During the "Golden Age" an adventure happens in Narnia, Calormen
and in the lands in between. Peter is High King in Narnia.
A poor fisherman, Arsheesh, has a boy, Shasta, who calls him Father. On days
in which Arsheesh manages to sell lots of fish, he comes home and is indifferent to Shasta. On days he doesn't
sell well, Arsheesh beats Shasta when he gets home. Shasta always has chores:
mending, washing nets, cooking supper, and cleaning the cottage.
Shasta does not care to find out more about the lands that lay south of where
he is. He longs to explore the North, but Arsheesh has never been there and doesn't care to go. Shasta is convinced
that Arsheesh is hiding some wonderful secret from him concerning the North. Arsheesh dismisses Shasta's curiousity
about traveling North.
One day, a royal-looking stranger from the south arrives on a dappled horse insisting
on hospitality from Arsheesh, who bows down to him. He directs Shasta to do likewise. Because Arsheesh must provide food and shelter to this man for the evening, Shasta only gets to eat a piece of bread
and must sleep out of the cottage for the night.
Times like this he would usually sleep with the donkey, but it was too early to
try to sleep. Shasta eavesdrops on the conversation between Arsheesh and the stranger. He hears them trying to bargain
a price for selling Shasta to the stranger. Shasta can tell is thinking greedily about this potential deal. When Arsheesh
tries to feign strong emotional ties to his "son", the stranger calls him on it and says point blank that there is no
possible way that Shasta could be his biological son. For one, Arsheesh is dark and Shasta is "fair and white like the
accursed but beautiful barbarians who inhabit the remote North."
Arsheesh then explains how he came upon the boy when he was just a baby floating
in a stray boat, along with a man who had apparently just died from starvation. While telling this story, Arsheesh exaggerates
his 'kindness' toward the boy until the stranger tells him to stop talking such nonsense. It is very clear that Arsheesh
has treated Shasta like nothing more than a slave, to which Arsheesh then uses that point to emphasize Shasta's worth
to him. The stranger tells Arsheesh that whatever it has cost him to feed Shasta he has gotten ten times in monetary
value from the work that Shasta has done for him. Arsheesh points out that it would cost him a lot of money to
hire someone else to do Shasta's work or to buy another boy to order around.
Meanwhile Shasta goes out to where the dappled horse is kept outside and wonders
out loud whether the stranger is a nicer man than Arsheesh. He wonders maybe he would be better off with the stranger. He
wishes out loud that the horse could speak and tell him whether the stranger, the Tarkaan, is cruel or kind.
The horse ends up telling him that he can indeed speak and proceeds to tell Shasta
he would be better off dead than being enslaved by the Tarkaan. The horse explains that he is from Narnia. He
tells Shasta that he can plainly see that Shasta himself is also of Northern origin. This makes Shasta feel good
to know that Arsheesh is not his father.
Shasta and the horse [ who Shasta ends up calling 'Bree'] devise a plan to escape
together. They need each other. A stray horse without a rider will be caught and stolen. A runaway child
cannot get as far as fast on two human legs.
When the time is right, they steal away during the night while Arsheesh and the Tarkaan are asleep. They are careful
to not leave tracks indicating that they have traveled North. They leave misleading tracks. Shasta has to learn how to ride
a horse on the fly because he has never done it before. They head North.