The town that Maybe had seen twinkling behind the dirty glass of the Tube train was, according to the signs, named Wildenmere.

The other woman was the first out of her seat, springing up like a sapling, gliding over the floor to the exit without once stumbling or faltering, where she stood waving her fingers until the train jerked to a halt.

The wolf let her pass, like a gentleman, and held out his hand for Maybe, bracing himself against the movements of the train. Maybe took it, noticed how horribly soft his gloves were, grimaced, and stood, gripping the pole in the middle of the aisle for support. As she passed the empty seats, she did not see that the newspaper and the crisp packet that she'd clung to for comfort, not an hour since, had vanished.

She made her way to the doors the way every Londoner does: planting each foot during a moment of relative calm, holding on grimly during rough patches.

They waited silently for the doors to open, the strange woman's arms still absent-mindedly tracing shadows in the air, and it was here that Maybe, holding fast to the wolf's hand, bent down to look through the window at the station signs.


"Yes," said the wolf. "Wildenmere."

"But that's not a town," said Maybe.

"Know all the towns in Britain, do you?" asked the wolf. They moved to the open doors.

"No," said Maybe. She stepped down to the platform. "But it's not on the District Line."

"Quite," said the wolf. "Would you like a pasty?"

"Yes, in a minute, please."

The wolf waited patiently for her to finish gawking. After a lengthy pause, he said, "Anything interesting?"

"No," said Maybe.

It was a train station, that's all: an ordinary, open-plan train station, laid out like a million other train stations. There were the shops, closed up for the night; over here, a few stalls still open. There were some very normal trains, on their very boring tracks. A perfectly normal railway station.

"That's a pity," said the wolf. "You've become quite dejected, darling."

"The passengers are a bit funny," said Maybe, "but on the whole I'd say this place is rather disappointing."

"Mm," said the wolf, and patted her on the shoulder. "Can't be helped. Pasty?"

"Yes please," said Maybe.

"You'll have to show your ticket," said the wolf.

"It's a Travelcard, actually," said Maybe. "Just Zones One and Two. Will I have to buy an extension?"

The wolf smirked. "That depends, my darling, at how clever you are with it."

There is an art to flashing tickets at stations without stiles. You must find your ticket distractedly and without fuss, preferably whilst speaking to somebody you're travelling with. You must hold it up without looking at either the person checking the ticket or at the ticket itself, and carelessly place your thumb over the invalid bits. It should be in a battered ticket sleeve that's hardly transparent anymore with a photo ID that has tea stains and bits of grime and pencil lead smudged all over it.

The guards that were on duty were standing about with coffees and croissants, gossiping to one another. They couldn't be bothered to look at tickets; Maybe could have held up a blank bit of pink card and still gone through, but the wolf gripped her shoulder tightly and propelled her forward. "Bloody great fines," he said in her ear.

The pasty stand was surrounded by the soft, heavy smell of baking pastry. In the smart little window where the pasties were displayed—on plates, labelled with small cards—there was a notice.

We source all of our meat from Hinterland, it read. The wolf pshawed when he saw Maybe looking at it. "An affectation," he said.

"Is it worth it?"

"Oh, the meat is tender and flavourful," said the wolf, "but it is a marketing gimmick, all the same."

He turned to the scrubbed young man behind the counter. "From whence do you source your vegetables?"

"Oh er, we get all of our veg from er, from local farmers," replied the boy. He smiled nervously and put his hands behind his back, lifting one shoulder and tilting his head, as if to scratch his ear with his shoulder.

"I do like this particular brand," said the wolf to Maybe. "What would you like, dear?"

"Something warm and filling," Maybe said.


"Yes please. With meat or without."

"I am quite fond of the Forest Venison," said the wolf.

"What does it have, please?" asked Maybe.

"Well, er, besides the er, venison," said the boy, "obviously the venison, sorry, um—there's wild mixed mushrooms and potato and fiddlehead ferns, butter and cream, wild onions and garlic, red wine, and er, some forest honey. It is two course, though. You'll have to pick your dessert. Um, miss."

Maybe bent over and looked at the glass case. On a plate painted with pinecones, leaning against a pasty marked with deer horns, was the Forest Venison card.

It said, "Forest Venison - . & .; St. Toff.; Date, Bac. & Br. Sug."

"What does that mean, please?" asked Maybe.

The young man scratched under his paper hat with his shoulder. Maybe caught a glimpse of brilliant green. "You have a choice between blackberries and black cherries, sticky toffee pud, and dates, bacon, and brown sugar."

"Try the dates," said the wolf.

"I shall. Excuse me though," said Maybe. "Do you have feathers in your hair?"

"Ah! My dear," said the wolf, before the flustered youth could answer, "He doesn't have feathers in his hair, you see, he has feathers in place of hair."

The young man stopped in the middle of wrapping up Maybe's pasty and looked a bit uneasy.

"I know you can't take your hat off because you're working," said Maybe. "What little I saw was just beautiful."

The young man smiled. He said, "Well, miss, er, my mum was such a lovely colour of blue, or green, sometimes. I was lucky to get it. My dad was only plain grey. I've been told, um, that it's pretty." And the young man blushed a fetching shade of pink.

"Might I try the Chicken Sweet Pea?" asked the wolf.

"Yes sir. That's also a two-course pasty. Would you like to choose an after?"

"I'll have the apple and clotted cream. Thank you."

The young man began to wrap up a second pasty. "Would you like any drinks, sir, miss?"

"Water, please," said Maybe.

"Elderflower," said the wolf.

"Do they accept pounds sterling?" said Maybe, to the wolf. He waved her aside.

"Think nothing of it," he said.

The pasties came wrapped in brown paper, and the drinks in generous glass bottles, stamped with Morvely Pasty Cmpny, est. 877 .

"They seem quite old," said Maybe.

"Who, dear?" asked the wolf. He was scouting for a taxi. Carriages cluttered the station yard, and long cars lounged about like dozing great cats—sleek and idle, but with haunches folded, ready to run.

"The pasty company," said Maybe.

"Oh," said the wolf. "Yes, they've been around these thousand years at least."

"Aren't we going to be late for the party?"

"Not at all, dear," said the wolf. "We have plenty of time." He hailed a taxi—a black beast with a stripe of lilac silk along the passenger door, and a long, low snout.

Maybe got in first, and moved to the window. She put aside the curtains. "What a lovely vehicle," she said.

"Lilac taxis are reserved for gentry," said the wolf.

"Oh, you're a Lord, are you?"

"Where to, sir?" said the taxi driver. He wore white gloves.

"Elkton," said the wolf. "No, my dear, I am not a Lord, although you'll find I am something quite similar."

"Excuse me," said Maybe.

"Yes, miss?"

"Can we eat in the taxi?"

"Why, yes miss," said the taxi driver. "Only mind you use the trays."

Maybe put the pasty bag on the floor. When he was sure she was watching him, the wolf pulled a dark wooden tray from the armrest under the window. Maybe did the same.

"Thank you," she said to the taxi driver.

"Of course, miss. Would you like any music, sir?"

"Not for the moment, thank you Williams," said the wolf.

"Gosh, you know him?" Maybe asked him, her mouth full of meat and gravy.

"I do," he replied. He broke off a piece of pasty with a paper serviette. "I take cabs nearly everywhere." He ate his bit of pasty, and raised his eyebrows. "Delicious."

The city flashing past her window reminded Maybe of a dream she had as a child: round yellow bulbs illuminating dark stone buildings, wooden signs, and the occasional stoplight. There was no neon, and there were no glowing plastic storefronts with unappetizing photographs of kebabs.

"It's lovely, this city," said Maybe.

"Perhaps a bit backwards compared to your fast foods and your all night corner shops," replied the wolf, "but I find the aura of craftsmanship that is missing from your modern cities to be quite sufficient compensation."

"But there's no such place!" said Maybe suddenly. "There's no such place anymore."

"Ah, well," said the wolf. "There we come to the crux of the matter. Fill your belly first, there's a good girl, and rest for a spell. Go to the party. The Duchess will be able to explain much better than I."

"Then I shall wait to speak with the Duchess," said Maybe. "Is she a friend of yours?"

"A very old, and very close friend," said the wolf. "And quite lovely to behold."

"You're fond of her, aren't you?"

"Oh yes," said the wolf. "She is a dear woman."

"Can't I speak to her soon?"

"You could," said the wolf. "I am sure she would oblige you. But really my darling," and now his face was serious, "I beg you to wait until you are summoned. Her Grace should be with her guests."

"In that case," said Maybe, "I will wait, of course. But will the Duchess mind me attending?"

"Not at all," said the wolf jovially. "I invite whom I please to her parties, under her strict instruction."

"How lovely," said Maybe. She yawned.

"Even the best and youngest of us need to rest," said the wolf. He moved to the seat on the other side of the cab. "We have another half an hour to Elkton. It might be wise to get some sleep."

The seat was overstuffed, and so Maybe was forced to sleep facing backwards, knees and forehead against the seat back—but she was so tired that it didn't matter; falling asleep was like being caught in a velvet cushion. She didn't have time to notice that she was losing consciousness before she began to dream.

She dreamt of rabbits in a field, living out their small lives. When the little ones were born it was quite sweet, but otherwise they were very boring. Months passed. The little rabbits grew up a bit and were tripping over their huge feet and generally making fools of themselves.

There was a ripple in the grass.

The young rabbits stopped eating, and stood on their hind legs. Their parents were already bits of fluff disappearing down the nearest hole.

A blur of grey and black, a swath of trampled green, and it was gone. A few of the young rabbits, the ones at the front line, were now lumps of flesh. Puffs of fur drifted in the air.

The beast paced, carefully gathering up his prey, and when he had a brace of young rabbit he departed, leaving muddy brown streaks in the grass.

Maybe woke to find that she was blanketed by a feather-grey woollen coat. The wolf was staring at her with yellow eyes.

"Do you like rabbit?" she asked him.

"My dear," said the wolf, baring his wicked teeth in a friendly smile, "Have you ever known a wolf who does not?"

"No," she replied. "Do you eat humans?"

The car's wheels crunched on gravel. Maybe sat up, holding the wolf's coat in her fingers to prevent it from falling to the floor. She held it out to him as the car pulled in between a fountain and a grand front door.

"Thank you," she said. "For the coat."

"Not at all," said the wolf. He opened the door, and stood next to it, offering his hand. "No, I don't," he said.

"Don't what, pardon?"

"I don't eat humans, sweetheart," said the wolf. "The Duchess of Kent is a woman. If I were to habitually eat people, she would not have been my dear friend for very long."

Maybe took his hand, and stepped from the cab. She stared at the smooth white stones of the driveway until she felt a gentle touch on her arm. She looked up; the cab had gone.

"Come," said the wolf. "Let's go inside." He rang the bell.

Maybe was far too exhausted to function properly anymore. "Okay," she said.

"Do you have anyone you need to ring? I'd be interested to see whether or not your phone works."


"Is there anyone expecting you home?"

"Oh," said Maybe. "No, my flatmates don't keep track of me."

The door opened; in they went. The hall was grand, and was perhaps very large, but it was also very dark, apart from the small light that hung over the door. Behind the door was a butler, who carried a lamp. "They're setting up in the Gold Hall, milord," he said to the wolf.

"Very good, Mr. Graham," said the wolf. "Would you be so kind as to show this young lady to a guestroom? Perhaps get a maid to look about for something for her to wear when she wakes? What sort of size are you, darling?"

"A six," said Maybe. "Maybe an eight if it's cut small."

"You're quite scrawny, aren't you?" said the wolf, pleasantly. "A six would be about a D in our sizes, Mr. Graham. And fetch me a candle, would you?"

"Yes milord," said the butler. He disappeared in the darkness.

"The Duchess keeps the entrance dark to discourage unwanted revelry," said the wolf. "Don't worry, he'll be back soon."

He was, and even though Maybe would have been glad to stay in the warm, comfortable darkness for a time, there was the lantern again, shining away merrily, illuminating Mr. Graham's young and serious face. He handed the wolf a candlestick and a fresh candle.

The wolf lit a match and then the candle. He put the match on his tongue to extinguish it—Maybe would normally have been amused, but she was so exhausted that all he got for his efforts was an unpleasant and childish scowl.

"What's unwanted revelry?" asked Maybe.

"Under normal circumstances, you are," said the wolf. The luminous eye of his candle faded with the sound of his heels on the marble floor. "I'll send someone to fetch you in a few hours." The candle disappeared behind the sound of a shutting door.

"Come with me, miss," said the butler. He began to walk up the wide staircase, which, Maybe now saw, was carpeted lushly in midnight blue.

"How far is it, please?" she asked.

"Only a minute or two, miss," said the butler. "You'll be in the north wing, with the other guests. The apartment doesn't have a maid's room, as all the suites with maid's rooms are occupied."

"I don't have a maid, so that'll be fine," said Maybe.

"Normally you don't need one, I'm sure," said Mr. Graham, turning a corner. "But this house is so large, miss, you won't be able to find anything by yourself." He smiled at her.

"You can't be more than twenty-five," said Maybe. "How did you manage this swank job?" She paused and rubbed one eye with her knuckle. "Oh dear, that was a bit rude of me, wasn't it?"

"Ah," he said, "You can't tell, but I'm actually a quarter Polyn."

"I'm so sorry," said Maybe, "I'm a bit stupid." She felt that this was easier than saying that she was from London. "What does that mean?"

"Oh," said Mr. Graham. "Well, if I were half Polyn, I'd have completely transparent skin and no eyes. We're deep cave-dwellers, you see."

"I see," said Maybe.

Mr. Graham unlocked a thick wooden door with a large iron key and pushed it open. "Here we are, miss. So I'm only eighty-eight. My grandmam, she was a full Polyn, she lived to be five hundred years old. I'll not make it past two hundred and fifty, not without some intervention."

"I never knew that," said Maybe.

"Ah, miss," said Mr. Graham, lighting a lantern on the wall, "Don't trouble yourself. Most people haven't heard of Polyns. My grandmam only found herself in the city completely by chance." He lit another lantern. "Now miss, if you want anything, there's the bellpull, and when you want to turn out the lights, just snuff them with this. If it gets stuffy with the lanterns, here's the handle to open the vent next to the window."

He pulled back the bedclothes, and gestured at the door. "The loo is just down the hall, to the left, at the end. The party will start in about an hour."

"Oh dear, only an hour to sleep?" said Maybe.

"Oh no, miss," said the butler. "These things the Duchess likes to call parties, they're quite elaborate. Last for days. Guests sleep in shifts. Someone will be by to fetch you in six hours, unless you'd like to sleep for longer."

"Yes, please," said Maybe. "Eight hours for me, unless there's something particularly fascinating going on."

"Eight hours, miss," he replied.

"Thank you, Mr. Graham. You've been very kind," said Maybe.

The butler bowed and left, latching the door behind him.

Maybe took off her boots and her stockings. She sat for a minute, wondering whether she could find her way back home, whether sleeping in a strange bed was really very different from sleeping in a strange bed in a strange universe.

She poured a glass of water from the pitcher on the nightstand, and drank a few sips. The room was not particularly spacious, but grand: there was a fainting couch, a writing desk, a wardrobe, and some other shapes in the dark—these she took to be bookcases and a second side table on the other side of the bed, which was large and musty, canopied in baldachin.

She took off her dress, not caring where it landed, and crawled between the sheets, where she fell asleep in her knickers.