Thimbles and Thunderstorms
The problem with seeking the advice of the Lord Trumpkin is that everyone else is going to hear about it, too.
Written for the 2012 Narnia Fic Exchange for october_26 who wanted a happy ending
Spoilers: Alternate Universe for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
I am sorry for the multiple reposts! I got caught in a site black hole and anyone who did R&R before, assuming you could, that's gone too.
Thanks to Autumnnia for the beta!
"Two strangers, my lord," said the Owl.
"Rangers! What d'ye mean?" said the Dwarf. "I see two uncommonly grubby man-cubs. What do they want?"
Chapter 3, The Silver Chair
"Master Glimfeather, please send a message to Ambassador Scrubb instructing him that he has the approval of this Council to accept the terms of the Tisroc, and my thanks. Our thanks," Rilian amended quickly as Magistrate Pole snorted and the other five members of his august Council tittered, tutted, and huffed their collective disapproval. Eight years into his reign and Rilian had still not mastered the Royal We.
"Tu-Whoo, your Majesty. I will whoo," Glimfeather replied.
"Here are Scrubb's instructions so that you may give them to the courier," Jill said, writing out the coded message. "And thank you, learned Owl, for meeting this Council at so uncivilized an hour. Do get to the Parliament for some much-deserved rest."
Glimfeather blinked and if he had been a Cat or a Human, would have yawned. "I'm glad to be of service, Magistrate Pole."
Jill offered the note and Glimfeather took it gently in his beak. The Owl hopped down from his perch, minced across the meeting table, weaving through everyone's notes and ledgers (though only three of the individuals present had hands with which to write), and launched himself out of the meeting room's large window.
"With that, we are concluded," Rilian said, sounding, he thought, very definitive and not at all like the obliging King everyone on the Council knew he truly was. Maybe he could…
"Your Majesty!" Lady Mismilla injected. "There is still one matter to discuss!"
Rilian suppressed the groan and sank back into his chair, feeling very much like the young Hound who had made the mad break for wild freedom only to be sternly called back to heel. Whoever thought a King might do as he wished had never been King – or never had to contend with meddlesome distant relations and the courtly retainers who hid their purposes behind a decorous air of gentility. He loved his Kingdom; he disliked politics; he hated subterfuge.
"Yes, Lady?" Rilian asked politely, though he very much dreaded what shortcoming his Cousin (third removed) would pointedly raise this time.
"We owe a response to the Duke of Galma regarding the offer of his daughter…"
"Do not speak of it!" Rilian interrupted sharply. "We do not owe anything to the Duke of Galma given that We did not initiate the suit in the first instance."
"That is enough! You know my, Our, views. We will hear no more on it!"
His hand slammed down on the table as he rose up.
They would have to end the Council now. Rilian stalked out of the chamber, furious. Fortunately, in his anger, he did remember that Grgur, his Guard, was right behind him and so he managed to slam the door only after the he-Wolf was also through it.
"My tail thanks your Majesty," Grgur said.
"I am not in a mood for your humours, Grgur," Rilian snapped. "I especially do not wish to hear tell, again, of my father, the Duke of Galma's daughter, squints and freckles!"
"Of course, your Majesty," Grgur replied. "Your irritation is understandable. This is the fourth time in a month someone has raised the issue of courtship; it was six times the month before…"
"Yes, thank you," Rilian gritted out.
When he had been ensorcelled, there had been no illusion of control. He had been the Lady's toy, tool and weapon. Duty to Narnia was completely different, of course. By Aslan's grace, and the bravery of loyal friends, he had been delivered and Narnia saved. He knew he was highly sensitive on the matter but would not apologize for feeling that the manipulations of others to persuade him to their preferences stank very much of the Lady's dark magiks.
The Witch had hideously twisted his Monarch's duty to take a consort and produce heirs. Nearly 20 years ago, there had been a negotiated betrothal to a Duchess – what was her name?– the contract had been annulled once he disappeared. Now, Rilian would be no one's pawn and resented those who persisted in dismissing his opinions and desires as romantic whims. The number of individuals whom he truly trusted with his heart was limited to Scrubb and Puddleglum, who had seen him before and after the Witch's spells, and those very few who had known him very well before his kidnapping. And there was Jill, of course.
One of those most trusted and beloved few was now owed a visit. Rilian did not need to say where he was going. Grgur knew. They quickly wound their way up the back stairs and down the side stairs; the route was so familiar, Rilian could walk it blindfolded. Everyone, fortunately, avoided him. The sensitive ears and noses of the Talking Beasts would warn everyone away from his path.
He knocked on the modest door of the ground floor office for courtesy's sake though it certainly would not matter. The door was already open and swung wider to admit King and Wolf.
"My lord?" Rilian asked. "Council is over for the day. May I tell you of it?"
"Caterpillars and crackers!" Trumpkin bellowed. "Don't hang at the door like a thief!"
Rilian obediently came into the office. He left the door open a crack because closed and locked doors made Narnians without hands very nervous. Grgur hated them. Nor was there was ever any point in knocking on Trumpkin's door. The old Red Dwarf was deaf as a post.
Trumpkin was propped up on a couch and buried under a mound of rugs and furs. There was a fire in the hearth to ward off any chill. When he stood, which was rarely, Trumpkin was as wide as he was tall. Long ago, he'd gone completely bald and his beard, turned from red to grey, went to the ground.
Trumpkin had spent some 60 years in this room in service to Narnia. The books, papers, treaties, and ledgers of the business of Narnian rule were all here, neatly ordered in the manner common to all Dwarfs. Anyone who wanted to review the records had to get past Trumpkin, who guarded them as zealously as a dragon before a hoard. Not surprisingly, Scrubb had unfettered access, and Jill as well.
"Sit!" Trumpkin ordered.
Rilian pulled the footstool over and perched on it, so low he was looking up at the Dwarf. He had so sat for years, like an apprentice before a learned master. He thought Trumpkin deliberately altered the stool to always preserve their respective postures.
"Council concluded? What news? Famine? Fire? Flood? Invasion?"
"You sound as a Marsh-wiggle, my Friend," Rilian said. "Truly, Narnia is at peace."
"Piece of what?" Trumpkin demanded. "What piece do the Wiggles want? Loyal folk. Whatever they want, they've earned it and three besides."
"Narnia is at peace!" Rilian repeated, louder and closer to Trumpkin's ear. The Dwarf, regrettably, only used his silver eartrumpet when he wished to do so and became very testy if anyone suggested it. "We have a new trade treaty in place with the Tisroc, thanks to Eustace."
"No, not useless. Eustace! He's my Ambassador and one of my closest advisors."
"Thimbles and thunderstorms! What are you thinking, trusting someone who's useless!"
"Eustace isn't useless!"
"Why are you calling your Ambassador useless?! Tubs and tortoiseshells, you can be thick, boy. Eustace Scrubb is the King's man! Your man! Loyal as a Hound! Especially now that he isn't a grubby man-cub. That girl who was with him. I liked her. Did she ever wash?"
"Yes! She did! And she's not a girl! She's a woman! A beautiful, brilliant woman and, with Eustace, my dearest friend."
"Not polite to call your dearest friends useless, your Majesty."
Rilian shook his head. "No! They are NOT USELESS!"
"Buckets and bluebells! Glad to hear you talking sense, your Majesty." Trumpkin shifted on his couch and peered down at him with sharp, keen eyes that even after so very long, could perceive so very much. "So your friends are trustworthy and competent and Narnia's not in pieces. Why then did you come in here after Council looking like you'd chewed on a wasp?"
"Because I must take a wife," Rilian said miserably.
"Knife? No reason to be glum about that. You're King! Get a knife from the smithy or the kitchens!" Trumpkin said, very loudly. "My judgment, your Majesty, is that it's high time you had a proper Queen, for you and for Narnia."
"Yes! I agree!" Rilian nodded earnestly. "But therein is my problem, Trumpkin. I don't want one selected for me. Not after the Witch. I wish to choose my own wife."
"Forget about the knives!" Trumpkin yelled, his face reddening.
"Wife!" Rilian shouted back.
"So go to the kitchen and get one! And find a wife while you're at it!"
Rilian took a deep breath. Trumpkin was being especially cantankerous today. "I HAVE found a woman I wish as a WIFE. I love her! I want to wed her!"
"Weed what? I thought we were talking about you getting married. Not gardening! No wonder you aren't married when you can't even keep your mind on it."
"I am talking about marrying!" Rilian cried. "I want to marry Jill!"
"Who got killed?"
"No one was killed! Jill! I want to marry Jill Pole!"
"JILL POLE! I WANT TO MARRY JILL POLE!"
"If you want to marry her why did you leave her in a hole!?"
The throat clearing interrupted Rilian's bellowed refutation.
To his withering embarrassment, Magistrate Pole was standing in the doorway of the office. Rilian leaped up from his footstool perch.
"Jill!" Trumpkin hollered. "Thank Aslan you're here! I've told King Rilian that he needs to get married and he's making a mess of it."
Jill nodded. "Yes, my Lord Trumpkin, I can see and hear that."
Rilian winced at her arch tone. "How much did you overhear?"
"I believe the relevant question is who in this wing of the palace did not overhear this exchange."
Jill looked over her shoulder into the hallway. "Oh do get back, all of you! This is not your concern!"
Rilian heard shuffles, flaps, and clops of hooves on stone. Jill shut the door, so now it was just the two of them. And Trumpkin. And Grgur. And Tilly, the Boarhound who guarded Jill and had come to Trumpkin's office with her. Both Canines were wearing the same look of weary disgust.
Jill tilted her head. "I believe there is something you wish to ask me?"
"Well, yes. I…"
"Toadstools and tulips! He wants to marry you, girl!" Trumpkin shouted, establishing that he could hear some things just fine when he chose to. "Especially since you had a wash."
"Thank you, my lord Trumpkin, for your wise and valued assistance," Jill said. Trumpkin received a fond smile. Rilian received a skeptical eyebrow raised. "You wish to marry? But not your Telmarine fourth cousin with appropriate political connections? Or the Duke of Galma's wealthy daughter? Or the beautiful Archen princess who solidifies our ties to Anvard? Or any in the very, very long line of beautiful, rich, titled, accomplished, well-connected women who have been beating on the Cair Paravel doors for the last eight years?"
"Yes, but I mean no, not them." Rilian said.
"You wish to marry me though I provide no political advantage to you and to Narnia whatsoever?"
"Yes! We do."
"We?" Jill replied, smiling. "You revert to the Royal We now?"
"Me," Rilian repeated. "Myself. I. Love. You. Jill. Pole. I…" He threw up his hands. "I am so sorry. This was not how it was supposed to be. I wanted to ask you on the Tower, where we first walked to stave off our fears of night and dark. I wanted to sing my love with the Stars of my family watching over us." All the pretty and heartfelt declarations he had rehearsed were spilling out in a jumbled, garbled rush. "I didn't want …"
"Oh do stop correcting yourself, Rilian," Jill interrupted. "You were doing very well."
"Yes, so please continue. Scrubb told me that he was so weary of our dithering that he was going to lock us in a room if we had not resolved it by his return."
"So you do wish to marry? Us? We? Me?"
"Yes, Rilian, I do. All of you, regardless of pronoun confusion. Very much. You did not really expect a different answer, did you?"
"Soup and celery! Your Majesty, what are you waiting for!" Trumpkin bellowed as Rilian tried to bend a knee before the woman he had come to love so well over so many years. "Would you just kiss her and be done with it!"
"Thimbles and thunderstorms, yes, please do so!" Jill said, and stepped into his waiting arms.
Author's note: Given the specific request for a happy ending with either a Lucy/Caspian or Jill/Rilian pairing, AU seemed a necessity. Rilian's desire to sing to Jill with his family of Stars watching over them is very much inspired by Snacky's Sing Down The Stars, a wonderful Rilian fic from last year's Narnia Fic Exchange.
Thank you october_26 for a fun prompt!
Thanks to Autumnia for the beta!
Do check out the other wonderful stories in the Narnia Fic Exchange!