Sunshine streamed into Lucy's—one should rather say Queen Lucy's—room, and that was all it took. Even on the high side of seven, Lucy was not too old to sleep much past dawn, and the fact that she had missed the earlier part of sunrise was only due to the rather late night she had spent the evening before. But the dancing of the fauns and satyrs had been simply too enchanting…and though she had done her fair share with the rest, she was not in the least tired now! In fact…
Too much of the morning had been wasted already! Lucy sprang out of bed, marveling at the softness of her silk woven rug, and dashed to her wardrobe. Rather teasingly, she tapped at the back of it first, just to make sure that it wouldn't carry her either to a different world entirely or back home. Though she didn't know it, that fleeting thought that she had had about her home was the last she was to have for a long while.
Thankfully, even though the clothes she had been provided with here were a far cry from anything she was used to, the cambric underthings were easy to wiggle in to, and the dresses, even the ones for every day use, were beautiful and comfortable. She took out a robe of deep red, and put it on, twirling once or twice to admire the effect of the red color against the white marble of her floor.
Lucy stopped only to dash some water on her face, run a comb through her hair, and strap her little bottle and dagger about her waist. Her gifts from Father Christmas were too precious to abandon at any time, even though she didn't expect to use them soon. But if there was anything that Narnia did, it was keep one on one's toes!
Lucy would have run out of her room immediately were it not for the slight glimmer of the silver and blue flowers of her crown catching her in the corner of one eye. She approached it rather reverently, where it lay in great state on a silver satin pillow near her bed, and lifted it onto her head. She caught one glimpse of herself in the mirror, and sighed. It was all so strange! Perhaps as little as three days before, and she had only been reading and imagining herself to be a great Queen!
Well, either way, there was too much to do today! And if she knew them well enough, Peter, Edmund, and Susan would definitely not be awake yet. Well, then that was the first thing to take care of.
The castle of Cair Paravel was certainly large, but Lucy had been shown all over it yesterday, before the coronation, by Aslan himself, and, even though it gave her a pang to think of Him, she still remembered exactly where everything was. That included the rooms of her brothers and sister. They each resided in a different wing in the castle, one to each of the cardinal directions.
To reach each of the rooms, Lucy thought it would be easiest to cross through the great hall where the feasting and revelry had gone on last night. When she reached the hallway leading to it, though, she heard the voices of her siblings coming from the hall. Amazing that they should have gotten up before her!
When she went into the Great Hall, she found them all about to sit down to breakfast. They all looked very awake, and each of them seemed much softened after all the trouble in the past few days.
"Thought we'd never steal a march on you, eh Lucy?" Edmund asked her, his mouth full of toast. As he spoke, a few crumbs sprayed from his mouth, and while Susan sighed, Lucy couldn't help but giggle.
"Ed, Kings don't spray crumbs when they eat," Susan began, sounding very much older than she was, "In fact, they don't…"
"Eat at all?" Edmund interrupted, his mouth mercifully toast-free.
Susan scoffed at him, and popped a grape in her mouth, obviously not going to bother with explaining what she really meant. Lucy and Peter exchanged a look and a giggle, and Lucy sat down to breakfast.
"We have a lot to do today, Lu," Peter said, clearing away the remains of his poached egg. "The centaurs have already been to see me, and apparently, even though we did some good work on that nasty lot a few days ago, there's still a lot to do."
Lucy swallowed a very nice piece of toast. "What do you mean?"
"What he means, Lu," Susan began, gently, "is that we didn't get rid of all those evil…things, and they're only going to do bad things to our country, until we get rid of them all."
"W-Will we have to go to war again?" Lucy asked, looking to her big brother.
"No, Lu," Peter said, "but we're going to have to ride out, maybe again and again, until we find them all. We can't let them stay where they are. We have a responsibility to Narnia now, and it might take a very long time."
"Which means it's going to be a long time before we can go home again." Susan continued, laying her hand over Lucy's.
"Why are you still on about that?" Edmund asked, digging his knife rather too hard into the butter. "You can't honestly still be thinking about going home? Come on, Sue! No time passes in our world, so far as we know, no matter how long we've been gone. And we can do some good here."
"And I suppose—" Susan began, obviously showing signs of becoming very angry, before she swallowed her remark. "Peter," she began again, trying a different tack, "you don't honestly think we should stay here longer than we need to, do you? I mean…" she trailed off.
"Either way," Lucy began, hoping to turn the conversation, "if we need to do any more fighting, won't that mean that we need a good deal more practice? I mean," she continued, a little sheepishly, "I think we were all rather lucky last time."
Susan scoffed, and Lucy realized that this might have been more likely to upset her than make her any more agreeable to doing any more fighting.
They finished breakfast in near silence. Only, "pass the jam," or "could I have another piece of toast?" disturbed the quiet.
"You two," Peter said, when they approached the end to their unending breakfast, "are going to work with the centaurs today. Lucy, they want to start you learning the bow."
"Isn't she rather small for that? I mean, will they have a bow small enough for her?" Edmund said, feeling his years over Lucy in the soreness of his sword arm.
"Apparently," Peter said. "You and I, Ed," he continued, "will work with the fauns. We can fight a little bit from horseback, but we were essentially useless on foot. And they know swordplay the best, I understand."
"Ripping!" Edmund exclaimed, not checked in the least by the worry that Susan exhibited.
"Oh, Peter!" Lucy cried, jumping up from the table, "when can I learn to fight with a sword? It looks like so much fun, oh Peter, can I come with you today?"
"It's 'may I' Lu, and most certainly you may not!" Susan rejoined, in Peter's place. "Archery is one thing, but sword fighting is something entirely different!"
"Besides, Lu," Peter said, chuckling awkwardly, "you're still too small to hold a sword. And archery is better for you anyway. Better learn to fight from a distance before you get really close up. Remember what Father Christmas said, 'battles are ugly affairs'."
"Oh, all right," Lucy said. Practicing archery was just as interesting as swordplay, and someone needed to make up for Susan's sub-par performance, after all!
Susan sighed again, and took her quiver and bow from where they lay against her chair, and took Lucy by the hand. "Where are we to meet these…centaurs?"
"They told me there were practice fields in the fields to the west of the castle, at the foot of the mountains, near the bay."
"Right," Susan said, fastening her ivory quiver and hanging her small, lion-headed horn. Suddenly, she smiled, trying to overcome her crabby attitude. "Oh, I wish I hadn't had so much breakfast," she said, smiling at Lucy, "I feel like I'm twice as big!"
"Well, you're certainly full of hot air this morning," Edmund said, quietly. Peter cuffed him on the shoulder, but Susan didn't seem to notice.
Narnia was a beautiful country. It was even more apparent during the beautiful summer that had come to it. The trees laughed and danced with each other, and were so merry that Lucy could hardly keep still when the centaurs were teaching them the proper way to hold a bow and draw the arrow. Susan seemed to have a natural talent for archery, even though the centaurs made her shoot with a wooden practice bow before she was allowed to use her present. Lucy missed the target again and again before she finally hit the mark. However, the centaurs were nothing but encouraging, and they told her that it took them years of practice to become proficient.
Lunch came around, and Lucy and Susan rejoined the boys, who looked very happy and very windblown. They brought Mr. Tumnus and a few of the other fauns with them. Mr. Tumnus told Lucy, very quietly before they all sat down, that he wanted to make his father proud. When his father had gone to war, Tumnus had been too young to go with him, but he wanted to help in the future of Narnia. Lucy was glad to know that there was someone who knew as little about fighting as she did. Her brothers were already very busy talking about slashes, and pommels, and she didn't know what else. Even Susan seemed a little more interested than usual, and she was talking with one of the centaurs (who was not staying for lunch) about how to judge distance and wind direction for a shot.
Lucy and Mr. Tumnus chatted together for most of lunch, since everybody else seemed occupied, and he invited her, with the greatest courtesy, to come to tea on one of the days of the weekend. Lucy thought it was strange that he would ask her with so much ceremony, but he reminded her that she was a Queen now. Lucy had to think about that. Certainly she would not ask her own Queen for tea on the weekends so casually!
It was so strange to think of Britain now. Susan might think of nothing but going home, but even after the disappointment of archery that morning, Lucy was still full of wild excitement over what their future as Kings and Queens of Narnia would hold.
Lunch was soon over, and Peter came forward with a plan to ride out a little, that afternoon, to see the layout of their country. Everything was so different with the snow melted, and they needed to understand where the settlements of their people lay. There were towns in Narnia, though they had not seen any of them before. Lucy and even Susan thought it was a good plan, so after lunch, their horses were saddled and brought to them. The Unicorn that Peter had ridden into battle had been healed by Lucy's fireflower juice, and Edmund still chose to ride Philip, and Lucy was set riding double with Susan, but not on a talking horse. Lucy was very glad to feel Susan's arms around her, because her feet didn't reach the stirrups and it was a long way to the ground!
On the back of their horses, the Narnian ground seemed to fly along beneath them. Lucy laughed delightedly as they passed beautiful forest glad after lovely little river and creek. There seemed to be no end to the beauties of the country they now found themselves Kings and Queens of. She glanced back at Susan, who seemed at last to have lost some of her anxiety and had begun to enjoy herself freely.
Riding a horse was not like riding on Aslan's back; it was significantly bouncier, and Lucy knew she was going to be sore, because the saddle kept bouncing against her, and she hurt a bit already. But actually being out and about was wonderful! They kept passing little groups of animals, or fauns, or dwarves, here and there, and they stopped, met them, and went on. One very delightful little rabbit had given her a very sniffly kiss on the hand before letting them go, and the little voice, saying, "Long live Queen Lucy!" still rang in her mind.
Peter laughed over to her, and urged his mount on. He disliked riding with a saddle, and Lucy didn't understand why she couldn't ride with him. She would suggest it when next they dismounted. Susan called after him to be careful, but he didn't hear her, and suddenly, he had disappeared. Susan screamed, and the rest of the party drew reign, not wanting to encounter the same problem as King Peter.
Lucy was down from her horse in a minute, and dashing over to where Peter had last been when the ground gave way under her feet too.
The gorge had been frozen during the long winter, but the wearing of the ice into the soil had made all the ground around the water very loose. Peter, whose mount was a very sensible creature indeed, had not lost his seat, and could grab Lucy before she fell into the roiling, icy water.
"Well!" he said, looking into her grimy face, "We've had an adventure, I say, Lu!"
She giggled. "Your face is filthy…all smudged with mud!"
"Oh yeah," he countered, running his handkerchief over her cheek and brandishing it in her eyes, "look what came off of you, little Miss!"
Lucy tried to tickle him, but when the ground underneath them shifted again, Peter warned her to be still. By this time, they could hear the voices of the people above them, and Peter called up to say they were all right. Lucy looked about them. They were on a very small outcropping of land, before the bank dropped away sharply again, even more sharply than they had fallen in, and the water beneath was gray and foaming.
Susan's voice called sharply from above, saying that they were going to lower a rope. Lucy felt a tiny moment of panic. She had never been good at rope climbing in school, and she knew that Peter was not strong enough to climb with her on his back. Peter sensed her worry and said, "Don't worry, Lu, I'll tie you to the rope, and they'll haul you up first. I'm not leaving Tristan, anyway."
The Unicorn, however, spoke for himself. "I would say, rather, your Majesty, that I am not going to leave you. I can make my way up alone. You and Queen Lucy get up, and never mind about me."
"Are you sure?" Peter asked.
"Yes, your Majesty. Now get up," he said, when the rope was lowered, "I can feel the ground getting shaky."
Everything began to move very quickly. Peter tied Lucy to the rope, and the swirling, gray-white waters started to shrink below her, as well as Peter's face. She clung to the thick cord with all her might, for she had always been just a little afraid of anyplace too high. But Susan's hands were soon firmly on her. Next, while they untied her, Tristan, the Unicorn, scrambled his way—if a Unicorn can be said to scramble—up. Peter was waiting for the rope when the bank gave way entirely, and he was flung into the rush.
Susan screamed after him, and the centaurs pounded away downstream with Edmund. Lucy ran with the fauns, as fast as her feet would follow her, until she was lifted into the saddle again with Susan. The woods around the rush were very thick, and it was hard work getting through them and down the very steep embankment. Branches tore at their clothes and hair, and they were all the time a little bit afraid that they might be too late to pull Peter from the crushing stones at the bottom of the stream. Lucy's heart was pounding so hard that she was afraid it would break some of her ribs.
Between the constant clopping of their horse's hooves and the murmured cries of the other people around them, it was just discernable; the noises of a battle. The centaurs heard it first, and galloped off, with Edmund in their midst. Lucy urged the horse on as quickly as she could, and Susan was, for once, scarcely less eager to see what was happening.
They finally cleared the trees, and could make out Peter, looking very bedraggled and tired, fighting with at least three enemies; one was clearly a black dwarf, and the other two were trolls. Lucy jumped down from the horse, ignoring Susan's cries, and felt for the small bow and quiver that the centaurs had given her that morning. Her fingers, already slippery with mud, fumbled awkwardly with the bowstring, and when she'd got it strung, Peter was down to two enemies…but already he looked very tired. Edmund and the centaurs had started to ford the river, with a few of the faster fauns, but that black dwarf was pressing him hard, and the ground around the river was full of stones and mud…perfect for tripping on. If Peter went down, it was over.
Finally, she had an arrow nocked into the string, and she pulled back, nearly to her ear, as the centaurs had told her. Her eyes followed the target, and she released. Nearly a yard too far to the right, but it wasn't all bad. She'd struck the troll, who was hanging back for the dwarf to do all the work, in the festering arm. The terrible thing bellowed in agony, but a swift sound above Lucy's head filled her with hope, and suddenly, the dwarf lay dead, with Susan's red arrow in his heart. The troll, finding himself alone, tried to make a run to the forest, but the centaurs and Edmund had got across the river by now, and between them, they made short work of the blackguard.
Lucy, too impatient to get astride again, simply ran down the incline and forded the river by herself, though the current was strong, the water was fairly shallow. She found the centaurs and Edmund in the middle of their congratulations of the courage of the High King, and Lucy threw herself into Peter's arms.
Peter, she saw, was nearly ready to sink down, but he was a King now, and he refused to seem more tired than was necessary. Eventually, the whole party collected, and Susan, without a word of reproach, just gathered her brother into her arms, and suggested that they call it a day. Which was a suggestion very much agreed with.
Peter rode home slowly…though he was not wounded, it takes some attention to ride bareback, even though Tristan was a very careful steed, but Peter was very tired. Edmund, who had been the biggest agent in taking down the last troll, was trying very hard not to seem overly pleased with himself during the praise the centaurs heaped on him. Even Susan and Lucy were praised, though Susan more so, for her archery was much superior.
But Susan rode quietly, Lucy noticed, and seemed rather low. Lucy nudged her twice, to get her attention, but Susan just said, "Not now, dear. When we get back to Cair Paravel, I'll tell you."
It seemed funny that Susan didn't say 'home.' Already, Cair Paravel was seeming like the only home that Lucy had ever known.
"I just can't…play pretend like you three can," Susan confessed, handing Lucy a cup of hot chocolate in the privacy of her bedroom. It was large, and faced the beautiful ocean, where the mermaids had just begun their nightly serenade. "To me, all this seems like…a vacation, with reality, and schools, and teachers hiding round the corners. I just can't make it seem…real." She took a deep sip of her hot chocolate. "And I miss home."
Lucy didn't understand. "But…we can always go home. The way will always be open for us, and the people of Narnia need us now. We're Kings and Queens, after all!"
"But why are we Kings and Queens, Lucy?" Susan cried, "We were just ordinary children."
"I—I don't know. But we certainly are now, so it doesn't seem to matter so much, 'why'."
Susan shook her head. "It's late, Lu. You'd best get off to bed. I expect we'll do the same thing tomorrow, and the way you shoot, you'll be lucky if the centaurs don't get you out of bed at dawn."
Lucy giggled. "I wouldn't mind that. Narnia is too pretty to miss one moment of it, anyway."
Susan only smiled, "Good night, Lucy."
"Good night, Lucy!"
"Good night Ed!"
"Good night, King Peter."
There was a squeal as her older brother tickled her into submission, before sending her off to bed.
Her room was just as beautiful as it had been that morning, and, luckily, there was no washing up just before bed. One of her handmaidens—she had those now—had taken her firmly in hand when she'd come into the castle, all slimed with mud and shivering, and now all she had to do was take off her robe and snuggle beneath the covers.
Lucy listened to the mermaids as they sang her to sleep. This had been her first day as a Queen of Narnia.