What? Am I actually updating within weeks instead of months? THIS IS CRAZY!


DAUGHTER OF EVE

Return to Narnia

XI


Night slowly gave over to dawn. The sky, steadily fading from black to blue, was the only indication that time itself had not stopped at this, their darkest hour. In her heart, Natasha sorely wished it would. She would not be forced to look at those they had so cruelly robbed of their loved ones. They could just go on marching in silence forever, never facing the dawn and their own dispair. But the sun would rise - and Miraz would come.

The army, the humans, even the birds were quiet, sensing the pain and despair that followed the broken host back to their camp at the How. Natasha forced her mouth open once or twice but could not speak. She had no words of comfort for Peter, or even herself. They had underestimated the Telmarines, plain and simple.

It cost her dearly before and would do so again.


Strong hands lifted her and carried her away, even as she screamed, even as the whole world seemed to collapse in fire and snowy ash. The sky darkened with smoke, blotting out the sun, throwing the battlefield into an eerie midday dusk.

Somewhere, a Narnian horn sounded the retreat, though she'd given no order.

Her arms curled around herself as a new darkness took hold, pulling her down into numbing sleep. Before she succumbed, she caught sight of her hands wrapped around her belly.

They were red and slick with blood.


The How arched out of the earth, slick with dew in the watery blue light of dawn. Under normal circumstances, the sight would be a great relief to her feet, sore from walking such a distance. Instead, she trembled, wanting very much to turn and disappear into the woods. But she would not.

Following Peter, her hair wild, face streaked with dirt, blood and a few stolen tears, she looked like some war demon, like Enyo following Ares into Hell itself.

His jaw worked furiously as he bit back a thousand evil words. His pace was fierce and constant, always a few feet ahead of the others. Natasha knew he couldn't bear to look at them, not after what he'd done, what they had done. She wanted so badly to take his hand, to whisper words of encouragement or sympathy, but knew it would do no good. He needed time to heal, as everyone did.

The rest of the Narnians filed out of the How, eager to meet them. A red dress stood out against the green hill, watching them return with wide, worried eyes - Lucy.

Peter forced himself to meet her gaze, hand on his sword. He knew the question was coming, but didn't have to like it.

"What happened?" Lucy asked, voice quavering.

Peter didn't stop, nodding to Caspian. "Ask him."

It took all of a half-second for Susan, walking behind Natasha, to jump in. "Peter!" she warned, eyes darting between her brother and the prince.

"Me?" Caspian balked, slowing to a halt. Peter mirrored him, face etched in disgust. "You could have called it off, there was still time!"

Fearing the worst, Natasha took Peter's arm, careful to keep a firm grip should his temper get the best of him. "Peter, it won't do any good-."

"No there wasn't, thanks to you," Peter spat, ignoring her. "If you'd kept to the plan," his voice thickened, "those soldiers might still be alive right now."

He turned, shrugging Natasha off, wanting nothing more than the quiet, solitary dark of the How, but Caspian followed, his voice and anger rising.

"And if you'd just stayed here like I suggested, they definitely would be!" he snapped.

Natasha looked between the two, not fully understanding. Caspian flubbed the plan? Peter should have called off the raid?

"You called us, remember?" Peter taunted, gesturing to himself and Natasha.

"My first mistake," Caspian growled back, nearly baring teeth.

"No," Peter scoffed, turning back to the How again. "Your first mistake was thinking you could lead these people."

Natasha took his arm again, eager to get him away from the powder keg and Peter allowed her to half-lead him away. He fumed all the while, breathing heavily, but accepted her arm. Fighting like this would get them nowhere.

"HEY!" Caspian yelled, all propriety forgotten. "I am not the one who abandoned Narnia."

She felt Peter twitch with anger, stopping short. His reason evaporated and he turned, eyes alight with violent fire.

"Caspian, you don't know what you're talking about-," Natasha heard herself say, but Peter stepped in front of her.

"No," he growled, stalking back towards Caspian. "You invaded Narnia." He stopped inches from Caspian's face, seething and yelling, "You have NO MORE RIGHT to lead them than Miraz does."

Caspian winced and pulled away, pushing past Peter, trying to reach the How.

But Peter wasn't finished. "You, him - your father!"

Caspian froze and a deathly quiet fell.

"That's enough-," Natasha hissed but to no avail.

"Narnia's better off without the lot of you!"

"Peter!" She moved in front of him, grabbing his shoulders.

"Murderers and usurpers, that's all you're good for!"

Caspian shook with anger. A blackness filled his eyes.

"Blood and lies-!"

The ring of steel drowned out the High King. He reacted with speed, pushing Natasha out of the way as he drew his own sword, crossing blades with Caspian.

They stared each other down, both ready to pass the point of no return as the Narnians and Pevensies looked on in anguish. Natasha, cast to the side, forced herself to step forward, laying a hand on each sword. Blood still stained them both.

"Both of you," she growled, her voice deepening into something regal and terrible. "That is enough."

Caspian kept his eyes on Peter, his sword still raised. "This does not concern you, Iron Queen."

"Natasha, stand back," Peter muttered, holding Caspian's gaze. "I can handle this."

She did move away, but only to circle the pair, as a hawk would its prey. She turned on Caspian first.

"You call yourself a prince?" she murmured, quiet and deadly as she walked around him. Caspian shivered and she knew all the stories about her ran through his mind. "You wouldn't last one day on the throne."

Peter smirked to himself, happy to see Natasha on his side.

"And you!" she rounded on him. His smirk quickly faded. "You call yourself a king? Well act like it!" She looked between them both now. "You're nothing but children bickering over a chess set!

Both cowed, they lowered their swords a few inches, enough for Natasha to stamp down on them. The swords fell, clanging together in the grass. Peter reached for his instinctively but she kicked it away, glaring at him and Caspian both.

"I'm not finished!" she snapped. "These are real people, not pawns for you to fight over!" Her eyes slid back to the bedraggled army, softening slightly. "You want to rule them?" She shook her head, disgusted. "You can't even rule yourselves. I'm ashamed of you both."

"What you should be ashamed of is what you did to Telmar, the thousands you killed in the famine!" Caspian shot back, standing so that he towered over her.

But she did not quail, drawing her dagger instead. "Would you like to see history repeat herself?" Caspian couldn't help but draw back, gulping. "I didn't think so."

"Always one for dramatics, aren't you Tasha?" Peter said, a sneer worming into his voice. He still glared at Caspian, who looked more embarrassed than angry now.

Natasha only frowned at Peter. "Grow up."

"After you."

He made to walk away, pausing only to pick up his sword, when Natasha spoke again.

"You stop right there, High King," she said, her voice clear and stern. "You've a duty to do."

Though he very much wanted to disobey her, if only for his pride, he forced himself to stop and turn, agreeing with a single, begrudging nod.

Her eyes fell on Caspian as she put away her dagger. "You as well."


While Lucy and Susan attended to the wounded, Natasha led Peter and Caspian towards the How but steered away from the yawning entrance. They followed her to the collection of Narnians they left behind, Peter looking sullen and Caspian bewildered. He didn't understand what they were doing.

But Peter remembered very well and as Natasha met the first, a grayed Satyr who gave two sons to the cause, he immediately became grave and solemn, a picture of respect.

"We are honored by your sons, Ragan and Ganar, my friend," Natasha said, kissing the Satyr on both cheeks. She held his hands tightly, almost reverently. "They fought bravely for Narnia's freedom." Caspian could see by the set of her jaw, the brightness of her eyes, that she believed every word.

The Satyr nodded, squeezing her hands. "Thank you, High Queen." He looked at her, noticing the dents in her armor and many cuts on her skin. "It seems you did as well."

She brushed it off. "We will prevail, Gargan. We will be free. Your sons have done that."

Caspian watched in awe as Peter followed suit, clasping arms with Gargan and other Satyrs, Centaurs, Dwarves and even a Minotauress. Natasha remained at his side, comforting the mothers over their lost children. She seemed good at that.

They remembered every name, every death; each one was another weight on an already heavy heart. For all their temper and stubborn ways, they were truly High King and High Queen.

"I'm truly sorry," Caspian found himself murmuring to Natasha. She watched Peter thank an old Panther, kneeling to speak with him face to face.

"I'm sorry I pulled a dagger on you," she replied, catching him off guard. "I wasn't going to use it, of course, but sorry anyways."

He looked down on her, watching her watch Peter. Even in battle dress, looking like she'd been through hell and back, she was fiercely beautiful. But all her ferocity melted away as she saw the Panther try to hide his tears. Peter embraced him without question, whispering words of comfort to his subject.

"So I assume that the reason the plan went awry-," Caspian winced as she spoke, "was because you were rescuing him?" She gestured back to Dr. Cornelius, attending to the wounded with Lucy.

Caspian barely nodded, ashamed.

"We would have all done the same," she said. He recognizes the soothing tone in her voice - it was what she used on the grieving parents.

"Are you saying you have something in common with a Telmarine?"

A shadow of a smile crossed her face. "Don't push it."

They lapsed into a strangely easy silence, both watching Peter again. "He's a wonderful king, despite the temper," Caspian said ruefully.

Her smile truly did come. "You'd be surprised."

"What do you mean?"

She turned to look at Caspian, eyes twinkling. "The first year of his reign he lost four battles, offended dignitaries from three different countries, and almost started a war with Calormen because of a slight misunderstanding." Her mouth twitched, wanting to smirk. "I might have had something to do with the last one."

Caspian looked stunned. The thought that Peter had failed so much and so often was a strange comfort. "But things were-."

"Things were different, yes." Her smile faded away. She looked back to Peter, who looked about done with the Panther. "Your turn, I think."

And before he knew what was happening, Natasha gave Caspian a tiny shove towards a Centaur wife.

He stumbled a bit but quickly found his footing, taking her hands and speaking calmly.

"He may do all right," Peter grumbled, falling in next to Natasha. "Even if he is a mouthy prat."

"Behave. I'm still angry with you."

"At least I didn't try to knife him."

"I didn't knife anyone," she muttered, careful to keep her voice down. "Not in the last few hours."

Mention of the battle sobered Peter. "Yeah, I've been meaning to say well done with, you know, that. Especially getting those Horses out of there." He looked at his feet. "Seems like you were the only one to pull anything good out of that mess."

"Don't say that."

"It's true. We lost some of our best-."

"We proved that we are capable of infiltrating their castle, killing Miraz and fighting them to the last." She crossed her arms, forcing every last ounce of resolve into her voice. "Narnia is not dead, Peter, so long as we believe in her."

Awkward silence fell between them, something unfamiliar to both. They watched quietly as Caspian comforted the Centaur.

They were looking on the future and they both knew it.


Flickering, weak firelight brought her back, slowly pulling her through dark and murky water. She came to in her tent, still delirious with pain and fever. Strange, there was no one there, not even a physician to tend her many wounds.

Wounds.

She sat up with a start, forgetting herself, and howled in pain. Her back arched against heavy bandages and she fell back, seeing hot stars.

"No," she whispered, pleading with no one. "No, please."

Seemingly on her own accord, her hands trailed their way across the bandages, working through them to the torn skin beneath. Her fingers grazed a long, stitched wound that worked its way across her abdomen.

"I am sorry, Daughter, for everything that has and will cause you pain." Aslan's words echoed in her mind as his golden face swam before her eyes, more terrible than she'd ever seen it.

Her eyes rolled back as wave after wave of painful realization hit her, forcing her back into darkness where there was no Aslan to taunt her. No Telmarines to cut her down. No country, no crown, no being.

He knew this was coming.

He took Peter.

He took her son.

He took her hope.


And closer and closer we get to the end! Sorry for all the movie dialogue at the beginning, I just couldn't find it in my heart to change most of it.

Speaking of hearts - see Toy Story 3. It's wonderful/ripped my heart out.

Review!