"Oh good you're here," Trufflehunter said as Reepicheep stood in his doorway, "father's been acting up again."
"What has he done this time?" Reepicheep asked with an annoyed sigh, not really wanting to deal with this matter now for he knew Trufflehunter's father, Mister Marley, was somewhat of a nut.
Marley, in his prime, was a mystic. He was a phenomenal predictor of events and did so with accuracy. The problem came about seventeen years ago when Miraz usurped and became a Claudius. He started screaming a phrase over and over:
"Abate Verge Ye How!"
"There he goes again." Trufflehunter said, "He's been making me rabid with it. Abate Verge Ye How! Abate Verge Ye How! Idiot is behaving as if the world is coming to an end."
"Vexing is it?" Reepicheep asked.
"It's almost sickening," the badger replied, "I don't know what to do anymore."
"Perhaps I could be of service."
"Which is the very reason why I opened my door," Trufflehunter said, as he stepped to the side, "Come inside, it's a bit nip out."
Trufflehunter's abode was quaint, modest, and simple. A fire in the centre, two chairs in front of it, a bookshelf nearby them on the wall, a nightstand beside it, a kitchen on the other side with a small table and chairs, and a hallway down the middle to the bedrooms and wash room.
"Abate Verge Ye How!"
"This way." Trufflehunter lead Reepicheep to the furthest room away from everything. The shadow and lightlessness of the place gave Reepicheep the impression of imprisonment, as if Trufflehunter wanted his father to go insane for his own amusement. Since this question was bothering him so, the mouse turned towards the badger with skepticism.
"You venture into abysses Truff?"
"I'm sorry what are you talking about?" The badger asked.
"Your father isn't damned, just deranged. So why do you have him in a dark corner?"
"It is that time of day when light diminishes Reepicheep." The badger said.
Reepicheep nodded, taking note of the time and nonchalantly, he looked up at the walls and ceilings and into the other rooms of the house also as he slowly made his way to the door.
"Don't think of me as being jocular but I can't find a single fenestration here." Reepicheep said.
"Are you saying that because of a lack of windows I am lying about the state of the hallway?"
"Not lying exactly," Reepicheep said, "more so on the lines of secrecy. Marley is an eremite due to your fear. What exactly are you afraid of?"
"Nothing." Trufflehunter replied and moved to open the door.
Marley, Trufflehunter's father, was a graying badger who most likely had about three more good years left and five horrid ones before he passed. His eyes were unmoving, his pupils completely fixed, locked in place as if forever transfixed by a vixen.
"Who's there?" The elder badger asked, he turned towards the mouse and smiled, "Oh Chevrep, my dear boy it's been so long. How are you these days?"
Reepicheep, who was confused, looked past Marley at something else and said: "I'm sorry sir but I believe you are mistaken for another."
"Abate Verge Ye How!" Marley shouted. "Abate Verge Ye How!" Marley coughed a bit and said it again: "Abate Verge Ye How!"
The badger coughed again, this time more severe, almost asthmatic.
"I'm sorry, forgive me Chief," Marley, "I haven't been well as of late."
The mouse there and played his accustomed position of the aspirant, standing there loyally, waiting for command as if already seasoned for war and taken of innocence. Reepicheep gave a smile of awkwardness but in truth he was assessing the situation at hand.
Here the prisoner of fear. Whatever Trufflehunter believes to be true most likely is- however, it could be fallacy.
"Father return to bed." Trufflehunter said.
"No!" Marley shouted. "You've kept me in here long enough and I want out!"
"I'm sorry but I can't let you go!" The badger said.
"Why can't you?" Reepicheep said with a hint of disappointment.
Reepicheep turned towards the father, smiled, and said: "Pardon the interruption sir, but you're son is about to have a scolding."
"Go ahead." Marley said, "I haven't been able to do so somebody has to."
Reepicheep bowed slightly and said:
"Gramercy Master Badger."
He closed the door.
"How much of this fear, whatever it is, how much of it is true?" Reepicheep asked.
"All of it." Trufflehunter said.
"Are you saying that an accidental murder sentence needs to be carried out fully?"
"Marley is your father! Don't you see what you're doing? You're castigating him for something he did out of accident." Reepicheep said.
"Byron was my brother, I don't expect you to under-"
"I understand completely!" Reepicheep vociferated. "He was my brother too, believe me I grieved and mourned during the period but afterwards I moved on. If you linger in death you will surely die expeditiously. Don't have him undergo grief- your father wants to be with you! He wants to know you, love you, that's something I would kill for."
"You don't understand Reepicheep," Trufflehunter said, "he did more damage than just murder. He let me know of things I shouldn't have known. He- he told me secrets, secrets that involve-"
"Stop changing the subject." Reepicheep said cutting the badger off before he could finish, "Go let yourself be known, remove the fear of him from your heart, whatever that is, and make just amends and do it while you can! I don't have a father to consult. I don't have someone to say to me: 'I love you' or 'I'm proud of you'. I don't have that. I just have you and Tilden, you have a chance to change everything, I suggest you take it."
The mouse opened the door again.
"You are more deserving than me Reepicheep of his smile," Trufflehunter said. "I'll let you go first."
"He is not my father," Reepicheep answered, "he's yours."
Trufflehunter looked into his father's room and saw light emerge from the candles that resided there.
The room was bleak. The chairs and tables were dusty and spider ridden. The bed that was far too small for Marley were stripped of its covers, for they were on the floor, and if a poet were present, he would describe the place as a fallen rose pedal in the middle of a cemetery.
Marley himself was on the bed, feeling depressed and insecure.
"Trufflehunter," Marley said weakly with a cough as Trufflehunter and Reepicheep entered, "why do you keep me in this place?"
"Because you killed Byron." Trufflehunter said.
"I weep every day for him." Marley said with a tear. "I wish nothing more than to turn back time, but Aslan did not give me that ability so I'll have to settle for the present."
Marley looked over at Reepicheep: "Why Chevrep, my old friend you are younger than I expected. Have you been to a wizard? If so, I would like to speak with him."
"I have been to nowhere of the sort Master Badger." Reepicheep said. "I don't deal in that business."
"You're not Chevrep-are you?" Marley said.
"No, I'm not, and if I am correct in my assumptions, then I am his son." Reepicheep answered.
"Chevrep never called me Master Badger. Only by my name. There was respect in first names back then. Nowadays it's all 'Master' this and 'Your Majesty' that. Pompous little bastards- that's what I say to those who speak that way."
"Of course sir." The mouse said with a smile, he learned how to take a joke but he secretly thought that Marley wasn't joking. He wasn't.
"Don't call me sir, just don't add anything to me, I am Marley, and that's all I'll ever be." Marley said.
Reepicheep nodded, making a mental note but then made a side note that it would be extremely difficult for him to remember those conditions.
"So," Marley said turning towards his son, "any news going about?"
"Miraz is beginning to build an army." Trufflehunter said.
"Ah, he'll never succeed."
"He's been successful in the south so I hear." Reepicheep said.
"But you forget that we have something he hasn't." Marley replied.
"What is that exactly?" Trufflehunter asked.
"What have I always told you Truff?"
"That faith is better than one thousand men." Trufflehunter answered.
"It's true." Marley said, he turned towards Reepicheep now:
"Has anyone ever told you that I used to be someone?"
"Has anyone ever told you that you are still someone to someone else?" Reepicheep asked looking at Trufflehunter with a smile.
"That is also my answer," Reepicheep said, "no one has that to me either."
"If you expect me to forgive him," Trufflehunter said, "I won't do it so easily."
"I don't expect you to do anything Trufflehunter," Reepicheep replied, stood up and in an admittedly impish and disrespectful way: forepaws outstretched in a 't' position, head up to the side slightly with a smile that said 'you deal with it'.
"You slick little devil." Trufflehunter said masking his true thoughts of: you son of a bitch.
Reepicheep stood up, turned towards the badger, thanked him for the conversation and left the room swiftly.
"So..." Trufflehunter said, getting off to a bad start. "How are things?"
Marley looked at his son in a perplexed question. "I've been locked up in this room for ages and all you can say to me is 'how are things'? What a stupid moronic question!"
"Sorry, just trying to make small talk."
"Well," the father said coughing a bit, "you're not very good- at- it."
He coughed again, this time to where he collapsed on the floor and gasped for air. He was experiencing asphyxiation from being in the same room for too long, a lack of fresh air made this room unbearably stuffy for the elder badger and the hot air made it difficult for his lungs to circulate the needed oxygen. Trufflehunter rushed over to his father, turned him over and performed basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. He gave thirty chest compressions in rapid secession.
"Oh no," Trufflehunter said, "you're not dead yet." He tried rescue breathing, counted to three and restarted the procedure.
The elder badger was unmoving, his heart was dormant, he had fallen on the red rose pedal. The raindrop after the rainstorm that falls gently down the window pane, the one ray of light distinguishable in a sea of sun and clouds, the one reason to continue forward for Trufflehunter. For the elder badger, the one he called his father, was the only thing Trufflehunter had in terms of family, sure there was Reepicheep, but he was more of a brother than anything and for the first time the badger admitted that he was wrong.
"Oh what have I done!" Trufflehunter screamed to no one as he did the chest compressions again. "I denied your love for me as insanity, forgiveness is all I ask now but I fear it be too late." The badger performed a last effort to breathe life back into his father.
"Reepicheep!" Trufflehunter blared in distress, still continuing the procedures out of practice despite a loss of hope.
The mouse expedited through the door in response and continued his motion towards his friend. After a two second examination, Reepicheep checked the pulse- it was dormant.
"Truff," Reepicheep said, "he's gone."
Trufflehunter stopped the procedure, and stood up.
"I never felt so ashamed of myself," Trufflehunter said, "we barley started anything and he just- collapsed like that, almost as if it were involuntary."
"Death is involuntary most of the time." Reepicheep said.
"Shame it takes a death to have an epiphany."
"At least you're experiencing one." The mouse answered.
"I guess we better make preparations." The badger said.
"I'll let Tilden know of this as soon as I can," Reepicheep said, "I'm sure he'll want to be there."
"I would be insulted if he wasn't."
Trufflehunter and Reepicheep walked out silently, saying nothing more, leaving the room of the elderly badger alone to grief for itself.
"Truff," Reepicheep said as he took a chair in the living room, "what do you suppose the time is."
"I'd say it's roughly three o'clock in the morning." The badger said with a sigh.
"Are you tired yet?" The mouse asked.
"No, not at all, with the father business and everything and I believe it is rather rude to leave company unattended when it is not their house." The badger replied going into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.
"I noticed your satchel," Trufflehunter said, "where are you bound."
"I honestly don't know," Reepicheep answered, "wherever my father is I guess."
"Your father?" Trufflehunter asked a bit surprised that Reepicheep would go after something so obscure as his father. For the badger knew a great deal about him and for the better part of their seemingly lifelong friendship, the badger tried so hard to keep the topic of Reepicheep's father out of conversation.
"Want a cup of tea?" The badger asked.
"That would be most generous of you." Reepicheep said.
"Both if you please." the mouse said, "Do you need some help with it?"
"It's tea Reep, not necessarily a conundrum."
The badger walked in with a tea tray filled with tea, a few cakes, with crème and sugar on the side.
"This was more than just a visit wasn't it?" Trufflehunter said grabbing his tea and fixing it to his liking.
"Of course it was." Reepicheep said, grabbing his tea for a moment, drinking it black and sitting it down quickly. "I came because of this."
The mouse pulled out the letter which was stuffed in the sack and handed it to the badger. Trufflehunter read it carefully.
"Yes," Trufflehunter said, "I was wondering when this inquiry would come around again." He sipped his tea and sat it down. "Come then, I need to show you something."
Trufflehunter lead him back to Marley's room. On top of the wardrobe in the corner was a large black suitcase. The badger reached up, grabbed the suitcase and carried it to the kitchen with Reepicheep close behind. Once there, he laid it on the table, unlocked it but did not open it.
"Now, what you are about to see," Trufflehunter said, "is something that only my father and I have seen. This is classified information, things that were left out of the court room for your father's sake. I do not know where this evidence came from but father assures me that it's true."
"How does he know? He could be lying to you." Reepicheep said.
"Reepicheep, it's my father, I think I can trust his judgment, he was a lawyer after all."
"By the way this conversation is starting I can already tell where this is going." Reepicheep said.
"Believe me, no you don't." Trufflehunter said as he placed his forepaws on the latches, "Ready?"
The mouse nodded, the badger opened the case. When Reepicheep looked inside he shook his head, backed away in fear, tears slowly began to form.
"Oh Truff you brave soul how could stomach this!"
"Who said I did?" Trufflehunter asked. "I bore the same expression too."
"What brought this up for you?"
"I asked about it one day." The badger said. "Father told me everything."
Reepicheep looked towards his friend: "How innocent were you?"
"I'd say it was about the same time when your father left for good, a bit before perhaps." Trufflehunter said.
Reepicheep nodded and glanced back at the box again, "I think I'm going to be sick."
Trufflehunter rushed over and grabbed a pale and placed it near the mouse on the floor.
"Tell me everything you know," Reepicheep said, "but please close the case, I cannot bear the sight of loss anymore."
Trufflehunter nodded and did so.
"You must understand Reepicheep," Trufflehunter said, "that your father was secretive. Very, very secretive. He knew so many of secrets and had so many of them that even the wolves feared to speak to him for fear of exposure. He was also, an agent of the state, employed by-"
"Miraz?" Reepicheep asked, hopeful that it was the usurper so that the mouse could walk out of this hoping that his father was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was forced into something. That's what he wanted to believe anyway. That his father was a mouse of dignity, a mouse of honor, one that would do anything for his family-even risk his own moral foundation to see them live.
"No, unfortunately," Trufflehunter said walking back to the tea tray, " it was Caspian IX."
"The ninth?" Reepicheep asked a bit surprised.
"He had many enemies Reepicheep-"
"Do you mean to tell me that my father was in service to a king who saw his own people as enemies?"
"Yes." Trufflehunter said taking a quick drink of his tea, "At least in one light. We don't know the whole story, anyway, did Tilden tell you anything?"
"He said that he was a prisoner of war somewhere." Reepicheep said walking back over to his chair that he sat in before but not bothering to sit.
"Oh he's a prisoner of war alright, but he's our prisoner."Trufflehunter said.
"I'm assuming you mean the rest of the resistance against Miraz?"
Trufflehunter nodded. "He has been for years, tried to continue his escapade a few times too. He almost killed me and my father once but then remembered who we were. He said that he owes a great service, because even though Marley didn't win his case, he was thankful for him. A pact was made, uniting our families in aid and brotherhood but it doesn't mean much now I suppose."
A drink of tea again.
"Your father was good at heart but not in the head."
"Good at heart?" Reepicheep said distraught, "He smelled burning rubber and heard the bursting of the heart from extreme heat. The blood boiled, the bones cracked, and those who were still breathing, had only deafening screams of sorrow covered by gas poison. He followed the hellish sounds for that was his career and found a pit of dead, naked deformed bodies twisted about themselves like devils. They are stretching out their hands to heaven, but heaven would not receive them. My father is the Beelzebub of this situation. He practically held the fucking door open for Miraz to come and take over. How can you justify your means, that my father was good at heart, when he butchered children in their sleep? Their dreams interrupted, forever unfinished. Their foreheads dry from a warm kiss. Their sheets on their beds lay cold and barren now and no one mourns for them. The mothers are dead, the fathers are deranged like Marley was and the children suffer slowly, wither, and die with the mothers. Is this the world we live in now? Where that is an answer to a problem? If my father is on who you say, then I repudiate and wish great cancer on him."
The badger stood up and slapped the mouse hard on the cheek.
"You dare strike me like a dog?" Reepicheep asked with the same fury as his father.
"I'm sorry but you were talking out of your head." Trufflehunter said calmly.
"Really? How much out of my head was I!?" Reepicheep shouted. "I think your evidence proves your claims of my father's decency null."
Trufflehunter nodded and sighed: "I should've just kept my mouth shut."
"Yes," Reepicheep said, "you most certainly should have. Is there any more nasty business or are we to be on good terms because at the moment, you are starting to look very much like an incubus."
"You accuse me of treachery when I've told you nothing but truth!" Trufflehunter exclaimed, "I have always been your foster and faithful aide-de-camp!"
The badger advanced towards the mouse, feeling both insulted and betrayed.
The next thing Trufflehunter said would be a question that if were asked again, Reepicheep would answer something along the lines of 'Absolutely nothing' or 'he was my abettor so it gives me no reason to not trust him with everything.'
"What makes you think that I will ever mislead you in anything?"
"The simple fact that you did. You've been hiding this from me my entire life and only now when I inquire about it you relinquish it? Has it crossed your mind once before this?" Reepicheep asked.
"Yes it has." The badger said. "But each time I grew more and more against it."
"Because it doesn't matter!" Trufflehunter shouted. "Your father doesn't matter Reepicheep. You've been without him your entire life and are perfectly fine on your own. You don't need him anymore."
"Did Marley ever tell you that he loved you face to face?" Reepicheep asked.
Trufflehunter nodded. "Of course back before he went crazy."
"You had a father, you knew him at least for a little, I never knew mine. I never once been told what love was, what I meant to someone. Tilden doesn't count, he's supposed to tell me that sort of thing every day. But my parents never explicitly said the words 'I love you' in secession when referring to me. It was always broken up by something else, usually an excuse for behavior along the lines of: 'I simply just can't believe you did that Reepicheep, you almost killed me for the love of all humanity we have raised a boorish son.' That's about the closest thing I have ever gotten to those three simple necessary words that are so vital to the spirit. I never received that socialization and I probably never will."
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything." Trufflehunter said.
"No, you had the right, for I am a guest in your house." Reepicheep replied.
"If it's important to you," Trufflehunter said, "then who am I to say anything else about it."
"There was a letter that my brother wrote mentioning you. Said you had supplies ready for my father. Care to explain that?" The mouse asked, after a moment of indulging in his tea.
"I'm helping him leave the country." The badger said.
"He's a murderer." Reepicheep said..
"No, he is your father."
Reepicheep sighed with a heavy heart, stood up and pulled his blade on his friend, "You do realize that this is a form of moral treason to be an accomplice of a felon?"
"I do." Trufflehunter said. "But that was then and this is now. He's changed Reepicheep, and he loves you, he told me so himself. He said that he regrets everything he ever did and that he never wanted to hurt you."
"I think you're just covering yourself." Reepicheep replied and placed the blade at Trufflehunter's jugular vein, an inevitable fatality.
"Reepicheep please, you're being-"
"Anticlimactic?" The mouse asked.
"Well I was going to go for ridiculous," the badger said, "but your word is perfectly alright with me."
"Says the badger who locked his father in a spider closet."
The badger looked at him with a cold unforgiving expression. "You accuse me of playing jailer to my father but see no immoralities when you wish to play executioner to yours? How is that in anyway different?"
"It is entirely different." Reepicheep said. "I'm going to find my father, let him tell everything to my face and let my moral compass decide next."
"Your chivalry that guides said moral compass is astoundingly naive." Trufflehunter said. "Naivety mixed with misguided chivalrous efforts, last I checked, leads to false bearings on the compass leading you miles off course."
"You're making an enemy of me badger." Reepicheep said, realizing that his blade was still at the badger's neck. "Don't think I won't do it."
"Even though you forsook my name just now, I could have never asked a better friend to do so." The badger said as finished his tea, stood up, walked to a clear spot on the floor, kneeled down and submitted. Reepicheep followed and his blade resumed position.
"If you wish to do so then do so," the badger continued, "end me, send me off, complete my journey and me make a profanation in time but do me one kindness if you do so-"
The badger paused, he figured that if these were to be his last words to Reepicheep then he might as well make them summarize everything he ever wanted to say to him:
"Never do so again."
Reepicheep looked at his friend, who hinted a smile of forgiveness and understanding if he chose to go through with it, a loyal advocator who stood at the ready in defense for him and his family always. Someone who was just trying to make things a bit easier to bear was about thirty seconds from no longer being there for him. To vouch, the grief, to mourn, to succor.
The mouse remembered one particular creature from a story he read known as the phoenix. The mythical bird who could rejuvenate itself from the ashes after death. Looking upon Trufflehunter the mouse knew that his friend was not a phoenix, but simply a badger and that if he did decide to do so then Reepicheep would never be able to continue living with himself.
"Done." The mouse said and sheathed his blade.