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An Alternative Ending to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell (Susanna Clark)

An Alternate Ending to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell

Author’s note: In my opinion the book didn’t really need an alternative ending, so I only changed it a bit. The tone became a bit lighter and the ending more movie-like: wrapped up, tight. I don’t really prefer either ending, so others will have to make that judgment. By the way: if you haven’t read the book this ending will be incomprehensible.

As the last millstone crushed the gentleman, Stephen Black felt the powers that had entrapped him wane. He felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest. Emotions were restored to him in a rush, so that he was overwhelmed, and fell spent to the earth.

When he woke, he found that he was extremely cold. He shook all over and struggled to his feet. He crossed the pile of millstones that had dammed the beck, and walked into the wood on the other side.
This was a wood he had not seen before, thick and ancient, but fresh, and full of hope. Thick trees twisted into strange shapes; multitudes of red-and-white roses glimmered in the dew. It was not England. Stephen walked until he found a great structure, half stone and half earth. It was defended by a copse of strange thorn trees, upon which hung thick, worm-like serpents. A rapidly disintegrating corpse hung from each one, and above the structure itself flew a banner with the emblem of a disembodied eye and heart...
A man challenged Stephen as he approached. The man had two pistols in his hands, and held them ready. He shouted.
“Who goes there? I am the Champion of the Lady of The Castle of The Plucked Eye and Heart! I will kill anyone who insults or means harm to my lady!”
Stephen approached, and saw the man’s soiled, once-foppish attire and sneering expression. It seemed familiar to him.
“What is your name, Champion?” he called out.
“I don’t have one.”
“You are Henry Lascelles, advisor to Mr. Norell of Yorkshire.”
The Champion considered this. “I have always been here.” He said. “I remember nothing else.”
“Oh, you are mistaken, Mr. Lascelles. Here.” Stephen walked over to Lascelles and put his hand on Lascelles’s forehead. Lascelles breathed deeply. He exhaled gently and dropped the pistols.
“Off with you, scum! I have nothing for you to rob!” Lascelles shoved Stephen away and stepped back. Shaking himself into his senses, he said;
“O! Sir Pole’s manservant! What are you doing here?”
“I do not know, Mr. Lascelles. Follow me and we will find out.”
Stephen gestured to Lascelles to follow and was suprised to find himself obeyed. Lascelles followed him like a dog on the heels of its master.
Stephen and Lascelles walked out of the thorn copse, which had become a group of stately oaks and chestnuts, with a stream flowing through them into the distance. The castle had become only a mound of earth, with a simple wooden door.
As the two men walked, a group of fairies came out from between the trees. They led Stephen and Lascelles onto a road, where more joined them. As they walked, the landscape changed. It became clearer, brighter.
Eventually they came to an area which Stephen instantly recognized from his long evenings of enchantment as the grounds of Lost-hope. But in place of the great mansion, there was a hill with grass growing on it, and a stone outcrop where the bell tower once stood. Stephen found many bones,signs of the gentleman’s bloodthirsty reign, strewn everywhere and hidden in hollows. As the dawn hit them they started to crumple. Stephen looked on, amazed.
He addressed a tall, dark fairy that he had seen at many of lost-hope’s balls and processions. “Is this lost-hope?” “Yes, grandfather.” Said the dark fairy.
“But lost-hope is a great mansion! This is- what is this?”
“This is a brugh, grandfather! This is the world beneath the hill. Lost-hope is changing! The old King is dead. The new King approaches! And at his approach the world sheds its sorrow. The sins of the old King dissolve like morning mist! The world assumes the character of the new. His virtues fill up the wood and the world!”
“The new King?” Stephen looked at his hands. In one was the scepter and the other the orb.
The fairy gave him a wry grin. “The changes you made here far surpass anything you did in England.”
The entire procession passed through the mouthlike door of lost-hope and came through passageways to a great hall. There the New King sat on an ancient throne and made his proclamation.
“This land has been neglected by its rulers for a long time. The inhabitants of this house have been cruel and indolent, and their scar is upon the land. I have observed it, and regret it. Things will change. In time,I will set all to right.”

* * * *

In the library of Hurtfew Abbey, Mr. Strange and Mr. Norrell waited for their summoning spell to take effect.
As the last flame of the magician’s summoning-candle was extinguished, Hurtfew Abbey was bombarded by strong winds. Doors banged open in the halls, papers flew off of their tables, shutters buckled, candles extinguished , and the two magicians blown off of their feet. Strange and Norell lay in what should have been darkness, but was in fact light.
The magicians looked in the direction of the window, and saw a man in a clean black traveling coat and black boots. The man had longish black hair, and looked almost like Strange himself. In his hand he carried an orb of light that lit up the room. A raven perched upon his shoulder.
“Jonathan Strange and Gilbert Norell.” He said in a peculiar accent, one tinged with Norse and French;
“I have come, now I must be gone. My prophecy has come to pass. The light will return to you. If you again call for me, you may use my true name...” The man then uttered a word that neither Strange or Norell understood, but locked away in their memory for safekeeping.
“Your Majesty-” began Strange from his position on the floor, but he was cut off by a wave of the man’s hand.
“I must go.” said the man.
And so he was gone.

The two gentlemen sat in the Darkness, dumbfounded. They pondered the significance of what they had seen. They sat and watched the starry sky, contemplating their existence.
After several hours of this, Norell, who was examining Sirius quite intensely, thought he saw a tint of pink on the horizon.
“Strange! He called. I see light! On the horizon! Look!”
Strange looked on, and the two men watched the tint become a shade, and the shade become a blazing light. The sun was shining on Jonathan Strange once more.
The magicians went outside and took a walk in the morning light, surveying the world and soaking the sun up into their skin.

As they walked they talked of John Uskglass and his true name, the one given to him by himself. They rejoiced that they were freed from their curse, and Strange formulated theories upon how to rescue his wife.

“The best way to rescue Arabella is obviously the most direct. I will steal her from under the fairies’ noses.”
“But how will you get to Faerie? It is a land not to be trifled with. I am strongly against you going there at all.”
“I have to take the King’s Roads.”
Norrell was still against any excursions into Faerie, especially via the King’s Roads, and fought Strange’s proposal tooth and nail for the remainder of the day.

Strange was not to be talked out of his plan. He remembered his promise to Arabella not to use the King’s Roads, but he was resolute, and could not see any other way. He made ready for his journey, packing supplies, a pistol and powder into a rucksack, and upon Norrell’s insistence, cast a protective spell of illumination and pathfinding about his person.

In Norrell’s library, Strange focused on the large, ornate mirror there and made his incantations. He stared at the mirror and his reflection seemed to become fluid. He touched the mirror and the surface rippled. He stepped through the surface and was gone.

A large, cathedral-like ceiling made of what seemed to be blue marble rose above Strange into the distance. It was decorated with images of John Uskglass, the Raven King, and images that Strange did not recognize. Strange walked along the marble floor until the floor stopped and he reached his destination,the Bridge Over Nowhere. He said his spell of pathfinding, and a path was illuminated leading over the bridge.

Strange strode along the bridge, looking down at the yawning chasm filled with mist that lay below him. On the bridge’s incomprehensibly tall pillars narrow staircases leading down to God-Knows-Where were carved into the stone.

After an amount of time unknown to Strange, he came to the end of the bridge, to a floor almost identical to the one he ha crossed before. He followed his magical path until he came to what looked like a hole in the world. The path ended there, and Strange stepped through.

Strange stepped out into a bare stone-and-earthen room, with a circular window looking out onto a field and a single chair. The mirror Strange stepped out of was like the room, simple yet beautiful. He stood there wondering where he was. When he had last been to Faerie, it had been a dark and desolate place, with little light and mournful bells tolling. This room was bright and cheerful.
After a time a not quite human-looking servant came into the room. He hailed Strange, and welcomed him to lost-hope.
“Lost-hope?” said Strange. “There is surely some mistake! The land outside this window looks quite full of it!”
“That is the New King’s doing. His arrival changed the land itself. He is waiting for you in his hall. Come.” The servant exited the room, and Strange followed.
They proceeded through an earthern-walled hall, one with wooden floors, and came to a tall door of wood and iron. Another of the fairies stood guard at the door. The servant announced Strange to the guard, and he opened the door for them.
The King’s hall was a grand stone room, with a high domed ceiling that opened up onto the world through glass windows. Strange walked along the wooden floor, where the King of Faerie’s Court stood in waiting. Strange was suprised to see that the court wore clothes that were the height of fashion when he had been in London. There were many of them, and they included not only men, but women and children, too.
The King was seated upon an ancient wooden throne, and Strange was amazed to find that he was dark as night. He wore a silver diadem in the shape of a laurel wreath on his head, and in his hands he held a silver scepter and orb. He wore a black suit with a crisp collar and muslin neckcloth. He rose from his throne and shook Strange by the hand. Then Strange recognized him. “Stephen Black?”
“Not anymore.” said the King. He smiled. “I am now the nameless slave. And King of Faerie. I was enchanted by the gentleman with the thistle-down hair until I destroyed him and broke his magic. You will find all is well here and that your wife is quite sound. Arabella!”
At the King’s call Arabella Strange came through a door, led by Henry Lascelles. She was wearing a gown of a brilliant red, and her neck was adorned with a necklace of rubies. She rushed past Lascelles and embraced her husband. She gave him a long kiss, and smiled.

* * * *

Mr. Norrell was deeply engrossed in Goubert’s Gatekeeper of Apollo when he heard a knock on his front door. He absentmindedly pulled the bell-cord to summon his servant, before remembering that his servants had fled two nights ago on the account of the Eternal Darkness of the magician’s curse, lately dissipated. Norrell left his book and roused himself out of his chair to answer the door, complaining that he certainly wasn’t getting any younger.

When Norell opened the door he found John Childermass there with a vagabond who after a closer look turned out to be Vinculus the street-sorcerer. Norell, who had thought Vinculus long dead, was shocked. “How dare you bring this ruffian to my house! I thought I had destroyed him!”
Childermass raised his hands disarmingly. “So you had. But there was truth in his ramblings. Until recently, there was written on Vinculus’s body, in the King’s Letters, a prophecy of the Raven King. But last morning when I found him on the road, I witnessed the writing on his body change! He now reads something completely different! His body is a new work by John Uskglass!”

“Who is there that can read such a work? We must find him!” Norell exclaimed.
“The last Reader died more than five years ago. There is no other. But I have pledged myself to uncovering the secret of this writing.”
“Get to it, then!” said Norell. “I was wrong to dismiss you. You’re hired!”

A week went by. Norell started to worry that Strange would never come back to England. But one afternoon Norell had a knock on his door. Childermass answered it, and brought Strange and his wife inside. They greeted Norell warmly and they took their tea together.

Strange and Norell went back to London to further pursue the cause of English Magic. Their first matter was the startling number of reports of magic that had been coming from people all over England complaining of the magic done in their homes. The two magicians sent out envoys to each of these persons to inquire about the incidents. All of the cases involved young people with no magical training whatsoever. The envoys came back with claims from the young magicians that their magical knowledge had been ‘written’ in some natural medium such as earth, sky, or sea. For instance, a young boy who was mad at his schoolteacher saw magic in his desk and used it to turn her into a newt.

Mr. Norrell petitions to Parliament for magical regulations seemed very reasonable now that there were sop many magicians to regulate. Sir Walter Pole was appointed Minister to the new Department Of Magic, and a Royal Academy of Magic was formed. The new Academy trained every new magician in England. It was administrated by John Segundus and watched over by Mr. Strange and Mr. Norell.

The old fairy roads in England reopened. Fairies came through them and exchanged fairy magic for human ideas. Magic thrived in England. Strange extended his book The History And Practice Of English Magic to five volumes and many editions. Jonathan and Arabella Strange were happy together again, Norell studied fairy magic and worked for the government, and everybody lived what can very reasonably be called happily ever after.
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