"Author's Note and Disclaimer:" I don't own The Chronicles of Narnia or any of the characters in the series. This is a series of one-shots having to do with the Marsh-Wiggles of Narnia, and Puddleglum in particular. Marsh-Wiggle culture, as well as their interactions with each other and other species will be touched upon. We aren't given much information in The Silver Chair, so none of these inventions should be treated as canon. Some of these one-shots will take place during the timeline of The Silver Chair, filling in the time gaps. While a married couple or two might show up, romance won't be showcased here. There will also be no significant other waiting for Puddleglum to return, since the book portrayed him as being single. If you're looking for fan/canon pairings here (and while some of those are good, it's not easy to pull off well), you are likely to be disappointed. Mostly, though, I've just got Puddleglum on the brain these days!
Puddleglum was never quite sure how long he wallowed in a slumber as deep and thick as marsh mud, for he didn't know when it was that he fell asleep. His first conscious thought was to wonder if he had been knocked out by a blow to the head, but instead of trying to sink back into painless repose he grimly forced himself to come fully awake.
When the Marsh-wiggle had opened his eyes, he fervently wished that he hadn't! He hissed in a breath through his teeth, and squinched his eyes shut once more against the glare of the morning sun. When he tried to roll over he found himself falling, but the fall was mercifully brief. He landed flat on his belly with a graceless 'flump', his legs tangled up in the bedclothes, bumping his nose on the carpeted floor. One webbed hand went slowly to his nose, more than half expecting to find it bleeding, and he remained where he was until the room finished spinning. This was, without a doubt, the worst hangover Puddleglum had had in years!
No nosebleed, he thought, but I've probably broken it. And it would serve me right.
As vague and muddled as his memories of the night before were, Puddleglum knew where he was and what had happened. He was in the castle of the "Gentle Giants", the ominously named castle of Harfang, and he had swallowed enough of the Giant Porter's liquor to floor a Minotaur. And now that he thought about it, Puddleglum felt his face grow hot with shame. How could he have been so very stupid?
Cautiously, he opened his eyes again and found that the dim light from his point of view was at least bearable. He could see underneath the bed he had spent the night in, and that darkness had a lulling quality to it. He resisted the urge to shut his eyes once more and sleep off the punishment he so richly deserved, and bracing his hands on the floor he slowly pushed himself up on his knees.
The room he was in was absolutely huge and mercilessly bright as the sun shone through the large window. The boy, Eustace Scrubb, was asleep in the next bed. Jill Pole was missing, and Puddleglum was briefly alarmed before he realized that, of course, they would have been separated, she being female and they being male. Propriety, and all that. If they were safe, it stood to reason that she was safe as well, or as safe as any of them were likely to be in a place like this. What had possessed him to give in and agree to come here? Any respectable Marsh-wiggle would know better than to-
"Ohhh..." Once more, he shut his eyes. His wits were returning to him now, and he sat down on the edge of his bed and rubbed his face with his big, webbed hands. His stomach rolled unpleasantly, but only once. His head ached terribly, and his dry tongue sat on the floor of his fuzzy-feeling mouth like a strip of warm leather. There had been times when his breath had smelled better, too. The worst, though, was the shame. He remembered...
As Puddleglum and the children had made their way further and further north, the weather had gotten colder. The terrain, rougher. For himself, Puddleglum had welcomed the experience. To know that Prince Rilian was alive somewhere (even though Puddleglum didn't know anything about a Ruined Giant City, which was where they were supposedly headed), and that Aslan himself had given them the job of finding him was nothing short of a miracle, which was a word that Marsh-wiggles typically frowned upon.
The other Marsh-wiggles, thinking him "flighty", had told him time and time again that he needed to take a more serious view of life. It was only natural that they should disapprove of the way he always seemed to look for the silver lining. Or, as he liked to say, to "put a good face on things". Perhaps they had been right, and looking for-hoping for-a positive outcome in any situation was childish. Unseemly. This was what he had explained to the children, and even though he had made it sound as if they would be doing him a favor by accepting him as their guide, in a way they really were doing him a favor. Not that he wouldn't have gone with them anyway; they wouldn't have been able to stop him! So, for these personal (and, admittedly, rather selfish) reasons, Puddleglum had actually looked forward to this.
The children were rather quarrelsome, as children of their age (and of any species) were wont to be. Puddleglum didn't mind it much. They were clearly friends, and they were before the age of interest, so they were bound to spar and try to outdo one another. There were many times when they got along very well, which was a blessing.
Sometime before they had met the Lady of the Green Kirtle (and his mouth twisted as if tasting a wedge of lemon as he remembered that encounter. Beautiful she had been, but what had she been doing so far north? What business would a human have in Giant country?), Puddleglum found himself wondering why Aslan had sent such young ones on so dangerous a journey. They couldn't have been more than eleven years old, though it was hard to tell with humans.
The Marsh-wiggle wasn't partial to snow himself, if he was honest, and he knew that they would have to deal with it soon. His paternal regard for Jill and Eustace became something more than sympathy as they begged (and demanded) to go to Harfang after meeting the Lady and the strangely silent Knight. His heart was moved to pity. He was cold and hungry himself, his feet (shaped like frog feet and always bare, but as tough as any boot) were sore, his legs burned every night from too much walking for too many days in a row. He could take it. He welcomed it. Hardship either wore you down or made you stronger. But his two companions...they were children!
So, Puddleglum had forgiven them their disrespectful snaps and retorts, understanding how miserable they were. And he had agreed to go to Harfang after extracting from them a promise that they would not mention the Ruined City or Prince Rilian to anyone unless he gave his consent, though a large part of him knew that this was the wrong course of action. Aslan had given Jill four signs to remember, and it weighed on his mind that the signs had said nothing about spending the night in a Giant's castle. Giants were dangerous, and he knew this. He had no reason to trust this Lady-didn't trust her-but didn't these two children deserve a reprieve of sorts?
Yes. But that was beside the point. Puddleglum nodded, his head still resting in his hands as he sat on the edge of the bed and did his best not to dwell how foolishly he had behaved the night before. They did deserve a break after many cold days and nights of walking and sleeping on the moor. Days of long hikes up and down hills, days of cleaning and cooking skinny moor-fowl. They had learned this from him, as they had never done it before (at least, he was sure, Jill hadn't), but they had been quick to learn. Though they complained, they were always ready to learn. Oh yes, they deserved a break...but one doesn't always get what they deserve.
Then again, Puddleglum thought as he got to his feet and began to explore the room, sometimes you do. His poor head was pounding. What had possessed him to get so drunk last night? Puddleglum, you're a fool, and no mistake! Just because a giant offers you a drink, that doesn't mean you have to accept it, much less drink all of it!
He stopped and leaned against a wall, one hand over his face to block the sunlight. This he could do, but he could not blot out the truth. He had told himself over and over that he hadn't had a choice, that the children were cold and hungry, and that he was deviating from Aslan's path for them. It had been easy to tell himself, out in the swirling snow, that they could always get back on track after spending the night in warmth and comfort at Harfang, and perhaps that was true. He knew now that he had come here because some part of himself, the tiny part that was ready to give up, had wanted to come here.
He had sinned. That dim realization had begun to dawn in the back of his mind from the moment the door shut behind them, and he had swallowed that ("It's rather late to be thinking of precautions now that we're inside and the door shut behind us.") drink to banish the shame and regret he knew was sure to come. He hadn't been able to face it then. But, oh, he was facing it now all right! He remembered how he had muttered and babbled like an idiot when the liquor had dulled his senses, and that was difficult to remember; not because he couldn't remember, but because he did not want to remember. He forced himself to remember, and felt a blush rising under his muddy-looking cheeks. He remembered insisting to the Porter that he was a "respectable Marsh-wiggle", but it had quickly degenerated to him saying "reshpeckobiggle" instead and not even being able to stand. In the end, it was the children who had to speak for him! This went beyond embarrassment. He could have gotten them killed!
The Marsh-wiggle sank slowly to his knees, hiding his face in his hands, and bending his upper body forward until his forehead rested on his lap. He did not weep, for he was not in despair; rather, he was humbling himself as he spoke in his mind to Aslan. This is divine retribution, I shouldn't wonder. We've brought this...no, I've brought this on us. But...I can't truly deny my own weakness. Aslan...they are still so young, but I'm old enough to know better. Forgive me...Let Pole be all right, wherever she is, and deliver us from this place if it is Your will. Give us one last chance to find the Prince...Please...
There was the sound of rustling bedclothes as Scrubb got out of bed and crossed the vast room, his young face pinched with concern. "Are you all right, Puddleglum?"
The Marsh-wiggle sat up and uncovered his face, looking tired and in pain but full of resolve, and bobbed his head once. "I have a headache."