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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, Victoria Kincaid, Monica Fairview, Melanie Rachel, Sarah Courtney, and yours truly, Lari Ann O’Dell.
Last week, we saw Elizabeth and Darcy journey further into Faerie. But as they get closer to the cure, poor Georgiana is running out of time. This week, we rejoin Galon as he races to retrieve his skin and save Georgiana.
Galon held firm to the belief that he would return with his skin quickly enough to save Georgiana from a tragic fate. Before meeting the lovely young woman, he had been willing to accept a loveless marriage. Alaine was a powerful fae princess, and a marriage to her would strengthen his position in court. Having been born into royalty, he had been raised to fulfil specific obligations. In that way, the high-ranking members of the fae court were not so different from the human aristocracy.
But then he had met Georgiana as she danced in a meadow of woad. She had unwittingly cast a spell upon him and in that moment, Galon had become hers. She had trusted him at once, though he had appeared out of a magical cave. She had confided to him about her fear of her test with a group of magical women, terrified that she would not be magical enough to create a bond with a familiar. Galon knew then that he would take the form of a selkie and create a bond with the lovely human. Since the day of her test, she had filled his life with light, love, and laughter. Not even the dangers of skirmishes at sea could make him regret his departure from Faerie.
Still, he had been foolish to believe that Alaine would forgive the offense. Galon could not believe that she truly loved him. She was cold-hearted, spoiled, and vengeful. After he had broken their engagement, she refused to accept that he no longer belonged to her.
Your heart is so heavy that I am surprised we have not fallen from the sky. Maor’s voice was imperious, and yet Galon thought he could detect a hint of concern.
Georgiana would not be on the brink of death were it not for me.
Indeed not. She likely would have perished at sea were it not for the bond and the strength she received from it. You forget that I have seen what difference a familiar bond can make in times of war.
Perhaps there was some truth to that, Galon admitted, but in his heart he blamed himself for Georgiana’s suffering, no matter the reassurances she had given him that she did not blame him. If she survived this, he would finally propose. There had not been a marriage between a fae and a human in decades, but Galon had already done so much to flout tradition.
Land on the cliffside, Galon silently instructed the hippogriff, who dove gracefully, her wings cutting through the night air.
Galon slid from his mount and surveyed the face of the cliff. A crack ran vertically down the middle, jagged and rough. Galon ran his fingers along it and the rock melted away to reveal an entrance to a hidden alcove.
Galon stepped into the gloomy hiding place, illuminating the torches set into the stone with a casual flick of his hand. His selkie skin was hanging there, gleaming and safe from those who would wish to steal it. Now Galon would offer it willingly in order to save the one he loved so dearly.
A great gust of wind whistled through the small cave, creating gooseflesh on the back of Galon’s neck.
“My dear Galon, I had despaired of ever seeing you again.”
Galon would have jumped out of his skin with surprise had he not already removed it. He turned, only to see Alaine blocking the mouth of the alcove. Her lovely features were bathed in the shadows cast by the torch but he recognized a malevolent gleam in her eyes. Her curtain of jet-black ringlets was not pristine as it had been the day he had ended their engagement, but ragged and unkempt. Had she stopped preening after that day? Galon might have felt guiltier had she not tried so often to harm Georgiana. Even more curious was a deep cut on her right hand, dripping with silvery blood.
Galon might have pitied Alaine, had she not conspired to harm Georgiana so often over the years.
“Why are you here?” Galon asked, his voice icy.
“It was foolish of you to hide your selkie skin in a place so weakly guarded. I have missed you, my love. I have come to bring you home.” Alaine’s voice was soft and alluring, wrapping around him like welcome embrace. It was only Galon’s devotion to Georgiana that saved him from succumbing to Alaine’s attempt to lure him in.
“Your efforts are useless, Alaine. Our match was one made out of duty, but now I have found love. I will not abandon Georgiana.”
“Your hopes are in vain. Once your little human succumbs she will be lost to you forever. The Scottish Word cannot be undone by the power of love. Only by what lies hidden in the cave. The Librarian and Darcy will not complete their quest.”
“So you have delayed their journey? I might have expected such treachery.”
Alaine laughed, a sharp, ugly tone that made Galon cringe. “I was surprised when they defeated the troll I sent after them, but two mages are no match for my pet dragon. He was so desperate for the hunt.”
“The Court will not look kindly on an attempt to kill the Librarian.”
“I did not order my dragon to kill the Librarian. He only was sent to maim or injure. If the Librarian is truly worthy of her title, she will have survived the encounter. Darcy though, he needed to die. My dear Wickham told me of all the suffering he endured at Darcy’s hands. I was only too happy to command his downfall. I expect my beloved pet is picking his teeth with the man’s bones as we speak.”
“Does your depravity know no bounds? The Fae are not meant to harm those with magic. You have violated unspoken and ancient rules, Alaine, and you will answer for it.”
“Once we are wed, I will be immune from the judgment of the court. And if any dare to oppose me, I shall simply have them executed.”
Galon scowled at Alaine. “You have no respect for our traditions, Alaine. You will pay dearly for it, but not at my hand. I have no more time to waste upon you.” Galon wrapped his skin around him like a cloak and shoved Alaine out of his path.
Alaine uttered a curse and cast a jet of green light toward him, but it fizzled out of existence after making contact with his gleaming coat. Galon conjured ropes and they twisted themselves around Alaine’s ankles and wrists, glowing brightly. Alaine wailed her displeasure. The bindings would not hold her forever, but Galon hoped they would buy him enough time to return to Pemberley.
Maor stood waiting for him, untouched by Alaine. At the very least, she seemed to hold some esteem for magical creatures.
You give the princess too much credit, Galon. She raised her hand to cast a spell and I attacked. If she had a shred of honor left, she would have turned away. I did not doubt that you would refuse whatever offer she came to make. You have proved your devotion to Georgiana many times over.
Maor knelt at Galon’s feet in an unmistakable bow. I thank you for your faith in me, Maor. We must make haste to save Georgiana.
Galon clung tightly to Maor as the hippogriff jumped from the cliff. In his haste to escape, he failed to sense that Alaine had broken through his spell of containment.
For a few minutes, their flight was easy. Maor’s magnificent wings cut through the air with great speed.
Suddenly, a clap of thunder illuminated the night sky, and from the strike emerged a brilliant thunderbird. Galon swallowed hard. He had underestimated Alaine’s strength and lust for vengeance.
The fae princess sat astride the enormous gold and silver bird and urged it to give chase.
I will not be outstripped by a creature from the Americas. Maor’s tone was disdainful as she dove closer to the trees that dotted the land. Maor wove through the rugged Derbyshire landscape with surprising agility. Galon was forced to cling for dear life. His selkie skin protected him from Alaine’s magic, but he could still lose his seat and suffer grave injuries.
Lightning struck one of the tall trees, causing it to crack and fall. Maor dodged it by mere inches. Alaine’s curses sounded in time with the thunder that followed.
This will not do. I will have to attack. Maor declared after several failed evasive maneuvers.
Galon thought this a foolhardy notion, but he was unaccustomed to airborne skirmishes. He would have to yield to Maor’s greater knowledge of battle.
Maor flew higher, rising into the clouds until Alaine and her thunderbird were barely visible. Then, without warning, Maor dove. The hippogriff struck the thunderbird with incredible force. The beast cried out as Maor’s razor talons dug into its flesh.
Alaine was unseated from her mount. She screamed indecipherable orders to the thunderbird as she plummeted to the ground below.
Maor, however, did not emerge unscathed. Lightning lit the sky again, and Alaine’s thunderbird disappeared. The lightning struck Maor’s flank, causing the hippogriff to plunge toward a craggy cliff. Galon acted fast and caused foliage to erupt from the cracks of the cliffside, cushioning their landing.
Galon was thrown from Maor, colliding with the springy foliage dangerously near the edge of the cliff. On shaking legs, he made his way back to the hippogriff. He stroked the colorful feathers of her neck, and murmured the words of a healing spell. She would need to rest for a short time before returning to Pemberley, but Alaine had not bested them.
General Fitzwilliam was slumped in the chair by the fire watching over his young cousin as she murmured incoherently in her sleep. His eyelids drooped with tiredness, but he would not fall asleep at his post.
Lightning flashed, illuminating Georgiana’s darkened bedroom, a near deafening rumble of thunder followed. Goergiana whimpered in fright, but still did not stir. Fitzwilliam was on his feet in an instant. The weather had been fine all day. This was not a natural storm. It could only be the thunderbird come to rescue Wickham.
When Fitzwillam threw open the door to the cellar he found a hole in the ceiling. Casks of port were splintered upon the floor, now drenched with the fine vintage. A thunderbird, majestic, golden, and sparking with magical energy was suspended before Wickham.
“Ah, Fitzwilliam, how nice of you to send me off. I have grown weary of my imprisonment. I bid you adieu.” Wickham doffed his hat in a mock salute
Fitzwilliam lunged toward the blackguard only to be struck by a bolt of lightning. All he could do was watch in motionless horror as Wickham and the thunderbird beat its wings and rose through the opening in the cellar.
Fitzwilliam reached out through his mental connection with his familiar. Maor, the thunderbird returned and Wickham has escaped.
If only I had done more damage. This is the work of Alaine. I can sense your weakness, Fitzwilliam. I will be there to aid you shortly.
True to her word, Maor and Galon appeared in the cellar quarter of an hour later, looking ragged and beaten down. Galon helped Fitzwilliam to his feet. “Alaine was waiting for me at my hiding place. Her beast attacked Maor.”
Fitzwilliam swayed and clung to Maor to keep his balance. Galon surveyed the ruined cellar. “I fear that Alaine and Wickham will try to stop Darcy and the Librarian themselves. We must fly to the Peak District and go to their aid.”
“We cannot leave Georgiana unprotected,” Fitzwilliam declared. “Maor and I will go.”
“But I must report Alaine’s crimes to the Faerie court. They would not consent to meet with a human.”
“Allow me to be your emissary, Galon. Georgiana would not want you to leave her. She was crying out for you as she slept.”
Galon appeared torn, but eventually nodded. “I will write a letter for you to take to Faerie. My seal is in Georgiana’s room.”
Fitzwilliam, Galon, and Maor made their way back to Georgiana’s rooms. Fitzwilliam was the first to notice the change. The fire had died in the hearth and the room was icy. Georgiana was no longer muttering in her sleep. Instead, she resembled a masterfully carved statue. The color had drained from her complexion.
Galon ran to her side and uttered her name with heartbroken urgency. Georgiana made no reply.
Is there still hope for Georgiana? Will Elizabeth and Darcy be successful in obtaining the cure? Join us next week for the next installment of Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library, written by Sarah Courtney.