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For those of you catching up with this for the first time, this story is written in round robin form by our authors, but the plot was chosen by readers on the Fantasy Reads for Austen Fans Facebook page. They voted on the main story line (second chance at love), magical system (animal familiars), setting (a magical library), original character (Darcy’s valet who is also his magical mentor), magical creature (griffin), and more.
Our authors are: Abigail Reynolds, Melanie Rachel, Victoria Kincaid, Monica Fairview, Lari Ann O’Dell and Sarah Courtney.
Last week, in Abigail Reynold’s chapter, Darcy and Elizabeth faced a test in Faerie, wherein they had to reveal heart-wrenching truths to each other. And now, It is my pleasure to present Chapter 13 of Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library.
“Georgiana, please, allow me to go to Wickham and make a deal. Your life is more important to me than my own.”
Galon’s chair was pulled close to Georgiana’s bed. If her brother knew that what lay between them was far more than a bond between a mage and their familiar, Galon was certain he would have been barred from her bedside. The human concept of propriety was still somewhat ridiculous to him. There were no chaperons at the fae court, and in truth, the fae encouraged what humans would consider compromising positions between males and females.
Georgiana’s lovely face was very nearly colorless. She was propped against several pillows, her golden hair disheveled. “If you forfeit your skin, Wickham will have the power to control you. He will send you back to Faerie and I would never lay eyes upon you again. That is not a sacrifice I am willing to make. We must have faith that William will complete his quest.”
“Your brother has been a shadow of himself the past five years, my dear. Forgive me for saying so, but I question his ability to complete the quest, even with the Librarian at his side.”
Georgiana frowned. “Elizabeth brings out the best in William. Together they will succeed. I am certain they will return in time…” Georgiana’s words were cut off as she suddenly convulsed in pain. Her breath became short and panting, and her eyes closed.
Galon gripped her hand and called her name.
After a few agonizing moments, Georgiana slumped back against the pillows, still breathing heavily.
“My love, what has happened?”
Georgiana’s eyes did not open. Her voice was weak. “I fear I may leave you soon, Galon. I cannot open my eyes. I had a vision of enveloping darkness, but I will not allow Wickham to take what he wants. I would rather die.” These were not the brash words of a young girl, but the words of a woman resigned to her fate.
It broke Galon’s heart to hear them. His Georgiana was so strong and deserved a long and happy life. She had fought so many battles and conquered them each in turn. How could it be that someone as unworthy as Wickham would snuff out her light in the end?
“Georgiana, please. Allow me to help you. I can make a deal without surrendering my skin. I simply have to compel him to make an oath.”
Georgiana shook her head, her fingers tightening around his. “I could not sentence you to a life of misery in Faerie. You know that Alaine would not treat you as you deserve.”
It was true enough, but surely Georgiana knew that a world without her would be more miserable than a life spent at court with his spurned intended. He told her as much. A ghost of a chuckle escaped her lips before she pressed them against the back of his hand. “Sing to me, my love, and have faith that my brother will return.”
Powerless to resist such a request, Galon sang to her the songs of ancient Faerie. Her expression became peaceful and soon she drifted to sleep.
Galon, though, knew what he must do. He would make a deal with the devil to save the woman he loved. He knew that in doing so he would make Georgiana angry, but he would rather have her alive, even if he could no longer be at her side.
“She is growing weaker by the hour, sir, I fear we may lose her soon,” Mrs. Reynold’s face was drawn. The housekeeper had been more mother than servant to Georgiana since the tragic death of Lady Anne.
Fitzwilliam could see how much these words cost the poor woman. “I will see Georgiana. Perhaps if she reveals the location of the selkie’s skin, we can use it to bargain with Wickham.”
“She is in no mind to make such a decision, sir,” Mrs. Reynolds protested, but Fitzwilliam merely strode past her and entered Georgiana’s darkened bed chamber.
Georgiana’s companion, Galon, had recovered from Wickham’s spell, and now sat beside Georgiana’s bed. He sang to her in a language Fitzwilliam did not know or recognize. Georgiana’s eyes were closed, but her features were not twisted with agony as they had been for days. Rather, her expression was almost serene. Her body was surrendering the fight against the Scottish Word and giving in to the consequences of refusing the proposal of its caster.
Galon stopped singing abruptly and looked up at Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam had not conversed much with Galon, far too accustomed to seeing him in his selkie form, but just now, he appeared quite human and ordinary, worried over the fate of one he loved.
“She does not have much time left, Fitzwilliam, a day or two at most.” Galon said, his voice the barest of whispers. “I know what I must do.”
“Galon. . . don’t,” Georgiana’s eyelids fluttered but she no longer had the strength to open them.
Galon kissed Georgiana’s forehead before rising to his feet. His golden eyes flashed with determination and he strode to the open door.
“Cousin. . .” Georgiana’s voice was weak and trembling. “Do not let him . . .” Georgiana’s voice trailed off.
Fitzwilliam followed the selkie, running to catch him. He was headed to the cellar where Wickham was being kept. “Galon, stop,” Fitzwilliam cried, seizing his arm.. To his great surprise, Galon turned to face him, his expression cool.
“I wish to make a deal with the blackguard,” Galon said. “If sacrificing my skin is the price I must pay for Georgiana’s life, I will gladly pay it.”
“Georgiana would not thank you for doing so,” Fitzwilliam said. “She has been fighting the Scottish Word with all her strength. You would be dishonoring her wishes by giving Wickham what he desires.”
“You do not understand. I would rather have Georgiana alive and furious with me than see her in a cursed sleep for the rest of her days.”
“You must have faith that Darcy will return with the cure,” Fitzwilliam said.
Galon shook his head. “They will not succeed. I am afraid there is more at work here than you understand. You see, this is all my fault, and I must make it right. You may join me in the cellar if you wish, but if you attempt to stop me, I will be forced to contain you as well.”
Years of experience had taught Fitzwilliam to recognize when resistance was futile, so he followed Galon down the stone steps to Pemberley’s cellar.
The room was dim, lit only by torches enchanted to burn continuously. Wickham was slumped against casks of expensive French port, bound by Galon’s magic. Fae magic was different than the magic practiced by mages and spellcasters, more ancient and impenetrable, especially for one such as Wickham who only had enough power to cast spells purchased from others. He had been unable to bond with a familiar of his own.
Maor and Hespera regally stood guard on either side of the miscreant.
He has been muttering in his sleep. Something about unpaid debts to a spell maker. Maor disliked Wickham immensely for coveting Galon’s skin. She took any insult to a fellow magical familiar to heart. Fitzwilliam could not ignore Wickham’s bleeding hands. No doubt Maor had taken it upon herself to punish him further.
Do you object to my treatment of our prisoner?
No, indeed, Maor. But just now we need his cooperation. Perhaps you and Hespera might survey the grounds for any sight of the thunderbird.
Maor clicked her beak at Hespera and the griffin and the hippogriff left their posts obligingly.
Galon knelt before Wickham and snapped his fingers. Wickham’s eyes flew open. “Has your beloved finally succumbed to the Scottish Word? It is a shame. She would have been a pleasure to wed and bed.” Wickham’s voice was hoarse from lack of use, but there was a malevolent gleam in his eyes.
“Georgiana is still fighting,” Galon said, with a fierce pride. “But that is not why I have come to speak with you. I have decided to surrender my skin, if you will agree to lift the curse. You may sell it and pay the spell maker. There is no need for you to keep your word to your other benefactor.”
Fitzwilliam did not know to whom Galon was referring, but Wickham clearly did. His lips curled into a mocking smile. “It is a tempting offer, but you see, I have much more to gain by marrying the chit and sending you back to where you belong. My benefactor, as you call her, is the vengeful sort, but you know that better than most.”
“Wickham, it is in your best interest to do as Galon says. If you do not do as we ask and Georgiana falls victim to the Scottish Word, nothing will stop me from ending your miserable life.”
If there was one thing Wickham valued above all else it was his life. “You may kill me if you wish, Fitzwilliam, but that will not stop her from going after Georgiana until she succeeds in ending her life. As Mrs. Wickham, Georgiana would be quite protected.”
At that, Galon looked as though he wanted to attack Wickham. Fitzwilliam stepped between them, drawing his sword and placing it at Wickham’s throat.
“Who is this woman you speak of?” Fitzwilliam demanded.
“She is not a woman at all. She is a powerful fae princess. Georgiana’s familiar has been hiding his secret for years, but I know the truth. If you think I am a scoundrel, what do you make of a fae prince who sets aside his intended to become a familiar to a human girl. What would Darcy say if he found out that his beloved sister might have failed the Patroness’ test and disgraced the family if not for Galon’s interference?”
Fitzwilliam looked from Galon to Wickham. Could it be true? It sounded like one of Wickham’s bizarre flights of fancy, a desperate story told to manipulate him.
“Georgiana was more than capable of bonding with a familiar, but the patronesses did not provide suitable choices.” Galon turned to him. “ Wickham does not have a full understanding of my relationship with Georgiana. When we have saved her, I will explain everything to you, Fitzwilliam. But first I must make a deal with Wickham.”
“You will have to offer enough to tempt me,” Wickham said. “Thirty thousand pounds at least, for that is what I would have had in marrying Georgiana.”
“I will give you my skin, and I will ensure that you are protected from Alaine and her wrath. In addition to this, I will reward you with a sum equivalent to Georgiana’s dowry if you promise to leave England after breaking the Scottish Word.”
Wickham’s watery blue eyes grew wide with pleasure and greed. “Is she truly worth so much to you? You would abandon your royal title to be with Georgiana Darcy?”
Galon nodded. “Give me your answer, Wickham.”
“You are a lovesick fool, but I accept your offer. I will have the skin before I lift the curse. And you better hurry. Georgiana does not have much time left.”
“First we will make a pact,” Galon said, his voice steely. He held out a hand which Wickham took with great reluctance “You will repeat these words, ‘In exchange for selkie skin, I, George Wickham, will lift the spell I have placed upon Georgiana Darcy. I will not abuse my possession of Galon’s skin, and then I will leave England, never to return.’”
Wickham spoke the words twice, and then was compelled to complete the oath when Galon lit his tailcoat on fire.
Galon’s expression was triumphant as he left the cellar. Fitzwilliam followed closely behind the selkie.
“That was quite clever of you. If Wickham breaks his word, he will be cursed. How do you plan on paying him thirty thousand pounds?”
Galon’s violet eyes gleamed with mischief. “You will find, Fitzwilliam, that I am not bound to keep my word. It is a fae trick, one we have employed against mortals for centuries. Only the Librarian creates reciprocal bonds.”
“But you will surrender your skin?”
“I will,” Galon said. “Georgiana did not want me to, so I refrained from making a deal, hoping that Darcy would return with the cure, but I see now that it is a hopeless case. Alaine will have stopped them.”
“So it is true, then? You are a prince of Faerie.”
Galon inclined his head. “I was, but I gave up my inheritance. I had no other choice after meeting Georgiana while she toured the Peak District with Lord and Lady Matlock so many years ago. When a fae falls in love, it is for life.”
“There is more between you than a familiar bond?” Fitzwilliam asked, feeling more than a little silly for doing so, but needing to assure himself of Galon’s faithfulness to his cousin.
“If we both survive this, I will follow your human traditions and ask for her hand,” Galon said.
Fitzwilliam nodded. While Georgiana was a capable mage in her own right, it pleased Fitzwilliam that his beloved cousin had someone so devoted to defending her.
They had come to the grand foyer. “Might I borrow your hippogriff, Fitzwilliam? My skin is hidden some distance away.”
Fitzwilliam nodded. They stepped out into the cool evening air.
Maor, I have a task for you.
The hippogriff and the griffin landed on the steps only moments later.
Galon’s violet eyes met Maor’s flashing amber ones. To Fitzwilliam’s surprise, Maor knelt so that Galon could mount her. “If Georgiana shows further signs of weakness, send word to Maor. I will return as soon as I am able.”
Fitzwilliam gave his word and watched as Maor and Galon took off into the night.
Will Galon make it back to Pemberley in time to save Georgiana? Only time will tell. Next week we go back to Elizabeth and Darcy in Chapter 14 of Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library, written by Melanie Rachel.