“ Doctor Daly, my dear old partner! ”
Dr. Daly jumped. He spun around, but there was no one left in the square by the fountain. Every person in the village had retired to their homes hours ago, arm in arm with lovers old and new, leaving their reverend vicar alone with his grief. The voice was a hallucination, nothing more.
“ Do you love me, in the bottom of your heart? ”
A very specific hallucination. Dr. Daly walked slowly towards the wall that separated the square from the graveyard. He would likely never be comfortable looking at this wall again. He had rushed off as soon as Sir Marmaduke had announced the afternoon’s feast, to fetch his special brew from the vicarage, but there had been no body behind the wall. He had not expected there to be one, but the discovery made him feel no better. Who knew the results of breaking a deal with Ahrimanes? Certainly not the good vicar.
No matter. There was no one there.
“Look up, you buffoon.”
He looked up, and there he was. Reclining in all his sinful, winged idiocy, on the very top of the old flint wall, lay the Sorcerer.
“ Wellington Wells!” Dr. Daly sang. “My dear old friend, my Thomas - on this happy, most auspicious meeting - permit me as a true old friend to tender my sincere, my sincerest thanks and praise!”
Thomas rolled his eyes. “Honestly, George, it wasn’t our heavenly Lord who saved me, do keep up.”
George of Mountararat was on sabbatical. Not from being a priest, but rather by being a priest. He’d had quite enough of Fairyland for the foreseeable future, and so he had come back down to Earth in the nice, safe, and exceedingly boring Cornish village of Ploverleigh. Exactly what he needed. Usually, Lord Tolloller came with him, whenever George had had enough of the fairies and their flighty ways, but this time George had had enough of Tolloller as well and so he left without his friend. They’d meet again soon enough, come what may.
George settled into Ploverleigh as though putting on an old leather glove. The villagers were good, common people; the nobility, entertaining; and what gossip there was to be had was of the most pastoral kind. His only mild concern was that at some point, he would have to convince one of the young ladies of the village to marry him in order to fulfil the ‘marrying a mortal’ clause of the fairy law, and up until that point he had simply relied upon his peerage to present him with a bride. After a few years, with the idea in mind of worrying as little as possible about anything on this particular excursion onto the mortal coil, George ‘Daly’ set off to theological college. As a member of the clergy, with full coffers and the lovely Ploverleigh vicarage that would soon be his (what a shame about the old vicar’s timely passing), thought he, he would have no trouble at all finding a wife.
When he reached what the village understood to be his thirtieth birthday, he thought that, perhaps, he might have been wrong.
On a visit to the city some years later, remembering old haunts and old friends, Dr. George M. Daly was horrified to discover that a so-called ‘Family Sorcerers’ had established itself right next to the lovely church of St. Andrew Undershaft. Driven by morbid curiosity, with a song for fast travel on his lips in case they actually were sorcerers, he strolled down St. Mary Axe and just so happened to glance over at the shopfront as he passed. He stopped. Then, he rolled his eyes and went back about his day. Trust Tolloller to be so uppity about being left behind that he felt that he had to be a devil-worshipper to get George’s attention. Well, he wouldn’t give Thomas the satisfaction. He sniffed, straightened his dog collar, and entered St. Andrew Undershaft to pray for forgiveness for his friend.
When Sir Marmaduke sidled his way into the vestry one spring morning and told Dr. Daly in a conspiratorial whisper that his son was engaged, it was all George could do to not fall on his knees and praise the Almighty right in front of the baronet.
“This is most auspicious news, Sir Marmaduke. It has been far too long since we have had a wedding in this village - I was most afraid that all the young people had sworn off marriage, and that they were all destined for the monasteries and nunneries.”
Sir Marmaduke laughed heartily and clapped a hand on George’s shoulder. “Never! Sometimes it just takes a young lad a while to make his case, and a young lady a while to accept.” He grinned and wagged a finger right under the vicar’s nose. “Never fear, my dear Dr. Daly - matrimony has not abandoned you yet!” He turned and left the vestry, chuckling to himself, before George could say a word in response.
As he left, George leant back against the vestry wall and slid down to sit on the floor. Marmaduke joked, but George was beginning to be seriously concerned. All very well that he be alone into his dotage - he cared not one whit for someone to care for him, as his age was very much put-on. And yet - and yet. No one had ever tested the limits of the particular mortal-marriage clause in fairy law (mainly because no fairy wanted to lose her head) - did his marriage to the erstwhile Lady Melissa of Mountararat in decades gone by still count? Would his own self-appointed mortal life-span be his time limit? The Lord Chancellor’s legal subtleties were all very well, but the ruling of “every fairy must die who marries a mortal” was much clearer in its persecution. George sighed. He knew not, and so, he must endeavour to marry. At least he was marginally better at wooing than the other gilded dukes and belted earls. (And, he might be so bold as to say, much better than Tolloller).
Mrs. Partlett’s fishing for details of his opinions on marriage was almost too much to bear.
Phyllis and Strephon had taken one look at each other when Lord Tolloller had followed Lord Mountararat back into the mortal world, and they had agreed. That way lay madness, trouble and mess. They flew down to Cornwall the next day.
The good thing about an English village in possession of surrounding farmland is that it will always be in want of shepherds. The couple found a sweet little cottage, co-opted the local flock, and settled in to watch.
“Phyllis, my darling?”
Phyllis looked up at Strephon over her tea. “Yes, my own?”
“I hope you don’t think me afflicted in the head, but I do believe that this brew smells of fairy magic.” He took another cautious sniff, and nodded slowly.
“Oh! Well,” Phyllis sniffed, and something was indeed off, “It is the brew of our vicar, I suppose.”
Strephon leaned in towards his wife. “Lord Mountararat, drug our tea?” He murmured for her ears alone. “It doesn’t seem to fit with his methods.”
Phyllis raised an eyebrow. “Of doing nothing at all?”
Strephon grinned. “Perhaps.”
She laughed. “You are right, I can’t think why he would. He never has before.” She paused, taking a deep breath. “You know, I think I recognise it.” She scanned the gardens around them, filled with bustling villagers happily partaking of Dr. Daly’s drink. Suddenly her eyes lit up. “I did! Look - but do not stare, it is rude.”
He glanced slyly around the feast, then quickly turned back to her and grabbed her wrist. “Do we trust Lord Tolloller’s intentions any more?!”
She thought for a moment. “I trust that we will be in for a very entertaining evening.” She held up her teacup to him. “To love?”
He shook his head fondly. “To love.”
They sipped at their tea and held hands as chaos erupted around them.
Ploverleigh had looked so lovely. Ripe for the picking. Easy, simple, fun.
Heavens, Thomas couldn’t have been more wrong. Of course it was George’s parish. He should have predicted that. Should have learnt his lesson. When all was going fine and dandy, George was there to be sensible and boring and also somehow ruin everything. Phyllis; Castle Adamant; and now this.
Thomas’ memory was very selective. For instance, he did not currently recall that any marriage to Phyllis would have been a disaster, and it wasn’t Florian of Mountararat who exposed their triolet and sparked a war. Human memory was a dangerous thing by itself; add in a fairy life-span and things because all the more on edge. Add in Thomas of Tolloller’s specific brand of idiocy and you had a recipe for disaster.
If nothing else, John Thomas Tolloller Wellington Wells was very good at causing disasters.
John was used to people threatening to kill each other for love. He was a society gentleman through and through, that sort of thing was expected. No one had thus far threatened to kill on account of love for him , however. Unless - if you counted George - he supposed. Maybe? Honestly he’d lost the plot of that argument about five minutes before it had started. It was a wonder Phyllis hadn’t upped and killed the pair of them right then and got it over with. And oh dear Lord she had attached herself to his leg.
The Lady Sangazure was clinging to his trousers and he didn’t have the faintest idea what to do about it.
Perhaps the worst part of it was that he didn’t know why! He hadn’t drunk any of the philtre, he wasn’t that stupid - but perhaps he was (George would say so) because here she was filling in love with him all the same! And of course there was no maiden waiting for him anywhere, but what was he supposed to say? He couldn’t convincingly love a woman - he’d tried that one before. Psyche, bless her, was wonderful, witty and worldly, and aside from Geoge, his closest friend. No one had thought elsewise even decades into their marriage. Goodness, he was stalling. But Psyche had known! She hadn’t loved him any more than he had her! He couldn’t possibly play upon a lady’s intentions in such a manner. He may be a sorcerer in this life and ungodly in all ways, but he was still a gentleman .
What should a gentleman do if a lady says she will kill herself if he does not love her? When he knows that to not marry the only woman who has ever stooped so low as to court a family sorcerer is tantamount to suicide on his own behalf as well?
Blast it, he didn’t know. George was the one with a secondary degree in ethics. John would make it his problem.
Falling to his supposed doom over the churchyard wall, John was disappointed to realise that fairies are not cats, and do not always land on their feet. He beat his wings desperately as he hovered inches off the ground, until he had recovered his breath enough to right himself. Kneeling in the dirt, he shook his magic out through his hands and heard the villagers rejoice on the other side of the wall. He sank forward onto all fours. He would have to move on soon, but for now he would stay here until he stopped trembling.
The peasantry really did not understand when they had overstayed their welcome. Thomas blamed this on Marmaduke, he needed to set better boundaries. Thomas had been waiting, flitting into shadows, for hours at this point. Only now, well into the night, had the slow stream of villagers coming home for the evening finally trickled to a halt. Finally, the figure he had been waiting for shuffled into the gas light. He bit his lip. He hadn’t meant to hurt him. Thomas quietly flew up onto the top of the churchyard wall and waited.
“ Doctor Daly!” He sang. “ My dear old partner.”
George flinched, and glanced around to try to find him. Irritatingly, he gave up far too quickly.
“Do you love me, in the bottom of your heart? ” Quite forward, but recently beating around the bush had only caused further trouble. George approached the wall, still not seeing him. Bless him, and he called Thomas an idiot. “Look up, you buffoon.”
George looked up and clapped his hand to his face like a maiden. Drawing his hands away he revealed a sweet smile as he began to sing. “ Wellington Wells! My dear old friend, my Thomas - on this happy, most auspicious meeting - permit me as a true old friend to tender my sincere, my sincerest thanks and praise!”
Thomas rolled his eyes. “Honestly, George, it wasn’t our heavenly Lord who saved me, do keep up.”
Phyllis tiptoed through the village square. It seemed highly unlikely that Lord Tolloller had actually died, but she wouldn’t be able to sleep until she had confirmed it for herself. He might be a supremely annoying and self-assured moron, but he was her friend. She tried to keep herself from imagining what she might find in the churchyard, as picturing his demise would not help her in her quest.
For instance, she certainly wouldn’t have imagined that she would find Lord Mountararat, cassock billowing in the downdraft from his wings, pinning Lord Tolloller, in full Satanic sorcerly attire, to the churchyard wall about three feet off the ground as they kissed. Phyllis flew away in swift retreat, flopped down on the edge of the fountain, and revised her expectations.