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This is for E who asked for a very specific fic for her birthday. Two things, no, three.

First, it’s Harold and Morgan, sort of, which means that if you don’t like that part of the story, best to move along.
Second, this answers the questions Peter and Susan asked themselves at the end of AW Chapter 8, which means there are spoilers for what happened in Narnia after the departure of the Four!!  It's all been hinted at since the very beginning of the story and is, in fact, a really critical part of my twisty vision of Narnia.  However, I've never spelled it out and so here it is, all in black and white.  This is how Harold & Morgan, Not A Romance, would end.
Third, it’s sad. I always feel like an idiot when I say this, but I cried when I wrote some of this and you know, embarrassing much since I wrote it?

You can thank or curse snacky for telling me to post this when I started to get cold feet and for helping me with typos.
Happy Birthday E and thank you for your research and support and thoughtful reviews. I suppose this might be fic of fic, and maybe AU of the overall vision, but by how much, I'm not saying.

Title: Acceptance Of The Terms
From T.S. Eliot, "If you haven't the strength to impose your own terms upon life, you must accept the terms it offers you."
About 4,700 words


"And we beasts remember, even if Dwarfs forget, that Narnia was never right except when a Son of Adam was King. … It's not Men's country … but it's a country for a man to be King of. … I tell you, we don't change, we beasts … We don't forget."
Prince Caspian, Chapter 5

"Oh, this is nice!" said Jill. "Just walking along like this. I wish there could be more of this sort of adventure. It's a pity there's always so much happening in Narnia."
But the Unicorn explained to her that she was quite mistaken. He said that the Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve were brought out of their own strange world into Narnia only at times when Narnia was stirred and upset, but she mustn't think it was always like that. In between their visits there were hundreds and thousands of years when peaceful King followed peaceful King till you could hardly remember their names or count their numbers, and there was really hardly anything to put into the History Books.

The Last Battle, Chapter 8


The first hard freeze of the Narnian winter was coming. Jalur could feel it in his bones in a way that he had not felt before. There was a thin film of ice forming on the dark surface of the bathing pond. For the first time in all his years, he thought the water looked too cold for swimming. He blew out a breath and it was tinged with frost.

If I had been faster, I could have stopped him.

He wanted to think that, but knew it to be a lie. He and Lambert had sensed the inexplicable madness falling upon the Four. Briony had been the first to see Aslan’s paws in it. Fooh had reached the Four just as they plunged into a thicket that closed behind them, so dense the Guards could not pass through it. Even the swiftest Cat of Narnia could not stop what Aslan decreed.

Jalur raised his head, inhaling deeply, hoping to catch some lingering scent of his King at here, at one of their favourite places. However, the scent was gone, finally disappearing in these past days as the leaves turned colours a Tiger could not see and fell to the hardening ground.

With the scent, the voice, the touch, and the presence of his King gone from Narnia, Jalur tarried at the bathing pond most days. Everything else was fading away, but the memories at least remained and were very strong here. They had come here the first day Jalur had agreed to be a Guard (temporary!). He had chased the Otters – but they were gone, too, exiled to the Glasswater. They had come here alone, after training, after battle, after trying days when his King did not wish anyone but his Guard to know of his frustration and strain. They had come here with the High King. They had come here with oranges for the Otters and with Banker Morgan and Jina the Hound, and with Rafiqa, Jina’s daughter, thereafter. It was there, under that tree, where his King had told Banker Morgan that they had, all unknowing, become a bonded pair under Narnian law. The bond could have been dissolved by order of the High King, which he would not have refused. Banker Morgan had stayed, for love of Narnia. She stayed still, though the one to whom she was bonded, Jalur’s Just King, was gone.

Are you happy, my King? Have you found a new Guard to protect you? Jalur wondered if King Edmund loved that new Guard as well. Might he love his new Guard even more? Jalur had vowed to Guard King Edmund onto death or the World’s End. He had always assumed it would be his death that would come first and that his King would mourn him and in due course find another. This sundering Jalur had never contemplated. It offered none of the closure and finality of death and the sorrowing joy when someone passed into Aslan’s Country.

Jalur could not mourn he who was not dead. He could not be angry, for it was Aslan’s will. He could not be happy, for it was not his own will. He could only be.

He caught a whiff of Faun on the chill wind and the faint clip of hooves on dying grass.

“Jalur!” Mr. Hoberry called. “May I speak with you?”

He turned his head about as the Head Housekeeper of Cair Paravel stepped down the slope into the dell of the bathing pond.

“You already have,” Jalur replied. His voice cracked from disuse. That was how it was, once, when he was a solitary Cat. He would go days without speaking to anyone. In the days since the departure of the Four, he had not spoken to anyone at all.

The Faun stopped, set down a basket filled with towels, and adjusted the scarf he wore against the cold.

“A habit I have not yet broken,” Mr. Hoberry said, seeing Jalur’s notice of the basket. “I cannot come to the pond and not think I have left something behind unless I bring towels and clothing for the Kings.”

As there was no obvious response to this, Jalur said nothing about it. In fact, the less he said, the more likely the speaker would go away.

Mr. Hoberry stared at the dark water and made no effort to leave. Jalur continued his sullen, silent vigil. He turned his head away from the Faun in a silent rebuff. Squirrels were arguing in the trees about their nut hoards.

“I wanted to ask if you would go see Banker Morgan,” Mr. Hoberry finally said.

“Why?” He had not seen Banker Morgan since Aslan had presided over Queen Freida’s coronation and the induction of the Consorts as Regents.

“Because she is mourning, Jalur, as you are. And, unlike Lord Regent Aidan, she is very much alone.”

It was true that the Lord Regent had a much larger circle around him that included the Wolves, the children who had come with him from Archenland, and his niece, the Queen.

“Perhaps Banker Morgan prefers to be alone. I do.”

Mr. Hoberry ignored his jibe and request. “She may prefer it, but it is not good for her, Jalur.”

“And you are an expert?”

“In the moods and ways of the King Edmund’s Consort, yes, I am an expert. Certainly more than you.”

That was fair, Jalur had to admit. He knew Banker Morgan because she was the mate to his King. However, his charge and attention had always been King Edmund. Banker Morgan and Mr. Hoberry had had good relations, especially after her first Guard, Jina, died.

“She does not leave their rooms,” Mr. Hoberry said. “She had packed her trunks, hoping to sail back to Narrowhaven, but it is too late to reach there before the winter storms.”

Jalur growled. Her departure would have been very, very wrong. Banker Morgan shared the Regency with Lord Aidan.

Mr. Hoberry nodded. “Narnia’s Heart and Soul now have passed to the Lord Regent and Queen Freida. However, with the King Edmund and Queen Susan gone, the Mind of Narnia, the subtlety of her Great Cats and the cunning of her Crows, all this acumen, resides with Banker Morgan alone. It is important we show the larger world we are stable and strong during this time. We cannot do this without Banker Morgan.”

“King Edmund would be angry with her,” Jalur said, rising to his feet. He felt a wince in his back – he had sat too long in the cold. “This is not right. She must do her duty. I shall speak with her.”

“That is not quite what I had in mind, but it is a start,” Mr. Hoberry said. He picked up his basket of unused towels. “Thank you, Jalur.”

As he approached the Palace, Jalur passed under the balcony of King Edmund’s room. Late one night, long ago, he had followed a cat into the shadow of that balcony and had made his decision to become a Royal Guard. He saw no cat today. In the trees and Trees and on the balcony outside his King’s room, Crows roosted. They were hunched and silent. While they mourned the loss of the Head of the Intelligence Service, this silent vigil was for Banker Morgan. The Narnian Murder and the Hounds of the Palace Pack had both claimed Banker Morgan as one their own and if she was ailing, they were as well.

Entering the Palace, he could hear voices and smell the bodies in the Great Hall. Lord Regent Aidan, Consort to the Queen Lucy was there, with Queen Freida and their Guards. Queen Freida was very young, except that she was the same human age the Queen Susan had been at her coronation. Jalur recognized the General, as well as Masters Roblang and Pliny, Mister Tumnus, the Lord Peridan, and others. Lord Regent Aidan was to lead a long, strong show of force at the borders lest anyone think of testing Narnia for weakness. Banker Morgan should have been at the council.

The laughter he heard was not as forced as it had been a ten-day ago. Narnia was becoming accustomed to the absence of the Four. While their influence had been profound, their actual tenure had been short in the history of a world or even within the lifespan of many Narnians. To celebrate this smooth transition to another generation felt to be less of a betrayal to the memory of the brothers and sisters who had fulfilled the prophecy and the thrones of Cair Paravel. Aslan had visited often in the days after the departure, but even those had become less frequent. Life went on. Winter was coming. And spring thereafter.

A cat had once led him all the way into the Palace and up the stairs to the Monarchs’ wing. Today, Rafiqa, Morgan’s Hound Guard, patrolled the hall.

“Jalur!” The Hound quickly approached him, brisk and quick. “You are here, praise Aslan!”

He did not feel much like praising Aslan at the moment and felt wrong for thinking so.

“Mr. Hoberry asked that I come to see Banker Morgan.” He looked down the hall and sniffed. He sensed her presence behind the closed door and thick walls. “He said she is not well.”

“Most assuredly not. Banker Morgan has not left their rooms in almost a ten-day,” Rafiqa said with a fluttering sigh. “I know she is there, and safe, but she will not speak to me or any else. She is very, very unhappy. I hear her crying. Mr. Hoberry says she wears the King Edmund’s clothing and will not let it be washed.”

Jalur understood that action very well. “She is trying to keep his scent. Does she eat?”

“Very little. Mr. Hoberry brings trays. She will not let anyone in to clean the room or lay fires. It grows stale and cold. Lord Regent Aidan, the Physician, Mr. Hoberry, and Mrs. Furner discuss her constantly and are at a loss. They believe she may contract a wasting disease if this persists.”

“Has Aslan visited?”

“She refused to see even the Lion,” Rafiqa whispered. Greatly daring, the Hound added, “She blames him.”

Banker Morgan would speak what others would not.

“Very well.” He strode forward and down the hall to the familiar door. Jalur had not been in the Palace since the departure save for the Queen’s coronation. He had left immediately thereafter and had not been in the Monarchs’ wing at all.

“Banker Morgan?” Jalur said, pushing the door a little with his nose. “It is I.”

“Jalur, I don’t want to see anyone,” he heard her say from behind the door.

He thought about this. He respected her desire to be alone. But, now that he was here, he could smell his King behind the door. Jalur wanted to be there. This was the last place in Narnia in which his King lingered.

“I’m coming in anyway,” Jalur said.

He shoved the door open and the scent of King Edmund flowed over him. It was stale and fading but still it was here. Banker Morgan was sitting at the writing desk and stood immediately as he barged in.

With a rumble of pleasure, he stalked to the soft, strange bed, inhaling deeply. The scent of Banker Morgan dominated what had once been his King’s alone and then their space together. But, King Edmund was here and stronger than anywhere else in Narnia.

He turned to look at Banker Morgan. She seemed smaller and messy, even dirty. Distress and sadness rolled around her, so thick it was like the pollen to which she and King Edmund were both allergic. She was wearing King Edmund’s clothing – trousers that were too large and a very loose shirt with dark ink stains.

“I have come to see you.”

“You’ve seen me. I’m alive. Leave.”

“No,” Jalur replied. “I have come to speak to you, too.” He swiveled his head, taking in the rumpled bed, the crumpled parchment and scraps scattered around, the ink splatters on the desk and the floor, and the broken quills and charcoal stubs. Without King Edmund to correct her, Banker Morgan would spill things. There was a traveling trunk stuffed with objects, clothing and parchment, as if they had all been tossed in and then thrown around. There were many handkerchiefs.

He turned about and suddenly heard a strange noise. Jalur twitched an ear and listened carefully. “What is that sound?”

“What sound?”

He swiveled his head about the room, hearing it again, faintly. “There is a sound. Someone is here, but…” he inhaled again. “But there is no scent?”

Jalur growled and his fur rose. He lashed his tail and knocked over a flimsy drying rack. Parchment fluttered around the floor like snow flurries. “Show yourself!” he snarled. “You will not harm Banker Morgan!”

“There is no one here!” she exclaimed, looking about anxiously. “Only you and me!”

“There is someone else,” Jalur insisted. He marched along the walls; the sound grew faint. He went to the window and could see the Crows in vigil outside. The sound was less here, so whoever it might be was not on the balcony. He prowled the room’s perimeter. He sniffed around the closet and washing room; the sound disappeared. He went back into the room, nosed behind the curtain, under the bed, and behind the desk and bookcases.

“But there is…”

“Silence,” Jalur ordered. “I need to listen. Hold your breath.”

Jalur circled the room, flicking his ears back and forth to catch the very, very faint sound. He circled again, spiraling inward. As his circuit shrank, the sound grew louder. He closed in …on Banker Morgan?!

He blinked and stared at her. Could it be? He tilted his head, pricking his ears and his whiskers swiveled forward. His tail lashed about again.

“What?” she whispered nervously, looking around.

“There is another heartbeat in the room besides yours and mine,” Jalur said, taking a step to stand next to her. He was certain now.

“Where?!” she asked, eyes darting about and wide with fear.

“It is coming from inside you.”

She started in shock and her hands fell to her stomach. “You can hear…”

“There is a second heartbeat that comes from inside you,” Jalur told her.

Banker Morgan gasped and swayed on her feet.

Jalur quickly sidled up next to her and her shaking hand griped his neck for support.

“Is it King Edmund’s cub?” Jalur asked. He nosed about her stomach, feeling a wild, ecstatic excitement.

She snorted and thwacked him on the side of the head. “Of course it is, you lout!” She stumbled toward the bed, leaned against the post, and stared down at her own body. “You can hear it? You really can?” Her voice turned very quiet and soft. “You hear a heartbeat?”

“Yes. I’m sure a Hound would…”

She waved irritably. “No, not now. I thought this might happen but I wasn’t sure and it’s very early…”

“Quiet!” Jalur ordered. “Let me listen.” He pushed his head up against Banker Morgan and pressed his ear to her stomach.

He growled, not liking what he heard. “Its heart is beating very fast. Can you tell it to not be so worried?”

Banker Morgan laughed. It was a welcome sound, the best thing Jalur had heard in days. It was, however, inappropriate in Jalur’s view given the severity of the situation.

“I was not being humorous,” he said testily. “I am concerned for King Edmund’s cub. It sounds nervous.” Jalur cleared his throat and spoke directly to Banker Morgan’s stomach. “Cub, be easy. You have nothing to fear. I mean no harm to you and your mother.”

Banker Morgan’s hand fell to his head and he allowed her to stroke his fur. Jalur sensed the heartbeat slow. “It likes me,” he said, inordinately pleased.

“Of course the cub would like you, Jalur. How could it be otherwise?”

Still, Jalur did not like this fast heartbeat and it seemed that the cub was swimming around. Might it drown? Was this normal? One of the specialists would know. “Rafiqa!” he called.

“No, Jalur! Don’t!”

He ignored her for, obviously, Banker Morgan, like King Edmund, required his personal management. “Rafiqa! Come at once!” The Hound would know better than he what he sensed.

Rafiqa pushed her nose into the room. “Yes? Is all well…”

The Hound turned her head to the side thoughtfully. Her tail began wagging. “Oh! I say!”

She trotted quickly to them. “Banker Morgan, congratulations! May I listen?”

“No secrets here,” Banker Morgan muttered.

“I think the cub is worried,” Jalur said. “I told it to be calm but it did not listen. Banker Morgan, tell the cub to obey me.”

“Are you comfortable standing, Banker Morgan? Would you prefer to lie down?” Rafiqa asked.

“I’m fine, Rafiqa.”

Jalur did not think Banker Morgan sounded fine. He thought she sounded even more anxious than the cub.

“Do not worry, Banker Morgan,” Jalur told her. “I shall protect you and your cub.”

“Baby,” Rafiqa said. “They are called babies. Banker Morgan if you would lift my ear please?”

Banker Morgan lifted the Hound’s long, floppy ear and Rafiqa put her head to Banker Morgan’s stomach. “Breathe normally, please,” the Hound said.

“Is it…” Jalur began.

“Quiet, please,” Rafiqa instructed.

Banker Morgan put her hand again to Jalur’s head and her fingers gently combed his fur.

“Excellent,” Rafiqa said, pulling away after a few moments and shaking her head so that her ears flopped about. “Human babies have faster heartbeats, Jalur. This is not concerning. There is a good level of fluid and he sounds very healthy.”

“He!?” Jalur and Banker Morgan made the same exclamation at the same moment.

“Yes, I believe your baby is a boy.” The Hound lifted her nose and scented about the room, taking in the disorder. “Banker Morgan, with all due respect, your baby is in far better health than you are. You need a warm bath, fluids, clean clothes, a proper meal, and some exercise in the fresh air. You should also speak to Lord Aidan, the Queen, and Mrs. Furner as they are experienced in Human maternity. May I see to these things?”

“You would anyway,” Banker Morgan said with a sigh. “Even if said no.”

“This is a happy day…” Rafiqa trailed off, her brows knitting with concern. “Though, did I err? When you last lay with King Edmund, I thought…”

Banker Morgan brushed the question away, waving her hand. “Never mind, Rafiqa. It is well. Yes, you may see to those things.”

The Hound trotted back out of the room, tail wagging happily. Jalur felt a pleased rumble rise in his own chest and he rubbed his head against Banker Morgan – carefully – as he did not want to push her over or harm King Edmund’s cub – baby.

With a deep sigh, Banker Morgan crossed the room and opened the balcony door. “Harah!”

The Crow Hen flew into the bedroom and landed on Banker Morgan’s upraised arm.

“Banker Morgan!” Harah squawked. “Splendid to see you!! How may I serve?”

Banker Morgan closed the door again with a swing of her hip and put a finger to her lips. She moved away, further from the balcony and prying ears and eyes.

“Quiet and quick, Harah. You need to get to the Murder as fast as you can fly and lay the best wager you can that Banker Morgan will give birth to King Edmund’s son in the summer. I’ll split the winnings with you.”

Harah cocked her head to the side. The Hen seemed shocked – not something ever observed in Crows.

“Truly?” Harah cried, hopping excitedly from side to side.

“On my word,” Banker Morgan replied.

Harah looked at him. “Rafiqa confirmed it,” Jalur said. “She goes now to tell others.”

“I’d better hurry then!” Harah leaned over on Banker Morgan’s shoulder and with her beak stroked the woman’s cheek. “Aslan’s blessings on you! And all Narnia!”

Hurrying back to the door, Banker Morgan threw it open. Harah launched into the brisk air and, with another excited squawk, flew off.

Banker Morgan remained standing at the balcony, staring out, and the wind blew in, cool and crisp, taking some of the glum sadness of the room with it. When she began shivering with the cold, Jalur went to the door and shut it with his nose.

“You are not dressed for the chill,” Jalur told her.

She nodded and shuffled back into the room. Banker Morgan climbed into the bed and Jalur heard her sniffling as she rooted around in the coverings the way Canines would do before lying down to sleep. From under the pillows, Banker Morgan pulled out a wad of old, crinkled parchment, clutched it to her chest, and lay down, curled on her side.

Jalur heard her sniffle again. He rested his head on the bed, next to hers, feeling the coverings sag under his weight. “You are very sad,” he said.

“Yes.”

Tears ran down her face. Aslan had said they should not be sad, that the Four were not dead, but had gone on to do great things in places that needed them even more than Narnia. They should not be sad. Disloyal though it may be, Jalur was sad, and Morgan with him.

“I miss him, too,” Jalur told her. “But, I am very happy because a part of King Edmund is still here, because of you.”

“Harold…” She paused, swallowed, and began again. “Edmund and his son will never know each other, Jalur. Ever.”

“He is never coming back?” Jalur had felt this, had heard it said, but had hoped he might have just been mistaken.

“No,” Banker Morgan said. “I’m all by myself. And I’ll do it wrong. I’m not good with people. What if he turns out like me? I don’t know anything about cubs!”

Her voice hiked into a panicked wail. She turned her head away, curled in more tightly upon herself, and shook with quiet sobs.

Jalur circled around the bed and then did something very daring that, in all his years with King Edmund, he had never done before. He sprang into the bed. It creaked and shuddered under his weight, and for a moment he worried that he, the bed, Banker Morgan, and the cub would all crash to the floor. Fortunately, the bed held. Cautiously, he stretched out, alongside Morgan, and pushed his nose under her arm, just as a dumb dog or house cat might do.

“You are not alone, Morgan. I am with you.”

She threw her arm around his neck and wept into his fur. “You don’t have hands, Jalur. How could you help me change a nappy or feed a baby?”

Jalur didn’t know what a nappy was. But, Morgan was Regent, Narnia’s Mind in the stead of King Edmund, and the mother to one who would someday be King of Narnia. Morgan should not have to fret about things like changing nappies, whatever they were. Such worries were surely not good for the cub, either. And, King Edmund would not want his lady or his son to worry about anything. It would be a failure of his duty to his King if Jalur could not assure the comfort and security of Morgan and her cub.

“I do not need hands to change a nappy,” Jalur told her.

“No?” Morgan asked, wiping her nose on her sleeve just as her bondmate would do. “How will you manage then? Use your teeth?”

“Yes. All I need to do is threaten to eat someone who does have hands and make them do it.”

Her laugh was better than the crying.

The Castle was beginning to simmer. Jalur could sense voices and excitement rising. The joyous news was spreading. Through King Edmund’s son, the Four still lived in Narnia.

“The others come soon,” he told Morgan.

She nodded and pulled herself up to sit. “I hope Harah got my wager in.”

Jalur slid off the bed. “Are you better? Are you ready?”

“No. I am terrified. But it will come regardless of what I do.”

“Yes, and they all do come,” Jalur said. He lifted his head. “The Lord Regent, Queen Freida, Mrs. Furner, Mr. Hoberry, Rafiqa, the Physician, all the Guards, the General, Master Roblang, and others.” It would be very crowded in the hall.

“What, no pony?” Morgan said, repeating a joke King Edmund had often made.

“No pony, but Cook is with them.” That was very unusual. Cook never left the kitchens unless to throw things at trespassers in her garden.

He could hear the Lord Regent and Queen Freida telling everyone to stay back. It occurred to him that if it concerned human cubs – babies – Queen Freida would probably know of it since she had raised her siblings and cousins. She will know what a nappy is and who I must threaten so that it is changed. This cheered Jalur. The Queen was a sensible person and she would tell him what he needed to know.

“Cook is outside?”

“She is and whatever she has smells delicious.” Jalur licked his lips. It smelled better than offal or Otter. Otter made him think of his oxhide chew hidden in the Tower Library. It was limp and didn’t squeak anymore, but perhaps the cub might want to play with it. Jalur would have to think about whether he would share his chew with King Edmund’s cub.

“Tash’s balls, I hope it’s not stewed intestine!” Morgan looked very pale and Jalur understood how he would feel with so many coming to see him; he did not understand her objection to Cook’s specialty.

“I can threaten them so they stay away a little longer,” he told her. “But, they will come and eventually I will let them in because you and your cub are in need of care.”

She took a deep breath. “No, it’s fine. Or, well, not fine, but there’s nothing for it.” Climbing out of the bed and standing, she wiped her face on a soggy handkerchief.

There was a knock on the door. “Morgan?”

“Just a moment, Aidan,” Morgan called back. “I need one moment more with Jalur.”

He swiveled his head toward her, still wondering if he was being selfish in not wanting to share his oxhide chew with anyone else.

“Yes, Morgan? What is it?”

“Would you swear the Guard’s oath to our son? Edmund would have wanted you to Guard his boy, especially…” Her voice went thick and emotional and her tears fell again. “Especially since he cannot.”

“Yes, of course.” Really, he would not have permitted anyone else to Guard King Edmund and Morgan’s cub, though he was very pleased that Morgan asked it of him. Did this mean he would have to share the otter chew? Well, if the cub wanted one, Jalur would threaten the Dwarfs until they made a new one.

Morgan put a hand on his head and Jalur spoke directly to the cub swimming inside her.

“Cub, I am Jalur. I guarded your father before you and as I spoke these words to him, now I say them to you.”

“I promise to never cause you harm and to protect you from all ill and danger.
I give you loyalty with love, respect with fealty, and discretion with honour.
I place my body, mind and heart in service to you.
I swear this Guard's Oath before Aslan and in His Name, until you release me, until death takes you, or the world ends.”

Comments

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wingedflight21
Mar. 4th, 2011 04:33 am (UTC)
My heart, it has broken forever.

I completely understand why you would cry while writing this. I didn't, quite, but I sure came awfully close. Jalur's voice rusty from disuse! Morgan, shut away for ten days! Everyone else moving on except for those few...!

And Jalur's reaction to hearing the baby's hearbeat! Awwwwwww. And Morgan's fright! Awwwwwww. And how Morgan, that the first thing she does is call Harah to lay a wager for her! And all the people bustling down the hall!

There are so many amazing things I want to say about this but I think I'd then just end up restating the whole thing. This is beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at the same time.
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really appreciate you leaving a comment! And Morgan may be heartbroken and bitter and terrified, but she's not going to miss the opportunity to earn some money off of it.
snacky
Mar. 4th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
Oh, sure, blame it on me! ;)

I loved this so much. Jalur was the perfect POV character for this story - so wonderful to get the sense of loss from a Tiger's perspective. And Morgan! Oh, she's come such a long way. And her grief was heartbreaking, especially how it overwhelmed her, but I loved the moment she placed her wager.

Also, the unspoken grief for Edmund, for the loss of something he never knew he had, and never would allow himself to consider.

The ending was such a great mix of sadness and hope, and that devotion from Jalur was perfect.
min023
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:01 am (UTC)
Not blame. Definitely not. More like a huge vote of thanks. And another to E for requesting it : )
(no subject) - rthstewart - Mar. 4th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Mar. 4th, 2011 07:23 am (UTC)
This is so... I don't even know how to describe it! I love it! I was tearing up! I'd love to see more of the cub, and Jalur's interaction with him. Great job!
~LotL
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 09:40 pm (UTC)
"Cub, you must stop trying to eat my tail. You must never consume a Talking Beast."

"Jalur, he cannot understand you. All he sees is something to grab and chew on."

"Then he should remove himself from the temptation of my tail."

"You are more mobile than he is."

"But this is where the sun is. I do not wish to move."

"I suspect, Jalur, that you really prefer having him and that patch of sunlight in the same spot."


Or,

"Where are you going?"

Jalur has to put the cub back down because he's picked him up in his teeth by the back of the baby's shirt, then has to keep following the cub as he crawls away.

"I must go threaten someone."

"Does he need a change? I don't smell anything."

"You will."

Or,

"Here cub, this is my chew toy. Your father gave it to me and you may play with it."

Inarticulate baby noises.

"Morgan, does he not like the toy? Why does he not play with it? Does it need more Otter smell?"

"He is not yet a month old, Jalur. It's too early for toys."

metonomia
Mar. 4th, 2011 07:59 am (UTC)
BAWLING.

JALUR IS THE BEST EVER.

CUB, OBEY HIM. <333333

RTH, RTH, THIS IS YOU AT YOUR FINEST, THIS IS SO SPECTACULAR I CAN'T STAND IT, JALUR, AND NARNIA AFTER PEVENSIES, AND MORGAN, AND JALUUUUUUUUUR.

THIS IS PERFECTION.
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
"Cub! You must not climb those stairs!"

Baby starts up the stairs. Jalur grabs him by the shirt and brings him back down. Repeat. Repeat.

"Morgan, your cub will not obey me! Make him obey me!"
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min023
Mar. 4th, 2011 09:59 am (UTC)
OMG! This is so, so beautifully fitting. I had to wipe away a little tear, too. What a way to end it. Happy, sad, triumph and tragedy, all swirled together. There's going to be one heck of a reunion after 1947. And another OMG, another 'ping' moment has just occurred inside my head. Those 'not relevant' voices at the End of the World - Jalur and Morgan are a given, but who else might he have heard?

Oh, this is SUCH a keeper. I do hope you're going to put this together as a whole someday. Beautiful, just beautiful. I so love this story.
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 09:54 pm (UTC)
but who else might he have heard? If you go back and read chapter 2 of TQSiT, Peter rattles off a long list of those left behind and includes the word "children" and that some names are too painful to recall. This is also moving toward another point far down in AW/TSG that has been in my head for a very, very long time, after the war, in around 48 and before the crash.

I've had this in my head for a really, really long time. I didn't know I'd do it through Morgan. I knew it wasn't Peter or Susan and I was really uncomfortable with the prospect of a mother (Lucy) leaving her baby behind. With Edmund, I have written him as the most emotionally stunted, so he was better able to just pretend and forget and bury it. And, he does not know. Not for certain. None of them do, though Peter feels it in his heart; Susan is more skeptical. If Lucy knows for certain, it is because she talks to dead people and she's not saying.

I'm not quite sure in my own mind how this impacts behavior in PC and DT. What Edmund learns, if anything. I can see him saying, "Oh, I didn't have a child, you are mistaken" very easily. He also would construct these ridiculous ideas that maybe Morgan had a child with Aidan or Peridan or some other human male. He brushes it off and it is probably only at the Wall that he learns that maybe there might have been some truth to it.
amine_eyes
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
Oh Jalur, I have missed him :) I can see how this was hard to write, but I love how the sadness turns to new life (as Jalur says, the winter to spring), and that life does go on in Narnia without the Pevensies, even though it's different :)

thoughtfully done, and lovely :D
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Jalur was a fun POV for this and to bring him back to his Tiger and Cat and Beast qualities and his ignorance of all these things as compared to the brisk, competent Hound. Thanks so much.
therck
Mar. 4th, 2011 12:49 pm (UTC)
I didn't quite cry, but the heartbreak is there. I believe in the pain of those left behind. Poor Jalur! Poor Morgan! Poor Edmund, too!

It's a fitting end to "Harold and Morgan." I'm still interested in the journey to get there, but it's a fitting end.

Thanks for writing!
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It has hurt, to have this in my head and to assume that I didn't have the storytelling ability to sustain reader interest in how they get to this point. Also, I'm very cognizant of all the fandom cliche associated with this relationship. I sense a real THUD every time I try writing about Edmund and Morgan's relationship -- even in the recent reviews to AW, very few people even comment on it and I've concluded that most readers really don't care for it. But, it's there, in my head, and when the prompt and opportunity presents itself and there is reader interest, I'll swallow my reluctance and write it.
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elouise82
Mar. 4th, 2011 01:41 pm (UTC)
Beautiful. So beautiful. That the Guards recognized Aslan working in the Four to take them away, that Aslan came to the Narnians and helped them through the transitions, that there was sorrow but peace, too - and that Morgan and Jalur would both secretly (well, not secretly in Morgan's case) carry some anger at Aslan ... all of it such a believable picture of how it would have been in Narnia after the Four left. Much better than the chaos or worse, the belief that the Four AND Aslan had abandoned them (one of my least favorite parts about Prince Caspian!) that so many in the fandom promote. That is NOT Aslan's way!

Along those lines, though I love every part of this (most especially Jalur trying to talk to the "cub," and telling Morgan to make the cub obey him), my favorite line of all is this:

"Aslan had said they should not be sad, that the Four were not dead, but had gone on to do great things in places that needed them even more than Narnia."

YES. They did what was needed in Narnia, learned what they needed to learn, and went back home to apply that knowledge. (When Aslan tells them they are too old for Narnia, I have always always looked at that not as though they have outgrown Narnia, but that they are now old enough to use their Narnian lessons in their world.)

This was a great way to start my day. Thank you, E, for having a birthday!
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much. The hardest part of this is to reconcile what I view as the necessity of an orderly succession with Aslan's benevolence. This is my hard-fought compromise. I know that lots of readers like the drama of the chaos and invasion following the departure, but I do think alternative, if less thrilling, views are possible. A part of what is unwritten here is just how involved Morgan was in this decision, to remain as Edmund's bondmate, to have a child, to stay after he left. And the reason she was involved is because Aslan gave her (and Aidan) some choices. It's also why I introduced the many small Archenland relations -- that's Aslan's "fallback" plan, so to speak, so that Morgan never feels that all of Narnia's future hinges upon her womb.

Yes, yes, head canon involving OCs no one cares about to achieve a boring transition marked by a lack of exciting invasions and angst with Aslan on hand to oversee it all. I mean, there IS angst. but really, as even this story makes clear, a lot of the Narnians are older than the Pevensies -- they live for decades or even centuries and they are important and the Narnians are grateful, but life and Narnia go on.

Thank you. There is a LOT of backstory here and it sort of slips in in the odd way.
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katharhino
Mar. 4th, 2011 03:26 pm (UTC)
*SNIFFLES*
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
Hands tissues. Thank you for reading!
marbleglove
Mar. 4th, 2011 03:32 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful. You do an amazing job of showing the tragedy of the Four's disappearance but how life continues. There are new things to celebrate and new events to plan. The loss of the Four, the loss of lovers and friends, is not the end of the world. Plus, I really, really loved the fact that Morgan tried to get a bet in before the news spread.
This is a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing. Keep writing.
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. I try to not dwell over much on the personal tragedy of OCs -- Mary Sue much? But, the issue of what happens next is an important part of my head canon and this has been in my head for a really, really long time.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 4th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
'E'

Ok. It might partly be my own pregnancy hormones (less than ten weeks, now) but this had me crying the *entire* time. From the third line to the last, I couldn't stop. Thank you so much for such exquisite torture (and yes, I knew what I was getting into when I requested this prompt).

Jalur. He' such an amazing character, and his grief is so devastating, mixed up with not being able to fully fulfill his oath now that Edmund is gone, his effort not to feel angry (or blame) Aslan, his voice going sore from disuse ... I think that line is where I really started crying.And how every place Jalur travels has some sort of memory for the Tiger: the bathing pond, the ground under the balcony, etc.Jalur wondering whether Edmund had found a new guard was so sad, and yet slightly amusing,a reminder of how little the Narnians know of the world their rulers come from.

I love Jalur sniffing around the room, and the moment of realization -- wild, ecstatic excitement - is such a great phrase. As is Morgan smacking Jalur when he asks whether the "cub" is King Edmund's. I love your use of the word cub by Jalur -- emphasizing him as a Beast and a Cat.I love how Jalur talks to the baby, ordering it to be calm -- babies do recognize voices before they're born, so it will know Jalur when it arrives. And Jalur not knowing anything about human babies is very real. Not even prepared to discuss the difficulty and sadness of raising a child without your mate; I can't imagine.

But there's great humor among the sadness of the scene: Jalur talking to Morgan's stomach, his wondering over sharing the chew, Morgan placing a wager on a "sure thing" ... I love this story so much. And you ended it exactly where I hoped you would; with Jalur taking the oath to the baby. Ok, crying again. Thank you so much!
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:43 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday. The timing of your request and birthday were fortuitous. As you know, once I committed to Morgan in the story, I knew there was a child, I knew it had to be Edmund's, and I knew he didn't know about it. In one head canon version, I have Mogan and Aidan standing on a balcony watching the 4 of them ride off, knowing it is the last time they will ever see them. Edmund is all, "Are you sure there isn't something you want to tell me?" because he suspects Morgan may be pregnant but isn't sure and all these Hounds keep following her around because they are sure of it. Aidan then says, 'You did not tell him" and she stammers all "How did you know" and he says that he knows a pregnant woman when he sees one -- unlike the Pevensies who do not.

Errr, right, how did I get here? To fulfill your prompt meant pushing the timing forward to right before Edmund leaves and then Morgan goes into seclusion so that Jalur finds out first. And, it works very well because the two of them are united in their grief and their anger.

I had obviously (now) been playing with Morgan as an angry person in the chapter that is the flashback where she is with Edmund at the bonfire. If you re-read that chapter, she is doing a lot of things to hold on to him, to integrate herself more deeply into Narnia, and is expressing her anger to come. Because of course, she knows it's coming, she knows he is leaving, sometime in the not so distance future.

As for you next comment about the Wolves, Briony and Lambert's children guard the new Queen and Aidan. I see them as going into sort of retirement, together, with this large circle of puppies, children, the Queen, Aidan and all in a very large, extended family. Fooh and Beehn probably go off to join the Army. And Jalur, and his kin after him, guard the cub. (And yes, the cub ends up bonded to one of Aidan's small relations -- either one of Frieda's younger sisters or Aidan's youngest daughter). I can't believe I typed that, but I did see the lines uniting and continuing.

I've never considered fan art for my stories before -- no one has offered. But, I admit I'd love to see a picture of Jalur speaking to Morgan's stomach or with Jalur or Rafiqa's ear pressed to Morgan's stomach.

Thank you for giving me the excuse to write this. I've assumed most folks aren't interested in it. As I commented above, whenever I mention Morgan and Edmund in AW, the reviewer silence is overall pretty muted. I assume most folks don't like it much yet it and what it portends for my particular vision is important to me. I HUGELY appreciate those who are express an interest in reading it.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 4th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
'E'

Oh, and one more thing. I love how you address the role of the Guard now: what is their purpose now that the Monarchs are gone? Evidently Briony and Lambert are guarding the new Queen, but what of Fooh and Been, and how Jalur was uncertain of his place (having not been in the Palace since the coronation) until the baby came along.
autumnia
Mar. 4th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, oh! So is where Rth writes what happens after the White Stag.

And oh... you had to write from Jalur's view here, didn't you? You know how to tug on a girl's heartstrings here.

"Are you happy, my King? Have you found a new Guard to protect you?"

Oh Jalur! If only you knew the truth of it. You and the other Guards cannot be replaced, nor will you ever be, even thirteen hundred years later when your King and the other Monarchs return. But still, the Tiger has a duty, if not to Edmund, then to Morgan, I suppose.

I love the appearance of Mr. Hoberry at the Bathing Pond -- and with the accustomed towels no less! And even without the Four here, he is still adept and goes on with his Management of the Cair and its inhabitants.

“I’m coming in anyway,” Jalur said.

Ahh. That is what I love about you, my good Cat! And you are continuing in your Management! I LOVE the scene with the baby and then calling for Rafiqa as well. Hah. And the baby won't listen to him, oh that's just so wonderful!

And typical Morgan! How lovely to see her turning back to business as usual (or at least, acting a bit more like her normal self) and wagering on herself with Harah!

Oh, that ending was sad and touching at the same time. And so there is a Pevensie succession after all. And it sounds as if she knew their Disappearance was coming. I would assume that explains Rafiqa's query about Morgan's biological clock.

Morgan and Jalur and the Baby and the Guard's Oath! I hope Edmund will learn of this one day (before the train wreck, perhaps?).. though, perhaps he had an inkling of this? Which is why he won't speak of her and what he heard at the Wall of Lilies?

One day, rth, I hope to see you write more of what went on in Prince Caspian when the Four did return. Were the Guards' descendants on hand when the Pevensies returned? And if so, did they speak of the past?
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
And it sounds as if she knew their Disappearance was coming. ... I hope Edmund will learn of this one day (before the train wreck, perhaps?).. though, perhaps he had an inkling of this? Which is why he won't speak of her and what he heard at the Wall of Lilies?

See above. This has been in the works for a really, really long time. Peter specifically mentions "children" among those lost to them in Chpater 2 of TQSiT. NO ONE has ever commented on that line. In the recent flashback, when Edmund is wondering where Morgan has gone because the Morgan who is with him is acting odd, this is the reason why. She does know it is coming, has known for a long time, and has been given choices. This is also why, way back in Part 1 when Lucy speaks to Mrs. Beaver, there is a mention of Aidan's small relations. I have been working up to this for a long time.

Edmund was the deliberate choice here - despite all the fandom cliche which has been the primary reason for my hesitation in going forward -- well that and the thud of story fail. It wasn't Peter. I could not see how I could separate Susan or Lucy from their child. So, Edmund, who is never certain and doesn't believe -- not without reason -- became the choice and then the only issue was whether I used Morgan or invent someone else. As for if Edmund will learn, well, again, that's part of a scene that has been in my head since 2008 and will be in the story, eventually.

One day, rth, I hope to see you write more of what went on in Prince Caspian when the Four did return. Were the Guards' descendants on hand when the Pevensies returned? And if so, did they speak of the past? I could see an argument breaking out among the Beasts over who guarded the Monarchs' consorts with Edmund and Lucy just devastated and Peter yelling at them all to shut up. I think Edmund would be very much, "Oh, you are mistaken. I didn't have a child." To allow him to continue to deny it is why I made the history so ambiguous in the last chapter, which is I think defensible canonically.
Thank you so much. You have been here from the very, very beginning and this marks a showing of a lot of the cards that I've been hiding and shuffling in the deck for a long time. One of the foundational reasons I started writing in Narnia was to provide an alternate to the brutal violence and abandonment and chaos of most fic dealing with the departure. It's been hard to accept that I can't manage to tell that part of the story in a way that people want to read it so thank you for sticking with it!
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(Anonymous)
Mar. 4th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
I've written a long comment in connection with your last post, so just few words here - I do fully agree with your view on Narnian succession, despite a need of some people (and me myself, sometimes) to make big drama of that. After all, they've been sent back by Aslan or Emperor-over-the-Sea. It's doubtful that any of them would deliberately cause a civil war in Narnia. Disappearence of the Four was "only" traumatic/painful for people/creatures who unexpectedly lost those, who were part of their lives for many years.

Krystyna
(Anonymous)
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is wonderful. I have to admit to being a bit teary as a result. There were so many little gems. That Edmund and Morgan ended up bonded without really meaning too, but of course staying that way once it was done, because it is what they really wanted. Jalur and his chew toy. Jalur being the first to find out about the 'cub'. Jalur jumping on the bed. Really all things with Jalur were great, haha. I love the relationship between Morgan and Jalur here. It makes sense, given how much they both love Edmund, that they would be the ones to really 'get' each other now.
Thanks so much for not giving up on the story. As a reader who has just very recently found your work, I am very glad you have kept with it despite any discouragements!
As always, I am excited to see what comes next!

- JamieApple
rthstewart
Mar. 4th, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
I love the relationship between Morgan and Jalur here. It makes sense, given how much they both love Edmund, that they would be the ones to really 'get' each other now.
Thanks so much! I'm glad it worked for you. That is why Mr. Hoberry went to Jalur. It's very hard to say "No, go away," to a Tiger and he knows that. Morgan and Edmund's bonding scene is one of those that I set up early in the whole story arc in my head -- back in Part 1, Jezebel the beaver tries to take Mr. Beaver from Mrs. Beaver and one of her crimes is her attempt to break up a bonded pair under Narnia law. And then at the beginning of H&M I specifically introduced the 3 year bonded presumption. So, when Morgan brings a nice woman for Edmund to meet, and the Beasts get REALLY angry, and Morgan realizes she doesn't like it so much either ("You weren't supposed to like her, Harold!" "But, you brought her here for me to meet, didn't you?!") and the woman says, "you know, have you considered your own laws, King Edmund? I believe your subjects consider you already married." it's a HUGE, OMG what have we done??? Dalia has been keeping count of every season they are together in her room in the Cave.

I never wanted the very formal "I now pronounce you Man and Wife" sort of thing with Aslan presiding in the Lion chapel. I really wanted it more naturalistic to reflect the vision I had of Narnia. In my head, I had all these ideas for different bonding cermonies, in the same way there are the different grief ceremonies.

Errr, stopping head canon now.
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