Disclaimer: I do not own Narnia. Jaer, Jaerin, Rien, and Ariella are mine. No one and nothing else is.
It was late in the afternoon before Jaer finally escorted Ariella to her rooms. From the sun's rising until noon, there had been feasting and storytelling, laughter and joy, for all of Narnia. Now however, even the nocturnal creatures were growing sleepy and those who had been up all the day before were definitely ready for bed. At the door of her room, Ariella would have simply thanked Jaer for a wonderful night and morning and shut the door, but the young lord stopped her before she could speak.
"There's a ball at the Cair tomorrow night. Would you care to come with me?"
"But I can't see!" Ariella protested. "I'd just trip and fall or bump into someone if I tried to dance and balls are not the same when you can't dance."
Jaer grinned. "I doubt that you've forgotten the steps. All you need do is let me lead and I'll ensure that you won't crash into anyone. Will you come?"
"What is the ball for?" Ariella asked, avoiding the question. "We've just returned from one celebration; why is there another so soon?"
Now Jaer laughed fully, but not mockingly, "You're in Narnia, Lady Ariella. I think you'll find that we'll celebrate given the slightest cause. Tomorrow night's ball is a continuation of the same celebration, only now the Monarchs of Narnia wish to host a ball for all of us. Will you come with me?"
Ariella smiled--a truly radiant smile that lit up her face and made her really lovely--as she answered, "I'll come. If you can find me another dress."
"What's wrong with the one you're wearing?"
"Jaer!" Ariella laughed. "I thought you said you have a sister; surely you know that a lady cannot wear the same dress to two consecutive parties!"
"I…It has been four years since Rien's been home. I…I'll see what can be done to get you another dress."
"Thank you, Lord Jaer. You and your family are so kind to me. 'Til tomorrow night?"
"'Til tomorrow night. Fare thee well, my lady. Aslan keep you safe."
As the door shut behind Jaer, Ariella walked over to her bed. A few minutes later the dryads who had become her personal attendants entered the room. They built up the fire and swiftly exchanged the heavy satin dress for a soft flannel gown. When they had gone, Ariella curled up in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot tea in her hand. The events of the night and morning whirled through her mind still keeping her from sleep. That King Edmund the Just should have once been a traitor and that the Magnificent should have feared to lead in battle was nearly incomprehensible. But even more so than that, the end of the story occupied her thoughts. Aslan's sacrifice and resurrection was more than her simple mind could fully understand.
"But why?" she asked aloud of the fire. "Even after all that, I still don't understand."
"Because I love you."
The glorious golden voice that Ariella had heard twice before filled the room and pierced Ariella through with a stab of joy unlike anything she had felt before. Gone was the terror and loathing of the previous visits, and though the fear was still there, it was an honest fear of someone far greater than herself.
"Aslan!" Ariella leaped to her feet and whirled around to face the direction from which the Great Lion's voice had come. "Why are You here?"
"To offer you comfort, child. You fear that because of what you have been, you will never be fully Mine."
Even as Aslan spoke, Ariella realized that what He said was true. That was what she feared now. "But how could You love me? I hated You. I cursed You and disobeyed. How could You love me?"
"Because I choose to. I love the unlovable because I choose to. You are My child, Lady Ariella Thalia Raven, and no matter what, you will always be My child. Learn to love Me with all your being and you will come to know true joy. Farewell."
"But, Aslan, will we ever meet again?" Ariella cried.
A deep rumbling filled the room and Ariella realized that the Great Lion was laughing. "Fear not, my daughter. We shall meet again."
The years rolled by and brought many changes to the lands of Narnia, Calormene, Archenland and other surrounding lands. The summer after Lady Ariella (for she has resumed her former rank--indeed is more deserving of it than ever before) was blinded, Rien, Jaer and Jaerin's younger sister, returned from her long sojourn in Archenland. The house of Peridan became once again a place full of joy and laughter. Lady Ariella found herself often in the company of the two queens and learned much from both of them.
Two years after Rien's return, Jaer and Ariella were wed in a beautiful ceremony held on the green sward in front of the mansion. They were blessed with three children through their marriage. The firstborn, a girl, they named Saera after Jaer's mother and the twin boys they called Gale and Galen in the Archenland custom.
Two years after Jaer and Ariella's wedding, and with only a whirlwind courtship (they knew each other for ten days before he asked her to marry him) Jaerin and a young woman from the Lone Islands were married. They had six children, one girl and five boys. Their children and Jaer and Ariella's were fast friends for all their days.
About seven years after Lady Ariella's coming to Narnia, Rabadash of Calormene came seeking the hand of Queen Susan for his wife. The queen looked favorably on his suit and agreed to visit Tashbaan. Lord Peridan was among those who attended her and King Edmund on that journey. Jaer and Jaerin joined King Peter as he rode against the giants in the North.
When Queen Susan rejected Rabadash and fled from Calormene, the prince attempted to overthrow Anvard and take Queen Susan as his wife by force. The Calormenes were defeated because of the unexpected return of the Crown Prince of Archenland who raced across the desert with a Tarkeenah and two talking horses as companions and barely managed to reach King Lune in time to warn him. Prince Cor also managed to alert the Narnians of the Calormene's advance and so King Edmund and Queen Lucy rode with what remained of their troops to Archenland's assistance.
King Peter was severely wounded in the Northern Campaign and the three other Monarchs set out to find and save him with the Queen's Cordial almost as soon as they returned from Anvard. Jaer assumed partial command of the army in the king's absence as Ariella and her father-in-law prepared the Cair for the return of the Four and of the victorious army.
Not very many months later, rumor came of the reappearance of the White Stag in Narnia and a great party set out to capture it. Many rued their decision later as the four Sovereigns disappeared from Narnia during that hunt. Days were spent in searching for the missing rulers but no sign of them was ever found. Tumnus the Faun eventually declared that they must have returned to the city of War Drobe in Spare Oom and that they should choose new rulers for the country. Jaer and Ariella were first to object, saying that unless Aslan chose them new rulers, they would do without a king and queen.
So for many years, Narnia did not have a king or queen. Jaer and Ariella helped in the rule of the land but always stayed on the sidelines lest they should be asked to rule. Eventually, Jaer died at the age of eighty-seven and Ariella was left alone in their great mansion. She wandered listlessly about the house for some weeks until she could no longer stand the emptiness and went outside to walk the paths she knew so well. Tired at last she sat down on a bench and leaned against the warm stone wall behind her. Suddenly, a beloved voice sounded in her ear.
"Beloved, I have come to take you home."
When the satyr who kept the gardens came through later that afternoon, he found his mistress lying on the bench with a peaceful smile on her face and he knew that her story in Narnia was over. What he did not know was that even then, Ariella was staring about her in wonder at places she had known for nearly seventy years but never seen. Now she was in the Real Narnia and true sight was granted to her. Even then she and Jaer were laughing and dancing on the green sward in front of her house as she saw her husband's face for the first time. For what seemed like an ending was only the beginning of the greatest story of all.
A/N--So there you have it. Ariella's tale has come to the end of the beginning. I hope you've enjoyed reading this story. Thanks to all of you who have reviewed; I greatly appreciate your comments. Especially thanks to Mikalea, my anonymous reviewer to whom I can't reply!
For more information on what happened to Peter in the Northern Campaign, see Almyra's For Ever Kneel'd. I just borrowed from her. You really ought to read it.
Thanks also to electrum who let me borrow her dream dasher to begin this story. If you haven't read her stuff, go do it!
In the service of the King of kings,
Thalion, King's Daughter