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The Letters and Conversations of a King of Archenland

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Children? Archenland has to bend the knee to children? And not even Narnians! It is not Lune’s way to pass judgment on the strange customs of foreign lands, but this bears some mulling over. You can't expect alliances to automatically revert back to how they were a hundred years ago. No one liked it when Narnia was lost to the White Witch, but the neighboring kingdoms had aired their gripes, reshuffled their treaties, and moved on. It is not rebuilding that these children will have to do, but simply building from the nothingness borne of a century of self-imposed isolationism. And how old is the oldest child? Thirteen?

"My goodness, Theanne," Lune realizes aloud, en route in the royal coach. "I'm to negotiate trading rights with someone who can't yet grow facial hair."

"Then you will know how to conduct yourself," his wife responds, turning the page of her novel. "We have dealt with enough children who fancy themselves kings, hmm?"

"Do treat this more seriously, darling. One never knows what to expect from Narnia," says Lune, who had spent the past week reviewing Narnian history and lore. It was once a great country before Jadis swooped down and claimed it. Once she did, all that ever managed to come out of Narnia were the occasional wild-eyed refugee and their tales of the empress's cruelty and despotic brand of magic. In absence of interaction, fables flourished: Archenlandish mothers would tell their children to eat all their vegetables lest they be taken up north and abandoned in the woods of Narnia, where the dark things dwelled.

Narnia, once bright and bountiful, became silent and cold. But now everything was changing.

"Just do what you can for Archenland, dear," Theanne says, "and try to have a little fun."

She smiles at him, then turns another page.


~


To His Majesty King Lune,

I hope this letter finds you well. We here at Cair Paravel have just managed to sweep the Terebinthian baron and his retinue out the door, and I hope I don't sound an ingrate when I say I am much relieved for it. As charming as his smile is (almost as charming as his coffers), we remain suspicious of his naked ambition and his manner of changing the subject when the topic of exclusive shipping rights arose. Am I to die an old maid, my friend? Yet I find myself warming to the idea if it means I do not have to marry any one of these cretins.

But on to more pressing matters. I have read your letter quite carefully, and am I to understand that you will do nothing about your Lord Chancellor? Aslan grant me the strength to bear my habit of becoming fond of the most stubborn of men. I realize that you, above anyone else, can and should make judgments about your own court, but if I may be so bold, I tell you now that the decision to retain this man is unwise. My network has unearthed strong evidence that he is loyal to the Tisroc, and your refusal to acknowledge this is frankly distressing. The Lord Chancellor may be a family friend for years, but this is exactly why he must be removed from Anvard as soon as possible. Maintain nominal status quo if you must - station him far away under the guise of reward or promotion - but cut off his access to you, your family, and the tools of your kingdom.

I have listened to your advice all these years and found comfort in your wisdom – I ask you now to do the same by me. Please be careful.

With affection,
Queen Susan of Narnia


~


Faun wine is Narnia’s driest wine, robust in flavor and possessing a tendency to stain the teeth purple for a day despite the most vigorous of tooth-brushing. Of the Pevensies, Lucy is the only one who drinks it outside of formal functions. Lune likes it as well, so Susan always remembers to bring a bottle or two when she visits Anvard.

In Lune’s private study, she fills two goblets as Lune stares unseeing in his seat, chin resting on his knuckles.

“Come,” she says. “To what shall we drink?”

“To what, indeed?” Lune asks distantly, taking the proffered goblet. “My banquet hall is full of lords and ladies in mourning garb offering me their condolences and their daughter for the throne when my wife is not even a day in the ground.”

“Then we will not drink to them,” Susan decides.

“Must we drink to something? Can’t we just drink the blasted wine?”

“As you wish.”

They do.

It is a strange thing to see the king of Archenland as hollowed out as he is. To Susan, he has always been a stalwart fount of joie de vivre, a figure of authority she can love and venerate in a way she can’t with Peter, who is her brother before he is her High King, and neither can she do so with Aslan, who is inscrutable in His ineffability. Lune, out of all the kings and noblemen of this world, was the first to learn to put their ages in context: the youth of the kings and queens of Narnia cannot be helped, but as kings and queens, they are his equals. They value his candor and his friendship, and he their willingness to face all that came to them with a ready heart and steady hands. To see Lune as he is now brings back memories of Cor’s abduction, the grayness in the king after he returned from the battle and the search at sea, and her frustration at herself that her agents were unable to pick up any sort of trail for the prince at all.

“You shouldn’t feel pressured to take a new queen so quickly,” Susan tells him. “You have an heir. Your country is wealthy and your alliances are secure. What do you have to gain through marriage now?”

Lune sighs. “Corin could use a mother.”

“He has a wonderful father.”

Lune’s smile is tired but sincere, and Susan quashes the urge to embrace him, and instead settles for the more benign gesture of taking his hand.

A high-pitched noise floats in from outside, and it takes a few seconds for Susan to realize that it is laughter. She rises from her seat and goes to the window, which has a view of the garden below. It’s a beautiful garden, meticulously maintained by Queen Theanne, who brought in desert lilies from Calormen and sunshadow trees from Ettinsmoor, and coaxed even the eastern island’s water orchids to bloom in Archenland’s drier climate. Theanne was not a Narnian, but she loved the land as a Narnian does, sensitive to the vitality inherent in a handful of earth. Susan remembers spring afternoons spent by her side, the sweat running down their faces as the the mud stained their skirts. Theanne would point out the different plants, explaining, “This is thickweed, good for fevers. This is autumn moss, which helps to heal wounds. The leaves of the flower we call giant’s hair can be made into a tea, for nerves.”

If anyone thought it strange for a queen to be grubbing around in the dirt, Theanne never paid them any mind. You must find your peace where you can, she had said, and don’t let anyone tell you that you mustn’t have it.

“Lune,” Susan says softly. “Your majesty, come look.”

At the center of the garden, sitting on the benches by the fountain, is Lucy, dandling Corin on her lap. Mrs. Beaver coos at the prince, tickling him under his chin until he laughs again. Their laughter floats up to them, to Lune, who made his way to the window and is standing beside Susan, watching the scene below.

“We have a great affection for you and your family,” Susan continues. “We love you as one of our own. Rest assured that you will always have our support and protection so long as we are capable of granting them. No harm will ever come to Corin on our watch.”

Lune replies, “These are grand promises for a queen of Narnia to make.”

“I’m not speaking as a queen of Narnia.”

“Your majesty,” Lune begins, but when Susan gives him the look with which he’s becoming familiar, he hesitates. He smiles instead, and says, “Thank you.”

Susan smiles back. “Think nothing of it.”

In the garden, Corin takes a few wobbly steps into Mrs. Beaver’s waiting embrace, and Lucy claps and cheers for him.


~


Dear Father,

Yesterday I went hunting in the northern woods by myself but you mustn't be angry because I actually caught something. And I wasn't really alone, I was with Leap the Narnian hound, but you mustn't be angry at him because I said if he wasn't coming then I would go by myself. Which I would never actually do of course!! I caught a deer! It is a large stag almost twice as tall as myself with magnificent antlers that I've told the servants to set aside for now, as I don't know what to do with them. What does one do with antlers? Brynn says one ought to hang them on a wall but what use will they be on a wall? Don't worry, I will think of something.

The deer was delicious, Father! If only you were home to taste it. Much better than the rabbits that I caught last month, and even better than the pheasant that I also caught last month, though this is maybe because of the sauce. The cook used too much pepper, as I am sure you remember.

Father, might I take the opportunity to remind you that you promised to bring me back a genuine Calormene scimitar this time. I think considering the deer, you might even consider it a reward for my skill and derring-do. Perhaps I will even hunt another deer for your return! What do you think of that? I will order the cook to throw in extra mushrooms, and more butter.

Lord Peridan arrived on gryphon-back yesterday to deliver a message to the regent, and I told him I could deliver it for him but he wouldn't let me. However, the gryphon did let me ride her for a bit while we waited for Lord Peridan to finish, and it was great. Flying is excellent! Why can't humans be born with wings?

Your loving son,
Corin


~


Dear Father,

How are you? I hope your royal duties are not troubling you too much, and that Corin is behaving himself. Aravis and I extend our fondest wishes to you both, and miss you very much. We are of course enjoying our stay at Cair Paravel, and try everyday to make Archenland proud, doing all the things an ambassador must. Narnia is truly a land of wonders, and it seems with every visit we only find more things at which to marvel.

Aravis and Queen Susan have become especially fond of each other. They spend their days discussing hairstyles and political subterfuge, and other things beyond my ken. Aravis has even begun to learn archery. I don't think her arms are strong enough for it, but if I tell her so, she'd just point the arrow in my direction, so let us make a secret of my opinion. King Edmund is away sorting some crisis at Redhaven, and I only ever see King Peter at meals, during which he drops his manner of being quite daunting and becomes a very friendly fellow. He sends you his regards, and assures you that if Archenland ever needs help putting down the border skirmishes at the delta this year, Narnia is ready and willing.

As you may have figured out, I spend much of my time with Queen Lucy. To get to know Narnia, one can ask for no better guide. Queen Lucy loves her people as much as they love her. She seems to know the name of every squirrel, every leopard, every dryad, everyone, and she is always ready with a follow-up "And how is your Aunt Rose?" or some such thing. I can't even tell the difference between a hawk and an eagle half the time. What a relief that I will never have to be a beloved queen of a nation. I don't think I'd have the stamina.

Yesterday we visited a family of fauns who live in Narnia’s southwestern woods. They were wonderful, and I took a liking to their youngest son, Wren, who asked me many questions. One of them was whether Prince Corin has wrestled any bears lately. I told him Corin has gone easy on the bears, and has chosen to devote his time as of late to wrangling the mysterious affections of women. (Father, you must not let him pick his own gift to give to the next potential fiancee.) Anyway, these fauns were part of the Narnian diaspora, the lucky few able to escape the Long Winter before Jadis shut down the land. The family had settled, as many fauns did, in northern Archenland, as close to the border as they dared, and made a quiet life for themselves selling faun pipes at exorbitant prices.

Wren and I would have spent the whole time talking of Archenlandish things if it could have been helped. It's funny, how he recognizes in me his old homeland, and how I recognize in him the longing for a home left behind. This is not to say that I am not thankful for the blessings I've received since arriving at Anvard. I am thankful everyday, but one can find it difficult to let go of one's childhood.

Sadly my letter must end here. Queen Lucy will soon take me to meet with the horses, and Aravis is coming along so we can say hello to our friends and fellow runaways Bree and Hwin, and their colt. I look forward to seeing you all again.

Cor


~


To His Royal Majesty, King Lune of Archenland,

Greetings! The duchy of Avra extends our warmest greetings to the most noble kingdom of Archenland. May Aslan bless our lands with His munificent light.

It is with great regret that we inform you that the engagement between Prince Corin and Lady Ilena cannot go forth as planned. Our most distinguished astrologers have consulted their throwing bones on this matter, and the stars unfortunately find this match to be ill-advised. Far be it from both our kingdoms, I am sure, to ignore the advice of stars, who borrow their light from Aslan Himself. Furthermore, Lady Ilena has decided that she is too young to wed, and will instead devote her time and energies to perfecting her calligraphy until such an age when a better matrimonial match may be found.

We commend Prince Corin on the gallantry of his overtures, and the gusto with which he participated in Avra’s daily life. We do not wish to discourage such vim and vigor, but unfortunately we must ask for compensation for the damages that his commendable spirit has incurred during his stay here. He has:

1) trampled rare botanical specimens in our flowerbed during an enthusiastic display of swordsmanship.
2) accidentally beheaded a statue of Aminzade the Elder, a venerated hero of our land. We are still unable to locate the head.
3) killed the fish in our garden pond through affectionate overfeeding.
4) knocked down the manor doors in a well-intentioned attempt to prove the sturdiness of our architecture.
5) clogged the fountain.

We are not sure what has been done to the songbirds, but they now refuse to sing.

It has been a pleasure hosting Prince Corin and his retinue. We look forward to future correspondence. May Aslan bless us all.

Sincerely,
His Grace, the Duke of Avra