The Guardian

Being the true account of the elder brother of Aravis Tarkheena: Asharaad Tarkaan, and his exploits in the West of Calormen, his saving of a Daughter of the Tisroc (mayheliveforever), and his coming into Narnia.

Disclaimer: The author of this fanfiction owns nothing within save the words in which the story is communicated.


Prologue

In the province of Calavar in the land of Calormen, a dark-skinned boy paced anxiously in a garden.

He was only seven years old, rather young to be wandering alone in a garden at night (which explained the shadowed forms of two nursemaids who would rather be hovering over him but had satisfied themselves with waiting beside a desert rose tree and watching the child nervously). And although his silky black hair, windblown and rumpled, gave him the appearance of a mischievous urchin, the fine fabric of his tunic and leggings, as well as the unconscious air of magnanimity that he wore (amusingly) like a cloak, both told of his noble heritage.

From time to time the youth raised his scowling face from the stones to the stars as he marched back and forth along the paved paths. Ah, the stars—they gleamed in the sky like a thousand silver islands in a sea of velvet black, with the setting moon a full, luminous ball that looked so real and large that young Asharaad often reached up to grab it from the sky, only to be disappointed when his hands touched nothing at all.

The nursemaids began murmuring to each other (quietly, so as not to disturb the young master), but they silenced their chatter quickly when the garden gate opened, and a servant limped through. Jerking his head erect, the boy turned and leapt forward to meet the old man who was his father's scribe.

"Yazhaan!" exclaimed young Asharaad, "You know something? Have they called for me? Is it—all right?"

"I regret, son of my Master, that I have no news for thee yet," declared the servant, bowing his balding head ruefully. "The Mistress is yet in pain, and if wilt not go to thy bed, there is naught to do but wait."

"Why is it taking so long?" the child asked, his scowl returning as he brushed at his eye. He'd been awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of bustle, as well as the sounds of someone in pain. "It must be awful, for I can sometimes hear screams from inside the house—like the screams that woke me."

"It is the way that children have entered the world from the beginning of time," old Yazhaan told the boy, gently. "As the poet said, 'It is the rigor of breaking the shell of the nut that makes the meat inside worth the trouble'."

"Do not speak to me of nuts and shells," grumbled Asharaad, who was, in the manner of most young Calormene children, rather impatient with the poets. He turned away from the old scribe, but then had a thought. "Stay, and tell me of the stars to make me not mind the screaming."

Old Yazhaan was very adept at hiding smiles. He did so now, as he complied with the young master's request.

"Do you see that star, son of my Master?" the old scribe asked, pointing to what was, for the moment, the very brightest star in the sky. The boy squinted at it, wrinkling his nose as he strove to see.

"The one above the fountain, you mean?"

"As the monkey who had been bitten said to the snake who'd bitten him in midleap, 'Your eyes are sharper than the stingers of thy mouth,'" said old Yazhaan, smiling. "That is the Seventh Star of Harvest, the eye of the Jealous Maiden who chases the Hunter across the sky when the leaves of the tree turn red."

"The Jealous Maiden?" Asharaad asked, sounding somewhat intimidated, as he met the wickedly flashing star and wondered how he would feel if it was really someone's eye. "Tis a horrid name. I don't like it, and I don't like her. Give it a new name."

Again, the old scribe's practice in restraining his amusement was put to a serious test. After a moment of what the young Asharaad thought was contemplation, the old man mused, "There is another tale about this star, which our poets heard from the north lands, where the snow is silver like yon moon. Their poets say the star is a Great Lady, whose torch guides the sun as he rises in the morning."

The youth, who had perked up at the word "snow", looked with renewed interest upon the star. It was no longer frightening. "Has the Great Lady a name?"

With a bitter smile, the old scribe nodded and replied, "The Lord Sun cries her name as he rises, as do the gulls (who taught it to our birds, the rooks) when they see him show his face each morn. 'Aravir! Aravir!' It is a northern name, son of my Master," he added, seeing the young brow wrinkle at a kind of name the boy had never heard before.

"Aravir." The young boy rolled it around in his mouth, and found it tasted sweet. "Aravir. The Lady who brings the Dawn. How did she come to be in the sky?"

However, as old Yazhaan opened his mouth to answer, the garden gate burst open, and a slender servant girl burst through, panting as though she'd been running. She straightened and bowed when they turned to look at her, and then said, a bit breathlessly, "O son of my Master, your father bids you come inside, for the perils of the night are past and all is well."

"All is well!" exclaimed the boy as the scowl on his face vanished, and he began glowing almost as brightly as the stars. "They're calling for me!"

He turned to look at the old scribe, who was watching him fondly in silence, and became suddenly serious. Young Asharaad bowed his head quickly and said, "I will call the name of the Great Lady with Lord Sun, when he rises in the morn."

The old man could not keep from smiling this time, as he nodded. "He will be glad for the company, as he sings the day to life."

And then, with a flash of a grin, the boy turned and pounded through the gate and up into the household of his father. The servant girl followed, begging him (in a low voice, for fear of waking guests of the house) to have a care as he ran past artifacts and pieces of artwork worth more than her life. However, the child did not slow until he reached an open door, where the glow from inside cast a warm light on the rest of the dark, somber house.

"Mother?" he cried, pausing at the door to look in. He paused, struck by the beauty of the scene.

A woman was resting upon the bed, leaning back among the pillows as a servant combed her hair with perfume. Her name was Azaraleen Tarkheena, and she smiled when she saw the boy standing in the doorway, uncertain of whether or not to come in.

"Asharaad!" she exclaimed softly, half raising her hand to him, but then recalling something that caused her to draw it back.

A wide grin spread across his face, and the boy went forward to embrace her, to touch her, to see that she was really and truly well. It seemed impossible that the screams had been hers, so comfortable and well did she look. Before he reached her, though, a hand closed on his arm and drew him back.

"You must not touch her yet, my son," said the voice of the boy's father—a tall man with a neatly clipped beard whose name of Kidrash Tarkaan was well loved in the province of Calavar, over which he was lord. "She is unclean for three more days, and then you may embrace her."

The boy, clearly not understanding, gave his father a slight scowl, but stepped back a bit obediently. He could not, however, resist the urge to call out, "You are well then, Mother? I feared for you, such that I could not sleep!"

Her eyes laughed at him, the weary, loving sort of laughing which he didn't mind at all. In fact, it made him want to laugh with her. Then her gaze flickered up to her husband and she said, "My husband? Mean you to let him wait forever?"

"Wait for what?" Asharaad asked, a furrow appearing in his brow. His father gestured to a servant who was holding a bundle of clothes—the boy's old nursemaid, in fact. He recognized her because she was fatter than most their servants, with a kindly, cooing way of talking. She handed the bundle of clothes to the Tarkaan, who then crouched down next to his son.

It was not a bundle of clothes. There was a dark face amid the olive color of the cloth, with ruddy cheeks and a tiny, delicate nose. The wrinkled rosebud of her mouth was open, as the babe breathed in and out, squeaking as it did. But the most interesting thing about the baby, the thing from which young Asharaad could not look away, were a pair of large, dark eyes, staring up at him intelligently.

"She is thy sister, my son," said Kidrash softly. "It is tradition that the eldest son shall give name to his sister, for although you were named for your ancestor, she is set apart from our line."

"Husband," said Azaraleen, eyeing her son with a little concern. "Perhaps he is too young. Surely—"

The words meant nothing to the boy, who was staring intently at the babe's dark eyes. In the corner of each, there was a little star, bright and joyful, and speaking to him, somehow. He looked up and around the room and froze as a servant drew back the curtain and let in the first sunbeam of morning. The sun was rising, and suddenly he heard the rooks crying in the trees outside. Aravir. Aravir. But he couldn't call her that.

"Aravis," Asharaad said, saying the name firmly and deliberately, meeting those dark, new eyes and watching as the little stars in them shone. "I name her Aravis, for she came and called the sun, and there was dawn."

And his mother, who had heard the self-same story from old Yazhaan when she was but a girl, was content.