If anyone is wondering, no, I haven't abandoned Your Freedom Lies North. The idea for this story snuck up behind me, clubbed me over the head several times, and threatened to do it again if I did not commence writing immediately. If there's one thing I hate about this story, besides the fact it is so sappy it almost makes me sick, it is that, to me anyway, Cor and Aravis both seem to be incredibly out of character, and as a rule I never try to do that, but it was necessary to make this story work, and I apologize to Lewis profusely if he's looking down on me with either disgust or bewilderment. Anyway, enough with the commentary, I hope you enjoy and don't lose all respect for me hereafter.
Disclaimer: C.S. Lewis owns the good stuff.
It was a bitterly cold night in Anvard, not the sort of night it would be pleasant to be awake for. Guards paced to and fro, wrapping heavy cloaks around themselves or rubbing their arms and hands to give them some warmth. Besides their activity, nothing else in the house of King Lune stirred, save one young man, who sat, huddled in a wool blanket over a sheet of paper and ink. His golden head bobbed up and down and he moved his eyes from book to paper, the scratching of his pen the only noise to be heard save the crackling of the fire and the occasional hoot of an owl. His sky-blue eyes felt strained in the dim candlelight, but still, sleep would not come to him for many hours. He rubbed them, dipped his pen into the ink, and continued writing. If one unknowing soul were to barge into his room at this time, they would expect their future king to be at work on some grave and eloquent document that perhaps would alter the future of Archenland. But, if that unknowing person were to further investigate, they would see that the manuscript their prince was writing contained nothing but random words. As it was, Prince Cor, future King and Protector of Archenland, was still learning to spell.
While slightly ashamed of his lack of academic knowledge, Cor knew the best way to defeat such a problem was to practice, and practice he did. It was sort of a strange hobby for him, something he did when he was bored or stressed, the latter of which seemed to occur more often as of late. He dropped his pen, unable to sink himself into his past time even now. The ambassadors from Calormen were only a foreshadowing of what he knew was inevitable; the Grand Vizier and Kidrash Tarkaan wanted Aravis to return to Calormen.
Long ago, Aravis had been betrothed to the Grand Vizier, and evidently the old man was not keen on letting her slip away from him. The ambassador's arguments had been simple; in Calormen, Aravis was considered property, and the fact she now lived in Archenland made her "stolen" property, property which the two Tarkaans were keen on having returned to them as soon as possible.
Cor shook his head, his eyes focusing on the candle's flame. The Northern Countries had a different opinion. Aravis was no less than a person capable of making her own decisions to them, and certainly not property. Keeping her here would prove to be difficult, as the conflict was based on differences of cultures and ideas. The Calormenes would never recognize her decision to stay, but would claim she was in no position to make such a claim. While he would do all in his power to protect and keep her here, he couldn't help thinking that this might lead to a war, like that concerning Susan of Narnia.
Let them come then, he thought fiercely. He knew he would do all in his power to make sure his dear friend would never have to leave.
If she were married to a man of Archenland, it would be different, as Corin had pointed out to him ever so teasingly this morning.
"You know, primitive as they are about women, they do rather respect the bonds of marriage,"his brother had said to him that morning, "if only there were someone in Archenland who would want to marry her...I wonder, is there anyone in the court who has been in love with her for an ungodly long time and would not mind in the least if he were married to her?"he added with false curiosity.
"Sod off, Corin,"Cor had snapped, not in the mood for Corin's teasing today.
"I'm serious, brother dear. Everyone knows you're positively head over heels in love with her. Personally, I wouldn't mind in the least if those dirty bunch of uptight tyrants would attack, I'd love nothing more than a good fight. But I know you're a much more diplomatic fellow, and you'd rather do things with the least amount of fuss possible. Marrying Aravis is the only way, old boy. It's perfect, you're in love with her, it keeps her here, why not?"
"Marriage is important to me too, and not something I think ought to be played around with like this. I'll do all in my power to keep her here, make no mistake, but I do not want her to marry me if she does not love me."
"You think she doesn't?"
"I know she doesn't."
"And how, O Seer of Seers, could you possibly know that?"
"It's difficult to explain, and you'd have no way of knowing unless you've been in my situation how I feel. I still feel like a fisherman's son, Corin. No matter how much you clean me up, or how many titles you give me, I'll always feel that way. I feel so unworthy, Corin, unworthy of being a prince, of our father's love, or of Aravis."
"You sound like a blinking sappy love poem, Cor, I have to tell you, it's making me rather queasy."
"I knew you wouldn't understand."
"You're right, I don't. I think you're just afraid of telling her how you feel. You'll have to do it sooner or later, old man, or you may not get a chance."
As much as Cor hated it when his brother was right, he knew this was one of those times. The time to confess his love to Aravis was growing short. He needed to tell her, soon.
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted. Voices could be heard outside his door. Assuming two guards had met up and were having a chat, not uncommon, he tried to concentrate on his books once again. The voice suddenly stopped, then started again a few minutes later. It stopped and started sporadically several times, and Cor's curiosity began to get the better of him. Unless his ears failed him, it was only one voice, and it was feminine. Having a slight inclination as to who it might be, he opened his door and listened. Sure enough, a few seconds later, a cry issued from the room across the hall, the room that belonged to Aravis. Holding his breath, he crossed the hall and quietly pushed open her door. He could see her thrashing about in the moonlight, and was relieved to see she was only having a nightmare. He intended to leave her alone, and let her find wakefulness herself, but the cry she issued next tore at his heart, and against his better judgement, he crossed her room and gently shook her awake.
It took her several minutes to determine dream from reality, but once she did, and saw her rescuer, she threw herself on Cor, sobbing into his shoulder. He comforted her as best he could, whispering, "Shh, it was only a dream. It's over now."
"Don't let them take me."
He knew better than to ask who, "I won't. What did you dream, Aravis?"
"I dreamt I was brought onto a ship, and they were there, waiting in hiding, my father and Ahoshta. They locked me in a cabin, and sailed away. The ship began to sink. Water was coming into my cabin fast, and I couldn't get out. I could hear you, outside my door, trying to break it down, but you gave up. Water filled the cabin, and I couldn't breathe...it was horrifying, Cor."
Her accounts of the dream disturbed him as well, but all he said was "I told you, it's over now. No one will take you away against your will. And I would never leave you if you were in trouble, Aravis."
"I promise. Here,"he added presently, releasing her, "I think you need something to drink, something to calm you down after that."
"The kitchens are closed."
"I keep a little something in my room."
"What's this? Our future king keeps bottles of liquor in his room?"she teased.
"My dear, I am shocked you should question my morals. As you said, I am the future king! The survival of this country depends on my abilities to govern it properly. Of course there is a bottle of liquor in my room."
She laughed as he exited her room to fetch the bottle, feeling horribly alone suddenly until he came back, holding a black flask. It was horrible tasting stuff, and burned as it went down, but, as he had predicted, it calmed her down a bit.
"How did you know I was having a nightmare?"she asked presently.
"I was already awake. I heard you cry out."
"Could you not sleep?"
"No, not tonight, and it is a wonder to me that you could sleep at all."
"I would have rather been awake than suffer that nightmare. You could hear me all the way from your room?"
"Yes. I thought you were being attacked for a moment."
"And you came to rescue me?"
"I suppose,"he replied, feeling incredibly awkward, impure thoughts budding in his mind all of a sudden, as they usually did whenever he was around her for too long.
"You should get some sleep,"he whispered, and then quickly moved away from the bed.
"Cor, wait a second,"she stopped him before he reached the door. Reluctantly turning around, for he was having a hard time calming himself down, he saw her stalking towards him, a blanket wrapped round her thin layer of nightclothes. She wore a rather angry look, one that let Cor know that, whatever he did, he was going to pay for it.
"What is wrong with you? Why won't you stay and talk with me for more than five minutes?"
"I'm-I'm feeling tired at the moment. It has been a long day, and tomorrow will no doubt be longer."
"You don't look tired,"she observed, and he didn't doubt she was right; he was feeling tremendously edgy and jittery, "You've been avoiding me lately. We don't talk for more than five minutes anymore, you barely look at me and...you never touch me. You used to dance with me at the balls your father held, and you used to let me ride with you in the forests so my own horse would not tire itself. Now I ride alone, and when I dance, I dance with Corin or your father or else strangers,"his heart twinged at the hurtful look she gave him as she continued, "Something in you has changed towards me. Either you have grown to hate my presence, or..."and she didn't dare finish her sentence.
If Cor could have kicked himself without worrying about looking foolish, he would have. Here was the love of his life, standing before him, telling him she thought he hated her. Now was the time to set the record straight, or she would never know. Praying to Aslan for as much courage as He could spare, Cor stepped towards Aravis, looked her in the eye, and said in a choked voice, "Aravis, the reason I don't talk to you anymore is because I'm so overwhelmed at the sight of you I can hardly think clearly. I can't look at you, because every time I do I am filled with the desire to do things to you a gentleman ought not do to a lady. And I don't touch you, because it only makes me want hold on to you and never let go. Something between us has changed, but I promise I do not hate you. I could never hate you. To hate you would be to hate the air I breathe or the food I eat. No, I love you Aravis. And before Aslan himself, I swear I will not let Ahoshta so much as look at you in a way you do not like. Stay here, Aravis, please, and be my Queen..."
Here his courage ran out. Tears were falling down her face, and he wondered if he had upset her in anyway. She swayed a bit, and, afraid she would faint, he reached out to hold her, the first time he had done so in too many months. As he looked into her tear-stained, moonlit face, he knew there was no way he could hold out any longer. Tilting her face upwards, and surprised and delighted when she offered no resistance, he kissed her, with all the passion and love he had kept inside of him for so long. It was everything he had always hoped it would be, and more.
The smile she gave him when they parted was all he needed to ask his next question, "Will you marry me?"
"Of course,"she whispered, hiding her blushing face in his shoulder.
She laughed at his eagerness, "Now? Cor, it's the middle of the night!"
"So, everyone's asleep."
"Then we'll wake them. We'll wake Father and Corin, and Father will marry us, and tomorrow when your father and Ahoshta come you can introduce them to your husband."
"And his grandson, at the rate you're going."
"Perhaps,"he teased, his eyes twinkling.
"Do you really want to get married tonight?"
"You know I do."
"Then let's wake everyone,"said she, throwing on a robe and pulling him to the door.