Monday, February 15, 2016

Narnia: Shasta is captured by the Narnians

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Lewis has the Narnian delegation out in public be mostly human looking, though one of the descriptions implies Hermes, which would make sense because gods and spirits are the only human looking people, other than the rulers, in Narnia at this point in the timeline.]

There were about a dozen people, and they were unlike any that Shasta had ever seen. Their skin was light, but not the unhealthy paleness of slaves who had worked underground for long periods and seldom seen the sun.

All were on foot --there was no litter-- and they walked with a relaxed inefficiency, a swing in in their steps and looseness in their shoulders and arms. Rather than acting serious and formal, as the other highborn parties had, these foreigners were casually chatting with each other, some even laughing, as they walked. One was whistling. Though they weren't mixing with the crowd, they somehow exuded a sense of friendliness, as if the only thing stopping them from chatting and laughing with any peasant there was that the Calormene escort leading them through the city kept all the locals at a distance.

Those who wore swords at their sides had them in straight scabbards, ones that would be impossible to use for holding a Calormene scimitar. Most wore tunics, which were dyed in various bright colors: greens yellows and blues. The men didn't wear turbans and the women lacked the scarves most Calormene women wore.

One of the men, the only blonde of the group, wore a circle of leaves on his head and instead of a sword he was armed with a gilded bow. Another man had a winged cap and winged sandals and carried an ornate carved staff made to appear as if it had two snakes wrapped around it and wings of its own. This man was talking to a woman who had a similar staff; Shasta barely noticed her features because she appeared to have golden wings. The wings were so realistic that Shasta almost believed he could see the gold feathers move --the way real feathers of real wings would-- when the woman walked.

Another of the woman repeatedly tossed and caught a golden apple --Shasta had little experience with gold, but he knew enough of its value to be impressed by how these people seemed to use it for frivolous things-- while speaking to a man with a staff covered in vines and leaves and topped with a great pine cone.

One of the women's hair had been formed into small short spikes that were dyed green: they looked like pine needles.

As he looked at this strange group Shasta found himself glad that he'd been shoved to the front of the crowd, for he felt that he'd never seen anything more lovely in his life.

That changed in an instant when the woman with the apple looked straight at him. She smiled at Shasta then said to the leader of the group, “Isn't that the boy?” while pointing at him.

Shasta wanted to disappear. Why would the foreigners know about, or care about, a runaway slave? He tried to push back into the crowd, but someone behind him responded by shoving him forward.

The leader looked at Shasta closely for a few moments then said, “It is him.” Then the leader turned to the woman with the apple and said to her, “Thank you; he's disguised himself well. I'd never have recognized him on my own.”

“Helping out is why I'm here,” the woman said.

There was obviously some joke because half of the party suddenly seemed to be trying very hard not to laugh; the leader didn't seem to notice, he returned his attention to Shasta.

“Where have you been?” he asked. “Why did you run away? My sister's been crying because of you.” The last comment was said with such force Shasta felt like he'd been struck.

Shasta would have run away --tried to find Bree or Aravis or Hwin-- but the leader grabbed his wrist and pulled him toward the center of the group.

He was now very, very confused. What was worse, he knew he couldn't tell the truth --that he wasn't whoever they were looking for-- without putting the others at risk. None of his practiced lies would work either. They'd always assumed that they'd be able to stick together, so every lie assumed that he was with a girl, two horses, and a donkey.

For the first time since running away, Shasta was on his own. He'd need to think up new lies --ones that fit being a lone boy... ones that wouldn't draw attention to the others, wherever they were.

Bree would want to head on to Narnia. He'd say that it was better for three of them to escape (he never thought of the donkey) than all of them to be caught. Hwin and Aravis might wait for him, Shasta thought. If they didn't, at least he knew they'd take care of the donkey.

Really, Shasta thought, this might not be that bad. They just thought he was someone else; they didn't know he was a criminal. Maybe when whoever they thought he was actually showed up, they'd just let him go. He just needed to figure out the right lies.

“He wouldn't have gone to such trouble to disguise himself if he'd planned on coming back to us,” the leader said to the group. “We'll have to keep a close watch on him from now on.” Then the leader said to one of the men, “Peridan, tell our escort that we want to return to my sis-- High Queen Susan immediately.”

Soon the party was heading in a new direction, with Shasta in the center of it. The leader's grip on his wrist wasn't tight or painful, but it was strong enough that Shasta doubted he could break it and flee.

The leader kept asking questions, and Shasta needed more time to figure out the right lies. If he said he was really a slave, he'd be returned to his master. That would lead to problems since he didn't have a master to claim and without the horses and donkey the story about being sent on a long trip wouldn't be believable.

Finally the leader said, “Look, I understand wanting to get away. I never asked to be king, and you never asked to be prince--”

Shasta didn't try to hide his surprise.

“You're a very good actor,” the king said, “and you've managed an impressive disguise in a single night, but you can't change your face. No amount of dirt or cutting of hair can hide your bones, prince.

“And I don't think you realize what danger you've put yourself in. What if you had been taken for the slave you've made yourself look like? You might have been declared a runaway and hauled to some prison or brought to an auction. This place isn't like your home --or mine.

“If something's happened that made you feel your were better off running away, I wish you'd have told us. I have the power to offer asylum, you know.”

Still, Shasta said nothing. He wished the king would be silent so he could have time to think of the right story to get away from these people. Instead things just seemed to be getting worse and worse.

If he told them the truth, he'd return to slavery. If he played along, then when the real prince showed up . . . how was one punished for impersonating royalty? It probably wasn't good.

“When we're safely in our own chambers,” the king said, “I hope that you'll at least tell us what happened that made you unwilling to speak in public.”

The woman with the apple whispered, “Just go with it,” in Shasta's ear.

- -

Note that I took Lewis' implication of Hermes and ran with it. Apollo has a golden bow, Hermes has got the winged clothes and caduceus (winged staff wrapped in snakes), golden winged Iris also has a caduceus, Eris has her apple, and she's chatting it up with Dionysus who is rocking the thyrsos.

Random woman with pine needle hair is a tree spirit.

Note that the mistaken identity thing is all Eris's doing.

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