Friday, December 6, 2013

Narnia: If the heroes did their jobs: The Dinner Party

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[So I was thinking something like this for why our heroes would be at this dinner party (continuing in the continuity established here and first meeting the dufflepuds here, in this version Caspian, not Lucy, needs to read from the book):]

Caspian asked, "Wouldn't it be better if I just went up and read this spell right away?" He was going to add that they could eat after, but was answered too soon.
"Master?!" came the shocked reply. "The Masters must be properly fed. Everything must be tended to, so it must." A chorus of affirmations followed.
Before Caspian could respond Lucy silenced him with a gesture and motioned for them to speak away from the group.
Lucy started thus: "I don't think they know how to be anything but servants."
"That's nonesense," Caspian said. "No one is purely--" and then he stopped. "How long do you think they've been slaves?"
"I don't know but ever since we've met them they've treated themselves as lesser than. We're the 'masters' to them. And what do you do with a Master? Clean the house, trim the lawn, tend the garden-- they don't have access to our houses and our lawns and our gardens or anything else like that. But another thing you do for a Master is--"
"Prepare a meal."
"Exactly. They may be planning an act of rebellion, but they still can't seem to conceive of their relationship with us as anything but servile. So they have to make us a feast because that's the only way they can conceive of us interacting."
"The perfect slaves," Caspian said with disgust.
There was a pause.
"If this magician did that to them," Caspian said, "then he has a lot more to answer for than whatever he did to their bodies."
Lucy didn't disagree, but didn't make any response at all. Not even a change in facial expression.
"I mean there's slavery," Caspian said, "but if you're right than this goes beyond even that. Normal slavery only has power over your body, you're talking about a people who've had their minds put in chains."
Now Lucy responded, "Exactly." And it was an enthusiastic, "Exactly."
"So what do we do?"
Lucy looked down, "I don't know."
"Even if we set them free, and fix their bodies of course, if they can't think of themselves as anything but servile what good will that do? They'll just be the ready slaves of whoever makes landfall here next." There was a pause. "And until then they won't know what to do."
The silence disturbed both of them. Lucy finally broke it.
"They can think for themselves. Whatever strangeness may surround it, you reading from the book is their idea. So was the spell that made them invisible. So there's that."
"That's not much."
Lucy had a new thought: "And then there's this: there's nothing wrong with serving. What if we could get them to serve each other. We wouldn't be imposing our ways on them, but we also wouldn't be leaving them as people lesser than, and subject to the whims of, someone else."
"I..." and Caspian found he had nothing to say. "I..." he tried again. "I think we might be on this island for a long time."
Another pause, this one less fraught.
"I hope you're wrong, by the way," Caspian said.
"I do too," Lucy said.
"I hope that this dinner is just some silly tradition and they don't think of themselves as nothing but servants."
"There will be time enough to find that out," Lucy said, "but for now we're losing the group.
The group had indeed gotten well ahead of them.
"What do we do?"
"I told you already, I don't know."
"I mean right now. Do we have a dinner party in the local despot's house and just hope the noise doesn't attract him?" Caspian asked. Then he started talking again before Lucy could respond, "And I remind you that the local despot is a magician."
"I think we have to. If they won't tell you the details you need until after dinner, then we have to have dinner. Hopefully once they're visible we can talk about everything else."
"And the magician?"
"Keep your sword at the ready," Lucy said. "I plan to eat with my dagger. I don't want it leaving my hand."
"Thank you," Caspian said, "for your council." After a pause he added, "You're really right, we should catch up."
Lucy and Caspian rejoined the group with little trouble, and quickly, but quietly, gave out orders that everyone was to politely indulge in their host's insistence on the dinner, but to be at the ready for the possibility of an intruding magician.
Dishes appeared and disappeared as the invisible people put them down and picked them up. It was a disconcerting sight, but those who had attended great feasts before (Kings Caspian and Edmund, Queen Lucy, Lords Octesian and Restimar, and Reepicheep), were able to follow everything as a fairly mundane preparing of the table.
The only thing out of the ordinary was the way liquids were transported. Every bowl or pitcher appeared at the table with a lid, quickly disappeared, and then appeared again with the lid gone. In contrast to the rest of the dinnerware the lids appeared to be cobbled together with a good deal less attention to aesthetics.
"They must have made them after they lost the ability to see while they worked," Eustace remarked. Once he said it, it seemed clear that this was the case. A small handful of the lids were different* apparently crafted by ones who could see what they held in their hands, but most appeared to have been cobbled together by those who couldn't see their hands or what those hands contained and then painstakingly adjusted until ready for their job. Whatever the job of the waterproof lids actually was.
Eustace had become much better at seeing things from others' perspectives since he had been a dragon.
Everyone from the Dawn Treader, Lucy and Caspian especially, tried to learn more about the invisible people. This was made difficult by the fact that the invisible people had given themselves the least honored seats at the great table, when they finally stopped serving the meal and sat down. More so by the fact that they insisted on getting up to transport anything rather than allow any of the guests to strain so much as a little to reach or move something. But it was made impossible by the fact that the invisible people refused to say anything in the least bit interesting.
"It's getting dark, so it is. It does that at night, so it does."
"You came over the sea, did you? That's powerful wet, it is."
"I always say, 'When someone's hungry, she wants food.'"
And so forth. Though that last one got a powerful confirmation from Iisha, the master bowman.
Eustace quietly said to Adah, "They're afraid of saying anything that could ever possibly offend anyone."
"Terrified," Adah said. "Believe me, I know when people are terrified." Only a handful could hear, all from the Dawn Treader, and all of their thoughts went to first seeing her: as a Serpent. "I don't need to see terror to recognize it."
"And that," Lucy added, also keeping her voice too soft to be heard by their hosts, "is a very bad sign." Lucy turned to Caspian.
He grimly took a spoonful --with his left hand-- of the most delicious mushroom soup he had ever had and didn't enjoy it in the least because his thoughts were entirely with his right hand: on his sword's hilt.
Not everything about the meal was wrong, not everything about the place was wrong, but it was becoming more and more clear that as wrong things went the fact the people here were invisible was relatively minor, considering.
* Some would have been made between when they were transformed and when they became invisible but, assuming that they acted to become invisible soon afterward, not enough for the feast. I'm assuming that these away parties are composed of dignitaries, of which they have an increasing number, and enough guards to protect the dignitaries.
That's why the Kings and Queen and cousin of royalty are always there. Also why Octesian and Restimar, rescued in this version, are present. Adah is there simply because it's been so long that any time she can get land beneath her feet she's happy and, given what she's done for them, no one will argue with that.
The idea behind this is that they can make peaceful diplomatic contact with whomever they find immediately (the top officials are all there) but at the same time they're not going to get captured and sold into slavery again (hence the guards.)
It may not be the best plan ever, but when you're on an ill stocked mission from God and your royalty consists of children, you go with what plans you have.
Also, another reason for large parties to leave the ship is that the ship is getting damned crowded.
After they found Octesian's bracelet they went on a search and found not just him but the survivors of an entire ship that got wrecked, when they found the burnt village another search, now they have refugees whose home has been destroyed and whatever other slaves were in the holds of those who took them. What they're not doing is finding places to offload these people.**
It's really at a point where you want to send as many people on your scouting party as you can not because a reconnaissance party too conspicuous for reconnaissance is a good idea but because you want the people left back at the ship to be able to stretch damn it.
** Technically they could have dumped the rescued slaves back at their destroyed village but there're traumatic memories, it's the wrong season for starting from scratch, the entire place is a graveyard now, and so forth.
Plus it clearly isn't a safe place to have a village if the entire population could be overpowered and variously killed or taken into slavery. Now that any previously existing defenses have been razed it's even less safe then when it totally failed to be safe enough.

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