A Thorn in the Flesh
"How does he do it?" Lucy giggled.
"What?" Susan asked.
"Corin, he has almost his whole fist in his mouth!" Lucy said, looking down at him.
They were sitting in the garden with Cor and Corin. It was late May and Susan had just turned sixteen. Corin looked up at them balefully and both Susan and Lucy burst into giggles. He was so funny, so impulsive. Cor was serious, infinitely serious, except when he smiled.
Suddenly a hand closed over Susan's mouth and a cold knife blade pricked her throat. With eyes wide she saw Lucy clutch Corin to herself as another man put a hand around her mouth. Susan tried to tell her to run, but it came out a strangled choke.
Suddenly something hit Susan in the head and darkness came.
"Susan!" someone had her shoulders.
She opened her eyes and saw Peter looking down at her, his face drawn with worry.
"Where's Cor?" she gasped, "where's Cor?"
"What do you mean!" Peter exclaimed.
"They took Cor!" Susan stared around herself, "where's Lucy?"
"I'm right here," Lucy's voice came from above her, "I'm all right."
"They took Cor!" Susan gasped again.
"Who took Cor?" Peter asked.
A horde of foxes were dispatched to search the castle and when Cor was not found, a flock of eagles were sent out to search the surrounding countryside. It was not until an hour after the abduction that a dispatch rider arrived, bringing the news that Lord Bar and a group of horsemen were moving fast toward the seacoast.
King Lune assembled a party for pursuit and Peter and Edmund donated a squadron of centaurs and fauns as well as themselves.
"I will not hear of being refused," Peter said, as he mounted his horse, "It's the least we can do."
"Anyway," Edmund said, "Martin says it's good experience."
"Very well," King Lune said. "I will truly be glad of your company."
"But why would they steal him?" Lucy asked staring out the window as she watched the little army disappear into the distance.
"Calormen wants to take Archenland," Susan said as she dropped a stitch in her knitting, "Cor was going to save Archenland from a great catastrophe, so Lord Bar, in the pay of the Calormens, stole him."
"I still can't believe it happened," Lucy said looking down at Corin, sleeping peacefully in his cradle. Slowly a tear trickled down Lucy's nose and dripped off the end.
They arrived in Port Bowfin at three o' clock in the morning. The town was dark, but when the occupants of the lighthouse were questioned and it was confirmed that a galleon, of Calormene build, named the Sphinx, had put to sea two hours before.
Peter and Edmund had been given a room overlooking the harbor and they watched while maintenance crews loaded up the two dark hulks of King Lune's fastest galleons. An enormous amount of supplies had been piled up on the quay and disappeared into the ships. Peter fell asleep, but Edmund stayed at the window watching as the sky lightened, silhouetting the ships' masts and rigging. He realized that he had fallen asleep too only when an ocelot came to tell them that the ships were departing momentarily.
They went down the stairs and out onto the quay into the sea air. King Lune was waiting for them. They boarded the Griffon and watched while the sailors on the Unicorn cast off and raised their jib. The galleon moved slowly out of the harbor, the wind billowing her sails. The Griffon followed a few boat lengths behind.
Edmund leaned on the rail and watched the oily water slip slowly by.
"What are you looking at?"
Edmund glanced up to see Peter beside him.
"Do you think we'll get him back?" Edmund asked.
"I don't know," Peter said. "I don't think King Lune thinks we will; we've gotten off so late."
Peter grabbed the rail as the Griffon caught a cat's paw of wind and heeled over. Ahead of them the foresail of the Unicorn climbed slowly up the foremast and her wake lengthened. King Lune's head appeared at the top of the companionway and looked around until he saw them.
"We'll catch them up in a moment," King Lune said, walking to the rail. "The Griffon can easily outrun her. Have either of you ever been on a ship before?"
"A few times," Peter said. "We sailed with our uncle in his thirty foot Bermuda cutter."
King Lune looked blank.
"It's a kind of small ship in our world," Peter said hurriedly.
"Ready about!" the Captain's foghorn voice split the air and the sailor at the wheel put her hard to starboard. The boom swung overhead and the Griffon heeled sharply to starboard. Both her main and fore had been set as well as her jib and staysail to balance her. She was of the lateen rig instead of the more traditional square rig. It made fast and maneuverable, capable of sailing very close to the wind. But she was small and not heavily armed.
King Lune stood looking over the bulwarks for a minute, then left them and walked to the quarter deck to talk to the Captain.
"I think," Peter said, watching him leave, "If the whole thing with Narnia works out, we'll have a go at a real gaff rig, it would be better."
"Topsails, too," Edmund said. "She would be considerably faster. What would you name her?"
"Splendor Hyaline," Peter said thoughtfully.
"Where'd that come from?" Edmund asked skeptically.
"Lucy." Peter said.
"Since when did you and Lucy have heart to heart talk about Narnia's future navy?" Edmund asked.
"We didn't," Peter laughed. "Remember the little toy boat that father made her two years ago for her birthday?"
"Oh, I remember," Edmund said. "She named it Splendor Hyaline, didn't she? I wonder if it means something. Hyaline, I mean."
"It means something to her."
"That's all that counts."
"Certainly." Peter said, then grinned, "I looked it up in the dictionary to see if it meant anything."
Peter laughed again, "It's from Greek and it literally means something with a glass like appearance. In medicine it's a kind of shiny cartilage, it's the type you find at the end of bones. Don't tell her I found that out."
"Don't worry." It was Edmund's turn to laugh, "She must have been reading the index of Susan's medical book."
The Griffon overtook the Unicorn with a bone in her teeth. The water churned under her forefoot as she drove into the swell. It curled past her smooth hull in a long wave, the light reflected off the lapping waves painting strange patterns on the white paint.
"There's a bit of motion, isn't there," Edmund said, grabbing a deadeye next to him.
"Yes," Peter said, "It doesn't bother you, does it?"
"Why should it?" Edmund asked. "We've been in worse in the channel. Remember the time we felt our way into Maldon Water in a fog?"
"Too well," Peter said. "I think father nearly had a heart attack."
The sun rose and they went below to eat breakfast. Halfway through, a school of dolphins was sighted and they lowered a dingy to see if they were talking. They were, and they said that the Sphinx had sailed south, towards Calormen.
The Unicorn came alongside for orders and King Lune called for every inch of canvas to be set. They fairly flew.
They sailed within sight of land. They had left Archenland behind and for as far as they could see, the land stretched a limitless desert. With the sun shining on it, it looked like burning gold and they could feel the heat of it, even across miles of cold blue water.
They did not see the Sphinx that day, or the next. It was on the morning of the third day that the lookout on the main top saw a sail.
King Lune, Peter and Edmund scaled the ratlines and viewed the sail through a heavy brass telescope King Lune had brought along. It was definitely the Sphinx.
"We'll have her by tomorrow." King Lune said, satisfied.
They ran on. The wind freshened and shifted in the night so they were running before it. In the morning, when Peter and Edmund came on deck they could see the Sphinx without the telescope.
"We'll board her today," King Lune said.
It was nine o' clock when the Sphinx came about and dove towards the coast. The Unicorn cut her off and the Sphinx crammed on sails and ran. They followed and the coastline opened, showing the river into which the Sphinx had tried sail.
Tashbaan, the capital of Calormen, was down the river.
King Lune ordered everyone to arm himself and they lined up on the ship's rail, watching the Sphinx as they followed her.
"Were going to board her in a moment, Edmund." Peter said, staring out at the pennant of the Sphinx, "For heaven's sake, don't get yourself killed."
Edmund replied by pulling Peter under his shield. The Sphinx loosed a sheet of arrows and they heard them rattling on the deck.
"Don't worry, Pete," Edmund said, looking down at the arrows stuck in his shield. "I'm going to be too busy making sure you don't get killed."
Peter grinned and punched him in the shoulder.
They heard an arrow whistle overhead and they looked up to see Lord Twang hanging off the rigging, bow drawn, his tail just a puff behind him.
"What's he shooting at?" Edmund asked.
"Look," Peter said, taking hold of Edmund's arm as another arrow buzzed overhead. "He's shooting at the mainsheet."
"Smart move," Edmund said, "Do you think he can cut it?"
"He thinks he can."
They could see the sheet was beginning to fray, but it was three arrows later before the yard gave a groan and crashed to the deck. Without her mainsail the Sphinx lost way and in the confusion that followed the Gryphon came alongside her and dropped a spiked plank on her deck. The next moment they were on her.
Edmund found that battle wasn't at all like he expected. The last moments before they boarded her, Peter told him to stick close and then they were in it. Edmund was attacked by a chap with a knife in his teeth and an evil looking nicked cutlass. It wasn't frightening, it wasn't even fast. The man slashed at him, but it seemed to be almost slow motion and Edmund disarmed him without thinking.
Edmund stuck close to Peter, each of them trusting the other to protect his back. They fought their way to the foremast. Peter cut the sheet with a slash of Rhindon and they watched the foresail come rattling down. It made the battle easier for everyone with the ship moving only under her jib. The Gryphon hove-to and the Unicorn came alongside and added her men to the ranks.
Lord Bar had rallied his men around him and they were fighting from the poop deck, but the battle was lost and they knew it. It finally ended when Twang picked Lord Bar off with an arrow.
"He isn't anywhere." Peter said bluntly.
King Lune bowed his head.
Peter herded Edmund out the door of the cabin and they slowly ascended the companionway.
"I could have told you that," Edmund said slowly.
"What?" Peter asked.
"That Cor would be missing."
"One of the ships boats is missing. The ropes that were lashing her down are cut, signifying hast." Edmund said, "Lastly Cor isn't here."
"You always were smart," Peter said, squeezing Edmund's shoulder. "If you are right, which you are, then he's in Calormen now or will be soon. We'll never see him again."
They sailed along the coast, looking for the ship's boat, if indeed that was what had happened.
Three Calormen galleons assaulted them and they were forced to leave.
When they reached Cair Anvard again, King Lune sent an embassy to the Tisroc of Calormen to ask about Cor. The Tisroc was very understanding and sympathetic, but declared that he was oblivious to the actions of Lord Bar.
"Lying, of course," King Lune said. "We had plenty of information on Lord Bar to prove it."
The disappearance of Cor remained a painful remembrance among King Lune and the four children and a great mystery among the people of Archenland.
The End...for now.
An Author's Note:
Well...that's it folks, that's the end...of this bit. The next story, The Lion, is the last leg of the trilogy covering the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. They'll finally end up back in Narnia like they're supposed to...and meet Aslan.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this thing as much as I have writing it. It's certainly been fun, but (in my opinion) it's not a terribly good piece of writing. (I did write a good hunk of it when i was a lot younger...so if you thought it was kinda stilted...)
Anyhow, Happy reading and please, please read The Lion. Rose'll have to put it on, I haven't the faintest...
Thanks for your comments!