Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie stood on the platform, labelled tags pinned on their clothing, suitcases in hand. All four hurried down the steps as a car came chugging along the track, but it passed them with no sign of stopping.
'Do you think we've come to the right place?' Edmund asked.
Soon, a horse-drawn cart came along the track. Peter looked up at the stern, severe woman sitting behind the horse. 'Mrs...Macready?' he asked doubtfully.
'I'm afraid so,' Mrs Macready answered. 'Have you not brought anything else with you?' she asked, indicating their small cases.
'No – this is it,' Susan answered.
'Well, hop in, then.'
As they entered the huge, forbidding house on the hill, Mrs Macready began to give them a lecture on behaviours. 'The Professor is unaccustomed to havin' children in his house. And as such, there are a few rules we need to follow. There will be no shoutin'. Or runnin'. No improper usage of the dumb-waiter.'
Susan reached out to touch the nose of a marble bust with her fingertips. 'No touchin' of the historical artefacts!' Mrs Macready exclaimed, shocked. Susan hurriedly took her hand away.
'And above all...there shall be no disturbin' of the Professor,' she added as they entered a stone corridor, her voice low.
Lucy lingered behind, looking at the bottom of a door. The shadow of feet, moving up and down, up and down, showed under the door. They suddenly came to a stop. Lucy sucked in a breath as she hurried after the others.
As they settled into their rooms, there was a soft knock on the door. Peter went to open it, slightly suspicious. Was there yet another rule they had to hear?
A girl stood at the door, in a slightly shabby navy skirt and a cream blouse, with a blue jumper over the top. She had hair lighter than the colour of Peter's own, tied in a tight, neat plait, and her eyes were a clear blue. Her skin was very fair, only marred by a smattering of light freckles across the bridge of her nose.
Susan looked over from where she was sorting through her case. She stared with curiosity at the girl, who flushed dully under her frank stare.
'Hello. Are you the Pevensie's?' she asked.
'Yes, but who are you?' Peter countered, a little suspicious.
'I'm Elizabeth. Elizabeth Lewison. I was sent here as well, a week ago. Mrs Macready mentioned you were coming.'
'I'm Lucy,' Lucy piped up, getting up from the bed on which she sat.
'That's my younger sister Lucy. That's Edmund, by the window. This is Susan, my other sister, and I'm Peter,' Peter said, introducing them all.
She put the candle she was carrying on her left hand, and offered her hand. Although her skin was very fair, her hand looked quite strong. Peter took it, and they shook hands. He felt a pronounced callus on her right middle finger where she rested her pen when she wrote. 'It's a pleasure to meet you all,' she said, although she didn't look very pleased. She looked...wary.
A footstep sounded along a nearby passage. She glanced around, suddenly alert. 'Macready's on the lookout. I'd better go. My room's just along the corridor if you need anything –the smallest one at the end.'
She turned to go, but looked back. 'She's everywhere. Watch out,' she added in a quiet, timid murmur. The footsteps came closer, and she darted away. Peter looked out into the corridor, and just saw her slip into a room with a carved door, glancing back fearfully as the light of a candle fell on the floor. The door closed, with a soft click as the latch fell into place. Peter closed the door as well, thinking.
Lucy slipped under the covers. 'Sheets are all scratchy,' she said, her voice timid and quiet.
Peter looked over at her. He came to sit on the bed, while Susan stood behind him. 'Wars don't last forever, Lucy,' Susan said. 'We'll be home soon.'
'Yeah. If home's still there,' Edmund said gloomily,ambling over to the bed.
'Isn't it time you were in bed?' Susan said crossly.
'Yes, Mum!' Edmund retorted.
Peter looked at him. 'Ed!' he said sharply.
Edmund stared at him, but looked away, saying nothing.
'You saw outside,' Peter said, changing the topic. 'This place is huge. We can do whatever we want here. Tomorrow's going to be great.'
Lucy looked at him, a little disbelievingly. 'Really,' Peter said gently.
Peter lay still, staring up at the ceiling. A memory of the girl's eyes came back to him; eyes that were filled with fear, grey storm clouds gathering around the black centre.
What he couldn't understand was the unreasoning fear that had filled her eyes when she had turned back. Yes, Mrs Macready would have scolded her, but it would have been just a scolding.
Perhaps there was a harsher side to Mrs Macready that they did not know about yet. But he dismissed the thought immediately. She disapproved of their presence in the house, but he didn't think she would, or could, do more than scold them and use harsh words.
He moved restlessly. There was something else, too. Most girls would have been...friendlier, he supposed. This one, however, had not. She had looked wary, as though she had no idea whether they would taunt and tease her, or perhaps physically hurt her, or even ignore her altogether. He didn't know what, exactly, to make of Elizabeth Lewison.
One thing was certain. She wasn't a normal girl. With that, at least, straight in his mind, he rolled over and fell asleep, his dreams filled with terrified grey eyes and the faint memory of an unreasoning fear.
Lucy tossed and turned restlessly. Susan was long asleep, and no doubt the boys were too, but she couldn't sleep. She slid her feet out of bed and into her slippers, picked up the still-burning candle, and went out of the room quietly.
Lucy paused in front of the small door, hand half-raised to knock. But she hesitated; there had been something about the girl that she had not understood, had not liked. Some nuance in her manner, the way she held herself, had jarred on Lucy's perception with an unpleasant jolt.
The door opened. Elizabeth, wearing a pair of blue boy's pyjamas, looked down at Lucy in some astonishment, the little girl's hand half-raised, although she had not yet knocked. 'I couldn't sleep,' Lucy said quietly, feeling caught out.
Elizabeth looked at her, her eyes unreadable. 'Neither could I. Come in.' She opened the door fully, letting Lucy come in and latching the door after her.
She caught Lucy looking at her pyjamas in surprise, and her mouth twitched, half-amused. 'They're my brother's. They were the only pair he had that didn't have any holes. I never had any, but Mother insisted I have something to come to a stranger's house in. So I got Kevin's hand-me-downs instead.'
'How old is your brother?' Lucy asked.
'Seventeen. He wanted to stay at home with Mother, so she let him. But she packed me off to the country,' Elizabeth replied, a trace of bitterness in her tone. A resounding silence followed.
'Why did you come here? And why did they send us here as well?'
'Why? I don't know. Probably because this is such a big house, they didn't think it was too much of a hardship for the Professor to have five children here, instead of just one. But it's got a good library. I'm happy enough,' Elizabeth said off-handedly, indicating the pile of books at the end of her bed. Lucy saw another open on her pillow and the burning candle on her bedside table that was almost fully burnt down. When she had knocked on their door earlier, it had only just been lit. She had obviously made no attempt to go to sleep, like Lucy had. There was a depression in the middle of the bed that told of her position; most likely lying on her tummy, reading the book.
'Is it a good book?' Lucy asked.
'It is,' Elizabeth said, pushing a strand of hair out of her face. Her long golden hair fell to her waist, unbound. It was wavy from the tight plait it had been restrained in earlier.
Lucy looked around the room. It was indeed very small; it would, perhaps, have looked more in place as an under-stairs cupboard rather than a bedroom. There was enough room for a small wardrobe, a bed, a small table at the end of the bed, and a blue rug over the floorboards. A battered suitcase smaller than Lucy's own was pushed halfway under the bed, and a label was tied to the handle, reading 'Elizabeth Lewison' in capitals. There was a window above the bed, with small, diamond-shaped panes of glass. Lucy thought of a question she had wanted to ask.
'How old are you?'
'Fourteen. How old are you?'
'I'm ten. Edmund is twelve. Susan is fourteen and Peter is sixteen,' Lucy replied. A thought struck her. 'You're the same age as Susan!'
'I am, indeed, the same age as Susan,' Elizabeth replied, a strange smile on her lips.
Lucy yawned, suddenly tired. 'I think I'd better go back to bed,' she said reluctantly, looking up at Elizabeth.
The older girl was serene, unruffled by this sudden change in Lucy. 'Off you go, Lucy.'
Elizabeth looked down at her, her eyes kind. 'Don't worry about it, Lucy. But don't let Peter or Susan know you were up this late; they'd be cross with both of us.'
'Both of us?'
'You for being up, and me for not packing you back to bed straight away.'
Lucy laughed. 'All right.' She slipped out of the door and back into the room she shared with Susan. Once back in bed, she fell asleep almost immediately.
In a small room, only three windows along from Lucy and Susan's window, a candle burnt throughout the night, where a girl sat reading, engrossed in a world she dearly longed to enter; a world of dragons, of magic, of wizards, of treasure, of elves, of dwarves; of a world that did not exist. She could enter it only in her dreams, and in the words on the pages before her.
Little did she know that another world, one that she could enter in reality, was only four corridors away.
In the back of a carved wardrobe.
End Chapter One.
Hi everyone! This is the first chappie of a new story. It should continue through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, on to Prince Caspian, and straight through to the Last Battle. Hope you like! But remember, a writer does not live by bread alone...we live by REVIEWS! Lots and lots of REVIEWS! So if you want to keep me alive and writing, click on that little purple button in the left hand corner...you know the one. (I hope). All reviews, comments, constructive criticisms, opinions, tokens of thankfulness, pledges of lifelong devotion accepted. I even accept flames! Just a warning - I laugh at flames. So don't expect anything other than an amused mention in my next author's note!
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Lots of love,
30th January, 2006.