A/N: This is a random little piece I thought up on the plane ride home this evening - seemed a good use of the time. ;-)
For those waiting for the next chapter of 'Beyond Imladris' - no worries! I am actually home for a few weeks now, and I intend to get that next chapter out at some point ... Thanks for hanging in there!
Lucy went to the Dances whenever she was able, and on some nights he went with her.
They all participated once in a while, of course, especially in the beginning. The Narnians welcomed their new monarchs with enthusiasm, drawing the children into their revels and teaching them the ancient celebrations of their people. Eventually life got busier, though, as life for Kings and Queens will do. It became harder to spend all night in festivity and still stay awake for training and governing the next day, and more and more the old Narnians were left to their own devices.
Even when the monarchs had opportunity, Peter and Susan eventually grew away from it. Peter's soul was too traditional, and Susan's too orderly, to fully appreciate the Dances. They attended occasionally and enjoyed themselves immensely, departing both cheerful and utterly exhausted as the grey morning light filtered through the elms around the Dancing Lawn. The elder King and Queen were honored visitors, however. Their presence was an occasion in itself, and it changed the Dances—not to something less joyful, but perhaps to something less informal. Neither Peter nor Susan expected or likely even realized this, but the Narnians loved them and would go out of their way to ensure that their royal guests felt included and honored by their people.
Lucy was the one who made the Dances her own. She Danced not because she wished her subjects to know how very vital they were to her (although of course she did wish this), or because she felt that at least one of the Kings or Queens should make some sort of regular appearance at this celebration (though she did feel this as well), or even because she so enjoyed it (which she very much did). No, Lucy Danced because her joy—in Aslan, in Narnia, in life itself—needed some outlet. She Danced because she felt at times that she might burst if she did not express that joy, and the Dance was such a very marvelous expression. It called to her, coaxing her from the dark of her rooms in Cair Paravel even when she was tired from a long day and might very much rather have been asleep. It pulled her in and lifted her up, and Lucy actually felt refreshed and alive after the long night, instead of bone tired as did her royal siblings.
Of the four, his own joy was the quietest and the most solemn, yet the Dance at times called just as strongly to him. Its voice was different to his ear than to Lucy's, yet no less enticing. He preferred to sit in the shadows, to watch the merriment and listen to the horns and drums and harps, to soak in the radiant energy and elation of his sister and of his people. The Narnians welcomed him there as they welcomed Lucy, as fully a part of their festivity, and he was happy (relieved, even) not to be made much of and given a place of importance. His goblet was never left empty, he never wanted for greetings and well-wishes, yet they did not force him into more. They invited—the little fauns especially, giggling shyly, and of course Lucy herself ('Come out, Ed! Dance with me!')—and sometimes he accepted. He was not always terribly good with the steps, such as they were, but no one (least of all him) cared. He swung from partner to partner, sank into the rhythm of the other dancers, and allowed their energy to take him.
More often, though, he steeped himself in their celebration and joy from his shadowed spot beneath the trees, feeling it reach out to draw him in, and at these times his own joy rose to something very nearly complete. They accepted him here. All of him. Here he could be himself—quiet, and still, and somewhat solitary—and yet these wild, energetic revelers were glad of his presence for what it was, not for anything they thought it should be. It was a deep honor, and one for which he thanked Aslan profoundly. He had rarely felt so utterly included in anything as he did when sitting in the shadows on the edge of a Dance.
And so he came with Lucy—not always, but often—and there he watched her grow in a way that the other two never saw. At first her Dance was awkward, a combination of fawn and faun, with much leaping and bounding and twirling. It usually ended in tight circles in those early days, arms flung out, face turned up to the sky. As she matured, grew lithe and willowy, more of the Dryad crept into her Dance, flowing and shifting without thought or notice around the fire and through the other Dancers. Rarely did he see the stately Centaur within her (stately and Lucy were generally not words that might be used within the same thought) but once or twice he caught a glimpse. The graceful power of the big Cats, the enthusiasm of the Dogs, the speed of the Horses, the eager cheerfulness of the smaller Animals—over the years his sister absorbed them all into her Dance, becoming everything that was Narnian and yet through it all remaining uniquely Lucy. Her shimmering joy shone so very near to the surface on those nights, and all drew near to bask in her light, as the fire crackled and the sparks whirled with the music and the Talking Bats swooped and darted above them.
The days after their return to England were difficult. They adjusted to their new (old) ages well enough—thankfully, not only had their bodies returned to their new (old) states, but so had their emotions and desires and many of their thought processes as well. He was not enthusiastic about losing so many years of hard-earned experience ('It's not as if it's gone, though,' Lucy insisted, 'but it is more like a very vivid dream than a memory.') or going through all that growing up again. Still, he could not even imagine the horror of being an adult trapped within the body of a child.
Aslan, he was quite sure, wouldn't do that to them. Wouldn't allow it, though He had allowed the transformation itself, for reasons that none of them could quite understand …
The world seemed flat, though. Two-dimensional. The colors were duller, the odors were weaker, the tastes were … untastier. ('Edmund, that's not even a word!') Everything seemed to have a blanket of dull grey fog about it, and it depressed the children's spirits further as they struggled to readjust to this new (old) world. It was possibly (hopefully) only temporary, as they grew used to England again, but in the meantime they were all stuck finding their own ways to cope. Peter took to running, and Susan had disappeared into the kitchen days ago, where she was apparently learning how to bake every sweet thing in the cook's repertoire. It was, in fact, a coping mechanism of which the rest of them quite approved. He was spending a lot of time on his own, staring out windows, and Lucy …
Lucy was wandering at night.
She was wandering at night, and he had decided to go after her. He needed something only she could give, and he thought (hoped) that maybe he could give it back to her as well.
He slipped out of bed after Peter's breathing had deepened into sleep, picked up the lantern he had left against the wall by the door, and crept into the hall. There he pressed against the wall and waited. Soon enough, the door to the next room creaked open, emitting a tiny girl in a worn dressing gown and slippers. So odd, to see her again this way … He didn't make himself known, but waited until she was down the stairs and then followed, remaining far enough behind that she wouldn't detect him. He wasn't worried about losing her—the moon was bright that night.
She paced across the flat grounds to a grove of trees at the top of a shallow hill, then disappeared beneath their boughs. He went in after her, and found her settled in a little clearing in their center, staring up at the bright, sharp stars. Ah. This he understood. The constellations were different in England than in Narnia, but the stars themselves, unlike most other things, hadn't lost any of their vibrancy. He didn't know why—he didn't know many things right now—but he was glad of it.
"I can hear you, Edmund."
He laughed softly—he might have known, really—and entered the little glade. Lucy watched as he set the lantern between them, removed a match from the pocket of his own robe, and carefully lit it, opening wide the shutter.
It wasn't much, but it would do.
"What are you doing?"
He carefully snuffed the match and stuffed it back in his pocket, then held out his hands.
"Dance with me, Lu."
She stared at him for so long that he wasn't sure he had done the right thing. But then Lucy sprang to her feet, and seized his hands, and with a laugh that he hadn't heard since Narnia (since far before, really, since she had not been this particular age for oh so long) she began to whirl them around the tiny lantern. And he followed, leaping and spinning beneath the moon and the vivid stars, and for a time they were back once again in the Dance.
He had known it. This was Lucy, after all. All she had needed was a chance.
Narnia might be lost to them, but somehow, buried deep and just waiting for a chance to break free, its joy still remained.