Evelyn woke to the sound of the door opening. Her eyes shot open to see Queens Susan and Lucy looking down on the three of them. She fell off the couch in shock and embarrassment when she realized she was curled on the couch, her head on the High King's knee. His hand fell away from her shoulder, but he didn't stir. King Edmund lay nestled into his elder brother's side, his head on the High King's shoulder. Both of them were rather cute when they slept, and they looked peaceful.
"I truly dislike waking my Kings when they sleep so, but I really must. They are in need of preparing for the ride and picnic," Queen Susan told her softly as Queen Lucy helped her to her feet. "Your Majesties," she bowed, and then looked back at the Kings.
"I am surprised they did not wake when I fell off the couch," she told the two Queens.
"The cold must have really gotten to them to drive Edmund in here. What brought you here, Evelyn?" the Gentle Queen replied, tenderly shaking Edmund's shoulder as Lucy perched gracefully on her eldest brother's lap.
"His Majesty was having a nightmare, and it seems Aslan gave me the ability to sense such things. Well, concerning His Majesty anyway. His Majesty's need was strong enough that I was unable to sleep and it actually yanked me here. I was able to draw the cold from His Majesty, but it seems that the cold knows Aslan's gift to me was to remove my memory. The instant I felt the cold, I remembered some of the things I know Aslan did not want me to remember," Evelyn explained.
"You can sense Peter's need?" Queen Lucy asked, surprised by the idea.
"I can, Your Majesty. It is a physical feeling. When His Majesty needs me, I feel a pull, or in last night's case, a yank, on my arm in the direction of His Majesty. It depends on the strength of His Majesty's need," Evelyn responded, watching in amusement as the Kings woke slowly.
"Do you know your guard? Have you found your shield against the Dark Magic?" Queen Susan asked, wisely standing out of range of the pillow King Edmund threw in half-hearted attempt.
"I must dream. My dreams counter King Peter's nightmares, and then this magic cannot enter me. I must willingly draw it into me. I think in time the magic will weaken as it continues its assault on the Kings, but I am not sure," Evelyn said, laughing softly at Edmund's annoyed face. "Your Majesties," she added, bowed and moved back away towards the door.
"Wait, Evelyn, you'll attend the picnic with us?" Queen Susan asked. Evelyn glanced at the High King, who nodded encouraging. Lucy nodded too, smiling in her charming way.
"What time should I join you, Your Majesties?" She asked, and was rewarded with a smile from the High King.
"Be ready for two hours before midday. I'll send an attendant to bring you to the stable," the Gentle Queen replied.
"Very well, Your Majesties," Evelyn bowed and moved out the door, her footsteps silent on the marble floor.
Back in her golden room, Evelyn found herself joined by not only Spirit but the Bengal tiger as well. He circled her rooms, sniffing and poking his head into places. He seemed satisfied when he laid down in the study in front of the desk. Spirit followed Evelyn into her bedchamber, where the girl ducked into the bathing room that was off one corner.
The bathing room had surprised the girl. She'd expected a simple basin that would be filled from the pipes that ran throughout the castle. She did not expect the actual basin to be cut out of the marble flooring or that it would always be filled with steaming scented water. She was pretty sure it was vanilla cherry blossom, but she wasn't certain, because it smelled richer than vanilla. Everything in Narnia was richer and deeper and clearer than she knew things to be. But that was okay to her, since she didn't remember what things were like in her birth world.
Smiling slightly at the sight of the pool, she pulled off her clothes and draped them over what she'd deemed the dirty clothes rack, since she hadn't found clothes there after her previous bath. Instead she had found fresh towels and the dress and whatnot on a separate rack. Undoing her hair, she slipped into the pool and swam into the middle. The depth here was great enough that she couldn't touch the bottom without going a good three feet under water.
After her bath, using one of the fluffy towels, she dried off before turning to the clothes. She examined the dress laid out for her as she pulled on undergarments and wrapped her hair in a towel. She could tell by the split skirts that it was a riding dress, and when she pulled it on, she found that it fit perfectly. She let the naiad attendant have at her hair, and when she used the small looking glass, she found a braided coil of golden hair. "I'm blonde!" she gasped. Then she looked at her eyes in the glass and saw the sapphire blue gaze looking back.
"Just like the High King, milady," the naiad teased.
"Are any of the others blue eyed?" Evelyn asked.
"Queen Lucy is. Queen Susan has light green eyes, and King Edmund has dark brown eyes," she replied, taking the mirror and pushing her out into the bedchamber, where Evelyn found herself being done up in silvery blue eye powder, darker blue eye pencil, and chap stick to heal her salt damaged lips. She slipped on stockings and a pair of leather lace up riding boots, and then tucked the knife into her left boot and the dagger into the right one.
Queen Susan's attendant turned out to be a young gray and white cat. The little thing pawed at the bottom of her blue and white skirt before she picked it up and set it on her shoulder. Spirit and Flame, the Bengal tiger, padded on either side of her as the cat gave her directions down to the stable yard. It was here that she found part of the Calormen party already mounted on their horses. The cat guided her to where Queen Susan sat in the side saddle of her bay mare, who Evelyn would later learn was a Talking Horse. A moment later, two horses were lead over, one with tack, one without it. The tack-less mare was nearly identical to Queen Susan's, and Queen Lucy was helped onto her back by a centaur female.
"I do hope you are alright to ride, Lady Evelyn," Queen Susan said, allowing the gray cat to climb onto her saddle from Evelyn's shoulder.
"I am, but if it does not displease Your Majesty, I would rather ride without tack," Evelyn replied, curtsying to the two Queens.
"Ducal, would you remove Snowfire's tack for Lady Evelyn?" the Gentle Queen requested the faun nearby.
"Of course, Madam," he replied, bowing before he unsaddled the white stallion.
Evelyn offered her hand to Snowfire, and he sniffed it, and her, over. "May I?" she asked, moving so he could see her.
"Of course, milady. I offered to carry you," Snowfire replied, bobbing his head. He held still as Evelyn placed her hands on his back, and then she leaped.
High King Peter watched from across the courtyard as Evelyn placed her hands on Snowfire's back. She had her back turned, so she did not see the looks she was getting from the Calormen Company. The ladies were rather offended that she did not ride with a saddle, and that she did not take help from a man to mount. The knights were scoffing at her independence, and the noblemen smirked in that kind of I-know-better-than-you amusement. But the High King of Narnia felt himself swell with pride when he watched her vault onto the stallion in a move so graceful it was obvious it was well practiced.
A squad of the Palace Guard was detached to escort the party to the cliff top clearing that served as the picnic area. The Guards' red tabards, shields, and various pieces of armor were emblazed with the golden cat, and they were composed mostly of centaurs, satyrs and fauns, but there was the odd dwarf in their midst. The High King rode alongside the Lieutenant of the squad as his brother rode a little ways behind him, talking with one of the younger knights in the party.
When they reached the clearing, the men dismounted and began to help the women down from their side saddles, and the High King was quick to help his sister the Gentle Queen from her saddle. He'd always be the elder brother, and he was fiercely protective of his siblings, even though the Queen was not of age. But, as he knew, that didn't stop suitors from trying. He pushed the thoughts from his mind as he set his sister on the grass, and smiled as Lucy swung from her mare's back into Edmund's waiting arms.
Of course, Evelyn needed no help, and when the party spread their blankets in the grass, she was right beside the Valiant Queen to help. Queen Susan made small talk about clothing, their accommodations, the weather, and even the next gala with the ladies in the party as the Kings entertained the knights and lords with talk of weapons and sailing and horses. Lucy and Evelyn sat with the eight great cats that had accompanied the Narnian royalty and noblewoman. Evelyn was introduced to each of them, and discovered that the High King's personal guard snow leopard was named Tahki. Queen Susan's guards, an ocelot and a margay, were named Nafisa and Halima. King Edmund's guard, a black panther, was called Wacia. Evelyn was not surprised to learn that the two lions, one a lioness, were Queen Lucy's personal guards. Their names were Barak and Glimmer. Both Spirit and Flame had come, and Evelyn found Spirit's presence especially comforting as she watched the ladies flirt with the High King.
He, as he had at the ball, was doing a poor job of pleasing them. Queen Susan met Evelyn's eyes and nodded to the lady, shifting her eyes quickly to her brother. Evelyn nodded in understanding and carefully excused herself from a silently giggling Queen Lucy. She slipped her way between picnic-goers until she could sweep her skirts out and settle herself beside King Edmund.
"He's doing horribly, isn't he?" she murmured.
"Yes. He seems to only make them unsatisfied, then they return to pester him more," the King replied in a low tone that only she heard.
"Allow me a moment, Your Majesty," she whispered, taking a cup of the weak white wine they drank with the midday meal. He nodded and rose, then resettled on her other side, placing her between himself and his brother. She took a sip of the wine and found it to be more like juice than actual wine. She lowered the cup, and then reached for some kind of berry tart. She felt the High King take her cup from her hand and when she looked at him, he had raised it to his own lips. He flashed her a smile half hidden behind the cup, and she knew it was meant for her only. "You're not even trying," she scolded him quietly.
"I do not want to try. I much rather prefer your company to theirs," he told her frankly. She realized with a strange sense of joy that he was flirting with her as he sipped from her cup.
"You have to at least attempt to keep good relations with them," she reminded him, taking the cup back.
"I know. But the women are so trying of my patience. I have no interest in whatever it is they talk about," he admitted.
"You don't need to be interested. You don't have to strike up conversations with the women. Offer a compliment here and there, make simple inquiries of perhaps food or drink, use their names once in a while, and you'll be as golden as you look," she murmured, resting her weight back on one hand at her side.
"How is it that you know this?" he teased so softly that King Edmund couldn't hear him. He moved to take food of his own, and his hand brushed over her knees. When he drew back, he shifted slightly closer to her and covered her hand with his where no one else could see it. She offered him the cup and he took it, smiling at her understanding.
Of course, there was one person who wasn't so focused on the scenery or food or another conversation that they noticed what the Calormen women did not. High King Peter was smitten with this girl. And that was all he needed to know to set their plan in motion.