Three Years Later
As bitter salt was whipped by the wind, harmonious sirens surfaced. Singing a song of good fortune for the journey, the maidens of the sea waved at the men who were loading crates of apples, cherries, and pomegranates up onto the vast deck of the regal ship.
The Dawn Treader, the finest vessel to embark on water, bore the colors of purple and gold in weaves of curls and ridges. The mast was strong and never creaked, being made of solid cherry with a stained finish. The massive sails, when taught, swayed ever so lightly even in windless weather, making it seem as if the ship were dancing. The flags of the king hoisted high into the air like a beacon of sense in a sea of blind ambition flurried into a field of unknown certainty. In the midst of this calm clamor and prestige stood two brothers who, like most when leaving for a final time, said goodbye in the longest way possible.
"So, I take I can't change your mind?"
"Even if you dragged me by the tail."
Trufflehunter laughed, for he had half a mind to do so. Seeing his friend embark on the adventure they dreamed about The Badger wondered if he could muster up the courage join him. For he was just as enthusiastic as he was and yet, Trufflehunter was content to leave ambition and dreams behind in his youth. For he had, not better things, but more practical things, to do. There was dinner to prepare, books to write and read, songs to be sung, and children to put to bed. The adventure of fatherhood was enough for him and upon gazing at his friend, who was the bulwark of his life, leave and do the thing he dared Trufflehunter simply smiled.
"You're finally doing it Reepicheep," the Badger said as his eyes slowly became wet. "I've never been so proud."
"You are sounding like my father, you can stop any time." Reepicheep replied with a slight eye roll and grin.
"Yes," Trufflehunter continued, "but you're going away for who knows how long- months, years even…"
The Badger paused with a sigh, thinking to himself the words that might motivate him to take himself and his bag full of medical supplies, books, and pens, which he carried on his back, onto the boat so that this conversation of depression can end and at least for a time, return to normalcy. Instead, he looked to the ground as if there was something more interesting there and when his mouth found the words to speak again he looked up into Reepicheep's eyes as a single tear ran down his cheek.
"This truly may be the last time I see you."
"I know," The Mouse replied, himself finding it difficult to repress emotion that was natural to give began to feel his heart break into millions of little pieces. "But I sincerely hope it will not be. I have half a mind to drag you up that ramp and force you to journey with me. But I will not, because you have a life here and I cannot deprive a man of his life."
"You have a life here too-"
"No!" Reepicheep quipped with a glare, "I had one, it was well lived, it was beautiful. The happiest years I could ask for and you were and still remain to be my bravest friend. But to say that I have a life here would be cheating me of a life somewhere else."
"If it's because of what happened-"
Reepicheep shook his head, "It is not because of what happened, Truff." He turned towards the bank and towards the ship, seeing or perhaps wanting to see the future that lay ahead. Dismissing the past completely and forgetting it would have been a lovely thought to possess. The Mouse looked at the sails and seeing their majesty flourish made him take a solemn breath of bitter salty air.
"It is because of what did not happen." He continued. Turning around facing a confused Badger, Reepicheep's expression of fondness changed. His eyes became less welcoming and knowing, his tail became a sadistic swinging pendulum, slowly moving from left to right and left again, the only sameness in him was his voice.
"Could you have saved them?" The Mouse asked.
Yes, I could have, but that is the answer you wish me not to say. The Badger thought.
"Come now," Trufflehunter said, "let us avert solemnity." He advanced with a sincere smile, and noticed that Caspian and the Captain were beginning to go up the ramp and onto the deck.
Following them were a group of seven men who were carrying crates of potatoes, radishes, and tomatoes. Mostly, these people were denizens of the fishing towns of Venice and Jaxsby, both of which lay thirteen miles south and forty miles from the Archenland border with Venice being slightly north of Jaxsby by two and a half miles and more on the coast. There was Kale, a fisherman by trade, Cassius, his son, Harper, a merchant of gold and silk, Eris, his daughter, Julius, a swordsman, Ducada, his apprentice, and finally Monroe, a philosopher.
Behind them, carrying in their arms and on their backs, weapons of small, medium, and large ranging from swords, axes, to javelins, were a group of eight Narnians: three Centaurs, Bigleaf and High Father, two Satyrs, Evander and Jeter, two Fauns, Christian and Marlene, and one Minotaur whose name was Tavros.
Trufflehunter turned towards the monarch and seaman and become servile despite the lack of chains and mistreatment but eating all the humble pie.
"Safe travels Sire," The Badger said somewhat loud for Caspian to hear, "I wish you the best of luck."
Caspian smiled, his face beaming like the sun. "The same to you friend. Are you sure you wish to stay? You are more than welcome to sojourn with us."
"Believe me Sire," Trufflehunter replied as he stood erect once again, "as much as I would love to accompany you I'm afraid my heart calls me here. I would be too afraid to leave it, not because of cowardice or lack of sea-legs, but because of business unfinished."
"I understand Master Badger," Caspian said, "go forth in your business and once it is finished, you are welcome in my court and council."
The regent turned towards the sky, seeing a large mass of gray advance upon the blue producing the beginnings of a livid storm. "Come Reepicheep," Caspian said, "time to disembark."
The Mouse nodded and turned to his friend whom at the moment, was taking his backpack off his person and placing it on the ground.
"Mathias Trufflehunter what are you doing?" Reepicheep asked.
"Parting gift," Trufflehunter answered as he sat the green leather bag on the ground. "Figure you might need it. Just a few odds and ends."
Reepicheep laughed and inspected the bag for a moment, noticing that the stitching was beginning to fray and the leather was starting to mildew. Nevertheless he opened it and saw that the Badger had beautifully prepared a small first-aid kit, some light provisions and an original copy of his master work, Of Law and Serenity, which upon seeing that, Reepicheep smiled and shook his head.
"You are giving me your book?" He said.
"Why would I need a book I wrote?" Trufflehunter replied. "I wrote it for you anyway."
The Mouse closed the bag, placed it on his person and adjusted his weight for balance. "Heavier and larger than expected but all the grateful for it. I wish I had things to give you, but alas I do not."
"My father once was told me that if you ever meet a person who would treat you as a brother then you'd be the luckiest Badger in all of Ken. I can proudly say that I am the luckiest Badger."
"And I am so glad you are. It has been an honor Sir."
Trufflehunter shook his head and smiled, "I'm not a knight Reepicheep, I am just a Badger."
Reepicheep ascended the ramp without saying anything else. For if there were any more delays then the storm would be upon them and they would have to postpone the journey 'til tomorrow. When he reached the top he sat his bag down and turned back to his friend, seeing nothing but a large grin on his face.
"You are not just a Badger," Reepicheep called down so his friend could hear, "you are a scholar and a sentry!"
The Badger smiled and laughed at this, feeling that for a final time phrases of encouragement could be said between them face to face as if it were a day in winter when the final leaf from the tree fell and all that was cared about was the fish on the fire or the strew in the pot. Another tear for another epiphany, the myth of his friend leaving had finally become reality to him. So in a last attempt of seizing normal Trufflehunter called in the loudest voice he could, "Go forth and make me proud!"
The ramp was removed and placed on the ground. As the ship left the bay, the sirens finished their serenade and disappeared into the sea and the well-wishers that had gathered there despised back into their lives, all save for Trufflehunter who kept his gaze eastward until he could no longer make out the purple and gold ship and its bright sails as it raced ahead of the storm.