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part four.

Part four
Plymouth, England
Tight in the man’s grip, Aura wriggled into a more comfortable position and rested her slightly flushed cheek against his shoulder. He was fifteen years her senior – or so he believed; she had never told any of her ‘gentleman callers’ that in actuality she was an immortal fairy who had already been alive for over a million years, and that only a powerful innate magic would commit him to her long-term memory and enable her to recall his touch a thousand years from now. Somehow, she didn’t think he’d buy that.

“Francis,” she murmured, “are you leaving again?” His grip tightened and he pressed his lips against her mahogany-brown hair.

“Not for a while. The Queen requires my services.”

Aura relaxed and submitted to his displays of affection, teasingly allowing him to fiddle with the laces of her corset before firmly displacing his hands. Sir Francis Drake was one of the most popular naval explorers; he was the first man to sail around the whole of the world (the first human, at any rate – fairies had been circumnavigating the globe for centuries, although in fairness, not by boat) and he was the cause of much harassment to the Spanish navy. Part pirate, part respected sailor and English nobleman, his looting of Spanish ships had given him an extensive knowledge of them unrivalled by any other man. It was no wonder the Queen wanted to keep him close in these uncertain times, with spies reporting daily on the growth of the great Spanish Armada. King Philip of Spain was making no secret of his desires, and many people in England were fearful that he would unite with the Catholic French in order to rid the world of the illegitimate English monarch. If that happened, there were a sizeable number of English Catholics who would revolt against Elizabeth – her famous tolerance towards them was beginning to wane, especially after the incident with Mary Stuart.

There was a sudden knock at the door. Francis hastily pulled a jacket on and Aura disappeared behind a curtain. As they were both respectable members of Elizabeth’s court and Francis was already married, it wouldn’t do for either of them to get caught alone together in Francis’ bed-chamber. He might be able to talk his way out of it, but she would surely be expelled from the court. Feminism would not come about until the eighteenth century at the earliest; until then, Aura was confined by masculine attitudes of female incompetence and unworthiness.

Francis’ head butler entered and announced the arrival of Lord Burley, Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth’s chief advisor and head of the Privy Council. It was an honour indeed to behold the man who was held with such esteem by the Queen; Francis inclined his head but didn’t bother to extend his hand. If Cecil was here in person, then this was no social call.

“Sir Drake,” Lord Burley puffed – he had obviously ridden hard all the way to the castle. “The beacons are lit. The Spanish Armada is in sight. Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth requests your presence, and a renewal of your vows of loyalty to her.”

Francis reached for his hat. “I am devoted to Her Majesty’s service, as always I was. Long live the Queen. God have mercy on the souls of any who wish her harm, because I certainly won’t.”

A twinkle in Cecil’s eye was all the approval he gave before he left, but that was enough. Francis turned back to the curtain and grinned. He didn’t need to pull it aside to know that his lover had vanished, although he didn’t doubt that she had heard the exchange which had taken place. He’d have reported her long ago as an abuser of black magic if he didn’t find her disappearing acts so charming.

    • part five. -
    • part six. -
    • part seven. -
    • part eight. -
    • part nine. -
    • part ten. -
    • epilogue -

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