|Set Fire to the Rain
Author: Starbrow PM
The heat of battle can either make you forget everything or remember anything. It makes Jill remember. LB, Jill/Tirian, one-shot.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Romance - Jill Pole & Tirian - Words: 2,586 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 3 - Published: 12-20-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7653723
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Set Fire to the Rain
Summary: The heat of battle can either make you forget everything or remember anything. It makes Jill remember. LB, Jill/Tirian, one-shot.
Rating: T - darkfic, nothing too explicit
Background: This is definitely inspired by Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain", and the title fit too exquisitely not to use when I began seeing how passages from the book fit into my vision of Jill's final moments. So while this is by no means a "song fic", I still consider the song a perfect soundtrack to what I was trying to accomplish in this story - the feelings of loss, wistfulness, memory, desire for what could have been. I did tuck away a few phrases from her lyrics into the story, so anything that sounds like it belongs to Adele probably does!
This can fit into the universe of Most Woodwise and Malapert but can also be read on its own. In this story, time varies from present to past memories; just follow the italics, they will set you straight. All rights belong to C.S. Lewis and estate, etc. etc.
Spears surrounded them – an ocean of spears, wave upon terrible wave. The white rock grew further and further away and Jill's bow became useless as they were upon her…
Sweetheart, the endearment falls naturally from his lips, and it is for love of his words that the commandment drums in her mind: let your tears wet not the bow-string. And so she turns her face aside and weeps silently for her dearest friend even as the arrows fly from her hand.
It was dark, so dark, now that the fire was but a faint ember of red, and each flash of greenish-blue light that glowed behind them was even more horrible than the darkness. It meant that another creature had been forced through the door…
The Stable seems not so menacing then, nor the enemy so endless, when their band leaps out as one from their hiding place and defies the vicious lies of the Ape. Though her heart pounds something awful, Jill feels the thrill of battle surge in her veins, flanked by the Boar and Bear whilst she batters the advancing Calormenes and Narnian traitors. Tirian's cry of praise warms her: "Oh, well done, daughter!"
There was no band now, no time nor ability to protect one another; it seemed a foul thing for a Narnian to live by Everymanforhimself. Yet so it was, each of them separated by dozens of spears and bodies, able only to keep fighting for one's own life, when their entire war had been fought for each other….
Jill does not mind being alone, but she minds not having her friends at her back as they face the enemy for the second time that night before the stable. By Tirian's orders, she runs out ahead of the others to take down as many Men and Beasts as she might. Fear makes her hand uncharacteristically unsteady on that first shot, and she realizes she has no one's courage to draw from but her own…
Her hands, so strong on the bow, were clumsy and unfamiliar on the hilt of a knife. She wished she had studied swordsmanship under Tirian as Eustace had; oh, she wished so many things, but there was no time for wishing, no time for anything except duck, bend, parry, glide from a grasping hand and slide a quick blade into the side of its owner. Battle was a sick form of woodsmanship, she thought irrationally, malevolent shapes replacing kindly trees, outflung limbs seeking to do her harm rather than welcome, and a misplaced foot would result in not just a crack of noise in the silence but in untimely death…
It feels as though her right hand has been cut off, fighting without Eustace, but Jill does not welcome their retreat to the white rock, where she has time to think about what has happened. She watches what she can of the Dwarves' skirmish with the Calormenes, and listens in the dim light to Tirian trying to catch his breath from his zealous exertions. It is not so wrong, is it, to slip to his side and feel the warmth of his body as she had felt the warmth of his words?
Her small size was a boon, for it allowed her to weave in and out of spears where others might get caught in the barrage of points. The poor Boar had fallen victim to their cruelty, and the last time Jill had seen Jewel he was thrashing furiously in a rage of horn and hoof and heaving mane. Farsight was safe she knew, Poggle would have an advantage of size as she did, but Tirian…
Their final moments at the white rock are ones of small unlikely happiness, sharing cupped handfuls of water from the trickle of stream that seemed made by Aslan himself to quench their thirst. It doesn't matter that they are surrounded by a mass of moving Dog and a horde of callous Calormenes beyond the circle of the rock; it doesn't matter that this will likely be their last stand before entering the gaping mouth of the Stable door. None of these facts can diminish the pleasure of kneeling beside her King, whispering with closed eyes and hearing his voice in ragged answer. The light of the fire in the distance is not so dim that she may not make out the fine noble lines of his face, and she longs to touch it as freely as the water from his hand does…
Then she saw Tirian, and as she did so Jill felt suddenly free of the uncontrollable shaking that had sabotaged her soldier's resolve till then. For herKing was fighting with all his might, not for her but for Narnia, prepared to fight to his death to proclaim her honour and truth. It seemed to Jill that she could do no less. With heart swelled she gazed at the valiant figure beyond the row of enemy separating them, proud to follow such a King. That was when she felt a sharp tug and a rush of horror: caught…
"What do you suppose is really in the Stable?" Eustace asks, and he would have to be the one to ask it out loud. But of course they've always been free to say things to each other that they never would have said around anybody else, and truth be told Jill is almost relieved to have someone to whisper her own fears and questions to without censure. She hates that she is so sure: "I just know Tash is in there waiting to peck out whoever, or whatever, is thrown in there. Like that Ape. Ugh." She shudders, unable to keep from imagining being flung into the ominous doorway and getting eaten up by razor-sharp beak and claws…
Unyielding hands grasped her hair and pulled her head back with brutal force. White-hot spikes of pain erupted from her scalp – as of course blows to your head or hands are the ones that hurt the most – and Jill cried helpless tears of fury and shame as she was dragged past her comrades, past beautiful Jewel in his blazing white glory, past Tirian who thought her so brave, past all of her Narnia and into the hateful Stable…
A wordless phantom in Narnian garb…a King tied to a tree…starry night-journeys and admiring praise…ghastly nightmares that brought not only sights but smells and sounds of terror with them…tales of the Narnia that was, arms wrapped around the wondrous Unicorn…helpless watcher to the Narnia she loved shattering to pieces…dreamer of visions that would never come true now…and she knew now that Narnia was truly dead, knew that that was the last time…
Jill was plunged into utter darkness and time seemed to disappear; she might well have been for days, for it felt like an eternity of waiting for the next horror to appear. Her imagination ran rampant, nothing to check it from thinking the worst, and she braced herself for the piercing strikes as long as possible until exhausted with wild dread. She believed herself mad by the end of it.
If that time of purgatory was a nightmare, was this a dream now? Jill couldn't tell; her understanding of how events were fitting together seemed strangely burry. You would think that paradise would be perfect, but this was more like a dream that was all wrong. Peace was more immobility than relief. Jill would find herself waking up by the Door, her cheeks wet with burning drops that escaped rebelliously from her closed lids, while she looked anxiously for the return of who she both hoped for and wished would not have to make the perilous journey through the Door. Even now, with the joyous brightness of summer upon her face and the taste of sweet fruit upon her tongue, knowing it was already over, she must wait for the end to close the book upon her dreams of fairy tale endings by waiting for the one who might have written her story.
And when the wind whispered, Tirian, Tirian, Tirian, she thought it must be mocking her own lips' silent cry. Cruel hope, far more merciless in this land of perfect bliss than in inevitable doom, insisted on twisting its way into her resignation.
But he was here, at last, unharmed, every hair on his golden head gleaming in the sunlight, looking more Kingly here than he ever had in Narnia. And she was the one to laugh and welcome him to paradise, returning his bow with a beautiful curtsey as she came forward to greet him and make him known to the lords and ladies of Narnia. It was nothing like she had imagined it, and it was enough.
Somehow her love for Narnia and Tirian and Eustace and Jewel and Puddleglum and everything about the world she knew were all wrapped up into one love as she saw Aslan for the third time in her young life. With her hands buried in his mane, Jill was happier than she could have wished for herself. The strange way Time had shifted and spun all made sense when from the dark sky of Aslan's awakening rose the sleeping giant they had seen so many years ago…
*"Then the great giant raised a horn to his mouth. They could see this by the change of the black shape he made against the stars. After that – quite a bit later, because sound travels so slowly – they heard the sound of the horn: high and terrible, yet of a strange, deadly beauty.
Immediately the sky became full of shooting stars. Even one shooting star is a fine thing to see; but these were dozens, and then scores, and then hundreds, till it was like silver rain: and it went on and on. And when it had gone on for some while, one or two of them began to think that there was another dark shape against the sky as well as the giant's. It was in a different place, right overhead, up in the very roof of the sky as you might call it…At any rate, there were no stars there: just blackness. But all around, the downpour of stars went on. And then the starless patch began to grow, spreading further and further out from the center of the sky. And presently a quarter of the whole sky was black, and then a half, and at last the rain of shooting stars was going on only low down near the horizon.
With a thrill of wonder (and there was terror in it too) they all suddenly realized what was happening. The spreading blackness was not a cloud at all: it was simply emptiness. The black part of the sky was the part in which there were no stars left. All the stars were falling: Aslan had called them home.
The last few seconds before the rain of stars had quite ended were very exciting. Stars began falling all round them. But stars in that world are not the great flaming globes they are in ours. They are people…So now they found showers of glittering people, all with long hair like burning silver and spears like white-hot metal, rushing down to them out of the black air, swifter than falling stones. They made a hissing noise as they landed and burnt the grass. And all these stars glided past them and stood somewhere behind, a little to the right.
…The crowd of stars behind them cast a fierce, white light over their shouders. They could see mile upon mile of Narnian woods spread out before them, looking as if they were floodlit. Every bush and almost every blade of grass had its black shadow behind it…But the great thing was Aslan's shadow."*
Narnia lived again.
Jill stood on the precipice of a shining cliff, much like the one she had balanced so boastfully on the day she first saw Narnia, and was able to see much that she remembered from those days – to the south, Cair Paravel where they first saw the King Caspian; to the north, the marsh where thy had met Puddleglum and set out for their northern journey; to the east, the glittering sea which she had but glimpsed in her time in the old Narnia; and to the west, the glorious unknown that tempted her to be explored…
She was not afraid to be alone, hanging back from the group rushing further on and further in, for she never need be alone now. And so it was that she had a clear view of the Unicorn's ascent up the waterfall, and then Tirian's, and he was more graceful than he had ever asserted her to be. He made the effortless, impossible swim up the waterfall seem the most natural thing in the world, and Jill was drawn irresistibly to follow his path…
She knew now that the book would not be closed – indeed, that she had barely begun to write upon its pages – and soft rain kissed her face as gently as a lover. The wind whispered at her, and she whispered back. Then she glided down the edge of the gorge and met the waiting dawn of her Narnian adventure.
A/N: A literal cliffy (ha!), but that is the ending the story asked for. So it didn't end exactly the way I was planning it, but I like to imagine Tirian is waiting for her at the bottom of the cliff, ready to go hand in hand with her on whatever journeys she ends up on.
I was rather purposely obstruse in my characterization of their relationship, as I couldn't decide this go-round if I wanted to spell them out as a couple or not. So I left it open to interpretation as to whether Jill's love is unrequited or not. Obviously you know what side of the ship I fall on, but that seemed to be how she wanted it this time!
*From Last Battle Ch. 13 "Night Falls on Narnia". Not mine. No way could I have written that better so I let Jack do the talking.