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
Tenth: The Tiny Queen Arises,
Eleventh:The Gentle Queen Awakens
Twelth: The Terror of the Plains
The ride was an easy one, and they were not going at speed. Polla spent a few hours regaling them with tales of her exploits as the Terror of the Plains, tales which Susan suspected were lightly censored for ears she could not help but think of as young.
When they broke for the night, it was at a campsite, the first time they’d had a chance to “rough it” in this new world.
“Oh, let us get the tents,” Edmund chivvied. “We haven’t had a chance to in ages, and it’s always nice, like setting up a new house wherever you are.”
Half or more of the time, their ‘tents’ had been royal pavilions, set up by aides. Susan chose not to point that part out; she was fairly certain her brothers could set up a tent.
“Lu and I can gather firewood.” She looked around the forested area; their campsite had clearly been used thus before; it was set back from the road but in a clearing in the trees, there was a firepit made of stacked stones with a spit already set above it, and there was a wide smooth spot cleared of brush where the boys were already setting up tents. “Is there an axe or a hatchet?”
“…This, I was not expecting. Here, the hatchet ought to be small enough for even Lucy to handle comfortably. Don’t go too far from… ah.” Polla coughed as Susan swung her quiver onto her back. “Still, don’t go too far from camp.”
“We’ll stay within earshot of a shout,” Susan assured her. “What’s the biggest threat in these hills?”
“There are big cats — cougars and something a little smaller but a lot more nasty — and there are sometimes bandits. You’re better with the cats than the bandits, truth be told, because you can scare off a cat.”
“We’ll be careful,” Lucy promised solemnly. She hefted the hatchet thoughtfully. “These trees don’t talk, do they?”
“No, we’re not deep enough into the Pelgaris Forest for that. Still, it’s best to stick to deadwood, even here. None of that will give you any trouble.”
“Of course. Thank you.” Lucy bounded off, her eyes on Susan wide and happy. Susan could read in her sister’s expression what she wanted to crow to the sky: Did you hear? They have trees that talk!
She patted Lucy’s shoulder. “There will be time to explore, we can hope, when the mission is done.”
“I do hope so. This is different, it’s… in Narnia…” she dropped her voice to a whisper. “Anywhere we went, even the trees knew us. ‘Sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.’ And then we were their historical kings and queens, or we were Caspian’s old friends. Here, we’re strangers. We’re kids again. It’s strange not to be known when we’re not at — not on — not at home?”
Lucy, Susan knew, would always think of Narnia as home. “I know, Lu. But we’re going to help these people and do great things here, as well. And then maybe you’ll get to wear lovely dresses again,” she teased. “And give out largess.”
Lucy wrinkled her nose. “I’ll leave the pretty dresses to you. You’ve always been better at them.” She walked in silence for a moment. “And Peter’s always been better at the high diplomacy, and Edmund at the low.” She twisted around and aimed a mischievous smile at Susan. “I just like talking to people.”
“I seem to remember you’ve stopped two wars and started a third by ‘just talking’,” Susan retorted.
“Well, I’m very good at talking. It was… I think it was a little easier when I was little older. But at this size, I’m very good at listening.” She stretched out her arms and tested the hatchet, carefully, on a piece of deadwood. “We should have trained more.”
“We trained as much as we could. There was fencing class, and that archery we practiced. And all those long walks to keep our legs in the habit of walking.”
“But there wasn’t proper training.” Lucy swung her hatchet again. This time, the deadwood cracked and split. “It wouldn’t have done, I suppose. They’d have asked questions. They asked enough questions, about all of us. Peter and all his questions about the War.”
“Me and those awful girls at school,” Susan agreed quietly. “You and the time you split that horrid boy’s lip and made sure he blamed himself.”
Lucy glanced guiltily back at her big sister. “You weren’t supposed to know about that.”
“There are things you’re all good at. I’m good at knowing what’s going on. Like the way that the people in the bar were gossiping — did you hear? They were talking about the Young Prince and all the trouble he gets into. And then in the village, they were talking about King Roald, and they were fussing about him. So the Young Prince…”
“That’s who we’re looking for?” Lucy murmured. “And they think…”
“He enjoys partying, he likes to cause trouble. If he’s missing, it could be a prank.”
“Do you really think Aslan would have brought us here for a prank?”
Susan didn’t say the first thing that came to her mind — they had not seen Aslan. They only had the word of a cat that Aslan had sent them. “No,” she answered instead. “I don’t think he’d send us here to resolve a prank.”
“Then we should treat it as if it is real. Besides,” Lucy added, and although her voice was quiet, Susan could hear the edges, as sharp as the hatchet she was swinging, “we should be mindful not to discount someone, just because they’ve been known to prank before.”
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