Excerpt for Wychetts and the Thunderstone by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


The fifth book in the Wychetts series

by William Holley

Text and cover image copyright © 2014 William Holley

All Rights Reserved

More books available in the Wychetts series:


Wychetts and the Key to Magic

Wychetts and the Farm of Fear

Wychetts and the Tome of Terror

Coming soon:

Wychetts and the Dungeon of Dreams

Wychetts and the Moon of Magister

Find out more at




Chapter 1- The Customer is Always Right

Chapter 2- I Win Again

Chapter 3- A Drink Problem

Chapter 4- Hardly Equipped to Go Snorkelling

Chapter 5- An Invasion!

Chapter 6- Consumer Rights

Chapter 7- His Highness

Chapter 8- A Drop of Rain Won’t Hurt You

Chapter 9- The Loosest Possible Definition of ‘Safe’

Chapter 10- Tea and Rock Cakes

Chapter 11- A Twang of Toad Vomit

Chapter 12- Welcome Aboard

Chapter 13- The Boy Must Go

Chapter 14- The Bubble Bursts

Chapter 15- Less Life Than a Damp Dishcloth

Chapter 16- No Respect for the Elderly

Chapter 17- Something Resembling a Plan

Chapter 18- Pure Ultimate Power

Chapter 19- Admiring the Scenery

Chapter 20- Sitting Ducks

Chapter 21- Just for the Tourists

Chapter 22- The Power of Asgard

Chapter 23- I Don’t Need Rescuing

Chapter 24- A Very Complicated Manoeuvre

Chapter 25- You Lied to Me

Chapter 26- Now for the Tricky Part

Chapter 27- Gotcha!

Chapter 28- About the Boy

Chapter 29- An Alternative Arrangement

Chapter 30- You Have Proven Yourself the Stronger


Wychetts (pronounced “Witch-etts”) is an old timber framed cottage that contains an amazing magic power…

Centuries ago, the Wise Ones governed the Realm of Magic, and built Wychetts as a repository for their wisdom. But the forces of darkness plotted against them, and seized the cottage in a bid to use its magic for evil. Five hundred years passed since the last of the Wise Ones were vanquished by the Shadow Clan, then Bryony and her new stepbrother Edwin arrived to unwittingly awaken the ancient power and become the new Guardians of Wychetts!

At first the children wanted to use the magic of the Wise Ones to rid themselves of each other and go back to their old lives; but when the Shadow Clan returned to claim Wychetts’ power, Bryony and Edwin had to work together to save the cottage and the whole of civilisation from destruction (not to mention a worldwide shortage of ice-cream).

Since that fateful day the young Guardians have experienced a series of incredible adventures, guided by Inglenook, Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom. A wooden face carved into the fireplace in the living room, Inglenook controls the flow of Wychetts’ power and can communicate with the children through a magic key when they are away from the cottage.

Bryony and Edwin also rely on the quick-witted mouse Stubby to make it through their magical adventures. And as they discover more about their powers, the children face their own different challenges…

Eager to use Wychetts’ magic for good, Edwin learns that brandishing the power of the Wise Ones carries huge responsibilities, but can he step up to become a worthy Guardian?

Meanwhile, after an initial period of doubt, Bryony has become more self-assured in the use of magic. But she is haunted by foreboding about her absent mother: a scribbled note discovered in her old stuffed toy; an overheard whisper from plotting enemies; a vision of her own darkest fears conjured by an ancient field demon; the same mysterious words that even Inglenook cannot explain…

It has now been three weeks since Bryony and Edwin retrieved the stolen Tome Terriblis from a vengeful young witch, just in time to stop the power of the antique spell book causing irreversible damage to the elemental balance. But the violent storms have mysteriously continued, bringing floods and devastation across much of the world…


He had trusted them.

They were his kin, his faithful subjects. They were his blood.

But his blood was now cold, his heart empty of the love once felt for his people.

For he had been betrayed, dragged from his throne and cast into the water by those he had believed most loyal.

The treacherous mob had jeered as he fell, the hefty stones lashed to his neck dragging him to the bottom of the dark abyss.

They thought him dead…

But he had survived.

And he survived still, thousands of years later, prowling his murky dominion for those who came to steal from him.

He had lost his kingdom, his trust…

But he would never lose his treasure.

Chapter 1- The Customer is Always Right

Still raining.

Bill Platt smiled to himself as he parked his posh company car outside the small, red brick cottage.

Everyone else was cursing the weather, but Bill and his new employers knew that rain was good.

Rain was good, because when it rained people realised how important gutters and down-pipes were. And Bill sold gutters and down-pipes, all crafted from attractive weather resistant plastic.

It had been an excellent first two weeks for Bill with Gutterly Great Gutters and Drainpipes Limited. He’d made ten sales, and earned more than six thousand pounds for the company.

The only minor quibble was that he hadn’t been paid yet. He’d been told that due to an administrative issue his wages hadn’t been processed. It turned out his surname had been entered into the company database as ‘SPLATT’ instead of ‘PLATT’.

But Bill didn’t mind. Everybody knew that only proper companies had administrative issues, and as the Accounts Secretary had pointed out, it was an easy mistake to have made.

A flash lit up the sky, accompanied by a growl of thunder. The downpour intensified, the splattering raindrops distorting the world beyond the windscreen into a blur of coloured globules.

Bill knew this one was a long shot. The Sales Team had received a customer enquiry and given him the address. It was way out of town, much further afield than he would normally go, and he’d never have found the place if it wasn’t for his posh company satnav guiding the way. Even then it had been a hazardous trip, an obstacle course of fallen trees and flooded roads that would have deterred less committed travellers. But Bill had been spurred on by the chance of further success; just one more sale would put him top of the sales chart, and on track to win the coveted Salesman of the Month plastic pipe shaped trophy.

Bill retrieved his posh company briefcase from the front passenger seat, then braced himself against the driving rain as he left the car and scurried towards the cottage.

It was an old building, and a quick glance at the roof revealed cast-iron gutters: prone to cracking, and expensive to replace like for like. A good reason to install a more modern and durable water channelling arrangement.

His posh company satnav had shown a little stream running past the cottage garden, but after three weeks of rain the stream was more of a river, its brown waters churning ominously close to the side of the house.

Given the perilous position of the cottage, Bill thought gutters and down-pipes would be the least concern to its owner. But he reminded himself that he was here to do a job, and that coveted Salesman of the Month plastic pipe shaped trophy wasn’t going to win itself.

Bill reached the door and pulled the dangling bell cord.

There was another flash of lightning, followed by the inevitable rumble of thunder. Bill turned up his jacket collar, keeping his head bowed to avoid the seething elements.

As he stood waiting for the door to open, Bill checked the time on his posh company smart phone. It was getting late, and he’d promised Jane he’d be home in time for supper. She might get cross with him, but he couldn’t wait to see her face when he brought home the Salesman of the Month plastic pipe shaped trophy…

He was about to pull the bell cord again when the cottage door opened.

“Good afternoon.” A small, grey haired old lady smiled at Bill. She wore thick-rimmed tortoise shell glasses, a fawn coloured cardigan, and a pair of pink fluffy slippers.

“Hello, Madam.” Bill did his best to appear business-like whilst getting soaked to the skin. “I’m Bill Platt from Gutterly Great Gutters and Drainpipes Limited. I understand you contacted the Sales Team with regard to…”

“My blockage.” The old woman nodded.

“I’m sorry?” said Bill.

“In my sewer,” explained the old lady in a soft lispy voice. “It must be my dentures.”

“Your dentures?” Bill was a little confused.

“I accidentally dropped them down the toilet,” explained the old lady. “I’m having to use my dearly departed husband’s set.”

Up to now Bill hadn’t noticed the old lady’s teeth, but when he looked he saw they didn’t seem to fit right. There was also a strong fishy smell wafting from the cottage, which Bill assumed was a result of the blocked sewer.

“I apologise.” Bill wiped a raindrop from the end of his nose. “But Gutterly Great Gutters and Drainpipes don’t deal with sewers. We sell and install gutters and drainpipes.”

“Are you certain?” The old lady’s smile flickered as she stared at Bill through her thick glass lenses. “The nice girl on the phone promised you would help.”

Bill was about to tell the old lady that of course he was certain, but then remembered what he’d been told on day one of his Gutterly Great Gutters and Drainpipes Limited Customer Care Course: the customer is always right.

Well, sometimes. Day Two of the Course had gone on to explain how, in certain circumstances, the customer wasn’t always right; which actually seemed to be most of the time, especially where refunds were involved.

Bill shook his head, but as the little old lady stared pleadingly at him, his resolve to follow official company guidelines softened.

“Perhaps I could take a look,” he offered. “Although it doesn’t strictly fall within my job description, I am a bit of a handy man in my spare time.”

“That’s so kind of you.” The old woman’s smile returned. “It’s in the back garden. You can get through via the side gate.”

The cottage door closed. Bill hesitated. He really should be getting home, but if he helped the old lady he might get positive customer feedback, which would be taken into consideration in the event of a tie for the coveted Salesman of the Month plastic pipe shaped trophy.

He hurried through the side gate and into the back garden. It was immaculate, with a beautifully tended lawn and neat flowerbeds. The flowers were all a little bedraggled with the rain, but Bill knew the place would have looked splendid on a bright summer’s day.

The old lady stood waiting at the back door.

“It’s that round thing in the ground over there.” She pointed her wooden walking stick at a rusty metal cover at the back of a flower bed. “Don’t mind the plants, they’ll grow back soon enough. It’s my dentures I’m more worried about.”

Despite the old lady’s words, Bill did his best not to squash too many flowers as he picked his way towards the sewer cover. He put his posh leather company briefcase down before kneeling to inspect the sewer cover. He scraped some mud aside with his fingers to reveal a pair of handles, and after a bit of pulling he managed to lift the cover.

“Don’t worry.” Bill dragged the cover to one side. “You’ll soon have your dentures back.”

He opened his posh leather company briefcase and retrieved a pencil.

“Standard company issue,” he explained to the old lady. “Just the job for probing blocked sewers.”

Pencil poised at the ready, Bill peered into the opened sewer. A pungent whiff rose from the darkness, a noxious combination of rotting vegetables and fish.

“I can’t see anything,” he reported. “There’s not enough light.”

“It might help if you went down,” suggested the old lady. “I’ve got a spare pair of wellies if you need them.”

The opening was certainly wide enough, but Bill knew he’d need more than a pair of wellies to go exploring a sewer. But he couldn’t let the old lady down. Plus, Day Three of the Customer Care Course had told him how important it was to project a positive company image at all times. Unless in the case of refunds where it didn’t matter quite as much.

“I’ll just check how deep it is.” Bill picked up a small stone and dropped it into the sewer. There was a worryingly long delay before he heard a distant splash.

“They’re pink.” The old lady’s lispy voice sounded louder than before.

“Huh?” Bill stared into the sewer, thinking he’d glimpsed movement down there. Maybe it was a rat, but it had looked too large and didn’t have any fur.

“My wellies,” continued the old lady. “They’re pink, but quite a masculine hue if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I’m sorry.” Bill straightened, keeping his gaze on the sewer. “But I’m not sure…”

Something pointy and stick-like prodded him in the back. It was quite a hard prod, enough to knock him off balance and go sprawling head first into the open sewer.

His startled scream echoed as he plummeted through the darkness, a scream that turned into a gargle as he hit the water.

Bill went under, floundering in the ice-cold blackness. Then he surfaced, gasping and spitting foul tasting liquid.

The water was only knee deep, but luckily he was unhurt. Bill looked up, blinking back rain as he spied the old lady peering down through the circular opening high above.

“I’m sorry about that.” The old lady’s lips peeled back to reveal her ill-fitting dentures. “Just thought you needed a little encouragement.”

“Thanks,” spluttered Bill, clambering to his feet. “But I’m sure I’ll be fine from now on.”

Bill took out his posh company smart phone. Luckily it wasn’t damaged when he fell, and he was able to use it as a makeshift torch. The pale light revealed a tunnel up ahead, its curved walls glistening with slime.

“I’ve found the main outlet pipe,” he announced. “I’ll just see if…”

Bill froze, posh company smart phone held in front of him. He couldn’t be sure, but he thought he’d seen movement in the tunnel.

Then he heard a sound. It was difficult to distinguish because of the splattering rain, but it sounded like a belch. A deep, menacing belch.

Bill told himself it was probably just thunder echoing through the sewer pipes. Then he caught more movement in the tunnel, a flash of something scaly in the light of his smart phone…

Bill took a step backwards. “On second thoughts, I think I’m going to need a bigger pencil. Or better still, we could ask the local Water Authority to check it out. They’re the experts, bound to have loads of pencils. So I’m ready to come out now, if you could please fetch a ladder?”

The old lady smiled down at him and removed her tortoise shell glasses. Her eyes seemed to grow in size, and suddenly her face began to change. Thick scales cracked the skin on her cheeks, and bony spikes erupted from the top of her head. Her mouth widened, and she pulled out her dentures to reveal a pair of fleshy green gums.

And those fleshy green gums were the last thing Bill saw before the sewer cover clanged shut. At the same instant something grabbed his arm. He yelped and dropped his phone, the light fading as it sank into the murky water.

Chapter 2- I Win Again

Prince Edwin raised his sword, the pointed shaft glinting in the sunlight as he roared a command to his troops.

“The outer wall is breached. The enemy is at our mercy. Chaaaaaaarge!”

Prince Edwin stirred his horse into a gallop. With an answering cheer, his brave knights followed their leader towards the grey stone castle.

It was a glorious sight, a spectacle sure to be recounted in feasting halls and fireside gatherings for centuries to come. Prince Edwin’s knights flew like the wind, polished armour shimmering, orange banners streaming behind them like flames.

“My liege.” A shrill voice sounded in Prince Edwin’s left ear. “Do you think a frontal assault is a wise move?”

Prince Edwin glanced at the small brown mouse perched on his shoulder. “I appreciate your counsel, Squire Stubby. But the enemy is in disarray. It is the ideal time to launch an attack.”

“It could be a trap,” ventured Squire Stubby. “You know how devious your opponent can be.”

“I am well aware of her treachery,” said Prince Edwin. “It has been a long war against my mortal foe. There have been many defeats, many setbacks. But this day the tide has turned. This day will see me triumph over the Black Queen.”

But despite his words, Prince Edwin knew the fight was far from over. The castle had been breached, but the enemy still lurked within…

The lowered drawbridge trembled with thundering hooves as Prince Edwin and his knights swarmed through the shattered portcullis. A wall of black armoured knights stood waiting for them in the castle yard; these were the elite guards, the most able of the Black Queen’s forces. They were committed to the service of their mistress, and would never surrender. Prince Edwin knew this would be a fight to the death.

“There are too many,” trilled Squire Stubby. “And in the narrow confines of this courtyard our mounted knights will be at a disadvantage. Sire, I propose a tactical withdrawal.”

“I shall never retreat.” Prince Edwin snarled his disgust at the suggestion. “This day I shall lead my troops to glory.”

With a roar of fury, Prince Edwin crashed his horse into the enemy ranks. The black knights tried to stand their ground, but the Prince’s steed knocked them aside with a nod of his armoured head.

“Onward!” Prince Edwin ploughed his mount through the sea of black armour. “We must reach the tower!”

Exhaling a loyal cheer, Prince Edwin’s troops charged as one. The black knights fought back, and the castle yard echoed with a clattering symphony of steel on steel.

A black knight swung an axe at Prince Edwin. The Prince leaned back in his saddle to avoid the arcing blade, but lost his balance to go tumbling from his horse.

Prince Edwin hit the ground with a jolt that knocked his sword from his grasp. Seeing his enemy downed and defenceless, the black knight raised his axe again. Most men would have cringed in the face of certain death, but Prince Edwin was not most men.

The Prince raised his right hand, a beam of orange light lancing from his fingertip to strike the black knight. There was a bright flash, then the axe clattered to the ground as the black knight crumbled into dust.

Prince Edwin retrieved his trusted sword, and dispatched another of the enemy before taking stock of the situation.

The ranks of black knights were thinning; his troops had gained the advantage. It was only a matter of time before the courtyard was taken. But he still had to find a way into the tower.

And then he saw it, glimpsed through the broiling sea of battling bodies: an opened door at the foot of the squat stone keep.

“The entrance to the tower.” Prince Edwin pointed with his sword. “A way to the throne room, the heart of my enemy.”

“I plead caution Sire,” said Squire Stubby. “Why would a door be left open? I fear more trickery from the Black Queen.”

“You fear too much,” growled Prince Edwin. “This is a day for the brave.”

With no thought for his personal safety, Prince Edwin dashed across the courtyard and through the doorway to the castle keep. Two waiting black guards lunged at him, but a single lash of the Prince’s sword turned them both to dust. He hared down a passageway, dispatching more guards before reaching a steep spiral staircase.

Prince Edwin ascended, his armoured feet clanging on the steps as he raced towards victory.

A trio of black knights stood guard at the top of the stairs, but scarcely had time to raise their swords before the Prince obliterated them with a wave of his finger.

The entrance to the throne room now lay unguarded before him. Prince Edwin raised his hand, and the doors blew apart in an explosion of splintered wood.

Keeping his sword unsheathed, Prince Edwin entered the lair of the Black Queen.

The heart of his enemy’s domain was a vast, cathedral like chamber. The throne itself stood at the far end on a raised dais, the chair and its occupant shrouded in dark silk hangings.

Prince Edwin strode towards the throne, but froze when he heard a shrill squeak in his ear.

“To the rear, Sire!”

The Prince wheeled round to see a figure behind him. Instinctively he brought his sword up, but the figure remained as still as a statue. Lowering his sword, Prince Edwin afforded himself a smile when he realised that’s just what it was…

“A statue. Of the Black Queen herself.” Prince Edwin shook his head. “So typical of her vanity to keep such an object in her throne room.”

“It is very lifelike.” Squire Stubby nodded approvingly as he studied the statue. “They’ve certainly captured her sense of brooding tyranny.”

“Lifelike indeed, but nothing to be scared of.” Prince Edwin turned back and marched to within a step of the shrouded throne. “Your castle is taken,” he told the Black Queen. “I call upon you to surrender.”

There was no reply from the Black Queen.

The Prince edged forwards. “The battle is over. Order your troops to yield.”

Silence greeted Prince Edwin’s demand. He leaned forwards, using the tip of his sword to part the folds of dark silk obscuring the throne…

And gasped when he saw the royal seat was empty.

“A trick!” squealed Squire Stubby. “I did warn you, Sire.”

But the Prince didn’t have long to ponder the whereabouts of his enemy.

Something cold and sharp pricked the back of his neck.

Prince Edwin twisted round, and saw the statue of the Black Queen now standing behind him, pointing a jewelled sceptre as his throat.

Whilst Prince Edwin stared helplessly, the stone figure transformed into flesh and bone, its lips creasing into that all too familiar smirk.

“It is you who must yield,” said the Black Queen. “For I win. Again!”

Chapter 3- A Drink Problem

“I win,” repeated Bryony, keeping her crayon levelled at Edwin’s throat. “I win yet again.”

“That’s not fair.” Edwin lowered his feather duster, fixing his stepsister with an accusing glare. “You cheated.”

The ornate surroundings of the throne room had dissolved around them, and the children were now back in the lounge of their cottage home.

“I used magic.” Bryony emphasised her words with repeated thrusts of the crayon. “That’s the point of the game. That’s why it’s called ‘Magic Chess’.”

“I’m afraid she’s right,” said Stubby, still perched on Edwin’s shoulder. “Using magic in Magic Chess does not constitute cheating.”

“See.” Bryony nodded at Edwin. “Even your underling says I didn’t cheat.”

“I am not his underling,” protested Stubby. “I was only playing such a role for the purposes of the game. And if he’d listened to my advice he wouldn’t have lost again.”

“I didn’t lose,” snorted Edwin. “Bryony cheated. I demand to consult the umpire.”

The carved wooden face above the fireplace came to life. “The Young Mistress did not break the rules of the game,” decreed Inglenook, Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom. “Although perhaps she might have stretched them a little. The main point is that you are both learning to use magic more effectively.”

“But some are learning quicker than others.” That smirk returned to Bryony’s lips as she turned back to Edwin. “Fancy another match, little stepbrother?”

“I’m bored of Magic Chess,” grumbled Edwin. “Can we play something else?”

“Whatever you want,” agreed Bryony. “Makes no difference, seeing as I’ll beat you again.”

Edwin bit his tongue. Bryony had a point. So far she had beaten him at every magic game. Magic Chess, Magic Draughts, Magic Dominos, even Magic Tiddlywinks. Although he wouldn’t admit it to his stepsister, it was obvious that Bryony was getting the hang of magic much faster than he was.

“How about a game that doesn’t involve magic?” he suggested. “Like good old fashioned Snakes and Ladders?”

Bryony pulled a face. “Sounds a bit dull.”

“We can make it more interesting.” Edwin had been thinking about changing the rules of his favourite game for some time. “We could go up the snakes instead of down them?”

“Wow.” Bryony threw her hands in the air in a gesture of mock excitement. “Let’s live life on the edge, huh?”

“Or…” Edwin decided to play his trump card. “How about using cheese instead of dice? And the loser has to eat it afterwards.”

Wrinkling her nose, Bryony looked Edwin up and down. “There’s something wrong with you.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” said Stubby. “And I volunteer to eat it on the boy’s behalf.”

“That’s only if I lose,” pointed out Edwin.

“You’ll lose,” predicted Stubby. “The only thing more certain is that you’ll never be a Prince. You couldn’t rule a straight line, let alone a country.”

“Then let’s not bother. I’m sick of silly games anyhow.” Edwin turned his back on Bryony and stared out of the window. Rain drummed against the diamond leaded panes, pounding out a monotonous beat that had continued non-stop for three whole weeks.

“It’s supposed to be the summer holidays.” Edwin sighed as he stared at the sullen grey sky. “Time to go places, do stuff. Not to be stuck indoors.”

“You should consider yourself fortunate, Young Master.” There was a reprimanding edge to Inglenook’s normally cheery voice. “These storms have caused far greater disruption to other people in this country and all across the world. Towns have been flooded, homes destroyed.”

“I know.” Edwin had seen all the TV footage of weather chaos around the globe. That is until the wind had blown down their aerial last weekend. “It’s just that I’m sick of playing dumb magic games with Her Royal Slyness.”

Inglenook’s wooden faced creased into an uncharacteristic scowl. “Magic Chess is not merely a game, Young Master. The Wise Ones developed such pursuits to hone their magic skills.”

“Don’t worry about Edwin,” Bryony told Inglenook. “He’s just sulking because I’m better than him at magic.”

“You are not better than me.” Edwin wheeled round and glared at Bryony. “We’re both Guardians of Wychetts, so we’re as good as each other. Isn’t that right, Inglenook?”

“Well…” Inglenook hesitated, but the lounge door opened before he could reply.

“So that’s where it got to.” Edwin’s mother Jane swiped the feather duster from her son’s grasp. “I wish you wouldn’t play with my household items. You could have someone’s eye out.”

Edwin said nothing. His mother didn’t know about their magic games.

“Anyway,” continued Jane, “I just came to let you know that supper will be late because Bill hasn’t come home yet.”

The children had lost track of time whilst playing magic games, and didn’t realise how late it was.

“I wouldn’t be too worried.” Noting the concerned look on Jane’s face, Bryony gave her stepmother a reassuring smile. “You know how devoted he is to his new job.”

She wouldn’t admit it to his face, but Bryony was rather proud of her father these days. For the first time ever he had a steady job. It might not be some high powered role in a top company, but he had a posh company car, leather briefcase and business smart phone. And he was doing well by the sounds of it.

But not everyone was chuffed with Bill’s success. Jane thought he worked too many hours, and was constantly moaning that he was never home in time for tea. Unlike her stepmother, Bryony was prepared to forgo her father’s company if it meant more money coming in. The problem was he hadn’t been paid yet because of an ‘administrative issue’. It was Bryony’s birthday in a couple of weeks, and she hoped her dad would be paid in time to buy her a decent present for a change.

An ominous rumble of thunder sounded. Jane looked up at the sky and shivered. “I do wish it would stop raining.”

“It’s going to be like this for weeks,” said Edwin. “That’s what the forecasters reckon.”

There was another growl of thunder, and the sky lit up with a pulsing flash of silver.

Jane shivered again, her auburn eyebrows arching with concern. “He promised he’d be home in time for supper.”

“Why don’t you call him?” said Bryony. “He loves using that posh company mobile phone of his.”

“I’ve tried five times in the last half hour.” Jane shook her head. “No answer.”

“Then he’s probably in the middle of some crucial sales negotiation,” suggested Bryony.

Jane didn’t look convinced. “I’ll believe that once he brings home some pay. For all I know he could be spending all that money down the pub.”

“My father doesn’t have a drink problem.” Bryony was horrified at the suggestion. “He’s only been drunk once, and that was because the bottle of barley water turned out to be six years past its sell by date.”

“A lot of places are flooded with the rain,” said Edwin. “He might be stuck somewhere, marooned in his posh company car.”

“He’ll be fine,” said Bryony. “It has very comfortable seats with lots of leg room.”

Edwin shrugged. “Can’t float though, can it?”

“Please don’t say things like that.” Jane pointed her duster at Edwin. “Bryony is right. Bill is probably OK. Just putting in a few extra hours, that’s all.”

Another boom of thunder shook the cottage. The windows rattled, and clumps of soot fell down the chimney.

“I’m going to start cooking supper.” Jane lowered her duster. “If he turns up late he’ll just have to eat it cold.”

Jane was halfway to the door when she stopped and turned back to the children. “By the way, have you taken any of my spoons to play with? I had a set of six but they’ve all disappeared.”

Edwin and Bryony professed their innocence. Jane scowled doubtfully as she strode from the room.

“Wouldn’t like to be your dad when he gets home.” Edwin grinned at Bryony. “Or rather, if he gets home.”

“Don’t be such a drama queen,” said Bryony. “My dad will be fine. Won’t he, Inglenook?”

The carved face above the hearth came alive again.

“I am afraid your father is in peril, Young Mistress.”

Bryony’s jaw dropped. “Are you sure?”

“Of course he’s sure,” said Edwin. “Inglenook never gets it wrong.”

“He’s not perfect,” countered Bryony. “All it takes is a bit of rain and his magic goes on the blink.”

Edwin knew what Bryony was referring to, and so did Inglenook.

“It is true that Wychetts’ magic was affected by the elemental imbalance from the Tome Terriblis,” conceded the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom. “But I can assure you that current climatic conditions are having no adverse effects. And I maintain that your father is in danger, Young Mistress.”

Before Bryony could respond, a familiar voice came echoing from the hallway.

“Hi everyone. I’m ho-ooome!”

“Told you.” Bryony poked her tongue out at Edwin before rushing off to greet her father.

Jane had got there first, and was giving Bill a relieved hug by the time Bryony reached the hallway.

“I’ve been worried sick about you,” crooned Jane, resting her head on Bill’s shoulder. “I’m so glad you made it ba…” Then she withdrew, cupping a hand over her nose and mouth. “What’s that smell?”

“It’s my new aftershave.” Bill grinned. “Don’t you like it?”

“It’s a bit…” Jane took another step backwards. “Fishy.”

“Really?” Bill frowned. “The bottle said ‘woodspice’.”

“With a hint of haddock,” added Bryony, grimacing as she caught a whiff. “That’s rank, Dad. Even by your normal standards.”

“And look at your shoes.” Jane pointed at Bill’s muddy feet. “Where on earth have you been?”

“Oh, just out and about. Wherever work takes me.” Bill smiled, then belched loudly. “Could I have a glass of water?”

“I’ll get it,” offered Bryony, hurrying into the kitchen. She filled a glass at the sink, and handed it to Bill as he entered the room.

“You left the house at half past five this morning.” A frowning Jane followed on her husband’s heels. “It’s gone six in the evening now. It must have been a very long day for you.”

Bill nodded. “But gutters and downpipes don’t sell themselves, even in this weather. And I’m going to have to work even longer hours to win the coveted Salesman of the Month award.”

Jane folded her arms, cocking her head to stare at Bill. “And I suppose that means more time in the pub?”

“Pub?” Bill frowned, then belched again. “What makes you think I’ve been in the pub?”

Before Jane could reply, Bill raised his glass of water and tipped it over his head.

Jane emitted a horrified gasp.

“Most refreshing.” Bill handed the empty glass to Bryony. “Could I please have another?”

Although puzzled by her father’s behaviour, Bryony refilled the glass and gave it to Bill. He belched again, then tipped the second glass of over his head as well.

“Looks like he has got a drink problem after all.” An incredulous Bryony turned to Jane. “I’ve never seen him spill two in a row.”

Bill shook the empty glass over his head to dislodge the last droplets, then handed it back to Bryony with a grateful smile. “Lovely. Think I’ll have a bath now.”

As Bill strode off towards the bathroom, Bryony caught sight of a freckled face peering around the kitchen door.

“See,” she hissed at Edwin. “Inglenook got it wrong.”

“He can’t be wrong,” Edwin hissed back. “He’s the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom.”

Bryony shrugged. “He said my dad was in danger. But Dad’s home and he’s perfectly OK. Well…” She checked herself. “As OK as he’ll ever be.”

“I’m not convinced.” Edwin shook his head. “I still think your dad might be in peril.”

Bryony smiled as a stern faced Jane applied a mop to the puddle of water on the floor. “Only from your mum.”

Chapter 4- Hardly Equipped to Go Snorkelling

Bryony couldn’t sleep.

It wasn’t the sound of raindrops pummelling her bedroom window, the moaning wind and crashing thunder, or even the lightning that flickered incessantly round the edges of the curtain; after three whole weeks she was used to all that.

No, it wasn’t the weather that kept Bryony awake.

It was the thing. The thing lurking in the back of her mind that crept out each night to devour her every thought…

And the thing was Mum.


The word repeated in Bryony’s mind, blocking out the noise of the storm.

It had been almost four years since she’d last heard from her mum in America. Her real mum, that is. Four years. In that time there had been no letter, no phone call or email.

But then again, Mum had another daughter now. She was probably too busy bringing up the child and juggling her hectic high profile job.

But still. One lousy letter wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Something was wrong, Bryony could feel it.

It wasn’t just the thought that Mum didn’t love her anymore that made Bryony feel sick inside. Something bad was going on, and somehow Mum was involved in it.

That note inside her soft toy Mr Cuddles, and the strange message it conveyed. Those words had been repeated by the vision of her mother at Barrenbrake Farm the night the Shadow Clan had raised that horrible field demon. The words had not only shocked Bryony, but sent her enemies fleeing in panic.

Beware the Moon of Magister.

Inglenook knew what those words meant, Bryony was sure of it. But the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom wouldn’t tell her anything. At first he had answered her questions with vague comments, but his riddles had only deepened her suspicion. And lately he had refused to speak of it at all, his face staring lifelessly back at her like the wooden effigy she’d uncovered that first night in the cottage.

Inglenook knew, but he wouldn’t tell her. And because of his secrecy, Bryony felt she couldn’t trust him anymore.

To Bryony, secrets were as bad as lies.

Of course, Edwin thought Inglenook was wonderful. But Bryony had spoken little of her fears to her stepbrother. He couldn’t help anyhow, and would probably be even more useless than her father.

Dad seemed unwilling to discuss Bryony’s mother. There was a time when he’d have made excuses for her, but now he’d just shrug whenever Bryony raised the matter, and say that Mum would probably be in touch soon. This vagueness angered Bryony, but then it wasn’t really Dad’s fault…

Bryony found her mind turning towards her father.

All evening he had been acting strange. Even for him.

After spilling his drinks in the kitchen, he had disappeared into the bathroom for two hours. Jane was cross because supper got burned, but she was even crosser when she went to the bathroom and found him sitting in the bath with all his clothes on.

When Jane finally managed to persuade Dad to get out of the bath, he went and sat in the kitchen sink instead. Added to all this, he had refused to eat a morsel of supper. But Bryony thought she saw him grab a passing fly and sneak it into his mouth.

Inglenook had said that Dad was in peril. Whilst Bryony didn’t trust the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom to get everything right, she had to admit there was something wrong with her father.

It could be his new job. The long hours and stress probably weren’t helping.

Or maybe it was one pub lunch too many as Jane seemed to think.

But whatever the reason, Bryony was sure it would sort itself out. There was no need to worry. That wooden brained Inglenook didn’t know what he was talking about.

Determined to snatch a few hours sleep, Bryony rolled over and clenched her eyes shut. She had managed to push all thoughts of her parents aside, but now the sounds of the storm took their place as an encore. It sounded worse than ever tonight, and she wondered if the cottage’s thatched roof could withstand such a beating.

Then Bryony heard another noise.

Not pummelling rain, howling wind or rumbling thunder.

It was more a sort of gurgling.

Probably the gutter. She tried not to let it bother her. No doubt Dad could get them a new one at a special discounted price.

But as the gurgling noise continued, Bryony realised it wasn’t coming from outside.

She sat up in bed, cocking her head to listen. The storm was so loud that she couldn’t be certain, but it seemed like the gurgling was coming from inside the cottage.

Intrigued, Bryony slipped out of bed and padded onto the landing. The gurgling noise was louder, and was definitely coming from downstairs.

She reached out and flicked the landing light switch. Nothing happened. Probably another power cut caused by the storms.

She thought about waking her father, but then decided against it. The weird mood he was in, it probably wasn’t worth the hassle. She might as well check this out herself.

Taking care in the gloom, Bryony tiptoed barefoot down the winding stairs. The crooked steps were tricky enough to negotiate at the best of times, but in the darkness it became a perilous descent into the unknown. She clung to the hand rope, probing the blackness below with her toes until they found the next step. And the next, and the next. Until eventually her toes touched something that wasn’t a step. Something cold that made her gasp from shock…


It was difficult to tell in the gloom, but it looked like the hallway was flooded.

But how? The cottage stood on top of a hill, and they were miles away from the nearest river.

Better tell Dad, Bryony decided. Even in his current state of weirdness it was best he knew about this. But as she turned to head back upstairs, Bryony heard splashing from the hallway.

She looked round and caught movement in the shadows.

“Dad?” A whiff of stinky fish aftershave made Bryony suspect it was her father. “Is that you?”

The shadows were still, and there was no response except more watery gurgling. And then another noise…

At first she thought it was thunder. But as it sounded again she realised it was more like burping.

“Dad?” Bryony grew concerned for her father. “Dad, are you OK?”

The burping stopped, and all she could hear was gurgling.

Bryony stood on the stairs debating what to do. Dressed in her nightclothes she was hardly equipped to go snorkelling, but she felt she should check whether Dad was all right.

So Bryony took a deep breath, then stepped from the stairs.

The water only came up to her ankles, but felt cold as ice against her bare feet. Gritting her teeth to stop them chattering, Bryony paddled cautiously down the hallway. In the darkness she had to feel her way along the wall, and all the while the gurgling got louder.

“Dad? Are you there?”

A shivering Bryony splashed her way into the kitchen. Fumbling behind the opened door she found her father’s torch he kept hanging there for ‘emergencies’. Thinking this was probably such a case, she switched on the torch to illuminate her surroundings.

The water seemed to be getting deeper, now half way up her shins and rising. Torch in hand, Bryony waded towards the kitchen sink. And there she found the cause of the problem.

The tap was running, and someone had left the plug in the sink.

Bryony tried to turn the tap off, but found it was stuck. She dipped her hand into the sink and tried to remove the plug, but it had been wedged so tight she couldn’t pull it free.

Then Bryony caught a whiff of fish, and heard a splash from behind her. She wheeled round to shine the torch at the figure in the doorway.

Bill recoiled, raising an arm to shield his eyes.

“Sorry.” Breathing a relieved sigh, Bryony lowered the torch. “The tap is stuck. You reckon you’re a bit of a handy man, you must have some tool for this sort of thing.”

“We have come for you,” said Bill, taking a step towards Bryony.

“A wrench, or some kind of spanner?” Bryony was too worried about the overflowing tap to notice her father was speaking in a weird gulping voice. “Or maybe just hit it with a hammer. That’s what you normally do if something doesn’t work.”

“We have come for you.” Bill reached out a hand towards Bryony. “We have come for you, Guardian of Wychetts.”

It was the last three words that made Bryony realise something was wrong. Dad didn’t know anything about Wychetts’ magic, so why would he say such things?

“Are you OK?” Bryony shone the torch at Bill’s face again.

But it wasn’t Bill’s face that stared back at her. His features were strangely contorted, his eyes round and bulging, his mouth widening to display rows of thorn like teeth.

Bill screeched as though in pain, shrinking back from the light.

Bryony screamed too, and almost dropped the torch as she departed the kitchen in a flurry of frantic splashing.

“Help!” she wailed. “There’s a monster in the house! Everyone wake up! There’s a…”

A hand grabbed her wrist as she reached the hallway. Bryony shrieked, but her terror subsided as she heard a familiar voice close to her ear.

“Hush,” crooned Jane. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“But he’s a monster,” gasped Bryony. “Dad’s a monster.”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say about your father,” said Jane.

“But it’s true,” insisted Bryony. “He’s an actual monster. With pointy teeth and stuff. And he…”

Bryony choked as a foul smell burned her nostrils.

“Are you wearing Dad’s aftershave?” she spluttered at Jane. “You stink of fish.”

“We find your scent revolting,” said Jane. “You reek of iron and of smoke.”

“I do not. It’s called ‘Summer Meadow’ shampoo, and it’s… hey.” Bryony realised how tightly Jane was holding her wrist. “What are you…”

“We have come for you.” Jane started speaking in gulps. “We have come for you all.”

Jane grabbed Bryony’s torch with her free hand. Only it wasn’t Jane’s hand, but a scaly webbed appendage tipped with long claws.

The torch was wrenched from Bryony’s grasp and hurled against the wall, smashing on impact and plunging the hallway into darkness…

Chapter 5- An Invasion!

Bryony prised the webbed fingers from her arm; but as she took a breath to scream for help, another voice cried out in the darkness.


Pocket torch in hand, a pyjama clad Edwin came haring down the stairs.

“Bryony, what’s going on?” Edwin slowed as he saw the flooded hallway, and then froze as his torch picked out the scaly monster holding Bryony.

“A fish alien!” Edwin yelped with fright, but the monster flinched from the torchlight and bellowed an angry belch. Seizing her chance, Bryony squirmed from its clutches and threw herself at Edwin as he leaped from the stairs.

Her right foot slipped on the submerged hallway floor, but Edwin caught her in his arms as she floundered in the deepening water.

“You OK?” Edwin hauled a drenched Bryony to her feet.

Bryony expelled a mouthful of water, nodding her thanks to Edwin.

There was a splash as the monster dived at the children, but Edwin shone his torch at its face. The monster retreated, shielding its bulbous eyes.

“What is it that thing?” Although nervous, Edwin took the chance to study the fish like creature.

“It was your mum,” explained Bryony, sweeping a lock of wet hair from her face. “Then she turned all scaly.”

“Don’t be dumb.” Edwin scowled. “How could…”

There was splashing to the right, and Edwin swivelled to reveal another fish monster in the beam of his torch.

“There’s two of them.” Bryony nodded at the second creature that had emerged from the kitchen. “That one was my dad.”

“I don’t believe these creatures are your parents.” A small head with a whiskered snout emerged from Edwin’s pyjama top pocket. “They are far too good looking to share your respective gene pools.”

Bryony stared at Stubby. “You sleep in Edwin’s pyjamas? That’s weird. And unhygienic.”

“I understand your concern,” conceded Stubby. “But I haven’t caught anything off him so far.”

There was a threatening belch from the monster Jane as it charged at the children. Again Edwin stopped it with the torch, but the monster Bill now came at them instead.

Edwin flicked the torch from monster to monster, freezing each one in turn. But as soon as the torch light shifted from them, each monster crept closer, and Edwin knew he could only delay the inevitable.

“We need Inglenook,” he whispered. “He’ll know how to beat these things.”

“I thought he would have done something by now,” grumbled Bryony. “I bet he’s fast asleep as usual.”

“Or perhaps these creatures have found a way of blocking his magic.” Stubby twitched his whiskers thoughtfully. “We need to get to the lounge.”

“Agreed.” Edwin held Bryony’s arm. “Are you ready?”

Bryony felt far from ready. Her legs were stiff with cold, and the rising water had now reached her waist. She knew Edwin couldn’t swim, so how come he was being so brave?

“Inglenook will help us.” Edwin tightened his grip on Bryony’s arm. “But you’ll have to guide us there.”

Edwin backed down the hallway, flicking the torchlight from monster to monster as Bryony peered over his shoulder.

“Keep going,” she instructed, relying on frequent bursts of lightning to illuminate the way. “Straighten up a little. More to the right. No, my right not yours, dimbo. Now another three steps…”

Clinging to each other, the children made it to the lounge door. The fish monsters followed, belching menacingly as they edged ever closer.

“Inglenook!” Bryony screamed as they waded into the lounge. “We’re being attacked by monsters!”

“Fish aliens,” cried Edwin. “It’s an invasion!”

A flash of lightning lit up the carved wooden face above the hearth, but there was no response from the Keeper of the Ancient Wisdom.

“I told you,” snarled Bryony. “He’s soundo.”

“Inglenook never sleeps,” argued Edwin. “He…”

The torch flickered.

“Uh oh.” Edwin slapped the torch against the palm of his hand. “The batteries are dying.”

The monsters belched in unison, as though sensing victory was close.

“You must try and wake Inglenook.” Stubby crawled up onto Edwin’s shoulder to escape the rising water. “I fear he is under the magical influence of these creatures.”

The children tried calling out to Inglenook, but the deepening water pressed against their lungs, and it was a struggle to even breathe.

Then the torch died, and a terrible blackness enveloped Edwin and Bryony.

“We have come for you,” gulped a voice from the gloom. “We have come for the Guardians of Wychetts.”

There was splashing, and Bryony felt a clammy webbed hand on her shoulder.

“Inglenook, we need you!” From somewhere Bryony found her voice again. “Wake up, wooden brains!”

“Wake up!” Edwin wailed as a scaly arm wrapped around his waist. “Inglenook, please wake up!”

Suddenly the room was bathed in light. Not a harsh flash of lightning, but a warm orange hue. A glowing ball emerged from the fireplace, a mini sun that shone brighter as it rose to the ceiling.

The monsters screeched, raising webbed hands to cover their eyes, their wide jaws gnashing with fury.

“Back,” bellowed Inglenook, his voice stern and commanding. “Back, creatures of the mire. How dare you enter the home of the Wise Ones without my bidding? Now state your purpose or be gone from this place.”

The monsters dived into the water. Fearing another attack, Bryony and Edwin clung to each other, but the monsters did not reappear.

The flood waters receded with a gentle gurgle.

“They have gone,” said Inglenook. “Returned to where they came.”

“You mean outer space?” Letting go of Bryony, Edwin turned to the fireplace. “Another planet, like Mars?”

“Don’t be silly.” Stubby remained perched on Edwin’s shoulder. “It has been scientifically proven that Mars is just a barren orb devoid of intelligent life. A trait shared by many places in this solar system. Jupiter, Saturn. Your head.”

“Those creatures are not alien,” said Inglenook. “They are very much from this earth. Or rather, the water.”

“They’re disgusting.” Bryony found she couldn’t rid her nostrils of that fishy stink.

“They have as much right to inhabit this world as humans,” replied Inglenook. “Perhaps more so, since they have been in existence far longer than your species.”

“But what are they?” Edwin was slightly disappointed that he hadn’t had a close encounter with aliens after all. “They must have a name.”

“I believe they are called the Nyx,” said Inglenook.

“You believe?” Wringing out her nightdress, Bryony scowled at Inglenook. “You mean you don’t know for sure?”

“I have never seen a Nyx in the flesh before, Young Mistress. They are normally shy and secretive beings, rarely straying from their natural habitat of river and bog.”

Bryony snorted. “They didn’t seem shy and secretive to me.”

“Indeed not,” mused Inglenook. “Which can only mean my suspicions are not unfounded.”

“Suspicions?” Edwin glanced uneasily at Bryony before returning his gaze to the carved wooden face. “What suspicions?”

“The storms are not natural,” declared Inglenook. “A magic power is at work. And I fear it is not for the good.”

Chapter 6- Consumer Rights

The foyer of Gutterly Great Gutters and Drainpipes Limited head office was exactly as Bill had described it. The pristine walls were a calming shade of magnolia, the spotless carpet was lush underfoot, and there was even a flat screen TV for the benefit of customers.

“Looks like you found the right place.” Clutching the Wychetts Key in her right hand, Bryony gave Inglenook’s miniature face an appreciative nod as she walked towards the reception desk.

“Naturally,” replied Inglenook. “You should be more trusting of Wychetts’ power, Young Mistress.”

“I’d be more trusting if Wychetts’ power had stopped Dad and Jane getting kidnapped in the first place,” muttered Bryony. “Or at least if it could tell us where they’ve been taken.”

“I am still searching,” Inglenook assured her. “But as I explained earlier, it would seem the Nyx have cast a magic shield around your parents to stop me tracking them.”

It was now morning, although the veil of storm clouds made it difficult to judge the time of day. Luckily for Bryony, the journey from Wychetts had been conducted by magical transportation, so she had avoided another soaking. Her hair was still a little frizzy from the night before.

Thanks to the warming heat of Inglenook’s mini sun, Wychetts had dried out in no time at all. But any relief the children felt at their escape from the Nyx had been dispelled after a frantic search of the cottage had revealed no sign of Bill and Jane. Inglenook had a grim theory to account for the grown up’s disappearance: they had been kidnapped by the Nyx.

He deduced their intention had been to kidnap the whole family, but why remained a mystery. Whilst Inglenook had admitted he knew little about the Nyx, he was sure they were not an evil race, and had developed their magical shape shifting powers purely as a means of survival. Edwin had suggested the Nyx wanted to eat Bill and Jane, but Inglenook thought that unlikely; whilst they harboured no love for humans, he insisted the Nyx had never attacked or injured people, and were likely to be vegetarians. Bryony assumed that would explain all the burping.

Whilst it was unclear if the Nyx’s actions had anything to do with the storms, Inglenook suspected there was a connection. It was decided that Bryony would track down Bill and Jane, whilst Edwin had been sent off to follow another line of enquiry.

Edwin hadn’t been entirely happy with that arrangement, particularly when Inglenook had given the Wychetts Key to Bryony. But Bryony thought it made perfect sense: she was better at magic than her stepbrother, so it would be a waste giving him the Key.

The plan was to rendezvous after Bryony had spoken to her father’s employers. She had reasoned that her dad must have been kidnapped before he came home from work, and that it was really a Nyx shape shifting imposter who had behaved so oddly at supper. She hoped finding out details of her father’s last sales appointment would help track him down.

“Hello and welcome to Gutterly Great Gutters and Drainpipes Limited head office.” The lady at the desk greeted Bryony with a welcoming smile. She was quite pretty, with large grey eyes and wavy brown hair. But she spoke in a strange lispy voice, and her teeth looked a bit too large for her mouth.

“My name is Marshia,” continued the lady. “How may I be of service to you?”

“I’ve come about my dad.” Bryony leaned on the desk, but drew back when she caught a pungent aroma of cheap perfume and…

“I apologise for the odour.” Marshia held up a scent bottle and sprayed the air in front of her. “We are currently experiencing issues with our drains, but are working to resolve the problem. Now how may I be of service?”

“It’s my dad.” Bryony tried not to inhale too deeply. “He works for you. His name is Bill Platt.”

Marshia frowned, her grey eyes narrowing. “You mean Mr Splatt?”

“His name is Platt,” insisted Bryony, emphasising the ‘P’.

“There is a Mr Splatt who joined our sales team three weeks ago,” lisped Marshia. “Nice chap, always jolly. Weird taste in shirts.”

“That’s him.” Bryony realised they were talking about the same person. “I’m his daughter.”

Marshia looked Bryony up and down. “You’re Browny.”

“It’s Bryony,” said Bryony, emphasising the ‘Y’. “Do you know where my dad is? He didn’t come home last night and I’m worried something might have happened to him.”

Obviously Bryony wasn’t going to mention that he’d been kidnapped by shape shifting fish monsters.

“Let me check his schedule.” Marshia swivelled her chair and started tapping on a computer keyboard. Bryony noticed how long her nails were, almost like claws.

“Well?” Bryony leaned over the reception desk to read the computer screen, but recoiled when she caught another whiff of that pungent odour. It was cheap perfume, mainly. But there was definitely a hint of something else…

“Mr Splatt was assigned an emergency appointment late last evening.” Marshia’s grey eyes widened as she read the screen. “According to our database we have not heard from him since.”

“Can you give me more info?” asked Bryony. “You must have an address.”

“I’m afraid I cannot divulge that information,” lisped Marshia. “That is classified customer data.”

“I need to know,” insisted Bryony. “It’s important.”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you.” Marshia was still smiling. “That is classified customer data.”

“There is something wrong,” whispered Inglenook. “This lady is not what she seems.”

“Leave this to me,” hissed Bryony. “I’ve watched enough TV consumer shows to know how to deal with difficult staff.”

Marshia’s smile flickered, her large grey eyes swivelling to the Key in Bryony’s hand.

“I want to speak to your manager.” Bryony folded her arms and treated Marshia to one of her fiercest scowls. “I’m not going anywhere until I’ve spoken to your manager.”

To Bryony’s surprise, Marshia was happy to oblige.

“Of course. I’ll check if they’re available.”

Marshia picked up the handset of her desk telephone. “Hello. Mr Splatt’s daughter is here to see you. Yes, young Browny.”

“It’s Bryony,” growled Bryony, emphasising the ‘Y’. “And my surname is Platt, not…”

“You can go through.” Marshia pointed a long nailed finger to a door in the corner of the foyer. “The management can’t wait to see you.”

Bryony thanked Marshia, who responded by spraying more perfume at her.

Stifling a cough, Bryony turned from the reception desk and headed for the manager’s office.

“See,” she told Inglenook. “All you have to do is stand up for your consumer rights. That’s what the TV shows say.”

But Inglenook was not so easily satisfied.

“I sense danger, Young Mistress. There is something strange about that young lady.”

“I know what you mean,” whispered Bryony. “Reckon she’s on some work experience scheme.”

“More than that,” said Inglenook. “I sense there may be dark magic at work.”

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