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Changeling Child - Part 3

by Natasja Rose 8 months ago in Short Story · updated 6 months ago
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A Jane Austen Fantasy Variation

Prologue

Part 1

Part 2

By Chris Greninger on Unsplash

By the time Mary was considered Out to Society, music had become an exercise in frustration.

The Warrior of the Fair Folk, whom she still saw but rarely and always at random, had been correct on the subject of excellence. Proficency required passion. On the Pianoforte, Mary found herself much in demand to play reels and jigs, where she could envision revels on summer nights, dancing under a winter moon, parties that lasted a hundred years and yet no time at all.

When young ladies were called to exhibit individually, however... well, it would require someone far less observant than Mary to fail to notice how everyone sighed and waited for the performance to be over.

But young ladies exhibited themselves on the Pianoforte, and thus so did Mary. She played, and watched the difference in how people reacted to the folk songs she sang and the concertas that Elizabeth had the range for, and ignored the comments until the social event was over and she could flee to the hermitage. At least there, she could play what she liked.

At least there, no-one could see her tears.

By Nicola Carter on Unsplash

Proficiency was not achieved without practice, no matter how exhausting Mary found the bland nicities of polite conversation.

Really, what was so unseemly about an inspired or impassioned debate? If it was to be disapproved of, why did the Papers constantly have sketches of the House of Lords shouting at each other across the floor of Parliment? She tried to put it out of her mind, fixing her gaze on Mr Whyte’s forehead, to better focus on the Reverand’s words. “- suitable for public discourse.”

In Mary’s opinion, there were a number of things in the bible that were certainly not suitable for polite conversation. Sodom and Gomorrah in general, for instance, and the daughters of Lot in particular. The Bible did not shy away from murder, or the crimes of the ungodly.

Perhaps Mr Whyte meant that the bible, being a Holy Book, was by definition fot for discussion by the Faithful, and those speaking on it should use their own discretion? Of course, that relied on the debaters having any sense of discretion in the first place, but Fordyce urged young ladies to be agreeable and to avoid discord. “I quite agree, Mr Whyte. What could be more suitable?”

There. The reverend immediately launched into a speech of other notable books, and all Mary had to do was stand and look attentive until they were interrupted.

By Ann Fossa on Unsplash

The first piece of music that Mary composed was not one that she would ever be able to play in a drawing room.

In a very technical sense, she could, for no-one would stop her until it was too late, and interrupting a lady while she was exhibiting was the height of rudeness. Mary had no desire to be subjected to Mama’s nerves for a week or more, however, or to bear the blame for every Matron from Longbourn to Meryton having palpitations. Better to keep this one between herself and the intended recipient.

By Jeffrey Dungen on Unsplash

Mindful of who she was composing for, Mary tried to match the notes to incorporate the babble of the small stream that ran behind the hermitage, and the birdsong was a constant background noise. The notes must be kept small and soft, like a serenade or nocturne. A simple melody, though not quite so simple that Mary could be accused of not making an effort.

Mary wasn’t sure why it was so important to her that she get the composition right. In repayment for her lovely pianoforte, of course, but there was more to it. Perhaps it was the desire to see her warrior smile again, or the soft glow of satisfaction and pleasure that came with not being compared unfavorably to her sisters.

Well, it mattered little, in the end. Mary settled herself on the bench, flexing her fingers before placing them on the correct keys. This was one piece she would enjoy practicing.

By Elaine Howlin on Unsplash

“I have not the words to describe it.”

Mary jumped in her seat, her fingers flying off into a discordant note. Ceasing her playing, she frowned at the warrior, whose expression had changed from wonder to amusement. “If you insist on sneaking up on me like a mischievous cat, I shall attach a bell to you!”

He laughed and bowed. “I welcome and eagerly await the attempt, Mary Melody.”

The warrior was dressed differently this time, in a flowing garment that was something between a robe and a shirt. The brocade pattern was somehow both simple and the most intricate thing Mary had ever seen, and she longed to examine it closer. To distract herself from blurting something ridiculous like a request to remove the garment, Mary folded her arms. “Well, I shan’t do so while you are expecting me. I am glad to see you again.”

He laughed again, and Mary found herself smiling in response. Her warrior sat beside her on the bench, and Mary started from the beginning, playing her composition through with more confidence that she ever thought she’d achieve. He applauded once she was finished, “Such a gift deserves to be heard before a larger audience.”

Mary shook her head, “I cannot play it at a ball or dinner party. Not here, anyway.”

He looked entirely too pleased. “No. Not here. Elsewhere.”

Mary nearly dropped the pages she was gathering. “You mean... at a Court?”

Not St James, or anywhere like that. A Sidhe court. Her warrior nodded. “The change of season approaches, and with it the revels. I invite you to join me at one, and I promise to return you home safely afterward.”

The offer was tempting, more tempting than Mary wanted to admit. To attend a dance where she would fit in, rather than awkwardly standing out, was something she never imagined. To have her performance welcomed, rather than endured. To be asked to dance because she was desired, not in an attempt to impress the young man’s actual target... Perhaps it was foolish and impulsive, but stubbornness in pursuit of a goal was the one Bennet trait that Mary possessed in spades.

Yet, she had heard stories of mortals who attended a dance that they thought lasted only a day and night, only to return home and find that years or decades or even centuries had passed. Clearly, some logistics would be required. “How long would I be away?”

Her warrior tilted his head in thought. “A day, or perhaps two. The passage of time Underhill is not fixed. The more mortal the visitor, whether they were invited or imposed their presence... it makes a difference. A Changeling child, invited and escorted, would find Time passing almost normally.”

Despite her natural caution, Mary gave the idea serious consideration. “Jane and Elizabeth are going to visit my Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in Town. If I claim a headache, I could be away as long as three days before anyone takes notice, especially if I ask Kitty and Lydia to look in on me and bring a tray.”

He raised an eyebrow, “You think that they will not?”

Lydia was twelve, and fancied that she had better things to do than tend to a sibling who would only complain that her chatter made a headache worse. Kitty, newly 14, followed where Lydia led, and Mary had always been invisible to her parents. Papa might look in on her when Lizzy reminded him in a letter, but if Lizzy or Jane didn’t know to ask, it might not even come up.

Mary shook her head, too used to indifference to be sad about it. “They are of an age where nothing holds their attention for long. Mama will be busy socialising and visiting the tennants, without Jane and Lizzy to help her, and Papa rarely leaves his study. I will not be missed.”

I hope you enjoyed the latest chapter! If you can't wait for the next one, go check out my other original works on Amazon, or the book teasers on my Vocal profile...

Read Part Four HERE

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Short Story

About the author

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, writing bits of everything I think of!

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

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