Anne first conceived the possibility of writing a novel when she was a child.

Her copy of Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables became a treasured friend. And so, many years later, while driving down a winding A road in East Sussex, Anne's imagination was sparked by a sign post which read "The Enchanted Forest." Once home in Vancouver, the remembrance of this moment and the forest attached to her childhood school, Crofton House, brought about Lavender Village: two sparring fairy sisters sprang into being and the rest followed in a rush of inspiration and joy. Anne feels a kinship with all things British, including English mysteries. She also enjoys Victorian poetry and literature, both English and French. Her university major was French literature spanning the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Anne spent many years in the antiques business and loves travelling to England. Anne and her husband Graham like walking on the beach near their home with two muchloved border terriers, Ivy and Arthur. If you like Lavender Village, you may also enjoy the sequel, The Mists of Afar, which will follow soon.

Anne Graham-Biehl

Lavender Village

Copyright © Anne G r a h a m - B i e h l The right of Anne Graham-Biehl to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.+Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library. ISBN 978 1 84963 2158 8 www.austinmacauley.com First Published (2013) Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. 25 Canada Square Canary Wharf London E14 5LB

Printed & Bound in Great Britain

“For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Matthew, Chapter 7 Verse 8

Acknowledgements
I would like to acknowledge my wonderful mother, Lorna Graham-Biehl. Were it not for her belief in Lavender Village, it would still be lying in a drawer, hiding its light under a bushel. My thanks as well to Annette Longman, Editor-in-Chief Austin & Macauley, for her kindness and for bringing Lavender Village to life. I also wish to thank Irene Kavanagh freelance editor, and Caroline Kaiser, editor, for their talent and support. Lavender Village is dedicated to the loving memory of my cherished father Norman Biehl, C.D, to my grandmother, Ivy Graham, who inspired me, and to my great-grandmother Sarah Howard.

Introduction

The enchanting inner reaches of England's East Sussex are home to one of the last bastions of Faeryland. Nestled in these wooded depths, amid warbling birdsong and things past, the eager traveller can just glimpse quintessential English estates. Here, ivy-covered Georgian stone houses with gleaming casement windows have been brought to life through the generations by love, laughter, and many a boisterous child. An ancient stream on one such property flows silently past a long ago erected sign reading, ‗The Faery Brook — Tread Softly.‘ This humble guidepost is the gateway to Lavender Village, the faeries' township, so named as it is situated in a sunny corner at forest's edge overlooking a lavender field. Lavender Village is a well-kept secret among a handful of locals eager to protect their heritage, but there is one forthcoming fellow, a retired groundskeeper by the name of Ashby, who takes his ale in the evening at the Wayward Inn just outside the village of Lamptonon-the-Water. Don't be put off by his rather shabby cardigan, for it hides a wealth of folklore: many a tale he can tell you of the meetings he used to have with his winged friends before he offended one of them and fell from grace. He will be a bit wary at first, but if your interest in the ‗wee folk‘ is genuine and you slip him a pint or two, he will soon tell you all you could want to know about the Sussex faeries. And, ‗Mind that you spell faery with an e, never an i!‘ he has been heard to proclaim while downing his ale. One of the first things Mr Ashby will tell you is that faeries are caregivers by nature. Their generosity is tempered, however, by an uncanny intuition: they help those who are deserving and dismiss the rest of us. One of Mr Ashby's favourite tales features a Lord

Charles Burnham, Viscount of Malsbridge at the time, who was given directions by a faery named Sylvia many years ago. During one of his expeditions, little Charles had to his delight discovered Howard's Pond, a treasure hidden in the heart of the Faery Wood, accessible to only the most diligent of faery seekers. After thoroughly enjoying himself for hours in gathering stray bracken and old boards for a fort and dining on wild boysenberries off a discarded plate, young Burnham emerged from the midst of his adventure. He realized that he didn't have a clue how to get home. As an explorer, he considered himself to be quite fearless, but with nightfall fast approaching, his five-year-old bravado shortly gave way to boyish sobbing. Swinging off the tip of a nearby reed, Sylvia had watched the enterprising fellow with curiosity and growing affection. Mortals made only rare appearances in this part of the forest. When they did, it was usually to make a short cut, not to revel in woodland secrets as Charles had been doing all afternoon. So without hesitation, Sylvia leapt from her perch and whispered the directions home in his ear; she accidentally did so in Faery Speak, an offshoot of Celtic. Realizing her mistake, she was about to repeat herself in English when Charles suddenly looked up calmly, wiped his eyes, and started off homeward. Presuming that he had remembered the way on his own, he nevertheless felt an urge to look back as he was leaving this tranquil spot. There in the fading sunlight was the tiniest of winged creatures about to take flight. She was poised — waiting for an updraft — her arms outstretched. She then jumped as though executing a swan dive into the pond below, but instead rose into the mist and disappeared from view! She wasn't much bigger than a dragonfly, but she loomed larger than life in his memory for many years to come.

Chapter 1
The Silly Sylph

‗Why are you always putting obstacles in my way, Cordy?‘ Sylvia asked, with a rebellious toss of her spun gold curls. ‗I'm only trying to save you from yourself,‘ her sister responded grimly. Sylvia had just announced her intention to watch the sunset from the top of a lavender stalk. She loved feeling the stalk gently swaying beneath her weight as the forest whispered goodnight to its residents. Birds gave a final chirp, nodding off gradually in cosy nests, squirrels stacked their last nut for the day, and the burrowing rabbit paws of Lavender Warren paused underground. ‗Have you forgotten about that dandelion incident last week?‘ Cordelia added with a smirk. ‗You came home covered from head to toe in those fluffy white spores. Dandelions and lavender! If there's something ridiculous to be done, you'll find it and do it, Sylvia.‘ ‗All right. I guess it's getting a bit dark for lavender swinging. I'll just nip over to Howard's Pond. Why don't you come along? Have you seen my walking slippers?‘ she asked, looking around. ‗They're at the foot of the stairs where you left them, and I can see the sunset just fine from where I am,‘ Cordelia sniffed. She gestured towards the latticed doors that overlooked their garden. ‗You're always running off thinking that the sunset or the sunrise is better somewhere else. You're never content, and it will be your downfall. Mark my words.‘

‗There you go again!‘ Sylvia said. She was hurrying out the door, eager not to miss that bewitching glow over the hushed pond, which lasted but a few precious moments. ‗It isn't that I'm not content — it's just that I like to see this world from every possible angle and then decide which one suits me best.‘ ‗Well, when you find it, let me know, would you? I'd like to send you there!‘ was Cordelia's sarcastic retort. ‗Honestly, I'm only going for a walk!‘ Sylvia whispered. She felt a breeze brush abruptly past her down Mulberry Lane. Pulling her opalescent wrap tightly about her shoulders, she set off. ***

Cordelia noted that Sylvia had waved in a most cheeky manner before disappearing behind a bramble bush. Shaking her head, she sighed. ‗Well, I guess I'm going to be waiting up for her again. Apparently my day hasn't been long enough! At least she's learned to whistle.‘ Cordelia was referring to a special whistle that only faeries, elves, and wildlife can hear. The next time you notice a dog baying on a country evening, it might just be in answer to a reckless faery's call for help! ‗Silly little sylph, wandering around at this time of the night.‘ Cordelia was still muttering as she pressed some dried lavender leaves into her treasured tea ball. Waiting for the beverage to steep, she started sweeping the already immaculate breakfast nook floor. ***

Meanwhile, sunset's lingering rays were caressing Sylvia's upturned face. She had just found the most enchanting spot on Howard's Pond to dip her toes into and, grabbing a twig, she

playfully sliced the surface of the water. All thoughts of Cordelia fled her mind as she contentedly inhaled the August evening air, flavoured with a touch of autumn. She smiled, thinking back to another August day the year before when a little boy named Henry Burnham happened upon her while she was practising her flute. Sylvia's audience, a pale grey bunny nestled among the grasses and a young bullfrog resting on top of a lily pad suddenly increased by one. Henry was kneeling only a few yards away, clearly enraptured by this radiant creature with her chiseled features, dreamy violet eyes and flowing golden ringlets. Sylvia was seated cross-legged on a mushroom, swaying in time to her melody. Wearing a shimmering, ivory-coloured gown cinched at the waist with ivy, her wings were pulsating with the music. All was well until Henry interrupted her when a twig snapped beneath his weight. Sylvia swung around immediately, incensed by this intrusion. Her indignation melted away, however, as she looked into the boy‘s earnest blue eyes. There was something very familiar about him. Then it dawned on her. ‗Hello there!‘ she said warmly. ‗You've come back! I hoped you would.‘ Sylvia had mistaken Henry for his grandfather Charles. Faeries, you see, have trouble with the concept of time as they never age. Henry looked curiously at Sylvia as he moved slowly towards her. When he was within a foot or so of her, he lay down on his stomach and rested his chin on his hands. ‗I've never been here before a week ago. I've been looking for a place called Howard's Pond that my grandfather told me about.‘ ‗This is it,‘ said Sylvia. ‗Oh, I'll bet you're related to a little boy I once saw here.‘ ‗That's right! You gave him directions back to the village. Grandfather told me all about you, and I've been combing the area ever since trying to find you. Last week I had stopped to rest over there,‘ he said, pointing into the bushes behind them, ‗and I heard

you playing your flute. I came back three days in a row, and I finally saw this pond through the trees. It's just as wonderful as Grandfather told me it was. Better, in fact,‘ he said, looking into the mysterious depths of Sylvia's eyes. ‗Funny thing about him,‘ said Sylvia thoughtfully. ‗I spoke in our language by mistake the first time, and he understood me perfectly. I've often wondered about that.‘ The two continued chatting, and Sylvia learned that the Burnhams owned thousands of acres in East and West Sussex. Henry‘s family had been sheep farmers since the 1400s, and his father had just been made Earl of Malsbridge. One day he would inherit the estate along with the earldom. ‗So what should I call you then — Your Lordship?‘ asked Sylvia teasingly. ‗You'd better not!‘ Their visits were frequent and merry for the remainder of the summer. Sylvia revealed much of her world to Henry, including the store of chestnuts that was kept beneath a hollowed-out tree. Their wood-like veneer was used to make furniture, and their insides were boiled into a rich, creamy soup. Then there was the canoe Sylvia had fashioned from an oak leaf. Once she was aboard, Henry would push her out into the middle of the pond with his forefinger. Sylvia also proudly showed him the silken cloak she had woven from a caterpillar‘s cocoon. She taught Henry about herbal remedies too: raspberry tea for an upset stomach, thyme for cuts, and ‗lavermint‘ liniment for headaches. ‗Lavermint?‘ Henry laughed. ‗That sounds awful. I think I'd rather suffer with the headache!‘ ‗I assure you it's very effective,‘ said Sylvia with a twist of her mouth as she tried not to smile. ‗It's just a combination of la vender and peppermint. It was Cordelia's idea to call it that — she likes everything short and simple.‘

‗And how do you like things to be?‘ Taking a sip of her honey cordial, she watched two dragonflies play tag over Howard's Pond. ‗Interesting,‘ she answered. Then she noticed that her friend's eyes had suddenly clouded over. ‗What's wrong, Henry?‘ ‗My father's been teaching me about running an estate. I thought that was really interesting until I heard about how a family in Yorkshire had somehow lost their lands to someone they thought was a trusted friend.‘ Looking at the remains of his grandfather's childhood fort, Henry said, ‗How can people behave so badly? Things like that just don't happen here. You're very lucky.‘ ‗Things aren't perfect here either. We have to be careful of trolls and goblins and bossy older sisters.‘ Gazing at the young boy who had so quickly become such an important part of her tiny existence, she added, ‗I'll help you when the time comes, Henry.‘ Their eyes locked in a moment of silent awakening that Henry appeared to shrug off. ‗That's sweet of you, but it's a very different world out there. You really don't know anything about it, Sylvia.‘ ‗Oh, don't I?‘ She was taken aback by Henry's unexpected show of ignorance. Her little face burning with indignation, she stood up and started pacing back and forth. ‗Well, let me tell you just what we do know! We can feel when someone is ill because our wings get heavy and the air around the sick person's home turns a certain colour: yellow means a stomach ache, red indicates a headache, but purple red means arthritis has taken hold. It's all very scientific. Anyway, we gather together the herbal, floral, and ethereal ingredients we need. Do you know what ethereal ingredients are?‘ she asked coolly. ‗No, I don't,‘ Henry had to admit. ‗Ethereal ingredients come from the air, the wind, the sun, and the rain. For example, Essence of Rainbow, Distilled Sunlight, and Dew Water. The ethereal elements are the most powerful part of

each remedy.‘ Sylvia paused in her lecture and looked up reproachfully at Henry. ‗Go on,‘ he said with a smile. ‗So then we package up the medicine with flower petals we've sewn together. It's sort of like your gift-wrapping, and it keeps the mixtures fresh. Next, we transport them via elf sleigh to the sick person's doorstep, along with a note telling them when to take the medicine. Certain teas need to be steeped at dawn. Our directions must be followed precisely. We always check back in a few days; most of the time the problem has disappeared. If it hasn't, we leave another note advising people to read the instructions more carefully. ‗We've brought children and adults back to life after the doctors had said they were lost causes. Villagers have been so grateful in the past that they've left treats out for us: sugar lumps, gingerbread — things like that. They don't do that as much anymore, though. Anyway, we always celebrate someone's renewed health around a bonfire on the green in Lavender Village. So don't you sit there and tell me we don't know anything about the world. We've been around for eons!‘ ‗That's pretty impressive,‘ said Henry. ‗Come to think of it, I‘ve heard rumours of mysterious packages being left in the night at the homes of Lampton-on-the Water villagers, not far from my home. But no one has ever seen or heard the messengers. Now I know why,‘ he said, gazing down at Sylvia. She smiled up at him like a burst of sunshine after a rain shower. All was forgiven. Sylvia's walk down Memory Lane was now interrupted by a gigantic owl sitting blinking directly above her. ‗Whoo, whoo, my dear. Shouldn't you be getting back to your own tree?‘ Smiling and nodding politely, Sylvia thought, Whoo, whoo to you! I'll go back when I'm good and ready. Before taking flight, she

asked, ‗How do you know where I live? I've never seen you before. You must be new to the forest.‘ ‗I've watched you coming and going all week. I'm an owl after all. That's what we do – we watch,‘ he said, still blinking serenely. ‗Right!‘ Sylvia laughed. ‗Well, if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to hoot.‘ And off she flew. Skimming the side of the bramble bush, Sylvia caught her shawl for a moment. Tugging on it impatiently she heard it rip. It was only a slight tear and could be fixed with some invisible faery thread, but she knew she would hear about it from Cordelia. I'll just hurry in and repair it before she notices, Sylvia told herself, knowing that her sister would immediately spot anything out of the ordinary. ―I‘m always in trouble,‘ she sighed, carefully opening the green wooden front door. It had a wrought-iron knocker, forged into the shape of a faery by an elf friend. It now clanked annoyingly in spite of her. ‗Thanks a lot!‘ she whispered back at it. Sylvia and Cordelia lived in the base of an oak tree encircled by a carefully tended garden of herbs and wildflowers. Mulberry House creaked and groaned a bit too much for Sylvia's liking, but it was sturdy and spacious with two storeys. The rough, dark interior walls and pebble fireplace had been polished to a welcoming gleam over the years. And the carefully placed furnishings made Mulberry House the village showpiece. Plans were afoot to have the elves carve out a third-floor sitting room with a balcony. As Sylvia closed the door, the knocker insisted on announcing her arrival again, just in case her sister had missed it the first time! Sylvia saw that dependable Cordelia had lit a fire in the grate. Spying their teapot, Sylvia thought with a smile, Lavender tea, no doubt! Cordelia brewed lavender tea when she was concerned about something, which was more often than not; it soothed her faery nerves.

Cordelia now poked her head around the corner of the staircase, a chamber stick in one hand and her teacup in the other. Her raven black eyes darted across the room. ‗You're back then – finally. What on earth have you done to your cape?‘ ‗It got caught on the bramble bush. I've never liked that thing—it's so prickly.‘ Sylvia frowned, taking some currants from the sideboard and sitting down in front of the fire. ‗Don't blame the bush, Sylvia. You know very well you were flying too close. It's just a wonder you didn't crash right into it in the dark. If you knew you were going to be out this late, why didn't you take some faery dust with you?‘ No well-prepared night-travelling faery is without her pouch of faery dust, the contents of which she tosses in front of her. Faery dust consists of one part gold dust to light her path, to two parts Essence of Dewdrop to keep the gold dust suspended until after she has passed. ‗Because you're always complaining about having to conserve it! Besides, I just lost track of time thinking about things – it was so peaceful.‘ ‗I wouldn't know about that,‘ shot back Cordelia. ‗I haven 't had a moment's peace worrying about some bat swooping off with you, and now you come back with your shawl almost ripped in two. Is there something you're not telling me?‘ ‗No, Cordy, honestly there isn't. I'm sorry I kept you up. Have a good sleep,‘ Sylvia said patiently. ‗You'd be well advised to turn in now too. There are all those herbs to be packaged tomorrow. The orders are scheduled for pickup in the afternoon, as you may recall.‘ Cordelia and Sylvia ran the mortal equivalent of an apothecary; they were faery pharmacists. As Cordelia trudged upstairs, Sylvia continued munching her currants and meditating on the cheerful dancing flames before her. Fire is a traditional faery medium for invoking visions of the future

and contemplating matters in general. But alas, the flames gave no hint of future adventures, just flickering amber warmth. Settling into her armchair, Sylvia felt a sharp pain just behind her right shoulder blade. She had inadvertently bent back a section of one wing. ‗I'd love to be without these things for just one day!‘ she grumbled, sitting back more slowly. She now felt a twinge of guilt, but then Sylvia had always been a rather reluctant faery – she even suffered regularly from motion sickness in flight when going up or down too quickly on an air current. The other Lavender Village faeries would often dart laughingly past her on a gust of wind while Sylvia was forced to stop on the nearest branch and calm her stomach. Sylvia gave a final glance at the waning flames. Suddenly, she had a vision of herself walking through a sunlit field of heather; she could almost feel the gentle breeze and her fingertips grazing the tips of the blooms! How odd – as a faery, she would normally be engulfed by heather, but this variety reached to just below her knees. And someone was walking alongside her. She turned to see who it was, but she was jolted back in her chair. She sighed and shook her head. A fool's fancy, she thought, and proceeded slowly up the narrow spiral stairway. She paused for a moment, looking out the small octagonal lead-glass window towards Howard's Pond. The moon was almost full, and it seemed to bathe the landscape in a silvery white light. Best not to think too much right now, she cautioned herself. Henry's face, however, kept drifting stubbornly back into her mind. She remembered his assurances that he would meet her down at the pond as soon as he got back from boarding school the following summer. Then she recalled too the curious lump that had risen in her throat as she waved him off from the forest entrance that last time. The thought of their trysts had brightened the dreary winter months. How disappointed she was when Henry had failed to visit

her this year – even once. So is this how it is with people? Sylvia wondered. Do they just come and go this easily from each other's lives? But after you've opened your heart to someone, how exactly do you go about shutting it again? In Faeryland, once love is born, it grows stronger with each passing season. I suppose he's just reasoned me away as a childhood fantasy plaything, or forgotten me altogether, she concluded. Still, she had pledged to help Henry if he ever needed it, and Sylvia always kept her promises. That will be something to look forward to one day, then – a little trip up to Castle Malsbridge, just to check on him, she thought. Comforted by this decision, Sylvia climbed the last steps to her bedchamber, still lost in thought.

Chapter 2
Wren and the Woodland News

Sylvia was awakened the next morning by a more insistent than usual ‗Chirrup ... Chirrup!‘ It was her wren friend, a pert little fellow with speckled brown feathers and the most adorable narrow pointed beak. Wren had no other name as Wren suited him just fine. He was dutifully waiting for Sylvia to appear at the window, his morning woodland news update at the ready. If truth be told, he was also waiting for the faery breadcrumbs that were part of the drill. And, if Sylvia could sneak it out of the pantry, a few sips of their renowned raspberry cordial to warm his insides. Autumn had dropped by for an early visit this year, and a spot of cordial was just what a little wren needed to ward off that decided nip in the air. Sunlight was pouring through Sylvia's tiny casement window, the shadow of the mulberry bush outside making gently swaying patterns on the walls. She sat up, rubbing her eyes. Pushing open the window, she hastily took some breadcrumbs from a small covered basket woven out of river reeds. ‗So what's new this morning, Wren?‘ Sylvia asked with a yawn as she extended a handful of breadcrumbs towards Wren's perch. He liked to peck directly out of her hand while giving her tidbits of news; it was an affectionate gesture between old friends. ‗First of all,‘ Wren countered dejectedly, ‗why is it taking you longer and longer to come to the window in the morning? Are you getting tired of our breakfast meetings?‘

‗I'd hardly call them breakfast meetings, Wren.‘ Sylvia smiled. ‗You don't even give me a chance to make my tea before you start tapping at the window. I'm a slave to your schedule!‘ ‗I could come at noon and you wouldn't have your tea ready. You need me to wake you up. You said so yourself just the other day. You told me it was better than having Cordelia pounding on your door. There's something else, though. I can feel it in my wings. You've changed, Sylvia. You're off in a dream world lately – you hardly even listen to my news anymore. I'm just a boring old bird to you now, aren't I?‘ Wren was getting on in years and starting to show it: grey feathers were appearing faster than he could pluck them out, which probably accounted for his heightened sensitivity. But he did have a legitimate point. ‗Please don't think that. It isn't true. At least not as far as you're concerned,‘ Sylvia exclaimed, her eyes brimming over with remorse; she loved her friends devotedly. ‗I've been a bit restless lately in general. Perhaps it's just the change of season. I was thinking yesterday that I might try a bit of Moor Breeze.‘ Sylvia and Cordelia only gave this essence out sparingly for it was difficult to capture and evaporated quickly when uncorked. Sylvia didn‘t approve of taking medicine as a rule. She felt herself above needing such ―crutches‖. Still a drop or two in some dandelion tea might not be altogether bad. The combination was said to be remarkably good for regulating one‘s mood. ‗That might be just what you need, Sylvia. I‘m glad we cleared that up. Now then, Barney …‘ ‗Barney? Who's that?‘ ‗He's the owl who's taken up residence over the pond – nice fellow. Anyway,‘ Wren said, still pecking at his breadcrumbs, ‗Barney was saying that he spotted a troll lurking around last night. Probably nothing to be concerned about, but I just thought I'd mention i t.‘

‗Hmm,‘ said Sylvia, ‗that's not good news. They'd better stay away from Lavender Village if they know what's good for them!‘ ‗Don't you go antagonizing them, Sylvia. They're vicious when they're provoked.‘ ‗They're vicious all on their own, and they rely on their horrible reputation to intimidate others into doing whatever they want. Someone should really stand up to them once and for all.‘ ‗Now, now. If you go on like that, I‘ll have to stop giving you uncensored news. Trolls have always been around, and they probably always will be. That's a fact. Another fact is that I need some cordial to wash down this bread, which is delicious this morning. Did Cordelia make it?‘ ‗No, she didn't! I put a bit of nutmeg in to give it more flavour. I thought you might like it. Here.‘ She handed Wren a half -goblet of cordial. ‗It's all I could get without Cordelia noticing.‘ ‗It will have to do, then,‘ said Wren, before draining the cup. ‗Wren,‘ Sylvia said, her sudden change of tone alerting her friend to the significance of the question she was about to ask, ‗do you know the best route to take to Castle Malsbridge?‘ Wren‘s curiosity was piqued. He looked intently at her from the corner of his bright brown eyes. ‗Why do you ask?‘ ‗Cordelia has some medicine for me to take up there, and we want to know the quickest way. You know, with our being so busy and all.‘ ‗I thought that delivering herbs was the elves' job,‘ said Wren, raising one birdie eyebrow. ‗Since when did this become your responsibility?‘ ‗You know, you're very impertinent sometimes. If you can't or won't answer my question, I'll just ask someone else!‘ Sylvia responded. Imagine being interrogated by a bird! she thought.

‗Well you don't have to be like that!‘ Sylvia had managed to ruffle Wren‘s feathers twice this morning. ‗I just don‘t like being kept in the dark. But I like being usurped even less! I'll map out the best route for you to take. You'll be travelling soon, so the short cut through Varley Wood is still safe enough. It gets pretty bogged down in the winter, though.‘ ‗Right. Well, maybe you could give me a summer and a winter route. It's a large order, you know, and the ingredients are scarce. It could take a while to fill.‘ ‗All right, then,‘ Wren said shortly. ‗Why are you being so evasive? It isn‘t like you to be testy either. Whatever it is,‘ he said with a shake of his head, ‗you can't keep a secret for long. I won‘t press the issue.‘ ‗Secret!‘ Sylvia snapped, running her fingers impatiently through her hair, ‗you‘re reading too much into a simple request!‘ ‗All right then, my dear. I'm off. Many thanks for the snack. I'll get back to you as soon as possible with those directions. Do look into that Moor Breeze. And brush your hair before you go downstairs,‘ he added, before taking flight. ‗What a saucy piece of work he is,‘ Sylvia said with a shiver. She closed the window against the chilly morning and stoked the fire for boiling her water. The subject of the trolls had cast a gloom over her sunny little room, but even they couldn't affect this haven for long. Her faery clock chimed jubilantly, announcing not the time of day but the time for harvesting the ingredients needed for the faeries' medicines. The most frequently used flowers and herbs had been carefully painted onto cut-outs, which were then put on the clock face. When the blooms were ready to be gently plucked by faery fingers, their picture would pop out with a little jingle of the bell attached to its back. The bell kept ringing at intervals until either Cordelia or Sylvia pushed the cut-out back into place. Each bell hit a slightly different

note, so if two or more flowers happened to be ready at the same time, as they were this morning, they would set off a happy but competitive medley. Today it was Cottage Rose, Lampton Lavender, and Goldenmorn Daisy that sprang forward excitedly. ‗Pick me!‘ Cottage Rose rang forth. ‗And me!‘ chimed in Goldenmorn Daisy. Lampton Lavender held back for a moment and then clanged expectantly as well. The bell song could be heard throughout Lavender Village and beyond. The odd farmer would often stop his hay gathering and strain to hear something drifting by on the breeze – just out of reach, yet somehow so close! A shake of his head would bring him back to reality while the faeries busied themselves with harvests of their own! In the tree house pantry, Cordelia was also shaking her head. ‗I wish Sylvia would stop that wretched thing – another of Jack's ridiculous inventions!‘ Jack was the gentle Lavender Village carpenter and could always be relied upon to lend his skills to any project. ‗As if I don't know when to pick the roses! All I have to do is look out the window! And Sylvia will just be standing up there listening to it, of course. It never occurs to her to actually get a harvesting basket and help! Oh no! We like the pretty music!‘ Oblivious to her sister's complaints, Sylvia was nodding her head from side to side in time with the clock bells and smiling over at one of her most prized possessions: a porcelain hand-painted teapot that was part of a miniature tea set left in the woods by some village girls. Sylvia had almost tripped over it during a spring snowdrop-finding mission. Now all cleaned up, it rested happily on her tea table, except for one cup and saucer that she had given to Cordelia. Sipping her tea, Sylvia looked around contentedly. The little dormered window was framed by tea-dyed lace curtains, which accented the walls of wisteria blue, Sylvia‘s favourite colour. The window seat, the site of many a reverie, had a

rectangular crushed velvet cushion. To the right of the window was a tiny fireplace with a most interesting textured surface of various seashells including cockles, angel wings, scallops and turret shells. To the left of the window, a dark oak corner cupboard housed herbal teas. Beside this was Sylvia‘s miniature four -poster bed with its cream spread and numerous fluffy pillows. A desk and a wardrobe that very much needed to be cleaned out, a full-length mirror, and several braided rugs completed her furnishings. ‗All I need now is a nice comfortable armchair to put in front of the fireplace,‘ Sylvia thought, as she made her way downstairs. She would place an order for one with Jack as soon as she could get away from the pharmacy.

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