Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Beruna by A.J. Hall


“That beaver we’re following just told me to ssh!”

“Oh, I knew there was something I’d forgotten to tell you, Mum. The goat man, the one I met the first time I came here, did sort of mention that some of the animals here could talk.”

“Oh, dear Lord, don’t let Herc ever find his way here or I shall never hear the last of it. And he’ll be so unbearably smug.”

“No need to keep on whispering, love. We’re out of the deep woods now. Welcome to Dundamming. At least, that’s what the missus calls it. Me, I think there’s still a good bit to do. ‘Specially when it comes to the sluice gates. But then, females never do understand DIY, am I right, lads? And speaking of Her Indoors —”

“So you’ve come at last. Whoever thought we’d see the day? Now, you all must be frozen solid. The kettle’s on, so come in and have a nice cup of tea.”

“I’ll go on ahead from here. You just wait until I signal, and then come up to the fishing hole — don’t make too much noise — and we should have enough trout for lunch before you can say knife.”

“Cheery little chap, isn’t he, Billy Beaver? Though I can’t say I quite peg him as the leader of the Narnian Maquis. What about you?”

“Sorry, Douglas, what did you say?”

“Martin, are you quite all right? You seem a trifle distracted.”

“No: I’m fine. Perfectly — fine. Couldn’t be better. Fine. Just fine. Anyway, what was it you wanted to say about the Beavers?”

“Oh, them? I was just going to remark that, welcoming as Mr and Mrs Beaver are — and doubtless the salt of the frozen earth — it hadn’t previously occurred to me how sinister If you meet things that look human and aren’t, keep your eyes on them and feel for your hatchet sounds, in the mouth of a beaver. Especially once one realises that all the trees round here are supposed to have tutelary spirits in the shape of beautiful girls.”

“Douglas, you don’t mean —”

“That that little speech might have been less an allegorical musing on the theme of Platonic originals, and more a rationalisation of genocidal impulses towards the neighbours? The thought had crossed my mind, yes. Perhaps that’s why Narnia needs four monarchs. One to take care of the hospital-opening, hat-wearing side of the monarching biz, and the other three to be in charge of various bits of the Narnian Equal Opportunities Commission.”

“Oh, so you have been thinking of the prophecy about Cair Paraval. Look, while that beaver’s busy smashing a hole in the ice with an axe handle, can you take a look at this?”

“Your phone? Martin, I hate to break this to you, but I’m fairly certain you won’t get a signal in here. And, if you do, the roaming charges will be astronomical.”

“When I was coming back with the coats, I got a text alert, only I was in such a state I didn’t look at it then. I’ve only just got round to checking.”

“Entirely understandable. It isn’t every day a skipper finds a portal to another world in his cockpit locker. Not even at Air England. So, when you did examine it, who was it from?”

“Teresa. Look at the time stamp. She must have arrived at the portacabin at the very moment we opened the cockpit door. I can’t help thinking that if I’d only checked, while I was still in GERTI’s cabin —”

“—You might have dashed out, collected your girlfriend, said, ‘Honey, forget our plans for the evening, boy, have I got something to show you!’ and brought her with us into Narnia?”

“Sort of, yes. Only it’s worse than that. Suppose by not checking my phone I’ve messed it all up from the start? If this really is Narnia —”

“As opposed to any other fantasy world we might have been concealing inside GERTI?”

“As opposed to one of your schemes.”

One of my schemes? The most remarkable — the most literally enchanting — moment of my entire existence, and you choose to dismiss it as one of my schemes?”

“Oh, come on, Douglas. Leopards can’t change their spots —”

“Are you absolutely sure of that — captain? Narnian leopards might, for all we know, be able to alter their look faster than a supermodel at Paris Fashion Week.”

“Well, they might.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Douglas, you know perfectly well what I mean. If you’d really believed Arthur, you’d have made sure Teresa came along, to make sure the numbers worked out right for the prophecy. Narnia needs two kings and two queens for the four thrones in Cair Paraval. The fact you didn’t insist on my bringing Teresa shows it’s one of your schemes.”

“Martin, has it never struck you that as a way of allocating supreme executive power, that prophecy has one rather major flaw? No-one here knows a thing about us, and if we told them who we were and what we do in our day jobs, first, they wouldn’t understand and, second, they certainly wouldn’t think it was any kind of qualification for putting us in charge of the whole shebang.”

“Especially if it were Arthur doing the explaining. I hate to say it, but you have a point.”

“A very cogent point. All the average Narnian-in-the-forest will know when we ask them to put their lives on the line for us is that we come from somewhere a very long way away and we aren’t the White Witch. Which sounds rather less like demanding they choose between justice and tyranny and rather more like asking a 19th century resident of the Congo if he’d prefer to be imperially oppressed by Queen Victoria or by King Leopold the Second of Belgium.”

“Douglas, if you’re trying to convince me you’ve developed conscientious scruples about exploiting the locals, I’ll know it has to be a scheme.”

“Will you, indeed? Well in that case — ah! I see a webbed paw signalling our attention at the ice hole. We shall have to leave this interesting discussion to a more convenient season. But trust me, Martin, I don’t propose to forget it.”

“No, Mrs Beaver, truly, I simply couldn’t eat another bite. Whoever thought marmalade could be so versatile?”

“It’d be a super thing to add to my orange platter.”

“Indeed it would, Arthur. Once you work out how to steam a suet pudding at 30,000 feet. In a microwave. And a strategem to convince a clientele who finds strudel a bridge too far that marmalade roll is the new cheesecake.”

“Anyway, now we’ve all eaten, it’s time to get down to business.”


“Aslan is on the move. He will soon call us to battle. We need to be ready.”

“But who is Aslan? And why does he expect us to participate in any battle? Excuse me if I sound a bit short, but this day has not gone precisely the way I expected. First, my son comes up with some garbled story about a magic country in my plane’s cockpit locker. To make matters worse, there actually is a magic country in my plane’s cockpit locker. At that point, without anyone even pausing to ask whether my shoes are up to it (which, for your information, they aren’t) I’m dragged off on a route march through a snow-bound and allegedly eavesdropping forest. And then I’ve been ‘sshed’ every time I’ve asked a perfectly reasonable question, such as, for instance, ‘Where are we?’ ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘Who’s going to feed the dog if we’re delayed getting back?’”

“Oh, Mum, I forgot all about Snoopadoop. She’s all on her own. Who is going to feed her?”

“Don’t you worry about that, Mr Arthur. Aslan has called you here, so Aslan will provide.”

“Well, in that case I hope this Aslan of yours does it more effectively than Herc. The word ‘obdurate’ holds no meaning until one has witnessed Herc confronting a cockapoo with a plate of vegetarian dogfood.”

“The original case of the irresistable force meeting the immovable object.”

“Douglas —”

“Not now, Arthur. Mr Beaver is just about to explain about Aslan.”

“The one who’s going to feed Snoopadoop? Is he another beaver, Mr Beaver?”

“That’s a good one, that is! Aslan a beaver! Mother, think of that! Aslan a beaver!”

“The very idea! No, love, Aslan’s the High King over all High Kings in Narnia, the son of the Emperor over sea. He’s not an ordinary beast, no, not at all. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan’s a lion — the lion, the Great Lion.”

“Oh, that’s brilliant. I mean, lions are brilliant. But then, so are polar bears. And whales. Whales are really brilliant. I saw this David Attenborough documentary that said their songs —”

“Code red, Arthur. So, Mr Beaver, we’re waiting for instructions from a lion and when we get them, the lion is going to take us to war? I don’t think I’ve ever heard any more preposterous suggestion in my entire life.”

“Carolyn, there’s something Martin and I need to tell you. Er, Martin—?”

“Look, everyone, this is probably nothing at all to worry about, and I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, and I’m sure all of you have already noticed and thought of the reasonable explanation for yourselves, but I do think I ought to mention Martin did sort of whisper to me he was popping out out for a moment, just before the marmalade roll. And he’s not come back.”

“I’ve looked all around. If there were footmarks, they’ve been covered by snow. He must have been gone some time.”

“Well, then there’s no time to waste. We must set out after him, and search. At once. If Arthur and I stay together, and you —”

“Set out after him? Don’t you understand, that’s exactly what the White Witch will be expecting. She’ll be planning on using him as bait to bag all four of you.”

“The White Witch? This — this sorceress you claim is running everything round here? What could she possibly want with Martin? She can’t even know he exists, and dear God if I were trying deduce something from first principles it would indeed be a cold day in Hell before Martin came up as the result.”

“Doesn’t she know he exists, though?”

“Spit it out, Douglas. What are you trying to insinuate?”

“Do you think he could have been in Narnia before?”

“Martin? Certainly not. When could Martin possibly have been in Narnia?”

“Well, Carolyn, I hate to mention it, but it does just occur to me there is one faint possibility.”

“Pray tell. And don’t expect credulity.”

“After he saw Arthur emerging from the cockpit locker the first time — I did wonder, myself, why Martin hadn’t simply hung on at the airfield and investigated the situation as soon as possible.”

“Because he’s a gormless ditherer who can second-guess himself fourteen ways to Sunday over whether to choose a croissant or a Belgian bun.”

“True — of course. But it has just occurred to me is perhaps the reason he didn’t is because he had. Arthur, can you answer one question?”

“Probably not, but I’ll give it a go.”

“OK, then. International Phonetic Alphabet. Letter —G.”

“Oh — that’s not fair, Douglas. You know I always get G wrong.”

“True, but you could say the same with equal conviction about R, K, L, X, P, S and N. And, for that matter, D, A, J, Y and B. So, Arthur, give us your best shot. Alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo, foxtrot — ?”

“G — G— hang on a moment, I can do this — I invented this way of remembering it — I think of Scotland and I think of sport — Lyle!”

“Not precisely whang in the gold, but slightly closer to the target than your usual effort. So it never occurred to you to suggest, say for instance, Giant?”

“No, but that would work, wouldn’t it, Douglas? G for Giant. I wonder why I didn’t think of it.”

“Possibly because it isn’t the answer. What I’m wondering, though, is why Martin told me you had.”


“Mr Beaver, could you kindly explain what you meant by that ‘Ah’?”

“I didn’t like to mention it before, him being with you and everything but the moment I laid eyes on that young man I said to myself, ‘Treacherous’. He had the look of someone who’s been with the White Witch and eaten her food. You can always tell them if you live long enough in Narnia. It’s something about the eyes.”

“Oh, this is quite ridiculous. Martin may be many things — quite ridiculous being one of them, come to think of it — but I refuse to believe he’s a traitor.”

“Whether you like it or not, if he hasn’t gone to join her of his own free will — and I’ll lay odds he has — he’s bound to be picked up by one of the Witch’s patrols if he goes wandering about after dark, and then they’ll be straight here in a jiffy. We must set out to join Aslan at once.”

“Not before I’ve made up a load of food and blankets for all of us, dear. So hand me down that ham and those two loaves, while you’re on your feet. And I don’t like leaving my sewing machine behind either, not with the White Witch breaking in here and fiddling with it or stealing it, like as not. I don’t suppose we could take it with us?”

“Indeed, Mrs Beaver, we jolly well can and, what’s more, we jolly well will.”

“Douglas? What —”

“Excuse us for a moment. Carolyn and I need to have a small private chat. Outside will do nicely. After you, Carolyn.”

“Brr. That’s nippy.”

“It certainly is. So, make it snappy. Are you serious about the sewing machine or is this just us grabbing a respite from two garrulous overgrown rodents whose politics skew well to the right of UKIP? Or do you merely wish to share another far-fetched and offensive speculation about Martin’s whereabouts?”

“Didn’t anything about Mrs Beaver’s sewing machine strike you as just a trifle odd?”

“No, why should it? Fifty years ago every other house had one like it. At the age of twelve I made my first — and, thankfully, last — pinafore dress on a machine that could have been that one’s first cousin.”

“Mm. My grandmother had one, too. Caused a degree of family froideur when she left it to my mother instead of my eldest aunt. Something of a classic of late Victorian engineering. Cast iron body, steel plates, designed with a truly imperial eye on withstanding extremes of heat, cold and humidity — one can quite see why Mrs Beaver doesn’t want it to fall into the hands of the enemy.”

“Spit it out, Douglas. What are you driving at?”

“Carolyn, everything else in the Beavers’ charmingly bijou residence is the sort of handcrafted stuff I believe they refer to as ‘artisanal’ in Hoxton and places where they hip. A mass-produced sewing machine sticks out like a Harrier jump jet in Orville and Wilbur Wright’s bicycle shed.”


“An industrial base which could produce Mrs Beaver’s sewing machine is more than capable of producing the Maxim gun. So, before we go dashing into the ranks of a resistance led by an ambiguously allegorical lion, I’d rather like, if you don’t mind, Carolyn, to find out where that industrial base is and who’s controlling it.”

“Well, they do say God is on the side of the big battalions.”

“God, possibly. But is Aslan?”

“Well, that could have gone worse. We have at least had search parties sent out to look for Martin.”

“It could have gone better, too. When I mentioned advanced engineering capability Aslan clammed up like the proverbial — do you suppose they have talking clams in Narnia? And, if so, how can one tell?”

“I neither know nor care. All I care about is that it seems that army of which Aslan has rashly given you supreme command does not appear likely to be facing machine guns. Why this should make me feel better, when I gather it is facing a witch who can turn people to stone with a wave of a small stick, I cannot imagine, but it does.”

“I believe now may be the time to discover my inner Duke of Plaza-Toro. Weapons-training, they tell me, takes decades to perfect and is best begun in early youth. Since I’ve had no fencing practice since a brief and ill-advised period when I was going out with a girl who was a pillar of the Sealed Knot, I think it would be foolish of Aslan to expect me to lead his army from the front. After all, I’ve been led to believe that one of the key principles of the military biz is playing to one’s strengths.”

“I suppose that means; ‘being sneaky and having an eye on the main chance.’”

“Advanced strategy and a clear and objective assessment of the tactical situation, yes. There’s a nice, easily fortified bunch of crags overlooking what I suspect will be the Witch’s battle-field of choice. Or, rather, it’ll be the one she chooses when we herd her forces in that direction. Those dwarf chappies look like pretty competent military engineers. And we do have air reconnaissance and comms ability, albeit in the form of peregrine falcons — also, of course, pigeons, at least so long as the peregrines don’t get over-excited.”

“Or peckish. Oh, look, there’s Arthur.”

“And looking very excited, too. Arthur! What’s the news?”

“One of Aslan’s patrols has found the Witch’s sled, abandoned.”

“That, I expect, would be owing to the widespread outbreak of spring in these parts. Springtime — for Aslan — and Narnia —

“Douglas! There’s a fine line between excusable eve-of-battle gallows humour and something likely to get you strung up on the nearest tree.

“Or by the nearest tree, I suppose, in these parts. Point taken. Anyway, Arthur, why all the excitement about a sledge? Did it have Rosebud inscribed on its transom?”

“I never asked. Is it important? Anyway, they said that the Witch had only just abandoned it, and it was clear from the tracks and stuff that she must have a prisoner with her and they’re off to rescue him. We’re going to get Martin back! Hurrah!”

“Well, I admit that is a load of my mind — though, mind you, I’ll have a few things to say to him when he gets here.”

“As, I imagine, will Aslan. Oh, look, they’re coming back carrying some sort of stretcher — there’s something moving on it — come on, everyone.”

“Martin — we’re all here. You’re in Aslan’s camp.”

“But — but that’s not —”

“Oh, hello Mr Goat-Man. Look, it’s absolutely brilliant seeing you again, and I really don’t think it was your fault at all that the Witch turned up when I’d happened to doze off, so don’t worry about it at all, because that sort of thing is just bad luck, but I don’t suppose when you were with the Witch you happened to see Skip, did you? Because he’s been missing for ages, and we’re worried about him.”

“Arthur! You idiot boy, this is an army camp on the eve of battle, not a boy scout jamboree in Bournemouth. You can’t simply go sloping off into the woods willy-nilly.”

“I know, Mum, but — didn’t you think he looked sad?”

“Sad? Who?”

“Aslan, of course. After he finished talking to — talking to her. After she said she had no more claims on Mr Goat-man — and I really think it was a bit much of Aslan and her both calling him a traitor, when it was obviously all a misunderstanding, and if I’ve said I don’t mind, why should they? Anyway, after she’d gone Aslan sort of mooched off and I thought he was looking really sad.”

“And this should concern me why, precisely?”

“Mum! You’re not still grumpy because of what he said about you and the battle, are you?”

“No, of course not.”

“Because you can’t really want to be in a battle. It’ll be horrible.”

“No, of course I don’t. But — look, I know this sounds silly, and you mustn’t breathe a word to Douglas — or Herc, for that matter — but if there has to be a battle, I’d rather be doing something useful than be told to stay quietly on the sidelines because I’m a little old lady and it appears there isn’t anything I can do in Narnia except be a little old lady.”

“But Mum! I’m sure Aslan can’t have meant that —”

“And then he was ridiculously unhelpful on the topic of Martin. Rather than coming straight out and admitting he hasn’t a clue where that idiot’s gone, he went all pompous and said, ‘You are asking me to tell someone else’s story. I never tell anyone any story but their own.’ And when I pointed out that Martin is my pilot and therefore his whereabouts are very much part of my story, he changed the subject with a thoroughly uncalled-for comment about your father.”

Dad? Mum, he’s not here, is he? He’s not. He can’t be.”

“I’m quite sure he isn’t. Even Aslan could hardly have had the cheek to come out with ‘You failed in love because you never attempted obedience’ if he’d ever met Gordon.”

“Anyway, Mum, even if you and Aslan didn’t exactly hit it off, I expect he was just sounding a bit short-tempered because he was worried about something. And that’s why I think I ought to go and try to cheer him up. So may I? Please.”

“I’ve told you before, Arthur, you’re a grown man. You don’t need my permission to do anything. If you think your artless prattle will cheer the cockles of Aslan’s jungly heart, then you are by all means free to try the experiment. But I’m coming with you. At bottom, a lion is always a lion, and I’m not going to stand idly by while you go the way of little Albert Ramsbottom.”

“Friends, I see in your eyes the shadow of the same fear that would take the heart of me.

“There may come a day when the hearts of Beasts fail; when centaurs’ aim falters; when elephants forget to reinforce the rear. But it is not this day. There may come a day when dryads wither, fauns grow two left feet and beavers cease to fish. But it is not this day. There may come a day when honey-badgers’ teeth grow blunt; when peregrines are overtaken in their flight; when dwarves’ fortifications crumble. But it is not this day.

“Today we fight, for all that we hold dear. For your loved ones — for your pups, cubs, calves, chicks and foals! For your burrows, holts, nests, setts and lodges! For this land, this precious jewel edged with a silver sea, this Narnia!

“Friends, Narnians, brothers — take courage all! Stand firm! Defy the Witch! Cry Aslan for Douglas, Narnia and Cair Paravel!”

“Oh, dear God, that was frankly horrible. The worst flight of my life and believe you me, Douglas, after having had you and Martin at the controls of GERTI over the years, that is saying quite a bit.”

“Oh, no, Mum, it was brilliant! My eagle talked to me all the way. I know lots and lots about Narnian history now. At least, I would know lots if I could remember any of the names and knew where any of the places were.”

“You see what I mean? I loathe and despise a chatty pilot. Especially one whom I strongly suspect of generously sharing his feather mites with his passengers. Anyway, Douglas, I am the bearer of good news and of bad news.”

“That makes a nice change.”

“Why? Is the battle not going well?”

“Before I spotted those eagles were carrying you and Arthur, my first thought was ‘And now the vultures are bringing doggy bags’ . We did have some early successes. I had a frank eve-of-battle pep talk with that Faun chappie — I pointed out that since Aslan had gone out of his way for his sake, we were all rather expecting something of a quid pro quo — which inspired him to lead a forlorn hope and smash the Witch’s wand. That’s why the battlefield’s looking slightly less like the aftermath of a riot in a monumental mason’s than it might otherwise have done. But after that the tide started to turn. We’ve had a few close shaves repelling attackers from the heights — I was even forced to put hand to sword myself at one point —”

“Yes, Douglas, as you suspected, this is me pointedly ignoring that large and theatrical bandage currently adorning your head. Well, as I said, I bring good news and bad news. The bad is that there is still no sign of Martin. The good is that Aslan’s alive —”

“Is he really? Good heavens, what a turn up for the book, who could have possibly suspected it?”

“Douglas, does this not come as a surprise to you?”

“Not really. Nor would it to you if you’d ever troubled to acquaint yourself with one of the great classics of children’s literature.”

“—and he’s currently leading an army of liberated statues from the Witch’s castle to reinforce your ranks. I am to tell you they will be with you by sunset at the latest.”

“Something of a large assumption, that. I wouldn’t give any odds we’ll still be here by sunset.”

“Douglas! Is that the whiff of defeatism I smell?”

“No, Carolyn: it’s the realism of someone who’s spent several hours fighting a battle at adverse odds against a sorceress with several hundred years practice at dirty pool under her Pre-Raphaelite girdle, coupled with the natural strain of leading troops half of whom dash excitably in all directions the moment someone says ‘Squirrel’ and the rest of whom are squirrels.”

“Mum, Douglas, look! There’s a huge great dragon just flapped over the hill. I bet Aslan’s sent it to help, until he can get here. I told you it’d be all right in the end.”

“Arthur, your optimism does you credit but two millennia’s religious iconography is against you. Dragons are not noted for cleaving to the side of Light. Judging from the general rejoicing among the enemy, that appears to be the consensus on the ground, too.”

“Just look at those awful bat-things all swarming towards it like — like screaming girls at the stage door at a Beatles concert! I’d like to swat the horrid things.”

“Oh, Mum, the dragon’s gone all glowy and shiny —”

“Good heavens, it looks as if it’s about to —”


“Well, I think we can say that’s a big No More Mr Nice Guy to his fans from Sir Paul MacDragon there.”

“I said it was on our side.”

“And, unless we’ve just witnessed the biggest friendly fire faux-pas in recorded history, it jolly well is.”

“It’s coming round for another pass — oh, do watch out for those pterodactyls on your tail, you dozy beast —”

“Gotcha! And with a remarkably polished barrel-roll, too. A dragon, one rather fancies, who grew up with Red Arrows posters pinned to the walls of its lair and who frittered away the first makings of its hoard on aeronautics displays at Farnborough.”

“Douglas — are you by any chance suggesting —”

“Carolyn, when it turns for its next strafing run, I invite you to take a long hard look at its head.”

“Good God, the beast’s wearing a hat!”

“Quite so. And what a hat. None of this restrained braid nonsense: solid gold all the way. Carolyn, I believe we may have found our Martin.”