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Tash could not understand why the leaders of the beasts had attacked so fiercely, instead of just letting those who wanted to eat the magic food eat it: people always seemed to want to interfere with what other people were doing, whether they were thalarka or humans or talking animals or gods. Tash did not ask Josie why she had decided that they must leave, nor did he try to argue her out of it. It had been clear all along that what Jardil had said was true: that the place of Josie and Gerald was with the other humans. It was also true that it would be much harder for the three of them to live alone in Telmar from now on, after their actions had stirred the beasts of the Vale to such violence. Leaving  was a wise thing to do: this was a precise statement of indisputable fact. But he hated it. Telmar had become his home: the only true home he had ever had. Here Josie was his, and Gerald was his too: but outside they would slip away from him, further and further, and he would be left with no one. This too he knew to be a precise statement of indisputable fact. He did not know whether it would be swiftly or slowly, but he knew it was coming, as sure as a break in the clouds would close again.

‘We have to go, Tash,’ said Josie later that night, clutching one of his hands. ‘I’m sorry.’

No, he wanted to say. No, never, we must stay here. But he did not say anything.

‘I am so sorry about Blackbriar,’ said Josie.

‘It was not meant to be like this,’ said Tash.

‘I’m afraid it was,’ said Josie, and began to cry. Tash wrapped his arms around her.

‘Don’t worry, my Josie,’ said Tash. ‘It will be alright. You are my Josie, Lady Josie of Telmar, whatever happens.’

Josie silently drew close to Tash, and pressed her cheek against his chest, and in a little while they joined together as wife and husband for the last time.

They buried Eyit in the morning, in the garden where Tash had been a statue, in the very place where the panther or leopard or whatever it was had stood frozen in stone for so many years. Next to him they buried Longface, the boar who had died in the battle fighting on the side of Aslan. The sow-women picked flowers until the bushes were quite bare, and strewed them over both graves like a blanket.

‘We will never forget those who died so that we might speak,’ said Primrose, the sow-woman who had done most of the talking for the pigs since their transformation.

The rest of the day was spent in making preparations. Josie put away all the things of the men of Telmar that they could not take with them, to stop them as much as possible from being ruined by the weather. ‘Though I don’t suppose it matters, if no one comes back her for years and years and years,’ she said. Many of the more precious things she had taken down into the secret chamber. There the magic was beginning to fade: she could tell at once.

‘It is not going all at once, but it is going,’ she said. ‘Can you feel it, Tash?’

‘A lot,’ said Tash. The bubble of preserving magic left long ago by Aslan had done what it was needed for, and now it was trickling away, swift enough for him to feel the current of its passing.

‘What will we do with the apples?’ Josie asked Tash, for only the two of them were there in the secret room. But she still spoke in a soft voice, hardly more than a whisper.  ‘Shall we leave them here, or take them with us?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Tash. ‘If we take them, someone will find out about it in the end.’

‘Yes,’ said Josie. ‘Who knows what will happen? There may be other sorcerors who want them. But they may be gone before then – we could help other people with them.’

‘But not very many,’ pointed out Tash. There were only two of the apples left, not enough to bring more than a handful of injured or sick people back from the brink. ‘How would we pick?’

‘Well, if Gerald was hurt,’ said Josie.

‘Of course.’ But they both knew that the apple would not let Gerald live forever, since he had not come into the world from another. One day he would grow old and withered and die, and they would still go on and on, if nothing happened to them. But both of them tried rather a lot not to think too much about the future.

‘Would it make Gerald strong and healthy, if we gave it to him now?’ asked Tash. ‘When he is not sick?’

‘I think so,’ said Josie. ‘I could feel it work on me, even though I was not injured.’

‘Maybe we should do that,’ said Tash.

‘Maybe,’ said Josie, and they stood silently together for a long time in the cool of the secret room, listening to the silence. ‘I will take them,’ said Josie at last. ‘I don’t think they will stay fresh very much longer, now that the magic is fading. So they will just rot away down there. Don’t worry, dear Tash, I will watch over them carefully.’


The next morning, when the transformed beasts of Telmar had regained their proper forms, and were talking beasts of Telmar, they raised a cairn over the place where Blackbriar was buried and set out from the Vale of Telmar. Prince Margis and his four men; Josie and Tash and Gerald; and the talking beasts: Mirilitha and Ofrak, the dogs Cinder and Larkwail, and the five pigs: Primrose, Cabbageheart, Hyacinth and Oakenfoot together, with the ruddy one, Loudrain, walking as near to Josie as he dared. They were all on foot (or hoof, or wing), with the men leading their horses, on the carpet of dry leaves beneath the ancient dark cypresses. The Calormenes, men and beasts, were only too glad to leave: and for Gerald it was simply a grand adventure. But for the others, the leavetaking was tinged with bitterness.

‘You will miss the forest, too,’ said Primrose to Tash. She snuffled behind him at the back of the party, without the fear that the other talking beasts of Telmar showed when Tash drew near.

‘Yes,’ said Tash. ‘I have been happy here. That is the way to my fishing hole, over there.’

‘We call that Agate’s pond,’ said Primrose. ‘Agate was a sow who lived in my grandmother’s time. She liked to wander off from the others, and sun herself by the water there.’

‘Josie is fond of fish,’ said Tash. He looked ahead, and felt an anger that he tried hard to quash. He had handed Gerald to his mother before he dropped back to the end of the party; and so he could not really protest now that Josie had passed the boy on to Prince Margis. Now Gerald was riding on the royal shoulders with great cheerfulness.

‘We cannot catch fish,’ said Primrose unnecessarily. ‘And the ones we find dead are not nice to eat.’

‘Yes,’ said Tash, without really listening, still looking at his son riding on the Prince’s shoulders.

‘I am sure there are many good things beyond the valley,’ said Primrose wistfully after a moment.

‘Yes,’ said Tash. He remembered the last journey he had made along this path, and the feel of his talons cutting through flesh; the taste of the apple of living forever, and the sour smell of desperate hopelessness that had clung to Josie for so long a time after they returned. ‘All the places that lie beyond that I have seen are very nice.’

As for Josie, she too was sunk in dark thoughts for as long as they walked under the cypresses. She had given up fighting, she felt. Instead of willfully trying to do things her own way, and resenting the injustice of all that had happened to her, she had resolved to carry through with what Aslan had proposed for her to do. She felt mostly a horrible guilt that everything might have turned out better for everyone, if she had done what Aslan had wanted her and Tash to do in the first place. Then Blackbriar might be alive, and the others who had died might be alive, and-

‘What’s done is done, silly girl,’ she told herself. ‘You can’t very well wish that Gerald wasn’t there,’ she thought, smiling at the thought of the laughing boy despite her dark thoughts. Yet – she still did wish that Gerald wasn’t there, with a small part of herself that was the same as the small part of Tash that had thought of biting through Prince Margis’ throat.

Josie went on in this way feeling guilty and miserable until she could smell the fragrant woods that lay beyond the Vale of Telmar, and feel the warm breeze from the south. Then it was as if she had walked out of a dark room into the sunlight; she felt happier than she had for a long time, and not in the least guilty or miserable. I have learned that these are the times when it is most important to be very careful and think through what you are doing, or you are liable to make terrible mistakes.

‘I am so happy that you have come with us,’ said Mirilitha to Josie. ‘The gazelles will be so happy to see you, though you were with them such a little time.’

‘I will be happy to see them, too,’ said Josie. ‘I would love to hear them sing again, all together.’

And memories of when the world had been unexpected and beautiful and new flooded back to her, and it was as if the world was like that all over again.

During this journey Loudrain did not walk close beside Josie all the time, but scouted about her as if he alone could guard her from danger. He ran ahead to check the path for places where her feet might trip, and took care to be standing there when she got to those places; and he darted into the bushes to either side, sniffing out the spoor of any beasts that might be troublesome.  The other pigs studiously ignored him.

‘You don’t need to do that,’ Josie told her self-appointed new protector. ‘You will tire yourself out.’

Loudrain snorted in a way that would have been very obnoxious indeed if he had been a man, instead of a talking boar. ‘I want to do what I can,’ he explained, looking as crestfallen as it is possible for a pig to look. ‘But I will do what you say, Lady Josie.’

‘It’s alright,’ she told Loudrain, reaching out to pat him. ‘You can go ahead. But if you do get tired, you must stop and walk alongside us.’

Josie and Tash hardly spoke two words to one another that morning; but neither did they speak with Prince Margis and the other men, walking along speaking only with the talking animals.  Down the tumbled slope they went into the valleys below, which were not so thickly shadowed over with cypresses, and they came now and again through sunny meadows thronging with flowers. The new air made Josie feel alive, but every step also made her feel like she was becoming someone else: each step further from Telmar made her less Josie, Mistress of Telmar, and more somebody else, and she did not know who that person was. In one of the meadows they stopped to eat a meal, and Gerald excitedly explored the strange new place. Mirilitha trotted along beside him, having assigned herself the job of his nanny for the duration, while Tash hung further back, guarding him from afar.

‘Mother! Feel this!’ cried Gerald, running up to her with a flower he had found. Josie felt the soft petals of the flower, and pressed it to her face. ‘That is not a kind we had in Telmar,’ she told him. ‘It smells a little like something I remember, from when I was a little girl, but I can’t remember the name.’ It had been in the very first garden she could remember, before they moved out to Moora, and she moved through her fragmentary pieces of memory of that time with wonder and trepidation.  These flowers had not been blooming before, the last time she had been here.

‘Shall I get more?’ asked Gerald.

‘Yes please, my dear,’ said Josie. A few minutes later found her sitting with a lap full of flowers, feeling unaccountably happy.

Tash looked at her from the edge of the meadow – she was sitting alone in a patch of sunlight in the middle of it – and thought of how much he could not bear to be parted from her, and familar seethings of lust and magic stirred in his blood. If he had been a man, he would have seen how Prince Margis looked at her as well, and he would have narrowed his eyes and resolved to stick close to Josie, and keep Prince Margis at bay: but he was a strange creature from another world, the last of his kind, and he had no great skill at reading the faces of men and women.

‘Lord Tash,’ called Jardil, from the edge of the meadow where the men of Calormen were sitting together. ‘Will you have something to eat?’ He held aloft a loaf of what Tash recognised as his own bread, the bread that Josie had made in the castle of Telmar.

‘No,’ he said, and something dark moved inside him, like a cloud blocking out the stars.


At sunset they came to a place above a bend in a stream, where a great tree falling over some winters ago had made a clearing. The edges of this were tangled with briars and wild roses, and damp underfoot, but a broad sandy space in the middle was clear, and here they made their camp.

‘We should sleep apart,’ Josie said, when Tash came up to her in the gloom. ‘Not far apart, but.’ Tash let his arms droop a little, and bowed his head a little – not in the same way he had been used to do when he was young and useless – and they set their bedrolls a little distant separate, with Gerald between them.

The Calormenes spoke together cheerfully enough – for they were going home – and treated Josie still as Mistress of Telmar, bringing her whatever she wanted as if she were a high-born lady of Calormen. The beasts did the same, as if they were her servants; and especially they watched over Gerald, and sought to amuse him, and cheer him up when he grew tired and cranky.

So Tash found himself useless again, but in a way he had never been useless before: he was useless because there was nothing for him to do.

A long time after the camp had fallen silent, Tash could hear Josie lying on the other side of Gerald, breathing as if she were awake. He had become very good at telling whether she was awake or not in the time they had been together. Besides Josie and himself, Tash was certain that only Ofrak was awake; but the bird had no need to sit by the fire and warm his hands. He was high in the trees, or above the trees, now here and now there, a finer guard by night than any human could ever be. Tash shuffled out of his blankets and over to Josie’s side, staying hunched over instead of standing all the way up, half-crawling like he was some kind of six-legged creature. He could not have said why he walked this way, any more than he could have explained why he suddenly needed to talk to Josie. He plucked at Josie’s shoulder through her blanket, and she rolled over to face him.

‘What is it, Tash?’ she asked. He could hear the distance in her voice, the brittleness that had been growing by slow degrees ever since they had turned their back on Blackbriar long ago and headed back to Telmar – the brittleness that had grown so much more swiftly since Ofrak had batted at their window, that was now like a shell hiding Josie from him.

‘I don’t know,’ said Tash.

‘We can’t talk here,’ said Josie softly. ‘Let’s- let’s go for a walk.’ She held out a hand and Tash helped her to her feet, and they walked slowly hand in hand to an edge of the clearing and then a little further, into the maze of briars beyond, trying to be as silent as possible. The night insects helped: they were loud, much louder than they ever were in Telmar, and the chatter of the stream over the stones in the ravine below helped too. They were not far from the camp, but these noises meant they could do anything short of shout without waking the others. Josie’s hand trembled in Tash’s hand as they walked along, and it seemd to Tash as if her heart was beating much too swiftly, like the heart of some frightened small animal.

Under the thickets the leaf mould had a thick decayed odour, which mingled with the scent of the wild roses. And the moon was full: so to Tash the whole scene was as if painted in silver paint.

Josie let go of Tash and took a half step away from him, moving slowly and carefully so as not to catch herself on the briars.

‘I’m so sorry, dear Tash,’ said Josie.

‘What have you done?’ asked Tash. He was angry – still angry – but not at Josie. He was angry at everything else that was spoiling this world, where for a time things had been going so well for him.

‘Things I shouldn’t have done,’ said Josie. ‘Things we shouldn’t have done, Tash. I always knew it was wrong. But I did it anyways. It wasn’t fair on you, because you didn’t understand – you couldn’t. You aren’t a man, you don’t come from my world. But I did understand, and I shouldn’t – I shouldn’t.’

She spoke these disconnected fragments quickly and clearly and if she were trying not to cry, as if she were making a report to a policeman.

‘We can’t be betrothed, Tash. We can’t be married. It’s not right.’

Tash looked at Josie’s face, dry in the moonlight, the sadness in it making it more like the face of poor dead Nera, and he thought how much he loved her.

‘We are married,’ said Tash, slowly. ‘It is done.’

Josie shook her head violently. ‘No,’ she said. ‘We aren’t really. It is not allowed.’

‘Maybe it is not allowed on your world,’ said Tash, still slowly and calmly. ‘But you said once, maybe in this one-‘

Josie cut him off.  ‘Bother what I said. I was wrong. I was very wrong. Very, very wrong. I shouldn’t have done it. I wanted you, so I did it, knowing I shouldn’t. It was unfair to you.’

‘I wanted you to,’ said Tash.

‘You don’t understand,’ said Josie, raising her voice a little for the first time.

‘I know,’ said Tash. And he would have let his arms droop and bowed his head, even a few days before, but he had been growing brittle inside at the same time as Josie had been growing brittle outside, and he stood up straight.

‘You don’t know,’ said Josie, and the bitterness in her voice was like the dark spaces between the stars. She began to make her way further on through the thicket, parallel to the stream; away from the camp, not towards it.

‘Why should it not be allowed?’ growled Tash, following her. ‘Who said it should be forbidden?’

Then he saw the Lion. It was washing its paws on the other side of the stream.

‘No,’ he cried, and forged ahead of Josie, crashing heedlessly through the bushes and sending stones flying from under his feet. ‘Don’t take her away! Don’t!’

‘What are you doing?’ called Josie, who had nearly been knocked over as Tash ran by. ‘Tash! Tash!’

Tash did not heed her, but crashed on down the slope, until he fell more than stepped into the stream. His foot slipped on a stone, and he crashed over sideways into the cold water.

He raised his head. The lion was standing on a rock in the middle of the stream, looking down at him. Josie was still calling him; but her voice was faint and it was impossible to tell what she was saying, as if she was much further away than she could possibly be. It was as if he had fallen into a well of silence.

The Lion said no word to Tash, but he did not have to. His meaning was clearer than any words Tash had ever heard. Follow me, his face was saying. This is not your story anymore, the Lion was saying. But there is still time to chose the way I wish you to chose, to take the path without Josie in which you are a forgotten hero. Cross the stream, and leave Josie forever, and follow me. Tash knew all this in an instant, looking up at the face of Aslan, and in an instant he rejected it.

‘No,’ said Tash. ‘Why should you decide?’ He picked himself out of the water. The magic of the apple burned bright in his bones- the apple stolen, but not by him; the apple given him by Josie- and he was angry; angrier than he had ever been before. He launched himself at the Lion with an inarticulate howl of rage.

Aslan batted Tash aside with a single great velvetted paw, and set him sprawling over the pebbled bed of the stream again. When  Tash stood up Aslan was gone, and the sounds of the forest had come flooding back.


Josie did not know how she could have done anything else. It was hard on Tash. She had become a cruel woman, she knew, and whichever way she turned she burned with guilt. She believed what she had said to Tash, that she had done wrong before, but she also knew that she was doing wrong now. There is no perfect path through life, she thought , bitter at the unfairness of it. There was no broad road of flowers and cool breezes that you could safely walk along without hurting anyone. All choices were bad: some were just worse than others.

Josie held on tight to Gerald – Gerald, who had been distraught at the noise and the sudden disappearance of his parents, and was snuffling softly into her shoulder. She rocked him back and forth. ‘No, the bad dogs and the bad pigs have not come back,’ she said. ‘It’s alright. It’s alright, Gerry.’ And she kept on rocking him back and forth and telling him lies while Prince Margis and his men returned with Tash, and while Tash had a snarling one-sided quarrel with the Prince.

‘Why did you run off like that?’ Josie asked Tash when he approached, smelling of cold wet feathers.  She could feel the closeness of him as he loomed over her, like the wall of the secret garden in Telmar. Gerald sniffed, and sniffed again, and had time to gulp a breath of air before sniffing again, all the while looking up at the creature he called father.

‘The lion,’ said Tash. ‘I saw the lion. This is his doing.’

‘Maybe,’ said Josie. That is what the people who belong in this world would certainly say, she said to herself. Everything that happens here happens because Aslan wills it to.

‘I saw him,’ said Tash. ‘He wants me to go away.’

She should not have picked tonight to tell Tash, she told herself. She should have waited longer, until a better time. But was any time better than any other? It had all become so tangled and uncomfortable.

‘You don’t have to go away,’ said Josie. But her voice did not sound very convincing to her own ears. Tash did not seem to notice.

‘Can I have Gerald?’ he asked.

‘I don’t think you have quite calmed down,’ said Josie. But Gerald stretched out his arms and wriggled and said ‘Daddy.’

‘In a little while,’ said Josie, sharply.

‘Daddy!’ called the boy, and wriggled in Josie’s arms with a great wriggling.

‘Bother the child,’ grumbled Josie. ‘Here, then. But stay close.’

‘Yes, Josie,’ said Tash. His voice was again infuriatingly obedient, and she passed the boy up to him.

‘Stay close,’ said Josie again. ‘And he has to go back to sleep, so don’t get him all excited.’

‘Yes, my Josie,’ said Tash, and took Gerald- still moistly snuffling through the last of his unhappiness –away toward the other side of the campfire.

Josie made her way back to her sleeping place, slow and careful so as not to trip or get lost in the unfamiliar surroundings. She was almost there when she heard someone following her.

‘Prince Margis?’ she said, without turning around.

‘Lady Josie.’ He took a few steps nearerer, and she could smell him clearly. Fresh sweat from the sudden scramble down the ravine after Tash’s cries, but mostly the old sweat that clung to his clothes after the day’s walk, and the perfumed oil that he had taken to wearing in Telmar to replace the stock he had exhausted during his journey. It was one that reminded Josie of Zardeenah, rather than Yustus.

‘I am fine,’ she told him. ‘We were just speaking.’

‘I am glad to hear it, my Lady,’ said Margis, stepping closer to Josie. ‘He said he saw the Lion.’

‘I did not hear anything,’ said Josie. ‘If he was there, he was very quiet. And he did not stick around to say anything. I expect it was a lion, rather than the Lion.’

‘I have never heard of one so far north,’ said Margis. ‘But perhaps.’ He paused a little while, and Josie could hear leaves crunching under his feet as he shifted them about. ‘It pains me to see you upset, my Lady. Is there any that I can do?’

‘No,’ said Josie. ‘Nothing that will help. My problem is of my own making, and it is up to me to sort it out.’

‘You are weeping,’ said Margis softly. He reached out a hand and dabbed away a tear from Josie’s cheek. Once again, as had happened when they were at the stream, and before, at the banquetting hall, something like an electric shock ran through Josie.  The ancient magic stirred in her blood; and the yet more ancient magic, that goes back to the primordial slime a billion years before men.

‘I will be alright,’ she said. ‘I should not cry. I am stronger than that.’

‘You are strong indeed,’ said Margis. He tooked her hand between his two hands and held it close to his chest, and she did not pull away. Big long-fingered hands he had, leathery without being over-calloused, and her hand was folded completely away inside them. ‘You will do great things in Calormen, Josie. You have done great things already in this world; but you have only just begun.’