A Flight of Fantasy - for Metonomia in the August 2011 Narnia Fic Exchange
One day the Queens Susan and Lucy gathered together in a pleasant sitting-room overlooking the ocean to read a curious letter which had arrived, hand-carried first by Human and then by Beast couriers, directly from the royal court in Archenland. It was a fantastically important thing, a wooden scroll-case sealed with wax which bore the mark of the Couriers of the Archenland High Court. Within was a smaller scroll whose seal bore the mark of the Lady Aravis.
"What do you think it could be, Lu?" Susan asked, running her fingers over the precious wooden case – it smelt most delightfully of cedarwood, which grew in profusion near the Calormene border.
"One way to find out," said Lucy, who took the small knife given to her by Father Christmas so many years ago to break the seal. The letter was written in an elegant, flowing hand which put most of the manuscripts in the castle library to shame.
On this 14th day in the month of Springthaw,
The Lady Tarkheena Aravis, daughter of Kidrash Tarkaan, son of Rishti Tarkaan, son of Kidrash Tarkaan, son of Illsombreh Tisroc, son of Ardeeb Tisroc, descended in a right line from the God Tash and Lady Zardeenah-
Begging the patience & indulgence of Queen Susan the Gentle and Queen Lucy the Valiant, Sisters to King Edmund the Just and King Peter the Magnificent, Rulers of Narnia, Appointed by the Great Lion Aslan, formerly of Spare Oom, War Drobe-
With permission of Lune, son of King Lain, son of Queen Witholm, daughter of King Olvin; King of Archenland, father of Princes Cor and Corin, and quiet approval from the High Archenland Council of Noble Trades-
The Tarkheena Aravis requests a visit from same Queens, for resolution of a matter which concerns not only all named personages' current countries but that country of the Tarkheena's birth as well, in concordance with the Alliance of Archenland and Narnia, which has existed since the time of the children of the Originators Frank and Helen, great-many-grandparents of all Archenland nobility 'til now and hopefully forever more, by the grace of Aslan.
The Tarkheena respectfully wishes to impress upon their noble Queenships that this is a matter of some urgency, and writes in the hope that she will see her friends ere too long, providing that they are not otherwise occupied with the ruling of their great country.
Blessings of both the Great Lion and the Lady Zardeenah,
Respectfully & with all affection,
"Hm," Lucy said.
"News travels, I suppose," said Susan.
"Can't have," Lucy replied. "Peter's only been home for five days, and we've not let anyone know he's back."
"He won't let anybody tell us," Susan said.
"That too," Lucy amended. "Oh, noble my sister," she said, adopting a deep voice that did not entirely sound unlike her brother, "we must save your precious cordial for more important matters. This will heal in mere weeks."
"And until then he'll be hid in the wine-cellar, not letting anybody know he's had to come home early," Susan said, rolling her eyes.
Lucy laughed. "Or at least until he can walk without use of a stick."
"Have you considered putting a drop of the cordial in his wine?"
"I'm under strict orders not to," Lucy said, re-rolling the scroll. "Which reminds me – when Ed gets back I'd like him to draft a law stating that she who keeps the cordial may decide who shall take it."
"She and no other," Susan mused. "I rather think he would." Susan opened the cedarwood letter-case. A small scrap of paper fell out. "He's got to deal with it more than we do – oh, what's that?"
"Let's see," Lucy said, as Susan reached for the scrap. This was hastily scribbled with charcoal on rough birchbark paper, and wouldn't have done for a Mole's grocery list in Narnia, had Moles ever bothered to write anything, even if they could – which they can't.
"Corin," Lucy said with a mix of fondness and exasperation, recognizing the scrawl at once.
Someone came a week ago. Someone from Calormen. I haven't got to talk to them, Father says I'm not to. Aravis is worrying her fool head off and won't even tell me or Cor why. She'd send Cor to thump me good for this except she ought to know better, and besides she asked me to send it out for her. Come as soon as you can, will you both? Lucy, bring that berry wine – we've run out and Father won't formally request more because of what happened with it last time.
Leaving the country in their royal brother's capable hands – and, even more importantly, the hands of those unlucky few who were doomed to tend to the unhappily lamed King – Queens Lucy and Susan made for Anvard. The end of spring is the best time of year for the mountain crossing, as the fog burns off the land fairly early on but the summer has not yet set in enough to make the day hot once the fog is gone.
The royal sisters rode together, though of course not on Talking mounts: Lucy's steed was a high-tempered palfrey, a bright chestnut mare with inquisitive eyes. Susan rode an old war-horse who'd been imported from Galma to improve the Narnian stock: he was heavy of bone but agile, with a scarred black hide and a face scattershot with grey. The sisters camped under the stars, eating military field rations (which in Narnia are excellent), sleeping wrapped in cloaks and warming their booted feet by their campfires.
They made good time and crossed into Archenland on the second day. The close of the third brought them to Anvard, where the sisters were welcomed and word was sent back of their safe arrival.
The lady Tarkheena Aravis offered a Calormene curtsey, deep and smooth and well-practiced, but for her pains she was set off-balance and nearly flattened by a fierce Narnian greeting. Being forcibly embraced by a pair of Narnian Queens that are happy to see you is a pleasant, but somewhat stifling, experience.
"It is good of you to come so quickly," Aravis said, once she'd properly found her breath and feet.
"It's been far too long, dear," Susan told her.
"How could we keep from coming?" Lucy asked. "You've offered us a tempting mystery."
"I did hope to appeal to your sense of adventure," Aravis said, waiting until the Queens settled themselves on a comfortable couch, and then kneeling at the low table before it to pour the tea, in Calormene fashion. Some things did not change, for Aravis.
"Thank you, sweetheart," Susan said, cradling her cup in her hands and breathing in the steam. "This is lovely."
"Thank you, my lady," Aravis said. "It is a tisane from my part of Calormen. Some comforts one is loath to give up, have you not found?"
"Too true," Lucy said, slanting a glance at her sister – who, if woken late at night, could not be trusted around ordinary bread and butter.
Interpreting the glance correctly, and not wishing to discuss her peculiar snacking habits, Susan took the lead: asking after the health of various friends from Archenland, and offering news and gossip from Narnia. For a time the women discussed friends, family, and allies; when the news came to rumors from abroad things turned more serious.
"I had thought that Rabadash would keep himself peaceful, after – well, after everything."
"Oh, he has," Aravis said. "To be true, he's kept to the confines of his curse rather well. That has not eased his temper. He chafes at his restriction and is affronted by the thought of sending others to wage war in his stead, which has kept him quiet since then."
"Hn," Lucy said, worrying her lip between her teeth. "I dislike the sound of that – does he call it a curse?"
"How else would he see it?" Aravis asked. "He must stay near to his home or face the wrath of a god that he did not believe in."
"One should be more concerned with whether or not the gods believe in you," Susan said, echoing an old maxim – a funny story, but one for another time.
"True, and Rabadash now knows this well," Aravis said. "Yet his ambition has not cooled. "This is why I have asked you to visit, for what I am to tell you concerns both of our countries." Aravis gracefully stood – that she could sit on her heels for hours without stiffness was a trick Susan often envied – and retrieved a thick collection of scrolls from a nearby desk.
Helpfully, Lucy cleared the tea things away to one side of the table, while Susan retrieved some heavy ornaments to use to hold the scrolls open.
"This came to me a tenday ago," Aravis said, taking her place at the opposite side of the low table, holding the sheaf of parchment paper to her chest. "It was brought to me at great risk by a woman who had once known my mother. She was found half-dead of fever and lack of water, wandering the Southern March. I did not recognize her, but she had in her time been one of the engineers in the Tisroc's domestic service."
"Had been?" Lucy asked. "What happened?"
"What always happens?" Aravis asked with a shrug. "A woman unmarried, and better at invention than the men surrounding her – what do you expect?"
"Bad metaphors about fields and plows?" Lucy hazarded.
"Succinctly, yes," Aravis said, grinning.
"Rabadash assured me that his society was every bit as egalitarian as ours," Susan sighed.
"Calormenes do not have the example of your good Beasts when it comes to why the female of the species ought be the one making all decisions," Aravis said. "Would be easier for us all if they did – the important matters, at least."
"Idiot men," Lucy sighed. "What happened to her, then?"
"Diya – that is her name," Aravis continued, "was demoted to a simple copyist, even after heading the project. I suppose she'd ruffled too many egos. Not a hard thing to do, in the engineering circles. That is why it took so long for her to learn what was really being planned. Once she did, she made a plan of her own. She stole the plans, made her way to Tashbaan, then stole a mount and made for our side of the desert."
"Not an easy journey, even when you're prepared for it," Lucy mused.
"That I know well, Lady," Aravis agreed. "As I said, Diya was in a bad way when she came to us. She has since recovered, and wishes to help us with this endeavor." With that, Aravis rose to her knees and unrolled the sheaf of paper scrolls on the table.
"Is that – what I think – what is that?" Lucy asked, eventually.
"This is the plan for a Calormene ship-of-war which flies."
"Why did she bring this here?" Susan asked, after some time.
"That, as your Lion says, is not my story to tell," Aravis smiled. "But she would like to. May I call her in?"
Diya was a gentle, soft-spoken woman whose diffident manner contained a core of iron – or, perhaps, platinum. When it came to explaining the engineering blueprints she became animated and forceful. It was easy to see why the Calormene engineers were intimidated. Susan and Lucy felt a bit intimidated as well – but, being themselves, found it a delightful experience and only wished they had more time to explore the depths of the woman's remarkable mind.
"So you see, the furnace here heats the air, which fills the balloon, and the hot air will cause the craft to rise."
"I think I remember something like this from – from Before," Susan said carefully, trying to tease out the memory.
"I remember large balloons," Lucy offered. "I don't remember that they carried anything."
"Barrage balloons," Susan said thoughtfully. "I think that's what they were called."
"Interesting," Diya said. "Do you know anything about their fabrication?"
"Sorry, no," Lucy said. "We were only children when we left that land."
"As I hear it, you were children when you won a war," Diya said – not a rebuke, just an observation.
"Wars and engineering are very different things," Aravis observed.
"The lady speaks truth," Diya said. "In that case, I wish to know what you think should be done with these plans."
"That's simple, isn't it?" Susan asked. "We ought to build one to see if it works. They hadn't got that far, had they?"
"No," Diya said. "This was only a plan. They'd made a few experimental craft – much smaller, nothing near life-size – to prove the idea had merit. But I escaped before they'd the chance to build the full craft. Too, the Calormene engineers are fond of redundancy – I brought as much information as I could, but I doubt not that there are more plans for building, in other places."
"I think I have an idea," Lucy said brightly.
"Oh?" Susan asked.
"I do believe we owe the Glasswater guild a visit."
"They did say that they wished us to bring them a challenge," Susan mused.
Aravis turned to smile at her countrywoman. "I told you that these Queens have a fine sense of adventure."
"I only hope that I am permitted to accompany them," Diya replied.
"Madam," Susan said, "as you are our expert, I must insist."
The problem – or problems – were an identical set of faces, hanging about as sad as hounds, moping dreadfully over being ignored. When Aravis stepped into the hall, looking for someone to send for lunch, she tripped over the brother-princes of Archenland.
"Whatever you're planning in there," Corin said, "we want to be a part of it."
"Brother," Cor scolded, but that was as far as he got.
"No, Cor," Corin said. "She's taken them all to herself, they're locked away with a – a – a Council of War in there, and I'll not be left out of it."
"I highly doubt they can plan a war without our good father involved," Cor pointed out.
"Right now the only plan I have is to send for lunch," Aravis told them honestly.
"I'll get it," Corin said, leaping to his feet. "And then when I bring it back and eat with you, you'll have to tell me what's the matter."
"He misses Lucy terribly," Cor said, a touch too loud for a whisper.
"I miss Lucy's berrywine," Corin groused, before leaving.
"Shasta," Aravis said quellingly.
"Don't you Shasta me," Cor told her. "I want to know what is going on in there. As a crown prince I've a right to be involved."
"You hardly do when your father the King has assured me my privacy in this matter."
"He didn't assure me any privacy in your matters," Cor pointed out.
"He'd no need to," Aravis said loftily. "If my matters are private, then they're no concern of yours."
Cor opened his mouth to argue, found he had no fitting retort to that, and closed it. He thought for a moment.
"When you're done gaping like a fish, then," Aravis said, "I've two Queens to attend."
"By all means, Tarkheena," Cor said, offering a courteous bow while glaring hotly. "Do let us know if we may be of service."
"I shall," Aravis said, and very nearly shut the door on the boy's nose before he finally backed away.
"What on earth was that?" Diya asked, as Aravis backed into the room, fists clenched.
"The twin terrors of Archenland," Susan said fondly. "Have they got their most royal noses out of joint over our secret council?"
"I wasn't aware we were having one," Lucy laughed.
"Anything not involving those two is a secret not to be borne," Aravis said, settling herself almost inelegantly on her floor-cushion. "I must warn you that they are going to bother us mercilessly in the hopes that we relent and bring them along."
"You know," Susan said thoughtfully, "that could be arranged. There is a certain problem in Cair Paravel that I think could use their skills."
"Perseverance or contentiousness?" Aravis asked.
"Both," Lucy laughed, knowing precisely which limping, swearing, cantankerous Problem her sister meant.
"Should I be concerned?" Diya softly asked Aravis.
"Oh, no," Aravis said with a bright smile. "When our friend Queens invent a plot, only good can come of it. Especially when the Princes are involved."
"As you say, Lady," Diya said, a twinkle of amusement in her dark eyes.
"Well, yes, Sire, when you put it that way it does sound rather ridiculous." Aravis glanced away from King Lune, who was half baffled and half amused. This combination of feelings was one he was well accustomed to, considering his sons and neighbors, but Aravis felt mildly embarrassed at causing it – normally, she prided herself on her level-headedness.
"You know your sons as well as anybody," Lucy said. "They're determined to escort us back in order to, to – I don't know. Protect us from low-hanging branches, perhaps."
Lune laughed. "And then what shall they do, attack the trees with swords?"
"For their sake they ought to hope it's a tree and not a Tree," Lucy grinned, "or they'll find themselves outnumbered in a hurry."
"Corin I can understand," Lune mused. "But how has Cor gotten involved in this nonsense? Ordinarily the boy has more sense."
"I fear that I am to blame," Aravis said. "I have not included him in the secret."
All others present – Lucy, Susan, Diya, and Lune himself – exchanged knowing glances. Fortunately for everyone, Aravis missed it.
"After all that we have been through together, I think he takes it ill that I will not tell him a thing of importance to me," Aravis continued.
"That may be," Lune said. "But as it stands, your plan does not involve my sons in any way. Why then do you wish to bring them along? Surely you realize the trip back will be much more, hm, eventful."
"That's one way to put it," Lucy said wryly.
"We've a need of them back in Narnia, actually," Susan said. "They have particular talents that I feel could assist with a delicate matter at Cair Paravel."
"Demolitions or infiltration?" Lune asked; it was clear to all which skill applied to which Prince.
"The latter, I should expect, though some of the former may be useful as well," Lucy offered.
"We think it would do everybody involved good if they were to spend some time attending our brother Peter," Susan finally explained.
"Ah," Lune said. "That would be a good experience for Cor, as he has little knowledge of leadership other than my own. Though," he asked, pinning the Narnian Queens with a sharp glance, "I must know: how has your High King injured himself this time?"
One becomes accustomed to a great many things when Narnians are involved. A fit of unstoppable laughter in a closed council hardly rates mention.
The trip back to Narnia would have been uneventful but for the addition of the Princes Cor and Corin. The Lady Diya knew well how to travel, and the Queens and Tarkheena needed no assistance when living rough. This did not stop the boys from trying to be helpful, which mostly meant that they got in the way, although – as Lucy pointed out when both were well out of earshot – it was nice to delegate fire-building, camp demolition, and horse grooming to somebody else. The downside to such delegation was that, with the arguments and occasional fistfights, things took twice as long to get done as they would otherwise. By the third day, even the animals were in a mood.
"At this point, sister," Susan said tiredly, "I'll be more than happy to pick stones from Lorthe's hooves with my jeweled comb if it means I'll get a moment's peace."
"Soon enough, my lady," Aravis said. "Are we not now nearing the edge of the Shuddering Wood?"
The Lady Diya, as Aravis had said, was a capable rider – though her choice of mount gave the Narnians some pause, as she insisted on bringing the camel which had loyally taken her away from Tashbaan and through the desert. She was a particularly fussy creature with no patience for youngsters, and had taken to hissing and spitting whenever the ebullient Princes attempted to tend it.
"We've been through much together, she and I," Diya said, soothing the beast with a hand on its curious, flexible nose, "and I should feel bad if I were to abandon her for a horse, no matter how fine." And that had been that. Diya and her mount had a few things in common, it seemed.
The thing that everybody should have expected – meaning, of course, that nobody had – was that camels are not native to Narnia and, therefore, are quite a thing to see. The Narnian woodfolk, curious at the best of times, were absolutely flummoxed by the sight of such a creature. The procession rather resembled a parade, with Dwarfs and Fauns and Talking Beasts rushing to the edge of the pathway to wave to their rulers and gape at the strange animal. The younger Narnians would often follow along for a time, with the four-footed Beasts particularly prone to tangling themselves in the animals' legs, striking up songs as they went and asking their Queens all manner of questions. Diya and Aravis, more accustomed to Calormene decorum, found this behavior inappropriate at best, though they kept such opinions to themselves – and to each other, with an eloquent conversation conducted entirely by raising eyebrows.
Their destination, agreed upon in secret in Archenland and never spoken of when Cor and Corin could hear, was a consortium of builders near the mouth of Glasswater. A Grove of Oaks had joined their considerable woodworking skills with a mixed Clan of Dwarfs – both Red and Black, an unusual combination – and the lot of them dedicated their time to bettering existing objects and inventing new ones. They had been behind the recent explosion of cuckoo-clocks and, before the Long Winter, had gained a level of fame for perfecting the sewing machine. They had come to the attention of the Royal Four by solving a peculiar problem at Cair Paravel shortly after the castle had been re-inhabited: enchantments preserved a great number of things, but no amount of magic could replace plumbing that had burst during the Great Winter.
Anybody of a like mind was welcome at the Glasswater Inventors' Guild: though the Trees and Dwarfs had started the thing, membership was open to all with callused hands (or the equivalent thereof) and clever minds.
It was plain that Cor and Corin must be kept well away from the place, for the one downside to the Guild was that it, as a whole, had as little patience for tomfoolery as Diya's camel, and the two boys would likely have been run out on specially-invented rails within two days of arriving.
Besides, though they didn't know it, they had a King to pester – or entertain, as Susan firmly put it.
"Hmf," Corin grunted. "What do you mean, we've got to go on to Cair Paravel by ourselves?"
"I mean precisely that," Aravis said, hoping to head the argument off before it had time to properly become one. "Take the horses. And the camel. We've got a different errand."
"The one you won't tell anybody about, is that it?" Cor planted his feet and crossed his arms, unwilling to move until he had received an answer that satisfied him.
"The secret mission that's too good for us," Corin chuntered.
Aravis should have expected that part of the Queens' delegating meant that she got stuck explaining things to the boys.
"Corin, be quiet. Cor, listen to me: the Queens themselves have requested that you attend King Peter at Cair Paravel. Would you go against their wishes?"
"No, but—" Cor attempted.
"Is it not an honor to attend the High King?"
"Yes, but—" Corin tried.
"Then why must you argue?"
The boys glared at each other. "Because we think you'll be doing something even better!" Corin blurted.
"And we want to be a part of it!" Cor added. "I do, anyway. Send this berk on to Cair Paravel."
"Why you—" Corin growled.
"Aren't you supposed to know how to take orders?" Aravis asked. "You're princes!"
"From the King, sure," Cor shot back. "Not from you!"
"My orders are from your father!" Aravis shouted, having finally lost her temper entirely. "And I suspect he told you as much. You're just trying to dodge around him by arguing with me!"
"Well. I, um," Cor said hesitantly.
"What is more important, then?" Aravis thundered. "Doing as your father the King says, or having your way?"
Corin innocently itched at the back of his neck. Cor glanced away.
"Pensawuffinsten," Cor muttered.
"What?" Aravis asked.
"Depends on what's more interesting," Corin translated.
Aravis turned her back on the brothers and took a deep breath. She counted to ten – in the Calormene language, and then in the tongue shared by Narnia and Archenland. She took another deep breath.
"I didn't want to use this," she said, pulling a small packet from her belt pouch and giving it to Cor.
"What is that?" Corin asked, peering over his brother's shoulder.
"It's from Father," Cor said, running his fingers over the wax seal.
You are to do exactly as you are told, even if you are told to hang yourselves upside down naked in a tree. Do you understand me? Consider this an order.
I know well what Aravis is doing, and after counseling with the Narnian Queens have agreed that this requires discretion. When you have learned what that is I may rethink my position on such matters.
Stop arguing with the lady. It's unfitting of a prince.
Love, your Father.
Lucy leaned back, resting her head on Aravis' shoulder, and laughed merrily. "We're safe," she said, "I don't think they can hear us now." When a Narnian Queen leans against you and falls helplessly into laughter, it is very hard to keep from joining in. Aravis stood no chance whatsoever.
"By the stars above," Aravis finally replied, slumping against Lucy. "I've never seen Corin so embarrassed."
"I think they need to spend time with Ed, not Peter," Lucy said, wiping an eye. "Once you know how to lead him around a camel won't be so hard – even if it doesn't like you."
"Especially then," Susan said wryly. "And he'd beat some discretion into their heads. You all right there?" she asked Diya, who rode pillion.
"I am unused to horses, but think I will adapt," the woman replied.
"That's why you're with me," Susan said, clicking her tongue and coaxing the horse forward. "Lorthe is much calmer than Riga."
Aravis, riding pillion behind Lucy on the aforementioned Riga, clung to the Queen. "Most horses are, I'd think," she said. Though the plan had made sense – should the air-ship work, these two steeds would find their own way back to the Cair – Aravis had to admit to herself that she disliked it.
As for the camel, Susan had to admit, it had been a purely perverse notion to send it along with the Princes it so loathed. Too, it would entertain Peter to have a camel about the place for a time.
"They're rather like dogs," Susan said of the boys – and her brother, truthfully. "If you tire them enough, they'll be no trouble."
"I thought you wanted them to trouble the King?" Aravis asked.
"The Twin Terrors and a Calormene camel will be trouble enough just arriving," Lucy assured her.
The Glasswater Guild was a fantastic place dug deep in the hills on the western side of the Rush. Originally it likely had been a natural set of small caves, but in the ages since its inception it had been expanded and enlarged by Dwarf masons, until it was like nothing so much as a half-covered labyrinth, to better accommodate the forest-folk and Trees who were drawn to the place.
The entry was a cobble-paved area under an old stone archway in a hillside. It bustled with activity, though was quieter than Diya had expected. A few of the Narnian engineers nodded hellos at their monarchs, but a remarkable lack of fuss was made at a pair of Queens in their midst, never mind the foreign envoy. Diya appreciated the professionalism involved there, as compared to the princely ruckus that had been made of her escort these past few days.
Presently a Satyr approached them. His hair was wild even for a Satyr, and streaked with white, and shoved up onto his forehead were a curious set of goggles made of leather and brass, with many lenses that could be flipped into place. Following him were a much younger pair of Dwarfs, one Red and one Black.
"Ello there, Majesties," he said easily, taking the horses' reins and handing them to the Dwarfs. "What brings you here today?"
"Hello, Husik," Susan said, sliding from her saddle to clasp hands with the Satyr. "We've brought you a challenge." Susan turned back to her horse and helped Diya down.
"Oho!" Husik said. "A challenge, she tells me. Is this about plumbing again?"
"Hardly," Lucy said, embracing the Satyr. "Good to see you again, cousin. This is a real challenge – a thing I don't think that's ever been built before."
"Certainly not in Narnia," Aravis added, then offered a Calormene curtsey. Diya rolled her shoulders to work out some stiffness and then repeated the gesture.
"Well met, ladies, well met," Husik said, greeting each in turn. "Who've we got here, Calormenes?"
"Yes," Susan said. "This is the Lady Diya, formerly of Calormen, and the Lady Tarkheena Aravis, now of Archenland. Diya is our building expert."
The Satyr's eyes raked up and down Diya's slim form – then back up, then down, then out a bit at the front. A Satyr is a Satyr. He grinned widely. "What have you got for me, milady?"
"I must know, sir, if you've ever constructed a flying machine," Diya said.
"Flying?" Husik asked. "Can't make a thing that flies."
"Oh, but you can," Diya said.
"Flying," Husik echoed, with a snort. "That I'll believe when I see it."
"He's around the Dwarfs too much, I think," Lucy whispered to Aravis, who grinned.
"I assure you, it flies," Diya said. "At least, the scale models did. I have the plans with me."
"Have you?" Husik asked, clearly intrigued.
"We've brought them here from Archenland, where they were brought from Calormen," Susan said.
Diya nodded. "It was difficult, crossing the desert, but I knew I must bring these plans north."
"Well then!" Husik said, obviously impressed. He neatly placed himself between Susan and Diya, then offered his elbow to the lady engineer. "Let's find a workroom and have a look at your goods."
Aravis elbowed Lucy. Susan glanced coolly at them both, then winked. Diya allowed the Satyr to lead her away, while valiantly keeping a straight face. The others fell in behind, and listened while Husik offered her the quarter-Tree tour, as it was commonly called.
It would take all day to describe what they saw even on that short tour: instead it would be better to do as Lucy did, that day, and explain what the Glasswater Guild did. They were devoted to manufacture and invention, and thought no idea too extreme or ridiculous. It is commonly said, in both that world and this, that to learn how to make a thing, one must first learn all the ways that a thing cannot be made. The Guild enjoyed such experimentation for its own sake, and only accepted an idea as impossible once it had been tested to exhaustion. It must be mentioned that the Guild were uniformly fond of explosions, fire, and alcohol. Which undoubtedly explained many things.
"Here we are!" Husik finally bawled, throwing a wooden door open. "In here, please. On the table, my lady – and I suppose you can put the plans there too."
Lucy chewed her lip and worried that her dear Narnian cousins may, in such large numbers, be entirely too much for the reserved Calormene ladies. "I should mention," said Lucy to a staring Diya, "that Satyrs can be a bit flirtatious."
"Really," Diya said, dryly.
Two hours later, Susan and Lucy sat with Aravis at one end of the long table, picking eagerly at a tray of food which had been brought out, and only half-listening to the increasingly complicated discussion.
"I really wouldn't know where to begin," Aravis said, idly running her fingers over a discarded bit of scrap-paper covered with an untidy mess of equations. "My father did not hold with such teachings for women."
"The more fool he," one of the Dwarfs said, reaching for the scrap paper.
"Oh, sorry," Aravis said, offering it to him.
Lucy needn't have worried. Diya was in her element, truly. First she and Husik had gone over the plans. Then she and Husik and five others had gone over the plans a second time. Then an absolute mob had descended upon the room. With the mob came an enormous slate marking-board on a wheeled wooden frame; chairs for five different Narnian species; a basket full of stumps of chalk and charcoal, for writing; another basket full of paper to be used for scrap; a few assorted metal contraptions to aid in precise drawing; three wooden casks of wine; and lastly, rather a lot of food.
Diya was now holding court at the marking-board, marking out equations with her left hand while she glanced at a sheaf of papers held in her right. Husik, who had helplessly fallen in both mental and physical lust with Diya during the first half-hour of discussion, showed his reverence for the lady by arguing with her on every point he could find. This led the pair of them to keep double- and triple-checking their calculations, thus inching things that much closer to perfection.
The drawings on the table had taken final shape. There were a few differences from the Calormene design, but for the most part the thing looked as it had: a wooden hull shaped roughly like half a walnut, hanging from an enormous cloth balloon by way of many ropes. A small sail was mounted at the stern, for steering. Inside, the craft offered little in the way of comfort, though there was space enough on the floor of the thing for three or four humans to sleep, if they were well acquainted.
"It should do, Majesties," Diya finally said, collapsing into a seat and reaching for a pewter tankard that was, incongruously, full of wine. Above and around her, the very finely tuned chaos continued unabated, with various guildsmembers dispersing to do all manner of things that needed doing to construct the craft.
"I will take your word for it, lady," Susan said with a smile. "You're incredible, you know that?"
"Thank you," Diya said, as Lucy handed her a plate piled high with food. "And thank you," she said to Susan. "I have worked hard all of my life to learn these things. The builders here are phenomenal, you know – there is much I could learn from them."
"It would be my pleasure to teach you anything," Husik told her, in a voice rough with longing.
Diya only snorted and sipped her wine.
A Glasswater proverb states: 'If necessity is the mother of invention, then haste is the mother of necessity.' This was proved over and over again in the following week as teams worked 'round the clock to turn the air-ship from rough sketches on a table to a fully-realized craft. It was not pretty, not to Narnian eyes: it was a rough prototype, with a focus on function and not form. Already a team of builders were working out ways to make the thing look better. Still, it did what Diya promised it would do, and after an exceedingly brief test float, it was presented to their Majesties as done, more or less.
In this time messages had come and gone from Cair Paravel and Anvard; Cor and Corin had taken up their duties in ways only they could, and while Peter found himself threatening to knock their heads together every few hours, he privately admitted to his sisters that they would be fine men one day – one far, far, far away day.
Edmund, meanwhile, had sent word from the Lone Islands that he'd intended to return to Narnia before the vernal equinox, which was drawing close. He congratulated his sisters on setting the 'Twin Torments of Anvard' on 'Peter the Thick' and forbade them from ever doing such a thing to him, though of course he'd have more sense than to hobble about for months on an injury that could be healed with a drop of Lucy's cordial.
Lune, for his part, was pleased to strengthen relations between the two countries, and offered the loan of his sons indefinitely, or at least until Peter was fully back on his feet. Peter graciously accepted the offer, but protested that, after so much separation, it would be cruel to keep father and sons apart for too long. Lucy and Susan correctly interpreted this – in rather frayed handwriting – as a sign that the boys were driving Peter absolutely spare.
"I'd almost say they deserve each other," Aravis said to Susan at one point, "if half of what you've told me of your brother the King is true."
It was Aravis, of all people, who came to the obvious conclusion: it would be quite a thing indeed to beat Edmund home in the brand new air-ship. Lucy hugged her in delight and Susan clapped her hands merrily; a further flurry of planning was set in motion as the Guild determined the best times for takeoff, the likelihood of prevailing winds, the approximate time it would take to fly from Glasswater to Cair Paravel, and lastly how to suitably outfit a prototype air-ship to fittingly bear a pair of Queens to their royal home.
Things had run so smoothly until then, it was inevitable that a complication should arise.
"I absolutely will not," Diya said. "I appreciate the offer, but the test was more than enough for me. There is no force on this world that could persuade me to fly any distance in that air-ship." Truly, the test had been more than enough: Diya had panicked when the craft cleared the treetops and forced them to make an early landing. Once she'd regained the steady ground, she'd fainted. After recovering both her senses and her color, Diya embarrassedly explained that it was not the height but the motion. This was accepted without argument, though nobody believed her.
Susan, Lucy, and Aravis tried to argue, but on this point Diya held firm: she'd had her fill of flying – for the rest of her life – and refused to set foot in the craft again unless the balloon was empty.
"But we can't leave you here," Susan protested. "And they say it won't be long to get to Cair Paravel."
"About that," Diya said. "I realize that King Lune offered me a safe haven in Archenland, and I am glad to accept – but is there any way I can decline without causing offense?"
"Why?" Susan asked. "You're not planning on going back to Calormen, are you?"
"Not even if the alternative was a trip to the end of the world in that flying machine," Diya said with feeling. "No, Majesty, I had hoped to throw myself at your mercy instead."
"How do you mean?" Lucy asked.
"There is much I could learn here, at Glasswater," Diya said. "I am sure that a place could be found for me here."
"I can think of several," Husik offered. Diya swatted him over the back of the head: clearly, she'd found her feet among the wild Narnian folk.
"How can we say no to that?" Susan asked. "You've done so much for us – if this is what you desire, then you shall have it. But are you sure you wish to stay here?"
"I think I do, yes," Diya said.
Only Aravis noticed the subtle glance that bounced between the Lady and the Satyr. She said nothing, but allowed herself a small catlike smile. It was good to see such a thing: it made her wonder what might be in the future for herself.
It was a good day for flying. The sky was a clean-scrubbed blue, the wind came from the south, and the morning fog had burnt off early. The Queens and Tarkheena were breakfasting and listening to a series of harried last-minute lectures (useless, as they'd drilled in the use of the craft all week and were as proficient at flight as any in the Guild) about things such as raising and lowering the balloon, adjusting the amount of hot air in it, replacing fuel for the burner, how to operate the sail, and what to do if a crash looked imminent: that last, simply, was 'shout for mermaids, and probably Aslan too.' It had been arranged by some of the Guild that a shoal of mermaids would follow the airship, which would fly entirely over water, so that if something went terribly wrong the mermaids could bring the beginner aeronauts to shore.
After that they were forcibly armed and armored, just in case: Susan and Lucy had of course brought their bows, and Aravis her sword, but nobody had thought it necessary to wear armor. This was quickly seen to, with the three adventurers outfitted in waxed leather armor, lightweight but strong helmets, and for Aravis, a suit of chainmail light as knitted wool.
Thus equipped, the adventurers took to the air.
The sight of Narnia from above was something that none of them thought they would ever forget. They could see forever, it seemed, on such a clear day. The lush meadows, the cool green forests, the sparkling rivers: all of it seemed so clear and nearly close enough to touch. Far in the distance, the white towers of Cair Paravel glittered in the sunlight like a jewel lying against green velvet.
Below them the sea stretched out endlessly to the east. Galma lay in that direction, a day or two past the horizon. It was interesting to see the air-ship's shadow below: over the shallows, the shadow fell on the sandy ocean bottom, but as they got further from the shore and the water darkened, the craft's shadow showed on the water's surface.
A shoal of Mer-Maids swam with the shadow. They were the ones familiar with the Guild, who had agreed to follow the craft as a precaution. Any Narnian Mer-Maid makes a shark look clumsy, and they are seemingly inexhaustible: on occasion some of the shoal would break off and forge on ahead, only to perform spectacular leaps as the air-ship crossed overhead.
Aravis, Susan, and Lucy took turns consulting the maps they had been provided, manning the small wooden wheel for the sail (though Susan had an aptitude for it and took longer shifts), and leaning over the side of the air-ship to cheer their aquatic escort on – which, of course, only inspired them to even more elaborate displays. The wind blew sweet and cool, and the sunlight had not yet gotten the harshness it would have later on in the summer. It was, as Susan idly remarked, a perfect day for a sail – on the water or above it.
The plume of smoke in the distance, then, was that much more of a surprise.
"What is that?" Lucy asked, alarmed. "Over there, to the south," she said, pointing.
"Trouble, I'd guess," Aravis said, shielding her eyes and looking over the sea.
"Let's find out," said Susan, turning the wheel to swing the small sail.
As the air-ship drew closer, they saw trouble indeed: a pair of ships showing the aftermath of what looked to be quite a battle. One was a small Narnian courier ship, likely – as Susan pointed out – returning from the Lone Islands. The other was larger: a pirate ship, by the looks of it. The Narnian vessel was the one burning: some of the pirates – clearly, they were not Narnians – had assembled a bucket brigade to try to put the fire out.
"Idiots," Aravis muttered. "Set it on fire to capture it, then rush to put it out."
"Su," Lucy shouted. "We have to do something!"
"We will," said Susan, who'd tied the wheel in place and was now almost waist-deep in a large canvas bag of supplies the Guild had forced on them at the last moment. "Remind me never to mock Husik again, even if he suggests we bring fishing poles and spare undergarments," she said breathlessly, withdrawing a canvas bundle. She uncovered it quickly, and revealed it to be a Narnian battle flag: the golden Lion rampant on a scarlet brocade background.
Despite the seriousness of the moment, Lucy laughed for joy at the sight. She helped her sister hang it on the nearest side of the air-ship, then shouted down at the Mer-Maids below.
"Be you ready for battle, cousins?" she bawled at the top of her lungs.
A Mer-Maid flipped into the air, seeming to hang motionless for a handful of breaths, and offered a salute that every Narnian knew well: it was a signal devised by Edmund, used on the fields of battle to indicate a message had been heard.
The shoal dove deeply after that, presumably to retrieve weapons.
"Blast it," Susan said. "We're going to be right in that smoke in a moment."
"Just as well," Lucy said. "It might cover us."
"We may get by unseen," said Aravis, "if they are concentrating on the fire and think themselves alone."
Lucy took her little knife from Father Christmas and used it to tear pieces of the flag's canvas wrapping, making crude handkerchiefs. She poured water on them, then wrung them out and passed them around. Each woman tied one over her face: the smoke would still be a problem, but a wet cloth over the nose and mouth would help tremendously.
Susan and Lucy readied their bows. Aravis – who still carried a Calormene sword – checked the blade-guard that kept it locked in its sheath and did the same with her sidearm, a vicious-looking angled blade a bit larger than a Narnian dagger.
"Get as close as you can," said Aravis. "If I can get into the rigging and take myself down, I can take some of them with my sword."
"There's too many," said Lucy, counting the people handing buckets. "And none of ours can help, I think – they're all tied up. Some look hurt."
"It would help to free the ones who aren't," Aravis said. "Could a Mer-Maid carry a person on board?"
"Sure," Susan said. "They're very strong."
"Good," said Aravis, suddenly loosening her belt.
"What are you doing?" Lucy asked, as Aravis slid out of her chainmail and dropped her helmet. She sat down and unlaced her boots, hurriedly.
"If they can get me onto the ship I'll free our people," she said. "We'll take as many of those damn pirates as we can."
Alarmed, Susan leaned over the air-ship's railing to check on the shoal, which had now reappeared and was speeding towards the burning ship. She waved for attention and one Mer-Maid hung back, waiting.
"Are you sure about this?" Susan asked.
"No," Aravis said with a grin, "but they say in Calormen that – oh, never mind." She grinned, then flung herself over the side of the air-ship.
Susan and Lucy watched as Aravis lengthened her body and shot to the ocean below. The air-ship was not particularly high, perhaps only at a level with the larger ship's crow's nest. Aravis dove cleanly, landing with a small splash, and the Mer-Maid dove after her, resurfacing a moment later with the girl clinging to her back.
Below, Aravis offered the message-received salute, and the Mer-Maid sped off with her.
"That's not really what we use that signal for," Susan mused, sighting down the length of an arrow.
"Oh, it'll do," Lucy said, arranging their quivers against the wall of the air-ship.
A moment later, the air-ship swung fully into the smoke cloud pouring from the Narnian vessel. Susan and Lucy adjusted their damp kerchiefs and waited anxiously, watching the action on the deck. Luckily, the smoke blew higher than the deck of the air-ship, though it was hopelessly staining the balloon. If they noticed that at all, it quickly slipped their minds because of what was happening below.
The shoal of Mer-Maids quickly surrounded the vessels and leapt into the air, swinging glistening cutlasses made of bone, or stone, or shell. It was all too easy for them to pare any pirates on the railing down to shreds. It would have been foolish for them to land on the decks, as they'd then be at a distinct disadvantage – though there had been stories of Mer-Maids doing just that. They didn't need to, however, as every pirate plying the waters near Narnia knows that a determined shoal of Mer-Maids can tear a hole in a hull in a matter of minutes.
One of the pirates let out a cry: "Ware, Mer-Maids!" and soon the lot of them were clustered around the railings, firing arrows down at the shoal, swinging their swords threateningly and daring the creatures to come up and 'fight like men.'
That is one of the worst things one can say to any Narnian Creature, of course – and had the pirates known it only fueled the Mer-Maids' anger, they likely would have said it anyway, being idiots.
Susan and Lucy watched in amazement as one particular Mer-Maid with a small Calormene bundle on her back made an incredible leap, throwing herself onto the deck of the pirate ship. The Mer-Maid timed the jump perfectly, and was caught by the ship's sail. Apparently this was something they had planned, for while the Mer-Maid allowed herself to fall to the deck, Aravis had got out her knife and plunged it into the sail. It sliced a long jagged tear in the cloth, and thus slowed Aravis down enough to land safely.
The Mer-Maid, having much more sense than a fish, thrashed about determinedly, and before Aravis had landed she'd already dove off the ship, carrying a screaming pirate with her.
All of this seemed to take forever, but it was hardly any time at all before the air-ship was within shooting range.
"Let them go!" Susan shouted, and with that she and Lucy took careful aim and shot. The arrows landed true, and pirates collapsed where they stood. Chaos reigned for a handful of moments, until the baffled pirates noticed the unbelievable craft above that seemed to contain an army of archers. The Narnians on board, catching sight of the strange craft sporting the Lion banner, cheered as one. With Aravis' help, they began to work themselves free, and set themselves against the pirates with renewed vigor and anything they could find that would serve as a weapon. The Mer-Maids, noticing this, tossed their cutlasses onto the deck for the Narnians to take up against the pirates.
The pirates, now well aware of the air-ship's presence, fumbled for bows. Luckily, the air-ship was by now very nearly on top of the two boats, and most of the arrows thudded into the thing's hull, which was thick enough to stop them. A few zinged into the enormous balloon, but that was not a concern, as the Guild had expected slight rips and had built to accommodate them. With Susan wielding her magic bow, and skilled Lucy at her side, it was unlikely that any pirate got off more than a single shot.
It was over quickly: the bulk of the pirates had been killed, the rest captured, and by the time Susan let down a rope, one of the Narnian sailors had climbed up to moor it to the ship's mast. With the help of the Mer-Maids, the doomed Narnian courier ship was pulled free of the pirate ship, so that the fire wouldn't spread.
"By the Lion," said one of the Faun Narnian sailors, as Susan and Lucy worked their way down the rigging, "by the very Lion! He must have sent you to us, there's no other way. We thought we were done for!"
"Not today, good sir," Susan said with a smile.
"Have you wounded?" Lucy asked, her hand immediately going to the little glass bottle on her hip.
"Yes, my Queen," said another sailor. "This way, please."
One of the injured was Aravis, who'd taken a nasty gash to her arm and had sprained an ankle while landing. "I can walk on it," she argued. Lucy just rolled her eyes and waited until Aravis subsided and accepted a drop of the cordial.
"We've one unaccounted for, Majesties," one of the sailors said to the Queens. "We're searching the—"
"Found him!" another sailor shouted, coming up from belowdecks with a limping man hanging from his shoulder. The man looked to have taken more of a beating than probably anybody else.
He also looked like Edmund, because he was.
"I'm not even going to ask how you've got here," Edmund said by way of a hello, allowing himself to be roughly deposited on a heap of netting. "I'm just glad you did."
"Have a good trip?" Lucy asked lightly, checking him for injuries.
"What do you think?" Edmund snarled.
"I mean before this part," Lucy said absently, ruffling his hair. "As I recall this was supposed to be an important diplomatic mission."
"Oh, that," Edmund said, distractedly. "Yes, actually. We'd – AURGH!" With a crunch, Lucy maneuvered Edmund's shoulder back into its proper place. "Ugh, thank you," he said.
"Tch," Lucy said, readying the cordial. "I've had worse. Here."
"Your story is the one I want told," Edmund said, rolling his shoulders and relaxing as the cordial took effect.
"We'll have time," said Lucy. "Do you want to ride home with us?"
The Narnian ship's captain had been lost, and some of the crew as well (though three men overboard were retrieved by the Mer-Maids, who had all got through the adventure unscathed) but there were enough left to secure the pirates and sail their ship back to Narnia.
"You'd better sail under a white flag," said Susan to the Dwarf first officer – now captain – who sent some of the men up into the rigging to see to the air-ship. They checked for any visible damage, cleared it of what arrows they could reach, and hauled up food and drink from the pirates' meager stores.
"We'll not be more than a halfaday behind you," the Dwarf officer said. "Even if we still had our ship—" he nodded sadly in the direction of the smoldering wreck in the distance "—I daresay you'd outpace us in that flying contraption of yours."
"What is it, Majesties?" another sailor asked.
Edmund, now recovered in all but mood – for the cordial cannot see to inborn quirks of character – raised a hand for silence. This was met by more noise, naturally, as the Narnian sailors all shouted for each other to be quiet, the King's got something to tell us.
"You have served us in a way that would make Aslan himself proud," Edmund said, in his most kingly voice. "Their Majesties my sisters and the Lady Tarkheena are going to ride to Cair Paravel with me in the air-ship. I ask that you follow as quickly as you can, so that when you arrive home safely we can celebrate your bravery and give you the rewards you so deserve. Aye?"
"Aye, sir!" the officer said, and the rest of the sailors cheered.
The day had been won, impossibly: but everybody knows that impossible things are rather likely, in Narnia.
"I still don't understand," Edmund said, hours later. The pirate ship was little more than a speck on the horizon and Cair Paravel was now near enough to see individual Narnians walking about.
"We had to," Aravis said simply.
"You didn't," Edmund said.
"And then what?" Lucy asked. "It'd just be more trouble for us later on."
"It's been quite enough trouble already, I'd imagine," Edmund said, "and I don't think it's over yet. You know how they are – you especially," he said to Aravis. "This won't go well."
"Of all the things," Susan laughed softly. "You can accept a Calormene engineer turning traitor and bringing us the schematics for this flying ship, but you argue about why we forced the Twin Terrors on Peter?"
"You're not the one who'll have to escort them home, you realize," Edmund groused.
"No, but I will," Aravis said glumly, then realized what she hadn't said. "Sire," she added into the sudden silence.
Edmund stared, then burst out laughing. "My good lady," he said to her, once he'd regained his composure, "you are a most welcome guest at our home for as long as you desire. Certainly long enough for them to go home well before it is time for you to make the journey. And please, call me Edmund."
High King Peter had not been having a good day. He had not had a good week, for that matter, or a good fortnight – or, considering how long he'd been nursing the injury, a good month.
The earlier parts of it, though, seemed easy in comparison to the chaos that the Most Evil and Scheming Queens his sisters had forced on him, in the forms of Princes Cor and Corin. Between the two of them, there'd been several fights, a few pieces of broken furniture, two frightened guards – and it's not easy to frighten a Wolf, one dented sword (Edmund's third-best, and there would be hell to pay), a Librarian that hopefully was only in hiding, three irate mending-women, and an absolute mess in the kitchen. Peter wondered, idly, whether he and his own brother had been so impossible at that age. Surely not: the rest of Narnia would have tied them up and dumped them in the sea, and quite fairly too.
Thus it was that when another shouting hullabaloo worked its way into the study Peter had commandeered – chosen for its strategic location far from both the boys and that abhorrent camel which followed him about intent on licking his hair – Peter's only reaction was to place a hand over his face.
"Sire," the door-guard said sourly, before the boys burst in.
"You won't believe what I've just seen," Cor said breathlessly.
"I saw it first, you git," Corin told him, swinging at his brother.
"And stood like an idiot with your mouth hung open to catch flies," Cor said, dodging his brother's arm.
"Sirs," Peter said quietly.
"I fear you've confused me with yourself, you pillock," Corin said, rushing his brother and catching hold of him.
Another torn tunic, Peter noted. He was almost beyond caring. "Sirs," he said firmly.
"Stupid tosser," Cor growled, doing his level best to fight back – which, Peter noticed, wasn't very good.
"Pretentious git," Corin snarled, edging the other boy onto a small table and sending it and its contents – and Cor himself – to the ground.
"Knuckle-minded savage," Cor yelped as he went down.
"IDIOTS!" Peter shouted, having snatched a water jug from the table at his side and throwing it onto the fighting pair. The sound of shattering crockery was not enough to startle the Princes, but the splash of surprisingly cold water did the trick nicely. Peter made a note to himself to remember this method of defusing the boys.
"He started it," Corin offered by way of apology, his voice somewhat muffled by his brother's armpit.
"Fishing was a quiet life," Cor mused.
"Will somebody tell me what in the blazes has got everybody in an uproar?"
"Oh, that," Cor said. "Your royal brother and sisters return."
"They flew!" Corin added. "In a ship!"
"They did what?" Peter echoed, blankly.
"Come and see!" Cor said. "I think it's landing on the lawn outside the large dining-room. Sire."
Peter heaved a sigh, accepted his crutch from a waiting Faun, and hobbled after the two Princes. A gaggle of Narnians followed him: while they had become accustomed to the explosive Archenlander arguments, two Queens and a King appearing in a flying ship was another thing entirely.
When Peter made his way outside he stopped, staring, and remained thus until Cor nudged him good-naturedly. "Sire?" he asked.
It was a ship. With an enormous cloth balloon, and a small sail, and a mechanism that spouted fire nearly into the belly of the balloon, and a Narnian war-flag hanging from it. It was tethered to a tree – rather, a Tree, as the whole business was swarming with Dryads and any helpful others who had been around to see the thing land. And, impossibly, his family and the Lady Aravis clambering out.
"Lucy!" Peter shouted, as soon as his youngest sister's feet touched the ground.
"Oh, Peter!" she said, throwing herself at him. Peter braced and accepted her hug. "You won't believe the time we've had. I can't wait to tell you all about it!"
"Before anybody does anything," Peter said, "I beg you, sister, give me a drop of your cordial. I've a pair of fine Archenland hides here in need of tanning, and after that you shall tell me why I find myself plagued with a Calormene camel that's taken an unnatural liking to me."
Cor and Corin exchanged alarmed glances, offered Aravis a damp hug, then escaped into the castle.
"Knew it'd work," Lucy said to Susan, who merely smiled.
This story was written for Metonomia in the 2011 Narnia Fic Exchange. Her prompt-request was as follows-
What I want: ladies! madcap adventures, teamwork, world building, travel, nature/natural forces, pirate ships, unseen events/background stories, minor characters, magic, mythology, crossovers (Supernatural or Dr Who preferably, if you so choose)
Let me know if you think I did all right at that.
Thanks go to Ruth Stewart and Lady Songsmith, both of whom were very helpful during the wild flailing and panic in the later parts of August as I struggled to get this in before the deadline. It is due entirely to their encouragement and coaxing that the story does not end in Anvard with: THEN EVERYBODY HAD HERRING PIE. THE END.
The camel is totally Ruth's fault, and that mostly-innocent even-toed ungulate has somehow spawned a world of AU/AR fic in which everybody lives and has wild adventures. Links to that can be found on Ruth's journal.
… herring pie would be revolting, wouldn't it? Gurk.