Ruling a kingdom, wearing splendid clothes, and going to extraordinary banquets every night, are all fantasies that fill the minds of children everywhere. Pretending to be dashing, honorable knights or beautiful, kind ladies is a game that children have held dear for centuries. Few, if any, children ever get to fulfill their fantasies. This, however, was not the case with the four Pevensie siblings who, due to a prophecy and a series of unbelievable events, ruled their kingdom of Narnia with grace and dignity far exceeding their years.
This sounds like a delightful life but the children learned shortly after their reign began that it was hard work that kept a country running and safe. A lot of hard work. The two kings, High King Peter the Magnificent and Edmund the Just, had to go to weapons practice every day and learn how to use every tool in their arsenal. Kings needed to know how to protect their countries. The two queens, Susan the Gentle and Lucy the Valiant, were given lessons on how to properly run a court. They, along with their brothers, had to learn the history of Narnia and all her customs so they could handle their subject's problems justly.
One of the most important and most difficult lessons to learn was that of diplomacy. While Edmund had taken to the lesson quickly, showing a gift for the subject, and Susan also understood its importance and could gracefully handle most situations, Peter and Lucy were not as fond of the lesson. It was not that these two did not understand the topic, it was simply that their natures did not allow it to be as easily learned. Both siblings were more blunt and spoke their minds, often times becoming angry at injustice which caused them to speak or act without diplomacy. While there was hardly anything Edmund hated worse than injustice both he and Susan understood the fact that there was evil even in their blessed realm of Narnia and the only way to deal with that evil was sometimes with diplomacy. However, they all got the chance to put this lesson to the test a little over a year after their reign began.
When not at their daily lessons, the young monarchs were busy dealing with the problems created by the White Witch. There were still beings corrupted by her evil influence so the kings went on many campaigns against these creatures while their worthy sisters ran the country. However, it soon became necessary to form alliances with the surrounding countries that were in turmoil themselves.
To protect Narnia's peace and safety they needed to be on peaceful terms with the surrounding nations and keep them on peaceful terms with each other in order to keep Narnia from being pulled into the fray. The first order of business had been Archenland and thank the Lion the negotiations had gone beautifully. King Lune was more than willing to be lifelong friends with Narnia and it was clear there would be no animosity between the two countries. Telmar had been a bit of a challenge. That country was far from friendly but their system of government had been much like England so the monarchs knew how to handle them. A peace treaty had been drawn up and signed, ensuring that Telmar would start no wars or invasions with Narnia or Archenland while the Golden Age was in effect. That left one far away land; Calormen.
And that is where our story begins, with our four monarchs and their body guards headed toward the strange land. The Kings and Queens were currently riding on their majestic steeds while their Faun guards followed on hoof. Their kingdom was left in the capable hands of Oreius and Mr. Tumnus because the children believed it was important for appearance and negotiations if all four monarchs were present. Plus they worked better together as a team rather than apart. They shared an inseparable bond forged in hardship, perseverance, and love, which was a bond that could never be broken. They trusted each other with their lives, which was the deepest kind of trust.
Peter and Susan were the parental figures to the younger two children, though none of them were truly children anymore. Peter had become wise in his ruling and he had become more of a man than England would have produced. He was also incredibly protective of his siblings but in unique ways. Telmar had taught him that he needed to protect Susan from potential suitors and he was sure Calormen would try to teach him the same lesson but he was prepared for it this time. Edmund also had hated the way the young men had looked at Susan and Peter knew he had an ally in protecting their beautiful sister.
With Lucy, Peter wanted to protect her innocence and spirit. The youngest ruler was independent and strong and Peter knew she would be less of a challenge, assuming of course he could keep her from following him and Edmund into battle.
Edmund, dear Edmund, Peter was closest with his brother and most protective of him. They were kings, brothers, and brothers in arms, the latter had brought them closer than ever. Woe be to any enemy who even thought of attacking the Just King on the battle field because they would taste the bite of Rhindon's merciless teeth.
Edmund was much like his older brother in that he too would do anything to keep his family safe. His sisters were dear to him and they were also his friends. Susan mothered him, which he outwardly seemed to hate but really loved. Lucy was his pride and joy, as she was their older brothers, and Edmund trusted her implicitly and went to her for advice.
Peter was the dearest to his heart, though, and he was the older monarch's rock. Edmund backed his brother up in everything and one of the few things that made Edmund lose his temper was a threat against his brother. It was said that as long as the two kings were in battle together no enemy stood a chance.
The sisters also were uncommonly loyal to each other and their brothers and neither girl was without her wiles in defending their family and country.
These were the imposing figures that rode toward the gates of Calormen.
"I know this is important but I'll be ready to go back home. I miss Narnia." Lucy said conversationally.
"Here, here. I'm more than ready to be home." Edmund agreed tiredly. He had been doing most of the leg work in making the peace treaties and he would have to do it again here.
"I think we are all ready to be home but this will be a new adventure! A new set of customs to observe. It'll be fun." Peter was always interested in new things so the opportunity seemed to excite him.
"Be careful Your Highnesses. Calormen is not a safe place and they are a war loving people." One of the Faun guards warned.
"How dreadful!" Susan exclaimed, showing how gentle her nature truly was.
"Dreadful or not, it's our duty to Narnia to ensure a peace treaty so let's be on our best behavior." Edmund said with a warning in his voice. He was dedicated to making sure Narnia stayed as peaceful and undamaged by war as possible. This statement brought seriousness back to the group as they rode into Calormen's capital.
Instantly the stark difference between this city and any the royal siblings had ever known was apparent. Different from Narnia absolutely, but also drastically different from Telmar or even England. The market place was bigger than any the monarchs had ever seen and it surrounded the palace, which sat in the center of the city, on all sides.
The vast market place was bustling with people all of a darker skin tone than any Narnian or Archenlander and the men wore elaborate turbans and the women wore veils. The colors of the clothes, tapestries, and awnings were vibrant and rich with reds and browns being the dominant colors. The roads were made of dirt and the few buildings that weren't wooden lean-tos were made of a mud/plaster material. It was very clear that this was a poor city and many of the citizens looked as if they were barely surviving and there were more than a few beggars on the streets.
Many people stopped to stare at the new comers in their strange Narnian armor and clothes and although some eyes showed curiosity, none of the eyes were friendly. Guards arrived to escort them to the palace and the siblings unconsciously moved closer together.
"Pete, I feel uneasy about this. The people are so…unwelcoming. And the poverty? Something isn't right." Edmund whispered so the girls couldn't hear him.
"I agree. We must be cautious. I don't understand this place." Peter's face was stern and weary, looking every bit the man and High King he was and none of the playful boy who was with them earlier. The kings casually looked at the guards. They each wore long scimitars and powerful looking long bows. They all wore special gloves with just two fingers, indicating they were specialized in bowsmanship.
"I could best them." Susan whispered and Peter smiled. His sisters were as observant as they were. Unfortunately the fact that these were bows men meant nothing because common guards were trained differently than the elite, skilled warriors.
As the group got closer to the large palace the roads became cobblestone and there were less and less venders and homes. They entered the gates to the royal grounds and as the iron gates closed, the kids got an overwhelming sense of unease.
The inside of the palace was elaborate and lavishly decorated with silk tapestries and fine works of art, almost all of which depicted some battle or another. The floors and walls were made of polished marble and the support pillars were trimmed with gold.
"They live in riches while their people starve?" Edmund asked Peter in disgust.
"I don't understand." Innocence shown through Lucy's voice as she searched her brothers faces for answers as to why the Calormen royals seemed to be so selfish and ignorant of their people's needs. A monarch put his or her people's needs above their own. They just did!
The Narnians were ushered into the throne room, which was even more ornate than the rest of the palace, if possible. The Tisroc, or king of Calormen, sat on a throne of gold with silver trimming and jewels embedded throughout it. The Tisroc himself was a big muscular man with a long black beard and hard brown eyes. Behind him stood a myriad of people. The closest was a tall man who was beardless and wearing a tall turban and the kids knew he was the Grand Vizier. As they approached the Tisroc, each of the four monarchs bowed in a grand gesture.
"Greetings Tisroc, may you live forever." Peter said, repeating the line he was told was customary. A faint smile touched the Tisroc's lips and he stood, also sweeping into a bow of respect.
"Greetings rulers of the North. Welcome to my kingdom and please accept my hospitality for the duration of your stay." He said in thickly accented English.
"You are most gracious. May I introduce myself and my co-rulers? I am High King Peter. This is my second, King Edmund and these are my sisters, Queen Susan and Queen Lucy." The Tisroc looked momentarily baffled and said,
"Pardon me but truly you have four rulers? I thought this was a rumor only. Who needs four rulers unless one along is not powerful enough to control his people? In Calormen I rule alone and I rule absolutely." The Tisroc's haughty tone caused all four to bristle and their guards began to fidget.
Edmund could see that Peter was working hard to keep his temper so he spoke up in his brother's stead.
"In Narnia we believe it is more advanced to have four eyes and ears to watch our country and keep ourselves in check. After all, what good is a tyrant for a ruler?" Edmunds logic was delivered so smoothly and innocently that it was impossible to argue.
"We will see which country has a better ruler by the time these negations conclude I think." The Tisroc said, threateningly. Peter was about to respond angrily when the Grand Vizier stepped forward.
"My lords and ladies," he said, inclining his head to the girls, "negotiations can begin on the morrow. Tonight there is a feast to be held in honor of your visit but first let me escort you to your rooms. I'm sure you must be tired from the long journey."
"Thank you. That would be most appreciated." Susan said, also sensing the anger building in the room. The Tisroc and Vizier looked surprised that she had spoken at all but they ignored it. After formal good byes were made, the Vizier led the kids to their rooms.
When they arrived, the kids were shocked to see the grandeur of the space. The room was large enough for all four monarchs and their two guards. There were large cushions, the kids took these to be the beds, in various areas of the room and smaller cushions surrounding a low table in the center of the room. The cushions themselves were made of silk and very plush. Sheer purple drapes adorned the walls and windows and there was a small opening onto a balcony. The room was very beautiful but very elaborate.
"I hope the rooms are to your liking?" The Vizier asked, humbly.
"They are most satisfactory. Please let the Tisroc know we appreciate his kindness." Peter said, regaining his regal air. The Vizier bowed and left the kids and their guards to freshen up.
"I don't like him. At all." Peter said, waiting patiently for his siblings counsel.
"Nor do I." Susan agreed, having also gotten the unshakeable feeling that something wasn't right in this place.
"How can someone who calls himself leader live in splendor while his people starve? It's barbaric." Lucy said in disgust, righteous anger burning in her eyes.
"It's despicable but we still need a promise of peace. We are kings and queens yes, but we are also diplomats right now and we can't afford to anger the Tisroc. We must remember our manners and follow their customs for now until we get what we want. Then we can go back to our beloved Narnia." Edmund said looking at his brother. Peter's eyes shown with pride as he clamped a hand on his little brother's shoulder. He had come so far since that angry boy that followed Lucy into their new home.
"Ed, you're getting wise in your old age." Edmund grinned and playfully shoved his brother away. "Come. Let us clean up and get ready for our banquet. But be on guard all of you. I want us to observe our hosts and learn their ways but be cautious. I don't trust the Tisroc. Stay close to me tonight." Peter spoke these words as king and it was an order the kids would obey.
They all got refreshed and the girls changed into the formal dresses they had brought and the boys put on good tunics and leggings. Before long they looked like the royalty they were and a force to be reckoned with at that. Suddenly a knock came at the door and the Grand Vizier entered to escort them to the banquet hall.
If the kids had thought the luxury they had seen thus far had been too much, nothing could have prepared them for the vast banquet hall whose domed ceiling went up for at least fifty feet. Huge tables lined the hall with gold cups and plates at each setting. Dozens of Calormen nobles, Tarkaans and Tarkheenas, milled around the room and exchanged pleasant conversation. They were dressed in their fines robes and veils all of which looked very different from Narnian attire.
Everyone stopped to look at the kings and queens as they entered the hall and many whispers spread about the strange body guards. Almost none of these people had ever seen a Narnian before, so the Fauns were a strange sight to behold.
"Ah! There are my honored guests! Come sit at the head of the table with me." The Tisroc called to the royals and they were ushered to the lead table and seated with Peter and Susan on the Tisroc's right and Edmund and Lucy on his left. Many of the young men stared openly at Susan, whose doe brown eyes and perfect skin that practically glowed was hard not to stare at. Both the girls had grown so much since moving to Narnia, as had the boys, but Susan had become the object of many young men's affection as of late. Peter and Edmund glared at them all with such ferocity that most of the men quickened their paces to get away.
"I hope you are hungry little royals! In Calormen we give feasts to be remembered."
"You are a most gracious host, Tisroc may you live forever." Peter responded politely. The Tisroc laughed and clapped his hands, summoning the food. Trays of roasted Boer, steamed fish, cooked vegetables, and nuts were brought to the tables by chained slaves. The Narnia's all looked at each other in disgust with the same thought going through their heads. 'Slaves? What kind of monsters kept slaves?'
The kids politely put a little of each food onto their plates and although the food wasn't bad, the children longed for Narnian bread and fruit and Mrs. Beaver's stew. They exchanged conversation with the Tisroc and other nobles for many hours when a young Calormen approached the table with his head bowed. Peter and Edmund tensed, thinking the young man wanted Susan's attention, but the Tisroc grinned widely at him.
"I was wondering where you were, my son!" Then he turned to Peter and said, "Please allow me to introduce my son, Prince Daka." The man bowed and said quietly,
"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance my lord's, my ladies. I have heard much about your amazing kingdom."
"All good I hope?" Peter asked in a friendly way. The young man was shy but seemed nice enough.
"The very best." He responded and Peter smiled. Perhaps they had an ally here.
"My son will be joining us for negotiations tomorrow. I want him to learn all he can about the kingdom. Plus he is a gifted negotiator." The Tisroc said with pride.
"His presence will be most welcome." Edmund said as he reached for his glass of mead. Politics were a long tiring process but they didn't start until tomorrow and tonight he planned on relaxing a little, though he preferred Narnian spiced wine. The rest of the night went fairly well and around midnight the Narnians retired to their bed chambers.
The banquet hall was cleared out leaving only the Tisroc, Grand Vizier, and Prince Daka in the room.
"I don't see why we have to keep these pretenses up. We all know the negotiations are moot." The Tisroc ranted, pacing the room angrily.
"It is vital, Your Majesty, for them to believe we want peace as well. That way we can lull them into a sense of safety, convince them to send their guards back to the North to tell their people how good things are going, then we kill them all. We will ride to Narnia, our whole army, and the Narnians will think we are friends so they won't be expecting a fight and we will simply take over the country." The Vizier said with a sinister smile while Daka watched the two, looking uncomfortable.
"But father, Narnia is such a good land! Their people are happy. Actually happy! I don't see why we must pay such foul games. It's not as if we need their lands."
"Ack! My son you have much to learn! More land is power and we always need more power." The Tisroc said with a greedy grin in his eyes along with a hint of insanity. Daka just sighed and lowered his eyes in submission.
To be continued...