Chapter 1: The First Morning Aboard
The swaying motion of the ship caused no distress to Lucy: in fact the soft swing of her cot, hung from bolts attached to the ceiling of the Great Cabin, lulled her swiftly into a dreamless sleep. When she awoke, instantly alert, she could hardly wait to scramble into her borrowed tunic and bustle up onto deck as the sun struggled to peer through cloud, happily humming to herself. This, she was sure, was going to be the finest of all their Narnian adventures.
She pushed open the hatch and clambered onto the poop with her face already raised, nostrils wide to catch the sweet briny tang of the ocean air. For a moment it was possible to imagine herself the only being alive, sharing the endless sea and sky with no other company than the Dawn Treader.
The illusion dissolved in an instant: for there, leaning against the tiller, stood the Lord Drinian, his dark head tilted as he gazed for’ard across the ship and to sea, one hand rested lightly on the topmost spoke of the great wheel.
He looked so utterly content she was loath to disturb him. Stepping up onto deck she deliberately muted her lively trilling. “Good morning, Captain!”
“Your Majesty.” He twisted to smile at her, lofty head dipped in greeting. Lucy giggled.
“I assume you prefer the title to my Lord at sea,” she said teasingly. He laughed, showing a set of strong white teeth.
“I see Your Majesty has been listening to His Majesty,” he said as she moved to stand beside him with her bare elbows resting on the taffrail, confirming his suspicion with a giggle and a blush. “’Tis true, I promised the first man o’ the crew to use my landsman’s title a dozen of the best but passengers – royal ones at any rate – can scarce be subject to so rude a manner of discipline.”
Eustace, she thought, would be wise to heed that minor clarification. “Isn’t it a perfect morning?” she said, pushing the unfortunate thought hastily away. Drinian nodded.
“Aye. You’re above deck early, Ma’am. I trust you slept well?”
“Like a log, thank you, but I always wake early at sea.” That sounded, she realised, more like Queen Lucy the Valiant than the silly English schoolgirl who had fallen through a picture frame in Aunt Alberta’s spare room. She was rather pleased with herself. “But if I’m up early, what about you? Can the Captain not allow himself an extra hour in bed?”
“He can, Ma’am: he has the advantage of assigning tiller duty,” Drinian agreed cheerfully. “Nay, I prefer to take the helm at these hours: early morning and late o’ nights, when the ship is quiet... those are the true sailor’s hours! Besides, when the full crew’s on deck the Captain can find himself being urgently needed in four different places at once! Will Your Majesties take a tour of my lady Dawn Treader this morning?”
“I should like that, and so would Edmund.”
Drinian cocked his dark head. “Your Majesty makes no mention of her discontented kinsman?”
“Bother! I was trying to forget about him!”
“Weren’t we all?” Rubbing his eyes, Edmund stumbled onto the poop to join her at the aft rail, blinking to adjust to daylight after a night below decks. “If he tells you he didn’t sleep a wink, don’t believe him! The blighter snored so loudly it kept Caspian and I awake for hours after he’d dropped off! Morning by the way, Lu – morning, Drinian.”
“Your Majesty. Are we to assume, then, that his most gracious Majesty King Caspian is not yet ready to honour his loyal subjects with an audience?”
“Something like that.” The fresh air, Lucy gathered, was fast blowing the last stuffiness from her brother’s head. “He mumbled something about not offending the dryads, Trumpkin, then rolled over and started snoring again! He’ll turn up in time for breakfast I expect. When is that, by the way? I’m famished!”
“Six bells, Sire: inside the hour. Mouse!”
Both children jumped at the unexpected bellow. Down on the maindeck Reepicheep paused his purposeful scampering just long enough to turn and offer a flourishing bow to the irate Captain before continuing his merry way toward the forecastle.
“Reep in Aslan’s name the prow is not your personal lookout platform!” Drinian bawled. “Oh, have it your way, but remember: should you fall, I shan’t be bringing the ship about to retrieve you!”
“He does have excellent balance, you know,” Lucy pointed out, watching with fascination as the little creature clambered the length of the prow’s wooden neck to stand confidently between the dragon’s wooden ears. Drinian turned the curse that rose instinctively into a prolonged hiss in deference to his royal companions.
“Aye Ma’am, but he’s a lubber. Oh, I’ve climbed the prow myself many a time, but with a sailor’s knowledge! A sudden squall; a sea creature rearing ahead of us... what help will his balance be then? We ought to have left the bl – the infernal nuisance in Narnia!”
“Where he couldn’t give that cofounded fellow Scrubb a good thrashing?” Edmund queried. “Don’t squeal, Lu – you know it’s going to happen! Reep won’t allow many more slights to his honour, even from a creature under the protection of Your Majesty!”
“The young master has no more signs of seasickness?” Drinian sounded almost disappointed. Edmund shook his head.
“None at all, worse luck!” he said devoutly. “I did tell her it wasn’t worth wasting a drop of the cordial on! He’ll be up on deck in no time, I suppose. It’s rotten luck he was hanging about when we fell through the picture – when we were brought here, I mean.”
“Oh, I doubt it was a matter o’ luck, King Edmund.” Drinian chuckled softly. “Aslan brings you here: therefore, he brought your kinsman too. For what purpose only he knows, but for a certainty there was no luck, good or ill, about it.”
“That’s true.” There was no questioning the Lion’s actions: they had a habit of working themselves out in Lucy’s experience. “Drinian’s offered to give us a tour of the ship after breakfast, Ed. D’ you think we can stop Eustace tagging along?”
“Doubt it,” he answered gloomily “He’s good at that, Scrubb – tagging along and getting in one’s way! Good morning, Caspian.”
“I thought I heard you slipping away, Edmund!” Smiling broadly, Caspian X heaved himself onto the poop to join them. “Drinian, no worrying! We slept perfectly easy below - once our ears accustomed themselves to our shipmate’s snores! Your clothes should be dry by this evening, Lucy: you’ll be glad to have them back, no doubt.”
She nodded, hitching his loaned tunic at the belt when it would have slipped below her knees. “It’s a pity we had to kick off our shoes,” she said mournfully.
“More can be found at Narrowhaven,” Drinian assured her, acknowledging the salute of his second-in-command as he puttered up the ladder from the maindeck. “Well, Rhince! Naught to report?”
“Nowt, Cap’n. Good mornin’, Your Majesties. Stand down the lookouts, Sir?”
“Aye, do so: and have the men scrub the maindeck this morning if you please. Their Majesties did more damage to the polish than we thought with all the brine they brought aboard yesterday.”
“Our apologies, Captain,” said Caspian formally. Drinian’s dark eyes sparkled.
“I’ll thank your Highnesses for taking no more sudden dips,” he said. “Good morning, Rynelf.”
“Sir.” The slight sailor snapped a smart salute. “Reporting for helm duty, Captain.”
“Hold a steady course.” Relinquishing the wheel with obvious regret, Drinian smiled kindly at his crewman. “East-nor’-east, hard on the wind. Good morning, Master Eustace. Another perfect sailing day!”
“Can’t even tell when a bally storm’s raging,” the sulky boy muttered, shoving his way past Rhince without so much as a by-your-leave. The big sailor scowled, opened his mouth to speak, then snapped it firmly shut again under the combined glares of his King and Captain.
“A cheerful shipmate he’s likely to prove,” Drinian commented. “Don’t suppose he has a useful skill? Playing the fiddle, perhaps? The men get a mite tired o’ Rynelf’s accordion every night.”
“I don’t think Eustace is going to contribute anything, unless your cook can carve that pound of ham off his bottom lip for dinner,” Edmund admitted amid laughter as a gong’s deep thrum resounded down the length of the gallant vessel. “Good-oh, that means breakfast, doesn’t it? Move along, Caspian! I’m permanently famished at sea, aren’t I, Lu?”
Chapter 2: A Tour Of The Ship
Edmund and Lucy learn a little more about their travelling companions. The Narnians learn more than they need to know about Eustace.
“So many names!” whispered Lucy as two more crew members knelt to kiss her hand – awkwardly, she noticed, with a rustic uncertainty far removed from the suave confidence with which their captain had saluted her yesterday. “How are we ever going to remember them?”
“Stay close to Drinian,” Caspian muttered from her other side. “He has no difficulty!”
“They are my crew, Sire,” the dark-haired man pointed out mildly, dismissing the gawping men to their interrupted tasks. “Now: if Your Majesties wish to eat for the rest of the day, I suggest we leave the galley master to his business. That blessed Mouse is still clinging to the dragon’s ears, I see. Gives the lookout someone to talk to I suppose: keeps him awake! If you’d care to climb up to the platform in the mouth, Your Majesties...”
“Yes please!” Eustace snorted at their enthusiasm, the sound ending in a squeak as Edmund’s foot came down hard on top of his. Lucy darted from the galley, sucking in a cleansing gulp of fresh air. “I could never be a ship’s cook!”
“Nor I, Ma’am: I could burn water,” Drinian agreed, swinging himself lightly up onto the broad base of the prow. “You see halfway up the neck, there’s a hatch cut out? In there stands our for’ard lookout. Peridan!”
“Aye, Cap’n?” A ginger head popped through the opening, a freckled forehead creasing with a concern that lifted immediately the man saw the friendly gin on his captain’s face. Drinian tossed a jovial salute.
“Their Majesties would inspect your station if you’d be so kind as to give ‘em room! No, Queen Lucy, I’ll go first. Master Eustace if you’d rather remain on deck with His Majesty...”
“I’m jolly well coming – oh, you mean the other His Majesty!” Edmund pulled himself up short at the expression on Caspian’s face. “And you’ll have to excuse Scrubb – he’s a republican.”
“He is a poltroon, though it pains me to speak ill of Your Majesty’s relation!”
“Enough, Reepicheep!” Drinian’s tone was stern, but the look he cast up to indignant Mouse at its precarious balance was approving. “Now, Your Majesty, there’s a fair step down. Take my hand, that’s right.”
“Goodness!” Lucy swayed back, grateful for the firm grasp he maintained on her fingers. “It’s like being suspended right over the sea! I shouldn’t like to be here in a storm!”
“We have handholds, Ma’am,” the seaman Peridan assured her. “And waxed cloaks,” he added.
“Surely you won’t see land on the horizon from here!”
“Not afore the man at the fightin’ top, Your Majesty, but without a fellow here castin’ the lead...”
“It must be time for a sounding now – no, Peridan, allow me.” Drinian stretched beyond the other man, snagging a tightly coiled rope tied at regular intervals with strong knots. “A captain has few enough chances to play the sailor in his own ship, Queen Lucy! Aye clamber out if you wish. King Edmund might care to play lookout for a while.”
“Yes, do shift out, Lu!” Edmund’s head cast a shadow across the hatch. Lucy stuck out her tongue at him.
Peridan goggled. Drinian shot him a sharp look, and he subsided.
Edmund squeezed into the corner, watching with interest as the young captain swung out the sounding line, letting it trail ahead of the ship until the last of its knots vanished beneath the waves. “No bottom at fifty fathoms!” Drinian hollered, neatly recoiling the cable and returning it to its hook. “Comfortable, Sire?”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” said Edmund, who was beginning to look a little green. “Never mind during rough weather: I shouldn’t want to be stationed here in battle, for anything in this world or the other!”
“We’d never waste a man on lookout during action, King Edmund.” Drinian vaulted back up the ladder as if a soft mattress, not an ominous drop into the ocean, lay beneath him. “My thanks, Peridan. Erlian will relieve you at noon.”
“Aye, Cap’n.” The man respected his captain, Edmund noticed, but did not cower from him. Young as he was, Captain Drinian knew his business: that was obvious from the first glance around his ship.
From the fo’c’sle they descended into the gloom of the ship’s hold, where two sets of oars (for flat calms and manoeuvring the Dawn Trader in and out of harbour) lay ready beside rows of long benches. “Ugh!” said Eustace. “A galley! How barbaric!”
“P’raps we can chain you to an oar, idiot!” hissed Edmund.
“He doesn’t understand, you see,” Lucy apologised, alarmed by the ominous lowering of two Narnian brows.
“Eustace will take his turn at the oars when needful with the rest of us – excluding Lucy and Reepicheep of course,” Caspian stated firmly.
“If he’s as flabby and feeble as he looks, Sire, the Mouse may be more use!” Drinian growled. “Mind your head, King Edmund! That’s tomorrow’s mutton you almost brought down!”
All manner of consumable hung from hooks along the low roof. Behind and among the benches stood casks and barrels of provisions, with water, wine and rum all roped together against the ship’s steady roll. At the farthest end stood the rough canvas partition which offered some measure of privacy to two kings and their companion: small enough luxury but significant, with every other man’s hammock being rolled up and hung from the bulkheads on either side of the ship.
Drinian sniffed, his nose wrinkling. “Those bilges need pumping,” he muttered.
“On our ships – proper ships – no water seeps in,” Eustace announced. Everyone ignored him.
“Yonder ladder takes us to the masthead, Your Majesty,” Drinian informed Lucy. “If I might lead the way...”
“By all means, Captain.” Remembering she was Queen Lucy now, not plain Lu Pevensie, was getting easier. “Can we climb all the way up to – oh, I always want to call it the crow’s nest but that’s not right, is it?”
“Crow’s nest’s a landsman’s term, Ma’am.” Pushing aside the hatch cover Drinian led them out into bright sunlight, pausing a moment while their eyes adjusted. “Here, Pittencream! Fetch my telescope from the poop if you please. If we’re to go aloft, Your Majesties, we ought to go prepared.”
The man named Pittencream, a lanky individual with the rolling gait of a practised mariner, scuttled away. Drinian cursed under his breath.
“I forgot – Rynelf has the helm,” he muttered. Caspian clapped him kindly on the shoulder.
“There’ll be no uproar, my Lord,” he said calmly. “Messires Rynelf and Pittencream can hardly have forgotten the fine lecture you delivered off Terebinthia!” To the children he added, by way of apologetic explanation, “There is some matter of history between those two stout sailors, you see. The Captain and I were hurried from our dinner the day after passing Terebinthia to separate them on the fo’c’sle.”
“Oh dear!” cried Lucy.
“Wasn’t it known before they came aboard?” asked Edmund.
Eustace sniggered rudely. Caspian, Lucy thought, actually blushed.
“Ah, well, yes, King Edmund,” he confessed with a worried glance aside. “It was raised during our deliberations. We might have found crews for four Dawn Treaders from the volunteers that stepped forward at my proclamation, but few were in any way experienced mariners. Pittencream and Rynelf were among the few, and when Drinian pressed me on the urgent need to avoid unnecessary dissension among the men, I – ahem! Royal Prerogative, you understand.”
It seemed to Lucy that Pittencream was rather paler when he returned, a fine polished telescope in his hands which he offered to his captain as if he feared it might bite. Drinian thanked him with a preoccupied air, tucking the tube casually under his arm. “I’ll lead the way,” he said. “And none will think the worse of any passenger that chooses to stay on deck.”
“I’m coming up!” Edmund began, pulled up short by the look of relief on Caspian’s face. “Again, you weren’t thinking of me, were you, Drinian?”
“Best to mention no names, Sire.” Agile as a monkey he was off up the rigging, leaving Edmund and Lucy to clamber more warily in his wake up to the top of the solid trunk of Narnian oak, flexing and creaking in the wind, that bore the weight of the great purple sail to the second timber that crossed it before hopping over into the bucket of the lookout perch.
The man on duty inched carefully around, allowing his commander and guests what little privacy was possible “What happened with those two men?” Edmund asked quietly. Lucy frowned.
“Don’t be so nosy, Ed!” she chided. Drinian grimaced.
“There’s no great secret, Your Majesties,” he said simply. “Our Pittencream is as least as practised a swindler as he is a sailor, and one of his victims was sister to Rynelf. We looked at the history of every man that applied to sail with us, and Casp – His Majesty concluded that, of necessity, the villain and his victim’s kin would have to make shift together as best they could.”
“Rather silly of him,” Edmund commented.
“Our want of experienced mariners weighed heavily with His Majesty.” Drinian remained sternly neutral, inwardly annoyed with his half-slip. “Your Majesties know that for centuries the Telmarines feared the sea – the very element that brought their ancestors to this world! Only now do we begin to exert ourselves as a maritime power again.
“So: Rynelf and Pittencream were brought aboard. They pledged to live neighbourly, and with a touch o’ connivance between Rhince and myself to keep them apart on duty, for the first two weeks they did.
“Then we passed Terebinithia. By an oversight on my part they were stationed on the fo’c’sle together and as the greater part of the crew sat to dinner, words were had. Before we know it, a rare ruckus has broken out! It took Rhince and myself together to pull them apart, and two men more to carry ‘em down to the hold. Look! Look yonder Queen Lucy! See, over to the nor’east, Galleon Gull! We’ll sight land tomorrow, I’d stake my last Lion on it!
Chapter 3: Into The Unknown
In their last few hours in known territories Caspian and the Pevensies expound upon the obligations of monarchy and Drinian contemplates yet another burden of command. Eustace? He's still looking out for that consulate...
“The next time Your Majesties wish to feel the sand between your toes on a lonely island, remind me to assemble a guard troop!” Drinian teased, leaning back from the groaning supper table with a smile for his charming hostess. Amid the laughter of the whole party only their host remained grave.
“Glad though I should be to receive my friends were they to return from the East I must beg Your Graces again – turn back from this cursed quest!” he cried.
“My Lord Bern.” When crossed the new Governor and Duke of the Lone Islands considered, his genial young Majesty was more than ever the undoubted son of his formidable father King Caspian the Ninth. “You know well I made a vow at my coronation before the Lion himself and all my subjects, that I should venture beyond the known lands in search of them – our countrymen, no less!
“After all these years, Sire!" Bern curled the thick end of his pointed red-gold beard around his fingers. “Not a sign of my shipmates, nor any of their crew! They are dead! To waste your precious life pursuing them surely serves neither Narnia nor Aslan!”
“What proof have we of their deaths?” Drinian questioned, passing the flagon of spiced wine down the table at Edmund’s gesture. “It may be there are prosperous lands east of this: places where they and their crew chose to settle as you did here, to a better life than any honest man could know in Miraz’s Narnia!”
“That’s true,” Lucy seconded. “And even if they are dead, they shouldn’t be forgotten. Oath or no oath, it’s only right to look for them!”
“Well spoken, Queen Lucy,” Caspian murmured, his goblet raised in salute. She blushed.
“Are you really Queen Lucy?” Bern’s littlest daughter Sara, enquired shrilly, tugging at her skirt. “She lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago – even before my Papa’s time!”
“Sara! Crave pardon, Your Majesty – the child’s barely into her fourth year...”
“Goodness we’re not offended – are we, Ed?” Lucy exclaimed, laughing. “Time runs differently in our world, Sara. When we reigned in Narnia...”
“In the Golden Age?” the child squeaked.
“If that’s what people call it, but I suppose the past always seems better than the present, doesn’t it? We were crowned as children: grew up and lived over thirty years in Narnia before we fell back into out other world. There we were all children again, and nobody even knew we’d been gone! I don’t understand it myself, so I don’t suppose you should either.”
“I should like to be a queen,” Sara muttered, casting a vicious look at the new Duchess of the Lone Islands as she moved to carry her tot away. “Nobody would tell a queen to go to bed!”
“Except possibly a king,” Edmund added. “I say, Scrubb, aren’t you going to eat those sweetmeats? Pass them along, there’s a good fellow.”
“Filthy, unhealthy things,” Eustace grumbled, shoving the platter past Lucy and knocking her goblet over in the process. As servants rushed to dab the mess dry and Reepicheep very obviously fingered the hilt of his rapier (he had refused to leave it outside: determined, Edmund suspected, to be prepared to defend himself against Eustace Clarence should the need arise) the boy Pug had labelled Sulky produced a truly mammoth pout. “And that ghastly child would make at least as much a queen as Lucy! Golden Age, indeed! I never heard such rot!”
His shrill squeaks carried the length of Bern’s great hall, and every head turned. “Our cousin is new to this world,” Edmund apologised, before Scrubb could make matters any worse. “He has no idea of Narnian history.”
“And I doubt ‘e knows ‘ow to read a book!”
“That will do, Lina!” Bern’s fist slammed down hard on the table, making cutlery and crockery dance. “And how often must I remind you he and how being with an H! I must apologise, Master Eustace – Your Majesties. My firstborn’s manners are a disgrace to our house! Now: you’re still determined to sail on the morning tide?”
“Aye,” Drinian answered for everybody. “The Narrowhaven tides seldom flood so high. There’ll be less rowing for the men: and with our hold stocked and our rigging renewed we’ve no cause for further delaying.”
“Our captain tires of the land, my Lord Duke,” Caspian teased, rubbing his filled belly with one hand. “And he is, of course, quite right. Further delay avails us nothing but to add to the expense and inconvenience to your people. Come, admit it! A Royal Court at your threshold’s an unconscionable burden!”
“Your Majesty’s coming has restored good government and freedom to these islands, Sire.” Bern’s wife spoke up vehemently on behalf of her own people and Caspian thought he could understand quite why her husband had abandoned his shipmates for the love of her. “We thought Gumpas would cheat and bribe his way into the Governor’s chambers for the rest of our lifetimes – aye, and our children’s too at that!”
“Had you but seen his face when my Lord Drinian and I overturned his table!” Bern chortled. The younger man chuckled.
“Or when we plucked him from his seat and dropped him on the floor!”
“Or when We appointed another to the duties he disgraced,” Caspian added cheerfully. “Do not tell me, my Lord Bern, that no good can come of this uncertain quest of ours! In restoring right to these Our dominions, have we not already performed a noble service?”
“And you’d know all about pomposity, Scrubb!”
“Ed, don’t let him upset you! You know it only makes him worse.”
“Look at him, sniggering like an idiot,” Edmund agreed disgustedly. “I don’t suppose we could leave him behind?”
“Edmund!” Lucy was really shocked. “I know he’s a beast, but he really is here because of us!”
“Jus’ what these islands need,” Rhince opined in a low rumble intended to be a whisper. “Rid o’ one bletherin’ windbag in Gumpas, give ‘em ‘er Majesty’s cousin instead!”
All the men of the Narnian nobility at her table, Lucy was almost certain, were hard pressed not to smile at their countryman’s indiscretion
So was she.
On the next morning, four weeks after Narnian feet had first sunk into the sands of Felimath, all of Narrowhaven – if not all of Doorn – assembled on the quayside to wave their Emperor’s galleon on her way toward the eastern horizon. And in a small tavern Pug, formerly the richest slave-trader in the town, sulked with his cronies and plotted to find a more profitable career once the interfering strangers were gone.
Gathered on the poop Caspian, Reepicheep and the Pevensies waved as enthusiastically back on behalf of themselves and the crew: all of them, from the captain down to the lowliest seaman moving smoothly about their tasks as the great vessel inched her way clear of port. As the cheering grew fainter and the gilded prow swung its eyes to the distant horizon the young king expelled a deep breath and, smiling, turned to his closest friend as Drinian stooped at the compass, ready to call the smallest of corrections to the man at the wheel.
“Well, my Lord Drinian,” he said. “Here the true adventure begins! Who knows what land – if any! – we shall lay eye or foot upon next!”
“Of one thing Your Majesty may be certain,” replied the other, not troubling to glance away from his work. “His foot will be accompanied by those of a dozen armed guards! No more idle wanderings, King Caspian – nay, no matter how tranquil the land we find may seem!”
Chapter 4: After The Storm
They've weathered the storm: now the Dawn Treader's valiant company (plus one) face an uncertain fate...
The instant she opened her eyes Lucy knew something had changed. The ship no longer bucked and struggled, kicking against the efforts of her crew to restrain her. “It’s over,” she murmured, barely believing it herself. “At last it’s calm again!”
Too calm she realised. The mighty Dawn Treader, tossed like a bobbing cork for the past twelve days and nights, barely limped along, her great hull making none of the lively creaks and groans of activity so familiar to a well-travelled Narnian Queen. Not having been on deck since the first squall struck Lucy picked out her brightest blue dress (a purchase made in Narrowhaven), stepped into a pair of low sandals and hastened up through the hatch onto the poop.
“Oh, my word!” she cried, stopped in her tracks by the scene of devastation that greeted her. “It looks like a ruin!”
“The word’s wreck, Lu; and it is.” Edmund had offered his assistance with Caspian and it was a measure of the enormity of the crisis, they all knew, that Drinian had swallowed his doubts and let the lubbers lend their hands to hauling on ropes, chopping away debris and whatever other rough tasks he could barely spare a trained seaman to undertake. The haggard face of her brother was therefore some small preparation to Lucy for the more dramatic changes wrought by continual emergency in the rest of the crew.
There were, she realised, fewer men than might be expected about. A lone sailor stood at the tiller where, at the tempest’s height, three men had been lashed together to maintain any manner of course. One man clambered up to the prow’s lookout hatch. Two more could be heard, if not seen, turning the pump: the distinctive clank-clank sound resounded around the whole ship as the last of the invading waters were forced over the side. And down on the maindeck a small knot of men under the supervision of their captain were labouring to reinforce the bowsprit, hastily lashed to the mainmast’s jagged stump: all that was left since the mast itself had been carried overboard on the fourth day of the storm.
Drinian’s rich baritone was raw as he called his instructions and Lucy winced in sympathy, feeling the snagging pain every word must cause in the back of her own throat. Like the ordinary seamen he wore the same clothes as on the hurricane’s first day, stiffening with drying salt where they were not clinging damply to his form. The poor man can hardly have left deck in a fortnight, she realised. Small wonder he looked exhausted!
“Ah, Lucy!” Caspian was in a marginally more presentable state, having been sent below at regular intervals to dry off and change his clothes: although not all the glory of his crown could have brought him a hot meal aboard their wind-tossed craft. “We have endured as you see - but barely!”
“I’m amazed we didn’t drop straight to the bottom in this rotten tub!” Eustace piped up defiantly, daring anyone to challenge the point. “Honestly! Not even a signal flare to call for help!”
“Small ‘elp’s to be found hereabout, young feller!” Erlian, lacking the restraint of his companions, blurted out. “And get yer ‘and out o’ that, unless you’re wantin’ to be ‘oisted up the jury rig!”
“By the neck if we’re lucky.” That growling rumble could come from only one man: Rhince, lumbering up as awkward as any greenhorn mariner in his weariness. “Make way, Your Majesty!” - this to Caspian - “Cap’n, Boson’s set the man to patchin’ the sail...”
“More patch than original sheet, eh?” Drinian thrust a hand through brine-matter black hair. “We’ll have a hot breakfast this morning Rhince, for all hands. Then I expect the better part o’ the crew to retire to their hammocks ‘til nightfall.”
The Mate cocked his unruly head. “And yerself, Sir?” he questioned.
“When I’m satisfied the ship is as safe as she may be I’ll leave her to your care, Master Mate. Mouse! Take that blasted rapier – your pardon, Queen Lucy – and remove yourself from any place where you might be under the feet of the crew! Have you not noticed, the Royal Galleon o’ Narnia better resembles a prison wreck than a fencing gallery?”
Caspian sniffed, much affronted by his captain’s frankness. Drinian flashed him a friendly grin, one that lifted the strain and tiredness and raised the spirits of all who saw it.
“Naught but the truth Sire, but a hearty breakfast will make the task of restoring our good lady less daunting, I daresay! I should say a good wash too, but we daren't spare the water. Two casks breached in the hold: it would be wise, I believe, to begin rationing immediately.”
“Oh, now that’s just not fair!” Eustace burst out, louder and surlier than ever. “It’s bad enough that I was kidnapped and brought on board this miserable wooden tub, and now you’re going to torture me as well! I don’t mind telling you Pevensies, I shall be lodging a complaint against you – yes, and against Caspian too! You can’t even keep that frightful circus rat of yours under control and yet these people expect you to get them out of this ghastly mess!”
“The King shan’t get us out of it, young master.” When Drinian spoke so sharply Lucy noticed, even Caspian looked distinctly nervous. Had Eustace never heard of the absolute authority a good captain wielded over his ship’s company, she wondered? “We shall find our way as a crew. Unless you’ve a worthy suggestion to offer then you – as a stranger and a landsman – might be well advised to hold your wayward tongue! Beg pardon, Your Majesties: I’m loath to grieve you by addressing a kinsman of yours so rudely.”
“Don’t mind us,” said Edmund promptly. “Scrubb’s an intolerable fellow in his better moods, and they don’t come around too often! Can we have coffee with breakfast, d’ you think? I know the sun’s burning off the last of the cloud, but I still feel chilled to the bone.”
“Coffee it shall be, King Edmund,” Drinian agreed, gingerly flexing his aching back. “No eggs, mind.”
“Not now the hens are all dead,” Eustace agreed nastily, enjoying the horrified squeal from the younger of his cousins. “Gracious, Queen Lucy, you didn’t think they could swim, did you?”
She bit her lip. “Drowned?”
“It saved them being crushed when the mast came down on their coop,” Eustace sneered as Caspian nodded. “Now if you’d only have the sense to keep that horrid mouse in a cage too...”
“We do not permit that ignorant strangers abuse the knights of Our realm Eustace, whatever may be the custom of your own world.” He was tired, he was hungry and he was frightened, although being King meant he could hardly admit as much. In such a condition Caspian considered, it was hardly to be wondered a gentleman’s temper should fray. “As you suggest, my Lord: we shall begin rationing immediately. Our foodstuffs...”
“We’ve got half a dozen tough hens to chew through as well. Jolly good! What more could we want?”
“Go away, Scrubb.” Edmund clenched his fists, longing to smack the smirking target his cousin presented. Just once in a while he wished the Narnians were a little more vicious – a little more like their ancient enemies the Calormenes. “I don’t suppose we could clap him in irons?”
“If they’re Narnian ones, they’d probably break.” Pleased with himself, Eustace sauntered toward the fo’c’sle, to be close to the summons when breakfast was called.
“Ignore him,” he heard Edmund advise. “If he doesn’t get a response, he shuts up soon enough. Where do we go from here, Caspian? Captain?”
“Onward, King Edmund.” The question hardly surprised him, but that it should come from such a source puzzled Drinian. “What else is there to be done?”
“Not much, I suppose,” Edmund admitted slowly. Rynelf, working closest to their group, cleared his throat.
“Begging Their Majesties pardons, but we’ve no knowledge of there being cause for hope ahead, Captain,” he said.
“And the certain knowledge our water will last barely half the time it would take to reach land to the west.” No sense concealing the gravity of their position: Drinian expected his crew to be sensible enough to deduce it for themselves. “Under such unappealing circumstances, what better choice do we have?”
The sailor considered for a moment, then grinned. “None that I can reckon, Sir,” he said, returning with a whistle to his work. Drinian allowed himself a satisfied smile.
“We’ll have difficulty from the men, Sire,” he said quietly. Caspian nodded.
“We all knew the risks, I daresay,” he murmured. “Ah! Breakfast is ready, at last! I never thought I should be so grateful for the promise of a hot meal!”
As they assumed their places with Reepicheep at the top table Drinian called the men to attention and succinctly laid out their position before them. Not a single voice – or not a voice worth heeding, he amended to himself – was raised against the unanimous decision of sovereign and commander to sail on.
“It’s all very well to talk,” Eustace groused, painfully high-pitched than ever in the silence. Probably meant he was frightened, Edmund decided. “But don’t you see it’s just so much wishful thinking? You might be happy to float along until we all die of starvation: I’m not!”
“Thirst comes first, an’ if the young gentleman were so clever ‘e’d know it!”
“That will do, Ugrian!” said Caspian firmly. “Their Majesties’ kinsman is quite right to remind us we have no certain knowledge of salvation ahead. However, if the alternative to wishful thinking is giving up hope... my Lord Drinian, we have water at a quarter of a pint per man for – did you say thirteen days? How long, in your estimation, would the journey to Narrowhaven require?”
“Twice that and more Sire, with men at the oars all the way,” came the crisp reply. Caspian nodded.
“Well, Eustace. Taking into account all the facts we appear to have no difficult decision before us! If you can suggest an alternative...”
“I was kidnapped and dragged onto this crazy voyage,” the boy replied loftily. “It’s hardly for me to get you out of a mess you made.”
“He means, he’s got no idea,” Edmund translated. Around the tables, men laughed.
“We’ll begin rationing directly,” Drinian announced before Eustace could complain again. “Rhince, you’ll oversee it. Forget not, shipmates: Aslan gave assent to His Majesty’s quest. Would he have sent his anointed King o’ Narnia on a fool’s errand to float until his bones are picked clean by the gulls?”
“The Cap’n’s right,” Rhince called out. Caspian smiled.
“I rather think he is,” he said, looking (Lucy thought) far more cheered by the thought than he ought to have shown. “Well, shall we begin breakfast?”
“A moment, if Your Majesty will allow,” Drinian cut in quietly, rising to his full commanding height. “Men, we’ve had little time to mourn our shipmate Puttendraw, lost overboard on the sixth day of the storm. Rise and honour him in silence now, before we continue the quest he began.”
Lucy’s gasp was the only sound beyond the creak of bone as every man and passenger (Eustace had to be kicked hard on the ankle by Edmund) rose and bowed his head. How had she not noticed the empty space at the farthest table where quiet, ruddy-faced Puttendraw had taken his meals?
She tried to remember the sixth day: when the tempest had blown its hardest and the Dawn Treader teetered atop towering waves before crashing down into dull grey ocean troughs, the words of her men being torn from throats before their neighbours could hear them. To be carried over the side into those dark, broiling waters, knowing there could be no rescue: to be drawn helpless into that wildly swirling vortex, down to the seabed never to be seen again... could there be a fate more horrible?
At a nod from Drinian everyone resumed their seats, the low buzz of reluctant conversation starting up along the maindeck. Lucy began to sip delicately at her water mug, determined to make the precious ration last. Careful measuring (she knew, whether the men guessed it or not) had begun before the galley fire was lit. Drinian was not the captain to leave anything to chance.
She suspected they would all be glad of that before the voyage was over.
No sooner was the meal over and every man’s plate scrubbed and stowed than Drinian was dismissing Rhince and two-thirds of the crew below to their hammocks. “The ship’s secure and the weather set fair,” he said placatingly when the Mate protested the leaving of a mere handful of men on deck in unknown seas. “I’ll take the helm. And by the Lion’s Mane if I should see a single man of you above decks in the next six hours...”
The threat was left unfinished, and accompanied by a smile. Bowing to the inevitable Rhince trudged down through the aft hatch, following his comrades to the promise of six hours of safe, unbroken sleep.
Caspian lingered uncertainly at the foot of the ladder connecting the main and poop decks, watching their captain’s calm adjustment of their course with wide and wary eyes. “Caspian dear,” Lucy whispered, tugging at his sleeve. “Whatever is the matter? You look as if you’ve something important to say and you’re not sure how to do it!”
“Eh?” The young king blinked, guilt flashing across his face. “I – well, in a manner of speaking, Queen Lucy. Oh, what am I thinking? Drinian!”
“Aye, C – Your Majesty?” There it was again: the almost-slip. Queen Lucy had noticed, and seemed more amused than offended that a mere nobleman should dare presume to use his sovereign’s name. She pattered up the ladder in his wake, King Edmund on her heels: both, he gathered, determined to understand what had their friend flapping like a frightened hen.
Not the best of phrases he rebuked himself, remembering much too vividly the awful sight of terrified birds pecking each other in their panic as the water sloshed through their coop.
“I must apologise, my friend.” That was, Caspian told himself, the best way to approach it, apologising not being something a king practised often. “When poor Puttendraw went overboard, I ought not to have said what I did.”
“Your Majesty’s reaction was quite natural.” By the clipped formality of the words Lucy gathered the apology was more necessary than the Captain would care to admit. “The immediate response of any man to seeing a fellow in distress must be: go about!”
“Yes, but – hang it, Drinian!” Caspian exclaimed. “I swore I’d never attempt to countermand any order of yours, and in the first crisis… And what I said after! Old friend, forgive me! I know you’d be the first man into the water if there should be the smallest chance of saving that poor fellow!”
“A captain’s job can be jolly tough at times,” Edmund put in, remembering the wise words of grizzled old Roldan, captain of the Four Sovereigns’ galleon Splendour Hyaline. “Especially when he has to put the safety of his ship above the life of one of his men.”
“True enough, King Edmund.” A frown darkened his brow before, resolutely, Drinian pushed melancholy aside. “Besides: if Your Majesty must apologise for a breach o’ promise made before we sailed, so too should I! I seem to recall that in answering your demand we go about for Puttendraw I ignored Your Highness’ proper title in favour of the more familiar mode of address I almost used again just now.”
Caspian chortled. “That breach of promise I can accept gladly!” he cried. “Hearing so many Majesties and Sires from you is distressing! You see Edmund – Lucy - my Lord of Etinsmere and I were partners in mischief as boys, before Miraz conspired to steal my father’s throne. I believe our companions will forgive me, Drinian, if I request that our use of given names above titles is extended from our own conversations to all those witnessed by themselves.”
“Nothing to forgive,” said Edmund at once. “It’s jolly difficult to be a Majesty all the time, isn’t it, Lu? Knowing what it’s like – and I had Peter and the girls to remind me of my name – I’m glad there’s at least one person in Narnia who can cut the formalities and talk to Caspian ahead of the King.”
“What happened to you, Drinian? When Miraz seized the throne, I mean?” Lucy had sensed a story behind the obvious bond between King and Captain yet never dared to ask. Drinian’s broad shoulders lifted.
“My father, Ma’am, was Tirian, the late King’s chief counsellor: too close allied with his master to live and lead a revolt against a jealous usurper that murdered his own brother! In the same hour that Miraz crept into His Majesty’s chambers two men of his affinity – Glozelle and Sopespian, if the rumours of the day spoke true – broke down the doors of Etinsmere and slew its master before the eyes of his infant daughter. To stop her screams, they killed my sweet Katharina too.
“For my part, I was spared by the good sense of our nurse, that prevented me running through the nursery and into her room myself.”
“Oh, Drinian how awful!” cried Lucy. Biting his lip hard, Edmund could only nod.
“My mother was from the house, having been called to my grandmother’s sickbed at Greenglade,” the young nobleman continued, almost to himself. “When she returned at daylight she found the household packed and me dressed ready for flight. We fled down the coast in my father’s sailboat; through Greenglade, where we learned of King Caspian’s death; and over the Pire Pass into Archenland, where my father’s sister lived as wife of the Lord Dar, once Admiral of King Nain’s fleet. There we discovered that my mother stood accused by the Lord Protector of murder and abduction. My father they gave an honourable burial: my sister’s remains they tossed in a pit.”
“How old was she?” Lucy squeaked. Drinian swallowed hard.
“Just gone five, Ma’am: I was past my eighth birthday by half a year. Oh, we lived safe enough: and I had my freedom at least, unlike Caspian and too many of our friends! I joined my first ship before my eleventh birthday and served with their fleet until the King came into his own (which Your Majesties would know about far better than I!) Then, with King Nain’s blessing I resigned my place, took the fastest horse I could find and galloped for home.”
“To the very great joy of all his old friends,” Caspian concluded heartily. “Drinian has held a place of high honour in council ever since: Trumpkin, Trufflehunter and Cornelius admire him immensely. And by his efforts the Dawn Treader will be but the first of the great ships to sail under the banner of the Golden Lion.”
“Aye.” The very mention of the great fleet he had planned brought a sparkle to the sailor’s dark eyes. “The galleons Narnia Brave and Great Lion will be fit for sea-trial before the year’s end, and Mortain – our master shipwright, a half-Dwarf like Cornelius – has a dozen lesser vessels in planning. My ancestors were seamen, Your Majesties: the first Lord of Etinsmere was granted his honour by a grateful Conqueror for having dared take ship against his enemies, no less! Down generations with our countrymen cowering from the coasts it’s been our boast that we of Etinsmere have sea water in place o’ blood in our veins.”
“So you see, this quest of mine is Drinian’s too,” said Caspian with a tolerant smile. “The lost lords were friends to his father as much as mine, the last of that party left alive. Miraz murdered all the rest over the first months of his reign - under the guise of unfortunate accidents mostly. Danilvar of Glasswater fell from the palace roof one evening with none but the Lady Prunaprismia for witness. Belisar of the Eastern March was felled by a stray arrow out hunting: Sopespian supposedly found his body. Drinian...”
“The Lord of the Lantern Waste was discovered by Glozelle, face-down in a muddy ditch. Arlian, my uncle, and his neighbour Erimon were executed for what Miraz dared to name treason in the early weeks of the Protectorate. The heirs of all those gentleman and others were persecuted under his reign: all are part now of King Caspian’s court.”
“I knew Miraz was a brute of course,” Edmund murmured, “but somehow I never realised he was quite as ghastly as that! By all means use your usual way of talking in front of Lucy and I, Drinian: in fact, if you call him Caspian when the crew can’t hear, I think you should stop Majesty-ing us, too! We prefer to be Edmund and Lucy to our friends – don’t we, Lu?”
“Oh, yes please!” Lucy agreed, nodding until her ponytail bounced. Drinian, after a sidelong glance to his sovereign, smiled broadly.
“If it be the will of Your Majesties, then Edmund and Lucy it shall be! But with a single member o’ the crew to hear it, the formalities will be maintained.”
“Understood.” Lucy stuck out a hand. One brow raised, Drinian shook it with great solemnity. Caspian grinned.
“Well, my friends,” he said, his heart feeling lighter than it had since the day the storm had first broken over their poor, gallant ship. “If you will excuse a mere passenger I believe I shall abuse my fortunate position and go below for some sleep! I’ve spent scarce half the time on deck that Drinian has these past two weeks, and I can barely hold my eyes open!”
“Always was a contemptible lubber,” Drinian grumbled affectionately as his king and friend turned away.
The laughter of his closest comrades was the last thing King Caspian X heard as the hatch swung down and the comforting gloom of the lower deck consumed him.
Chapter 5: What To Do With A Dragon
No matter how impeccably planned an expedition may be, something will always crop up that no one could predict. In more ways than one, Eustace is it...
It was an hour before any bar Reepicheep could look him in the eyes as they expressed solidarity, which rather, in Eustace’s opinion, took the gloss from their kind words. “There’s got to be some way of breaking the spell,” he heard Edmund hiss, forgetful of the fine pitch of a dragon’s ear. “Even if a queen’s kiss doesn’t seem to do the job.”
“If Your Majesty seeks a king to try his luck, We respectfully remind him of his seniority over Us,” said Caspian, winning a snigger from Peridan and a flashing look from the Mouse.
“At least there’s none’ll dare attack the camp with such a sentry, Cap’n,” Rhince volunteered, ever practical. “Always assumin’ the young feller’s agreeable o’ course,” he added hastily.
Reepicheep lowered the point of his rapier, which had been aimed in the general direction of the Mate’s midriff. “We must ask naught of our afflicted shipmate that we should not gladly volunteer ourselves,” he cheeped.
The fine hairs on Eustace’s spinal ridges prickled painfully. Of all creatures to defend him, that the victim of his worst excesses should be the first! Great, steamy tears formed in the corners of his large pale gold eyes and everyone had to jump back to avoid a warm dousing.
He thumped his tail, digging a deep gouge from the sand; wagged his enormous head. “I think he agrees,” said Caspian. “Thank you, Eustace.”
“Let’s find you somewhere cosy,” Lucy suggested, making her fingers rest on his tough, scaly hide for as long as she conceal her revulsion. “There’s a little hollow on the edge of the trees just south of camp. Come and see!”
He trudged beside her through the makeshift village of canvas and rope, past seamen who called greetings from their work to Queen Lucy and her kinsman alike. On the farther edge of the settlement they came upon Ugrian, a blacksmith in his landlocked days, cursing colourfully as his rough temporary furnace failed to fire.
Eustace paused. He stretched his snake-like neck and huffed. The charcoal caught, white-hot in an instant.
“Thank ‘ee, Dra – young master!”
Eustace swished his tail. “He says, you’re welcome,” Lucy translated hopefully. The being that was almost her cousin loosed a fiery hiss of agreement.
On the first full day he cruised on the air currents into the island’s mountainous heart, returning with a tall, straight pine that matched exactly Drinian’s requirements for a new mainmast. The crew had raised him three lusty cheers while the Captain congratulated him on his judgement.
Seeing the men struggling to chip away the bark and boughs, he offered a giant set of claws and did the job in a trice. And with his proficiency in humane killing, the butchers at the extreme end of the beach were soon surrounded with the carcasses of fat wild sheep and goats to be messily skinned, salted and stored away in the hold.
In human form, Eustace had never understood what it was to be popular. Neither had he recognised how isolated, how unhappy he had been: a surly boy on the edge of a merry company that accepted his hideous new form without question. Both discoveries shook him, but with them came a realisation that unnerved him even more.
They were worried. Caspian and Drinian. Lucy and Edmund. Rhince, Rynelf and the men. Uncertain of what to do with him; unsure even of how to speak to him. It took three days for the last muttered do you think he can understand us? in his presence to die away. And though they accepted with thanks his assistance in myriad of tiresome tasks, in every face the concern was etched.
“What are we going to do with him?”
It was Lucy who first voiced it, below him in the dunes as he hunkered down one starry night a mile north of the main camp: hot, heavy tears dribbling off his muzzle, his bulk concealed in the rough scrub of bush and trees. “It’s been nearly a week and we’ve still no idea of how to break the enchantment! We can’t delay sailing much longer, Captain – can we?”
“We’ve no cause, Ma’am: the Dawn Treader stands as fit for sea as she ever was.” The sand before Eustace shifted as the speakers clambered closer, up the steep seaward side of the dune. He shuffled backward in search of deeper cover: aware a small movement or a low growl would alert them to his presence and stop their hurtful candour, yet powerless to make the gesture. As he turned his head to hide the whorls of smoke that rose with every breath six dark silhouettes crested the rise and turned, sinking down to sit facing the bay. “We know from Eustace’s scouting there’s land not two days’ sail from here. Had we but a solution to our problem, I’d say we could sail on the dawn tide.”
“Can he keep up by flying?” Edmund wondered.
“What about towing him?”
“His weight would break a galleon’s back, Sire: to say naught of attracting every kind of deep sea beast we might sooner avoid!”
“We could lash ‘im onto deck, Cap’n?” Rhince’s smoky bass explained their careful formality. “Shift provisions below to balance?”
“Surely he couldn’t stay on deck in rough weather?”
“And whatever we do, there remains the question we all have danced about,” Caspian pointed out, propping himself up on both elbows directly before the eavesdropper. “How in Aslan’s name are we to feed such a shipmate?”
“I’ve not seen him eat anything!” Lucy wailed, and Eustace’s stomach contracted. Girls!
“I would surmise that Your Majesty’s kinsman, to prevent distress to his own person and ours, has satisfied his appetites in private.” Reepicheep sounded embarrassed, and on Eustace’s behalf. The boy inside his monstrous shell wept for such unmerited kindness. “You have noticed, surely the condition of those carcasses delivered to our butchers? Unmarked, save for the punctures caused by carrying! Master Eustace is as humane a dragon as ever lived. It would be no less distressing to his honour than to Your Majesty’s gentle stomach, to have witnesses at his present form of repast.”
“Reep’s right of course,” said Edmund. “And we’re all jolly sorry for poor old Scrubb, but that’s not going to solve anything. How can we feed him?”
“We’ve fishin’ nets aboard, Your Majesty.”
“Do dragons eat fish?”
“In greater quantities than we could gather, Sire.” Drinian rose, a stark black shape against the rippled velvet of a silvered sky. “Master Eustace is like to need more nourishment than the rest o’ the crew combined, and I see no reasonable way we can provide it! Still, it must be done! There can be no suggestion of abandoning him here.”
“None whatsoever,” Caspian affirmed as Reepicheep trilled his outrage at the merest suggestion. “We of Narnia do not turn our backs on a distressed comrade! I wish only we had some manner of persuading him of the fact! Have you not seen it, Edmund? The way he watches us, as if he fears we might simply slip away in the darkness…”
“I have sought to console him, Sire!”
Eustace could imagine the smiles, carefully concealed, on every human face. “Indeed,” Caspian managed, only slightly strangled.
“I’m sure Eustace is awfully grateful for your stories, Reep.” Lucy sounded as if she might break into tears (or giggles) at any moment.
“Aye Ma’am, there’s naught more cheerin’ than the tale of Sir Aidan the Afflicted,” Rhince growled. Eustace puffed out a short burst of smoke.
“It ended well,” Caspian soothed.
“After two years’ enchantment, Sire!” Drinian pointed out. “And like Rabadash the Ridiculous, he was transformed into a domestic beast – not a full-grown dragon!”
Both stories (which Eustace had heard repeatedly) were amusing enough, and related by a Beast quite incapable of malice. Still, both referred to long enchantments and after six days Eustace yearned for fingers, toes and a voice. The good humour of companions paled when one couldn’t laugh at their jokes, and he was beginning to recognise how much he owed to these people who had so often smiled in the face of determined bad temper.
“Well,” said Caspian on a sigh, pulling himself upright with an effort. “We have achieved naught but to talk in circles, but I dare wager we all feel better for the airing! My Lord Drinian...”
“Blowed if I know, Your Majesty.” The tall figures of Captain and Mate on either side of the group sent long black phantoms tumbling down to the base of the dune. “This voyage is devilish enough without a dragon in the ship’s company, but when did a little difficulty ever daunt us?”
“If it had, we should be sitting in my study at Cair Paravel dismissing the whole notion of an Eastern quest as a nonsense,” the King agreed as the children laughed and Reepicheep squeaked his approval. “Back to camp, shipmates! We may dally a day or two more in the hope our dilemma will resolve itself: then we must ask Eustace himself what’s to be done. Lucy, you’re drooping! Lead the way Reep, but carefully! Our royal posterior has connected with the soft sands of these slopes too often in recent days: we have no desire to repeat the experience in the dark!”
Still laughing, the party slithered their way down the dunes, voices fading as they moved closer to camp. Eustace emerged from hiding, the breath he had been holding erupting in a great fiery gulp.
They weren’t going to leave him alone on this miserable island. He was ashamed of himself for ever suspecting them, guiltily aware of what his suggestion would have been had his and Edmund’s positions been reversed. I‘ll not be such a brute again, he promised himself seriously. If I ever turn into me again, I’ll do better, really I shall. Ow!
Something was picking at the sensitive skin on his ridges. Eustace turned to swipe the irritant away with a heavy paw, only to feel the same itching start on his pad. He swished his tail angrily, branches snapping with the sound of an angry wasps’ storm around him.
It wasn’t fair. He broke cover and thumped his way inland, not knowing or caring where his aching feet might take him. One he was beyond a bowshot of the shore, he lifted his great head and howled.
Chapter 6: Burnt Island
Another unknown island. Another opportunity for exploration. Just how did Reepicheep find that coracle? And how did he carry it back to the ship?
Burnt Island is dismissed with a couple of sentences in the book: here's my take on what Lewis left to our imagination!
It took a day and night to reach the low-lying island some of them had spied from Eustace’s back when he carried a select few high over the island where, somehow, the Lord Octesian had met his end. As the Dawn Treader cruised in search of a favourable anchorage Caspian, Eustace and the Pevensies assembled on the fo’c’sle scanning through telescopes for any sign of life. “Are we going ashore?” Eustace wanted to know.
“Course we are,” said Edmund, lowering his glass. “It looks uninhabited, but one never knows! We might find a trace of our missing lords further inland.”
“I’ll have the boat lowered for Your Majesties.”
“Won’t you come with us, Drinian?” Lucy cried out. “Oh, do! Surely there’s nothing aboard that can’t wait for a few hours. Come and explore with us!”
The Captain considered for a moment, raven head on one side. “Very well, Queen Lucy: I’ll join you ashore,” he decided as Caspian beamed and she clapped her hands for joy. “And where are you dashing to, Master Eustace?”
“To fetch my sword of course!” the boy replied, as if it should be obvious. “We’re best going armed, aren’t we?”
“Reep is definitely having an effect on your kinsman,” Caspian muttered to Edmund. “Still, I daresay he’s right! Fetch your bow, Lucy. You’ll assemble a party Drinian? Sir Reepicheep! Do you intend to join our adventure?”
“At Your Majesty’s service!” the Mouse trilled, already halfway to the port bow where the boat was being gently lowered. Inside a few minutes the whole group was settled: with Drinian at the tiller; the Master Bowman and three sailors at the oars; and Reepicheep, for all the world like a carved prow figure, perched dangerously at the point of the bow.
Lucy let her hand trail in the silky coldness of the water, softly humming to herself. At her side Eustace fidgeted, still uncomfortable with the long, straight sword (Caspian’s second best) hanging from his hip. “It looks quiet enough, doesn’t it?” he said, to nobody in particular.
“Looks can be pretty deceiving,” Edmund replied, squinting ashore. “I say! Rabbits!”
“We might shoot a dozen, Cap’n?” the Master Bowman suggested hopefully “Shan’t be much sport, mind,” he added. “If the place is deserted they’ll have no fear of folk. Shellin’ peas it’ll be!”
“I see no objection. Your Majesties?”
“Rabbit stew will make a pleasant change from salt beef or mutton,” Caspian admitted. So, as Drinian drove the little boat straight up the beach and leapt lightly over the stern to dig the anchor deep into soft sand, the bowman and his party set arrows on their strings and crept forward.
“So much for shelling peas,” Eustace announced a few moments later as every rabbit in sight vanished into a convenient burrow or bush, and the archers began to sweat and cuss with frustration. “They must have some experience of people – see how they run!”
“P’raps it’s inhabited after all,” said Edmund sharply. “Look right!”
“A cottage!” cried Lucy, darting in the direction he pointed only to pull up hard as her mind registered the building’s pitiful condition. “Goodness! Quite burned out!”
“And not the only thing touched by fire,” Reepicheep added, scraping blackened bark off a twisted stripling nearby, then fastidiously washing his claw. “See, Your Majesties! Half the trees hereabout are burned!”
“So near the coast, might it be pirates’ work?” wondered Caspian.
“Or the dragon’s,” said Edmund. Eustace shuddered.
“That would seem to be the highest point of land,” Drinian remarked, pointing to a low conical hill rising to the south. “Climb that and we should have some perspective on the lie o’ the land: to say naught of what might lie farther to the east.”
“Missing the sway of the ship already, old friend?” Caspian teased. “Very well – it looks an easy distance to make. Master Bowman! We shall leave your party to the hunt. Should you discover aught of note, sound your horns. We shall find you.”
“Very good, Your Majesty,” came the harassed reply. Lucy giggled.
“I shouldn’t start looking forward to your rabbit stew yet, Caspian,” she said, skipping beyond the blackened cottage and along a faint but discernible track. She paused, head tilted as she contemplated the tumbledown structure. “They can’t have been very big, these people,” she noted. “Even I should have to stoop if it still had its roof!”
The stroll to the hill’s foot was pleasant enough despite the desolation of more blackened ruins along the way. “It’s a strange thing, mind,” said Drinian as they finished the inspection of a pair of larger ruins standing beside a brackish pond. “Listen! I doubt I’ve heard a single bird’s song yet. There’s not even a gull circling around the shore!”
“I’d not thought about it, but you’re right,” Edmund agreed, wrinkling his forehead. “And it’s not as if all the trees have been burned!”
“Not even most of them, Sire, though there are few clusters bigger than copses to be seen,” said Reepicheep, whiskers all a-quiver. “There are plentiful rabbits – as our unhappy Master Bowman will doubtless affirm - and from a position more advantageous than yours, I have discerned the movement of countless insects in the grass. Yet it would appear that every creature with the ability to do so has fled the island entirely.”
“To go where?” asked Eustace.
“And for what reason?” wondered Drinian. “We’re well inland here. No self-respecting pirate would venture so far from his ship!”
“Civil war?” Edmund suggested.
“That wiped out the whole population?” Caspian sounded doubtful. “Nay. Having taken the trouble to fight, would the victors abandon the scene of their success? The land seems fertile enough.”
“There’s another house halfway up the slope there, all burned out again,” said Lucy, who was feeling ridiculously cold despite the brightness of the sky. “Let’s have a look out to the horizon and go! There’s something so empty and desolate about this place! I don’t like it.”
“There seems to me small chance of learning the fate of our lost lords here,” said the King as the main group set off in pursuit of Drinian and Reepicheep, the Mouse running to keep pace with his tall friend’s lengthy strides. “You’re right, Lucy: with all these lonely ruins standing about it really is quite eerie! Perhaps that is why the people who once lived here all left!”
“If they travelled further east, we’ll be able to ask them,” said Eustace, beginning to puff and turn pink as the gradient of the slope proved steeper than it had appeared. He caught the point of his sword (not having fastened the belt tight enough, it had slithered to the front as he walked) between his legs and stumbled. “Drat this thing! Anything to be seen, Drinian?”
“Nothing.” Shielding his eyes against the noon sun Drinian scanned the distant horizon: looking, Caspian thought, quite aggravatingly cool with his companions all breathless from the exertion of the climb. “We shall simply have to go on in hope, as we have before.”
“We’ve found two islands beyond those we used to know: no reason why there shouldn’t be a dozen more,” Edmund decided cheerfully. “All right: the slope looks gentler this side. Why don’t we stroll down and around the hill, back to the boat? It might give the archers time to catch a couple of those rabbits!”
Nobody raised an objection so, leisurely, they began an easy descent over the softly rolling ground. “There’s no reason to camp overnight here is there?” Lucy asked, almost fearfully. Caspian shook his head.
“None that I know of! Captain?”
“We might top up the water cask we carried ashore I suppose, but there’s naught to delay the ship: saving perhaps the royal whims of Your Majesties.”
“Whims, indeed!” Outraged into laughter Caspian led his band of adventurers down onto level terrain and northward, around the hill and back to the shore. “Look! That stream must run down to the beach. Shall we follow it?”
“Let’s,” said Eustace, licking his lips. “And stop for a drink from it, too! Don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m parched!”
The water was icy cold, but not quite as refreshing as they might have hoped. “Even the water tastes of cinders,” Edmund grumbled. “Any of this we take aboard had better be boiled and used for washing! We should have to be desperate to drink it!”
They reached the beach soon after, turning sharply to the northwest and the high masthead of the Dawn Treader, clearly visible close by. “What’s that?” cried Caspian, pointing to another low building set back from the pebbled beach. “See! Still has a roof, and barely marked by fire at all!”
“A boathouse, by the look of it,” Drinian replied, his curiosity piqued. Reepicheep scampered inside, returning a moment later with an oar clutched between his paws.
“With a boat still inside it, my Lord!” he squeaked excitedly. “Made for a child, perhaps: or, if our guesses about the owners of those farmsteads were accurate, a dwarf.”
“In fair condition, too,” Drinian announced, bending double to enter and assess the vessel for himself. “A coracle: ash-framed, with a good waxed skin... a sturdy piece o’ workmanship!”
“And the ideal size for – perhaps – a Talking Mouse,” said Reepicheep. “Perhaps I might... with Your Majesty’s approval - and yours of course, my Lord Drinian…”
“Permission granted, Reep,” said Caspian immediately.
“Then I shall carry it back to the Dawn Treader.”
“Or more likely,” added Drinian with a teasing smile, “I shall carry it on your behalf! Very well Reep, but remember: guard you tongue from now on, else I’ll see you cast adrift in your prize!”
The Mouse twittered indignantly, brandishing his oar like a second rapier until the laughter of his friends made his own amusement impossible to repress. “I shall watch my words with care, Captain!” he cheeped, skipping along ahead of the humans as they made their merry way back to the boat.
By nightfall the land they had christened Burnt Island was a mere splodge on the western horizon. Carefully applying an extra coat of wax to his new vessel Reepicheep sat on the fo’c’sle softly singing the dryad’s song to himself. The abandoned boat of Burnt Island, he considered with glee, might yet prove valuable to one determined to sail beyond where a galleon could go: even to the End of the World itself.
Chapter 7: Be Careful What You Wish For
When Drinian gets a closer look at one of the deep ocean's monsters than he ever wanted, Edmund is reminded of the truth behind a very old saying...
The encounter with a sea serpent is one of my favourite scenes in the book. I couldn't resist extending it a little!
Joints creaked, bones cracked, and small grunts of effort breached the lips of sweating men but slowly, agonisingly slowly, the taut arch of the serpent’s body inched its way aft. “Looped tight to the keel!” Drinian croaked, acutely aware of the scrape of tough, barnacle-crusted hide against the base of the hull.
“She’s movin’, Cap’n!” Rhince’s words would not have been audible beyond his immediate neighbour. Drinian grunted.
“Not - enough – sternpiece!” he managed. On his other side Caspian froze, his hands sliding against the monster’s flesh.
“An axe!” he wheezed, sweat stinging his eyes and running salty into his gaping mouth. “And still – shove!”
“Can’t – push – harder!” gasped Edmund, whose hands were being lacerated by an especially jagged encrustation. “Ouf!”
Lucy lurched awkwardly along the deck, aiming for the poop hatch and the axe she knew was stored just inside. She was almost there, her hand extended to snatch it (although whether she would have had the strength to swing it hard enough must remain doubtful) when there came a massive cracking sound, like a small copse being felled. The Dawn Treader was thrown high atop a lashing ocean surge, her purple sail banging as it caught the full force of a fresh breeze. Hurled sideways by the force of the motion, Lucy alone was able to observe the loop of the monster tightening into nothing before it vanished with a splash beneath the waves.
“We’re free!” she yelled exultantly to men who, crumpled on the deck where they had stood, were simply too dog-tired to comprehend what had happened. “Look! It’s snapped off the sternpiece but we’re free! Golly, look at it – it’s enormous!”
“Not chasing after us, Ma’am?” His head was spinning, and Drinian was uncertain whether he felt giddy with relief or from the shortage of oxygen left in his lungs by recent exertion. Cautious, he eased himself up onto an elbow, blinking astern at the sight of the great monster nosing along its own vast length in search of his gallant vessel’s wreckage. “Aye, a fair size: a full-grown male I shouldn’t wonder - powerful enough to snap a galleon in two at her strongest point! A pity we should lose that fine piece o’ carving, but better he take a chunk of the tail than the alternative!”
“I should say so!” groaned Edmund over the murmured assent of the crew.
“Might’ve took one o’ them teeth as a new sword for ‘is Majesty, Cap’n,” Erlick called out, baring his own uneven set in a lopsided grin. “No dwarf’ll carve an edge that sharp!”
“I should as lief keep a dozen leagues between my hand and that brute’s teeth, though I thank you for the suggestion, shipmate,” said Caspian mildly.
“Have you seen its like before, Captain?” Rynelf massaged his throat, displeased with the rusty sound it gave out. Drinian raised a weary grin.
“Once, and that at a comfortingly great distance! They seldom stray into the familiar seas, Lion be thanked! All well, men?”
Assorted uncertain murmurs of assent were raised. More quietly Drinian addressed the anxious girl hopping between one prone figure and the next. “And you, Lucy?”
“Goodness, I’m the only one who is all right, Captain!” she exclaimed. “Can you sit up, Caspian?”
“Just, I suppose.” All around him men were stirring themselves, lifting heads and experimentally stretching arms and legs. “Ow!”
“You too, Sire?” Drinian climbed slowly to his feet, giving his shoulders a tentative roll. “Fancy I’ve pulled every muscle in my back,” he announced.
“I’ve pulled muscles I never knew I had,” said Eustace solemnly. “Ouch! I’m sorry about your sword by the way, Caspian. That thing must have an iron hide!”
“Yours was a gallant gesture, Eustace,” the King soothed. “The teachings of Sir Reepicheep are showing their worth, I think!”
“Aye, and as to that...” Drinian chuckled as the Mouse, still swaying with fatigue, clambered awkwardly up the poop ladder to flop among his companions. “Who ever thought to hear a pacifist’s cry from our valiant knight? Don’t fight, indeed!”
People laughed. Reepicheep bowed his head. “The teaching between Their Majesties’ gallant kinsman and myself is equally shared, my Lord. However, grateful am I, Your Majesties – gentlemen all – that my intention was so swiftly understood. Alone, I should have had an equal chance of raising Cair Paravel on one paw than I had of forcing yonder monster from our decks!”
“What’s the witless brute doing, anyway?” Eustace wanted to know. “I’d have expected it to be chasing us by now!”
“Don’t go puttin’ ideas in it’s big ‘ead, young feller!” called Pittencream. Eustace raised both hands in apology.
“It seems to think it’ll find us floating around,” Edmund remarked, dragging himself to the aft rail to stare. Drinian laughed.
“The sea serpent depends on its strength, not its wits, Your Majesty. With luck it’ll spend so long wondering where we’re gone we shall have time to get clean away from its lair! Rhince, breach a cask of rum for our fellows. I daresay we all have earned an extra tot!”
A ragged cheer went up and, grinning hugely, the Mate bustled below to drag a large, darkly-aged oak barrel up onto the maindeck. “Take a nip yerself, Cap’n?” he hollered. Drinian pursed his lips, considering the question.
“Aye, this once I shall; and we’ll have a thimbleful for Reepicheep too, I think,” he decided, frowning at the Mouse, which still trembled with exhaustion. Obligingly Rhince dripped a few droplets of pungent spirit onto a ladle, which Lucy held to Reepicheep’s mouth.
“I shan’t have any, thank you, Rhince,” she said firmly. “Here, Reep! I suppose it might make you feel better.”
“Ouf! I’ll say!” Edmund winced against the strength of the raw spirit against his throat, but he had to admit it left a pleasingly warm sensation about the belly. Drinian knocked back his measure in a single swallow, savouring its stinging heat. The taste was one he had never quite acquired in all his years at sea but there was nothing more warming, after a very bad shock, than a good strong tot of rum.
All his years, he thought: and not even fifteen had passed since the ten-year-old orphan of Etinsmere had clambered aboard his first Archenlandish vessel. It said much for the poor condition of Narnian’s recent maritime escapades that a man in his middle twenties could consider himself the most experience seaman in the realm!
The ship, he realised, was yawing more than was her usual habit. “Peridan!” he called to the man at the helm. “How does she steer, with the weight of that sternpiece gone?”
“Fair enough, Sir.” Still, every man aboard knew the Captain had a rare instinct for reading the moods of his ship. Without needing to be told the freckle-faced sailor stepped aside, allowing Drinian to rest both hands gently on the wheel.
“As I thought; a touch out of balance,” he murmured, briefly closing his eyes to better feel the craft beneath his hands. “Rhince, we might shift a little of the ballast aft to compensate for the loss of the tail’s weight. A brace of casks to start with, I think.”
“I’ll get it done now, Sir.” Immediately Rhince was busy, assigning men to the new task. Slowly the poop cleared until only Drinian, Caspian, and the three children remained.
“I hope there aren’t any more brutes like that lurking at the bottom of these seas,” said Eustace, feeling very much better than he had after losing three games of chess to a Talking Mouse and watching the rain fall for what felt like forever. Drinian grimaced.
“There’s only the kraken on the same scale as the sea serpent that I know of,” he said, running a practised eye over the men returning to their duties on the maindeck. “And I’ll think us unlucky indeed should we run into both on the same cruise! Of course, these are uncharted waters. There may be other creatures, yet unknown in Narnia.”
“That’s cheering!” said Edmund. “I’ll tell you one thing for nothing, though: I always rather wanted to meet a sea serpent when we were here before! I remember Captain Roldan saying to me very sternly, be careful what you wish for, King Edmund! I suppose he was probably right.”
“I’m sure he was,” said Caspian seriously. “If I hear anyone expressing the remotest desire to see a kraken in the future I’ll – I’ll put him in irons! I will, really! Drinian – Lucy – Eustace! What are you laughing at? It’s really not funny, I tell you!
Chapter 8: A Place With A Curse On It
Deathwater casts a long shadow. And why exactly was a Lord of Telmarine Narnia carrying Lions and Trees for coinage?
This chapter began as my attempt to fathom out an answer to the question above. It quickly got tangled up with another one: how does the coming of friends from another world affect Caspian's relationship with a friend from his own?
Though they had left the island far behind them it seemed to Edmund that the malign aura of Deathwater must have clung to their party as they returned to the ship, coming to rest like a fine mist that seeped slowly into the bones of everyone on board. Lucy had been distant; Caspian preoccupied. Eustace slipped from his old surly manners into languid indifference. Even Reepicheep had ceased to perch on the prow softly singing the dryad’s ditty.
Worse, the effect had spread throughout the crew. Drinian no longer snapped out his orders with the old rasping relish; even the great bull’s bellow of Rhince was subdued. The lively hum of the workaday Dawn Treader was snuffed out.
“It won’t do, you know,” Lucy declared as they ambled from the fo’c’sle and their nightly stare at the stars. “Ever since we left that beastly island, everything’s felt wrong. And we’re all afraid to say anything about it!”
“It does rather feel as though the spirits of the place are haunting us” Eustace agreed, quietly rather proud that he had bitten off the first nasty answer that had touched the back of his tongue. “P’raps Lu’s right: perhaps we might shake off this horrid empty feeling if we actually tried talking about – well, whatever it was! I know what we found of course, but it all seems such a ghastly blur!”
“I’ve tried puzzling it out in my head,” Edmund admitted, and the others nodded. “Oh, I don’t know! None of us is altogether sure of what’s wrong, but we all know something is. The crew didn’t go near the stream and yet... is it just me? Nobody’s been his usual self since we stopped there. I don’t understand any of it, and it feels like it’s driving me mad!”
“If you would have sense spoken of our experiences, King Edmund,” said Caspian, sounding (Edmund thought) relieved that someone else had put into words what he was (probably) feeling. “Then allow me to suggest that our predicament is laid before our bold and practical Captain. If salt good sense is necessary, I know no man better able to dispense it than Drinian.”
“Could we, do you think?” Lucy was almost in tears. “He’s been so busy, with this awful weather and one nasty, niggling little problem after another... wouldn’t it be an awful bother for us to...”
“I did consider showing him the objects we brought aboard?” Caspian suggested. “The mere fact we can discern nothing beneath the rust doesn’t mean no one else can: and Drinian knows the insignia of all the great Narnian Houses just as well as I.”
“Besides, he’s been watching us oddly since we came back.” It made such perfect sense, but the Captain had been out of temper for much of the past few days. Edmund told himself he was loath to trouble a man already weighted down with burdens. “He knows something fishy happened on Deathwater!”
Just speaking the name – Reepicheep’s name – sent chills through the small group wandering along the maindeck. “No time like the present,” Eustace muttered, sticking out his chin. “Hi, Drinian! Can you spare a moment?”
“Gladly, Eustace.” He was tired, wet and cold; and he had not been off deck more than ten minutes at a stretch in the last twenty hours. If his noble passengers had decided to seek him out for merry company, Drinian decided sulkily, they had chosen the worst of their moments! “Trouble?” he added under his breath as Caspian led his downcast party up the poop ladder.
“Yes,” said Lucy.
“No,” said Edmund.
“In a manner of speaking,” said Caspian.
“Lion bless me, I shouldn’t have asked!”
“We brought some items aboard from the last island, Drinian.”
“Aye.” The word came out flatly. “Your Majesties were very secret with your trophies.”
It had hurt, Caspian realised, as shocked as if a bowl of cold water had been tossed into his face. That is why Drinian had been withdrawn, ever dashing about his duties, no time for a merry quip with his friends. We did not confide. For the first time since we left Cair Paravel, I did not confide. My oldest friend feels himself forgotten.
“We think them the possessions left by one of our missing lords: will you see if you can identify them, by some small mark we may have missed?”
“They’re stowed in my cabin.” Lucy clasped his hand. “Oh please say you’ll come and look at them, Drinian!”
“Aye.” Seized by some of the urgency that affected the girl Caspian added his entreaty. “What we saw; what we felt in that place, it makes no sense to me! Will you – as my friend – hear us speak of it?”
The appeal melted all the small, foolish human resentments Drinian had felt building as his best friend had immersed himself over the last few days in the company of visitors from that strange other world. “Of course,” he said simply, oddly touched that so small a concession from him should stir so much relief in his friends.
Even the Great Cabin, dominated by the glowing gilded mural of the Lion on its bulkhead, was cramped with five people crammed inside it. Lucy dragged the rusty objects from a sea chest beneath her cot as Caspian perched on its twin. The boys squeezed onto the other the instant the lid was closed, leaving Lucy the single small stool. Drinian lounged comfortably against the door, frowning at the remnants of armour she offered to him.
“Narnian, for a certainty,” he said, fingering the sword’s hilt. “And not of a Dwarf’s forging! I see no hope, Caspian, of naming our lost countryman from these.”
He turned out the battered leather pouch of coins, and his eyebrows shot up. “Ah! Lions and Trees of the late King’s minting!”
“I remember wondering about them,” Edmund announced, pleased to find one memory returning, needle sharp and bright. “They’re old Narnian coinage. Surely – no offence intended – the Telmarine kings created their own?”
“So they did: but occasional attempts were made to reconcile the invading force with the land they had taken.” Caspian rubbed his hands, all set to deliver a lecture. “Under Caspian the Third, for example; and again under Aidan the Second...”
“Cost him his crown and the head that wore it,” Drinian grunted, returning the coins to Lucy. “The late King minted coins of the old style toward the end of his reign – an acknowledgement we, the Telmarines, were intruders to the land, so my father said. Fancy that won a few more o’ the court’s fools to Miraz’s party! Not our mysterious lord of Deathwater, of course. What killed him? Could you find no clue?”
Two of his companions had turned very white at the name: the other two, very red. “I see,” Drinian sighed. “Light the lamp, Lucy. There’s a tale here that’ll be long in the telling, I daresay.”
Haltingly, in fits and awkward starts, the story of the golden stream emerged. Drinian listened intently: he snorted at the recital of the two Kings’ squabble for ownership, remembered clearly for the first time in retelling. “I’m sorry I made such an utter ass of myself, Caspian,” Edmund finished meekly.
“I rather think I began it, Edmund,” the other answered, equally hangdog. “We were about to draw swords on the matter, weren’t we?”
“Definitely, Ed,” said Eustace. To Drinian he added: “I never saw such a pair of posturing idiots in my life.”
“Glad am I the men were occupied elsewhere,” said their captain devoutly. “It does no good for them to see their masters behaving badly! So our poor countryman – whomever he might be – undressed on the ridge and... Aslan’s Mane! It hardly bears considering! How easily any one of us might have done the same, coming on the place on a warm day...”
“It may be callous, but is that not the most monstrous thing?” asked Caspian. “I am sorry, Drinian: we ought to have confessed all this to you sooner! I believe our minds have been unhinged by what we discovered.”
“Hardly to be wondered at.” The great mystery, then, was barely a mystery at all. Drinian was annoyed with himself for allowing an unusual royal silence to trouble him so badly. “Still, Your Majesties were wise to hasten our departure. We have a stout crew, but with a stream able to turn aught it touches to gold… even the best of them might be tempted.”
Two kings, Lucy was sure, had never looked more sheepish than Caspian and Edmund in that moment. Eustace shuddered.
“I learned to loathe the sight of gold on Dragon Island,” he said, pleased to discover he could now allude to his misadventures there calmly. Imagining the golden man as he dived into the inviting cool, clear waters: feeling his own fingers solidify into metal; knowing a moment of despairing helplessness as hands, arms and shoulders followed, chilled him to the bone. There are worse fates than a week as a dragon, he decided. “That may be why the thought of turning grass into a fortune leaves me cold! Lucy didn’t seem affected either. You recognise the temptation, Drinian, but it hardly sounds like you’re interested!”
“I have gold and jewels enough for any man in Narnia, Eustace,” came the careless reply. “And nor was I subject to the strange air of that island! Perhaps there are advantages to being The Captain and urgently needed in a dozen places at once.”
“I never knew anyone less interested in gold or fine jewels than Drinian,” Caspian confided through a mammoth yawn. “Goodness I’m tired, and Lucy can scarce keep her eyes open! Boys, I shall join you presently. My Lord Drinian, can you bear to share a cup of ale with me before you retire to your well-earned rest?”
“Make yourself comfortable in my cabin, Caspian. I’ll fetch the ale.” The foul weather showed no sign of abating. There would be a dozen more disagreeable chores tomorrow, and today’s were barely done. Yet Drinian, like his royal passengers, felt ridiculously more cheerful as he strode down to the hold in search of a flagon and two serviceable cups. If as the others seemed to believe there was a curse on the land called Deathwater, had it not been proven the best method of removing it could be honest conversation among friends?
Chapter 9: Patience Is A Virtue
"The little girl" has a job to do. Boys of various sizes might actually be a little envious of her for that...
I do love the Dufflepuds - but I don't think I'd care to spend much time with them!
“Be careful, Lucy,” said Caspian as she set her foot on the first stair. “I wish there was another way!”
“But there isn’t, Caspian dear. I’ll be quite all right, just make sure you stay out of mischief.” She was, Edmund thought, more like Queen Lucy the Valiant of the Golden Age than he would have thought it possible for his little sister to be. She climbed the long stair steadily, without ever glancing back to the anxious knot of people – and the Mouse – who watched her.
“What,” said Eustace nervously when she was gone from sight, “are the rest of us supposed to do now?”
“Wait, I suppose.” Seeing nothing else for it, Caspian turned resolutely away toward the large double doors leading out of the house toward perfectly manicured gardens. “They might at least have allowed one of us to go with her! They have nothing to gain from a failed attempt!”
“Yes, let’s wait outside,” Edmund agreed. “This place is much too grand and silent. It’s creepy!”
From the shadows of the entrance hall they stepped blinking into the brightness of a sunny morning. “Is the little girl gone upstairs?” came a hail from thin air.
“Queen Lucy is attending that business you dare not undertake for yourselves!” Drinian shot back, riled as much by uncertainty at the direction of the call as the flagrant disrespect toward a Narnian Queen. The air around them vibrated with laughter.
“We dursen’t go near that book again!” the one they called Chief declared. “And no more will the little girl after today!”
Caspian ground his teeth so hard they hurt. He was conscious of Reepicheep’s rising anger around knee-level; could hear the scrape of Drinian’s sword against its leather scabbard as the taller man gripped and raised the hilt. “Had you but permitted one of us to accompany Her Majesty...”
“No, no, no! Only one can look at the book at a time!”
“That’s right, Chief, no one tells it plainer than you! Only one can look at the book!”
“I wish we could see them, so we could avoid seeing them – if you see what I mean.”
“Clear as day, Eustace,” muttered Drinian, reluctantly sliding his sword fully back into the scabbard at Caspian’s nod. “However ugly they may be!”
“Ugly as they make ‘em, we are!”
“That we are, Chief! Ugliest things you ever saw!”
“Except we don’t,” Edmund pointed out.
“The young ‘un’s learning from you Chief! ‘Cept they don’t, he said! ‘Cept they don’t!”
“Because we’re invisible mates, that’s why.”
“I wish the magician had made them inaudible instead.”
“What’s that? What’s inaudible?”
“Aye Chief, that’s what we all want to know! What’s inaudible, young feller?”
Eustace positively glowed. “Well, when something is inaudible, it has no sound,” he began seriously. The Chief Voice cut him off.
“No what? Can’t you put it plain, boy?”
“Can’t he say what he means, eh, Chief?”
“I really do wish you’d let us see if they become visible when a sword strikes them, Caspian!” muttered Edmund.
“If something is inaudible,” Drinian roared in his best Captain’s voice, “You can’t hear it! See?”
“Can’t hear it, eh? That’s what inaudibible is, mates: it’s something you can’t hear!”
“Well said, Chief!” howled the Lesser Voices. “Inaudibible’s something you can’t hear! They can’t have it told any plainer than that!”
“Hurry up, Lu!” Edmund called to wherever in the magician’s house his sister might be. “I can’t bear much more of this!”
The Voices offered to fetch refreshment: more for something to do than because they were thirsty the visitors accepted with thanks, wandering to sit on a pair of low stone benches placed to take advantage of the shade cast by a wide avenue of evenly spaced trees along the shingle path from shore. “It’s a rum do,” said Edmund suddenly. “And am I the only one rather nervous about what we’ll see if Lucy does manage to break the invisibility spell?”
“No!” said Eustace promptly. “And I have a feeling Lucy was thinking the same at dinner last night. She was watching the dishes hopping along with very big eyes.”
“Giant grasshoppers?” Caspian suggested.
“With boots on?” Drinian enquired. “That thumping sounds like a single foot – and a big one!”
“Our hosts are returning.”
“How are we to know they all went away, Reep?” Caspian wondered ruefully. “Gentlemen, perhaps you should lay the flagon on the ground, for us to pour our own cups?”
“You’re a mannerly one, aren’t you?”
“You’ve worked him out, you have, Chief! Mannerly!”
Caspian’s jaw cracked painfully with the effort of maintaining his smile. Wine sloshed over the flagon’s rim, turning the pale sand around their feet to mud. “We would not distract you warriors from their work, Chief,” he said, in what he hoped the direction of the Chief Voice might be. “If you have business to attend to, we can wait quite safely here alone for our companion’s return.”
“Hardly hospitable that’d be, masters: and us a folk that likes good company!”
“You tell ‘em, Chief!”
“I wish he wouldn’t bother,” sighed Eustace.
“It would seem Her Majesty’s task in venturing to the magician’s chamber might be less daunting than this remaining to us,” chirruped Reepicheep.
“I wonder how she’s getting on.” It had been, Edmund guessed, not more than twenty minutes since she had disappeared. “How far from the stairs is the book room?”
“Can never tell; the corridors are enchanted, see.”
“Fiendish enchanted!” yelled the chorus. Caspian’s head was beginning to ache.
“Will you permit us to walk in these fine gardens?" he asked, more civil than he felt. "We have been many months at sea...”
“Aye, the sea! Powerful wet cold stuff, ain’t it?” The unarguable statement had Drinian rolling his eyes and Eustace trying desperately not to giggle. “Walk where you will, but beware the magician!”
“Watch for ‘im!” shouted the Lesser Voices. “Might be invisible, might not!”
“We dun’t know, lads.”
“That we dun’t, Chief!”
“I think we understand that much.” Caspian stood sharply. “Ow!”
“Sorry indeed, young master! I were just pickin’ up your cup.”
“That is – most kind. I apologise for...” the King let the sentence die, suddenly realising how ridiculous he would sound apologising for not seeing an invisible being. The Voices joined in raucous laughter.
“Aye, couldn’t see young Cullo there, eh? That’s what bein’ invisible does to a chap!”
“That it does, Chief!”
“We stumble into each other all the time, don’t we, mates?”
“All the time, Chief!”
“Most uncomfortable for you,” Drinian sympathised, his innocent tone daring his friends to laugh. Eustace turned his snigger into a hasty coughing fit.
“Not a day goes by that some chap don’t break his arm on another feller,” the Chief informed them, his assertion stoutly supported by a chorus from his fellows. “You walk all you like, gentlemen. The little girl will be gone for hours yet. If she comes back at all.”
“If she don’t get caught by the magician!” the other Voices expanded with ghastly relish.
“Lu can look after herself,” Edmund insisted.
“Yes, but a magician!” cried Caspian. “Oh, I can’t bear sitting here doing nothing! Shall we explore the edge of the grounds?”
They tried to amble; tried not to wonder how long it had been since Lucy had disappeared into the magician’s domain. And the harder they tried not to ask each other “How long?” the more the thought nagged and niggled at the corner of every mind.
The Voices died away: by the muffled thumping and the scatter of sand along straight, pebble-edged paths, Drinian guessed they were willing to watch their reluctant guests from a safe distance. “Should have tried bumping into one sooner, Caspian,” he murmured to his neighbour. The King snorted.
“Its not easy to bump into something one can’t see, you know,” he joked. “Hang it! I wish I knew how Lucy was managing! There might be a thousand spells to read through before she finds a visibility one!”
“We could be here all night.” Edmund blenched. “Golly I hope not, that’d mean another dinner ending up in my lap! Let’s hope the magician’s book has an index! It’ll be V for Visibility, Lu!” he shouted toward the leaded windows of the mansion’s upper floor.
“I’m bored.” Eustace plopped down onto the grass, his bottom lip sticking out almost as far as it had in the old days. “I’d go back and tease the Voices, but they give one a headache.”
“They’re not easy to have a sensible conversation with,” Edmund agreed, squatting at his cousin’s side. He plucked a blade of grass and began, methodically, to shred it. “Still, at least the sun’s shining. If it had rained we should have been confined in the house with them – whatever they are!”
Caspian lay full-length on the springy turf and closed his eyes. “I shall try to snooze,” he announced. “I slept little enough last night, wondering what Lucy would face on our behalf today.”
Reepicheep scampered off to investigate the contents of the colourful flowerbeds fringing three sides of the lawn. Drinian began to pace its width, back and forth relentlessly, as he might the poop on a slow watch. Edmund selected another sharp piece of grass and blew along it, bringing forth a shrill, piercing note. Caspian sat up abruptly.
“Sorry. I’m not good at waiting.”
“I hardly think any of us are, King Edmund! How long...”
“Not more than an hour.” Drinian measured the sun’s height with a practised eye. “Confound this hanging about!”
“The Thumpers are coming back,” Eustace warned them: and sure enough, the muted thud-thud of a mallet striking the ground was growing louder. “Is she back?” he hollered.
“We ain’t visible yet are we, young feller?”
“No, Chief: no, we ain’t!”
“And do you know how we know that? Because we still can’t see each other!”
“I thought you said that was a relief!” Edmund yelled in their general direction.
“Aye, a proper relief to be spared the sight of each others’ ugly mugs,” agreed the Chief Voice. “But we’re mortal tired of it now.”
“That’s right, Chief!”
“Is he ever wrong, I wonder?” mused Reepicheep.
“And if he is, do the others ever tell him?” The strangest things, Caspian decided, served to pass the time when one was left helplessly waiting. The boys laughed. Drinian arched an inky brow. Even Reepicheep twirled his whiskers in appreciation.
“Now we’re off for our nap, we are.”
“They can’t be told better, Chief!”
“And we’d be mightily obliged if you gentlemen would have a care not to tread on us.”
“Mightily obliged! Mightily obliged!”
“If you’ll be kind enough to tell us where you might be,” Drinian volunteered carefully, “We shall be sure to avoid the area.”
“Can’t ask for fairer than that lads, can we?”
“Can’t indeed, Chief! As fair an offer as you could want!” yelled the Chorus.
“We sleep in the shade of the house. Stay on the paths and you shan’t stand on us.”
“We’ll be careful to do that,” Edmund promised. “I mean, we’ll be careful to stay on the paths!” he added irritably as a babble of confused Voices raised to question quite exactly what he meant. “I bet they agree with each other in their sleep too,” he added under his breath. “Let’s go back to the house ourselves. Surely she can’t be gone much longer?”
They had an anxious wait of what felt like an hour (in fact it was barely fifteen minutes) before flying steps summoned them to the foot of the main stairs. “It’s all right!” Lucy shouted as they surged up to greet her. “I’ve met the magician – he’s lovely! And I’ve seen Aslan! And they’re visible again, do come and look, I never saw anything so charming! Goodness, you all look very grim! Have you been worried about me?”
“Oh, not at all!” Edmund grumbled. “We’ve had a positive picnic! Of course we were worried, you were gone for ages!”
“No, I wasn’t.” Laughing, she pointed at the large grandfather clock standing at the side of the stairs. “I’ve been an hour and a half at the most. Honestly, you men! Haven’t you ever been told that patience is a virtue?"
“Then Your Majesty had best be virtuous for all of us,” replied Drinian, first to recover his breath in the face of such brazen audacity. “Shall we go and meet our hosts? I imagine they’ll consider the last hour and a half to be time well used!”
Chapter 10: Nightmare Scenarios
Everything seems much scarier in the dark. Only Reepicheep is immune, but what haunts the dreams of his less fortunate shipmates?
“Fools! This is the island where your dreams – your worst dreams, your nightmares – come true!”
Even as the words assaulted his tingling ears Caspian’s mind froze around them, his flesh beginning to crawl. Her bony fingers wound around the taffrail: wisps of grey cloth and skin, one barely distinguishable from the other. Blood oozed under the nails, the only proof of her being truly living.
Behind her, its claws scratched and gouged at the planking of the hull. He could hear its voice, hoarse and rasping, the panting sounds as its transformation completed. Drinian will be furious, claw marks in his ship, he realised stupidly. Then, gaunt and ashen, her face appeared, and with an agility not to be expected in her kind she vaulted the rail and stood not three yards from him with arm raised and mouth wide open. Ready to summon the demon.
“No,” he breathed, powerless to curl his numb fingers around his useless sword hilt. “Please no, for the love of the Lion! Not him!”
“Look!” Eustace’s whimper trilled above the deeper rumbling of general anxiety. “Round the mainmast: they’re circling! Lucy! Lucy be careful, their breath... my hands! It’s starting! Stop it! Leave me alone!”
While his cousin tried to cower beside the ship’s wheel Edmund stood stock-still, save for the tongue that flickered repeatedly over his lips. Something sweet, sugared and unmistakable brought vomit welling up into his throat. Turkish Delight.
That Turkish Delight. Gooey, addictive, temptation in edible form.
He tensed, aware of her presence: of the chill in the air that carried in her wake. Any moment now that long, snowy hand would curl around his shoulder. “Edmund.”
“Edmund!” She meant it as a shout, but somehow it left Lucy’s tight throat as a frightened croak she doubted would be heard by her fellows at the fighting top, still less down on deck. “They’re all ‘round the foot of the mast,” she whispered, the bow beneath her fingers twitching with her every tiny shudder. “Those faces and - ugh! They’re all slimy and horrid and – oh no! They can climb! Bowman, look! They’re crawling up the mainmast!”
“I won’t do it!” At the mast’s foot Rhince rocked in a terrified, hairy ball, his eyes popping between tobacco-stained fingers. “You can’t make me! Cap’n! They’m comin’ down the mains’l, Sir! Get away! Get back! They’ll never let us go!”
“Never let us go!” Above the hubbub the shrill scream of the stranger soared, almost exultant. “Of course we shall never escape the horrors of the Dark Place! Never!”
Caspian backed away, but not from the demented wreck of a human being. His glassy gaze was focussed higher, on the mottled face of a burly, once-handsome man wearing a crooked coronet. “You are not real,” he muttered through chattering teeth. “You died: I saw it! Depart, demon! You are not real!”
His feet kept shuffling until his back made contact with something solid, although neither he nor the solid thing noticed it. In fact the solid thing, more usually addressed as Drinian, was rooted to the spot, staring with cloudy, sightless eyes at a patch of damp, dark fluid before him on the deck.
His hands were linked behind his back. He could feel thin fishing wire cut through the flesh, blood beginning to dribble down his wrists. He screwed up his eyes, trying to stop his ears to the shouts; the screams; the groans. Somewhere, close by, a gruff order barked out.
The dark patch on the deck pulsed and spread again.
“Not real,” Edmund panted, forcing himself forward on his toes, away from her icily outstretched hand. “You’re dead, I tell you! This isn’t real! None of it is real!”
“Not real.” Somewhere nearby he heard the faintest thread of another, barely human voice. Miracle of wonders, he recognised it.
“Caspian!” he shouted desperately, through the thickness of nausea that tightened his throat. “It’s not real! We’re pulling them out of our nightmares and we’ve got to fight it!”
“You are not real!” Yelling the words made it possible to believe the glowering menace looming over him was a fantasy. Caspian lunged for it, the blow with his arm making it shimmer and fade for a moment. “You are not real!” he chanted again. “Together, shipmates! They are not real!”
“Not real.” The whipcords binding his wrists dissolved with the dissipation of the fog in his brain and Drinian flung himself at the wheel where Pittencream cowered, trapped by his own terrors. “Man the oars! Topmen aloft! Boson, let’s have a good, strong stroke!”
Even the finest mariner must have some guide to steer by but by bringing her fully about, away from the gentle splash of waves of a sandy shore, he must surely have the Dawn Treader on something approaching a safe heading!
The galleon lurched under his hand, oddly sluggish. The damage she suffered in the fight he thought desperately, panic gripping him for a moment before Edmund’s hoarse chanting struck his ears, reminding him where he was. The Dawn Treader!
Still the screams and moans echoed in his head; the reek of blood and death struck the back of his throat hard enough to make him gag. He gripped the wheel harder, forcing his wayward mind to focus. Which way is west, for the Lion’s sake!
“Move back, demon!” Caspian had his sword free now and raised before him, a greater menace to his friends than the mirage that would solidify in defiance of all his better judgement. “I saw you fall! Hag, be gone from Us, We are Narnia!”
“We’re goin’ in circles,” Peridan whimpered from the foot of the poop ladder. “Gettin’ pulled in – can’t he see the flames ahead?”
“Flames!” Another voice bellowed out. “We’re afire!”
“What nonsense is this?” Mice, Edmund realised in that instant, did not dream. Reepicheep alone stood erect, whiskers bristling it indignation, in the midst of mayhem. “Your Majesties all! Is this insanity to be permitted unchecked? The honour of Narnia demands...”
“Shut up Reep, you’re drawing their attention!” Eustace wailed, grabbing a handful of the Beast’s thick dark fur. “I can’t scratch them off!”
“Scratch off what?”
“The scales, of course! Look, I’m covered in them!”
“Courage, Eustace.” Caspian’s voice was dry as cracking parchment, but the boy’s terror had at least served to snap him from his own. “Drinian! What do you mean, flinging the ship about so?”
“Look!” Circling the masthead was a large and ghostly white shape. “Albatross!”
It seemed to Edmund that every head lifted: and, as the Dawn Treader heeled to her captain’s command into the wake of the bird’s graceful flight, an odd warm sensation started up in every belly “I can’t believe we’re using a bird for navigation,” Eustace muttered.
“Somehow, I don’t think it’s just a bird,” Edmund told him seriously as the cloying blackness began to thin into a greyish fog, then a soft, creamy mist. “I say! We’re clear!”
“Where’ve they gone?” Peridan demanded, sticking a ruffled ginger head up to the poop. “Them flames, didn’t nobody see them?”
Eustace squinted high into the cloudless blue sky that now stretched as far as the eye could see: then down at his hands, podgy, slightly browned by the unaccustomed hours spent out of doors and completely free of glinting silver scales. “Lucy!” he called, trusting the wide-eyed girl scrambling down from the fighting top more than his own eyes. “Am I human?”
“As you’ve ever been, I suppose” Her bottom lip was bloodied where it had been bitten and her legs felt wobbly, but Lucy was smiling as she stepped off the poop ladder to join them. “That was pretty horrid, wasn’t it?”
Edmund licked his lips, enjoying the taste of salt unsullied by sugar. “Ghastly,” he admitted. “Caspian, are you all right?”
“Aye.” The King sheathed his sword, still staring at the spot where his nightmares had gathered. “That they should dissolve so speedily...” he murmured, before his manners reasserted themselves. “Now, we must tend to our new companion here!”
The Lord Rhoop would never have been identified by his former comrades, of that Caspian was certain: but after years trapped in a vortex of endless nightmares, he asked himself, was that to be wondered at? The older man hardly dared to believe, until they had all reassured him very seriously, that he was truly free, safe and amongst friends. And only one boon did he demand of his rightful sovereign.
“Never send me back there again!”
He pointed dramatically beyond the ship’s stern and they all turned, not without a quiver, to stare back at...
“Why!” cried Lord Rhoop. “Your Majesty has destroyed it!”
“I don’t think it was us,” said Lucy, into whose ear the king of the seabirds had murmured its command for courage. Edmund nodded.
“Aslan,” he whispered. “I felt...”
“Warmth,” Caspian concluded for him. Eustace coughed.
“Me, too,” he said.
“And I, Sire,” added Rynelf from the maindeck. Lucy clapped her hands.
“I knew he wouldn’t abandon us!” she cried. “But Caspian dear, shouldn’t we get Lord Rhoop some clothes – there must be something aboard will fit him? And a meal, perhaps.”
“Coffee,” said Edmund firmly.
“A tot wouldn’t go amiss,” Rhince put in, bustling up from the belly of the ship with a broad grin now the crisis was past. The Dawn Treader began to heel again under gentle persuasion, turning the dragon’s painted gaze fearlessly east once more. “Cap’n?”
“Hm?” Though he guided the galleon’s movement with a steady hand, it seemed to Caspian his oldest friend had no clue of what he was about. “Aye, very good, Rhince. Very good.”
“Rynelf, see the Lord Rhoop settled below: whatever his Lordship may require, see to in my name,” the King instructed, never taking his eyes from the tall figure at the tiller. “My Lord Drinian, is there aught amiss with the polish of our decks?”
“No, no, Sire.” Folly to see bloodstains: another ship and another time. Drinian forced up his chin and smiled, just, for his assembled passengers. “Who would have thought that in former years Lord Rhoop had twice the bulk of the late Lord Restimar?” he wondered.
“Drinian, you must be joking!” cried Eustace, recalling the muscular figure at the bottom of Deathwater’s stream. Caspian, not a whit deceived by his friend’s show of merriment, wagged his head.
“Indeed he is not, Master Eustace: though by a few moments’ exposure to the horrors he has lived these many years I believe I can comprehend the dramatic change in his stature!”
“So can I,” Edmund seconded as, at a nod of assent from the Captain, Rhince hollered the order to break open a much needed cask of grog. “I – I probably oughtn’t ask but...”
“What did we see?” Eustace suspected his shrieks about scales had betrayed him enough not to fret over further loss of face. “Dragons of course – a whole flock of them! Do dragons come in flocks? I could feel their breath, all damp and smelly and smoky on my skin. I thought...”
“That you were turning back into one? Oh, poor Eustace!” Lucy gave him a hard hug, still surprised he made no attempt to push her away. “I saw great big monster things climbing the mainmast to get me,” she confided. “With big, hairy faces like wolves. You remember Maugrim, the Witch’s chief of police, Ed? It was his head on a big snake’s body, with back legs all splayed and knobbly like a frog’s. How ridiculous it sounds now!”
“At least you only got the police chief,” Edmund muttered. “I got the Witch herself: and her horrid, sickly Turkish Delight, too!”
“Edmund that’s awful!” Lucy sympathised, and he was relieved to see she understood exactly how awful that confrontation with his guilty past had been. “Do we all have something real in our worst nightmares, do you think?”
“I do, for a certainty.” The children appeared lighter for confessing, which made Caspian feel less foolish about doing the same. “You remember, Edmund, those friends of Nikabrik’s, in the cold and the dark beneath Aslan’s How?”
“The hag and the werewolf who were going to summon her when Trumpkin, Peter and I broke in.” Oh, he remembered them all too well! “The wolf managed to take a chunk out of your arm before we could kill it.”
“They were here on the poop, but not calling on her power.” Caspian shivered. “They called up the usurper – Miraz stood there, not half a pace away! He never spoke and yet I felt his thoughts: that I am no true king, no good king, and he would be rid of me as he was my father. I never felt such terror of him alive!”
“I suppose we all magnify the things we’re afraid of in our dreams,” Edmund said sensibly. “And I don’t see, Lu, why our worst fears – my falling under the Witch’s influence, Scrubb turning into a dragon, Caspian facing his uncle and your creepy-crawlie phobia – shouldn’t come into it. Someone thought the ship was on fire, didn’t they? That sounds like a proper sailor’s nightmare to me!”
“I think that was Rynelf, King Edmund,” Caspian observed helpfully. “Though had it been my Lord Drinian I should hardly have been surprised! What could be more terrible to our Captain than the imagined destruction of his beloved ship?”
Drinian dragged a hand back through his tousled black hair. “Tiger,” he said simply. Caspian gaped.
“Oh,” he said as the children stared, nonplussed. “Thank you Rhince. I shall take a small tot, although you know I’ve not a true tar’s appreciation for the substance!”
“No more’s the Cap’n, Your Majesty.” Rhince grinned as he offered a mug to his commander, receiving a wry smile in return as Drinian glugged gratefully as its contents. “We’ve slung up a hammock for the Lord Rhoop, Sir. Seems ‘e wants nowt but to be left alone.”
“Then we shall oblige him until he chooses otherwise,” Drinian decided, squaring his shoulders and summoning a smile, from where he knew not. “Take the helm if you please, Master Mate. I believe I should take a tour of the ship.”
“We’ll come—“ Caspian began. Drinian lifted a warning hand.
“Best not this time, Sire,” he said kindly. “The men might speak more freely to their Captain alone.”
“As you please, my Lord.” Caspian chewed thoughtfully on his lower lip, watching the familiar dark head disappear below the poop rail. “Tiger,” he murmured. “Do you know, though I know her legend of course, Drinian has never told me what happened on that poor, unlucky ship!”
“An Archenlandish ship?” Lucy guessed.
“Must have been something pretty ugly,” Eustace speculated. “I never knew Drinian could look so pale! What do you know, Caspian?”
“Why, only what all the world knows! That she led the way in breaking the blockade of the Winding Arrow in the darkest days of what our neighbours call the Pirate War. You remember Terebinthia as a haven and protector of those villains, Edmund and Lucy! It must have been that way since you ruled Narnia!”
“And the King’s still using pirates as his navy?” Edmund questioned. Caspian scowled.
“More likely, the pirates are still using the king! The galleon Tiger, with a single young Narnian exile among her crew, was the heroine of the Archenlandish fleet up until the day she was separated from her fellows in a thick fog, set upon by a number of Terebinthian vessels, and laid waste. Most of her crew were found dead in her abandoned skeleton. A bare handful, Drinian amongst them, were dragged to the island as prisoners, from where – of course! - he and a few brave shipmates made their escape. How the ship’s capture occurred I have never asked: and while he talks gladly enough of his early adventures aboard her, Drinian has never told.”
“I don’t think I’d want to know, thanks,” said Lucy tremulously. “I remember hearing of ships being attacked by Terebinthian pirates in our day, and I think I should sooner face Maugrim again than that!”
“I’m jolly glad we shan’t have to face any of them again.” Eustace knocked back a small splash of rum with barely a shudder, instantly strengthened by its giddy heat in his gizzard. “Pirates, witches, dragons and all! Ugh! That must be the nastiest adventure we’ve had yet!”
“I doubt any man will dispute that,” Caspian murmured, deliberately omitting any reference to Beasts from his statement. Reepicheep’s tail thrashed in warning of his disapproval.
“And are Your Majesties so afraid of what is gone?” he enquired, courteous as ever though they all heard the strain in his voice. “That your very nights can be haunted by them?”
“Nasty things have a habit of seeming nastier in the dark, Reep,” Edmund promised. “Phew! Bet you a shilling to a penny none of us will sleep a wink tonight!"
Nobody, he noticed gloomily, seemed at all inclined to wager against him.
Chapter 11: The Navigators
After the horrors of the Island of Dreams, everyone needs a distraction. Drinian has found a tactic that works - for most of the company, anyway...
Several days after their escape from the Island of Dreams, with the Dawn Treader scudding easily before a favourable breeze, five figures stood in a line on the maindeck, wooden instruments raised to their eyes. On either end of the line were the tall figures of Captain and Mate: between them, much smaller and more inclined to fidget, stood Lucy, Edmund and Eustace. Caspian, who had long ago given up any pretension he might have had to ability in the art they practised, lounged against the poop ladder, content to laze in the sunshine and tease his friends for making as much of a botch of their lessons as he ever had.
Setting down his sextant (for such was the instrument named) Drinian seized a slate and chalk, rapidly scrawling a succession of numbers. A moment later and Rhince too was scribbling furiously, his broad brow deeply furrowed in thought.
More slowly, the three children lowered their devices and set about scratching their own sums: Caspian was mildly relieved to observe in them a complete lack of the casual confidence that marked the actions of the two experienced mariners. Eustace nibbled the end of his chalk, quite oblivious to its taste. Lucy rubbed out furiously. Edmund hissed, hesitated, then squared his shoulders and pressed on.
By which time Drinian had swooshed a dramatic line beneath his final calculation. An arch of the eyebrow and Rhince was at his side, solemnly comparing his slate with his commander’s. The two men considered each other’s answers and smiled.
The Mate bustled away, passing by the lounging King with a brisk greeting on his way to record the galleon’s current position; her speed; course steered; and the distance made since yesterday’s noon sight had been taken, in the ship’s Great Log. Drinian would check and sign it later, Caspian knew: theirs was a voyage into uncharted seas, his friend had told him severely when he had dared question the necessity of such scrupulous record-keeping. And no man would accuse the Lord High Admiral of Narnia of failing to follow his own meticulously-laid regulations!
“I think I’ve done it, Drinian.” Edmund scratched his nose, getting chalk all over it. Lucy, her eyebrows still drawn tight together from the effort of so much thinking, turned her small slate to his.
“Golly! One of us has gone wrong somewhere!” she cried, for by her calculation the ship was at least eight degrees further north than her brother had allowed. “And you’re awfully quiet, Eustace!”
“If either of you are right, I’ve spoiled my good run,” the other boy told her petulantly. “After three successive days of perfect navigation it really would be too bad to have mucked it all up now, as Rhince would say.”
Drinian laughed heartily at the impersonation of his deputy’s put-upon tone. “If you’re awry, so too are the Mate and I,” he said with all the confidence of a man who knew he was nothing of the sort. “Aye, your latitude and course are exact. You’re a mite out in your estimation of speed – a knot by my reckoning – but otherwise... we may have to promote you, Eustace!”
“Put me on an oar then Drinian, because I’ve gone hopelessly wrong somewhere.” Edmund scowled at his slate as if it rather than he were responsible for the error. “How the devil did I get that?”
“I’m only a little way out.” Lucy was quite relieved. “What did I do wrong, Drinian?”
He took her sums, frowned for a moment, then nodded. “Easy enough! You see, Queen Lucy, your subtraction is out by one. Make this a seven instead of a six and the equation balances perfectly.”
Aware that a handful of eavesdroppers were lingering, ready to convey the results of the apprentice mariners’ lessons, he raised his voice a little. “As to King Edmund here... Your Majesty may have company in the galley should that crisis ever befall us! You’re no longer the only member o’ the ship’s company that struggles to take a decent sight.”
“A relief indeed, my Lord,” said Caspian formally. Edmund stamped his foot.
“Bother!” he said. “I can’t cook.”
“No more can I, shipmate: but our Captain assures me that is more an advantage than a disqualification for a galley master.”
Muffled snorts of laughter rose from the malingerers. “I worked so hard in maths last term,” Lucy reflected mournfully. “And I can still make a silly mistake like that!”
“A mistake in calculation can be easily amended.” The mathematics of navigation, as natural as breathing now, had not come so readily to Drinian in his early days at sea: a source of frequent frustration, he recalled, when the other arts of seamanship had been so simple he wondered how others could ever struggle with them. “A sight wrongly taken, that cannot be repaired! Take another King Edmund, let me see – ah!”
He seized the boy’s arm, bringing down the elbow from its absurdly high position; then, with the flat of his hand, he pressed down on Edmund’s head. “With the sextant held so strangely Sire, I wonder you could see to take a sight at all!” he exclaimed. “Now, read off the angle of the sun to the horizon again.”
“Oh!” Edmund was unsure whether he should be relieved to be reading the dial beneath the sight so easily or mortified to be caught in so elementary an error. “It looks quite different now! Here Lu, hand me that slate, will you?”
With his sleeve he wiped off the first set of sums and set about scrawling a second: quicker now, more confident, he had the calculation complete in a trice (having always been better at arithmetic than Lucy). “How’s that?” he asked, hopping from one foot to the other as Drinian surveyed his handiwork. I wonder if this is how Peter feels, waiting for the Professor to check his exam prep?
“Good, Your Majesty,” Drinian approved, chalking a large tick across the final sum. As the boy whooped with delight, and Eustace began to loudly brag about getting things right first time, the Captain of the Dawn Treader allowed himself a moment of silent satisfaction. His ruse to distract their passengers from the lingering terror of the last island had worked even better than he ever dared hope.
Not half the ship’s company was sleeping properly he guessed, after their experiences in the mysterious darkness. The fascination of watching their royal guests struggling to master a sailor’s basic tasks had given every man a new subject to discuss. Their achievements (or otherwise) were praised (or pitied). Jokes like Caspian’s about the galley master’s skills would be whispered from stem to stern. Minds would be dragged from the shattered ruin that was Lord Rhoop, a ghostly figure still haunting the hold. The very air about the decks would feel lighter.
Yes, Drinian was pleased with the results of his careless inspiration. He said as much to his sovereign when they were left together, leaning against the starboard rail amidships.
“Perhaps we might interest Rhoop in navigation?” Caspian had come from an hour’s conversation with his father’s friend that morning, hoping his visit might raise the elder Narnian’s spirits. He had not, he conceded, allowed for the dampening effect it might have upon his own.
Drinian snorted rudely. “Seems to me we’d be wasting our time!”
“I know he is not the cheeriest of shipmates, my Lord,” Caspian started, really shocked. “But after all he’s endured...”
Drinian raised both hands pacifically. “It is understandable, Sire,” he soothed. “But that wasn’t quite my meaning. Think of it, Caspian! Those seven friends of our fathers showed not the smallest interest in their ship – did not Bern admit it? – or the practicalities of their voyage. A Galmian ship, a hired crew... they were passengers, without the smallest concern for how their ship sailed or what their company did. And that, the sailor in me cannot begin to comprehend!”
“You have shown exemplary patience, old friend, in bearing with the damnable lubbers cluttering your decks,” Caspian told him. Drinian let loose a rich, rolling roar of laughter.
“I’ve done no such thing, as Your Majesty knows better than most from bearing the rough edge o’ my tongue!” he cried. “Nay, Sire: your courtier’s manners have been less than courtly on far too many occasions! The patience has been yours in suffering my rudeness without complaint or (that I could see) offence.”
“You have been... brusque at times,” Caspian allowed, conscious of Rynelf, ostentatiously polishing the brass rail not five yards away and eagerly recording every word. “But we have been a constant nuisance to you and your crew. Come now, if I’m to make an admission, so must you! Shall we take a tour of our good ship, Captain?”
Recognising the royal code for I have something troubling me, Drinian answered with a deep, graceful bow. “I am at your service, my liege,” he promised.
Still, it took the whole tour of the upper decks and descent into the hold, where they paused to check the condition of the great oak water casks, before the King could unburden himself. “How much longer, Drinian?” he all but wailed, thumping his fist into the steeply sloping planking of the lower hull with a force that made the taller man wince. “All these months ploughing on ever farther east, east, east, with the wind behind us and Reepicheep’s dreadful ditty about sweet waves ringing in our ears! I want to go home!”
A severe case of homesickness. The thought in Drinian’s head had a habit of tripping itself off his tongue the next moment. “The wonder of it is that it’s taken so long to strike so inexperienced a traveller,” he added, guiding his friend forward to perch on one of the long, narrow oarsmen’s benches that crossed the galleon at her widest point. “Natural enough: every man-jack of us has felt it at some point, I daresay! The novelty most likely protected you longer than most.”
“Is that all? So simple?” The weight which on leaving Rhoop had seemed close to crushing him lifted a little from the King’s slight shoulders and Drinian, watching him sit straighter, silently cursed himself for not observing in his best friend those minute signs he had watched for and acted upon in his crew. “I swore a vow, I know: and I’ve been selfish, scarce even thinking of Narnia as we few have tumbled from discovery to crisis and on to adventure, but now! Drinian, I can think of nothing else!”
“Happens to us all, Caspian. And if the novelty of months at sea has protected you this long, perhaps it was natural the blow should strike the harder when it did fall.”
“You, too?” It was hard, Caspian considered, to credit. Perpetually busy, ever encouraging, setting about each day with the same confident swagger, Captain Drinian had appeared to him the very model of self-assured determination through the whole course of their quest. “Do you find yourself yearning for the green woods of Etinsmere – for the smile of your sweet Daniela? Have you felt this terrible emptiness, knowing them to be so very far away?”
“I should scarce be human had I not,” Drinian answered simply. “But – being the hardened old tar that I am – I know they come, and I wait for them to pass. Ah, Edmund – Lucy! Our shipmate has a sudden bad case o’ sea-blight.”
“You’re missing Narnia all of a sudden, eh?” Edmund asked, flopping onto the bench at Caspian’s side. Lucy, tucking her feet up beneath her, settled down next to Drinian opposite.
“I thought you were quiet at breakfast,” she said sympathetically. “Goodness, I never miss the other place – England I mean – when we’re here, but I do remember the awful achy feeling in the pit of my stomach when we stayed for three months in the Lone Islands! How I missed Cair Paravel and all our friends! Do you remember, Ed?”
“I doubt anyone’s ever away from home for that long without feeling it at least a little,” he agreed, narrowing his eyes. “You must know all about it, Drinian.”
“Just what I was saying when you came down, King Edmund.” The nights were the worst: the still, silent nights that followed on the tail of a crisis. The achingly sweet torment of her imagined voice; the feeling of her cool hand against his cheek so real on the edge of sleep. “I pined for Narnia all the years I was exiled, Caspian. I miss her still, the great forests of Etinsmere and the endless empty moors toward the northern frontier... but I never knew true loneliness at sea before this.”
“Daniela.” Caspian smiled on her name, bringing its mirror to his friend’s lips too. “My Lord Drinian left his enchanting betrothed behind to command Our quest, you see: a sacrifice I ought never to have asked of any man!”
“Aye, Daniela. She knew – we all knew, Caspian! – that there was none other in Narnia could captain the King’s ship. And though I’ll only cease to long for a sight of her when Cair Paravel hoves into view and the fear rises that she’s found some damned contemptible lubber in my absence...”
“Drinian, for shame! The lady – mistress of Glasswater Province, the daughter to another of my father’s murdered friends – is quite lost in love with you!” Caspian protested, startled into his first real laugh of the day.
“I should not have given my place on this ship to any other man,” Drinian concluded, his dark eyes sparkling in the hold’s musty gloom. “Mine’s the dilemma of the sailor, you see. On land I dream of naught but the sway of a ship and the bite o’ the brine against my tongue. Long enough at sea and I long only for green fields and the comforts of my manor. Marriage will change that not a whit, as Daniela declares she understands. Time will tell as to that!
“As to your homesickness: it’ll pass, but there’s no cure beyond time and occupation. You’ll know when it strikes me hardest: the mornings I discover a dozen unimportant duties undone and drive Rhince to despair with more drills for the men and unnecessary tasks for myself! Now, shall we return to deck? I’ve a mind to have the men drag the grindstone up this afternoon; aye, and have Master Bowman drill his archers. We’ve not practised our boarding drill these last three months if I remember...”
“I’ve started you off now, haven’t I?” asked the King remorsefully. Drinian shrugged.
“I shall shake it of soon enough, Caspian – aye, and so will you, the moment another novelty comes into view! Perhaps Your Majesties would care to join the combatants, since Eustace has your measure as a navigator? There’s small enough risk of meeting a pirate’s schooner in these seas I’ll wager, but no harm ever came of keeping our swords sharp!”
Chapter 12: In Every End Is A Beginning
The Dawn Treader is in the Last Sea. Not everyone is as excited as a certain Mouse about this fact.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The relentless accumulation of floral debris did little to slow the Dawn Treader’s progress through the last of seas, a fact Edmund noted with some nervousness. “Might it not be a good idea to pull us out of this ghastly current?” he fretted.
“And set the men at the oars with perhaps another hundred leagues of sailing before us?” Drinian’s voice floated irritably from the boat towing astern, where he was supervising the untangling of the rudder from pristine petal and thick, shiny leaf for the tenth time in five days. “The Star told us only his was the last land we should encounter: I’d as lief have more practical knowledge of the sea’s conditions!”
“I doubt a Star knows much of what a mariner deems important, my Lord,” teased Caspian, leaning over the aft rail to watch them hefting armfuls of shredded leaf clear of the keel.
“’s gettin’ worse the deeper into this mess we go, Your Majesty.” Hofian held the boat steady while Drinian led the climb back aboard, their duty done. “And the stink o’ these things! Permission to take lookout back aboard, Cap’n?”
“Granted, Hofian: and thank you.” Drinian wiped wet hands against the front of his worn leather jerkin. “A sounding every second minute, and report the instant you feel bottom at fifty fathoms.”
“Aye, Sir.” Hofian’s large pale grey eyes brightened as he scrambled aboard and Peridan began the laborious business of hauling the boat back in. Drinian nodded a friendly dismissal before shepherding his passengers aft and resuming command of the wheel for himself.
“Cap’n, Sir.” Rhince loomed up beside them, jaw stuck out and eyes cast down. Drinian groaned.
“Very well, Master Mate: tell me the worst,” he said wearily, firing a glance to Caspian that said plainly, Leave this to me, Sire! “Has the galley master mutinied for want of activity, now we’ve this water to sustain us? Is the Bowman at odds with the Boson?”
“’s the men, Sir.” Rhince was not, Edmund decided as he leaned back against the starboard side, designed to be a whisperer. “They’re a mite worried, y’ see.”
“That we’re in uncharted seas, unable to judge the depth o’ water before us, approaching the World’s End with no notion of what we’ll find and that infernal Mouse twittering his interminable ditty at the bow,” Drinian recited, not noticeably disheartened by his deputy’s gloomy nod. “Why the troubled look, Rhince? Are you not a touch alarmed yourself?”
“Aye, Sir.” It sometimes seemed to Eustace that the Captain quite delighted in disconcerting his sturdy second. “And I don’t rightly know what to tell ‘em, Sir, when they grumbles about it to me.”
“No more should I,” Drinian conceded lightly. “Though it might ease their anxieties to know the moment the leadsman feels the bottom at fifty we’ll draw out of this blessed narrow current and coast under what little breeze we have, for so long as it might take us. His Majesty made a promise to seek the End of the World. I made one no less solemn, to turn this ship west again when he was done.”
“Aye Sir, but the fellows are frettin’: tales o’ great seas washin’ over the edge and giant waterfalls down into Aslan’s Country....”
“As I may have said before, Your Majesties,” said Drinian very solemnly. “Drat that Mouse!”
“I shall speak with Sir Reepicheep, Rhince,” Caspian announced grandly. Eustace, he noticed, was openly grinning and neither Edmund nor Lucy dared meet the eye of either sailor. “Should we hear yet again of the endless fires that burn around the World’s Rim...”
“’E’s not so fond o’ that one, begging Your Majesty’s pardon,” Rhince interrupted miserably. “It’s the stories of fallin’ forever the blas – blessed nuisance likes best.”
“The Star did say,” Lucy reminded them, only the slight wavering of her words betraying amusement, “that we had to sail as far east as our ship would take us, then leave one of our number behind. Surely that must mean the sea becomes too shallow for a galleon to reach the very End anyway!”
“That’s true.” Edmund grinned as Eustace slapped the startled girl hard on the back. “Good old Lu, spotting what we all missed! We can’t go over the World’s Edge, Rhince: tell the men that!”
“And tell the Mouse, while you’re at it,” Drinian growled, spiking a glare the full length of the ship. “I knew morale had fallen, Your Majesties – not to be wondered at given our position, but still... I’ll have that creature clapped in irons yet!”
Rhince hastened back to his duties while the others remained with Drinian at his, all of them lighter about the heart with Lucy’s realisation to cheer them. “Never considered it myself,” Caspian admitted, keeping his voice low enough not to disturb the few crewmen bustling about. Lucy giggled.
“Neither had I until that moment! I’m still not sure I was right to say anything...”
“Of course you were!”
“Aye, King Edmund, aught that quells alarm below decks is better said than not.” Drinian tipped back his raven head, drinking in the faint breeze that ruffled their hair. “For my part I’d be happy should these infernal flowers part: or better still, fade away! How’s a man to judge the water’s depth through that mess, eh?”
“We don’t even have a name for it yet,” Lucy reminded them. Every new discovery they made had been recorded on the magician’s map, which was kept rolled in Drinian’s cabin for safety. “It’s got to have a name!”
Drinian could have offered a choice selection, but in the presence of a lady he kept them to himself.
“Lily Lake,” said Caspian suddenly.
“That didn’t just trip off your tongue, did it?” Edmund challenged. The King blinked.
“I confess I had given the matter some thought, King Edmund,” he said mildly.
“It’s not a lake though,” argued Eustace, who could not shake off pedantry as easily as he had surliness. “One can see the other side of a lake: it’s got a shore, and reeds, and all sorts of things! This is a sea!”
“Or an ocean,” Lucy added.
“We can’t be sure they’re actually lilies either,” Edmund reminded them. “Oh, I don’t know what to call them, or this! Mother’s always said I have no imagination.”
“More than a patch, Scrubb! We’ve been ploughing through them for days!”
“That I like,” Caspian decided. “With the sunlight on them – and who in Narnia would imagine the sun could be so bright? – these petals strike the eye more as silver than white! Aye, the Silver Sea it shall be, unless any of our shipmates can conceive of a better name.”
“A noble name, Sire!” Reepicheep came pattering up the ladder to join them. “Although Silver Scented Sea might perhaps be more descriptive.”
“And too much, Reep! No sign of it ending?”
“Nor sign of Aslan’s Country, King Edmund.” Briefly the Mouse appeared downcast. “But I do not despair! How ever many leagues may separate us from that blessed place, we shall traverse them!"
“Ah.” Caspian cleared his throat, uncomfortably aware of Lucy’s fidget and the narrowed dark eyes of Drinian fixed upon him. “Be so good as to remember, Sir Mouse, that others of our company have their hearts set upon another land, much farther away than your own goal. Not every Narnian here present is as eager to greet the Lion in his own land as you.”
Reepicheep’s whiskers twirled ferociously. “What higher honour could be sought, Sire?”
“The wives, families and sweethearts of our shipmates might dispute the point,” Caspian reminded him pacifically.
“In some cases, all three parties at once,” Drinian muttered. Edmund’s brows shot into his hairline.
“Do tell, Captain!”
“Don’t be such a gossip, Ed!” Lucy chided automatically. Reepicheep gave the one of his flourishing bows.
“Never did it occur to me, Your Majesty, that the discussion of my heart’s true desire might cause distress to my companions!” he trilled. “I had thought every true Narnian must be safe in the knowledge of the Lion’s good grace to protect him.”
“I’ve no doubt the men feel that, Reep, but don’t chat on so about endless waterfalls in front of them, there’s a good fellow.” Caspian, feeling himself lectured by a subject, was incapable of forming a response, allowing Edmund to smoothly intervene. “And they’d feel a great deal better I daresay if we weren’t in the middle of these heavenly smelling flowers!
“I take them for a carpet, where no feet before ours have trod.” The Mouse was getting poetic: and when he did that, they all knew Reepicheep also tended to get loud. “Guiding the faithful traveller to his rest at Aslan’s paw.”
“It may well be so,” Caspian agreed tiredly. “But we have many a traveller, no less faithful, that longs to rest his foot before his own Narnian hearth! As a kindness to our harassed Captain, pray moderate your excitement of a nearer goal in the presence of his crew.”
“Your Lordship may depend upon my discretion.”
It was to Drinian’s very great credit, Edmund considered, that he managed to maintain a straight face while bowing an acknowledgement of the promise.
“Excellent!” Caspian compensated for his fellows’ lack of enthusiasm, then visibly recoiled from it. “Now, what say you to a game of chess? Queen Lucy has defeated you once in the last month: permit your King the chance to equal that noble achievement!
“We are in your hands, Captain.” Caspian looked solemn, his gaze sliding over Drinian’s shoulder on out toward the eastern horizon. “To break the enchantment which holds our fathers’ friends, we must continue as far as we safely may.”
“And that we’ll do, Sire. Rynelf and Peridan will stand double lookout, with a sounding every minute. Should the seabed approach as close as five fathoms, I recommend we anchor at once.”
“Your advice will be followed, whatever the circumstance,” Caspian pledged, breaking into a smile at the minimal relaxing of his companion’s taut stance. “Come, my Lord! Do you think your sovereign such a fool as to disregard a professional opinion in these affairs?”
“I’ll make no answer there, if it please Your Majesty.” Drinian let his teasing reply carry to the nearest group of seamen, hard at work polishing the maindeck with water and sandstone blocks until the planking shone. Someone sniggered, and the two friends shared a smile.
“Inform us of what’s to be done when time allows, Captain.” The King turned away first, keeping his eye on the distant point where sea and sky came together. “Lucy! Eustace, Edmund! Do you hear? Drinian doubts we can continue beyond the day.”
“Reep’s busy putting another waxing on the coracle already.” Eustace knocked back his morning cup of water like a hardened tar with his tot. “Gosh the sun’s got bigger again! Are you taking the helm, Drinian?”
“Would I trust any other with my lady in such chancy seas?” Though he smiled and they laughed, Drinian was anxious. “We’ve fifteen fathoms beneath us at the last sounding. The Dawn Treader draws but two Eustace: there’s no cause for immediate alarm! I’d be happier had we charts of the odd rocks and sandbars hereabout, mind.”
“If we find them, we’ll put them on the map for you,” Edmund promised. “Golly it’s hot! Who’s for a lounge on the fo’c’sle?”
All three children reclined in the bows all day as the water grew steadily shallower and the faces of the crew became tenser. More than once they felt the galleon make an ungainly lurch, deftly manipulated from danger by her captain’s steady hand, but it was plain long before Rhince summoned them that their gallant vessel could go no further.
“Anchors fore and aft!” Drinian hollered, spinning the wheel between his hands until he could draw the ship to rest with her side to the horizon. “Ugrian, bring the coracle! We can take you no further, Reep.”
“Thankful am I for the skills that have carried me so far, my Lord.” The seabed looked terrifyingly close to Edmund as he leaned over the rail, watching the small coracle’s descent. “Your Majesties all, I take my leave. Aslan send a favourable wind to carry you safe, my friends, to Narnia.”
And it was then that Caspian’s voice cut through a murmuring of appreciative good wishes from his crew. “Lower the boat! Gather the men! I must speak with them!”
This felt like the right place to end the eastward journey. I'll be posting my AU sequel, taking Lucy, Edmund and Eustace back to Narnia, in due course. Thanks as always for reading!