A Drop Of Dream Chapters 1-4

Have you ever wondered what our world would look like if magic lived just around the corner? 

I have.

Welcome to my website and thank you for reading A Drop of Dream! – Amy Hopkins

Chapter One

The sun’s rays were just beginning to kiss the damp pavement when I stepped outside. The morning air still held a touch of mist and I rubbed the goosebumps on my arms.

“C’mon, Lenny,” I called, summoning my dog.

Lenny bounded over, his too-long legs and floppy ears making the effort look clumsy, if adorable. I scratched his head, then pushed it away as he sniffed my basket.

“It’s just teas,” I told him. “Keely said she needs some soft-sleep and three boxes of awaken on top of her usual order.”

He snorted appreciatively, then perked up as someone approached.

Well… someones. Pax and Tox, two of my demigoblin customers, were strolling towards us.

“Mornin’, Emma!” Pax called. His gruff voice made it hard to tell what sort of mood he was in, and his deeply wrinkled face didn’t suggest much, either. Still, his pointed ears hung limp—I’d learned from experience that when a demigoblin’s ears stood forwards, it was best to tread carefully.

“Morning, Pax.” I waved with my free hand.

“You openin’ soon?” Tox asked. “I need some luck.”

I narrowed my eyes. “What for? You know I won’t sell anything that lets you cheat.”

He grinned. “I’m meetin’ a lady tonight. Don’t want to trip on my face, or have a swarm of angry ‘oney-badgers pop up to ruin the night.”

“Honey-badgers?” I shook my head, sceptical.

Pax laughed. “I told him, there’s no chance of that happenin’ twice in one month. Well…” He looked at his brother. “Almost no chance.”

I lifted my basket. “I just have to run this over to Keely’s. Come back in about half an hour?”

Pax and Tox both nodded, and went on their way, and I set off, quickening my pace. The tea shop had been getting busier of late—my trade with the Otherworlders had always been strong, but as the stigma of being part-Talented slowly wore away and people became more accepting, I’d gained an influx of curious mortals wanting to try the magical effects of my tea.

Just yesterday, a trio of young businessmen had come to sample my blends for alertness and calculations. They’d bought a single box to share, but returned minutes before closing to buy every last leaf on my shelf.

By the time I rounded the last corner, my cheeks were flushed and the biting London air seemed a little warmer.

I approached the worn red door with a sigh. Empty bottles lined the front step and a pile of cigarette ash filled one of them.

Keely’s father was a heavy drinker. They often fought about it, but she refused to move, insisting that if he didn’t have someone looking after him, he wouldn’t last the week.

I knocked on the door and waited. Beside me, Lenny whined nervously.

“It’s ok, boy,” I reassured him. “It’s just Keely’s. You’ve been here before.”

When no one answered, I tried again, thumping harder. If I didn’t get back to my shop soon, I’d be late. When your customers include trolls and ogres, it’s best not to piss them off.

I raised my hand to knock a third time, and jumped when it cracked open.

“Whaddyawant?” Keely’s father, Ernest, sported at least a week’s worth of rough stubble and his eyes barely opened.

“I’ve got to drop these off to Keely,” I said. “I told her I’d be around early this morning—is she up?”

“See fer yerself.” He turned and stomped away, leaving me to push the door open.

Lenny pressed against my side and whined again.

“Wait here, boy. Stay.” I stepped inside, nose wrinkling as strong fumes hit it. Rum, I thought.

I picked my way through the mess. I hadn’t been inside the tiny flat before, and Ernest had already slumped back into a snoring heap on the tattered couch.

Taking a guess, I tapped lightly on the pink-painted door hung with feathers and sticks. When no one answered, cursed under my breath and checked my watch.

I had fifteen minutes to get back. Stealing a glance at Ernest snoring away, I debated leaving the basket outside Keely’s door. Ernest didn’t know about Keely’s attempts to sober him up, though, and I couldn’t be sure of his reaction if he dug through the teas to find the addiction-enchanted box.

After knocking one more time, I slipped out my wand.

Keely and I weren’t close. She knew I didn’t approve of her curse-selling business, and thought my own rules for selling ‘took all the fun out of magic’. Still, we had a friendly professional relationship.

Hopefully, that relationship would survive the early morning intrusion. Aving my wand in a particular pattern, I dismantled the simple charm that kept the door locked. I pushed it open.

“Keely?” I stepped quietly over to the silent lump under the covers.

She didn’t stir, so I carefully placed the basket on the bedside table. In trying to balance it amongst the clutter, I knocked a lamp. It teetered and before I could grab it, it fell to the ground.

The soft clink of broken glass sent my heart into my shoes.

“Dammit!” I whispered.

I couldn’t leave now—there was nothing in the room to clean the glass up with, and I didn’t want to go skulking around the house looking for a broom.

“Keely!” I called a bit louder, and reached over to shake her.

Her skin was cold and stiff. My heart thumped a hard beat and I swallowed a sudden lump in my throat.

“Keely?” I asked timidly.

I pulled her shoulder and the body rolled towards me. Blank eyes stared at the ceiling and an inch-wide hole gaped under her collarbone.

It took me a moment to realise the high-pitched scream was mine.

“Make a big cup of tea, you’ll lose track of time with this inspired urban fantasy!”

Chapter Two

Detective Charles Greyson jotted down another note. “What about her dad?” he asked, again.

“I’ve already told you—I know he’s got a bit of a drinking problem, but Keely never said anything to make me think he was violent.” I absentmindedly reached out to stroke Lenny’s head and he thumped his tail, happy for the attention. It eased the ache in my heart, just a little.

“And the mess in the living room?” he asked.

I shrugged, then wiped my nose. “It was a cluttered mess when I came in. When I screamed, Lenny came bolting in. He’s… not very coordinated.”

Lenny’s ears perked up at the sound of his name, and he gave Detective Greyson a wide, panting smile.

Greyson ignored it. He sighed and put his pad away, then looked me over. “I’ll get in touch with the relevant department.”

Anger prickled at me, flaming my grief and fear into anger. “Of course you will,” I spat.

Greyson looked wounded. “Look, I’m just a regular copper. These kinds of things are out of my jurisdiction.”

“Bullshit.” I stood and turned away, but my emotions got the better of me. I turned back.

“You’re just like the rest of them,” I snapped. “Do you think I’m stupid? I read the papers, I know Keely’s death is just another in a long string of them. But we’re half-bloods. Nobodies. You’ll kick this over to those useless twats at the O.C.U. and wipe your hands of a case that was too much effort to follow through.”

I knew I was right. When Arthur, the first victim was found, there was an uproar. The idea of using magic to kill wasn’t a new one, but this had happened outside of the cloistered Inner City, and that meant regular people might be at risk.

By the time the second and third deaths had rolled around, and the mortal realised all the victims were half-blood… suddenly, the front page story became an addendum at the back. The Otherworld Crime Unit, a bunch of washed-up rejects who weren’t quite bad enough to be fired from their policing jobs, hadn’t come up with a single lead.

The Talented, those high and mighty lords who lived behind the walls of the Inner City, wouldn’t lower themselves enough to care about a dirty half-blood. Despite the fact we shared half our genes with them, the intermingling of pure magical blood with a common mortal was anathema to them.

“That’s not how this works,” Greyson said. His dark eyes searched mine. “It’s not that I don’t care. I really can’t—”

“Can’t and won’t are two very different words, Detective Greyson.” I stood and gestured to Lenny. “If we’re done?”

He hesitated for a moment, then nodded. “Someone will be in touch.”

“I very much doubt that.” His heavy gaze settled like a weight on my shoulders as I left, but I knew I was right.

No one cared about the half-bloods.

Chapter Three

“Another attack?” Pax asked.

I nodded. “You know how it is for us. There’s no one to turn to. Is there anything you can do?”

Tox grabbed his parcels. “We’ll keep an eye out, make sure the Others report anything suspicious. Don’t want our favourite tea-shop shuttin’ down.”

Pax’s beady eyes shot open in alarm. “You’re not gonna shut shop and run are ya? Your speedin’ tea is the only thing that keeps me faster than the Balrogs when I go huntin'”

I shook my head. “Not a chance Pax. I appreciate the help, though.”

“Don’t mention it. You know you’ve earned your place here and you’ve looked after us. We’ll keep an eye out.” I knew he meant it—Otherworld creatures took things like honour and loyalty seriously… even if they didn’t have the same respect for concepts like ownership or personal boundaries.

Pax and Tox handed over their chips, the currency of the Otherworld, and I busied myself getting their orders ready. I made a quick note of the sales in my ledger and waved goodbye.

Outside, tyres screeched as a car slammed on its brakes. I looked up to see a nine-foot-tall half-giant waving a sheepish apology to the car she’d nearly stepped in front of. Despite the vehicles having been around for over a century, the Otherworlders still struggled with the basics of road safety. Mavis waited for the car to pass, then headed into the shop.

“Mavis, I haven’t seen you for weeks! Is everything well?” I wasn’t sure how else to phrase the delicate question.

Mavis, hunched over to fit her large frame into my tiny shop, blushed. “Yes, m’lady. I’m with child. Three, actually.”

I flew around the counter to embrace her. Having brewed various teas for the local Giant clan for a while, I’d been surprised to get a request such as hers. Mavis, being a mixed-breed of two different clans, had been having trouble conceiving. A standard human fertility tea would have helped somewhat, but I’d tweaked the spell I’d used on it to account for the slight variance in giant anatomy. I hadn’t been sure if it would work. “Three? Is that typical?” I didn’t think it was.

“No, m’lady. If all goes well and they survive, I’ll be able to gift one to each of the major clans. I’ll be looked upon quite favourably after that.” Despite my discomfort at the child raising customs of the giants, I was happy for her. She spoke little of her personal situation, but I’d gathered her place in the giant hierarchy was quite low because of her mixed birth. That was something I was painfully familiar with.

The day continued, all manner of creatures visiting my little tea shop, and not all were coming in because of the rumours I’d had a brush with a serial killer.

London was a busy place, a central hub that acted as one of the major thoroughfares between the Otherworld and our world. Though this made for an interesting mix, we generally existed together in peace. Generally.

Trouble came a short while before lunch. I’d just waved over Jacoby, one of the few Talented lords who frequented my shop. Old and wheelchair-bound, probably due to some magical disease or curse, he seemed to have more empathy for half-bloods than most of his kind.

“Bye, Hent,” I called, waving to the Kobold on his way to the door. He ducked his head as he reached for the doorknob just as a small, flying piske flung the door open with a spell. It caught Hent in the face.

“Oh, gods,” I whispered.

Hent grabbed the piske with lightning fast reflexes but was immediately blinded by a sparkling bomb to the face. He roared, letting go of the smaller creature, and stumbled around trying to swat him out of the air.

“STOP!” I screamed.

This did not bode well for my shop. The piske, determined to fulfil the orders given to him by his master, didn’t leave. He zipped around, staying just out of Hent’s reach as he lumbered around the tiny, enclosed space.

Hent swung an arm and I ducked to avoid being hit. He crashed into a shelf of boxed teas, and I screamed as it came crashing down, just missing my head.

“So help me, Hent, if you don’t stop this right now…”

I raised my wand despite having no idea how to stop an enraged kobold, but paused when I saw Jacoby’s already out, tracing a delicate pattern in the air. I waited, my own defences at the ready.

His spell took about a second and a half to trace. Both Otherworld creatures dropped to the ground. They were conscious but woozy, and neither could stand. Jacoby wheeled his chair over to them and looked down. “You both have about twelve seconds until you can walk—or fly.” He looked at the piske. “At that time, it would be best if you both left, in a calm and orderly manner. My next spell may not be so gentle.”

True to his word, the two were shortly up, and out of my shop. Jacoby turned discerning eyes my way.

“Thank you so much,” I breathed. “I may have been able to stop them myself, but not before they caused more damage. I’m in your debt.”

“Nonsense, my dear,” he said. “A simple spell. Cast in my own interests, I might add, as I don’t have my own order yet.”

“The usual?”

“Please.”

I packaged up the same tea he ordered every week—one for pain. It made me sad that this kind man had been reduced to using simple charms to manage in his daily life.

Though I abhorred most of the full-blooded Talents for their elitist, bullying ways, Jacoby seemed different. He was always polite, and never looked down his nose at me. Most of the Lords from the Inner City thought themselves beneath shops like mine and sent servants like the piske to collect their goods. As he left, Gibble came in. He growled at Jacoby.

“Nasssty,” he said.

“Gibble!” I snapped, alarmed. “Be nice to the customers.”

Gibble could be off-putting—he was a boggart after all—but he was generally polite. Or at least, not outright rude. Gibble had been helping in the shop since I’d opened it, and this was the first time he’d had such a strong reaction to a customer who wasn’t out to cause trouble.

The day progressed, and my shop got busier, but I couldn’t keep my mind off Keely, r her devastated father.

“I’m going out. Can you grab me a basket?” I asked Gibble when we hit a slow period. He didn’t look up, just grunted, retrieved a wicker gift basket from the top shelf and settled himself in a chair. He would handle the shop while I was out.

I grabbed the basket and filled it with teas—Heartsease, Comfort and some plain old black English tea. I whistled for Lenny and he followed me down the street. We headed to the grocery strip first. I bought some bread and eggs to add to my basket, then set off to Keely’s house. When I got there, it was still roped off with police tape. Ernest paced the footpath while Detective Greyson tried to talk to him.

I stopped a short distance away, not wanting to interrupt, but Greyson spotted me.

“You’re back?” he asked.

I nodded. “I brought this over for Ernest. I… to be honest, I thought you’d be gone already.”

According to the local grapevine, the O.C.U. hadn’t spent more than twenty minutes at the last crime scene. Come to think of it, I didn’t see any of their vans here yet.

Greyson shrugged. “This is my beat. My case.” He caught my eye. “My responsibility.”

I squashed down the flutter of hope at his words. His superiors wouldn’t let this fly, not for long.

I held out the basket, eyeing Ernest. He’d slunk over to the steps, huddled against the wall as he stared into space.

When I’d found Keely’s body he had come rushing in a moment after Lenny. They shock seemed to jolt him from his drunken stupor, but was quickly replaced by a grief-stricken fugue.

“Lattersby Street Teas?” Greyson lifted a box and read off the label. “For grief and despair. Steep in warm water for three and a half minutes. No more than three cups daily.”

“They’re enchanted,” I explained. “I sell them.”

He lifted another. “What’s this one for?”

“Drinking,” I said. “That’s just normal tea.”

“Ah.” He carefully put it down and waved me past. “Be my guest,” he said.

Timidly, I approached Ernest. “Mr… um, Ernest?”

He didn’t respond, just stared past me.

“I brought you some tea.” I set the basket down on the step beside him. “It might help a little.”

“You think I’m an addict?”

His words made me jump. I looked up nervously.

“I saw the box,” he said, voice flat. “Old Ernie. Pisshead. Not fit to look after his own kid.”

I opened my mouth but words escaped me.

“You’re right,” he said, pushing off the wall. “I am a pisshead. ‘S my fault she’s deaed. Should’a looked after her better.” A tear leaked down his face. “She was a good kid.”

“She was,” I agreed, and scurried away. His grief sent a shiver of sadness down my spine, but I didn’t know how to respond. After all, Keely and I had never been close.

Greyson snagged my elbow as I passed him outside.

“I really am sorry about your friend,” he said. “And I’ll make sure old Ernest there gets some help.”

“Can you tell me anything?” I asked. “Do you know who it might be?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t.” Greyson schooled his expression.

“Look, you know as well as I do that the Talented community outside the walls is being hunted.” The anger I thought I’d pushed away resurfaced. “The Lords in the City don’t care. The police—no offence—can’t handle this. There’s magic involved and no-one seems able to protect my people.”

“It’s a police matter. We’ve got it under control.”

“Yeah?” I asked, forcing him to meet my eyes. “Tell that to my corpse when you find it.”

Greyson lurched forwards. “You’ve been threatened?”

I laughed caustically. “The guy who did this? He’s threatening all half-bloods. We don’t know who’s next. We don’t know when he’ll stop, or if he ever will.”

I shook my head in frustration and started to walk away when he called after me. “Lattersby Street, was it? I might drop by sometime. You know, for tea?”

I didn’t stop.

Chapter Four

Gibble was swamped with customers when I got back. I jumped behind the counter to help and had the rush under control fairly quickly. Most days I only opened the store until two, but it was closer to three when I finally closed the door. Gibble sighed, and settled back into an over-sized chair in one corner as I tidied up. He pulled out a small book, thumbing through it until he found the page he wanted. I joined him once I’d finished, flipping open today’s copy of The Protector, a local rag that helped to pass news to the half-blooded community. News of Keely’s death was on the front page.

It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know or hadn’t guessed. There were no suspects, no witneses to the crime. Ernest claimed he’d been unconscious when it happened, and based on the state he was in, I could believe it.

Besides, the killer had magic and Ernest did not. There was no non-magical way they’d found to inflict a wound like that without spilling any blood.

Gibble glanced up from his reading but didn’t comment. He knew what I thought. I felt helpless and scared and I hated not being able to act.

Eventually, I stood. “I’m going to go and restock. Let me know when you leave?”

Gibble nodded. I went into the office, behind the storefront, and assembled my equipment, taking my inventory, my wand and a pile of new, flattened tea boxes. After a few minutes of preparation, I set to work enchanting batches of tea with various spells. We’d been busier than normal and turnover was up. That was good for business, but it took a lot out of me to keep up with the demand for product.

It worked better to enchant the tea in small batches; the spell seemed to stick better, giving it a longer shelf life. With each small pile, weighed and measured, charmed and then packaged into neat little boxes, my weariness grew. About an hour into my task a hollow sensation gnawed at my gut and a dull ache had formed behind my eyes. I’d need to start working in the mornings before I opened to keep up. It only took me a few hours to recover from minor spell-casting like this, but it was tedious work and the strain built up over time. Still, it was a sign of my growing success so I couldn’t complain too hard.

I was almost done when Gibble knocked at the door. Lost in concentration, I waved goodbye and he left.

                                                                             #

It was almost a week later that I got a break of any description. I’d been working the shop and had just closed. Gibble had taken off as he was sometimes wont to do, having mentioned a stop at the local book shop. I’d just slipped into the back room to create some more stock when there was a knock at the door.

“Gibble? Is that you?” I called. No answer. I stuck my head out into the empty shop, but there was no one at the door. Nerves fluttering in my gut, I darted over to check it was still locked.

Gibble usually did that for me, knowing I’d be so absorbed in my work that I’d forget to check. Today, I was glad he did.

The window showed an empty street, so I unclipped the bolt and peeked outside. A fat, yellow envelope sat outside my door. I looked around but not a soul was in sight. I grabbed it and went back in, locking the door behind me. A quick peek revealed the contents and I hurried upstairs to my flat.

I quickly cleared off my kitchen table, then spread out the contents of the envelope. Photographs and documents stared up at me, forms, reports, and images of dead people. My initial excitement at having the information I needed was struck down by the reality of what I was looking at.

Five people. I knew every face, every name. Two were friends. One, I’d only seen from a distance, only knew by sight. Two more were acquaintances like Keelie, who I’d stop and greet on the street. It broke my heart. A monster was targeting my people and it seemed like no one cared.

Someone did, though. Someone had dropped the envelope at my door, hoping I could help. Perhaps it was Greyson, I thought, remembering the detective’s heavy eyes. But why? Why had he shared this, and so secretively?

I assumed it would get him into trouble if anyone knew, or he’d have given me more information when I spoke to him earlier. Grateful, I made a silent promise that if he ever ventured into my shop, he could have anything he wanted at no charge for the rest of his life.

I sorted the papers by victim. Keelie’s file was fatter than the others, and I had to believe that was Greyson’s doing. Really, though, the police had very little information.

The mortal procedures used, fingerprinting, DNA, other forensics they’d applied had shown nothing. There was no sign of struggle, no witnesses, no anomalies in the victims’ tissue samples. Blood work was absent, due to… well, to the lack of blood to work. Victims. I had to call them that; I couldn’t put names, names I knew to these horrible reports.

Each of them had been found in the morning, one or two knife wounds and completely emptied of blood. I knew there’d been no blood at the scene, but completely drained? That was… odd.

On four occasions, there had been someone else present in the house. On three—both times when the victim had been home alone, and in Keely’s case—the knife wound was consistent with one that was self-inflicted, based on the depth and angle of the incision. That was interesting…

One of the other three had taken the wound in the back, so it was impossible that the victim—Carmel, who’d been a close friend—had inflicted the wound upon herself.

Looking at the time, I was surprised to see it was coming on 7pm. I’d call the police station in the morning and try to talk to Greyson. I needed to get a look at the bodies to see if any magical residue had been left, something that might grant a clue as to what was happening. The shop was only open Tuesday to Saturday, so I had a couple of days free to investigate.

Once I’d gone back to read through each file, noted any inconsistencies and similarities, gone back through to check for anything I’d missed… hell, I almost had the damn things memorised by the time I was done. It felt like something was missing, some nagging thought that I’d overlooked. Not from the files—I couldn’t put my finger on it, though. Finally giving in, I packed them up, put them safely in a drawer by my dresser, and went to bed.

I crawled under the blanket, put my head gently on the pillow and let the tears fall, until I sank into a restless sleep.

“Make a big cup of tea, you’ll lose track of time with this inspired urban fantasy!”

Shop Kobo

Shop iBooks

I hope you’re enjoying the story so far! You can purchase it from the links above or, if you’d like to keep reading, click the link below and sign up to the reader’s club for full access to this story and more. Happy Reading! – Amy

Please Login to Comment.