Part Four: Moon Rise
A/N: The poem Eustace recites was written by Francis Thompson. My thanks to Miniver for bringing it to my attention!
"Go roust the scribes and the couriers. We must get word across the land and to the Merfolk. We will send word to Galma and Terebinthia, to King Lune and the Tisroc, to every land and island and people known. We will tell the whole world so they, too, can remember Proxena."
As Peter spoke a deeper darkness fell and the night completely enveloped the moon: Dawn Treader was escorting her to the rim of the sky, to the side of her dying daughter. I couldn't help but wonder, then, if the sun would rise on the morrow. I could not see to blame him if he did not, but I wondered what that would mean for the world.
Except for Lucy, who fell asleep early in the morn, we stayed up all night composing our message to Narnia. I think Peter and Susan were wondering the same thing as I, because we all sighed in relief to see a glimmer of light on the horizon. The sun did rise, and through the cloudy haze enveloping the day we could see his fiery hounds and their pup at his side. The Sun Dogs were not hunting that day. Rather, they were keeping their master company. I was not the first to notice them, to my relief. Revelations I did not need at the moment.
Messengers were sent far and wide, to the depths of the ocean to the Dancing Lawn, the Marches, the Lantern Waste, and every point between and beyond. Bats, Birds, Gryphons, Dogs and Horses and Centaurs - they raced across Narnia, spreading the news of what had happened and what would happen in the near future. Everyone who heard the tale of Dawn Treader and Proxena was charged by royal decree to spread the word. The Naiads told the Merfolk, who told the ocean, who told the deeps. A strange sense of sadness and waiting spread over Narnia, as if the very land was holding its breath, and we scanned the night skies for some sign of what was happening.
For two more nights there was no moon and no Proxena, no tides, no wind, no way to tell days were passing save by the rising of the sun. We received word from a grateful King Lune, thanking us for the story behind the events that had so disturbed his kingdom. He sent promise that our message to the Tisroc would be halfway to his summer retreat in Mezreel by the time our courier returned from Archenland. Duke Banet of Galma and Lord Maturin of Terebinthia sent word back by the Gryphon couriers that they would notify the rest of Narnia's island provinces as soon as their ships could sail again.
On the third night since Dawn Treader's departure, we gathered again, as we had the past few nights, on the garden balcony overlooking the Eastern Sea to watch the night and to sit vigil with all the heavens and the earth. I noticed that the Centaurs in particular were very anxious, and I suspected that they sensed what we could not: that the end was upon Proxena.
"I wonder what they'll think in Calormen," whispered Susan, coming to stand beside me and the Centaurs.
"There are great astronomers and astrologers and scholars in the universities of Calormen, my queen," Minovin, the court recorder, answered. "They will feel the loss as keenly as we, though they may not understand it as well."
Minovin was already writing a history of the event, carefully reconstructing every word and moment of Dawn Treader's visit. I knew that many poets here at the Cair and scattered across Narnia and beyond were poised to see how Proxena's story would end, anxious to capture in words the tragic beauty of her passing.
Peter joined us by the low railing. The flowering vines were gone, killed by Dawn Treader's frost, and their absence gave us more room to sit and watch. He made room for Lucy as she wriggled in to settle down beside me. "I can't help but wonder -"
I never did find out what Peter was wondering at that moment, because just then a gasp rose up.
"Look!" cried Cheroom, pointing.
We hastened to stand, our eyes trained on the horizon.
A burst of light, as large as the sun, blinding white and gloriously beautiful, filled the sky. So bright was it that shadows were cast behind us. It burned on and on, painfully brilliant, drowning out the stars and casting the sky around it into an odd, indigo-blue color. For a minute or more we stood riveted, enraptured at an end at once so splendid and so sorrowful.
And then . . . it was gone. The darkness swept in and swallowed the light. We stared, blinking to clear our vision, slowly realizing that Proxena had passed from this realm. She had gone from life as she had entered it: with love and with a song of joy and praise.
I stepped back, bumping into Susan. I felt her hand seek mine and I held on tightly, pulling Lucy in closer at the same time. When I finally opened my eyes, I had tears on my cheeks. No one was dry-eyed, though I wasn't sure if our tears were as much from the nova as from heartache.
From behind me I felt a strong, warm presence as Peter rested his head atop mine and enveloped us in his embrace, holding us tight and secure. We were silent, remembering, grieving for a mother and father and for all the world.
Then a deep, low voice began to intone a humming, wordless lament. Oreius. The other Centaurs joined in, their voices blending as they poured forth their pain. I had heard this song before, at the end of battle. It was their means of honoring the dead, and now, as then, it brought immense comfort to me.
More songs rose up, some near, some far, from many throats and many species. Wolves let out their long, lonely howls, and the Dogs answered with a chorus of their own. I could hear the Apes and their kin shout out their pain to the night. The Dryads in their trees rustled their leaves as they bid farewell to the star. Far below in the ocean's stream, the Merfolk's eerie voices rose up in a haunting dirge that blended with the Centaurs' song. Somewhere in Cair Paravel, a harp was being played along with them. It continued even after all the voices fell silent. No one moved, no one spoke. We just stood and listened to a melody so achingly beautiful that it was almost painful to hear.
And so we grieved, and so we remembered.
"And all of Narnia, perhaps even all the world, mourned for Proxena, the moon's fair daughter . . ." My voice trailed away as I remembered the loss and sadness and beauty of that moment. From her seat Lucy leaned over and touched my arm, no less moved than I at the memory of that glorious end. Reepicheep sniffed and with a shuddering breath turned his face away, trying to collect himself and his emotions. The Dawn Treader's officers and sailors were still as they contemplated this tale. Not a one of us could bring ourselves to break the hush that fell. Even the breeze had slacked off as a sliver of silvery moon started to climb up the heavens. Luckily Eustace caused a distraction just then by looking very thoughtful. For a long span he was quiet, sitting braced against a coil of rope with his legs extended, plainly trying to recall something to mind. Finally he began in a hesitant voice:
Near or far - No, no wait, that's wrong. Hold on. I know this." He frowned, drew a deep breath and began again, speaking slowly as he picked the words of a poem from his memory.
by immortal power
near or far
To each other
secret . . . no, no, hiddenly linked are.
That thou canst not stir a flower
without troubling a star."
We stared in open astonishment to hear poetry from Eustace Clarence Scrubb. Suddenly self-conscious, he blushed at our gaping attention and said, "We had to memorize a poem for one of my classes. It was the shortest one in the book."
"Short it may be, but it is most profound and fitting," answered Caspian. He looked to me. "Have there been other such passings?"
"None that I know of," I replied. "I don't think so."
Reepicheep turned back to face us. "I apologize to Your Majesties for my outburst."
I smiled at him. "There is no shame in showing deep emotions, good Mouse. I have seen the greatest of knights and kings weep for joy or grief and on occasion I have joined them. Do not apologize."
The Mouse bowed and then looked to Eustace. "Would you repeat your song?"
Surprised and pleased, Eustace repeated the poem for the Mouse, this time without stumbling. Reepicheep stared at him, drinking in every word, his whole body taut with excitement. Closing his eyes, he drew a deep breath and then slowly released it.
"There is a mighty lesson here," declared Reepicheep, strong feeling still evident in his voice. He spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear. "No mountain is more important than a grain of sand, and the earth is as deep as the sky is vast. No thing in great Aslan's creation is so small as to be insignificant."
"Not even a Mouse," finished Caspian, fondly teasing his friend.
"Especially not the Mice," Lucy replied, reminding me that she had been present at the moment when Aslan had granted Reepicheep's race the gift of speech. The tiny knight bowed his thanks to my sister, taking her hand in his small paws to kiss it.
Eustace leaned his head back, gazing up at the starry sky. I slid over beside him. Taking advantage of his good mood, I brought him deeper into this my home. I pointed to the heavens. "That's the Spear Head, Narnia's version of the North Star. And to the right of him, do you see that small spray like a veil? That's a group of about twenty faint stars called the Little Sisters."
"What's that one, that brilliant one?" asked Eustace.
"The Cat's Eye. That's part of the constellation the Leopard."
He stared, absorbing the astronomy lesson, absorbing . . . Narnia. I knew exactly what he was feeling. I had been there myself once upon a time.
"Do you think they can hear us?" he wondered in hushed tones, gazing upwards at the stars.
"Yes," I said just as softly. "We're part of their song."