His Lover is a Ghost
Lydia sees her father off at the train station as he heads for Paris for a conference. Since he'll be gone for three weeks, he's concerned for his daughter, perhaps especially because of who her employer is. However, just before he leaves, he remembers that his wife had left a small pendant with him to give to Lydia when she's of an age to start thinking of marriage.
After seeing her father off, Lydia takes her time stopping at a park before going to work at Edgar's. At the park, Nico tells Lydia the latest gossip about Edgar. Apparently, the young earl's been getting written up in the tabloids a lot recently including a story of his having gotten involved in a duel on behalf of a widow causing serious injury to the other party, while another story tells of his having seduced a medium at London's paranormal association.
Edgar tells Lydia that they're all lies as he stands behind the bench she's sitting on looking down at her. When she asks Edgar what he's doing there, he tells her that he wanted to see her and that seeing her outside of his place was rather nice since she was always so focussed on work at his residence. Even though they were now engaged, there wasn't the least bit of intimacy between them.
Lydia had no intention of acknowledging being engaged to Edgar, but it was thanks to their 'engagement' that Lydia was able to return to the human realm. Unfortunately for Lydia, since then, Edgar has been treating her as his fiancee and has been constantly hitting on her.
Edgar invites Lydia to go to the sea, but she refuses especially since her father's currently away. While Edgar claims he wants the two of them to spend more time together and become even closer, Lydia realises that Edgar wants to keep Lydia with him not out of love or affection, but because she's useful to him.
However, before Edgar has a chance to make any advances on Lydia, he's interrupted by a police detective who's looking into the death of one Maggie Morris--a seamstress. Edgar doesn't recognise the woman's name, and the investigator explains that her body was found floating in the River Thames the other day. According to her co-workers, she was supposed to meet with the earl when she disappeared. Edgar denies any involvement with the girl and claims he'd been at a picnic at the time. When pressed for names of other people at the 'picnic' Lydia realises that they're the same people that had been mentioned in the tabloid about the widow and the duel.
After the detective leaves, Edgar explains about the widow and the duel to Lydia; the widow was simply a friend of his but the other man refused to leave her alone. However, Edgar's getting involved simply worsened matters to the point of the duel. Lydia reminds Edgar that he had a policy of not being friends with women, but Edgar tells her that that was only at the beginning of a relationship and things may end up that way later. However, Edgar claims he's since broken up with the many ladies he'd been seeing since he was now engaged. Lydia doesn't believe him and assumes that he figures as long as he doesn't get caught there'd be no problem.
Lydia gets annoyed at Edgar's amusement at her questioning his having broken up with his lady friends, only to have him comment on how their having a lover's spat actually felt nice. Lydia suddenly realises that she shouldn't care about Edgar's personal life if she's not acknowledging their engagement, and she suddenly wonders if she's going to survive the next three weeks while her father's away.
At Slade's club, Edgar meets with other members of the Scarlet Moon regarding news that one of the prince's people was in England. When asked about a seance that Edgar had attended the night previous, Edgar mentioned that there was someone there claiming to be him and that Edgar along with three other attendees had been selected as possible husbands for Mrs. Collins' deceased daughter. From what the Scarlet Moon had been able to gather, Ulysses was in England working for the prince. Edgar had often heard Ulysses's name when he'd been held by the prince, but had never actually seen Ulysses's face. The only thing he knew was that he was among the prince's closest of advisors. Unfortunately, the only information any of them had been able to gather about Ulysses was that he'd recently become the patron of the medium Seraphita. At the end of the seance, Edgar caught a glimpse of Seraphita's face and realised that she looked exactly like Ermine.
The next day, Lydia finds the mostrecent tabloid on the table in her work room. The latest headline reads that Earl Ashenbert's latest lover was a ghost. Lydia tells Nico to quit showing her the gossip papers, but Nico figured she might be interested in the story. Lydia finally decides to read the article. Nico tells her that if Edgar marries the female ghost, then Lydia would be free of the guy, and their engagement would become null. Realising that saying that aloud might not be wise, Lydia quickly shuts up and looks around, but Nico tells her that Kelpie is currently away from London. Apparently, London was too hot and festering at the moment.
Lydia realises that with Kelpie away, now was her chance to try and get Edgar to accept that their engagement was null and void. Since Edgar was currently out, Lydia goes to a nearby park to come up with an idea to get Edgar to accept nullifying their engagement. While there, Lydia hears someone call for help; the voice sounded not so much like the wind as that of the waves from the sea. Realising that it was more likely to be one of the fae calling for help than a person, Lydia tries to find where the voice came from only to find a middle-aged woman crouched under a streetlight. She apparently suffered a bout of anemia and was not feeling well. Lydia hires a cab and sees Mrs. Collins back to her hotel which faces Hyde Park. However, when Lydia tries to leave, Mrs. Collins' maid begs Lydia to get Mrs. Collins to realise that her daughter was dead and that she wasn't coming back.
Apparently, Mrs. Collins had gotten involved with a medium who claimed she could bring her daughter back from the dead. However, to Suzie, it sounded like something very frightful that went against God's will. Lydia eventually agrees to speak to Mrs. Collins but doubts she'll be able to do much. While Suzie goes to check on her mistress, Lydia wonders about the voice she'd heard at the park when another maid appears before her. The second maid asks Lydia to help them and tells Lydia she's a selkie. Apparently, a number of selkies have had their skins stolen by an evil person and she asks Lydia to set them free. Before Lydia can do anything however, the maid is suddenly surrounded in white flames--her skin is being burned. The maid tells Lydia that it's too late to save her, and that Lydia must hurry and get away from the hotel. The other selkies are at the country villa, and their skins are also hidden somewhere there. However, as Lydia leaves the room, someone grabs her from behind knocking her out with chloroform. As she loses consciousness, she hears someone comment she was Earl Ashenbert's fairy doctor. They hadn't taken any particular notice of her and that most likely she was a fairy doctor in name only with no real ability...
Back at Edgar's mansion, Edgar can't help thinking that the medium at the seance, while seen through a veil, looked exactly like Ermine. The currents around Manaan Island were very fast and Ermine's body had never been found after she fell into the sea. While unlikely, Edgar did have faint hope that maybe she'd survived the fall, but what he couldn't understand was, if she did survive, why she didn't return to his side. Perhaps it was because she couldn't break her ties with the prince. If that medium really was Ermine, it meant that she was still being used as one of Prince's people.
Raven, however, doesn't believe that his sister could still be alive. Even if the person looked and sounded exactly like his sister, Raven feels that it's unlikely to be her. Were she to have survived, there was no reason for her to continue serving Prince, and if she had been captured, she'd already sought her own death once, so he saw no reason why she would fight to stay alive still. Ermine had been leaking information about their movements to Prince because she wanted to stay by Edgar's side for as long as possible. Ermine felt that were Edgar to gain the rank of Earl, she would no longer be special to him. And when they met Lydia, it suddenly became very possible that Edgar would be able to gain that rank. At that point, Ermine sought her own death in order to end Prince's ability to control Edgar.
Edgar decides that there's an easy way to determine if Seraphita is indeed Ermine and shows Raven an invitation that had been received for the Viscount Middleworth--the alias Edgar used when attending the seance. Edgar decides that he'll go to Mrs. Collins' country manor where he's to meet her daughter's spirit and where Seraphita was.
Raven then hands Edgar a crumpled tabloid which he'd found in Lydia's work room. Since tabloids are mostly read by low class labourers, Edgar hadn't been overly concerned about what had been written in them about him and had therefore been very surprised to discover that Lydia was rather knowledgeable about the stories in them. Much to Edgar's disgust, Raven informs him that Nico reads them every day and that a number of the fae seem to like following silly human gossip. Just then, Nico comes running into Edgar's study telling him that Lydia's disappeared; she'd gone to the park to come up with a plan, but the wee folk at the park said that she'd never made it there.
Edgar asks Nico what Lydia's 'plan' was about, but Nico refuses to tell him. However, Edgar grabs Nico and starts to pet him like a cat causing Nico to panic and give in. Nico admits that Lydia was trying to come up with a way to nullify her engagement with Edgar--something Edgar did not want to have happen.
In a room lit by a lone candle, a girl wakes and is asked how she feels. She's told that her name is Teresa and that she's been reborn and has returned to her family's side. Despite her uncertainty, Teresa discovers that she's apparently the daughter of a wealthy house, and her mother is more than willing to shower her with beautiful dresses and jewelry. Teresa can't help feeling that she's very glad to have returned to the land of the living.
The next morning, Lydia wakes to find herself in an unfamiliar place by the sea and realises she'd been kidnapped. However, whoever her kidnapper was was apparently treating her very well as the room she was in was handsomely furnished. The maid she met the day before, Suzie, shows up in her room carrying a change of clothes for Teresa and is quite surprised when Lydia demands an explanation as to what was going on. Suzie quickly realises that Lydia isn't Teresa and begs Lydia to stay as she would undoubtedly be killed if she were to try to leave at the moment.
Suzie explains that when she returned to the reception area of the suite, she found Lydia on the floor unconscious, and the medium Seraphita decided that she'd be useful as a vessel for Teresa. Lydia was about the same age as Teresa was supposed to be, and they needed a body of similar age for Teresa to occupy. Suzie had no choice but to help the medium and transport Lydia to the country manor near Hastings. If she didn't, they would undoubtedly have killed Lydia. Once at the manor, a seance was held, and Teresa's spirit was supposed to have possessed Lydia's body; certainly that was how things seemed to Suzie the night before. The newly reborn Teresa apparently had no memory of her previous life. Suzie begs Lydia to pretend to be Teresa and stay at the manor until Seraphita leaves. She also warns Lydia to be careful of the other maids and staff as she's seen them talking secretly with Seraphita. Apparently, Mrs. Collins had left the care of the manor to the servants a great deal, and Suzie was unsure as to what sort of folk may have snuck in among the servants.
Lydia sees Mrs. Collins who seems to have completely forgotten about Teresa being brought back from the dead. Mrs. Collins comments on how she'd always believed that Teresa'd always been alive somewhere. She then wonders where Teresa had gotten her reddish-brown hair as it used to be a lighter brown; perhaps Teresa'd gotten it from her grandmother. Seeing Mrs. Collins treatment and how she clearly loved and missed her daughter, Lydia can't help wondering if her mother too would've reacted the same way at seeing how her daughter had grown.
Mrs. Collins then tells Teresa that there's something she wants to give her--a cameo that has been passed down through the generations in her family. Lydia remembers the aquamarine pendant her father had given her. She'd been distressed to find it missing when she'd woken up, and like Mrs. Collins cameo, it had been passed down from generation to generation in her mother's family.
Lydia then meets a 15-16 year old boy--Oscar--who is Mrs. Collins nephew and Teresa's cousin. Oscar questions whether it's possible to call people back from the dead and whether Lydia really is Teresa. Lydia however, claims that she remembers nothing. Oscar comments that Lydia might just be acting and was only after the Collins's money. He reminds Lydia that if she has a boyfriend, by staying there, she'd end up marrying another man.
Lydia remembers the tabloid article about the earl and wonders if Edgar would show up at the manor since he was supposed to be one of the candidates for the ghost's husband. If he did and if he really were interested in marrying a ghost, Lydia wonders if rather than saving Lydia Edgar would instead help the medium. She can't help wondering how much she trusts Edgar. While she doesn't trust what he says when he tries to hit on her, she also doesn't think he'd simply abandon her if she were in trouble, but she suspects that's only because she's useful to him as a fairy doctor. Lydia can't help wondering if Edgar considered Lydia the young lady as worth saving.
However, Lydia's thoughts are brought to an rude halt when she discovers that the 'Earl Ashenbert' who came to the manor wasn't Edgar but someone else entirely. Lydia realises that the tabloid article was nothing more than lies and that the famous young earl's name was very popular among the middle class who'd never met him. Lydia lay down on her bed as the sun began to set feeling very silly for having worried over whether the earl would help her in her plight.
Edgar having heard from Nico about Lydia being missing has his staff search for her, and they soon find the driver of the cab Lydia'd used to help Mrs. Collins return to her hotel. From the Scarlet Moon's investigation, Edgar learned about how the Collinses had built a country manor near Hastings shortly after their daughter had been born and that the girl drowned in the sea there at age five. Apparently her body had never been found, and a shoe that washed up on shore was the only sign of what had happened.
Tracing Lydia to the hotel and learning that Mrs. Collins' party had already checked out of the hotel and left for Hastings, Edgar realises that they must've taken Lydia with them. He then takes the first steam train the next morning and heads for Hastings.
When Edgar (as Viscount Middleworth) reaches the manor in Hastings, he finds a very different Mrs. Collins compared to the woman he'd seen at the seances; she seems very happy instead. Edgar apologises for having come so soon but instead learns that another man had arrived before him. When he asks who's already arrived, he learns that it was Earl Ashenbert. Edgar comments how the earl is said to be quite the womaniser at which Raven looks away, but Mrs. Collins tells him that it's only a rumour. Edgar realises that Mrs. Collins views the earl favourably therefore.
Since they still had time before dinner, Edgar decides to meet the earl as they didn't have a chance to speak at the seance. The earl commments that most likely he and Edgar would be the two main competitors for Teresa's hand since the other two candidates were quite a lot older than she. Edgar asks the earl if it were all right for him to abandon the many ladies he was seeing and jumping straight to talk of marriage as he was, but the earl admits that women were all the same, so maybe getting involved with a ghost would bring something fresh and new. Edgar's rather surprised at that comment since he thought they all had their individual charms; he couldn't imagine trying to seduce women if it weren't enjoyable.
From their conversation, Edgar's not sure if the earl were after the Collins's money or if he were one of the prince's people, but if he was working for the prince, Edgar couldn't help feeling that the earl was not entirely suited for his role. However before they could continue their conversation, Raven interrupts and takes Edgar from the room.
Raven tells Edgar that he's found Lydia, but he's unsure if she's okay and thought Edgar should see for himself. Raven takes Edgar to the inner garden where Lydia's supposed to be hiding except the hem of her dress gives away her hiding spot. Raven tells Edgar that apparently the point was to catch her, so the two split up cornering her. Not realising that Raven had brought Edgar into the game, and sensing Edgar approaching from one side, she tries to flee the other way only to run headlong into Raven.
Lydia's surprised at having been tricked and protests at Mr. Crow bringing a friend into the game. Edgar corrects Lydia that it's not Crow but Raven. Edgar realises that, based on appearance, there was no question the person before him was Lydia and that she was uninjured, but at the same time he also realised something was wrong. He introduces himself as Viscount Middleworth to which she replies that he's one of her mother's guests. Edgar realises that the person before him was the resurrected Teresa--Mrs. Collins' daughter.
Edgar asks Teresa how it felt to be brought back from the dead, and she admits that it's wonderful. She's the daughter of a wealthy house, has lots of beautiful clothes and jewelry, and is to marry a nobleman. Edgar realises that Teresa is a simple girl, but more importantly three other men besides himself would also be vying for her favour. For him, who'd taken a liking to calling Lydia his fiancee, regardless of the fact that she had no intention of marrying him, the thought of other men trying to seduce her was more than he could bear. Likewise, he figured Lydia wouldn't like the idea of getting close to someone while possessed by another spirit. Edgar tells Lydia that he's come to save her and that he would protect her.
That night, Raven reports on what he's discovered about the manor and the people currently present. Apparently, the two other candidates for Teresa's husband were both baronets and were to arrive the next day. Edgar is unsure who Ulysses is: whether it's the fake earl, one of the two men set to arrive the next day, or perhaps if he was masquerading as one of the staff. Either way, he was sure that the prince had everything thoroughly planned out and that Ulysses would continue things according to Prince's plan. However, the one thing he wasn't sure of was Lydia's part in everything. There had been no signs that they'd been after Lydia in particular, so Edgar suspected that her kidnapping had been a random event just like Lydia's meeting and helping Mrs. Collins most likely happened by chance. The fake earl and Ermine lookalike was more than enough to ensure Edgar would get involved, so even if they needed a young woman's body to house Teresa's spirit, their using Lydia was most likely not in their original plans.
Edgar realises that Lydia had most likely been outside his enemies' calculations. Her extreme compassion and sense of responsibility and pride in being a fairy doctor made her do things that were normally inconceivable. But it was thanks to Lydia that Edgar had managed to gain the Lord Blue Knight's sword and the rank of earl. Edgar decides to gamble on Lydia's tendency to take events in completely unplanned for directions, and decides that getting her back was first and foremost in their plans. Raven admits that that decision itself was likely beyond their enemy's own expectations.
The next morning, Lydia decides to sneak out of her room and take a look around the manor. Apparently, the time from sunrise to sunset was Lydia's time--she had no memory of the previous night after sunset and according to Suzie, she'd been possessed by Teresa's spirit during that time. With Teresa's spirit possessing her, even given the chance, Lydia couldn't simply up and leave. Likewise, there was still the issue of the selkies and their skins at the manor. Going out to the gardens, she hears a woman's voice and thinking that it's Mrs. Collins, Lydia heads that way only to quickly hide herself behind a tree when she suddenly spots Ermine in a black dress. Listening in on their conversation, Ermine tells the elderly woman with her that whether she wished it or not, most likely she would most likely die there. However, the old woman tells Ermine that that man cannot go so far as to control what they hoped.
Lydia hesitates wondering if she should show herself to the people in the garden when someone grabs her by the arm telling her that she shouldn't go out there right then and instead leads her away from the two people. Much to Lydia's surprise, she realises that Edgar was the one with her. Once the two reach a safe distance, Edgar tells her that he'd been hoping to see her during the day and that they weren't going to be properly introduced until that evening. Since Edgar addressed her as Teresa, Lydia realises that he was hitting on the ghost and loses her temper. Edgar tries to appease Teresa when Lydia tells him that she can't believe he was trying to seduce a ghost and that he had no scruples; if it came to having to marry him, she would rather go and live in the fairy realm. Since there was no fear of having Kelpie overhearing them, Lydia demands that Edgar agree to nullifying their engagement.
Having caught him off-guard, Lydia tells Edgar that Teresa possesses her only during the nights so it was pointless for him to try seducing her, she'd tell Mrs. Collins that he was the absolutely worst. However, much to Lydia's surprise, Edgar looks relieved at her words and suddenly hugs her. As Lydia stares up at the sky over Edgar's shoulder, she suddenly remembers hearing him tell her that he would protect her.
Lydia pushes Edgar away and starts to head back to the manor, when Edgar stops her; she'd been so eager last night, so she didn't have to be so cold towards him in the morning. Edgar asks her if she didn't want to know what happened the night before. When Lydia demands to know what he did, Edgar smiles and tells her that they were engaged and that he'd take responsibility for what happened last night. However, when Lydia turns bright red and looks like she was about to faint, he laughs and tells her he was kidding. Her maid had kept a close eye on them and made sure they were never alone.
Changing the subject back to the medium, Edgar admits to being surprised at how similar she looked to Ermine as well. With the matter of Ermine and the fake earl, Edgar had little choice right now but to face Ulysses, so he wanted Lydia to at least get away some place safe. They could deal with Teresa's spirit afterwards. However, Lydia refuses to leave because there was still the matter of the selkies being held at the manor. Edgar hesitates, but finally gives in to Lydia's desire to save the selkies, and tells Lydia that in that case they needed to work together and act like lovers during the day. Teresa seemed to be quite taken with the idea of marrying one of the men her mother had selected as potential husbands and enjoyed being hit on and that she wasn't likely to refuse a man's attentions. Edgar tells Lydia he'll make sure that Teresa has eyes for no one but him, so Lydia would have to act the same during the day.
That night, unlike the night before, Lydia finds that she's able to at least fight to remain conscious. While Teresa has control of her body, Lydia is at least aware of what's happening. However, much to Lydia's surprise, Edgar virtually ignores Teresa during dinner that night. Getting upset, Teresa begins flirting with the other men and as a result, she ends up promising to spend the next day boating with the fake earl. Lydia feels exhausted from the various happenings at dinner while Teresa is somewhat incensed at having been ignored by Edgar.
In her room, Teresa learns from Suzie that Seraphita had been inquiring about Viscount Middleworth. At Suzie's comment, Teresa realises that Seraphita was in fact quite young and beautiful. Angry, she decides to go to the viscount's room and kick him out of the manor for making advances towards another woman. However, just as she's about to leave her room with Suzie, she runs into Edgar. Angry at having been ignored at dinner, Teresa is rather curt with Edgar not realising that it had all been a trick. Edgar traps Teresa in her room forcing the door closed behind him leaving Suzie outside in the hall. He pulls Teresa to him, and a flustered Lydia struggles to do anything to hold him at bay and discovers that she can just move her left hand.
Lydia realises that as long as Edgar's advances are mild, he leaves open the possibility of escape and is not concerned about being rejected. However, when he's being assertive, it's as though he's chosen his prey and allows no escape.
Lydia can only watch helplessly as Teresa falls under Edgar's spell. However, as Lydia apologises mentally to her father, Edgar backs down. Teresa promises to spend the next day with Edgar and as proof of their promise she gives him a silk handkerchief that she'd embroidered. Teresa presses herself to Edgar again when a loud noise and scream can be heard elsewhere in the manor.
Edgar decides to take a look and goes out into the hall when a shadow suddenly comes at him. Another shadow intercepts the first taking it down to which Edgar finds the fake earl being held down by Raven. Apparently, the earl had been trying to find Edgar and claims a ghost had appeared and killed Lord Stanley. Going to Lord Stanley's room, they find blood everywhere, but no Lord Stanley.
Edgar and the fake earl hesitate over informing Mrs. Collins about the state of Lord Stanley's room, when they remember that there is another member of the household present--Oscar. The earl is reluctant to get the nephew involved since he's still a child, but Edgar figures he's old enough to decide what the family will do.
Oscar tells the others that he'll send someone to town to inform the police of what happened and that anyone not wanting to meet with the police should leave. Anyone who stays, while a guest, would be responsible for their own safety. As Oscar turns to leave Lord Stanley's room, Teresa suddenly feels ill. Edgar figures it's because she'd seen the bloody mess in Lord Stanley's room, and he helps her back to her room.
After seeing Teresa back to her room, Edgar returns to his own room and examines the handkerchief Teresa had given him. Any way he looks at the embroidery, it looks like the initial beside the four-leaf clover is an 'M' and not a 'T' as one would expect. Likewise, Edgar couldn't see someone who'd died at five years of age as being able of doing such perfect embroidery. Asking Raven about news from Paul, Raven gives him a letter that had arrived for Edgar at the post office before sunset that day.
According to Paul, they still didn't know who the fake earl was, and that the two baronets were also using aliases, so it was impossible to tell whether any of them might be Ulysses or if they were after the Collins's fortune. More importantly, tracing Prince's money, the Scarlet Moon was able to determine that Ulysses arrived in England a month earlier aboard the Venus--the same ship Oscar Collins had been aboard. Mr. Collins' younger brother had gone to America to expand the family business and Oscar was to study in England starting that fall.
Edgar wonders if more than Ulysses meeting Oscar aboard ship and deciding to use the boy, if there hadn't been some other reason for Ulysses to get acquainted with Oscar, and he'd therefore chosen that ship specifically for that purpose--that the prince intended to involve the Collinses from the very beginning. According to Paul's letter, there was still more information and that one of the Scarlet Moon would arrive the next day.
Lydia gets up at dawn the next morning. While she'd always considered Edgar to be a womaniser, seeing how he seduced Teresa both depressed and annoyed her. She is determined that she won't marry him, but at the same time she realises that Edgar had been going easy on her and that most likely, if he really wanted her, Edgar figured he could make her his easily. And since he figured that he could easily get her not only to acknowledge their engagement but also get her to the altar, that he was currently half fooling around in hitting on her and having fun with her instead.
Realising that the manor was decidedly quiet after the events the previous night, Lydia wonders if the police had come yet only to have Nico suddenly appear and tell her that they can't come. Apparently the tides were currently tricky and even though the roads are open, the waves are threatening the road making it very dangerous to pass. Likewise, travel by boat was impossible. Lydia wonders if the selkies are responsible for the rough seas, and Nico agrees since the person working for the prince had captured some selkies not to mention the seas being in their current state worked too well in the prince's favour. At the moment, people could neither get in or out of the manor.
Lydia wonders how the prince's person could kill selkies without fearing the repercussions. When the selkies worked together, they could be a terrible force to be reckoned with, yet Ulysses didn't seem concerned in the least. Nico however, figures that perhaps at some point in the past, Ulysses had done something for the selkies earning their trust and favour. In the past, when someone did a major favour for a selkie and earned their trust, at the end of their long life the selkie were known to entrust their heart to that person. It was a promise of eternal friendship. And the selkies would do nothing against a person who carried a heart.
However, it was extremely rare for the selkies to give a heart to a person since it meant that not only did they trust the person but trusted that person's descendants with their fate throughout the ages. It would take much more than some minor favour to earn a person a selkie's heart. Nico points out that the person with the heart may not have been the one to originally receive it. But since Lydia didn't even know who Ulysses was, there was nothing she could do at the moment.
Lydia asks Nico to help her search for the selkies' skins; during the day, she needs to pretend to be Teresa, and she was unable to act freely during the nights. Before Nico can protest, Suzie knocks on Lydia's door and gives her a letter from Edgar. Lydia reads through what can only be described as a love letter and discovers that he intended to formally seek Mrs. Collins' permission to court her daughter that morning after breakfast.
At breakfast, Lydia tells Mrs. Collins that she wanted to continue relations with the viscount and that, after talking with him, she felt that fate had brought them together. As Lydia works on convincing Mrs. Collins, she realises that she was saying the same things as Edgar had written in his letter that morning. After finally receiving Mrs. Collins's blessing, Edgar and Lydia leave the room together.
Lydia can't help wondering at how Mrs. Collins seemed really happy at the thought of her daughter's marriage whereas her father didn't seem to want to consider the idea at all. Edgar asks Lydia if maybe he could finally talk her father about their engagement, but Lydia refuses. She then feels guilty about having tricked Mrs. Collins, but Edgar tells her that the spirit possessing Lydia wasn't Teresa, so either way, Mrs. Collins wishes wouldn't be realised. The best they could do was to stop the prince from getting his way and return things to the way they should be: the dead back in the land of the dead, and Lydia back at Edgar's side.
Lydia denies being Edgar's, but he states that she's his fiancee and he'll keep saying it until she believes it. Lydia tells him that she doesn't want a loveless marriage. Lydia lets slip that she'd seen how Edgar seduced Teresa the night before. The two argue over how Edgar had acted so familiarly with Lydia. At first Edgar claims that if Teresa's hugging him wasn't Lydia's actions, then he hadn't been touching Lydia the previous night... but he retracts that and admits that he'd done it with Lydia in mind and that he'd been happy because she hadn't tried to run away from him. Lydia tells him that had it been her, she would've punched him. Edgar agrees and figures it was a good thing he stopped himself before he did anything that would make her want to hit him even though he'd wanted to go further. But on the other hand, if he'd let things run their course, Lydia might've agreed to marry him because she'd have had no other choice.
Given how Lydia was conscious when Teresa was in control of her body, Edgar wonders if they'd spent the night together, Lydia might physically understand Edgar's feelings for her even though she didn't mentally. Edgar argues that Lydia doesn't think he's serious about her because he doesn't match her preconceptions of what love is and that she really is special to him. He then suggests that they test his theory. Surprised, Lydia finds herself trapped in Edgar's gaze unable to move, and she can't help wondering if perhaps she really did want him to kiss her and that perhaps she was shameless.
Edgar tells her that he does love her, but Lydia tells him it's a lie. He tells her more than his words she should believe his kiss, but Lydia tells him that even now, he wasn't trying to understand her feelings. However, while Edgar hesitates he suddenly senses another presence in amongst the trees and demands to know who's there, but the person flees. Lydia and Edgar catch a glimpse of Ermine's face and Edgar tells Lydia to go back to the manor before he runs after the person who looks like Ermine.
Ermine stops at the top of a slope facing the sea and greets Edgar. She admits that at the moment, she was Ulysses's servant and that she couldn't disobey him. Ermine admits that she was relieved to learn that Lydia was well and that she still helping him. She wonders if Lydia forgave her for what she'd done, and Edgar tells her that Lydia had even forgiven him despite what he'd done. Ermine admits that she'd felt things were changing when Edgar came back with Lydia without having hurt her. And that if anyone could help Edgar, perhaps it would take someone like Lydia to do so. Edgar tells Ermine that she didn't have to serve Ulysses and that she should come back to him; he knows that in her heart, she hadn't betrayed him. However, regardless of Ermine's own feelings, she'd been ordered to kill Edgar.
Edgar had become too well known since becoming an earl that he was no longer usable by the prince. As a result, the prince intended for Edgar to suffer before being killed. Ermine pulls out a pistol but Edgar senses Ermine has no desire to kill him and easily wrests the gun from her hand before knocking her to the ground. He then apologises before opening her shirt only to discover the slave brand that Ermine bore wasn't there. Realising that the person before him wasn't Ermine, Edgar demands to know who she is, only to have her go at him with a knife.
Raven intervenes between the two, but when Edgar tries to stop Raven, she strikes out at Raven instead. If she knew Ermine, she must've known that attacking Raven was suicidal. Raven avoids the woman's blade and stabs her in the shoulder with his own knife. Retreating as far as she can along the slope, she tries to remove the knife from her shoulder while Edgar tries to stop Raven. However, Raven no longer heard Edgar's orders. Avoiding Edgar, Raven reached towards the woman when he suddenly stops. Lydia had grabbed Raven from behind.
However, beyond being able to identify his master, Raven often lost the ability to distinguish between friend and foe when in full fighting mode. It was difficult for Edgar to stop Raven in such circumstances, so it would be impossible for Lydia to be able to stop him. Raven doesn't hold back as he throws Lydia off himself knocking her towards the sharp slope. The woman who looked exactly like Ermine, tries to grab Lydia, but unable to support Lydia the two fall down the slope. She protects Lydia from the rocks as the two tumble down the slope and they finally come to a stop about halfway down the slope. The woman staggers to her feet and continues running down the slope disappearing into the woods at the bottom while Edgar runs to Lydia's side.
Back at the manor, Raven apologises to Lydia, but she tells him not to worry about what had happened and that it was her own fault. However, Raven isn't satisfied as he'd caused injury to the person who was to become the wife of his master. Lydia's surprised that Edgar had said such a thing to Raven, but Edgar tells her it was only natural that he tell Raven since he was Edgar's most trusted servant.
Lydia was unharmed from the fall thanks to Ermine and figures that most likely Ermine had been more seriously injured. Raven however, denies that the woman had been his sister because she'd tried to kill Edgar. From what the woman had said however, Edgar figures that most likely she intended, not to kill Edgar, but to get herself killed.
Edgar admits that the slave brand that Ermine bore wasn't on the woman surprising Lydia. She'd thought that Edgar had tried so hard to stop Raven because the woman had been Ermine, but even though it couldn't be her, Edgar couldn't help feeling that the woman was Ermine. Everything about her except for the missing brand was Ermine.
Edgar's own brand had been taken away by the merrow, so he asks Lydia if there were any way something similarly unusual could have happened to Ermine causing her to lose her brand. As Lydia considers how Ermine fell into the sea on Manaan Island, she notices the clear particles in her hair and her clothes. Even though Ermine had been injured by Raven and had his knife in her shoulder, there was no blood on Lydia and she realises that the glass-like particles was Ermine's blood. Selkies were said to be embodiments of people who died at sea, so it was quite possible that Ermine had become a selkie.
While Lydia didn't have the ability to cause a person who died at sea to become a selkie, she realised it was possible that Ulysses might be powerful enough to do so. Newly born selkies might still have the memories from when they were human but eventually they forget their human memories and return to the sea. However, Lydia explains to Edgar that the selkies in the manor had had their skins stolen, and they had no choice but to do as Ulysses told them.
As the three discuss whether Ermine was herself or still the prince's tool, Lydia suddenly feels ill. As Raven silently moves to the door, Lydia realises that it was just as the night before and that Teresa was starting to remember her death. Raven suddenly throws open the door, but no one was there. Before passing out, Lydia hears Raven tell Edgar that it was possible someone had been listening in on their conversation.
Raven leaves to meet the person from Scarlet Moon and warns Edgar to be careful as he won't be able to return until the next day. At night Nico frets as Lydia hasn't woken since passing out, but since it was night time, it would be Teresa who would wake. Edgar tells Nico that Teresa was starting to remember her death and that her fear from that was apparently hard on Lydia as well. Edgar realises that Teresa might have been killed by Ulysses and her spirit used as a stand in for the real Teresa. If Teresa were to remember her own death, they might be able to act first.
Nico blocks Edgar's path. Since it was likely Lydia would be awake when Teresa was awake, by having Teresa remember her death, Edgar would make Lydia live through that experience. Nico tells Edgar that he's not thinking about Lydia and that just keeping Lydia alive wasn't the point. However, to Edgar keeping Lydia alive was first and foremost; without one's life there was no feelings or anything else to consider. Edgar forces Nico out of the way and heads to Teresa's room.
Lydia dreams of being in a dark place unable to breathe and the more she struggles the more muddy water enters her mouth and nose. Losing what little air remained in her lungs, she ends up swallowing large amounts of water and just as she feels her body's about to burst, she suddenly wakes.
Suzie quickly comes to her side, but still suffering from the remnants of the dream, Teresa murmurs 'help me'. Suzie tells her that Teresa'd been sleeping for some time and that it was now late at night. She also tells Teresa that the viscount was worried about her, and Teresa finds Edgar in the room with her as well. Frightened and unsure of what was going on, Teresa asks Edgar to stay with her. Despite the time and that it wasn't appropriate, and given that the incident from the previous night remained unsolved, Edgar readily agrees to stay. Much to Lydia's horror, Suzie has since come to trust Edgar and believes him to be a true gentleman, and given how he and Lydia were a couple, she retires for the evening leaving the two alone.
Lydia fears that Edgar might try doing something that would make it impossible for her to nullify their engagement as he'd suggested during the afternoon, but counter to her fears, Edgar instead asks Teresa what she'd been dreaming about. Just having Teresa remember the dream made it difficult for Lydia to breathe. Teresa wonders why Edgar wanted to know about her death, but readily answers his questions. She remembers how someone watched her as she drowned--a man with a small gem behind one of his ears.
Edgar asks Teresa if she's okay, but Teresa says she's fine. Even though her body was struggling with the memories, she herself didn't feel very much. Teresa wonders if it's because she'd only recently come back from the dead and that she hadn't become fully adjusted to her body yet. Lydia, however, realises that it's because the body is her own, and that as a result, she bore the full brunt of the effects of Teresa's memories. Edgar asks Teresa to try to remember more about her death unaware of Lydia's suffering. Teresa remembers that she'd been staring at the river from a bridge when someone suddenly pushed her over the rail. As she fell, the person said that she was a sacrifice for his highness.
Lydia's unaware that her left hand is resting on Edgar's arm as she puts all her strength into that hand as she fights against Teresa's memory of drowning. Edgar frowns slightly in pain as Lydia's left hand clenches his arm, but Teresa seems unaware of anything--while she was shaking, her voice showed no signs of discomfort. Edgar suddenly realises that Lydia's left hand was tied to Lydia's consciousness and calls a stop to things. Teresa protests saying that she's fine and wants him to know everything about her, but Edgar tells her that her remembering of what had happened was a lot harder on her body than she was aware of. Edgar can only apologise to Lydia as he holds her left hand.
Teresa comments on how kind Edgar has been to her, and tells him that even if he were after her settlement money, she hoped that he would continue to pretend to be so kind and in love--enough for her to continue being in love with him. Lydia realises that Teresa is the opposite to her; Teresa was aware of her own feelings, but in Lydia's case, more than caring how she felt about Edgar, Lydia was maintaining her distance because he wasn't serious about her. Edgar asks Teresa why she thinks he's not serious about her, and she tells him it's because he hasn't tried to kiss her. Edgar tells Teresa that she shouldn't trust men who would kiss a lady so easily, so Teresa asks him to give her a not so simple kiss. However, Edgar surprises Lydia when he tells her that even if he were to put his heart in it, he doubted she would believe him right now. Until then, rather than taking Lydia's feelings into account, Edgar had concentrated on furthering the concrete reality between them whether it was their engagement or kissing her in order to keep her by his side. But now, he was deliberately refusing Teresa essentially stating that if he wasn't kissing Lydia, then he wouldn't do it.
Edgar stayed on the couch in Teresa's room overnight unsleeping. He was certain that the one who killed Teresa--the one with the gem behind his ear--was Ulysses. Even among his advisors, there were few who so pompously referred to the prince as 'your highness'. While he was able to gather some key information, Edgar realises that knowing he'd made Lydia suffer in the process was a lot harder on him than he expected. As the room grows lighter with dawn, Edgar checks his arm and finds Lydia had ended up leaving some bruises where her fingers had lain. While he'd known making Teresa remember what had happened would likely cause some discomfort, the force with which Lydia had grasped his arm was beyond all expectation. He'd made her suffer that much. Edgar realises that it didn't matter how much he might tell her he cared about her, given what had happened, it would be difficult for her to believe him, and he finally starts to understand what Lydia meant when she said he didn't try to understand how she felt. But at the same time, Edgar meant no lie with his words either. Regardless of her value to him as a fairy doctor, he did think she was cute, wanted her to himself, and wanted to keep her by his side--all feelings normally felt when in love. However, Edgar felt the same way towards a lot of women and was aware that it was easy for him to feel that way towards women. Even so, he didn't intend his proposal to Lydia to be a mere whimsy. While it had been done on the spur of the moment, he was attracted to her, he thought it advantageous for both of them, and he didn't think it a bad idea.
Suzie knocks on Teresa's door early in the morning 'waking' Edgar. Apparently the earl was making a major fuss trying to find the viscount. Remembering recent events, Lydia and Edgar go to the salon together and learn that Lord Clark's room was in a similar state as Lord Stanley's, and that Lord Clark was nowhere to be found. The earl begs Edgar for help as he figures that either he or Edgar will be next and that he'd only come because he'd been asked to by the medium Seraphita. The fake earl explains that his name was Palmer and that he was a gigolo. Edgar's rather indignant at the idea of using a gigolo for the fake earl, but Lydia couldn't help thinking that it was a rather fitting choice. Edgar checks Palmer's to see if he might be Ulysses in disguise but discovers that he doesn't have a gem behind his ear.
Palmer suggests that they should go looking for Seraphita and find out what's going on since he thought a ghost had killed the other two lords, but Oscar suddenly appears in the door to the salon and tells them that Seraphita was missing. He'd wanted to ask her something as well, but couldn't find her. However, given the high waves at the moment, he didn't think they could have gotten away and could be hiding somewhere instead. Edgar leans against a display case and accidentally knocks something off it but makes no move to pick up the item. Having no choice, Oscar bends down to pick up the item, while Edgar watches.
Edgar states that he doesn't trust anyone in the manor and that everyone should protects themselves on their own. Oscar readily agrees, but when Edgar moves to take Lydia from the room, Oscar stops him. Teresa was his cousin and even though she and Edgar were now engaged, he couldn't leave her in Edgar's care. Lydia protests saying she didn't trust anyone but the viscount, but Oscar tells Lydia not to be so childish. Edgar immediately tries to protect Lydia, but Ulysses holds a gun to Lydia's head stopping him. He then tells Edgar to throw away his own weapon, but Edgar asks him what he'd do if he refused. Lydia's surprised at Edgar's question, but Ulysses seems unfazed and tells him that he'll kill Lydia. However, Edgar still doesn't comply and tells Ulysses to go ahead and try it--he'd be dead the next instant. The two continue their stand-off when Ulysses suddenly laughs and backs down slightly and calls Edgar 'Ted'. Edgar clearly hates being called by that name and Lydia realises that it must've been what the prince called him. Edgar tells Ulysses that since they're after him they should quit going at things in such a roundabout manner. Ulysses tells Edgar that the finale was next to come and that he should struggle as much as he could, and that he'd be keeping Lydia for the time being.
To be continued in the next post...