edenfalling: headshot of a raccoon, looking left (raccoon)
[personal profile] edenfalling
This is not the id!fic prompt! That's going to take more serious work, so I figured I'd jump ahead in the queue and write something a little less emotionally fraught (and also less structurally complicated).

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[archiveofourown.org profile] priscipixie said: How about this: Ilgamuth/Shezan, "heart on sleeve", Shezan has just heard of the defeat at Anvard (really, I'd be happy with anything at all about Shezan and Ilgamuth!)

Note: This ended up as Ilgamuth and Rabadash rather than Ilgamuth and Shezan. Oops? I mean, it's still about Shezan and Ilgamuth, and them being obviously in love. It just kind of... went sideways on me and this is what wanted to be written. It's not exactly a shovel talk, but it sort of flirts in and around that trope, so. (1,200 words)

(The aftermath of Anvard will be part of "A Change of Season," whenever I finally get around to writing that story, so I didn't want to lock myself into something that would inevitably get overwritten later.)

[ETA: The AO3 crosspost is now up!]

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How Easy All Can See
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"My milk-sister's heart is her own to guard," Rabadash said as he swung down from his stallion and led the bay horse, gleaming with sweat, down to the bank of the Shirush to drink.

Beside him, keeping a close watch on his own mare as she drank, Ilgamuth swallowed any outward reaction. He had known since Rabadash singled him out for a private race (which Ilgamuth had carefully lost by half a length) that the prince was in a chancy mood. It was best not to answer until he had a better sense of today's grievance.

"You keep your thoughts silent as fog or stone," the prince continued without bothering to face Ilgamuth, "but when you have chewed them over more times than a peasant's cow chews her yellowed grass and decide at last to act, you are not subtle. A man who allows others to see the strength of his craving for a woman, who allows her to become a weak link in his armor or he in hers, is a fool lower than the fleas that plague starving dogs. Malindra Takhun remarked on the value of your courting gift purchases when we passed outside my father's rooms this morning. I have heard similar words in the temples."

Rabadash rested one hand on the heated arch of his stallion's neck, stroked firmly along the grain of the damp hair, and laughed when the horse raised his head from the river to snort a watery question toward the prince's thigh. "A little more, O king of the storm," he said to the stallion. "A little more, but only so much as I will." The horse snorted again, but lowered his head once more to drink.

Ilgamuth tugged lightly on his mare's reins, and she raised her head in turn, stepping back from the river's edge. He had bought Shezan's courting gifts honestly, with crescents saved over years of Rabadash's careless favors. But whispers of bribery and corruption could travel faster than any truth, and he cursed himself for failing to consider that Rishti Tisroc's (may he live forever) court both could and would twist what should be an uncomplicated joy into a field of covert battle.

"Your discernment humbles me as always, O my prince," he said.

Rabadash laughed again, and finally turned to fix Ilgamuth with a stare like the sun reflected on tempered steel. "Shezan's heart, as I have said, is her own. She can and has redressed her own grievances; she will do so again should the need arise. And I am not best pleased with her since she opened the door to her goddess's meddling at the Spring Festival these two weeks past. But she is still my milk-sister, and so I tell you that when the ambassadors finish their fluttering and flatteries and I depart for Narnia, you will be among the party who accompany me, for however long that farce may take. This is not a favor."

"To hear is to obey," Ilgamuth said.

Rabadash did not release his gaze. "As it should be. And should you fail to learn discretion, Ilgamuth of the Twisted Lip, Ilgamuth of my most trusted companions -- should you continue to wear your heart on your sleeve for all to see and weave into their own plans -- I will have other orders for you to obey. You will not like them. Shezan will not either. But I consider her life and her position as Tolkheera more important than a trifling moment of misguided pleasure before the jackals of my father's court strip her flesh from her bones."

"I would gladly give my life for hers, as I would for you, O my prince," Ilgamuth said. He thought of the weeks before the Spring Festival, the helpless, sapping weight of knowing his prince's plans would rip the empire in two yet lacking the courage to speak against the intended blasphemy and patricide. He thought of Shezan's forgiveness, and the weight of her trust when she confided her own fear of Rabadash's growing recklessness and rage: equally heavy, but this time warm and strengthening to bear.

She had pulled something very like victory from the jaws of Rabadash's disaster, regardless of how she tried to shift all credit to the gods. Ilgamuth chose to trust that she could do so again in this smaller, more personal skirmish.

He licked his lips, conscious of the pull of his scarred cheek in a way he could usually ignore, and continued. "I most humbly suggest, however, that the granddaughter of Axartha Tarkaan knows well how to find the water of truth amid the sands of deception, for is it not said that to those with wisdom, even the sandstorm is as clear and tranquil air, through which the fixed stars may shine to guide their path. If she chose me, she must surely have weighed the worth of my heart and woven her own plans to account for its failings."

For a long moment, Rabadash was silent. The quiet shush of the river around buried rocks, the rustle of wind through the tall grass and reeds, the distant complaints of birds, the jingle of the horses' tack as they shifted -- these common, background sounds seemed to grow louder and louder, until they nearly drowned out the racing beat of Ilgamuth's own pulse.

Then Rabadash turned and tugged his stallion's head from the river. The horse stamped his feet, displeased at having his refreshment cut short. But he obeyed, and shifted his fore-hooves back onto solid ground as Rabadash began to walk up the bank.

"You are not subtle," the prince said. "But perhaps that very lack will make you as apt a blade in my sister's hand as you have been in mine -- assuming I find no further flaws in your metal before I give you leave to continue courting her. Do not visit her again until we return from the North."

"To hear is to obey," Ilgamuth said again.

Rabadash swung into his saddle and looked down at Ilgamuth with that shining steel gaze. "Don't make me remind you again," he said, and dug his heels into the stallion's flanks, turning the horse eastward toward Tashbaan and the sea.

Ilgamuth mounted his own mare and followed his prince back to their companions in silence, already composing words in his mind.

He would not visit Shezan. Nor would he send another courting gift. But the prince had said nothing about letters, and a man whose obedience mirrored that of a dog was unworthy to serve anyone or anything, from a lover to a lord to an empire.

Perhaps he would never be subtle, too caught up in his own mind to navigate the hidden currents of the Tisroc's court (or even, at times, his prince's companions). Perhaps he would always be a weight around Shezan's neck, a cord around her ankle. But she had chosen him, as he had chosen her, and he could not find it in his heart to care if the whole world saw his love and counted it a weakness rather than the strength it truly was.

He would wear his faith in her like a banner into war.

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End of Ficlet

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Okay, on to the next prompt...

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-28 09:05 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Eeeeeeee!!!! You wrote me an Ilgamuth story!! Thanks very much :) I'll write a more coherent response this evening, but just wanted to say I loved it. And thank you!!!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-07-30 12:21 am (UTC)
autumnia: The apple orchard in Cair Paravel (Pevensies (at the Cair))
From: [personal profile] autumnia
Squee! Love this, even when Shezan doesn't actually appear in the story. It's really refreshing to see Rabadash a bit more... down to earth... here. This is an intimate conversation between Prince and trusted companion, and I like the honesty here, especially from Rabadash.

Poor Ilgamuth. He's definitely worn his heart on his sleeve here. :-)
Edited Date: 2017-07-30 12:22 am (UTC)

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