No sooner do I address the issue of my cardigan, then something else decides it needs mending. In this case, my roof. I don’t know who or what has been dancing on it, but the slate tiles are not looking the way they should.
I have a few pointed questions for the bees. There’s no way that damage was the work of the weather. They’re as incensed as I am, and promise to keep a close eye on the place as I set out for Ulfgar’s tower.
If he has a couple of workers available, I may as well see if they can take care of my drips and drafts as well.
I arrive in good time and am met at the door of the cottage by a smiling, dancing Chloe. I’m not sure ghosts are meant to be that merry, but far be it from me to inform her otherwise.
“Having fun terrorising the villains are you?”
The crystal ball on the table in the main room lit up with smiles and chuckles. That reminded me.
“I’ve ordered a second crystal ball. It may take a while but it’ll mean you can chat both here and in my cottage.”
The smiles brightened to sunlight.
“I also met a girl around your age with a good eye and calm wit for the unusual. I was wondering if you’d like me to bring her to visit once I have the ball at the cottage. She’s not likely to be comfortable this far up the mountain.”
The ball now showed pictures of two girls playing and laughing together and I nodded. “We’ll have a few practices once the new crystal arrives, make sure it’s properly tuned to you as you’ve done with this one, then I’ll invite her up for a visit.”
I shook my finger. “But no teaching her to steal honey from my bees. She could get hurt. Those bees don’t die when they sting, so they’re not slow to react to misbehaviour.”
Chloe clasped her hands over her stomach and nodded solemnly, then spun towards the door on the far side of the room with a silent giggle.
I laughed. “Yes, go and get your mischief out now while I chat with Ulfgar.”
He opened the door a minute after Chloe had vanished through it. “I wondered what she was trying to tell me. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
I snorted, but kissed his cheek anyway, he always was a charmer. “Something’s been stomping on my roof, half the tiles are askew and half of those are cracked or broken. I was wondering if I could borrow your workers at some point.”
“Of course. They’re near done on the tower roof, not a huge amount of ground to cover there. I can send them up to the slate quarry tomorrow and have them tethered and brought to you the day after.”
“That would be perfect. How are they turning out?”
“Past redemption and reluctant to put in the effort, but they’re terrified of Chloe and I’ve been having a couple of my shapeshifters work on replicating her appearance, so they’ll be properly motivated once I move them to The Pits.”
We walked through into the tower, where I waved to the portrait, who was watering a newly-planted (painted) rosebush a short way up the mural spiralling through the tower.
Ulfgar smiled. “Now that one is proving a delightful companion. He loves his new garden and is never happier than when I splash a bit of paint in an unobtrusive area. Turns out he can manipulate it while it’s still wet, and turn it into new features for the picture he’s in.”
“I’ve never heard of that before. Mind you, I’d never heard of ambulatory portraits before his relative decided to make trouble for the mayor. How delightful.”
Chloe streaked down the tower towards us, she looked scared. I returned to the main room and the crystal ball. “What’s wrong?”
She showed me an image of the sky growing dark, the sun fading.”
I slapped my forehead. “Of course, I’d completely forgotten the date. It’s alright Chloe, it’s simply a solar eclipse. Every now and again, Sun and Moon arrange to meet and she likes to get between his light and us.”
Ulfgar grunted, his head poking through the door from the tower. “You’re not the only one who lost track. I suppose I’d better get those two in from the roof. They’re not much good if they’ve blinded themselves trying to watch it.”
He waved an arm and the door at the top of the tower blew open. A scant moment later, two shrieking figures catapulted through it, bound by misty black ropes.
“Indoor work today, murderers. The basilisk pools are due for a clean.”
I elbowed him. “Remember I need them for my roof, don’t go getting them petrified before it’s fixed.”
He muttered so only I could hear. “They’re only up here during the summer, they prefer The Isles when the weather cools.”
Ulfgar’s tethers hoisted the two criminals into the air and dangled them down the centre of the tower, then through a black tunnel entrance a quarter of the way around the tower base from where we stood.
Their screams faded as they vanished into the dark and I decided it was time to make my way home. I had a roof to keep an eye on.