Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library, Chapter 1
Welcome to the first chapter of Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library, a full-length Pride & Prejudice fantasy variation, a group story written round-robin style. You can read the first 5 chapters here while we prepare the entire story for publication.
The story is written by our authors, but the plot was chosen by readers on 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. Then Monica Fairview, Sarah Courtney, Victoria Kincaid, Lari Ann O’Dell, Melanie Rachel, and yours truly, Abigail Reynolds, got to work turning it into a novel. Oh, the plot brainstorming and wild characterization! Oh, the surprises we have in store for you! I can’t wait to hear what you think!
I won the lottery and got to write the first chapter. And here, without further ado, is Chapter One of Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library!
Darcy straightened as the doctor emerged from Georgiana’s sickroom, revealing a glimpse of his sister’s wan, thin face resting on her pillow, her eyes closed in exhaustion, before her maid closed the door firmly.
“Well?” Darcy demanded.
The doctor shifted his bag from one hand to another. “There is no improvement, as you are no doubt aware. I have given her a sleeping remedy to make her more comfortable, but there is no cure I can offer for a magical malady. Have you consulted a medical mage?”
“Yes.” Every single one he could bribe or threaten to make the journey to Pemberley to examine Georgiana, and they had all said the same thing – that this was beyond their abilities.
“I am sorry, sir.” He bowed and left, taking Darcy’s last scrap of hope with him.
Darcy rubbed the back of his neck as the doctor’s footsteps faded away. Surely there must be something he could do! But Georgiana would need time to recover from the doctor’s visit before he could sit with her again, and he had exhausted his last lead. No amount of brooding would help her.
All that was left was for him to distract himself. He might as well be useful, so he headed to his study and the long-neglected pile of mail his secretary had left him.
The first few were invitations which he pushed aside. As if he had any desire to be entertained! Then he spotted the familiar spiky handwriting of Lady Catherine de Bourgh on the next envelope. With a groan, he broke the seal.
My dear nephew,
I will waste no time in coming to the point. The Patronesses of Magic have met and we are in unanimous agreement that you must marry immediately. We are well aware of your objections to the idea, but now that Georgiana cannot produce an heir to Pemberley, it is time for you to give up your stubbornness and do your duty. We have picked out three candidates for you to choose among —
With an oath, he crumpled the letter and threw it into the fire. Devil take her! How dare she assume that Georgiana would die! And he was not a breeding stud to answer to her demands.
His fingers reached out to stroke the left-hand drawer of his desk in the familiar spot where the finish was shiny from all the times he had undertaken the same action. Everything he had left of Elizabeth Bennet was in that drawer – the few notes she had written him, the sketch her sister had drawn of her. Five years, and the wounds were still fresh.
And the damnable thing was that his aunt was right. For Pemberley’s sake, he did need to marry, intolerable as it might be.
A soft rapping at the door preceded the entrance of his valet. His so-called valet. Bickerstaffe, the last person he wished to see right now.
The chair scraped on the rug as he pushed it back. “I have already received the Patronesses’ recommendation,” Darcy snapped. “And I do not wish to hear one more word about it.”
“The Patronesses can wait.” Bickerstaffe held up a piece of paper. “There is more important news afoot. The Great Library has reappeared at last.”
It took a moment to sink in, but then Darcy jumped to his feet. “Are you certain? It is open?”
“I just received word. It is certain.”
The Great Library, home to the spell books that just might hold the answers to Georgiana’s illness. It had been inaccessible for half a dozen years, since the death of the last Librarian. And now it was open again.
Excitement filled his throat. At last, a ray of hope! “I will leave for Oxford immediately,” he announced.
Bickerstaffe pursed his lips. “The library may be accessible, but that does not mean you will be admitted. The questioning can be difficult and painful, and there is no guarantee of success. We must discuss your strategy.”
Darcy gritted his teeth. “You have half an hour, while my bags are being packed.” Bickerstaffe no doubt meant well, but Darcy had no intention of allowing Georgiana to suffer for a minute longer than necessary.
Darcy told Hespera to circle three times before gliding down into the square in front of the Great Library. He could feel the griffin’s annoyance at the extra effort after the long flight, but the people of Oxford needed the advance warning. Even on the first high circle, he could see people looking up and starting to run at the sight of the griffin.
He shook his head in annoyance. He would never have brought the griffin into a city if the Library did not require the presence of his familiar.
The square was almost empty by the time Hespera’s paws touched down on the cobblestones. Her eagle’s head turned from side to side. What an interesting place, even if the inhabitants are cowards.
He swung his leg over her back and dismounted. Those who have never seen a live griffin before are naturally in awe, he told her. He needed her to be on her best behavior today, and that meant placating her vanity.
That building has statues of griffins. There is something odd about them, though.
They guard the library with magic, and are the first test we must pass. The two stone griffins held crossed swords which barred entry to the great metal doors. Come.
He drew in a deep breath before leading the griffin to stand in front of the imposing statues. This should be the easiest of the tasks he would face, but it was magic far beyond his understanding, and so much depended upon it. Steeling himself, Darcy said, “We beg leave to enter the Great Repository.” No one ever called it that in this modern age, but the tests relied on use of the library’s proper name.
At first nothing happened, but then a grinding sound began, the doors swung open, and the two statues raised their stone swords to allow Darcy and Hespera to pass.
It was uncanny to see, even though he had known what would happen. The Council of Wizards had been arguing for centuries over how it worked – both how the statues moved and how they knew to admit only those with magical familiars. Not to mention how this relatively small building could possibly contain the hundreds of rooms that comprised the Great Library. If the Fae who had built the library knew the answers, they were not sharing them with mortals.
A prickle went down Darcy’s spine as he walked between the stone swords. Hespera trailed a few steps behind him. She disliked being indoors, but he had promised her a new gold chain for her cooperation.
Beyond the doors was a long columned room that would not have looked out of place in a Roman palace, its marble walls lined with portraits of elderly women, some dressed in the manner of medieval times. A few men, too, but mostly women. It was completely unfurnished apart from a desk where sat a dark-skinned man in an embroidered cap. In front of him lay a closed ledger and an inkwell, just as Bickerstaffe had described it.
Darcy approached the desk. “I wish to see the Librarian,” he said firmly. “I am Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, and my familiar is Hespera.”
The scribe gave him the barest glance and opened the ledger to a blank page with two columns. “Welcome to the Gallery of Librarians. Your name does not matter here, only your motives and actions. Why do you wish to see the Librarian?”
Bickerstaffe had coached him on this question. “My sister is deathly ill from an unknown magical malady. The doctors have said that the cure may lie in the Library’s spellbooks.”
He made a careful check mark in the right-hand column. “Your concern for your sister is laudable, but the world is full of people who are deathly ill. Why does your sister deserve to be saved?”
How dare he ask such a question? But with Georgiana’s life at stake, Darcy had no choice but to answer. “My sister is responsible for many lives. She and her selkie familiar sail with the Navy, and her magic has saved hundreds of sailors from drowning.”
The scribe dipped his quill in the inkwell, but hesitated over the ledger. “She has saved British sailors.” He sounded dubious, leaning forward enough to reveal pointed ears beside his embroidered hat. A fae!
Darcy swallowed hard. “Yes. A great many of them.”
He studied the ledger with a frown, and then placed a tick in the left-hand column. “The Great Library takes no sides in wars. Why else does she deserve to live?”
Darcy’s breath caught in his chest. If Georgiana’s work was not enough, or that she had been the first in a generation to bond to a selkie, what hope could there be? But he had to try. “She has a rare talent for music. Her playing often brings tears to people’s eyes.” And he might never hear her play again. “She is but twenty years of age, and is all that is generous and kind.”
The fae made a tiny tick in the right-hand column. “What else?”
Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, Griffin Keeper, never had to beg for anything, and to do so now was a sickening sensation. “I love her dearly. She is my only remaining family, and I would be bereft without her. I would give my own life to save hers.”
But it earned him another check in the right-hand column, so it was worth it. He would beg all day to get inside the library, if that was what it took.
“You say she is your only family, yet is that not your own doing? Is there a reason you have not married and expanded your family?”
Darcy’s stomach churned. It had to be magic, that this stranger could so quickly narrow in his most painful vulnerability, something that he never spoke of. But if it would save Georgiana, he would humiliate himself utterly. “Some years ago, there was a woman I wished to marry, but I was persuaded against the match owing to her lack of magic,” he said in a clipped voice. “I would have been neglecting my duty and harming my family if I married her. But I wish most dearly she could have been my wife.”
The fae’s expression did not change. “If that was years ago, you have had plenty of time to marry another, more suitable woman.”
A surge of bile rose in his throat. “Do you think it is acceptable to marry one woman while my heart belongs to another? I do not, and I will not. They said I would forget my first love quickly. Perhaps someday I shall, but that day has not come yet. And so my sister is all I have. I will do anything for her.”
A check in the right-hand column. Thank God!
The scribe closed the ledger. “You may present your case to Abraxas. I will take you to the courtyard, where you will await him.”
He had done it, made it past the first line of questioning! But it was only one step, and everyone said that gaining the Librarian’s approval was the hardest part. “I thank you.”
Fortunately for Darcy’s sanity, the next test proved embarrassingly easy, which gave him time to regain his shattered equilibrium. Even after all these years, speaking of Elizabeth hurt.
This, in comparison, was nothing. True, it would be a severe trial of most men’s courage to face the full-grown griffin at close quarters, but for a Griffin Keeper like Darcy, it was all in a day’s work. Not to mention that he had his own griffin by his side.
The griffin Abraxas seemed far more interested in Hespera than Darcy in any case. After briefly asking Darcy to state his business, he engaged in a long silent conversation with Hespera, one which left her tossing her head in annoyance.
Finally Abraxas said to Darcy, “This way. You must go alone; your griffin will remain here.”
Darcy followed him through a winding stone corridor with deep-set closed doors to each side. At the foot of a narrow circular staircase, the griffin lifted his front paw. “You will find the Librarian in the room above.”
But when Darcy reached the top, there were three doors. Only one of them was open, so he chose that one and stepped inside.
The room was surprisingly lofty and large. Sunlight filtered in through high arched windows, illuminating bookshelves that lined each wall, rising at least twenty feet, if not more. The air was redolent with the dusty vanilla scent of old leather-bound books, with a hint of lavender that teased his senses with its familiarity.
But there was no Librarian to be seen, only a young woman perched atop a ladder who was replacing a book on a shelf. Perhaps she could give him further directions.
He cleared his throat. “Good afternoon, Miss. I wonder if you could assist me –”
His stomach dropped as she turned to face him. It could not be. He blinked his eyes twice, as if that could change his vision.
“Elizabeth,” he whispered.
So, any guesses what happens next? Or what happened five years ago? What questions do you have? And don’t forget to come back next week to find out what happens next in Monica Fairview’s heart-stopping chapter!
Edited to add: Now available – Chapter 2 by Monica Fairview
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Just wow. I don’t believe how much this novel will cost when published. I will buy it, or have someone buy it for me (more likely). Wonderful statt!
Sigh. Kathy. Read before you post. *Wonderful start*
Thank you, Kathy!! So glad you’re enjoying it. We don’t know yet if we’ll publish it, but fortunately, we’ll post every last word of it here first, so everyone will get to read the whole book for free! This is our gift to you.
What a great beginning! I can’t wait for the next chapter.
Thank you, Catherine! Having had a sneak preview of the next chapter, I can say for certain that you won’t be disappointed! 🙂
Oh, I am loving this!
What on earth is Elizabeth doing there, if she’s not magical. Or is she? Or… is it really her?
Can’t wait to read more.
Ooh, I love it when readers are asking questions! Not to mention when Darcy discovers that everything he believes is wrong… 😉
Well, you’ve got me. Can’t wait to read the next chapter
The next chapter by Monica Fairview is pretty darn fabulous, I have to admit!
Absolutely brilliant! Can’t wait for the next chapter!
Talk about setting the tone! What a great exposition scene – dropping hints but leaving so many questions to be answered. Beautifully and imaginatively executed, Abigail. Looking forward to learning what comes next!
Thanks, Debbie! I admit it took a bit of effort to fit so many different story elements into one little chapter, but it was fun making it work.
Wow! What a great start! When’s the next chapter to be posted? When completed, will it be published? If yes, put me on the pre-order list!
So glad you’re enjoying it! New chapters will be posted every Wednesday. We won’t make a decision about publication until we’re closer to the end of the story, but I”m hopeful!
Wow what a beginning! I loved that the actions started straight away and a mystery about what happened with Darcy and Elizabeth 5 years ago. Has she been hiding that she has magic or is she part fae? She obviously has a secret to be found in the magic library anyway so I love that! Poor Darcy that he loves her but thinks he can’t have her. I hope she is a really powerful magician that makes them all eat their words!
Thanks! I’m rather looking forward to the ‘eating their words’ part myself! I’m currently working on a draft of a later chapter that’ll answer some questions about what happened five years ago, and it’s such fun.
Glad you like it so far, Tasha. I love our Darcy, but he made a serious error in judgement five years ago. And our Elizabeth is just so much fun! I hope you enjoy future chapters.
Apparently Elizabeth has more magic than he thought. I have so many questions!
Great start, Abigail! I love it.
Wendy, thanks so much! Yes, Elizabeth has quite definitely proved Darcy wrong on at least one subject!
Great start! I’m looking forward to reading more!
Thanks, Amy! So glad you’re enjoying it!
OMG! I can only assume Elizabeth is actually magical to be there? What on earth happened five years ago? Did Darcy just leave her or did something happen to her? Whatever happened, he needs to marry her now, magical or not. I’m absolutely certain she can cure Georgiana, I mean she’s Elizabeth Bennet!
I’m so looking forward to the next chapter.
Very good assumption, Glynnis! The events of five years ago will be gradually revealed, but I’ll give a little hint: we’re using a gender-swapped Persuasion as a bit of a model. Which is really fun! But poor Darcy who now needs answers from the woman who wasn’t good enough for him to marry five years ago… I do love torturing Darcy!
Oh my goodness! I just squealed in glee and scared the cat! What an exciting beginning to be sure. Poor Elizabeth abandoned because of being “unworthy”. Bad decision Darcy. I can’t wait to see what happens next 💜
Apologies to the cat! Yes, that was a very bad decision on Darcy’s part – in many ways!
Michell, I think “Bad decision Darcy” is actually his legal name . . .
Melanie, that would solve so many misunderstandings.
“*ahem*, It is embarrassing to admit, but my full legal name is Fitzwilliam Alexander George Fredrick [muffled] Bad decision Darcy…”
“Sorry, what was that last bit?”
“[strained] Bad decision Darcy.”
“Ah. That explains much that was perplexing me as I strove to understand your character.”
Is Georgiana unable to bear children because of her magical malady or was she perhaps injured or cursed during her work for the navy?
What an unfeeling letter for Lady Catherine to write, knowing Darcy must be distraught over Georgiana’s illness. (I doubt she believes he still suffers over the loss of Elizabeth.)
I will be interested to hear of the role the Patronesses of Magic play in the kingdom and among magicians. Since Darcy is flying in the open, Magic must be known and accepted.
I already have an idea for a sequel: Georgiana helps the navy battle Napoleon, and perhaps her music charms sirens into switching sides to help Britain.
OMG, I love that sequel idea!! You’re asking good questions here, too. I’ll give you one little hint on the Patronesses of Magic: they’re in charge of deciding which young ladies and gentlemen receive magical familiars, and therefore which will have powerful magic.
Wow! A fabulous start !
I can hardly wait for the next chapter!
Thanks, Carol! I can’t wait to see what you think of Chapter 2!
Can’t wait until the next chapter is out. A griffin and a kelpie great start for animal familiars.
Cheryl, I’m glad you like our familiars so far. It’s awesome that the readers voted for griffins to be featured. I liked griffins before working on this story, but now I love them! They are such fun to write!
Aren’t they great? Lari Ann O’Dell suggested the kelpie for Georgiana, and I think it’s perfect.
Cheryl, just in case you come back to look at this comment, yes, we originally thought Georgiana’s familiar was a kelpie! But plot demands made us change it to a selkie. Just didn’t want you to think you were making the kelpie up after I edited it out!
Wow! He spoke of Elizabeth and here she was in the Library. Is it really her or an illusion. Looking forward to more!
It’s really her – but that leaves more questions than answers!
I can’t wait a while week for the next chapter.
And I know what I want to be happening!
Woaw! Way to bury the lead!!! Not expecting that! totally mind blown and opened all potential avenues!
LOL! When I sat down to write this chapter, I knew exactly where I wanted it to end, and had no idea where to begin it!
I can tell I am going to love this story!
I hope so! I do!
Such a great beginning! I don’t recall if I chose magical library, but I hope so because I am intrigued in the direction it is going. I have some thoughts about why Elizabeth is the Librarian (if she is) and can’t wait to see if I am right. On to the next chapter! Thank you, Abigail!
Thanks! How Elizabeth came to be at the Library is a fascinating bit of backstory, and tells us a lot about Elizabeth’s character.
Oh my goodness! What a fantastic start! I can’t wait for more.
Glad you’re enjoying it, Jennifer!
Ok, you all have started this story off with a BIG WOW!!!! I can’t wait for the next chapter and see how Elizabeth came to be there and if she can even leave the library.
Yay! Those are great questions, and the answers will be coming soon!
Phenomenal. And the best title of any book ever. No one, human or fae, can possibly resist buying it!
Thank you, Diana! We thought long and hard about the title before finally agreeing on this one, so I’m happy it works for you and for the fae! 😉
Thanks, Diana! I was thinking of establishing a special price for fae who want to read it. Does one bottle of faerie wine, which tastes of elderflower and apple blossoms in the moonlight, seem like a fair price?
We what sort. Thought Elizabeth lacked shiv and here she is. I can’t wait. Thank you.
Just think how surprised Darcy is!
Oh myyyy! That’s one huge humdinger of a cliffie!
A question: are people in this universe born with magic, or is it something that develops (or not) as they grow up? If that’s the case, did Elizabeth “come into” her magic less than five years ago?
Can’t wait to find out if she’s become the new Librarian or if not, what she’s doing there.
Good question! Some people are born with the ability to do magic, but can’t do much with it unless they bond to an animal familiar. As to why Darcy thought Elizabeth didn’t have magic – that will be revealed as time goes on. 🙂
Snarky servants and self assured friends. I love it 🥰
So Elizabeth’s magic was concealed for a higher purpose? Mystery and magic – some of my favourite tropes. Write on, dear authors!
At your command, Lynley! I’m happy to do so! 😉
Elizabeth’s magic is one of the great mysteries of this story, so you should enjoy it!
OMG! this is such an amazing chapter 1. I’m guessing that Elizabeth is the new Librarian. I suspect the Library has resurrected itself because of Elizabeth’s age. If she has been the next Librarian all along, it was probably waiting for her to turn 25 (a common age for women to come into their “inheritance” back then) and claim her magical “inheritance”. (We know Georgiana is now 20 and is about 5 years +/- younger than Elizabeth… so that would make Elizabeth 25.) All speculation on my part of course. But very excited to see the next chapter. <3
I like the way you think zggd!! Can’t comment on any of it, but it’s always great fun when readers speculate.
zggd – a much more articulate statement of my own thoughts. Thanks for writing them down!
Excellent thinking! Thanks for your thoughts!
I love the beginning to this story!!! So looking forward to reading the next chapter. Beautifully, beautifully written!!!
Abigail has really started it with a huge splash, hasn’t she?
Thank you, Joan! You’re going to love Monica’s chapter, too!
This is going to be so good!
Elizabeth is the librarian, I’m sure of it. My guess is Darcy went to Lady Catherine to get permission from the Patronesses, and was denied.
I CAN’T WAIT FOR MORE.
Happy to hear it, Meaghan! We’re looking forward to more as well. 😀
Glad you’re enjoying it! And the Patronesses do have some sins to answer for. 🙂
OMG! What a great beginning. He meets Elizabeth again. Wonder what the years between have been like for her. Did she even know he cared? I’m guessing he just disappeared from her life and she moved on with hers.
I’m hoping she IS the Librarian.
Great questions, Gayle. All will be answered in due course!
You’re thinking, Gayle! I’d say your guess is looking in the right direction. It’s kind of a reverse Persuasion. 🙂
Thank you all for the fun that you will be unfolding for us. I am looking forward to reading the entire story, happy for the pieces that I voted for that will be incorporated, and also already wishing to purchase the final version. What an exciting start and, although it will be hard to wait for each new chapter, you have already begun to “increase my love [of this story] by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.”
LOL, what a perfect quote! One of the treats for us is to have this excellent conversation with our readers as the story develops, which is a different kind of suspense for us. 🙂 So glad you’re enjoying it!
Awesome first chapter. How many chapters will this story be?
I look forward to reading the next one.
No idea how many chapters it’ll be! Based on the story we have so far, I’d be surprised if it came in much below 20 chapters, but it could be a lot more!
I l9ved the first chapter, but i thought Elizabeth could be the librarian. Amd i don’t think he really loves Elizabeth, he was able to let her go. I cannot wait to read more.
Ooh, that’s a tricky one. Is it really love if he let her go? We’ll let you decide that as the story progresses. 🙂
Love love love this! I’m hopeful that Elizabeth is the Librarian! Can’t wait to read more. What an exciting beginning!
Thanks, Katie! It’s been such fun writing this. I just finished the draft of my next turn at this story!
Pingback:Mr. Darcy and the Enchanted Library, Chapter 2 – Magical Austen
Oh dear, I’m hooked.
That’s what I like to hear! 😉
I just discovered this one and I am already overwhelmed! What a beginning! Going directly to the next chapter. This is great, Abigail!
Thank you, Tere! So glad you’re enjoying it!
Pingback:Mr. Darcy and the Magical Library, Chapter Three – Magical Austen
I was following a thread which led me to a few words about Mr. Darcy and magic. Upon a whim I found this page and you have already blown me away with chapter one. Hespar was needed to gain entry to the Great Library of Magic; Elizabeth is a Librarian in the room that Darcy was admitted to; I think there is more going on here than meets the eye, so to say. Perhaps Darcy was only given so much time to, once again, let his belief in what his family demands disappear, let it go Darcy. Love, true love only comes around once in a life-time. You, Mr. Darcy are now, perchance given a rare second chance. Bon chance my friend and don’t muck it up.
Needles to say, I love this; I didn’t think I would, but I so love this. I know I am late in joining the ever growing throng of admirers, but I am jumping in with two feet, one body and mind and two arms. What a wonderful beginning, it grabs, holds and then you sit and wait with baited breath, okay you have to breathe. I am lucky that I can now read a few chapters and am definitely looking forward to purchasing this book and proudly displaying it on my bookshelf beside my Jane Austen mouse, Missy Lizzy.
Thank you for giving it a try, Christa! I know that for many readers it feels like a big stretch to combine fantasy with magic. When I published Mr. Darcy’s Enchantment, my most common comment was “I didn’t think I’d like this, but now I want more!” I’m sure Missy Lizzy will like it, too. 🙂