Mercedes Lackey’s “Elemental Masters” series: Unnatural Issue

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Unnatural Issue (2011)

[In the Introduction to “Elemental Magic”, Mercedes Lackey gives “Tattercoats” as the inspiration for “Unnatural Issue”. The story includes elements from “Tattercoats”, but also from “Donkeyskin”, or a similar story.]

Richard Whitestone is an Earth Master, who lives in a manor in Yorkshire. His wife, Rebecca, died giving birth to their daughter Susanne. Devastated, Richard rejected his daughter.

Susanne has been brought up by servants, and lives and works among them. She is also an Earth Master.

Susanne encountered Robin Goodfellow as a child. (Robin, also known as Puck, previously appeared in “The Wizard of London”.) He taught her magic, for the caring of the land. Susanne uses her magic to look after the land of the manor property – a job which her father should have been doing.

Richard Whitestone remains secluded in his suite of rooms upstairs, looking for a magical way to bring his wife back to life. He turns to necromancy. When he sees Susanne at age 20, he decides to kill Susanne and bring Rebecca’s spirit back into Susanne’s body.

To disguise his intent, he shows that he has taken notice of Susanne, gives her a room on the upper floor, and new, good clothes, and starts giving her lessons.

But Susanne is concerned about her father’s true intentions. Robin and the Elemental Creatures warn her that her father is involved in something dark. She gets an invisibility ring from Robin, and sneaks into her father’s rooms.

What she sees there causes her to run away from home. She eventually finds her way to Branwell Hall, and takes a job as a dairy maid.

In London, Lord Alderscroft has detected that there is someone practising necromancy in Yorkshire, and sends a Water Master, Lord Peter Almsley, to investigate. Peter and his valet Garrick come and stay with Peter’s friend Charles Kerridge, at Branwell Hall.

Suspecting that Susanne knows something about the necromancer, Peter takes on the role of the gamekeeper, and offers Susanne training in magic, hoping to be taken into her confidence. And Susanne finally tells Peter her background, leading Peter to conclude that Susanne’s father is the necromancer.

But Richard Whitestone discovers where Susanne has gone, and sends an army of dark Elementals and resuscitated corpses to attack Branwell Hall. But Peter, Garrick, Charles, Susanne and others manage to fight them off. Defeated, Richard disappears.

Peter sends Susanne off to France, to stay with Peter’s Uncle Paul, to get her out of her father’s clutches.

But war comes to France. Charles Kerridge joins the army, and is posted to France. Hearing of this, Susanne, who has fallen in love with him, takes a job as nurse to be close to him. Peter also comes to France as part of MI13, a secret magic military intelligence unit. Peter notices Susanne’s attraction for Charles, and believes there is no future in it. And he realises he is in love with her himself.

Richard learns that Charles is in France, and travels there to take revenge, sending resuscitated corpses to attack Charles in the trenches. Charles is injured, and loses his memory, and is sent back to England. Susanne is discovered as an imposter – she is neither French nor qualified as a nurse – and is also sent back to England.

Peter and his friends decide they must set a trap to capture Richard, and Susanne agrees to be the bait.

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