The Lion, the Snake, and the Safe Room
19 May 2006
Arrival is the third chapter of The Lion, the Snake, and the Safe Room.
In the Great Hall at Cair Paravel, two people are discussing the new arrivals. The man—Gilles—is worried that their enemy might be tricking them, but the woman—Illana—points out that if he could manage that he would already have defeated them. He reminds her what she saw in her scrying crystal the previous evening and is rather loud when she discounts her vision. He relents on her invocation of his wife, Cealin, but is undeterred: she saw that one of the young Princes spoke with the White Wizard, might even have taken his marking, so why is she so calm about it? It transpires that Aslan himself has spoken with her, bidding her to carry on with the plan that she and her husband Ardan have laid. They will welcome the young people and train them properly, making no unforced distinctions and watching how well they take to learning new skills. He appears mollified, and guesses that his job will be to train the Princes in weaponry: she confirms this, and that Caelin will provide corresponding training for the Princesses. She also reminds him that the cook's youngest children are due to begin similar training, providing an interesting opportunity to observe how the Princes react. He agrees, pointing out that a person's character is revealed by how they treat those they view as inferior.[Note 1] She teases him for displaying the wisdom he usually hides so well.
The young people arrive at the Silver Spring, unaware of being watched. They remove their shoes thankfully while Harry admires their surroundings. Hermione is just bemoaning her lack of fitness when Meghan cries out, stopping Malfoy in his tracks as he is about to stick a foot in the water. She explains that they need to ask the Naiad first, and calls while swishing the water with her hand. The Naiad rises from the centre of the pond, wiping her hair from her face, and Meghan asks her politely if they might use her pool to cool off. She smiles and offers her name—Nata—as a gift in exchange for theirs, which Meghan gives her. She arrives at the edge of the pool and stands up, revealing her legs and feet; it appears that her hands and feet have just a suggestion of fins. She curtseys while granting them the use of her pool. Malfoy continues where he left off, sticking both feet in the water. Hermione very pointedly moves upstream of him before refilling her canteen, noting that they had just enough to reach the Spring. She takes a sip and Harry notices that her expression changes: she looks surprised and then distant, as if thinking about something. He asks her if the water is OK and repeats his question when she still seems distracted. Nata is on the verge of taking offence at the implied insult to her Spring and Harry's explanation doesn't help, so Meghan jumps in, asking Hermione to borrow her canteen. She ticks off Harry as she passes him, hissing that one should never insult a naiad's water, and strongly suggesting that he drinks as an apology after she takes her turn: Nata could hinder their journey in any number of sub-lethal ways. Harry turns to Hermione who is acting as if she only just woke up. He asks her if she is OK because she was acting a little odd and after joking about how normal that is, she reassures him that she is fine and the water is good: it just had an unexpected taste, which she liked. Nata seems mollified by this, but it seems from the noise he makes that Malfoy is not impressed. Harry offers him a drink, but he refuses, and Nata seems set to take offence once more: Meghan hastily shares some of Hermione's water with Harry and they both drink. Harry is immediately enveloped in a sense of peace and comfort, and panics briefly at the reminder of how the Imperius Curse felt, but this has a wholly different feel to it: rather than suffocating this is gentle. There is something making contact with his mind, with clear desires and wishes, but it is not insisting on his cooperation. Harry can see how those desires apply to him, to his presence here in Narnia, and how he might be if things turn out well:
|“||triumphant and joyful and ready to be a King||”|
Then the something looks directly at him and he tries to hide away, embarrassed by all the petty thoughts revealed to view. However the something murmurs gently to him, calming his fears: there is time for judgement, but in the meantime there is an adjustment to which it would like his consent. He listens to the explanation and is willing to concur for the duration of his stay in Narnia, confident that this something is incapable of harming him. As it vanishes he feels his perception adjusting: some of his memories are packed away for later, where he can reach them if necessary. He looks at Meghan and deduces that she has undergone much the same process: she and Hermione state that they are now ready to proceed. They all look at Malfoy, who has not yet sampled the water: neither Harry nor Meghan manage to persuade him verbally. Hermione notices Nata getting annoyed and suggests an alternative solution: a mischievous Nata undercuts the bank where Malfoy is sitting and dumps him into the Spring, right where his feet had been. Harry and Meghan are delighted…
Draco tries not to ingest any of the water, as instructed, but when he hits bottom the shock opens his mouth and he swallows rather than choke. He feels a thing entering his mind and tries to repel it, but it demands that he listen: it will not change his mind for him, rather it will actually help along his chosen path. He is surprised by this, and by its offer to do the same to his memories as the others, with the same ability to recover them. It promises to leave him alone after this, if he wishes, and departs: he feels much the same effect as when the Wizard implanted information, although that was less voluntary and more permanent. Once he is confident he can act normal, he surfaces to find his three companions plus the Naiad all staring at him. He has a moment to observe that the latter is "pretty" before exacting his revenge: he whips out his wand and aims a Summoning Charm at Granger. He has another moment in which to feel smug as she is yanked off her feet before realising that she is now heading straight for him.
|“||The resulting splash was quite impressive.||”|
He struggles to his feet to hear Freeman asking the Naiad where the water is deepest, and before he can react she dive-bombs into the Spring, splashing him and Granger yet again. The latter seems unperturbed, calling to Potter to join them. He demurs for "just a second", taking out his wand and catching Draco unawares with a Banishing Charm. Soaked for the third time in five minutes, his last coherent thought is to wonder whether he will ever get dry; then Potter jumps in and the ensuing water fight occupies his mind.
They all climb out and Harry comments that it was fun but they're all going to be wet the rest of the day now. Nata coughs significantly and Hermione asks if she can help: in response she pulls all of the water off them, collects it into a huge ball, and dives back into the pool. Harry is expressing his approval when they hear a voice calling a greeting. The owner of the voice appears, carrying a large hamper, and Hermione recognises him as a Dryad—although she's not sure how[Note 2]—and realises this must be Meghan's friend Oren. They all realise that they are hungry and tuck in. Once they are finished, Nata returns with the boat they were promised: apparently she can carry things with her when she moves through water. The stream at this point is not deep enough, however, so she offers to take it downstream for them: Oren confirms that this would be "after the first ford" and in reply to Harry's question reveals that this entails less than an hour's further walking over easy terrain. Harry thanks Nata for her help and her blush turns the whole spring pink as she dives back in, taking the boat with her. Malfoy grumbles as they leave: he wouldn't have had a second slice of pie if he'd known there was more walking in the offing. Meghan skips out in front, taunting him about "getting fa-at": Oren makes her quiet simply by laying a hand on her shoulder and saying just "Princess". Harry wishes that he or Hermione could calm her down that easily: Hermione observes that Meghan is only 12, and likeable enough when she's in a good mood. With that in mind, Harry points out what that means: Hermione will be High Queen. Unlike Harry, she has not given this any thought…but she couldn't bear Malfoy being High King. Harry says that's not going to happen: he doesn't really want to be in charge but given the alternative…[Note 3] She reassures him, thinking to herself that he is a leader but cannot yet see that. Oren interrupts their quiet conversation with an offer to tell them about Narnia: Hermione immediately asks about the Kings and Queens, saying that all they know so far is their names and that none of them is completely human. Malfoy interjects, asking about how the succession works: Oren jests that he is eager to start ruling, but since all the current monarchs are quite young there will be plenty of time for them to learn…and to earn their crowns. In the meantime, he describes the Kings and Queens. Ardan the High King is no slouch at fighting, but most respected for his negotiating skills: Gilles prefers to fight but also enjoys a good joke, and they have been friends since childhood. The Queens are also lifelong friends: Ilana the High Queen is a Wise Woman who foresaw the arrival of the four students in a dream sent by Aslan, and is described as "often merry, but sometimes mysterious". Caelin is more mercurial: she is said to have the quickest temper but the shortest memory if it turns out she was wrong; if she is right, on the other hand, she is not one to cross. Malfoy is curious about them not being completely human and asks how much. Oren quickly rattles off the proportions for Ardan and Ilana, each of whom has a single human grandparent and is thus ⅛ human, and for Caelin who is ½ human, but Gilles…he is technically ¼ human, but he's a special case. He asks the students if they have "skin-turners" where they come from, and if so whether they change voluntarily into any particular animal. Hermione says that they do, and Harry tells Oren about how werewolves are forced to change at full moon, whereas Animagi can choose when to turn; also the latter are not necessarily wolves although it's not clear how much choice they get as to their form. Oren asks whether these skin-turners are considered evil and Malfoy butts in, saying that most people think werewolves are "bloodthirsty and disgusting" and shun them. Hermione considers whether to slap Malfoy while Meghan points out that werewolves are just like other people: some good, some bad. Malfoy protests that he was only saying what most people think, which fails to mollify Meghan. Oren tells them that most skin-turners in Narnia are related, most are wolves, and they choose when to change. Traditionally they are seen as evil but every now and again one of them breaks ranks, and one of them was a boy named Gilles. Malfoy's reaction to a werewolf king is instant and negative, but Oren calmly points out that he could always just live in the woods until Aslan comes and he subsides, much to Hermione's amusement. Harry points out that actually the king is much more like an Animagus, in that his transformation is voluntary and controlled. Oren agrees, saying that Gilles is a skilled fighter in both his forms: he will be training both Princes. Hermione and Meghan are indignant: they want to learn to fight as well! Oren reassures them that they will not be "kept behind an embroidery frame", they will learn archery and sword-work from Queen Caelin, who will also tutor all four of them in music. Hermione is surprised when Malfoy responds to the latter with what sounds like real interest, wanting to know if she plays or sings. Apparently both, and she might teach them some songs from her mother's people: Meghan is intrigued and wants to know who they are. Oren sighs sadly: the Queen's mother, Reasa, was a merwoman captured by a Calormene "knight" who did not treat her ina proper manner. (Although he avoids giving them the brutal details, all four students realise the implication. Hermione shivers while noticing the reaction of the others: Harry and Meghan are visibly angry and even Malfoy shows a slight outrage—although she wonders whether this is because of the mention of cross-breeding.) Oren continues, noting that some suggest it would have been kinder had Reasa died, but that would have deprived them of at least one Queen and possibly all of the Kings and Queens: Caelin is a talented healer and has saved them all at least once. When Meghan asks whether they can learn that, Oren says perhaps while Harry points out that they will have a lot to learn already: she retorts that it never hurts to learn more. Hermione deflects the argument by asking about the High King and Queen: the former blends many kinds of blood (human, faun, dryad, and naiad) while the latter's ancestors were almost all dryads. They will be tutoring the youngsters in other arts. Meghan asks if this will include dancing at which Oren laughs and tells her that she will be very happy in Narnia. He continues telling them stories while they walk to the rendezvous with Nata and the boat, and thereafter while they float downriver. Dinner is brought to them in a hamper slung between a Stag and Doe, who allow the girls to stroke them before galloping off. They pack the leftovers in the hamper for breakfast, and Oren predicts that they will arrive at Cair Paravel in time for lunch—after which their new lives can begin.
Meghan awakens the next morning so excited she can hardly eat: her sleep was filled with dreams in which the Kings and Queens reacted to her arrival both positively and negatively. She hopes that they will like her, but worries that she will not be able to be a "proper Princess", whatever that is. She consoles herself that her fellow students hardly conform to the stereotype she has in mind, but they do have much more to offer than she does. She stops herself dwelling on how she has failed her mother, while a voice whispers encouragingly to her that healing might well be at hand. Oren announces their arrival as they bump gently into the dock, and thanks the river naiads who have been providing their propulsion. Meghan experiences a brief burst of panic that she might not prove acceptable…which is burst abruptly by a furious voice yelling:
She looks up to see a woman wearing what seems to be a cook's apron chasing a black dog down the steps from the palace. She yells further abuse and throws a small black object which nearly hits the dog. When the latter stops at the bottom of the steps and whines up at her, she yells a final imprecation and hurls something metallic which rings as it lands on the dock, narrowly missing the dog: she marches back inside and slams the door. Meghan runs to pet the dog which is sitting at the bottom of the steps looking forlorn: she wonders aloud who that "horrible woman" was and suggests she ought to be fired if she's hurt this poor dog. Harry coughs to interrupt her, showing her the metallic object the woman threw at the dog: although rather battered it is encrusted with precious stones and still manages to look somewhat regal. Oren bows to someone behind Meghan and greets them politely: Malfoy's eyes go wide while he bows and Hermione curtseys. Meghan turns round to find the dog replaced by a tall man with dark hair, who takes the crown from Harry once the latter is also done bowing. He shakes his head over his coronet, muttering that it's bent again, but manages to persuade it to stay on his head. He smiles down at Meghan and offers his hand while introducing himself as "King Gilles". He thanks her for her support, but he hopes she doesn't insist on firing the lady with the temper:
|“||I'd rather not lose the best wife I've ever had.||”|
Meghan takes his hand, looking into his "laughing gray eyes", and wonders whether everything might actually turn out right.
- King Gilles of Narnia
- High Queen Ilana of Narnia
- Queen Caelin of Narnia
- Harry Potter
- Hermione Granger
- Meghan Freeman
- Draco Malfoy
- Nata, a Naiad
- Oren, a Dryad
- ↑ An almost-direct quote from canon Sirius…
- ↑ Presumably the infodump she received earlier?
- ↑ He was thinking about this in the previous chapter.
- The Lion, the Snake, and the Safe Room, Chapter 4 on FanFiction
- The Lion, the Snake, and the Safe Room, Chapter 3 on Fanficauthors.net
|The Lion, the Snake, and the Safe Room|