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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 me, Lari Ann O’Dell.
Last week, Lady Catherine was punished for her crimes, the borders between Faerie and the Mortal world finally stabilized, and we got to see Elizabeth in her element as the Librarian. Unfortunately our poor Elizabeth is still quite heartbroken over being separated from Darcy. Now we return to Darcy, Georgiana, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Galon for a wedding at sea. And now I am proud to present Chapter 23 of Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library.
In her youth, Georgiana Darcy had been a thoroughly nervous and fretful creature. Galon becoming her familiar had changed that, or rather, he had given her the strength to cast off her cloak of reticence and become the strong young woman she was always meant to be.
In her years at sea, she had faced countless battles and skirmishes. She had come into her magic and defended her country against ruthless enemies. She had been placed under one of the most dreadful curses known to man and survived it.
Despite all this, on her wedding day, her nerves had returned in full force.
It was not that she was afraid of becoming a wife. She loved Galon so dearly, and their relationship had flourished beautifully over the years. Taking him as her husband seemed natural. It was not even the prospect of leaving home, as she had spent much of the past five years away.
In truth, Georgiana Darcy was scared to leave her brother.
In the weeks since he had returned with her cure, he was decidedly altered. His disposition was gloomy, he was withdrawn, and Georgiana could count the times he smiled on one hand. He had not changed in essentials, but it was as though his spirit and heart were somewhere else.
What would he do when left to his own devices? Georgiana did not want to see her brother lose himself in his heartbreak. So it was that she asked to see him before she walked down the aisle to begin her new life.
Darcy came, as he always did whenever she needed him. He was a devoted brother.
“Georgiana, you look beautiful. Mother and Father would be so proud if they could see you now.”
Georgiana smiled and took his hand. “Thank you, Brother. I am so grateful to have your blessing.”
“Would it have stopped you had I withheld it?” Darcy asked earnestly.
Years ago, it would have, but Georgiana was a grown woman now. “No,” Georgiana answered truthfully, “But I am glad I have it. In many ways, you have been more of a father to me than a brother. I do hate to disappoint you.”
“There is not anything you could do to disappoint me, sweetheart,” Darcy said. “You have become a remarkable young lady and mage. I am so proud of all you have accomplished. And now, you have found your match. I know you will be safe with Galon.”
“I will be, and happy as well, but—” Georgiana trailed off, her courage momentarily failing her.
Georgiana had called him to her cabin for a purpose, and she would see it through. “I worry about leaving you alone at Pemberley.”
“I will hardly be alone,” Darcy said.
“I do not mean the servants, tenants, or even Hespera. You have not been yourself since you returned from your quest with Elizabeth.”
Though her brother tried to hide it, Georgiana saw his composure slip. She saw the flash of grief in his eyes. “I am no longer a child, William. You can confide in me. Tell me the truth. Are you still in love with Elizabeth?”
Darcy was silent for a long moment, but he finally said, “I do not believe I ever stopped loving her. But it will come to nothing. She is the Librarian. She cannot marry or leave her position, and I cannot leave Pemberley. Sometimes, one must sacrifice happiness for duty and responsibility.”
“Surely there must be some way for you to be together,” Georgiana said.
Darcy shook his head. “There is not, but today is not about me. It is about celebrating the love you found with Galon. We should not keep him waiting.”
Georgiana longed to press him, but her brother’s tone brokered no argument. She nodded, and he kissed her forehead before leaving her to finish her preparations.
Galon was well versed in the traditions of the Fae and the Library. Perhaps he would know of some way that would allow her brother and Elizabeth to reunite. She vowed that she would broach the subject with him in the coming days.
“She looks so much like your mother,” Fitzwilliam whispered as Georgiana marched down the length of the ship, her lovely face framed with golden ringlets. Galon stood with a rector at the bow of the ship with a moon-eyed expression on his face.
The crew, all of whom greatly admired Miss Darcy and her beau stood assembled and adequately washed for the special occasion. It was not often that a wedding ceremony was performed in the middle of the ocean.
Fitzwilliam and Darcy had arrived on their familiars. Fitzwilliam had brought his father’s rector along, for the man would never refuse any request from the son of his noble patron. The rector, however, appeared a little green and was gripping the side of the ship tightly in an effort to keep his footing.
Darcy envied his sister. She was fortunate enough to wed the person she loved against reason, station, and laws of magic. A union between a fae and a human was practically unheard of.
The ceremony was brief and solemn, ending with a chaste kiss. Georgiana was glowing as Galon led her to the middle of the ship to accept the well-wishes of the crew.
And so, a rather peculiar wedding breakfast began. Three crewmen produced two fiddles and a drum and began playing lively music. Georgiana and Galon moved through the steps of a reel, joined by pairs of sailors.
Some other crewmen brought out casks of fine wine and ale and poured out generous measures.
Darcy crossed the length of the ship to where Hespera stood, her feathers rustled by the sea breeze. She looked particularly annoyed with her circumstances.
How long must we remain on this wretched vessel, Darcy?
Darcy stroked her neck.
Only for a little while. Then we will return to Pemberley.
The dear girl deserves such happiness. I only wish they could have married on land.
Georgiana and Galon did not deem it prudent to leave the ship. Not after the troubles they faced last week.
It was troubling that the borders still seemed unstable. Darcy wondered how Elizabeth was faring. He did not doubt that she would set everything right, but he longed to assist her in the endeavor. Alas, it was impossible.
Darcy was resigned to the fact that he was doomed to a life of bachelordom. Pemberley would go to Georgiana and Galon’s first born, and the Darcy legacy would continue.
Darcy watched as the celebration grew more raucous. Toasts were given in honor of the bride and groom. Stories of their heroism were traded and reenacted.
Fitzwilliam was happy to participate in the festivities, but Darcy could find little joy in them. Truthfully, he found little joy in anything. Without Elizabeth, he was hollow and aching. He prayed it would get better with time, but he was not certain it would. How did one recover from losing the love of his life?
It will get better, Darcy.
Hespera’s words startled him. He idly stroked her soft feathers.
After the tale of Wickham’s fate had been recited, ending with one of the men flopping on the deck in a bizarre imitation of a flounder, Darcy decided it was time to depart. He had a long flight ahead of him, and if he did not leave soon, there would not be enough daylight to see him safely home.
Galon and Georgiana were still surrounded by the crew, blissfully happy in their newly wedded state. Darcy made his way to them. “Georgiana, I am afraid it is time for me to depart. Please accept my heartfelt congratulations. You and Galon will always be welcome at Pemberley.”
Georgiana embraced him tightly. “I wish you would stay longer. Richard is staying aboard. The night is young. Mr. Edwards has composed a poem in my honor. And his words are not to be missed.”
Darcy saw one of the burlier sailors flush a deep crimson.
“I am sorry, my dear, but I cannot linger. Pemberley needs me.”
Georgiana nodded. Galon shook Darcy’s hand. “I will look after her, Darcy. Your sister will always be safe with me.”
“I do not doubt it. Thank you, Galon.”
Darcy returned to Hespera and climbed on her back. The griffin took off into the clear sky. Darcy idly thought of directing Hespera to make her way to the Library, but quickly banished the notion. He had to return to Pemberley and attempt to make the most of his lonely life.
Georgiana Darcy had never thought much of marriage, despite society’s expectations for young ladies. But after three days of being Galon’s wife, Georgiana found that marriage was more than agreeable. She now had a true partner by her side. Someone to love her at her best and at her worst. And she loved him fiercely in return.
On the fourth morning after her wedding, Georgiana woke abruptly, her heart racing. The spot beside her was empty, and muffled shouts and scuffling footsteps could be heard overhead.
Georgiana rose to dress only to be thrown from her feet as the ship heaved drastically.
The bizarre storms and encounters with fae creatures seemed to have stopped in the past week, but there were still other sea creatures to contend with.
When she arrived on deck, she saw a glimpse of a pod of whales. The sailors were in awe and trying to stop the ship so they would not harm the majestic creatures.
Galon stood at the edge of the ship, about to don his selkie skin.
Georgiana hurried to meet him. “Galon, what are you doing?”
“I am going to guide the whales away from our course. I will return shortly, my love.” He kissed her cheek and transformed, his first transformation since their wedding. The beautiful selkie jumped off the side of the ship, landing in the water with a great splash.
Georgiana watched as her love led the whales to the east and was once again impressed by Galon’s uncanny way with sea creatures.
Knowing that Galon was well, Georgiana returned to her cabin below deck. She sat at the small desk that was nailed into the wall and removed a sheet of paper and quill. No matter what he might have said, Georgiana still worried about her brother. Galon could think of no way for Darcy and Elizabeth to reunite. The fae seemed to believe that the Librarian should be above such connections and devote themselves wholly to their duties.
Georgiana suspected that her brother would not move on any time soon, if ever.
It would be a couple of days until they made port and she could post her letter. Georgiana left half of the page clear in case she needed to make any additions. Then she took up her needle work, intent upon embroidering a set of handkerchiefs for her new husband.
Several hours later, Mr. Edwards was pounding on her cabin door. “Madam, you are needed above. Something is wrong with Galon.”
Georgiana threw her embroidery hoop aside and hastened to follow Mr. Edwards.
Her heart clenched when she saw Galon, still in his selkie form, collapsed and in pain. Galon had once showed her how to help him transform in times of duress, but she never imagined she would have to use that knowledge.
Georgiana knelt beside Galon and placed one hand on his head and one hand on his sleek body. She whispered an ancient fae incantation. Galon cried out, and though no words came, his cry conveyed sheer agony.
But the transformation came. Galon’s handsome face was bloodless and pained. One hand moved to her cheek. His voice was weak. “My love, all is not well. The border between Faerie and this world has closed, cutting off my ability to transform. If I take my selkie form again, I will not be able to live in this world as your husband.”
Georgiana clutched his hands. They were icy and stiff. “Then what are we to do?”
“There is little that can be done. I will write to King Malus for assistance, but I do not expect he will offer any. The answer may be found at the Library, but I fear we cannot be the ones to make the request. We need your brother.”
Captain Wentworth approached them. “What would you like to do?”
“We must make port as soon as possible.”
Captain Wentworth nodded and began shouting orders to his crew.
Georgiana pressed a kiss upon Galon’s forehead, for he had collapsed in her arms, exhausted from the pain of transforming. “Do not worry, my love. All will be well.” And though she said the words, she scarcely believed them herself.
Darcy sat at his large desk overlooking the books. The instability of the borders had impacted the annual profits, as Darcy had to oversee repairs to several tenant homes and reimburse several others for crops that had been lost in bizarre natural phenomena.
All the instability seemed to have resolved, though Darcy still surveyed the grounds daily for any residual problems. It was an excellent way to distract himself, if only for a few hours.
At night, his heart still ached for Elizabeth. He was not sure the aching would ever stop.
Someone knocked on the door, jarring Darcy from his gloomy thoughts.
The butler entered, his expression oddly grim. “Mr. Darcy, your sister has returned to Pemberley. She and new husband are in the sitting room.”
Wondering what could possibly bring Georgiana home so soon after her wedding, Darcy hurried to meet his sister. Upon entering the room, Darcy understood his butler’s odd manner.
Georgiana was pale and still dirty with dust from the road. Galon slumped against the brocade of the settee. His skin almost colorless, his eyes shifting from brown to grey.
“Georgiana, what has happened to Galon?”
“He is fighting against transforming, and it is taking all the strength he has to do so,” Georgiana said, her voice shaking, and her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Cut off from Faerie, if Galon takes his selkie form again, he will be unable to return to his true form. We must go to the library and hope that Elizabeth can help.”
The thought of seeing Elizabeth again was tempting, and Darcy almost agreed for that chance alone, but going there himself might do more harm than good to his already aching heart.
“You need me to accompany you? I am not sure what my presence there would accomplish. You are more than capable of clearing the trials to gain an audience with the Librarian.” Darcy had complete faith in his sister, and joining her in this venture would surely lead to further heartbreak.
Georgiana took his hand, her eyes beseeching. “I need you, William. The Library does not grant requests for fae.”
“But Georgiana, you are human. Can you not make your own request?”
“Not in the eyes of the Winter Court. Since I married Galon, King Malus and the court consider me to be one of their own. Malus does not understand why we cannot simply dwell in Faerie. He will not help us.”
Galon raised his head and opened his mouth, his voice was weak and hollow. “We need you, Darcy. You are the only one who can make such a request from the Library.”
“Please, Brother,” Georgiana said. “I cannot lose him.”
Darcy’s heart clenched. He had never been able to deny his beloved sister any request that was within his power to fulfill.
“Very well. I will arrange things with Hespera. We shall depart for the Library in the morning.”
I love writing wedding scenes. I hope you enjoyed Georgiana and Galon’s wedding, in spite of things going awry shortly after. Join us next week as we travel back to the Library in chapter 24, written by Monica Fairview.