|Telmar, designed by yours truly...|
Dawn had barely cracked the edges of the night sky when Melanie finally awoke. She smiled when she saw the blanket, more so when she noticed the food. She gratefully partook of the simple meal on a little knoll further into the forest from which she could watch the sunrise.
The rustle of bushes behind her announced the arrival of Taurin. He sat next to her without speaking. Melanie hesitantly handed him the cup. "T-an-k . . . you," she said.
Taurin nodded and said, "Keep the cup. You have difficulty speaking, don't you?"
Melanie nodded, the hot blush of shame rushing into her cheeks.
"I can help you," Taurin said eagerly, "and we can start with the word you said just now." He snapped a twig off a nearby bush and led Melanie closer to the brook, where the soil was soft. "Can you read?" he asked.
Taurin used the twig to write out: T-H-A-N-K. "Thank," he said distinctly.
"Thann," Melanie tried to imitate Taurin, but she voiced the first sound, and couldn't quite manage the last sound at all. Taurin tried to explain how to make the sound.
"Put your tongue against the bottom of your teeth like this," he demonstrated, "and bring your lip up against your tongue. Then you blow: thhh."
Melanie carefully followed Taurin's instructions and tried the sound herself. "Thhh." She did it!
"Very good!" Taurin praised, and gave the next sound. "Thhh-aay."
"Tha-nk, with your tongue on the back of your mouth."
"Very close; what you want to do is make the sound, ng, and let go with a k sound; nn-k."
"Thaay . . . nnn-k." Melanie smiled; she had it right! "Thaay-nk. Than-k. Thank!"
Seeing her excitement thrilled Taurin to no end. He was teaching! He glanced up to the sun. He needed to return to the farm. "I must go, but I will be back with more food," he told Melanie. He stood and turned to leave.
Taurin paused and looked back at Melanie.
"Th-thhaan-k you," she said deliberately. Taurin grinned and waved as he left.
So began Melanie's lessons in speaking. Taurin, in addition to dictation, taught her about the plants and small woodland animals that had become as familiar as friends to him. Melanie learned quickly, and soon became Taurin's confidant. One day he expressed to her how he would much rather teach than work around the farm.
"Why don't you want to be a farmer?"
The fire of passion burned in Taurin's eyes as he spoke. "It is because I am a farmer's son that I want to teach. There are merchants here, Melanie. There had been a famine, and that is when most of the Telmarines left with King Caspian to find better land. Some of us stayed behind, and began our lives over again. Then came the merchants, willing to trade and sell things. They were attracted especially here to Nast, because our province had a harder time recovering from the famine.
"These unscrupulous merchants make it harder, by raising prices and using false weights and faulty merchandise. We became more and more dependent on them, and they took advantage of us. At first, we artisans and farmers made sure they were fair and equitable, and refused to do business with them when they weren't," Taurin sighed, "but then they began writing out their transactions." He scowled. "When that happened, the illiterate ones suffered the worst, because the merchant could fabricate whatever he chose, and force his victim to take him at his word, or risk being brought before the court."
"Is the King no longer involved in the affairs of his country?"
Taurin shrugged. "Very little. Two generations ago, King Caspian III set up a Lord Protector to serve as the supervisor over all the provinces of Telmar and send reports to Narnia, where his grandson, King Caspian V now rules. In turn, there is a Lord over each of the six provinces of Telmar: Telami, Venna, Puriva, Eveston, Sordell, and Nast. These Lords report to the Lord Protector."
"Couldn't you bring your complaint to the Lord Protector, then?"
Taurin pulled his long legs together in a crossed position, and assumed the role of teacher as he explained the Telmarine government system.
"Nast is the smallest province of Telmar. Lord Protector Landon is a simple man; noble, just, but easily beguiled. What is more, there is a saying in Telmar: 'It is no good if it's Nastie!' Because of its weak nature, Nast is credited for all the vagrants, thieves, and criminals. Any complaint from this province would only be waved aside. What with the national sentiments, Nast cannot export any goods, nor are the other provinces willing to import. The Nastians have grown to believe that we must depend on the merchants or perish." Taurin shook his head. "No, Melanie; they must learn to read if we want to break free of the tyranny of the merchants," he set his jaw, "and I mean to teach them."
Melanie smiled. "Who knows but you might be the next Lord of Nast."
Taurin looked at her as if she had suggested he would fly to the moon that night. "I could never be a lord. My father is a farmer. Here in Telmar, the fathers pass their occupation to their sons: farmers' sons become farmers, scholars' sons become teachers and scholars, and so on. The only ones with any hope of being lords are soldiers or noblemen, and Nast has neither."
"Well then, who is Lord of Nast now?"
"A man by the name of Fausberg. Before King Caspian the Conqueror left Telmar, he appointed that the Lordship of Nast could be inherited. Lord Fausberg's ancestors have ruled until now." Taurin's brow furrowed, and Melanie asked, "What's wrong?"
"Lord Fausberg does not have an heir, but that's not the worst of it: if that beast Gatling has his way, he'll be the next Lord, and Nast will never be out from under his thumb."
"Is Gatling a nobleman?"
Chagrin twisted Taurin's features. "No! He's nothing but an arrogant, base blacksmith who happened to be in the capital city of Gildon when Lord Protector Landon was riding his horse.
"The story goes that the Lord Protector had ridden outside the gates of Gildon when his horse stumbled on a loose shoe. The way Gatling told it, he was working at his forge when he heard a racket, and left to investigate. The horse was incapacitated, so Gatling immediately replaced the shoe and raised the horse to its feet. He helped the Lord Protector back into the saddle, when suddenly a band of robbers sprang from behind the trees. Gatling sent the horse back into the city and stayed behind, ostensibly to fend off the robbers. Lord Protector Landon knew little of what occurred, so he believed the story that circulated Gildon of the near-fatal attempt on his life that had been foiled by the noble blacksmith Gatling. Being benevolent as he is, Lord Protector Landon expressed his desire to reward this heroic blacksmith. Gatling saw his chance, and immediately asked to be named next in line for the Lordship of the province he had the most ties with: Nast." Taurin's face was glum as he finished his narrative and reflected on the fate of his province.
"What will happen?" Melanie asked.
"I don't know," Taurin replied, "but I can tell you certainly that it will not be good."
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