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Homesick

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Aravis is homesick.

The people at Anvard have been most kind to her, of course. Cor has told everyone of her role in thwarting Rabadash’s attack, and King Lune has taken a great liking to her, spoiling her in ways he does not even indulge his sons. Her apartments are spacious and she’s given much freedom to do as she pleased. She rides out into the country almost every day the first few months, exploring the lush green lands of Archenland. The north is beautiful and her heart sings at the sight of snow-capped mountains and cascading waterfalls. Even the air feels different here, lighter and fresher than the hotter, humid air of Calormen.

But soon the excitement and wonder wears off, and she finds herself missing home.

Aravis does not regret her decision of leaving, nor does she forget the misery and fear that led to that decision. But it is hard to forget the good parts of her homeland, too. She misses her family - not her stepmother so much, but certainly her little brother and even Father, despite his austere ways - and she misses her friends, Lasaraleen not least among them (oh, I do hope she’s staying away from the Tisroc’s gardens and parties now!) She misses the hot spices of Calormene food, the cool, soft silks of Calormene clothing, the drums of Calormene music, the smell of incense burning during Calormene prayers, and the Calormene custom of going barefoot while lounging around one’s home… She misses all the simple and little things. She misses even just seeing a face like hers, bronze skin and thick ebony hair, so she would not feel so self-conscious of her own contrasting appearance when standing in a room of fair-skinned northerners.

The only other person who might understand is Cor. It’s different for him in some ways - he looks exactly like he belongs here, and to them he’s only their long-lost prince, not a foreigner - but Aravis knows it’s not so easy for him either. For most of his life he was Shasta the peasant boy, and Aravis knows her own attitude towards him in the earlier days of their journey did nothing to help his self-esteem. But Aravis has a difficult time remembering to be sympathetic sometimes, because Cor was always running her patience short.

“Oh shut up,” one day she snaps, when Cor voices for the umpteenth time his doubts on whether he can be a king. “The more you whine like a baby the more you prove yourself right!”

“Well,” Cor bristles, “it’s easy for you to say! You’ve got nothing to worry about - now that you’re no longer a Tarkheena!”

“I am and will always be a Tarkheena,” she retorts in almost a shout. All of a sudden her nose stings and tears threaten to leak from her eyes.

Without another word Aravis spins around and races to her room, slamming the door shut behind her.

In the privacy of her room she allows herself to succumb to tears. It isn’t the first time she quarrels with Cor, but she feels the worst this time. She’s suddenly very angry, at Cor, at Corin (just for being Cor’s twin brother), at King Lune (just for being Cor’s father), but mostly at herself! She’s stuck now in this kingdom far from her home for possibly the rest of her life and she has nobody else to blame. She was the one who chose to run away, so why does she feel like the one abandoned? Why does she feel so alone and hopeless? She wishes Queen Lucy or Hwin were here, but they’re not so close to Anvard they can magically materialize in a few minutes. She even wishes for her mother, and she hasn’t thought of her in years. The thought just makes her cry some more.

To Cor’s credit, he is usually the first to apologize. He slips into her room as she’s curled up on her pillows, tears now dried on her cheeks. He stands before her awkwardly, wringing his hands.

“I’m sorry, Ar,” he says. “I don’t know why I’m in a dreadful temper these days…”

He looks so earnest and sad, and Aravis feels herself soften.

“I’m sorry too,” she says honestly. “And I’m not really upset with you.”

She sits up, crossing her legs, a Calormene position that feels second-nature, and pats the spot next to her. To her surprise Cor chooses the same leg-crossed position as he seats himself facing her.

“It’s just so strange, isn’t it,” Cor says softly. “All of this.”

Aravis nods. “I guess it will take a while to get used to.”

“Do you think we’ll ever go back… one day?”

“I don’t think I can,” says Aravis bitterly.

“One day you might,” says Cor. He takes her hand and squeezes it, and Aravis doesn’t brush him off. Somehow the sincerity in his voice takes some of the weight from her heart, and she squeezes his hand back.

“You’ll make a fine king,” Aravis tells him. “And if you try to argue with me I swear I’ll box you like Corin does,” she adds.

Cor just chuckles. “I say, I believe you will!”

They fall into a comfortable silence, smiling at each other. Then blushing a little, Cor lets go of Aravis’s hand. She hides her own blush with a toss of her hair, but finds that she doesn’t quite want Cor to leave yet.

“Have you ever heard the tale of Zardeenah and the Shepherd Boy?” she blurts.

Cor brightens, shaking his head. “Do tell it.”

So she sits up straight, clears her throat, and tells the story in the Calormene manner. And very slowly, she feels some of the ache for her homeland fade away as she loses herself in the familiar rhythm and emotions of the story.

The next morning, after receiving a whispered message from one of the servants, King Lune quietly arrives outside the chamber of Lady Aravis, peering inside. He sees the two children sprawled on the large bed deep asleep, shoulder to shoulder in their day clothes, two content faces of innocence.

He sighs with a small smile, and gently draws the door close.