In Which Chess is Played and Past Christmases Discussed

Library
*
You stand in a surprisingly long, quiet room that runs the length of this side
of Cair Paravel’s west wing. The room is narrow in shape, and thus appears to
be more of a long, unusually wide corridor. Someone has constructed a series
of shelves along the north wall, under tiny windows that let in only enough
light to see by. Torchwicks line the south wall that can be lit for
additional illumination, and under them sit several wooden tables and
accompanying benches.

The floors are bare, so your footfalls send hollow-sounding echoes through the
marble walls. There are archways at the southeast and west ends of the room —
the west archway leading into the northwest tower, and the southeast archway
leading into the common gallery.
*

Edmund takes a leisurely pace along the length of the outer library wall, his footsteps echoing down the corridor with each step. From time to time he stops to consider a volume, either pulling it from the shelf to join a small pile he’s gathered at one of the tables, or sliding it carefully back into place after a brief glance-through.
Chlamash enters the library with a quick step, pausing at the sound of another’s footsteps.
Edmund looks up at the sound of another. “Ah,” he says warmly. “Chlamash Tarkaan. Hast come to browse the histories again, I surmise.”
Chlamash bows very deeply as Edmund greets him. “Your Majesty, it is indeed so. I hope that I have not intruded upon you.”
Edmund places a last book on the short pile. “I should not think so. Indeed, I was just desiring after a skilled adversary at chess. It has been a full month, I think, since I sat to a game of it — not since Prince Cor’s last stay at Cair Paravel.”
Chlamash says, “I should be much honored, Your Majesty, by such an invitation. I have heard that his Majesty is an excellent opponent at such.”
Edmund says, “Very good. In that case, let you sit, and I shall hunt after the set. Shall I have Uldus ask after some tea and sweetmeats whilst I seek it out?”
Chlamash nods, “It should be most pleasant, Your Majesty and I thank you.”
Edmund inclines his head and departs down the passageway to speak with Uldus.
Chlamash inclines his head to King Edmund as he departs the Library and makes his way towards an unoccupied table, setting himself and waiting for King Edmund’s return.
Edmund returns after a short time, a dryad following after him with a chess board and set of pieces. The dryad lays the pieces on the table and goes to set a couple of lamps where they may better light the table. Edmund sits across from the Tarkaan and indicates the board with a wave of his hand. “Dos prefer silver or gold?”
Chlamash says, “Silver, is most acceptable.”
Edmund hands him a velvet lined bag in accordance with his request, and then begins to set his own pieces. As they fill out the board, Uldus arrives with a tea cart and a tray of saffron bread with quince jelly, honeyed chestnuts, and candied ginger. Edmund thanks the Faun, who bows and departs again.
Chlamash takes the proffered bag of pieces, and likewise begins to set out his pieces, looking up when the cart arrives.
Edmund plays in a slow, quiet way.
Chlamash plays very quickly, sending his pawns straight away out into the board. He plays with flair and daring, though after sometime it maybe clear has not played in some time.
Edmund’s strategy is more cautious, and after a time it becomes clear that he prefers to use his opponent’s occupied spaces against him and attempt to trap the king with his own pieces, rather than to clear out the board. He uses this strategy and Chlamash’s daring risks to focus the match on their queens, slowly sending his other pieces in to trap the white king so that when Chlamash takes Edmund’s queen he accidentally opens himself up for a checkmate.
Chlamash recognizes his mistake all to late, “It is well played.”
Edmund inclines his head to accept the compliment. “And thou. I see I had it right, marking thou a worthy opponent. Thy skill has only increased since last we played, I think.”
Chlamash says, “Your Majesty is most gracious.”
Edmund nods his thanks to Uldus when the faun returns to clear their board. “Hast come here in search of a particular book, or wert looking to browse?”
Chlamash says, “To browse, Your Majesty. I seek to understand…” he pauses thoughtfully. “I seek to understand Narnia and her peoples.””
Chlamash says, “Her histories. Much it seems, I have been told in error.”
Edmund lifts his brows. “A sizable task. But a worthy one, I think. To understand Narnia, one might start by first endeavoring to understand the Lion who created Our land and ruleth it. But I think such as task might be still more unending than the original. Tell me, what is it hast heard in error? Perhaps we may start in righting that, and then, when our foundation is well-layed, mayest we build upon it.”
Chlamash shifts uneasily at the mention of the Great Lion of Narnia. “I should not wish to dishonor Your majesties nor inhabitants of such a fair land to speak of the base and unbecoming prattle such as I have heard spoken in my own land.” He pauses, “Still as Your Majesty has asked, “I shall speak of it though I have found while I have been here but little and have found little substantiation.”
Edmund waves a hand to request he pause before continuing. “Perhaps we may dismiss that which you already know to be false and lay our wits toward that which remains in confusion. As you say, let us not squander our labor on that which is does not merit it.” He takes up his tea cup and gestures for the Tarkaan to proceed. “What is there you have yet to unravel?”
Chlamash says, “I seek your majesty discover Her ways and habits, her peoples, her morality. For though I had been but enemy, I have been treated with courtesy of a noble guest. Even that Your Majesty and noble kin would to treat to speak with me such as I. I do not understand Your Majesty’s grace to one like me. I have sought learning of such a fair land in the search of this.”
Edmund looks thoughtful, and he does not answer immediately. After a moment’s reflection, he asks, “You know of the Witch which held our good country under her hundred year spell?”
Chlamash nods, “Indeed, your majesty.”
Chlamash says, “Such I have heard from my father, and his father before him. Till the year the our Tisroc (may he live forever) rose to the throne.””
Edmund speaks in a gravely frank manner. “I knew her, in the days when I was very young — the Archenland princes are now older than I was when I first beheld my throne. You speak of those ‘such as you’ — it recalls to my mind something which she said to me during that time.”
Chlamash listens quietly gravely to the king as he speaks, the stroking of his beard his only movement.
Edmund says, “There were — why, a whole group of Narnians, it was, Foxes, and Squirrels, and the like, all feasting, for Father Christmas had just returned to Narnia. But the Witch was displeased by their merriment, as it gave yet one more sign of her diminishing power. She called it treachery to celebrate the return of one whose presence foretold her ruin — and rightly so, one may say, for the Narnians were indeed not loyal to her, so cruel was her hand over them. Seeing her raise her wand to punish them, I pleaded she stay her hand.” He pauses before recalling. “She did not. They were all of them turned to stone: the Fox. The Satyrs. A Squirrel babe.”
Chlamash looks vaguely disquieted Edmund speaks of the merry Christmas party turned to stone. “Stone, Your Majesty? Her sorcery must have been great indeed.”
Edmund inclines his head, releasing a quiet breath. “It was having committed this deed that she spake a thing which has echoed in my mind long after. She bade me take lesson from it, to ‘let it teach me to ask favors for spies and traitors’. I believe it has done, though not in the manner which she intended.”
Chlamash is quiet as if digesting what King Edmund has told him. He strokes his beard and is silent.
Edmund allows him time to digest the words, but says after some quietude, “You are no traitor to us, Chlamash Tarkaan, though the Tisroc may see you otherwise. Perhaps you may /be/ a spy clever enough to hide your intent from us and lay long in wait without taking the many small opportunities to
betray us that have arisen in the time you have lived in our land. But I do not think so. And I would offer thee favor whatever may have been thy past deeds. I have seen what effect a hard and untrusting hand may have, and I have seen firsthand how much the offer of kindness and sacrifice may lend toward the restoration of even a great churl.”
Chlamash says, “your Majesty speaks rightly, for there is no love towards the Tisroc (may he live forever) in Calormen. Even his ministers fear him, yet here in Narnia…I have moved by kindness shown to me. Lord Peridan is a good man.”
Edmund says, “Lord Peridan is just and kind. We are glad to have him among our Council.”
Chlamash says, “I am overwhelmed your Majesty, by your magnanimity for you say that you offer me favor despite my past deeds.””
Edmund says, “Be not so. You followed your Prince, and you believed what you were told was correct. Did you not surrender of your will when you deemed it right? Your kinsmen would have counted you brave and noble for remaining at the prince’s side, but you did not allow such favors to keep you from the right deed when it became clear to you. There can only be admiration for such courage, to admit wrong, and to be true to one’s king only so far as one’s king is true to his people and to what is right. It is a much smaller deed to grant grace to such a one as you than it was when the Great Lion and the people of Narnia did the same for me.”
Chlamash nods gravely.
Chlamash says, “I wish to make reparation to Archenland, though I have but little left to me.””
Edmund tilts his head, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. “It is well thought of. Mayhap it should take some reflection. Had you a thought to what form that reparation might take?”
Chlamash says, ” I had hoped that I might make amends through Lord Peridan to one of the Lords when he whence he visited, but I fear it came to nothing. I have but what little wealth that I have brough with me.” He takes from his hand one of his rings. It is a ring set with a large ruby. I do not believe that any word from me shall answer for what has been done.”
Edmund runs the backs of his fingers along his jaw and small beard, and then leans back. “I think not gold or jewels. Let us put our minds to it and return to one another in a few days, having considered the problem at better length.”
Chlamash nods. “I shall do so, Your Majesty.”
Edmund says, “Very well. In the meanwhile, our library is available to you, as it has always been.”
Chlamash nods, “My thanks, Your Majesty.”
Edmund rises, his hands resting on the table. “And I have promised my good sister a ride through the southern wood before dark. I expect she will be very sore with me if I am not timely in going to her.”
Chlamash rises and again bows deeply, though a small smile hides in the corner of his lips. “You must go to her then, Your Majesty. I thank you for all that you have shared spoken today. I shall keep it in mind.”
Edmund says, “Let us not allow the matter to fall aside. Shalt speak on it again, and soon.”
Chlamash nods, “A good Evening, Your Majesty.”
Edmund says, “And to you, Chlamash Tarkaan.”

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