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In the morning Tash and Josie went out to survey the damage from the earthquake. In some places they walked hand in hand, and in others Tash carried Josie. Anyone watching would have seen what they would not have seen the day before, that they were two people entangled beyond any hope of disentanglement. Josie reached out to touch Tash more often than she had before, without any hesitation, and her touches lingered longer, while Tash kept one of his hands always on Josie’s arm or leg.

There were new cracks and fallen masonry everywhere they went, but the place that had been struck the worst seemed to be the hidden garden where they had first met.

‘The whole of the outside wall is down,’ Tash said excitedly. He edged close and described to Josie how its foundations had given way. The cliff that they had climbed down had fallen to the base of the hill, leaving a new precipice that was crumbling and impassable.

‘There are still rocks and earth falling down, and the roots of one of the big trees are hanging out over nothing. I wouldn’t be surprised if it fell over.’ Josie could hear the insidious unsettling sounds of the cliff edge crumbling away as they stood near it.

Tash turned to the middle of the garden. ‘The statue of the woman in the middle of the garden has fallen over and she has broken in half- here, you should feel the jewels she has around her neck, Josie, and – the other statues-‘ Tash fell silent.

‘They are broken too?’ ventured Josie. She had been sure that they were not true statues, but beasts turned to stone even as Tash had been turned to stone. It would be a tragedy if they were broken now, beyond any hope of magical rescue. And she had not even tried to turn them back, she felt, with a pang of guilt.

‘No – they are gone,’ said Tash. ‘There is nothing left.’

As her momentary worry about neglecting the statues lifted, it seemed suddenly to Josie as it had the night before that anything was possible. She felt like she had it in her power to do great and wonderful and audacious things. She was afraid, but exultant at the same time.

‘Could it be that the enchantment wore off? Or the earthquake broke it somehow?’

‘It could be,’ Tash agreed without any great conviction.

Josie knelt down and felt at the hoofprints of polished earth that the stag statue had left behind. There seemed to be other hoofprints, newly pressed into the living grass, heading away across the garden to the fallen outer wall. ‘Or maybe-‘ she forced herself to say the name, using her newfelt sense of power. ‘The lion – Aslan- is here.’

‘It could be,’ said Tash, turning away from Josie.

‘Did you see anything unusual last night, before the earthquake?’ Josie asked Tash.

Through the hand she held she felt Tash stiffen, like someone who has just noticed that they are about to step on a poisonous snake. ‘Tash?’ she asked, with a hint of sharpness in her voice.

‘I saw him,’ Tash admitted in a gravelly mumble that made his voice sound even more unmusical than usual. ‘Over there, in a part of the ruins that fell down when the earthquake started.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ asked Josie.

‘I was distracted by other things,’ Tash mumbled.

At this Josie could not help laughing. She folded herself around one of Tash’s legs and kissed his thigh. ‘Of course you were, dear Tash. Husband Tash. Did he- Aslan – say anything to you?’

‘A little,’ Tash admitted. ‘He said- he said- that you were meant to go away from here, back to the place the ifrits took you from, and do something with the humans there. He said you had to take someone – the dog, I think -and then all the animals here who used to be men would be changed back ’

‘He didn’t want to tell me this himself?’ Josie asked.

‘He said that you wouldn’t listen to him, so I had to persuade you. I didn’t want- don’t want- to persuade you. I am sure there is another way.’

‘Another way?’

‘He said that we could not be together,’ Tash said. ‘He said that we were only going to be in each other’s stories a short time, and then go in different directions. He said you had to do this thing, and then go back to your own world. He said that I couldn’t come with you.’

A disorienting rush of feelings had swept over Josie. She felt guilty again, and she felt indignant at the same time that she was being made to feel guilty. She felt she was being herded, told what to do, as she had been (for her own good, always for her own good) all her life. She was not nobody, not anymore, poor little blind Josie Furness: she was Josie, Mistress of Telmar. She felt that she ought to obey, and she felt she should take a furious pride in not obeying.

‘Just because the lion says so doesn’t mean that’s the way things have to be,’ said Josie hotly.

‘I said that there had to be another way,’ said Tash.

‘We will find another way,’ said Josie, and squeezed Tash’s leg again. Then she said again ‘We will find another way,’ because it sounded more true the more times she said it. ‘It is convenient, isn’t it, an earthquake coming just as the Lion’ – she forced herself to say the name, she would not be frightened or bossed around, not anymore- ‘just as Aslan comes here?’

‘It is not very convenient,’ said Tash, puzzled.

‘I mean, he comes along and tells us we have to go, and at the same time he makes an earthquake to make us think the whole place is going to fall down on our heads. Obviously he is powerful enough to do whatever he likes – kill us or drag us off quick as spit if he wanted to – but he wants us to obey him. I don’t see why we should.’

Josie had not intended to get quite so angry. She had raised her voice and balled her hands into fists. Only a little bit of her anger was truly anger at Aslan, the lion whom she had never met, and who the beasts of this world credited with godlike powers, such as snatching girls out of the ocean and into other worlds. No, she was angry at the God of her own world, the one who had made her blind, who had taken her mother from her, taken her sister from her, taken her out of her home and sent her to the other side of the world to live with a man who had deserted and betrayed her family. She knew in her heart that Aslan was good, but she knew too that he was good in that terrible bloodless way that she had felt in the secret chamber, a good that she did not want pushing her around like she was a piece on a chessboard, part of some grand plan in which her feelings did not matter. Then there was the guilt she felt for what she and Tash had done, guilt stirred up by this talk of duty; for the rules that she had rejected with her conscious mind held her subconscious in an iron prison.

‘So we will not leave for the land of humans?’ said Tash.

‘Maybe one day,’ Josie said with determination. ‘Not now. Not on the say so of Aslan.’ She quashed her misgivings as best she could. ‘There was a time when I would have given a great deal to have Aslan show up and tell me what to do. But I don’t feel that way anymore.’


‘Good,’ said Tash. ‘I was supposed to persuade you. But I am happy not to.’ He ran his hands through her hair, relieved.

From the night of the earthquake onwards Tash could never again be as happy as he had been before, even though he was now betrothed to Josie. Hanging over him were the words of the Books of Tash and the words of the Lion, the prophecies that condemned him to be separate from Josie. He had said he would find another way, and Josie had promised that she would find another way, but the two of them were very small compared to all the worlds.

As spring came on with reckless haste, Josie and Tash turned the whole of the castle upside down, looking for anything that could help them. There was precious little that they could be sure would be of use. There were rings and amulets of the evil magician’s that were clearly magical, but they were not sure exactly what they were meant to do, and reluctant to experiment. Tash had tried to read the books the magician had left behind, but the strange symbols in them stubbornly refused to rearrange themselves into comprehensible ones. The whole of his time beneath Telmar had taken on a dreamlike quality, so that it blurred in his memory. Sometimes it could almost be forgotten, and was only there as a looming grey uneasiness: then the memory of a phrase read, or the face of the Lion, or a cruel image made of hundreds of pieces of stones, would come back to Tash with the force of a blow.

Then there was the dog. It had not returned for almost two weeks after the earthquake, and Josie had begun to worry that something had happened to it. Then one sunny day Tash went out hunting, and Josie came with him as far as the flat stone overlooking the fishing pool, and when he returned with a rabbit he had caught the dog was with her.

‘You were right, Tash,’ she said in a melancholy way. ’I have been getting her story out of her by this game of twenty questions, and it is filled with Aslan.’

The dog lay with her- head in Josie’s lap, looking soulfully up at Tash. It was a scruffy sort of animal, and had gotten a fair bit of mud on it with the change in the weather, but Josie did not seem to mind.

‘I am not sure what her name is. She is the only one who is like her; the others are not as smart. They have stories about how Aslan made them the way they are, and the pack leader says they should be content with their lot. But Aslan – I think – told her that we could help her. I am not sure if it was a dream she had or not. She finds you very frightening. It is very slow working it out,’ she sighed. ‘I don’t know, Tash, can helping her really mean that we have to be parted? What did Aslan say, exactly?’

Tash had been admiring the way the sun shone on Josie’s face as she spoke, and had to admit that he had not quite followed what he was saying.

‘Dear Tash, you are sometimes useless at listening,’ she chided him, and repeated herself. He looked so miserable after this that she had to shoo the dog off her lap and reach over to give him a hug.

Tash explained what the Lion said again. ‘He said I had to choose one of two paths, and neither of them had you in it, and that I had to persuade you to go back to the human lands, to a place called Balan, to make things right between the humans and the talking animals, and the sooner we went the better. And that the men of Telmar had been bad so he had punished them, but it was time for their descendants to be unpunished, and he had picked someone – maybe it is this dog – to be the one to help with them being able to talk again.’

Josie held on to Tash’s ankle in a proprietary way. ‘I don’t see how it can be true that we have to be parted, and that our only choice is to do exactly what Aslan says. It seems to me that we should be able to do the best we can to help on our own, without Aslan. There must be things we can do to help her without going off on a long quest to the human lands. I don’t know – Tash – that it would be easy for you in the human lands of this world, from what I have heard of them. Will you come into the castle with us, dog?’

The talking dog that could not talk swished her tail to-and-fro, three times. Josie reached out to scratch her behind her ears but did not let go of Tash’s ankle.

‘You will think of something, Josie,’ said Tash. Josie had a concentrated look on her face: she had remembered the gazelle Alabitha saying much the same thing, and thinking of that meeting reminded her again of Alice in Wonderland, and then she thought of the cake labelled ‘Eat Me’.

‘Maybe the food in the secret room would help the dog to talk?’ she suggested.

‘We know it is magic,’ said Tash. ‘You said not to eat it before.’

‘I know,’ said Josie. ‘It does seem rash. But I very much doubt the food is deadly poison. It might be worth trying. What do you think, friend dog?’

The dog had drawn back out of reach of Josie, and her claws skittered on the stone as she danced back and forth uncertainly.

‘I guess we should go,’ said Josie, holding up her arms so Tash could help her up. He scooped her up in three of his arms, holding on the rabbit with the other, and started off.

‘Come along, then,’ Josie called to the dog.

Tash carried Josie over the uneven ground along the edge of the stream back toward the castle, the dog following behind.


Tash peered at the almost-round balls of sweet-smelling pinkish fruit in the box, nestled in a bed of straw. ‘So those are apples,’ he thought. It was curious that something so simple and natural looking could be so dreadfully magical. There were only three of them, though it looked as if there had once been many more. Josie had shown him the box and then gone poking about the other things on the dais. She looked very much like the Mistress of Telmar, Tash thought , as she moved about in the reddish light of his lamp –she had tied her hair back with a bit of cloth of gold, and had put on when she awoke that morning a necklace of gold with dozens of red stones that he had found for her. She drew his attention irresistibly, inexorably. He would give everything to stay with her forever, to protect her and help her and feel her skin against his own.

‘I think this armour would fit me,’ she said. ‘It seems like there is one for a man and one for a woman, and it seems to be exactly the right size.’

‘It would look very nice on you,’ said Tash.

‘I still don’t know what to do,’ said Josie. She traced the embossed pattern of the lion on the chestpiece of the armour. ‘I remember being here before, saying that in these stories Aslan shows up to tell people what they have to do, so we should just wait until then, and now he has, and I don’t want to do what he said. I can’t do what he said.’

The dog had been reluctant to come any closer than the top of the stairs, and Josie had made no effort to encourage her to come closer. ‘She will come in her own time,’ she had said, and quoted. ‘Patience is a virtue.’ The dog had been very timid about accompanying them into the castle at all, and in the end what made her mind up more than anything else was it starting to pour with rain.

Josie set the armour back down and went to examine the table where the food was laid out as if for a banquet, gently sniffing and prodding at each dish. ‘This pie seems like something dogs would like,’ said Josie, selecting a meat-filled pastry about the size of her hand. Tash agreed. Dogs did not seem like very particular animals, from what he had seen of their habits; they had certainly been eager enough to devour the corpse of the magician.

“Maybe it would be better to have something dogs don’t like,’ he suggested. ‘Then, if the dog eats it, we will know it is because she understands us saying it is magic that could make her talk, and not just because she is hungry.’

‘That’s not a bad idea,’ said Josie. She put the pie back down and picked up a bowl of pickled turnips, getting purple stains on her hands. ‘I don’t suppose dogs are very fond of these.’

‘They are like grith, but nicer,’ said Tash. He was rather fond of them, and had eaten almost all of the magician’s stores of non-magical pickled turnip.

‘I know Tashes are fond of these, already,’ said Josie cheerfully.

The dog was wary of the rooms where Tash and Josie lived – they had the smell of Tash to them, who the dog was afraid of, and doubtless the smell of the magician, who generations of the dogs ancestors had probably been afraid of- so they had brought the food back upstairs to one of the unused rooms of the castle, a hall lined with empty bookcases with a big new crack running down one wall from floor to ceiling.

Josie addressed the dog, looking to Tash very much like a great queen or sorceress in her silks and jewels. ‘As you know, we don’t know if this will work; but there is magic food preserved for some reason in the hidden chamber of this castle, left there – we think- by Aslan when he turned your ancestors into beasts. One reason this might be so would be to turn your people back from being beasts. It might be dangerous, but if you want to try, here it is.’ She set a piece of pickled turnip in front of the dog.

Without hesitation, the dog snapped it up. She came forward and nuzzled Josie’s foot, and Josie gave her a pat. ‘Good girl,’ she said. ‘I hope that will do some good. Or, at least doesn’t do any harm.’

The dog let Josie pat her for a while, then gave an enormous yawn, walked over to a pool of sunlight in the doorway, and curled up on the tiles.

‘She is going to sleep,’ said Tash. ‘She seems to be quite asleep already.’

‘Well, maybe it wasn’t quite as magic pickled turnip as we hoped,’ said Josie. And then she said ‘what?’ For Tash had made a sudden startled movement.

‘She- she-‘ said Tash. It was not any less surprising than a statue turning into a living thing; but he had not seen that, just lived it. ‘She has changed into a human.’ She was darker-skinned than Josie, like the men and women of Telmar had been, and had a wild mane of black hair that came halfway down her back. The hair on her legs was much thicker than Josie’s, and she was curled up asleep in the same position she had been as a dog, which looked uncomfortable to Tash.

‘Hello? Miss?’ Josie stepped forward, bent down, and gently shook the shoulder of the sleeping woman who had been a dog. She woke with a yelp of surprise and scrambled to all fours, then fell into a heap; it appeared she had not expected her hind legs to be so long. She lay where she had fallen, gazing around the room with rapt attention.

‘Are you alright? Can you understand me?’ asked Josie.

‘Yes,’ said the woman, and her eyes widened as she heard the sound of her own voice for the first time. It was a voice that sounded human enough, but much deeper than Josie’s, and had the woody quality of notes struck on a xylophone.

‘What is your name?’ asked Josie.

‘Blackbriar,’ said the woman who had been a dog.