"Another suitor came this evening, my lady."
"Of what does he speak this time, Mary, my hair or my eyes?" The woman shook her hair free of its braid. Shimmering golden brilliance spilled out over the back of the chair.
"Neither, my lady." Mary picked up an ivory-backed brush and began sliding it through the thick waves of hair before her. "He claims that rumor of your knowledge has reached him and wishes you for his own."
"Do not they all? What is his rank?"
"He is a lord of Calormen."
"A mere lord. Does he think then that one of my brilliance and beauty would wed myself to a mere lord? Never! I shall be queen and nothing lower. Bid the lower chamber be prepared for him and then send him on his way tomorrow morning. I am indisposed."
"As you wish, my lady." The maid slid the brush through her mistress's hair one last time before dropping a deep curtsey and stealing from the room.
Ariella Thalia Raven, mistress of the castle and lady of the land, leaned back in her chair and examined her features in the mirror. She smiled. She was perfect in every way. She was tall, but not overly so, majestic but humble and had only the tiniest hint of a temper. And she was beautiful. Men from all the lands praised her beauty and sought her for their own. Her hair, they said, was more golden that the brightest rays of the sun, softer than down, and finer than the most delicate thread. Her eyes, they said, were greener than the greenest emeralds, deeper than the sea, and more varied than the grassy fields. Her lips were soft and red, and her cheeks, smooth and unblemished, pale but with just the perfect tint of rose.
In addition to her perfect physical appearance, Lady Ariella also maintained considerable prowess in the practice yard. She could shoot an arrow with unerring accuracy at an incredible distance; none of her knights could match her with the sword. Her horsemanship was impeccable and her speed, unmatched. Also, wisdom beyond her seventeen years was hers, as was knowledge and understanding. And she was rich. Rich enough to buy an entire country if she so desired. It was no wonder that men from every land sought her hand in marriage.
Abruptly, the beautiful face changed. It was still beautiful, but the smile was replaced by a frown. (Albeit a delicate one that suited her face well, as Lady Ariella noticed) There was one thing that was not perfect. She was merely "lady" and not queen. She would make the perfect queen. Everyone knew this; even the suitors who were not kings or princes admitted that. But not just any queen. She would be the queen of the most beautiful land, wed to the most handsome man. What else could one expect from a woman whose beauty and skills were as perfect as her own? A sudden thought struck her and Lady Ariella leaned forward and rang the small golden bell that sat on her delicate table. A maid appeared moments later.
"Sarai, what are the most powerful known kingdoms?" Lady Ariella demanded.
The maid was taken aback for a moment. Did not her lady already know this? "Calormen is one, my lady. Archenland is another."
"Who rules these lands? Tell me as if I did not know."
"The Tisroc rules Calormen and King Lune Archenland, I believe, my lady."
"We have discussed both men on their relative suitability as partners have we not?"
"Yes, my lady."
"The Tisroc is to old, his sons to dark; King Lune is also to old and in addition has already been married and has a son. I do not want to deal with anyone else's son. There is one land that I have not yet considered. What do you know of Narnia?"
"Narnia? Is that the land said to be ruled by a dreadful sorceress? Bound forever in ice and snow?" The maid looked both terrified and appalled that her mistress would even name the land.
"I have heard that the curse was lifted some time ago," Lady Ariella paused. "Has our guest retired for the night? If not, see what you can learn from him or his servants about Narnia and her rulers."
The maid curtseyed and disappeared, leaving Ariella alone in her room once again. The lady rose slowly from her chair and walked across the well-decorated room. A room she had designed herself. Gorgeous tapestries embroidered or woven by her own hands covered much of the walls. Where there were no tapestries, perfect paintings of the lands surrounding her castle hung or else mirrors framed in gold and silver. The bed was covered in a quilt of softest down and silks and satins formed the canopy. So engrossed in the examination of her handiwork was Lady Ariella, that she did not notice the return of her maid at first and so was startled when Sarai spoke.
A small scream escaped Lady Ariella's lips and she whirled abruptly (but gracefully) around. "How many times must I tell you not to do that to me! What have you discovered?"
"You were indeed correct, Narnia is no longer in the hands of a sorceress. Instead, she is ruled by two kings and two queens…"
"Two queens and two kings? Then Narnia cannot be of any use to me. Her kings are already taken."
"Actually, no, my lady. The kings and queens that rule Narnia are siblings. They are said to have come from a distant land called "Spare Oom" and conquered the witch and now they reign together."
"Really? What are the names of the kings and their ages?"
"The eldest is called the High King Peter. He is said to be about twenty-one years old and bears the title of 'the Magnificent.' The younger is eighteen, I am told, and called 'King Edmund the Just.' Both are said to be exceedingly strong and handsome."
"The 'Just' and 'Magnificent'? 'Magnificent.' It is a promising name. Spread the word. Tomorrow morning two hours after dawn we must be ready to depart for Narnia. It seems that I may have finally found a man worthy of my brilliance."
A/N—This is a Mary Sue story. As if that wasn't obvious. It is meant to be a MS story. I owe the title and later developments to Electrum and "They Also Serve." They have been kindly lent to me for the duration of this story.
Coming next—A Departure and an Arrival