Preview of The Stone Gryphon, Part 2: The Queen Susan In Tashbaan
Peter followed Edmund quietly into the room his brother had been sharing with Eustace. Eustace the Prat. Eustace the Ass. Eustace the Un-dragoned. Eustace Narnia Friend and Breaker of Caspian's Second Best Sword. Eustace Who Would Likely Return To Narnia When Her Kings and Queens Would Not. It would take some getting used to.
Edmund turned away at a desk, blocking Peter's view. He was, Peter suspected, disarming some security measure he employed to alert him if someone tried to access his things. Edmund opened a drawer and handed him a very thick stack of paper.
"And this is…" Peter ended with a questioning note, thumbing through the sheaf. Truth be told, it was significantly weightier than the sum total of everything he had done for the Professor, by several magnitudes.
"That pile is Susan's letters to me this summer while she has been in Washington."
"Her letters to me have been nothing like this," Peter said, skimming the paper. Her letters had been rather dull, actually, short, and about the weather and parties, with the occasional name or location blacked out by some censor. Peter folded back a corner to a random page and saw in Susan's flowing script, "Sallowpad instructed the Queen Susan and Lord Peridan that the Tarkheena was to be their next project…"
He looked back up at Edmund. "She wrote a story? A Narnia story?"
"To the censors, it appeared, or well, it did until last week, to be an amusing and silly children's story an older sister was writing to her younger brother about a fantastical land of a Queen, a dashing knight, talking animals, and a long hot summer in the exotic, magical land of Tashbaan." Edmund sat down heavily on the bed. "In reality, that is an accounting of what our sister has been doing this holiday to further the British war effort in the American Capitol."
"Furthering the war effort?" Peter repeated, incredulous. "Susan? Our fifteen year old sister?"
"Peter, save the Royal Frowns, would you?" Edmund said, a little weary. "She's no more her apparent age than the rest of us."
Skimming more pages, he saw references to Tarkheenas, Tarkans, Tashbaan, Sallowpad, Peridan, the Tisroc, Calormen, Narnia, Ettins, Telmarines, and other familiar names and places. Peter caught a glimmer of the ploy. "So, she's been, as you say, aiding the British, and telling you about it in the form of a Narnian children's story, knowing that you would understand what she was really saying?"
Edmund nodded. "We arranged some of the terms beforehand; she's had to add as she went along. For instance, I know that Narnia is England, Calormen is America, Tashbaan is Washington, and Sallowpad is a security or intelligence chief at the British Embassy. I'm not sure if he is an individual or an amalgam, she obviously couldn't be clear. Father is King Lune, though not in the story at all, and so on."
"And Lord Peridan?" Peter was trying to envision their loyal ambassador and knight in 1942 America and his imagination was faltering.
"Peridan was an addition. In the story, don't laugh, he is a young, dashing knight and veteran of the Gryphon Aerial Corps who was wounded in battle when the armies of the Evil Ettin Giant King bombarded the beautiful city of Cair Paravel with catapults."
There was too much bizarre novelty to absorb at once; Peter forced himself to focus on the first. "Gryphon Aerial Corps?" His mind was racing with the implications of this incredible scheme. "By the Lion, it's the RAF!?"
His brother nodded, and continued, "And the Ettin King is Hitler..."
"Who has bombed London into the Stone Age with boulders thrown from catapults..."
"The Ettin King of the Northern Giants is in league with the Telmarines who have declared war on both the Calormen Empire and Free Narnia."
"Telmar being the Empire of Japan," Peter finished. What an amazing ruse. It was a classic Rat and Crow maneuver for Edmund and Susan.
"Yes. I assume that when we finally speak with her we will learn that Our Lord Peridan is in reality a combat wounded RAF fighter pilot assigned to the British Embassy."
Edmund scowled briefly and Peter sensed his brother had developed some opinions about RAF Fighter Pilot Peridan – who wasn't Peridan at all, of course.
"It's a very dodgy business, Peter."
"And what happened last week, about the censors?"
Edmund scowled again, fiercely, with something between admiration and disgust warring across his face. "Spies. I really should know better."
A disturbing chill moved through him. "What do you mean?" Peter asked cautiously.
"Asim. The man we've been referring to all summer in letters as 'the Driver' and with whom you have been discussing battle tactics. He visited me last week to tell me the gig was up."
Look for a continuation of The Stone Gryphon, Part 2: The Queen Susan in Tashbaan in July. A special thanks to the readers, including Miniver and priscipixie, for pushing me to think about Susan's story more.