The Power of Darkness and Fear

Chapter XIV

Upon the wooden railing of the Dawn Treader stood the arms of King Caspian X. The body of said regent was rather poised as if he were contemplating the meaning of the word 'philosophy'. His eyes were distant and his hair was being whipped ever so lightly by the wind, as if the forces of nature were caressing, guiding, and blessing him simultaneously. The crew were busy handling ropes, tying them into knots: the sheepshank, the square, the bowline, the half-hitch, the taut line, the timber, and yes, even the overhand, to manage the main sail and its brothers to set the ship straight.

A centaur by the name of Bigleaf, who armed with a mind and bow, proceeded to walk around the deck picking up loose odds and ends: bits of food, unhardened trash, discarded provisions, and mistreated rope. Placing this in a pail which he carried, the centaur took it upon himself to make sure that every inch of the place was clean just before breakfast, just after lunch, and just before he went to sleep. As he cleaned he hummed a made up tune to himself, and while he moved for a dropped piece of fruit, Reepicheep, who was busy tying a bowline to secure a line, noticed the centaur's humming and smiled.

"You would make an exceptional lyricist." The Mouse said.

"Thank you, Reepicheep." Bigleaf replied as he bent over to pick the apple up, "Can't say I've ever written anything down. Haven't the time nor the effort."

Reepicheep nodded, seeing the prospect of writing a book of poetry and orating it for people a waste of valuable time that could be spent doing more productive tasks such as cleaning the deck. "From where do you hail, Bigleaf, if I may ask?"

"You may," The Centaur said, as he moved on, spotting a bit of twine that was in a knot. He did the poor rope a kindness and untied it, but only to tie it in a simple square knot. He began this by crossing both ends of the twine over, producing a small 'x' shape.

"I come from a place known as Mullengrave." Bigleaf continued, "I trust you have heard of Fairbanks?"

"Ah yes, the lawyer." Reepicheep said nodding his head and noticing that The Centaur wanted him to watch the simple knot tying demonstration.

"Yes," Bigleaf replied as he tucked one end through the newly formed loop, displaying it for The Mouse to see, "he was the local celebrity. I lived just up the river from him and I can tell you he was the nicest fellow I knew."

Bigleaf then crossed the two ends of the twine together again but in the opposite way as before and repeated the tucking once again. He displayed the finished knot to The Mouse and placed it in the pail.

"How did you learn to tie it?" Reepicheep asked.

Bigleaf smiled simply and laughed. "The square knot, my dear Reepicheep, is the first knot a sailor learns."

"Were you a sailor before this?" The Mouse asked.

"No," Bigleaf said, "but my father was."

The Centaur continued on his way to a discarded apple core. He picked it up, sneered at it for a second and placed it in the pail.

"The nerve of these brutish people." He said, "To think that His Majesty hired them to run a ship as grand as this is beyond me."

"Perhaps they have docility in other ways besides cleanliness." Reepicheep replied, noticing that a pomegranate was already beginning to spoil as Cassius walked past as if it were as commonplace as grass. The Mouse nonchalantly jumped to the deck and walked over to the spoiled fruit, seeing black splotches cover the surface like leprosy. Cassius meanwhile, was attending to the business of romancing Eris, the merchant's daughter, who was a foot away tending to the washing of dishes for dinner.

Smiling and admiring her beauty in a Shakespearean sort of way, Cassius extended his hand to her. "A woman such as yourself deserves better than to wash and to clean."

"Why Cassius," she said, blushing, cheeks redder than a cherry, "you're such a gentleman."

"He may be a gentleman my dear," Reepicheep replied, who was behind Cassius still near the pomegranate, "but he is myopic and versed in lethargies."

Cassius laughed and shook his head, "Eris, that isn't true."

"Oh," Eris said, "then tell me the truth then."

Cassius could not think of a proper answer, one that was befitting the image that he carried so well for himself. Instead he turned to Reepicheep and asked a straightforward question. "Where is your proof?"

"To quote a lawyer," The Mouse replied, in a matter-of-fact sort of way, "'the proof is about you'. Take for example, your negligence for that spoiled pomegranate here. I am not a disciplinarian but I do approve of a clean ship. Perhaps you saw it and thought 'someone else should, and will, pick it up', for it is natural to think that. You were busy doing other things, your mind was occupied and drifting into other details which the pomegranate has no existence in. In short, you overlooked it, but you also overlooked the fact that you are a fisherman's son and as the ben of a fisherman you have forgotten the first rule all fishermen learn."

"What," Cassius said with a condescending smile and a small laugh, "pray tell, is that?"

"Why, that all things are bait!" Reepicheep answered excitedly as he pulled out his blade and stuck the tip in the pomegranate, letting the juices spill and run down the splotched face of it. "This may be a spoiled pomegranate, but it is not a useless pomegranate."

"There aren't any fish in these parts." Cassius replied, "We're in deep water now. Even if there were fish, it would take hours, possibly days before we'd catch anything."

"Ah, but I didn't say fish, now did I?"

Cassius looked back towards Eris, and noticed that she resumed her work with the dishes. He walked over to her thinking on how wonderful it would be to caress her body and to inhale the incense that she wore on her hair to cover up the embedded smell of fresh wool and silk. He would have enjoyed to have imagined her in a beautiful dress, one that was adorned with white lilies with a green sash round the waist. He pictured a life, a love, two things that harmoniously packaged into one person.

Reepicheep watched as Cassius traversed the waters of love and thought back to a time when he was in such a state and remembered something that someone once told him. "'True love is something that only people who have loved really understand. For they have loved, pained, and lost with someone, for someone, and to them, to go the distance of the mile and then some is miraculous in nature and beautiful in life. When two people are dedicated to each other to the point where even death itself is a bigot, then you know it is real.'- Mathias Trufflehunter."

Eris turned and saw the fisherman stand there with a grin on his face. "So," she said, "come to prove a rodent wrong?"

"I have." Cassius replied.

"You shall have to do more than present flowery words and poetics Mister Cassius," Reepicheep said, "You shall have to prove your honorability to me, which is something that no one has ever, or will ever, do."

"Why is that?" Cassius asked.

"Because," Reepicheep said, removing his blade from the pomegranate, guiding the fruit with the tip of the blade as he walked towards him, "no one knows what Honor is."

"Isn't that giving your life for someone else?" Cassius asked.

"No, that would be True Love, Martyrdom, or Brotherhood, depending on the context." The Mouse answered as he stopped and sheathed his weapon. Reepicheep then turned, walked a few feet back to give Cassius room to contemplate his next move. He was about to be schooled by a trained philosopher.

"Honor is more than that." Reepicheep said, quoting himself, knowing it, and realizing the egotism in this, retained his smile. For he remembered the exact line, the page, and the dedication he placed at the top of his unpublished biography and part theological work, 'The Door to My House'. The Mouse turned back towards Cassius and smiled sincerely, figuring that whatever sin he was committing it could easily be passable as a necessary measure for understanding some sort of truth.

He continued: "Honor means realizing when to die and when to live. Understanding how to be cordial and how to be assertive. Seeing truth as just and murder as evil yet wars are claimed sacred and necessary. Honor is a paradoxical oxymoron which cannot be achieved because we flaw and then we fall. Now we know Love, Peace, Brotherhood, yes, those things are simple, yet never easy. Honor is complicated and never to be simple, which is why we do not understand what it means."

"If no one can understand Honor," Cassius said, "then how can I prove my honorability to you?"

The Mouse smiled at this, "I never said that Honor was one thing or the other but a composition of Virtues and Vices. Show me those Virtues, leave out the Vices, and you may be the first person to live to understand Honor."

Cassius bent down at his knees and picked the spoiled pomegranate up with his hand. Inspecting it and seeing the hole that Reepicheep had made and the juices still spilling and running down the side, the fisherman's son thought to himself how ridiculous that so called first rule of fishing applies to spoiled fruit. Eris moved toward the bow of the ship, carrying the dishes she had cleaned underneath her arm, passing High Father, Bigleaf's sire, who bowed his head.

"Eris," High Father said, "I see you're proving yourself useful."

"Thank you High Father," Eris replied with a smile. "I'll be sure to sew that ceremonial wreath of yours later. At the moment, I know that my father is ill."

"Ill?" The Centaur asked, slightly concerned. "Why you must see to him before we all contract whatever it is he's got!"

"It's just a cold High Father," Eris said, "nothing too serious. Rest, warm water, and a bit of food are all he needs."

The Centaur smiled and bowed his head again once she left, "If rest and sleep and soup is what he needs, then he should be up in a week or less."

"Let us all hope so." She replied and went below deck to tend to the sickly man who sold linens and half loaves of bread.

When the crew had supped and the day's work had ended, Caspian stood near the railing and faced south with sagely eyes as if he were pondering the meaning of life or the importance of death. He stared at the sea and admired the crests and troughs of the waves that gently caressed and rocked the ship in lullaby.

Cassius meanwhile, sat down near an apple barrel with a quill and pad of paper, writing his attempt at a love poem. "Radiant sun, radiant fair, how you sing sweet songs of air…"

Jeter, a satyr, who was descending below deck for the night, stopped and heard this poor excuse of affection and shook his head. "If you're going to write a poem," he said, "do not sing it. It only makes it less meaningful, but that's just my opinion."

"Yes, well, you can keep your opinion." Cassius replied turning toward him, "I happen to think it just fine."

Jeter sighed and made his way down, thinking how wonderfully happy Cassius' parents are to have rid of him from the house.

Reepicheep, who was meandering around the ship talking with people about the day, made his way over to Cassius curious as to the paper and pen. The Mouse noticed that he continued to write and scratch out furiously as if he were viciously disciplining the paper to do its chores properly. Staying silent so not to disturb him with words, Reepicheep scaled the barrel Cassius was in front and peered over his shoulder to have a look. The paper was an ink blot, a very large one, making reading anything impossible. Cassius turned his pad to a new page and was about to start again when he sighed and began writing something else. After a few lines over reading over his shoulder, Reepicheep shook his head and finally spoke out:

"I am terrible sorry for the disturbance and rudeness of this, but I frankly could not help myself and will not help myself further by saying that you are wrong sir."

Cassius sighed and placed his paper and pen down. "Do you think if I were to jump, would anyone notice?"

"I would." The Mouse answered. "She would too."

"She doesn't even acknowledge my existence, Reepicheep." Cassius said. "You saw her today and how she looked at me."

"If love were easy, then everyone would fall in love and the men would be sires and the women be providers. Alas, love is not so easy."

Cassius nodded and stood from his place. He stretched, yawned, and crossed the deck to ascend down into the quarters. He looked back towards Reepicheep with solemnity in his eyes. "Do you think I will ever be happy?"

The Mouse nodded but said nothing. Instead jumped down from the barrel and scurried over to the pad and paper, making a few revisions to Cassius' letter that was disapproving. When he was finished Reepicheep produced his signature at the bottom and a small post script. Without looking at the paper, the Mouse walked bipedal with paper and pen in paw to Cassius and laid them on the deck in front of his eye level. Cassius turned towards the pad and noticed that the letter was a bit longer, skimming it, the fisherman smiled and grabbed his paper and pad.

"Where did you learn penmanship?" Cassius asked.

"Self taught." Reepicheep answered. "Well, theoretically I had a tutor but she was always too scatterbrained for me. Always going on tangents and she would babble out the history of letters. It was rather...interesting, but at the same time it was painfully dull. So, one day I left mid-lesson and never returned there. My father was furious but my brothers understood."

"Did you know your mother?"

The Mouse shook his head, "Died shortly after I was born, I'm afraid. I was told that she was extremely kind and loving."

"Well, at least you have that comfort." Cassius replied. "I never knew my parents."

"Is Kale not your father?" Reepicheep asked.

Cassius shook his head. "Did you even read it?"

Yes, Reepicheep thought, I most certainly did. I found it appalling that you would consider such a thing. Do you not realize how selfish it is?

"Simply because Kale is not your father does not mean he is a father to you." Reepicheep said. "He loves you sir, most dearly I assure you, and I-"

"It still changes nothing." Cassius said, cutting him off.

"Will you let me finish?!" The Mouse shouted, letting his fur standing on edge as he raised his voice. "You shan't cause your own demise because of simple misreadings of love! I cannot and will not be a witness to it. Do you not understand that if you do so then you shall be damning yourself to a place where I cannot reach you?"

"Who said I wanted you to reach me?" Cassius asked as he continued his long depressed descent into the quarters.

Reepicheep quickly followed him down and beheld a dark swaying room. Cots lined the walls and ropes and supplies hung from a ceiling as if it were your regular consignment shop on 31st Street. A small congregation hovered over a cot to the left of a small room. Eris threw herself over her father, who had only recently drew his final breath. As she cried, those who were there stood silent and bowed their heads in respect. Reepicheep removed his circlet and stood in silence as Cassius ignored the funerary procession and laid on his cot, slowly unsheathing a knife as he placed the paper and pen on his chest. The Mouse watched in earnest, hoping and praying that the fisherman was not going to heinously commit self-murder in the presence of grief. Cassius raised the knife and took a breath of air, fully prepared to go through with it.

Reepicheep shook his head and cried tears. "For goodness sake boy, stop this!"

The congregation of grievers turned towards Cassius and all stood motionless as they simply watched him almost kill himself.

"Please," the Mouse said taking small advances toward him, "do not do this. Think of what you're doing to yourself. You are ending your life. Your life and once you do you will never get it back."

He stopped at the foot of Cassius' cot and placed his left paw on the nearest beam supporting it. He turned towards the group of mourners, searching for a familiar face, finding one in Eris. Without a word or acknowledgement, the girl stood up from her place and walked towards Cassius, having in her eyes a sense of calm sadness.

"Cassius," Eris said crouching down to his eye level, "are you alright?"

"No-" a rough voice answered. Eris, Reepicheep, and the rest turned to find Kale, walking in with a bare chest and an axe in hand. He was one of those brutish characters who rarely bathed and loathed orders. At the moment, he was returning from his work on deck and was prepared to go to war.

"He is not, as you say, alright." Kale said, "In fact, he's very much in the way."

He advanced and carrying the axe with one hand, letting the blade scrape the wooden floor. When he reached Cassius' bed, the man smiled, leaned in, and spat in his face. Cassius said and did nothing.

"You actually thought you could escape me?" Kale asked rather rhetorically. "You thought that your life would be better taken by yourself than by me?"

Cassius nodded. "Any method is better than yours."

Kale paused a moment to laugh. He sat the axe down underneath the cot and took a knee. He then placed a hand on the hilt of his son's knife...

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