Of Tarkaans, Dukes and Badgers

The Beach near Sted Cair


Megren sits on the end of the harbor dock, legs swinging over the edge.

Haft strolls down the dock toward her. “Don’t fall in. You’ll get your boots wet.”

Megren tilts her head back far enough to see who’s coming. “That would be a disappointment,” she agrees.

Haft says, “I wondered where you’d been spending your free time. It’s a nice view.”

Megren scoots so that he can have as nice a view. “I like it,” she agrees.

Haft joins her, dangling his own feet over the edge.

Megren says, “How are your duties running? We haven’t had much chance to cross paths, it seems like.”


A butterfly comes fluttering toward you from the footpath to the southwest.

Haft says, “All right. Lady Avery keeps trying to send me into town to enjoy myself. I wish she wouldn’t.”

Megren laughs. “Sounds right.”

Haft purses his lips. “Also, I might have offended the Tarkaan Chlamash.”

Megren glances at him, brows drawing together.

Haft rubs the back of his head. “I was muttering something to myself while he was talking to Lanisen in the libray. He overheard part of it and it took me a moment to realize the two of them had, uh, started talking about /me/. At which point I tried to smooth things over. The Tarkaan suggested to Lanisen that they go somewhere more private for the balance of their conversation.” He colors a little. “Well, a guardsman doesn’t evict a nobleman from a library, so I offered to leave and did.”

Megren asks, “Talking about… what you were talking to yourself about?”

Haft says, “Apparently the Tarkaan has been having trouble sleeping. I never have trouble sleeping in a room full or snoring, wheezing guardsman. I must have said it out loud, but I think he only caught part of that. Goodness knows what he thought I’d said. And something about how everyone’s been worried lately. I gather he’s been overthinking…things.”

Megren squints an eye, not quite tracking all this.

Haft says, “I…keep a running monologue sometimes, in my head, when other folks are talking and I’m on duty. I wasn’t on duty, but some of the commentary slipped out.”

Megren says, “Hm.”

Haft says, “I think it’s done with. Don’t expect he’ll bring it up. But I know we’re being careful, and you’re my commanding officer, so I thought you’d better know.”

Megren says, “I appreciate that. Thank you.”

Haft asks, “Yeah. Anyway, I’ll keep my monologues to myself. How’s the other business looking?”

Megren asks, “His Grace, you mean?”

Haft says, “Yeah. Or any other claimants or politics, I guess.”

Megren says, “Mostly I’ve seen arguments about whether it need be a human, and some arguments about how to test the candidates quality. None especially compelling, I’m afraid, though I’ve reported it to the council, in case it rounds out their impression of the Narnians’ wills.”

Haft asks, “Has anybody else applied? Human, Animals…other?”

Megren says, “Not that I know of. Several beasts have asked if Sir Darrin or Lady Avery or I are here for it. Lanisen, too, I think.”

Haft’s eyebrows elevate significantly. “Lanisen? Whatever would give them that idea?”

Megren says, “Just the fact he’s human, I think.”

Haft says, “Well no one’s asked me. I should wander town out of uniform more.”

Megren grins. “Aw.”

Haft says, “Don’t get me wrong. A guard in Anvard is worth ten kings in Narnia…but one does like to be asked.”

Megren says, “I’m sure the Narnians would love to hear that.”

Haft says, “Yeah, well, I tell you this in confidence. No need to pass it on.”

Megren clicks her tongue. “Being a knight is no fun.”

Haft turns toward her. “Why not?”

Megren says, “You have to respect people’s confidences and all that.”

Haft snorts. “If you prefer to have me follow Deonyc home, by all means repeat what I said to Lord Peridan.”

Megren says, “I won’t, I won’t.”

Haft says, “Good. I don’t think I’d ever hear the end of it.”


Megren asks, “Do you wish you were home?”

Haft mulls this over for a moment. “No. I don’t think I do. Seems like there’s useful work to do here, that’s gonna mean something to the future of Archenland. I’m happy to help in that.”


Megren’s mouth curves crookedly. “Good.”

Haft says, “And keeping an eye on Lady Avery isn’t as dull as one might expect.”

Megren asks, “No?”

Haft smiles. “No.”

Megren squints an eye.

Haft says, “Nothing.”

Megren asks, “Because you enjoy watching people make eyes at each other?”

Haft says, “Depends how they go about it. It’s a good deal more amusing than watching lords draw up trade agreements…well, not that one involving the melons…but usually.”

Megren says, “I suppose that could be.”

Haft asks, “What about you? Glad to be here?”

Megren says, “Sort of. I don’t feel entirely useful — not like I did at Anvard. But I think half that’s figuring out how knighthood works. It’s sort of your job to find a way to be useful wherever you find yourself, I think.”

Haft says, “You’ve presented information to the council, you said. That seems useful.”

Megren shrugs. “A lot of ideas repeated over that I imagine they’ve already heard.”

Haft asks, “Probably. They seem to be leaning any direction, or is it all confusion?”

Megren says, “The second.”

Haft shakes his head. “How long do you reckon they can sit on it before…I don’t know…”

Megren says, “I guess they know better than me.”

Haft asks, “Suppose. What about the Duke himself?”

Megren says, “He doesn’t seem a bad sort. He did that feast yesterday, I don’t know if you came by. He seems like he’s trying to get to know the people, and to do well by them. It feels a bit of an imposition to me, but of course, we’re coming from his majesty’s philosophy, which wouldn’t have anyone suggest themselves.”

She pauses thoughtfully. “It also feels a bit as if… well, he’s trying hard, which is good, but also he’s having to try about things that should… come more naturally. You know? You shouldn’t have to throw a feast to get to know the people, or get them to feel cared for.”

Haft asks, “I didn’t go, no…I suppose that’s true. Didn’t King Peter and his royal brother and sisters throw any number of great feasts, host festivals and tourneys, though?”

Megren says, “Well, sure, yes.”

Haft says, “I’m not sure I see the difference. Unless you think he’s just trying to garner support.”

Megren shrugs uncomfortably.

Haft says, “Maybe he just likes parties. Hard to say.”

Megren says, “I suppose.”

Haft asks, “Did they serve cider?”

Megren snorts softly. “I didn’t see any, but I didn’t stay long.”

Haft says, “Uncultured barbarians. Don’t give him the throne.”

Megren says, “I will include that in my report to the council.”

Haft says, “You do that. Tell them I could recommend a family of truly excellent Badgers with a taste for the drink.”

Megren says, “So far I have met only excellent Badgers.”

Haft says, “Admirable species.”

Megren says, “Entirely.”

The conversation continues on a variety of topics as the sun sinks lower in the west and the shadow of Cair Paravel creeps over them.

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