[Excerpt from Chapter 12]
Melanie saw nothing, heard nothing, but she knew something was different the instant she opened her eyes and saw the light shining weirdly through the windows.
She looked down at the foot of her bed and saw an old, stooped serving-woman just finishing the fire in the fireplace. Melanie threw back her thick covers and gasped as the cold bit through her nightgown. The maid instantly leapt up at the noise and grabbed Melanie's dressing gown and slippers, which had been warming by the fire. Melanie smiled gratefully as she put them on.
She crossed over to the window. The sun reflected of the snow so brightly, it hurt her eyes to look at it. She placed a hand on the window to let in fresh air, but the maid stopped her.
"O, Lor', Ma'am! You'll not want to do that! Feel the glass!"
Melanie, puzzled, placed her hand on the glass, but drew it away sharply. The panes were so cold, touching them was like touching panes of ice. Melanie knew if merely the window was that cold, the air must be colder still.
"Is the blizzard over already?" she asked the maid.
The old woman peered outside, "I have only seen one blizzard like to this, Milady, and I can tell you, it is not over yet!"
The old woman proved correct in her assertions. The sky clouded over that night, and for the next week there was little to be seen of the sky for the clouds and the driving, stinging snow and ice. The only means of measuring the passage of time Melanie and Martan had were the clocks in the palace and the slight variance of the light shining through the clouds.
Because of their leaders' foresight, however, each Nastian had plenty to eat, and no crops or livestock were ruined by the storms that ravaged the land and filled the Nastian Valley with snow and ice.
Elsewhere in Telmar, however, the larger, richer provinces did not fare so well. At the start of the season, many "agriculturalists" (they owned the land, tools, and produce on the farms, but did not do the work themselves; to own a farm was profitable, but to work on one, degrading!) still believed they had time to harvest as they required it, the past twenty winters having been so mild, each one assumed this one would be no different. Besides, the first harvest had already filled their barns too full for the ignorant farmers' comfort, but more barns must be built before the agriculturalists would allow a scythe to be lifted. The farmers protested, but what did they pretend to know? Consequently, not a few Telmarine farms had corn, wheat, and other crops still standing in the fields when the first storm hit.
Others were so ecstatic over the prospects of a bumper crop that they readily sold every sprout of the first harvest, in preparation for the bigger harvest the next day.
This "next day" these men waited for never came. They awoke the following morning to the horrific sight of ice and snow flying past their windows. Strong winds blew down tall trees, crushing the tender, ripe produce, and hail struck the fragile grapes from the bush. Icy sleet flooded the tender sprouts, and everything not stored in a barn, the blizzard utterly destroyed. The snow and ice falling on Nast was tame in comparison to the driving gales that pulverized the rest of the nation.
Those who waited to build bigger barns found no opportunity to build them. Furthermore, the constant barrage of ice and snow caused the wood of the overstuffed barns to rot, which spoiled the harvest along with the grains and vegetables still standing in the fields. Those who sold their produce found little comfort in their stores of gold, that could neither feed a family nor keep it warm.
Meanwhile, the arrogant provinces that had so rudely spurned Nast in their pride were suddenly made to recall them and long for their generosity.
Martan was shocked at the blizzard's end to receive letters from nobles throughout the other provinces, actually begging him to send the delegations back to them.
He tossed the handful of parchments onto the table in front of Melanie, who glanced over them, guessed their content, and grinned. He turned to Aslan, who was standing beside her, clearly recalling his words not too long ago expressing his fear that exactly this would never happen.
"So soon, Aslan?" he gasped.
The Lion nodded. "Go, for I am with you."
Though Martan's faith increased, and he obeyed Aslan instantly with his whole heart, the delegations were not so easy to convince.
"Milord," one hesitant bowed timidly, "Ah, do you not recall the way we were treated last time?"
"My good man," Martan replied, "Aslan will be with you."
"As he was last time, and look what still happened!"
"But," another continued, "you say we are now sought after? How do we know this is not a trap, to trick us?"
"Yes, and what if we give away our food and have nothing for ourselves? Will we be forced to starve till spring harvest?"
"By the Lion!" Martan cried, suddenly jumping to his feet. "My people! Have we not just survived the bitterest winter Telmar has ever known for over two hundred years? Can you not deny it was by Aslan, and Aslan alone? We have food left over; they have nothing! Aslan has brought this storm for this express purpose! Go forth, I say, in Aslan's name!"
The delegations that issued forth, some timid, some grumbling, came back nearly a week later. All five of them returned in the same day, wagons empty and mouths filled with the praises of Aslan.
[…] Lord Martan thenceforth caused it to be written as law that every harvest, a delegation of farmers and artisans shall depart to every province, giving to them in remembrance of Aslan.
Though the nobles and citizens were grateful, there were some who still harbored their disdain for the little province. A certain summons went out from the castle at Maretum, the capital city of Telami, inviting all the Lords to hold a council. Nast was the only province not notified, and the Lord Protector did not receive notice of this meeting as he should have.
[Excerpt from Chapter 13]
"Let all those present report!"
"I, Lord Perrin of Eveston, with my chief advisor, present!"
"I, Lord Daltan of Puriva, with my chief advisor, present!"
"I, Lord Vern of Sordell, with my chief advisor, present!"
"I, Lord Burg of Venna, with my chief advisor, present!"
"And I, Lord Maletus of Telami, with my chief advisor, preside!"
Lord Maletus smiled evilly, "Very good; I thank you all for responding so promptly to my summons. I believe there is an—ah, hm—an issue you wish to discuss, Lord Daltan?" His voice dripped in hidden meaning.
Daltan stood nervously, holding in his trembling hand a paper that had come with his summons. He read from the paper, glancing up at the president Lord at every other phrase.
"Yes . . . it is the Lady . . . who now rules . . . Nast."
"Incorrigible wench!" Maletus spat charmingly. "What say you, Lord Vern?"
The Lord of Sordell stood, "My people were starving, Your Emminence, and a delegation of Nastians came and—"
"Swindled you, didn't they?" Lord Maletus interrupted, his eyes glinting daggers at the weak lord, "They cheated you into paying for these wares they feign to give freely! They extorted money away from your fair province, didn't they?"
The Lords were weak, but not foolish; they knew Lord Maletus' power, being Lord of the capitol province, and they realized the hidden plan behind the Council of Lords.
"Yes," Lord Vern said, and as soon as he sat down, Lord Perrin jumped to his feet.
"Those Nastians are liars! They cheated my people of good food by trying to pass of rotten and spoiled goods! That Lady is a witch!"
Lord Burg joined his comrade at an approving nod from Lord Maletus. "My advisors have heard certain rumors, Milord."
Lord Maletus turned his gaze to the slender, pale man standing just behind his lord's chair. "Pray, do tell us," he said, low and dangerous, "what rumors?"
"There are legends from Nast, oh Most Worshipful Lord," the flattering advisor said, striding out from behind the chair. "Legends from ancient times. It is said that she was banished from the infernal woods one hundred years ago, and is condemned to do the bidding of the Lion-demon of Narnia until Telmar is destroyed!"
"Then why is she still here?" Maletus snapped, eyes aflame, "Why can she drive out merchants, and have aught to give us? Must we be in debt to the Nasties? They must be crushed!"
"If I may speak, Milord," said Maletus' chief advisor, no less evil than his master, only more cunning.
"You may," Maletus replied.
The chief advisor continued in a sibilant tone, "If your Lordships were to have sufficient complaint against the Lady, it may be that you could compel His Eminence the Lord Protector to call a Court of Lords, and he can be the one to depose of her!"
"Yes," Maletus agreed, looking at all the lords around him, "we have sufficient reason. Let it be done!"
"But let not Your Eminent Lordship be too hasty," his advisor continued, "for how will it be if only the Lords of the provinces bring the complaint? Lord Protector Samson is a shrewd man, and he would ascribe our valid accusations to petty jealousy."
"How can we avoid this?" Lord Daltan asked.
The chief advisor to Maletus smiled craftily. "Have a petition drawn up, testifying to the faults we have identified in all Nast, including the Lady. It only needs fifty signatures, ten from each province, which money, as you know, can buy. Then we may draw up the accusation, and it will be in the Lord Protector's eyes that Nast is indeed a blight to Telmar, and the whole province must be annihilated!"
Maletus fixed each Lord in turn with a steely glance as he told them all, "Write your petitions, and call your nobles. Let it be done in two weeks' time. We will crush that puny little province like an insect!"
What will happen to Melanie and the province? Stay tuned for more!