I don't own Narnia or the Pevensies. Sorry for the delay. One more to go, I think. Just an epilogue.
Peter, as it turned out, never did have to eat his boots. Though it wasn't clear exactly what had shaken off the effects of the Promise Potion – perhaps in the sudden world-jumping they had snagged on a comet, or maybe it was just that too much time had passed and they had worn off – when Lucy finally found him gasping for breath between two pools in the Wood Between the Worlds, having crawled away from the enormous crowd that had nearly squashed them all on the way in, he had no appetite for worn and dirty leather.
Reassembling the crowd took some time. There were so very many people making so very much noise that Lucy began to wish for one of the magicians they'd left behind, so that she might be able to shout above the din, if only to get them to settle down for just a moment. Finally, though, they managed to gather everyone – all two hundred and eighty six, as they had counted to be sure of not losing anyone, in a line, holding hands once again, with Susan at the fore with a green ring on her finger, closely followed by her eager family. She cast a glance back at them, unable to hide a smile of anticipation as Peter finally knelt to pick up the lion token he'd left by the side of the Narnia pool to mark which one it was. He rejoined the line, and at last, his sister moved forward, her feet dipping into the clear, calm water.
With another whirl through the cosmos, feeling like she was part of everything and made of nothing all at once, Lucy abruptly felt her feet touch solid ground. Before she had even opened her eyes, she knew without a doubt that they had returned home – the air in her lungs was light and clear, with the faintest hint of sweetness; she could not have mistaken it for anywhere else. When at last she did take a look around, she discovered that they had thankfully not appeared in Susan's room, as they had anticipated, but were instead in a wood, and by the look of the trees she guessed that they had arrive in Owlwood. That meant that they were about a few hours' travel northwest of the Cair.
Coming to her senses, Lucy noticed that it was startlingly quiet. Where before, following the journey through the wood, the crowd had been chattery and unruly, this time, no one spoke a word. She turned around, wondering if someone had accidentally broken the chain during the journey, if they'd left someone behind, but the crowd remained – yet no one spoke. They appeared transfixed, staring back and forth at their surroundings, most with their mouths slightly open in what looked to be wonder.
"Ah…are you all right?" Lucy finally asked a young man next to her, placing her hand gently on his arm. He jumped, clearly startled, shaken somehow out of his reverie.
"Oh, yes, yes, your Highness," he said quickly, shaking his head as if to clear it. "It's just…it's been such a long time. I don't think any of us thought we'd ever come back."
Lucy remembered the feeling she'd had just a moment ago, upon realizing they had returned home, and noted that she'd been gone all of a week and a half. These people had been gone for years, or even hundreds of years. She tried to multiply the feeling in her memory, but gave up. Nothing she could picture could possibly equal the overwhelming emotion the Old Narnians must have been feeling at that moment.
It took some time for things to settle. Many people cried – some out of sheer joy, and some at remembering what they had lost in the meanwhile. Lucy saw an elderly couple weeping softly in one another's arms, friends of all ages embracing one another in tearful ecstasy, and several people who immediately fell to their knees and kissed the ground. Some people shouted thanks to Aslan. Some people inquired eagerly to the Pevensies what the current state of affairs was in the country, about where they might go, if their homes were still intact. They could not answer all the questions, but they fielded them as best they could, and some nearby dryads helped with what they could.
Just when Susan suggested to Edmund that he make a brief speech of welcome, there was a rather unexpected development. Lucy saw it first – a certain lion pacing steadily through the trees towards them, the rich gold of his mane a beautiful contrast to the deep, vivid green of the forest, and a hush swept through the crowd. Edmund gracefully bowed out of Susan's offer, knowing that however talented a tongue he may possess, he could say nothing that Aslan could not say better. And speak the lion did.
Afterwards, Lucy could not remember what he had said, only that it had been short and perfect. After listening, she knew that no matter their fears about introducing near three hundred people back into the country after they had been gone more than a hundred years, things would work out. Aslan was there to guide them, and if he had entrusted them to lead the country, it must mean that they possessed the mental resources to overcome this particular problem. And so the journey home began, the Lion striding out before his people to lead the way.
It was nearing midnight when they reached the Cair, but word had clearly spread through the trees and the birds: a huge crowd waited at the gates that normally closed at sundown but were currently wide open, with a full regimen of soldiers in royal regalia standing to salute the approaching Narnians. Torches burned in hands of all shapes and sizes, and the cheers were many and warm-hearted as their monarchs led their ancestors home at last, following the Lion through the towering castle gates and melding into the assembly in the courtyard.
Though the temptation for a full-blown celebration was great, as it always was at the Cair, the Narnians understood from the dirt and the obvious weariness of the homecoming party that truly, rest was the order of the evening. There was a great rush to find enough beds or at least flat surfaces to allow the huge regimen of new arrivals a place to sleep, and the castle cooks immediately disappeared to begin food for the tired travelers. And slowly, but with no less gaiety, the crowd dissolved.
When she was halfway up the stairs to the tower in which she and her family slept, Lucy realized that she hadn't seen Aslan since he'd led them into the castle. Presumably, though, he'd gone off to wherever he went when he wasn't there, and she needn't worry about it. That tended to be how Aslan was. Sighing, she shrugged and opened the door to her washroom, curtseying politely to her lady in waiting (an odd quirk of Lucy's that often made servants blush) and letting herself slowly relax back into the end of an adventure.