A/N: Again, I am so, so sorry! I had to re-watch the movie, and completely re-read both Ironic Synchronicity and Mistaken Perception (it's so freaking long!) so. Well, um…now we're nearing the close of the first half. I hope it's satisfactory. Second half takes place in Narnia, of course…
Disclaimer: Narnia belongs solely to CS Lewis, and I sincerely hope he will not mind me borrowing his characters for a slight variation (cough cough) on his story.
Warnings: Nothing really. As ever, a little blood spilt.
Rating: PG13 American, 12 English.
"Morning, Mother." Having left Lucy Pevensie with those final parting words all those months ago, I now return to this story with renewed vigour! As a wise reviewer once said, once an author of Narnia, always an author of Narnia.
Part One: Late Arrivals
Chapter twenty eight: In for a penny
"Dear…God in Heaven…"
Evesham breathed hoarsely, shielding his eyes from the rapidly fading glare of the explosion. The ground was racked with tremors beneath him, the air thick with thick choking smoke and debris. The smell of ash and burning was intolerable.
Besides him, Havisham groaned, scrambling awkwardly up, black scholar robes askew. He looked to the distant shell of the building which had once been the school, and lowered his gaze.
"We were too late."
The statement hung in the air between them, an awkward silence now filling the stilling air. The distant sounds of the fire were dying down, and Evesham turned to look down at the town, at the dim lights of the community hall far, far below them. He frowned.
"Register's were taken, weren't they? To ensure the students were all present? The last thing we need is more casualties."
Havisham mopped his sweaty brow, his face pale as a ghost. The terrible reality of the situation had begun to sink him; the entire school was destroyed, gone. Two children were missing, almost definitely dead. There would be no bodies, and hundreds of boys now had no safe refuge from the war.
"Yes, I believe so… Henley had them. You'll have to ask him…"
Evesham swallowed any further thought of the Pevensie's. It was just possible, by some miracle, that they may have survived…there was hope. Yes. Havisham hesitated, and spoke again, in a strained, quiet voice.
"The children…the Pevensie's…is there…?"
He broke off, knowing the answer. Evesham swallowed, feeling suddenly cold. He wasn't entirely sure what to think. They were…well, children. Young. Too young to die.
Then again, how many boys their age had been sent off to war? How many young men already littered the fields of war? Too many to count, too many to remember. Beside him, Havisham removed his cap and bowed his head.
"Such is the way of war. If only…no, there is no use dwelling on the past. It is simply…not possible, that they survived. Evesham?"
Havisham looked to the Doctor with a sort of dead hope, but Evesham shook his head slowly. It was, indeed, not possible. The entirety of the school was scorched inside out. There was no escape from a force like that.
"SIR! Mr Havisham, Headmaster?"
Evesham gathered his wits, straightened his tie and stood carefully. He turned to face the source of the shout, and found a flushed and sweaty faced ARP Warden before them, who was just managing to catch his breath.
"I be terribly sorry, Sir. One of the lads, he were walkin' oer yonder to check the immediate surroundin' area of the explosion, Sir, and…"
The Warden trailed off, his eyes darkening, and he gestured helplessly over towards the burnt out shell of the school. Words seemed to fail him, and he opened his mouth, hesitated, and then closed it again.
Evesham grew impatient, disturbed by the expression on the man's face,
"For God's sake, spit it out, man!"
"Two corpses, Sir."
The residence of Professor D. Kirke, two days later…
Lucy said quietly, slipping inside the darkly panelled door and closing it with a soft thud behind her. Not that she expected an answer, of course. Helen Pevensie had been sleeping deeply, almost comatose, for days now. Lucy was worried, but the Professor had said it was merely exhaustion.
Still, the uneasy feeling weighing on Lucy's heart refused to be shifted, and so she bore each passing day with a solemn acceptance. She hoped that, like all the troubles the world had brought her, this would pass, too.
Lucy moved across to the slightly open window, and tugged it shut, reaching on tiptoe to grasp the cool metal handle. Her shoes had grown uncomfortably tight recently; she must be growing. It was an unsettling thought.
Having drawn the lace curtains to cover the latticed windows, Lucy reached into the chest pocket of her cardigan and retrieved a thin, neatly folded sheet of paper. She hesitated, before moving quietly over to her Mother's bed, and standing awkwardly beside it. She cleared her throat uneasily.
"A letter came from Susan today, Mother. I thought…well, she says to read it to you, so…I guess I will."
Unfolding the letter, Lucy drew a nearby stool up to the bedside, and sat down slowly, eyes already roving over the words arranged in neat rows of italic writing. She frowned, lowering the letter to her lap, and began to read aloud;
"Darling Lucy, I hope both you and Mother are well. Things are very quiet here; although the warnings of German attacks on boarding schools is still very much rampant within the walls, we haven't heard so much as the whirr of an engine for days now. I hope it is a sign that things will get better from here on in."
Lucy paused for breath, a relieved smile curling her lips. She glanced up at her Mother's pale face, perfectly still in the deep recesses of sleep. Her own smile faltered, and she turned her gaze back to the letter.
"Although it seems that elsewhere, things are not quite so serene. I've heard news that a school somewhere in the county was bombed only days ago. The papers refused to give the name of the school, but apparently almost the whole building was completely destroyed, and two pupils died, while another two were declared missing. It is a truly horrible business. Apparently, an official report will be issued by the government as soon as the immediate relatives of those involved are contacted. Those poor people; I can hardly bear to think what they're going through."
Lucy felt a shudder run up and down her spine at the thought of it; at the thought of Peter and Edmund, supposed to be safe in the countryside, and yet still under imminent threat of attack. She thought of the families of the children who had lost their lives, and felt again that cold well of uneasiness fill the pit of her stomach.
"In light of the recent attack, there are rumours flying about that all boarding schools are to be evacuated, too. I fear that soon, nowhere shall be safe from this beastly war. Anyway, if you should ever want company, I am sure I could arrange a weekend off in light of the current situation. Remember, Lucy, I am only a letter or a telegram away. Give my love to Mother and the boys, should you hear from them."
Lucy faltered, her voice trailing away at the final words.
"Your loving sister, Susan."
Lucy swallowed, folding the letter absently in her hands, and licked her dry lips. She did not like this; she did not like this at all. She drew a deep breath and stood carefully, placing the letter on the bedside table as she moved towards the door, goose bumps rising up her bare arms. She rubbed them feverishly; her brow furrowed, and stood still in the corridor for a moment.
For some inexplicable reason, dread weighed upon her mind like a smothering shroud.
"I don't suppose you know where we are, by any chance?"
Helen asked quietly, fisting her hands anxiously in her skirts. They had been walking non-stop for what felt like hours and hours on end. Strangely, despite this, she did not feel at all weary. Only a little light-headed.
Cifel halted a few feet ahead of her, and turned slowly to face her. His expression was impassive, but somehow still managed to display his annoyance.
"Where is not the question you should be asking of me, Helen Pevensie. We are not, technically, 'anywhere'."
Helen considered this answer, more than a little confused.
Was all she could manage, as Cifel turned away once again. Helen lowered her gaze, shaking slightly in the cool breeze which tossed languidly about them. She swallowed, and glanced warily about her. She was surprised to find that the landscape had changed significantly. They were now standing upon a neatly paved road, with light grey, perfectly tessellated stones. It was very wide, almost ten feet across, and to both the left and right beyond the edges, there was only thick, dense spirals of mist. She shuddered, and hurried to catch up with the retreating figure of her guide.
She fell into step beside him, her eyes fixed determinedly down at her feet. Her head felt so…strange. She could not recall anything beyond her first meeting with this…Cifel…and whenever she tried, she felt as though something large and heavy was pressing against the depths of her mind, trying desperately to break through. It was painful.
"If I'm not supposed to ask where we are, then…I suppose I'm supposed to ask 'why am I here?'"
At first, Cifel appeared to not have heard her, his gaze fixed firmly upon something ahead of them. Helen opened her mouth to speak, then faltered, following his line of vision. A few feet ahead, a large, dark structure loomed high above them, out of the gloom. Falling into step behind Cifel in a subconscious effort to shelter herself, she could do nothing but stare, wide eyed, as the structure slowly wound itself into the shape of an arch, almost fifty feet high.
It was made of what appeared to be inky black granite, roughly hewn, with no carvings of decorations of any kind visible. Drawing closer, she saw that long chains ran from either side of the arch and down to the ground, but were seemingly not secured in any way. Beyond the arch, the pathway continued, but rather than a paved road it was a black stone platform, suspended within billows of fog.
She breathed, her voice a thin wisp of sound in the thick air which surrounded them. Cifel glanced down at her, but said nothing. After a moment, dark figures began to emerge from the fog halfway across the bridge; pale figures, semi-translucent, indistinctly shaped. They moved slowly, heads bowed, and each carried a tiny ball of light in an upturned palm.
Helen drew in a sharp breath and ducked behind Cifel, who placed a firm hand over her own, which was clutching the back of his cloak.
"Do not worry. They will not harm you."
She swallowed, not entirely believing him. They stood quite still for a long while, as the figures passed them by, walking in dumb procession one behind another. Their features were indistinct, their outlines blurred, and as they reached the end of the bridge the small balls of lights they held began to flicker.
Cifel said quietly, and Helen blinked, still watching as the path around them filled with the figures, two stately lines, one going back the way the two travellers had came, and one moving towards the other end of the bridge.
"What is this place?"
She asked hoarsely, her voice echoing around the surrounding emptiness. She winced.
"It is called the Bridge of Lost Souls. Original, hm? We are currently crossing over what you may know as the River Styx."
She looked at him, feeling strangely dizzy, her head aching more than ever before. Her heart banged against her ribs, each pulse sending the blood pounding through her bruised mind.
"Are you afraid?"
Cifel nodded, slowly, expression pensive.
He asked, simply, although she had a feeling the question was more for her benefit than his. She searched her feelings, trying desperately to think, to remember, something, anything…but she was once again met with nothing but blankness, and that aching presence of something pushing against her mind.
"Because I don't…I don't know, remember, anything…I…whenever I try, I…"
She trailed off, kneading and twisting her hands in her sleeves, clutching them with whitened knuckles. It was cold here. But not a bitter cold, an empty cold. A lifeless cold.
"Do you remember what it was to feel pain, Daughter of Eve?"
Helen faltered; her heart skipped a beat.
A moments pause.
"If you could…would you leave all that behind? All the pain, all the suffering, all that you can't recall?"
Helen thought for a moment, clasping her hands together to quell the shaking. Then she began to speak, more clearly than before.
"I…would like to, but…as well as all the pain…"
The smallest of smiles curled her pale lips, her eyes shining with a foreign, forgotten emotion.
"I also remember what it was to love, and…"
The smile fell into a grimace of determination.
"…and I want to feel that again, no matter how much pain it may cause me."
Cifel gave her a guarded look, before he nodded once again, mulling her words over.
He sighed, turning to gaze out at the bleak emptiness which surrounded them, beyond the edges of the bridge.
"I, too, was once as lost as you were. Only able to cling to the shadows of emotion which remained imprinted upon an empty hollow which once held my heart. I, too, was afraid. I didn't know if I could face the uncertainty of the journey back."
Helen came and stood beside him, staring up into a strangers face; a stranger, and yet the only friend she knew.
"Was it worth it?"
His lips twitched in the ghost of a smile.
She straightened up, fists clenched, feeling a burning sensation fill her chest, but it wasn't uncomfortable. For the first time since she had began this journey, she felt a sense of being, of purpose. She felt alive.
"Well, then. Stop asking silly questions, and let's get out of here."
She said loudly, defiantly, turning to fix a determined gaze upon the far end of the bridge, indistinct in the distance. Cifel blinked, surprised at her sudden transition, and said in a serious tone:
"It will be hard. Perhaps too hard."
She shrugged, giving him a small smile.
"We won't know until we try, now, will we?"
He nodded, and raised his arm, turning his palm upwards. Immediately, a small flicker of light sputtered into being, lighting the area immediately about them. Turning, he held out the other arm to Helen.
"Then take my hand, and cross over with me."
Resolutely, she placed her hand in his gauntleted one, drawing comfort from the solidity of leather and skin against her fingers.
"I'm ready when you are."
Cifel regarded her briefly with an odd expression, before smiling exasperatedly, turning back around and tugging her forwards to begin the long, slow march across the bridge.
"Humans…really are…remarkable creatures."
A/N: Oops! Didn't mean for the Helen Cifel section to be so long…the fact that the whole situation with Helen seems a bit illusive is supposed to reflect how Helen herself feels. You're seeing through her eyes, so to speak…if it was from Cifel's POV I'd have to explain an AWFUL lot in a very short space of time…darned know it all angel…(grumbles)
Now, I know, there was no Peter or Ed POV; and the question is…who's dead? Two corpses, four people missing. Well? Please leave a review and tell me your predictions!
A small note: A bit of history for you! The River Styx is a well known part of Greek Mythology; it is a river (which is supposedly made up of the matter of lost souls) which separates Hades (the Grecian 'Land of the Dead') from the living world.
Next chapter: To be or not to be, that is the question! Or rather, who is to be and who is not to be…(smiles mysteriously)
Cifel: …you are insane, you know that? (shrugs) Feel free to lynch her, if you so wish. (steps aside)
Well, um…yes, uh, well…(clears throat and begins to edge away as reviewer mob brandish pitchforks) I'll be off, then! (runs for insignificant life)
(Far off voice in distance) PLEASE REVIEW REGARDLESS! …many thanks.