baloonworld: (bird)
[personal profile] baloonworld
Its been an awfully long time since I've posted a story here: Most of my more recent stuff is over on AO3, but this one is Zombina and Susan, which is a bit remorselessly obscure, even for AO3, even if it is also Narnia. In this work, my neverborn children Susan (male, raised to be Evil) and Zombina (female, raised to be a zombie) are joined by Elmyra's neverborn, Alexandria and Josephine, who are Proper Young Ladies, accomplished in the Fine and Martial Arts, Sciences and Decorum.

[I do not believe in canon, but "Charn:for the want of a risk-assessment" has quite a lot in common http://archiveofourown.org/works/1062176]



"Father." Zombina's voice was disappointingly crisp, syllables slotting neatly into place. "Me and Susan have found a doorway to a magical land in the closet."
"Susan," she continued, "points out that, should you forbid us from exploring, you establish that honest communication with you is a costly behavior that we should avoid."
"Has the cat sniffed the corners yet?" Father rummaged on his desk for a short metal tube trailing a mini-USB lead and his phone. "Let's have a look then."

There was, indeed, a portal to a magical land in the closet. The dark trees immediately through the door gave way to snow-covered hillsides under a clear sky. The air coming through the doorway was chill and crisp. the cat was sniffing the corners, Susan was squatting down next to him, scratching him between the ears when he wandered close, and the twins were peering through the portal, note-books poised.
"So what do you know about this place?" asked Father, poking the short tube out into the snowy landscape.
"The trees are deciduous. Looks like beech. From it's size, I judge it to be at least 50 years old." Said Alexandra. "A species in common implies some sort of prior communication."
"I haven't seen or heard any animal movement. Just the sound of branches shedding their load of snow."
"The cat's walked out a bit, sniffed some of the things, decided that its new and cold and he's a wuss and come back."
Father looked at his phone, which had been patiently collecting data from the gamma detector.
"There's no cesium-137 in the background, no uranium or uranium daughters. Plenty of potassium-40. It's pre-nuclear and probably pre-coal. Susan?"
"Pre-nuclear means no MAD. No MAD means that the cost of war is lower and frequently acceptable to elites. That means no long peace. Their great powers probably still fight directly."
"It's not a proliferation risk. Wrap up warm, have fun and remember that I've got deep geological disposal on Wednesday."


The children walked through the snowy wonderland, the twin's heavy crinolines leaving a smooth clear trail through the snow. They stopped occasionally to gather botanical samples to press between the leaves of their note-books and identify at leisure. The cat ran ahead, tail at a jaunty angle bounding over the snow, or stopped to sniff odd tree trunks while the humans walked on.

It was Josephine who first spotted the lamp-post, its straight lines and rigid angles marking it as clearly artificial even when it was partially screened by the leafless branches of the trees. It was very much out of place in the wilderness, and Alexandria and Josephine sketched its outline and some of the detailing of the iron-work, in the hope that its design could be identified.

Meanwhile, Zomina had found a Faun to talk to, startled him, making him drop several mysterious packages and apologised. He was very cute in an inexplicably-topless-in-the-snow-but-for-a-rather-dashing-scarf sort of way.
"I'm Zombina, these are my siblings, Susan, Alexandria and Josephine. We're lost. Who are you? Do you have any idea where we are?"
Susan fumed inwardly at giving away so much information for free, but it was apparently one of the right choices, as the Faun, who gave his name as "Tumulus" invited them to his home for tea. Susan offered to help carry the packages but was unable to determine its contents.
"Here's your umbrella back by the way. You probably don't need it up; its not raining."
"Oh, you must think me very vain, but my hair goes simply everywhere if it gets wet."
Zombina was briefly disappointed, but then realised that cultural differences were at play, and she might not have culturally-specific gaydar.
"Thats okay Mr. Tumulus. We understand the need for parasols."

On the way to the Faun's home they established what their respective species were called ("Faun", "Human" and "Oh that's the cat"), that cats did not speak, and showed no sign of understanding speech, that this was a common but not exclusive behavior of cats in the magical land ("Narnia"), and that Tumnus had heard or at least heard a synopsis of Genesis.

"And are many humans in Narnia? You've heard of them before? Is there some way of addressing you that I'm not using that I should be, like "Son-of-FirstFaun'sName"? Only if there is I'm not using it because I don't know it, because your the first faun I've ever met, sorry" Zombina then concluded that the last sentence had rather ran away from her. Tumnus replied that there were no humans in Narnia any more.

When they got to Tumnus' house, which was astonishingly cosy, Alexandria asked if he minded if she sketched it or him, and Susan reluctantly gave the still-unidentified package back, and Josephine asked very politely if she could catalog his library, which startled him a little bit, but she explained that she liked cataloging things and it really was interesting that they had the same stories about the first human, and might they not share other books too?

While the water boiled, Tumulus told Susan and Zombina about the Narnia of the past, with joyful revels where the trees danced and the rivers sang, and several other occurrences that Susan mentally labeled as dangerously whimsical. Tumulus rather sadly admitted that Narnia was much less happy these days, on account of having been in the grip of a magical winter for a hundred years. Susan began a mental list of imported luxury in the Faun's home at this point, which meant that he missed the bits about how it was too cold for the trees and water spirits to wake up. He started paying attention again when Tumulus said that the magical winter was inflicted by their evil ruler.

"A hundred years of winter, an authoritarian regime and still tea for people outside the junta?" With justifiable and slightly smug paranoia, Susan swapped the tea cups around while the Faun's back was turned. He would be taken completely by surprise when Tumulus put them all to sleep with his flute.

"You seemed very interested in our old stories, perhaps you'll recognise some of the tunes of old Narnia? In my youth I was considered quite the maestro." With that, the Faun put them all to sleep with his flute; Susan was taken completely by surprise.

"It would have been much harder hand them over to the witch if he hadn't kept rummaging through my stuff and swapping the tea around," thought Tumulus. "You hear about mythological species like Man, and you build up all these ideas of something good and true in your mind, but it tuns out that they're just as suspicious and desperate as everyone else."

He put his head outside and flagged down a passing robin to take his message to the Witch's castle. Starvation awaited everyone who never did jobs for the witch, and lithification awaited those who refused specific jobs, but the robin was as loyal to Narnia as anyone who both had and wanted to keep a metabolism could be, and took a quick detour to tell a squirrel, who told a rabbit, who told a pelican. By this point, the message was a bit garbled, but the pelican told the Lion anyway.

Josephine woke up refreshed and excited. There was cataloging to do! Oh! Maybe Narnia had an organisational system she'd never seen before? With cross referencing! How had she ever got to sleep? Nevermind! Cataloging! She allowed her excitement to show as a slight briskness in her deportment as she addressed the book-cases.

This was much earlier than Tumulus had expected, and well before the wolves arrived, but she didn't seem apt to try to escape, and his books did need re-shelving.

The time between the wolves bursting through the door and Josephine standing chudan no kamae with her parasol was less than an eyeblink.

Tumulus covered his eyes, but he could not block out the sound of jaws on vat-grown whale bone, the thunk of carbon-fiber parasol on skull, the wrenching shuddering wheezing cough of someone hacking DARPA bio-engineered-virus induced neurotoxic saliva into someone else's eyes, or Susan's cheery cry of "Oh no. I am being dragged away by the secret police to some sort of place where I will be forced to interact with people in powerful yet precarious positions."
He opened his eyes in time to see Susan get an arm around an unconscious wolf's chest and drag it out into the snow shouting, "This can not possibly end well for me."



...

The wolves dragged Susan to the ice palace. It was less vertiginous towering per foot of actual height than the one at Disney world, but also a lot solider and more practical. There were lots of statues in the courtyard, and Susan examined them carefully, wishing he had one of the twin's hand lenses. The workmanship was excruciatingly detailed, with the individual loops, whorls and arches of the humanoids' fingerprints being visible. They were all in good condition, in individual niches out of the wind.

"Kneel before the empress Jadis! Queen of Narnia, Empress of Charn!" The wolf had a rough husky sort of voice. Susan had seen Father do this before, and tried to work out the right form.
"The UN weapons inspectorate is delighted to make formal contact with the ruling parties of this land." At this point, the wolf knocked him on his face.
When Jadis arrived she turned out to be about seven foot tall, imperious, pale and bizarrely interested in humans.
"It was one of your kind that freed me from Charn, before this world was made."
"He was a fool, but but the magic to cross between worlds was not in Charn, so it was necessary to wait for it to arrive from outside. I was awoken by him, and he took me back to your Earth."
"Didn't Charn rather miss its Empress? Isn't it rather messing with the succession for you to leave?"
"Silence! Fool!."

...

"Well while the loss of troops in your conventional war was regrettable, Holding out on using unconventional means until the last possible moment is sound logic."

...

"She forced you into a confrontation where you could lose everything despite knowing that you had magic like that?" The analogy between this and trying to effect regime change because the regime had WMD was not lost on Susan.

"She put you in a situation where you could either die or use the Deplorable Word?"
"I could either submit to her or have no one to submit to me, yes."
"Well, the whole things sounds poorly managed. To go from Empress of a powerful society to empress of nothing and nobody is not good tyrantcraft, but I can understand each step on the way. Are you going to do better here?"

...


"Don't be ridiculous Mr Beaver. You can't betray a side you were never on; Susan has nerrer owed loyalty to anyone other than himself, so he can't be a traitor." There was still a bitter taste in Zombina's mouth, and she was starting to slur her words.
"Actually, he has previously worked with others to achieve mutually beneficial goals on at least" Josephine riffled through her note-book "37 occasions. I counted zem."
Alexandra joined in for the customary cry of "Ah! Ah! Ah!"


...

"MY sister. Have you observed?" Josephine gestured to the window. Where Susan would have seen middle class luxury, she saw a messy array of optics elements.
"That's just moi window. Lets you see out." Mrs Beaver was perhaps not ready for a monologue on optics, so Josephine let the comment pass.
The window was made from wobbly diamond panes, leaded together. It let in a watery light.
"Look at the spots where they focus."
"Huh. Can I have a glass of water please Mussus Beaver?"

...


As they walked though the probably-magical thaw, the Beavers experienced their first non-frozen precipitation.
"That's funny," said Josephine, a few minutes later.
"Its raining over there, the sun is there, but there's no rainbow."

...


Alexandra and Josephine had persuaded some of the other Animals to help them onto the Table, and were filling pages of their note books with rubbings of the runes. They continued to gather their data while the Witch organised a parley and approached the camp. There was a certain amount of posing on either side, but eventually, relevant concerns were raised, and Jadis explained that, without the blood of the "traitor", the land would perish in fire and water. The Lion confirmed that this was true, and was swiftly moved to rage when Zombina raised the possibility of avoiding this outcome.
"I do not question tha existence of implacability of the Emprror's maagic," said Zombina, "I just waner to know wha it does. You said that some men'al process performed by my brorrer means that Narnia will be destroyed, killing these good beasts and their families."
There was a slight restlessness amongst the gathered animals, and Alexandria and Josephine ceased taking their rubbings. There was a horrible taste in Zombina's mouth, she was sluring her words and her hands were shaking. The Lion was frowning, but said nothing.
"Queen Jadis, did you become ruler of Narnia to see it burn? Regardless of what you do to my brother, there are other pubescent children in this world, and you can't be sure that none of them will "betray" Narnia."
"Fool! I have been Queen of this land for a century! It is mine and I will not let it go." She was certainly extremely intimidating, and Zombina had the terrifying thought that this was someone who would carry on in the face of Deterrence.
"Then you will be Queen of desolation and ruin: with a thought and a handful of words anyone that wants to can betray Narnia, and unless you kill them your kingdom turns to ash." Zombina had no idea what the time scales involved were, and was extemporising wildly. There was a scream.

While everyone was distracted by the theatrics, the bear had seized Susan and was dragging him towards the Witch.
"I'm so sorry, son of Adam", said the bear.
"Please Mr Bear, don't ... if you hand me over to her to save the land from burning, everyone else has to do the same to you or your family and if you can't check how I allegedly betrayed Narnia, they can't either. Hand me over and your children have to be next." Susan's voice broke about five times during his extremely hurried speech, but it seemed to do the trick; the bear stopped.

While the Animals muttered back and forth, each of them looking askance at each other, each of them denying that they would be the one to break the Witch's power by destroying everything, Alexandria and Josephine gabbled to each other in their idioglossia, which even Mother had never really understood.

They stood on the Stone table, and shouted in unison:
"There is a solution. Listen carefully."

...


Some of the animals were being to pay interest in this.
"So as a for instance, the Pelican's kids, safe at home in their nest, are liable, at any moment, to be set on fire and/or drowned if Jadis does not kill my nine-year old brother in some barbaric ceremony?"
"And the reason of this is that my little brother, who has never been to this world before, told Jadis where he had been. The only remedy for him telling Jadis things is Jadis killing him, otherwise the world burns."
Father was wrong. This place was a proliferation risk. It was worse than that; these were elites who would not back down in the face of MAD.

...


Afterwards, the children found a moment to themselves.
"That was horrifying."
"Is this world actually designed so that an ignorant kid can melt a city by accident?"
"When terrible things happen in our world, it's people, or accidents, or something inevitable but impersonal, like a meteorite, or a bunch of elites stuck in some sort of hideous trust dilemma."
"How does anyone survive? I mean every kid shouts at their parents that they hate them and wish they were dead at least once. I bet this place would make it happen, just to the kid regretted it for the rest of their life."
"People want to live here? Jadis is hardly an ideal monarch but when the country will literally burn down if not watered with the blood of children, you've got to wonder how good a head of state could actually be."
"Oh gods that probably happens. We got the note saying that '"treachery" burns down Narnia' , but they totally forgot to tell us that schadenfreude will evaporate Calorman."
"I felt sick the whole time I was talking. I think that Take you Child To Work Day 2012 is acting up."
"Oh ick, spit it out somewhere no living thing will find it and wash you mouth out."

...

The children stood with Aslan and the witch between the two groups, at the border of old Narnia. The witch's army had brought the statues with them, and ogres and centaurs alike had sweated to bring the giant's massive rocky body up the narrow pass into Archenland.

"Is there some special form we have to go through? When will it begin?" asked Zombina.
"I must say the words, Child and then it will begin. This is not the first country I have ended."
Susan was paying careful attention, but there was nothing in her voice or face to suggest inner turmoil, only arrogance and absolute certainty. All of Narnia, was watching her, and it would not do to put on anything but the grandest of shows. She pulled a scroll from her robes.
"The child Susan, a traitor to Narnia is beyond my power. Let the land be overturned by fire and flood, I can not slay him."
From their vantage in the mountains, the great plains of Narnia stretched before them. The children could not initially see anything happening. The Witch continued reading her scroll. Josephine scribbled furious short-hand in her note-book.
"The Faun Tumulus, a traitor to Narnia is beyond my power. Let the land be overturned by fire and flood, I can not slay him." Her diction was perfect. Zombina found herself resenting it.
There was definitely some movement down on the plain and the keen-eyed eagles started whispering to their neighbours what they saw. By the time that the witch had got to "The Kangaroo, Bruce.", thick yellow clouds had swept in from the east and smoke was rising from the forests beneath them. By the time she had finished, even the humans could smell the fumes from the rain of burning sulphur. The children, the witch, Aslan and the Narnian peoples-in-exile stood and watched the country burn. Far to the west of them, the hundred years of snow piled onto the northern slopes of the Stormness Head crumbled and started to fall. Alexandria pulled out her pocket-watch and noted the time. She would do the same for the next 36 avalanches.

It was not a peaceful camp. The Narnians in temporary exile had frequently disappeared family members from the Narnians who would never return and there were frequent outbreaks of violence. Maugrim and the Witches dwarf did what they could to keep their people in check, and the children did what they could to calm those who were leaving. The Lion was no help.

For forty days and forty nights, the witch stood in the middle of the pass, impassively watching her country burn. Maugrim and Susan kept her company for a few hours a day, and there were generally a few creatures a day who came to take a last look before heading out into Archenland to make a new life, and some of the temporary exiles liked to watch.

Eventually, Maugrim approached the Lion. "The queen was under the impression that you could return the statues to life and use. She has no further use and has forsworn taking their lives. As with the rest of the exiles, they are welcome to return, under the same conditions."

...

"Well Sons of Adam, and Daughter of Eve, you have brought peace and apocalypse to Narnia. I can not say it is what I expected, but many are now alive that would otherwise be dead. I must soon send you back home, and close forever the gate, for you are too old and far too sensible for this land. What have you learnt in your time here?"

"I learnt the true meaning of friendship." Said Susan in an exaggeratedly cheery voice, taking Jadis's large pale hand in his own.
"That seems wildly unlike you."
"It's when the externalities associated with another creature or person's well being are so overwhelmingly positive that actions which benefit them but result in immediate personal costs become attractive."
"That... seems much more like you."

"I learnt that avalanche frequency during a rain-of-burning-sulphur induced melt follows a bell-curve distribution"

"I learnt that living in a country that any fool can destroy by accident is a terrible, terrible idea. Sometimes the best thing you can do is leave, hoping that economic success or at least life is available in the next country. Baba and Dyado would understand."
"Related: I learnt that Narnia doesn't have chromatic dispersion. Maybe you should fix that?"

"I learnt that the total Narnian population at the end of the long winter was 1726, and that 1153 went into exile. I counted Zem."

Alexandria glanced at her siblings. They all joined in:
"Ah! Ah! Ah!"



...


"Father, you know how the only way to be sure you havn't trapped the cat in a cupboard is to either not close the door or to make sure you can see him somewhere else when you do close it?"

"I think we might have locked the cat in the magical land in the closet."

...

Jadis took stock of recent developments. She had lost a sizable hunk of population; the rebellious chunk sure, but population was population. And now the reminder had no one to blame things on, which might result in stability issues later.

She'd survived her prophesised doom, so that was definitely one for the "Pro" column.
She was down a stone sacrificial knife.
She'd learnt to bend rather than break. Susan had been right; she could have lost a second country to "poor tyrantcraft", but she hadn't.

She'd raised her ice palace again, less obviously defensive, symbolising more confidence. Rainbows glistened across the floor as light filtered in through the multifacieted ice panes of the ceiling. That was new too: She didn't know what it meant but the bands of colour had been seen floating in the sky too. Probably one of those inexplicable phenomenon.

The throne of frozen knives was as imposing and fur-covered as ever. Plus.
Some of the furs sat up, blinked at her, yawned and started washing.
Not exactly the classic over bred Persian, but the cat was going in the gains column. It'd balance the knife.

Date: 2014-07-10 09:54 am (UTC)
xanthipe: (violet)
From: [personal profile] xanthipe
*grins* I have missed your fic. And I am intrigued to know what happens next...although I mostly suspect that the cat will take over Narnia somehow.

Date: 2014-07-10 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baloonworld.livejournal.com
I think the cat curls up in warm spots and demonstrates an inability to distinguish between "mice" and "toes".

Father is disappointed that they didn't bring him any rings to cast into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Date: 2014-07-10 12:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greg-r.livejournal.com
That was fantastic!

Date: 2014-07-10 05:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baloonworld.livejournal.com
Yay! The rest of my stories are linked by the tags. S&Z do have a bit of canon :(

Date: 2014-07-10 07:21 pm (UTC)
xanthipe: (violet)
From: [personal profile] xanthipe
As long as they haven't caught the Backplot, they'll be fine.

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