find out. I can’t risk it.”

Millie didn’t like the sound of they, whoever they were. “Well, I think that’s totally ridiculous! What business is it of theirs? And anyway, who are they?”

Dulcie’s eyes opened wide. “The High Council of the Ancient Order of Faerie. And believe me; you don’t want to mess with that bunch!” She shuddered dramatically then began inspecting the room again.

Millie frowned and chewed absent-mindedly on a fingernail. This was turning into a very, very long dream.


CHAPTER 3: TO GO OR NOT TO GO


Millie listened to the rain tapping rhythmically against the bedroom window. Her eyes still closed, she stretched and yawned and stretched again. That had definitely been one weird dream: wings and wands and harebrained fairies.

She opened both eyes, threw back the covers, sat up … and froze.

Dulcie was sitting cross-legged on the dresser, her chin propped in her hand, staring at her. What Millie had thought was the sound of rain was really her wand tapping against the dresser.

Dulcie yawned widely, scratched between her wings with the tip of her wand and stood up. “It’s about time! I’m totally bored. Do all humans sleep so much? You’re very lazy.”

“But … but I thought you were a dream.”

“Me? A dream? Are you crazy?” Dulcie fluttered into the air and pointed at the dresser. “But that thing is a total nightmare.” She scowled at the dresser’s top drawer. It was hanging open and several of Millie’s sweaters lay scattered across the floor. “And I can’t possibly sleep in there again! I piled up all your softest clothes but it didn’t make a smidgen of difference. My back is killing me, my wings are stiff and I barely got ten bat winks of sleep all night! While you, I might add, slept like a troll. I’m totally exhausted!” And to emphasize her point she flew over and flopped across the end of the bed.

“But it was your idea to sleep in the drawer,” Millie muttered, still not quite believing that she was talking to a real, live fairy. It was definitely the weirdest thing that had ever happened to her.

It probably ranked right up there as one of the weirdest things that had ever happened to anybody, anywhere.

As usual, Dulcie ignored her and continued as if they’d been having a long discussion. “So anyway, I really should go home, to get some of my things and to tell Sukie where I am.”

“I already told you to go home,” Millie protested, recalling the previous day’s conversation.

“And I already told you I can’t just up and leave - I’m stuck with you for seven long years, remember?”

Millie remembered. And with a sinking feeling realized that spending seven years with a genuine fairy was an entirely different matter than dreaming about it. “So this is all really happening? You’re a real fairy? Who can do real magic and everything?”

Dulcie gave another of her melodramatic sighs. “Yes, I’m a real fairy and this is really happening and this conversation is getting really, really boring.” She swooped into the air and landed on top of the windowsill then cast a cunning look at Millie. “But if I go home you can come with me and see where I live and learn all about fairies!”

“Well, maybe … maybe for a few hours.” The idea was appealing. How often did anyone get the chance to see where real fairies lived?

“But we have to eat first! I’m starving. What’s for breakfast?” Dulcie abruptly demanded.

“I could ask Mrs. Chilblain to make some French toast,” Millie said, wondering what Mrs. Chilblain would say if she told her she was cooking for a fairy. She’d probably call a psychiatrist.

“I’ve no idea what French toast is and besides, you can’t tell anyone I’m here. It has to be a secret.”

“Why?”

Dulcie tapped her head with her wand, as if commenting on Millie’s mental capabilities. “I already told you how much trouble I’m in! Can’t you remember anything? And now I’m stuck with you for seven years!” Her bottom lip turned down and began to quiver.

“What about scrambled eggs?” Millie said quickly. She didn’t want Dulcie’s banshee wails to start up again.

“Yech!” Dulcie looked at Millie as if she’d just offered her a bowl of mothballs. “The eggs here totally stink.” She tossed the wand on the floor where it stood upright for a moment before toppling over.

“Porridge?”

“Never heard of it. But it sounds disgusting.”

“Yogurt?”

Dulcie pouted and shook her head from side to side.

“Cereal? Bagels? Waffles?”

“No, no and no! Oh, this is awful; I’m going to starve to death!”

“Grapefruit? Orange juice?”

Dulcie tilted her head to one side and thought for a moment then finally said “Maybe I’ll have a little orange juice.”

“That’s all?”

“Fairies don’t have big appetites,” Dulcie replied, then flew over to the mirror, tied Millie’s favourite red silk scarf around her hair, and examined her reflection. “This colour doesn’t suit me!” She whipped off the scarf and tossed it on the floor then turned back to Millie and demanded “Where’s my orange juice?”

“I’ll get it now.” Millie slipped on her dressing gown, and mumbling something to herself about seven really, really long years, hurried down to the big, old-fashioned kitchen. She rummaged in the huge fridges and put two glasses of orange juice, two raisin bran muffins, two bananas and a bowl of grapes on a tray.

She suddenly stood still and frowned. Why should Dulcie be kept a secret? When Deirdre and Jasmine returned in September, it would be impossible to keep her a secret for seven days, never mind seven years.

Turning to go back upstairs she practically collided with Mrs. Chilblain, who was returning from the pantry with an armload of rhubarb. She smiled at Millie then nearly dropped the rhubarb as she struggled to push back a strand of wispy grey hair and adjust her glasses. Her round cheeks were the same colour as her bright pink apron, which clashed with her red and yellow tartan dress.

“Good morning, dear. Expecting company for breakfast?” she asked, glancing at the tray. She plunked the rhubarb onto one of the long marble countertops then stood on tiptoe, struggling to reach a large blue and white striped bowl on an upper shelf. Mrs. Chilblain wasn’t very tall.

“Uh, no, I’m just hungry. Really hungry,” Millie muttered, reaching the bowl down from the shelf and handing it to her.

“I’m making rhubarb jam this morning. Do you want to help?”

“I’m sort of busy today, Mrs. Chilblain. Maybe next time?”

“Whatever you say, dear.” She transferred the rhubarb to one of the huge double sinks and began washing it. “Mr. Skulsludge is away this evening, so it’s just the two of us for dinner again. I thought I’d make lasagna and then rhubarb and strawberry pie for dessert. We can have a nice cosy meal in the library, then look at more of those nice old Dundrum photos. Won’t that be fun?”

“Sounds great.” Millie tried to sound enthusiastic, which was nearly impossible since she’d already spent part of yesterday looking through photo albums with Mrs. Chilblain. After a surprisingly short time the old black and white photos all began to look the same. “See you later,” she mumbled, balancing the tray and backing through the swinging doors out of the kitchen. She hurried up the staircase to her bedroom, pushing the door closed behind her.

In the brief time that she’d been downstairs her bedroom had been transformed into a disaster zone. T-shirts, sweatshirts, jeans and countless books were strewn across the floor. Dulcie had completely emptied the jewellery box, then moved over to the bedside table where she’d discovered Millie’s stash of Swiss chocolate truffles. Empty foil wrappers lay scattered everywhere and Dulcie was curled up on the bed.

“Look at this mess!” Millie exclaimed.

Dulcie ignored her. “This place doesn’t agree with me. There’s no way I can last here for seven years! I feel really sick.”

“No wonder. Each of those chocolates is probably the size of your stomach. How many did you eat?”

“I don’t know, I ate them, I didn’t count them,” Dulcie grumbled.

“Goodness gracious,” Millie declared, sounding exactly like Mrs. Chilblain whenever one of the Dundrum students had overeaten. “There’s about a dozen empty wrappers on the floor. Here, take a bite of bran muffin, maybe it’ll help settle your stomach.”

Dulcie struggled to a sitting position, nibbled a tiny piece of muffin then screwed up her face. “Tastes like old bat fur!”

Millie rolled her eyes. “It’s good for you. Eat it, then we’ll go to your place and get your things.”



Millie shuddered as yet another spider web brushed across her face. Poking about in the musty old school basement was never a great idea, but searching for a secret doorway that was supposed to move seemed sillier with every passing minute. “Are you absolutely sure it’s down here?” she whispered.

The dim light from the small, high windows revealed piles of old boxes and trunks, several ladders, and dozens of empty flowerpots. But there was no sign of Dulcie’s moving doorway to the fairy Glens.

Shhh,” Millie warned, holding her finger to her lips and grimacing as Dulcie flew into a pile of flowerpots that clattered loudly to the floor. “Mrs. Chilblain will hear – the kitchen’s right above us.”

“Mrs. Chilblain can go eat a cartload of old turtle shells for all I care! I just about killed myself. Owww!” Dulcie was sprawled among the flowerpot pieces, rubbing her head.

“You seem sort of accident-prone.”

“I didn’t fly into them on purpose, y’know! It’s dark down here!”

“It’s not that dark. And anyway, don’t you have special powers that keep you from flying into things? Like radar or something?”

Glaring at Millie, Dulcie got up and dusted herself off. “I’m a fairy, not a bat!”

“Whatever,” Millie sighed. Dulcie was becoming less and less like what she imagined a fairy should be, and more and more like a fairy with attitude. A really big attitude.

“How far could that dumbly old door have moved in one night?” Dulcie moaned, her nose only a few inches from the old stone walls, peering at them as if she needed glasses. But a moment later she startled Millie by exclaiming “Ha! There it is!”

And sure enough, beyond the shattered flowerpots was the indistinct outline of a pointy door about four feet high. But there were no handles or hinges.

“How does it open?” Millie said.

“Don’t worry, I’m an expert at unlocking doors. Listen!” And Dulcie began humming a tuneless combination that sounded like three off-key notes being sung at the same time. They made Millie’s ears vibrate but within a matter of seconds the door creaked open to reveal complete and utter darkness on the other side.

“Hurry, it doesn’t stay open for long!” Dulcie cried. And before Millie realized what was happening, the fairy flew through the doorway and into the blackness beyond. Her voice quickly started to grow faint.

Millie hesitated. This was totally crazy. Who in their right mind would follow an arrogant, self-centred, petulant fairy through some small black doorway into the complete unknown?

But she knew if she didn’t go, she’d regret it for the rest of her life.

And that was an awful lot of regret.

As the door slowly began to swing shut, she took a deep breath and stepped into the void.


CHAPTER 4: NIGHTSHADE INN


Millie clapped both hands over her ears. A deafening noise was pounding her head and it felt as if she’d lurched through the small door into a full-blown tornado. She began spinning faster and faster and her opal pendant bounced up and hit her chin as her fringe blew straight out and her long auburn ponytail streamed out behind her into the blackness.

“Dulcie! Dulcie!” But her voice was swallowed by the wild, swirling air. Where was she? Was this all a trick? How would she ever get home?

But before she could call the fairy’s name again the darkness began changing to grey and then the grey became a misty daylight. The swirling stopped as suddenly as it had started and she crash-landed, tripping over her own feet to sprawl full length on an uneven earthen floor. She was so dizzy she felt sick.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes! You should see yourself,” Dulcie laughed. She was floating cross-legged a few inches above the floor, weaving tiny lights into her black hair.

“What happened? I feel awful,” Millie moaned, rolling onto her back and gingerly feeling both elbows. They were scraped raw.

“Don’t be such a wimp. You just came through the Vortex, it’s no big deal!”

“The what?” Millie’s head was still spinning and it felt like she was about to float up to the ceiling. She fought the urge to dig her fingernails into the ground to anchor herself. She counted slowly to ten, then forced herself to sit up.

Hopping to her feet, Dulcie fluttered her wings back and forth impatiently. “The Vortex. It’s the portal between your OuterRealm and our Tir na Gleena. It’s rough on wings, but it’s the only passageway there is.”

Still feeling queasy, Millie swallowed hard and looked around the narrow, high-ceilinged room. “You mean this is Tir na Gleena?” The dizziness was fading and she clambered awkwardly to her feet, then leaned against the wall. It was damp and spongy, and smelled really, really musty.

She had expected some sort of amazing gateway to a wondrous magical realm, with fairies fluttering everywhere. But instead they were in a poky, windowless, round room that was empty except for two flickering candles on rusty wall sconces. “I thought it would be different. Sort of magical.”

“We are in a toadstool, y’know; you can’t expect much magic in here,” Dulcie said as she opened the door and flew out.

A toadstool? That explained the strange smell. Millie ducked and followed Dulcie through the low doorway, then peered upwards. The enormous toadstool towered over them like a gigantic brown umbrella. They were surrounded by huge toadstools as far as she could see.

“We’d better get going, or we won’t reach the Glen by nightfall, which could be a total catastrophe. I absolutely detest the solstice night storms,” Dulcie said, leading the way through the swirling, gray mist.

“The what storms?” Millie said.

Dulcie just flapped her hand dismissively and fluttered off so for awhile the only sounds were Millie’s breathing and the swish of wings whenever Dulcie circled back to urge her to hurry.

But despite Dulcie’s attitude, Millie’s spirits were lifting. After all, how many people actually got to go home with an honest-to-goodness genuine fairy? Never mind writing about it in her journal; she’d write an entire book! They’d make a movie and she could act herself! She’d move to Hollywood and be interviewed on all the talk shows: The Girl Who Discovered a Whole New World.

She suddenly stopped dead in her tracks and slapped her forehead. “Wait! We have to go back!”

Dulcie’s face screwed up. “Are you NUTS?”

“No, I mean it, we have to go back, I forgot my camera!” How dumb could she be? She’d been so keyed up about rushing through the small doorway that she’d forgotten everything. She hadn’t even brought extra clothes. “This is terrible! I won’t have any proof I was even in fairyland. When I get back nobody will believe me!”

Dulcie gave a huge sigh. “Nobody, and I mean nobody, calls it fairyland! We’re not in a fairytale, y’know! We’re going to Tir na Gleena and when you go home you can take all kinds of magic stuff back with you.”

“Like what?”

Dulcie frowned and thought for a moment. “A miniature elephant. About this high.” She held her hands about six inches apart. “Or a singing bat. Or my own personal favourite, a never-ending milkshake. Or even a wand that really works,” she added viciously, shaking her own wand. When she’d last checked, its magical powder had recharged from black to bronze, but she claimed it wouldn’t work properly until it was gold.

“And I didn’t leave a note for Mrs. Chilblain! She’ll think I’ve been kidnapped!”

“I can’t worry about stuff like that!” Dulcie snapped.

“Really, I have to go back!”

“And I have to go to the Glens.”

“No, I mean it. Take me back. Now!” Millie exclaimed.

“Later. First I have to get my things.”

Dulcie obviously wasn’t about to change her mind. Turning in a complete circle, Millie gazed around the misty landscape. All she could see were countless huge toadstools with crooked pathways twisting among them. Every direction looked the same. With a growing feeling of alarm, she realized she hadn’t a clue how to get back to the Vortex. She had no choice: she had to follow Dulcie. “But we can’t stay long, okay?” she said.

“Whatever. Just hurry, we have to get to the waterfall.”

They trudged along in an uneasy silence until the sound of rushing water could be heard in the distance. When they finally spied the waterfall through the mist, Dulcie rushed even further ahead, leaving Millie to scramble across the flat stones in the large pool of water at its base.

“This way,” the fairy called, fluttering behind the high waterfall.

Millie slipped easily behind the curtain of water then picked her way over more flat stones in the small lake on the other side of the waterfall. She reached dry land and gazed around in amazement. A different world had appeared: the huge toadstools had been replaced by meadows of swaying flowers and tall trees, and the wide valley in front of them opened onto a distant range of purple hills. To their right a vast ocean sparkled in the sunlight.

A choir of raspy voices was singing something that sounded vaguely like ‘The Farmer’s in the Dell’. Millie glanced down and grinned. Dozens of swaying daisies were singing, their tiny eyes closed and their leaves clasped in front of them like hands. “Look at that! They’re amazing!”

“Are you kidding? They are so off-key. But they’ll shut up if you threaten to pluck them,” Dulcie declared, sprinkling bronze sparkles into her hair.

Millie looked up from the daisies and across the wide valley. “Where are we?”

“The First Glen. Over there’s the Second Glen,” Dulcie pointed to the far hills. “There are Five Glens altogether. My village is on the far side of the First Glen, down by the sea.”

But there were still no signs of any other fairies, except for a few brightly-coloured doors in the bases of some of the tall trees. “So do you live in a tree?” Millie asked.

“Don’t be ridiculous! I’m an air fairy, not an earth fairy!” Dulcie scoffed.

“Can we visit your place before I go back tonight?”

“We can’t go back tonight. We wouldn’t make it before the storms start.”

“Tomorrow, then?”

“We’ll see.”

Millie was beginning to feel uneasy. “Where will I stay tonight?”

Dulcie started flying along a crooked path. “You certainly won’t fit in my bed,” she said. “So you’ll have to stay at Nightshade Inn, just this side of town. And stop asking so many questions. Just hurry up!”



Millie was tired and her feet were getting sore. She had been following Dulcie across the wide valley for what felt like hours, but they still hadn’t arrived at Dulcie’s village or seen another living creature.

This was not how she’d imagined things, she thought as they passed a short, peculiar-looking tree with two bright blue leaves on the very tip of every branch. Although there was no wind, several of the branches were swaying wildly. Suddenly a pair of leaves fell from a branch and fluttered away. “Look at that! They’re not leaves! They’re birds!” she exclaimed.

Du-uh! Of course they’re birds.” Dulcie made a face then tapped her head with her wand. “What else would you expect on bluebird bushes? Anyway, they’re nothing to get excited about. Wait’ll you see the horse chestnut trees.”

“Horse chestnut trees! You mean they actually grow horses?”

“Miniature ones that can fly. But never mind that – look! There’s the windmill!” Dulcie suddenly squealed, quickly flying ahead of Millie. “We’re almost home!”

As they rounded a large hawthorn bush Millie heard a low thwump thwump thwump and saw a sparkling windmill spewing spirals of golden dust into the air. Just beyond the windmill was the outline of a village of stone buildings and brightly coloured thatched cottages with smoke curling from their chimneys.

Dulcie didn’t have to persuade her to hurry. She forgot being tired and she forgot her sore feet when she spied countless fairies fluttering between the buildings. When they reached the village square Millie turned in complete circles, trying to see everything at once.

But Dulcie had other ideas. “That’s Nightshade Inn,” she announced, pointing to a building on the far side of the village square and tugging on Millie’s sleeve. “Come on!”

The building was all gloomy grey stone with warped walls and crooked chimneys and rickety turrets, and as they got closer Millie saw that it was surrounded by a moat full of water. She looked up and counted five floors then she grinned: two large gargoyles at the top of the building were arguing loudly about which types of birds were the most annoying.

“Come on,” Dulcie poked her in the ribs.

Millie dragged her attention away from the gargoyles and looked at the bizarre flashing purple neon sign above the doorway: NIGHTSHADE INN: Superior Accommodation for the Discerning Traveller.

Huh. If this was superior, she’d sure hate to see third-rate. “Isn’t there somewhere else I can stay? Like one of those nice little cottages?” she asked hopefully as they crossed the wobbly drawbridge.

“Nope. They’re private fairy homes. Besides, you wouldn’t fit in any of the beds. So this is it. Take it or leave it.” And she flew inside.

Millie followed her into the front lobby where a large fire crackled in a carved marble fireplace. Three swaying chandeliers hung on long, iron chains, their spluttering candles doing very little to brighten the dull lobby. A long reception counter faced the front doors and on the wall behind it, rows of square pigeonholes contained key rings with big, old-fashioned keys.

Millie looked around the deserted lobby. She definitely did not like the idea of staying here, not one little bit. “There’s nobody else here. Maybe they’re closed?” she added hopefully.

“Nightshade’s the only inn in town. So it can’t close,” Dulcie said, abruptly hitting a large brass bell. “Yoo-hoo! We need some service here,” she trilled, fluttering onto the countertop and standing with her hands on her tiny hips. “You can’t get good help anywhere these days!”

That was when the whistle music started. Millie’s left foot began tapping as a short, wingless creature meandered through the doorway behind the reception desk. His huge ears poked through an orange knitted cap, his small eyes were as black as coal and his long upper lip looked even longer as he played a tin whistle.

Without missing a beat, he hopped onto the high stool behind the counter and his fingers began moving faster and faster. Millie’s other foot suddenly began to tap. Before she knew what was happening, she was dancing a wild jig, her feet barely touching the floor and her arms flung out wide for balance.

She looked helplessly at Dulcie. “H… he…help me!”

“I hate gnomes!” Dulcie exclaimed as she whipped the whistle from the gnome, smartly broke it in half and tossed it over her shoulder. Millie’s feet instantly became still. She took a deep breath, and backed away from the gnome.

“Whaddja go an’ do that for!” he demanded shrilly.

“I’m going to report you to Barghest!” Dulcie threatened, then turned to Millie. “And gnomes hate humans.”

“Whaddja want anyway?” the gnome grumbled as he propped his left bare foot on his right knee, and began inspecting his big toe.

“We need a deluxe suite, the best you have,” Dulcie demanded.

“Nope.”

“What do you mean nope? There’s no way you’re full, look at all those room keys behind you!”

The gnome shrugged his narrow shoulders and burped.

“I told you, this isn’t such a good idea,” Millie said, wondering if there were any other gnomes at the Inn. She’d never even liked plastic garden gnomes, and the real thing was about a thousand times worse. “Or I’ll just go home now. I wasn’t planning on staying long anyway, and don’t worry, you don’t have to stay with me for seven years. Or seven minutes, for that matter. Just get me back to the Vortex and I promise I’ll never, ever mention you to anyone.”

“How many times do I have to spell it out? Six little words: You can’t go back right now!”

“But why not?”

Dulcie ignored her and turning back to the gnome, demanded “Where’s Barghest? We’re not leaving until we see him. We’ll stay here in the lobby and make a huge scene! Just see how you’ll like that!”

Millie wondered if she was missing something: there was still nobody else in the lobby. “I don’t think making a scene will achieve much,” she said. “But it’s all right, I really don’t want to stay here. I mean it! Come on, take me back to the Vortex. Like now!”

“That’s not the point. It’s the principle of the thing!” Dulcie exclaimed.

“The principle of what thing?”

Millie spun around to see where the new voice had come from. There had been nobody there a moment ago, but now a tall, black-haired man was standing directly behind them. His skin was so pale that his face practically glowed in the dim light. He was dressed in an old-fashioned black suit with a long jacket reaching nearly to his knees, and one end of a white silk scarf lay over his left shoulder, as if just blown there by the wind. A small gold hoop earring glinted from his left earlobe. “Is there a problem?” he asked, smiling down at Millie.

She swallowed hard. He looked unnervingly like what she had always imagined a vampire to look like.

He says the hotel is full,” Dulcie scowled at the gnome.

“Nonsense. Give our new guest one of our best suites,” the newcomer instructed the gnome, then snapped “Feet! If I have to tell you just once more to wear shoes to work, you’re fired!”

Muttering under his breath, the gnome took his foot off his knee then glared at Millie and Dulcie.

The tall man turned to Millie, bowed slightly and said “Barghest, hotel proprietor at your service.”

“Nice to meet you,” Millie muttered.

“I trust you will find your stay here to be pleasant, Millie. We shall certainly endeavour to make it so.” He shot a warning glance at the gnome who was now tugging his ear hair out then examining it closely.

“Ah … how do you know my name?”

“Elemental magic, my dear, a mere trick of telepathy that anyone can learn.” He snapped his fingers as if it were that simple. “If you’re interested, I’ll teach you.”

“But Millie’s a human,” Dulcie announced loudly, flying over to one of the easy chairs beside the fireplace and perching daintily on its arm. She crossed her legs and rested her chin on one hand while her right foot swung back and forth and her wings flapped lazily. “She knows absolutely nothing about magic. Actually, she doesn’t know much about anything at all.”

“I beg to differ. Most humans I’ve met, and believe me, I’ve met many over the years, are very bright.” Barghest smiled at Millie. “And it will be my pleasure to teach you some basic magic, if you so desire.”

“I probably won’t have much time to learn anything. I’m not staying here very long. Only tonight, and then Dulcie’s taking me home,” Millie said.

Barghest just smiled.

And Millie suddenly felt very, very uneasy.



It was weird to be staying at an inn without any luggage, but since Millie’s rooms were on the fourth floor and there was no lift, not having any luggage did have its advantages. And as Dulcie pointed out, nearly everyone in the Glens could fly, so they didn’t need lifts

Dulcie flitted on ahead while Millie clambered up a black, rickety staircase. It was unnervingly easy to see through to the floors below, and she made sure not to look down. But they made it safely to the fourth floor, where flickering wall lamps splashed puddles of light onto the patterned carpet and dingy wallpaper.

She fingered her opal pendant as she trudged along behind Dulcie, her mind a whirlwind of thoughts. Mrs. Chilblain would have noticed she was missing by now: had she called the police? Or even worse, contacted her father? But that wasn’t likely, she reassured herself: her father was so deep in the rain forest that there was really poor phone service and it could take days to get a message to him. She’d be home before he even knew she was away.

She would make Dulcie take her back to the Vortex. Tomorrow. Not a day later.

“We’re here,” Dulcie announced, stopping in front of an old-fashioned wooden door where Millie’s name was engraved on a rectangular brass plate.

“How’d my name get here?”

“You really don’t know anything! The rooms are expecting you, of course.”

Millie looked dubiously at the large key the gnome had given her, then inserted it into the lock and turned. The door giggled quietly and swung open to reveal a high-ceilinged living room with an old-fashioned fireplace and double glass doors opening onto a small balcony.

Dulcie immediately flew up to the bedroom loft overlooking the living room and announced that the bed was human-sized. To the left of the living room was a very small bedroom with a fairy-sized bed and on the right was a bathroom.

Millie stepped onto the balcony but held firmly to the railing. It overlooked a wide expanse of sea that had turned dark with the reflections of storm clouds. Waves rolled onto a deserted beach forming a semicircle around a wide bay.

Dulcie flitted out and perched precariously on the railing, her wings flapping slowly. She pointed her wand towards the jagged outlines of three distant islands etched indistinctly against the sky. “That first one is the Isle of Ghosts.”

“Isle of Ghosts? Real ghosts?”

“Yes, but they can’t leave the island. There’s a containment spell on it.”

“And that keeps them there?”

“Well … sort of. Sometimes they manage to slip over here.”

Now there was a happy thought. Millie realized her mouth was hanging open and closed it with a snap.

Dulcie pointed her wand at the middle island. “And that one is Banshee Island, but don’t worry about it, because nobody can remember the last time a real, dead banshee lived on it. They all moved to Ireland.

“And over to the right is Ghoulish Island, where all the ghouls live but I think there’s a containment spell on it too.” She stopped talking and tapped her head with her wand as her tiny eyebrows drew together. “Or did the ghouls all move to Scotland? I can’t remember. You’ll have to ask Barghest, he’s nearly as smart as I am.” She suddenly fluttered off the railing and squinted up at the sky. “Anyway, it’ll be dark soon, so I’m going home.”

“Whoa! I thought you were staying?” Even the companionship of a cantankerous fairy was better than nothing.

“Are you crazy? I have to get home before the solstice storms start! But I’ll be back tomorrow” Dulcie added, flying to the top of the building then over the roof.

“Wait!” Millie called. But the fairy had already disappeared. Frowning, she went inside and plunked down on the sofa, which sighed slightly then gave a little jiggle, as if rearranging its cushions.

She suddenly felt very, very sorry for herself.

What a mess, she thought, surprised at how forlorn Dulcie’s departure made her feel. She looked over towards the windows to where a pale, round moon was barely visible through the thickening clouds. Was it the same moon she could see from Dundrum Boarding School? But thinking about Dundrum only made her feel worse. What was Mrs. Chilblain doing now? Maybe she hadn’t noticed that Millie was missing and was still busy making rhubarb jam. She sighed as she reviewed her predicament, which was a direct result of helping Dulcie escape from the salt trap. It wasn’t fair: she had helped the fairy, but now she was stranded with no clue how to get home. She didn’t even know anybody in the Glen except a self-centred fairy, a nasty gnome and an eerie hotel proprietor.

What if she never got home again? She blinked and gulped, then told herself to smarten up. She’d go home tomorrow.

She swished her feet against the carpet and looked around the room. There was no TV, no computer, not even a phone to call the front desk, so obviously there was no room service. The only form of amusement was an old bookcase stuffed full of books. The sofa sighed with relief when she got up and went over to the bookcase to examine some of the titles:


The Dope’s Guide to Wing Tattoos: What’s Hot & What’s Not!

The Witching Guide to Broomsticks: Don’t Get Taken For A Ride!

The Dope’s Guide to Fairy Investment: Make Every Dudrop Count!


She had just opened The Ultimate Guide to the Horrible Habits of Humans when a gurgle from her stomach reminded her that she’d barely eaten all day. Was there a dining room at the Inn? And how could she pay for her meals? Who was paying for her hotel rooms? Dulcie? Could Barghest help her? Her mind overflowed with questions. Dulcie was right: she really didn’t know much about anything at all.

But she’d never get any answers if she didn’t ask: she could either sit here and worry all night, or take matters into her own hands and maybe even find some dinner. She marched across the room and flung open the hallway door.

And immediately stepped back.

A human boy was sitting cross-legged against the opposite wall.


CHAPTER 5: THE WHITE-HAIRED BOY


The boy was whittling a small piece of blue wood, but when he saw Millie he scrambled to his feet then stuffed both the wood and knife into his pocket. He was slightly taller than she was, and though he looked roughly the same age, his hair was sparkling white except for a brown streak that fell over his left eye.

And he was dressed as if he’d just come straight out of a Robin Hood movie: green trousers, a brown jerkin, a wide-sleeved white shirt and soft leather shoes. The only thing missing was a peaked hat with a feather.

“Hello. What’s your name?” he asked.

“Millie. Millie Morlock.”

“Millie. I think I had an Aunt Millie once. I can’t remember.”

“You can’t remember your own aunt?”

“No. But my name’s Toad,” he said, tossing the lock of brown hair from his eyes.

“Toad? As in frog?”

“As in Theodore as in Teddy as in Toady as in Toad. Here, I thought you’d be hungry so I brought you something,” he said, handing a brown paper bag to Millie. Inside was a lump of cheese, rolls, and two apples. “You’ll get sick of sugar pretty quickly. It’s all they eat around here. I’m surprised any of them have any teeth left in their heads. But I suppose fairies don’t get cavities. At least I’ve never seen a toothless fairy. Have you?”

“I haven’t really seen much of anything; I just got here.” Millie took a bite of roll and cheese then offered some to Toad. She hadn’t realized how good cheese tasted. “Have you always lived here?” she asked.

“Not always.”

“Where are you from?”

He frowned. “Can’t remember.”

This was weird. “Well how long have you been here?” she asked.

“Sometimes it feels like no time at all, but other times it seems like forever.”

This conversation wasn’t going anywhere fast, Millie thought. “Where are your parents?” she asked.

Toad frowned. “Where are yours?”

“My father’s an archaeologist. He’s in Brazil at the moment and my mother died when I was a baby, so I can’t remember her. What about yours?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

“But you are human?”

“Of course I’m human! I remember that much.” A vacant expression suddenly clouded his face. “Hello. My name’s Toad. As in Theodore as in Teddy as in Toady as in Toad.”

Oh, crappola, this definitely did not sound good. Millie’s relief at finding another human was quickly being replaced by the awful thought that Toad might just be a complete nutcase. “Umh. You already told me that.”

“I did?”

She decided it might be a good idea to change the subject. “Are there many of us here? Humans, I mean.”

“A few, but they’re all pretty unfriendly. I usually ignore them.”

“Why are they unfriendly?”

“Probably because they live here.” He shrugged then brightened. “Never mind. I’m going to Mandrake Market. Want to come?”

“A fairy market?” This was more like it!

“It closes soon, we have to hurry.”

A few minutes later Millie found herself at Mandrake Market, surrounded by things she wouldn’t even have dreamed of a few short hours ago. There were creatures of all shapes and sizes: slim fairies with slender, elegant wings and short, round fairies with stubby wings that didn’t look big enough to support their weight.

She didn’t know where to look first. Baby fairies gurgled and bounced along in great hovering seashells, while three very old fairies in floating wheelchairs raced each other through the market.

To her right a pair of wings fluttered above a shop doorway with a sign that read Wing Piercing, Repair and Rejuvenation Therapy. A fairy with a long, grey beard shuffled past, talking to no one in particular or everyone in general. The edges of his faded green wings were ragged, he wore a long-sleeved black tunic that didn’t quite hide his knobby knees, and straggly white hair poked out from beneath a red baseball cap. Still muttering, he disappeared into the Wing Repair shop.

A nearby stall housed dozens of floating shelves and tables heaped with crooked piles of books. Toad nudged her with his elbow and indicated a fairy with thick glasses who was standing in front of a display of books entitled “My Life Among the Centaurs”. He opened a copy and it began speaking: Not so long ago or far away, the centaurs ran wild, their massive herds thundering across the central plains of the enormous Fifth Glen. I was a young fairy at the time and my ambition was to – . The book fell silent as the fairy closed it.


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-35 show above.)