This page takes the action from the start of the final scene in the final chapter of The Charmed Return, and reveals how I originally intended to finish the book.
Tania found Edric standing at the prow of the ship, gazing out over the ocean.
“Penny for your thoughts?” she said.
He smiled and slipped an arm around her. “I was wondering something,” he said as she snuggled against him.
“I was wondering what price the Harper will make the King pay for renewing the Covenant.”
Tania frowned. “Would he have to pay again?” she asked. “He’s already paid once.”
“Yes,” said Edric. “You’re probably right. And we’ll know soon enough – one way or the other.”
They stood together looking at the sunlit ocean for a quiet while as it rippled away and away into forever.
“Ask me.” She looked into his brown eyes, her voice husky with emotion. “Ask me again.”
He turned, taking her in his arms. “Ask you what?”
“You know.” She traced the contours of his cheeks and eyebrows with her fingertips. “You know.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, his voice trembling.
He hesitated, as though summoning all his courage. “Tania Aurealis, Princess of Faerie – Anita Palmer, daughter of mortal parents – will you marry me?”
A gladness like leaping flames filled her. “Yes,” she said, lifting her face to kiss him. “Yes, I will.”
It was only a moment later that Titania’s voice broke into their joy.
“Admiral Belial! Word has come!” she called. “Set your sails – we are returning home!”
Tania spun around, expecting to see the golden stairway descending from the clouds, and the King pacing down towards them.
She had such news for him! Such wonderful news!
But there was nothing. No great white light in the sky. No burning stair. No sign of the King.
Tania ran forwards. Eden and the Queen were standing close together, their faces pale but their expressions calm and resolved.
“Mama? Where’s Father?”
Titania looked at her with huge, sombre eyes. “He will not be coming home with us,” she said. “He guessed what the price would be – and he did not rue it.”
Tania heard cries of consternation from her other sisters, and from many another on board the ship. A dreadful understanding ignited in her heart. “He sacrificed himself…?” she gasped. “Was that the price the Harper demanded to renew the Covenant? No…that’s not fair…”
“The people of Faerie are immortal once more,” said Eden. “The realm is safe. Our Father went gladly to his fate. What less would any King do?”
Tania ran to the ship’s rail, her eyes needled by tears as she stared up into the pitiless sky.
“No!” she cried. “Papa, no!” But her frail voice was blown away as the sails of the Cloud Scudder were unfurled and the great vessel turned into the wind.
She fell to her knees, blinded by tears, hardly even aware of Edric’s hands gentle on her shoulders.
He was gone. She knew it in her heart and in her soul. Her father, the wise and noble King Oberon of The Immortal Realm of Faerie was gone forever.