“Your challenge this month, should you choose to accept it, is to write a story that prominently features a moon (our moon, an alien moon, whatever)…”
I thought it was cool, but maybe that’s because I’m always staring up at the moon. So I decided to take up the challenge. My plan was to set aside my then current writing project, Georgianna, and write a little stand-alone story. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. After writing a few lines, my vague idea for a stand-alone story became the prologue for Georgianna. I wrote it is one sitting. The Muses were truly with me.
Without further ado, here is the prologue for Georgianna and the Dragon…
* * *
A gibbous moon hung in the east and illuminated a cloud that had drifted across it. In the west, the sun’s light was a mere line of orange on the horizon. Georgianna was concerned with neither the light of the moon nor of the sun. Her eyes were fixed on the ball of green light that floated in the blackness under the oak tree.
She’s answered my call, Georgianna thought. She closed the book at her knees and slowly rose to her feet using the side of the stone fountain to steady herself. Her heart pounded, but without hesitation, she walked toward the light. When Georgianna was a couple yards away from it, she stopped.
As in is the past, the ball of green light expanded into a cloud and then, as if being sculpted from luminescent clay, took the form of a tall woman with long black hair piled atop her head. Her skin was almost as white as her white gown. Something disturbed a nearby hedge. She had not come alone.
Georgianna bowed her head and said, “Bon soir, Madame Blanc.” The White Lady had once spoken to one of her own kind in a language that sounded to Georgianna like the French she had learned from the nuns at school. So, Georgianna started to greet the White Lady in French. The fey creature seemed to appreciate it.
“What great need do you have, my child? For it must be great to call me so urgently when the moon is not full.”
Georgianna unconsciously took a step forward. “My lady, it’s my husband, Frederick. He is very ill. The doctors can’t help him.” Georgianna looked over her shoulder at the large house looming up in the darkness behind her. It’s that damn Jake’s fault, she thought. I knew those clams were off, and who knows where that bathtub gin came from. “I can’t lose him. We’ve only been married a few years.”
The White Lady, at least two heads taller than the mortal woman, looked down at Georgianna for she was at-least two heads taller. “My dear girl. You have been a faithful servant since you were but seven summers old. Indeed, you have been very helpful to me in your own way.
“And I have rewarded you. You have seen the things that compose the dreams of mortals. I even remember a draught slipped into a young man’s glass by a love-besotted maid.”
“I know and I am thankful. But please, this one last favor.”
The White Lady sighed and started to walk around the edge of Georgianna’s garden. Georgianna followed after her. “But what you ask.” She shook her head. “It is most perilous to deny the Fates. If the Fates are calling Frederick, who am I to deny them?”
“But you could. I know you have done so in the past. I’ve heard the tale of Emile and Brendan.”
The White Lady stopped and looked into Georgianna’s eyes, and Georgianna immediately looked at the ground. “One should not repeat what one hears from revelers who are full of wine.”
“I am sorry, my lady.”
The White Lady was silent for a moment and then continued to walk. “It is a beautiful night.” The last of the sunlight was gone, but it was still warm. Laughter and jazz floated to the two women from the neighboring mansion, and the moon’s reflection shimmered on the surface of Lake St. Clair. “Its beauty puts me into a bold mood.”
“Thank you!” Georgianna surged forward and almost took hold of the White Lady’s hand. Something in the nearest bush moved violently. Georgianna checked herself.
“I have done nothing yet,” the fey spirit said, as she held up her hand.
“But I thought…”
“I may be able to help you, but I will need you to do something for me.”
“Of course. Just tell me what it is.” Georgianna took another step closer, but then stepped back.
“Someday I shall come to you and I will ask to take your eldest daughter.”
Georgianna’s mouth fell opened, but the White Lady gently waved her hand. “It will please me to have her as a lady in my court. It will only be for a short while.”
Georgianna bit her lip. She had read about about the good neighbors in Lady Gregory’s book, and many others besides. They usually took human children without asking. Even if Georgianna refused, the White Lady could take the child whenever she pleased; and Georgianna would lose her Frederick. She would have nothing. Georgianna nodded. “I agree, please just help him.”
The White Lady looked up at the moon and pointed. “Swear by the moon that you shall let me take your eldest daughter.”
Georgianna looked at the moon and then back at the White Lady. “Didn’t Shakespeare say not to swear by the–” Georgianna silently cursed her own stupidity.
“Inconstant moon? Ah, Master Shakespeare. Yes, he is well known to us.” The White Lady pressed her palms together. “First, Juliet said those words. Shakespeare might not agree with her. Second, the statement is clearly incorrect,” she said and waved her hand. “Every twenty-eight days, the moon travels through its cycle. Every fourteenth day it is half-bright and half-dark. Every seventh day and every twenty-first day it appears in the shape of the sacred horns of Cernunnos. What could be more constant?”
Georgianna was silent. All she could do was shake her head.
The White Lady continued. “As for the sun, on two different days the sun could shine equally bright. But on one of those days it provides no warmth at all, and on the other day–”
“Too hot the eye of heaven shines,” Georgianna said.
“Precisely. Now, if you want me to save Frederick, swear by the constant moon. But know this,” the White Lady paused and pointed an unnaturally long, thin finger at Georgianna’s abdomen. “If you refuse to give me the child when I ask, a shadow will follow your eldest daughter. And her eldest daughter, and so on. None shall die peacefully in their beds until one finally serves me in my realm.”
Georgianna opened her mouth and then closed it. She glanced up at the moon and then opened her mouth again. This time the words came out. “I swear by the constant moon.” She took in a deep breath, and then let it out slowly. Maybe it’s a boy. I might have all boys.
The back door opened, a black silhouette blocked most of the light. “Mrs. Beaumont! Mrs. Beaumont!”
Georgianna started violently. “I’m here. What is it?”
The silhouette left the door and ran towards her. It was the housekeeper, Mary.
“Mr. Beaumont’s fever,” Mary stopped before Georgianna sucking in breath.
“Yes? What? What’s happened?”
“Praised be to God, Mrs. Beaumont. It’s a miracle. The fever’s broken. I knew the Virgin Mary would answer my prayers.” The housekeeper took hold of Georgianna’s hand. “Come, Mrs. Beaumont, he’s asking for you.”
Georgianna let herself be led away, but as she did so, she looked over her shoulder. The White Lady was still faintly visible, gesturing toward the house and nodding.
Georgianna smiled and turned back to the house and her husband.
The White Lady’s green eyes narrowed and a smile curled the corners of her red lips. She spoke some words that no human ear would recognize. The hedge rustled one last time, and then the White Lady was gone.