In the Lap of the Gods
Disclaimer: Narnia and its characters are the property of CS Lewis, Walden Media, and Disney. I'm just borrowing them and I promise to give them back when I'm done. Until the next story hits me, of course, but that will be a while since I'm once again enjoying a bout of writer's block. The title for the story is borrowed from Queen. My thanks to Miniver for her assistance!
Chapter One: Thunder Head
"Would you like tea, King Peter?"
I cast a quick glance behind me and smiled. "Yes, please, Lilybell."
It was nearing the close of the day and we were gathered with some of our teachers on the wide garden balcony overlooking the Eastern Sea to watch the great thunder heads that were forming out over the ocean. The clouds were massive and showed banks of every color and hue and great bolts of lightning illuminated them from within. Though they were moving slowly towards the land it would not be a long before we would be forced to move indoors, for the sky above was thick with storm clouds and rain could come at any time. For now we relaxed as a breeze kicked up, cooling us and carrying with it the heavy scents of salt and rain.
"To the north," said Sra Sysyks, pointing with his clawed foot. "Do you see that smaller cloud the color of Cheroom's flanks, my queen? That one will be the first to make landfall."
"You're sure?" Lucy piped, leaning against the railing beside the massive lizard as he dipped his quill into the ink pot she held for him.
He flicked his tongue politely and bent over the notes he was taking. "Quite, Your Majesty."
Sra Sysyks was quite a handsome chap even for a Monitor Dragon, measuring ten feet long from his snout to the tip of his long, thick tail with heavy, clawed feet good for running or climbing or writing. He was brick red with an ash-gray belly and he wore a wide leather collar studded with gold and rubies. A scientist and scholar, he had a keen interest in the weather and was forever keeping notes on wind and rain and temperature. In the pursuit of his passion he had taken over a corner of the Cair's highest tower, the Queen's Pavilion, and filled it with an odd assortment of instruments of his own design for recording aspects of the weather. Edmund had spent many an hour there with the Monitor and his observations, and I was not unfamiliar with his research. Cheroom, Edmund's tutor, also took a great interest in all things scientific, especially anything to do with the heavens. Too large to make it up the narrow steps to the top of the tower, the elderly Centaur was dependent upon his student for regular updates on Sysyks' works. Uniting the three of them always made for interesting conversation, which was why Lucy and I stood with them along the railing watching the thunder heads out over the sea.
"The clouds speak their own language," Sysyks told Lucy, lingering on each 's.' His voice was deep and raspy with odd inflections caused by the shape of his mouth. "One needs only to learn to read their aspects to understand what they are telling us."
My littlest sister smiled at the Monitor before turning to watch the looming thunder heads again. "What are they saying now, Sysyks?"
"They're saying 'You silly lizard, come and have your tea!'" called his wife from where she was pouring for us all. Palace servants brought in deep bowls of tea for the larger Animals like Lady Avalynn and a great tankard of mead was presented to Cheroom.
I glanced back at Susan where she lounged with the ladies and instructors; she tried to stifle a giggle. Sra Lilybell was much younger than her husband, a brilliant leaf green from head to tail and clearly fond of pearls, for she wore many of them. That she did not share his passion for the sciences was evident, though the whole Cair knew how well Lilybell adored her husband. In typical Monitor fashion, she showed her affections by pestering him at every turn. Sysyks closed his eyes, shaking his head with a sigh. Twisting his long body about to look at Lilybell as she reclined in luxury amidst pillows and soft carpets, he lashed his thick tail and insisted,
"Woman! I am working!"
She ignored him completely as she passed Edmund a cup of tea. "You're always working, husband. The clouds aren't going anywhere or changing their opinions so quickly that you can't spare the time to have some refreshment."
Sysyks muttered under his breath and looked back to the skies as Edmund brought me and Lucy tea. We exchanged smiles behind the Monitor's back, for he was single-minded in the extreme. Still, he had our utmost respect, so when he murmured, "That's odd," we all looked up, even Lilybell.
"What's odd, Sra?" I asked, passing my teacup to one of the Dryad maids. Edmund turned and we crowded against the wide stone railing, trying to pinpoint what the Dragon thought was wrong with the sky.
Sysyks pointed with a heavy claw. "A break in the tempest, King Peter."
We all looked to the cloud cover above and Sysyks' anomaly was immediately evident. There was a jagged patch like a hole in the clouds leading straight to the sky beyond. We could just make out a glimpse of brilliant blue with glowing rays of sunshine pouring through. Lucy made a little "Oh!" of amazement and she gripped my hand tightly. The sunbeams were pushed swiftly along by the wind, sweeping over our balcony. For an instant the world seemed cast in warm, shimmering gold. Then the patch of light was rushed on towards the gardens beyond on the western side of Cair Paravel before the little hole in the clouds was wiped away by the wind. It happened so quickly that we didn't have a chance to react until it was gone.
For a long moment we were silent. Words were inadequate to what I was feeling. That little flash of sunlight had been wonderfully warm and inviting, almost as if the sun had embraced us. The best I could say was that I felt as if Aslan, who had so often blessed me in the past, had just blessed me anew.
Finally I blinked, exchanging a startled little smile with Lucy. She looked as stunned and delighted as I felt. On the other side of Sysyks my brother looked very thoughtful, pondering what we had just experienced. Edmund's expression matched the looks on the Centaur and the Monitor and I wondered if there was any call for concern. Turning to Susan where she sat with her ladies in the sheltered overhang behind the pillars, I was disappointed to realize she had not felt what we had. She had noticed the others, though, and their reactions; she was waiting for me to speak. I was about to address Sysyks when there came the sound of hoof beats and Oreius burst onto the balcony, skidding to a halt on the smooth marble flagstones.
He was breathless, panting; his flanks were shiny with sweat from his mad dash to find us. He seemed torn between alarm and excitement. Astonished into speechlessness at the Centaur's appearance, I could not find the voice to speak and it fell to Edmund to exclaim,
"General Oreius! Is something amiss?"
If the general was playing messenger then it had to be something of the utmost importance. One of the maids hastened to fetch him a drink. He swallowed the cup of water in a gulp as the first drops of rain began to dot and darken the stone beneath our feet. Still panting, Oreius bowed, and when he spoke he addressed his great-uncle more than any of us.
"Gamayun," he breathed, and his excitement and alarm were even more evident than before. "The Gamayun have returned."