If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
Wm. Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream
It was not common for the kings and queens to leave Cair Paravel without an escort, but nor was it unheard of. For in the Golden Age of the reign of Peter the High King, all Narnians knew and loved their overlords, and so would fight to the death to defend any of them from anyone or anything that might wish to harm them. Not, during the Golden Age, that there were that many creatures about that might wish to harm a king or queen, but one never knew when a stray hag or Calormene might be lurking about.
So it was, that bright summer morning, that Queen Lucy woke with the sun, greeting its bright face with her own radiant smile, and decided to breakfast in the forest. It had been ages since she had seen the dryads and fauns of the Long Wood—a week, at least.
So she dressed in her usual adventuring clothes (an old brown dress that could be girded up should she need to chase anyone or climb a tree, and as always the belt that bore her dagger and cordial from Father Christmas), informed one or two of the palace staff that she would be back before lunch, and left for the stables.
Normally Lucy preferred to walk (or run) everywhere. Susan had the best seat out of the Four; Peter and Edmund did very well indeed; Lucy, however, preferred to go on foot so she could stop and chat with people, or explore any little side paths that took her interest, or even just stop and dream for a few minutes if she so pleased.
Long Wood was too far to walk there and back by luncheon, however, and so it was that as the other three kings and queen rose from their rest, they beheld a golden-haired vision flying past their windows on a dappled mare, laughter riding in her wake.
"Lucy on another of her adventures," King Edmund said, and only those who knew him best could have heard the hint of envy in his voice.
The fauns were very glad to see their favourite little queen, and breakfasted her royally on goat's milk, berries, honey and fresh-baked bread. Lucy didn't—exactly—enjoy the goat's milk, but she knew it was considered a delicacy among the fauns, and so she drank it cheerfully.
After the post-breakfast dance (which made the milk churn quite uncomfortably in Lucy's stomach), the fauns scattered to their various pursuits, and Lucy was glad to sit beneath an Elm and chat with its dryad.
A giant goddess, she was speaking earnestly with the Human Queen about such important matters as the trimming of deadwood and prevention of leaf rot, when she suddenly paused, tilted her head, and then gave forth a rich, mellow laugh.
"Hullo, my Goodfellow," she said.
To Lucy's immense surprise, a boy about her own age bounded (rather like a squirrel) down from the top of the Elm tree to a branch just above Lucy's head.
"Hullo, Elm," he said with a cheeky grin. "Who's this?"
Lucy rose to her feet in an attempt to look as dignified as it is possible to look with goat's milk curdling in one's stomach.
"This is Queen Lucy," the Elm.
"Ah. One of the Daughters of Eve who broke the Witch's curse." The boy looked solemn, though from the look of him it was not an expression he wore often or well. "Our thanks."
"The thanks are due to Aslan, my friend," Lucy said softly. "My brothers and sister and I were merely his instruments."
"The King knows our gratitude," the boy said, and Lucy was sure he was not speaking of Peter.
He was dressed in garish colours—bright yellow tunic over vivid green hose, with a crimson belt around his waist. His eyes were an unusual golden brown, and out of his curly brown hair sprang two small horns, smaller even than the fauns' horns. Intrigued, Lucy gave a quick peek at his feet. They were human—and bare, even as hers were (she had left her soft boots over by her mare, the better to appreciate the soft summer grass).
"I am afraid I must cry pardon, good sir," she said. "For I do not believe I know you."
He bounded in one fluid leap from the branch to the ground before her, where he swept her a very low and magnificent bow.
"Robin Goodfellow, at your service, my queen."
"Thank you very much," Lucy said promptly. "I and my siblings are at yours."
Robin straightened from his bow and grinned rakishly at her. "There. That's the formalities over with."
Lucy couldn't help but grin back. He really was a charming fellow, no question. The Elm was regarding him with tolerant affection, so he had to be somewhat trustworthy, at least. She did wish, however, that she knew more about him than just his name, and that he served Aslan.
On the other hand, that last really ought to be enough.
"We have not seen you since our spring revels, Goodfellow," the Elm said. "Where have you been?"
"Here and there, madam, doing the King's bidding. You know how it is for we longævi. No rest, as they say, for us."
"I'm very sorry to interrupt," Lucy said, listening to this with interest. "But—that word you used …?"
"Longævi?" Robin said.
"Yes, that one. I'm afraid I'm not very familiar with it. You see," she added apologetically, "we have only been here for a few years, and we still have much to learn about Narnia and her inhabitants."
"Indeed, it would be my pleasure to elucidate!" Robin cried, turning a few cartwheels with such ease that Lucy was rather envious. Cartwheels were not easily attempted in a dress, however, and so she decided to forgo asking Robin how he did it.
"Longævi is what we call ourselves," the boy said, coming upright and skipping merrily around the Elm. "The Humans have always called us gods and goddesses, though we are not the same as the Dryads and Hamadryads and Naiads, mind you. Nor are we Talking Beasts, nor Dwarfs, nor … what have I forgotten, Elm?"
"Giants," the Elm said promptly.
"Ah yes. Nor Giants, nor witches, nor fauns or satyrs, nor Marshwiggles." Robin looked thoughtful. "No one has yet to accuse me of being a Marshwiggle. I can't imagine why not."
Lucy suspected it had something to do with his constant movement and continual merriment, but she did not yet know him well enough to determine if that was something she could say aloud.
"Oh!" said the Elm. "Nor Stars."
"No, we are not Heavenly Bodies," Robin said. "We are very much of the Earth. Some of us are closer akin to the woods, and some to the waters, and some (but very few, for stone is hard and cold) to the mountains. None to the air. We are, as many others, Aslan's servants, placed here to help maintain the land. When the Witch came, she chased us out, but we are returning as we are able."
"You may have heard of some of them through the fauns," the Elm said. "Bacchus and Silenus and the Maenads. Pomona, as well, is one of the wood goddesses."
"Oh yes, Mr. Tumnus told me of them ages ago," Lucy said. "But we've never met any."
"No, nor will you, not unless Aslan himself is present. They are … well they're not shy exactly, but they aren't very good around Humans. I mean, they're good, but they're not …"
"Not safe," Lucy finished gravely.
Robin nodded. "No, not particularly. They—we—are of the Wild, you see."
"Who are some of the others?" Lucy asked with curiosity. "The ones who are tied to the water, and the mountains?"
"There's Tethys, of course," Robin said. "And Carmentia and her Camenæ. I've even heard that Nereus is back, though I've yet to see him with my own eyes. Or smell him," he added, whisking back up the Elm and dangling upside down from his knees.
"As for the mountains, as I said, there aren't many. And they don't like their names bandied about, I'm afraid." Robin tried to look apologetic, but remorse is not an easy expression to convey when one is upside down.
"Well, no matter," Lucy said at once. "And you—where do you fit in amongst the …" she searched for just the right phrase. "The guardians of the Wild?"
"As I mentioned, I am a messenger. Aslan's servant, travelling about wherever he sends me, doing his bidding."
"Not always particularly well," interjected the Elm, sounding fondly maternal.
Robin wiggled his ears are her. "We all make mistakes, now and then."
"If you would spend less time playing your flute and pulling pranks …"
Robin dropped back to the ground and spread his hands wide. "No more lectures, Mother Elm, I beg of you. I promise to be a good boy, I do indeed. Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends," he finished in a coaxing voice.
"I know you," Lucy said abruptly. "You're Puck."
For a moment, all humour dropped from Robin's face, and he looked a little less human, a little more Wild. "Yes," he said, looking at her sharply. Lucy found she could not stand to stare into those amber eyes for too long. "That is one of my names, though not usually used here. How did you know?"
Lucy wrinkled her nose. "I don't know," she said thoughtfully. "It's like an itch behind my mind … I know I've heard of you, but I can't remember where or when or how. Except … not as Aslan's servant, but someone else's. Another King. Not a mortal one."
The alertness faded a little from Robin's face, and he shrugged, affable again. "To serve Aslan I must often serve others as well. Some are mortal, some are not."
"And why are you here now?" Lucy asked.
"To meet you, my queen," he said.
"Are you to return to Cair Paravel with me?" Lucy asked, brightening. He would be fun to have about.
He shook his head. "Not this time. Someday I will meet your siblings, and pay them my respects. Not today, though."
"I see." Lucy was disappointed, though not terribly surprised. A servant to Aslan would have very little time for playing. Almost as little as a queen, in fact.
"No, today Aslan merely wanted me to meet you, introduce myself, and explain a little about the Longævi. He said you and your brothers and sister ought to know who we are." His expression changed again, and suddenly the Elm coughed and said she had something she had suddenly remembered she needed to do, and faded back into her tree.
"He also said that there would come a day when he would send me to you with another message, one that would not be easy to hear, and that it would be easier for you to understand it if you had already met me once, and trusted me."
"Oh," Lucy said uncertainly. For a moment even her golden joy was shaken. What message could Aslan have that would not be easy to hear?
Then she thought of the Lion's face, and her confidence was restored. "Whatever Aslan has for us, we will take," she said, in that moment utterly queenly in her dignity and grace. "Whether it seem good or evil to us in the moment, we know that he does all things well."
"Aye," said Robin under his breath. "You'll do, lass. You'll do."
That sounded so odd, coming from a boy who looked no older than her, that Lucy laughed merrily. Robin joined her, and their combined mirth made music in the forest, rivalling even the birdsong for sweetness.
Author's Note: I wrote this yesterday, not even realizing what time of year it was. Then today I was reminded that this is Midsummer's Eve ... when better to produce a story featuring none other than Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck?
I have been reading CS Lewis's The Discarded Image recently; one of the chapters is on the Longaevi, also characterized as fairies. Lewis preferred not to use that term though (at least, not in a scholarly work) because of the more modern associations with fairies. From that one chapter sprang this idea. Lewis used many minor gods and goddesses in Narnia, borrowing liberally from many mythologies. I'm not sure why Puck, in particular, caught my attention, but I suppose because it seemed like he would be a good friend of Lucy's.
I've also been somewhat curious that never once during the Golden Age did the Four meet Bacchus or Silenus, judging by Lucy and Susan's exchange in Prince Caspian. Especially when, according to that same book, they did meet Pomona at least once. I love reconciling seeming incongruities; it's one of the reasons I write fanfic.
There will be a part two to this, in which Puck delivers Aslan's "unwelcome message."
Puck's line to the Elm about "restoring amends" is taken directly from Shakespeare. I didn't think he'd mind.