Disclaimer: I do not own the Chronicles of Narnia.
A/N: Merry Christmas, everyone! I know sometimes Christmas time can get a little bit busy, but I hope you still have time to stop and listen for the jingle of bells and clatter of hooves of the roof. And maybe, if you have an extra moment, glance skyward to catch a glimpse of the blazing Christmas star. ;)
This fic takes place on the Christmas after the Pevensie children have returned to our world after the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Enjoy, and please leave a review if you have the time!!!
Twas the Night Before Christmas
It was cold that night. The wind whirled the snow around the dark house like a blizzard, though little snow actually lay on the ground. It was late; perhaps past ten.
A small figure holding a candle walked slowly, almost noiselessly through one of the silent corridors inside the house. Her tread was padded by soft pink slippers, and the light her candle cast was so miniscule that it was certain to draw less attention than an electric torch. Besides, candles were so much more magical than electric torches. That's why she had chosen one.
And she was right too, mostly. The candle was easier to handle than a bulky electric torch. She was certain that its flame wouldn't penetrate the darkness of her older sibling's rooms. She was right, too, except that one of them was still awake and watching for her flame.
"What are you doing, Lu?"
Lucy Pevensie froze in the dark hallway, her heart skipping a beat as she heard a voice from behind her. Quickly, she whirled around, holding up her candle to see the face of the intruder.
Her brother squinted at the sudden light, taking a half step back as he held up a hand to shield his eyes from the candle flame.
"What are you doing?" he repeated sleepily, yawning and running a hand through his thick hair.
Lucy hesitated, unsure of what to do, and then relented with a sigh.
"Do you promise you won't say a word about it to the others?"
Edmund nodded. Their adventure in Narnia had completely cured him of his old ways; tale-bearing and lying were now behind him, as was his craving for Turkish Delight. Lucy leaned toward him with a mysterious smile, whispering:
"I'm going to stay up and wait for Father Christmas."
Edmund barely suppressed the urge to laugh out loud, but he could not hide the smile that crossed his face. Lucy noticed it and jerked back with a hurt expression.
"I wasn't being funny."
His grin disappeared instantly. He hadn't meant to hurt her feelings; it just seemed such a funny thing to do. Staying up to wait for Father Christmas was a thing they hadn't done in ages.
"And why are you going to wait for Father Christmas?" he asked, somehow managing to sound serious.
Lucy's hurt expression almost disappeared as a hungry, almost desperate look entered in her eyes.
"Because he's been to Narnia. Perhaps he can tell us what's happening. And anyway—" she stopped abruptly, looking out the window at the swirling snow, "—I need to talk to him."
She stared outside for a moment, and then gazed curiously at him as a question formed in her mind.
"What are you doing up?"
Edmund shuddered involuntarily and glanced at the window, out at the rapidly falling snow. Lucy needed no verbal reply to know what the problem was. Her brother spoke up anyway.
"Couldn't sleep," he replied in a hollow, voice that sounded like it came from far away. "It's so cold."
Any ice that might have remained in Lucy's heart melted at the haunted look in her brother's eyes. She wrapped her arms around him and gave him an affectionate, comforting squeeze.
"Don't worry, Edmund. She can't hurt you anymore."
Edmund returned her embrace, giving her a grateful smile.
"I know. But I can't help but remember…" He broke off suddenly, and gave her a look. "Tell you what: I'll stay up and wait with you. I wouldn't mind talking with Father Christmas myself."
Lucy's face lit up like the candle she held. Her excitement was so great that it seemed to radiate a warm glow that enveloped Edmund and calmed his raw nerves.
She grabbed his arm and dragged him into the front room where the evergreen tree stood, little glass balls hanging from its piney boughs. She set her candle down on the mantle and watched it flicker for a moment before she sank to her knees beside the tree, leaning against the sofa. Edmund settled down next to her, staring at his sister until a fond smile relaxed his tight lips.
Lucy's golden hair seemed to glow in the candlelight. Her mop of curls was disorderly and wild, but it somehow made her look more Narnian than ever. Her face was like smooth ivory, except for her cheeks, which were round and tinged pink. Her big blue eyes peered out from behind long, dark lashes, filled with a sense of wonder that Edmund could never quite understand.
She glanced over at the table by the sofa and picked up a piece from the nativity set. She fingered it thoughtfully. Edmund saw that it was the baby—Jesus—that she had found.
"Ed, what do you suppose the first Christmas was like?"
Edmund met the bright blue gaze for a moment, but then looked away as he considered her question.
"I bet it was a night a lot like this," he replied, shivering slightly, though he wasn't as cold as he had been. "Dark, c-cold, and silent."
"D'you think it was snowing?"
"If it snows in Bethlehem."
Lucy wrinkled her nose at him, and then closed her eyes.
"I wonder what it would've been like to be there. Can you picture it, Edmund?"
Edmund closed his eyes and imagined as best he could. To his surprise, something happened.
Edmund saw a dark town in a dark land. The only light was from the stars. One in particular was bright—very bright. Too bright to be any ordinary star. To his right, up a gradual slope, was a small group of buildings.
He looked to his left and saw Lucy, looking ridiculous and out of place in her pink robe and slippers. She was looking past him, up toward the buildings. She glanced at him, smiled eagerly, and then turned and ran up the hill. Edmund followed her.
Slowly, they wound their way through the town. The night was odd and dreamlike; fitting, Edmund thought, for what was sure to be a dream. Lucy led him through the town, winding her way through the dirt streets like a dryad. Edmund glanced up at the sky and found himself shaking his head in amazement as he again caught sight of the brilliant star.
Suddenly, there came a cry in the night. It was quiet at first, a soft whining sob, and then wails, loud and piercing in the silence. Edmund and Lucy both gasped audibly, and exchanged a look. Lucy mouthed the word 'baby'.
Following the sound of the cries, the two Pevensies made their way to a small dark shape. It was hardly recognizable as a building; indeed, it was more of a cave with a few planks out front than a stable, but Lucy ran forward at once, almost dancing with excitement. She froze in the doorway, standing as still as stone as she stared into the stable. Edmund followed a bit more slowly. What would he see when he reached the entrance?
When he finally stood beside Lucy, he too halted and stared.
Near the back wall of the stable lay a woman on a pile of hay. When he glanced at her a second time, Edmund realized with astonishment how young she looked. She could only have been a few years older than Peter! Her face was wan and thin, and streaked with grime and sweat. Her clothes were torn and bedraggled.
A young man stood nearby, only a few years older than her. He also looked tired and ragged. There were two other women in the stable, one young and babbling excitedly in a language neither Pevensie recognized, and the other old, wrapping a bundle that seemed to be the source of the crying.
The woman laid the baby in a rough manger which was really nothing more than a few pieces of rough wood thrown hastily together and strewn with hay for the animals to eat. The man turned toward them, and his piercing eyes seemed to look right at them. Lucy gasped and stumbled back, but Edmund grabbed her arm.
"I don't think he can see us," he told her, glancing down at their robes again.
Lucy's eyes widened, and she nodded and stepped into the stable.
As they approached the manger, Edmund wrinkled his nose as the putrid smell of animal waste filled his nostrils. It was damp and moldy in the stable. The hay the young woman was lying in was old and rotten. Lucy approached the manger reverently, eyes wide and shining. As he looked at her again, Edmund realized his sister's eyes were shining with tears.
"He's so tiny," she murmured, reaching down and stroking the baby's face gently. "Can you believe that He…He…"
Edmund swallowed the lump that was forming in his own throat and shook his head, staring down at the baby as a strange feeling rose inside him.
"He's so innocent," Lucy continued, sniffling once and carefully touching his nose, his soft hair. "So small. It's hard to believe that He's going to die someday…to save everyone."
Suddenly, the baby's eyes opened. Edmund gasped and drew back in shock. Lucy grabbed his hand and gave him a concerned look.
Edmund moved to the side of the manger again and stared down at the child, who met his gaze evenly. The large, solemn eyes never blinked.
"His eyes…they're…they're His eyes."
Lucy's eyes widened, but then she nodded, gazing on the babe with a gentle smile.
"Of course! Imagine…He died for us in both worlds…can He love us that much?"
Edmund's own eyes filled with tears as he stared down into the deep golden eyes of the baby. Even here, even now, they were filled with a quiet knowing, a calm understanding, and something else that Edmund recognized from the Great Lion Aslan's eyes: Love.
"Eddy, open your eyes."
Edmund squeezed them tightly shut, not wanting to let go of that feeling, that warmth. But even now, as the picture in his mind of the babe and the stable faded into darkness, a deep golden voice filled his ears like music:
"Winter will pass. Remember me and hope for spring."
Reluctantly, Edmund opened his eyes. Lucy was clutching his arm tightly, staring at him with concern in her eyes.
"Are you all right?"
Edmund nodded. He glanced out the window, and was surprised to find that the cold feeling in the pit of his stomach did not return. He looked down at Lucy, and she smiled at him.
"That was amazing."
Her brother nodded again. Strangely, there didn't seem to be anything more to be said. Lucy smiled again, and then snuggled up against him, laying her head on his shoulder. In a few moments, she was asleep, breathing in and out steadily.
Five minutes later, Edmund closed his eyes.
Darkness. The wind blew snow across the rooftop and past the windows, making a soft wailing noise. A heavy breeze whispered through the patch of woods, causing the trees to appear as if they were moving. A faint shape appeared in the snowy sky.
The shape approached the roof of the house, and then made contact. The sound of hooves could be heard, as well as a soft jingle of bells. A figure leapt out of the dark shape and stepped carefully to the chimney of the house.
The house was completely dark except for one light—a small candle flame that cast a gentle, flickering glow over two sleeping children. A shadow fell across them. A hand—rough in form, yet gentle in manner—caressed one of the girl's golden curls with its fingertips and rumpled the boy's dark hair tenderly.
"Ah," murmured the figure in a soft, low voice, "Poor little things, so far from home."
The figure gazed fondly at the two for another moment, and then began placing things around the evergreen by the light of the candle. It only took a few minutes to set everything out, and when he was done, the man turned back to the children.
First, he straightened the boy's collar and brushed a lock of dark hair out of his eyes. Then, he pulled the girl's robe down over her feet and touched her golden locks once more.
"You still believed, little one," he whispered, picturing the bright blue eyes he had grown to love, and half hoping she would awake so he could see them again. "And your brother believed with you. You have faith enough for all of them, don't you?"
The man sighed and kissed the girl gently on the top of her head, tucking a slip of paper into her robe pocket at the same time.
"May the Lion be with you both, your Majesties," Father Christmas whispered, bowing and blowing out the candle as he left the little house.
Moments later, the sound of hoof-beats could be heard on the roof, and the faintest jingling of bells echoed eerily through the snowy night.
"Merry Christmas to all…long live the True King!"
Just before dawn, the girl stirred. Everything else in the house was still and silent. Snow was falling softly outside, and the sky was gray as it waited for the sun to rise. The girl's golden head was resting on the dark haired boy's shoulder. The boy was deep in sleep, breathing steadily in and out.
Finally, the girl squeezed her eyes tightly shut for a moment, and then sighed. Her eyes fluttered open, and she gazed around sleepily, perhaps wondering where she was. Then she saw the presents under the tree and drew in her breath quickly.
She turned to the boy and punched his arm. It was the only way to wake him, she knew. The boy stirred, yawned, and then stretched, opening his eyes.
"Hullo…is it morning?"
"We missed him," the girl told him, her blue eyes filling with tears. "He came and went while we were sleeping."
The boy stared at her for a full five seconds, and then wrapped her in a warm embrace. They stayed like that for a moment or so, her head on his shoulder. The boy rubbed her back soothingly, and murmured, "There, there, Lu. It'll be all right. We'll stay up and see him next year."
The girl sniffed once and held her brother tightly.
"But I wanted to see him so much. Just one word from him would've been enough to bring back all those wonderful memories…"
She pulled back, and their eyes met.
"We can still remember, Lu," the older brother told her. "Nothing can stop us from remembering. We'll make some new memories this year, and the year after that, and so on. Life goes on, even though we've left the past behind."
He straightened and stared out the window at the falling snow.
"We'll see him again someday. I'm sure of it. But until then, let's just be grateful with what we have. Aslan knows what he's doing. We saw that last night."
The girl nodded, and then fingered the little baby from the nativity set gently. She had fallen asleep holding onto it, and now she smiled.
"Yes, we did. That's one thing about this Christmas I'll never forget."
She pulled her knees up to her chest, but then stopped as a strange look crossed her brother's face. He seemed to be listening for something.
"What is it, Ed?"
He glanced down at her robe, and shook his head.
"It sounded like paper crunching when you moved. Is there something in your pocket?"
The girl's eyes widened, and slowly, she reached into her robe pocket. As she drew out a packet made of ancient parchment, she gasped and exchanged an excited look with the boy.
"Oh! He didn't forget! He didn't!"
She tore open the seal, noticing with pounding heart that the letter was sealed with red wax, stamped in the shape of a lion: the royal seal that she had seen every time she sealed a message in the land she had ruled with her brothers and sister.
As the girl scanned the letter, written in an elegant, old fashioned script, she began to smile.
"Ed…he says he's sorry I wasn't able to see him in our world…said that nobody ever has seen him in our world except a few grownups, and they always dismiss it as their imagination. But he said…" she paused, "said to remember, even in our sorrow, that Aslan is here, with us in this world, and that Christmas especially should be a time to remember that."
Her brother nodded, glancing at the figurine of the Christ child in her hands, and then at the nativity set on the table.
"He's with us in both worlds," he murmured. "Now there's a thing I'm awfully glad for."
The girl folded the letter and returned it to her robe pocket. And then she smiled, a bright, happy, joyful smile that seemed to radiate warmth and bliss. She leaned forward and embraced her brother.
"Merry Christmas, Edmund."
He smiled and held her close.
"Merry Christmas, Lu."
Merry Christmas, everyone! Long Live the True King!