Among

The memory stung still. He crossed his legs, as if the old witness sitting there in her death-linens could hear the vascular effort of his veins trying to retract his testicles. He smoothed the Rampini coat over the little loaf of his stomach.
Hunting…well, it was what he was doing now, too, wasn’t it? No handgun in his vest pocket, true. Just the privileges of the law, notarized by EC heavies.
He remembered the first time he’d heard the noise of rifle-shot. From far enough away, it had sounded like a distinct filament of thunder, a single flayed nerve of it. Brrr knew tree rodents to be smart; if they were careering away from the retort, there was good cause.
He lay low, in a kind of declivity—not a Lion’s usual response to aggression, but how was he to know? Before long a quartet of uniformed men came near. They pitched their tent, and lit their campfire, within a few yards of where he had dropped like a felled potterpine. It took the Lion a few moments to realize they were responsible for the portable thunder. The rifles leaned against one another, reeking still of burnt gunpowder.
He was afraid his body odor would give him away, or the rumbling of his stomach. The hunters were noisy from drink, though, and he had nothing much to fear from them except what he learned about hunting. They traded tales of knocking off deer, skinning and mounting ocelot, tanning the hide of elk, beheading lions and having their skulls stuffed with sawdust and their teeth waxed. And spheres of polished onyx inserted in the emptied eye sockets.
Brrr’s blood went slow, as if turning to gelatin. Even when the last hunter had nodded off, and the campfire collapsed into bright char and hiss, his whiskers never twitched. Were the hunters to sniff him out, stand over him and give him a head start at the count of ten, he wouldn’t have been able to move. The bombast of hunterly boasting had hexed his limbs into basalt.
The hunters woke before dawn. One of them all but pissed on Brrr, but the guy was sufficiently hungover not to notice. They kicked sand over their campfire and hoisted their rifles and packs, and crashed like rhinos away from Brrr’s sanctuary.
He resigned himself to living in hiding for the rest of his life: to remain a rogue, unattached and unnoticed. And safe. Though what kind of a life would that be? He remembered with the instant nostalgia of youth the Lurlinists singing their anthems, the rare hikers chatting over landmarks, the lovers twisting by firelight against each other, as if trying to relieve a fatal itch. The choice of renunciation he was making was gloriously disappointing and refreshingly sad.
It was his first adult decision and therefore almost immediately revoked. A few days later he stumbled—literally—across the inaugural test of his mettle.
Evening. Brrr had been on the lookout for a growth of sweet forest pumpkin, which he especially favored. He hadn’t seen the fellow on the ground, and he’d stepped right on him. The pressure of his paw had awakened the hunter out of a torpor of pain. “Help,” said the man. Brrr leaped back, as terrified as he was surprised.
It was the youngest of the four hunters, the least offensive, though no saint either, by the stench. The fellow’s leg had been all but snapped off in a trap of some kind. Flies were making a banquet of the pus.
“Open the trap,” begged the poor sod. “Let me free, or else eat me at once. I’ve been here days beyond telling.”
Surely it can’t be more than three days, thought Brrr, but he didn’t contradict.
“I can’t bear another night,” claimed the fellow.
“The very dark,” said the Lion. This didn’t seem enough, so he added, “Isn’t it very very fright-ful?” It was his first remark to anyone other than himself, so it was the first time he heard himself sound like a pantywaist. What was that all about?
“I beg you. Mercy, for the love of the Unnamed God.”
The Lion backed up, his rump high in the air, his whiskers a-twitter.
“Release me or do me in—one or the other,” said the man, and fell to moaning. “Kill me and you can chew this wretched leg off my torso at last.”
“Actually, I’m very vegetarian,” said the Lion, proud of the actually. Is this how conversation was supposed to go? Your turn.
The young man reached again, for what must have been the ten thousandth time, to try to open the trap by force, but the thing was built to hold. He hadn’t the strength by himself, and the trap wouldn’t yield.
“You pull that side and I’ll pull the other,” said the fellow. “Together we can open it. Then, maybe you could cart me to a settlement, or at least to a stream. I’ve been rotting here with nothing to drink but the dew I could lick off the vegetation.”
But the Lion found the teeth of the trap alarming. “That’s a very iron mouth,” he observed. “Far too very dangerous. Look what it’s done to you.”
“It’s sprung, it can’t spring again. Hunter’s traps don’t work like that.”
Brrr shook his head.
“You imbecile. You flathead. I’m begging you—”
“I can’t risk it. There are those who rely on me for support,” said the Lion, thinking: Myself, for one, and one is enough. “Besides, I haven’t those curving shrimplike fingers you have. I can’t just purr the thing off you, you know.” He was trying for a jocular tone, but it seemed to lack smack, and the hunter’s distress was, well, distressing. Brrr pawed about, keeping a fair enough berth, sniffing and tossing his mane. “So this is a hunter’s trap, and you’re a hunter. And I’ve just put the two concepts together. Aren’t you a little bit very ashamed of yourself?”
“I’ll give you anything. Every nickel florin I own. My father’s cottage—it’s freehold, no mortgage, running water, two fireplaces, stunning views.”
“A cottage among very human cottages?”
“Nicely done up. You wouldn’t even have to redecorate.”
“Cottages filled with the fathers of hunters? I don’t think so.”
The man fell back, stunned into silence, and then began to weep. Quietly, noxiously. The Lion was appalled and faintly offended. This wasn’t quite as much fun as he’d imagined. The human raised himself on an elbow and managed quaveringly to say, “You have a pride nearby—someone old enough to know how to show mercy to a stranger in your kingdom…”
“I’d go for help,” said the Lion, “but I’m afraid no one is very near.”
“Help is near enough. If not from your clan, then from mine. I just got separated from my pals. Not long ago, really. They probably only made it back to the base camp by now. And look, in case the base camp has pulled up stakes, there’s a small cadre of the Wizard’s forces stationed at Tenniken. I’m one of their number—hunting with my mates on behalf of the regiment. They’re loyal to the Wizard of Oz! They will come for me if you tell them where I am. Soldiers don’t abandon their own.”
“A soldier-hunter.” A new concept. “A lesson for us all,” said the Lion cautiously. “Wish I’d had a soldier for a mother, then. Loyalty to the pack: what a thought.” But that was rumination, not conversation. He tried again. “Have you enjoyed visiting this very neck of the woods?”
“Are you tormenting me?” The lad—he was hardly more than that—sat up as far as he could. “Am I hallucinating all this? Kill me or save me, as you wish, but for the love of the Unnamed God, do it soon. I’m all alone.”
It was this last remark that moved the Lion to pity, or pity of a sort. He knew about being alone. The weather was always cold there.
He padded forward and put his big head down on the man’s chest. The man swooned in fear or disbelief, whereupon the scattershot snare in his chest slowed to a more stately thud.
The Lion considered creeping off. The whole thing was so embarrassing. Yet he remembered conversations usually concluding with “Good night” or “So long” or at least “Piss off.” He didn’t want to be rude and leave without the correct valediction.
He wrinkled his nostrils and sorted out the ribbons of odor. The pheromones of panic and anxiety (the young soldier’s and the young Lion’s, both). The salty stin
g of male sweat, and the cinnamony reek of human feces. Dried urine (faintly aphrodisiacal), dried blood (an astringent to the curled outer segments of Brrr’s olfactory fissures). And mold, but not common leaf mold. This was mold on parchment that had been sized with bleaching.
Brrr had few words for those apprehensions, which were nonetheless tantalizingly distinct. He followed his nose and discovered a satchel of four books. They were dropped a few yards beyond the trap. He picked them up in his mouth and brought them forward to the soldier. He smelled the ferrous note of the belt buckle and then its complement, the tooth-sting of processed tin. The soldier wore a medal on his chest. Even in forest gloom the shine on it was enthralling.
The Lion fell in love. He sat down with front paws laid out together, like a sphinx, until the felled hero began to stir.
“I brought you your books,” said Brrr.
“Oh. I hoped you were a dream,” murmured the soldier, which Brrr first took to be a compliment.
“I thought you’d want them.” He walked the parcel over to the soldier and he didn’t mean to drop it on his head. “Whoops. Sorry.”
“They’re not mine, you monster,” complained the young man. “They’re for you.”
“I have no learning,” said the Lion, “or I’d be happy to read aloud to you to pass the time.”
“You mock me for someone else’s crimes. Lion, I throw myself on your mercy.”
“What can I do for you?”
“What do you think? I don’t want you to return these books to the library!” yelled the soldier. “I want help! Go for help, you cretinous beast!” He was quite pretty, weeping.
“Wait here. I’ll bring you some water to drink.”
“I’m not going anywhere, ’cept to the breast of Lurlina if you don’t hurry.” The soldier ran his fingers over his shaven scalp. “I wish the bugs would wait until I was fully dead.”
The Lion returned. It was hard to balance water in a scooped-out gourd, and most of it had spilled, but a few drops moistened the soldier’s parched lips.
“Since you can’t wrench this iron mouth off my leg, please go get my comrades,” said the soldier. “If they’ve given up on finding me, they’ll reconnoiter at the barracks in Tenniken. Tell them that Jemmsy sent you. They won’t forget their Jemmsy. I’m their favorite. I’m like their little brother.”
“Jemmsy, is it? Jemmsy, I can’t have anything to do with soldiers! Soldiers and their campaigns, Jemmsy. Really.”
“Don’t kid yourself,” said Jemmsy. “Everyone sleeps with the soldiers, in the long run.”
“If I’m not mistaken, Jemmsy, you were among that troop a few nights ago, Jemmsy, boasting about bagging pussy and all that? Weren’t you, Jemmsy?”
“You totally don’t get it. But this is my punishment? To be lectured to death by a talking Lion?”
It was at this remark that Brrr first surmised that not all Lions could speak.
“You’re raving, perhaps from starvation,” said Brrr. “Jemmsy, let me find you some food at least.” He lit out in the direction of Tenniken, in the direction that the fallen man suggested, and when he came across a slope of ripe strawberries he picked several quarts with his mouth and brought them back, delivering them one by one with a roll of his tongue.
The water had revived the soldier enough to be more aware of his pain. “Don’t stop to feed me,” he groaned, cramming the fruit in his mouth. “Don’t come back with a salad course. Just get my mates. Get me some fucking help. Don’t I merit that much mercy?”
“I can’t actually tell. What’s your medal for, Jemmsy?”
“Courage in the line of fire.” Jemmsy began to bite his nails.
“And why do you wear it, Jemmsy?”
“To give myself courage.”
The circularity of this was beyond Brrr.
“You want it? The medal? Take it. I don’t deserve it anymore, anyway. Going to pieces like this.” He unpinned it from his jacket. “You can fix it to the belt lashing those books together, and wear it around your mighty thigh.”
Brrr had to keep from stealing a look to see if his thigh was all that mighty. “I haven’t earned it,” he said. “Jemmsy.”
“It will be your passport in Tenniken. No one will harm you if you come in aid of a soldier of the Wizard’s army. If you deliver the news of my incapacity to my brothers-at-arms, they won’t forsake me. Soldiers take care of their own. Low ranking though I am.”
Brrr came forward and accepted the token by opening his mouth and gumming Jemmsy’s hand almost up to the elbow. It tasted lettucy, watery, unwashed. The hand was limp on Brrr’s tongue, and for a moment neither of them moved.
Then, extruding the hand through closed lips, and ejecting the badge onto the pile of books, Brrr said softly, “Pin it there on the belt, as you suggested. When I go, I’ll take the books with me, too.”
“Bless you,” replied Jemmsy. “If I were not to survive, would you tell my fellows to remind my father I loved him until the end? And forgive me my crimes against you and your kind.”
“I have no kind,” said Lion. “But okay, sure. If it’ll make you happy. What crimes might those be, Jemmsy?”
But Jemmsy had rolled over on his side, and he put the saliva-wet hand into his groin and drew his knees up, as far as the trap would allow. He didn’t speak again.
Gratitude, thought the Lion. He gripped the satchel belt in his mouth and left. He found, though, that the farther away he got, the less he could be confident of the small association that had sprouted between him and Jemmsy. Did a conversation constitute a friendship? If so, this was his first friendship, and he wasn’t sure how fragile it might prove to be. How could he abandon the fellow, just like that? What if Jemmsy fell asleep and had a bad dream, and cried out, as the Lion had so often done?
He circled back, then, but by old habit he settled out of sight in a shadowy clot of fallen and rotting tree limbs. He watched his friend sleep, and struggle against the trap, and grow still. Brrr reviewed the matter as best he could, inventing rhetorical forensics from the ground up.
On the one hand, Jemmsy and his companions had set that very trap. Or things like it. They were hunting him, or his kind. His kind. Right? Right? So now the soldier had him. Jemmsy had caught himself a Lion, just perhaps not in the way he had intended.
On the other hand, maybe experience—of any sort—was only valid if it caused you to redefine your terms. Courage, for instance. The courage to go versus the courage to stay? Which was more very couragey?
Any decision he made, Brrr realized, would affect his friend’s future one way or the other.
His heart burned with affection when, in a fever, the man called out, “Lion. Friend Lion! Have you forsaken me?”
It’s good that I am in your heart to give you hope, thought the Lion, hope unto death. He lay as close to the soldier as he dared, to keep the man warm at night until there was nothing left of him to warm. Even when Jemmsy died, and the smell grew worse, the Lion hated to leave the body.
“Now I’ll go for help,” he said to the carcass. “You’ve been very patient.”
Jemmsy didn’t reply.
“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?” said Brrr, but his tone sounded off and he closed his mouth.
My first conversation, he thought, and his bound had a new spring to it. He was nearly giddy. Of course, the finish had been awkward—death is a real stifler of repartee—but on the whole he thought it had gone rather well.
A conversation and a friend. Jemmsy had called out “Friend Lion!” So the friendship had been short-lived but real; now that it was dead, it couldn’t be revoked. It was preserved inviolable in his heart. And the medal shone like a portable compliment. The medal advertised Brrr’s own courage as he headed to Tenniken to keep his promise. He would deliver the news of the fallen Jemmsy to those grieving companions-at-arms. And through them the news could go on to Jemmsy’s father, that puzzle of a creature, for being capable of abandoning his son to the care
of the army.
“THE HEART OF a Lion,” murmured Yackle, almost purring herself. Brrr resisted the temptation to imagine she was being snide, but he couldn’t resist the domino-patter of memories, one after another, that had concluded his childhood. The momentum of the mind can be vexingly, involuntarily capricious.
• 3 •
S O THE next memory toppled forward, a tremor following upon a tremor. Jemmsy. His body seeping into the ground like a pudding at room temperature. How long had it been since Brrr had thought of Jemmsy? The scab torn off, after all this time; a smell of earth leaching from that opened wound. The smell of those childhood woods from as far back as his mind could pick its way.
When was his unspoken pledge to Jemmsy hijacked by ambition? How soon was his hope to deliver the news of Jemmsy’s death superseded by his hunger for the reward of gratitude? Or had it not happened as baldly as all that?
He couldn’t now remember. Only the terror and giddy release at having a destination at all. Tenniken. Tenniken, a garrison town, and nearby, a soldier’s grieving father. A brick hearthside where Brrr might curl up like a house cat, like a surrogate son, purring, domesticated, basking in the warmth of approval.
He felt perverse and new, flayed by raw luck. For the first time, he felt naked. He felt he could outrun his timidity just by doing the job right.
Getting to Tenniken. Returning Jemmsy’s medal of honor. Exchanging the tin ikon for the real thing: a sensation of righteous bravery he could own for himself.
It was going to take a while, though. He had to venture beyond the paced edges of his territory. Like all creatures who mark their boundaries, he could tell when he passed into the treacherous unknown. The musk of the undergrowth seemed foreboding.
The pictures in his mind grew more lovely, perhaps to distract him from the fear of being afraid. The cozy garrison settlement, and a place to eat. With any luck it would be a beer garden. Flowers, stripped of their nettles and thorns, madly fomented in pots set on window ledges and stoops. Candy-colored birds in silver cages, birds who didn’t threaten like forest vultures with those nerve-jangling cries, but who actually sang. On pitch. And trilling maidens at the town well, picking up the melody and embellishing it. That sort of thing.
A Lion Among Men
Author Gregory Maguire
Country United States
Language English
Series The Wicked Years
Genre Fantasy
Publisher William Morrow
Publication date
October 14, 2008
Media type Print (hardback)
Pages 309
ISBN 0062098942
Preceded by Son of a Witch
Followed by Out of Oz

A Lion Among Men is the third novel in Gregory Maguire”s The Wicked Years and was released in the UK on October 2, 2008, October 8 in the US, and on October 14, 2008 in the rest of Europe.

Prior to the publication of A Lion Among Men, Maguire stated that “this book will be about the differing moralities.. among soldiers, for one, and diplomats, for another.. about decisions to wage war” and “One of the main characters is the Cowardly Lion”.[1] Maguire also stated that the novel”s story “starts off about eight years after the end of Son of a Witch“.[2] Maguire”s website describes the novels as “seen now through the eyes of the Cowardly Lion—the once tiny cub defended by Elphaba in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.”

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Synopsis[edit]

The story opens with an impending battle between the Munchkinlanders and the Emerald City (EC) troops. In the middle of the warzone is the Mauntery which has been a haven for Elphaba, Yackle, Liir, and Candle. Yackle still lives despite losing her eyesight, and longs for death. At her request, the Maunts bury her in their crypt alive with only a few candles and some wine. She”s eventually forgotten, but not by all.

Elsewhere, a young woman wanders the Land of Oz until her path crosses “the dwarf”, whom she calls Mr. Boss, the caretaker of the Clock of the Time Dragon. The Clock has awakened..

Back at the Mauntery, Brrr, the Cowardly Lion, and his pet, a Glass Cat that he has nicknamed Shadowpuppet, arrive looking for Yackle. The Maunts claim she”s deceased but Yackle rises from the crypt, still alive. Yackle and Brrr begin a game of wits – Brrr demands information on Madame Morrible and in exchange he”ll tell Yackle about himself.

Brrr doesn”t remember his parents or where he”s from. He grew up by himself in the Great Gillikin Forest, learning language from the hunters that travel through his forest. One day he meets a soldier, Jemmsy, who”s caught in his own hunting trap that was supposed to catch Animals. He implores Brrr to go to Tenniken and get help. Instead, out of fear and the naive belief that since this is the first person he”s conversed with, then Jemmsy”s a friend and can”t be abandoned, Brrr stays with Jemmsy until he dies, claiming the books that lie beside him and taking Jemmsy”s medal for courage to give to Jemmsy”s relatives. Thus begins the Lion”s unhappy personage as a coward.

After Jemmsy dies, Brrr goes out to find Tenniken. Not long after he sets out, Brrr finds a terrified Bear Cub. The Bear soon reveals that his name”s Cubbins, and takes Brrr to his family. They”re the Northern Bears under rule by Queen Ursaless. She tells Brrr that to get to Tenniken, he must travel through the Cloud Swamp, a wet land inhabited by the Ozmists (ghost-like beings). Brrr and Cubbins have an “all but fatal” interview with the Ozmists. Brrr soon leaves Cubbins with the pile of books as he leaves the Great Gillikin Forest for the first time.

When Brrr first ventures out of the forest, he finds out he isn”t in Tenniken at all, but Traum, a market town east of Tenniken. Brrr soon finds himself involved in a massacre of Glikkun trolls. Not knowing what to do, Brrr tells some trolls to play dead, as he thinks that it”s the only way to bypass the slaughter, but they take his advice too late and become captured. The people of Traum celebrate the Lion for refusing to help their enemies, the Glikkuns, and Brrr safely gets out of Traum by train. While on the train, however, Brrr decides that his refusal to help the Glikkuns is really a badge of shame, and knowing that in Tenniken his reputation will precede him, he ultimately can”t bring himself to go there, instead arriving in the University town of Shiz.

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Brrr sets himself up in an apartment, and spends time in and around Shiz. The Lion soon finds a poem dedicated to humiliating him. Feeling embarrassed, Brrr packs up and leaves into the wilderness. Brrr wanders around the woods aimlessly for a while, until he finds a pride of Lions trying to make it in the forest. Brrr lives with the Lions for several years. But some of the Lions mock him, prompting him to leave.. again.

The next group that Brrr encounters is the Ghullim, a streak of Ivory Tigers in Wend Fallows. He”d happily pass right through their tribe without stopping, but they force him to stay with them for a while, if only to assess his status as a threat. While there, he befriends and ultimately falls in love with Muhlama H”aekeem, princess and heir to the Chieftaincy of the Ghullim. But when they”re discovered mating by Ivory Tiger scouts, her father Chief Uyodor H”aekeem announces that he suspects him of attempting to thwart his regime due to Muhlama being seriously wounded from the lovemaking, once again prompting him to leave, before they have his head on a trophy background.

Within the following weeks, Brrr meets a strange group of travelers. One a little girl named Dorothy, one a Scarecrow and the other was Nick Chopper, the Tin Woodman. Brrr decides to go with them to meet the Wizard of Oz. They soon find themselves on a quest to kill Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. But Dorothy wants to reason with her instead. Once at Kiamo Ko, where Elphaba lives, she locks the Lion in a room with Liir while she and Dorothy have at it. They soon break out in time for Elphaba to be vanquished. The five go back to the Wizard and get their rewards. All but Brrr got what they wanted (Brrr getting a terribly manufactured Badge of Courage, even more so than Jemmsy”s. Liir gets nothing for he was left outside.) Brrr promises Dorothy that he”ll protect and look after Liir, but Liir vanishes in the streets and crowds of the Emerald City. Brrr then goes off on his own path, like before.

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The Lion has hit the outback again. With the other members of Dorothy”s party laughing it up and having their own affairs, Brrr soon meets two old bachelors; Mister Mikko, an Ape, and Professor Lenx, a Boar of some kind. The three Animals discuss current events and past events. They soon rile Brrr up to retrieve money from the banks of Oz for them. The Lion soon becomes a broker for Animals, retrieving their money that is held in the banks since before they were forced to leave Oz. The forces of Oz soon discover that Brrr is bringing money into the Free State of Munchkinland and try him for being a Collaborationist. He strikes a plea and is assigned to go find the whereabouts of the Grimmerie, which leads him to his interview with Yackle.

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This recaps the first part of the book. Menagerie pdf free. download full.

Characters[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^Interview, Akron Beacon Journal, October 2006.
  2. ^Interview, March 2008.

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