Disclaimer: I don't own anything except Gilgamesh and the parrot. Yes, they were my brilliant idea. (Just kidding...)
Author's Note: Chapter 4 is here! FINALLY!! I'm REALLY sorry for making you guys wait so long; I've been buried in homework and babysitting jobs, and I've had a bad case of writer's block...not a helpful combination. I also have one quick confession. The Forbidden Room I mentioned is not in this chapter; it's going to be in the next one. Sorry! I PROMISE it will be in the next one. Okay, I'll shut up so you can read now... Enjoy! (And review!!)
Chapter 4 Jumping on the Bed
The wide, dusty road began to zigzag up the center of Tashbaan and soon they came to finer streets. Palm trees and pillared arcades cast dark shadows over the burning pavements. Aravis could sometimes see great statues of the gods and heroes of Calormene rising on shining pedestals, and arched gateways of huge palaces with cool fountains and smooth lawns inside. It was outside one of these palaces that they finally stopped. Although the gates were shut, as soon as the herald announced their coming a gatekeeper came and let them pass through. They entered into a large courtyard with a smooth, green lawn and exotic palm trees planted along the white walls surrounding it. The short path led to a wide, paved circle in the middle of the courtyard, from which there branched out two more paths.
"Mother," asked Aravis, "where do they lead?"
Araleena pointed at the left-hand path. "That leads to the palace, and the other leads to the stables, kennels and cages. That is where our animals will be kept."
They halted and the riders dismounted. As the elephants went on their knees, Aravis and her family climbed down; and slaves were sent to carry their belongings and take care of the animals. She watched in fascination as they lowered the tents off the elephants' backs with strong ropes and attached long poles to either side of the platforms the tents were on.
"Mother, they turned them into litters! I never knew that was how they did it."
"If you spent less time with idle day-dreams of the distant world and paid more attention to your surroundings, you would know many things," said Araleena, who thought her daughter might have noticed such details at her own home by now. Aravis didn't answer back, but shared a look with her brother that said everything.
Just then a slave in fine clothes approached and bowed deeply.
"O my master and mistress, I have been sent to escort you into the palace. Gilgamesh Tarkaan awaits you."
"Lead on," commanded Kidrash with a lofty wave of his hand. The slave nodded and gestured them to follow. They turned up the left path, up five shallow steps. And there was the white palace, just a few yards away, surrounded by fruit trees and lush gardens. The slave led them through the pillared entrance, and bowed low to the ground; for coming towards them was a tall, middle-aged man in a silk, cream-colored turban and robes of deep blue. It was Gilgamesh. He stopped and saluted Kidrash.
"Well met, Kidrash Tarkaan. May the strength of Tash be ever upon you."
Kidrash returned the gesture.
"And also upon you, Gilgamesh Tarkaan. The gods smile on the hour of our meeting." The tarkaan then turned to Araleena and bowed.
"Greetings, Araleena Tarkheena. May your grace and beauty forever outshine the stars in the universe." She in turn curtsied, in the Calormene way (which is much different than ours).
"I offer my deepest thanks, Gilgamesh Tarkaan, for giving us the honor of this visit."
"The honor is mine, O Tarkheena." He turned back to Kidrash.
"I trust your journey was a safe one?"
"It was. Indeed, for my son it was perhaps too safe, for he soon grew incessantly bored. I was compelled to order him not to play pranks on the elephant driver." They both chuckled, and Gilgamesh looked at Emmel with twinkling eyes.
"Is that so, young tarkaan? Well, I'm certain I can arrange a cure for your ailment in a moment."
Emmel grinned, and couldn't help saying, "Oh thank you, sir!" Gilgamesh chuckled again, and then looked down at Aravis, who was still waiting for her turn to be noticed.
"And this must be your sister, Aravis." She looked up at him, expectantly, and he smiled back. "How old are you, little tarkheena?"
"I'm five years old," she answered. Emmel gave her a small nudge, and she hastily added, "Sir."
"Great Tash! Children grow swiftly, do they not, Kidrash? But come, come," he waved them inside and led them into the main room, "enough with formalities and small talk. Let us show you your guest rooms and allow you to settle in. We shall have refreshments and conversation later." He called for his slaves and ordered them to escort his guests to their rooms. As they parted, he added, "Kidrash, after you and your wife have refreshed yourselves, it would please me greatly to have you join me in the garden for food and wine. We have much to discuss."
Kidrash nodded. "It shall be so."
The slaves then led them out of the main room, up a staircase, into a long corridor, and to their rooms. Aravis and her mother's were both on the right side, and Kidrash and Emmel's on the left. Araleena turned to her daughter and said,
"Now Aravis, I must leave you for a while to get settled into my own room, and then to talk with your father and Gilgamesh. Please remember that we are guests here, and that we must treat our host's property with respect. Which also means…"
"No jumping on the bed," finished Aravis, grudgingly.
"That is correct. However, I hear that Gilgamesh has brought up a chest of toys and some pets for you, so I am sure you shall find other means of amusing yourself. I must go now, but please obey me and do not get into mischief."
"Yes, Mother." Aravis glumly watched her mother go inside the room next to hers, then entered her own. It was airy and spacious, though not much bigger than her bedroom back home (which was rather large anyway). The thin curtains were gently fluttering in the warm breeze, and sunlight streamed through the windows. A thick, luxurious carpet was laid on the floor next to her bed, and in one corner of the room was a large, cedar chest full of toys. But they did not interest Aravis; rather she had her eyes on the vain-looking bird in the cage hanging next to her bed. She climbed up for a better look.
"Squaawk! The bolt of Tash falls from above!"
"Well, you're loud," remarked Aravis. She brought her finger closer to the cage, quickly drawing it back as the parrot lunged for her hand. "And not much fun, either." She plopped down on the bed and sighed. "I wish Emmel could play with me. He knows how to make everything fun." She stood up, plopped down again, (just for the sake of doing it), slid off and ran to the toys. She played with them for about half an hour, then ran back and plopped on the bed again (for no reason, of course). And then again. And again…
A little later, Aravis was happily jumping on the bed and squawking back at the palace parrot, who was eyeing her disdainfully from its golden cage.
"Squaawk! Such impudence, such impudence!"
"Oh, 'such impudence' yourself," retorted Aravis.
"Squaawk! Tash shall have his vengeance! Squaawk!"
"Fine, you pig-headed parrot." Aravis stuck out her tongue and turned away with her haughty little nose in the air. She kept bouncing and began singing her favorite nursery rhyme…
twirling, 'round and 'round
Dancing as we go
Flying from the mountain-tops
To the valleys down below…
The singing stopped abruptly and her head whipped 'round towards the doorway. It was her mother calling. She jumped one more time but her feet got caught in the hem of her dress, which made her trip and tear her skirt. She quickly recovered herself, smoothed her clothes and straightened her hair, and sat on the edge of her bed.
A moment later, Araleena came in and saw her. But the Tarkheena wasn't fooled. Her head tilted slightly to one side, and she gave her daughter "that look".
"What did I say about jumping on the bed?"
Aravis made her eyes big and sweet, and pretended to be confused.
"Jumping on the bed?" she asked, ever so innocently.
"Yes, jumping on the bed," said Araleena, in a threatening tone. "Do not load your young mouth with falsehoods, for as one of the poets said, 'He who attempts to deceive the judicious is already baring his own back for the scourge'. Now were you jumping on the bed?"
"What does 'jood-ish-ssus' mean? And what's a scourge?" Her mother gave an exasperated sigh.
"Do not avoid the question! You disobeyed me, and you are well aware of it."
A guilty, and somewhat goofy grin spread across Aravis's face, which now had the look of a prankster who'd just been caught. She giggled and playfully fell backwards.
"How did you know?" she groaned.
"Swords can be kept off with shields, but the Eye of Wisdom pierces through every defense." Her mother pointed an accusing finger at the bed. "Now what did I say about this?"
Aravis's face fell. "To not to," she mumbled, her lower lip sticking out the tiniest bit.
"And what should you say now?"
"I'm sorry." (Except she didn't feel sorry at all.)
Araleena nodded. "Very well. Don't do it again." Then "the look" vanished from her face and was replaced with a smile. "Do you know why I came for you?"
Her daughter perked up immediately. "Why?"
"Gilgamesh is taking us to visit the temple, and afterwards he is holding a feast in our honor."
Aravis gave a squeal of delight and rushed forward eagerly.
"Oh let's go, let's hurry!" She grabbed her mother's hand and tried to drag her along. Araleena laughed.
"Stay a moment, Aravis. First you must change into suitable clothes; this dress is quite wrinkled and…" She looked closer at the hem and clucked her tongue disapprovingly. "Oh goodness, child, you've ripped it! What in the name of Tash shall I do with you?" She called to the maid who was standing by. "Here, dress my daughter in clothing more appropriate for our visit to the temple. And make haste." The maid curtsied and came forward. Araleena looked down at her daughter. "I must go now and make myself ready. When it is time to leave, a slave will come to escort you. And please, no more foolishness."
"Yes, Mother," said Aravis. "But…Mother?"
"How did you know I was jumping on the bed?"
Araleena just smiled at her mysteriously and said,
"Mothers always know."
And with that, she turned and left the room. (Of course, if Aravis had been more observant, she would have noticed that the once-smooth bedclothes were rumpled.)
Author's Note: Again, I'm sorry about the Forbidden Room thing. But don't worry; it's coming up next FOR SURE. I hope... Anyways, thanks for all of your support; it's what keeps me writing. I even printed up your reviews so I can read them whenever I need cheering up. (It really works, too!)
Time for shoutouts!
almostinsane: Thank you! And thanks for sharing your ideas with me. Don't worry; I remembered about "multiple gods" thing, too. I will be showing that in the next chapter, so stay tuned!
Almyra: Oh good! I'm glad chap. 3 wasn't as boring as I thought. I'm glad you liked the elephants!
elecktrum: Yay! You liked it too! Cool, I never thought about Aravis and the gates like that. I love when people point out things in my stories that I never catch; it makes things more interesting for me. Thank you!
vanitys.closet: Good, I'm glad my description of Tashbaan turned out alright. Thanks for the encouragement! God bless you, too!
xOraclex: Hey, thanks for the feedback! Yes, I will keep adding chapters (even if it takes me a while).
fledge: Sorry about the griping thing. I'm a first-born perfectionist, so I tend to "make mountains out of mole-hills" a lot. I'm glad YOU thought it was good; it made me feel a lot better about it. Thanks for reviewing! (Please keep doing it!)
Swanwhite2: Wow, thank you! And yes, I am utterly determined to stay true to the books. Oh yes, I have the scene where Aravis and Lasaraleen meet all planned out. It's gonna be cute. I'm glad you have a C2 for Cor and Aravis. It's hard to find fanfics about them (because almost everyone only writes about the Pevensies), so it's nice to have them all in one place.
Foro: Wow, getting that kind of praise from you is just...wow. I went to your Elendia website and my jaw hit the floor. You are so gifted! Please hurry and write your first chapter (and another fanfic while you're at it)! Anyways, thank you SO MUCH! (Keep reviewing!) And yes, I will try and make my chapters longer.
ChabeMica: Thanks for reviewing! I'll keep updating if you keep clicking that little blue button! (And be patient. You'll feel more identified with Aravis in Part 2.)
Thank you everybody! Please keep reviewing; I love hearing from you! (I'll just go work on chapter 5 now...)
Really, REALLY coming up next: Aravis gets lost in the temple and finds her way inside the Forbidden Room...