A/N: Dearest Readers: It's been a year. Well, a year and a day. 366 days since last I posted a Narnia story. That kind of makes me sick to my stomach. And I am so sorry. I could make excuses-I could tell you that the end of my senior year of high school was so busy that I tended to get home somewhere between six and seven each night, leaving me a few scant hours to do my boatloads of homework before dropping exhausted into bed; I could tell you that my summer was chockfull of trips to Florida and Harry Potter World in Orlando and forays into the world of Doctor Who fanfiction and a renewal of my love for Robin Hood which left me little time for Narnia; I could tell you that my first semester of college was a success, despite being horribly full of math homework and speech writing for coms class and a nasty group project that took a month and a half to complete-I could make all those excuses, but it really doesn't make up for the fact that I have not posted a single Narnia story in a year and a day, and that I am so, so sorry for that. But I've gotten the hang of college now, and I've got some new inspiration and my guilt at leaving you has lit a fire under my butt, and you will definitely, certainly, positively, absolutely be seeing some new, lovely, shiny Narnia stories from me in the very near future. I promise. If you don't believe me, check out my shiny new profile, where I explain the List that will hopefully keep me posting throughout the year.
Meanwhile, THIS is the Second Annual Christmas Gift-Fic to My Faithful Reviewers (the First Annual Gift-Fic is "There's No Such Thing," in case you missed it). THIS is my Christmas present to all of you, dear Readers, who read and review my Narnia stories, no matter how long of a stretch there is between them. You don't know how much I truly appreciate you and all the inspiration you give me. I love you, and I profusely apologize for the wait. Thank you, Happy Christmas, and please enjoy.
Disclaimer: I do not own Narnia or the Pevensies. Though, apparently, I abandon them for a year with no good reason... :(
The First Winter
Today, Queen Lucy was making snow angels. One half of the huge inner courtyard of Cair Paravel was covered in the glistening imprints, their wings spreading and almost touching one another. The other half was undisturbed, glittering snow near two feet deep, silvery in the sunlight filtering through the snow clouds hanging silent and heavy above. Servants, courtiers, gardeners—everyone walked around the edge of the courtyard, avoiding stepping in any of the angels or on the clean, fresh part that Queen Lucy hadn't decorated yet. It would have taken far less time for everyone if the gardeners had shoveled a few diagonal paths through the courtyard, but no one wanted to ruin Lucy's angels. They were too beautiful.
It was the first winter since the defeat of the White Witch at the Battle of Beruna. The seasons had been put back in their right order, but everyone had grumbled a bit when the autumn air had turned cold and the first frost had laid itself thickly on the ground. No one wanted a reminder of the hundred-year winter that had just ended. They had lived for so long in winter that they couldn't believe another one was coming so soon. And some irrational fear in them wondered if this winter wouldn't last longer than it was supposed to. So Lucy had taken it upon herself to remind everyone of the good things in winter, the fun parts—the bits they had forgotten in the fearful, frozen years of the Witch's Long Winter.
One of the Squirrels had burst into the throne room one day, announcing the first snowfall of the year. Every Narnian had groaned, but their monarchs had looked at each other in excitement. Lucy had rushed outside, without a cloak, and twirled in the falling snow, laughing. She had stuck out her tongue and tried to catch snowflakes, letting them melt. She had searched handful after handful of snow trying to find two that were the same before they melted. The Narnians had marveled, before remembering that once, a long, long time ago, they had tried to catch snowflakes on their tongues, too. And soon the courtyard was full of people rushing about, their faces turned toward the sky, bumping into each other and laughing as they drank in the snow.
That first snow had been gentle and laid only a few, fitfully sticking inches of white on the ground. But it was not long before the first real blizzard of the winter blanketed Narnia in glistening silver. The wind howled, and the snow swirled, and no one could go outside for days. When it stopped, there were feet of snow on the ground, and Lucy was the first to step in it, sinking to her knees in the powdery flecks of silver. She convinced her siblings to join her in a snowball fight, Susan and Edmund versus Peter and herself, and as they whipped the tightly packed missiles at each other, the Narnians stopped to watch. There had been no snowball fights in the Long Winter, and now they remembered curling their fingers around the wet snow and laughing when they hit their mark. It wasn't long until everyone in the castle had chosen a side of the battle and snowballs were flying every which way as the two teams pelted each other for hours before collapsing in front of a huge fire in the throne room, soaking wet and freezing cold, but warm and happy inside.
When Mr. Beaver brought news that the ice was at last thick enough for skating, Lucy led a party to the wide Ford of Beruna, where the River Rush met the Great River Beruna in a broad, flat area perfect for skating. An afternoon was spent in laughter and embarrassment and the Narnians clumsily regained the ability they had once possessed for gliding swiftly across the ice. And Lucy was among them, guiding and helping and pulling people back to their feet, and falling down herself once in a while. Mr. Tumnus, unsteady and nervous, had grabbed Lucy in an attempt to keep his balance and they had both tumbled to the ice in a laughing heap.
Lucy had reminded the Narnians of the joys of making snowmen, and they could be found standing with their coal smiles and top hats in every corner of Cair Paravel. The maids could be seen stealing brooms back from the snowmen that had commandeered them. The cooks often found carrots missing from the kitchens, but no one who ran into a snowman in the odd corner behind the stables, or at the top of the east tower or partially blocking the stair to the curtain wall minded very much at all.
Hot chocolate was available at any moment to anyone who asked. And Lucy spent several afternoons down in the pastry kitchen making Christmas cookies and gingerbread houses. Plates of the Queen's gingerbread men smiled up from tables at parties, and there was even a gingerbread version of the Cair sitting prominently as the centerpiece of the state dinner Queen Susan held for the ambassadors who were staying the winter in Narnia. And Susan helped Lucy when she began to put up the decorations for Christmas.
Long strands of holly criss-crossed the ceilings, and sweeping swags of pine branches adorned the walls. Glass icicles hung from the banisters, wreaths of evergreen and holly berries hung from bright red ribbon on every door. Mistletoe christened the apex of several archways, paper snowflakes dangled in the windows, gold and silver garlands were wrapped around the rails of each balcony. A huge, magnificent Christmas tree stood in the throne room and another in the banquet hall, each covered in strings of cranberries and popcorn and holly berries and pinecones, red, green, gold, and silver glass ornaments, and tinsel sparkling like snow from every branch. It was impossible not to be happy and full of Christmas cheer. And Lucy was happiest of all.
On Christmas Eve, the Kings and Queens of Narnia held a party for the ambassadors and for the Narnians. Mr. Tumnus was there, sporting a scarf of green velvet trimmed in gold. The Beavers came, of course, and the Fox, a gold ribbon tied around his neck for the occasion. Oreius the Centaur in a magnificent red velvet waistcoat, stood, dignified, by the fireplace. Dryads and Hamadryads and Naiads danced and wove and twirled through the crowd, dipping their glorious heads to one another as they flowed gracefully past. A team of Squirrels scampered about with silver trays of appetizers and cookies and cakes, and there was a huge keg of apple cider sitting in the corner opposite the Christmas tree. There were thick carpets laid around the edges of the hall and the centre had been made up into a dance floor of sorts, where everyone could dance to the quartet of strings playing from the dais where the thrones usually stood. Everyone complemented the two Queens on the rather marvelous job they had done in organizing the party, and the two Queens graciously and modestly accepted the praise.
Susan was in her element, glowing with beauty and happiness, giving compliments freely to everyone. She was the perfect hostess, and she managed to dance with practically every man in the room, not slighting a single ambassador while still managing to accept the requests of each Narnian. She was gracious and modest and proud and considerate, and everyone commented on her poise.
Lucy, on the other hand, was a bouncing bundle of energy and pure, unadulterated joy. There was not a single moment all night when her wide smile faltered, and her infectious laugh could be heard ringing out across the room. She made anyone who stood near her smile, and her excitement was nearly palpable. She danced with anyone and anything—Centaurs and Dryads and Fauns and Animals as well as Humans. She twirled around and around with Mr. Tumnus and when he spun her under a sprig of mistletoe she laughed as Peter kissed her cheek to release her from the spot. She even got Edmund to dance, though he had politely declined nearly everyone else, preferring to stand close to the fire, deep in conversation with several of the older ambassadors. She was joy personified that night, and no one who saw her failed to love her.
Yet it was at midnight that the best part of the night came. The fire dimmed as the clock chimed twelve and everyone backed away, unsure but eager at the same time. And before they knew it, Father Christmas had stepped out of the chimney, laughing his booming laugh, his great red sack upon his back. Everyone was laughing and clapping and wishing each other Merry Christmas and Father Christmas was chuckling at finding nearly everyone here at Cair Paravel, which, he said, explained why all the houses he had visited so far had been empty.
The crowd surged forward to accept their presents, and though the four monarchs fell back to allow their subjects to receive their gifts first, the crowd objected and pushed Lucy to the front. She shook her head and protested, but the guests insisted, and Father Christmas laughed again and called to her, and she shyly stepped forward to receive her gift. The other monarchs were brought to the front and Susan and Edmund and Peter were called in turn. Edmund was slightly awed, as he had not had the pleasure of meeting Father Christmas the previous year. He reverently took the glittering sliver sword that matched Peter's gold one, and thanked Father Christmas so many times that the old man put a hand on his shoulder and told him that if he didn't stop he would soon run out of breath. And so Edmund finally got a Christmas present to match the ones his siblings had received last year, a sad, but necessary, imbalance that would have come to be wrong had it never been rectified.
It took a long time for Father Christmas to pass out all the gifts, but his huge sack never seemed to get any emptier and none of the guests seemed to get tired of seeing what would come out of that sack next. And everyone got precisely what he or she wanted so there was no jealousy or bickering. There was just more joy, more smiles, more laughter, and more reason for the Narnians to forget the Long Winter.
It was said, after that magnificent Christmas party was over, that that winter—the first winter after the defeat of the White Witch, the return of Aslan, and the filling of the Four Thrones—was the best winter anyone could remember ever having. The snowball fights were the fiercest, the ice-skating was the most fun, the snow angels were the most perfect, the gingerbread cookies tasted the best, the snowmen were the most round and jolly, and Christmas…well, no Christmas could ever quite manage to top that Christmas. And every Narnian attributed the greatness of that first winter to Queen Lucy, who had reminded them that winter was not all bad, that it was not just frozen, dreary cold, and icy fear freezing their hearts. It was snowball fights and ice-skating and Christmas. It was a time for family and friends and warmth and comfort and fun and joy. And each winter thereafter was an occasion for joy.
And to you, Dear Reader, I wish joy. To you, I wish for family safe and friends near by, for warmth inside and out and comfort unending, for fun pure and for joy complete. Merry Christmas, and may yours be as joy-filled as this, the Narnians' first and very best.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, my dear, dear Readers. Thank you for your reviews and support. And I promise to write more often. :)