By Royal Decree
Chapter 1: Under Siege
"A woman in a corset is a lie, a falsehood, a fiction, but for us, this fiction is better than the reality." Eugene Chapus, French Writer.
The following stand alone spun itself out from Edmund's rants about corsets in Chapters 5 and 7 of The Stone Gryphon, my current work in progress. The Just King demanded the opportunity to explain his rationale more fully. The Gentle Queen, however, has insisted that the countervailing arguments be heard as well. Aslan help us, they need a family therapist.
Insofar as taxes and seasonal allergies are concerned, the Just King is channeling the author in this month of April.
Rated T for very inappropriate conversation.
Still not King. Still don't own this and I never shall. With gratitude and admiration to the creator of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis. I claim no ownership interest whatsoever in any derivative fiction I write, and never have. Any original content in my derivative fiction is in the public domain and may be used freely and without notice to me or attribution.
By Royal Decree was written prior to The Palace Guard but is actually set chronologically 3 years after that story.
King Edmund the Just, Duke of Lantern Waste, Count of the Western March, Knight of the Noble Order of the Table wanted, no needed, hot tea. He needed plenty of it, laced with honey and lemon.
Spring. Bleh. Dryads. Gah. Dryads and their infernal pollination. He woke up every lovely, clear, blooming Spring day with an achy head, drippy nose, and the strong desire to remove his eyes from his head and scrub them clean. Mornings were always the worse. The dryads would be out cavorting in the early hours. Judging from the door slams before dawn today, his brother and at least one of his sisters had been gamboling about with the tree nymphs as well. That enthusiasm likely explained why there seemed to be even more yellow pollen dust about his bed chamber than usual.
Edmund sneezed again, a mighty, if not nearly magnificent one, as befitting his rank and titles. Another sneeze like that one and he might break a rib, or lose the ability to solve geometry proofs. Maybe the next sneeze would make him forget Lone Island taxation tables.
Blast, he could see the little motes of pollen dust hanging suspended in his room, dancing in the morning light, mocking him. Nyah! Nyah! You have to breathe us! We make your lungs burn! Hold your breath until summer!
Edmund sneezed. Unfortunately, he could still remember the luxury goods tax rate of the Lone Islands (it was two percent). Maybe Susan would take pity on him in his misery, and he could get her to figure out the arcane regressive tax code they had inherited from Prior Management.
His most Royal Siblings were not handicapped as he was. They did not suffer. Oh no, they could run about, frolic as they wished in the pleasant Spring, and return home coated in dust. They could keep their windows open all night. Putting their clothes out to dry on the lines would not induce in them a paroxysm of coughing. They did not suffer as he. They were not allergic to tree pollen.
Rain. We need a good rain. And palm trees. Edmund didn't think he was allergic to palm trees.
Edmund sneezed and stumbled out of his room, still recalling the sales tax rates on Doorn and Avra (four and one half percent) and near frantic for hot tea with lemon and honey.
Vaguely, he was aware of Jalur, his Tiger Guard falling in step behind him. Jalur was quiet, even for a solitary animal. This suited them both well for Edmund did not wish to make polite conversation on Spring mornings, and Jalur preferred silence altogether.
"Morning, Jalur," Edmund croaked out through a raw throat.
"Good morning, your Majesty."
They padded together down the hall to the south stair. At the landing, Edmund saw a thin, hairless tail whisk about the corner. Jalur too, Guard that he was, tracked the Rat.
"We saw you, Good Lady," the Tiger rumbled.
A wriggling nose peeked back around the turn, followed by the rest of her.
"Of course you did," Willa sniffed. "If I hadn't wanted you to see me, you wouldn't have."
Anxious though he was for a hot drink, his morning security briefing took priority. Edmund joined Lady Willa on the stairs, he sitting three treads down so that they might confer eye to eye. Jalur withdrew a few paces.
"What news, Friend?"
"I regret to report no invasions by land or sea," Willa responded, disappointment lacing her squeaky tone. She was bloodthirsty for action, and took ghoulish glee in reporting numbers of horses, spears and sails. Casualty rates in field hospitals were her particular delight.
"Alas, for that," Edmund agreed solemnly. Perhaps I can enjoy a breakfast in peace.
"A delegation of Red Dwarfs should arrive by the noon hour to escort the High King to the Southern border to inspect their road work." Good dirty fun for Peter; the High King loved mucking about with Dwarfs, mud and mortar.
"A Grove of Willows intends to seek the assistance of the Queen Lucy in negotiating the terms for location of a Beaver lodge on a tributary of the Telmar River." Dicey that, given how fond Beavers were of willow. "Queen Susan has, again, asked the Otter Romp south of the Castle at the pond to cease harassing the bathers." Bloody Otters.
"Two Bluebird Hens and one Cardinal Hen are petitioning Your Majesties for aid claiming that their Cocks are neglecting to provide adequate assistance to the nestlings." Willa curled her lip in mild irritation at this one, as did they all. The springtime relational squabbles of the Songbirds were simply not worth the bother; the Birds had no one to blame but themselves.
"Thank you, Lady. Have the morning letters arrived yet?"
"Yes, my King. There are seven letters from various Delegations for the Queen Susan. The High King received three pieces, one of which stank of rose water."
Love letters. Ugh.
"Queen Lucy received personal correspondence from Avra, Galma, and Archenland, as well six letters from within Narnia. You have received five letters, three of which are very large and heavy."
"Do any stink?"
"No, King Edmund, except of the usual."
Excellent. However, the large ones meant that at least one minister had tried filling in the blanks on Susan or Peter's draft courtship treaties. Edmund had written the treaties and contracts to be legally dense, near impenetrable, to ward off the idiots. It was very nearly an aptitude test. The Lord or Lady (or his or her advisor) who was smart enough to muddle through the documents and respond intelligently was someone he might consider admitting into the Narnian family. Maybe.
"And my brother and sisters? What of them this morning?"
"The High King and the Queen Lucy were out with the dryads this morning." Too much energy. Both of them.
"The High King was then committed to a morning ride with the Princess Dim. He has not yet returned."
Even better. Maybe she'd fall off the horse into the Romp and the Otters would shred her to pieces for breakfast.
"Princess Even More Dim is breakfasting with the Queens."
"Blast," Edmund muttered. Behind him, he heard Jalur growl.
Willa reached behind her ear with a leg and scratched. "And no, your Majesty, I shall not agree to run up the skirts of the Princess Even More Dim so she will run away shrieking and allow you to avoid her at table."
"Scamper across her plate and dip your splendid tail into her morning juice?"
"Certainly not," the Rat replied with dignity.
"Jalur," Edmund called to the Tiger. "Would you like to fake a toothache and flash your canines at the Princess Even More Dim?"
The Tiger's tail twitched with displeasure. After a very long, deliberative pause, he murmured, "Only if you command me to do so, your Majesty."
"See, Willa. That's a Soldier's obedience to his Liege."
"If you desire obedience, King Edmund, I do not recommend a Rat," Willa retorted.
Edmund withdrew a walnut from his pocket. Willa's nose twitched appreciatively. "Thank you, Lady."
Taking the fat nut between her teeth, Willa scampered off, passed Jalur, and down the hall.
Nose running, Edmund resisted the urge to just use his sleeve, and pulled a handkerchief from the same pocket where he had kept the walnut. He caused enough grief for the washers already between the ink stains on his sleeves and the dried meat, nuts, honeyed dates, and shinys he kept in his pockets for his Rats and Crows.
"Well, Jalur, I suppose there's nothing for it," Edmund said after a time. "Perhaps she will have left already?" he asked the Tiger hopefully.
The Tiger's nostrils flared, likely catching a scent. "Regrettably, no, your Majesty. The Princess Even More Dim is still at table and, if I may offer an opinion?"
"You are in need of a restorative this morning and your Royal Sisters would undoubtedly appreciate your assistance."
"Appeals to my own welfare and that of the Queens, eh, Jalur? You sure you are not a Rat in disguise?"
"I admit," the Tiger said blandly, "that time in your presence and theirs has not left me unscathed." Jalur rose from his dim corner, strolled to the stair and gave him a rather forceful push in the back. "Shall we?"
With a sigh as profound as if preparing for battle (and he really would prefer a fair fight, come to think of it), Edmund rose and headed down to breakfast.
On entering the sunroom, Edmund's nose immediately noticed that the windows were open. He sneezed. (Tariffs were one percent of declared value on all goods incoming from Calormen.)
"Good morning, Edmund!" his sisters crowed. Susan and Lucy were sitting next to each other, opposite the Princess Even More Dim, whose back was to him. There were two empty chairs, one on each side of hers.
"Good morning, King Edmund!" the Princess trilled and turning slightly, patted the seat on her right. Shooting his sisters a glare, Edmund made toward the table, only his desperation for tea sufficient for him to endure the punishment of a meal with the woman.
"Good morning Princess E…" Oh Aslan. He'd forgotten her real name. "Good morning Briony, Lambert." The bonded Wolf pair who served as his sisters' personal Guards nodded their greeting.
Jalur stalked to his own quiet station. No one expected the solitary Tiger to be particularly cordial.
Edmund slipped into the chair, trying to divine why his sisters seemed so very amused. Lucy was staring at her plate, a smile on her face. Susan seemed … expectant.
The morning correspondence lay at their elbows; the Queens would not wish to conduct personal and Narnian business when Princess Even More Dim was with them.
"Princess Peony, I'm sure King Edmund would like some tea," Susan said. "Would you pour, please?"
Peony. That was her name. The other one was Rose. Or maybe it was Jonquil. Petunia? Dogwood? Cactus?
Edmund turned to his would-be hostess, sliding his cup over. "Thank…"
He was staring right into Even More Dim's Very Ample Cleavage.
They were Melons spilling out over a gown far too small and too snug to manage the feat without substantial structural support. They were unencumbered by such trivial matters as the laws of physics and mechanics. The engineering involved in the sustained elevation of this mass was something that a Beaver or Dwarf would have been proud to execute.
"Thank you," he managed as the Breasts poured the teat … tea.
"Lemon?" The Breasts asked.
"Please, and honey." He managed to spit out.
"Would you like milk with your tea, Edmund?" Susan asked, with polite archness in her tone. Lucy snickered under her breath. They both knew he did not take milk in his teat … tea.
"No thank you," he muttered through gritted teeth.
"Are you certain, brother?" Lucy sputtered.
Edmund managed to fix his tea without further interruption, savoring the soothing warmth.
"Has Peter breakfasted yet?"
He meant to speak to his sisters, but Flower piped in. "No, King Edmund. The High King is still out riding with my sister." She sounded quite winded by the exertion of speaking a full sentence.
"Are you well, Princess Peony?" Susan asked with concern.
"Oh, very well, Queen Susan," the Princess cooed back, the same breathless quality in her voice. "Perhaps a trifle lightheaded, the morning, but nothing of concern. It shall pass."
If you hadn't cinched yourself into a corset tighter than a snake's skin, perhaps you could breathe. Edmund realized he had very nearly said it aloud.
His head must be clearing if, on less than one cup of tea, he was willing to criticize a Princess at breakfast for her undergarment selection.
Edmund reached for some bread. It seemed as if the distance suddenly lengthened, like a strange dream where the hallway with the door at the end stretches on and on, forever out of reach. By necessity, he had to reach far around to steer wide of the copious mound on his left.
Oddly, it seemed all the breakfast dishes were on his left. Just. Out. Of. Reach.
He shot his devious sisters a very stern look.
He gave up. "Toast please?"
"Of course, King Edmund. My pleasure!"
The bread magically appeared. Unfortunately, the white watermelons that delivered it did not.
They were resting very near his left arm.
Edmund moved his arm away. The Breasts followed, like a kite on a string. What were They? Disembodied? With a will of Their own?
He tried buttering his toast, but there just didn't seem to be room enough on that side of the table for the five of them; his right and left hands, his molested left arm, and the Breasts of Doom. Battering Ram, he thought. Yes, there might be some applicability there. They certainly were persistent, and very nearly as large. Had they always been this monstrous size? Perhaps it was an allergic reaction resulting in swelling?
Or, he thought, sourly, and then with mounting anger, this Dim Wit really thinks lacing herself into that thing around her waist and forcing her cleavage into a man's arms is going to accomplish anything other than ruining my teat … tea.
Edmund reached for the tea pot, wanting to warm his cup and considering his strategic options.
"Oh, allow me," the Breasts heaved, and then landed on top of his left arm.
That did it. With his right hand still mercifully free, he faked to one side, and instead of going for the teapot, grabbed the untouched ewer of juice. With the glee of vindication, Edmund dumped the whole of it down the far too tight bodice of Princess Even More Dim.
"Oh!" she gasped, fainted dead away, and slumped unceremoniously to the floor.
Edmund sneezed. Into the most blessed shocked silence that followed, he asked, "Tea, anyone?"
Chapter 2 – The Counter Attack
In which the High King makes his views known and there is yet more inappropriate conversation. First, I have to do my taxes.