Disclaimer: Narnia and all inhabitants are the property of the CS Lewis estate. No disrespect is intended by their use.
Author's Note: Well, here we have the long-promised and occasionally-hinted at story that's been stewing for quite some time. I'm actually rather excited about this, though we'll probably proceed, at least at the beginning, at a slower pace than I usually do. The rating is for future chapters which, in accordance with the story, may be a bit unpleasant. But that's still in the future, so for now I encourage you to enjoy!
I also want to take this chance to extend thanks to Tonzura123 who, besides being a wonderful author, has graciously agreed to beta this and make it fit for consumption. Many thanks!
Upon the Sundering Sea
Prologue: Lost at Sea
Lucy backed away until she felt the heavily carved railing pushing into her back, supporting her and caging her at the same time. She looked over her shoulder at the brilliant blue water, considering. It wasn't such a long way to fall and the Mer-people had taught her well…
The water lapped gently against the ship, inviting her in. Such an easy jump. But of course it wouldn't work; they'd either send someone in after her or simply wait until the swimming exhausted her before fishing her out.
With a sigh of resignation, she turned her back to the sea once more and dropped her dagger. The sound of the tempered steel striking the deck made her cringe- it was galling to give in, but she knew she had no other options. Before her, the man- pirate, she thought with distaste- chuckled.
"That's a good lass. Now, kick it here."
At her side, Beryn, teeth bared and eyes wild, tensed himself to leap at their captors. As her personal guard, she knew he felt honor-bound to do anything and everything to protect her. But attacking those who held her ship would do nothing but incense the pirates and get Beryn killed. She placed one hand on his muscular shoulder, restraining him despite the fact that he was easily three times her size. "Beryn, please."
The pirate laughed, seemingly delighted at the sight of a little girl telling a great predator what to do. "That's right, Puss. You listen to the lass. And you, lassie, do as I say!"
Lucy shot him a look of pure hatred before kicking her own dagger to him, taking care as she did so not to cut her bare foot on its razor edge. The blade slid across the polished deck, coming to a halt only a short ways from the man's weathered boots. He bent to retrieve it and turned it wonderingly in his hands.
"That's mighty fine craftsmanship for a lass to be carrying, even a lass that's a queen. It'll fetch a good price, at any rate." So saying, he stuck the blade into his belt and beckoned to her. "Now, you can either come along nicely and tell Puss to do the same, or I can drag you to the Thanatos and leave what's left of your kitten here." He gave them both a crooked smile and Lucy bet herself that he would like nothing better than to have an excuse to kill Beryn where he stood and drag her, protesting, to his ship.
A snarl rose in Beryn's throat.
"Wait," she whispered, crouching near his head to whisper into his ear. "Wait, Beryn. Keep yourself alive, and the others, and I promise that when the time comes, you can have him. "
The Cougar stiffened and turned his head ever so slightly to stare at her. Lucy knew she'd startled him; in the four years since she'd become queen, the four years during which he'd guarded her faithfully, she'd never spoken in such hatred. She'd startled herself, but she couldn't regret it. These pirates had taken her ship without warning or cause, killing those they couldn't subdue. She was angry, and her anger was stabilizing her. "Promise me," she whispered harshly into his ear. "Promise me you'll keep the others from doing anything foolish."
She felt rather foolish herself, asking Beryn, who was known to have a wicked temper when it came to those threatening his queen, to keep his head. But he was the only one she had. He must have realized this, for he inclined his head in a Cat's bow.
With a curt nod, she rose and turned to her captor, who leered at her.
"Fine choice, lassie. Ho! Demis!" Another man, younger and thinner than the one guarding Lucy, came scurrying down from the forecastle. He halted in front of Lassie, as Lucy had mentally christened her captor, and made a mocking salute. "Demis," Lassie said, his ego swelling visibly with each word, "you're to take this Puss," he jerked his head towards Beryn, "to the stern with the others. If he so much as purrs, gut him."
"And what'll you be doin' while I'm riskin' life and limb with this lion?"
Beryn snarled softly at the word 'lion', but quieted at a look from Lucy.
"I'll be escorting the queen here to Captain's quarters. Unless, of course, you'd like to question that?" Lassie said it softly, but from the way Demis hunched at his tone Lucy could guess that the thought of questioning the orders of their Captain was too much for both men. It was something to keep in mind.
"Right then. With me, Highness."
Lucy let him lead her away, but shot a look that was half warning, half pleading back at Beryn. If he could only keep everyone from doing something foolish until word got to Cair Paravel… It was really all she hoped for.
They traversed the deck of the Euthymia and Lucy could not keep thoughts from returning to the fact that all of this was so wrong, so very wrong. The sky and the sea were still as perfectly blue as they had been when the day began, the sun shone brightly, and the wind was still a gentle breeze that teased Lucy and tossed her hair about her face, yet nothing was the same. The friendly jokes and cheerful singing of the Euthymia's crew had ceased only to be replaced by the sound of rough banter and the occasional cry of pain or rage. It had not been a bloodless takeover, she was sure, though she did not know how many crew and passengers were dead. Really, it didn't bear thinking about; pirates in the Eastern Sea had never been known for their courtesy and the Euthymia's crew was anything but peaceful. Most of them had fought in the wars against Jadis and she feared that many would die before being the captives of anyone.
Narnian prisoners were grouped from stern to bow and she scanned every face, searching for those who were missing. The Captain, the cook, the Faun who'd told such funny jokes… Every face that was missing made her stomach clench a little tighter and her eyes a little colder. It didn't help that every group she passed by hailed her, calling out her name like an oath. The unspoken question hung in the air and only increased with every voice that did not ask it. As much as she agreed that there should be an uprising- and as quickly as possible- years of diplomatic training and a lifetime spent with Peter and Edmund told her that no uprising, no matter how quick or well organized, could succeed at this point. For now, the pirates were on their guard, ready and waiting for someone to try something stupid. She doubted they would need much of an excuse to slaughter the crew wholesale.
Knowing all of this, she shook her head to every questioning look and prayed that Aslan would give her the strength to get them all through this. They are my people, she repeated to herself over and over again as Lassie led her across the deck, and I am their queen. They are my people…
Lassie's grin had nearly split his face by the time he got her to the gangplank that served as a perilous passage from the Euthymia to the Thanatos. She supposed he would get some sort of reward for finding her, as she was a queen, but she really couldn't see why he should be so pleased. It wasn't as though she'd been hard to find. The Euthymia, after all, wasn't that large, and there had been no question of evading capture.
"Here, little Highness; this is your royal road. It's not as fancy as your palace, but it'll-"
"Parn? Are you irritating her Majesty?"
Lucy had never seen the blood drain from a man's face so quickly; it was quite a surprising sight. She looked with curiosity from her guard to the source of the voice, wondering what, or rather who, could have caused such a reaction.
There on the gangplank, wearing what she might have called an amused expression were it not for the flat quality of the eyes, was a man whom she took to be captain of the Thanatos. The darkness of his skin and his black hair identified him as one of Calormene descent, though that meant very little; many pirates were Calormene. He wasn't a large man, nor a particularly fierce-looking person, but the first impression Lucy had of him was power. It hung around him like perfume, cloaking every movement and swathing every word with a layer of raw, calculated command. Lassie, or Parn, as she supposed she should call him now, cringed under the man's cold stare.
"N-no, sir. Simply taking her to Captain's quarters, as ordered. Sir."
"Are you indeed?"
"Yes sir, sir." The rough hand clutching her arm trembled almost imperceptibly.
"Very well then. Follow your Captain's orders."
He stepped smartly across onto the deck of the Euthymia to let Lucy and Lassie, no, she reminded herself, Parn, pass. Parn heaved a quiet sigh of relief as he stepped onto the unwieldy gangplank, but froze when the soft voice said, "Parn?"
"Is that her Majesty's knife in your belt?"
Parn, who was apparently more frightened of the captain than he was greedy, reluctantly pulled the dagger from his belt and handed it over, hilt first.
"Fine craftsmanship," the captain murmured, turning it over in his hands. They were beautiful- his hands. Lucy took special notice of them; they weren't sailor's hands, though she could see the calluses that marked him as a swordsman. In fact, if she had been asked to guess, she would have called them nobleman's hands. "It is a pity." Then, to Lucy's curiosity and Parn's apparent dismay, he turned and hurled the knife out into the sea.
"My orders," he said in answer to the pained look on Parn's face. "No trinkets."
Lucy watched her blade as it spun through the air, a curiously detached feeling setting in. She wondered, nonsensically, if it would sink to the very bottom of the sea or be swallowed up by a fish, as happened in the fairy tales. It would be a pity for a fish to swallow it, yet she couldn't stand the thought of Father Christmas's gift rusting away in the dark depths.
The captain raised his brows and Parn tugged her forward, more forcefully that he needed to. Lucy resisted for a moment, still watching the knife. A moment later, her eyes widened and she bit back a cry of surprise, freezing where she stood. Parn, finally losing his patience, snapped, "Move, Highness!" and jerked her the rest of the way across the menacingly shaking gangplank onto the deck of the Thanatos.
The ship was slightly larger than the Euthymia, though even to Lucy's untrained eye it was obvious that she was slower. It wasn't just luck, then, that her ship had been captured. She hadn't suspected it had been but now she was certain; there was no way a ship with lines like this could have ever caught the swift Euthymia on a perfect day like today. The Thanatos wasn't as well kept either, or as new. There was no sense that any of her crew or captain took any pride in her, and Lucy's stomach tightened at the sight of what appeared to be very faint blood stains on the smooth boards of the deck. She slowed and Parn jerked her along, muttering to himself about captains and queens.
As Parn led her over the unfamiliar ship, Lucy thought of what she had seen and allowed a small smile of cold satisfaction steal across her face. It wasn't much, but it was hope, and it was better than nothing. Rather than look at the rest of the Thanatos or over to the captive Euthymia, she closed her eyes and let her mind fill with the image of a webbed hand rising out of the waves to snatch her knife just before it was lost to the sea.