DAUGHTER OF EVE
Return to Narnia
The underground had been dirty and cold, brought on by the forever-dust of sand bags and marching feet. The beach where they stood was its polar opposite, warm and fresh with a salty breeze to tang the clean air. No streets to bind the earth, no teeming walkers resolute in their common path. That this was something else - Magic.
It coursed through his veins, granting new life to Peter and his siblings. Such was the work of enchantments, digging deep beneath the surface to the heart still beating the wild tattoo of a noble king or queen. They stood in silence, feeling the wind and the air work its wonders on their youthful shells, drawing out what had long remained dormant during their year under shadow. Lucy laughed, breaking the spell of silence, and kicked off her cold, leather shoes. Edmund followed, and then Susan.
The trio splashed into the shallow, enjoying the ocean and the sun they had gone long without. Peter was quiet, watching with grave eyes. He eyed the coast, looking for something, anything familiar. The island to the east, barely visible on the hazy horizon, could be Galma if he put his mind to it. But then - no, this was not Narnia. This beach was too long to be that of Cair Paravel, running too deep towards the mainland. The mainland? This was no peninsula, as his palace had been, but an island. Certainly not Narnia. Aslan had sent them on a new adventure, to a new place and time.
"Peter!" Lucy laughed, beckoning him to come to them. "Come now, it's alright! A little cold but the sun more than makes up for it!"
He hesitated and craned his neck, eyeing the cliffs above. "I think I'll look around," he muttered, almost inaudible to his siblings. Susan and Edmund exchanged wary glances, their eyes meeting over Lucy's fading smile.
"He's gone to look for her," the eldest sister said. The island suddenly seemed very quiet.
"Well, he won't find anything," Edmund gestured to the ruins upon the cliff, perched and staring down on the beach. "I don't remember any ruins in Narnia and surely not any islands such as this."
Lucy kicked the water, her contenance troubled. "Well, I suppose if you think about it, Tasha came to Narnia around the same time we did, so it makes a bit of sense to think she might be pulled along with us here. Right?"
"You've got a bit of a point there, Lu," Edmund said, "but then she had a purpose. Aslan brought her for Peter, didn't he?"
Susan scoffed, "Oh, that's rich, fancying Aslan as some royal matchmaker. Well, in that case," she raised her head and yelled skyward, "I'd like someone tall, dark and handsome!"
"Don't joke!" Lucy scolded, tugging on her sister's arm.
"It can't hurt, can it?" Susan shrugged, turning back to the dry beach. "At the very least, I'll get Aslan's attention so he can arrive and point us in the proper direction. Lion knows Peter needs it."
"You shouldn't pick on him," Edmund said, his voice low and grave as if he were addressing a court or a king instead of his sister. "He's had a hard year."
Susan bristled, "We've all had a hard year," she spat and the shadow of a queen flashed across her features. "And I don't pick on him."
"You weren't at school with us. He's been in a dozen fights this year, all utterly stupid, all points of pride. Underneath, he's still High King but there's no room for that in this world."
"Our world, you mean," Susan muttered. Lucy wrinkled her nose.
Edmund shook his head. "And at night, he dreams about her." He fell silent, remembering the pale, hollow picture of his brother after a night of bitter, dreaming sleep.
Lucy sniffled, on the verge of tears. "I dream about Aslan and Narnia. Sometimes Mr. Tumnus. They all tell me the same thing."
She looked down, her now-long hair hiding her frown. "That everything will turn out all right. And that Aslan," she sighed, looking back up, "Aslan is always with us."
Susan began wringing her hands. "Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia. That's what he told me."
Lucy smiled through her tears and hugged her sister around the waist. "Oh, I do hope he's brought us back!"
Edmund bit his lip and turned to survey the landscape once more. "If this is Narnia, than it has changed but for the better or worse, I cannot say."
"Please be Narnia," Lucy whispered, "Please."
"Don't be Narnia," Peter said aloud. He stared at the ruins, an eerie sense of belonging assaulting his senses. No. This could not be. If this was Narnia it would kill him, it would destroy what little fire he had left in him. If this was Narnia, he would have some choice, profane words to throw at Aslan and the Heavens.
"Not Cair Paravel." This was not the palace, their palace, where that had been so much joy and peace. Now it seemed to hold only wild apple trees, broken rock and the occasional bird call. He felt his heart plummet at the familiarity in the carvings of the walls - a satyr here, the scrollwork at the base of a cracked column. Peter squinted and imagined a high ceiling, polished floors and dais with five thrones. He shook his head, ridding himself of the image. "No use, Pete. Don't get yourself worked up again," he muttered to himself. "You can't go back."
His feet led him and he passed through a broken arch into a courtyard. Apple trees reached over the crumbled walls, their fruit fallen and rotted in corners. The flagstones were cracked and overgrown with thick, ropey grass. There was no denying it now. Peter glared at the rusted fountain, succumbing to moss and the rot of the time. The bronze horse in its center reared, more menacing than he remembered. A wedding present, from Archenland.
His legs wobbled and he fell to his knees. He bowed his head and felt the years wash over him like a dark tide, pulling at his heart and mind. He hadn't the strength enough even to scream.
Her laughter was all around him, taunting the High King with its presence. He knotted his hands into the grasp, turning his anger upon the vegetation as he ripped it from the earth. He could smell her now, fresh as morning and more intoxicating than any perfume. In his belly, something growled, something that had lain dormant until only the depths of night had prodded it from slumber.
The laughter grew louder and he covered his ears, cursing the Lion and God and whatever else he could lay his mind on. But not her. No, she was an angel without blame or discord. He had tried not to think about what had happened, about what she had done when the horses returned, riderless. It was the deepest stab to an already wounded heart.
There wasn't much else he could do but stay there. The sun beat down but he had never felt so cold, even in the depths of the Witch's Winter, he had never been so frozen. This was a more terrible punishment than dreaming of her face and waking to find it gone, worlds and oceans away. This was Narnia, without Natasha. It was a cold and hollow place for him.
He didn't want the others to come up here. This was his cross to bear, his weight to carry. They would know this place as Narnia, but only he could understand that they could never, never go back. Time, it seemed, had taken that from them. Time had robbed the Pevensies of the country they once knew and loved.
"Get up, Pete," he moaned. "Get up."
Peter stood and found his legs, though shaky, would support him again. His fingers twitch - again, that Narnian air. He could feel the old knowledge of swords - and a woman - returning to his hands. He needed to do something, anything, to shake himself from his grieving stupor. There should be a door, the treasure chamber, somewhere hidden in the next room.
He left the courtyard without a backwords glance and ran his hand against the stone wall, feeling for the tell-tale sign of the hidden room. It was difficult, discerning crack from doorhold, but he needn't have tried. The false wall had slid away, perhaps pushed by a larger animal, and the rotten door behind eaten through. He was fooling himself. Surely the chamber was empty, having long been relieved of its many wonders.
But a flicker of light caught his eye. Torches. Deep below in the chamber that should have been dark. Thieves, his mind screamed and Peter the Magnificent did not hesitate before slipping quietly through the hole onto the steep, winding stairs.
He crept in quiet and as the light grew stronger, he could make out the steps more clearly. Things were better preserved here and there was the hiss of deep magic in the air. Some enchantment had kept this place for a time. At the base of the stairs, a torch had been set into a sconce on the wall, left to burn and cast flickering shadows on the larger room. There was a scratch or hiss somewhere and Peter whirled, snatching the torch, brandishing it as a warrior would a sword.
"Who's there?" he growled, every bit a king of old. This was not the shaky voice of a boy, but the resonant tones of a man.
The shadows made it difficult to discern statue from person and he waved it about, hoping to cast light into the darker corners. His gaze was fierce and penetrating and he thought he saw something move. Peter's warrior sense came too late and he shivered at the sensation of cold steel against the nape of his neck.
"Be careful, Thief," a voice said, "There is a magic here too great for the likes of you." Though the sound was resolute and stony, there was no mistaking the gender. A woman had a sword to the head of High King Peter. "Where did you come from?"
Peter's mind reeled. The voice - he couldn't place it. "Outside."
"No jokes," she growled through gritted teeth, "Or do you not favor your head?"
He could sense the smallest inflection of fear. She was alone. He needed to distract her, so he spoke again. "As much as the next king."
"King?" she scoffed, "I recognized none but the true High King Pe-!"
Peter dropped the torch and blocked the light with his body, casting her into semi-darkness. She fell back but not quickly enough as he grabbed her wrist and wrenched away the sword. The blade was familiar, the weight and grip perfect still. It was Rhindon, his kingly gift from Father Christmas all those years ago. There was a thump and she fell against the ground.
"You call me thief when it is you who bears the sword of another?" he yelled, and scrambled to snatch up the torch.
She made for the weapons set against the wall but turned at his words. "That is Rhindon, Blade of High King Peter, and if any but he would wield the sword, it would be me!" She was livid, roaring now, and he was surprised this dragon-woman did not breathe fire.
He grabbed at the torch and turned, sword in hand. She had her back turned and lunged for the nearest weapon, a gilded axe. "I'm sorry to disappoint, miss, but he has returned and would claim what is his own."
The girl whirled, straining to lift the heavy axe when his words processed in her mind. The pieces fit together - the shadow of a face, the familiar voice. She dropped her axe and stumbled back, jaw slack. He was shorter than she remembered but still tall, and magnificent as ever with the dying torch and sword in hand.
Her head spun and she nearly fainted. She slumped against the wall and murmured her response. "Then claim it."
Finally, his eyes fell on her face in the weak light. He dropped his sword, and the torch, plunging them both into darkness.
So I woke up this morning inspired beyond comprehension. This is the result. Easily my favorite chapter I've ever written. Really hope for feedback and would adore the return of the faithful from before. Sorry for the wait and I hope everyone enjoys this semi-sequel to Tale of a Forgetten Queen.
BTW, reviewers are my homeboys and girls, so be one of them.