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In the morning they gathered again in the grand hall of the half-ruinous castle of Telmar.

‘Ofrak has told us your reason for coming here, Prince Margis,’ said Josie, standing up straight at one end of the long table. ‘But I think there is another one.’

Margis glanced at Jardil, who kept his attention politely focussed on the bejewelled Mistress of Telmar. Ofrak perched magisterially at the Prince’s left, apparently pleased that his name had been mentioned.

Josie went on. ‘You know that Aslan came here long ago because the men of this place were wicked, and turned them into dumb beasts. There is a place here that was set aside then – by the Lion – for restoring them when the time was right. Restoring their descendants, that is. I think that is why you have come, even if you did not know it, and why Blackbriar is here.’ Josie felt she was not explaining things very well.

Prince Margis nodded respectfully. ‘I have long dreamed of coming to this place to do some great deed, not knowing for certain what it was I might be called upon to do. So what you say is not unwelcome to me.’

‘I do not know exactly what you are supposed to do, but I know that you and I both have a part somehow in restoring the men of Telmar, using the things in the place Aslan set aside,’ Josie continued. ‘Blackbriar is one of them. That is why she went off to seek the lands of men.’

‘I always thought she was an exceptional creature,’ said Margis cheerily. ‘Have I not always said there was no other like her, Jardil? Please, Lady Josie, tell us the tale of this place set aside by Aslan.’

‘I can tell you the tale –but I do not know the beginning. I was given the key to the place by one of the ifrits, when they left. That is the key you returned to me.’ Josie paused then for a long moment.

‘Maybe we should just show them,’ said Tash. Even as he said this, Tash regretted saying it. He did not want the strangers in the secret places of the castle.

‘Indeed, if you wish, Lady Josie,’ said Prince Margis. ‘Showing is twelve score times telling, as we say in our country.’

‘Yes,’ said Josie. ‘Yes, let us go there. I will show you the place and tell you what we know of it, and then I will tell you how we defeated the sorceror.’ She let Tash take her hand, and they left the hall in as grand a manner as they could manage, followed by Prince Margis and his advisors.


In the hidden chamber of the castle Prince Margis eagerly went forth onto the dais, marvelling at the mysteries left behind by the immortal Lion who was said to be son of the Emperor Beyond the Sea. ‘Did you ever imagine you would see such wondrous magic?’ he asked Jardil, peering with keen interest at the viands that had been miraculously preserved as fresh as the hour they were made for hundreds of years.

‘Never, my Lord,’ Jardil replied.

While Jardil followed Margis no more than a pace or two distant, Ofrak hung back, reluctant to perch on anything that might have been touched by Aslan. Mirilitha hung yet further back, at the bottom of the stair, and from her manner would have fled back to the surface if she had not found it so difficult to traverse them. The black bitch – Blackbriar, or Onyx as Prince Margis called her- had stayed well away from the hidden chamber.

Tash and Josie stood side by side at the edge of the dais where the box of apples was. While the men’s lanterns cast long wavering shadows around the room, Tash held his dimmer lamp higher and stiller, providing most of the useful light in the chamber. Gerald clung to Tash, wide-eyed; he had not been in the chamber before, and was troubled by a thought that he could not put into words, that the whole of the ground underneath his feet might be riddled with rooms full of mysterious things, both wonderful and terrible.

‘It truly is a marvel, my Prince,’ said Jardil. There was something like awe in the voice of the cynical old courtier. ‘To my eye, this armour looks like it would fit you better than any suit of mail made by your father’s smiths. And this other, it is as though it were crafted expressly for the Lady Josie.’

‘It is splendid,’ said Margis. ‘And more than splendid. It is humbling to think that such a destiny has been set before us.’ He lifted one of the goblets from the table and turned it from side to side in the light, then set it down again. ‘But I wonder what precisely it is we are to do. Do you know anything of the will of Aslan in this matter, Lady Josie?’

‘Not exactly,’ said Josie. ‘We tried before, feeding some of the food to Blackbriar to see if it would make her into a talking animal. Instead it turned her into a woman, but only for a little while, and then she turned back.’

Prince Margis could not help making an exclamation of amazement. ‘By the Lion’s wounds!’

Josie held tightly on to Tash. ‘She turned back; so there is more to it than that. Perhaps we are meant to bring the beasts whose ancestors were the men of Telmar here; or bring the whole feast out to them. I don’t know. But I think there must be something more than that – with the armour.’

‘Yes, such mail is hardly necessary to preside over a feast, unless it is unruly indeed,’ said Margis. ‘But you would agree, Lady Josie, that a good place to start would be to seek out these beasts, and speak with them?’

‘They don’t speak,’ Tash pointed out helpfully.

‘Doggie,’ said Gerald.

‘Of course, Lord Tash,’ said the Prince. ‘Speak to them, rather. For I understand from what the Lady Josie has said that they can understand speech? And that she can understand to a degree what they might wish to make known?’

‘Blackbriar sought us out,’ said Josie. ‘And we worked out together a way for her to answer my questions. I think the others will understand us; but I do not know if they will make any effort to answer.’

‘We will have to be most encouraging, then, Lady Josie,’ said the Prince. ‘I expect- Blackbriar – can act as our intermediary.’

‘I think so,’ said Josie.

‘Are they all dogs?’ asked Margis. ‘The tales I have heard tell that the men of Telmar were turned into dumb beasts, but they do not say what kind.’

‘There were dogs, and pigs,’ said Josie. ‘I don’t know much about the pigs, and whether the dogs can understand them or not. But there are many of them in the valley.’

‘You should not look so downcast, my Lady Josie,’ said the Prince. ‘We will do this thing that Aslan has charged us with. It is destiny.’

‘She does not look downcast,’ said Tash, stroking Josie’s face.

‘Piggie,’ said Gerald, and followed his father’s lead with his own sticky hand.

‘A trick of the light, it must have been,’ said Prince Margis, with a little bow. ‘My apologies for such forwardness, Lady Josie.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ said Josie, her fingers going unbidden to the ruby key that hung on a golden chain around her neck.

‘What is kept there?’ asked the Prince, taking a step towards the Mistress of Telmar and indicating the box of magic apples with a nod of his head.

‘More foodstuffs, preserved by the magic of this place,’ said Josie. ‘But left here by the sorceror, not the Lion – not Aslan. So no part of the things Aslan left behind.’

‘It is marvellous, is it not?’ said Margis. He gazed intently at Josie’s face in a way that Tash did not like. ‘The power of the sorceror was great, but even he did not dare to ruin any of these things that were touched by the power of the Lion. We are fortunate that there is so great a power working for good in the world.’

‘There is strong magic in here,’ said Josie. ‘I think it would have been hard for the sorceror to come close to it.’

‘If Aslan is so powerful, why did he not destroy the sorceror?’ asked Tash.

‘Who can say, Lord Tash?’ said Prince Margis, spreading his arms wide and smiling a rueful smile. ‘It is not as if he were a tame lion. But since the world began, there has been evil unpunished, and virtue unrewarded.’

‘It was we who destroyed the sorceror,’ said Tash. ‘The Lady Josie, and I, and the ifrits.’

‘I would most like to hear your tale, Lord Tash, if you wish to tell it,’ replied Margis courteously. ‘I am sure the accounts of the sorceror’s end that have come as far as Balan are but garbled traveller’s tales.’

‘Mummy?’ said Gerald, tangling his sticky hand in Lady Josie’s hair.

‘I’m alright, Gerry,’ said Josie, in a small sniffly voice. ‘Ow.’

‘By your leave, Lady Josie, do you think we might remove the suits of armour from this room?’ asked Jardil. ‘They seem to be made to fit your Ladyship and Prince Margis as you are at this very moment, and it may be intended that you are to wear them when you go out to meet with the beasts.’

‘As you wish,’ said Josie. ‘I think – I think this must be the time.’

How very young she still is, thought Jardil. And how uncertain she sounds. She does not like this treasure chamber, nor this talk of the Lion. She is not of this world, and doubtless has hidden powers. The Prince is foolish to play at being in love with her. But still, she is only a girl. There was no way they could leave her here, with the monster: it would not be right. And her boy deserved to grow up among men.

‘There seems no reason to delay,’ agreed Margis brightly.

‘Then you must go and speak with Blackbriar,’ said Tash. ‘Right? Right?’ The voice of the creature was harsh, Jardil thought, like the voice of an old hawker in the market.

‘Yes,’ said Josie. ‘We will all go and speak with Blackbriar.’

‘Of course, if the Lady Josie desires it,’ said Prince Margis, with a bow, and started for the stairs. Mirilitha went before him, as quickly as she could manage, and Ofrak followed a little way behind him.

Jardil brought up the rear, staying behind a moment longer to detach some pieces of the suit of mail that seemed to be made to fit Prince Margis. He saw how Josie nudged Tash with her elbow, and inclined her head, and how the creature understood this unspoken command. While two of Tash’s arms continued to hold Josie’s son, the other two picked up the wooden box and carried it from the treasure chamber. Like so many things he had observed over his life, Jardil made a note to himself to be sure to remember this box which Josie had made little of, then taken care to remove from the chamber when the Prince’s attention was elsewhere.

When they emerged from the treasure chamber, they could not find Blackbriar. She was not where they had left her sunning herself in a courtyard. Josie called to her, and Prince Margis called to her, and she did not come. The men searched all the parts of the castle where she had been, and Tash strode out by himself to search the more distant, ruinous parts of the castle. Ofrak flew wide circles high above the stronghold of Telmar and could see nothing.

‘Though it is too bright for my eyes,’ he admitted in a crestfallen way, reporting back to Lady Josie and Prince Margis on the terrace outside the grand hall. ‘I may well have missed her.’

‘The doggie has gone away,’ said Gerald, who was sitting playing with some jewels for marbles.

‘The doggie will come back,’ assured Josie, with a confidence she did not feel.

‘Yes,’ agreed Gerald, with absolute certainty. ‘The doggie will come back.’

‘You sound very sure, my little man,’ said Margis, crouching down on his haunches and ruffling the boy’s hair. ‘I hope you are right.’

‘I am Lord Gerald,’ said Gerald defensively. ‘I am right.’

‘Very well, my Lord Gerald,’ said Prince Margis, with a laugh that would have made Gerald furious if he had been a very little bit older. ‘Perhaps, my Lady Josie, the bitch knows better than we what we are to do at this juncture. It does not seem as if any enemy stole in here and led her away; so if she is walking into peril it is of her own will. I will hope that she is as sensible as we have found her to be until now, and will return safely soon.’

‘You are probably right,’ said Josie. ‘Gerry, come here.’ She gathered her son, who did not insist on being called ‘Lord Gerald’ by his mother, up into her arms.

‘With your leave, Lady Josie, and my Lord Margis’ said Jardil. ‘You had said, Lady Josie, you would relate the tale of how you and Lord Tash vanquished the sorceror, and came into possession of Telmar and its secrets. While we wait for Blackbriar to return, perhaps we might sit by the fire and listen to your tale?’

‘That is probably wise,’ said Josie. ‘Come, Gerry, we will tell the men our story.’

‘Yes,’ said Gerald, very solemnly.

The men, as well as Ofrak the owl and Mirilitha the gazelle, settled down to listen to Josie’s tale of how they had vanquished the sorceror, and she began to tell it. The one big thing she did not mention at all in her story was the apples that gave strength and youth, and let you live forever if you had come from another world. This did leave a curiously-shaped gap in her story, but it seemed enough that an evil sorceror would want to move into a body as young and fair as hers, once her eyes were restored.

‘It is a dreadful thing, that he should have sought to treat you so,’ Prince Margis had said vehemently.

‘Most assuredly,’ Jardil had agreed. ‘But meaning no offence, Lady Josie, it is passing strange that he should seek to take your body for his own, when so many strong men could have easily been taken by his servants.’

‘I do not know,’ Josie had said unconvincingly.

‘If I may venture, sir,’ said Ofrak. ‘It may be that the whiteness of Lady Josie, and the fact that she was brought here from another world, put the sorceror in mind of the White Queen. You see,’ he bobbed his own white head in a polite bow to Josie, ‘She also came here, so the tales say, from another world. She was the most powerful magician that the world had seen. I have seen her likeness carved in many places here, and I have heard tales that she once tarried in Telmar, and was held in honour by the evil men who dwelled here.’

‘It may be,’ said Jardil.

‘What happened to her?’ asked Josie.

‘No one knows,’ replied Ofrak. ‘They say she could not die. At least, that is the story. She is said to have lived for hundreds of years.’

‘If this is true,’ said Prince Margis. ‘Which, Lady Josie, I doubt – I have talked over these matters with Ofrak before, and also with old men who knew stories of Telmar in Balan, before we left – if this is true, it does not mean that she could not be killed by an accident, or an enemy. I think this is why she has not been heard of for a very long time.’

‘Let us hope this has happened,’ said Jardil.

‘Yes,’ said Ofrak. ‘Of course.’


Tash, alone among the company, had no desire for Blackbriar to return. He wished the dog and the men and the owl and the gazelle would finish their business in Telmar as quickly as possible and go away, and waiting for this to happen made him impatient and ill-tempered. He could not remember exactly what he had read in the Books of Tash – a kind of darkness had settled on his memories of what he had read of his future life, and he could only remember the things he had read after he had lived them, never before. He did not remember exactly, but he felt that he was coming to a place in the story where he would do heroic things that others would take the credit for, or else do horrible things that he would regret forever. This feeling had come upon him like the itch of dry winter skin when Ofrak had first fluttered into his bedchamber, and had only become worse since then. Dim shapeless masses of memory waited a little way ahead of him, memories of things he had read that would soon become real, and he felt that there was nothing he could do to avoid them.

Tash had gone off alone to look for Blackbriar amid the shadowed corners of the ruins where he had once found the way to the Books of Tash, and came back to the great hall where the fire had been built high just in time to hear Prince Margis call Gerald ‘my little man’ again.

Gerald was sitting on Josie’s lap where she sat, close by the Calormenes in a pool of turbulent golden light by the fire. He had just interjected something into the story Josie was telling, and Margis had leant forward to tousle his hair, putting his head closer to Josie’s than Tash liked.

‘Surely you were not yet there, my little man,’ said the human Prince.

‘He is not your little man,’ growled Tash. ‘He is mine.’

One of the Calormene men-at-arms- the round-faced one, Hurras – laughed shortly at this, and Jardil turned an angry glare on him; but Tash did not notice, for his fury was centred on Prince Margis. Without willing it, he lifted his arms high and clenched and unclenched his taloned hands menacingly, and Margis’ men at arms stepped forward to defend their master.

‘It is only a figure of speech,’ said Josie. ‘Of course he is yours. Tash, don’t be silly.’

‘I meant no offence, Lord Tash,’ said Margis, looking up at Tash with calm dark eyes. ‘I crave your pardon.’

Tash lowered his arms slowly. ‘I suppose I am sorry,’ he said. Jardil made a cutting gesture, and the men-at-arms stepped back.

‘Mummy is telling the story of how you bit off the sorceror’s hand,’ said Gerald helpfully.

Tash bowed his head to the boy.

‘Lady Josie was telling how she would certainly have lived a short and cruel life as slave to the sorceror, if you had not been there,’ added Prince Margis.

‘It is all fine, dear Tash,’ said Josie. ‘Will you sit awhile with us, while I tell the rest of it?’ she asked.

‘Not now,’ said Tash. ‘May I take Gerald?’

‘Of course, dear Tash,’ said Josie, setting her hands so as to lift her son up to Tash.

‘I want to hear the rest of the story,’ said Gerald.

‘When the Lady Josie has finished, dear Tash,’ asked Prince Margis. ‘Would you be so kind as to tell us your own tale, of how you came to be in Telmar?’

‘Later,’ said Tash shortly. ‘Come, Gerald. Mummy can tell you later.’

‘I will put in all the parts I have had to leave out in talking to these men,’ Josie whispered to Gerald.

‘No,’ said Gerald, shaking his head obstinately. ‘I want to stay.’