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Excellent addition to the series

Amazon reviewer

Yuletide, the Court of Fools, and unpredictable magic!

Stan, the town’s pseudo-druid, has decided the Christmas festivities will be different this year. He announces he is the Lord of Misrule and appoints his Court of Fools.

Very quickly odd things start to happen.

Magic and paranormal characteristics are unveiled, throwing everything into disarray, and making life very difficult for the witches and their friends.

And unfortunately, darker events occur, too.

Unless Avery, Alex, and the other witches can find a solution, Yuletide may not be as joyous as they hoped.

Join the White Haven witches for winter solstice magic and mayhem in this seasonal novella.


Briar Ashworth emerged from the herb room at the back of her shop carrying a tray of Yuletide candles in vintage glass jars and headed to the shelf she’d cleared for their display.

Eli, the tall, good-looking Nephilim, was standing on a set of steps, hanging garlands of green leaves above the mullioned windows.

Briar smiled. “Eli, they look fantastic!”

“You’ve outdone yourself, Briar. The shop will smell of pine and cedar for weeks!”

She shook her head as she placed out the candles, talking more to herself than Eli. “I can’t believe it’s almost the solstice already. Where has the year gone?”

Completing the display, she put one of the candles on the long counter where they served their customers and lit it, inhaling the rich cinnamon and nutmeg before appraising her shop’s decorations.

They had started decorating in the middle of November, but saved the biggest decorations until a week out from the solstice. Fairy lights twinkled along the shelves, as well as sprigs of greenery, and she felt the Green Man stirring deep within her as Yuletide loomed. A decorated Christmas tree was placed in the window, beyond which she could see the lights of White Haven. As usual, the town had entered into the celebrations with enthusiasm, and the shop windows and streets were decorated with a mix of the traditional and pagan.

It was early on Friday morning, and the day looked gloomy already. Dark clouds filled the sky, and when Cassie, one of the ghost hunters, burst through the door with coffees, a blast of cold air followed her.

“Sorry,” she said breathlessly, her cheeks red from the wind. “I got waylaid by Stan.” She handed Eli his coffee as he stepped off the ladder. “He’s on his way, so be prepared. He is wearing the oddest costume!”

Stan was a White Haven Council member, and he loved to officiate at all of the town’s pagan events as a pseudo-Druid. He normally wore a regular suit, but as soon as the occasion demanded it, he donned long robes and a cloak, and swept through the town with great aplomb. He was unfailingly enthusiastic, and everyone liked him.

“Really?” Briar said, accepting her drink gratefully and wrapping her fingers around the hot cup. “Not his usual robes, then?”

“Nope.” Cassie’s eyes were wide with glee. “He’s in a jester’s costume!”

Eli sniggered as he joined them. “A what?

“You know, like a court jester, with a horned hat and curly-tipped shoes. He looks nutty!”

“Why the change?” Briar asked.

Cassie grinned and nodded to the door. “You can ask him yourself.”

The doorbell jingled as Stan swept in and Briar almost choked on her drink. “Stan! You look different!”

“Why, thank you, Briar. It’s my festive look!” He twirled in the middle of the shop, allowing them to admire his costume. He wore a tunic with a red and green diamond pattern over big, balloon-legged trousers tucked into brown leather boots with upturned tips. A huge ruff was around his neck, and on his head was a three-horned hat decorated with bells and Christmas baubles that jingled as he moved. He patted his round stomach where the costume was stretched a little tightly, and asked, “What do you think?”

“It’s certainly eye-catching,” she said brightly, seeing Eli still wide-eyed with shock. “Is that a traditional design?”

“No, but they all vary a little, and I thought it was particularly suited to our Yuletide revelry!” He leaned on the counter, looking very pleased with himself, and a waft of an unusual scent drifted around them.

Eli finally found his voice. “Well, it’s certainly that!”

“I shall of course be wearing makeup, too.” Stan caught sight of himself in one of the mirrored cabinets and frowned. “I might put some on for the lunchtime announcement.”

“What are you announcing?” Briar asked.

“White Haven’s festive plans, of course!”

Cassie gave an encouraging smile. “Which are? You’ve kept it very quiet!”

“Ah, well,” he said, choosing a chocolate from a bowl on the counter and unwrapping it slowly, “I suppose it won’t matter to tell you now. This year I will be the Lord of Misrule!”

“The what?” Eli asked, perplexed.

“The Lord of Misrule!” he repeated, his chest swelling with pride. “It’s a medieval thing, really. He arranges and leads the Christmas entertainment. It seemed fitting, seeing as I arrange the Yuletide procession and solstice bonfire—both of which, by the way, will be amazing! I thought it would be a good change from the Druid costume.”

Briar was alarmed. “Does that mean all the costumes for the parade will be different? I love the pagan theme!”

“No, not at all!” he reassured her. “It will be the same, in principle—as will the bonfire. We’ve been planning those for weeks. This will be a little something extra.” He gave a delighted grin.

Briar started to get an uneasy feeling, and wasn’t sure if it was the strange scent that was unsettling her or Stan’s something extra. “Stan, there’s a strange smell around you. Has your costume been stored somewhere weird?”

“Smell?” He patted himself and inhaled deeply. “I can’t smell anything.”

Cassie and Eli leaned over the counter too and sniffed, and Cassie looked at Briar. “No, nor me. What kind of smell?”

Briar felt horribly awkward. “Well, I’m not sure. I can’t quite place it. Eli, what about you?”

He started to look troubled, too. “I can smell something, but it’s very faint. Maybe it’s just mothballs?”

Briar shook her head. “No, it’s not mothballs.”

“Ah, well, I can’t linger,” Stan said, shrugging off their concerns and heading to the door. “I only popped in to check on your decorations and let you know I’ll be in the town square later if you want to find out more!” And with a gleaming smile he left, his bells jingling wildly as his head bobbed.

“Are you okay?” Eli asked Briar. “You look worried.”

“I don’t know.” She struggled to explain. “I feel unsettled somehow. And that scent.” She took a deep breath in. “It’s gone again. It was definitely Stan.”

“I wouldn’t worry,” Cassie said brightly as a customer entered the shop. “It’s probably just a bit musty.”

But as Cassie spoke to their customer, Briar couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.


Avery inhaled the aroma of Frankincense and sighed with pleasure. “I love Yuletide,” she declared to Sally and Dan.

“Me too,” Sally agreed, as she adjusted the decorations on the Christmas tree in the middle of the main shop window for the umpteenth time. Next to it were the woven willow images of the Green Man and the Goddess that she’d used for Beltane, but had now dressed for Yule instead. “It’s the best time of the year!”

Dan watched Sally with a frown on his face. “Nope, Halloween is the best time. And stop fiddling. It’s perfect already.”

She stepped back and looked critically at her efforts. “Are you sure?”

“Of course,” Avery said, seeing Dan roll his eyes. To be fair to him, Sally had been obsessing over this particular display for hours. “It’s beautiful. You’ve outdone yourself, as usual.”

Avery wasn’t exaggerating. Happenstance Books had never looked so pretty. Fairy lights were strewn everywhere, a huge evergreen wreath hung on the door, and large paper snowflakes were strung across the ceiling.

Sally smiled. “Thank you. It must be time for mince pies, then.”

“I thought it would never come,” Dan groaned, watching her head to the back room. “I could have starved to death.”

“As if that would ever happen to you,” Avery told him, pointing at all the sweet wrappers on the counter. “You know they’re for the customers!”

He grinned at her. “It’s important to test them first. It would be terrible to poison everyone, wouldn’t it?”

Sally returned with a plate of mince pies and placed them on the counter, then scowled at the window. “Oh, no. Rupert is here! Talk about bad timing. Now he’ll loiter over a pie.”

Rupert, the owner and operator of the House of Spirits and The Occult Tour of White Haven, bustled into the shop, and Avery suppressed a groan. There was something very unpleasant about Rupert; his superior air and passive aggression irritated her.

“Embracing both celebrations as usual, Avery?” he said in lieu of a greeting as he marched to the counter and picked up a mince pie. “Always the pragmatist.”

“What on Earth are you talking about?” Avery shot back.

“Christmas trees and pagan traditions, of course.”

“So?” she asked, bristling with annoyance.

Dan stepped in. “It’s part of White Haven’s culture, Rupert, you know that. The whole town loves its pagan celebrations, but welcomes the more traditional ones, too. Why should we be any different?”

Rupert chewed his mince pie thoughtfully and when he swallowed, said, “I suppose it’s because you’re so openly occult in other matters.” He gestured to the tarot cards and books on witchcraft displayed on the table close by.

“Oh, get over it, Rupert,” Avery said, suddenly impatient. “I’m sure your occult tours still love to visit my shop, regardless of the Christmas tree.”

He looked down his nose at her. “Of course. In fact, I’ll be bringing one around tomorrow. It will be later than usual, as I have an event at midday.” His eyes glittered with smugness. “This year’s Christmas events will be very interesting indeed.” Rupert’s deep-set eyes bored into hers with an extra bite of malevolence.

“Really? Will you be dressed up as the Christmas donkey?”

Sally almost choked on her pie as Rupert grimaced. “No. Something far more interesting than that. You should come to the square tomorrow at twelve. Then you’ll understand.”

Taking another mince pie, he swept from the shop, leaving all three of them seething.

“Cheeky bastard,” Sally said. “I hope he chokes on it!”

Avery watched him struggle in the wind outside the shop and decided to add an extra gust, just to mess with him. In seconds, Rupert’s mince pie was snatched from his hand, smacked him on the forehead, and then landed on the ground. He looked shocked for a moment, and then glared into the shop, but Avery was already turning her back on him to apologise to Sally.

“Sorry, Sally, that was a waste.”

“Not really,” Dan said, laughing. “That lady’s dog is already wolfing it down. What was Rupert alluding to?”

“When he told us to the go to the square tomorrow?” Sally asked. “I’ve no idea. But Stan has that announcement happening today, right? Maybe there’s another tomorrow.”

Avery felt a stir of unease, especially when recalling Rupert’s smugness. “Intriguing. I’m just glad Rupert didn’t hang around. I might head down to the square, then. Is that okay with you two? I’d like to hear what Stan has planned. I caught sight of him when I went for coffee earlier. He’s dressed in some outlandish costume.”

Dan nodded. “Fine with me. Maybe you should go now if you want to get a good spot. We’re close to lunch already.”

Avery looked at the time, startled. “Blimey. The morning’s gone quickly. I’ll grab my coat and go. Cheers, guys.”

Avery was wearing a jumper, jeans, and her ankle boots, and she picked her heaviest wool coat and thick scarf to go outside in. The wind carried the bite of ice, and as Avery walked to the town centre, she pulled her gloves and woolly hat from her bag and put them on, too.

Although she hated the cold, it did add to the festivities. The Christmas lights that were strung along the streets glowed even brighter against the stormy grey clouds, and all the shops looked welcoming. She’d almost reached the square when Shadow, the fey warrior, appeared next to her, dressed in black as usual.

“Hey, Shadow! You doing some Christmas shopping?”

“Yule shopping, really,” she admitted as she walked down the street with her. “We don’t do Christmas as such, despite the boys’ angel fathers.”

Avery laughed, knowing she meant the Nephilim. “Why doesn’t that surprise me? They don’t seem especially fond of them.”

“The Fallen sound like a formidable bunch, I know that much.” She pointed to an angelic light decoration attached to a lamppost. “It’s odd when I see those gigantic angels everywhere. I always think of the stories the boys tell me, and of course they remind me of Sylphs from my own land.” She shuddered. “Every single one a mean and proud warrior. Unforgiving, too.”

Once again Avery was reminded of the odd ways all of their lives intersected, and the layers of meaning so many things had. “Wow. I barely give the angel decorations any thought,” she confessed. “Are you buying the boys presents?” Avery was always intrigued as to how life played out in the farmhouse with seven huge Nephilim and Shadow. She’d imagined it as a grim affair, but that’s because the farmhouse had been so bare the first and only time she’d been there. Briar, however, had told her that it was now very different.

“We’ve got a ten-quid cash limit per person, which means we have to be creative. I don’t think anyone is taking it too seriously, and to be honest, I have no idea what to get anyone. I take it you’ll be with Alex?”

“On Christmas Day? Yes. We’re having a full roast with all the trimmings. And of course, we’ll celebrate the solstice, too.” The streets were getting busier as they approached the town centre and she asked, “Are you going to the square? Stan is making an announcement.”

“I wasn’t going to, but I guess while I’m here, why not?”

Avery could see the top of the huge Christmas tree already, and a crowd was gathering. They found a spot close to the makeshift stage, shuffling to keep warm, and Shadow ran to grab some roasted chestnuts, returning to her side in minutes.

“Here you go,” she said, thrusting her a pack. “I love these. They remind me of home.”

“It’s nice to know some traditions cross worlds,” Avery said, juggling a hot chestnut in her hand before popping it in her mouth. “And look, Stan is here!”

Now that she was closer, Avery could see his jester’s outfit, and she giggled at his odd appearance, but when she caught sight of his face, she gasped. He had face paint on, and it made him look macabre. His face was white, his lips reddened, around his eyes was dark makeup, and tears had been painted on his cheeks. Whoever had done it was very skilled. She thought the onlookers must have thought so too, because they crowd silenced very quickly as Stan stepped up to the microphone.

“Welcome, White Haven!” he shouted, receiving a cheer in response. “This year’s Yuletide celebrations will have a twist, as you can probably see from my costume.”

Shadow murmured in her ear, “He looks like a demonic clown!”

“Please don’t say demonic,” Avery whispered back. “I’m already worried.”

Stan continued, “Before I begin, however, I want to reassure you that the solstice parade and bonfire will continue as normal. The Holly King will lead the march through the town with his regular outlandish following, and this year he will be played by—” He gesticulated wildly, and a man appeared on the stage next to him, waving and grinning. “Mr Jago Hammet, the head chef at The Wayward Son!”

Avery gasped. “That’s Alex’s chef! I wonder if Alex knew?”

Jago was large and portly with a wicked sense of humour, and she had no doubt he would make a good Holly King.

“As long as I can still get great food in there,” Shadow said, “it will be fine.”

“So next Saturday,” Stan continued, ushering him off the stage again, “we’ll start the procession at four in the afternoon, where you can see Jago in all his finery. But now for our new plans. This year the council decided to add an extra medieval theme to our celebrations, and I am pleased to say that I am your Lord of Misrule!” He bowed theatrically, and the bells on his hat jingled as he bobbed. “Tomorrow, on this stage at midday, I will announce my Court of Fools! A group of five men and women who shall preside over White Haven with me for the next twelve days and nights, until the solstice. I shall appoint my Lady of Misrule, the Master of the Hunt, the Grandmaster, the Royal Fool, and,” he lowered his voice dramatically, “a Confessor! We shall put stocks in the square, and those who have not been good this year will be put into them!” He wagged his finger at the crowd who fell into perplexed silence, and seeing the crowd’s obvious concern, he rushed on with a devilish grin. “But we shall also celebrate those who have brought joy to White Haven!”

A weak and baffled cheer arose, but it was clear that everyone was as confused as Avery. Stocks? A court? It sounded like some medieval nightmare.

But Stan hadn’t finished. “On Sunday we shall lead the wassailers to Ravens’ Wood in the first of our formal Yuletide celebrations, and I urge you to join us. But that’s all for now. I leave you with our Morris Dancers, and I shall see you tomorrow.”

And with that he swept off the stage, and the Morris Dancers filed on.

Avery turned to Shadow, dread seeping through her. “Oh crap, I’ve just realised what Rupert was on about!”

“Rupert? Oh, the Occult Tour man!” Shadow said, her confusion clearing. “What’s he got to do with this?”

Avery remembered his malevolent look and satisfied smugness. “I think he’s in Stan’s court.”