Welcome! For those of you catching up with this for the first time, this story is written 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 me, your author for this week, Sarah Courtney.
This week, we see Darcy and Elizabeth hurrying back to Pemberley to check on Georgiana and prepare for their quest!
Last week Melanie Rachel posted the third chapter. Next week, Victoria Kincaid will post Chapter Five.
Finally, here is Chapter Four of Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library!
Mr. Darcy was staring at her, mouth agape. It was a diverting expression on such a solemn, serious man.
“My reasons are my own,” she said simply.
If only they were.
The moment she had read those fateful words, “Two speak the words the fae do know,” she had felt the Library nudge at her. She had finished the poem before questioning it. In response, the Library had reminded her of the Mabinogion, specifically the tale Culhwch and Olwen. She closed her eyes, allowing the memories of other Librarians to fill her with knowledge. Yes, she knew the story now.
Elizabeth opened her eyes, bemused. She was much accustomed to deciphering the Library’s thoughts by the books it suggested, but this one still stumped her. Was it implying that Mr. Darcy would have to complete a number of apparently impossible tasks as Culhwch had had to? Lost in contemplation, she had barely heard Mr. Darcy’s enquiry as she made her own to the Library.
This time it answered with exasperation and another Arthurian story, Yvain, the Knight of the Lion. And it prodded her into remembering the handmaiden, Lunete, who helped him with his task. This time, she understood. And she wished she did not.
The Library meant for her to go on the quest with Mr. Darcy. No. No, that was a horrid idea. She could not travel for days alone with Mr. Darcy. She could not!
“But I am needed here,” she had reminded it silently. She had only just completed her training, and the Library had not been open for long at all. There might be many people who wished to seek its aid.
She had felt the Library’s deep rumbling laughter. The Library then reminded her of its oldest book, the St Cuthbert Gospel, immediately followed by On the History of the Great Library. Its message was clear. The Library had survived long before her and would survive long after her. And for some reason, it wanted her to make this journey.
“Are you well?” Mr. Darcy had asked at last, and she had managed a shaky nod before continuing their conversation. She could not resist holding back the information that she was coming until the very last moment. She might have told herself it was to irritate Mr. Darcy, but really, she could not help hoping the Library would change its mind.
It had not, and now she was walking with Mr. Darcy towards the front door of the Library. Despite all of her travels with the Library to lands near and far, she had always been in the care of the Library. But now she would be leaving it behind to go on a quest with the one man she both longed and feared to be alone with.
Her time in the Library had been good for her. She had learned so much. And the Library itself had become like a friend, almost a familiar.
Abraxas. Was he coming with her?
But no, of course not. The poem had been very clear that familiars could not travel to seek the cure.
Besides, Abraxas said with a smirk she could almost hear, I am needed here to protect the Great Library in your absence.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. She had not realised that he would stay in the Library itself.
You will guard it? she asked.
“I must make preparations for a journey,” Elizabeth said, thinking wildly. She would need clothes at the very least. Perhaps Mr. Darcy’s people could supply the food and other things they would need.
She called several of the assistants to her and set them to work. She had a great deal to arrange and would have to do it quickly. A message was sent to her ladies’ maid, Price, to have her things packed and brought to the Library’s entrance.
Abraxas would guard the Library in her absence and could call her if there were any urgent requests. Most quests could wait until her return, but she spoke to the clerks about what information to procure from any applicants. Lord Elkins could wait to speak with her about his research until her return, but she would have several of her people collecting information for him while she was gone.
Finally, Price appeared with a large satchel, and Elizabeth knew it was time. She could not let her discomfort about leaving the Library delay them from their departure. She nodded to Mr. Darcy. It was time.
“Miss Bennet,” Mr. Darcy said as they reached the doorway. He was holding out his arm, and for a moment, she stared at it in confusion. Of course. He meant to offer her his arm. She had been here for so long that she had almost forgotten that nicety.
Before she could take it, she felt the Library nudge at her.
“A moment, please,” she said.
The Library reminded her again of On the History of the Great Library. She frowned, not comprehending. She called forth the memories of former Librarians again, and her mind was filled with the details of the book. Yet she still did not understand what the Library wished to tell her.
Impatiently, the Library pushed the book to her, and a magical representation appeared before her. But before she could open it, the ghostly book closed itself and pressed itself up against her chest.
Elizabeth smiled. It wanted her to take the book with her. Very well.
“Travinius,” she called. The fae hurried up to her, and she directed him to fetch the book.
“It seems that we will be bringing at least one book along on our journey,” she said to Mr. Darcy.
The book was soon in hand and then in her satchel, and Elizabeth could no longer put off the moment. She was on Mr. Darcy’s arm, the door opened, and she was outdoors.
Elizabeth squinted in the sun and marvelled at the sights and sounds of the busy street, wrinkling her nose at the smell.
When she had been chosen at the Librarian almost three years ago, the Library had insisted upon taking her on a tour of the world—especially its books. Every morning, one of the Library’s many doors had opened into a new land. This door led to Rome, that door led to Constantinople, but tomorrow this one might lead to Tenochtitlan and that one to Cuzco. Some of the places it opened were not in the ordinary world, but places where only those like the fae, pegasi, and dragons roamed.
Thankfully, the Library had also understood her need for quiet and to take long walks. There was one door that always led to some gentle path between a meadow and a wood, and she was free to slip outside that door whenever she needed to feel the sun on her face and the fresh air. Of course, sometimes the path was in Scotland, sometimes China, and occasionally Upper Canada, but it was always a safe, peaceful place to ramble.
There was only one place the doors never led—to England. Not until the Library had deemed her training complete and allowed her to declare the Great Library open.
A touch on her arm startled Elizabeth out of her thoughts. Mr. Darcy placed her arm on his, and she took in a deep breath and allowed Mr. Darcy to lead her forward onto the pavement. She had been so lost after he left her. Well, she had been lost at first. Then, she had been furious.
She had known, absolutely known, that she had magic powerful enough to bond with a familiar, powerful enough to be Mr. Darcy’s wife. She could not explain just how she had known it, but she could feel the deep well of magic within her and knew it as a certainty. There had to be an explanation.
She had never found the explanation, exactly, but she had proved them all wrong. The Library had chosen her, she had bonded with Abraxas, and she had found a new purpose in life after her first dreams had been torn away.
As the Librarian, she had been consumed with excitement over her wonderful connection to Abraxas, the Great Library itself, the books it was constantly thrusting at her, and the world it had opened at her feet. It had not entirely kept her from the misery that wet her pillow at night, but she had allowed herself to find joy again.
There was a great pounding of wings as Mr. Darcy’s griffin familiar dropped to the ground in front of them. Hespera was still as beautiful as she had ever been. Elizabeth remembered Abraxas’s opinion of her with amusement and wondered, fleetingly, if he had ever seen her fly. Her landing was a thing of beauty.
Matchmaking? Abraxas asked, amusement in his mental voice.
It was an idle thought, Elizabeth sent back.
Abraxas’s deep laugh reverberated along their familiar connection. Is that not a human saying? Idle hands are the devil’s workshop? Perhaps it applies to thoughts as well?
Elizabeth’s grin faded when Mr. Darcy gestured for her to climb on.
“We cannot,” she said, surprised that Mr. Darcy had forgotten so soon.
“We will ride only as far as Pemberley. I must see my sister before we continue.”
Elizabeth nodded thoughtfully. “Of course. And I do believe my reading served a further purpose. I can make something that will help Georgiana’s health hold a little longer. Or, rather, you will make it.”
“Yes. Because you love your sister. The best counters to love potions gone awry must be created in love.”
She curtsied to the griffin. Do you remember me? she asked. I am Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the Librarian.
Of course I remember you, although you were not the Librarian then. Hespera cocked her head, looking disconcertingly chicken-like for a moment. You are welcome to ride with us, Your Eminence.
Mr. Darcy held out his hand to Elizabeth, and she allowed him to boost her onto the griffin’s back. There was no bridle and no saddle, and Elizabeth suddenly remembered her first and only terrible, frightening ride on a griffin’s back—when the Great Library had claimed her for its own and sent Abraxas to retrieve her. She took a deep breath and tried to calm her racing heart.
He climbed up behind her, and Hespera launched herself into the air.
Elizabeth clung to Hespera as the griffin soared upwards, gaining height quickly. Mr. Darcy was wrapped around her as he clutched the griffin, all propriety quite literally lost to the wind.
When Hespera eventually levelled out, Elizabeth was able to sit up a little and flex her stiff, sore fingers. It did not help. She could still feel Mr. Darcy pressed against her, his entire front against her back. He was warm, and she could feel the muscles under his shirt shift as he changed his hold on Hespera. He had not changed so much, then, during the years they were apart. Had she?
Elizabeth tucked her head low against Hespera’s feathers, as the sun still felt too bright.
Did he miss her, the Elizabeth Bennet he had once known? The girl who loved to walk miles every day? The one who teased him about his pride and arrogance? The one who picked up a book only because she suspected the group to be playing high?
She was no longer that Elizabeth Bennet. She had been ripped apart and made anew. That Elizabeth Bennet was gone.
Hespera’s speed was extraordinary. It was terrifying. The countryside, villages, towns, and even cities sped by at rates beyond her imagining, but all Elizabeth could do was to hold on.
It felt endless, but it could not have been more than an hour or so before Hespera began to drop. And there it was.
The beautiful grey stone manor stood proud in the distance. Elizabeth could already see the small pond in front of the house. Hespera swooped just above the trees before landing neatly on the grounds before the house.
Mr. Darcy dismounted first. He turned to offer a hand to Elizabeth. She swallowed and accepted it, just as she had done on their last day together.
But there was Georgiana to think of now. She could not stay lost in her memories.
A woman came bustling out of Pemberley, practically wringing her hands when she saw Mr. Darcy.
“Mrs. Reynolds!” Mr. Darcy drew Elizabeth to his side. “Miss Bennet, this is Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper at Pemberley. Mrs. Reynolds, Miss Bennet is the Librarian of the Great Library.”
“Your Eminence,” Mrs. Reynolds said as she curtsied.
The older lady turned to her master. “We had not expected you to return so soon. I was just seeing to Miss Georgiana.”
“Of course. Thank you for taking care of my sister so diligently. How does she fare?”
Her face drooped. “Not well at all, sir. She sleeps most of the time, but she seems almost delirious in her rest.”
Mr. Darcy bowed his head. “Miss Bennet has suggested a temporary remedy that might alleviate some of Georgiana’s symptoms a little while we travel to find the cure.”
“We will need stinging nettle leaves, red currants, and gooseberries,” Elizabeth told Mrs. Reynolds. “Mr. Darcy will need to boil them into—”
“Mr. Darcy, make the tea! Oh, goodness, dear, I hope you do not think I am not willing to see to a special tea for the young lady.
“I am afraid that will not do, although I thank you for your help.” Elizabeth accepted Mr. Darcy’s arm as they hurried into the hall, Mrs. Reynolds following them anxiously. “Mr. Darcy must prepare the draught himself. He will supply the most crucial ingredient.”
The housekeeper looked puzzled but was clearly used to dealing with the eccentricities of magic.
As she led the way down to the kitchens, Mrs. Reynolds assured them that Georgiana was sleeping, so they opted to wait until the tea was ready before going to see her. They would need her to stay awake long enough to drink the tea.
The draught was surprisingly easy to make, even in Mr. Darcy’s unskilled hands, which were probably further hampered by the three women watching him work and offering instructions. Once it was ready, they were ready to visit Georgiana.
Her room was dark, the drapes pulled to keep as much daylight out as possible. The fire had been stoked to blazing, the room overwarm.
Georgiana tossed and turned in her bed. But when Mr. Darcy pushed the draught into Elizabeth’s hands and hurried to the sick girl’s side, calling her name urgently, her eyes flew open.
“Fitz!” she cried. She struggled to sit up in the bed, and Elizabeth’s heart hurt to see her so weak. Mr. Darcy had to arrange the pillow and prop her upright.
She was thin and pale, but she gave them both a grateful look as she accepted the draught and drank it obediently.
It was a pleasure to see Mr. Darcy so gentle with his sister. He spoke to her softly, telling her about their quest to retrieve the cure and assuring her they would return quickly.
Georgiana turned bleary eyes on Elizabeth. “May I . . . May I speak with Miss Elizabeth, please, brother? Alone?”
Mr. Darcy stiffened. “Miss Elizabeth?”
Georgiana gave a slow nod.
He looked from Georgiana to Elizabeth, his face unreadable. Then he stood and walked out quickly.
Georgiana sighed. “I did not mean to hurt him,” she said quietly. “It is just . . . there are some things you cannot say in front of your brother.”
Elizabeth gingerly sat at a chair next to the bed.
“I was very angry at him, you know,” Georgiana whispered. “When he ended things with you. I thought . . . I thought you were to be my sister.”
“I did, too.” Elizabeth took her hand.
Georgiana coughed. “I had best not waste my words. It is so hard to stay awake these days, but you must know I try. I try so desperately. My dreams . . .” She looked down at their entwined hands. “My dreams are so frightening.”
Elizabeth nodded, although her heart ached for the younger woman. The dreams of the Scottish Word were notoriously terrifying.
“He comes to me in my dreams.” Georgiana’s words were barely audible. “Sometimes we are walking on the beach at Ramsgate. Sometimes we are shopping together, or dancing. And always, always, I am falling for his charms. He says the sweetest and most romantic things, or sometimes . . .” Her voice faltered. “Sometimes sultry things, too, but I am always intrigued, eager for more.”
Elizabeth squeezed her hand.
“But then there is always something.” Georgiana squeezed back, her slight smile giving Elizabeth hope. “I do not know how to describe it, but his tone will sound a little off, as if he is reciting his words from rote or distracted or simply insincere. Or he touches his hair a certain way. And as soon as he does, I am reminded of the real Mr. Wickham and the kind of man he truly is.”
“That is the moment you fight loose from the spell,” Elizabeth guessed.
Georgiana lifted one thin shoulder. “And then it becomes a nightmare. His face transforms into something that I cannot describe. And he grabs me, squeezes me. Sometimes he kisses me, but it isn’t about love but power. It is terrifying. And that is when I wake up.”
Elizabeth leaned over to embrace her, and Georgiana leaned into her. “I cannot tell my brother. He would never look at me the same way again. But what can I do? I cannot control my dreams!”
“They are not your dreams, not entirely. The Scottish Word influences your thoughts and memories to trick you into its false love. And I believe you are wrong about your brother. He loves you, and he knows about the mistake you made. But it was years ago, when you were barely more than a child. It is not your fault that that potion attempts to exploit those feelings you briefly had for that fiend.”
Georgiana lowered her arms and leaned back against her pillow. Her breath was shallow.
“I cannot stay awake much longer.” Her voice cracked. “What can I do? How can I be sure I will not give in? I cannot control my dreams!”
The Library nudged at Elizabeth, bringing to mind a book she had once read about how to control one’s thoughts when they strayed improperly. At the time, she had relegated the book as being as dull as Fordyce’s sermons, but perhaps there was something of use there.
“You may not be able to control the dreams well,” she said slowly, “but during your waking hours, perhaps you might think over the things Mr. Wickham has done to show you his true colours. Remember his lies being exposed, the revelation of his vicious propensities, the cruelty he showed Mr. Darcy. Anything you can think of. Mrs. Reynolds may have stories to tell.”
The girl nodded, her eyes narrowing. “You think that will make such things come more easily to mind when I am on the verge of succumbing?”
Elizabeth shrugged. “The Library thinks it might help. And, I hope, so will the draught your brother made you.”
It occurred to her suddenly that the Library had communicated with her despite the miles between them. Was it always able to do such things?
Her satchel felt suddenly warm at her side. The book, then. Perhaps it, as the Library’s history, was somehow connected to the Library? It would be a comfort if she could bring the Library’s reassurance and expertise along with her.
And me, another voice broke in.
Abraxas! she called out to him in relief. I did not know you could speak at such distance.
I will guard the Library, and the Library will assist you, he sent firmly.
Georgiana’s eyes drifted shut, but they suddenly flicked open, and she reached out to grab Elizabeth’s wrist. “Wait, I should tell you!” she said, her words slurred with sleep.
“George—Mr. Wickham, that is.” Georgiana stopped to cough. “He runs his hand through his hair.”
Elizabeth frowned. She had often seen gentlemen make that same movement, even Mr. Darcy himself. It often revealed their nervousness.
“Or when he is outdoors and wearing a hat, he runs his fingers along the brim.” Georgiana gave Elizabeth a wan smile. “I have come to realise that he only does it when he is lying.”
Elizabeth sat up straight. “Truly?”
Georgiana turned her head to the side. “Always when he is lying.” She sighed, her eyes drifting shut.
So little time. Georgiana had so little time to be awake between dreams that turned into nightmares and trapped her into a never-ending game of avoiding seduction. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy had so little time to find the fae cave and return with the elixir before Georgiana finally lost her battle with Mr. Wickham.
She could only pray the draught would help. According to the book she had found, it kept the victim from falling as deeply into their dreams. That should help Georgiana to remember who Mr. Wickham was . . . she hoped.
Elizabeth opened the door and almost stepped right into Mr. Darcy.
“My apologies, Miss Bennet.” He bowed. “I was returning to inform you that my stable master will have the horses prepared for us tomorrow morning.”
Elizabeth bit her lip. “I do not usually consider myself a horsewoman.” Nor had she left the Library for the past four years, until today.
He gave her a look of sympathy. “I am afraid I see no other option. You know we cannot take Hespera, as the poem itself forbade familiars. A carriage will take far longer, and it will not be able to travel the most direct route, nor the final portion at all.”
Elizabeth nodded reluctantly.
Dinner that evening was quiet. Georgiana was still sleeping, although Mrs. Reynolds promised to look in on her. Mr. Darcy had arranged for a young woman to come from Lambton to stay with Georgiana, as Mrs. Reynolds had other responsibilities that could not be ignored.
They woke early so they could be on their way just after sunrise. Elizabeth hurried down to the stable yard, stopping when she saw Mr. Darcy at his horse’s side.
He had his back to her as he adjusted something in the saddlebag, and she realised, to her alarm, that it was a pistol.
Her blood ran cold. Did he expect trouble along the route?
“I am ready,” Mr. Darcy said, turning. He lifted Elizabeth into her side-saddle and then mounted his own horse.
She checked to be sure that her own saddlebag contained the Library’s book. If the Library was offering aid along their way, it would be foolish not to accept it.
Mr. Darcy took the lead, and Elizabeth’s eyes dropped to his saddlebags. She swallowed.
Where was Mr. Wickham? Did he know that Mr. Darcy had gone to the Library? Was he in a position to watch them depart on their quest?
He must have travelled to the same site in order to create the Scottish Word. Did he know that they would have to do the same in order to get the cure? And if so . . . how far might he go to prevent it?
And the real adventure begins!
I hope you enjoyed this new installment of Mr. Darcy’s Enchanted Library and the glimpse into Georgiana’s desperate situation. Now Darcy and Elizabeth are on the road together, but with so much unresolved between them, will they be able to work together to save Georgiana?
Come back next Wednesday to find out what happens next in a new chapter by Victoria Kincaid!