Our heroes reunite at last, and with news from Aravis about Rabadash’s impending attack, it’s up to them to play the messenger and warn Archenland and Narnia of the invasion.
We begin where we left off last chapter: With Aravis and Lasaraleen making their escape. Or at least they were escaping, until they overheard the super-secret council that no one was supposed to even know about and poor Las lost her nerve.
Aravis decided it was no occasion for mercy.
“Look here!” she said, catching Lasaraleen and giving her a good shake. “If you say another word about going back, and if you don’t start taking me to that water-gate at once – do you know what I’ll do? I’ll rush out into that passage and scream. Then we’ll both be caught.”
“But we shall both be k-k-killed!” said Lasaraleen. “Didn’t you hear what the Tisroc (may he live forever) said?”
“Yes, and I’d sooner be killed than married to Ahoshta. So come on.”
Despite their incredibly different priorities and points of view, they really do care about each other, in their own ways. It’s just that Aravis needs Lasaraleen’s help in order to get a new life for herself, while Las already has the kind of life she wants.
“Good-bye,” said Aravis, “and I thought your dresses lovely. And I think your house is lovely too. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely life – though it wouldn’t suit me.”
Aravis meets up with the Horses and Shasta with no further complications, and proceeds to explain about Rabadash’s little expedition. They realize that they’re the only ones who can warn Narnia about it, so naturally, they have to get there first. Thus, much of the chapter is spent crossing the desert (as one might expect).
On again, trot and walk and trot, jingle-jingle-jingle, squeak-squeak-squeak, smell of hot horse, smell of hot self, blinding glare, headache. And nothing at all different for mile after mile. Tashbaan would never look any further away. The mountains would never look any nearer. You felt this had been going on for always – jingle-jingle-jingle, squeak-squeak-squeak, smell of hot horse, smell of hot self.
This is exactly the sort of writing that maintains interest while fully conveying monotony, which is a lot harder than it looks. It’s kind of like writing a character that does annoying things without actually annoying the reader with the character.
At long last, our heroes reach the mountain pass and a river – but then, with the danger of death by thirst no longer an issue, a new obstacle arises: Complacency.
“P-please,” said Hwin, very shyly, “I feel just like Bree that I can’t go on. But when Horses have humans (with spurs and things) on their backs, aren’t they often made to go on when they’re feeling like this? and then they find they can. I m-mean – oughtn’t we to be able to do more even, now that we’re free. It’s all for Narnia.”
“I think, Ma’am,” said Bree very crushingly, “that I know a little more about campaigns and forced marches and what a horse can stand than you do.”
To this Hwin made no answer, being, like most highly bred mares, a very nervous and gentle person who was easily put down. In reality she was quite right, and if Bree had had a Tarkaan on his back at that moment to make him go on, he would have found that he was good for several hours’ hard going. But one of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.
Somebody please listen to Hwin for once, she’s clearly the only grown-up in the party.
Seriously though, Hwin is awesome and Bree needs to get his act together. Aravis and Shasta don’t really have much say in the matter, as the Horses are literally bearing the brunt of the load.
Until next time…