Duke Dilly-Dong from Dickheadland was an unconscionable ass.
His name was not, actually, Dilly-Dong, and he was not from Dickheadland, and Marcie was pretty sure that he wasn't even a duke, but the title suited him nevertheless. She had, at one point, known his actual name and origin, but he had been swiftly rechristened after she'd had to pass him in the hallway and he'd insisted upon dragging her into the theater of his shock that there was another human being in Cair Paravel besides he and the Four.
The conversation had gone something like this, though Marcie took free license in exaggerating his already considerable ridiculousness whilst replaying it in her head, complete with absurd voices:
"By Jove! Can this be? A human being! For certainly I was raised in a society without humans and have never seen one before!"
"We haven't been introduced. I am Duke Dilly-Dong of the Land of Dickhead, and you must be…"
"Really? My sources—though they are everywhere and secret and make me practically omniscient—must have misinformed me."
"What is your business in the palace, Marcie-whose-name-noticeably-lacks-a-title? I see that you haven't been taking meals with Their Most Gracious Majesties, and am going to strongly imply that you're nobody."
"I live here."
"Then how come I haven't heard of you, lady? (And aren't I clever? Because I just reminded you that you aren't actually a lady, ha ha ha, and I would have heard of you if you were because I am Important and Informed. Did I mention that I haven't seen you at dinner?)"
Mr. Hoberry had interrupted the scene, thankfully, saying that Queen Susan wished to see her, and possibly go riding with her later in the afternoon. And he had called her 'Lady Marcie' which made her sure that he knew the content of Dilly-Dong's prattle.
Mostly it was irritating because nothing that he'd said had technically been impolite, and so she'd given awkward, insincere half-smiles instead of a scowl like she'd wanted. Maybe if she'd been in better shape that day she'd have been able to give him a twisty, politic tongue-lashing with a cheerful face, and she had, in the time since, fashioned several scathing responses.
Political maneuvers. She was going to have to learn those, wasn't she? Not an endeavor without hope, Marcie could be good with all sorts of people when she tried, but an extended effort of machination left her feeling rather sick of herself. She had done it to some extent with her father's coworkers and employers, on the rare occasions when she'd been forced to socialize with them—half thrilling and half petrifying, the whole experience—and she had done some wheedling for charity. Getting into university, too, and being there, was something that required at least a bare minimum of social grace.
It was something that she could learn, but there was a lot to be said for not being in the mood to do so.
Mr. Hoberry's mention of going riding with Queen Susan was reference to a greater ambition on her and Queen Lucy's part to teach Marcie to ride.
It wasn't a fruitless exercise, but Marcie wasn't very good either. Marcie was too used to things like cars and bicycles and green means 'go,' and having something that breathed underneath her was an entirely different experience in transport. She suffered through some riding lessons with a mare named Farina. (One did not, apparently, ride Horses unless the Horse consented to be ridden, a circumstance which essentially did not occur.) Farina was the gentlest horse in the stables, Marcie was told, and was eternally grateful for it. She had seen the mare Queen Susan favored and the animal was nothing short of terrifying. The queen was the only person allowed near her for fear of serious injury, and Marcie's only consolation was that the mare was not suitable for riding alongside a beginner. Queen Lucy's horses, on the other hand, were all very fast, but otherwise even-tempered.
She was being taught both sidesaddle riding and, well, how to ride like a normal person. Riding sidesaddle was awkward and unintuitive, and though both the queens acknowledged it as such—and her lessons focused heavily on riding astride—there was an agreement that Marcie ought to know how to put both of her legs on one side of the horse and not fall off.
Marcie still thought it was stupid and archaic and catered to the patriarchy, which she had somehow not managed to escape despite literally being in a different world.
Riding was also more physically demanding that she had first assumed. She felt sore almost always. Coupled with the fact that when Marcie was not helping to develop units of vision she was likely to be in the palace's herbal garden with Paulus tending and harvesting plants—there were gardeners for this sort of thing, but Paulus wanted to teach and that meant doing—she often went around Cair Paravel in a state of tiredness.
Some days she gave in to the tiredness, too. There were mornings where getting out of bed seemed the most Herculean of feats and she decided not to attempt it. And once or twice, she would be doing a task and have to suddenly stop and take deep breaths because her heart had started to pound and her chest had felt tight and everything was very close. Paulus would watch her nervously and try to speak soothingly as she too-quickly sucked in the stinking, overly-herbal air of his office, crouched on her too-low stool. He would then thrust tea on her. And then she would hover over her steaming mug, feeling very sad and helpless, and Paulus would look very sad and helpless. He would go over the properties of herbs he had recently shown her, with an occasional prodding, easy question for her to answer. It was a notable difference from his usual harried and detail-oriented manner.
(It was in this way that she found out that Paulus was not—blessedly, fortunately—a hugger, but a hand-patter.)
That it had happened only in Paulus's office was by dint of luck and probability, as it was the place where she spent a majority of her time.
Yet another shift that had occurred was to her residence. She had been moved out of the guest wing, and been given her own set of rooms, only functionally furnished so that she could further decorate them as she liked.
(This had been before Dilly Dickhead's arrival, which Marcie could only be thankful for. She couldn't imagine having to have a room down the hall from the man.)
Sometimes Marcie liked to think about color palettes and furniture, and could occupy herself with it for up to an hour sometimes before remembering with full force that, while she had resources, there were no magazines on interior design, nor online ordering, nor stores, nor Deirdre to confer with, nor a range of cultural references to consult. She would not have electricity; she'd have candles. She would not have posters with quirky quotes or album covers; she'd have tapestries and wall-hangings. She would not have a library of accumulated popular literature; there would be instead a small number of borrowed books that were made by hand—infinitely valuable, however freely lent.
She'd even have to be especially considerate about those pieces of furniture that she did want made—wood had to be taken from trees not Trees, unless specifically offered, and everything was painstakingly handmade.
She was going to have to learn how to build and tend a fire because fireplaces were the main mode of heating in cold weather. Or was she? Marcie was beginning to understand the motive her world had had for considering servants a necessity in the upper echelons of society, even if she could not agree. There was no running water—everything was sourced from a well, including the basin she used to wash her face in the mornings. Fireplaces needed constant tending, as did their woodpiles. And from the looks of the designs Queen Susan had had her look at, Marcie would even need help dressing in certain circumstances. Add to the list laundry, cooking, and cleaning. Marcie felt rather adamant that she could clean her own room. She didn't think that anyone would be disrespectful, but she didn't like the idea of someone who was not her dusting every cranny and corner of what was supposed to be her room. She was not, after all, embarrassed to scrub floors or sweep or polish furniture.
Althea had been the only one so far to act in such a capacity beyond the more general ministrations of Mrs. Furner and Mr. Hoberry, and there was something in the attitude of her and the rest of the household (palacehold? castlehold?) that was different from any period depiction Marcie had seen of servants interacting with the served, to the point where Marcie was not comfortable using the word 'servant.' That she had people doing things for her in the first place made her uncomfortable. She was used to doing everything herself, and hadn't ever had much problem with it being that way. If she didn't feel like doing laundry, then she didn't, and she'd suffer the consequences of running out of socks until she could summon adequate motivation. And that was fine. Marcie could live without socks. Having her laundry done, by someone else and as a matter of course, was a disconcerting adjustment.
But that was her life anymore, wasn't it? A series of disconcerting adjustments.
It would make a snappy book title.
And so it went. The Ding Dong Dickhead left, and was replaced by a Terebinthian earl, and then by a merchant from the Lone Islands, and a handful of eligible ladies—who were actual ladies, and not just granted the honorific like Marcie was—and another person from Calormen who wasn't so awful as his predecessor but even more politic. And King Peter returned to his road, and Queen Lucy went to Galma, and King Edmund went to Archenland and Calormen, and Queen Susan went to the Lone Islands and Telmar, and Cair Paravel was a sequence of comings and goings and it was easy to lose track.
Mrs. Furner and Mr. Hoberry had a calendar and a daily schedule that was very precise and accounted for the movements of the palace, and Marcie liked to look at it sometimes, feeling like the immobile center of a swirling, industrious storm that would never stop or die, only alter in intensity.
And Marcie—she didn't start feeling like she was at home, though she did get some wall hangings—but she made her adjustments, no matter how disconcerting.
And she had a job, she supposed, and it was a good one. She could learn lots of things, and her teacher was clever. She helped people. (That was what they were, wasn't it? Birds and Cats and Dogs and Fauns and so on, but people too? Not humans, though, never that, and thank—well. Well, it was just more interesting that way, wasn't it?)
Marcie went on a trip with Queen Lucy around Narnia. It was only for a handful of days; it was unofficial and solely for the pleasure of traveling through Narnia and visiting with old friends. It was probably the most relaxed Marcie had felt since her arrival. There was no rush or pressing purpose or social niceties to observe and everything around her was beautiful.
Narnia was beautiful. Marcie couldn't pretend otherwise, though doing so might have been easier in some regards. She could find nothing to hate about this home, as often as she cursed rough terrain or the lack of air conditioning during long nights.
Queen Lucy was hilarious, and always in a good mood, and prone to racing her horse ahead of everyone and encouraging Marcie to join her. Marcie, only barely comfortable on Farina as it was, declined. She was once pulled into some introductory instruction on knife throwing, and proved to have a decent arm. Queen Lucy was very pleased, and Marcie only hoped that that pleasure wouldn't later manifest itself in formal lessons. More than once, Marcie shared a look with Briony or another member of their traveling party that marked the mutual understanding of encountering the ball of ambitious adventure that was Queen Lucy when one was feeling rather less adventurous.
Marcie had never gone camping before, and sleeping with nothing more than a thin bedroll between her and the ground, and nothing but stray tree branches between her and the sky was all kinds of uncomfortable. For one, Marcie inevitably had a rock poking into her back somewhere that evaded any attempts to remove it. For two, the stars, though lovely, were huge, more in the way of distant streetlamps than distant suns.
"They are alive," said Briony when she asked. And she told stories about stars coming down to speak with people—kings and queens, sometimes, or someone special, or someone who was no one important at all.
The Centauress with them told a particularly good one about a star and a Sea Turtle, and Queen Lucy had one about a star and a magician, and then other stories were told because stories were important in Narnia.
Marcie listened, fascinated by a tradition that had, for her, long ago died out. All of her stories came from books, or were casually retold events of the day.
Eventually, Briony was roped into telling the story of Narnia and how it was made, with everyone chiming in at parts. Marcie had the curious sensation of hearing a creation myth that she knew was not actually a myth. She felt a kinship with Frank and Helen, planted here and told to get on with it, but she was disturbed by the way that Humans had never been made into Narnia, only called there.
(And died there.)
Because what did that mean for her?
A/N: So, uh, I promise the next chapter won't be depressing. It will have happy things. I swear. And hopefully it won't take so long to write... *coughs* Yeah. As always, I appreciate all thoughts!