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The Curse Chapter 24

July 08, 2018 02:53AM
Hi. So... I'm not dead. Thought you'd all like to hear that. Sorry it's been so long. I actually had this chapter ready to go before Christmas of last year, but due to it's content, it was not something I was comfortable posting during the Christmas season. Then RL got in the way and just started snowballing, and the next thing I knew it had been 9 months since I posted. Sorry again. I can't promise regular updates, but I will attempt not to go so long between posts.

Thanks to dreeem, priscillatls, noagnes, Karin E Lb, and Lily for their beta work.

Content warning: this chapter contains attempted sexual violence (not successful) and may be disturbing to some readers

Chapter 24

Lizzy helped Mary wash her face, and then they sat on the bed.

“Would you like me to call Richard for you?” Lizzy asked, bringing her fingers to her forehead briefly. “I am sure he would come if you asked him to. I could even fetch him, so he would be here quickly.”

Mary’s lips twitched in a half-hearted smile, but it faded quickly. “I just wish Mama could have been happy for me.”

“I am sorry you had to see that,” Lizzy said, rubbing Mary’s back.

“Is that…” Mary paused then forced herself to complete the sentence. “Is that how it is for you all the time? I knew Mama did not get along with you, but I never thought she said such things.”

Lizzy gave an uncomfortable shrug. “She is not always so harsh,” she said diplomatically, trying not to think of the things Mrs. Bennet had told Collins about her.

“I am more worried about what Mr. Collins will try to do,” she changed the subject. “I do not think he has given up so easily. I will stay here with you tonight.”

“No, Lizzy, you cannot!” Mary exclaimed. “If you use all your time tonight, you will not be able to go to the ball tomorrow. Please do not miss it for my sake.”

Lizzy felt a wave of disappointment at the idea of not being able to spend time with Mr. Darcy at the ball. She hoped he would understand the reason she could not come.

“There will be other balls,” Lizzy said too heartily. “But I would never forgive myself if something happened to you.”

“You do not really think Mr. Collins is so bad, do you?”

“I think I would not like to take the chance,” Lizzy hedged.

“What if Jane were to spend the night with me? Then surely I would be safe?”

Lizzy hesitated. It was a tempting prospect; even now she felt the urge to barricade all her sisters in one room so she could protect them. But would Jane be able to fight off Collins if he were to attempt an attack? Lizzy knew she was the only one that could safely counter his magic. She shook her head.

“No, let Jane be. If he tries to use magic on the two of you, you would be no better off with her than by yourself. It must be me, Mary.”

“Then promise me, if half the night is gone and he still has not moved, you will go to the dower house? Save a little time for yourself?”

Lizzy paused. “If I feel it is safe, I will go to the dower house,” she conceded. “But I do not think I can rest easy until I know he is out of the house.” She thought about Mr. Darcy’s plan to have Collins recalled and smiled. If only it had come to fruition already!

“Lizzy,” Mary complained gently.

“Let us get ready for dinner,” Lizzy interrupted.

The evening meal was unusually sober. Neither Mrs. Bennet nor Collins joined them. The engagement of Mary and Richard was celebrated, but no one could mistake the pall that hung over the air. Mr. Darcy sent a questioning tendril toward Lizzy.

Is everything well here? he asked in concern.

Yes, she answered slowly.

He gave her an expectant look, waiting patiently. Her face warmed; their silent conversations had never been so open before. Lizzy’s desire to hide her family’s secrets warred with the urge to place her trust in Mr. Darcy. He had already helped her so many times before; what was one more?

Mr. Collins attempted to propose to Mary today, she admitted. Her refusal was not taken well by everyone.

His eyes flickered around the table, clearly noticing the absences but choosing not to comment.

I am sorry that he caused you any pain. I wish I could have got him removed sooner.

No, she replied. You tried, and that is… Thank you. She met his warm grey eyes, feeling her connection to him deepen. Her heart thrummed with awareness. She could almost feel him, as though his soul was reaching out to touch hers.

Richard chose that moment to clear his throat loudly. Mr. Darcy jerked his gaze away and scowled at his cousin. Lizzy hid a smile, guessing that Richard was teasing Mr. Darcy. In the next moment it was her turn, for Mr. Bennet made contact with her mind.

Have a thought you would like to share? he asked in amusement.

No, she responded with distinct coolness.

The smile faded from his face. Lizzy, he sighed. I am sorry for what happened earlier. Perhaps I have let too many things slide where your mother is concerned. If Mr. Collins truly distresses you so much, I will inform him that his invitation to stay has expired.

The offer was too late to take back Mrs. Bennet’s cruel words or Collins’ lecherous stares, but at least Mr. Bennet was making an effort.

Thank you, Papa, she said, and gave him a wan smile. She would still be standing guard tonight, but it was a relief to know that one way or another, Collins would be gone soon.

The gentlemen from Netherfield did not stay after dinner, but chose to leave in deference to their hostess’ indisposition. They lingered in the entry hall with the three eldest Bennet sisters, quietly taking their leave. Lizzy watched her sisters with satisfaction, standing a little apart from them. Richard and Mary were nearly touching, holding hands as they bowed their heads to whisper endearments to each other. Jane and Mr. Bingley were almost as close, and something about Mr. Bingley’s broad smile and Jane’s pleased blush brought hope to Lizzy that they might be progressing in their own courtship soon.

She sensed a presence near her shoulder and shifted to lean against Mr. Darcy. It felt good to rest against his bulk, warm body contrasting nicely with his cold magic.

“Miss Elizabeth?” he asked uncertainly, his hand hovering over her side.

Belatedly she realized that while it was common to have contact with him when she was a dragon, she did not usually lean on him so as a human. Lizzy immediately straightened.

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Darcy,” she said, feeling her cheeks heat in embarrassment.

“I did not mind,” he responded. He hesitated, then reached out and gently touched her chin, raising her face to his.

“I hope you know you can lean on me any time. I will always be there for you,” he said in a low tone.

Lizzy’s heart thumped hard in her chest and her mouth felt dry. She had no doubt that he meant it. In the time she had known him, she had become convinced that he was the very best of gentlemen.

“Thank you,” she whispered, unable to speak louder.

“I look forward to seeing you at the ball tomorrow,” he said, his grey eyes seeming to convey some message beyond mere words.

She felt a sudden longing for the ball, for the time they would spend together. “Yes, I look forward to not-dancing with you,” she smiled impishly, pleased at the way his lips turned up in return.

“It will be my privilege,” he vowed with mock-solemnity. Then the teasing faded from his face. “I hope I am not too forward, but there is a matter I should like to speak with you about.”

She felt immediate concern for him, and pressed her hand to his sleeve. “Anything, Mr. Darcy.”

He caught her hand and brought it to his mouth, placing a light kiss on her fingers. Her stomach swooped and her knees trembled.

“Until then, Miss Elizabeth,” he promised huskily, and then was gone.

It took Lizzy almost a full minute to recover her wits. Her mind was spinning, wondering what subject he wished to broach at the ball, and why he would think it forward. It was impossible to think of turning him away; he had never been repulsed by her forwardness, the least she could do was listen to his. She kept returning to his kiss on her fingers, the feel of his lips, the hint of cold magic under soft flesh, the warmth of his breath.

Lizzy respected Mr. Darcy greatly. She considered him one of her dearest friends. But what if…? Here she was lost for words, for nothing in her life as a dragon had prepared her for the feelings he stirred in her chest. He made her feel like more than a dragon, like there was more to human life that she was still missing, but that he might introduce her to.

“Lizzy,” Mary nudged her, startling Lizzy into movement again.

“Yes, what is it?” she asked, flustered that she had been caught in a moment of inattention.

“Please reconsider, you must be at that ball tomorrow.”

It was a dose of bitter medicine to remember that she may not be able to attend the ball.

Still, there was no hesitation as she shook her head and said, “No, Mary, I need to stay with you tonight.”

“But Mr. Darcy—”

“If I cannot go, I will speak with him,” she tapped her temple. “I am sure he would understand.” But she felt an ache at the back of her throat at the thought of missing Mr. Darcy.

Lizzy was restless that night as she prepared for bed. It had been a long time since she had slept as a human instead of in her dragon form. She was not used to being inside the house, closed in by warm air, instead of outside in the cold and freedom. The night called to her, urging her to spread her wings and fly. She longed to go to Netherfield and ask what Mr. Darcy wanted of her.

Lizzy kept prodding at the band around her ribs, like worrying at a sore tooth, trying to guess how many hours she had as a human and if she would be able to go to the ball tomorrow. And yet her dragon heart burned hot with the feel of danger to her sister. Even in Mary’s room, with the door locked and the armoire moved in front of the door, she still felt the threat lurking around them.

“Stop moving!” Mary hissed and pinched her arm as they lay in bed.

Lizzy huffed, but turned onto her side and forced herself not to move. She could not help but to wonder if Mr. Darcy was sleeping well tonight, or if he also lay awake and unable to settle. She tried to think of what he might ask of her at the ball, but every suggestion that came to her seemed just as unlikely as the last. Eventually her imposed idleness gave way to sleep.

The first thing that Lizzy became aware of was a heaviness to the room. She struggled groggily to come to her senses, disorientated at first. This was not her dower house, but some place hot and airless. What had woken her?

Her instincts shrieked a warning just as something heavy fell on top of her. Fetid breath made her gag as hands scrabbled for her throat. Lizzy fought against the weight holding her down, even as she recognized Collins.

“Sinful whore,” he snarled, “I should have guessed you would be lying in corruption with your own sister. I will have you both now, claim what is mine and purge the wickedness from you!”

Fully awake now, Lizzy bucked under him, unable to gain leverage even with her strength. She could not draw breath to scream; her dragon roared silently within her. Fear, disgust and anger pounded at her chest, threatening to erupt if only she could get some air. He continued to choke her with one hand, the other tearing at the blankets and trying to expose her. Their struggles woke Mary, who screamed and threw herself at Collins. To Lizzy’s astonishment, Mary bit hard at Collins’ arm, drawing blood.

Collins yelled and struck Mary hard enough that she fell off the bed. That distraction was all Lizzy needed; she brought her legs up under Collins and kicked for all she was worth. The merely mortal man flew across the room and crumbled to the floor. Lizzy rose from the bed, stalking toward her attacker with red rage nearly blinding her. Some noise was coming from her damaged throat, something inhuman and dragonish.

Collins rose unsteadily to his feet as there was pounding on the door.

“Mary! Lizzy!” Mr. Bennet shouted from outside the room.

“Papa!” Mary called out weakly.

The armoire was abruptly pushed out of the way with magic as the door was flung open. Mr. Bennet and the rest of household crowded into the room.

“It was him!” Mary pointed at Collins.

The disgraced parson looked around, and Lizzy felt his erratic magic rise. Without giving him time to use it, she reached out and savagely tore his magic away, not holding back. His eyes rolled up in his head and he collapsed to the floor, rendered unconscious by the sudden loss of his magic.

“What happened?” Mr. Bennet demanded, looking between his daughters and the fallen man.

Mary rose and staggered into her father’s arms, but Lizzy was struggling with her dragon nature. It was not enough to take Collins’ magic. She longed to rend him limb from limb, to sink her teeth into his chest and shake him for all she was worth. She wanted to burn him to ashes until he could not be recognized as something once alive. This foul madman had attacked her, attacked Mary, tried to violate them. He deserved all of her dragon fury vented at him.

She did not realize she was still growling until Mr. Bennet called her name repeatedly and gently touched her shoulder. She flinched from him, then realized who it was and joined Mary in a fierce hug.

“My girls, oh my poor girls,” Mr. Bennet sobbed, holding them both. “Your throat Lizzy, and Mary’s face. I am so sorry I did not listen to you.”

Lizzy shook hard in reaction, feeling dirty and pained. “I will be well,” she rasped, her rough voice belying her words. “Mary?”

“H-he did not hit m-me too hard,” Mary stammered, even though her cheek was clearly reddened by the mark of Collins’ fist.

Collins let out a groan. Mary shuddered and Lizzy turned toward him viciously, ready to release her dragon revenge on him.

“Allow me,” Mr. Bennet said grimly, passing Lizzy and Mary into Jane’s arms as he approached the downed figure. With a few deft spells, Mr. Bennet made sure Collins was bound tightly and would sleep until morning.

“Take him into the cellar and stand guard over him,” he ordered the house servants. “In the morning, I will see about his removal.”

Lydia, having realized what Collins had tried, marched over to the parson and delivered a sharp kick to his shins. Even though the unconscious man did not feel it, Lizzy still felt a vindictive pleasure.

“That is for trying to hurt my sisters!” Lydia declared.

Kitty started to follow suit, but Jane stopped her. “Have respect,” Jane warned her. “He has done a terrible thing, but you should not stoop to his level.”

The words did not help Lizzy’s thirst for retribution, and she only clung tighter to her sisters.

“Kitty, Lydia,” she called for them, needing to touch her family and assure herself that they were well. The girls came and Lizzy enfolded them all, her arms stretched as far as they would go.

It still was not enough until Kitty suggested, “We should go to the dower house.”

“It will be cold,” Mrs. Bennet protested faintly. She seemed bewildered, confused that the man she had championed had tried something so heinous and uncertain as to what would happen now with the inheritance.

“We will bring blankets,” Lydia suggested, “and Lizzy will keep us warm enough. Come Mary, I will carry yours and mine.”

“If you go ahead, Lizzy, I will cast a spell to ensure they do not get chilled before reaching the house,” Mr. Bennet offered.

Lizzy felt overwhelmed for a moment, moved beyond words for what her sisters were doing for her. She needed to have them close, and they were doing so in a way that would assuage her dragon nature. With a last squeeze, she released her sisters and ran down the stairs. It was probably better to keep some distance between her and Collins as well.

Outside, the cold air went a long way to soothing both her throat and her temper. It was even better when she was able to slip her human flesh for dragon scales. She blew fire into the dower house, warming the ground and then letting the flames die out. Her sisters came out in a little knot, surrounded by Papa’s familiar magic. She recognized that the spell was another sort of apology, meant to bolster her strength. Lizzy was already full of magic from stealing Collins’, but she accepted the spell none the less, Papa’s magic smelling like worn leather books, warm fire and brandy.

Once her sisters were in the cottage, Lizzy slipped inside and barricaded the door with her own body. She lay down and her sisters all piled against her sides, Jane, Lydia and Kitty silently agreeing to put Mary in the middle. They covered themselves with their quilts, and then Lizzy gently laid her wing across all of them. They had not slept like this, wrapped together like a pile of puppies, since they were much younger, but this night they all needed the comfort of harkening back to happier times.

Lizzy curled her neck and tail around her sisters, forming the best protection she could for them. Between their blankets and Lizzy’s body heat, they had more than warmth to keep the girls from getting cold. Lizzy listened to her sisters’ breathing, feeling them relax and fall asleep against her. It helped to calm her, but her mind remained anxious. What if she had not decided to guard Mary that night? Or what if she had agreed to let Jane and Mary sleep together? Collins could have hurt them worse, could have forced a compromise that would have torn the family apart. What he had done was bad enough, but it had caused no lasting damage.

She was never more grateful for her curse than when it had allowed her to defend herself!

Lizzy should have listened to her instincts more when it came to Collins. They had never led her wrong, from Mr. Darcy to Wickham, Collins and Richard. She should have forced Papa to listen to her instead of dismissing her. If Collins had been forced to leave before the disastrous proposal, it would have saved the heartache she felt now.

Her limbs trembled, only now giving in to the fear reaction of the attack. She longed for reassurance, and there was only one person that came to mind. Without hesitation she stretched her mind toward Netherfield, seeking out a familiar presence.

Mr. Darcy was asleep, but he stirred as she brushed against his mind.

Elizabeth? he asked tiredly, then sharpened. What is wrong?

She could only answer with a whimper, swallowing a soft keen in her throat.

Elizabeth! Where are you? I will come for you. Should I bring Richard and Bingley?

No, Mr. Darcy, she finally said, Please do not disturb them. I am sorry for waking you, I should not have done so.

She tried to cut the connection, but no sooner had she done so than Mr. Darcy was reaching out to her.

Please, Elizabeth, tell me what has happened? I cannot rest until I know you are well.

I am well, she said shakily, but it was not the truth. I will be well. She was sorry to have alarmed him, but already she could feel his voice having a steadying effect on her.

Tell me, he pleaded.

So she did, only speaking in the broadest terms to avoid reliving it herself.

I will freeze him to solid ice, Mr. Darcy promised darkly.

Please, do not trouble yourself over him, she implored.

You cannot ask me to do nothing when he has attacked you! he cried passionately. His wild voice sent a lance of warmth to her heart, and she was able to release her tension for the first time since the incident.

No, you mistake me, she explained. Just knowing you are concerned, that is enough for me. I want nothing more to do with him. He is not worth your trouble.

Elizabeth, I will always be concerned for you. Never doubt that.

She sighed, feeling her muscles relax. Thank you. I do not doubt it. Just… thank you. She was loath to end the contact, but she felt guilty about keeping him awake.

Would you like me to read to you? he asked.

You would do that? Her wings fluttered in excitement before she stilled them, mindful of her sleeping sisters.

Mr. Darcy chuckled in answer. There is little that I would not do for you, if you must know. In this case, I fear it is a rather selfish move on my part. I am not willing to let you go yet.

She felt breathless at his declaration. I would like that, very much.

I received a letter from my sister just yesterday. I know you have never met her, but I am sure she would not mind if I read parts of it to you. I should like you to meet her someday.

I would love to meet any relation of yours,
she admitted shyly.

Maybe not all of them, he laughed dryly. I have the letter here, let me begin reading: ‘The pups grow ever larger. They got into the kitchen garden and Mrs. Reynolds had to talk to Cook for an hour to calm her down. Cook threatened to cut them up for soup! Mrs. Annesley says I should not laugh at Cook’s misfortune, but I saw her hiding a smile behind her fan when she thought I was not looking. I have been working on the music piece you sent me. The fingering is tricky, but I hope to be much improved when I see you again…’

Mr. Darcy’s calming voice, reading the cheerful words of his sister, soon lulled Lizzy into a peaceful sleep.

The Curse Chapter 24

Autumn DJuly 08, 2018 02:53AM

Re: The Curse Chapter 24

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Autumn DJuly 10, 2018 10:45AM

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Re: The Curse Chapter 24

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Re: The Curse Chapter 24

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Re: The Curse Chapter 24

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Re: The Curse Chapter 24

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