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Story [Sense & Sensibility] "Love Betters What is Best" | 2022 Kessel Run Challenge and More!

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Jan 13, 2022.

  1. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 9, 2002
    I can't say it enough how glad I am that you are getting so much out of this challenge. [face_love] [:D]

    Positive influence right here. ;) [face_mischief]

    (I was going to pretend to be indignant, but let's be real... I'm not. [face_batting])

    I don't know why, but it didn't fully hit me that this was that scenario until I read Brandon's name. And then I went "Oh. Oh." =((

    This whole paragraph was simultaneously creepy and heartbreaking and terrifying. Good job, Mira. [face_worried]

    [face_love]!! (But also super depressing given everything that comes after. :( :_|)

    It's the almost pleasantly that makes him so scary here. [face_plain]

    The juxtaposition of the ice cold father with his fire and brimstone son was incredibly effective. *shivers* Wow, I wouldn't ever want to live in that house. Seems like a miracle Brandon turned out as good as he did.

    :eek: His own son?! Damn, that's cold.

    I don't even really know what to say here except that I'm just sickened by the calculating detachment from any decent human emotion here, and that greed and a desire to dominate can cause people to manipulate their own children as pawns, and then that he thinks all those things he's listed would somehow make up for the cruelty she would endure as his oldest son's wife (but of course if she just does what she's told and fulfills her duties as a wife, there won't be any trouble, will there? [face_plain][face_plain][face_plain])... it's just so, so awful.

    Congrats, Mira, that was some gut-wrenching, high-level angst. =(( :_| I think you're definitely going to need to give us a glimpse of the fun and flirty idea, after that. ;)

    Okay, so now I just want to write all the happiness and fluff to make up for the emotional devastation of this fic...


    o_O :p
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2022
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  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    So, so much! [face_love] [:D]

    And I'd pretend to be indignant in return, but yeah, that would be a lie, too. :p [face_mischief]

    Yeah . . . =((

    I'll take simultaneously creepy and heartbreaking and terrifying. [face_mischief] Because, in all seriousness, these are the kind of villains who hit close to home for too many, and that's what makes them particularly scary. As such, it was almost difficult to write Mr. Brandon without him feeling too much like a mustache-twirling villain, you know? It . . . this just wasn't easy to write, in many ways. [face_plain]

    Apparently, I'm just a sucker for all of the ridiculous romantics in this fandom! [face_laugh] [face_love] (Even when it hurts. =(()

    Exactly. [face_plain]

    Right?? At this point Jane Austen read a bit more like the Brontë sisters. Heck, a lot of these implications went right over my head as a younger reader, and then this past year I did a double take and went: is she really saying what I *think* she's trying to say about the Brandon family dynamic? I mean, I know I'm taking a couple of lines and outrightly speculating from there, but it's still just awful, no matter how far you interpret words like "unkind" to mean. Then, as far as the brothers are concerned - isn't that so sadly the way it seems to go when it comes to abuse? Some can't help but continue that cycle, while others try to go as far as they can in the opposite direction. Not to generalize about a very complicated subject, of course, but . . . there's my generalization. [face_plain]

    Ain't he? And the really awful thing, again, is that this kind of abuse was considered a husband/father's right during this time period. To Mr. Brandon, our Brandon is just a rebellious kid who needs to learn his place, and what could accomplish that better than the army? Then, throw in enough money that it's considered a fortune, but only if Eliza does as he tells her to do . . .

    . . . yeah, cold doesn't even begin to describe it. In a twisted way, he actually thinks that he is being merciful. After all, he's not disinheriting his son and exiling him with nothing; instead, he's offering him a career - if he can survive long enough to make anything of himself, of course. [face_plain]

    Awful is all you can really say in the end. Once again, knowing that Mr. Brandon doesn't even think of himself as cruel is the truly mindboggling thing about his detachment. If his family would just do as they're told and not disrespect his authority, then he wouldn't be forced to retaliate. Eliza, to him, has nothing to fear from Jack so long as she submits like a proper wife should. Eugh, but that's a classic abuser's line for a reason. Mr. Brandon is just a creep and his oldest son is, too, and everyone else is just caught in the crossfire. =((

    Thank you! I'm not going to lie; I second guessed a lot about this particular piece. It was more than a bit out of my comfort zone, to say the least.

    So, clearly, all the fluff is needed next! [face_mischief]

    [face_rofl] [face_rofl] [face_rofl]

    Again: that gif is going to be the death of me. I'll be completely honest to say. [face_mischief] :p [:D]

    Alrighty, I'll be back with more soon. :D

    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2022
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  3. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Notes: For Week VI, the prompt was to write an AU story of at least 500 words where the moral alignment of one of your characters is the opposite of their source material. This one rather stumped me before I did a bit of brainstorming - yet again, this challenge is forcing me to be all sorts of creative. ;) [face_love] In the end, I decided not to invert good and evil, exactly, so much as I considered what the opposite of my character's defining traits would be. For Marianne, that would be bitterness and cynicism, with a loss of love for art and nature. I could definitely see that as a more than likely outcome . . . had she married Willoughby, instead. [face_mischief] [face_whistling] Thus, my widow!Marianne Willoughby AU was born, set a good fourteen years out from S&S. But, at the very least, I can promise that this piece is more about hope and healing as much as it's on the angsty end of the spectrum. Hopefully, though, it's not so much so that I completely missed the point of the prompt - that was my one fear for this week! :p 8-}

    That said, I somehow managed to churn out 6k words for this story. It seems that my muse was all too happy to not have a word cap and took every advantage of being loquacious. I don't know how I wrote so many words in just a few days between this and my SW response . . . but I did. Now, here we are. [face_mischief] 8-}

    Then, as a final note, my title is fondly borrowed from Edmund Spenser, from this particular passage of The Faerie Queene:

    “His louely words her seemd due recompence
    Of all her passed paines: one louing howre
    For many yeares of sorrow can dispence:
    A dram of sweete is worth a pound of sowre:
    Shee has forgott, how many, a woeful stowre
    For him she late endurd; she speakes no more
    Of past . . .
    Before her stands her knight, for whom she toyld so sore.”

    [face_love] [:D]

    VI: “A Dram of Sweet; A Pound of Sorrow”

    September 1812

    Over the years, the parsonage gardens had flourished underneath Elinor’s diligent care. For the refuge of such a happily tended sanctuary, Marianne Willoughby had but little desire to venture out into the wider world waiting beyond the garden gate – no matter how gently her sister attempted to persuade her otherwise. She’d much rather stay here with the last of the lavender and wisteria (even if she couldn’t think of a single line of verse to honor the changing seasons), next to the holly tree that was just starting to bud with red berries (even if she hadn't whispered her secrets to her favorite eaves in far too long), and read her book in silence (no matter that she'd failed to surrender herself to the joys of the written word for years now – not in any way that truly mattered, at least).

    Elinor meant well with her patient entreaties, but no matter how she sighed for her obstinacy – or worse, traded concerned looks with Edward whenever she thought she wouldn’t notice – Marianne was unmoved. That wasn't to say that she was ungrateful, of course. To the contrary, Elinor and Edward had offered her a safe harbor when she needed it most, and she cherished their generosity for the blessing it truly was. She could have gone to live with her mother – but the former Mrs. Dashwood moved far too much in company now that she was Mrs. Stapleton, and a great deal of that company knew of her own unfortunate history due to their shared connections in Bath. If she truly wished to leave her former life behind, Margaret would have been overjoyed to take her from England’s shores entirely. Her youngest sister was currently at port in Uruguay with her husband, Arthur Jennings, who was the commodore of a small but prosperous fleet of independent merchant ships. Yet that was a bit too far from her troubles for Marianne's taste. Instead, it was Elinor she longed for after her world turned so violently on its axis, and Elinor she sought when she needed to feel the ground steady and sure beneath her feet again.

    For so many years, she'd only been able to cling to her eldest sister through letters. Her John was not . . . well, John Willoughby was not welcome at Delaford, to phrase the matter politely, nor had he ever fancied the idea of her traveling to Delaford alone, without him. Marianne had once thought his desire to keep her by his side terribly romantic (before his restrictions chaffed and choked, irritating the better sense she had too long ignored to the contrary), and had submitted to the necessity of distance from her family. Elinor and Edward could hardly afford to travel to them in return – though Edward was now doing quite well as the rector of the neighboring parish of East Heath, as well as Delaford. When the Ferrarses did travel, it was often through Colonel Brandon’s generosity in lending them the use of his carriage, and, again, they would never request such to visit the likes of Combe Magna.

    At first, Marianne had her new life in Somersetshire to distract her – and what a glorious distraction it was! She'd never been so happy as she was in those early days of her marriage, or so she'd then believed. But too many lenders had then called in too many debts, and they’d been obliged to sell Combe Magna at a loss. Marianne, who’d been left suddenly bereft of wealth and status once before, had been prepared to do so again. She’d happily learned that one’s family was the only necessary requirement to make any house a home, no matter the size of that house. As such, she'd refused to surrender her joy, just as she’d been equally as determined to raise her husband from the depths of his own malaise. To simplify their expenses, she’d expected them to take what little they did have left and lease a smaller prospect – hopefully somewhere closer to Devonshire, where she could at least visit her mother and Margaret somewhat more regularly, if not Elinor.

    Yet John had ultimately decided on Bath – as keeping any fashionable residence in London was then well beyond their means. Marianne, for her part, had no desire to live within the walls of any city – oh, how stiffing were the great edifices of stone raised by men! – but she repressed her own preferences in favor of submitting to her husband’s desires. Unfortunately, rather than offer them a return on their investment, the many diversions of Bath only succeeded in sinking them deeper into debt – no matter Marianne's many efforts to have them live in better proportion to their income. Her husband was not naturally inclined to economize, and her attempts to advise him towards modesty were never well received. By the time Mrs. Smith died, after finally reconciling with John and welcoming him back into her will . . .

    Much to Marianne's dismay, the bulk of his cousin's legacy again went to satisfying a vast array of debtors – the majority of which she'd been unaware of, earned as they were between an assortment of failed business ventures and too many sums lost at too many card parties to mention. They spent not one day as the master and mistress of Allenham, where Marianne had long expected them to ultimately settle. She’d always wanted to raise her children in the country and grow old with her husband where the air was sweet and nature gloried to put on her greatest show, year after year for as many years as they had to them. Instead, the estate was liquidated in its entirety, and what little remained left over went to supporting the lifestyle John believed he deserved in Bath.

    And, as for the children she’d once so blithely assumed would be theirs to cherish . . . Marianne only had her one darling girl in Celia – a treasured blessing that she clung to amongst too many denied hopes and shattered expectations, otherwise.

    Eventually, it wasn't that Marianne couldn't see Elinor so much as she was ashamed to see Elinor. Her husband was a lout, a liar and a cheat and a sybaritic dandy who could little afford the luxuries he insisted on to satisfy his expensive tastes and insalubrious habits. Well before the end, Marianne felt less like a wife and more like a keeper – a jailer, to better hear her husband sneer the appellation. Where was the bright, beautiful girl who’d so artlessly captured his heart back in Devonshire? He didn’t recognize the nagging shrew of a woman he was chained to in her stead, and he never held back from telling her so.

    Yet that was fair; she recognized nothing of her Willoughby in the man she was so unevenly yoked to. Had her ideal Willoughby ever been anything more than a figment of her own romantic imagination and idyllic fantasies? She was canny enough, by then, to doubt that he'd ever truly existed in any sort of entirety.

    Marianne attempted to keep as many of her marital woes from her sister as possible, but she suspected that Elinor was as little fooled by what she did say in her letters as by all that she did not say. Yet what could Elinor do to alleviate her suffering? Elinor had her own life to live – a good, happy life that Marianne would never begrudge, not even in her darkest moments. Elinor was a respected matron of the community she served, and a proud mother of the three children she had to raise with her equally besotted husband. Even these many years later, Edward absolutely adored his wife, and their bond remained strong and true – just as was right and natural between a husband and wife. Then, there was Elinor’s intimate friendship with Eliza Bradford – née Williams – and her son, David, that Marianne couldn't help but consider. Mr. Thomas Bradford had claimed David before God and men as his adopted firstborn when Willoughby had been all too content to abandon both the girl he’d dishonored and the son he’d sired to the whims of fate. Now, David was just as close with Elinor’s eldest boy, Jacob, and Marianne . . . well, she could look upon neither mother nor child without feeling a pang of guilt, no matter how much happier she knew them both to be without Willoughby's shadow to darken their lives.

    Was that when the heady sweetness of their relationship started to sour, all the way back when she’d first learned of Eliza and her son? Marianne had been a newly engaged woman in London when John had returned from his duel with Colonel Brandon, muddied and tousled but unharmed, and she . . . she’d forgiven him, stupid child that she had been, so blinded by what she thought was love and willing to overlook all that rang false for what she believed – nay, what she hoped – was true. John had promised her his devotion and fidelity, if only she’d overlook this one sin of his past, and she’d ignored her better sense in favor of her sensibilities – much to her detriment and future regret.

    For Eliza Williams wasn’t the first woman her husband had seduced over the years, and she certainly wasn’t the last. No, the woman who held the dubious honor of being his last betrayal was one Lady Alice Hastings, the young bride of Lord George Hastings, who’d then felt moved to defend his wife’s honor and -

    - the fools had dueled with pistols, rather than swords, and neither combatant had left the field alive.

    Now, these six months later, Marianne could no longer tell if she was still in mourning for the husband she had lost or the life that should have been hers to live with him. She . . . she rather thought to know the truth of that, little as she liked to admit it, even to herself, and so she quite simply did not.

    Her one sole comfort, after everything, was her daughter. Accepting her sister’s offer to live at the parsonage was the best choice she could have made for Celia’s sake. Celia had always been a quiet child, even when her father was alive – though John had been a disinterested parent, more so than an unkind one. He’d made no secret about his desire for a son, and her failures to provide him with a male heir had been another point of contention in their marriage. Celia, who’d just turned twelve that summer, was so much the opposite of how Marianne had been at her age that she often wondered if she was doing right by her daughter – but Lord above, how she was trying.

    In a way, Marianne envied how easily Elinor had bonded with Celia, and Celia with her aunt in return. Edward, too, had formed an instant kinship with the shy girl – which Marianne was truly grateful for. Celia deserved all the love the world could give, and if she could not have the love of her father, then it was for the best that she found it here with her extended family. Celia quickly became dear friends with Agnes and Emma, her Ferrars cousins, and Marianne watched her daughter blossom with each happy day she spent away from their former life in Bath.

    The Bradford children were constant fixtures in their new lives, as well. Celia did not yet realize that David was her half-brother – and neither did the boy know, Marianne suspected. But David and his younger half-sisters, Anne and Kitty, quickly became as close as true siblings for Celia. The parsonage and parish glebe constantly rang with the merry sounds of laughter and youthful jubilance – just as Marianne had always wanted for her daughter, but only now had realized in an inverted fulfillment of her initial dream.

    Celia may have thrived in this new, nurturing environment, yet Marianne was slower to find a matching equilibrium for herself. For the most part, she was content to merely haunt her sister’s home as a ghost; she had but little desire to stray from her burial ground. Yet oddly enough – or perhaps fittingly so? – it was the former Eliza Williams who stubbornly refused to surrender her to the shadows of her own mind. Though Marianne initially resisted the acquaintance, Eliza stalwartly refused to allow her retreat. Instead, she only became all the more entrenched with every effort Marianne made to avoid her, and in doing so managed to slowly chip away at her walls, brick by brick.

    Now, these many months later, Eliza felt comfortable enough in their friendship to bodily pull her from her bench by the holly tree when Marianne expressed her disinterest otherwise. With a firm grip on her hand, Eliza insisted in quite the exasperated tone: “There is life to be lived beyond the likes of John Willoughby – that I promise you!”

    Eliza was only just her junior in age and even smaller in stature, but she had a strength that bellied her slight appearance as she physically dragged her towards the garden gate. With such a force turned against her, Marianne had no choice but to allow Eliza to succeed where even Elinor’s gentle entreaties had failed and, together, they left the comfort of the parsonage behind.

    That day, Eliza wound her arm through her own and led her up to the paddocks closest to the mansion-house. There, the children were taking lessons on their ponies from Mr. Bradford. Eliza’s husband had been apprenticed to Delaford’s master of horse before their marriage, but he now managed his own stud farm at Bradford Downs – the rich pasturelands that were formerly part of Delaford’s acreage, the deed of which had been gifted as part of Eliza’s dowry. That day, however, Tom was a happy visitor to put the children through their paces. The girls were taught side by side with the older boys, and the fenced ring by the old stone barn echoed with good cheer as the children called out encouragement to each other while awaiting their own turns in the saddle.

    Eliza drew her over to the railing, and they stayed long enough to see how Celia fared. Her girl was hesitant but clearly determined as she took her seat aside the speckled grey pony. Marianne watched the entire lesson, her heart twisting in a bittersweet sort of way to see how naturally Celia took to horseback. She then applauded the loudest of them all when Mr. Bradford convinced Celia to trot around the ring without the comforting security of a lead-line. Her daughter was beaming with pride by the time Mr. Bradford helped her down from the horse, and Marianne felt a drowsy ember deep inside of her stoke with the warmth of true happiness when Celia smiled to catch her eye and wave in return.

    Afterward, Eliza pulled her away so that they could saddle their own horses to ride. Marianne hadn’t ridden in years – not since racing across the downs of Combe Magna in the halcyon days of her marriage – and she felt more than a little apprehensive to do so now. Yet Eliza was not one to be swayed when she had her mind made up, and Marianne found herself with little choice but to obey. (Once, she reflected with a pang, they may have been very much alike – Eliza and her.)

    “You never forget how to ride a horse,” Eliza insisted. “Your body will remember, even if your mind does not.”

    Marianne swallowed her trepidation when she was presented with a handsome chestnut mare with four white stockings and a brilliant blaze from forehead to snout named Lottie – who turned out to be a very forgiving creature with a sweet temperament and an even smoother stride. She was very finely bred, and when Marianne extended her compliments, Eliza preened to reveal that Lottie was one of the first foals born at Bradford Downs, and a very dear animal for being so.

    Marianne listened to Eliza go on about their current stock and plans for the future as she recovered her own bearings in the saddle. Indeed, one did not forget how to ride so easily, and her confidence grew with every step they took down the lane. Along the way, Eliza pointed out the tenant properties they passed. She was happy to identify the neighbors Marianne hardly knew herself, even these six months later, and indulged in bits of harmless gossip and cheerful anecdotes to better put stories to the names she shared. It was a fine day in September, cool with the promise of autumn to come but still flush with the last warmth of summer, and they were far from the only ones out enjoying the fair weather. The fields were full of workers this close to the harvest and the approaching quarter-day at Michaelmas, and many of the workers and overseers alike paused and doffed their hats to Eliza as they passed. Eliza, for her part, introduced Marianne to many whom she knew by name in return.

    The men in the fields were one thing, yet Marianne found herself tensing when they came upon a fine curricle on the lane, driven by an older couple whom Eliza introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Kettlewell of Fenworth Park. At first, she was unsure of the reception they would receive – on account of her own tainted history, as much as Eliza's. As was suggested by their fine tack and dress, the Kettlewells were one of the principal families in the county, Eliza explained as they rode on. As such, they knew full well of Eliza’s past – and her mother’s, too, just as the parish gossip must have since circulated to share her own sorry tale. Yet they had been nothing but cordial, even to the point of kindness rather than mere civility. How far Eliza had come, Marianne silently thought, from the girl who had once scarce wanted to call Delaford her home on account of the scandal attached to her name but had done so anyway – all for the sake of her son, Marianne could well understand, long before she did so for herself.

    Sure enough, Eliza muttered – so softly that Marianne first wondered if she'd intended to be heard, “It is hard work, starting over in life anew. Yet I promise you, it is worth every effort in the end.”

    By that time, they had come to a great stretch of green in the trough between two sweeping downs. There was a stand of chestnut trees waiting at the far end of the field, and Eliza’s eyes sparkled to challenge her to a race. Marianne, similarly infected by the zest of the day, then felt confident enough to loose Lottie in a full gallop in answer. The wind swept her bonnet back from her head and teased her hair free from its pins as the mare’s long strides ate up the ground beneath them. Marianne gleefully closed her eyes to the freedom of the sensation as they ran and ran and ran. By the time they reached the end of the green, she could not help but smile – and even laugh aloud in unfettered delight.

    Yet it was not until they were well on their way back to the home-farm – just as the sun was setting to paint the ripe golden fields in shades of orange and red – that Marianne gave voice to a question she’d hardly allowed herself to think during the months she’d lived at Delaford, let alone ask aloud. Haltingly at first, but then with greater strength, she inquired after the master of the estate.

    “Colonel Brandon is Major General Brandon now; would you believe it?” Eliza was all too happy to share, a proud warmth effusing both her tone and expression. “He’s been involved in the war effort against Bonaparte almost since the beginning – first all the way back to India, just after Tom and I married, then in Naples and Sicily, and now for the past four years or so with the Iberian campaigns. We keep trying to persuade him to leave the fighting to younger men, but he’s never one to sit still for too long. But with Napoleon abandoning Spain in favor of Russia . . . I hope that this time, he may finally be persuaded to lay down his arms for good.”

    Marianne knew that Brandon had only just recently returned to England. He’d called at the parsonage the day prior to pay his respects, and she’d heard her nephew and nieces greet him with giddy delight, as if he was a favorite uncle rather than merely their parents’ benefactor. (They knew Brandon better than they did herself, no matter his time spent away with the army – and certainly better than the actual uncle they’d once had in Willoughby – oh, how that thought had wounded.) Brandon had even gone so far as to greet Elinor and Edward by their Christian names, and to them he was Christopher in return. (How strange, the odd sort of jealousy she'd known for their intimacy, then. Her family had lived their lives without her for so long, and she’d keenly felt the affects of her displacement then.)

    For the whole of Brandon's short visit, Marianne had stood at the top of the stairs, rooted in place, unable to retreat or advance. Her heart had thundered in her chest as if she was a much younger woman all over again – rather than a wife and a mother and a widow, for heaven’s sake. Instead, she’d so impolitely skulked without joining their company herself. Later that evening, she’d even gone so far as to beg off the invitation they all had to dine at the great-house on account of a headache – which she truly did have, no matter how Elinor’s sigh and arched brow suggested that she suspected otherwise.

    Yet if Eliza noticed her lapse into silence, she kindly did not mention it, and Marianne finished the rest of their ride together lost to the turbulence of her own thoughts.

    Since that day, however, Marianne had done her very best to take Eliza's words to heart. She became quite resolved to be . . . well, to be more herself. In an attempt to better emulate her sister, she even practically made a list of all the things she had once enjoyed about her character and wished to reclaim anew. The list ended up being much longer than she'd initially anticipated, but that didn’t matter; she was quite determined to see it through – very determined, indeed.

    Thus, to start . . .

    “Mama, whatever are you doing?” Celia asked, the next time they were out walking together. Her daughter, after living in Bath for so long, hardly knew the difference between an elm tree and an oak tree when they'd first arrived in Dorsetshire. Now, every wildflower and bird and butterfly was a new discovery waiting to be made, and Marianne delighted to share with her them all.

    “I am greeting the trees,” Marianne answered with a wink. “We haven’t been properly introduced yet, you see – which is a terrible lapse on my part.”

    Celia considered this for a moment in that quiet, solemn way of hers. “Do they talk back?” finally, she asked.

    “Sometimes,” Marianne confided, as if sharing a great secret. “If you know how to listen, that is.”

    To reclaim her joy for reading, she started with the parsonage’s library. The small sanctuary also doubled as Edward’s study, and most of the books lining the walls were ecclesiastical in nature – though Marianne recognized a few titles of fiction that must have been Elinor’s contribution to their modest collection, along with readers for the children. However, there were no modern works by the likes of Coleridge and Scott, much to her disappointment. She would have been happy with Milton and Shakespeare, even, but those titles too were few and far between.

    “You may laugh all you’d like, but I find more practical use in The Royal Society’s Agricultural Reports than I do in any volume of Spenser,” Edward teased when she – rather fruitlessly – perused the shelves again, as if hoping their contents would change before her eyes.

    “I will not laugh for such supposed good sense – even if I cannot agree that poetry has no use in our daily lives – but this, I bemoan.” She tapped the unfortunately thick spines of a pair of matching tomes. “Fordyce’s Sermons for Young Women – really, Edward?”

    “Ah,” Edward ceded her point. “Fordyce does give rather terrible advice to young women, does he not?”

    “And young men, too,” Marianne could not help but retort.

    Edward huffed, but she rather suspected that he was enjoying her show of spirit for a subject that had once been so very dear to her heart. “I’ll have you know that I received that particular set as a gift from my bishop when I was granted the rectory at East Heath. For my part, I have never been one to blame Adam’s sin on Eve in my sermons.”

    “That is because you are a good, honorable man, Edward.” Marianne swallowed against the lump in her throat – she had not picked a good, honorable man for herself, after all. “Truly, you are the best of men.”

    Edward flushed and looked away – as he usually did when she spoke so plainly of what she thought and felt, but he returned to holding her gaze quicker than he would have when their acquaintance was still new. “We do, however, have an open invitation to make use of the library up at the great-house.” He paused, and then added, “You may better find what you are looking for there.”

    Marianne frowned, suddenly pensive, yet thanked him and said that she’d consider his proposal.

    In the end, it only took a week’s drought of anything interesting to read in the Ferrars’ library to accept Edward’s suggestion. She considered when would be the best time to visit – late enough in the morning so as to not be too early to call, but still early enough in the day that Brandon would be gone touring the farms – and seized her opportunity. She was determined to be in and out quickly, and as such, she thanked the housekeeper for her kind offer of tea yet declined any further hospitality. She remembered where the library was from a previous visit with Eliza, but she rather strangely felt like a thief, walking where she had no right to tread as she stole through the halls. She repeated to herself that she had an invitation – that she was invited, and took comfort in that knowledge until -

    - the sound of music reached her ears, only moments after she parted from the housekeeper. Someone was playing the pianoforte – and playing it well, at that. It was a sonata – Beethoven, in C sharp minor . . . and not just any Beethoven, but Quasi una Fantasia – streaming so soft and delicately that she rather perceived the notes as felt more so than heard aloud. For an exquisite moment she paused, just to better appreciate the gentle rise and fall of the song. Drawn by the music as it echoed to resonate in her chest, she felt the last of her hesitation melt away. Eliza must have been making use of the instrument in the library, Marianne assumed, and, happy as she was for the thought of seeing her friend, she pushed the door open and welcomed herself inside without thinking twice of doing so -

    - only to stop short as soon as she crossed the threshold. It was not Eliza sitting before the pianoforte, she recognized between one heartbeat and the next. No, it was a man who, no matter how immersed in the music he played, was conscious enough of his surroundings to hear her arrival and turn to see -

    “Colonel Brandon,” Marianne stammered – more in dumb surprise than any sort of actual greeting.

    Yet she took some comfort to know that she was not alone in being so startled. The music ceased on a discordant note, and he stood from the bench in an equally abrupt motion. For a moment, Brandon merely stared as she stared, before he bowed – deeper and longer than was strictly necessary, perhaps, just as she curtsied somewhat unsteadily in return.

    “Miss- Mrs. Willoughby.”

    His voice was the same deep, rich timbre that she remembered from so long ago, even if it was somewhat unsettling to hear him say her name – or her married name, rather. Marianne hardly knew how to reply. She wanted to explain her intrusion, at the very least, even as she held back from asking why he was here when she had so carefully planned her visit around what she'd assumed of his schedule otherwise. The price of her constraint was that she merely continued to stare in mortified stupefaction, taking in all the differences the last fourteen years had wrought between them. Her first thought was that she could tell he'd been abroad until recently – his face was deeply tanned, and his already fair hair had brightened to a point where she could not tell what was bleached from the Spanish sun and what had merely gone grey with age; perhaps a winter in England would help her better tell the difference? He looked well, she concluded . . . as stoic and somber as ever, perhaps, but well – very well, even. She, for her part, knew how the years had not been so kind to her own person. She could scarce lay claim to any of her former beauty, not anymore – which was something her husband had once liked to remind her of whenever she confronted him about his many indiscretions. Grief and misery had left her tired and wan, and she fought the sudden, baffling urge she had to reach up and make sure that her hair – if not as becoming a crown as it had once been – was at least as tidy as her unruly curls could ever be persuaded to be.

    Yet Brandon stared at her as if he was absorbing her more so than merely looking at her – in a way she had once failed to understand, and now, merely had not been regarded by a man in quite some time. All of a sudden, three and thirty did not feel so far from fifty as the gap between them had once seemed – but that was such a pointless thought in its entirety so as to hardly warrant a moment's reflection in the first place! Feeling her cheeks warm, she banished it completely.

    Instead, she told herself that she flushed only to realize her error in addressing him. “No, not colonel; not anymore.” Marianne shook her head to try again, “It is major general, now, is it not? I have to admit that it sounds strange to address you as such.”

    It took Brandon only a moment longer to gather himself in return. “The rank is a mouthful,” he agreed, perhaps a touch ruefully. "I'll grant you that."

    “I’m afraid that you’ll always be colonel to me, even if you were the general in command of the field,” she could not help but continue to ramble. “But I shall endeavor to remember better for the future.”

    “You may call me whatever you wish,” Brandon offered, as neutrally as ever. Even so, she thought to sense more so than she actually saw him smile.

    Following that brief exchange of pleasantries, an admittedly long and awkward moment passed. She nearly gave into the urge she had to take her leave and flee outright – oh, how she wanted to run away and never return! But that was part of the Marianne she was now, and not part of the Marianne she wished to reclaim for herself. So, she squared her shoulders and met his gaze to ask, “You are just recently back from Spain?”

    Perhaps it was insipid of her to state the obvious, but that was all she could think to say without resorting to commenting on the weather. And yet: “Yes,” he inclined his head to confirm. "I am."

    “Is your return permanent?” politely, she inquired.

    Marianne hardly knew what answer she wanted him to give, even as he said, “The entirety of my division has been recalled from Madrid. As it stands now, I do not expect for us to be deployed again." He fell silent, and she thought that would have been the end of it had he not seen something encouraging in her expression – which he still studied closely. "Napoleon has withdrawn the majority of his forces from the Peninsula in favor of marching on Russia," he continued. "Yet he has pushed his men too hard and fast across too vast a distance to properly build and maintain the necessary supply lines. He has arrived in Moscow to find the city abandoned, and God only knows what kind of havoc the coming winter will further wreck on his army.”

    His words kindled an odd sort of hope in her chest. “The war is almost over, then?”

    “In some ways, perhaps,” Brandon shrugged. “In others, Napoleon has proved himself a more than canny opponent. No matter his losses, I do not foresee him ceding power so easily; that power will have to be torn from him by force, even as it ebbs.”

    For that, Marianne could only pause in a moment’s solemn reflection. She was no soldier, but she knew how hard this seemingly endless war had hit her country, in her own way. How many of their young men had gone off to fight, never to come home again? Years ago, she had merely been grateful that Willoughby would never be required to serve in their armed forces – his age was too advanced to interest the army as a new recruit without his volunteering, even as mothers like Eliza and even Elinor feared every day their sons turned older while the war raged on and on and on.

    “We have been at war with France almost for as long as I can remember,” finally, Marianne said aloud. “Now, the idea of peace seems almost . . .”

    . . . foreign and unnatural – too good to be true and far too fragile to trust to last now that it was finally within their grasp to achieve.

    “Peace is no longer the natural state of things,” Brandon echoed in her stead. “For far too much of the world, for far too long.”

    “Which is all the more a pity," she agreed. "Peace should be the standard, and war the variation, yet it is all too often the other way around.”

    In more ways than one, she knew from her own experience, on more fronts than merely an actual battleground. But that, she did not say aloud. Instead, she shook her head to as to better clear her thoughts in their entirety. Brandon had served the Crown for how many years, now? He was only newly returned home, at that. Undoubtedly, he’d prefer to speak of something – anything – else than the conflict that had defined his life for so long.

    That was something that Marianne could understand in her own way – little as she allowed herself to reflect on for too long, again.

    Yet Brandon, for his part, only saw how she gathered herself, and reached his own conclusions. “My apologies, Mrs. Willoughby,” he said with another deep bow – and she wanted then and there to offer use of her Christian name if only to never have to hear his name attached to her own again. “I must be keeping you – and with such a grim subject as the war, at that. If you wish to make use of the library – or the pianoforte – you may certainly do so. I – I’ll leave you free to do so.”

    “I do not want to force you from a room in your own home!” Marianne protested before she could better consider her words. “I promise, I am not as ill-mannered as I once was. Besides, I . . . I do not play the pianoforte anymore; I haven't for many years, now.”

    Brandon’s look, to her, was unreadable in reply. “I regret to hear that.” He clearly hesitated, but then ventured to ask, “Do you enjoy reading, still?”

    “I have recently rediscovered my love for reading, yes,” she answered. “That is actually why I came here today. I have already exhausted Edward’s library, and he suggested that your selection may better suit my interests.”

    “You've had your fill of agricultural reports, then?”

    “I am sure they make for very interesting reading, in their own way," Marianne responded wryly. "But so much has been released in the way of literature and poetry over the last few years that I fear I will never catch up. I followed authors from the school of Romantic thought only very early on, and now . . . now, there is so much that I have missed.”

    As she spoke, her hands raised to fist in the black shawl she wore. She watched as Brandon’s gaze fell to the telling shade of the fabric, and she felt the sudden, intense urge to tell him that it was not for him that she wore black, but for . . .

    . . . for herself. There in the privacy of her own mind, she could at last admit that truth for what it was. She, too, was ready for a season of peace. She'd survived her own war; now, she wanted only to find the healing that came with laying down her weapons and learning to live, free of conflict, again.

    “I cannot boast a complete collection, but please,” Brandon gestured to encompass the entirety of the library in his offer, “consider everything here at your disposal.”

    “Thank you,” Marianne smiled at him – an easier smile than she had smiled in far too long, and promised, “I shall keep that in mind.”


    A Note on the Music: Yep, Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14, Quasi una Fantasia, is the Moonlight Sonata. It was released in 1802, but it wasn't called Moonlight Sonata until well after Beethoven's death. [face_love]

    A Note on British Army Ranks: The structure of the British Army in the early 1800s makes about as much sense as the British peerage. :p 8-} Apparently, a colonel or lieutenant colonel commanded a battalion, which was made up of several companies commanded by captains, who then had lieutenants and so on and so forth down into the enlisted ranks. Somewhere in the middle between the colonel and his captains was a major - but a major could also command a battalion? And a colonel could command more than one battalion? A colonel who did so in wartime often held a rank of brigadier general, but that rank was only used during war. A major general then commanded a division, which was made up of several battalions, and answered to a lieutenant general, whose divisions then made up a corp. The lieutenant generals then reported to the general/field marshal/commander-in-chief - whoever the big guy in charge was, depending on the campaign. So, um . . . yeah. Different references say all sorts of different things on the subject, but those seem to be the general - hee :p - ranks for the higher officers.

    A Note on Fordyce's Sermons for Young Women: That's the same book Mr. Collins read from in P&P, you're right. [face_mischief] The sermons seemed to be of the opinion that women had to guard their virtue for both their own sake and the sake of men, as men couldn't be expected to control their own passions. Yep, I kid you not. o_O Jane Austen, with her family's connections to the clergy, was undoubtedly being sassy with her reference, again. :p

    A Note on Eliza: I don't have too much to say here except I TOLD YOU I was going to give this girl a happy ending, and here it is. [face_mischief]

    . . . and I think that's it? Again, my brain feels like mush after kicking out so many words, so if I do think of more, I'll edit it in later. ;)


    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2022
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  4. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 9, 2002
    :_| :_| :_|

    It was so good, Mira! I'll be back with more as soon as I can, but I had to tell you I teared up more than once! [face_love]
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  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Aw, this made my day to hear! Not the crying, of course - though that's always good in a different way - but everything else. ;)

    Thank you! [face_love][:D]

    Author's Notes: For Week VII, the prompt was to write a story between 100 and 1,000 words that is entirely introspection. No spoken dialogue, no action. The no action proved to be the tricky part of this, lemme tell you, but I think that I worked it out in the end. The mini-coda rather stretches those parameters - hence the parenthesis - but as the ficlet is technically complete without that addition, I thought to include it anyway. ;) What's more than that, I am beyond happy to finally have something soft and fluffy to share after the emotional ringer of the last two weeks - I think we've all earned it. :p [face_love] So, without further ado . . .

    VII: “The Reflections of a Gentleman in His Glebe”
    May 7th, 1799

    The leafy tops of the carrots were just visible through the dark crest of the earth.

    It was still a marvel to Edward that anything planted by his hand could actually grow. It had been quite the sight when, after the last frost cleared, the hardy broccoli and cabbage and parsnips had erupted into life from where they'd been waiting the whole winter long to bloom. Now, the spring vegetables were promising their first yield of the season. When he'd initially pulled Elinor outside to see the incipient green shoots sprouting up from the ground, she'd laughed more for his joy rather than with his joy, but she'd accepted his giddy kiss regardless, and smiled at him most fondly. Mr. Thrupp – who tended the kitchen gardens up at the mansion-house – had been glad to guide him through the process of cultivating the parsonage's modest acreage, and Edward had paid the utmost attention to his instruction and then read every book he possibly could in order to further augment his knowledge. (Let Marianne tease him all she liked, but some things could hardly be learned from the likes of Cowper or Spenser.)

    While Edward had extensive help from Mr. Thrupp – and even Brandon, who knew about the running of his estate down to the smallest detail – and paid one of Mr. Thrupp's apprentices to help with the day-to-day work he couldn't wholly manage himself, he'd sewn the carrots with his own hand. He'd knelt, uncaring of the mud at his knees, and parted the earth with his own spade to nestle the little seeds in deep for their incubative slumber. His mother would have been horrified to see him quite literally dirtying his hands in such a rough manner, like a common drudge – but the satisfaction that image inspired was nearly as gratifying as having an actual direction in his life and seeing his goals through to their completion.

    For all the pride he took from his glebe, Edward felt exactly the same in his role as a husband and a rector, too. His life was no longer one of passive indulgence and empty idleness; now, he had the certainty of purpose, and he knew his own worth through serving that purpose to the best of his ability. In his own way, he almost pitied that this sense of fulfillment was something his mother or siblings would never understand – or ever want to understand – for themselves.

    After all, these tiny green things wouldn’t be growing, had he not planted them. While he was not so arrogant to think that his wife and parish wouldn’t be just as happy with another in his stead (though Elinor would argue otherwise – how his wife thought herself as fortunate as he knew himself to be, he'd never fully understand), he was honored to tend to them and belong to them in return. In his own way, he knew what it was to be planted in rich soil and allowed to thrive, and he wanted to share that feeling with others to the best of his capabilities.

    Taking no small delight in doing so, he further imagined his mother’s horrified expression – Fanny’s disdainful glare; Robert’s haughty sneer – if they could see him lay down to rest in the grass that grew beyond the edge of the vegetable patch. He decided to stay here for a spell and enjoy the rest he'd earned. There was the threat of errant cattle to guard against, after all – plagues of grazing deer and hungry little rabbits, too – and one couldn’t be too careful. Feeling the warmth of the sun on his face and the surety of the ground at his back, he closed his eyes and dosed to the happy reflections of his blessings.

    (He awakened, not much later, when Elinor’s shadow passed over him, causing the sunlight to ripple and wink. Rather than arching a brow to tease him for lounging about in such an ungentlemanlike manner, she merely lowered herself to the ground to join him. He rose to help her, meeting her halfway – such a movement was quite the trick, after all, with the baby so far along – and laughed when she made a pithy quip about having vowed to guard the carrots with him once before; now, she would see her duty through. Tucking her in close by his side, Edward couldn't help but smile to know that thoughts of their blessings were then shared between them both.)


    The importance of the carrots to Edward and Elinor, and the necessity of guarding them, was first introduced in "All Fools in Love". [face_love]

    And yes, carrots are biennials - so no, there would not be an edible carrot during their first season of growth, but rather just a little green sprout. Yet that was getting too detailed for the parameters of the prompt and didn't quite fit the spirit of the story I was going for, anyway. I didn't want to bump the timeline of this ficlet forward a year, as that didn't fit either, aaand . . . I know. I'm writing a note on a subject that I'm the only one overthinking, so I'll stop now. I can't believe how many questions I ended up asking Google about carrots, at that. I feel quite the kinship with Edward at this point! :p [face_laugh] 8-}


    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2022
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  6. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    Beautiful! [face_love] I'm totally unfamiliar with the characters, but I loved every word. =D=

    And I totally get overthinking carrots! I've done a deep dive on many the obscure topic--sometimes even to end up cutting all references from the final draft. I wonder if I have room in my yard for carrots...[face_thinking]
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  7. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 9, 2002
    Okay, so I'm skipping over week 6 for now because I have so many feelings that I am still processing, but I'll be back with those soon. ;) For now, I'm here with my week 7 review! [face_love]

    These two!! [face_love] [face_love]

    [face_laugh] Fair enough!

    I love Edward's whole introspection here, but I especially love him being satisfied by the thought of his mother's horror. [face_mischief] [face_laugh]

    Great introspection again! Edward's POV here just feels so wholesome and content, I love it!

    [face_love] This entire paragraph! He's found his place and his happiness, and it's just so heartwarming and good, I can't even.

    THIS IS TOO ADORABLE FOR WORDS!! Elinor and Edward are the best, and this is perfect! [face_love] [face_love]

    This was such a peaceful and uplifting piece, and I adore it! And I'll be back with my reaction to your AU story, and I can't wait to see what you come up with for this week's prompt! [face_mischief] ;) [:D]
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2022
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  8. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Hello, Tarsier! It's always so good to see you back posting again; I was beyond words thrilled that you popped in here to say hello! I'm glad that you enjoyed this, even when being unfamiliar with the characters - that's always the best compliment. :D [face_love]

    I know what you mean about obscure topic diving, too! Writing fan fiction has given me the oddest collection of fun facts over the years, I tell ya! The oddest. 8-} :p

    Thank you so much for reading, again! [:D] [:D]

    Aw, thank you! [face_blush] And I more than understand - just look at how long it's taking me to finish leaving feedback on your Week 6. (And now 7 and 8. :oops:) Because there are so many feelings to process, and I want to do them justice. 8-} ;) [face_love] [:D]

    [face_love] [face_love]!!

    He may have a point, it's true. :p

    I can't say I blame him at all! [face_laugh] [face_mischief]

    Right?? I think that this is one of the fluffiest, most wholesome things I've ever written, and it made me all sorts of happy to share that joy in return. [face_love] [face_love]

    Isn't it?? [face_love]

    I promise that I love this couple an entirely normal amount. ;) They really are the best, and it was the best to give them this happy moment of contentment here. [face_love] [face_love]

    And as always, I can't thank you enough for your kind words! [face_love] [:D]

    Now, as for this week's prompt, I'll have that up in just a moment . . . [face_mischief]

    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2022
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  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Note: For Week Eight, the prompt was to write a story of at least 400 words from the POV of a character you hate/dislike and make them sympathetic. My first choice of character was obvious, but I couldn't make the likes of him sympathetic even if I tried - and I did try. ;) [face_bleh] Fanny Dashwood was my second choice, and while I don't know if she's completely sympathetic here, it was at least interesting getting into her mind and fleshing out her character. In a way, I'd say that she's almost pitiable - which is a form of sympathy, is it not? [face_mischief]

    But at the end of the day, Fanny is still Fanny, and with that in mind here we go . . .

    “The Mistress of Norland”

    March 4th, 1797

    Her day started promptly, as it ever did, at eight o’clock in the morning.

    That was not one of the many changes Mrs. Fanny Dashwood had to acclimate the staff at Norland to, at the very least. Her own lady’s maid, Mrs. Colton, was one of the few servants she had brought with her from London and, as such, was accustomed to her habits. Sure enough, Colton promptly arrived to throw back the curtains and assist her in readying for the day right on schedule. During the lull while she styled her hair, Colton regaled her with anything and everything worth sharing from the goings on downstairs. They had a rhythm of ebb and flow well established between them, and the intelligence she gleaned was more vital than ever as she settled into her place in Mrs. Emma Dashwood’s stead.

    In the end, it mattered not to most of the workers, who ultimately presided over the great-house as its lord and lady. So long as their wages were paid, they required only a roof over their heads and food enough in their bellies to keep them satisfied. There were some, however, who were still in mourning for the passing of her husband’s father, and yet more still were reluctant to see their mistress and her daughters go.

    No, their former mistress, Fanny corrected herself – she was the mistress of Norland now. Thus reminded of her place, she sat up even straighter and tilted her chin. Boldly, she met her own gaze in the vanity mirror.

    “Mrs. Fareham continues to stir up quite a fuss in the kitchens,” Colton continued with her report. “She holds to the notion that if she knew the date of your arrival, she could have better prepared the pantry to support a menu more to your particular liking.”

    Mrs. Fareham gave her opinions very decidedly for a cook, Fanny thought, holding back a frown. She should have taken the lead of Mrs. Harlow, the housekeeper – who had merely stood, meek but proud as a good servant ought, just beside and behind Mrs. Dashwood upon their arrival. She’d been unerringly polite, yet most importantly swift, to incline her head and say that she’d see their rooms made up straight away.

    Yet the master and mistress’ chambers are already made, are they not?” Fanny had known to stand her ground from the first – just like her mother had taught her – and carefully watch for any tight jaw and pursed lip she could discern from the staff. It was best to weed out those with a disinclination towards loyalty with all immediacy, and act accordingly.

    I do not believe that guestrooms were ever mentioned,” Elinor Dashwood smoothly interjected when her mother had only been able to stare, apparently dumbstruck – though Fanny could scarce understand why.

    Not that,” John had tried to placate, glancing anxiously between his stepmother and her, “we expected you to have your chamber cleared out so soon.” He reached out a hand, but then withdrew. “Please, take as long as you require.”

    And yet,” Marianne Dashwood completely ignored John's already misplaced generosity to point out with her usual temerity, “my mother could have removed herself from your rooms completely, had she only known when to expect your arrival.”

    Fanny hadn’t bothered deigning to respond – she already knew better than to expect anything resembling manners from Marianne. Instead, she'd looked at Elinor most pointedly, trusting her usual good sense to spare their already ridiculous interlude any further unnecessary awkwardness.

    Of course, one may come and go from their own home as they please, without any word given,” Elinor said pleasantly enough – apparently as a rebuke to her sister, but with something about her smile that implied another meaning entirely. Not for the first, Fanny privately acknowledged that Elinor would have made a fierce opponent in any London drawing room – had she the rank or fortune to walk in the same circles that she herself commanded, of course.

    “Which is why I am rather surprised that our arrival was not previously anticipated,” Fanny said, pointedly measured the widening of her eyes; deliberately, she placed a hand to cover her heart. “It never occurred to us that we would be putting you out. We wouldn’t have dreamed of inconveniencing our dear family in the slightest if we'd have known that we were not expected.”

    Indeed, your consideration for family is all that is gracious and good,” Elinor’s smile, then, was just as brittle as her words were sharp. There, they understood each other perfectly.

    Yet wasn’t she the one who was truly being put upon? It was as exhausting as it was trying, being forced to host those who viewed her as a usurper in her own home. Heaven only knew how long it would take Mrs. Dashwood to find a new situation for herself, at that, and the longer she tarried, the more opportunity John had to reconsider exactly how far he should go in helping his stepmother and half-sisters in accordance with his father's last wishes. With enough time, John could even relent on the idea of giving them pecuniary aid – and cheat his own son from his inheritance by doing so! Such a gross injustice was not to be borne. Fanny knew that she had to be ever on her guard; she had to be canny and cautions and clever.

    So, she listened to Mrs. Colton’s report of the cook’s grumbling and the maids’ tittering and the under-butler’s most forward opinion on how her husband’s latest meeting with his steward had differed from how the late Mr. Dashwood had managed his property. Fanny listened, and Fanny reflected, and Fanny planned how to best act accordingly.

    By exactly nine o’clock she was ready to meet with Mrs. Harlow and discuss all necessary household matters for the day and plan that night's menu. She’d invited Elinor to their meetings as a gesture of good faith from the first – Mrs. Dashwood, apparently, had not been able to rouse herself to attend her duties since her husband first took ill, and Elinor had long since been acting in her mother's stead. That suited Fanny just fine; Elinor was the only one of her husband’s family whom she could reasonably tolerate for any extended period of time as it was.

    That morning, she mentioned that the portraits in the dining hall needed dusting (never mind that she could hardly tell a speck of grime on them otherwise) and ordered a thorough beating of the rugs in the east wing. Elinor, however, interjected to inform her that all of the rugs had just been cleaned as soon as the snow had melted and the servants could better work outdoors. In reply, Fanny had smiled a cold smile to say that she had merely noticed that the task was not done to her standards. She had the lofty expectations of coming from a London home, and she would not live in the dirt of the country, even if she was surrounded by it.

    Let Mrs. Harlow hear and repeat that to Mrs. Fareham: she would see her role here as mistress clearly defined from the first.

    Unfortunately, she could not let Mrs. Fareham go outright – a good cook was imperative to the smooth running of any respectable household, and she’d see if she and this one could yet see eye to eye before she resorted to extreme measures. Besides, John had a love for Mrs. Fareham’s syllabub recipe that she saw no harm in indulging – she'd even ask that his favorite was served tonight, should the cook be able to provide as much on the pantry she currently had available to her.

    Mrs. Harlow assured her that she could.

    By ten o’clock, it was time to break her fast. Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood joined her and John at the breakfast table in the smaller of the two dining rooms; Miss Marianne and Miss Margaret did not. As Fanny made her selections, she noted the changes that had been made by Mr. Kirby since the first morning she’d dined here as mistress. The butler had been quick to accommodate her preferences, she was pleased to see, as was only right.

    It was a pity, she yet thought as she cut into her meal, that such fine china would not be theirs to keep. Mrs. Dashwood had brought this set of dishes with her from Stanhill, and they and the equally fine table linens were not part of their claim to Norland. Whom Mrs. Dashwood would ever serve, wherever she wound up, would certainly not be equal to the company Fanny would entertain. This china would make a most fitting gift to her stepson, should she desire to make up for the imposition of her current stay – and that gift would give all the more so by negating the expense of replacing the plateware for themselves. Fanny resolved to mention as much to John, and perhaps to Elinor as well.

    After breakfast, she moved to the blue drawing room to see to her correspondence. Between letters, she expected a host of callers that day, all coming to pay their respects to the new mistress of Norland. John, similarly, had a steady stream of tenants and gentlemen of the neighborhood to attend him, and they had plans to do so separately and apart.

    It was a fruitful day of association, even if Mrs. Dashwood – who joined her just past noon – rather forgot herself and invited Mrs. Young of Roxton Manor to sit before she herself could as hostess. Fanny was gracious in forgiving her husband’s stepmother, who was obviously still too overwrought by grief to properly pay heed to the genteel etiquette of propriety as Fanny herself did.

    Closer to one o’clock, Elinor brought up the subject of making baskets for the lower income families of the parish – she even offered to aid her in such industry and accompany her to make the necessary introductions. Fanny politely declined her suggestion, all without laughing outright. Her husband would be reviewing a great many terms of rent with his steward – and with her counsel once the steward was gone, of course, just as her mother had taught her to be a respectful wife – and Fanny felt no need to acquaint herself with those who were already availing themselves of the Dashwood charity as it was. They were already paying their share of the poor tax; beyond that, what more could be done?

    By two o’clock, she had to remove herself from the drawing room entirely – as Marianne had sat down at the pianoforte without inquiring as to whether or not her presence would be an imposition and started plodding away at some dreadfully melancholic piece of music that she called Beethoven. She was seemingly determined to refuse her ears even a moment’s peace, and Fanny quickly reached her limit. Yet, gracious hostess that she was, she left with nothing more than a sidelong look to speak of her displeasure. In return, Marianne's smile was far too sweet as she bid that she enjoy the walk she announced she would take – as if she had any intention of doing otherwise!

    Rude, impossible girl
    – the restraint she was showing for her husband’s sake was nothing more than saintly.

    Yet she took her mother’s latest letter with her and found a quiet bench just past the shrubbery where she could sit and read. The letter was typical of Minerva Ferrars: short with pleasantries before it got straight to the point with a list of instructions for her to heed in order to make the most of her new circumstances. Fanny, who'd only ever kept a house in town, appreciated her mother’s wisdom and took every word for the law it was to follow. She walked back to the house with her confidence reaffirmed, leaving her more determined than ever to make a place here at Norland that was well and truly her own.

    Better yet, her mother had announced that she was sending Edward to stay with her on his way back from Plymouth. Edward was as malleable and obedient as any man could be expected to be, and it would be good for her to have one more voice on her side against the wall of Dashwood women opposing her.

    She returned to the house just in time for luncheon, which John joined her for. Marianne was thankfully done drowning the house in sound by then, and even more blessedly, the Dashwoods took their own repast separately to discuss their future prospects. Fanny was glad to have some time to herself where she wasn’t constantly on the defensive – where she could instead discuss plans for their home with her husband without being looked at as a thief for doing so.

    The hour past four o’clock was the time she had scheduled with her son. Mrs. Armes, the nanny, showed Henry in, and Fanny welcomed her little boy to sit on her lap while they looked over his reader together. Today was devoted to learning the letter D, and they thought up all sorts of things together that fit the sound – from dog to dress to doll to Henry rather proudly pointing out his own surname as Dashwood. Clever child, Fanny thought as she allowed herself the indulgence of kissing the top of his head. Everything she did, she did for him, after all – to ensure his legacy, just the same as her own mother had once done – and continued to do – for her.

    At five o’clock, she went up to take some time for herself before dressing for dinner. She sat by the hearth in the private sitting room attached to the mistress’ chamber and enjoyed a moment's peace while she looked over samples of paper and fabric. These rooms were handsome enough – Emma Dashwood wasn’t without all taste – but Fanny knew how crucial it was to put her own mark on everything she could possibly touch. She spent her time thus engaged until Mrs. Colton came in with her selections for eveningwear – limited as those selections were, with the black they were all forced to don in mourning. She, at least, could afford the luxury of having black gowns specially made to see her through these months – outside of Mrs. Dashwood, her husband's sisters could only mark their own grief with black shawls, with their new limits on such expenditures already well in mind.

    It would be some months before they could entertain properly, in accordance with those same rules of mourning – which was an even greater pity. Fanny would have preferred to secure her place amongst the leading families of the county sooner rather than later, but that did not mean that their standards as a family taking a meal together had to slacken. Especially now that the menus were her purview to order as mistress, she’d see them dine comfortably and well.

    At seven o’clock, she came down, and dinner was then promptly announced at a quarter past by Mr. Kirby. Their first course consisted of various roasted vegetables, turbot with lobster and Dutch sauce – she was all too happy to take advantage of Norland’s proximity to the sea, as opposed to London – and a celery soup. For the second course, more vegetables from their yield of winter crops were paired with mutton – again making use of Norland’s bounty of livestock, as opposed to the difficulty and expense of securing quality, unspoiled meat in London – and leek and mushroom croquettes. Norland had superb wine cellars thanks to her husband's father and great-uncle before him, and Fanny had been all too delighted when Mr. Kirby had suggested a red Margaux that had been purchased from France before the Terror had set in and made trade between their two countries hardly worth the price to secure.

    In barely more than a whisper, Mrs. Dashwood told them that particular vintage had been a favorite of her husband’s. For the rest of the course, she swirled the wine in her glass more so than she actually drank from it, her eyes fixed on how the candlelight broke over the crystal. Marianne, for her part, refused to touch the mutton and hardly filled her plate otherwise. Fanny knew that Marianne had little taste for mutton, but she could have at least honored her hostess by attempting to eat anything from the table she'd provided. Miss Margaret couldn't even be found for dinner, yet again, no matter that she'd only just reached an age where she was permitted to dine with the adults and should have been grateful for the distinction – wild girl that she was, but Fanny would never allow her son to behave so poorly as a guest in someone else’s home.

    Elinor, at least, was determined to fill the silences that otherwise threatened to linger with polite chatter, and Fanny indulged her. She would never allow herself to be accused of incivility at any table she hosted, after all.

    It was not until dessert was brought in – an exquisitely layered trifle topped with Mrs. Fareham’s much anticipated whipped syllabub – that a wrinkle appeared in an otherwise flawless execution of her instructions: there were sliced almonds both within and decorating the outside of the trifle.


    Fanny had a very particular dislike of almonds – which she had explicitly expressed to Mrs. Fareham in one of their very first conversations. This was done deliberately, in as bald an attack on her authority as if she'd been struck with a gauntlet before it was thrown. Tersely, she gripped the arms of her chair, her heart hammering in her chest as she felt the sudden, close attention of every servant in the room. She knew better than to even twitch in reaction – not if she wished to retain any sort of control over her household from here into the future.

    After all, if she didn’t have that, then what was a wife even for?

    “Fanny,” she was thus surprised when Marianne spoke – Marianne, who'd traded a grim, concerned look with Elinor that passed almost as soon as it was first expressed. (Was Fanny ever so close to her own brothers, so as to master such a trick of unspoken communication? It was not a pang she felt for that moment’s unguarded thought, but rather just a twist in her stomach for the presence of the almonds.) “I wanted to thank you for your graciousness in allowing me to choose the flavor for tonight’s trifle. You were out walking when Mrs. Fareham was looking to discuss this last detail, and I have to applaud your generosity in allowing me to speak in your stead.”

    “But then,” Elinor smoothly picked up from there – coolly meeting her eyes, even as she gave an indulgent smile, “what are elder sisters for, but to spoil those younger?”

    “How splendid,” John beamed, helping himself to a generous serving of the trifle. “My wife is all kindness, is she not? That was very good of you, Fanny.”

    “Indeed,” was all that Fanny could manage in reply, even as she inwardly seethed for the defiant tilt of Marianne’s chin – as if daring her to utter a challenge without sounding churlish to the extreme. So, she reminded herself with her mother's voice in her ear: what was a gracious hostess, but a lady who made allowances for her guests? She picked around the almonds on her plate and reminded herself that these guests would soon be leaving, at the very least.

    Thankfully, from there, the same headache she complained of to keep Marianne from entertaining them at the pianoforte after dinner also allowed her to go up early. She’d had enough forced civility for one day, and no further desire to suffer her ungrateful company for any longer than was absolutely necessary.

    To sooth her nerves, she made it a point to pass by the nursery, and looked in to make sure that Henry was sleeping peacefully. She stood in the doorway for a long moment, listening to the deep, contented sound of his breathing before she turned and continued on her way.

    Mrs. Colton was waiting for her in her room before she could even ring the bell – impeccable maid that she was, Fanny only wished that her entire staff could share a similar such work ethic. Before she left for the night, Fanny pointedly asked her to thank Mrs. Fareham for her kindness with the trifle. From there, she resolved to write her mother in the morning to see if she could keep an eye out for a good London cook who would be willing to relocate to Sussex. Something told her that this one would not last long – though she’d give the woman a last opportunity to retain her employment. She was not an unjust mistress, after all – merely an exacting one.

    Then, she was left alone, and alone she would stay. John rarely joined her after supper – in that way, she was fortunate to have a husband who respected her decision not to risk her health with another child. She'd known too many complications to bring Henry into the world, and she refused to suffer in such a base manner again – a choice which both her physician and mother had supported. She’d done her duty in providing an heir; from there, she had no further interest in John beyond the partnership they enjoyed during the day. However, she was not unreasonable; her husband had her blessing to seek out any companionship he wished elsewhere so long as he was discreet. Such was inevitably the way with men as it was, with or without a wife's consent, and Fanny much preferred the open understanding in her marriage to the deceit and willful ignorance that defined so many others. In this way, too, her mother had advised her well.

    Still, she could not help but think of Mrs. Dashwood and the way she had stared at her wine during dinner. If previously asked, Fanny would have claimed – and truly believed – that her red eyes and black widow’s weeds were as much for her sudden loss in rank and fortune as it was for the man she’d depended on for her material comfort and standing in society. For a moment's lapse, Fanny tried to imagine herself in a similar mourning for John. She would miss him, surely – she did not dislike her husband, which already put her far and beyond most women of her acquaintance. To the contrary, she appreciated how John depended on her for guidance; he had never sought to suppress her as other men may have felt moved to subdue a strong wife. Yet she knew that she would not miss him the way a left hand would long for its right or the lungs would gasp for their breath if he was ever taken from her side. The very idea was preposterous, she told herself – there was only fallacy to be found in such romanticism, and Fanny would put every stock, instead, in the capable sense of her mind. And yet . . .

    But no . . . no. Huffing at her own foolishness, she blew out her last remaining candle and settled herself in for the night. Such mawkish thoughts held no place in her world – they would only ruin her sleep for the night if she indulged them further. She had another exacting day awaiting her as mistress of Norland, after all, and for that she needed her rest.


    Fanny and John arriving at Norland without giving notice after Henry Dashwood's death, and Fanny's annoyance that Mrs. Dashwood refused to leave behind the Stanhill china and linen are both book canon. Yes, I could not have made details like that up myself. :p

    ~MJ @};-
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2022
  10. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jul 31, 2005
    This is great! I don't know if it's possible to make every character sympathetic, but I certainly understand Fanny's thoughts and motivations here. You can't really blame her for wanting to secure her son's future.

    Love the part with the almonds! And this line:
    "Was Fanny ever so close to her own brothers, so as to master such a trick of unspoken communication? It was not a pang she felt for that moment’s unguarded thought, but rather just a twist in her stomach for the presence of the almonds."
    really says a lot without actually saying it.
    Mira_Jade likes this.
  11. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Aw thanks! I was really proud of that line, in particular, so I'm glad that it stood out to you. Even if Fanny isn't entirely sympathetic, she's certainly understandable to a point, in her own way.

    As always, I can't thank you enough for reading and taking the time to leave your thoughts! [face_love] [:D]

    Author's Notes: Now, it's time for Poetry Week! As much as I may have griped and groaned about writing poetry, this turned into a fascinating experiment in terms of format and style. Once again, this challenge is inspiring me to write all sorts of things I most certainly would not have written otherwise. Even if, that said, writing poetry is hard - so I apologize if my verses don't quite do justice to what Marianne may have written if she held the pen. Yet, despite any admitted deficiency on my part, I am pleased to present . . .

    “'Ode to a Brook' and Other Selections”

    Excerpts from the journals of Miss Marianne Dashwood:

    May 14th, 1788

    Merrily, merrily, your waters flow,
    Altering not for man nor solid rock
    Sparkling froth atop a swift undertow,
    Paths to the sea, you e'er seek to unlock,
    Swiftly, swiftly, you chart your course,
    And run cold o’er my feet – a shock!

    Oh, but this stanza is hardly the equal of an ode. It’s trite – all of it trite! I shall never write again.

    May 15th, 1788

    Perhaps I should ask Elinor for her advice. She knows how to fix everything – why not a poem, too?

    May 16, 1788

    It would seem that Elinor is not as good at fixing poems as she is with helping me mend my dresses before Mama can find all the ways I manage to stain and tear them, otherwise. That's not to say that she's not a most superior sister in every other regard! Take her paintings, for example. Her watercolors are exquisite, whereas I only ever seem to make mud of mine. Elinor says that’s because I use too many pigments all at once – but how can one vivid color not beget an even more splendid color once combined?

    July 27th, 1791

    Your waters flow, merrily, merrily
    Your course ne’er alters, no matter the stone
    Your current seeks the sea, unerringly
    Oh brook, why do you seek your way alone?

    Do you know where you go, or go unbeknown?

    Before you join the river, do you your fate bemoan?

    (Why must a poem always rhyme, anyway?)

    I have struggled in vain to come up with a better rhyme for stone. Goodness, but this is an ode, not a dirge!

    July 28th, 1791

    When I showed my poem to Father, he said that my first line was perfectly lovely the way it was. Yet he is Father, so he is biased towards me by his very nature. When he noticed that his opinion failed to sway my own, he showed me the work of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter to look to for inspiration. She is a published poetess; can you believe it? Even if her work is folded into a Volume Composed by Many Hands, her achievement is still remarkable. My goals are not so lofty – I can hardly express my love for my dear brook without faltering to convey the true depths of what I feel inside! Father then said that even Shakespeare must have had lines of verse that he looked on with little fondness, especially in his youth. Is that wisdom, though? I am not supposed to disagree with Father – nor do I, usually – yet this, I am sure, cannot possibly be true.

    July 29th, 1791

    Thrown. Shone. Condone. Atone. Blown. Loan. Grown. Bemoan.

    . . . scone?

    I do believe that Shakespeare, too, was unable to write on an empty stomach. Perhaps a small repast is all I require for inspiration? I’m sure that Mrs. Fareham wouldn’t mind indulging me, if I asked most politely.

    (Margaret – who joined me on my quest to the kitchens, even if I did make her play the squire to my lady knight – says that scones are as worthy of odes as anything we may find in nature. She has only just turned seven, but I suppose that sometimes even squires must be inclined to insight before their knights!)

    July 30th, 1791

    An Ode to Scones, by the Dashwood Sisters:

    Hark ye and attend, the glories and delights
    Found within each delicious, buttery bite –
    Berry, apple, cinnamon, ginger, and orange!
    To find a more perfect friend for tea we challenge!

    I must give credit where credit is due: Margaret contributed all her favorite flavors to include. And Elinor, when I bemoaned that nothing rhymes with orange, sensibly pointed out that the words need not rhyme in whole, but on a slant – however the poetess may please.

    November 17th, 1796

    A London Lamentation, by a Lady Newly of Age for Matrimony:

    Far from home, I long for the sweet brook of my youth
    Here, among these streets of stone and castles of steel
    No water flows but in black Thames, no bough holds sway
    There is no wide field nor glen, only dirt
    - and the senseless dogs who bark at my skirt!

    November 18th, 1796

    Mama has called my poem most unkind – as if I should be grateful for the attention Mr. George Evans has paid me at three seperate assemblies, now. This is only my first season, and with my dowry being what it is and what it is not, she says that I should be pleased for the consideration of a barrister’s son, especially one who will someday take over his father's practice. (Though I must be kind to Mama, at least – she is as inclined to think with her heart as I am, and undoubtedly hopes that consideration may turn into something more.)

    Fortunately, Father does not agree with Mama in the slightest. His opinion of Mr. Evans is just as high as my own, and he even went so far as to counsel that he still has some years in which to build up a comfortable sum for us, separate of the fortune that shall pass to John. (He is recovering well from the blow of learning the terms of his own inheritance from our great-uncle back in the spring – now, he is merely determined.) Father then said that I would grieve him if I ever settled for anything less than my ideal mate out of fear for the future – as if I ever could.

    Elinor smiled most indulgently at my poem, but she’s been out for two whole years now, and she’s never once encouraged any man to offer for her hand. I shall endeavor to follow my sister’s example in this as I do in all things.

    . . . perhaps I shall read a sample of my poetry to Mr. Evans. If the subject does not shock him, then a woman writing may certainly be too much for his poor mind to handle without bursting from the strain of an original thought!

    Now Elinor has indeed sighed at me – but she has not disagreed!

    February 23rd, 1797

    The brook holds our last twilight
    Absorbing every fiery color
    Until, in darkness, it is night

    I miss you, Father.

    March 7th, 1797

    We are being forced to leave Norland forevermore, only days after Father has been laid to rest. (Yes, forever – or so our exile shall be if Fanny has anything to say on the matter. I do not see us ever being invited back again, and certainly not back home.) Or, I should say, Elinor is attempting to convince Mama to stay for as long as we are welcome, without making any hasty decisions in anger. Where would we go, otherwise, should we quit the house immediately?

    Whenever we depart, John has granted me leave to take Father’s copy of Cowper – and Cowley and Carter and Wordsworth, too. He clearly thinks this one small act of generosity a great kindness, which I cannot understand but then he has never been my brother the way Elinor and Margaret are my sisters. However, his generosity ran its course when Fanny interrupted my packing to request that I return the Shakespeare I had just pulled from the shelf – most likely because that is the only name she recognizes, and she undoubtedly hopes to impress any guests she may ever host with the library that she herself cares nothing for. Yet what are these books to her? Any volume of Shakespeare may do for Fanny, but these books are the ones Father has touched and held and breathed life into with his voice; as such, they mean the world to me!

    I cannot raise the subject with Mama – her grief is still much too fresh, and she already struggles to maintain her grace with Fanny as it is. When I took my concerns to Elinor, she only wearily asked me to consider where we shall keep all the books I already have. Wherever we end up, our new home will most likely not include a library.

    My brook and trees, those, to my great sorrow, are just as immovable. Just as Father’s headstone in the churchyard is fixed, where I go almost every day to read him my new poems. I may take with me only what I can in memory.

    July 2nd, 1797

    I have teased Elinor to inquire if she would like me to write her a poem now – little as Edward may appreciate my art, especially if forced to read the words aloud!

    August 25th, 1797

    To a Stream in Devonshire, in Greeting:

    You are not my brook as I knew it to be
    But from your springs, the same waters flow
    Searching, endlessly, for the promised sea
    Perhaps, together, the way we seek may show

    September 19th, 1797

    At last, I understand all the poetry in the world! Oh, but are there even words for such a giddy, perfect love as mine?

    October 13th, 1797

    Are there words, now, to express my grief at our parting?

    January 21st, 1798

    Poetry has no meaning for me. Not anymore. Now that he is . . . now that my . . .

    but he is my Willoughby no longer

    April 8th, 1798

    I am determined to reclaim all the things I loved about my old self I will be even better as my new self in order to honor the second chance at life I've been given. I will take pleasure in reading again; I will find my own words to match those hallowed passages in expression; I shall glory in all the beauty of the natural world as I once did – if only to acknowledge how close I came to surrendering losing even more than my heart in my despair. It has been a year of grief, in so many ways, and I am heartily sick of misery.

    Whenever my determination wanes, I need only remind myself to be strong for Elinor's sake. She deserves everything good and happy the world may offer – and she has been such an exemplary pillar of fortitude to emulate, besides. Both she and Mama have taken to reading to me aloud whenever my eyes turn too heavy to focus on my own. I believe that Elinor is merely glad for my renewed interest in my favorite stories, just as she is plainly hesitant to allow me out of her sight. Today, Colonel Brandon – who is still waiting to escort us back to Barton – even offered to take over reading for Elinor when her throat finally wearied of her self-appointed task. His suggestion was nearly as surprising as my willingness to accept his company without complaint. I did not even consider coming up with some excuse to turn him away before saying yes.

    He has a fine voice for Spenser, is all; I merely enjoy listening to him.

    May 17th, 1798

    I most certainly have to write a poem for Elinor and Edward, now! I may even recite it at their wedding banquet, which is to be held at the end of the first week in August.

    August 3rd, 1798

    Perhaps I never gave Edward enough credit for being a true romantic before. The vast ocean at rest, it seems, runs far deeper than any frothing wave upon the shore, which makes all sorts of crashing, violent noise, but is there only for one moment and then gone the next. Had I once called his love for my sister tepid, when it has survived so much and looks forward to the future to survive yet more still? Had Willoughby – who was certainly all passion and vivace, but as a spark rather than a constant flame – even a tenth of his character, we may have been very happy together. To my surprise – but also not to my surprise, now – Edward requested that I provide him with a copy of my poem to frame. He intends to display it on his writing desk, once work at the parsonage is complete and he and Elinor take up residence.

    My sister is a most fortunate woman, and I am happy for her.

    September 30th, 1798

    Reflections by Another Stream in Dorsetshire, the Morning After Michaelmas:

    Should I write of Lucifer, banished from heaven?
    Of the Archangel, triumphant over his foe?
    Mayhaps I should – but my thoughts are far from even
    Angels, and the devil caught in an earthly sloe

    (Is sloe a proper way to refer to a blackberry bush, or am I stretching the rules of language to complete my rhyme? I must ask Elinor.)

    What of partings? Those bade farewell and welcomed in
    Should I write of how I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet

    (To Elinor, of course – overlook that, Future Self, if you ever try to make sense of these scribbles!)

    This poem is hopelessly mangled now. Perhaps, in a subsequent stanza, I may try . . .

    I once thought that my soul had fled -
    perished, even as I could not cease
    to live in agony, loving you

    (No, no – I am through writing about him.)

    You wear your courtesy like armor
    And I, like a vine, am
    rooting through stone for skin
    searching, slowly,
    to welcome myself in

    (What even is that? My ink has blotted terribly, further making my lines insensible – Elinor says I am much too hard on my quills, and I fear that she is not wrong!)

    Why was I never anything more than just another word for tragedy?
    Ophelia, in Question to the Author

    (More trite! It is a good thing I dashed that particularly banal line in the margin.)

    Brook, how do you feel when you finally reach
    the sea? I think I want to feel that way

    Your waters search, your current seeks – no stone
    sways you from your chosen course overlong, to its challenge you
    You merely bubble and murmur your song

    How do you know which way to follow?
    What guarantee do you have that the sea
    will be there to greet you with open arms?

    How are you not a sun chasing a moon?
    Or does the moon long for the sun when she
    Has only known the strangling hold of the tides?

    I at least know you are constant and steady as moon and tide
    and the sun that sets as faithfully as it shall rise

    (I think I can trust
    I know I’m safe with you)

    But are you truly a sun, and am I a moon?
    Who burns? Who reflects? Who pushes and who pulls?
    Perhaps it is better that we are all just earthly streams
    who, after searching, find each other on our way to the sea

    I want to know what happens after the poem ends

    Oh, but this is as wanting in structure as it is devoid of any rhythm or rhyme! Words hardly make sense to me right now (he makes no sense to me), and I cannot think of what more to write. How do I pull these lines together in a single composition? What do I even want this poem to say?

    I believe that I should merely put down my pen and let the idea rest – at least, for the time being.


    A Note on Michaelmas: Michaelmas is the Feast of Saint Michael, which was a holiday celebrated to commemorate the devil being banished from heaven. Local lore told that the devil landed in a patch of blackberry bushes, so blackberries were traditionally not picked after September. And of course, the last of the season's yield of blackberries were baked into all sorts of delicious things for the Michaelmas feast. ;)

    Perhaps more importantly for the English countryside, Michaelmas was also a quarter day - where rents were due and new leases were let out. (Like Elinor and Edward moving into the parsonage.) Symbolically, families who could afford to do so would offer a goose as a gift to their landlord to be cooked for the Michaelmas feast. The landlord, in return, would gift that surplus of geese to those poorer families of the parish who could not afford to give a goose of their own.

    Michaelmas also doubled as a harvest festival, where a year's work - and hopefully, a healthy reaping in reward for all that hard work - was celebrated before the seasonal time of rest that came with the winter.

    (Clearly, I still have a Michaelmas story to tell. [face_mischief])

    A Note on Elizabeth Carter: She is the same poetess Marianne quoted from in "... and Shake the Rising Soul". That title is a Carter nick, too. [face_love]

    A Note on George Evans: He was only briefly mentioned in the coda to "All Fools in Love". In the end, Marianne didn't even have to recite her own poetry - he couldn't tolerate a woman correcting him on his recitation of Pope, and Marianne doesn't even like Pope. [face_mischief]

    A Note on the Dashwood Family Fortune: This is further explained in the book, why the family inheritance was so slanted between John Dashwood and his sisters, so I figured it would be useful to mention here. Henry Dashwood Sr.'s first wife was wealthy, and at her death the whole of her fortune reverted to John as her son - which is more than understandable! But this is where things got tricky: Norland, up to a year before the novel, belonged to an elderly Dashwood patriarch, who was our heroines' great-uncle. For some years, Henry Dashwood lived at Norland with his family and managed the estate that he was to eventually inherit. His wife and daughters cared for their ailing great-uncle, in their turn. Upon the uncle's death, it came as a bit of a shock when his will was read and they discovered that he left his fortune to his youngest descendant - John and Fanny's son, Henry, who was only four at the time. (So, John and Fanny have John's fortune from his mother, Fanny's fortune from her dowry, the Dashwood fortune from the eldermost Henry Dashwood, along with the annual profits from Norland to further augment their wealth each year. They are, um, rather grossly rich. 8-}) Our Henry recovered from this disappointment (there was enough of an age gap between him and his second wife that he worried about dying first and leaving her destitute) and made plans to save a separate sum for his second family from his current share of Norland's profits. However, he died - unexpectedly and still relatively young - not even a year into that endeavor, which brings us right up to the events of the novel.

    . . . I know, Jane Austen is wild. ;)

    I think I covered everything of note, but if I missed anything, please don't hesitate to let me know. :)


    ~MJ @};-
    Last edited: May 9, 2022
  12. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    Okay, this isn't enough, but I've blown off adulting all night tonight to try to catch up on fanfic and it's really bothering me that I didn't finish, and if I let this story go too much longer it'll get too daunting to continue at all, so something is better than nothing, right?

    lol, I love Moffat, but here's the problem: he tends to out-Moffat himself. You let him go too long on one project with the freedom to do as he pleases, and he starts tripping all over himself and falling off the deep end. (I dearly love Sherlock, for example, but that fourth season has been cast into the abyss, my gosh, what on earth happened to you, Moffat :oops:) Eleven is my favorite Doctor, but by his last season, Moffat was definitely edging into overdrive a bit. I liked Twelve quite a lot (especially once Missy started appearing), and I did like Thirteen, but halfway through her season, real life got the better of me, and I've never managed to get caught up again. But yes, for all that I adore Moffat at his best, I know exactly what you mean about how he can be just too much :p And "Vincent and the Doctor" is all kinds of amazing, and easily one of the best (and most accessible for a non-fan) Doctor Who episodes ever, and that last scene never fails to give me all the feels :_|

    (Mira! I have cosplayed both Amy and River, and once at a con I happened upon this tiny wee boy who surely wasn't even two yet, in Ten's pinstripe suit, and he was a redhead. I almost squeaked to his parents, "The Doctor is a ginger!" And they just beamed, and it was the greatest thing EVER.)

    So close! =((

    I once watched a BBC miniseries of Bleak House, and good heavens, those courts. I had no idea [face_plain]

    Well, this is all kinds of horrifying [face_worried]


    Isn't there, though...

    =(( :_|

    Dang it, ending my marathon night of fanfic on this note, I wish I'd made it to the carrots story :p
    ViariSkywalker and Mira_Jade like this.
  13. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    Lil bit more...

    This was a very clever answer to the prompt! :D

    YES, PLEASE AND THANK YOU. That made me genuinely sad watching the movie, to think that this bright, spirited girl who wanted travel and adventure would likely have to marry into circumstances where she'd have neither, and likely to a husband who'd expect her to be everything she wasn't. This is my new headcanon for Margaret :D

    I love this, because that possessiveness that abusive relationships generally have is far too easily described as "romantic." It absolutely infuriates me when I see obvious abuse red flags being painted that way (hello, Reylo [face_plain]). Bless you for pointing this out.

    Yup, this is how that would have played out [face_plain]

    This is headcanon too, that Eliza gets a happy ending [face_love]

    I mean, it's a disproportionately harsh penalty for the foolishness of Lord Hastings, but certainly a blessing in disguise for Marianne and Celia...

    Ah yes, self-deception is, on occasion, a temporary form of self-preservation.

    [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    You go, Eliza :D

    lol, being practical and making a list :p

    Aw yeah :D Poor Mary Bennet is probably a big fan :p

    I completely relate to this :p

    And this - my hair is very curly, and yup, how tidy it is on any given day depends as much on pure chance as it does on any effort of mine :p


    :D :D :D

    Aw yeah [face_love]

    That would be me :p

    I begin to actually feel sympathetic toward Edward's library choices - though truly, one cannot live by instruction manuals alone :p

    Exactly. The life he came from looks mind-numbingly pointless.

    lol, VotF again, where Luke hesitantly says that it doesn't seem like Mara will be gaining as much from their marriage as he will :p I feel that neither Mara nor Elinor would put up with that nonsense for long :p

    Aw [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    Only two more to go :p
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  14. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    I was mega impressed by your mad whirlwind of feedback! And, of course, I am always happy to hear from you, whether your comments be long or short. [:D] [:D]

    Exactly! I loved Eleven in the beginning, just as I loved Sherlock in the beginning, but over time . . . yikes. Moffat can't be trusted with long-term characterization, you're right; he out-Moffats himself. :p And I'm not even going to get started on how he tends to treat women in his stories . . . just, no. [face_bleh]


    That makes it even worse, doesn't it? =((

    Yeah . . . there was a lot to be desired in the court systems of the time, even more so than now.

    As much as I love playing with the light and fluffy side of the eighteenth/nineteenth century with Jane Austen, there's definitely an opposite side to that coin. [face_plain]

    There is. [face_plain]

    *passes tissue*

    Why thank you! I was so very proud of how this prompt turned out, in particular. [face_love]

    I know exactly what you mean; I too recoiled at such a fate for Margaret! I actually got this idea from Persuasion with: “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” If Sophia (the Crofts are one of my favorite Austen couples - talk about relationship goals! [face_love]) and Anne can sail with their Navy husbands during times of war, then gosh darnit, I'm going to give Margaret all the adventures, too. Then, I just so happened to have a prosperous merchant family right there in the Jennings, and one particularly earnest matchmaker in Mrs. Jennings, herself; from there, everything fell into place. [face_mischief]

    Exactly! And that's honestly why villains like Willoughby hit so close to home in a way that, say, the likes of Vader or Sauron or Voldemort don't quite manage. He's not overtly insidious; he's a narcissist, who is very good at causing damage in a different way. This form of abuse may be more subtle, but it's still abuse.

    There's a quote in the novel where Elinor still holds to the idea that Marianne would have been happy with Willoughby if only he wasn't married, and it just makes me snort every time. Like, I'm usually not one to disagree with Jane Austen on characterization, but on that point I very much disagree. This is exactly how their relationship would have played out, and you can't convince me otherwise. [face_plain]

    Poor Eliza - I get that Jane Austen already had so much going on with so many characters and all of the social commentary, but Eliza deserved to be more than a living, breathing red flag and a moral lesson as a plot device. So my hand slipped and gave her all of the happiness, instead. :p

    [Burr]Can we agree that duels are dumb and immature?[/Burr]

    Honest to goodness, but I promise I thought about this! I can't lie, the irony of killing Willoughby in another duel appealed to me almost immediately. (I think that's one of the first things I mentioned to Vi when I was brainstorming. :p) For the purpose of this story, I had to get rid of Willoughby somehow in order to free Marianne and Celia - divorce just wasn't an option for women then. Period. Some of the more natural ways to kill off a character at this time - like through pestilence and disease, didn't sit well with me after what we've all lived through the last few years. But, considering Willoughby's mindset at age forty, as a man staring down the end of his youth, with his disparate lifestyle to date perhaps aging him before his time, he would be arrogant enough to pursue a seduction that he knew would have consequences. He wouldn't be able to resist; an affair with a pretty, wealthy young woman would stroke his ego and feed his hubris in all the ways he craves. The equal pride of a slighted lord could definitely result in a duel, which we already know from canon that Willoughby wouldn't shy away from - because when does he ever hold himself accountable for his actions? He never sees himself as in the wrong. I just made that defect in his character a fatal flaw. [face_mischief]

    From there, the mortality rate for duels is such a ridiculous statistic for a reason - it all boils down to the arrogance of the combatants. Sure, I could have spared Lord Hastings, at least, but then he'd be tried for murder - because duels were illegal at this time - and that court case would have been a long and winding plot thread to have dangling for poor Marianne. So I closed it. [face_whistling]

    Ain't it? :(

    [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]!!

    She would know, wouldn't she? :p Sometimes, we all need a friend like Eliza to give us the kick we need when we need it. [face_love]

    Elinor is so proud. :p

    Mary was probably the only one in the Bennet household who enjoyed Mr. Collins reading from Fordyce's, it's true! [face_laugh] Poor girl. :p

    Can't we all? [face_laugh] [face_mischief]

    As someone who also has curly hair, I can so relate to this! 8-}

    Anything but the weather. :p

    [face_mischief] [face_love]!!

    Best piece ever written for the piano, period. [face_love]

    This made me laugh! :p

    Right?? :p

    And I love how that was yet another theme Jane Austen explored in S&S. Just . . . yikes. Thanks but no thanks to that particular lifestyle. [face_plain]

    Oh, certainly not! :p [face_love] (I really am due to give VotF a reread again, just for all these wonderful details. ;))

    I think that this is easily the fluffiest, purest thing I have ever written. :p

    And now soon to be three. [face_mischief] But please, as always, take your time! I appreciate and enjoy reading your thoughts whenever they come more than I can say! [face_love] [:D]

    Alrighty! I'll be back with Week X in just a few. :D

    ~ MJ
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2022
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  15. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Notes: For Week X, the prompt was to write a story between 100 and 400 words, including the words galvanize, cavalier, and adversary. Somehow, I sneaked this one in just under the 400 word mark, yet again. :p

    That said, this ficlet deals a little more with my headcanons for Margaret Dashwood's future. If I strained believability for a woman of this time period, I do apologize, but in the end, I just couldn't resist . . . [face_mischief] [face_love]


    X: "Keep Thy Armor Bright"

    August 19th, 1805

    “Mama will not find this an appropriate gift for a young lady.”

    While Elinor felt obliged to offer a voice of reason, Edward, of course, did not agree. “But how shall the indomitable Captain Margaret galvanize her men against the ravening horde if she does not have a sword to wield?”

    “Hopefully,” Elinor’s retort was more of a sigh – which was accompanied by a very real pang of apprehension, “by there being no ravening horde to begin with.”

    “Yet should there be, Margaret will not be left without this last means of defense,” rather vexingly, Christopher agreed with Edward – depriving her of the one sensible ally she usually depended upon. It had been his idea to commission the sword, at that, and he'd visited London with Edward thrice since to ensure that the finished product was as much a work of art as it was, at its heart, a weapon made for one purpose.

    How her youngest sister had gone from a girl merely dreaming of distant lands – and playing at swords – to a young woman poised on the brink of true adventure, Elinor hardly knew. Yet she thanked God for His most . . . unusual answer to her prayers to see Margaret happily settled in life – God and Mrs. Jennings, who had not rested until she saw Margaret affianced to her own nephew, the merchant captain Arthur Jennings.

    “Not to be cavalier,” Marianne too admired the sword, “but Margaret's ability to surprise any potential adversary brings me comfort. She now bests Edward more often than not; I’d call her skills formidable.”

    “That is only because,” Edward cheerfully protested, “the good colonel here has taught her how to fight dirty.”

    “And may she remember every trick,” Christopher accepted Edward’s accusation with a look that was almost a smirk. “If the Crown could boast half as many men with Margaret’s discipline and determination, we’d have no more wars to wage.”

    For, Elinor knew, the high seas were treacherous and would yet remain so with Napoleon in power. She had always endeavored to keep her sisters safe, and yet -

    “ - she shall be safe,” Marianne, ever attuned to her thoughts, warmly intoned, “Beyond that, any venture that Margaret deems worth the risk, she will undertake alongside the man she loves. In the end, what more can any of us wish for than that?”


    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2023
  16. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 9, 2002
    Okay, SO. I picked out a ridiculous amount of quotes yesterday from Weeks 6 & 8, and was fully planning to write all of my feedback (but then you sent me that mega prompt and I had to start writing something for it, how very dare you [face_not_talking]), and then I sat down just now to finally write up my comments and the entire thing was GONE. :_| You'd think I would be used to this by now, but I honestly thought I would have at least another twelve hours before the boards ate my response. o_O 8-}

    So I'm going to do this a little differently then my usual, and I hope you'll forgive me for it, because I don't want to go any longer without giving your brilliant story the praise it deserves. I'm going to start with Week 6, and then I'll be back with more...

    This story gutted me, Mira. One of the reasons it's taken me so long to reply to it is that I had a lot of feelings about it, and since I was in the middle of writing my own behemoth, I couldn't properly process them. But let's just say there was so much in this piece that resonated with me personally. Not the terrible husband and terrible marriage thing, thankfully, but Marianne's feelings about being a mother and trying to do her best for her child and feeling like she's lost parts of who she is, and not recognizing herself anymore... yeah, that all hit pretty hard. And then when I realized Marianne is only thirty-three here - two years younger than I am - it was like, whoa, yep, that's me. I don't want to get too revealing of my own personal insecurities and failings in a public forum, but there it is. Sometimes I feel like the last ten years of my life have been a blur, and I don't know anything about anything anymore, and whatever skills or talents or intelligence I used to have are just gone. When Marianne says she's missed so much... I can relate, and it hurts.

    Anyway, on to the actual story! As glad as I am that this AU is not the real story, I can't help admiring it and loving it even, because the healing Marianne begins to experience as she returns to her sister and to this safe haven that Elinor and Edward and the Bradfords have created was just so powerful and wonderful. I loved absolutely everything about it. Marianne's reflections on her life with Willoughby (and wasn't that exactly how that marriage would have gone... and ended [face_plain]), her shame and guilt when she first went to stay with Elinor, her gradually opening up again (and Eliza being the best of friends!), all of the children growing up together and the happiness between all of the families, Marianne trying to return to the things she once loved (like greeting the trees and telling Celia about them), Marianne and Edward's banter in the library because even in different circumstances, these two are more like brother and sister to one another than a certain actual brother and sister ( o_O ), and then Marianne interrupting Brandon while he's playing the piano, gaaah!

    This whole vignette was honestly amazing and beautifully written, per your usual, and it was painful and soft and hopeful and sweet, and I love it so much. And now I'm going to make a list of things I loved or that stood out to me in particular, to try to make up for my failure to respond before all of my pulled quotes disappeared:

    • "Before her stands her knight, for whom she toyld so sore.” - [face_love] (aw yeah, Faerie Queene reference... and this quote had so much more resonance after reading the whole story and reaching that ending with Brandon. So well done from a narrative standpoint!)
    • Margaret going on adventures in Uruguay and around the world with her husband!!! (And I LOVE your Week 10 fic for this very same reason!! [face_love])
    • Marianne had once thought his desire to keep her by his side terribly romantic (before his restrictions chaffed and choked, irritating the better sense she had too long ignored to the contrary), and had submitted to the necessity of distance from her family - uuuuuugh [face_waiting] (but beautifully worded)
    • Willoughby is the worst, and you did such a great job of taking his character through to his logical conclusion
    • Celia, who’d just turned twelve that summer, was so much the opposite of how Marianne had been at her age that she often wondered if she was doing right by her daughter – but Lord above, how she was trying. - :( oh, how I can relate!
    • Someone is eventually going to tell Celia and David that they're siblings, right? :p
    • “There is life to be lived beyond the likes of John Willoughby – that I promise you!”
    • Eliza’s husband had been apprenticed to Delaford’s master of horse before their marriage, but he now managed his own stud farm at Bradford Downs – the rich pasturelands that were formerly part of Delaford’s acreage, the deed of which had been gifted as part of Eliza’s dowry. - I love this life you've given Eliza, and also the knowledge that Brandon has provided for her so generously is just... [face_love]
    • “It is hard work, starting over in life anew. Yet I promise you, it is worth every effort in the end.”
    • The wind swept her bonnet back from her head and teased her hair free from its pins as the mare’s long strides ate up the ground beneath them. Marianne gleefully closed her eyes to the freedom of the sensation as they ran and ran and ran. By the time they reached the end of the green, she could not help but smile – and even laugh aloud in unfettered delight. - [face_love] [face_love]
    • Brandon had even gone so far as to greet Elinor and Edward by their Christian names, and to them he was Christopher in return. (How strange, the odd sort of jealousy she'd known for their intimacy, then. Her family had lived their lives without her for so long, and she’d keenly felt the affects of her displacement then.) - I love them being on first-name terms with Brandon, even if this is a melancholy reflection from Marianne
    • Her heart had thundered in her chest as if she was a much younger woman all over again – rather than a wife and a mother and a widow, for heaven’s sake. - o_O [face_batting]
    • “I am greeting the trees,” Marianne answered with a wink. “We haven’t been properly introduced yet, you see – which is a terrible lapse on my part.” - There's the Marianne we know and love!
    • “You may laugh all you’d like, but I find more practical use in The Royal Society’s Agricultural Reports than I do in any volume of Spenser,” Edward teased when she – rather fruitlessly – perused the shelves again, as if hoping their contents would change before her eyes. - [face_laugh] This whole back-and-forth between them was excellent! (And the Spenser jab, lolol)
    • “Truly, you are the best of men.” - awww [face_love]
    • The music ceased on a discordant note, and he stood from the bench in an equally abrupt motion. For a moment, Brandon merely stared as she stared, before he bowed – deeper and longer than was strictly necessary, perhaps, just as she curtsied somewhat unsteadily in return. - I could totally picture this, and I loved every bit of it. [face_batting] [face_love]
    • She, for her part, knew how the years had not been so kind to her own person. She could scarce lay claim to any of her former beauty, not anymore – which was something her husband had once liked to remind her of whenever she confronted him about his many indiscretions. Grief and misery had left her tired and wane, and she fought the sudden, baffling urge she had to reach up and make sure that her hair – if not as becoming a crown as it had once been – was at least as tidy as her unruly curls could ever be persuaded to be. - =((
    • Yet Brandon stared at her as if he was absorbing her more so than merely looking at her – in a way she had once failed to understand, and now, merely had not been regarded by a man in quite some time. All of a sudden, three and thirty did not feel so far from fifty as the gap between them had once seemed – but that was such a pointless thought in its entirety so as to hardly warrant a moment's reflection in the first place! - funny how time has a way of altering our perspectives like that, huh? [face_thinking] (Also, [face_love])
    • All of the conversation about the war and Marianne's reflections on how she has waged a war in her own life, in a way, and is now ready to experience peace.
    And then, with this to end it on:

    “I cannot boast a complete collection, but please,” Brandon gestured to encompass the entirety of the library in his offer, “consider everything here at your disposal.”

    “Thank you,” Marianne smiled at him – an easier smile than she had smiled in far too long, and promised, “I shall keep that in mind.”

    [face_love] [face_love]

    I will be back with comments for Weeks 8 and beyond, but I wanted to start with this! [:D]
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2022
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  17. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Clearly, that is all my fault. :p (But I am happy to accept the blame. [face_mischief] [face_batting])

    Oh man, but that is the worst! I hate it when the boards get hungry. :p :oops: [:D]

    Goodness, but you are so silly! Your feedback was awesome and I appreciated every word. [face_love] [:D]

    I'm trying to find the words to reply to this and do it justice, but I don't think that there's anything better an author can hear than this: that they've written something that resonates so deeply with a reader. I just want to offer you all the hugs and say that you are still an amazing, lovely human being, no matter what you may feel like is missing. I'm honored that you shared this. [:D] [:D] [:D]

    Welp, you're just quoting all of my favorite things, anyway! [face_laugh] ;) I am glad that all of these elements resonated with you, because I am still beyond ridiculously proud of how this story came together. It's one of my favorite things I've written in quite some time, so that's just so good to hear. [face_love]

    I had this quote actually written out in my notebook way back when I was brainstorming ideas for AFiL. When I was flipping through the pages, looking for inspiration, it just hit me as perfect and now here we are. I was really happy with how it fell into place. :p [face_love]

    Jane Austen herself can't tell me differently. [face_mischief] This is just my headcanon now, and I am all too happy to share! ;) [face_love]

    Marianne and Willoughby's marriage was one big uuuuuuugh, wasn't it? o_O [face_bleh]

    It felt like a logical conclusion. [face_mischief] I mean, Willoughby's "happy ending" in the novel is sadly realistic, but one thing definitely could have led to another for this outcome instead. [face_whistling]

    I imagine that every good mother feels this way at times! [:D] And like Marianne, I'm sure you're doing wonderfully. ;) [face_love]

    Eventually, yes, I would imagine! [face_laugh] :p

    This was the first line of the story that I had clearly formed in my mind! [face_love]

    Aw thanks! I like to imagine that Brandon started saving up a sum for Eliza from his soldier's salary right away, even before inheriting Delaford, and once he did inherit Delaford - how much of that estate benefited due to her mother's fortune? Or at least it did before Jack Brandon ran it into the ground. I can just see Brandon trying to give her everything he could for her to be happy, and this just fell into place. (And then also: horses, too. :p)

    And I think that's the second line I came up with. :p Have I mentioned how satisfying it was to give this life to Eliza, again? [face_love]

    [face_love] [face_love]!!

    Writing this brought me so much joy, too. [face_love]

    It always comes back to that river in Egypt! [face_laugh] [face_batting]

    She was never far away at all! :D

    The Spenser was just shots fired on Edward's part! [face_laugh] Marianne and Edward's banter is such a joy to write - they really are brother and sister in the truest sense of what it means to be a sibling, again. [face_love]

    It's just the truth. [face_love]

    I must confess that I had all sorts of fun writing the awkwardness and tension in this scene. :p [face_mischief]

    I honestly hated carrying through the worst parts of what it would have been like for Marianne to be married to Willoughby. =(( We all know that Marianne is still lovely, inside and out, but when you hear the opposite often enough . . . :(

    Time does have a way of altering our perspective, it's true! :p (Also, [face_love])

    This was another conversation where the dialogue just fell into place. [face_love]
    [face_love] [face_love]!!

    Someday she'll take him up on that offer, too. [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    And I can't thank you enough for all of your kind words, again! [face_love] [:D]

    ~MJ @};-

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  18. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Notes: For an extra bonus entry - which will hopefully be the first in a series of such bonus entries [face_mischief] - @ViariSkywalker was kind enough to give me a list of fifty prompts to write sentences. (I say sentences, but more than a few of these stretch the laws of grammar to remain as such, I'll freely admit. :p) This list rather slammed into my muse from the first, and I immediately knew what I wanted to write. So now, I'm changing gears to go back to Colonel Brandon and Sir John's years of service in the East Indies - which will hopefully make for as interesting reading as it was researching and writing. ;)

    That said, I included a few notes regarding the history of this time period behind the spoiler tags for anyone who may be interested. Then, as always, I thank you all for reading and hope that you enjoy! [:D]

    The History of Britain and India: At the time of this story, the Indian subcontinent wasn't exactly colonized, per se; this takes place some years before the establishment of the British Raj in 1858. Interestingly enough (and rather terrifyingly so for the idea that one commercial company could amass so much power), it was the East India Trading Company that first developed an interest in India, long before the Crown. From 1600 onward, the EIC forced made treaties that allowed them the right to build cities and forts. By the mid 1700s, the EIC claimed entire provinces as their own, along with the right to collect taxes from the local population (nominally as "agents" of the Mughal emperor) while they conducted their own trade duty free. (Tea, spices, textiles, indigo, opium, and saltpetre - a primary ingredient in gun powder - were all taken in abundance from India.) To get to that point, as you can undoubtedly imagine, force was required, and the EIC's founding charter authorized its agents to "wage war" in order to form and break alliances in the pursuit of profit. The Company had its own army of contracted English mercenaries soldiers that they paired together with a huge number of sepoys - soldiers hired from the local Indian population. The Company then paid the Crown an annual sum (the modern equivalent of forty-six million pounds) for the right to maintain their monopoly in India and conduct their business relatively free from Royal oversight.

    Yet when they were unable to sustain paying that yearly fee - the Company, and thus its many affluent shareholders, began to suffer financially when the American Colonies turned to Dutch smugglers for their tea, rather than the EIC - the Crown passed the Tea Act (yes, which led to that Tea Party :p) and the Regulatory Act of 1773. With the Regulatory Act, the Crown officially took more direct control over the EIC and appointed a governor-general in Calcutta. That governor-general was accompanied by battalions from the Royal Army to enforce the Crown's authority. This new dynamic between the Crown and the Company laid the early framework that would ultimately culminate, by increments, in Britain's complete colonization of India decades later.

    Of course, the growing British presence in India led to the still independent native powers doubling down to protect their own rightful sovereignty. When treaties between the EIC and the Maratha Empire begun to deteriorate, the first of the three Anglo-Maratha wars was fought between 1775 and 1782. The latter half of that conflict provides the backdrop of this story . . .

    That said, I have to disclaim that while I tried my best to research this story, I am hardly an expert on the complex historical and cultural intricacies of this time. Just as importantly, I made every effort to be respectful of the very real wounds Imperialism has inflicted on our world, many of which are still healing. If I failed on either mark, please don't hesitate to let me know, and I will alter what needs to be altered accordingly. :)


    “Cry Havoc and Let Slip”

    April 1779 – November 1783


    Though he’d long understood the purpose of the sword he wore – he’d had six months’ training with his regiment, and another six months at sea to consider everything being a soldier truly entailed – it was not until he saw the blade glinting in the Indian sunlight that a cold dread washed over him to carry that purpose through.


    England may have been a verdant country in its own right, but the Bengali coastline was alive with a myriad of colors – from the turquoise expanse of the ocean to the prismatic hues of the tropical flowers against the jewel green foliage, to the bright feathers of the parakeets and peafowl and sunbirds – dazzling to the eye no matter where one looked.


    The bottle of dark Caribbean rum had been a gift from Captain Carrick for the success of their latest skirmish in the Sunderbans – and it was, to John Middleton’s mind, just the trick he needed to pry his new second lieutenant free from his shell.


    The missing came in waves; some days, Eliza was all he could think of – was she safe? was she content? was she happy? - while other days, his pain lessened enough to let him breathe, and he soldiered on.


    The sun was just rising, casting a golden light over the Bhagirathi, when the reeds parted to reveal a tigress emerging from the river with her cubs – much to his amazement, she was apathetic to his presence but for a single, piercing stare before she turned with all the grace of a queen back into a realm that was, for now, still entirely her own.


    The broad scope of the Royal Army’s objective: to protect and enforce the East India Trading Company’s (and thus the Crown’s) commercial interests, contracts, and treaties, weighed all the more heavily on his shoulders as he came to better know both the country he was stationed in and the people who called this land their home.


    It was with some bemusement that John overheard the Babel’s babble coming from Brandon and the sepoy soldier, Suraj – both spoke French, and they were now attempting to teach the other English and Urdu, respectively; but it took as much elasticity of mind as it did sheer stubborn determination to attempt not only communication – but a friendship – when every circumstance against them said there should not be.


    He couldn’t tell what was his blood or the blood of the Marathi soldier or the damn bloody red of his uniform – Christopher only knew that for the first life he’d taken, he felt nothing like a refined ore in a crucible, but rather the slag that boiled up from the depths of the furnace as an impurity.


    The lush jungle foliage overgrew the road as if the wild was bursting against the restraints that had been imposed by the likes of mere man – overhead, macaques swung and played in the canopy, uncaring of the troops passing below, while panthers prowled in the shadows and crocodiles lurked in the roots of the mangrove trees.


    “I rather think she fancies you,” John teased at the officer’s ball, and Christopher flushed to break the gaze of Miss Jane Fairfield – even that moment’s glance felt like a betrayal of Eliza, and in his mortification, he understood that he was still bound to her in every way that truly mattered.


    Suraj hardly needed to translate for him to understand the prayers and gift offerings to Neel Atha, the Blue Mother, to bless the indigo harvest – instead, he watched with amazement as blooms of pigment burst from the ancient vats in the village, with the sacred color of their gods – a dye now coveted by earthly kings – stemming from so humble and joyous a beginning.


    Cover was scarce between the windbreaks in the flooded rice plains; every forward advance was simply a matter of luck – simultaneously ignoring the bloated corpses who’d already fallen and carefully maintaining a serpentine pattern while endeavoring to keep his ammunition dry – all before diving for the welcome sanctuary of the young green bamboo shoots, growing from the next muddy embankment.


    The monsoon season was nothing that even England’s torrential capacity for rain could match; as the heavens opened their gates, the world burst into life – just as the native populace rejoiced with the storms, singing and dancing with their raga and praising their gods to celebrate another fruitful season of living.


    “You can wax poetic about this damned deluge all you like – but my uniform is soaked through even when I’m out of the rain, and with the orders we've been given to march in this bloody soup, I’ll suffer not one more positive word on the matter without turning very cross, indeed.”


    Others merely called them zealous, but Christopher felt a growing note of foreboding as he watched the Privates Tarleton and Hackney fall back in line – the furor of combat unmasked men, and for some, what it revealed underneath was only black with rot to the core.


    How did a company, even if it was the Company – subjugate a foreign land as their own, with not a king, but a boardroom of men somehow enacting decisions that affected the fate of millions from a comparatively tiny island so many miles away?


    The choleric fever knocked into him with all the strength of an ocean wave, and in his burning hallucinations he saw her, reaching out for him and beckoning him home – though every time he tried to grasp her hand the image faded, as immaterial as mist, and he woke again.


    “If you continue to show such valor in your command,” Captain Carrick praised, “then you may be a captain yourself by the year’s end – and a colonel well before you’re thirty, I’d even go so far as to wager.”


    If news of his father’s death had left him strangely numb – the old man’s heart had failed him, perhaps somewhat ironically – then Susanna’s letter, informing him that his brother had divorced Eliza, forced the air from his lungs, and he could not quickly breathe again.


    It was usually a sure bet to find his second in the orange-flowered glade of palash trees just beyond Fort William’s walls – but for once, Brandon did not have a book open in his hands, and it was then that John finally heard the whole of the story from the start to its current miserable finish.


    Auguste has been in London searching for Eliza, but so far to no avail – yet I promise that we will continue to do everything in our power to find her; I only wish we had been in England when . . . well, it shall merely suffice to say that I hold many regrets as your sister, and my complacency in this matter remains foremost amongst them all.”


    There was not a single soldier who was far from God when the song of steel sang, when gunpowder smoked and the thunder of cannons shook the ground, but for her sake he prayed more fervently than he had yet to pray on any battlefield.


    While the dish of unripe mangos and chili peppers was certainly a unique flavor profile for an Englishman, Brandon comported himself well – his expression barely twisted for the spice, and he asked the stall’s proprietor for water only after what John (who was dearly trying not to laugh) imagined was a silent countdown in his mind for politeness’ sake.


    The lotus flowers were like blooms of silk floating upon the water, and it was only with some difficulty that he tried to explain to Suraj the flowers that grew in England – from the daisies and the daffodils and the primrose, to the snowdrops who burst through the frost to herald the arrival of spring.


    “Oh no, take a turn with the boy, instead – I still have my pride to salvage,” Captain Carrick huffed after losing yet another round of chess to Colonel Everton – who then reset the board and waved him forward with a frankly assessing gaze.


    The village had been abandoned in a hurry; outside the smoldering remains of a former hut, he knelt to pick up a doll in a brightly colored dress that had fallen right next to the shattered remains of an earthenware vessel, praying that this family had made it to safety when so many others had not.


    “Some of the divides in my country are ancient in root; we have waged our wars against each other for centuries, long before the first Europeans arrived, and I fear that we may ever continue to do so going onward into eternity.”


    It was almost imperceptible – the smile Colonel Everton gave when he challenged Brandon to a match – but for his part, John grinned outright; he was simply overjoyed that he wouldn't be crossing swords with his friend this time, and as such, he cheerfully began collecting wagers from the crowd that gathered to see the duel commence.


    “There are some things that a good man cannot – and should not – ever forget,” Captain Carrick poured him a glass of port after he found him wandering the camp, long after his watch had ended, “even if that means you will have few nights of truly restful sleep from here on out.”


    The reeds had collapsed underfoot, unable to bear the crushing weight of the passing army; yet the shiuli flowers continued to bloom in the branches of the trees overhead, no matter the ruin surrounding them in the fields below.


    He did not need to hear Corporal Hale’s report to know who was missing as the living formed new lines of rank and file around their dead; their faces would ever haunt him as men who had fallen while following his command.


    When Suraj showed him how to harvest mud crabs from the river silt at low tide to augment their rations while on march, Christopher grinned to share that he’d done similarly with the gapers and tellins back home in England – here, half a world away, he did the same again.


    As John wrote to his father in the flickering light of the campfire, Christopher felt a moment’s envy – he would never begrudge his friend his happiness, of course, and yet there were times when he wondered what it would be like to have an entire family eager and praying for his safe return.


    With nothing but the moonlight to guide them, their small party stole into Sipri to loose the enemy’s war elephants, unleashing the mighty beasts in the unrestrained havoc of a stampede long before the battle was set to begin at sunrise.


    “Why are you defending one of them?” Private Tarleton hissed, and – regardless of rank or decorum or propriety – Christopher felt his hand make a fist before John sensibly tugged on his arm and instead defused the situation with a scathing reminder for Tarleton to watch how he addressed a superior officer if he wanted to avoid a court-martial – or worse.


    Years later, when asked of his time in the East Indies by his curious countrymen, he wouldn’t indulge the memories that attempted to besiege his mind with blood and strife and pain; instead, he found the words to share the beauty of the country, the warmth of its people, and the scent of spices that ever seemed to permeate the very air they breathed.


    “I don’t need your hovering, Middleton,” Christopher huffed as the surgeon went about the unpleasant task of sewing up the bullet wound in his shoulder – even if it was better to focus on John’s fretting and grumbling than on the white-hot needle passing through his flesh.


    After years of struggle, the United States of America finally won their independence; to hear Captain Carrick read the official report from London, Christopher wondered if it made him a traitor – at least in heart – if he briefly dared to imagine a future where India could enjoy such freedoms, too.


    However, his country had a history of refusing to suffer fools who voiced such radical thoughts aloud – the common man did not advise kings, after all; fealty only went one way, and as such, he knew his duty and knew it well.


    John eagerly showed him the dried sprigs of heather, tied together with a string, that one of his cousins had sent him from Devonshire – and for the scent of the flowers, no matter how faded, he inhaled the memory of home.


    The village of weavers was under their protection; as such, he reveled in the fight when it came . . . all before he flinched back from himself in horror when the haze of battle finally cleared, wondering if he was more his father’s son than he had ever admitted before.


    The graceful domes gleamed like ivory teardrops in the sunlight; in his own way, Christopher could well empathize with the emperor of old who had built a temple to his grief, where he then laid his beloved wife to her eternal rest.


    “Then let them learn English,” John understood Brandon’s determination to develop a fluency in the language of their fellow sepoy soldiers, but he didn’t understand – and the disappointed look he received in reply shamed him in a most uncomfortable manner that he scarce had any desire to examine further.


    “How,” another year passed before John finally asked Suraj – perhaps too little, perhaps too late, but he was trying, “do I say thank you in your tongue?”


    The stars were different in this hemisphere of the world, but they were still the same stars that shone over England – it was that and so much more that he wanted to tell Eliza, and he told himself that he yet still would – he would find her when he returned home, and maybe then they could be happy together (they were not star-crossed, they were not).


    “Still, it’s a wretched thing that I shall be knighted upon our return, and you shall not – don’t think that I will ever forget to whom I owe our victory that night in Sipri; I will ever be indebted to you for my good fortune . . . and to Suraj, too.”


    Even as Colonel Everton shook his hand and congratulated him as Captain Brandon, Christopher wondered if there would ever come a day when he would hear the rank attached to his name without thinking of the graveyards of dead buried within its syllables.


    It took more courage than he’d ever had to summon on any battlefield for John to second Brandon’s testimony against the Privates Tarleton and Hackney – but it was in the interest of justice for Suraj that he raised his voice to speak; he spoke to see justice served for a friend – for his friend.


    They were waiting to make their crossing at Calais when it happened: from a cold sky the color of steel, delicate white flakes began to fall – and though they were no longer young men, but rather veteran soldiers, they both reached out with the giddiness of children to catch the snowflakes before they melted in their hands.


    But then, the snow was nothing to the sight of the mist parting to reveal the white cliffs of Dover, proudly rising from the frothing waters of the Channel to welcome them home after so many years spent away.

    A Note on Stalwart: Technically, the name Urdu for the Hindustani language wasn't something that caught on until the late 1780s. The EIC didn't declare Urdu its official language of choice over Persian until 1837, at that. But using the term Urdu for the sake of this story seemed to be the easiest way to convey the meaning of the sentence, so I kept the name and fudged my dates just slightly. :p

    A Note on Awaken: Raga is a traditional form of music that is more or less a framework for a musician to follow while still keeping to improvised compositions - which was, and still is down to our day, viewed as a spiritual art and pursuit. There is a special form of raga used for the monsoon season; poems written for these raga were designed to be sang aloud and danced to, as the arrival of the monsoons was a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving. [face_love]

    A Note on Collapse: Also known as night jasmine or parijat, shiuli flowers are the state flower of West Bengal. They hold symbolic significance for the cycle of life and death and rebirth, which felt more than fitting in this context.

    A Note on Hover: Yep, that's the same shoulder Marianne will someday assume has a rheumatism. Because apparently, it's all just downhill after we turn thirty-five. 8-}

    A Note on Moonlight: This kinda happened in history, just not with the characters I listed, of course. [face_mischief]

    A Note on Curve: I could not resist paying a small tribute to the beauty of the Taj Mahal. [face_love]

    A Note on Vouch: The whole awful business with Tarleton and Hackney and Suraj is reflected on somewhat further by Sir John in By Their Very Nature, but I've yet to tell that story in full. [face_plain]

    And now I think I'm finally through with my notes. :p As always, I thank anyone who may have made it this far for reading and hope that you enjoyed! [:D]

    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2022
    Kahara, Gabri_Jade and ViariSkywalker like this.
  19. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 9, 2002
    Gah, these turned out so good!!! [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    (I will, of course, be back with more! :p)
    Mira_Jade likes this.
  20. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Yay! I am so glad to hear it. (And, as always, please take your time. ;) [:D])

    Author's Note: Goodness, but I can't believe that we're already at the end of this challenge! The prompt for Week 12, as you all may know, was to write a 5+1 fic. My muse rather took advantage of the lifted maximum word limit to become a bit . . . well, to become a bit verbose. (I know, you're all shocked. :p) Due to that, I am going to post this story in two parts so as to avoid publishing a huge wall of text all at once. These first three sections check in at 6.5k words, and the next three should be around 6k, too. So this seemed the best way to break things up. 8-}

    As always, I thank you all for reading and hope that you enjoy! [:D]

    (Oh, and the title is, once again, a Shakespeare nick, because apparently I am weak. :p)

    XII.I: “We Few, We Happy Few”

    Five times the war touched the Dashwoods’ lives, and one time the Dashwoods pushed back.

    I. September 14th, 1798

    At first glance, the book was not noticeably different from any other book in Delaford’s library, yet the foreign title gave her pause. Nadirat-i-shahi, it said on the spine, in a language that Marianne failed to recognize. When she pulled it down from the shelf, the text within gave her no further clue. How could it, when she opened the book to find nothing even resembling English, but rather a marvel of elegant characters looping across the pages? The script – for she could call it nothing else – held a beauty that captivated her, and she traced the sweeps and swirls of the exotic words with curious fingertips. Were she still a child, she would have dubbed this a spellbook – some secret grimoire concealing the mysteries of the world in a language only a chosen few could read, and when she told Brandon as much -

    - he laughed outright, full throated and bright, even if he then seemed as surprised by the sound as she was. Yet his good humor was infectious, and Marianne quickly found herself smiling along with him for the admitted romanticism of her imagination.

    “This is nothing so arcane, I assure you, but rather a book of poetry from India,” he explained. “Though you may call the raga magic, in a sense. These poems are not meant to be read, or even spoken aloud – they are monsoon songs, intended for singing and celebration.”

    For the inspiration of his words, what worlds she could then envision! Such foreign colors and sights and sounds all swirled and leapt before her innermost eye, and she gloried to let them free.

    “This particular diwan was composed by Shah Alam II, the current and – perhaps, in any way that truly matters – the last king of the Mughal Empire.” Yet Brandon’s countenance sobered along with his further explanation, taken by the pall of some history that she was not wholly privy to share – no matter how she now paid attention when Sir John told his war stories or listened for anything, everything, that Margaret knew of these faraway lands. Her knowledge was still far too limited, and, in some ways, would remain so.

    “However, Shah Alam has always been more of a poet than a warrior. No matter the losses suffered by his people – and he himself, personally – he continues to write songs of joy and devotion to his god. This collection was published just last year, and an old comrade of mine in Bombay well guessed my interest and forwarded me a copy.”

    “You can read this?” Marianne marveled to wonder how anyone could make sense of what seemed more art than text to her eyes.

    “Yes; though with far less fluency than I could some years ago,” Brandon admitted wryly. “This language here is Punjabi, which was not much spoken by the men attached to my regiment.” He indicated the page she had open before carefully turning further into the book. She noticed that the shape of the script changed before her eyes. “This language is Persian, of which I know but little.” Once more, he turned the pages to reveal another graceful slew of symbols. “I’m more familiar with Hindustani – or Urdu, as this form is now called. Yet even with Urdu, I understand hearing it spoken better than I can read or speak it myself. The sepoy who taught me – Suraj was his name – picked up English with far greater proficiency in his turn.”

    It was then most certainly a shadow that threatened to repress the small, soft smile that Marianne had not only come to anticipate from Brandon, but now actively sought to inspire herself. And that, she decided with all determination, simply would not do.

    “These are monsoon songs, you say?” she gently steered him from what she suspected was a source of grief. Suraj, even so, she resolved to remember the name. “Have you ever experienced a monsoon?”

    “Several,” Brandon answered – and there it was again: that small, ghosting impression of a smile. “I’ve even marched through one such storm, though that was an unfortunate experience that I can hardly recommend in any good conscience.”

    “I don’t know,” Marianne said, a playful look slipping across her features. “I’ve become quite proficient at walking in the rain, myself.”

    “Have you, indeed?” She earned a raised eyebrow in return, as perhaps she should have anticipated. His voice deepened to tease her, and its rumbling timbre tugged at her in a most curious manner, as if daring her to respond.

    “Indeed, I have," she boldly proclaimed. "Though you look as if you don’t believe me!” While she did not move from where she stood, she found herself leaning closer in answer to his challenge. Her hand came to rest on the same page he still touched, leaving only a spilled verse of poetry between them. “Allow me to assure you: I can brave a deluge without requiring rescue – no matter what evidence I may have since provided to the contrary.”

    She tilted her chin up to better stare him down, so intent was she to defend her claim. Yet, for a long moment, he merely held her gaze without speaking. She wasn’t sure what it was he sought in her eyes – or if he found what he searched for, at that; she only knew that she soon forgot what point she’d been endeavoring to make in its entirety. “I should know better than to doubt you,” he finally said, so lowly that she felt the reverberation of his words more so than she heard them spoken aloud.

    Unsteadily, she drew in a breath, observing as his eyes fell to her mouth and then to the rise and fall of her chest before he inhaled a sharp breath of his own. Pointedly, he took a step away from her, breaking the arc that had unwittingly formed between them. For a moment – even as he turned so that he was parallel to her, looking down at the book she had open on the table – she felt the strangest urge to follow him.

    “Still, there is nothing quite like a monsoon – even in our storms here,” Brandon returned to the foreign text they’d been discussing. He recovered his bearings quickly – far more so than she was able refocus her own attention. Yes, monsoons – they were discussing monsoons. “The monsoon season is a sacred time for the Indian people. The storms are vital for their way of life, and every good emotion is celebrated and indulged while the rains fall. These poems encapsulate that feeling.”

    “May you read one to me?” Marianne asked – and though his voice may have recovered its usual timbre, hers remained unusually soft. She attempted to lighten her tone by adding, “I must admit that I am now curious.”

    He hesitated only for a moment before he indicated the first, elegant line of script upon the page. Then, he traced the pad of his first finger beneath the text so that she could follow along, even when the words were written in a language she could hardly hope to understand on her own:

    “Oh the season for meeting my dear has come!
    The frog, peafowl, and cuckoo are calling; the koyal is crying.
    The lightning flashes and shakes my very life;
    my dear, how will you sleep?
    The rains and the waters, the thunder roars and the clouds gather,
    now our eyes are longing to drink.”

    II. October 6th, 1798

    It was a rainy, dreary day at Barton Park.

    In his own way, Sir John welcomed the insistency of the downpour, as the weather was of the sort that would prevent his guests from leaving so soon following dinner. After more than a year’s acquaintance, his cousins knew better than to argue the extension of his hospitality and instead graciously accepted his invitation to stay until the storms cleared. Their entire party was then quite merry as they retired to the drawing room together.

    Though Mary did not approve of his doing so, John was happy to ignore his wife’s chastising glare (for there was not much she did approve of) and sit on the floor with Miss Margaret to look over her now well-worn atlas. Mrs. Dashwood and Mrs. Jennings bid Mary join them at the card table – which mollified her somewhat, for there was nothing Mary liked better than a good game of cards. Miss Marianne even went so far as to offer to make a fourth for whist, no matter that she usually had but little liking for the pastime herself. Mrs. Dashwood was at first surprised, but then clearly pleased by her daughter’s polite attention to their hostess, even as Mrs. Jennings chortled to tease outright: “I had expected that you would go straight for the pianoforte, Miss Dashwood, and entertain us all with one of your lovely concertos.”

    For that, Margaret rolled her eyes in a manner entirely unique to younger sisters. “Marianne has played not one lovely concerto, but rather mournful sonatas every day since we’ve returned home from Delaford.”

    Now that was a bit of interesting news, was it not? John glanced at Marianne just as his dear Mama-in-law did – like a pointer catching wind of a stag in the dell.

    As of late, Marianne may have been endeavoring to emulate her eldest sister’s grace – especially in her absence – but she hadn’t quite mastered the trick of wholly maintaining her mask in company. For his part, John hoped that she never would – for her freedom of expression was ever as entertaining as it was refreshing!

    Sure enough: “I have not only played sonatas since returning to Barton,” Marianne said stiffly, glancing quite pointedly at Margaret. “You exaggerate.”

    Margaret, of course, was hardly deterred. “Fine,” she huffed. “Perhaps you’ve also played one or two nocturnes, but nothing livelier than that.”

    Marianne’s eyes narrowed, but she couldn't summon a further word in her own defense before Mrs. Jennings raised a greying brow and said, “Poor dear, but you must miss your sister very much – don’t you, Miss Marianne?”

    Was that a blush? It was hard to tell in the candlelight. Yet Marianne’s gaze quickly fell to her cards, and she played her turn with what was, to John’s eye, a very pointed gesture.

    Margaret – Lord bless her – then sighed even more loudly than before. “Elinor is married; she’s not dead – so I don’t see why Beethoven should be inflicted on the rest of us like a punishment!”

    “Margaret, please,” Mrs. Dashwood softly checked her daughter before Marianne could summon a retort – and Margaret only muttered a last, “but it’s true,” before she obediently heeded her mother’s counsel and fell silent on the matter.

    Still, John couldn’t help but chuckle for her words. “I must confess that I don’t understand what makes Beethoven so special,” he played his own theoretical hand to see what cards would shake loose. “When Sonata No. 1 was released, Brandon insisted on playing it for me immediately – and then more than once when I said that it was indeed a right pretty piece, but only the same as so many pieces for the pianoforte are pleasing to the ear, and nothing more.”

    A right pretty piece?” Marianne repeated somewhat incredulously, her expression quite aghast – and not far from what Brandon’s had once been, at that – before she composed herself. Dear girl – but she’d matured into a right proper lady before their very eyes, hadn’t she? He could see Elinor’s grace in her restraint as clear as the day was bright.

    “Oh please, don’t get her going,” Margaret said as she opened her atlas. “Now, that’s quite enough about Beethoven – especially as you promised to tell me more about the headwaters of the Ganges; did you not, Sir John?”

    “Ah yes, indeed I did! And so I shall!”

    With that, John was happy to lose himself in his stories. He traced the two rivers Margaret had indicated on the map, following them separately until they joined together to form the holy waterway. Memory struck him as he did so, nearly overwhelming his senses. He could almost smell the wet, earthy musk of the lowland jungles; he could feel the clammy heat of the humidity, just as he could remember the distinct, spicy aromas of the sepoys’ cooking fires until it was almost a taste he held in his mouth. He still had cravings for mango chutney all these years later, which he’d never quite found the equal of in England. Then, there was nothing that could rival the sight of the Himalayas – even in their mere foothills, the distant peaks were majestic, awe-inspiring monuments. Rumor even told that farther north – farther north than England cared to go, for what use had the almighty Company in the rugged and indomitable wild of nature? – were some of the tallest mountains in the world. He could well believe it, just from looking upon their comparatively smaller neighbors.

    John found it best to dwell on those memories of beauty and wonder, rather than others that threatened to rise from where he’d buried them – like those of the armies that had been waiting for them when they turned south in a pincer maneuver against the Marathas, and the battles they'd fought. Especially for Margaret’s ear, there were only certain stories that he would share.

    “Ah, here!” he tapped a point on the map. “Right here is where a macaque stole my boot!”

    Margaret blinked at him. “A monkey stole your boot?” she repeated rather dubiously.

    “Indeed, the little rapscallion did,” John huffed, still cross about the matter a whole sixteen years later. “We were supposed to sleep in combat readiness that night, as we were within striking distance of our enemy. But my boots were soaked though after an earlier encounter with a jungle bog – never you mind the details, but I will just say that we had a rather poor green lad who only just escaped the mire with his life. There's far more in the East Indies that can put you in mortal peril than mere enemy swords and bullets alone – you may mark my words on that!”

    “We?” Marianne asked from the table. Unwittingly, he’d played an ace without any conscious intention, it seemed!

    Margaret leveled a cross look at her sister, clearly welcoming her interruption but little.

    “Oh yes – Brandon and I,” even so, John cheerfully confirmed. “We got the ensign unstuck, but I was a right mess for it and had to wash up in the river. Nothing dries fast in the hot soup of an Indian summer, and as there are few things worse than sleeping in soggy boots, I took them off to dry.”

    “And then a monkey stole one?” Margaret repeated. “You must be jesting.”

    “Upon my honor, I am not!” John lifted a hand to his heart to swear. “Unfortunately, as my luck would have it, Colonel Everton arrived in camp to make a surprise inspection of our company while I was still hopping about shoeless. Brandon tried to cover for my absence when I was missing from morning reveille, but my captain was most . . . well, he was most displeased when he discovered the nature of my delay, is all that I will say of the matter in gentle company!”

    “How did you get your boot back?” Margaret allowed herself to be taken in by the story.

    “Well, eventually the blasted animal lost interest and it fell from the trees,” John answered – which he supposed was true enough; it had to have fallen from the jungle canopy eventually. He would never tell Margaret that many of their . . . deceased comrades in the morticians’ tents no longer had any use for their own boots, and he had simply borrowed a pair. But that did not make for nearly as entertaining a story as saying: “Of course, the monkey dropped my boot right in front of the colonel – tittering away like he was laughing at me all the while, the cheeky devil!”

    “Now you are most certainly jesting!”

    “I would never,” he said, but with a wink. “My captain’s face was as red as his coat – but Brandon, somehow, scarcely even blinked.”

    Margaret narrowed her eyes, clearly weighing the validity of his story, but then decided that it did not matter and laughed anyway. She traced her finger down the river, still shaking her head. “And that was here?” she asked.

    “Aye, it was,” John answered. He followed the winding path the ink represented and then recalled another memory. “Oh – here; this is where we saw a tigress and her cubs.”

    It was the we that garnered attention again. The ladies’ first round of whist had ended, and Mrs. Jennings shooed Marianne away when it became clear that she was quite diverted. To keep a fourth going for their game, Mrs. Jennings invited their butler to sit – much to Lady Mary’s horror, which was undoubtedly why her mother had done so in the first place. Mrs. Jennings was often trying to gently tug her down from the high pedestal she’d propped herself on. Mary may have wed a knight and since carried herself as the finest of ladies, but she was still a merchant’s daughter, and there should never be any ceremony in the company of family, at that, be they kings or paupers! Their Mr. Miller looked equally ill at ease to begin, but when he showed himself to be a shrewd player and took the first hand, Mary’s attention was soon occupied much more favorably than on her mother’s supposed breach of etiquette.

    Marianne, in her turn, looked only once at the pianoforte before she turned towards Margaret and him, instead. She waged a silent argument with herself, but rather than pulling over a chair, she lowered herself to sit with them on the rug by the hearth.

    Margaret, however, looked unhappy for her sister's presence, and she even sighed outright as Marianne smoothed her skirts. “You’ve never much cared about my atlas before,” she confronted with a frown. “Why do you now?”

    “I do too care!” Marianne disagreed with her sister’s frank assessment of her interests. "That's quite an unfair thing to say."

    “Tell me, when was the last time you showed any interest in my maps?" Margaret challenged. "Or in Sir John’s stories, for that matter?”

    It took Marianne a moment to consider her answer. “Back at Delaford,” finally, she exclaimed in triumph, “when you asked the colonel of his time in Portugal, defending our allies against the Spanish.”

    “And I thought you were acting most peculiarly then, too!” Margaret retorted. “Before that, you told Willoughby that my interests were childish and instructed me not to bother him nor you with my foolishness any longer.”

    For a moment, obvious even in the warm glow of the fire, Marianne paled. “Meg,” she whispered, “I do not . . . I did not . . .”

    John watched her falter and felt his heart twist in sympathy. He didn’t know which distressed lady to turn to first – Marianne in her obvious regret or Margaret and her wounded feelings that she’d clearly been nursing for quite some time.

    “Miss Margaret,” he warmly intoned, “you are one of the brightest young women of my acquaintance. If your interests are foolish, then I wish more ladies would be foolish, indeed!”

    Margaret gave him a grateful smile. “I thank you for your kind assurances, Sir John,” she then sounded very much like a little lady to say – and perhaps at four and ten, she was. “It is your opinion I shall cleave to, rather than his – you and the colonel have actually been places; you’ve seen so much of the world and have done so many things, yet you do not call me childish when I ask for stories so that I may increase my knowledge in order to better plan my own future . . . you do not tell me that I will be married someday and none of my dreams will matter.”

    “That is not what Willoughby meant when he said,” reflexively, Marianne began before she abruptly cut herself short. “But no – no; I do not mean to defend him, and I shall not.”

    “But you laughed when he said that – you laughed and you agreed,” still, Margaret shook her head. Rather alarmingly, John feared the onset of tears before Margaret grit her teeth and declared: “I am going to make it as far as China – and Japan and Siam and the East Indies, too! I am going to ride a camel to see the pyramids in Egypt and I’m going to sail the entire length of the Amazon River in South America – and no one shall stop me.”

    “I am sorry, Margaret,” Marianne whispered. “You must know that I have never doubted you . . . no matter how I may have acted or what I said. I believe in you; I will always believe in you.”

    Margaret was not wholly unmoved by such a sincere plea for forgiveness. She accepted her sister’s hand when she reached for her, yet Margaret still did not reply to her apology with anything more than a nod of acknowledgment. Instead, she turned to him and said, “If you’d please, Sir John, I’d rather hear a new story. Colonel Brandon has already told me about the tigers; Marianne was there to hear that story, too, yet I doubt she remembers.”

    John glanced between the sisters, wishing he could do more in the strained silence that followed. Yet what would better heal the rift that had formed between them than time? Until then, he could do his part to return a bit of levity to their party. For that, he looked down at the map again, turning the pages from the north of India to the Bengali lands he better knew – where he had spent the majority of his deployment stationed at Fort William in Calcutta.

    Ah, there. He tapped a mark that he knew represented a village of salt farmers, just off the banks of the Hugli River. “I have a story neither of you would have heard, I’d wager. Here, we were sent to aid a village under our protection who thought they had offended a yaksha – a nature spirit who, just like our own fae folk, can be benign or malevolent by turns. Their caches of fish kept on disappearing in the night, and they couldn’t figure out why. It turned out that it wasn’t a yaksha at all, but instead a rather hungry sloth bear who was the culprit! Suraj maintained that the bear was the chosen form of the yaksha – and I know that Brandon wanted to believe him, no matter all of the sensible arguments I made to the contrary. I’d wager he still thinks that the bear was magical to this day. After all, the beast didn’t fall from any bullet fired by our men, and then it just disappeared, never to bother the village again . . .”

    John went on in that manner for quite some time – picking through his memories for those that were good and bright rather than shadowed with blood and strife. Marianne too had questions to match her sister’s usual boundless curiosity, and soon enough Margaret was answering just as many queries as he was. As the evening wore on into the night, he felt as if the sisters had made great strides in repairing their bond together, which gladdened his heart to see.

    Finally, when the rain failed to lessen – but instead only intensified as lightning flashed through the windows, Mary graciously offered their guests accommodations for the night. Mrs. Dashwood accepted following only a little encouragement – for the conditions were far from favorable to walk back to the cottage in, and she neither had the wish to submit his coachmen and horses to the weather, which he would have insisted on had she been determined to make her way back home.

    When their party mutually decided to go up, only Marianne lingered to stay behind. “If it’s no imposition, I would play the pianoforte for a little while,” she first asked their leave. “I do not feel as if I could sleep yet – not with such a storm.”

    For she would glory in the sound of thunder and try to match its song with what means she had available to her, wouldn’t she? Sir John was all too happy to grant her request – swiftly, before Lady Mary could voice an objection – and then Marianne did finally sit at the piano bench, falling into place before the keys as if she belonged there.

    Even as they quit the room, John recognized the dramatic strains of Sonata No. 1 as Beethoven bloomed to fill the night, and he could not help but smile as he ascended the stairs.

    “Poor dear,” Mrs. Jennings muttered to him after they bid the Dashwoods a good night, “she must miss her sister very much.”

    For that, John allowed himself to laugh – happy as he was for both of his friends – and agree, “Very much, indeed!”

    III. January 30th, 1799

    It was the first time her entire family had been together at Delaford since Michaelmas.

    Her mother, at least, had sent Marianne to them at Christmas, and her sister had stayed with them through the New Year. In her own turn, Elinor had visited Barton once with her husband back in November (for Sir John took great pride in his Guy Fawkes’ fire and would not hear of them missing such a celebration), and then without Edward again just a fortnight ago (to seek her mother’s advice on a most particular matter). As far as any natural separation from her family due to her marriage was to be expected, hers was a relatively easy distance to bear. She only had two hours of good road to contend with, and between Colonel Brandon and Sir John they never wanted for a means of conveyance one way or the other. To the contrary, Elinor found herself declining such kind offers more often than not, as she truly had no desire to be an imposition, nor did she wish to make presumptions of either party.

    For this visit, Mrs. Dashwood claimed that she wished to see Edward conduct his first Candlemas service, which would be upon them in three days' time. Of all the festival days, Candlemas had always been their father’s favorite, and it yet remained Marianne’s. As such, Mrs. Dashwood had the honest desire to make new memories for her family on what otherwise may have been a day of mourning, instead.

    Elinor accepted her mother’s explanations without challenge – even if she rather suspected that her professed reasons fell somewhat short of the complete truth. The truth in its entirety undoubtedly more included the fact that Colonel Brandon had finally requested her mother’s permission to pay court to Marianne, back when he'd accompanied her to Barton that same fortnight ago. Now, he only looked for an opportunity to ask her sister to put a more formal definition to the attachment that had already formed between them – which was an outcome Mrs. Dashwood had long desired for her daughter and was now eager to see pass. And, as Elinor was now certain that it was indeed a child she was expecting, her mother desired to be close at hand for whenever and however she could have need of her.

    Practically, there was but little her mother could do for her at this early stage of her pregnancy, but Elinor could admit that her presence was a comfort, even so.

    Margaret, for her part, knew naught of the full extent of her mother’s reasoning; she was merely giddy for the simple pleasure of family attending family. Elinor did not even pretend – though Margaret dutifully professed otherwise – that her youngest sister was most excited to see her, but rather her husband, instead. Edward had quickly become a favorite of Margaret’s back when he was only Fanny’s brother, and the bond between them had only deepened and solidified over time, much to Elinor's joy.

    Yet, in that moment, Elinor was of the opinion that Margaret was playing rather too much on the affection Edward held for her – and Colonel Brandon, too.

    “Really, this isn't necessary,” Elinor felt it her duty to object as the doors to Delaford's ballroom were opened. It was a handsome, modestly sized space, she approved in the corner of her mind that ever made such observations, though clearly out of use. The few furnishings the room contained for company were shrouded by white sheets, and the large, dual marble hearths were dark and clean of even a tinder box. The air was hushed in that still way of long undisturbed emptiness, and chilled to match the frost that covered the elegant, floor to ceiling windows that dominated the furthest, long wall of the room.

    “Of course this is necessary!” Edward cheerfully dismissed her protests. “There’s far too much snow for us to practice out of doors – not if you don’t want Margaret to slip and twist an ankle.”

    “This is the best space for such an endeavor,” Brandon agreed – albeit more neutrally than Edward. In her mother's absence, he carefully looked to her for any true objection – but with a glint in his eye that said that he was just as eager as his guests for the impromptu lesson that was about to commence.

    Heaven help her: but the impromptu lesson on fencing that was about to commence. Elinor knew that she should perhaps argue for propriety's sake and remind Edward that he was a sworn servant of God; as such, he perhaps should have been discouraging her youngest sister from violence, rather than actively encouraging her interest in such an unfeminine pursuit. Yet she could not quite bring herself to give any further voice to her misgivings – not when Margaret was all but thrumming with excitement, and Edward and Brandon too clearly shared in and were even actively encouraging her high spirits. So, Elinor held her counsel.

    Instead, as Edward advised Margaret on the best way to hold an actual saber in her hand – which was a far cry from John's old toy swords they'd used back at Norland – Elinor noticed that Marianne had wandered away from them to further explore the ballroom. Even she could admit that her sister made a striking sight as she approached the windows. The red gold of her hair and the pale yellow of her gown complimented the soft creams and faded accents of Cornish copper gilding the room, while the setting winter sun painted everything it touched in robust shades of scarlet and orange. Above them, the ornate chandeliers dripped crystals from the ceiling to reflect the dying sunlight in the absence of candlelight, throwing refracted patterns over the walls and across the hardwood floor, dancing both this way and that. Marianne hummed to herself and slowly spun in place, clearly lost to the idea of the room in its full glory. Elinor regarded her sister fondly as she indulged the romanticism of her imagination, and she was far from alone in her observation. Brandon too was staring, she saw – and he seemed, for once, quite content to be captivated.

    Edward, for his part, grinned when he caught her eye. Pointedly, he glanced between the pair – and finally, after so many months of cautiously advising him to the contrary, she returned his knowing look with a raised brow of her own. Yet Edward's delighted expression for her capitulation quickly turned to one of alarm when Margaret took the colonel’s clear inattention as an invitation and made to surprise him.

    “Oh no you don’t!” Thankfully, Edward caught Margaret by the elbow before she could follow through on her intention to charge. “You now hold true steel in your hand; such tricks will no longer be acceptable from here on out.”

    Thankfully, his words summoned Brandon’s attention – and Marianne’s, too. Turning from Marianne as she rejoined their party, Brandon fixed his gaze on Margaret. After a moment's consideration, he held his hand out in a silent command. Obediently, Margaret returned the sword she held.

    Just prior to their excursion, that particular sword had been displayed on a wall in the billiards room. Margaret, of course, hadn't held back from asking her questions, and Brandon had revealed that the sword was the first one he'd worn as a lieutenant back in the East Indies. The blade was nicked and scratched from years of hard use, even Elinor could see – which had undoubtedly been the initial reason for its retirement. Yet the sword still shone to reflect the sunlight, even when purposefully blunted to a harmless, dull edge to protect against unwary fingers. As Brandon turned the grip, that same sunlight rippled and winked across the steel in dazzling reply.

    From there, Margaret had been delighted to proclaim that Edward had taught her the basics of fencing back at Norland. In the excited clamor that followed, Elinor could not remember who had been the first to suggest a true lesson from an actual career soldier – though she suspected that it had been Edward, for her husband was almost as eager as Margaret was to advance his own skill. Edward had learned the basics of dueling as part of his education at Oxford, she'd come to find, and the sport was one of the few gentlemanly pastimes he enjoyed for its own sake. Yet he hadn't stepped foot in a fencing hall since quitting the spheres of his birth with his marriage, and as such, Elinor previously had no idea that this was something her husband had missed. That knowledge, she reflected, was quite the revelation of its own.

    Yet it was far more disquieting for her to consider that the weapon Brandon held had fulfilled a far more serious purpose than merely fencing in its time. He would have been younger than Marianne when he'd first drawn that sword – and not within the bounds of a relatively harmless spar between gentlemen, but for combat. Despite herself, she felt a pang of sorrow for the thought. No matter how overjoyed Margaret was – and Edward, too – this was no playful matter at its core, and Elinor would have her sister understand that before they proceeded any further.

    Yet she needn’t have worried; Brandon clearly thought much the same.

    “It is a matter of the utmost severity,” Brandon then said to Margaret and Margaret alone, “holding a weapon in your hand. Each time you draw your sword, you must be prepared to choose between life and death – for both your opponent and yourself.”

    Margaret was quiet for a long moment, and Elinor was glad that she truly took the colonel’s words to heart. She allowed their meaning to sink deeply in as she stared at the nicks on the blade with a solemn expression.

    At least, that was before she asked, “Have you ever killed anyone, Colonel?”

    “Margaret Dashwood!” Elinor found herself in concert with Marianne as they chastised their sister in unified mortification.

    Margaret flinched, but she seemed honestly surprised by their rebuke as she spun to face them. “What?” she exclaimed. “I only asked what everyone else is thinking! The colonel is not offended, I know.” Yet for that defense she hesitated, perhaps second-guessing herself. She turned back to Brandon with a rueful expression. “You are not offended, are you?” she asked, apprehension coloring her voice as she flushed. “I am very sorry if you are.”

    “No,” Brandon softly assured her, “I am not offended.”

    Still holding the sword with both hands, balanced flat between hilt and blade, he knelt down on one knee so that he could look Margaret in the eye without also looking down on her. For a long moment, he held her gaze without speaking.

    “Yes,” he then gave his answer, “I have killed with this sword, and with others. So believe me when I say that this is not a matter to be taken lightly. I would not trust you with this weapon if I did not think you capable of understanding – and respecting – the responsibility that must accompany its wielding. Do you understand?”

    Margaret, to her credit, did not immediately respond. Instead, she reflected on his words with a grave expression.

    “Yes, sir,” she confirmed in all seriousness. “I understand.”

    “Good,” Brandon smiled as he stood, releasing them from the grim tension of the moment. “Come then, Captain Margaret – show me your forms.”

    “Forms?” Margaret did not protest – not quite, but Elinor could see the unabashed longing in her eyes. “But I thought – we have all this space for our use. Why do we not spar, instead?”

    Next to Margaret, Edward was clearly itching to do the same. For his eagerness, Elinor could not help but sigh in fond exasperation.

    “Even a blunted blade can inflict injury, and I will not risk it,” Brandon shook his head to deny her. Yet when he saw how Margaret’s face fell, he added, “I shall not risk it yet – just the same as I wouldn't with any of the young men newly assigned to my command. This has nothing to do with either your age or gender, and everything to do with the fact that you can only build your skill – true skill – on a firm foundation. The best swordsmen – and women, too – are those who have thoroughly mastered the basics. Now: begin.”

    Thus assuaged, Margaret applied herself to cycling through her forms as Brandon called them out, one after another. Along the way, Brandon corrected her – and Edward, too, who was clearly just as determined to apply everything the colonel said to his own technique. Edward quickly caught on by virtue of experience, and soon he was just as useful as Brandon was in advising Margaret on how to better flex her grip or move her arm with the blade or balance her footwork through the stances.

    They went on in the same manner for quite some time, and Elinor watched her husband with no small amount of pride warming her from deep within her heart. When she uncovered one of the chairs and took her seat – or rather, when Marianne did so for her (for she rather thought that her sister suspected what she had yet to confirm outright) – they happily settled in to observe the lesson together. Or, at least, Marianne was an engaged and encouraging spectator. Elinor, for her part, could not help but turn and watch her sister before too long. Marianne's eyes were soft, and she was smiling – at ease and content in a way that had elluded her since their father's death. The sight, Elinor could confess, brought her a matching such contentment in its own turn.

    Finally, Elinor sat back as comfortably as she could in her chair, and asked outright, “What are you thinking, dearest?” when Marianne fell quiet. She was not Edward, however; she would venture no further to tease.

    “I am thinking that someday," Marianne's smile was almost impish in the last of the sunlight as she deflected, "Edward will make a very good father.”

    When had her sister grown so canny? Elinor laughed outright, even as she did not hold back from allowing her hands to rest on her stomach – and she then covered Marianne's when her sister reached over to join her hand with her own. “Yes," she was happy to agree, "indeed, he shall.”


    A Note on Part I: Why yes, that ficlet did start as my drabble for Arcane all the way back in Week Three. Clearly it grew from a hundred words. 8-} ;)

    I feel like there are so many notes I can include on the history here, so I might come back to edit those in later. But for now, I'm rather pressed for time, and I still have so many words to write - I know, I did not work on these final vignettes nearly enough over the last eleven weeks. :p :oops: So, until then! [:D]

    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2022
  21. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Note: Soooo, I ran into a bit of a dilemma while writing the latter half of my 5+1 fic. I could have posted the rest of this story in its entirety today, and by doing so complete my Kessel Run on time - but my sixth section had the potential to grow into a more substantial vignette all on its own if I let it . . . and finally, I decided to let my muse go wild. Especially as the final part is a crossover with another Jane Austen novel, I really wanted to tell that story properly. (You should be able to tell which novel that is by the fifth section. [face_mischief] Ooh! And the fifth section also fills the "get out of jail free" letter prompt, just because I wanted to be extra like that. :p) The finale in Part Three is going to take me a few more days to complete - as I still have my SW response to finish, because I am that crazy person who decided to have two KR threads :oops:8-} - but for now I have Part Two here and ready to go.

    That said, it's been an absolute blast participating in this challenge, and I can't wait to share yet more stories in this thread! I'm not quite done, yet. ;) [face_love]


    XII.II: "We Few, We Happy Few"

    IV. October 30th, 1799

    Marianne had long known that marriage was no easy endeavor, even before entering into her own union. Turning two lives into one required an equal measure of determination and patience, but the rewards reaped by such a commitment to perseverance were rich enough to be worth every effort in their entirety. Why then, she couldn’t help but wonder, did the stories so often stop short of this point? Marriage was far from the end, it was merely another beginning, yet so many of the best tales concluded with the knight and the fair maiden riding off, victorious into the sunset.

    . . . why did they never think to show everything the knight took home with him from his battles?

    “You are not quarreling; are you, dearest?”

    Elinor hardly glanced up from her needlework to ask her question, but Marianne caught the moment’s concern in the flit of her gaze before she just as quickly returned her attention back to her own sewing. Had she really been lost in thought for long enough to be discernable? Or more likely, Elinor had simply noticed that she had stitched and then torn out her current thread – for her progress had been crooked even by her own admittedly laxed standards – a good four times over. Weighing what she would and could say against what she perhaps better wanted to say, Marianne hesitated. She let her answer stretch, with only the soft murmur of the rain against the windowpanes and the cheerful crackling of the fire in the hearth to grant them any reprieve from the silence.

    “No,” she finally said. No matter her demurral, she jabbed her needle through the soft fabric she held and just barely missed nicking her finger in the process. “Not precisely, at any rate.”

    Elinor waited long enough to finish a tidy row of her own stitches before she amended her original question, “Are you being stubborn?”

    “No!” Marianne's protest all but leapt from her mouth in a startled exclamation. “He is!”

    Perhaps it was more telling that she did not immediately follow such an outburst with a detailed explanation of who was in the right and who was in the wrong and why she felt so certain of her opinion in its entirety. Instead, she fixed her attention back on the toes of the tiny socks she was closing. Her nephew – and little David, too, no matter how Eliza protested such supposed spoiling – was growing every day, and it was imperative that they continue to meet and anticipate his needs.

    Elinor graciously allowed her to stab at her work without comment, until finally, Marianne sighed. “It is only . . . I did not think that some things would be so hard. He did try to warn me, before we were married, yet I brushed this particular concern aside as being of little consequence in its entirety.”

    For that, a frown flickered across Elinor's expression before her countenance smoothed again for its usual tranquility. Her sister was a private person by nature, and she equally respected the privacy of others. Marianne knew that she would never ask for anything she did not first offer to share in confidence, yet she was also her sister – and as her sister, her questions must have burned on her tongue.

    So: “He has nightmares,” Marianne revealed, her voice hardly more than a whisper. She bit her lip before expounding further, trying to judge what constituted as a betrayal to share and what she simply needed to confide in order to seek her sister’s guidance. To think, of all the reasons that Christopher had argued for why they shouldn’t marry (Lord, but for the battles she’d fought just to get this stubborn man to pay court to her, let alone offer for her hand, she’d long thought herself more than equal to any disagreement that would inevitably arise when they finally were married), this had been one matter that she’d scoffed at as a mere trifle. He claimed that he still carried the wars he’d waged with him – and she’d thought to understand his meaning. Years had passed, yet there were still times when he felt as if he was back in the thick of it all; when he heard cannons in the natural thunder of a storm and saw his dead die over and over again in his dreams. If he still had yet to heal, he’d argued, then he suspected that he never would – and he’d felt that an unfair weight to place upon her shoulders.

    Yet on that point, Marianne couldn't disagree more. The entire purpose of marriage was to share a yoke, rather than the each of them bearing their separate burdens alone. She hardly understood why he felt that he could be there for her, yet he resisted seeking her support with any matching equality. He considered it an honor that she relied on him for comfort and strength – why couldn’t he understand that she felt exactly the same when he did let her see the cracks in his armor in return?

    Sometimes, she worried that he still thought her much too young to lean upon. (For oh, they’d had that argument before and undoubtedly would again.) Logically, she knew that he was simply accustomed to depending almost solely on himself after so many years spent alone. What was more than that, he defined his self-value by the extent of which he could be of service to others. He had a long-proven record of selfless giving – his instinctive need to defend and provide for and protect was one of the merits that had attracted her to him in the first place, and she valued that aspect of his character. His generosity was his best quality, yet also his most frustrating when he didn’t view himself as worthy of the same care he so freely bestowed on others. Did he think that his reticence served her own supposed needs, at that, by protecting her from what he considered a burden too great to be shared? Oh, impossible man, but she’d shake him if it would help his usual good sense fall back into place on this matter!

    This was proof enough that age alone didn’t necessarily equal rational thinking – for in this matter, she was infinitely superior to her husband in wisdom, by far!

    “From the war,” Marianne finally elaborated – perhaps abruptly, but she knew that Elinor had yet to stop listening, no matter her silence. “He has nightmares from the war.”

    Sometimes, she suspected, his nightmares went as far back as his father – but as she could hardly think of either Jack Brandon without her mood turning very violent, very quickly, she cut that thought at its root. “Last night," she continued, "I tried to wake him. When I did,” but she stopped again in order to fortify herself with a deep breath. She then rushed to conclude on an exhale, “he grabbed my wrist and pushed me.”

    It had all happened so fast. One moment she’d been propped upright, gently pressing on his shoulder and whispering his name, and then she’d suddenly been shoved against the mattress, her arm twisted up behind her back as his weight bore down against her. Yet just as soon as she’d registered what had happened, he’d recovered conscious thought and just as quickly released her. He’d jolted backwards as if burned, and then left their bed entirely as she gathered her own bearings in order to slowly sit upright again. His look, Marianne hated to remember, had been such an awful expression of horror and virulent self-loathing. He had only muttered a dumb apology – trying once, then twice, before he managed to speak the words in whole – before turning to quit their room, and in the stupor of her shock . . . she’d let him go.

    “I am not hurt – I was not ever hurt,” Marianne hastened to defend, even as Elinor’s expression remained carefully neutral as to one emotion or another. “He only startled me – yet he left before I could tell him so, and I have not seen him since.” She looked up and back out the window again, her eyes searching for a familiar figure against the green of the front lawn and the distant line of trees, but she could see nothing but the rain.

    “When we first married, he tried to suggest that we keep separate beds so that he would not disturb my sleep with his own restlessness,” once she started, she found the words pouring out. “I refused to indulge his concerns then, and what's more, privately dubbed his worries as ridiculous. Perhaps I was even arrogant enough to think that my presence alone would be enough to keep the nightmares at bay – as if our very real bond was instead a romance from one of my novels. But now . . . I don’t know how to help – I only know that I want to help, and yet . . .”

    She yanked her needle through the tiny sock she still held, and rather alarmingly felt the hot burn of tears gather at her eyes.

    “Who is to say that you are not helping, dearest?” When she finally dared to meet her sister's gaze, Elinor was regarding her with an expression of such sympathy. “If asked, I would say that you have brought him a great deal of contentment – and he you.”

    “If this is me helping, then I am doing a very poor job at it!” Marianne sniffed, and then used her half-completed sock in place of a handkerchief to dry her eyes – for she was just as much a failure as an aunt as she was a wife, it seemed!

    “These are circumstances that only time will heal,” Elinor shook her head to disagree as gently as she could. “And unfortunately, as much as I believe that your presence helps, there is only so much another person can do when it comes to the trials we all face within our own minds.”

    “He claims that after so many years, he’s had enough time to heal,” Marianne echoed his formerly stated opinion somewhat miserably. “If he hasn’t moved on by now, he doesn’t think he ever shall, and he had – he has – no desire to put that burden on me.”

    “Well then,” Elinor brushed off that particular argument as if it was the same nonsense Marianne usually considered judged it as, “perhaps there is your proof that age doesn’t necessarily equal wisdom.”

    “That is precisely what I have said!” Marianne admitted with a watery smile – which bubbled into true laughter when she saw how Elinor smiled, too. Her heart still felt heavy in her chest, but her sorrow no longer seemed fit to smother her. Instead, she drew in a breath to further regain her equanimity. How could she help her husband understand that he was no millstone, chaining her down, but rather her anchor against all of life’s storms? She wanted to be the same for him in return.

    “Just continue to offer to listen,” in the end, that was all the advice that even sensible Elinor – or anyone, really – could offer. “Something tells me there was more than one demon he was facing in that moment, at that.”

    Again, the long-dead spectre of Jack Brandon threatened to rise, and Marianne narrowed her eyes for the shadow of his presence. With a great sigh that completely emptied her lungs of air, she said, “I just wish I could do more.”

    “I know,” Elinor reached over to cover her hand and squeeze. “I know.”

    Yet what more could be said than that? Feeling as if she’d regained some semblance of control over her emotions – even though she still had no idea how she would carry her determination through with action – Marianne leaned forward to pick a new spool of wool from the basket at her feet. Yet before she could return to work, she caught sight of a lone figure through the windows, walking up the drive towards the house. He was drenched from the rain, yet he stopped to look where he knew her favorite sitting room to be, just adjacent to the library. She watched as he waged some unspoken war with himself before he resolutely continued forward again.

    Marianne felt her heartbeat quicken – somehow giddy and soothed and apprehensive all at once. “Impossible man,” nevertheless, she smiled to huff, “but he always fails to take an umbrella with him.”

    “Perhaps he too never thinks it will rain when clearly it shall.”

    “Perhaps,” Marianne agreed as she stood. “In that way, we are very well matched.” With that, she bent to kiss her sister’s cheek as she passed. From there, she only paused by the door long enough to snatch up the umbrella she had used when she walked with Elinor from the parsonage earlier that day. Thus so sensibly armed against the rain, she ran outside to greet her husband.

    Yet, far from sharing her joy, she hated how Christopher stilled as she approached him. He stopped in the middle of the drive, his shoulders squared and his back straight in the soldier’s posture he habitually fell into whenever he felt ill at ease. His eyes were wary as he gauged her own countenance, even as he gave a small, soft smile for the umbrella she had to lift almost comically high in order to share its shelter. Her sleeve fell back as she stretched up her arm, and she did not miss how he turned to look at her wrist. Her skin bore no bruises, but she may as well have been marked for how he flinched. Usually, he would be overly chivalrous in taking the umbrella, but he did not reach for her, even to perform an act of kindness.

    “Marianne,” he began instead, his already deep voice then as rough as the gravel beneath their feet, “I must offer you my sincerest apologies for my conduct. How I behaved towards you is unpardonable, and I shall understand if you wish for me to return to my own chambers, and leave you to the safety of - ”

    “ - you may apologize for leaving,” Marianne had first intended to let him speak without interruption, but then could not remain silent. “I was only hurt that you did not stay to explain what happened – then you quit the house entirely! We could have talked this through together, almost immediately. Instead, we wasted a day spent apart with the each of us equally and separately wounded.”

    Christopher, she well knew, would have already heaped an unfair amount of censure against himself without her needing to add to his torment – torturing himself with words she would never think, let alone say aloud. Certainly enough: “Yes,” gravely, he agreed. “I apologize for that, too.”

    “For that only,” Marianne insisted. Stubbornly, she tilted her chin.

    For a long moment, her only answer was silence as the rain continued to fall. Deeply, he sighed, “Marianne, I - ”

    - you are not your father,” she hissed to confront the heart of the matter rather than skirting around the edges of an uncomfortable subject with shallow platitudes. Boldly, she held his gaze, all but daring him to refute her.

    “No, I am not,” he agreed – even if he paused far too long for Marianne’s liking. Yet his admission was progress; from there, she trusted that they could progress yet further still.

    Instead of arguing to reenforce her opinion, she softened her tone to say, “If you ever want to speak . . . about anything, I am here to listen. I want to listen.” There were times when he looked at her, she thought, as if he couldn’t wholly believe that she was real; he certainly did so then. “After all, what else is a wife for?”

    With that, she lowered the umbrella and then let it fall, useless to the ground. The insistent October drizzle was cold enough to shock, but not to sting, as she reached up to hold his face in her hands. He leaned into her touch in that same hungry manner he always did, which had humbled and honored her from the first and she even now continued to cherish. He covered one of her hands with his own and kissed her wrist when she came close enough for him to do so.

    “I do not deserve you,” he muttered, the hush of his voice nearly lost to the rain.

    “But you do,” she would repeat herself over and over until he believed her, “you truly do.”

    It was then as instinctive as breathing for her to kiss him – standing on the very tips of her toes and sinking her hands back into his hair to anchor herself. His skin was slick and cool in hot contrast with his mouth, and she reveled in the duality of the sensations. What she had first intended to be soft and comforting quickly turned intense with urgency – reaffirming, all in its own way. He held her tightly, and she had no wish for him to loosen his grip. Instead, there was just the scent and feel and taste of her husband and the soft intimacy of the rain falling all around them as she surrendered to the beauty of the moment.

    This, she reflected – in that small corner of her mind that still had room for sensible thought – was how one went about healing old wounds: by making enough new, good memories to overwrite the pains of old.

    Of course, they were both dripping wet by the time they turned for the house – finally mindful of the cold and the eyes from the windows that could have paid witness to their lapse in propriety. Elinor, practical as she was, had kindly procured towels for them, and was waiting by the doorway. Her sister only raised a brow and took the useless umbrella from her hand with a small, amused smile that Marianne decided to let go without comment – just this once.

    V. August 5th, 1808

    My Dear Marianne,

    I must confess that I hardly know how to begin this letter, as I’ve never before had the occasion to write one of its kind. Perhaps, after committing such a thought to paper, I should start by sharing with you its purpose: it is tradition for soldiers to write their final words to their loved ones on the eve of battle, in anticipation of the worst befalling them upon the field. I have every expectation of returning home to you, yet mere intention has but little bearing on the outcome of any conflict – let alone when facing an enemy as canny and as competent as Napoleon.

    It is my utmost desire that you shall never have to read this letter; I pray that I will instead soon be able to express these sentiments to you myself, in person. Yet should that prayer go unanswered, what I hope most to convey through these words is that it has been the great privilege of my life, that you already well know everything I may yet say, and somehow return my affections with your own. No matter our last nine years together, you remain something of a miracle to me – so much so that there are still times when I go to sleep expecting to wake up and discover that you have been nothing but a dream. Every morning, when I see you there against all expectation, I thank God for the gift of you, instead.

    Now, where should I begin? I know what you would ask if you could; I can all but feel your presence, leaning over my shoulder to read as I write. So I shall answer: it is raining here in Mondego Bay. The entire world seems shrouded in grey, as if the storms are building upwards from the summer heat, with the waters of the ocean evaporating to seemingly feed the heavens above. In answer, the sea is tempestuous; the swells froth, even this far out in deep water, and the white capped breaking waves have completely halted the progress of our landing craft. We’ve already had more than one vessel overturn due to the violence of the surf, even when helmed by skilled seamen, and we must now wait for the weather to calm before we proceed any further. There are times when, through the mist, I can glimpse long stretches of white beaches and dark sandstone. Closer to my view, the ships of the line are at anchor with their canvas furled; but they are ghostly impressions, all swaying in the fog. We are keeping our distance from each other while the ocean is so roused, but even so, I can hear the shouted orders between the sailors and the faint chatter of such a great number of men, all restless to disembark after so many days spent at sea.

    Admiral Cotton is just as restless in his own way, and he has expressed his unease for our current state of stagnation. It is more than likely that the French know of our arrival due to the size of our fleet, and he fears that they may try for a naval engagement before we can strike against them on land. Those of us in the infantry think that unlikely – I personally think it unlikely – but the captains are uneasy as a whole, and perhaps understandably so. The holds of their ships are currently heavy with thousands of soldiers and horses, along with all the necessary artillery, munitions, and provisions to supply an army on campaign. A naval battle would be difficult with our ships currently robbed of their dexterity and speed – yet any boarding that we could force would certainly have the odds stacked in our favor, with so many warring men who are ready and perhaps even eager for a fight.

    The captain of the vessel that has transported my regiment – a young man named Frederick Wentworth, has expressed his particular desire to engage the French and welcomes their approach. He has a thirst for glory and is most determined to make a name for himself in this conflict. I hope that he may yet earn the renown he seeks, but without peril. I suspect that he has left his heart behind in England – and bitterly so. While nursing such wounds, even formerly sensible men can become foolhardy and mistake recklessness for bravery in the heat of battle – I know you’ve heard enough stories from Sir John about my time as a lieutenant to know that to be true. When I think back on that period of my life . . . well, suffice to say that I know my blessings in having survived; I survived, and was then somehow further blessed with the cessation of every pain in finding you.

    I pray that Captain Wentworth may find a similar such peace in the future. I have tried to offer what little encouragement I may on the subject – yet I share neither your ease with nor your talent for expressing matters of the heart, especially with someone I hardly know. However, war makes bands of brothers out of strangers in all expedience – Shakespeare was right about that much, for a certainty – and as such, I tried to say what I imagine you would have said, had you been here in my stead. I do not know how successful I was in my venture, but the captain did acknowledge that he understood my aim in speaking so – with a forthright bluntness that you would have approved of. As I said: he is a sharp man, and you would have enjoyed making his acquaintance.

    Even as I write these words, the rain is intensifying. It is now a drumming cadence along with the crashing of the waves and the creaking of the timbers; the smell of sea salt is heavy in the air. The first peal of thunder has just sounded, and for a moment lightning flashed to illuminate the shadows of our convoy against the mire. I now find myself reminded of when we sailed to Madeira, back during our wedding tour – which was, most admittedly, a far preferable reason to journey to Portugal than why I do so now. Do you remember the storm that overcame us, that one night we spent at sea? But of course you do. You said that you feared nothing – even while the gales howled and the ship was tossed so violently hither and tither – because you were with me. You would not tremble before death, you claimed, for I would have been by your side the entire way should the grave have made an attempt to seize us.

    I thought that I had loved you before, but that was nothing to how I knew I loved you in that moment – and all the more so with each passing moment since then. Later, you admitted that was when you first knew that you loved me, too – before, you had merely suspected, but you knew your heart for a certainty, then, when no question remained in your mind. Please believe me when I say that it has been an honor to hold your heart and your love all these years, just as you've ever held mine in return.

    I do not need to say that I have known more days of storms than calm seas over the course of my life. With the wisdom of hindsight, I know that is why I was drawn to you in the very beginning. Your indomitable brightness, the sincerity of your spirit, and the vivacity with which you ever surrender yourself to passion and joy – how could I resist? You were, and yet remain, determined to feel every emotion to its fullest extent, and I, who had felt so little for so long . . . you burned like the sun to me. I remembered what it was like to feel warm again in your light; then, you did more than merely remind me you became a constant, ever renewing source of warmth all in your own right. You were like spring; with you, I have since come to know a true summer again.

    Are my sentiments overwrought? Perhaps they are, yet I suspect that you will cherish these words for the truth they encompass. I can promise you with all sincerity that they are the only truth I know.

    I could end this letter here – and perhaps I should, for there is a great deal that requires my attention that I am currently neglecting. It is no easy feat, moving an army of this size, even without factoring in the logistics of the sea. Yet I fear that if I put down my pen, that would be like giving you up – or saying goodbye. I am prepared to do neither.

    What else can I say, then? It has been years since I have faced true combat, and I may freely admit my misgivings for entering once more unto the breach to you, and to you alone. In contrast to my misgivings, it is troubling, in its own way, how easily I have fallen back into the familiarity of routine with my command. You know that I would not have accepted the reactivation of my commission had it not been for General Everton’s specific request. I have been most content with laying down my arms; I have given the Crown enough over the years, and I would have happily considered my former service a duty well served . . . had it not been for Napoleon.

    Napoleon is the one factor I cannot ignore. Taking a stand to oppose this self-proclaimed emperor is nothing compared to warring in order to fulfill the Crown's colonial agenda, or to enforce treaties and protect borders. We come to the Iberian lands not as conquerors or invaders, but as liberators. After how the French turned on their Spanish allies . . . the cruelty that has been exercised in the revolts that have followed, not only against men of war, but against civilians, too . . . the Massacre of Évora . . . it is not just for our sworn allies in Portugal and our fellow man in Spain that I fight, I must confess – but for my own home. Should Napoleon’s might go unchecked, his want for power shall hardly be slaked by merely these lands, alone. England is protected as much by our natural isolation from the rest of the Continent as through the strength of our armed forces, and yet . . . should that protection ever fail, the idea of you seeing a mere fraction of the horrors I have witnessed . . . it is an ill thought, and I will gladly fight to ensure that future never comes to pass.

    You once told me that you've made it your goal to see every unhappy memory of mine rewritten with something good, instead – and you have. Loving you has been the great reward of my life – a privilege and an honor and a blessing. Please know that I fight for that love as much as I do for my king and country. I would not have been taken from your side – nor risked a more permanent parting – for anything less.

    And with that last line penned, Captain Wentworth has informed me that Admiral Cotton and General Wellesley are calling a meeting of their senior most officers over on the Travail to discuss the progress of our landing – and then our further plans to merge with the beleaguered Portuguese forces and march on Lisbon. My time is now short, for which I apologize.

    It truly is storming now. It will be a rough crossing to the general’s flagship, even for a short duration, but a part of me welcomes the struggle. The sea is glorious in its wrath right now – I wish you could see it.

    Let me end this letter by saying that if this is truly a goodbye – if you are ever compelled to read these words due to tragedy – then it is my most fervent desire that you continue to live and to love as earnestly as you ever have. Please allow yourself to heal from your grief and find true joy again; you are such a fount of brightness, and you shine far too brilliantly to ever go out completely – or at least, you have ever been such to me. I carry a memory of your light with me even now.

    Along with this note, I have included a letter for Eliza, and another for Celia. I know that I need not ask, but please ensure that she ever remains certain of the knowledge that she has been another such light in my life. I know that she will grow into a fine woman under your guidance and direction. She has my undying pride and devotion as her father – as do you, my most beloved wife.

    Yours, always,



    A Note on the Napoleonic Wars: This is where I disclaim, again, that I am no historian - just a bit of a nerd who also enjoys history. :p Brandon's letter is intended to take place right before the Battle of Roliça, which marked the beginning of England's involvement in the Peninsular Wars. Fun fact: it was a rough landing at Mondego Bay due to the weather - so much so that several British landing craft capsized, and they lost soldiers to the sea before they ever engaged the French on land. While in my A Dram of Sweet; A Pound of Sorrow AU I had Brandon joining the military effort against Napoleon right away, in the main canon I imagine that it would have taken him longer and he certainly would have been more hesitant about fighting again. This seemed a logical point for him to enter the war if his commission was reactivated - and, as this particular campaign had the Navy and the Army working hand in hand, it also served my purposes to set up a crossover with a familiar Persuasion hero that we all know and love - which will come to a head in the final instalment of this story, exploring the aftermath of a certain battle fought at Waterloo. [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    A Note on Wedding Tours: A wedding tour then was what we call a honeymoon now. Back during Georgian/Regency times, a "honeymoon" was just considered to be the first month or so of a couple's marriage, whether they travelled together or not. Most newlyweds didn't travel - travel was an expensive luxury, and, as England was constantly waging war in some form or another on the Continent, it just wasn't very safe to do so, internationally speaking. It was more common to go to seaside destinations like Brighton, or to enjoy the waters of Bath. Maderia was a Portuguese island (famous for its wine of the same name [face_mischief]) that became a popular destination for couples starting in the early 1800s - so I might have fudged history here just slightly with my dates. But I can imagine that after how much of the world Brandon has seen, he'd want to share something new and unique with Marianne if he could. So, Portugal it was. :p (Also: there, I kept to Jane Austen's canon in that Marianne figured out that she loved Brandon only after they were wed - by a whole few days. [face_tee_hee])

    Is there more I should comment on? I feel like there is, but for now I will leave it at that. Suffice to say, I will definitely have more notes to share following my next update. ;) [face_mischief]


    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2023
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  22. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Force Ghost star 4

    Aug 9, 2002
    *throws confetti everywhere*

    Even if you didn't technically finish this before the deadline, you still went above and beyond for this challenge and you deserve all the praise and gold stars, especially when everything is so good!!! [face_love] [face_love] [face_love]

    I hope to do a lot of catch-up this week, so I'll be back! [:D]
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  23. Gabri_Jade

    Gabri_Jade Fan Fiction Archive Editor Emeritus star 5 VIP

    Nov 9, 2002
    Lil bit more :p

    Ugh. Being a servant of any sort at that time seems fairly awful, but imagine being a lady's maid to Fanny [face_phbbbbt]

    The servants will learn within a week to avoid Colton like the plague. Let's hope for her sake that Fanny's condescending company is enough for her [face_plain]

    There's a perverse (arrogant, self-serving, hostile) logic to this, I admit

    You get the feeling that John could have been a better person with better influences? Not to absolve him by any means, because he's not an idiot. He could think for himself and stand up for what's right, and he's not doing that. But if he's that easy to influence, a better wife might also have encouraged the better side of his nature, because he's more a self-serving fool than an out-and-out villain.

    Kinda speechless here...


    I mean, fair, showing the influences that Fanny herself has been under since infancy! In a way that her brothers might not have been, too, since mothers were expected to teach their daughters so much more. Considering what her mother's like, Fanny's probably also just a jerk from the start, but her education didn't help matters any.

    This is kind of the worst, though it was fairly standard for the time and social standard. Imagine spending an hour a day with your child and considering a kiss an indulgence [face_plain]

    So many social rules are just absolute rubbish, my gosh

    The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

    It is astonishing that you make such a ridiculous trifle (heh :p) both genuinely dramatic and even logical from Fanny's self-serving point of view.

    Okay, slight moment of sympathy here. Very slight :p

    Ha, Elinor is a master at this :D

    Just perfectly Austenesque, I can hear this exactly.

    Well then [face_plain]

    I really have to reread Persuasion. But yes, I agree with all of this!

    [Hamilton]Sure, but your man has to answer for his words, Burr.[/Hamilton]

    I do truly love VotF [face_love]

    And I love it endlessly [face_love]
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  24. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004

    Oh my goodness, right??? [face_bleh]

    I had Mrs. O'Brien from Downton Abbey almost vividly in mind when I wrote Colton. Can you imagine pairing someone like her with a mistress like Fanny? [face_worried]

    Brutal, self-serving efficiency, thy name is Fanny. [face_devil]

    Yep, I fully agree. John is spineless, not malicious; he definitely could have been persuaded towards his better nature rather than influenced to indulge his worst self by a kinder wife.

    Jane Austen knew just what she was doing with the china and the linens. [face_plain]

    It's amazing what some people are able to convince themselves of in their own minds.

    Exactly. In a way, Fanny is very much a product of her environment - which of course is no excuse, but it is, in part, an explanation.

    Right??? In a way, I almost pitied Fanny while writing this. She's so choked off from all good emotion and healthy human interaction. Instead, she pursues the things that she thinks - and has been taught to believe - will bring her true contentment and inner peace . . . but her life is incredibly unfulfilling and empty and she doesn't even get why. [face_plain]

    Such rubbish, honestly.

    Fanny makes hypocrisy an artform. o_O

    Again, I felt like I was writing a scene from Downton Abbey, and it was such a fun experiment! The gauntlet was indeed thrown with that trifle (hee :p). [face_mischief]

    Understandably so. :p

    Elinor outclasses Fanny in every regard. [face_mischief]

    I love how those lines ended up sounding, myself. Thank you!

    Because what else is there to say than that? I read one of Jane Austen's letters shortly before I wrote this piece, and it included an absolutely scathing condemnation of a couple who did not keep separate bedrooms after the wife almost died in childbirth that really stood out to me. Then, throw in a marriage of convenience where the wife is maybe not all that attracted to her husband to begin with (how awkward and sad is that? :(), and a mindset where infidelity was, if not assumed, then at the very least was hardly surprising . . . as much as Austen liked to write couples who were very much in love, here we are with the other side of that Regency coin amongst the elite. [face_plain]

    Persuasion is just the best, so yes you do. ;) And thank you! [face_love]

    [Burr]With his life? We both know that's absurd, sir.[/Burr]

    With that, I promise I'm done! [face_rofl] [face_rofl] But every time I even mention a duel in these stories, I have Ten Duel Commandments playing over in my head, along with Charles Lee's "I'm a general, weeeeeee!" It's very hard to be a mature, grown-up author sometimes. :p

    There's so much to love! [face_love]

    Aw, thank you so much for your kind words, again! [face_love] [:D]

    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2022
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  25. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Note: Here I am with Part Three! As predicted, this last section turned into a proper vignette at 6.5k words, bringing the grand total of this entire 5+1 story to a whopping ~19k words. That is, erm, quite a bit more than the original 8k word limit of the prompt - because, apparently, my muse has a funny sense of humor like that. :p 8-} [face_whistling]

    Anyway, I've had this particular idea in mind almost since the start of the challenge and was just waiting for the right prompt to bring it to life. Yep, here I am with a completely self-indulgent Persuasion crossover (what is it they say about writing the stories you want to read? [face_mischief]), told entirely from Anne Wentworth's POV. For anyone who may not be familiar with Persuasion, I included a brief summary underneath the cut. For the rest of my notes - and I have quite a few, this time around :p - I included my usual spoiler tag and ramblings at the end.

    As always, I thank you for reading and hope that you enjoy! [face_love] [:D]

    Persuasion was the last complete novel Jane Austen wrote, published by her brother after her death in 1818. We don't even know what title she intended beyond her working header of The Elliot Family. Henry Austen bestowed the name Persuasion based on his sister's penchant for highlighting the overreaching character themes she explored in her work - or at least, that was her pattern with the titles of her early novels.

    For me personally, Persuasion is probably my favorite Austen novel to read. There's a huge difference in Austen's style at age forty versus her style at age nineteen, when she wrote Sense and Sensibility. At its core, it's just a soft, gorgeous story about two people finding each other again after years spent apart. In a way, it relies less on the "shocking" plot twists than Austen used to tell her earlier stories, and her ever present satirical voice is somewhat muted compared to her other novels - even though Persuasion still brims with social commentary and keen observations on the human character.

    The story begins in 1814, eight years after the broken engagement of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. Back in 1806, Anne, then the nineteen-year-old daughter of a baronet, had accepted a proposal from Frederick, who was an ambitious but as of yet undistinguished naval officer. (Side point: they met because Frederick's brother was the curate of her parish - and his name was also Edward. ;) Another side point: both Edwards were named in honor of Jane Austen's RL brother, Edward. [face_love]) Rather predictably, Anne's family viewed Frederick as an inferior match, but more importantly, Lady Russell - Anne's godmother, who was more like a second mother to her after the passing of her own mother - did not approve of the relationship and persuaded Anne to break the engagement.

    Now, fast-forward to 1814: the Elliot family has fallen in debt due to Sir Walter Elliot's expensive tastes and poor management of the estate. They decide to rent out their mansion home in the country and move to Bath, where they can better afford to keep up pretenses of their preferred lifestyle. Sir Walter leases the house, as fate would have it, to Admiral and Mrs. Croft, Frederick's sister and brother-in-law. (This was just following the first "end" of the Napoleonic Wars, when Napoleon abdicated and went into exile on the island of Elba.) The Crofts' arrival in the neighborhood throws Frederick and Anne back together again, but while Anne retreats even further into silence to avoid him, Frederick puts on the most arrogant, apathetic face possible towards Anne in return. He then encourages the flirtations of the young and somewhat silly Musgrove girls, who are Anne's sisters-in-law by the marriage of her younger sister, Mary. Half of this was obviously to flout the reversal of their circumstances, but the other half had to do with the appeal of Louisa Musgrove's strength of character. Above all else, Frederick valued a strong will in a potential wife after how easily Anne was convinced to obey her mind rather than her heart, years earlier. (Though Louisa is soon proven to be too intractable in a way that speaks more of her immaturity than anything else. :p) During Frederick's campaign of indifference, his remark of "she is so altered that I would not have first recognized her" regarding Anne is up there as one of the harshest burns in all of Austen's novels, which is saying something.

    Yet to the surprise of not one reader, Frederick quickly comes to realize that he's not actually over Anne, and he's not truly satisfied that Anne is an unappreciated, unhappy "old maid" who has fallen so far in life, financially and socially speaking. It takes the rest of the novel for them to regain their footing together - and for Anne to come out of her shell and into her own separately of Frederick, because that's just how Jane Austen does these things. On Anne's side of the plot, she has an independent storyline where she sees through Austen's ever present rogue, Mr. William Elliot, and resists being persuaded into a horrible match with a man who is soon thereafter revealed to be a villain. Eventually, Frederick proposes again in what has to be one of the best letters ever written in all of fiction, and Anne accepts him for good. They marry just in time for Napoleon to escape from Elba, and Anne agrees to go to sea along with Frederick upon the reactivation of his command.

    That brings us here, to the end of the Hundred Day War, right after the Battle of Waterloo . . . [face_mischief]

    If you would like a glimpse of these characters to hold in your mind's eye, this is one of my favorite scenes from the 1995 film adaptation of Persuasion ('95 was such a glorious year for us Jane Austen fans :p). This scene includes one of my favorite lines of all time with: “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” And then, rather importantly for the story I am about to tell, this also sets up Jane Austen's opinion on the subject of women at sea. (Also: JUST WATCH THE CROFTS BE THEIR AMAZING SELVES IN THIS SCENE!!! Ultimate marriage goals, here; 'nuff said. ;) [face_love])

    And I just have to include The Letter. Everyone else, put down your pens - there's just no way that you can win. [face_mischief] [face_love]


    XII. III:
    “We Few, We Happy Few”

    VI. July 2nd, 1815

    The naval yard at Portsmouth was a veritable forest of tall masts and tacked canvas. Standing proud against the grey expanse of sea and sky, strong wooden beams supported an intricate canopy of rigging and lines, while beyond the quayside yet more ships gracefully bobbed upon the water at anchor, waiting their turn at dock – or, for more than one ship, they conducted their business by rowing ashore and having supplies rowed out to them before they were sent on their way with new orders. It was a typically cloudy English morning, with the promise of rain mixing sweetly with the sharp tang of salt on the breeze – which was an admittedly welcome respite from the thick, briny scent of fish and mildew that typically attended any harbor otherwise. From one berth to the next, everything was a clamor and a cry, a bustling hive of industry to ready so many great ships of the line to depart with the tide.

    Even more so than usual, every task was seemingly acute with purpose following what was hopefully the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, Anne Wentworth reflected. Though the Hundred Day War was over – nominally speaking, if not officially – there was still much to be done in order to ensure that this last nail in the emperor’s coffin remained as such. To achieve that end, more than half of the Navy was assigned to ensure that the fugitive general did not escape their blockade and make a run for the Americas. A great deal of the rest of the fleet – her husband included as captain of the HMS Gloriana – had orders to provide relief to their army brethren in the Netherlands with all possible expedience. Their holds were now brimming with fresh supplies, from foodstuffs to medicinal provisions – along with a dozen army surgeons to make use of those now sorely needed provisions, with the toll of their action having exacted such a heavy cost in life and limb on both sides, far more so than had first been expected. (Or was it truly unexpected, when it was Napoleon’s last stand they either fought to ensure or defend?)

    It was strange to feel such a mingled sense of relief – and even joy – for the end of so many years of war, while still grieving to know that for some, their more personal battles were yet far from over. After making several such runs since Napoleon’s retreat, she knew that they would sail back to England with their holds filled with the dead who had the honor of being buried in their own native soil, rather than entombed in the mass graves that had been constructed just beyond the fields of Waterloo. And, as for their wounded . . .

    The count of their fallen, by the end of this, would be very great indeed.

    Every ship that could was also ferrying civilians to the Netherlands, all of whom bore the heavy burden of having loved ones who were either missing or wounded in action. So much was unknown – who was merely misplaced in the struggle and who was truly fallen would be an unpleasant web to untangle in the months to come, and it would take months to see that scourged battlefield set to rights again. They already had six passengers they were bearing across the Channel at behest of the Admiralty, but one had reached out to her husband directly in a more personal entreaty for transportation.

    Frederick had shared the letter with her, the last time they were in Portsmouth. Such a heavy look of grief had furrowed his brow, and the broad line of his shoulders had slumped so that his epaulettes drooped, alone in the privacy of their cabin. The letter was from a Mrs. Marianne Brandon, requesting passage for her brother and herself to the Netherlands, where they intended to search for her husband, who was currently among those unaccounted for following the battle.

    “I sailed with Brandon back in the year '08, at the start of the Iberian Campaigns – though he was on the ground side of things as a brigadier general,” once she finished reading, Frederick revealed on a murmur. “I transported his regiment and provided aid through supply and defense from the water until Portugal was recovered from the French. He must have been one of the few veterans the Duke of Wellington was able to recruit from the Peninsular Wars who hadn’t been deployed to that whole sorry business in North America. Otherwise, I would have imagined that he’d be enjoying his retirement – a most well-earned retirement. Yet I suppose that he was always an overly honorable sort of man; if Wellington called, he would have answered.”

    Was; already, Frederick used the past tense with the grim practicality of a seasoned soldier. Yet for the sake of Mrs. Brandon, Anne very much hoped the opposite.

    Anticipating the arrival of their guests, Anne now stood by the prow of the ship on the cobbles of the quay, carefully searching the bustling marina – from the burly dock hands and weathered sailors and red-faced young midshipmen who darted like snappers through a crowded reef – for a flash of . . . something, that perhaps didn’t quite belong.

    Her steady eye was soon rewarded when she spied a woman, there, walking alongside a somewhat flummoxed man who rather tellingly wore no uniform, and beyond that bore no look of the sea about him. The woman wasn't much older than Anne herself was, perhaps somewhere in her mid-thirties. She was handsome, too – the red of her hair was striking from where it peeked out from her bonnet, and she carried herself with an assured sort of confidence through a realm that was clearly not her own in every respect. As her image further sharpened into view, Anne amended her opinion from handsome to lovely. The woman looked like a painting come to life – but with a vivacity about her that was far and away from the comparatively cold beauty of the likes of her sister, Elizabeth. Her gaze had yet to stop searching, flitting from one ship to the next, and Anne thought to know what it was she sought.

    With her conclusion thus reached, Anne did not hesitate to wave and call out, “Mrs. Brandon; Mr. Ferrars!”

    Sure enough, they both turned to her – with a woman’s voice, in this instance, being singular enough to stand out over the din.

    Relief broke across the man’s face in a moment’s unguarded expression – he was certainly Mr. Ferrars, then – and he was only a step behind the woman to approach. Mrs. Brandon’s gaze was troubled and her eyes were swollen and red – though currently dry. Yet no matter the obvious pall that shadowed her, she offered a sincere smile in greeting that Anne found herself appreciating all the more so for how it formed in defiance of her grief.

    “Good day to you, madam." Mr. Ferrars doffed his hat and bowed in a friendly greeting. "Could you tell us, perchance, if this is the ship Gloriana?”

    “I told you that it was from a glance,” Mrs. Brandon answered before Anne could, swatting at her companion’s arm in a motion that bespoke both fondness and familiarity. “Someday, Edward, you will know better than to doubt me.”

    “Do forgive me, Marianne,” Mr. Ferrars sighed with a matching such familiarity, “but to my eye, one of these ships is not easily discernible from the next.”

    “Perhaps it would be best not to let my husband hear you say so,” Anne commented mildly, amused by the exchange. “Every captain likes to think his ship singular in all the world.”

    “Your husband is Captain Wentworth, then?” Mr. Ferrars nonetheless looked to make certain. Yet Anne did not have to answer when she felt a familiar hand brush against her arm in a wordless greeting. She looked up and, sure enough, Frederick had appeared at her side.

    “Indeed he is,” Frederick tipped his own hat to bow, and he shook Mr. Ferrars’ hand with a good, strong grip that was returned in equal measure. Anne was hardly surprised that he had kept an eye out for her from the ship's deck and made his approach when he saw that she was joined by their guests. She could not help but consider his attention with a proud sort of satisfaction, for there was still a great deal yet to be done aboard before they could depart – and the tide waited for no man. Yet for this, Frederick would make what time he could.

    “It’s an honor to make your acquaintance, Captain Wentworth,” Mrs. Brandon said in her turn, curtsying before she turned to meet her eye again. “That must make you his Anne.” If her smile was bright before, it then turned brilliant. “No, I’m sorry – Mrs. Wentworth, I apologize for my assumption. Yet it truly is a pleasure to meet you – the sole pleasure I have been afforded in quite some time, now.”

    If Anne felt somewhat bemused by the familiarity of the greeting – though hardly offended for the good-natured warmth of it – Frederick gave a low chuckle to say, “It has been quite some time since Portugal." He shook his head, smiling for the passing of some memory that Anne was not wholly privy to. "I must confess my surprise that such a detail has been remembered after all these years.”

    “Oh, I always remember a good story,” Mrs. Brandon declared, and though her expression remained pleasant, the shadow weighing on her countenance then turned heavy, pulling her down. “I am somewhat of a romantic, myself. As such, I was overjoyed to discover that this particular story had progressed onwards to a happy ending . . . not every story does.”

    For that, Frederick shared her pall. He bowed his head, and gravely intoned, “Your husband was an exemplary soldier, and a good man; he shall be missed.”

    “I thank you for your kind words, Captain, but he shall not be missed quite yet.” For that, Mrs. Brandon boldly tilted up her chin, as if daring the universe itself to prove her wrong.

    “Marianne,” Mr. Ferrars reached out a hand to sooth, his voice hushed, “you must prepare yourself for - ”

    “ - I must do no such thing!” Mrs. Brandon yanked away from her brother’s gesture of comfort and set her jaw to insist. “I would know . . . I would know if the worst had befallen him. I would feel it, here.” She raised a gloved hand to clutch against her heart, fervent in her defiance. “And I don’t . . . I don’t – so he cannot be.”

    For such a passionate declaration, both men regarded Mrs. Brandon with expressions that did little to disguise their pity – yet Anne could not help but remember those long years when she had followed Frederick’s career from afar. Even when she had no claim to his health and happiness – and all by her own doing, at that – she’d scoured the published naval chronicles for even a glimpse of his name. She had been ever faithful to track his progress from the Asp to the Laconia to the Resolute – indeed, she’d fretted for days when the Asp was put up in ordinary for the damages she’d sustained off the coast of Tripoli, all without any news printed of the fate of her captain. Just as equally, she’d been frustrated when he’d changed ships so often during the two years he’d transported troops in ‘08 and ‘09 that it was difficult for her to follow. When he was finally rewarded with a command in ‘10, she’d rejoiced for his success, just as she’d felt his triumph as her own when she’d read that the modest, fifth-rate Laconia with her forty-four guns had overtaken the great Le Pluton class French ship Couronne with her seventy-four guns, just past the Canary Islands in March of ‘11. That particular feat of daring had won Frederick a great deal of renown and quite the fortune in prize money when he’d returned the captured ship, along with her officers, mostly intact to England. While the papers had lauded Frederick as a hero, Anne had instead poured out her thanks to God for His mercy in ensuring that the battle hadn’t had a far different outcome – as so easily could have transpired, with just a slight change in the wind.

    Even then, she’d felt as if a part of her soul sailed with him, forever to reside alongside his heart, and if that part of her would have perished with him – or worse yet, returned to her in any way . . .

    . . . it defied all logical sense, yes, yet Anne too felt certain that she would have known.

    “If I must, I am determined to search every house of quarter down to the last barn bordering the field of battle,” Mrs. Brandon continued, her expression fierce. “I know that I shall find him.”

    “Madam, your husband isn’t a missing private, but one of Wellington’s generals,” Frederick said – still so gently, yes, but his words couldn’t possibly land as anything but blows. “The state of confusion around Waterloo remains great, I grant you, but I would not see your hopes raised unnecessarily.”

    “You admit, then, that there’s such a state of confusion that even a general’s mail may be lost, if not the general himself?” doggedly, Mrs. Brandon refused to be swayed.

    “Yes,” Frederick agreed, albeit somewhat grudgingly. “There is a slight – a very slight – chance that may be so.”

    “Then, until I have exhausted that truth, I shall allow it to sustain me,” Mrs. Brandon remained steadfast to insist. “I must.”

    Even so, Frederick endeavored to make one last attempt, “I would merely caution you to temper your expectations to - ”

    “ - would you not go, Mrs. Wentworth?” abruptly, Mrs. Brandon turned from Frederick to spear her with her gaze. “If there was even the smallest possibility that your husband was alive, you would go and search for him, would you not?”

    “Yes,” Anne did not have to consider her answer. “I would.” Mrs. Brandon’s look softened, just slightly, with a look of grateful appreciation – and indeed, Anne felt, a sort of instant kinship. For it was true: if Shakespeare wrote of war making brothers of soldiers, then it most certainly made sisters of their wives.

    Frederick sighed, but he could hardly judge her words with any sort of reproach. Instead, he merely shook his head and let the argument go – for while his opinion was not without merit, it was perhaps one that did not need to be given any further voice just then. The future would see the truth revealed, for better or worse; no one could change what had already happened, yet hope was still hope for as long as it was given life in their belief.

    “Then, does our understanding remain?” Mrs. Brandon nevertheless asked, hesitant for the first. “Would you have us aboard, Captain? Though I know that I have yet to sound grateful in the slightest, I must assure you that I am, most sincerely.”

    “Of course it remains,” Frederick’s expression softened to assure her. “And please know that I would like nothing better than to be proven wrong in this matter – indeed, I pray that I am.”

    “Thank you,” only the slightest hitch in her exhale betrayed that Mrs. Brandon may have had her own more private doubts. Even so, she kept her chin up to say, “thank you,” again with a stronger voice.

    Frederick merely inclined his head, briefly but kindly, before turning towards the gangway. “Then it is my pleasure to welcome you aboard – Anne will see you settled, if you’d be so kind as to follow her instructions. She will make sure that you are comfortable for the journey.” And out of the way went unspoken – for this was still a military vessel, with a single purpose and obligation that it intended to follow.

    Yet they rarely had to remind their passengers of such – instead, Anne enjoyed watching how both Mrs. Brandon and Mr. Ferrars looked up and up and up at the great height of the masts and the complexity of the tackle and rigging as they made their ascent. These ships were a marvel of engineering, and Anne understood their awed expressions. She was admittedly as biased as her husband was towards the Gloriana – for this ship had been her home for nearly the entirety of her marriage – but even without bias, Anne knew that she was a handsome, remarkable ship; all of the great ships of the line were.

    “If you think the Gloriana is a marvel, you should see the Victory – the first-rates have three decks, and more than a hundred guns apiece,” Anne offered, enjoying their wide-eyed appreciation. “Have you ever sailed before?”

    Mr. Ferrars replied in the negative, but Mrs. Brandon softly revealed that she had. “Yet those voyages were on a much smaller vessel,” she admitted, her gaze lost to memory, “intended more so for passengers than for war. My sister Margaret is the great adventurer in our family – her husband is a merchant commodore, and she lives half of her life at sea, it sometime seems. She will be rather giddy with envy when I tell her that we’ve sailed on a ship of such magnificence – and undoubtedly will appreciate the particulars of why the Gloriana is so magnificent with a far greater capacity for understanding than I myself possess.”

    Anne could not help but smile for the obvious affection in her words – even as she felt what was, by then, a familiar sense of regret to think of her own sisters, whom she would never find an equal such joy in writing or hearing from in return. Yet she pushed that thought aside and continued to point out the main parts of the ship as they passed. She offered insights on the various decks and their purposes, all the while making sure to outline where their guests were free to wander and where they should avoid. Their passengers who’d already arrived were all gathered in the dining cabin, both to avoid interfering with the sailors as they went about their duties and to partake of the refreshments that had been laid out for their enjoyment.

    Upon showing them into the cabin, Anne felt as proud as any fine lady presiding over a great house when Mr. Ferrars commented to say that he hadn’t expected to find such generous accommodations at sea. He looked from the black and white checkered canvas, tacked down on the floor to give the space the rich appearance of tile, to the cheerful blue paint on the walls, which were framed by decorative Georgian columns, to the solid oak furnishings that would have been typical of any English dwelling on land. For her part, Mrs. Brandon was more amused by the cannons that were snugly roped off against the side of the room – and visible in the captain’s sitting room, further back from the dining cabin, where the aft windows looked down on the waters of the harbor far below. Currently, those windows were open to the refreshing breeze that swept in off of the bay, offering them a happy respite from the already balmy heat of midsummer.

    “The windows turn into gun ports,” Anne gestured to reveal. “Though ideally we will never have a ship bearing down on us to use them as such.”

    “Indeed, that sounds most ideal,” Mr. Ferrars was solemn to agree, but with a twinkle in his eyes to betray his particular brand of humor. Anne decided that she liked him very much – especially for how he glanced to Mrs. Brandon after every subtle quip or pithy phrase, clearly looking to inspire her good cheer with his own. If Mrs. Brandon was slow to laugh for her brother-in-law’s efforts, she nonetheless did look on him gratefully for his attempts.

    Shortly thereafter, Anne left them alone to settle in. The tide was turning in their favor – she could feel as much from how they sat on the water, and she knew that they’d soon be on their way. Towards that end, she didn’t have to go far to find her husband. Frederick was standing just before the wheelhouse on the quarter deck, his gaze fixed like a hawk on the progress of his sailors – who worked well together as a seamless unit following the last four months of their tour. From there, she did not miss how he glanced to the open water that awaited them whenever he could. He was eager to set out, she knew, in a way that went beyond mere duty and instead had everything to do with a love of the sea for its own sake.

    Perhaps, if they were already into their voyage, she would have leaned her head against his shoulder or even embraced him outright. Yet, as much as she had come to dare those small intimacies within view of the crew when they were far away from land, she would not indulge in such affections here at port, when there was still much to be done. Instead, she merely approached to stand by his side, close enough to be heard when she quietly remarked: “I was previously under the impression that you were doing your best to forget me, back in the year ‘08.”

    Had he assumed that she would have missed that detail? Perhaps not, for the wry sort of expression he flashed her before looking straight ahead again. “I ever did a very poor job of forgetting you,” he admitted, his voice equally as muttered. Though their marriage had since soothed many of the wounds they’d inflicted on each other, this, she thought, would always cause a dull ache to settle in her heart. “In my own way, I was always trying to raise myself to a level that was worthy of you. In my pride, I had convinced myself that I merely wanted to prove your poor estimation of my prospects wrong – and so I did. Yet . . .”

    But his words tapered off, and he stared out over the water again. Patiently, she waited for him to gather his thoughts, and was rewarded when he said, “Have I ever confessed that I almost wrote to you, back in ‘08? I wanted, more than once, to beg you to reconsider my suit. Brandon’s words were so stuck in my head that I would have hardly noticed Napoleon himself bearing down on us, those days we spent landing in Mondego – oh, and the weather was just as vile and tumultuous as my mood, I can still recall. I had my prize money from the Asp, I reasoned, which was substantial enough to marry on, even if it was hardly a sum worth the notice of a baronet’s daughter. Yet I still didn’t have a command that I felt worthy of bringing a wife onboard to share. I almost wrote again in ‘10, when I was awarded the Laconia . . . but I could hardly imagine it possible that you were still unattached. I only had to remind myself that the captain of a man-o'-war would hardly be any different from the commander of a sloop in your family's eyes; in that way, nothing had changed. Perhaps it was cowardice – or more of my foolish pride in avoiding the sting of another rejection – but it was easy to convince myself that nothing would have come of the letter, even before I wrote it . . . so I did not.”

    “If you would have written in the year ‘08 – or even in the year ‘10 – I would have flown to your side, had you only been the commander of a mere sloop. I knew my mistake in refusing you almost instantly – in my heart, at least. To console myself, I attempted to hold to the conviction that it was for the best for you that I freed you from our engagement. I took comfort in the knowledge that I was not holding you back, that without me, you would be capable of every success you were always so determined to achieve - ”

    “ - as if a wife to provide for wouldn't have been an even greater impetus to excel compared to my desire to spite the memory of the woman who had spurned me! No, I still cannot agree with such supposed wisdom, no matter what you say – indeed, I disagree very strongly on the matter!”

    For such an outburst, Anne leveled him with an unimpressed look – one she normally reserved for her sister’s sons when they were being ornery or trying to get away with some mischief or the other. “Can you tell me, in all honesty, that you would have chased down the Couronne with your wife onboard that day?”

    Frederick exhaled noisily, his features stamped in a mulish expression. “Yes,” even so, he affirmed. “The wind was on our side, and I knew that it was the right thing to do, even as we did it. We were the more maneuverable vessel - ”

    “With almost two of their guns for every one of your own?”

    “ - and we had the advantage of being lighter and faster - ”

    “ - and just as susceptible to cannon-fire as any ship, especially so much cannon-fire - ”

    “ - with the best crew a captain could ask for; I trusted them with my life - ”

    “ - but with my life?” Anne raised a brow to challenge. “Would you have been so quick to trust them with mine?”

    Frederick’s jaw clenched, and she saw how, for just a moment, he knew doubt. Yet: “You would have encouraged me to engage, and that would have made all the difference.” As always, he held tightly to his beliefs. “With your trust – with your certainty bolstering me like the wind in my sails – there is no feat that I shall ever believe myself incapable of achieving. I tell you, when we pulled into port, ferrying the Couronne behind us with her white flags raised to see the crowds that had gathered, all cheering for us, and to have Admiral Pellew himself shake my hand and applaud the bravery of my crew and commend my leadership of them . . . that was the first time I truly felt even the slightest bit deserving of you.”

    “You have never been unworthy of me,” Anne assured him, her voice soft – for that was the truth, little as she had seen it when she was so young and perhaps too easily persuaded otherwise. She felt another moment's regret, then, to think of Lady Russell, whom she still loved so dearly. Her marriage had caused, not a rift, precisely, but rather a cooling of their bond – healing as that bond may have been. Beyond a change in the tone of her letters, Lady Russell had even gone so far as to spend an entire evening with them onboard, the one time she had journeyed to Portsmouth to visit the Gloriana in order to see how her goddaughter lived. Lady Russell's interactions with Frederick had not only been civil, but honest in an effort to set the foundations for a true relationship in the years to come. For that, Anne was grateful. It had distressed her to grieve the woman who had since been as much of a mother to her as her own mother had once been, yet she could have hardly chosen against her heart when she was offered a second chance to amend what she had since come to consider the greatest mistake of her life in denying Frederick’s hand all those years ago. She had decided for her own happiness; perhaps in a different manner, yet just as fervently, her happiness was all that Lady Russell desired, as well.

    “Perhaps,” Frederick didn't quite agree – yet neither did he disagree. In many ways, their past simply was what it was: the road that had finally led them here. “I will only say that I am the most fortunate of men now, and that is the truth I choose to cling to.”

    With that, he caught her eye, and she rather wished that their circumstances were different so that she could kiss her husband without impropriety. Instead, she reached out and warmly clasped his hand for the moment they had left to them before a shout from Frederick’s first officer, Commander Williamson, sounded from the main deck below, requesting his attention. With a rueful expression that told her that his thoughts rather closely aligned with her own, Frederick squeezed her hand once more before letting her go to see to his men.

    From there, the tide was soon upon them, and they were at last ready to depart. The dock-gate opened, and they were tugged by their ferry ship into the waters of the bay, past Fort Blockhouse, and into the last straight of the Solent. Once they were free of the harbor, their escort detached, and Anne looked up for that magical moment when the canvas was unfurled and left free to fly. There was then that familiar lurch and a seeming moment of hesitation from the ship as the wind caught them, and then they were off, with the Gloriana reveling in her chosen purpose as she glided through the mild chop of the waves as happily and as smoothly as a leaping pod of dolphins. There was a special sort of energy that thrummed through a ship’s crew at the start of any voyage – that went through her husband at the onset of a journey, and Anne was far from immune from the feeling herself.

    With that thought in mind, Anne ascended the steep steps from the quarter deck to the top deck for a change in view. Once there, she was surprised, but yet not, to find Mrs. Brandon already standing by the railing off to the side of the mizzenmast. The Gloriana left a churning wake behind her as the shores of Portsmouth turned smaller and smaller to their view, and the wind was full in their sails, working in tandem with the current to bear them along properly into the Channel. There was so much to see both alongside and aft of them, yet Mrs. Brandon did not look back at the retreating coast or the novelty of the frothing waves. Instead, her body was angled so that she could stare down the length of the ship, her gaze unerringly fixed on where the coast of the Netherlands awaited them, just beyond the horizon.

    She looked somewhat pale, Anne thought with concern – though her balance aboard the swaying vessel was already commendable. Well knowing the most likely cause for her ill expression, Anne considered how best to suggest some tried and true remedies for mastering any queasiness at sea before Mrs. Brandon revealed in lieu of a greeting, “I apologize for straying from where you had so thoughtfully settled us, but I quickly tired of hearing the surgeons speak in the dining cabin.” Oh – that, Anne thought with a sympathetic twist in the pit of her own stomach, certainly explained much. “The table you set was very kind,” Mrs. Brandon nonetheless continued to assure her. “I thank you for your hospitality, in every possible regard.”

    For that, Anne offered a look of commiseration. “You need not explain to me why a lady may tire of a room full of men,” she waved her pleasantries aside. “Besides, the view at departure is singular – and far easier to appreciate here than in any of the cabins.”

    “Indeed,” Mrs. Brandon agreed, inhaling a deep breath of sea air. “I would have enjoyed this experience immensely at any other time – I am enjoying it even now, which speaks highly enough on its own.”

    “The novelty has yet to wear off, even for me,” Anne admitted in her turn. “It is strange, at that, to think that I once thought to pass all my days rather unremarkably in Somersetshire; the world used to feel so small to me, even confining, yet now it’s huge with possibility.”

    “You are quite blessed,” Mrs. Brandon said with an understanding expression. “And blessed all the more so that you may accompany your husband to sea, even unto battle. Your fate shall be his fate, wherever and however that fate shall be.”

    “Indeed, I am fortunate,” Anne agreed. “Thankfully, I already had a happy precedent to guide my way. Frederick’s elder sister is the wife of an admiral, and she has sailed by his side for nigh on twenty years, now. I lost so much time with Frederick that I may have had otherwise, and I was not about to allow the likes of Napoleon to separate us, especially so soon after we finally were married.”

    “I am glad,” Mrs. Brandon inclined her head, turning her gaze back from the horizon. “That is how a good marriage should be – the best of marriages, even.”

    “It is somewhat different on the ground, though?” Anne hazarded to say. She did not know how those few wives who were permitted to travel with the army managed it – though if she had to march rather than sail, she was sure that she would have accustomed herself to those circumstances just as she had aboard the Gloriana.

    “Somewhat, perhaps,” Mrs. Brandon sighed to admit. “I have tried more than once over the years to insist that our own history is full of lady knights and queens who have taken up armor and swords to defend their own – like the very Gloriana your ship is named for. I’ve even gone so far as to argue that Lady Washington herself followed her husband from one campaign to the next in their War of Independence – and when General Washington had quite the price on his head, at that! Yet Christopher did not agree with my point of view in the slightest; indeed, he said that an American could be foolhardy enough to risk his wife however he saw fit, but that he would not.”

    Imagining such a conversation – perhaps purposefully kept blithe and teasing in order to disguise the heavy weight of the matter beneath, Anne allowed herself to smile. Her banter with Frederick was ever much the same.

    “I know that it would be different if England herself was under attack, and the safest place was with the army,” Mrs. Brandon sobered to say with more seriousness. “No matter my protestations, I would not have accompanied my husband, even if I could – we have a daughter who is only fourteen, and an estate in Dorsetshire to oversee. I manage both well enough alone when it's required of me, though this is . . . I am parted from my daughter but rarely. This is the farthest I have ever been from her, and I shall be for an unforeseeable amount of time – that, I must admit, sits very ill with me.”

    “I imagine that it would feel so for all mothers – all good mothers,” Anne remarked, thinking again of her own dearly departed mother, and even of Lady Russell. It may have been somewhat more natural to surrender a son to war – but a daughter? Once, fear had undoubtedly ruled Lady Russell’s counsel as well as what she had truly thought to be the best advice for her future happiness at the time.

    Mrs. Brandon shook her head, then taken by some amusement in her memory. “I may have argued with Christopher merely for argument’s sake, but my daughter waged quite the battle of her own to reason why she should be permitted to accompany me – she’s quiet, my girl, and usually quite sensible, yet she’s as hardheaded as both her parents when she latches onto an idea. I nearly requested that your husband keep an eye out for stowaways – as Celia would have happily hidden herself in an apple barrel if she could! Yet to do so, she would have had to find a way around my sister – and Elinor is yet far too canny for her to outmatch.”

    But her expression lost its brief animation, and she sighed – releasing a breath that sounded as if it came from her heart more so than her lungs. “Christopher is already going to be cross enough to see me as it is; he’d be in a true temper if I brought our daughter along.” She spoke firmly in the future tense, even when she frowned. A moment passed, and she then added in little more in a whisper, “That is if . . . to think of what the surgeons described of the state of Waterloo . . . I do not know if he is . . . ”

    Not pausing to think twice of her gesture, Anne reached out and grasped the other woman’s hands firmly with her own. Thinking of those long-ago days when she all she had to cling to was the good news of no news, all as she waited and refused to mourn for as long as she had hope, she squeezed. Tightly, her grip was returned.

    "Oh, I must apologize," even so Mrs. Brandon shook her head. "I do not mean to make you uncomfortable with any such talk, Mrs. Wentworth. Elinor still chides me to this day to be more guarded with strangers, and yet here I am.”

    For that, however, Anne did not agree. “Yet we are hardly strangers," she firmly declared. "To the contrary, I would say that we are very much kindred spirits. Please, call me Anne.”

    “Marianne,” she was easily granted the same honor in return and there: they knew each other.

    “We still have some hours of sailing left to us before we arrive – would you take tea with me, in my cabin?" Anne offered. Staring at the horizon did not make the voyage pass any quickly, and she very much thought that it would be better if Marianne could be diverted with the distraction of company. Besides: "It seems that you know much of my story, and yet I hardly know any of your own,” she truly was curious.

    “Thank you," Marianne's smile was wan, but sincere to understand her aim. "I would like that very much, indeed.”


    A Note on the Aftermath of Waterloo: Whew, but wasn't Waterloo an absolute doozy in history? 8-} The Battle of Waterloo was fought on June 18th, 1815. On one side, the Duke of Wellington had 68,000 men, which included the forces of the United Kingdom and their allies from the Netherlands, Brunswick, Hanover, and Nassau. Wellington's ally, Prince Blücher, commanded 50,000 men of his own with the Prussian army. Yet these two forces were separate, and Napoleon did his best to keep them that way in order to secure his own victory. (Which he came very close to achieving - seriously, this man was a genius, and his troops absolutely revered him, which increased the fervor of their fighting. Heck, if it didn't storm the night before and turn the field to slop, history may have played out very differently.) Napoleon had the lesser numbers with 73,000 men, but a greater artillery than the entire Coalition army combined. (Yet Napoleon couldn't move his artillery until later in the day when the fields dried. That delay in the start of the battle eventually gave the Prussians time to arrive and supply Wellington with the advantage he needed in order to win.)

    The fighting was intense, and the losses were high on both sides. This was one of the bloodiest battles of the time period, with a total of 50,000 casualties. Napoleon lost 25,000 men (a great deal of whom were executed for refusing to surrender), had 15,000 missing, and 7,000 men captured. Wellington only had 3,500 men killed in action, but over 10,000 were wounded, and another 3,000 remained unaccounted for. That high percentage of wounded men - almost 15% of the army - meant that the Coalition did not have nearly enough medical supplies or surgeons on hand to tend to everyone who needed tending. It was a quite a bit . . . chaotic, recovering the wounded from the battlefield, at that. It still continued to storm after the battle, and many men were left with their injuries unattended where they'd fallen for several days, and died where they may have lived, otherwise. (It took an entire year to clear out the dead, with the scope of the battleground being as vast as it was. [face_plain]). Makeshift hospitals sprang up in any nearby village that would have them, down to the last barn that could be commandeered for shelter, and it took some time to make sense of who, exactly, was alive versus dead, and where they had all scattered to before they could be drawn back together and transported home.

    In history, this really did lead to an influx of concerned British citizens pouring into the Netherlands to try to find their missing loved ones. (I actually read this plot in another novel, and I kinda smiled to think: you know, that's something Marianne would do. Then I shook my head and went: no, but wait! Marianne would *definitely* do that, and I'm gonna write it! [face_mischief])

    If you would like some more background on Waterloo, to make this piece hit even harder, this video sums up the history quite nicely:

    A Note on Brandon's Service: I know, this is quite the military career I've written for Brandon! 8-} For reference, he'd be 53 by the time of Waterloo, and he enlisted back when he was 17 - though he spent a few years in reserve around the time of S&S. (As an aside, it's been a very unique POV for me to explore as an author, with a character who served concurrently from the American Revolution through the Napoleonic wars - with throwing in the Anglo-Maratha and Anglo-Mysore wars along the way, to boot.) At first, I headcanoned that he'd stay retired through the Hundred Day War, but then my research revealed something that I found very interesting: General Wellington hated the structure of his army at Waterloo. Apparently, England had to cobble together a proper fighting force to answer Napoleon's unexpected return to power. At the time, the bulk of England's more experienced soldiers were overseas in North America dealing with the tail end of the mess that we now call the War of 1812. Wellington scrambled to reactivate the commission of any retired veteran he could convince to fight again. (Which is where I went: okay, Brandon would definitely answer that call. 53 was actually a median age for the generals at Waterloo - heck, Blücher himself was 72 years old and charged right into battle alongside his men like the saucy old pro he was.) Wellington was especially interested in recruiting the veterans who'd served under his command during the Peninsular Wars, which I already wrote for Brandon back in the fifth section of this story. (General Wellesley and the Duke of Wellington are one and the same, which is how I previously referred to him in Brandon's letter.)

    So, Wellington ended up with the combination of a reasonably seasoned command staff overseeing the rank and file who were largely untried green soldiers. When you compare that to Napoleon's force of loyal veterans and almost fanatical supporters, I can't blame Wellington for thoroughly disliking his own odds. He called the battle "a damned near run thing" and knew just how narrow his victory ultimately was.

    Yet in the end, the Battle of Waterloo was not only the last battle of Brandon's career here in a fictional sense - more importantly, it marked the beginning of a time of relative peace for Europe as a whole. The great powers would not fight again for another forty years with the Crimean Wars, and England itself would not march on the Continent for another hundred years, at the dawn of WWI in the summer of 1914.

    (Also: obviously, Brandon's just fine. [face_mischief] I've yet to plot out everything exactly - though I'll most likely return to this idea in the future - but he's probably just holed up in one of those aforementioned barns with his men, undoubtedly after being a little too invested in their well-being, and his letter home got lost in the chaos. He's going to be somewhat frustrated to find Marianne in Brussels, yes, but also secretly maybe a little happy and definitely amazed by his badass heroine of a wife and more in love with her than ever. ;))

    Which brings me to . . .

    A Note on Women Travelling with the Army and Navy: Wives did travel with their husbands at this time, both on land and by sea! Many wives couldn't afford to live separately from their husbands, so clusters of army wives banded together to share the cost of renting lodging as close to the frontlines as possible. Many wives who could afford to do so and had the right circumstances, followed their husbands anyway. In this instance, Brussels had hundreds of wives who formed several such communities together. Officially, not just here with Waterloo but as a whole, six women per company were counted "on the strength" and could follow their husbands into active service, receiving camp rations and places on troop transports. These coveted spots were determined at random by lottery, thought the army tended to turn a blind eye when more than six women ended up marching with them as it happened. :p

    In the Navy, like we see with Anne and Sophia, commanding officers were permitted to travel with their wives, and it wasn't uncommon for those who'd won the honor to do so - basically, anyone who had a high enough rank to also have a private cabin onboard had the option. ;) Yet, this was still a dangerous choice that wasn't to be taken lightly. While the army had camps where women could stay relatively out of the way from the fighting, when they could, that wasn't so aboard a ship, and a wife assumed the same dangers as her husband during any engagement they faced.

    With that in mind, I had to give a special shoutout to Martha Washington, who did spend half of the Revolutionary War by her husband's side, and often in very . . . erm, less than ideal conditions, even in their winter camps. (Valley Forge, anyone? [face_plain]) She was far from the only wife who did so - a truly astonishing number of women and children followed the Continental Army, because, where else was there for them to go? Don't let the kindly-little-old-lady portraits from her days as First Lady fool you: Martha kicked all the butt. I have to imagine that this was especially hard at a time when her husband was technically a fugitive who was very much wanted by the Crown - preferably alive, undoubtedly for a very public execution back in England (where it was still tradition for traitors to be drawn and quartered, though they were most considerately hanged before that brutal business). Anyway, I could imagine Marianne being impressed by that, and Brandon perhaps not so much. :p

    A Note on Ships of the Line: These great ladies were absolute monsters and the pinnacle of military engineering at the time. If you want a brief glimpse of just how awe-inspiring they would have been to contemporary eyes, and a very interesting comparison to the cost and firepower of modern warships, I highly recommend this video. Prepare to have your jaw drop:

    (Also, I feel like the narrator of that video was just extra enough in a way that Marianne would thoroughly approved of. :p)

    For Frederick's commands, Jane Austen only mentioned that the Asp was a sloop and the Laconia was a man-o'-war. I think she would have shocked her readers if she went any further into gun classifications. ;) The scene I linked to you from the '95 Persuasion is almost word for word from the novel except for the Laconia's rating and Frederick's particular exploits with her. And honestly, I disagree with the film. A 74-gun ship would not have been a second-rate ship, but a third-rate, and I cannot imagine a young captain's first rated ship having 74 guns. (At least in my experience with the airlines, crews have to start small with the size of planes they work - and I imagine it's much the same in the Navy!) A fifth-rate with 44 guns makes more sense to me - especially as that was the second most common ship in the Navy after the 74-gun third-rates. [face_thinking]

    That said, the Couronne was indeed a real French ship at the time, but she never saw actual service in the war. I just really liked the names Couronne (which translates to "crown") and Le Pluton class (named for the Roman God of the Dead), so I decided to borrow them both. [face_mischief] The Le Plutons were part of the Téméraire line of ships, which were highly coveted for capture by the British due to their stunningly efficient design and beautiful craftsmanship. So, Frederick being a very daring - and yes, more than slightly arrogant and reckless and even stupid, because he's Frederick - captain and capturing a Téméraire with almost twice the firepower of his own ship and bringing her home intact to England . . . yeah, that would equal instant hero status and more than a pretty penny earned in prize money, just for that one victory alone. As part of my headcanon, he would have moved up to captaining the third-rate Resolute after that (yes, the TCW nod was intentional ;)) and then have the 74-gun Gloriana to command during the Hundred Day War. The Gloriana, of course, I named for Queen Elizabeth and the title that Spenser used to honor her as the Fairy Queen. Yes: with that, all of the nerd things have come full circle. [face_mischief] [face_love]

    And that concludes this round of notes! As always, I'm pretty sure that I covered everything, but anything I missed - or flat out got wrong, let's be honest 8-} - I more than welcome chatting about. So don't be shy! ;)


    ~ MJ @};-
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2022