Good Afternoon everyone,
It is dragon week and today I have another excerpt involving dragons to share with you! This time it is a passage from Dragon’s Beyond the Pale, Maria Grace’s seventh book of the Jane Austen’s Dragons series.
If you thought this series would end with Kellynch: Dragon Persuasion you were very wrong! Not only Anne and Frederick Wentworth are back to find their way into the Blue Order, but also Dragon Sage Elizabeth Darcy and Sir Fitzwilliam Darcy are present in this story to enter into another adventure. I love the fact that Maria Grace decided to keep both couples in her stories, I love Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion mash ups 🙂
I have read five of the seven books in this series and loved them all, so I honestly cannot wait to listen to the audiobook of Dragon’s Beyond the Pale. I am not sure if we will get and audiobook, but I am hoping Maria Grace will once more collaborate with Benjamin Fife to release an audio version.
Have you listened to any of the previous audiobooks from this series? If not, have you read the books?
I hope you like the excerpt Maria brought us today, and don’t forget to comment the post for a change to win a copy of this book.
Good morning, Rita! Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to share an excerpt from my newest Jane Austen’s Dragons book, Dragons Beyond the Pale.
January 11, 1815, Kellynch-by-the-Sea
The sun hung midway between dawn and noon, steadfastly refusing to deliver enough warmth to vanquish the prevailing chill. Anne rubbed her gloved hands over the arms of her navy-blue wool pelisse and pulled the heavy basket closer to her chest.
Would she ever become accustomed to the near-constant sea breeze buffeting her every time she visited Kellynch’s lair? Probably no sooner than she became accustomed to being addressed as Lady Wentworth—it was still difficult not to look for some dowager lurking in the shadows when she heard the name.
Perhaps Kellynch was right; using the dragon tunnels from the house to the lair would be more comfortable. If only they did not remind her of the dark alley behind the Bath Assembly rooms—and Mr. Elliot.
Thankfully, Wentworth understood and did not insist.
She sucked in cold, salt-tinged air as she looked over her shoulder and across the open—empty— meadow. Mr. Elliot and his cockatrice Friend Jet were safely ensconced in a Blue Order prison. Even if they managed to escape, Kellynch would not tolerate them anywhere near Lyme. With as many friends as Kellynch had made among the local minor dragons, and one other major dragon in the vicinity, Mr. Elliot could not possibly conceal himself anywhere near Lyme.
She smoothed the prickled hair on the back of her neck. An assault to one’s person was not easily dismissed, even when one had been rescued by the man she loved. Yes, that was the part of the story she should dwell upon.
“Kellynch? Kellynch?” She stepped into the dim stony lair, dank and smelling of dragon musk. How much warmer it seemed now out of the wind.
“Come in.” The space filled with the sound of scales scraping stone. “Have you brought their majesties, my wyrmlings?”
“Of course I have. They would not miss a chance to visit with you.” She set the basket on the floor. Corn, the black and white tatzelwurmling with white tufty ears and blue eyes, and Wall with the black nose and green eyes, tumbled onto the dusty limestone floor. They bounded down the tunnel, chirruping with glee as Kellynch’s long, toothy grey-green head came into view.
He rumbled something almost like a great purr, which she felt in her chest more than heard. The wyrmlings pounced on him, licking his face and climbing onto the ridges above his eyes. Not the way one was supposed to greet their laird, but as long as they were all happy with it, what harm could it do?
Who would have ever thought Kellynch could be a happy, easy-going dragon?
“When will you allow them to visit me on their own? I do not get to see them often enough.” Kellynch muttered, slithering closer, careful not to dislodge Corn and Wall.
She crouched to scratch the itchy spot between his eyes, just able to make out his pout in the meager light. “They are still small enough to be carried away by the local predatory birds. When they are big enough to no longer be prey, then they can visit whenever you and they wish.”
“They could use the tunnels.”
“Not until I am certain they will not lose their way. They are still very silly little babies and have occasionally lost their way in the house.” She ruffled Corn’s ears. Wall nudged her hands with his nose and demanded the same.
Kellynch sighed and snorted.
“Besides, you visit with them in the cellar nearly every day. You cannot be that lonely.”
“It is not the same as having them in my lair with me. I have been alone so long—”
She sat tailor-style on the floor beside him, her hand on his scaly snout. “I know you have. In fact, that is what I need to talk to you about. Are you certain about us traveling to London, and you remaining here, alone?”
Kellynch grumbled, his lips working in little waves that rippled along his jaw. “Not really.”
Finally, he confessed to the obvious truth. “Then we will inform the Order that we will take the house that boasts a lair with tunnel access to the Thames. That way you will be able to join us easily.”
One brow ridge rose. “Wentworth says the house is not as pleasant as the other you were considering.”
“It is a little enough thing to part with in the interest of your comfort.” She scratched the ridges along his snout as he snuffled appreciative sounds.
“Is it true that I might attend the Cotillion whilst in London? I have never been to the primary Blue Order office.”
“Indeed. The official invitation includes dragons with new Keepers. The three of us are expected to be presented at the Cotillion.”
Presented by the Dragon Sage. She swallowed hard. Was it a privilege or a punishment to have such a prestigious sponsor? Certainly, the expectations of society upon her would be higher because of it. Father would approve, if he were not banned from all Blue Order society events.
Was Lady Elizabeth trying to mitigate the repercussions of Father’s ignominy by her show of support? If only she and not Lady Matlock had written to her to tell her of it, it would be easier to judge what to make of it all.
If only Father had seen fit to have her come out to the Order when she began to hear and allowed her to attend a Keepers’ Cotillion as a young woman. At least she would know firsthand what to expect now. If only he had not fallen from Blue Order society in disgrace, she would not be establishing herself while trying to overcome the huge hurdle he had raised before her. Yet more ways in which she was still paying for Father’s failures.
Kellynch nudged her with his snout and trained a piercing look upon her. Could he tell what she was thinking or only how she felt about it? Who would have guessed he was such a perceptive creature?
“I should like to see such an event, if it would not be burdensome on you.” How polite he was trying to be even though his longing to attend shone clear. He would love the attention and notoriety it would bring him. So like a true Elliot he was.
“I will consider it an honor for you to be there with us.”
Kellynch rumbled happily. Corn and Wall purred along with him, though they had little understanding of why. His pleasure was enough to make them happy.
“You will bring their majesties?” He crossed his eyes trying to focus on the wyrmlings perched on his nose.
“Of course, they cannot be left alone.”
“Good, good. I shall go out and have a good feed now so I need not worry about fishing rights whilst I am there.”
How much had Kellynch changed since that day in court? He seemed like an utterly different dragon to the angry, hibernating, threatening sea serpent he had been.
“That seems a sound plan. I am sure Wentworth will agree. I will take their majesties back to the house now and get them ready for traveling in the morning.” She called Corn and Wall back to their basket. Though they lingered in their goodbyes to Kellynch, they did as they were bid. Someday, when they were grown, they would—hopefully—have the good sense of their sire, Laconia. But for now, they were silly, shatter-brained—if very dear — little creatures.
Despite the wind, she took the long way home. Kellynch-by-the-Sea was so different to Kellynch where she had grown up. How could she not miss the spreading old trees, the farmlands, the fields of sheep? The coast was not without its beauties—and it made Kellynch and Wentworth so very happy—but sometimes it still caught her off guard not to see her mother’s gardens, or Lady Russell’s.
A dozen, no there were more than that, small and moderate-sized white rent cottages lined the main road from the manor to Lyme Regis. Several more were set back from the road with small lanes or footpaths leading to them. So many people looked to her as the mistress of Kellynch-by-the-Sea. It could be daunting some days, more so than at Kellynch where she was only standing in for the mistress of the manor.
On the whole, the tenants were pleasant and good-humored, many of them dragon Friends who were quite astonished that Kellynch enjoyed the company of the minor dragons on his estate.
Despite all the new friends, Kellynch did not neglect Uppercross. Dragon tunnels linked the two estates, and they exchanged regular visits. Uppercross was developing a taste for fish, which Sister Mary definitely did not approve of—it left his breath quite frightful!
According to Lady Elizabeth’s last letter, their whole relationship was very unusual among land dragons. But perhaps not so among marine creatures? She still hoped to visit them soon and learn more about England’s only marine wyrm.
When had Laconia come upon her?
He bumped up against her leg, all three stones worth of fluffy, black tatzelwurm jolting her from her reverie. “Wentworth wonders where you have gotten to.”
“I told him I would be checking on Kellynch. Is he very worried?” She glanced past Laconia as a gust of chill air raced down the neat line of cottages.
“He is accustomed to having all his sailors at an easy distance.” Laconia glanced over his shoulder and backed up two steps, a very odd movement for a tatzelwurm.
“And I am out of range of his spyglass, I suppose?”
“Come back to the house with me.” An odd note of concern tinged his voice as he turned for the manor.
She followed. “Is there something wrong?”
“It is difficult to say. A cockatrice messenger from the Order arrived not very long ago.”
Anne increased her pace to a near run; Laconia spring-hopped to keep up.
Anne stopped in the study’s doorway and stared at an unfamiliar hawk-sized cockatrice, red-brown and a bit weather-beaten, wearing a small pack embossed with the signet of the Order strapped to his back. He stood on Wentworth’s desk, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
Wentworth did the same as he stood, a mite awkwardly, at the far side of the desk.
He still had not got the room quite arranged to his liking. Long and narrow, he complained there was both too much room and not enough at the same time. Too big to be compact and efficient like the accommodations on his ship, but not spacious enough for the desk that had been shoehorned in and the three leather-covered chairs that seemed to take up the remaining floor space. A bookcase lined the long wall, opposite the windows, lacking both enough books to look scholarly and sufficient bric-a-brac to appear well traveled.
He declared the entire affair felt a bit like a midshipman’s effort. At least he judged the desk chair comfortable and that sufficient sunlight streamed through the windows so reading was possible most of the day. That was something.
Someday she would have enough saved to commission a proper suite of office furniture for him. An extravagance he would never purchase himself.
Laconia chirruped and pawed at the doorframe.
Wentworth glanced up and caught Anne’s eye with a brief nod. “There now.” He opened the messenger’s pack and removed a letter bearing the Blue Order Seal.
The cockatrice shook out his compacted feather-scales and scratched behind his tiny ear with his talons, leaning back on his dusty serpentine tail for balance.
“Laconia, show our guest to the kitchen for a solid meal whilst I read this and pen a reply. The wyrmlings may accompany you as well.” That was not a suggestion, but an order.
Anne placed the basket on the floor. Corn and Wall tumbled out and led the way to the kitchen, spring-hopping with speed only the possibility of a snack could induce. The Blue Order messenger flew low behind them.
Wentworth beckoned her in, and she shut the door behind her. He closed the window that the messenger had probably entered.
“Would it be too optimistic to hope it is merely an announcement of time changes to the Cotillion?” She bit her lip and dodged around the clumsy chairs to join him near the desk.
He cracked the seal. “Considering this is written in cipher, I imagine something less mundane.” He yanked open the top drawer and removed a small red leatherbound notebook no larger than the palm of his hand. “The specific cipher was pressed into the wax seal—one that is reserved for only select operatives of the Order.”
“So definitely not good news.” She perched in the nearest chair, stiff and smelling of leather polish.
He fell into his chair. It groaned, long-suffering. “It will take me some time to sort the message out. Tell me of your visit to Kellynch whilst I work on it.”
“I still wonder that he is the same creature who threatened me in the sea cave. Though I suppose I should not be, considering what Lady Elizabeth has told me about dragons who have been wronged. They certainly take their offenses seriously.”
“Indeed they do, large and small.”
“Dragons or offenses?”
“Both.” He snickered softly though his brow drew low over his eyes.
“If he had his druthers, I think he would take up residence in the cellar under the house. At least he would if only it were a little larger and had a proper soaking pool for him, like his lair does—apparently after all the decades without water, he is unwilling to do without again. But still, he truly hates to be alone. Can you imagine? He complained he had not seen Corn and Wall recently enough. Who would have thought he would be so fond of them? At times I wonder whether they are our Friends or his.”
“According to Laconia, they talk of Kellynch constantly, honored by the attention of a true wyrm. Shatter-brained little creatures! I half expect that the Sage will ask you to write a monograph on their relationship.” He glanced up from his work.
Oh, the way he looked at her! It would never grow old.
The crests of her cheeks heated.
“I imagine you are going to tell me he has decided to accompany us to London, no?”
“He was rather considerate about it, though. He seemed concerned that the house with the lair might not be as pleasing as the other we had inquired after.”
He set down his pencil and fixed her gaze with his own. “And you are all right with the change? You are being presented into Dragon Keeping society by the Sage herself, after all. I expect we will be required to do a great deal of entertaining.”
She swallowed hard, her eyes burning just a bit. He was so considerate. “I cannot imagine a house with a dragon lair being any mean accommodation. As to it being unable to accommodate a large party—I think that is rather a good thing. Hosting small events, for now, suits me very well indeed.”
“A baronet and his lady need not be seen living as a baronet and his lady?” The corners of his lips turned up just a mite.
“I think being seen as honoring one’s dragon is living as a baronet and his family should, do you not?”
“I could not say it better myself.” He chuckled, picked up his pencil and began scratching away again.
Perhaps on the journey to London they could talk about what entertaining Blue Order society during the Cotillion season would look like. Wentworth had no experience with such things.
Would he chafe amidst the expectations of “good” society? Would he be accepted among them, or simply viewed a novelty—a Dragon Keeping naval officer who had to be tolerated and humored whilst behind his back talk would fly? How hard did he expect, or even want, to work to be accepted? How important was it to him?
How important was it to her?
His expression slowly crumpled into a deep frown. “It seems the plans you made with Kellynch are fortuitous. Lord Matlock himself requests that Kellynch remain with his Keepers in light of current events.”
A cold chill snaked down her spine. “Does he say what current events?”
He scribbled down a few more words. “Apparently, Mr. William Elliot finds his accommodations in prison rather uncomfortable—not gentleman’s lodgings, it seems. He has attempted to trade information for some favors toward himself.”
She clutched the edge of the desk. “They are not going to release him, are they?”
“No, that would be far too dangerous—for him. Kellynch will never forgive the assault on his Keeper. Not to mention Elliot is far from paying his debts to the Order. I am sure he has only bought himself a softer bed or better rations. In any case, the information suggests there are those, dragon hearers and some dragon-deaf, maybe even some members of the Order itself, who are hostile toward dragons. There are hints of schemes to profit off trading in dragons and—” he gulped, “—their body parts.”
“Gracious heavens!” The dragon scale lotion she made from the scales Uppercross happily gave her was one thing, but this? The edges of her vision fuzzed and the room spun slightly. She clutched the arms of the chair.
“At this point, there is no way of knowing the accuracy of Elliot’s information. It could have been merely a fiction traded for comfort. But then again, it might not. Matlock insists—and I agree—it must be thoroughly investigated.”
“Of course, of course it must. The possibility is too awful to take lightly!” Anne stood, knees shaking almost too hard to hold her up.
“Lord Matlock asks that we alter our travel plans. He has arranged for post horses so we do not need to stop and rest ours. He wants us to visit a list of persons and places of interest along the way to London. If we travel day and night, it will delay our arrival by a day, at most two.”
“That does not seem so bad. I am sure it will be hardly noticeable.”
“It will be uncomfortable. At best. There will be no sleeping at inns, we will take meals in the carriage, not at proper tables. It is a form of travel to which you are not accustomed.”
“I am hardly accustomed to any sort of travel at all. I will make do.”
He skirted around the desk and took her hands firmly. “Are you sure?”
“This is what we decided upon when we wed. I admit, I had not expected Order business to come up so soon, or to be so serious, but I will not back down from our commitment.” Hopefully he did not notice her fingers trembling.
“Then I will write to him straight away.” He pressed her hands to his cheek.
“I will adjust our packing in light of our new plans. Corn and Wall will need plenty of snacks and a few extra bones for teething.”
So, what do you think is going on? No spoilers, but I will say, it’s far more than you might imagine!
Smugglers. A kidnapping. A fire-breathing fairy dragon? The Blue Order is falling apart at the seams.
After months in Bath mentoring Dragon Keepers and Friends, Dragon Sage Elizabeth Darcy actually anticipates traveling to London for the Keeper’s Cotillion. Which says a great deal considering the she-dragons who make up the Cotillion board would very much like to show the Sage her proper place.
The she-dragons, though, are no match for what Sir Fitzwilliam Darcy finds waiting for him in London. Threats to the Order on every side, and Lord Matlock demands he keep them secret from Elizabeth. No one keeps secrets from Elizabeth.
In the meantime, Anne and Frederick Wentworth arrive in London with hopes of finally being accepted in good Blue Order society, unaware of the burgeoning maelstrom about to engulf them.
Darcy manages to keep matters under control until a fairy-dragon’s prank unleashes sinister forces who perpetrate an unthinkable crime that could spell the end of the Pendragon Accords and usher in a new age of dragon war.
Can Elizabeth and Darcy, with the Wentworths’ help, restore balance to the Blue Order before the dragons decide to take matters into their own talons and right the wrongs themselves?
You can find Dragon’s Beyond the Pale at:
Six-time BRAG Medallion Honoree, Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16-year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics/sociology/managerial studies/behavior sciences. She pretends to be a mild-mannered writer/cat-lady, but most of her vacations require helmets and waivers or historical costumes, usually not at the same time.
She writes gas lamp fantasy, historical romance and non-fiction to help justify her research addiction.
She can be contacted at:
Maria Grace is kindly offering an ebook copy of Dragon’s Beyond the Pale to one reader commenting this post, or if you haven’t read any book from the series yet, you can pick an ebook copy of Pemberley: Mr. Darcy’s Dragon. Leave a comment on this post until the 13th of May to apply. The winner will be announced shortly after.
Good Luck everyone!