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The Judas Tree

By TheLastNightingale

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Disclaimer: C.S.Lewis was the great mind behind Narnia. I simply borrow his creations from time to time.

A/N: This is the first fanfic that I've written in over a year, but after re-reading my Narnia collection for, like, the gazillionth time, I've realised that the Lucy/Tumnus matter just won't leave me alone. I'm writing this as a prologue - of sorts - to my original one-shot 'For the Love of Queen Lucy' (posted under the username AmberGoddess). It's really not necessary to read that to understand this fic, however. Just be aware that I'm a L/T supporter, so if that pairing squicks you, it's probably a good idea to stop reading now.

…Still here?

Don't say that I didn't warn you. :)

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Prologue:

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Before the days of prophesy, before Aslan's return, there was only Winter.

Ceaseless, un-changing Winter.

It was past mid-night, and the whole kingdom lay still and glittering beneath the sullen moon. The sky was clear, iridescent with stars, and the long northern lands seemed to glow in the pale half-light. Though there had been no fresh snow-fall for more than a day, the enchanted winter still maintained it's hold on the Lantern Waste; the wood was frozen in shades of silver and white, and the streams remained locked in ribbons of ice. It was through this bleak landscape that a lone figure now struggled through the drifting snow. His breath misted before him in short, noiseless gasps, and the naked skin on his torso was raw with cold. He was a pitiful creature, and the trees watched him with ambivalent interest as he stumbled along his path. Few Narnians dared walk these woods after nightfall, and those that did were either lost, stupid, or ill-intentioned.

Tumnus was neither lost nor stupid, but his intentions were far from good, and his guilt trailed him through the forest like a ghost in his wake.

Somewhere in the unseeing distance, a wolf howled, low and hungry. Tumnus froze, his tail flicking in agitation. The noise rose, swelled into a crescendo, then echoed and died, leaving the ensuing quiet even more desolate than it had been to begin with. Tumnus remained in watchful silence for several minutes, his eyes wide and shining in the darkness. The howl had awoken a primal sense of fear within him, and he was once again reminded that he was neither safe nor welcome in these parts. He quailed visibly, pulling his scarf tightly across his chest. He had never been a brave faun, and it seemed pointless to try and pretend to be one now.

A twig snapped somewhere in the woods behind him, causing Tumnus to give a startled jump and swiftly resume on his way. "Quickly," he muttered, warily glancing over his shoulder as he urged himself onward. "Quickly, you wretched faun…"

He made his way cautiously down the slope of a hill, until the trees began to thin and he entered a jagged clearing at the base of the valley. Here the path was rough and poorly maintained - flanked by the few feeble saplings that had managed to survive the ground-frost - and even Tumnus's nimble hooves had difficulty maintaining their footing. He stumbled uncertainly, fear making him appear clumsy. Before him lay a broad expanse of white, enclosed by forest on all sides, and in the middle, jutting from the snow like a ring of broken teeth, lay his destination; the Stone Circle.

There was something distinctly ominous about the Circle. It consisted of five obelisk-shaped rocks, protruding from the earth in a vaguely circular formation. Ancient, knowing, but somehow not entirely belonging to Narnia, it had been erected sometime in the kingdom's forgotten past, by men who's bones had long since turned to dust. Whatever it's original purpose, however, it had gained a black reputation as the haunt of ghosts and boggles, and Tumnus felt a tremor of half-forgotten dread as he passed into it's shadow. He unconsciously slowed, ears pressed flat against his skull. His father had told him stories of this place, once upon a time. That was before that war, of course. Before the Winter…

The wolf's cry sounded once again in the distance, impatiently goading him forwards. Tumnus gave a jolt, as one caught daydreaming, then clambered up into the outer rampart and into the Circle itself. There he hesitated, peering anxiously around. The stones loomed over him, their jagged tops dusted with ice, but there was no sign of anyone there to meet him. This realisation was enough to kindle a small, but insistent, flicker of hope in his chest. Perhaps, he reasoned, it was not to late to turn back…to return to the sanctuary of his cave and forget this whole shameful business…

A voice, low and menacing, suddenly emerged from the darkness behind him. "You're late."

Tumnus started, whirling around to find Maurgrim stepping out from his hiding place behind the northernmost stone. He took a step backwards, stumbling slightly on the wet snow. "I…I'm sorry, my lord," he shook his head fretfully, ashamed by the nervous tremor in his voice. "It w-won't happen again."

Maurgrim slunk closer, his teeth bared in annoyance. In the shadowy half-light, his eyes emitted a faint yellowy glow, and Tumnus could not help but shiver at the cold intelligence behind them. "See to it that it doesn't," the wolf growled. "My time is precious, and I have little patience for those who waste it."

Trembling, Tumnus drew his hand into the knot of his scarf and extracted a slip of paper. As he passed it to Maurgrim, however, he became suddenly aware of the dark shapes that were prowling around the snow beyond the Circle's boundaries. With a jolt of horror, he realised that the Wolf-Lord's pack had surrounded him, and were currently circling like foxes around a wounded rabbit.

Oblivious to the faun's rising panic, Maurgrim grunted indifferently at the paper Tumnus had given him. "What's this?"

"It's the names of the conspirators who tried to sabotage the Queen's sleigh last week, my Lord. I overheard them talking on the Lantern Waste."

Maurgrim considered him coolly, then turned his attention to the list before him. His gaze narrowed as he read the neatly flowing script. "Well now," he murmured, a faint flicker of a smirk playing at the corner of his muzzle. "How interesting. Abrax Mole…I never had him down for a traitor. Gruffletop the Badger…the two Ravens…Tarnus the faun." He paused and glanced upwards. "Relation of yours?"

Tumnus blinked, then looked away. "Distant cousin, I believe," he mumbled quietly.

Maurgrim gave a rumbling bark of laughter, his long fangs glinting in the moonlight. "You know, if it wasn't for that cowardly belly of yours, I'd say you had some wolf blood in you, goat-foot. There's a ruthless streak in you that I rather like." He spoke fondly, as though regarding an amusing pet, but there was an edge to his words that chilled Tumnus to the core. Around the Stone Circle, the other wolves began to draw closer. Tumnus shrank back at the sound of their footfalls against the snow.

Apparently satisfied by the information he had received, Maurgrim turned his back to the faun and began to languidly walk away. "Your payment will be left at your cave, as usual," he called, not bothering to turn around. "Provided, of course, that your claims can be substantiated."

The sudden distance between them made Tumnus bold. "I have never been wrong before," he murmured, voice soft with the weight of his self-loathing.

Maurgrim paused. He slowly turned, his expression cold and unmoving in the moon-light. "That is the only reason why I allow you to live, faun. Never forget that."

Tumnus stared into the terrible cruelty of Maurgrim's face, and - for the barest second - imagined that he saw a shadow flicker across it. There was disgust in those amber eyes, and horror, and deep, painful regret, and Tumnus knew that the same look must have been mirrored in his own gaze…

…And then, just as quickly, it was gone. Whatever brief connection they had held was severed, and Maurgrim turned and skulked back into the shadows, where the rest of his pack were prowling in wait. Once clear of the Circle, the wolf-lord threw back his head and howled to the moon, rallying his horde for the hunt ahead. Tumnus shuddered and closed his eyes, trying vainly to block the sound of their blood-lust from his mind. When he opened them again, the wolves had gone, and he was once again alone with the guilt of his crime.

Narnians would die that night...good Narnians, whose only real treason was that they held true to the memory of Aslan...and their death's would be on Tumnus's hands.

He fell back against the nearest stone, sinking to the ground in a heap of despair. Burying his head in his hands, he steadied himself for tears that he knew would not come - his soul, it seemed, too empty to weep for the innocents he had condemned.

"Forgive me, father," he moaned, voice racked with shame and remorse. "Forgive me."

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