[Excerpt from Chapter 24]
Lord Samson entered as the Lord and Lady stood and bowed in respect to him. He nodded and hurried forward.
"To what do we owe this unexpected honor of your presence, Milord?" Martan inquired.
Lord Samson's eyes darted from corner to corner of the room. "Lady Melanie, have you received a letter from His Majesty the King?"
Melanie held up the paper. "It only just arrived. Why does Your Lordship have cause to be ill at ease?"
"May I read it?"
Still puzzled at the Lord Protector's agitation, Melanie allowed him. He glanced over it with wide eyes. Once he finished, he produced from a pouch at his side another letter like unto Melanie's.
"Read that, Milady, and you will see what sort of man is the King."
Melanie took it and read:
To Lord Samson, Protector of the throne in Telmar:
Word has reached me concerning your recent display of untoward sympathy for the proponents of pagan, fantastical fairytales of mystical beings and talking animals. I hope this sympathy is not a reflection of Your Eminence's personal inclinations.
It is in Your Eminence's best interest to immediately disregard any further displays of this nature, and furthermore to see that all mutterings about such things are suppressed, that this land you profess to protect may indeed be protected from such insidious fabrications.
If you do not intend to heed this suggestion, I have requested the presence of the Lady of Nast before me in two days; accompany her on her journey to Narnia, that we may discuss the matter further.
In the Mighty Name of His Royal Highness,
King Caspian VIII
Melanie pondered this second letter deeply. It was certainly a different tone than her letter!
She looked up at Lord Samson. "One letter is kind and caring, but another is stern and menacing. Which is the real King?"
Lord Samson sighed. "The latter, I am afraid. Both letters taken together testify to the cunning nature of the King. He can speak to you in words of sweetness and understanding, and draw you in, then condemn you to death, using your own words against your harshly in the next breath. He does not hesitate to remove anyone who believes or speaks contrarily to him. I have known such freedom in the knowledge of Aslan which you introduced to me, but I fear," he gulped, "I fear the cost of such freedom, and so I confess I intend to write a letter of apology to the King. Perhaps then I can convince him that you and I are not a threat, and we can continue as we have been, without his knowledge."
Melanie shook her head. "Obviously such subversiveness does not work, for someone has been informing the King already without our knowing it. I personally believe Aslan is even now at work. I am inclined to comply with the King's summons. Come with me! Perhaps we will have unexpected opportunities even en route to Narnia to witness for Aslan. One person is powerful indeed, but just imagine the power of two testimonies!"
"Melanie," Samson cried, "If I have guessed His Majesty's intention aright, his invitation is merely a means to lure us out, to kill us, and replace us with ones more loyal, and haters of Aslan. I have seen the failure of the rulings of such men, and it pains me to think of what they would do to Nast and to all of Telmar. Please do not be so foolish as to leave Nast in the hands of men like those!"
The mention of death scared Melanie. She had never considered it. Could she actually die here in a different world? Would the Pevensies know what happened to her?
The slight hiss of the lamps lighting alerted Melanie to the approach of evening.
"I must return by nightfall," Lord Samson said, "but please, Lady Melanie, Nast needs you!"
"I will consult Aslan in the night, and what he decides, I will do."
"Aslan be with you, Milady," Lord Samson said.
"And you also, Milord," Melanie replied.
[Excerpt from Chapter 25]
"I have decided . . ." she said slowly, "to go to Narnia."
Martan's heart jumped from his bowels to his throat.
"No!" he choked, "Melanie, please don't go!"
She continued, "I hereby bequeath upon you full Lordship of Nast, and officially end the line of Lord Steward."
"Melanie," Martan cried, "please listen to me. Ever since I first met you, I have loved you."
Melanie stopped and stared at him, not quite sure what she was hearing. "What?" she gasped.
"I see in your purity what made my grandfather so willing to wait for you. You are kind, gracious, noble, honorable, and such qualities only enhance your physical beauty!"
"Nay, call me Martan! Melanie, I have watched you all this year, and have seen how, though you could have turned me out of the palace immediately upon your return, you chose instead to welcome me as a partner in rule. Melanie," Martan dropped to one knee before the blushing lady on the throne, "I would be honored beyond words and fulfilled to the uttermost if you would consent to stay here, and become my wife."
Melanie felt her whole world tilt wildly! "Martan," she cried, flustered, "I could have been your grandmother!"
He shook his head, "Yet some miracle has kept your appearance from fading, and you do not look much older than I am! Please Melanie! Do not throw away your life like this, I beg you!" He clasped his hands and raised them pleadingly.
Melanie felt the rush and flush of her spirits rising and falling at the same time.
"Martan," she said resolutely, though her chin quivered a bit, "I confess I have admired you as well. You have shown promising fortitude and great judgement in this last year, and I have greatly valued your friendship toward me."
Martan looked up, his eyes hopeful. "Then you accept my proposal?"
There was no mistaking the pain in Melanie's eyes as she said gently, "No, Martan. It is Aslan's will for me to go."
"No! It can't be!"
"I am afraid it is. Aslan appeared to me in a dream last night, and said that I should go," her voice caught and dropped to a near-whisper, "and that I shall never see Telmar again once I leave."
Melanie left Nast. The carriage rocked back and forth. Her thoughts turned to Aslan. He said she would never see Telmar again. Perhaps he did not mean she would die. What if, on the contrary, she returned to England from Narnia? Melanie sighed; optimistic, but impossible. She might as well prepare for her death. She remembered what Lord Samson had said about the diabolical King Caspian VIII. It would not surprise her if he intended men to murder her en route! Why else would he order her to come in a closed carriage? It created a scenario with the perfect alibi. Perhaps her only option—if she indeed intended to play the heroine and witness to someone on this journey—was to share her testimony with her murderers, if they even let her speak or listened to her.
The carriage slowed to a stop, and Melanie's heart jumped into her throat. She felt suddenly ill. Had her time come? It was certainly too soon to have reached Narnia; Melanie was positive they could not have even reached the borders of Telami!
She heard a footman jump down and open the door of the carriage. Melanie was surprised to see pitch-blackness outside when it ought to have been the middle of the afternoon. Perhaps more time had passed than she realized.
An unseen hand gently supported hers as she disembarked the carriage onto—
A wood floor?
Instant silence pervaded. Melanie could hardly see; it seemed a likely place for a murder to happen. She felt something weighing from her wrist, and a square, flat wooden block under her arm. A bright flash of light caused her to whirl around. There was a small, round window behind her. Where had it come from?
She crept toward it making absolutely no noise at all. Something struck her arm when she raised her hand to the window. What was it? A burlap bag, suspended from her wrist by a drawstring. Where had she gotten that? There were small objects inside it. Melanie pulled one out and held it up to what little light came through the window to see it.
Lightning flashed again outside, and in its brief light, Melanie discerned the shape of the object: the miniature wooden bust of a horse.....
What will become of Martan and the rest of Telmar?
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The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 1: "The Legend of Telmar" (Part 1)
The Telmar Trilogy, Vol. 2: "Her Ladyship of Telmar" (Part 1)