Updates are sporadic; such it life. Again, many thanks to the lovely and talented Metonomia, without whom the grammar would be completely lost and the ideas much less sounded. I own nothing, but hope you enjoy nonetheless.
VIII: Telling Tales
It was hot in her prison of a cabin, Lucy realized. How could she not have noticed it before? There was a small porthole, but that was more for the purposes of light than for ventilation. Without a ready path along which to flow, the air had grown heavy, no doubt aided by her earlier tantrum. But the heat was just now reaching her and despite her light linen, it was quickly becoming insufferable. She hoped Sken would return soon, with or without Esma'il, if only so that she would get a small draft of fresher air.
Esma'il, however, had apparently decided to make her wait to see whether or not he would cater to her. How very like him, she thought with a private grimace. And, Lion, it is so very hot. She lifted her hair, which she had fought and forced into a semblance of a braid earlier, off of her neck and shuffled back along the bed so that she could lean against the wall.
The heat reminded her of her first visit to Calormen two summers ago. The desert had been so vast, she remembered; almost like a sea, with its wavelike sand dunes and the sky stretching off in all directions…
"You demanded to see me, little queen?"
Lucy snapped awake, startled as much by the question as by the sudden influx of cooler air. She shook herself, at once regretting the loss of such peaceful sleep, furious that she had fallen asleep, and desperate to understand the new circumstances under which she would be laboring. And the fact that she had been caught napping put her at a great disadvantage, she knew.
"Excuse me?" she asked faintly, trying to bring the situation back under some semblance of control. She managed to force herself into a more dignified position and blinked the bleariness from her eyes, only to discover that both the voice and the blessedly cooler air had, as she'd feared, announced Esma'il's entrance. He stood in the open doorway, lantern in hand. A quick glance at her small porthole showed that it was much later than when she had last been awake. Her stomach clenched. How long had he been standing there? How long had he- But, no, that fear was unjustified. She would have known had he entered the cabin earlier.
All the same, she loathed that he had seen her asleep, had seen her so vulnerable. He would surely use it against her. And, as if to prove her point, he began to laugh. "Oh, little queen, you do amuse me. You demand to see me and then don't even bother to keep yourself awake for my arrival. My humble ship must seem such a boring place for you, after the glitter and excitement of the, ah," -he paused and gave her a thin smile- "glorious Narnian court."
Esma'il's voice was smooth, amused, and it made her control falter. He had so much power in himself- and why?, a little voice asked. Why does he hold such power? You hold as much yourself. You are sister to the High King and the Gentle and the Just. You are the Valiant. You are Aslan's chosen queen. His lioness.
Aslan's lioness she must be, then.
She straightened, forcing her hands, which had clenched upon Esma'il's mocking, to relax, and replied to his original question. "Yes; I did demand." He laughed again and leaned rather carelessly against the doorframe, watching her with open amusement and, she thought, scorn, though it was difficult to tell in the dim light. She had to wonder if he realized that their positions were those traditionally reserved for sovereign and supplicant… and concluded almost immediately that he had not, else he would have forced her to stand. The idea that he was not in control was one that he loathed. "It is my right as captive to speak with my captor, and my right as queen to make such requests as I have need of."
"You have no rights here, little queen."
"Then indulge me," Lucy countered quickly. If he wouldn't play by diplomatic rules- well, he very obviously wasn't going to do that- then perhaps he would prefer that she give in to him. Just as far as she needed. It was galling- Aslan, how galling! But it needed to be done. It wouldn't do to push him. But she could play this game with him- for a while, at least- if it would get her what she needed.
And perhaps it would. She noted that his scorn changed to pleasure when she asked for his indulgence. He called her a girl- let him think of her as one, then. That suited her just as well. Little girls weren't dangerous. Little girls got the things they wanted. "And what is it, little queen, that I should indulge you in? Another meal, perhaps, since you seem to have been unable to stomach-" he gestured to where the remains of her morning meal still lay- "what you have been given so far? Too coarse for Her Highness's delicate constitution?"
"I- I lost my temper." It was the truth, but he took it an entirely different spirit, and suddenly he was laughing at her again. She felt her cheeks color and bit her lip, but only to keep an odd laugh of her own from welling within her.
"I understand that little queens often do."
So he did think her a little girl! A foolish, simple, pouting little girl! It would have been humiliating, had it not been so utterly brilliant. All she had to do was keep acting the way he expected her to and… she could have crowed. Pushing her advantage- and it really was an advantage, though few would have seen it as such- she continued, "But I should be able to make requests, and the request that I have is not about the food."
"Indeed." Esma'il graced her with a patronizing smile- Lion, what I wouldn't do to wipe that smirk from his face!- and, making himself more comfortable against the doorjamb, gestured for her to proceed.
"I-" she began, and then paused. How best to phrase this? How best to make herself seem both child and fool, an enemy- no, not even an enemy- rather, an annoyance to be tolerated and humored rather than dismissed outright? Esma'il was a dangerous man, and a smart one, but he was also no pirate; she knew that well enough already. He was cultured, haughty; he had the air of aristocracy about him, for all of his mercenary trappings. So he would be best disposed towards… "I am not accustomed to tending to myself so exclusively," Lucy said hesitantly, watching her captor's face attentively and cursing the poor light once more. "I- I have need of an attendant, to care for some of my needs."
And Esma'il- curse him- laughed.
"You need an attendant? What do you think this is, little queen, some sort of a pleasure cruise? Are we in your delightful palace, Highness, that you should have your needs catered to?" Yet he was not suspicious of the request, she thought, only contemptuous of it, which was rather a great deal better.
"All the same, I must have someone." And, for good measure… "Look at the state that I'm in," she whined, gesturing to her tangled hair and her bare feet before sneaking a glance at his face. What she saw there nearly undid her careful façade.
He was- he was actually considering her request. By Aslan, if only he were so easily led in all things! She would have had control of this damned ship days ago! "You do not much resemble the queen that you claim to be, Highness. Indeed, I would sooner call you an urchin than royalty. And such a thing will not do." Esma'il frowned contemplatively and abandoned his haughty leaning upon her humble prison door to better see her. "Stand, Highness."
Summoning as much dignity and, to be honest, courage as she could, Lucy stood, feeling her legs give a shake or two before steadying; it had been too long since she'd eaten, and Esma'il's close scrutiny was not helping matters in the least. He circled her, nothing but scorn on his face, and a trembling started in her legs and shot through her. It suddenly occurred to her how tired she was, and how afraid, how angry, how alone. Never mind not looking like a queen; she did not feel like one, either.
Remember who you are, she commanded herself, trying to ignore Esma'il's open smirk. Remember that Aslan himself named you the Valiant. But she didn't feel valiant.
"Very well, little queen," Esma'il said suddenly, pausing in his scrutiny to stand before her.
Lucy's spiraling thoughts froze. Very well? What was that supposed to mean? Certainly it could not be that-
"I will grant that an attendant visits you, but for a short time only. You are not a visiting dignitary, Highness."
"Nor are you a proper host," she shot back viciously- certainly he wouldn't expect acquiescence in all things. Even if he did, he would not get it. There were limits on how long even a silly little girl would allow such condescension to continue. She steeled herself and met his amused look.
"Well? You have a maid among the living, Highness? I noticed no such person, but then, Narnia is a very barbarous nation, and I admit that I often find myself unable to discern which of your… creatures are supposed to be female."
Bastard, she thought idly, more occupied with properly couching her next words than with correcting Esma'il's idiotic bigotry. She'd heard such words before, and from mouths far more worrisome to her than this pirate's. His foolish arrogance he could keep, so long as he gave her what she needed. Whom she needed. But his bigotry might help her, she thought suddenly, looking at him with a new interest. He didn't expect Narnia to be civilized, so why not?
She hadn't, truth be told, brought an attendant along; with no diplomats, Courts, or what Susan disparagingly called social functions to attend, there had been little point. But still she had someone in mind. And so she opened her mouth and thought of Edmund's glibness, of Susan's confidence, of Peter's righteousness and truth. "My maid became ill on Terebinthia; we left her at the port there." And let him prove that an untruth! "There was someone else on board my ship who could help me."
"Oh?" Esma'il's brows arched and again her legs trembled. Lucy found herself looking at his hands rather than his face. Such beautiful hands, she thought again. "Am I to understand that you carry multiple maids on such a small ship?"
"Not a maid." She shifted her gaze from his hands to the still-open door, half in true unease and half in acting. Who knew that it would prove so easy to appear so afraid? She'd thought that after her outburst of earlier, the fear had gone, but Esma'il's presence was more powerful than she'd known. "But there is someone who can aid me and I- I would request that he be sent to me."
"He, little queen?"
"Yes, he. He is Horen, an old, dear friend, and one whom I trust to attend to me. If," she added bitterly, and not without a bite of true venom beneath the façade and the fear, "your idiotic crewmen haven't killed him yet."
She stopped, biting her lip and praying. Esma'il laughed, again. How many times did that make it since he had come to speak to her? Too many; too many by far. "You would have a man attend you, little queen? You jest."
"There are few enough Men in Narnia. Horen is a Faun, and a loyal subject. A-" she paused, wondering how far to go. "A friend."
"A friend?" The laughter had faded from his voice. Surprised, Lucy let her eyes slide from their contemplation of the doorway back to his face. Almost immediately, she wished they hadn't. "This Faun is a friend of yours, then?"
"No, little queen, don't speak. I'm certain he is a friend. Narnia is indeed barbarous."
Esma'il reached out a hand almost pensively; his fingers brushed her cheek and she leapt back, snarling, "Don't touch me!"
His hand froze. Her heart hammered, and she wondered when it had become too difficult to breathe. Something clenched in her stomach. "Don't touch me," she repeated, but softly.
Slowly, the outstretched hand dropped, and a smile spread back over his face. The pounding in her chest continued. "I shan't, Highness. It is no business of mine how Narnians comport themselves. And if it is this Faun whom you wish to attend to you, he shall be sent for." Despite his acquiescence, something glittered in his eyes, and Lucy found that she'd rather not think too much on what it was. "You may have an hour with him, but no more. This is not a pleasure cruise."
With as subtle a deep breath as she could take, she nodded. "I thank you, then." Aslan, please, make that stick in his throat. Haunt him with that, somehow, because it will surely haunt me.
"Hmph," he snorted, but the strange glitter in his eye turned to pleasure, and she found breathing easier. "He will be sent to you. And you must have food. Along with,"- he cast an appraising eye over her once more- "an escort to the bow. It would not, I believe, be amiss."
"No." The word was soft, but unshaken, which was as good as Lucy felt she could reasonably do, given Esma'il. He moved from treating her like a child to treating her like a trinket. It was disconcerting and distressing, but in doing so he revealed his own arrogance and conceit. It might prove useful, someday.
"No, indeed." And then he smiled and turned towards the door. "Narin, I believe, might serve as an escort. I will send him to you, little queen," he tossed over his shoulder, "and then you shall have your friend."
With an abrupt yet graceful half-turn, Esma'il mockingly bowed himself from her prison. The bolt slid home with a heavy click, leaving Lucy suddenly, startlingly alone. He'd taken the lantern with him, and the cabin, never well lit, became almost alarmingly dark. She stood where he had left her, half-stunned by the speed with which everything had happened.
The darkness closed around her, and the air got closer, but Esma'il was gone, and his absence made it easier to think. So she would get a little time with Horen; it was far more than she had expected. That Esma'il had given in to her first plea was so surprising as to nearly be disturbing. But, then again, the more time she spent around the pirate- not that she had any great desire to spend any time at all around him- the more she began to notice the many incongruities about him. His curious aristocratic air was only the most obvious; there were others that were far more telling.
Others such as what she had just witnessed, Lucy thought, frowning to herself in the dark. She shifted distractedly. Esma'il was intelligent- oh, yes, he was. He had to be- there had been too much planning in her capture, too much cleverness and timing and knowledge for him to be merely a tool. He had to have had a hand in the conception of this plan for it to have been pulled off as well as it had been. Such a plan required a cool calculation that Esma'il obviously possessed. Yet she had seen flashes of something else, something other beneath that coldness, and it was that which frightened her, far more than any threats or plans.
Beneath Esma'il's nonchalance and casual cruelty, Lucy had seen enough to recognize madness.
Ah, a small snide voice that sounded rather like Edmund said; he would be mad. But madness leads to instability. There was also a voice rather like Susan's that was considering the ways in which such madness could be used on a grander scale; and one suspiciously like Peter's that suggested talking a bit before using the battered chair, never mind the madness. And through all these familiar, beloved voices, there was the Lucy voice, prowling and listening. And the Lucy voice was afraid.
But the Lucy voice was also angry. It didn't want to talk or think or make snide comments; it wanted to act, and act now. It wanted light and noise and brash recklessness and the pure, heady sense of life that came when each breath was a gift and the Lion roared alongside her. It wanted to meet Esma'il with a dagger and an army and a bright pennant blazing with Aslan's colors in the wind. That was Lucy's way.
No chance of such things here, though. She sighed, raised one hand to her forehead. Absentmindedly, she wiped the beading sweat away. If she couldn't have things her way, she'd-
The sound of confident footsteps froze her. In the darkness, the sound of the bolt sliding was unusually loud. Pennants, she thought wildly, and then the door was thrown open.
As she stood blinking slightly in the sudden light of yet another lantern, a breeze of blessedly fresher and slightly cooler air washed over her, bringing with it the scent of the sea. It was such a familiar thing, the smell of the sea at night, so distinctive, and for Lucy, it had never meant anything but home and comfort. But now… she chased the thought from her mind, instead concentrating on the bearer of the lantern.
It was immediately evident that the newcomer wasn't Esma'il; she might not have been able to see the figure's face, but it was altogether too short to be the Captain. And for that, Lucy thought suddenly and in relief, I am grateful. The rest of the crew- well, those that she had met so far- she could handle, even now. But Esma'il…
"Highness," said the figure, stepping forward, and Narin's face resolved itself. His expression was carefully blank, his eyes placid. He was the absolute epitome of an underling, save for the understated power with which he moved and the way capability glinted beneath the placidity. No noble, this one. Not like Esma'il. But she knew men of his type- capable men- flocked around nobles; she also knew that, for all of the danger he represented, he was not half so dangerous as the man he served. "I am to escort you to the bow."
"Of course." Lucy approached him hesitantly, unsure of what to expect. She was a prisoner on this ship; would Esma'il take this chance to remind her of that? An escort to the bow was not that demeaning, all things considered, but being bound while being escorted… but no, Narin simply gestured for her to precede him through the doorway, and she emerged from her stifling prison into a dim passageway that was only slightly less so.
With a start of surprise, she realized that she had no idea which way to go. She been escorted to the bow by Sken yesterday evening, but his idea of being an escort had had more to do with dragging her along than escorting. She felt she should have remembered which direction she returned from, at least, or possibly even remembered how she'd gotten to the cabin in the first place, but those days were still blurs of silence and shock and nothingness. Two days of captivity had passed in blankness. Now was the time for, well, everything else.
"To the left, Highness," Narin prompted softly.
Lucy almost turned to look at him but then stopped herself. What business of it was hers if Esma'il's man decided to be friendly? He wasn't going to free her, he wasn't going to help her; the best she could hope for was that he wouldn't hinder her. She set off down the passage, her captor close behind.
She counted doors as she passed them, fixing the route in her memory. This would prove useful soon, she thought, when the time came to act. Act to do what, though? And then Lucy found, quite to her own surprise, that she had already begun to think of a rebellion aboard Esma'il's ship.
A rebellion? Where in the Lion's name did that idea originate? It was a foolish thought, probably fatal to all who joined it. But it was very Narnian.
"Stairs, Highness," Narin prompted again, and she looked up. A small, steep set of stairs rose through the darkness; she followed them and emerged into a brilliant summer night. The air was much cooler here on the deck, the worn planks smoother beneath her bare feet, and a brisk breeze from the west played with sails and rigging and Lucy's sweat-damped hair. Above them, the stars shone brightly. It would have been the most magnificent night, had she only been seeing it from the Euthymia.
"And forward to the bow, Highness. We've not got all night." He led her, now, one hand on her upper arm. He was a slight man, and not that much taller than she, but his hand was strong and his grip tight. He pulled her across the deck, rushing her past the few crewmembers that still lurked in the gloom. They laughed as Narin hurried her past.
"Oi! Your High Queenness! Enjoying the journey?"
"Where's your pretty crown, your Queenness?"
"Late for a ball, Queenie?"
In the darkness, she didn't recognize the men, though she might not have recognized them in the light, either. She knew so few of the crew; and lack of knowledge was dangerous. She needed to know which of them would fight, which among them would lie down, which would be a danger. Perhaps Horen-
And Narin jerked her to a halt; she stumbled.
"Hurry, Highness," he said, and released her, giving her a slight push towards the beakhead. She stumbled again, and caught herself on the bowsprit before pushing off and making her way to the starboard latrine.
"Give me a bit of privacy," she snarled, turning back towards Narin. If he thought that she was going to stand for his intrusion, prisoner though she was, he was sadly mistaken. "You may remove yourself from the bow; it's not," she added viciously, "as though there is anywhere that I can go."
For a moment, she feared that he would refuse, and should that happen she would lose this fight, she knew. But he backed down, and backed away, his brows raised. Let him think what he liked, so long as he gave her a moment.
She relived herself quickly, grateful for the chance to do so, and then moved forward to stand at the farthest end of the bow. From here, she could see the water spreading out forever beneath the stars. The ship rolled gently on the waves; there was a breeze from behind her and a gentle one on her face. Overhead, she could see the Dragon ahead and to the left, the great red star of his eye glinting low on the horizon. And from the eye, then, she should be able to find her way to the Tree, which would be a bit more to the nor-
The Dragon? To the left? She looked again, checking to ensure that she was not mistaken. Surely, she had to be. But there was no mistaking the Dragon's far-flung body, the thick cluster of stars at his tail, his red eye. And yes, yes- there, to her right, was the Song, that thick band of brilliant stars that crossed the eastern summer sky. She hadn't been mistaken; they were sailing between the Dragon and the Song.
The Thanatos was sailing northeast.
It made no sense. There was nothing to the northeast- no map that Lucy had ever seen showed anything in that direction save sea and the occasional warning "Here Be Dragons." Oh, there might be a few small islands scattered here and there amongst the waves, but none that were inhabited. Anything north of Terebinthia's position was too inhospitable to be desirable, and the fishing wasn't good enough for even the most enterprising of fishermen to venture the cold waters.
So why was Esma'il taking such a route?
"Highness, hurry," said Narin from behind her.
"We're sai-" she stopped abruptly, her mind working furiously. It would serve no purpose to reveal that she knew in which direction they were sailing, and that it was an unusual route. Narin, she knew, would give her no useful information in return for her comment, and her failure to remark upon their direction would only strengthen the perception of herself as a foolish child that she hoped to impress upon Esma'il. "Sailing- sailing slowly. Is this voyage going to take long?"
"Such things are Lord Esma'il's business, Highness, and none of yours. Come along." He did not beckon nor reach for her, but the command was clear in his voice nonetheless and besides, Horen would be waiting for her, or so she hoped. And she didn't trust Esma'il not to renege on his promised time of an hour. And there was so very much she had to tell the Faun, so very much she needed from him. With one last, worried look at the Dragon and the Song, Lucy turned to follow Narin back to her prison.
She'd seen many unpleasant things in her life- there had been the Witch and Beruna and those nasty assassination attempts and the fire after the harvest and death and illness. Somehow, the sight of the elderly Faun- who had never strayed from his scholarly calling, even during the Winter Rebellion- was a different thing altogether.
"Your Majesty," he greeted her, and again the words were like a prayer, spoken in relief and hope and sadness. Oh, Horen. His two words threatened to shatter the carefully constructed strength that Esma'il had failed to crack, and the sight of her old friend sent a dangerous mixture of sorrow and rage racing through her.
Someone- Horen, she supposed, with Esma'il's permission- had lit the several lanterns installed throughout the cabin, and in their warm glow she could see exactly what three days of capture looked like on one who was not royalty. There were no shackles, for which she was entirely grateful, but he looked old, tired, worn. The right side of his face was mottled blue and purple, a gift from the day of their capture, she remembered. "My friend," she began, stepping forward. "I-"
"How maudlin." Esma'il's smile was ironic. "But I have no time for such reunions. Narin!"
"You'll oversee this happy meeting," he said languidly. Lucy's heart sank. She'd hoped- well, it had been a foolish hope, but she'd hoped that they would underestimate her even to the point of idiocy. To have been left alone with Horen would have made things much simpler. "I'd prefer it if the creature didn't fill the little queen's head with thoughts of misbehavior."
"Of course, Lord Esma'il."
It was worth one last try, though. "Captain, your man cannot stay while I am being attended to. It would not be prop-"
"Enough." His voice was soft, which only made the menace in his single word worse. It silenced her protest immediately, and in the quiet that followed Lucy realized that she had made almost as great a mistake as Esma'il had in underestimating her.
She'd forgotten that madness.
"I have been lenient, Highness. I have been accommodating. Try my patience but once more tonight, and I will find myself unable to do so again. Now, Narin will be present while your beast is with you, or you will not have an attendant."
His tone had moved from anger to patronization, riling her abused temper. A snarl rose within her, in answer to his malice, but died on her lips the moment she realized what she was about to do. Would a cowed child snarl in the face of a monster? No. Nor could she do so to Esma'il. That must wait. Instead, she summoned a subdued meekness and whispered, "I understand." Now leave, she thought. Leave now, Esma'il.
"Do you?" he asked. His hand on her shoulder was almost kindly, but she flinched despite herself when he leaned down to whisper in her ear, "Remember, little queen, I don't need them. Any of them. So you'd best indulge me."
"Good." With a mocking smile at her and a meaningful look at Narin, he was gone, leaving a heavy silence in his wake.
Lucy stared at the door, torn between anger and the sick sensation she'd been fighting for days. He didn't need her crew- not a one of them. And he would use them against her in any way he could think of, for as long as it was convenient, until one day he decided that it was easier or more amusing to be rid of them. And on that day-
No. She wouldn't think that way. She was Aslan's queen, and Narnia's queen, and neither would abandon her. They simply had to hold on, had to hold together. And with that in mind…
"Horen." She turned to him quite suddenly, forcing her voice into a false brightness. "I have need of you."
If he was startled by the sudden youthfulness of her demeanor, he said nothing, though he couldn't quite hide the surprise in his eyes. He made her a slow half-bow, though she wished he wouldn't; despite his attempts to hide it, she could see the discomfort the motion caused him, and she wondered what other abuse he had suffered at the hands of Esma'il's men. What abuses all her people had suffered.
"Of course, Queen Lucy. How may I serve my queen?"
The subservience in his voice made her throat catch. Horen had never been- none of her counselors, none of her friends had ever been- so submissive. The Faun sounded like a servant- she caught herself, forced herself to think. If she could present herself as a child, could not Horen present himself as a servant? Esma'il was ready to dismiss the entire crew of the Euthymia as little better than beasts and unthinking creatures. He would expect nothing more of her friend than blind obedience.
And he will look, she though, and he will see what he expects, and he will not suspect us. And he will fail because of it.
It was not a happy thought, but vengeance was better than fear or mindless distress, and so she clung to it, and to her disguise. "Yes," she continued, stepping away from Narin. "Yes, Horen. My- my hair needs tending to. It has gotten quite out of hand, and looks unbecoming."
Lucy was glad that her back was to Narin, who still stood impassively at the threshold; that way, he failed to see the first smile of days spread over her face as Horen masked his snort as a hacking cough. Looks unbecoming, indeed. No one cared less than Lucy what her hair looked like, and it was only because of Susan's intervention that she'd not chopped it all off at the start of this unusually warm summer. It was proving useful now, however, and so she thanked her sister silently. Hair as a weapon of espionage; Susan would thrill when she heard of it.
"You could never look unbecoming, your Majesty," he replied. She wondered if Narin caught the irony in the words. "But please, if your Majesty would sit…"
There was nowhere but the bed- oh, she regretted breaking that chair!- and so she was forced to slide onto it, fold her knees beneath her and face the wall. Such a position was the only way that Horen could possibly serve the purpose Esma'il had released him for, yet it meant that both of them had their backs to Narin, an uncomfortable position if ever there was one. He was Esma'il's man; he had to be. He called the pirate 'Lord', followed his commandments like a liegeman. And the bonds between Calormene lords- noblemen, princes, rich merchants, whatever they may be- and their bondsmen ran deep, almost like family, albeit family that the lord could enslave or toss out or murder with impunity. And this was the man to whom she had her back!
"Have you a comb, Narin?"
"Highness, the goat is your attendant, not I. And he has his fingers, has he not?"
"If you will permit me, Queen Lucy, I will try not to hurt you."
No comb, no brush. It was a pirate ship, after all. "I trust you, Horen." And she did, so much so that she had called him to herself for what was looking to be quite a risky conversation. She'd hoped to get him alone; well, that wasn't going to happen. But he was still with her, and she was not so much of a child that she could not converse with him in this situation. "By all means, begin."
Horen's hands were gentle: those of a scholar, whose calluses came from long hours with quills rather than with swords. He loosened the untidy braid and began, slowly, to work out the knots, forcing thick fingers through sea and wind-assaulted tangles. There was a rhythm to it, slow and hypnotic and soothing. Susan did this on occasion, threading her fingers through Lucy's hair and smoothing it by hand. She'd always said it helped to calm her, helped her to occupy her hands in order to free her mind from mundanity.
Lucy hoped it did the same for Horen. "Do you remember the tale of Isiri?" she said quietly, her words muffled even more by the wall to which she spoke. "I was thinking of it earlier today. Do you remember?"
"Indeed, Queen Lucy."
"I was thinking- I was thinking of how Isiri's lover went away from her." Except that the Naiad's lover hadn't gone away from her; he had been killed, lured into a trap by one of Isiri's sisters and murdered there. And Horen would know that, would see the discrepancies in her retelling of the tale, and would hopefully understand them. "I was thinking that perhaps there should be a different perspective on one of the characters."
The hands stilled. Lucy meshed her fingers together. "Yes, your Majesty?"
"Maybe- maybe people should pay more attention to Isiri's sister. I think that she is important- more important than is normally thought." Because she's a traitor, Horen, a trusted traitor. Work it out.
"Indeed, Queen Lucy," he said slowly, his voice contemplative. She winced as he ran his fingers through a particularly stubborn knot. "I shall consider this. And perhaps- perhaps the scholars at the court will see this problem, and will consider it as well."
"I should hope so. I would hate for the story to be misconstrued."
Silence descended in the cabin once more, broken only by the occasional sputtering of a flame or a quiet sound from Lucy as the braid was gradually tamed. Narin was silent- almost too silent. There was no way he could know that old tale, Lucy thought. Hoped. Prayed. Horen knew it because he was a scholar; Lucy because she was a queen and a lover of stories. It was old Narnian, probably second or third century, and not well known outside of Lantern Waste. There was no reason for a liegeman from Calormen to know of it.
"It makes me think of another tale, Queen Lucy."
"Does it? It is a rather unusual tale."
"Yes, but so it this." His voice took on the sonorous quality it always had when he told tales, and Lucy smiled despite herself. "Your Majesty's talk of Isiri rather puts me in mind of Boamus. Such an odd tale."
An odd tale indeed- it wasn't one. Lucy closed her eyes. Boamus had been real- well, Isiri might have been real, too, but Boamus had most definitely lived. She thought back to her history lessons with Mithin. Eight century- or was it early ninth?- Centaur general. Edmund had gone on about him, about his brilliance and general lack of openness in warfare. In Boamus' defense, he had been campaigning against a veritable horde of Calormene bandits. But what was it about Boamus that… ah, yes. He'd been captured, and yet continued to lead the campaign by use of the Animals who'd infiltrated the camp as spies months before. And then… "An unhappy tale," she answered.
"Yet surely his friends could have done no less for him," came the reply, as his hands began to weave her knot-free hair into a long braid.
They died for him! she wanted to shout, but didn't quite dare. They died, Horen. They'd risen in rebellion, all those Animals posing as dumb creatures, and freed their general, and died for it. I am no Boamus, don't die for me. "It is an unhappy tale."
"Yes, Queen Lucy. Many tales are." His hands stilled, their task complete. Before he could ask or search for a tie, she ripped the hem of her dress angrily and handed him a strip of the crumpled blue linen.
"It's not a tale that I enjoy." She felt the newly tied braid fall against her back and turned quickly to look the Faun in the eyes. "Please," she whispered. "I would not be Boamus."
"Enough," Narin barked, effectively cutting off whatever reply Horen would have made. He stepped towards them. "If the goat has finished attending you, Highness, it's time he should go."
"It seems he has finished. You know the Lord's orders."
"I should go, your Majesty," Horen said quietly, and he bowed once more as Narin's hand descended to grip his shoulder and began to pull him towards the door. On an impulse, Lucy shot out her hands and grabbed one of her friend's. "Grace of Aslan with you, Horen." Narin watched impatiently, but she paid him no mind. This she would do, could do, if nothing else. If her people were to make her a Boamus- please, Aslan, not that- then she would, at least, earn it.
She dropped her head to brush a gentle kiss to the back of Horen's hand. The Faun stiffened. The man sighed. "I have no time to indulge in-"
"Don't speak of what you don't understand," Lucy snapped absently, focused instead on Horen's face. Understand, she thought. Please, understand. Understand all the words I can't say, the words I daren't say. By this kiss I grant you my grace and my blessing.
"I am honored, Queen Lucy."
By this kiss I grant my authority.
"Come along," Narin snarled, and pulled Horen away. Lucy let his hand slip between hers. She did nothing but watch as her friend, her confidante, her advisor was taken away, back to whatever prison Esma'il had condemned him- and all the others- to.
The door closed, the bolt snapped; she was alone.
So it was rebellion. Of course it was; they were Narnian, after all. And here, locked in her solitary prison, she could not help them. By this kiss I extend to you, and to all of my people, this command: lead my rebellion.
But please, Aslan, do not make me a Boamus.