A wall of ice appeared in her dream again, it happened almost every night. She couldn't get rid of it, no matter, how intensely she tried to keep herself occupied with her daily queen's activities. Lucy was the queen of Narnia. One of the Great Four. Her brother, King Peter the Magnificent, guarded the borders, once in a while sending troops to distant places, waiting for any sign of a hostile invasion. The younger brother, King Edmund the Just, was always involved in diplomatic meetings and conferences with the neighbor lands' representatives. Edmund was the most careful of them all, when it came to the Narnia's relations with other countries. "We cannot let the history repeat itself", he was saying over and over, as if he alone, and only he, was personally responsible for their safety and wellbeing. Lucy knew that this anxiousness had its source in a deeply hidden guilt, coming back to Edmund in his own nightmares. He hated the snow. Any snow. Each memory of the old winter times made him angry. And there was Susan, her older sister, the beautiful queen Susan the Gentle, admired and loved by many, desired by even more. And she seemed to enjoy it. As the true queen, she danced gracefully on every ball, was full of life and brilliant, organized the archery tourneys and at least once in a month refused a marriage proposal.
She, Lucy, was said to be the healer of Narnia. She knew best, which trees haven't fully recovered after the Great War, which mermaid was heartbroken, or which faun lost the song competition. Everybody in Narnia was her friend and she was a friend to everybody. To that point that some of them kept forgetting to say "Your Majesty" - so straightforward and easygoing she was. Sometimes Susan watched her dancing with faeries and felt a slight flow of envy. Lucy was cheerful, bright and making the people of all kinds happy around her seemed only natural. She was the most loved one of them all. Lucy on the other hand, watched her sister's grace and beauty and sometimes straightened her back a little bit more at the royal table, wondering if she could ever be considered equally graceful, equally elegant. Her hair flowed wildly, no matter how long she combed it, and her dresses got dirty more quickly. Perhaps it was due to her regular running through the woods, but, she thought, Susan's clothes were perfect even on the archery arena. So was her hair, her face and everything else.
"You have the sweetest smile in the world," Mr. Tumnus told her and she brightened up. But there was something in her eyes that didn't smile. Lucy didn't want to be the sweetest, the cutest, the most adorable one, but never treated seriously. She didn't want to be a child anymore. Yet, strangely, she felt like one. Like there was another Lucy inside of her, a little girl, who never grew up and looked upon the world with innocent eyes, not believing anyone could ever harm her.
"Sometimes I feel like the time has stopped," she said to the faun. He gazed at her intensively and was silent for a long while.
"Perhaps it did, to you, my queen," he mused. Lucy blinked, surprised. Mr. Tumnus didn't speak to her with this tone of voice very often. Again, she had an impression like he knew something about her, watched her carefully and read through her thoughts, even those that remained secret to herself.
One day Lucy left the faun's house, where, like every week, she drank tea and ate a delicious pie, and headed back to the castle. The trees were whispering their songs in the air and the colorful birds were accompanying her, chirping and flattering around her head. On the meadow behind a big willow tree, Lucy saw a family of foxes. Four young ones played happily on the grass and jumped towards her immediately. She laughed and kneeled down to let them climb on her laps and caressed their fluffy tails.
"Now, now, don't bother the queen," said Fox Mother, sticking her nose slightly out from a hole in the ground that apparently was their home.
"It's alright, they don't disturb me!" Lucy protested and she brought one up, letting him curl around her neck. "They are so adorable!" But she put the little one back down, seeing a rush of anxiousness in the fox family.
"Forgive me, my lady, but we must hurry!"
"Where are you heading to?" Lucy asked politely, seeing Fox Father coming out of the hole and ordering all the children to walk in line.
"Towards the mountains, our cousins invited us for a party!" Said one of the little ones and suddenly got a slap in the butt from the father. Lucy saw a quick exchange of looks among them and couldn't understand, what was so big deal in their heading to the mountains? They were quite far, yes, and high, but the fox family sure didn't mean to go up too high. Always being able to sense the others' mood, she felt the foxes didn't want her to know where they were going to. This was the most puzzling. But as the foxes vanished in the bushes, she shrugged, slowly stood up and continued her walk. It wasn't her business anyway.
The setting sun on the horizon was almost completely gone now, hiding behind the rocks of the sea shore and the last beams lay on Cair Paravel's towers and went further, to the distant shapes of Northern Mountains. For one moment their tops glowed in a fiery game of red, orange and violet light, and went dark again. Lucy watched this spectacle of colors with amazement. It was like the mountains were disappearing, unless they were touched with light.
"There you are! You are supposed to sit beside me this evening, we have guests!" Susan snarled at her impatiently in the corridor. "Just look at you, all dirty again...," she made her turn around and wiped her neck with a napkin. Apparently the fox child from before left some mud on her white collar, which she didn't even notice. Lucy sighed.
"Just give me a few minutes, I'll be right there."
She closed the door of her bedroom and breathed deeply. There it was again. One of the queen Susan's shows. Lucy even didn't know which guests exactly her sister was referring to. Another delegation from Calormen? Probably. If she was not mistaken, this would be the second one. Or the third one. The dark skinned prince (what was his name again? Radagast? No, Rabadash, that was it!) always stared at them with very penetrating, intense gaze, which was making her uncomfortable. Lucy was perfectly happy among all the people and creatures of Narnia, some of the neighbors however seemed not like them. However, she, above all, knew, how important was their role as diplomats and she also performed this role greatly. But Susan was the best in it. As Lucy entered the great hall, her sister was already sitting on the throne and gave her an impatient gesture, then smiled charmingly and stood up, welcoming their guests. A long line of the noble and richly dressed gentlemen was slowly approaching the thrones, bowing before them and saying compliments in sophisticated words. Lucy smiled, reassured by supporting gazes of Mr. Tumnus' relatives, guarding both queens. Lucy thought that Susan looked stunningly great. Her light-green, like early spring leaves, dress was shining gently because of the little, silver diamond-like gems, embroidered precisely into the fabric and fitting her crown very well. Her hair was styled in a perfect pouf, making the fine line of her neck and shoulders even more beautiful. Lucy straightened herself. Her own dress was dark blue, it was the first one she found in her wardrobe and the quickest one to put on. Her hair was tied up with a silver pin and she could only hope she managed to clean her neck properly. But when she approached, everybody in the room brightened up.
"Queen Lucy, as lovely as ever." Lucy heard Rabadash's jovial voice and felt his slightly wet kiss on her hand. Suddenly she wondered, what in the world she had done with her favorite gloves. "Need to find them immediately." She smiled sweetly and thanked for the compliments, controlling the increasing urge to wash her hands. But a moment later it was again Susan, not her, in the center of the attention and she felt very grateful for that. She welcomed the food on the table with enthusiasm, as the long trip back home made her hungry, and listened to the news from the outside world.
"The Giants of the North crossed the border two times last month. Something must be done quickly!"
"Something will be done." She heard Peter's voice. He joined them in the middle of the dinner and looked tired.
"May I say how lucky we, Calormenes are, to have such wonderful and charming allies, protecting our homes from danger. My dearest queen Susan, will you honor me with your first dance?"
Lucy watched as Susan gracefully let Rabadash lead her to the dance floor and tried to read the emotions from her sister's face. As the music started, they swirled away among the other dancing couples and she couldn't see them anymore. 'What if Susan gets married?' She wondered. Would that make Narnia and Calormen be like one country? Would that be a good thing? Would Susan be happy? Lucy felt like something froze in her heart on this thought. No, she felt it very clearly. Rabadash was not the kind of man who would make her sister happy. There was no honesty in his eyes, but a great desire and hunger that she could not yet understand. Later that evening she decided to share these thoughts with her sister.
"Him? Of course not!" Susan laughed amused, changing in her night wear. They were sitting together in her bedroom. Lucy felt relieved.
"Why did you think so, is that because I danced with him?"
She nodded. "You looked like you enjoyed it. I thought... well, never mind. I don't know how to explain it, but I do not trust him." Lucy confessed. Susan took her gently by the hand.
"Thank you, sister. It is good to know there is always someone to watch my back." They exchanged warm smiles and peaceful again, drank more of the hot chocolate, prepared for them every night before they went to sleep. Lucy felt how the hot liquid pleasantly warmed up her body and she felt calm and cheerful. They were perfectly safe in Narnia now, right? So what could possibly happen? Even if Susan turns Rabadash down, she would do it gently, as always, and they and Calormenes remain good allies, Lucy was thinking.
"But what about you? You have so many friends. There must be someone who would love to be your sweetheart."
"There is none." Lucy shook her head. Susan gazed at her, curiously.
"Come on. Mr. Tumnus has a crush on you like... forever!"
Lucy blushed. "Don't say that! He is a friend. And we have been friends since... forever." She wondered, as she realized that in fact she had no idea, how long exactly she knew Mr. Tumnus. That thought made her frown.
"What's the matter?"
"I don't know, just... Susan, when I think about our childhood years in Narnia, everything seems foggy. There was the war, which we won, and we came here."
"We were always here, silly!" Susan laughed a little bit patronizingly and caressed Lucy's forehead with a motherly gesture.
Lucy didn't like it.
"I am not a child anymore." She stood up and headed to the door.
"Alright, alright, you don't have to be so..."
"Everything's alright, girls?" Edmund's head appeared in the door's opening. And got hit by a pillow.
"Next time you should knock first; we could have been changing!" Susan shouted and Edmund rolled his eyes, as he entered the room and threw the pillow back at her. Lucy instantly forgot her concerns. She joined the pillow fight and for the next while the two queens and the younger king of Narnia were laughing, jumping on the big, royal bed, and throwing pillows, until they got tired and each of them headed to the own room.