Strength of the Lion
Disclaimer: The Chronicles of Narnia, and all the characters and places therein are the creation of C. S. Lewis. I own only the plot.
Lucy knew it was her own fault. She looked at her watch yet again, for the fifth time in the last few minutes. It showed half past six, and her brothers expected her back at half seven. Even if she found the Underground station she was looking for soon, she would still be late.
Lucy had been visiting an old school friend she had not seen for some time. Although she had found her way there easily enough, she had taken a couple of unadvised shortcuts on her way back and soon found herself hopelessly lost in an unfamiliar part of East London with night fast approaching.
She looked around her despairingly. She was in a wide, deserted street, surrounded on both sides by grimy, dilapidated warehouses that looked as though they had not been used in years. They stretched away into the distance so you could barely see the end.
She did her best to think logically and work out where she was. The many turnings she had taken over the past half hour were confusing and finding her way in an unfamiliar place was never her strong point, but she was sure Shoreditch Station must be somewhere to her right.
It was then she noticed the alleyway between the two warehouses on the right. Short alleys that ended blindly separated most of the warehouses, but this one when she looked closer stretched away into the distance. Deciding she had nothing to lose Lucy entered the dark passageway hoping it would eventually lead somewhere.
It seemed quite hopeful at first. In the distance she could dimly make out an exit and increased her pace, eager to be closer to her goal. But a third of the way down the alley a shadowy figure appeared ahead of her and she heard the sound of heavy footsteps coming towards her.
The heaviness of the steps and the size of the figure made it plain this was a man, and a large man at that. Lucy Pevensie was the last person anyone would accuse of cowardice, but any young women finding herself alone with a strange man in such a place would have felt nervous. But her Narnian subjects had not called her the Valiant Queen without cause. Fighting down her nervousness, she walked on resolutely, trying to assure herself she had nothing to fear.
The man drew closer, showing no reaction to her presence and Lucy was just thinking everything would be fine when he suddenly stepped to the side, blocking her path.
"Excuse me, love," he addressed her, holding up an unlit cigarette. "You got a light?"
Lucy struggled to keep her voice steady as she replied.
"I'm sorry," she apologised. "I'm afraid I haven't."
She tried to move round him and continue on her way, but to her dismay he again stepped sideways to prevent her.
"Oh don't run away so quick, sweetheart" He grinned at her unpleasantly. "I don't often meet girls as pretty as you."
Lucy forced herself to breathe deeply, trying to remain calm. It was obvious this man did not mean her well and she tried to work out what she should do in this situation.
It would be pointless to run. Once in Narnia she had been swifter than a deer on the hills, but she doubted she could produce anything like that speed in England, even if the high heels she wore did not make running almost impossible.
She could fight. She had fought in many battles in Narnia, and not only as an archer. Lucy knew how to handle herself in combat. But she was unarmed and this man was large and powerfully built. To defend herself in these circumstances would not be easy, and even if she prevailed she was unlikely to escape injury herself.
"Don't talk much, do you," the man observed, tossing away his unlit cigarette. "Never mind, I like 'em quiet!" Even in the dim light of that alleyway it was impossible to mistake the lustful gleam in his eyes.
Sudden uncontrollable terror swept over Lucy, overwhelming every rational thought as this stranger's intentions towards her became horrifyingly clear.
"Aslan!" she thought desperately. "Please help me!"
She had been retreating unconsciously before the figure that menaced her, his gloating lustful face filling her vision to the exclusion of everything else. But as she made that silent plea it was as though she suddenly saw not his face, but another entirely, a royal, majestic face with wise, solemn eyes and a golden mane, warm and soft as sunlight. A faint scent, enticing as the fragrance of a thousand summer flowers seemed to sweeten the dank air of that alley, and Lucy thought she heard a Beloved Voice whisper softly in her ear.
"Once a Queen in Narnia, always a Queen. Bear it well, Daughter of Eve!"
Vivid memories sprang to life in her mind at those words; brilliant sunlight streaming in through high arched windows that looked out on skies a deeper and clearer blue than England had ever known; the Great Hall of Cair Paravel, filled with a throng of Talking Animals and other creatures, all quiet and expectant; she and her siblings kneeling in silence before the Four Thrones as they awaited the Blessing of the Lion, and then the moment of Anointing, Aslan's kiss upon her brow, His breath, warm and delicious, washing over her in benediction.
With that final memory, a great feeling of calmness suddenly descended on Lucy. All fear and uncertainty vanished as she looked up to meet the eyes of her would be assailant, no longer Lucy Pevensie of London, but again Queen Lucy the Valiant of Narnia, filled once more with the strength and valour of the Lion
As the man looked into Lucy's eyes his leering grin slowly faded, only to be replaced by a altogether different expression.
The frightened, vulnerable young girl he had been about to prey upon was gone. In her place stood a queenly commanding presence, radiating a stern and dreadful majesty that chilled him to the core. He was taller than Lucy, but under her gaze felt suddenly diminished, reduced to insignificance as though she looked down upon him from an immeasurable height.
As he stared transfixed into Lucy's dark commanding eyes, he began to tremble and sweat. His face became as pale as chalk. With a sudden cry he stumbled back, staggering against the wall, an arm flung over his face to ward off her gaze as though it was a physical blow.
"I didn't mean no offence, Miss!" His voice sounded high and unnatural, panic in every syllable.
"No offence has been taken," Lucy spoke quietly, but her words were distinct and clearly audible. Her voice seemed to echo strangely in that desolate place, as though carrying some underlying resonance, like the peal of distant bells, or the ring of steel clashing on some far off battlefield.
The man cringed at the sound. It was, unmistakably, the sound of Authority, the voice of one who is accustomed to command and to be obeyed without question.
"I seek one Shoreditch Underground Station," Lucy continued, lapsing unconsciously into the formal speech of the Narnian Court. "Of your courtesy be pleased to direct me."
He gaped in astonishment at the archaic language, but clearly understood what was demanded and had been too cowed to refuse.
"Turn right at the end of the alley." He pointed towards the exit, his arm trembling violently. "Then the second turning on the left, straight down, you can't miss it."
Lucy nodded graciously. "My thanks."
Ignoring the man who moments before had terrified her, Lucy walked confidently forward. Behind her, she heard the sound of running footsteps receding into the distance. They faded into nothingness and then she was quite alone, the alleyway silent except for the clicking of her heels on the rough cobblestones
A few moments later she was out of the alley and turning right into a narrow street of grimy looking houses. It was then that reaction set in, as the full realisation of what had nearly happened struck her.
She bent over, gripping her knees, as she took great rasping breaths, trying to quieten her wildly racing heart. Eventually the palpitations subsided and feeling exhausted Lucy straightened up, offering a silent prayer to the Lion.
"Thank you for being with me Aslan."
"I am always with you Dear Heart!"
Gasping at the sound of that familiar voice she looked around her wildly, eyes scanning the darkened streets and houses. But she saw no one, nothing moved, she was quite alone.
Except that in her heart, Lucy knew she was never truly alone.
With renewed confidence, Lucy set out again for her destination, her head held high, moving with the grace and dignity of a Queen as she walked through the dark and empty streets without fear.