My thanks to Anastasia S. for allowing me to borrow Beryl, the boy-turned-unicorn, from her wonderful story Secrets of Narnia: The Book of Myths and Legends.
20 Quickening, 1002
It's Neville. Your son. Bizzy is feeling better and came down to the barracks to visit me and Meep. Meep isn't in trouble any more (he was set to clean the whole barracks by himself as punishment) but you wouldn't know by looking at him. He's still upset about cutting off the general's tail and I had to pin him with my jaws to keep him from cutting off his own tail because Mice think their tails are like our stripes and sources of pride and he felt bad having his whole tail when General Oreius only had half of his. He tasted terrible. Captain Kanell ordered him to stop being silly because the general's tail will grow back and Meep's wouldn't. I heard Captain Kanell tell Lieutenant Xati about it and she said King Edmund found the outcome of Meep's rescue mission very funny because the general was always telling him to get his hair cut. - So now not only is my hair not safe around him, but my tail as well? Thank you for the warning. Now get on with the story!
Rather than lose a day, the kings and queens decided to work into the evening and instead of the usual court, they invited people to see them in one of the smaller rooms. That way they solved a lot of minor problems until they were almost caught up with their duties. They did this because they were expecting an embassy from King Lune in two days and didn't want to appear as if they couldn't make do without a chamberlain.
The following day at court was . . . pungent is the word Merina used. I think that means very, very smelly because when we entered the throne room there was a terrible tang in the air that was so strong that I could taste it. It tasted worse than Meep. The kings and queens looked very confused and they couldn't help but cough at the stench.
Then King Edmund looked alarmed and King Peter looked to where his brother stared and then the queens, so I looked, too. In the spot where the chamberlain stood or hung or perched I saw a small, chubby, very hairy weasel with stubby legs that was all black with white stripes. She had a pink bow tied atop her head and she had bright brown eyes and for all her charming appearance, she smelled worse than Uncle Rory after he eats fish left in the sun for too many days. – Please don't say anything more! I must say, Mum, that she was the prettiest Skunk I've ever seen, and indoors she was very . . . pungent.
I saw King Peter swallow and compose himself as he guided Queen Lucy to her throne. As he passed his sisters, the High King gave them both very puzzled looks and they shook their heads. King Edmund raised both hands and said, 'Blameless!' when it was his turn for that inquiring glance. King Peter sat down, his face a perfect study in anxiety. He looked at the Skunk and coughed and said,
'Be welcome Lady . . .?'
"Ambergriet,' she replied with a bow, and her voice was very chirpy and musical. 'Your Majesties.'
King Edmund, who was closest to her, wheezed, 'Pray call forth the first order of business.'
'Business?' she wondered with a smile. 'Your pardon, my king, but what business?'
'On the list before you, Lady,' hinted Queen Lucy when King Edmund was too busy gagging at the smell to make reply. She was closest to the open windows.
Ambergriet looked at the paper, then up at the royal family, and she smiled. 'But I cannot read this!'
King Peter choked and managed to ask, 'How can you be the new chamberlain, then?'
The Skunk actually giggled. 'I am not the new chamberlain, Majesty! I am the new chamber maid! I think I have been directed wrongly by the nice Okapi!'
There was a wave of relief throughout the assembly. King Peter fell back in his throne and muttered 'Thank Aslan,' as King Edmund, his eyes watering, bolted out of the room to the hall behind and I could hear him gasping for fresh air. Queen Susan stood up and called for one of the servants to escort the new maid to meet the head of the palace staff. One of King Edmund's Satyr guards let out a sigh and relaxed his grip on his lance too far. It slipped from his hand and clattered to the floor behind Ambergriet. She bounced about a bit and let out a little 'Eeek!' and a moment later a cloud of stink rose up and Ambergriet cried, 'Oh! Your pardon!' at the poor Satyr that had just caught her smelly, oily, pungent wrath. - Serves him right for scaring a Skunk!
Now everyone was coughing and gasping and trying to to find fresh air. If the room had been on fire people could not have moved faster. I think everyone forgot all their disputes because everyone scattered and the throne room was almost empty in seconds. Queen Susan's eyes were tearing as she said, 'Court is dismissed!' as King Peter bravely took a deep breath and went to help the Satyr.
'Get someone in here to clean this up,' he ordered. 'And someone to clean up Kiran here. Su, Lu, go join Ed. I'll . . .' He broke down coughing, but the queens fled and I was happy to follow. The last thing I saw before I started crying was Ambergriet, looking very sweet in her stripes and bow, cooing up at the unhappy Satyr. I think she's the kind of girl it's hard to stay mad at. I'd like to meet her again, but outside and on a windy day with me standing upwind. I got to the hall and hung my head low and had a long laugh.
So! There was no court that day and the staff spent all day and all night and then all morning scrubbing the smell out of the throne room and the royal family. They were all very red the next day and smelled strongly of herbs and soap. You might want to tell Swoosie that they use soap for cleaning here at Cair Paravel, not for making the rocks by the river slick enough to slide on. And tell Otzo they don't eat it, either. - No more abuses of soap, please, Neville!
We were following Queen Susan and her family once again to the throne room where they were going to meet the Archenlanders later on. I was wondering what grown-up Humans looked like because I know our kings and queens are very young.
As we walked down the hall a whole pack of brightly-dressed, giggling nymphs (they always giggle, Mum) passed by, all of them pausing to curtsy before they hurried on. King Peter stared, and as always he seemed confused. -I suspect he's used to the feeling.
'Ed, were they wearing your old tunics?' he asked.
King Edmund glanced at the waving, happy, giggly mass of green- and blue-skinned nymphs. 'No, Peter, those were your tunics.'
'You gave them my clothes?'
King Edmund shrugged. 'It was harvest time and you certainly weren't using them.'
The High King gave up, and I swallowed a chuckle as Queen Lucy laughed. King Peter looked to Queen Susan. 'Did you find a chamberlain, Su?'
'Yee-es,' she said, and I felt my hackles rise a bit at her tone. She didn't sound very confident.
'Who is it?' demanded King Edmund.
'Um . . . a cousin of Flisk's,' she said.
I didn't find out until later that Flisk was the Unicorn that King Peter rode into battle. He was a mighty warrior, but it seemed his cousin wasn't nearly as impressive.
King Edmund stopped in his tracks so abruptly that King Peter almost ran him down. They untangled themselves and King Edmund begged,
Queen Susan blushed and lifted her head. 'And if it is?'
King Peter groaned and held his head. 'Please not Travers.'
The throne room was extra clean and at first I thought the place had been washed with perfume. There was a very sweet smell in the air - as strong as Ambergriet, almost, and it was like overripe strawberries. It was also coming from the temporary chamberlain. - You don't know Travers, do you?
Now Unicorns are very pretty Beasts, but Travers seemed bent on out-prettying everyone. He was tall and snowy white and his bluish horn was brightly polished. His hooves were coated with gold and he was hung with chains and bright ribbons and there were sparklies on his tail and on his scruff - that's his mane! - and little chains hung with bells around his ankles so he tinkled with every step. He moved all the time but he wasn't like Bitsie, who was always twitchy. He kept turning to look at his tail and to check his reflection in the polished shield of one of the guards standing close behind him. I don't know what he expected to happen, but he kept checking and his feet were very noisy. - Meet Travers, Neville.
The kings looked at each other and shook their heads as they took their seats and King Edmund immediately sneezed. I don't think his nose liked Travers' perfume. Queen Susan nodded at the Unicorn to begin.
'Ahem!' said Travers. He made a great show of tossing his scruff - mane - and cleared his throat three or four more times, getting louder each time and tossing his hair about until more people were looking at him. He struck a handsome pose and made a horsey noise like a laugh and said grandly, 'My queens! My kings! I humbly beg your royal leave to announce the first visitor to your court here at Cair Paravel!'
'Please, Travers, proceed,' said Queen Lucy a little impatiently.
He bowed very low. Several of the ribbons in his scruff - it's a MANE! - slid about and rather than get to business, Travers spent some time shifting and twitching until all his ribbons were back in place. He checked himself in the polished shield and even tried to see his teeth. Then he remembered what he was about and whispered to the court recorder, 'Is my mane straight?'
King Edmund looked at King Peter between sneezes and muttered, 'Spoken like a true son of Beryl.'
Minovin glared at the Unicorn and said between clenched teeth, 'Get thee to business, Chamberlain!'
He sniffed at her and arranged himself again. 'Presenting Chief of the Red Dwarf Clan Kellerbeam.'
The Red Dwarf - a jolly sort - was there to present some sketches of a port that was under construction somewhere north of the palace. I don't know what ports do, but this one seemed very nice. Travers left his place and stood in front of Kellerbeam to see the pictures, blocking the royal family's view.
'I like that one!'
'Thank you, Travers,' snapped King Peter. 'Kellerbeam, pray leave the sketches with Minovin and we'll -'
'That one is just not as pretty as the first one,' said Travers, pointing to the next sketch with his horn. 'You should make it nicer.'
'Travers . . . '
I wheezed out a laugh. King Peter glared at me with that heavy glare of his. Kellerbeam handed over the sketches and escaped. Travers got back to work.
'Announcing Mrs. Maddy Ridgeback of the Shuddering Woo-' He stopped, for the first time noticing his reflection on the polished floor. 'Oh, my!' Travers cried. He jingled this way and that, staring at himself, and then looked at Minovin. 'Should I have had my tail braided instead?'
Queen Susan let out a long breath. King Edmund started sneezing so hard that he had to hold his crown in place so it didn't end up in his lap or on the floor. I felt a laugh start to well up inside me, the kind of laugh you just can't stop and lasts a long, long time. It wasn't the best thing to do but I couldn't help it. Travers was trying very hard to see the gewgaws on his tail and turned completely around, saying,
'Do these ribbons make me look fat?'
I laughed, trying hard not to make any noise but I sounded as if I was yipping and coughing at once. There was no other sound except for Travers' bells. One of Queen Lucy's ladies hurried over and whispered something to her. She passed the word to Queen Susan, who hissed to King Peter,
'The ambassador is early!'
King Peter's eyes grew wide and he stood up. He looked quite upset and furious as Travers kept moaning over what he should or shouldn't have worn.
'Travers!' he yelled.
The Unicorn was still, shocked that he was being yelled at.
'Your services as chamberlain are no longer required! Dismissed! You there!'
Travers huffed and stomped out, but no one paid any attention. Everyone turned to see who the High King was pointing and glaring at and looked at . . . me. I choked on my own laugh and wished I was too small to be seen. If glares could have weight I would have been crushed like a gooseberry.
'What is your name?' demanded King Peter.
I stood with my mouth hanging open and my ears far down and I couldn't say a thing. Just then Meep jabbed me with the tip of his sword and I jumped.
'N-Neville,' I squeaked, sounding like Meep. King Edmund sneezed mightily and I remembered to add, 'Your Majesty.'
'Neville,' said King Peter, trying out my name in a tone of voice I didn't like at all. 'You're neither shy nor silent! Over here!'
He pointed from me to the spot where the chamberlain stood.
'Now,' he hissed.
I didn't know what to do except obey, Mum. I slunk over. The throne room looked almost the same from the other side. -It would be odd if it did not.
'The list is before you,' continued the High King urgently. 'You'll read the names and business off in a clear voice. You will not laugh, fall asleep, move about, or cause a disruption. Is that understood?'
I was too frightened to answer and I nodded fast and hard.
'Until Sir Giles returns, you are hereby appointed Chamberlain of the Court.' He glanced at the doors. 'Now, announce the ambassador from Archenland.'
He sat down, waiting. I was very impressed that he had so much confidence in me and I found the ambassador's name on the list. It had been a frustrating time for the royal family and I did not want to add to it or get glared at again.The job seemed simple enough, so I found my voice and read loud enough for everyone to hear:
'Announcing His Royal Highness Prince Vanine, ambassador from the court of King Lune of Archenland, and his wife Princess Kel.'
I looked up. Meep and Merina both sighed. The ambassador and his wife stood in the door looking very pleased. The High King nodded in satisfaction and the queens smiled at me and at first King Edmund just sniffed but then he smiled a little bit before letting loose with one last sneeze. Queen Susan looked over at King Peter and said, 'You win,' which made her younger brother and sister smile wider and her older brother chuckle.
So, Mum, that's the story of how I got my second job here at Cair Paravel. It came as a shock to me and everyone else, too. I train in the morning and when Sir Giles isn't here I fill in as chamberlain in the afternoons. It's quite a bit of fun and I like working for all the kings and queens, not just Queen Susan (though she's very nice!) I suppose I'm a good chamberlain because I was the last one they appointed and I made certain to follow King Peter's orders carefully. I think you'd be proud of how I do both jobs. I like it here at Cair Paravel and I like the people and I've made lots of friends. I don't think you need to worry. - Indeed, Mrs. Mum, Meep and I are looking after him.
Love your son,
P.S. I have a nickname now. Everyone calls me 'You There!'
P.P.S. Mum, Ambergriet told me that Bizzy isn't Bizzy but Bizmy.
P.P.P.S And he's a girl!