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Morning lessons

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Aravis woke suddenly, a hand shaking her shoulder. 'Cor?' she mumbled, and then snapped to full waking. Queen Susan released her shoulder and jerked her head toward Aravis' wardrobe.

'Up,' she said shortly. Behind her, Aravis' Narnian attendant, a shy young she-beaver, was setting out tea and toast, so there could be no great emergency. Aravis rubbed sleep blearily from her eyes, and glowered up at the Queen.

'What are you doing here?' she demanded, adding, after a moment too long, 'Your Majesty.'

'Continuing your education.' Aravis sat up, and Susan grabbed her by the arm and dragged her the rest of the way to her feet.

'You're not holding court today,' Aravis protested, allowing herself to be propelled across the room and into the chair by the breakfast table.

Susan gave her a disgustingly cheerful smile. 'Things to do! Kingdoms to run! Castles to oversee!' Aravis glared at her, and ate the toast. 'Queens don't have time to lie about in the mornings,' Susan finished.

'Didn't see that stopping you,' Aravis said, throwing Susan a sly look. 'What was his name? Rivoz?'

'Lord Rivaz,' Susan corrected. 'Third cousin once removed to Queen Myriam of Telmar. His mother was an Archenlander, incidentally - a cousin of Duke Alfgar. I expect Myriam will be wanting to exploit that connection, if not right now, then some time in the future.'

Aravis picked up her teacup. 'I didn't ask for his family history. Was he as good out of his clothes as he looked in them?'

Susan's lips thinned. 'He's better at keeping secrets in his clothes than out,' she said, and wasn't that a nice justification if ever Aravis had heard one. 'Blazewynd tells me you've not been seen on the training courts since Queen Lucy rode out,' she went on, naming the Centaur who commanded the Order of the Valiant in Lucy's absence.

Aravis raised one eyebrow. 'You didn't need to ask him, I've been with you all week.'

'That's no reason to neglect your training,' the Queen said.

'I thought I was being trained in court politics and etiquette and, and accounting,' Aravis spat back. 'Hardly any time for sword work.'

'Make time,' Susan said shortly. 'Can you shoot?' Aravis shook her head. 'Knifework?' Again, no.

'You can use a sword,' Susan said, slowly, 'but not a bow. Or a dagger. Who trained you?'

Aravis bristled. 'Corin,' she said. 'He thought it was fun.'

'Ah. Not Cor?'

'No.' Cor thought women ought to be womanly, apparently. Corin thought Queen Lucy was as good as a boy, and treated her as such, but Cor looked askance at the warrior queen, and more than once Aravis had caught him making rough jokes about why, exactly, Queen Lucy was not married yet. Aravs, naturally, had blistering things to say about Cor's looks, wits and fitness to be married himself, in retaliation. And the first time they'd had such a quarrel, Aravis had marched straight off to Corin and demanded to be taught fencing.

Queen Susan nodded. 'Well. We shall have to fix that. Get dressed.'

Aravis did not like being ordered about - Queen Lucy was all suggestion and smiles, in public and in private, but Queen Susan's famed courtly grace entirely vanished as soon as she and Aravis were out of sight of the court. Regardless, a little thrill ran through her at the thought of learning another weapon or two. And of telling Cor about it. So she got up, and rummaged in a chest of drawers to produce rough trews and her Order tunic.

Susan shook her head. 'A dress, please,' she said, motioning for Charity, Aravis' attendant, to produce something from the wardrobe. 'An old one, but one with a stiff bodice. And lace it tightly.'

'I won't be able to move!' Aravis batted the proffered gown away.

'And assassins always stop to let you change into something more comfortable,' Susan snapped. 'Get dressed, Aravis.'