Disclaimer: I cry the opposite of the seagulls in Finding Nemo; not mine.
"Remember the days of old;
Consider the years of many generations;
Ask your father, and he will show you,
Your elders, and they will tell you." Deuteronomy 32:7
Lucy plopped down in her chair with a sigh. She shouldn't complain, and she was trying not to, but this seemed so hard. She'd thought (with all the wisdom of an eight-year-old) that once the battle was won and the White Witch was dead, things would be easy. That seemed fair, right?
And parts of it where. She smiled and clapped her hands as she remembered the enormous knighting ceremony, and appointing to roles (Susan had found a scroll in the chamber just off the kitchen that listed positions in the castle and who had been what a hundred years ago, so they didn't even have to guess at those), and how all their friends had been so very happy. And the afternoon she spent exploring Cair Paravel with Mr. Tumnus was one of her favorite times, and the way she'd dragged all her siblings to see the best parts of it afterwards, that was lovely. But the smile dropped off her face as she remembered what else they'd found.
The library. The White Witch and her minions hadn't been able to enter Cair Paravel; it had been locked up, empty. Somehow Aslan had preserved it. But the Witch Witch had been clever, and when she couldn't enter, her army had broken several panes of glass, leaving the rooms at the edge exposed to her winter. And she'd done that to the library, and so many of the books and scrolls had been buried in the snow, ink running, pages to frail to be handled, or entire books illegible. Edmund had been furious and grieved, and all the joy of their exploration leaked away. Peter had looked like something heavy had just hit his shoulders, and Susan quietly explained to Lucy that they'd been hoping the library would teach a lot of the things they didn't know. And, Susan added firmly, there was still a chance of that. She'd get the old Fox, Sir Reynard, and the grumpy Badger, Mr. Belsir, and see if they could help. She'd heard them discussing their respective libraries together with loud and decided passion.
The two had come, and been properly horrified, and had saved what they could and put things in order. Peter (when he wasn't chasing down evil remnants), Susan (when she wasn't chasing down maids and stewards), Edmund (when he wasn't chasing down Peter), and Lucy (who didn't think she was chasing anything) all spent a lot of time in there, reading and reading and reading. Mum, back in that Other Place, had taught her to read and she could do it quite well, but the elaborate script was a bit hard to handle, and she had to bring a lot of the longer words to the others.
And it all added to the four finding out they had neighbors (neighbors! Lucy wanted to meet the Archenland people, they sounded like so much fun), and also that they had a collection of islands that were a part of Narnia. But they didn't know where, how many, how to get there, or what sort of beings lived on it. But Narnian King after Narnian King had listed "Emperor of the Lone Islands" ("it's plural, Peter, there's got to be more than one") in his official titles, and so Lucy supposed they were all "emperors" too. She wondered if being an emperor was fun. Or if it was as difficult as being a queen.
"Lucy!" Lucy turned in her chair; it was her sister's voice, calling from a few hallways over. "Lucy!"
"Here!" While Susan's voice rang through the passages and hallways like a the note of a song, Lucy thought her own voice was rather like a bird's chirp. But somehow Susan always managed to hear it. "The outer sitting room!"
Susan walked in - gracefully - a moment later, and Lucy bit her lip. Sometimes she understood why Edmund chased Peter; partly because Peter was silly and needed help, but partly because Peter was such a good king and good to watch and learn from. Susan took to being a queen like Mr. and Mrs. Beaver took to swimming in their newly melted river. It's where she belonged.
"There you - why, what's wrong?" Susan placed a gentle hand on Lucy's shoulder. "What are you thinking about?"
"The Lone Islands," Lucy said. She had been; that's what she came here for. "I wanted to do something to help, to do my part."
"Oh," Susan said. "Lucy - you really needn't worry about that. You do so much. You make all of us remember to smile again, just like Edmund steadies us, and Peter is someone we follow. You are helping."
"But we're not helping the Lone Islands!" Lucy protested. "And I just can't help wondering - what if they need it as much as Narnia?" Her voice went higher. "Is ruling always going to be like this?" She bit her lip again, trying to keep the whine from escaping. Susan sighed, and her mothering fell away as she sat down, not quite so gracefully this time.
"I don't know." She waited, thinking. "I can't imagine it would; just think, next year we'll already know so much more than we do. And parts of it are easier now; the castle pretty much runs itself. If the Lone Islands were alone for a hundred years, they'll probably do much the same. Don't worry about them, Lu. What is it your always telling us?"
Lucy grinned, a little reluctantly. "If Aslan could conquer the White Witch, He wins over your problem."
"The Lone Islands too," Susan said firmly. "Now why don't you go outside, to the seashore, and talk to people for a bit? That's why I came here; one of the robins heard from a seagull that there's something or someone new on the beach." Lucy brightened up - she loved new people, and was out the door before Susan could remember to tell her to wear her shoes. Racing down the stone stairs, hand on the wall, through a long passageway, darting around the dryad there with a smile and a shared laugh, down another set of stairs, through another hall, to the large entrance room and outside, then skipping through a side door in the wall that had a path running straight to the beach. The moles kept it clear and even, and she didn't see why she would have needed shoes. Run, run, run, wind blowing, down to the beach that was so near. And there, not too far away, was something new.
(1) It was a bent circle, mottled light brown and grey and divided into sections, resting on the beach. It was about one and a half meters long. Lucy ran up to it; it looked familiar, like she'd seen a picture of it before, when it wasn't half buried in the sand. She reached out and touched it; it was cold and wet, and moved. She drew her hand away and watched, fascinated, as the front half moved up and a head emerged from between the top and the bottom, a long, narrow head like a thick, short snake. It blinked very black eyes at her.
"Good...morning." The voice was ponderous, deep, and slow, and reminded Lucy of Cair Paravel somehow. Like it was old and unmoving, a landmark.
"Good morning," she said cheerfully. "I'm Lucy. Who are you?"
"Purpoise." He blinked again. "My parents thought the name...was funny." Lucy smiled, though she didn't get the joke.
"Are you Narnian?"
Purpoise turned his head to look around at the beach. "This was...my nesting ground. But it was too cold, the past hundred years. I wanted to see it." He remained there, staring. "It's back."
Lucy looked where he was staring; a family of dogs were far down the beach, the puppies chasing the waves, barking words she couldn't clearly hear, then retreating with a yelp from the next wave. Their mother was industriously digging a hole behind them, large enough for all to sit in.
"The dogs are back? They were here when you nested?"
He slowly swung his head to look back at her. "I do not think so. They were not alive, not then." His black eyes studied her. "Happiness," he said slowly. He swung his head away again, looking to the trees, filled with chirping birds. "Happiness is back."
Lucy blinked. Well, it was, but- "When was there happiness before?" It couldn't have been during the Witch's reign, but hadn't her reign lasted forever?
"Before the long winter." Purpoise sighed. "It was a very long winter," he added to himself.
Lucy reached out a hand and touched him, cautiously. He was solid, real, the shell smooth and faintly wet. "How old are you?" she whispered.
He leaned into her touch, just a little. "I was a turtle of 53 winters when the winter first came. The females of our kind, including my wife, could not lay their eggs, and they came to us and complained." A smile caused wrinkles around a good third of his head. "They liked to complain. Now they cannot." Lucy giggled at that, but kept her hand touching him.
"You're really that old?"
He looked grave. "I have lived through the reign of a king and the reign of a witch, child." He tilted his head to the side, examining her again. "You are the new queen?"
Lucy plopped down next to him, leaning against his shell next to his head. "One of them, but it's hard," she said, reliving her thoughts from earlier. Then she realised she was complaining - just like the female sea turtles. "But maybe it will get better. See, we've been-" she broke off. "Purpoise, do you swim far?"
"I swim from ocean to ocean, current to current, over and over." He was watching the puppies again, still barking, though one of them had collapsed, panting. "This was my nesting ground, though."
"Right," Lucy said impatiently, caught up in her wondrous, glorious idea. "Have you ever swum to the Lone Islands?" she burst out.
"Only one of them is nice for landing," Purpoise reminisced. "Human towns are rougher than the beach. But Felimath is nice. The beaches are left alone, and the sand-"
"You've been there!" Lucy broke in, his slow voice not keeping pace to her rushing thoughts. "Where is it? How far away? Humans are the ones there? Are they free? Can you show us?"
The turtle cricked its long neck so that it could look in her eyes. "I was telling you about Felimath," he reproached.
"But it's important, we need to know about the people!" Lucy exclaimed. If he knew, maybe she could help take a weight of Peter, Susan, and Edmund's shoulders.
"I'm telling the story," the turtle said, a slight grumble in his tone. "Let me tell it." He waited till Lucy nodded. She supposed if he was going to help, he should do it his way. Even if it was so slow. Queens were supposed to be patient, weren't then? But she waited. Purpoise reached forward with one front leg and raked his claws through the sand.
"Felimath beaches are like this," he said. "Not many humans. Sheep, inland. I like Felimath best. Lots of places to rest undisturbed. Doorn, though, and Avra, have humans. More than Narnia. Fishermen, for the most part, but if they catch a turtle they'll let him go with a 'sorry for the trouble.'" His face creased into that smile again. "There was one time I wanted to get caught. Had a message. Didn't want to walk the streets. I swam into the nets, waited all day for the people to pull them up. But they weren't the polite ones. They picked me out of the fish and threw me away before I said a word. Three times, it took them. 'Look, Dad, here's that old turtle again!' Old. They were ignorant as well as rude." He looked over at Lucy. "Don't be rude," he cautioned her. Lucy thought about her outburst and firmly held her tongue. But how was she supposed to explain how important this was? "I told him, 'Boy, I am not a month more than 53 winters, and already wiser than you!' The man dropped me then; I think he came from Galma, and didn't expect a turtle to talk. He wanted to keep me as a pet. But Aslan saved me; when I told him I had a message from the Emperor of the Lone Islands, he took me right to the governor, and I told the governor that Narnia was under attack." His voice became sad, and he blinked. "That was right before the long winter." Lucy almost squealed. The islands - Felimath, Doorn, and Avra, she remembered, saying them to herself so she wouldn't forget - they'd known Narnia was being attacked. They had a governor. Maybe they'd be ok?
She waited till she was sure Purpoise was finished talking. She didn't want to be rude. "Have you been there recently?" she asked. His eyes moved from the pair of centaurs coming from the trees, preparing for a gallop along the shore, back to her.
"Oh, maybe twenty winters again now. Felimath is nice. The beaches are soft, like Narnia's," and he ran his other claw through the sand, leaving two long rakes in front of him.
"Do you - do you have any stories about the people from that visit?" Lucy asked.
"Still fishing. Politer, when they catch you. Young Pavken was caught. Four times, he was. Too busy looking for food to see the net, as stupid as a mute fish. He probably won't grow to 150 winters. But he made the sailors laugh so loud, we could hear them from the water. They leaned over the side, they did - beards wet and dripping. They yelled down to us they were giving our adventurer back, and to keep him clear of the fishing lanes. But they lowered him down nicely, a rope round his shell, and told us we could cut it with our claws. We thanked them politely - turtles should always be polite - and told them where the fish were turning to. They liked that news. They never minded catching Pavken after that."
Lucy let out her breath. "Then they're ok," she said. She smiled, as widely as she could. "They sound ok."
"They're still living, still working," Purpoise agreed. He yawned. "It was a long swim. Forgive me, your Majesty. May I take a nap?" Lucy threw her arms around his neck and squeezed it gently, before leaping to her feet.
"Thank you Purpoise!" she called over her shoulder, and heard his long, slow voice call a welcome before trailing off into silence. She raced back up the path, back through the courtyard, and into the castle. "Susan!" she called, her voice echoing off the stone. "Susan!"
"Her Majesty is in the gardens, with their Majesties, having tea," piped a voice from her left, and she looked over to where hedgehog was standing, an apron whose ties were carefully threaded through their spikes. "The garden by the well, Queen Lucy." Lucy flashed her the best smile she had, and ran back out of the castle into the courtyard, and into the gardens. She found all three of them on a blanket, just the three of them, Edmund and Peter sprawled on the ground and Susan reaching for the teapot.
"There you are, Lu, we wondered," Peter said, opening his eyes.
Lucy grinned at him. "I found out about the Lone Islands!"
The three froze, looking at her in interest. "Sit down, have some tea, and tell us," Susan said, already pouring another cup. Lucy plopped down, took it, and told them all about the turtle. It took a great deal less time to tell when it wasn't in his slow, halting speech, but it brought a smile to all their faces all the same.
"Turtles can live a very long time, I'd forgotten," said Edmund thoughtfully. "He might know so much about Narnia that's been forgotten."
Lucy frowned. "I'm not sure he does," she said, thinking. "He keeps to the beach. But he said he was messenger for the king to the Lone Islands, so he'll at least have met him." Edmund nodded.
"Well done," Peter added, looking at Lucy, and her smile got even bigger. It felt wonderful, to have done something good. And to have done it just by talking to Narnians and making new friends. Perhaps, she thought, that's one of the reasons Aslan made her queen. She couldn't wait to do it again, maybe that afternoon, if Purpoise was still there. She was sure he had more stories to tell.
A/N: Is this something people have an interest in hearing more about? I could probably write a few more chapters, but they're kind of at the back of the list, unless someone wants to hear them.
Also - I wrote this mainly because, having lived in another country and seen what happens when it doesn't exist, I really, really regret the gap between generations that's in America. Older people often make the best counselors, therapists, guides, and teachers about love and life, if the students have patience. They have what most of us are too busy or too broken to have, perspective.
(1) I chose a Green Turtle, since they are the longest-living turtles who are also large enough to be scene by Lucy from a distance.