By Royal Decree
Chapter 8 - Offer, Acceptance, Consideration, Part 2
The very Narnian Occasion and a traitor is revealed.
There are three factors necessary to create a contract: 1) an offer made, 2) an acceptance of the offer, and 3) consideration exchanged between the parties. Consideration has to be something of value. These factors must be present for a contract to be enforceable. Excerpted from The New Office Professional's Handbook (4th ed.).
"I believe we have outlasted the Dwarfs," Peter said, watching the troop stagger away from their drums toward their bedrolls on the tilting field.
"Not the Fauns, though," Susan said softly.
The gay piping of their flutes was fading, but still could be heard, now deeper in the Wood.
They were all out on the lawn, lying on their backs. Overhead, lovely velvet sky, brilliant stars. The fire was burning low. There was still one more bottle of wine to finish.
"The Dwarfs need their sleep if they are taking you and the Princesses tomorrow," Lucy said, giggling, "which is really today now."
"I do hope it rains," Edmund added.
"The odds of that are three to two against, King Edmund," a voice came from the darkness, and devolved into Evil Banker Morgan. "I'm sure I could find a Crow who would take that wager."
She was listing a bit, whether from the ale or the Crows on either shoulder, it was hard to say.
"Morgan!" Lucy called. "Come, join us! We didn't know you were still up!"
"Friend Crows!" In Peter's voice, they all heard the hint of Command. "Perhaps it is time to return to your Roost?"
With some indignant squawking, the two, Edmund could not make out which two, but they were young, launched off Morgan's shoulders. Their wings fouled in her hair and their claws were still gripping her gown.
"Good night Your Majesties!" they cracked.
"Good bye, Friends!" Evil Banker Morgan cried with a wave. "Better luck tomorrow!"
Lucy held out a hand, gesturing Evil Banker Morgan to her side. "Come! We are glad to see you still have a hair on your head and a gown on your back!"
Evil Banker Morgan came more fully into the light and even to Edmund's eye, she was quite bedraggled. She flopped down between Lucy and Susan, and then winced.
"Are you well, Lady Morgan?" Susan asked, noticing the twitch.
"Very," she murmured. "My pockets are filled with Crow Shinys and Pretties. Some of them are sharp."
She edged closer to the fire and it did seem that Crows had not merely combed her hair, but also nested in it. Her gown of indeterminate green was unraveling at the hem and sleeves, with presumably rather less unseen silvery thread than it once had. From her pockets, Evil Banker Morgan pulled out a wad of handkerchiefs and an assortment of bits and bobs, wires, and nuggets. The Shinys and Pretties glinted on the grass in the light of the fire.
"You bartered!" Peter exclaimed. "With the Crows!?"
Why were they surprised, Edmund wondered. Not-a-Lady Morgan of the House of Linch was, in fact, an Evil Banker. He recognized a fair number of his gifts to the Crows in the assortment. Morgan spread out a handkerchief and began placing each tiny piece carefully into its folds.
"My compliments on a rapacious Murder of Crows. I would hire them for my House in a moment."
"Good wages, too," Edmund said, "if you can grow your hair fast enough."
"I think your gown may be ruined, Lady Morgan," Susan said, examining the very ragged hem. "I am sorry. We'll see what we may do about that."
"I understand from Chief Sallowpad I am fortunate I have the gown at all. The Crows had considered making off with it when I was in the Pond."
It was the sort of thing that might have been said with outrage. Instead, Evil Banker Morgan laughed and allowed the rest of them to laugh with her.
"Still, that would have been very ill treatment for a guest, Lady Morgan," Peter said. "We will speak to them about it."
"It would have been a long way back with nothing but a towel!" Lucy giggled again. She was, Edmund thought, a wee bit tipsy.
Edmund glanced over at Peter to determine if his brother was as affected as he had been by the prospect of Evil Banker Morgan without her gown of indeterminate green. Peter seemed attentive, intrigued even. But who could not be impressed by someone who outwitted Otters and wagered with Crows?
He blew out an aggravated breath. Edmund had thoroughly enjoyed the last hour or two; now, it seemed all the heavenly contentedness was dribbling away again.
"I am just glad they did not because otherwise I would have only had my hair to bargain with tonight and then I might be bald." Evil Banker Morgan whispered conspiratorially, "Don't tell them, but when I depart I will just give the gown to them and let them shred it."
"That is very magnanimous of you, Lady Morgan," Peter said, that admiring tone in his voice again.
Edmund snorted, and saw the smirk on Evil Banker Morgan's face. "It's not magnanimous at all, Peter. Lady Morgan shall make the Crows bargain for each unseen silver thread until she departs and then flood the market thereafter."
"You understand my thinking very well. King Edmund." She was doing the odd pauses again, but now they were making his imagination summersault. Into her soiled handkerchief, Evil Banker Morgan folded her Pretties and Shinys, the booty of her haul among Crows, and stowed them back in her pocket.
"Look!" Lucy exclaimed. "The Wood is beginning to move!"
"Already?" Peter propped himself up on his elbows and squinted into the dark. A low, rustling sound began to fill the air.
And so it was, with sinking heart and itching nose, that Edmund knew it was time for him to head indoors. The Dryads were awakening and would begin their Dance, to the tunes of the distant Faun flutes and a rhythm as old as Aslan's First Song that called Narnia into being. If he ever wanted to breathe tomorrow, he could not be out when the Oak, Elm, Beech, Birch, and other Trees danced.
Lucy jumped to her feet. "Susan, are you coming tonight?"
Susan took her sister's offered hand. "Yes, I shall. After today's events, most definitely. Peter?"
The High King was already standing, scanning the Trees that were beginning to stretch and whisper, bowing and swaying to their Monarchs. Edmund felt them close in, the darkness around them growing darker.
Edmund quickly gathered the few scattered plates on the lawn; at least he could do something useful and bring them inside.
Lucy held her hands out to Evil Banker Morgan. "Will you join us, Morgan? It is delightful."
"I would like to! Thank you!" Lady Morgan climbed to her feet, her pockets jangling.
On hearing this, his fevered, thoroughly overworked imagination gave a yelp for the devastating loss of an expectation that had been totally unfounded in the first instance, and crawled away into a cave, mewling pitifully. It was never coming out again. His glum mood turned glummer still.
It was Peter who gave him the hand up, helping him balance the plates. "I am sorry, Ed," he said quietly.
Edmund shrugged. There was nothing to say. He had forgotten this would happen and should have gone in earlier to avoid this awkwardness. No one was to blame and he did not want his siblings' pity, nor wish them to feel guilt over their own enjoyment. He edged over to Lady Morgan. "Lucy, Su, excuse me, I'd just like a word?" The three of them were already arm in arm.
Lady Morgan followed him two steps away; Edmund knew his siblings would pretend to ignore them. "Are you sure about this?" he asked quietly. "The pollen can get very thick."
"You aren't coming?"
"No, I couldn't possibly."
Edmund's fertile imagination was too depressed to even try to concoct some fantasy in which Evil Banker Morgan might have sounded a teensy bit disappointed.
"How bad does it get?" She was chewing on her lip, the sight of which would have, earlier in the day, sent him off into a paroxysm of lascivious glee. "Because I really do want to go."
"For me, it is intolerable. For you, maybe not."
"I'll try it then."
He stepped away, juggling plates of tin. His sisters each looped one of Lady Morgan's arms in their own; Peter sidled up next to Lucy, putting an arm over her shoulders, that was just long enough to encompass Lady Morgan as well. The four swayed together toward the whisper of the Gathering Wood.
Edmund made his slow way up the marbled front steps to the doors, trying very hard to not feel thoroughly sorry for himself. His Night Guard, Wrasse, the Panther, fell in with him. Turning around, he could just make out, by the light of the fading fires, human shapes dancing in the darkness amid the waving Tree Dryads, graceful Birch, stately, clean limbed Beech, venerable Oak. Then the Trees swallowed them all.
Distantly, he heard strange drums, wailing flutes, and faint, wild cries. Perhaps Bacchus himself, his maenads and Silenius were about. It would be the night for it. He needed to get indoors, close all the windows, pull his head under a blanket, and not think about anything, certainly not the joyous celebrations of Aslan's Good Creation out on the lawn and beyond.
It was not a permanent sundering. He knew that. Emotionally, though, he could not help but feel a bit bereft. Pathetic, really, but there was nothing for it. In another few weeks, this period would end, Spring giving way to Summer and the life working so very hard to be created would concentrate more on growing and leave his head, nose, and lungs, alone.
"To bed, your Majesty?" Wrasse asked.
"I suppose." Edmund did not bother hiding the gloom he felt as he turned back and trudged the last steps.
"Will the Lady Morgan be well?" the Black Panther queried. "I heard you ask her about the pollen?"
"She has allergies, as I do. I'm actually surprised she went. I…" Edmund, at that moment, truly hated his weakness. "I would not be able to do so."
In a voice full of feline concern, Wrasse asked, "Should I have someone go out to escort her, or perhaps wake a physician for when she returns?"
"She will be fine, Wrasse. It's very irritating, but not life-threatening."
Edmund was heading inside, but had to turn back around for his Guard. Wrasse stopped at the landing to the Hall entrance, and pivoted about to stare into the darkness of the Trees. The Panther's tail snaked slowly back and forth; her yellow eyes gleamed, pinpoints light.
"You are troubled, Wrasse?" Edmund asked, though the politeness cost him sorely.
"I am, King Edmund. I know how uncomfortable you have been these nights. Everyone is abed. When Lady Morgan returns, there will be no one to assist her."
"She will be with my Sisters, and the High King, and their Guards. She will be fine, Wrasse."
The Panther's tail lashed more quickly, signaling her disagreement. "Their Majesties will be out for several hours yet. If she is near sensitive as you, King Edmund, Lady Morgan will return much sooner."
With a dull sigh, Edmund could see that Wrasse was likely correct. He remembered vividly how he had felt when he had tried the same thing. "That is very solicitous of you, Wrasse. It would not have occurred to me." It was also, he realized sullenly, the sort of consideration for a guest that Lucy, Susan, and Peter probably all would have thought of.
Being reminded of manners by a member of the Night Guard was a bit off-putting of course, yet this concern was not that unusual for them. In comparison to the day Palace Guard, the Beasts of the Night Guard were older, very experienced, and highly sensitive to the currents and tensions about them. They took a broader view of their protective duty and saw the well being for the whole of the Palace at night as their responsibility.
The dining room was lit by a single wall torch, throwing broad flickers across the walls, casting huge shadows. "I'll get something out for her." Edmund deposited the tin plates he had carried up from the lawn on a sideboard. From the cupboard, he took out several towels and two cups and went back into the scullery. Another torch illuminated it and the adjacent kitchens. It was dark, cool, and smelled faintly spicy. The bread pans were all laid out on a far counter. He supposed the bakers would be up soon to get things in order, heat the ovens and start the bread. Or perhaps, even they would sleep late.
Remembering what he had needed the times he had tried what Lady Morgan was attempting, he moved a sloshing bucket of clean water to the center table and set the towels near. He put water in the cups, knowing what his throat felt like after a bad Dryad night, and after some rooting around in the darkness and examining white substances, found salt and added it to one of the cups. Even More Dim's salt water rinse while bizarre, had seemed sound in theory.
He hopped up on the table to sit and wait, wishing he could not hear and feel the sweet, wild music of the Dryad dance.
Edmund did not know how much time went by, but it was long enough for him to recount every tiresome moment of the day and consider how much he did not look forward to a week buried in taxes, even with Susan's aid. Having already fallen asleep once at a table today, he did not want to repeat the Library experience with a similar one in the scullery. The towels, he supposed, would be softer than the books.
"Well, Wrasse, perhaps I should leave a note?"
The Panther, who had been lying down quietly, swung her head toward the front doors, her ears flicking back and forth.
"She comes!" Wrasse said softly, and rising, padded noiselessly back out into the front hall. After a few moments, he heard muffled voices, a hurried footstep, and then Lady Morgan stumbled into the scullery, leaning on Wrasse's neck.
The pollen was so strong on her, Edmund sneezed the moment she stepped through the doorway.
"Lady Morgan, in here," he called in the dimness. He tried to guide her around the table, but his sneezing joined hers.
She gave him a shove, back to the other side of the table. "Stay away," she croaked, sounding very like a Raven. "No need for you to be stupid as well."
She hurried to the waiting station. "Thank you," she gasped, grabbing a towel. She dunked it into the bucket, wrung it out, and began wiping the pollen off her face.
Edmund circled to the other side of the table, far enough away that his eyes stopped watering. "It's nothing. Wrasse and I were surprised you managed as long as you did. Did you get to enjoy it all?"
"Oh yes, at the beginning it was absolutely wonderful." He heard a quaver in her voice, and he understood precisely the frustration of wanting to be there, and not being able to do so. With a bit more force than was strictly necessary, she dumped the towel again into the bucket, and repeated the process.
"Based on the Botanica, I'd thought that being with the female Trees would help. It was manageable, at first, but then something hit me like a snow storm."
"Were you near a Birch Tree?"
She shrugged. "Near enough, why?"
"That sounds like a particular Silver Birch Dryad. She's very enthusiastic this time of year, and might have taken a liking to you. She is also, regrettably, self-pollinating."
Morgan snorted then wiped her face and looked at the towel with disgust. "I shouldn't have gone. You were right."
Now he shrugged. "There is no satisfaction in it, to be sure. I've tried what you did several times over the years. Last year, even. I keep hoping that something will change, but it does not."
"I was near blind and with what mind I had left, I tried to stumble to the Otter Pond for a dunk. I've been going there every day, and washing does help."
Well that makes rather a lot of more sense than secret letter drops.
"But you would have to go through the Trees to get there, and then through them again to leave, rather defeating the whole purpose of it."
Morgan set down her wet towel and began trying to untangle her hair with her fingers. Edmund felt his nose itch, even from the distance. She sneezed.
"Well, I am a mess," she commented through one of her dry laughs. "It was bad enough with Crows sifting through my hair for Shinys. You don't have a comb, do you?"
"Nothing for it." Taking a deep breath, Morgan dunked her head into the bucket and came up sloshing. Edmund handed her another towel from across the table.
"Thank you. That ought to help."
"There's water there, for drinking," he said pointing to the one cup. "The other is salt water, in case you want to give Even More Dim's novel rinse a go."
Slinging the towel over her neck, she took both cups. "If you will excuse me a moment, I will. I really wish I could just decapitate myself.
From the sinks in the back, he heard an enormous sneeze and a few moments later, absolutely vile sounds that ended up with spitting. "I say," she cried. "It is revolting, but it does work. Let's give Even More Dim a dividend!"
She really was very odd.
Morgan returned from the back, vigorously toweling her hair. "It isn't fair, is it?"
"No," he agreed, propped up against the door jam. "Not remotely."
"They are all out there, part of this incredible event, and …" the rest of her words were muffled through the towel. "How do you stand it?"
"I don't. I have been ill tempered and in a foul mood. I'm usually in bed, with a pillow over my head, pretending it is not happening."
"Well, you certainly have cause; I'm annoyed, and I've only been here a few days. I'm not trying to solve the Tax Code in a week either."
The frank support was cheering. Still, "It's really just indulgent self-pity," Edmund had to admit. "I know that this does not last forever. It's a few weeks of difficulty and it would be churlish indeed to resent the pleasure of others because it is inconvenient for me."
She laughed, more happily. The dousing had obviously helped and his own nose was no longer itching. "You speak as you write."
Morgan was trying to wipe down her gown to remove the surface pollen clinging to her, but it was to little avail. "This is really not going to work."
Edmund began gathering up the other damp towels and tossed them into the laundry basket on the floor. "Best thing is to just shuck off that gown, the first chance you have."
"Oh," he heard her say after a very long pause, during which Edmund realized belatedly that there were several ways his comment might be interpreted. "Yes, I suppose I should do that."
Again, far and haunting, there was an echo of pounding drums and a cry of flutes carrying deep, stirring whispers on the breeze.
Morgan craned her neck to look outside the scullery window; there was nothing to be seen but the orange glow of the bonfire dying in the night. "What is that? I heard it before."
"I don't know. I thought it might be Bacchus and his maenads."
"Really? Not being out there just gets worse and worse." She made a disgruntled harrumphing sound. "I read about them. It sounded fantastic. Have you ever seen them?"
"No, not yet. I hope they are not out there tonight, because I do not wish to miss them."
She sagged away from the window, twisting the towel in her hand. "It's so unfair," she muttered. "You're the Just King. Shouldn't this be within your province?"
"Even under a highly expansive interpretation of My Just Authority, I have learned today, and rather pointedly, just how limited it may be."
"Yes, about that thwarted corset ban." She absently tried brushing her gown off again. "I suspect that under section eight, I am required to notify you that Jina was not the only traitorous bitch."
"I had assumed at least one co-conspirator to get her into it," Edmund said, smiling in spite of himself at the image of the noble Hound Bitch in a corset. The episode had renewed his sense of humor, which had likely been one of Susan's many objectives. "No opposable thumbs."
"Rather more than one co-conspirator," she said, looking up, smiling slyly. "We had to help her try on several different sizes. As it turns out, Jina is wearing my corset."
He laughed, now having confirmation of what she and Jina had been up to with his sisters. Adult supervision indeed; Edmund wondered just whose idea it had been and decided he did not want to know. The fact that Jina was wearing Evil Banker Morgan's corset, however, had some interesting implications in their present situation. His poor, abused imagination, that had previously slunk off to bed thoroughly depressed sat upright and begin nosing about hopefully.
"You cost me a corset-free Narnia!"
"Well, Queen Susan would have found something to serve, regardless, but yes, I suppose I did." She hesitated, twisting the towel again her hands. "I'm a bit concerned about it, actually."
"And why is that?"
He hoped she would bite her lip again; it was becoming more difficult not to stare. His imagination was impatiently whining about the talking and was all for shucking off the gown here and now. His intellect, perceiving a very promising undercurrent, told his imagination to shut it and let him concentrate if it wanted any sort of a satisfactory end to the evening.
"I am worried that participating in so traitorous an action may have brought me in breach of the contract covering my stay here."
"Section 14, Violations and Prohibited Acts?"
She nodded, drawing her lips between her teeth.
"Well," Edmund drawled out. He closed the distance just slightly, resting a hip on the table, considering the many different ways this might be resolved. "Assuming there is a breach, and I am not sure that there is, there are a number of options specified for its remedy."
She rattled off the alternatives from Section 17. "Rescission, mitigation, remediation, compensation, waiver."
"Let's take monetary compensation off the table immediately, yes?
"Can we eliminate rescission as well?" she asked hopefully.
"As rescission would result in your expulsion from Narnia, I do not see that as viable at all. Sallowpad would be furious with me, the Crows would wish to murder me, and Lucy would finish what they did not. As the Lead Hound of Our Royal Pack is wearing your corset, Jina would have something to say about it, Susan would accuse me of unfair retaliation, and Peter would scold me for an overly legalistic action at the expense of good manners."
"Yes, I suppose."
As his imagination cuffed him on the side of the head with a tin plate, Edmund remembered to add firmly, "And I would not wish it either."
"Oh," Evil Banker Morgan said, now looking far more relieved, "I see."
"Yes," Edmund replied. "I do hope that you do."
Pushing wet, Crow-combed hair away from her face, Evil Banker Morgan said, "So, that leaves mitigation, remediation, and waiver."
"It does. Do you have a suggestion for remedying the breach, assuming there is one?"
"Well," she said slowly, testing the waters of this offer. "Jalur did suggest that you permit me to call you Harold. Assuming performance of other actions related to my calling you by the name of Harold, might that suffice to remedy the breach?"
So, there was the offer, convoluted, but plain enough. His imagination was thoroughly fed up. It did not want an offer on the scullery table. It wanted Evil Banker Morgan on the scullery table. His intellect knew better. He needed to accept the offer, and only then could they move to the valuable exchange.
"That would be more than sufficient, indeed a highly desirous outcome, if you so will. I would express my enthusiasm in a more demonstrative way, but there would follow much sneezing and coughing."
She smiled brightly and renewed her efforts to clean her gown, even more vigorously than before. His imagination wanted to help; his intellect told him there would be too much sneezing. "You don't mind Harold, do you? Jalur seemed to approve."
"Jalur is very perceptive. And, as I said before, it is no one's business, but our own." To that point, he really needed to add this before his imagination caught up with the new understanding and ran off into the larder to look for clotted cream, "Before you start calling me Harold, I assume there would be no compromise to the position of the House of Linch?"
Of course he wanted Evil Banker Morgan in any number of highly compromising positions and fervently hoped she was not a Lady at all.
Her mouth quirked into something rather satisfied. She shook her head and deposited her towel in the basket. "No. Your extraordinary contract seemed to contemplate this outcome as a possibility."
"Yes, it does." He held out a hand to her from across the table and Morgan – yes, he could call her that now, although he still liked the title Evil Banker – took his hand in her own, coming around the table.
At that, Wrasse, who had been sitting silently, stood, and padded out of the scullery. Morgan's eyes followed the Panther.
"Section 12(bb) addresses Guard oversight in these circumstances, doesn't it?"
His imagination had to jump down off the table where it had been cavorting and give his intellect a prod.
"I'm afraid so. There's nothing really to be done about it."
"The Faun and the flood, again."
"Guard shall be within hearing distance; doors shall not be locked," she murmured, tracing the sword and quill calluses of his hand with her fingers. When his nose started twitching, he knew the exact moment when her pollen-soaked gown of indeterminate green was too close.
"Drat," Evil Banker Morgan said. "I do not remember the precise, elegant way you described it. There was a remarkable allowance for the hearing abilities of different Guards."
His imagination was very confused. It thought they were done with all this. There should not be any more talking. Doing! Touching! Moving! Sounds! The only words it wanted to hear were "more," "faster," "you are amazing", and "let's do that again." His intellect, however, preened with such words as "precise," "elegant," and "remarkable."
Edmund pulled her along to the kitchen desk. "If you don't mind, I want to leave a note for Mr. Hoberry before we move on."
Releasing her fingers, he quickly found a parchment scrap and charcoal. "Tea or coffee?"
Her hands were now resting on his back, and he felt when she and the pollen drew closer to read the note in the dimness. They really needed to do something about the gown. "Tea. Extra honey, if you would."
"A persistent whim," she said, not quite as enigmatically as perhaps she might have thought. His imagination considered this and began happily paddling about in sticky, sweet honey. "No milk, of course."
Edmund added to the request for a very late tea tray for two, the flourish, "Clotted cream, if possible." Folding the note, he set it on the ledge.
He turned back around, her hands trailing. "Yes?"
"With all this discussion of sections eight, 12, 14 and 17, and this newly negotiated remediation, I would very much like to review the contract." Pause, though this one was to kiss his fingertips. "With you."
His imagination wailed. It did not want to talk about corsets and contracts; it was very impatient to confirm that there was nothing except Evil Banker Morgan under Evil Banker Morgan's unraveling and pollen-filled gown of indeterminate green with rather less unseen pretty thread.
His reason, however, rallied to the occasion. "Section 19, as well, on addenda and modification?"
Evil Banker Morgan nodded. "Perhaps, Harold, we should review of the whole of the contract. Very. Thoroughly."
His intellect cackled with glee, taunting the highly charged imagination and gladly stepping to the fore. If you think you are going to manage this without me, you are a great fool.
Wrasse hadn't been quite sure who Harold was, at first. The conversation had been very elliptical, so it took her a bit longer than usual to perceive when it was time to physically exit the scene. Nor did she understand their trip to the Library to collect some parchment from King Edmund's strong box. She well knew what was typical, and this situation was peculiar. Because it was so unusual, she did make a point of listening in to the rather extensive discussion of titles, subtitles, definitions, representations and warranties, remedies, and damages. It was bizarre, and took a very long time, but after attending to their talk, and becoming thoroughly bored with it, she concluded it was not dangerous.
Eventually, they did move on to King Edmund's rooms, and although there was still a lot of talking about contracts, things did finally settle into something more customary. At that point she was able to focus on her usual job of filtering out the detritus, and sensing only for anything signaling a danger. She wasn't expecting any difficulty, though. Wrasse knew this business well and had indeed used that skill to prevent some serious mishaps in the past when the Monarchs had been younger, and less experienced in identifying duplicity. It was she who had primarily developed the existing protocol for such things now.
She would make a report on this to Jalur and Jina first when they came back on duty and Jina came looking for her charge. Jalur's briefing to her at the Guard change of earlier had been frustratingly brief. "King Edmund is being a Royal Arse about Lady Morgan."
King Edmund had been very difficult these two weeks passed, and today had promised no better, what with that episode at breakfast involving Even More Dim and the ewer of juice. So, it was with no small amount of concern when Jalur had reported that Lady Morgan had been in the Library all morning with King Edmund and he had not made her cry or pack her trunk and catch the next ship out. Lady Willa had heard High King Peter discuss this unusual event with Queen Susan after luncheon. While the Monarchs had been a bit vague, (really, why couldn't humans speak more plainly about such matters?) it became clear what they both thought was going on, and they were concerned that King Edmund might indeed start acting like a Royal Arse about Lady Morgan. That wasn't exactly what they had said, but it was close enough. Lady Willa then reported this to Jalur and Jina.
After spending some time with Lady Morgan and discussing her habits with Teddy the Rat Buck, Jina had been able to provide better insight. Once explained by the knowledgeable, sensitive Hound, it was obvious to any Beast who could smell and see. Lady Morgan was not comfortable in a human Pack. She was more like a Tiger than a Hound or Wolf, but she expressed herself like a Crow. Jina had had to explain to Queen Susan that Lady Morgan smelling like soap was a good thing as this meant she didn't smell of conflict and dual purposes the way people like the Princesses did. By Aslan, some of these visitors to the castle so reeked of confusion, conflict, and deception, it made the hair of every Beast with a nose stand on end.
Jina also sensed that King Edmund liked Lady Morgan very much, and in this she concurred with Jalur's view that the Just King was indeed being a Royal Arse, although the diplomatic Hound did not put it in quite so blunt of terms. "King Edmund is going to make a mess of this if he isn't careful." The Hound was frustrated with Lady Morgan as well, who could suddenly turn all quiet whenever another human was near her and had become very strange when she was with King Edmund. Yet, all the Good Beasts could sense that Lady Morgan liked King Edmund quite a lot. She liked Queen Lucy and Queen Susan too, though not as much as King Edmund. The High King made her very nervous.
Jina and Jalur both had been concerned when Lady Morgan had some inkling that King Edmund had followed Even More Dim into the Wood. They all knew how King Edmund felt about Even More Dim, and that it was not of any particular consequence, but Lady Morgan didn't know that. Lady Morgan had made some dire threats under her breath directed at Even More Dim that, of course, Jina overheard completely, didn't quite comprehend, and repeated to Sallowpad. The Raven had said that Even More Dim had better hope that Lady Morgan didn't carry the threats out as the financial consequences could be very severe, whatever that meant.
The Beasts tried to be understanding, since they knew that humans could be very, very peculiar during courtship and mating seasons. Humans were especially talented at turning something that was really quite simple into a truly complicated debacle. Jalur had become so irritated about it all, he had probably interfered more than he ought to have. But, the Tiger had endured it all day, and indeed had borne the brunt of King Edmund's irritability for the last few weeks. Wrasse certainly understood Jalur's frustration after bearing with it only that evening. At least twice, Wrasse herself had been tempted to say, "Oh just get you both to the privacy of someone's bedchamber and work this out, would you?" She had to remember that they really did not have her senses, and so could not and did not perceive the other as she did.
It was on these and related points that Sallowpad had spoken to her and to Jina before he retired. He had been very interested in Jina's assessment that Lady Morgan's odd manner was likely due to her discomfort in a human Pack and that it could easily be mistaken for conflict or even treachery if one were inclined to think that way. It didn't mean she was loyal, but it likely meant that she was not disloyal. If this was indeed the case, Sallowpad said it was a very good thing for Narnia; of course he did not elaborate further on what sounded to be Rat and Crow business. He had personally confirmed that Lady Morgan was very comfortable with the Crows, got on with Jina, even managed the Otters, and agreed that perhaps it was humans who were a difficulty for her.
Sallowpad also thought that King Edmund found it much easier to distrust than to trust a person, and that while this often was useful, in a case such as this, it could be a problem too. The Raven was concerned that King Edmund would all unwittingly make an enemy when he should have been recognizing an ally. He said they should take such steps as necessary to prevent that from happening. Wrasse had understood that instruction plainly enough, and so had done what she could to move the interaction between Lady Morgan and King Edmund on to a more cordial basis, which judging from the sounds, was going well enough in that direction.
Wrasse knew that Sallowpad was to accompany Lady Morgan to the Telmar basin with Queen Lucy, and the Raven probably would have preferred to have judged Lady Morgan more himself in that setting first, before encouraging the friendlier relations to quite this degree. Still, Sallowpad knew that as a Raven, he was not as attentive to these things, and so had deferred to her judgment, and that of Jalur and Jina. If the Raven had had any misgivings, they of course would not have permitted things to develop as they were. However, their combined careful scrutiny had revealed much that was odd about Lady Morgan, but nothing that was concerning. Further, there had been the ongoing issue of King Edmund's uncertain Spring temperament and the Beasts had all agreed that more actively pursuing such opportunities as presented themselves, such as Lady Morgan, would make all their lives and nerves a bit easier. And so, Wrasse being an experienced Cat in these matters, observed Lady Morgan, agreed with Jina and Jalur, and, seeing the opening, pushed King Edmund to take it. Happily, the situation was resolving itself.
Fooh and Beehn had been very excited to tell her what they had learned from Jalur that day, and they had many more questions. She was able to answer some and referred them to the physician for others. They did tell her that they had asked High King Peter why he wouldn't do what he'd been doing with Dryad with Lady Morgan instead, as she wouldn't hit them with catkins and she didn't smell all confusing the way that the Princess Dim and Even More Dim did. The High King had told them very sternly that he had no intention of doing any such thing with Lady Morgan, and that they should mind their own business – which was why they had come to tell her all about it. Wrasse sighed a bit over that. The cubs were very young. She then suggested to Fooh and Beehn that perhaps the High King suspected that Lady Morgan liked someone else, or suspected someone else liked her, and being the wise man that he was, the High King was himself staying out of the business, and expected His Guard to do the same. This had not occurred to the cubs. They had yet to learn that humans really preferred the pretense of privacy, even though with more perceptive Beasts everywhere, such a thing really wasn't possible.
Wrasse settled herself down in the dark hallway of Cair Paravel, reaching out with her Cat senses so attuned to the night. Nothing was amiss. With a twitch of her ears, she distantly heard beyond the walls, the drums, flutes, and cries. Euan Euan Oi Oi Oi Oi. Of course it was Bacchus and his maenads, Silenius and … there, that sound, the braying of his donkey. Just because you could not see them did not mean they were not there, somewhere, summoning the bounty of Narnia as they danced, wild, boundless, free, and bare, among the waving, sighing Trees. Their passion stirred even her old blood.
Poor humans. No fur or feathers, no sight like the bird, nor nose of the hound, nor speed of the cheetah, nor perception of a cat. Formidable intellects to be sure, but really, was it any wonder they blundered about so, sometimes? Should they not try a little harder to perceive with their hearts?
Wrapping her tail about her body, Wrasse rested her head on her paws. She would wait, and watch, listen, protect, and guard, a silent witness to the dark Narnian Spring night.
I hadn't intended to end it like that, as the only two things that really are certain in life are death and taxes. I would also add seasonal allergies. Yet, a basic principle of this particular vision is that Good Beasts of Narnia are Beasts, and possessing those remarkable faculties that humans do not even have the vocabulary to describe. It then logically follows that the young Monarchs may sometimes be a step or two behind their innately more intuitive, sensitive and occasionally conniving subjects.
Of course, I had also considered having Evil Banker Morgan attempt to lobby the Narnian treasury on behalf of the banking industry for bailout funds as part of a stimulus package, losing her job as an investment banker, or trying to enter Narnia under the false pretenses of wishing to be in a management training program.
Thank you all for your reading. This is more than a bit irreverent, and at times, as my fingers were poised over the keyboard, I wondered if I really was going to do what I did.
Thank you for the kind reception and critical commentary.
RthStewart May 2009