first: A Door in the Wall
Second: On the Other Side of the Door
Third: The Call Comes Again
Fourth: New Travelling Companions
Fifth: Complications and then Complications
Sixth: Stranger Things
Seventh: A Change and Changes
Eighth: But Not A Return
Ninth: The Gods Not Tamed
The town they’d slept in this time was big enough to sport a proper inn, as well as a tailor and a dressmaker who’d been more than willing to put together another outfit each for the Pevensies. Soleck had paid for everything before handing over to Peter a full purse and giving him a quick explanation of the currency.
“I feel as if we’re travelling in state now,” Lucy murmured to Susan. “We have proper changes of clothing, we have coins for largesse…”
“Careful now, Lu.” She knew her sister didn’t truly need warning, but Susan couldn’t help but give the caution anyway. “We’re not royal, here.”
“We’re royal,” Lucy responded, her chin up and her jaw set. “‘Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.’” Her stubborn expression faded into one of longing. “We’re just a long way from home. Visiting incognito royalty.”
“On a secret mission,” Susan whispered. “Don’t forget that part. It’s quite important.”
Lucy giggled. “It’s very important,” she agreed. “Especially the secret part. Do you remember Tinderfoot, who could not understand ‘secret,’ no matter how many times we explained the concept? Or…”
“Herald Soleck.” SUsan talked over her sister with as much grace as such a thing could be managed. “Back from your shopping trip?” He’d taken off Edmund, in theory to buy him a more subtle weapon than Aslan’s gift.
“Yes, and may I say, your brothers knowledge of weapons is quite impressive. I did not expect… well, I did not expect that.” He cleared his throat. “Please, don’t let me interrupt you.”
“Oh,” Susan said brightly, with the cheerful spark that had led many in two worlds to label her frivolous or shallow, “we were just talking about home, old friends and the like. Nothing particularly exciting, I’m afraid.”
There was a look on Soleck’s face, but Susan did not think it was disbelief. More, she thought, something like disappointment.
Well, better he believe her somewhat shallow than he spend too much time worrying about her depth or her brother’s knowledge of weapons. He cleared his throat. “There is one who will guide you for a short time after you leave here. She would like to meet you now, if you would? If your reminiscences are not too dear?”
And that, Susan thought, sounded downright catty. She smiled brightly at him, cheerful and friendly. “Of course! A good guide is very important when one is as far from home as we are.”
She thought she might sound a little bit vapid, but Soleck did not seem to mind, or perhaps he simply had other things on his mind. A missing Prince, she mused, had to be putting quite a stress on those normally responsible for matters such as keeping that Prince safe and sound. She softened her smile a little bit, although he did not appear to notice
“Indeed. And I am afraid the territory we will be sending you into is not, perhaps, the safest of places. It is lucky that your brothers seem very familiar with weapons and tactics for those so young. And you?”
His eyebrows were up and he looked less than pleased. “I’m a fair hand with a bow,” Susan answered. “Lu can shoot pretty well, too, and you don’t want to get within reach of her short-sword.” She took a breath and met Soleck’s gaze. “The place we come from has been at war for many years,” she told him with complete honesty, letting the war show in her eyes. It might not have been where they learned to shoot a bow and arrow… but that was a complicated explanation. “We’re no stranger to battle, Herald Soleck, nor are we as green as you might think or wish.”
Lucy stomped her foot. “Your sun-lord and our… our god sent us. Why are you so worried?”
“Because, young miss,” Soleck answered, with quiet solemnity, “you, at least, look as if you should still be in the nursery, or running about Haven as a page. We do not train Heralds, even, as young as you are now. This mission will not be an easy one, and you are children.”
Susan set a hand on Lucy’s shoulder, but there was no stopping her. She had her chin out and a wild look in her eye.
“Do you doubt your Sun-Lord?” she demanded.
Susan wanted to protest, to scold, Lu, stop it, but she wasn’t going to interrupt. Her sister had the floor and she would honor that.
“He is not my Sun-Lord. But no, I doubt neither him nor his avatars the fire-cats.”
“I do not doubt the Lord we follow, either. And if he has said go into this place and find this man, that is what we will do.”
She sounded, high childish voice and all, much like Queen Lucy the Valiant. Susan smiled in lieu of an impolite cheer.
Soleck cleared his throat. He clearly was uncertain what to do with a child speaking like a queen. Susan wanted to tell him she sounded like that the first time she was a child, too, you know, but that would do nothing but muddy the waters and confuse the issue.
“You said there was someone for us to meet?” she guided him gently.
“Ah, yes. Yes, indeed. She is, ah, not what I am, not a Herald. But she is bonded as a mercenary and is known to be trustworthy.”
“I am sure she will guide us truly,” Susan agreed. She found she wanted to smooth things over with Soleck, and hoped this was the direction which would lead there.
“She and the SunLord,” he answered piously. “She is this way.”
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