Regency England is teeming with dragons, but only a select few are actually aware they are about. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are among the elite members of the Blue Order, charged with maintaining the dragon-human peace established by the Pendragon treaty. A nice simple directive, right? What could go wrong?
Jane Austen’s Dragons, Book 1
Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon
A great many people only hear what is comfortable and convenient for them to hear. Far oftener than might be expected, that is a very good thing indeed.
Twilight was Elizabeth’s second favorite time of day, just slightly less appealing than dawn and almost as interesting. She settled into her customary spot in the parlor, in the little faded chair near the window. The setting sun cast long shadows across the worn rose-patterned carpet. Waning sunlight warmed the cozy parlor to soporific levels, leaving the children yawning even as they protested they were not tired.
Mrs. Bennet sat back into the faded sofa cushions and grumbled under her breath. “Children ought to mind the first time they are told a thing. Sister Gardiner is far too lenient on with them.”
Neither Jane nor Kitty gave any sign of having heard. No doubt Mama did not intend to be heard, so Elizabeth chose to ignore her.
Sometimes preternatural hearing was more bane than blessing.
Papa and Uncle Gardiner exchanged raised eyebrows over the card table. The long suffering expression in Papa’s eyes suggested he would like to have words with her, but was unlikely to expend the effort.
Daniel Gardiner bounded up to Elizabeth, hands clasped before him, an unruly shock of blond hair falling over his eyes. “Please Lizzy, Mama says we must go to bed. Will you tell us a story?”
Samuel scurried up beside him, blinking up at Elizabeth, “Pwease, Lizzy, pwease.”
The child was far too adorable for his own good. Elizabeth scooped him into her arms. “If your Mama agrees, then of course, I will tell you a story.”
Joshua and Anna rushed to their mother and tugged at her skirts. “Mama, pray let us have a story.”
Aunt Gardiner took their hands and smiled at Elizabeth. “Are you certain you want to? I do not expect they will allow you to stop at only one.”
“I should be delighted. There is hardly anything I enjoy more than telling stories—”
“With dragons?” Daniel grabbed her hand and squeezed.
“Yes, dwagons!” Samuel bounced in her arms.
Mama huffed and muttered something under her breath, something that it was best Elizabeth pretend not to hear.
“Of course, what other kind of story is worth telling?” Elizabeth chuckled and ushered the children upstairs.
With Aunt Gardiner’s assistance, the children settled into the nursery and dressed for bed. The room was awkwardly tucked into a gable, all odd angles and shadows. Had it been drafty and dusty, it would have been a frightening, unfriendly place. But with bright yellow moiré paper on the walls and crisp green curtains at the window, it was snug, comfortable and playful. Exactly what a nursery should be.
“Climb into bed, and I shall return in a moment.” Elizabeth looked directly at Joshua, the middle of the three boys, who was most adept at avoiding bedtime.
He hung his head and pouted as his mother placed a firm hand between his shoulders and propelled him to the little bed beside his brothers.
Elizabeth hurried to her room, collected her birdcage and returned.
“Is that her?” Anna asked, pointing at the cage. Her sweet little face peeked up above the little coverlet.
“Yes it is. If you promise to be very quiet and not startle her, I will uncover the cage and you may watch her whilst I tell you the story. Perhaps if you are all very good, she might sing for you afterwards.”
“We will be very, very quiet, we promise.” Anna glanced at her brothers with a pleading look. With her wide, dark eyes and silky hair, Anna reminded everyone of Jane, but her personality was far more like Elizabeth’s.
“Boys, do you agree?” Aunt Gardiner folded her arms and cast a stern look at her sons.
“Yes mama,” they murmured, eyes fixed on the bird cage.
Elizabeth nodded and unbuttoned the quilted cover surrounding the cage. The candlelight glinted off iridescent blue and green feathers. Tiny wings buzzed and the creature hovered above the perch.
“You remember April from the last time you were here. April, these are my cousins, the Gardiner children.” Elizabeth gestured at the children.
April looked up at Elizabeth with something resembling annoyance.
Anna propped up on her elbows. “She is so beautiful. I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life!”
April buzzed closer to the side of the cage nearest Anna and poked her little beak between the bars.
“Oh, she likes me! Lizzy, she likes me!”
“Indeed she does, but don’t startle her. Here, I will set her cage on the table nearest you if you promise to be very still.”
“I will, I will!” Anna tucked back under the coverlet and held herself very stiff.
Elizabeth sat on the little bed beside her. “So you wish to hear a story about dragons? Then I will tell you, but I do not think you will believe it.”
“But we will, surely we will.” Daniel flipped to his belly and propped up on his elbows.
“You think so now, but very few can believe the tale I will tell. It is not one for the faint of heart.”
“We’re not, we’re not!” Joshua cried in hushed tones.
“But perhaps you will be to learn that England is full of….” Her eyes grew wide as she pressed a finger to her lips. “…dragons.” She leaned close and whispered the word.
“Where are they Lizzy? I have never seen one.” Anna’s big eyes darted from April to Lizzy and back again.
“Everywhere, they are all around.”
“But we can’t see them.” Daniel huffed.
“Children, if you do not allow your cousin to tell you the story, then I shall put out the candle, and we shall leave.” Aunt Gardiner tapped her foot, and the children ducked a little farther under the covers.
“You see them all the time, but you do not recognize them for what they are, for dragons are very good at hiding in plain sight. They speak spells of great persuasive power, convincing you that they are anything but a dragon, but most people cannot hear them directly. They think the dragon speech is their own thought, and they go about never questioning those ideas.”
“Is there a dwagon in the rwoom now?” Samuel’s eyes bulged and he cast about the nursery.
“If there was, it could not be a large one, could it? The room is very small. Any dragon in this room would be so small there would be nothing to fear from it.”
“There are small dragons?” Joshua asked, his brow furrowed as he worked over the idea. He was such a perceptive, thoughtful, mischievous child.
“Small ones, medium size ones and very large ones indeed. One of the largest is the monster Saint Columba encountered in the river Ness in Scotland.”
“River dragons? That monster drowned a man! If there are dragons here, aren’t you afraid they will eat you?” Daniel’s world tumbled out almost all at once.
“I am glad you have asked, for that is exactly the story I wish to tell. Now lay back on your pillows, and I will tell you why I am not afraid of dragons.” Elizabeth waited until the children complied.
April buzzed around her cage twice and settled on her perch, looking at Elizabeth as if to listen to the story herself.
“Long ago, back in the age of Saint Columba, dragons ravaged our land. For hundreds of years, man and beast were at war, man against man, dragon against dragon, dragon against man. Chaos reigned. In the year nine hundred, it seemed very much as though the dragons would wipe out the race of man in the British Isles.”
“Was it like the war in France?” Joshua whispered from behind his blanket.
“As bad as Napoleon is, this was far worse. But Uther Pendragon rose to the throne. He was unlike any man born before him, for he was able to hear the dragons.”
“The dragons’ roar was silent before Uther?” Daniel asked.
“No, it was loud and terrifying. Everyone heard that. But what Uther heard was different. He heard them speak. Some spoke in very high, shrill notes that sounded like the whine of a hummingbird’s wings.”
“Like April?” Anna whispered.
Elizabeth’s eyebrows rose and she glanced at Aunt Gardiner. “Yes, just like that. And others spoke in a voice so deep it felt like the deep rumble of thunder. Uther could hear those voices, not just the fearsome noises. He suddenly understood what the dragons had been saying all along.”
“What did they say?” Samuel pulled the blanket up to his chin and chewed on the edge.
“The dragons were weary of war and they wanted peace as much as men did. So, the wise king Uther invited them to meet with him in a large, deep cave. His advisors warned him not to go into the cave, for he would never come out again. The dragons would devour him, leaving the race of man without a king, and the war would surely be lost.”
“Did the dragons eat him?” Daniel asked.
“Of course not,” Joshua hissed, “Lizzy would not be telling the story if they had.”
Aunt cleared her throat and raised her eyebrow toward the older boys.
“Uther treated them with respect and the dragons welcomed him as a foreign king. At the end of a fortnight, Uther emerged from the cave carrying a red shield emblazoned with a gold dragon. A mighty falcon with feathers that shimmered like polished steel rode on his shoulder, a gift from the dragon king. Some say a dragon peace treaty was written on that shield, but none could tell for certain, for no one could read the dragon language then.”
“Dragons can write?” Daniel gasped.
“Some of them, just as some men can write, and read as well.”
“Is that why so many men have falcons, like Papa? To be like king Uther?” Joshua rested his chin on his fists and stared at her.
“Indeed it is. And the reason ladies keep pretty birds, like April, since ladies do not keep falcons.”
“I think April is far prettier and sweeter than a falcon. I should very much like to have one like her someday.” Anna yawned and stretched.
“Perhaps you shall, dear. But now it is time to sleep.” Elizabeth rose.
“Will you not tell us another?” Daniel sat up, but his mother waved him back down.
“It is late tonight, I will tell you another tomorrow. But perhaps, since you have listened so very well, April will sing for you. Lay back on your beds, and I will let her out so she can.”
The children obeyed and Elizabeth opened the cage. April zipped out and flew two circuits around the room, hovering over each child and inspecting them as she went. She flew to the middle of the room and hovered low over the beds. Her sweet trill filled the room.
The children yawned. One by one their breathing slowed into the soft, regular pattern of slumber.
April warbled a few more notes and landed on Elizabeth’s shoulder.
Aunt Gardiner smiled, pressed her finger to her lips and slipped out. Elizabeth picked up the cage and followed.
“Will you return to the parlor?” Aunt Gardiner asked.
“After I put the cage away.” Elizabeth turned down the corridor toward her room and slipped inside.
“You called me a bird! How dare you call me a bird!” April shrieked in her ear.
“You need not shout. I can hear you quite well.” Elizabeth held her hand over her ear.
“Then why did you call me a bird?” April launched off her shoulder and buzzed around the room. The candlelight glinted green off her feather-scales.
“You were the one telling them you were a hummingbird, not I.”
“What else should I have them believe? That I am a cat?”
Elizabeth pressed her lips hard. April did not like to be laughed at. “Certainly not! You do not look enough like one for even your persuasive powers to convince them of it.”
“It is one thing for me to tell them I am a bird, but quite another for you.” April hovered near Elizabeth’s face.
“The children are too young. We cannot know if they hear you.”
“They all do. Coming from two parents who hear, what would you expect?”
What? Elizabeth’s jaw dropped. “Aunt Gardiner does not hear you.”
“Yes, she does. Not as well as her mate, but she does, and so do the children. You must tell their father as soon as you can. They need to be trained.”
Elizabeth held her hand up for April to perch on. “There is plenty of time. It is not as though Uncle Gardiner is a landed Dragon Keeper, only a Dragon Mate.”
“I do not understand why you humans are so insistent upon making distinctions among us based on size. A Dragon Mate may not have a huge landed, dragon to commune with, but Dragon Friend nonetheless. We of smaller ilk are just as important and just as proud. And we are far more convenient, not being tied to a plot of ground or puddle of water.” April flipped her wings to her back and thrust her dainty beak-like nose in the air.
Elizabeth stroked her throat with her index finger. April leaned into her. “There, there now, you do not need to get your feathery little scales in a flutter. You need not be jealous of Longbourn. He is a cranky old thing. Grumpy, and not nearly as pretty as you.”
“Nor as good company.”
“You are the best of company, my little friend.”
“Of course I am. Who would not rather spent their time with a fairy dragon than a dirty, smelly old wyvern.” April presented the other side of her neck for a scratch.
“I would not let Longbourn hear you say that. He does have quite the temper.”
April squeaked in that special annoying tone she saved for anything related to the resident estate dragon.
“You will wake the children.”
“Then you could begin training them.”
“They will be as cranky as Longbourn, and I will leave them to you.” Elizabeth smoothed the soft scales between April’s wings.
The fairy dragon really did resemble a hummingbird, though she was much prettier and far more nimble.
“Oh, very well. I do not like cranky anythings, not dragons, not people, not anything.” April’s head drooped.
“I must return downstairs. Do you wish to come? I know you do not like being stuck in that cage.”
“Does your uncle have his horrid cockatrice with him?”
Elizabeth chuckled. April had never met a cockatrice she approved of. “Rustle? Of course he came. But he prefers to keep company with Longbourn in the cavern. He does not favor so much female company.”
“Your mother insulted him when she called him a mangy looking falcon.” April cheeped a little laugh.
“I do not blame him for being insulted. So do you wish to come or not?”
“I do indeed. I have some very important news to share with the official Dragon Keeper of Longbourn.”
“What else have you not told me?”
“It is my news, and I will share it myself.” April launched off her finger and lit on Elizabeth’s shoulder.
No point in trying to out-stubborn a dragon, even a very small one. “Very well, I shall leave the door open though, in case you tire of mere human company and wish to return to your sanctuary.” Elizabeth propped the bedroom door open with a little iron dragon doorstop.
April nipped her earlobe. Fairy dragons did not like to be teased.
Voices wafted up the stairs. Mama complaining—again—about the lack of eligible young men in the neighborhood to marry her daughters. And—lest any of them forget—the cruel injustice that they had no sons, and the estate would go to some horrid cousin at Mr. Bennet’s demise.
“She is right, that is a problem.” April tapped Elizabeth’s ear with her beak.
“I know, but what is to be done. The law is the law and we must abide by it.”
“But what if he cannot hear us? That would violate a far older and more important law. An estate with a dragon must have a keeper who can hear.”
“We do not know that he cannot. Do not work yourself into a flutter. Papa has invited him to Longbourn. I am sure we shall meet him soon. Then we will know for certain and can decide how to proceed.”
Papa had already decided, but neither Mama nor April need know that yet.
“So he has given up on any further mating? I do not blame him, she is rather horrid. He should have found a woman with some sense—or who could hear.”
Elizabeth stopped and glared at April. “You are speaking of my mother, you know.”
“What of it? My own was nearly as stupid as a hummingbird and got herself eaten by a cat, not even a tatzelworm, but an ordinary cat.” A shudder coursed the length of April’s tiny body.
“While your kind may not be attached to your brood mothers, humankind is. I would have you refrain from insulting mine.” Elizabeth gently soothed ruffled feather-scales into place.
April snorted and looked away.
Elizabeth continued into the parlor.
“I suppose you filled the children’s heads with more of your dragon fantasies.” Mama rolled her eyes and stabbed her needle into the bodice she embroidered.
Why was she so opposed to all things draconic? So opposed that neither Rustle nor April could persuade her into a fondness for them.
“The children love her stories so much. There is no harm in them.” Aunt Gardiner did not look up from her own sewing, but her jaw tensed just a mite.
“She does not like your mother, either.” April nipped Elizabeth’s ear. Again.
That was not April’s most endearing habit.
“So my children like dragons, do they?” Uncle Gardiner chuckled and played a card from his hand.
Papa grumbled under his breath and studied his cards.
April launched from Elizabeth’s shoulder and hovered in front of Uncle’s face. “Of course they do, you nit. They hear us as clearly as you do. You had best do something soon about it or they will be thinking all of us are as cross and crass as that mangy Rustle-creature you keep.”
Uncle began to choke and laid down his cards. Papa’s eyes bulged. He stared from April to Elizabeth. Aunt’s jaw dropped as her sewing sank to her lap.
So, April was correct, Aunt could hear, too.
“I … I just remembered there is a … a business matter I need to discuss with you, Gardiner. Let us to my study. Lizzy, join us. I will need you to write for me.”
“I do not understand why you do not hire a proper secretary. It is not right that Lizzy should be so involved in your business.” Mama huffed, her feathers as ruffled as April’s.
Papa laid down his cards and rose.
That was always a sore point between them. Mama could have at least offered to help him, but no, that was a hireling’s work in her eyes. If only she could understand how he resented the disease that gnarled his hands and pained his joints, taking away his ability to do so many things. Even holding cards was difficult for him now. Mama really should know better than to continue pressing that issue.
Perhaps April had a point.
Uncle followed him out.
April flitted back to Elizabeth. “Well, come along. Do not give that old biddy consequence by even responding.”
Elizabeth curtsied to her mother and departed. Tomorrow she would probably enjoy an ear full of complaints about allowing that ‘annoying little bird’ out of her cage. No wonder Rustle kept to the caverns when the Gardiners visited.
Papa closed the study door behind her.
Densely packed with books and papers, the room was cluttered and dusty. She picked her way past the stacks on the floor and around the desk.
Uncle pulled three chairs into a cluster near the fire and brought a graceful carved perch into the center. Carved of mahogany, the heirloom had been in the family for over a century. Papa said it was carved by the first Bennet to host a companion dragon. That companion, a cockatrice according to family lore, had a fascination with the human chair. He insisted on having one of his own. So, his Dragon Mate carved a perch to match the back of a set of dining room chairs that had long since left the family.
“Will you join us?” Uncle gestured toward the perch.
“His manners are much more pleasing.” She lit on the perch and presented her throat for a scratch.
Uncle took the hint and scratched that particularly itchy spot just behind her left ear. April trilled.
“You will put us all to sleep if you do that, and then you will not be able to share your news.” Elizabeth yawned, a little more deeply than necessary to make her point.
April flittered her wings, the fairy dragon equivalent of a huff and foot stomp.
“Ah yes, Elizabeth is right. It seems you have some rather significant observations regarding my children?” Uncle sat back, eyes fixed on April.
“Your children and your mate. All of them can hear. Your mate is a bit hard of hearing, but she heard me quite clearly in the parlor, about the children.”
Uncle laced his hands together and bounced them off his chin. “You are certain? Entirely certain? All of them?”
“With two parents who hear, it could hardly be otherwise. I am entirely certain.” April cocked her head one way then the other.
“—is a cloddish old cockatrice with all the perceptive powers of a lump of clay. I doubt he willingly gives your children notice at all.” April tossed her head.
“He does not prefer their company, but I would have expected him to tolerate them more if they could hear,” Uncle said.
“He does not tolerate anyone with equanimity, not even his own kind.” Papa winked.
“He likes Longbourn well enough.” Elizabeth chuckled.
April grumbled low in her throat. From a bigger dragon it would have been a frightening growl, but from her, it was laughable.
“Do you think she is right, Lizzy?” Papa tapped his fist to his chin.
“Fairy dragons are the most perceptive to such things. I told them the legend of Uther tonight. Something about the way they listened and watched April—I think she is right.”
A smile lit Uncle’s face and his eyes grew very bright. He threw his head back, sniffling.
“Congratulations—all of your children! That is something to celebrate.” Papa shuffled toward the crystal decanter.
Elizabeth met him there, poured the three glasses he indicated, and passed them around.
“We must drink to the occasion!” Papa raised his glass.
They lifted their glasses sipped the fiery brandy.
April perched on Elizabeth’s hand and stuck her nose into the glass.
“Be careful, only a sip or two or you will be flying into the windows again.” Elizabeth giggled.
“I know how to handle my brandy, thank you.” April flipped her wing and splashed a few drops on Elizabeth’s cheek.
“I shall begin their training immediately.” Uncle balanced his glass on his knee.
“That is not the only news I have to share.” April returned to her perch.
“You have more? I can hardly imagine what else you could have to share with us.” Papa leaned back in his wingback, a funny little half smile lifting his lips. As much as he preferred the estate wyvern’s company, he did have a soft spot for April. She could say things to him he would tolerate from no one else.
“More good news, I am proud to tell you. I have made a very important discovery in the orchards, on the sunrise side of the estate. But you must act quickly, very quickly I would say.” April hopped from one foot to the other. “I have found a clutch of eggs, fairy dragon eggs!”
Papa and Uncle sat up very straight.
“Are you certain they are fairy dragon eggs?” Papa set his glass aside and leaned in very close.
“Would you mistake one of your own children for a puppy? Of course I know my own kind’s eggs!”
“And the brood mother?” Papa asked.
“I have not seen her in at least a fortnight. She is a wild dragon and has forgotten her clutch for more interesting things. Foolish little twitterpate.” April cheeped her shrill disapproval.
“Her twitterpation may very well be our good fortune.” Elizabeth chewed her knuckle.
“It would be much better for them to hatch in our presence. Even if they choose not to stay, they will have imprinted upon men and that is always a benefit. It has been some time since we have had a hatching on Longbourn.” Papa stoked his chin. “I think you should take Mary as well. It would be good for her to find a Dragon Mate of her own.”
“She has been jealous of me for quite some time. Who could blame her?” April thrust her head up high.
“Would you like to keep company with another fairy dragon? I should worry you would become jealous.” Elizabeth stroked the proffered throat.
“If it is your sister’s companion, I will tolerate another. But only one.” April laughed a peculiar little trill. “I would suggest you speak to Rustle though, he will have a more difficult adjustment in store.”
Uncle gasped. “You would recommend my family as Dragon Mates?”
“If your wife is to learn to hear more clearly, she needs a companion. I hardly imagine Rustle deigns to speak to her regularly. Your children would benefit from being properly taught by a companion of their own. After all, look what I have done for Elizabeth.”
Papa and Uncle snickered.
A sharp rap—Hill’s knock—sounded at the door and it swung open. Her wizened face peeked in. “Sir, a courier just come, with one of those letters you said you always want immediately.”
Papa met her at the door. She handed him a thick letter tied with blue tape and fixed with a large blob of blue sealing wax, an embossed wyvern embedded deep in the wax.
He shut the door and trundled back to his seat.
“Are you expecting news from the Order?” Uncle asked, elbows braced against the chair, ready to spring to action.
“No, I am not.” He fumbled with the seal and handed it to Elizabeth. “Open this.”
“Are you sure, Papa? You have always wanted me to stay out of Blue Order business before.”
“Little good it has done. You have always managed to become involved, have you not? Besides, with Collins coming to visit soon, and the chance that he is dragon-deaf, we must face the possibility that you will marry him and take the role of Dragon Keeper yourself. Even if he does hear, Longbourn may still insist that you marry him, you know how much he hates change. If you are already acquainted with the Order’s business when Collins arrives he will be less likely to try and keep you from it later.” Papa rubbed his eyes with knobby thumb and forefinger.
“I am not ready for her to marry!” April squawked, flapping her wings.
“I am inclined to agree.” Uncle’s lips creased into a deep frown. “Surely this cannot be her only option.”
“In this, I am afraid, Longbourn’s opinion outweighs yours.” Papa’s brows creased. “Go on and read the letter for us, Lizzy.”
Elizabeth cracked the seal and unfolded the letter. She swallowed back a bitter tang. It was not as if she and Papa had not been discussing it. There were certain decisions dragons were entitled to make for their Keepers. Longbourn had long schooled her in her duty to the estate and dragon kind, but it had always seemed like something far off. Perhaps Collins inherited the family legacy and could hear dragons. Perhaps he was a decent sensible man who would understand…
Papa coughed. “Lizzy, the letter?”
“Yes, sir.” She smoothed the letter over her lap. “It is from the office of the head of the Order, the Earl of Matlock. He writes: A serious crime has been committed, one that threatens the Pendragon treaty and the peace between man and dragon. A fire drake egg has been stolen and hatching is imminent.” She gasped and pressed her hand to her chest.
April launched off the perch and hovered at Elizabeth’s shoulder.
“What egg?” Papa joined April in peering over her shoulder.
Elizabeth traced down the spidery handwriting with her fingertips. “The egg of the Lambton Wyrm!”
“The last Lambton Wyrm passed five years ago, at the same time as the master of that estate.” Uncle leaned forward, elbows on knees.
“Five years is the right time for the egg to incubate.” Papa shambled to his shelf and retrieved a thin book bearing the same wyvern image as the letter’s seal. He flipped through it as he returned to his seat. “Yes, yes, here is the date. December 1806, the egg was laid. This is very bad indeed.”
April darted around the room. “Bad? Bad you say? It is far worse than bad. It is tragic and dangerous and awful indeed.”
“If a dragon with the power of a fire drake hatches without human presence—” Elizabeth shuddered.
“It will not imprint and turn wild, seeking to fill its belly with the most convenient prey.” Papa paced the length of the room, a heavy, labored process. “In time, its presence will be discovered and parties will rise up to kill it. I well know the histories, Lizzy.”
Uncle stood and leaned against the back of his chair. “We could find ourselves returned to the days of dragon war. What has been done to recover the egg?”
Pray let it be so!
Elizabeth held her breath and scanned the letter. “Here, here, there is hope! The egg has been traced to a … a militia regiment from Derbyshire. Several cocaktrices, in Norfolk near Caistor where they last encamped, believe they smelt it on some of the soldiers. You have been contacted because the militia is coming to Meryton soon! The Order is sending the keeper of the Lambton Wyrm here as well and you are to assist him in any way possible in the recovery of the egg.”
“I say your visit has been timed quite well.” Papa turned to Uncle. “You will stay on to help me manage this affair, will you not?”
He winced as he spoke. How much did it cost him to ask for assistance once again? This did not bode well for his temper.
“I will need to take a brief trip back to London to arrange business with my clerk, but he is a good man. He can manage for the duration.”
“Whilst you are there, you ought to visit the secretary of the Order for additional news.” Elizabeth gulped. “Lord Matlock seems certain that we will be host to a major-dragon hatching.”
Papa raked his thinning hair back. “The first in over a hundred years.”
April settled back on the perch. “I do not see why you should make such a to-do. I was hatched here a decade ago and another clutch is due to hatch soon. Just because it is a fire drake does not make is so different.”
“But dearling, you cannot burn us to cripsins when you are irritated. You just nip at ears.” Elizabeth ducked and covered her ears.
“Do not make light of the seriousness of the situation. It is all the more important now that you find those fairy dragon eggs. If they hatch wild, they could interfere with the other hatching—dear little dimwits are likely to think they are protecting an egg from us.” Papa turned to April, deep creases furrowed in his brow. “Can you find the clutch again or shall we send Rustle with you?”
“Your time would be better spent setting him to smell for the Lambton egg. I know exactly how to find my kind.”
“I will be to London tomorrow at first light. I will return in a day, two at the most. Should the fairy dragons hatch whilst I am gone—”
“We shall assist your wife, do not worry.” Papa removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Did Matlock say when the keeper of the Lambton Wyrm would arrive?”
“Not precisely, just in the next few days. He is supposed to identify himself to you when he arrives.” Elizabeth pointed to the information in the letter and handed it to him.
“I expect we shall require your help, Lizzy, before all is said and done. This business takes precedence even over Mr. Collins. We must pray it is resolved successfully or I shudder to think of the consequences.”