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Josie had finished her tale more curtly than she had intended, and afterwards had gone back to her rooms to wait for Tash to come out of his sulk. She was not sure where he had gone, but he had seemed very glum indeed at being rejected by Gerald. For his part, Gerald was tired and doing his best not to be, screaming and running around and striking out at Josie when she tried to get him to settle, and it was a long hour before she got him to calm down and drift off to a teary nap in the corner.

She flung herself down on her bedclothes, feeling the smooth silk against her face. Tears welled in her eyes, but she fought them down. All the things she had left out of her story – the things she would not tell Gerald either, if she were to tell it again – were roiling inside and making her feel horrible. There were so many things that it was so much easier just not to think of.

‘Lady Josie?’ It was the delicate musical voice of the gazelle Mirilitha, speaking from the curtained doorway. She had sat quietly listening at a respectful distance from the men while Josie had told the tale of how she had come to be Mistress of Telmar.

‘Yes?’ said Josie, sitting up. ‘Come in, if you like.’

‘Thank you, Lady Josie,’ said Mirilitha. ‘I would like to speak with you, if it is not too bold of me.’

‘Of course it is not too bold of you,’ said Josie. ‘And please just call me Josie. I don’t want to be a Lady lording it over you, just because you are a talking animal and the Lion supposedly put us men in charge of you once upon a time.’

‘Thank you, Lady- thank you, Josie,’ said Mirilitha again, stepping into the room and pacing over to Josie. ‘I am so very glad that you are alive and safe. You have changed a great deal, Josie, but you are not dead, or – broken, into an evil sorceress – and this makes me happier than I can say.’

‘It must have been horrible for you when I was taken away,’ said Josie. ‘I hope you did not get into too much trouble on my account.’

‘We were very worried,’ said the gazelle. ‘It was awful. Murbitha wanted to turn back at once, but I said we should go on and tell his Lordship what had happened. So in the end I did that. When his Lordship had to return to Balan – when he had the news about his brother – I went back to Caladru’s people. And then I did not get into so much trouble: though Caladru was angry with all of us. Caladru blamed Radamatha the most, for sending you off with us, when it turned out that was the wrong thing to do. But I did not get into so much trouble, since I ran off with Kodoru before I could. Kodoru and I were not the last to leave. In the end more than half of Caladru’s people went away, and now we live in several little herds instead of one big one.’

‘I am sorry that my bad luck went on to cause so much trouble to your people,’ said Josie. ‘I was only with you a little while, but I do think about all of you often. What has happened since then? How are Murbitha and the others?’

‘It is not at all your fault, Lady Josie,’ said Mirilitha. ‘The old women say that the troubles were stored up over many years, and many things would have brought them out.’

Josie could tell the truth in this, but she still did not like to think that she had been the straw that had broken the camel’s back.

Mirilitha went on in her lilting voice. ‘Murbitha stayed with Caladru, and she is the herbkeeper and lorekeeper for that herd now, since Radamatha died the winter before last.’

‘I am sorry to hear that she is dead,’ said Josie. ‘She was kind to me, and I do not think that it is her fault at all that I was taken by the ifrits.’

‘It is kind of you to say so,’ said Mirilitha.

‘What of Alabitha?’ asked Josie, remembering the first kindly voice she had heard when she was spilled into this new world, and thinking of the innocent girl she herself had been when she first walked alongside the Lion’s Pool. She felt sorry for that girl she had been, as if she were a stranger.

‘Alabitha went with her mother Falabitha to join Olodru, when the herd was broken,’ said Mirilitha. ‘His herd wanders mostly away to the south, near the edge of the hills of the Pugrahan. From what I hear, she is turning out beautiful and clever, but not overwise – probably the same as you were told of me, when I was not much older than she is – though perhaps they did not say I was clever.’

‘I am sure they told me you were clever,’ said Josie, with a little laugh, reaching out a hand to pat the gazelle girl’s neck. ‘So you dwell with Kodoru now?’

‘Yes, Josie,’ said Mirilitha. ‘I live in a little herd with Kodoru; we live mostly not far from where you were carried off. I have two foals – Ishmu and Zoratha.

‘Congratulations,’ said Josie. ‘I am sure they are beautiful and as quick-witted as you are.’

‘You are very kind to say so,’ said Mirilitha. ‘And congratulations to you, also: I can see for myself that your son is very clever and finely-formed.’

‘Thank you,’ said Josie. She remembered how when she had felt her body beginning to change she had felt nothing but fear and shame. She had asked Tash to seek out a certain plant with white hairs on its leaves that grew in shady places on stony ground. But Tash had picked the wrong leaves, or they worked differently on human women than on gazelles, or there had been some other mischance. Josie had been very ill for a night and a day, but her womb had not convulsed to push out the half-formed child. Soon after that Tash could smell and feel that she was different and she had to explain to him what was happening. Tash had been pleased to have a child from the beginning; she thought he understood that he could not possibly have made him, but she had never been able to bring herself to explain exactly what had happened.

Then Josie began to feel the stirring in her belly, at first something she thought she imagined, and then more and more, until it was obvious that there was a creature inside her, a demanding thing as willful as herself. She had been sick for months, and ached all over, and her body had been stretched like toffee and torn like cardboard, and she had been through an agony that seemed to last forever when she thought she would die and half hoped she would, and at the end of it she had a slimy mewling creature that did not seem human. She had called him after her sister, in hope that she would not think of him always as the son of the bandit chief; and sometimes days would pass now when she did not remember who he was. Whatever Tash knew or guessed, he had been devoted to the boy from the very beginning, when he was nothing more than a strange way Josie smelled and a story she told him; and now Gerald loved him in return, in as much as he could in his selfish infant way. ‘He is the son of Tash,’ Josie told herself, over and over again. ‘The son of Tash.’

‘It seemed when we were travelling that Kodoru was courting you,’ said Josie. ‘Murbitha said he was not serious.’

‘He was as serious as he could be,’ said Mirilitha. ‘He is like Arabitha also – cunning but not wise – but has been a good husband. And with Ruatha and me to temper him, he is well on his way to building a fine herd.’

‘Ruatha?’ asked Josie.

‘She is my sister-wife. You probably do not remember her.’

‘I cannot understand what it would be like, to be happy being one- one of many wives, like that.’

‘You are not a gazelle, Lady Josie,’ said Mirilitha, shifting uncomfortably. ‘So you cannot really understand.’

‘Of course not, you are right.’

‘When Prince Margis came through our land, I knew that I had to find out the ending of your story,’ said Mirilitha. ‘So I left my family behind for a time; I could not have done so, if Ruatha were not there to look after Kodoru and the foals when I was gone.’

‘That is good.’ Josie felt her eyes welling up with tears again. ‘I wish I knew what it was.’

‘What it was, Lady Josie?’

‘The ending to my story,’ said Josie. She choked back a sob, and gushed out the words. ‘Oh, I do not know what to do, Mirilitha. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I have become here. I feel as if I am the most desperately wicked girl who ever lived. I did not do what Aslan wanted me to do, and I thought he had punished me, but would leave me alone. And it got more bitter all the time, being left alone, so I was not sure that I wanted to be left alone; but now you have all come here, and it seems as if Aslan is giving me another chance to do what he wants; but I don’t know if that is really what it is, or how he will punish me if I refuse, and what will happen if I do what he wills.’

‘I am sorry, Lady Josie. You are confusing me.’

Josie could see that she was upsetting the gazelle- as always when her kind were nervous, Mirilitha was acting as if she wished she could bolt for the door and fly far away. So Josietook a deep breath and tried to make herself speak more slowly and calmly.

‘Please, just Josie. I am sorry, Mirilitha, this is not your concern. I should not talk to you like this. So much has happened, and there are so many things I would like to talk about – with my sister, I would like to talk with my sister – but she is dead.’ It felt strange and cruel to say out loud that her sister was dead. ‘But you are as close to a sister as anyone I know in this world. And I do not know what I should do.’

‘It is not my place to tell a Daughter of Helen what she should do,’ said Mirilitha meekly. ‘But if the Lion wills that something should be done, we are taught that we should will it to be done too.’

‘Those are the rules of this world,’ said Josie, both resigning herself to them and resenting them as she kept up her efforts not to go to pieces. ‘I suppose I must do what must be done, and see what happens.’

‘I am sure you will do what is right, Josie,’ said Mirilitha. ‘The Lion would not bring us all safely through so much to this place if it were not so. If you are meant to do something, you will do it now, and not fail.’

‘I don’t know,’ said Josie. ‘I hope you are right.’

Mirilitha put her head down next to Josie, and after a moment Josie began to run her hand over her fur, as if she were a dog. Mirilitha did not seem to mind. ‘I do wish that you could stay here,’ she said.

‘I need to get back to my children – and my husband and sister-wife and sister-children,’ said Mirilitha. ‘It is good to see you, Josie, but this is a grim place for gazelles.’

After a minute she went on.

‘If you will forgive me speaking as if I were a Daughter of Helen, Josie, I do not understand why you would stay here, instead of going to the lands where men dwell. After we have done what Aslan wills – if it is to be – if we can free the dumb beasts of this place who should not be dumb beasts – you could return with us to Calormen. Then you could live among men, at no very great distance from the land where we live, and come speak with us whenever you wished.’

‘I must stay here with my husband,’ said Josie. ‘I cannot take him to the lands of men. The men would not understand. Tash is not a man. Neither is he a talking beast. He does not fit in this world.’

‘If you treat him as a Son of Frank, it might be in time that the other men will treat him the same way? In time?’

‘I can hear what they say when they think I cannot hear, Mirilitha. And when they speak of him even when they know I can hear, I hear the word ‘monster’ in their voices.’ I am the true monster, thought Josie. Tash cannot help but be what he is, but I have pretended the rules of my own world did not hold here, knowing in my heart that they did. I have done wrong to Tash, to make him my husband, and I have done wrong in the sight of God. It is obvious now that the men of Calormen are here; I hear their voices, and smell them, and know that they are my people, and I have done a monstrous thing.

‘They have only been here a very little time, Josie,’ said Mirilitha gently. ’After more time, it may be-‘

‘No,’ said Josie. ’No, he cannot live among men. So neither can I.’

‘Lady Josie-‘ began Mirilitha, but Josie interrupted her, determined to change the subject.

‘Dear Mirilitha, do you think you could sing me one of the songs of the gazelles? You sing so beautifully, and I have often remembered the sound of your people singing.’

‘What sort of a song do you wish me to sing, Josie?’

‘I do not care. Anything.’

‘A happy song, or a sad one?’

‘It does not matter. A sad song will fit my mood, and that will be good; but a happy one might lift it, and that would also be good.’

Mirilitha thought a little time, while Josie sat quietly by her side and waited, and then she began to sing.


Tash returned not long after sunset, and curled up around his wife. She was quiet and stiff at first, and through she relaxed after a time her face looked to Tash like she had been weeping.

‘Do not be sad, Josie,’ he told her, running the smooth backs of his claws over the smoother white skin of her forehead. How splendid she was, he thought: he had found nothing in any world to compare to the look and feel of her, his Josie, Mistress of Telmar.

‘And you should not get so angry,’ she told him. ‘Prince Margis does not mean any harm. He is only trying to be friendly.’

‘I am sorry I upset you,’ Tash apologised. ‘But I wish they would do what they came here to do, and then go away.’

‘So do I,’ said Josie, biting her lip in the way Tash knew meant she was not sure of what she was saying.

Tash tried not to be afraid. ‘The men have not said what the owl said, that they have come here to find the secrets of Telmar. I wonder what secrets they hope to find.’

‘We will not tell them about the apples,’ said Josie, patting Tash’s arm in a reassuring way. ‘They caused enough trouble when the sorceror had them.’

Tash went on. ‘If they are not looking for the sorceror’s magic for themselves, it seems strange that they would come all this way just to look upon Telmar, and see for themselves that the sorceror was dead and you are not an enemy.’

‘I expect it is Aslan’s doing,’ said Josie with a sigh. ‘You were there when Prince Margis said that he has always felt a desire to come here, just because nobody has, and he admitted himself that it did make sense. He said he meant to go here long before we came to this world – well, before I came here.’

‘I wonder still what he is not telling us,’ said Tash. ‘Maybe they have come seeking the apples, or something else the magician had.’

‘It could be,’ said Josie.

‘I can tell you are worried,’ said Tash. ‘I am sorry I upset you. I will do my best to be more polite.’

‘Dear Tash, you are forgiven. A thousand times.’ Josie turned her head to kiss Tash’s beak. ‘I cannot tell whether the men have any dark secrets, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. They haven’t given us any reason to not trust them.’

‘I will try, my Josie.’

Josie softened further and pressed up against Tash in a way she had not done since the Calormenes had come to Telmar. ‘Do you want to hear the song Mirilitha sang me this afternoon? I cannot sing it anywhere as well as she could, of course, but I can try.’

‘I would like that,’ said Tash. So Josie put her lips close to Tash’s head and softly sang to the tune the gazelle had sung that afternoon.

Bring back to me the songs

The songs we sang long ago;

Bring back to me the sweet, sad music

That warmed the cold hearts of the people.

Too quiet are the streams and pools;

Too silent the cliffs and gorges;

Look my way with your dark eyes

And stir up a thousand echoes.


Fill me again with the fire

That first made my dust into flame:

We are young and thirsty with desire,

And we will drink at the pool of desire.


The song sets our feet-dancing

The song sets our hearts dancing,

The song make our spirits dance

And makes stone flow like blood.


Soft amid the rushes of the March Plain of Sha

The breeze of morning sings:

Bring me the song that is like fire

Brighter and clearer than the song of the breeze of morning.