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Tales From Legend To Scare Their Children

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The beasts are an annoyance. They strike here, steal weapons there. They've grown bolder recently. Miraz sees them as a joke, and dismisses them out of hand 'like the child's tale they came from'. A joke and seemingly out of fairytale they may be, but an irritating one. The rebel beasts kill any of his soldiers that go near the woods. It's not as simple as razing the woods, as some of the lords have claimed. They'd retreat, but enough would melt into the harder-to-reach places, the caves and sea places, to still be a nuisance, and getting rid of them would take lifetimes. Let alone the resources he'd have to commit that would be better spent elsewhere, and the loss of trees for building material to future generations. Which of course the lords don't think of. They never had to deal in logistics and supplies as he has to as a matter of course. Being the general of the armies is not just sitting on a horse and yelling 'charge' as they seem to think. Not for the first time, Glozelle curses the Telmarine superstition of the woods and the sea. Not going near them for hundreds of years allowed them to grow into the impassable hideouts they now are.

Caspian's now with them, according to his spies. The appearance of a human they didn't kill on sight is news. Not that he's doing much more than occupying the space of a spare body for patrol and guard duty. If it were Glozelle in their position, he'd at least have been roughed up and sent out to spy. But then, it's Caspian. He probably got his ideas of subtlety from Miraz. Miraz' attempted disposal of Caspian was ill-advised. Miraz was never subtle, but getting rid of a possible heir is wasteful. There's no guarantee his baby son will survive his first year. Caspain was amiable and easily guided. Though he can't say he approved of Miraz teaching him absolutely no statecraft. The boy's current survival is estimated at a few months if he's lucky. Easy to spot, with no training at woodcraft, and the beasts will not risk their lives for a useless human.

A hawk alights on Glozelle's windowsill when he's having a glass of wine after going over the paperwork for that day. He turns his head. "Do you have something for me, Brightbeak?"

"They have leaders." She say, clicking her beak.

"Reepicheep has finally gained over the centaurs, then?" The mouse is the one behind most of the more focussed plans of late. Apparently showy and standoffish in person, but deadly. Glozelle respects his efforts, even as he makes plans to wipe him out like the vermin he is. He's still irritated that Reepicheep's efforts forced him to discipline some of his soldiers, and the humiliation in front of Sopespian didn't help. Still, he admires Miraz' turning of the raid into something that would bolster his position.

"No, my lord." She ruffles her feathers, and hisses "Humans."

"Humans? Are you quite certain?" Glozelle asks, smoothing the paper in front of him, curiosity piqued. Caspian was the first one he'd heard that they'd allowed to live, and now there's more. The situtation is certainly changing fast.

"They're hardly fauns who've shaved their beards. They declare themselves the old Kings and Queens come again, and most of our kind have capitulated without a murmur." She sneers, which he's found hawks can do quite well since taking on Talking Beasts as spies. "You'd think they were tame. There was no fight, no protest - I've half a mind that they used magic, there was so little disagreement."

Glozelle puts his wine down. "That is indeed of interest. What of Reepicheep and Trumpkin? The centaurs?"

"Trumpkin brought them in." Glozelle nearly starts in shock. The red dwarf was the most sceptical of past tales of any of the rebels. For him to bring them in either speaks of a savvy he was not aware the dwarf possessed, or something truly impressive. The fact that he escaped the men sent to dispose of him only confirms that he really should have been executed quickly. The hawk continues. "Reepicheep and the centaurs are their lapdogs. It's disgusting. Written in the stars indeed."

"What's your assessment of the humans, then? Is it just Peter and Edmund?"

"All four. They look not quite fully grown, close to what the tales say of when they first entered Narnia. Archenlanders with a good imitation of the Narnian accent on first glance. Paler hide than you Telmarines, and two of them have lighter hair." She pauses. "They know how to command and how to fight, though. Good actors who studied the tales enough to embellish and talk of the events casually. They're planning something big, from the whispers coming out of the planning committee."

"And Caspian?"

"They couldn't care less." She says dismissively. "Their leader despises him for being Telmarine and denigrates his fighting skills. Doubt they've got any plans to place him on the throne."

When she leaves, Glozelle takes a long sip of his wine, then gets up to stare out of the window after her. Brightbeak was a good choice. Resentful and sceptical. Leaders, though... They're organising under leaders. Humans at that, humans who planned enough to take on the guise of venerated legends and could talk fast enough to get the sceptics on side. He can understand convincing the centaurs. From what he's heard they're credulous fools, all too eager to leap on any sign that appears to match their vague messages they read in the stars.

He wonders if he should alert the other lords to the fact that Archenland is sending out feelers and supporting the beasts, having previously been content to just raid the borders. It's not something they could prove conclusively, and accusations at such a delicate time are not something they need. Miraz would almost certainly go charging off to make accusations, splitting their already shaky focus. They don't need the distraction. Still, it's almost certainly what the Archenlanders intended with this new gambit, given the timing. The problem is which response plays into their hands better.

The raid on the castle comes, as his spies warned, and Glozelle can't help but admire the tactics of the newcomers. If it wasn't for the fight turning and Caspian's idiocy that alerted Miraz and the troops, it's very probable that the raid would have gone their way. He's not entirely sure of its purpose, but it certainly wasn't one of conquest. Assassination, perhaps. A small strike force cannot overrun an entire country. Still, there has been a result of the raid that wasn't in the Telmarines' favour. The monstrous corpses littering the courtyard require cleaning up, and servants cannot keep their mouths shut, no matter what they might be threatened with. The entire country will probably know that the Narnian beasts aren't just tales from legend to scare their children soon enough.

The leaders aren't among the corpses; they escaped, and from what he saw from his position on the balcony are good fighters. Susan is the archer, and Peter was the fair-haired swordsman. The guards reported a lone human on the rooftops, helping from above, which he concludes was Edmund. Caspian acquitted himself well too. Certainly foes to be reckoned with. Taking a bunch of rag-tag rebels and turning them into a fighting force capable of mounting quite a nasty attack on a fortress and trained men is impressive to say the least. He'd like to meet them one day, if they weren't on different sides.

They're still cleaning up the courtyard late in the day after the attack, and as he predicted, all through the corridors you hear nothing but the excited chatter about the monsters; figures of their childhood tales and nightmares, especially the giant corpse of the minotaur crushed under the gate.

The beat of wings alerts him to a visitor. He looks up from his papers. "You take a risk coming here in daylight."

Brightbeak alights on the windowsill, and settles her wings into place. "Forgive me, I thought you might appreciate some insight after such an... interesting night."

"I presume they're licking their wounds." Glozelle replies.

"Hardly." She tilts her head. "There is some dissent, admittedly, after so many lost. However, hope seems to be guiding them rather than common sense. They're idiots and they'll wipe themselves out in one foolhardy mission after another." She pauses, clicking her beak angrily. "Do you know how many we lost?"

"From the bodies, a significant number."

"A good portion, let us say. Some of our strongest fighters. But no, suicide is apparently the best tactic. They came back, the humans yelled amongst themselves, they withdrew to discuss something in the inner chambers, and now they're fired up again. There's even more blind faith around, even though anyone with eyes can tell the humans are feeling a little humbled. Perhaps it was the intelligent ones that died in the raid."

"More fool them." Glozelle makes a note. "Do you know what the new plans are?"

"They're sending an emissary, or plan to. The princeling said it is in accordance with Telmarine custom."

"Perhaps they've come to their senses and wish to offer surrender."

Brightbeak sneers. "If you believe that, you're a bigger fool than their followers."

"We can but hope. It would mean less bloodshed, certainly. Less lives lost on your side. Was there anything else you wished to report?"

"They're quelling dissent; Nikabrik was killed, and all they'll say is treason. Some trumped-up charge of summoning the White Witch."

"More calculating than I thought. Was that all?"

She turns to go, then pauses. "There was one thing, but I'm sure you wouldn't be interested. The child Lucy carries a potion that took Trumpkin from near death to merely bruised. It makes their claims... interesting."

She's off and out the window before Glozelle can respond. Magic potions? What kind of sorcery do they have their hands on? Still, the fact that they're willing to kill to silence critics indicates desperation and being backed into a corner. Perhaps they wish to make a deal.

In the tent of parley, Glozelle studies the young man who identified himself as Edmund. King Edmund, to be precise. He is young, certainly, but Glozelle knows a seasoned soldier when he sees one. No boy, as Miraz thinks. Merely blessed to look young - a good trait in a spy. Miraz never thought to look below the surface, which will be his undoing sooner or later. Edmund took the measure of Miraz, and knew where to strike to get Miraz to agree to the Narnians' terms. A little goading helped, of course. Miraz is a prideful man. Edmund is not one to be underestimated, certainly. His spies say that Edmund has been marshalling a band of his own spies from amongst the beasts, sending them hither and thither to gain the lay of the land. To get them organised so fast is beginning to be a hallmark of these supposed kings of legend.

The combatants retreat to gather themselves for a second bout. Glozelle watches as Edmund puts Peter's arm back into joint, Peter shaking off the pain quickly, focussed on the coming round as Edmund counsels him and he gives orders, Susan leaving for the Narnians. It's not just raids they're experienced in, apparently. He'd be interested to know where they got such experience, for Archenland is not one for duels. Drunken fights and border raids, certainly. The Telmarines try to turn a blind eye to how lawless the border with Archenland is. Not planned raids on well-armed castles.

Peter is good. Very good. And a man used to being obeyed. If going merely by demeanour, it would be easy to believe their assertions of ancient royal status. They've got that natural arrogance that comes of being raised to know that everyone is there to serve your whim. Glozelle would delay believing them that they're truly the kings of legend, but he can understand why the Narnians would fall into line so easily. Charismatic, good-looking and a good fighter with a plan that keeps a calm head - there are worse qualities in a leader.

Interesting. They look truly surprised for a moment over Sopespian's treachery - it seems for all their experience, they were not expecting Miraz' own side to stab the man. However, they're rallying admirably, retreating for their own side. As Glozelle makes for his horse and army, he finds himself pondering their offer to Caspian to take Miraz' head. As far as he's aware, offering a head to someone else after defeat isn't an Archenland custom, and it's certainly not a Telmarine custom, which is almost certainly why the boy hesitated. They appeared to think offering a head for the sake of revenge was the logical course after defeating an enemy thus, and were obviously surprised that he showed leniency. He may have to rethink his presumptions about them being sent from Archenland to disrupt the country. But for now, he's got what's likely to be a massacre to conduct. The beasts' forces are nowhere near enough numbers to present the Telmarine forces with much of a challenge.

Glozelle has to jump from his horse when it's cut from under him to avoid breaking his legs, and then jump further to get out of the way of the minotaur that crushed his horse's ribcage. He'll give Peter and his like more credit - they are brilliant field marshals, to use so few troops so well. The ambush and the subsequent directing of troops was very, very good, causing maximum damage with the weapons and skills they've got, even if it's doomed in the face of the forces still ranged against them. As for the men themselves - well, he could see from his horse the soldiers trying to get out of the way of the blond and dark figures dealing out death, Susan aiding them from above with her archers. He doesn't have time to regret sparing Caspian, though - from what he can gather, he was the first casualty of the trees. Near-casualty, at any rate - he was only knocked out for a few minutes, but in those few minutes the entire army was routed in the face of the living woods that tore them and their catapults apart. Getting to the river with the last of the stragglers doesn't afford him the sight of the child Lucy on the bridge, but he does get to see the River God swallowing Sopespian. No matter how much he disliked the man personally and politically, that's not a fate he'd wish on any being.

As the battered and cowed remnants of the army are forced to kneel before Caspian, although they do not so much kneel for him as the great lion and his deputies, who are categorically not Archenlanders, Glozelle is forced to conclude one thing from this day. The Narnians' victory has indeed been... decisive.

END