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Not Just A Silly Children's Story

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Not Just A Silly Children’s Story

Excerpts from The Stone Gryphon story cycle collected in one place for reader ease.


Her bland recitation of the route brought home forcefully how deadly serious this was, for all of them. "Susan?"

She looked up from her notes. "Yes?"

Edmund cleared his throat. "About those U-boats..."

Susan shrugged and corrected an entry in the notebook with her pencil; it looked like she had misspelled "Nova Scotia." "If our convoy is hit, I will be with Aslan again."

His sister was brave. By the Lion, he'd seen her cool resolve a hundred times over. Still, the helplessness of such a death would be horrible. He put a gentle hand on her arm.

"It would be understandable if you were frightened, Susan. Mum and Father obviously are."

"I am not afraid, at least not about the crossing. I simply do not believe Aslan sent me away from Narnia only to burn and drown in the ocean." Her hair had fallen in a curtain hiding her face; her hand paused in her annotations. When she spoke, it was with all the firm gentleness and wisdom for which she had been renowned. "Edmund, I would have stayed, with Caspian if need be, for the good of Narnia. But, Aslan did not so will it; Narnia is closed to me now. Before sending me back, He said there were others tasks for me."

Leaving the pencil to mark the page, Susan flipped her notebook to the inside cover.

The seal of the United Kingdom stared back, the three lions passant guardant in the first and fourth quadrants, and the golden crowned Lion Rampant as the dexter supporter opposite the Unicorn. She had likely cut the image from some book or government pamphlet. Susan ran her fingers over the seal.

"We all bore something very like this Lion Rampant for years, Edmund. Do you think I've gone as daft as Mum because I believe that there must be a connection between what I did There, and what I am intended to do Here?"

...

He pulled her into a tighter embrace. "You will be brilliant. You cannot help but be brilliant. I'm sure of it. You'll have to write me all about it."

"About that." Susan pulled away and retrieved her notebook. "A cable said that we will be able to write and that our letters will go through the Embassy, back to England, with a diplomatic courier. You all will be able to respond to us the same way, through the War Office. That is the good news."

"And the bad?"

"It will all be cleared through censors first."

"Oh. Yes, I suppose it would be. Which means…" He trailed off, considering the unpleasant prospect.

"Precisely. I am going to have to be very careful in how I describe the situation and ask for your advice, and you will have to exercise similar caution in responding. We plainly cannot use our cipher, either."

He mulled it over. Use of anything peculiar would raise questions best avoided. They needed something that was subtle, personal and idiosyncratic to him and Susan, and that could pass without comment.

It was so blindingly obvious.

"I know, Su! Use Narnia."

Susan lit up as he said it, easily following the scheme. "Oh yes, that would work. If I describe it in Narnian terms, with Narnian names and places, you will understand the reference well enough."

"Put them off further, take it another step!" Edmund exclaimed, feeling very enthusiastic about the plan. "Pretend it is a story that you are telling your younger brother and sister. If you phrase it in terms of talking animals, centaurs and giants, any censor will just assume it is a silly game among children. I'll respond in kind and no one will be the wiser."

Oxfordshire 1942, Chapter 8, Lion’s’ Business


Edmund turned away at a desk, blocking Peter's view. He was, Peter suspected, disarming some security measure he employed to alert him if someone tried to access his things. Edmund opened a drawer and handed him a very thick stack of paper.

"And this is…" Peter ended with a questioning note, thumbing through the sheaf. Truth be told, it was significantly weightier than the sum total of everything he had done for the Professor, by several magnitudes.

"That pile is Susan's letters to me this summer while she has been in Washington."

"Her letters to me have been nothing like this," Peter said, skimming the paper. Her letters had been rather dull, short, and about the weather and parties, with the occasional name or location blacked out with a ******* by some censor. Peter folded back a corner to a random page and saw in Susan's flowing script, Sallowpad instructed the Queen Susan and Lord Peridan that the Tarkheena was to be their next project…

He looked back up at Edmund. "She wrote a story? A Narnia story?"

"To the censors, it has appeared to be an amusing and silly children's story an older sister was writing to her younger brother about a fantastical land of a Queen, a dashing knight, talking animals, and a long hot summer in the exotic, magical land of Tashbaan." Edmund sat down heavily on the bed. "In reality, that is an accounting of what our sister has been doing this holiday to further the British war effort in the American Capitol."

"Furthering the war effort?" Peter repeated, incredulous. "Susan? Our fifteen year old sister?"

"Peter, save the Royal Frowns, would you?" Edmund said, a little weary. "She's no more her apparent age than the rest of us." He gestured to the other bed. "Take a seat. You're going to be here a while getting through all that."

Skimming more pages, Peter saw references to Tarkheenas, Tarkaans, Tashbaan, Sallowpad, Peridan, the Tisroc, Calormen, Narnia, Ettins, Telmarines, and other familiar names and places. Peter caught a glimmer of the ploy. "So, she's been, as you say, aiding the British and telling you about it in the form of a Narnian children's story, knowing that you would understand what she was really saying?"

Edmund nodded. "We arranged some of the terms beforehand. She's had to add as she went along. For instance, I know that Narnia is England, Calormen is America, Tashbaan is Washington, and Sallowpad is a security or intelligence chief at the British Embassy. I'm not sure if he is an individual or an amalgam, she obviously couldn't be clear. Archenland was supposed be New York, but I think it's Canada now. Father is King Lune, though not in the story at all, and so on."

"And Lord Peridan?" Peter was trying to envision their loyal ambassador and knight in 1942 America and his imagination was faltering.

"Peridan was an addition. In the story, don't laugh, he is a young, dashing knight and veteran of the Gryphon Aerial Corps who was wounded in battle when the armies of the evil Ettin Giant King bombarded the beautiful city of Cair Paravel with catapults."

There was too much bizarre novelty to absorb at once; Peter forced himself to focus on the first. "Gryphon Aerial Corps?" His mind was racing with the implications of this incredible scheme. "By the Lion, it's the RAF!"

His brother nodded, and continued, "and the Ettin King is Hitler..."

"Who has bombed London into the Stone Age with boulders thrown from catapults!"

"The Ettin King of the Northern Giants is in league with the Telmarines who have declared war on both the Calormen Empire and Free Narnia."

"Telmar being the Empire of Japan," Peter finished. What an amazing ruse. It was a classic Rat and Crow maneuver for Edmund and Susan.

"Yes. I assume that when we finally speak with her we will learn that Our Lord Peridan is in reality a combat wounded RAF fighter pilot assigned to the British Embassy."

Edmund scowled briefly and Peter sensed his brother had developed some opinions about RAF Fighter Pilot Peridan – who wasn't Peridan at all, of course.

"It's a very dodgy business, Peter." He sighed and the haunted look of earlier returned. "It's uncomfortable reading, if I understand what Susan is writing."

"Uncomfortable? For whom?"

"Well, Susan for one, although that's probably just brotherly protectiveness on my part."

Peter snorted. "Susan's never needed that. Although…" He looked again at the letters. "I can see how her reliance on Calormen might make you uneasy. Is there a Rabadash in here?"

Edmund shook his head. "Fortunately, no." He took a bite of the bread, carelessly scattering crumbs everywhere, very much like the Rats with whom he and Susan had worked so closely. It was another habit of his. When preoccupied, Edmund tended to let ordinary things like eating and sleeping slide, cramming them in when and where he could, which was regrettable as their absence could affect his judgment and certainly affected his temperament.

"When you read this Peter you need to remember that you aren't really reading about the places and people we knew. It can be disorienting. For instance, she has set up this whole political structure that I think is her way of describing the U.S. Congress."

Peter paged through the letters and read aloud, "'Sallowpad discussed with Queen Susan and Lord Peridan how they might be able to assist in the Narnian effort to persuade the Tisroc's War Council to bequeath the Gryphons and war horses needed for the retaking of the Lone Islands and the Marshes north of the River Shribble.' So, the War Council is the American Congress?"

"I think so, or possibly some committee of the Congress. There are two chambers, so I'm not sure precisely who it is. Remember that they are elected and there are women who serve in it as MPs, well, MCs, I suppose. That's just another example of how confusing it can be, because, of course, the Tisroc we knew would have never permitted elections or women in government service."

Edmund was now chewing on his carrot. His manners when he was distracted had always been careless. "That dissonance will happen quite a lot. You'll read names like Sallowpad and Peridan and think that the Beast or Man you knew would never do what Susan writes of. And you have to remember that it isn't Sallowpad or Peridan. It's someone else. It's completely out of character."

The glower returned as Edmund spoke again of Peridan. "I'm sensing you are not overly fond of RAF Fighter Pilot Peridan," Peter said to him.

With a disgruntled snort, Edmund said, "I'm not. I really want to box him, for all that he is probably a decorated war hero. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. You need to read it. As you come to confusing parts, I'll explain."

In the moment of hesitation that followed, his brother transformed, and suddenly, into so severe a demeanor that the only things missing were the crown, an additional ten years of physical age, and Ettin raiders at the border.

"What?"

"As I mentioned, this ruse fooled the censors all summer, Peter." He lowered his voice, now sounding furtive and wary, "until last week."

"What happened?" Peter asked in equally hushed tones.

Edmund scowled again, fiercely, with something between admiration and disgust warring across his face. "Spies. I really should know better."

A disturbing chill moved him. "What do you mean?" Peter asked, pulling from his brother what he did not wish to say.

"Asim. The man we've been referring to all summer in letters as 'the Driver' and with whom you have been discussing battle tactics. He came to see me last week to tell me the gig was up."

 

The Queen Susan in Tashbaan, Chapter 3, Later


"I have during this summer often speculated as to the identity of those prior mentors of yours, Mrs. Caspian."

"Surely not a productive exercise, Sir."

"Indeed, not. Which is why I find this so instructive." He slid the obscuring folder away and held up the letter to her brother for her to see. "I wonder if you learned your skills from Sallowpad?"

Not even in the moments after Hill's death or when they sat on the bench together and discussed mass murder in Poland had he seen her so unguarded. He pressed the advantage. "Given what is in this report we just obtained from Secretary Hull, I further wonder what I would receive if I asked you to retrieve the file on the Ettins' plans to murder Native Narnians."

The moment passed, stretching from strategically useful to uncomfortable, guilty silence, for now she knew that he had not only seen the letter, but had understood it as well.

"Now, Mrs. Caspian," he chided crisply. "You have been under my exclusive tutelage for weeks. I have trusted you and now accuse you of putting our secrets into a cipher and writing home about them!"

He brandished the letter, goading her to uncertainty and defensiveness, raising his voice. "Don't just sit there like an empty headed Tarkheena! Defend yourself!"

Come on girl, he urged silently. You have been found out. You anticipated this might happen. I have told what to do when your cover is blown. Where's your script? Where's the story you have prepared for this eventuality?

And with a breath that was a little too deep, her cover snapped back into place and her spine stiffened with scorn.

"Sir, with all due respect, you are both wrong and overreacting. My letter is nothing more than a silly children's story to my young brother. There is nothing secret or improper about it at all."

The Queen Susan in Tashbaan, Chapter 21 The Queen Susan in Tashbaan Part 3


"So, my sister, you have relieved Lucy's lingering fears about her adventure with the Magician's Book of Spells, wept with her over the loss of Bardon wherein she stated emphatically that it was not your fault to fail to see what no one else did, which was then a message Edmund reiterated as you further dissected with him the Rat and Crow of your summer until, in the middle of some tall tale, he fell asleep, for which we are all most grateful."

"I am discovered!" Susan said. "And so I am as transparent to you as ever?"

Peter stared thoughtfully at his drink. "On the contrary, Susan, I hardly know what to say. With some assistance, I had concluded that Father had been drawn into something peculiar. I knew nothing of your role until I arrived in Cambridge once they had returned on The Dawn Treader."

"Edmund said he had you up all night."

Peter nodded and swirled his drink. "I…" He hesitated and so Susan waited. "I should not have been surprised, Susan. You are amazing and I am very proud of what you have accomplished and to be your brother."

When Edmund and Lucy had said these things, she had felt ease, gratitude and relief. But, for Peter to speak so was something of a whole other magnitude.

"Thank you, Peter, that means a great deal, coming from you."

"More than it should, Susan. You should not require my good opinion, though you have it and far more, all the same."

"Possibly," she had to admit. "But thank you, regardless."

"I have taken your skills for granted and I apologize for that."

This was all lovely and fine and well. However, "Peter, are you already drunk, or have you somehow become uncharacteristically sentimental over the summer?"

"No to both!" he said with a laugh and raising his glass.

"Then you are using this as a management strategy – being complimentary to soften the blow that is to come!"

"Now who is transparent?" He rubbed her shoulder with his free hand and shook his head. "No, Susan, there is no critique that follows. I am all admiration and such criticism I direct only to myself for failing to recognize your accomplishments years ago and for not telling you so more frequently. I have been feeling keenly the failure to see you knighted."

Susan bolted up, so startled her drink sloshed in the glass. "Knighted! Oh, Peter, not that! Not now!"

"Don't scoff at it, Susan," Peter retorted, though mildly. "I know it is symbolic at this point, but it was an honour never awarded to you and it has seemed that with England recognizing your worth, that Narnia should do no less."

Not all battles were won on the field, but it had always seemed that knighthood was more easily attained there than elsewhere, and it was awarded in recognition for a very specific sort of valor that she had never sought out.

"Goodness, you are serious! I never thought of what I did as warranting knighthood."

"Then whose fault is that?" Peter asked.

She was touched, moved even, and deeply so. Susan linked arms with her earnest, noble brother and gave his leg a nudge with her slippered foot. "For Eustace, perhaps, but not for me." Agnes had called Peter the Knight of Pentacles and that seemed so apt. "I am not the Knight that you are, Sir Peter, nor our sister, or our brother. I never shall be."

"I disagree. Do think about it, Susan. Rat and Crow is not the conventional means, but you have certainly earned it for the services rendered, both in Narnia and here."

Peter was misunderstanding her. He believed she was declining the honour out of a lack of self-worth. In fact, Susan was not certain she adhered to the same Knight's code of Narnia that her brothers and sister followed.

He squeezed her hand. "But now you are home and that business, thank Aslan, is over."

She felt a sudden prickle of irritation. "What do you mean? What business?"

Peter took another sip of his drink, maddeningly offhand now, as if confident they were of one mind. "Only that you have now concluded this work with the intelligence service and can put it behind you."

The prickle sharpened.

"On the contrary, Peter, I found it very difficult to leave the work behind. It was more rewarding than I could have possibly hoped for, and allowed me to fully use what I had learned in Narnia."

Peter could not raise a skeptical eyebrow as well as she could; even Lambert, her Wolf-Guard had been better at it. He managed a disapproving frown instead that was not yet Most Royal. "Susan, you are speaking of lying, stealing, and other immoral acts undertaken even against our ally!"

"We are fighting Hitler! The Nazis!" She kept her voice low, but her frustration was rising. "Over one million Jews are already dead, and they won't stop with the Poles!"

"I know that! I understood what you wrote and can read the papers." Peter countered, and as firmly. "Don't suggest I'm being naïve! What must be done, must be done to stop them!" She wished he had stopped there but the Knight of Pentacles continued, and returned to his familiar, rhetorical strategy. "Heroic people like you have to do these things, Susan, for which I and the rest of the world are very grateful, but necessity does not make them right."

"You had no difficulty with such things in Narnia, Peter."

From any other person, she would have heard a hypocritical denial or pomposity.

"I know," he said, so simply and so honestly, Susan could not hold on to her anger. He twisted about to face her and the conviction of a Knight was etched in his every feature. "I know what it is to give orders, Susan. And as Edmund uncomfortably but fairly reminded me, some of the worst ones I never had to give because to spare the Narnian, I did it myself, or asked Edmund to do it. Or…"

"You looked the other way and trusted me and Edmund to see it done."

Again, a lesser person would try to evade the shared culpability. But, Peter, who worked so hard to meet every expectation, to satisfy every need, and to always do the right thing, would shoulder that responsibility and so much more.

"Yes, and I mean with all my heart and honor that I will never, could never, criticise you or Edmund for the choices you made in defense of Narnia. It is our shared past, and it is past."

His words had the power of an oath. Susan did not require Peter's approval and they had certainly had his tacit blessing, which he admitted. Yet, still, this nakedly honest vow mattered – Peter was not acting the hypocrite and was not singling her out.

"And, as we've been reminded by Lucy and Edmund's return, the way forward for all of us is here, not in our past," Susan said.

"Precisely." He stared at the drink cradled in his hands. "But, just as you carry the lessons of Narnia with you so do I and what is deemed necessary to achieve national interests is one that, for me, bears closer examination. Do you understand what I mean?"

"Yes, Peter, I do."

She did understand, even if she did not wholly agree with him. She had sent Tebbitt off to seduce a harridan into revealing secrets that could destroy lives and a political career. She and Tebbitt both had done what was necessary because their shared loyalty to the cause was that great and the ends served that important. Peter had not had nor had he ever required the lesson the Colonel had taught her – that they needed the luxury of winning the War before asking these hard questions about the morality of their dodgy business. Tebbitt understood this in a way that Peter did not.

 

Apostolic Way, Chapter 8, The Queen Susan in Finchley


From his folder, Tebbitt withdrew another square of silk with numbers printed on it. They had, ironically, first seen these in Washington. A similar set had been taken from the spy who had killed Guy Hill.

"Here are the numbers for OTP coding." One time pad ciphers were the most secure. But not all agents were proficient and the silk sheet of randomised numbers could be found in a search. "You can use the OTP or you can use the poems."

Too many agents had been lost and codes cracked by clever Nazis because field agents had selected well-known poems on which they based their codes. The Nazi codebreakers had been very successful in breaking the codes because all they had needed was a volume of English verse. If they weren't going to use the OTP, it was better to use original poems the agent memorized. Tebbitt had helped the SOE's codemaster, Leo Marks, write dozens of poems for agents. He had written three for Mademoiselle Jeanne-Louise Lambert, codenamed Rat.

"Je veux utiliser les poèmes."

He had thought that would be her decision. There was something familiar and comforting about the poems. She was traveling light and could use the poems anywhere, without carrying incriminating codes. "We will go over them again tomorrow, make sure you are letter perfect on them. Also, you are to rotate them, don't ever use the same poem twice in a row. Begin each message with the number of the poem and the lines from which you took your six key words. That's all I'll need to break them." He wouldn't even need that, but it would make the work faster.

"Oui." She folded up the OTP silk and handed it back to him.

"Also, we need a security code, something in every message that tells me it's from you, something only you would know and that cannot be duplicated. If I get any message that is supposed to be from you, if that security isn't there, I'll know you've been taken and that you are communicating under duress."

There was only one thing that would work, that was unique to the person she really was, something that was under the codenames, the working names, the covers, and the forged identity cards. There was a code only she would know, and he only knew it because he had seen it.

"I think you know what we should use, Miss Pevensie."

She shook her head, frowning. "Je ne comprends pas."

"Don't you remember this?" She watched, eyes wide, as Tebbitt slowly removed her phenomenally indiscreet letter from his folder. "Major al-Masri gave it to me. It's the letter you wrote to Edmund in 1942. On its face, it appears to be a children's story about a land called Narnia. But that isn't right, is it, Queen Susan?"

She sputtered something angrily in French.

"If we argue, it's going to have to be in English, Mademoiselle."

"It was a children's story! Nothing more!"

A children's story and an allegorical cipher that described acts of espionage they had together perpetrated upon the United States. These were acts of deceit, theft, seduction that were not children's fare and certainly not something to be shared with their allies. "But it is a story that no one but you and your siblings know, correct?"

"Oui."

"In any message you send, somewhere, I want you to use a word from that story, one of the names or places, like…" Tebbitt looked down at the letter, now slightly yellowed and much creased. "Narnia, Tisroc, Tashbaan, Peridan, Sallowpad, Ettin, Aslan, or Dryad. Use one of those words, and I'll know it's from you. Do you understand?"

She looked rebellious and worried. "Mademoiselle? Do you understand?"

Finally, she nodded reluctantly. "Oui."

"Do you need to review it again? Memorize it?"

"No, I know it by heart." She took a deep breath. "Tebbitt?"

The reversion to English and his name startled him. "Yes?"

"If I need to, if I am in a hurry, and must get an urgent message out quickly, I may use that code again. It will be straight, like the messages personnels, not coded. If you don't understand what I've sent, ask Edmund. He…" She stammered a little then pushed on. "His codename is Crow."

"You were Rat and he was Crow?" Tebbitt asked.

She smiled. "Yes. Peter was 'Sword' and Lucy was 'Heart.'"

Rat And Sword Go To War, Chapter 3, Agent Provocateur, D-Day Minus 6 Months


Tebbitt could feel the urgency at the other end. She was sloppy. There was no special password, like Dryad, Ettin, or Tashbaan to begin the message. There were no numbers. This meant she was, against all sense and precaution, sending an uncoded message. He listened and recorded the dots and dashes and knew he could not ask her to repeat it.

"What is it?" al-Masri asked, hovering.

"Rat sent a message personnel."

"Are you sure it is Rat?"

"It's too fast and inaccurate to be anyone else. If she'd been captured they would have done it accurately."

askcrowwhyliluyedied

Ask/crow/why/liluyedied

Ask/crow/why/liluye/died

"What does that mean?" al-Masri asked. "Did you set up a fallback code?"

"Yes," Tebbitt said, standing and grabbing his coat. "Call Tarrant Rushton and tell them we have new intel and are working to decode it. Major Howard will need to know and the glider command. I'll call RAF Benson and tell photo recon to get another plane in the air and over those bridges."

"And Rat's message? What about that?"

"We're driving to Reading to speak to Crow."

* * *

Edmund Pevensie rose from an overstuffed, fraying wing chair with massive clawed legs. He had the damnable poise of his sister and had obviously come to the same conclusion as the boys in the hallway. Pevensie knew this was a crisis, but also knew it wasn't a personal tragedy that had brought two officers tearing across Berkshire on motorbikes the first week in June.

He reached out a hand to al-Masri first. "Major, it's a pleasure to see you again."

"Mr. Pevensie, may I introduce you to Wing Commander Tebbitt whom you know by excellent reputation but not in person?"

Tebbitt sensed that Pevensie's reaction to him was not as warm as to the Major. Possibly brotherly protectiveness of his sister?

"Why don't we all sit down," Davies began.

"Thank you, Headmaster, but you'll have to leave," al-Masri said immediately. "You are not cleared for this discussion."

"Cleared?" Davies repeated with a startled glance at Pevensie. "And Mr. Pevensie is?"

"Yes," al-Masri said. "We won't be long." The Major held open the door, projecting the perfect air of indifference, efficiency, and authority.

Pevensie didn't crack an expression until Davies blustered his way out the door and al-Masri shut it firmly behind him.

"I have wanted to say that to the old fool since I came back from the States," Pevensie said with a laugh. "I would love to get caught up and learn more but obviously time is critical. What can I do for you?"

Tebbitt removed the slip with Rat's message but before he could speak, al-Masri put in, "Mr. Pevensie, you are still bound by the Official Secrets Act. You must not speak of this to anyone. Do you understand?"

Pevensie nodded. "I signed a non-disclosures here and in Washington. I understand."

"Good," al-Masri answered. "Don't forget it."

Damn the man could be cool.

"Before your sister was deployed, we agreed that should circumstances warrant, she could use your private code," Tebbitt said. "If I couldn't understand it, I should come to you."

Tebbitt would swear this impassive, serious person was not a sixteen year old adolescent. But Rat had been younger when she'd fooled everyone into believing she was Mrs. Susan Caspian. al-Masri had said there were no rational facts that could explain the Pevensies. Tebbitt had certainly never found any.

"Here," he said, handing the scrap to Pevensie. "And I hope to God you understand it."

Pevensie took the paper, scanned it, and handed it back.

"Can you tell us what it means?" al-Masri asked.

"I can tell you what I think it means. How it applies to your situation, I obviously do not know."

"The best you can, Pevensie, that's all we ask, and she wouldn't have sent it to me and to you if she didn't think we'd get close to the meaning."

Pevensie nodded. "I agree, of course. Susan wants me to tell you about how a Gryphon named Liluye died."

"Gryphon?" Tebbitt repeated. "Like in mythology? Like the gryphon that pulls Beatrice?"

"Also Alice's Adventures," al-Masri said, sounding uncommonly dry.

"Yes, that sort of Gryphon, with the head of an eagle and the body of a lion."

"What happens to her? How does she die?" Tebbitt asked.

"Liluye is wounded in battle. She takes arrows to the wing, is injured, cannot fly, and plunges into the Owlwood."

Tebbitt thought Pevensie looked awfully bleak for what was just a children’s story. He supposed it was sad. "And?" he pressed.

"Liluye could have survived the arrow wounds. I believe my sister's point is that she did not because Gryphons are so very large and cannot fly in any area with heavy tree cover. When Liluye fell into the Owlwood, the trees ripped her wings off; she died impaled on a branch."

Tebbitt glanced at al-Masri, wondering if he was thinking the same thing.

"How do Gryphons fly?" al-Masri asked.

"Powerfully. They would launch from a height, if possible, but once airborne are terrific fliers."

"Do they glide?" Tebbitt asked.

"Yes," Pevensie replied. "They can sustain flight, of course, but are able to travel great distances by gliding on thermals."

With barely a thank you, they pelted out of the office like mad men; Tebbitt bellowed for the telephone to call the photo recon squadron at Benson and al-Masri was penning a telegram they'd run into town and send off to Major Howard and the glider corps stationed at Tarrant Rushton.

The Gondrées had learned that the Germans were installing Rommelspargel, Rommel's asparagus – glider poles – at the Bénouville bridges. The glider poles were thick, strong pieces of wood buried in the ground. They would tear the wings right off an incoming glider. The Horsas would never even reach the bridges. They'd be shredded to pieces on landing and picked off by waiting Nazi guns. D Company would never make it out alive.

Rat And Sword Go To War, Chapter 5: D-Day minus One Month to D-Day Minus One Hour, 44 minutes, To War


The Tale of the Foolish Faun