A/N: So I said I would post this yesterday... oops. Sorry ) Anyway, here it is - the final chapter! Thank you all so much for reading, and especially to my reviewers! You are all awesome!
And if anyone's interested, I'll soon post the entire story in pdf format on my blog, complete with cover art. Which you can also see if you click my 'Homepage' link and scroll down far enough.
Chapter Thirteen: Pro Patria Mori
Chapter Thirteen: Pro Patria Mori
His first thought was that he had died and gone to heaven. His second thought was that, though he had never thought about it before, that might not be such a bad thing. In fact, it just might be one of the best things that could possibly happen to him...
He stood on a steep slope facing a pair of golden gates. They shone in the sunlight, tall and massive but with an air of lightness about them, as if they were no more than fragile lace handkerchiefs hung on a washline. The grass beneath him was a brilliant emerald shade of green, smooth and manicured as a palace lawn. But Rith felt that whatever was inside those walls would be fare more wonderful than any castle he had ever laid eyes on...
Suddenly a single horn blew, low and sweet, and with no noise at all the gates swung open, revealing a luscious garden. Trees and flowers of breathtaking beauty stood there, arranged impeccably in groves and thickets both wild and elegant. Rith stared, feeling that perhaps he should not enter. Then he thought that perhaps he should, and so he was standing there trying to remember what on earth he was doing here in the first place when a small figure with long dark hair ran out from among the flowers to greet him.
"Rith! Rith!" she cried, and with a start he realised that this was his long-dead sister.
"Ri'ana?" he asked, amazed, but then he was tackled almost to the ground in a fierce embrace.
"But – what – where – I thought you were..." Rith's inquires were lost beneath her joyous laughter.
"Rith, what took you so long?" A deeper male voice called out behind him.
Struggling to stay upright, Rith turned to see his older brother grinning down at him. "Ri'hael! What are you doing... are Father and Mother here too?" His last words were somewhat muffled as his brother wrapped him in a massive hug.
"Of course, silly," he said, and Rith looked over his shoulder to see a young-looking couple walking down through the gates towards them. Breaking away from his siblings, Rith ran to them.
"Father! Mother!" They smiled, and for the first time in decades, Rith felt truly at home.
"I though I could never see you again, or Narnia for that matter," Rith explained a while later, looking in wonder at the land spread around him. And now he could see with the eyes of eagles, from the beach near Cair Paravel to the very edge of the Western Wilds and beyond.
"But this is Narnia," Ri'ana said, laughing at her brother. "Don't you see? Only it's better than ever before!"
"Yes, I suppose it is," he replied, smiling when his brother gave a snort of amusement. Yes, he was back in Narnia – or perhaps he had just truly arrived – but he still had habits from his years of life in Britain.
"It's not so bad, really, when you come to think of it," his mother said thoughtfully.
"No, I suppose it isn't," Ri'hael interjected quickly, mimicking his younger brother's tone.
Rith laughed, then said soberly: "Quite."
It seemed that all his family could do that day was laugh. Secretly, Rith wondered if they had been doing the same thing every day before he came.
When they had quieted somewhat, Rith said: "I truly didn't think I would ever see any of you again. But Aslan... Aslan..."
"Shhhh," his mother said, with a twinkle in her eye. "You've said all there is to say. Aslan."
Rith nodded. Surrounded by his family and friends, in a land he knew he didn't deserve to inhabit, he whispered: "So this is love."
And far off in the distance, a Lion roared.