Monday, October 21, 2013

Eustace and the Serpent

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings and The Slacktiverse.]
This is a followup to a story by Gila.  If you can't read disqus that link won't help you so I shall sum up.
Gila’s story had Eustace pondering about the fact that his life altering event had not changed him as completely as he expected and wondering if dragonishness could grow back. When the Serpent comes and he cries for it to stop it does stop, smelling the sent of dragon on him and thus recognizing him as kin. The Serpent offers to share the catch (the ship) with him and Eustace briefly wonders if accepting the offer to save some of the crew would be morally right. Then the story ends with
“No. I am not a dragon. And you can’t have this ship.” 
The huge eye narrowed. “We shall see about that.” And the great head was gone, lifting up again, until the serpent made a great arch across the ship. 
Some people fight dragons their whole lives.
Eustace took a deep breath, and drew his sword.
Which brings us to my continuation:
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Caspian looked on as Eustace broke his second best sword into bits against the hide of the serpent. Cousin of the old royalty or not, the insufferable whelp would pay for that. So infuriated was he that he didn't notice when the Serpent stopped.
The Master Bowman, a man* whose name Caspian had never bothered to learn, had been directing the others in firing arrows at the Serpent, while firing his own bow with seemingly impossible skill, and the effect had been nonexistent.
Given that, Caspian had never even considered that Eustace --Eustace of all people-- might do something useful.
* * *
The Serpent returned his gaze to Eustace and said, "Not a dragon?" It laughed. "Not a dragon, a mere Human boy with a half rate sword, and you're going to stop me on your own?"
Eustace's voice shook and his hands gripped the hilt of the broken sword so tightly all color had drained from them, the fear was overwhelming but still he said, "I'll try."
The Serpent brought its face so close to Eustace that to the others it appeared crosseyed as it kept its gaze firmly fixed on the boy. It inhaled so strongly it almost knocked the boy off his feet from the rush of air. "I say a dragon you are."
"I'm not a dragon," Eustace said in a voice that he wanted to be a shout but came out more of a whimper.
The Serpent opened its maw. The stench of salt and death poured forth and threatened to overwhelm Eustace. "If you're not a dragon. I'll simply have to eat you."
Eustace shook with fear.
"Or," The serpent added, "I suppose I could let you go and merely eat the rest."
Eustace was silent for a time. The less charitable members of the crew thought he was considering the Serpent's offer. The Master Bowman and Reepicheep recognized that he was simply terrified. True warriors knew the feeling of terror. True warriors knew how hard it was to not be conquered by it. True warriors respected those who stood fast in the face of terror.
The Master Bowman and Reepicheep prepared to attack in Eustace's defense, even though the inside of the Serpent seemed as impenetrable as the out.
Eustace managed to speak before they did: "I'm not a dragon and you can't have them."
The Serpent lifted its head, but not so much it couldn't see Eustace, just enough that its jaws precariously hung above him. Then it spoke, "Even though I'll eat you?"
Eustace could only manage one word. He knew that he could do nothing against the great Serpent with his own strength and a broken sword. He wished he were still in the form of a dragon. Not a dragon, just still in one's body so that he might be useful, so that he might save these people. Even if it meant never going home. Even if it meant never having human interaction again. As things were he was sure he was going to die. He simply said: "Yes."
The serpent pulled back and looked at Eustace for a moment.
"A dragon you are," it said.
"I'm not-" Eustace started.
"And these tiny beings are under your protection?"
This time there was no hesitation; Eustace did manage a shout, "Yes!"
Reepicheep and the Master Bowman rushed forward. The Bowman to Eustace's side, Reepicheep leaped upon the boy's shoulder, sword drawn, and almost knocked him off balance.
"And he is under ours!" Reepicheep shouted.
The Serpent laughed. Not, as many suspected, because of the size of Reepicheep. He respected the Mouse now, even if he would still like to eat the Mouse. The Serpent had eaten a few meals it respected in its time. Not that many, most really weren't worthy of anything but food, but some were worthy opponents as well as food.
When the Serpent had finished laughing it said, "A dragon with strange friends."
The Serpent pulled away from the ship, but before it left it added, "I will not eat your friends in front of you, Dragon, but do not think that means I will not eat your friends. If they should travel these waters without you I will treat them as I treat any other food."
-
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* Ok, so technically the position of Master Bowman is a title handed down from Female to Female since the time of High Queen Susan, and this is the first Human Master Bowman in many generations. She studied under a great Dryad after she ran away from home when she witnessed a her father kill a different Dryad by chopping down her Oak**. Lost and alone in the forest she was taken in by the Master Bowman of the day, one of the few Dryads still awake.
She never truly understood how strange it was to have met two Dryads in the time before The Waking. So few had remained awake that when Aslan woke the rest only seven weren't sleeping. But to Iisha (damn you ambiguous "I"s, her name is not lowercase Lisha) Dryads seemed normal.
The one she had watched die she tried not to think about, the one who trained her in the ways passed down from High Queen Susan was her sole companion for much of her life. Her mother, her sister, her close friend. Someone whom she could not wait to return to.
But the Dryad, whom she called Dry because knowing only one living Dryad it wasn't confusing and Dry's real name could only be spoken by trees, had asked her to go on this journey.
"He's a fine Swordsmouse," Dry had said, "but some threats aren't nice enough to come within a sword's length before they're lethal. He'd never admit to needing help, but he should be defended from the threats he cannot reach."
So Iisha had come aboard, the Master Bowman of the generation would hardly be turned away. The others had all assumed she was male, and on a boat of nothing but she had let them indulge in their fantasy.
When Lucy came aboard she had at first been happy to have the kinship of another woman, even one so young. Fluent in the legends she knew that Lucy's mind was older than her body and hoped for companionship. But she had been cautious. This proved wise as it seemed that either Lucy's transformation into a child had warped her personality, or she wasn't nearly as nice as the legends had said. [Because in Glia's version Lucy isn't so nice.]
And so her secret was kept from all. Well, almost all. She'd had to tell Reepicheep, whose nose could smell blood from her and was very concerned. None of the other sailors noticed anything unusual at that time of her cycle, and Reepicheep, himself alone, kept her secret.
** In fact the Oak became a mast, the mast became a part of the ship that carried the lost lords. The Dryad's ghost terrorized the lords until the Galmian sailors, more knowledgeable in the ways of trees than Telmarines, were able to contact her and make peace with her. Once the lords had all been dropped off the Oaken mast, the Dryad's ghost, and the Galmians sailed to parts unknown as part of a great and interesting adventure that I can't reveal here because doing so would violate the sacred oaths of the Drysian Mysteries**. What is seen in the Mysteries must not be described. What is heard must not be repeated. What is thought must not be revealed. What is dreamed must not enter waking life.
What is smelled, on the other hand, is Oak.
** But I will say that Resurrection must be possible because look what happened to the Oak. And the Aslanites say you need to leave this world forever when you die. It's no wonder that it was a priestess of the Drysian Mysteries who finally saved those dwarves from their delusion when Aslan himself could not. Once you're initiated into the mysteries you've got truth on your side.

3 comments:

  1. Dragon may be what you are, or what you didn't know you were, or what you find you have become. (See also Shakespeare on greatness.)

    Thank you.

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  2. I'd definitely read Iisha's story if it was an actual book.

    (I grew up reading series that started as more-retelling than-translation - don't know the English term for this - of "The Wizard of Oz", then went completely origfic. The last book had aliens.

    ...I'm not even sure what my point is.)

    ---Redcrow

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