"They need to know," Susan said softly.
Lucy looked down at Aslan, where he lay dead on the stone table. "You go," she answered her older sister. "They'll need you on the battle field as well. I've only my dagger and my cordial. I won't be needed until the battle is over, to tend the wounded."
Susan nodded and kissed Lucy's hair before departing.
Lucy stayed with Aslan through the night, doing nothing more than crying silently for a time, until she heard and saw the mice gnawing at the ropes that bound the great lion – at which point she took her dagger and began to cut through the ropes as well.
"Thank you friends," she said softly to the mice. "Now return to your homes, and be safe there."
The tiny creatures crawled over her lap, all raising on their back legs and bowing once before her before continuing on their way. The sun finally rose as the last of them disappeared into the forest once more.
"Ah!" Lucy yelped as the ground shook and table beneath her cracked, causing her to fall. Turning, Lucy saw that Aslan was gone from the table. Looking beyond it, she smiled to see him standing once more in the arch that framed where the sun was rising. "Aslan!" she breathed happily, and ran to him, burying her hands in his mane when she reached his side and kissing all of him that she could reach.
"Oh Lucy," Aslan greeted fondly. "Thank you for waiting so."
"Aslan what happened? I don't understand."
Aslan chucked. "Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic," he said, "there is a deeper magic still which she did not know, because she does not understand true sacrifice. If she did, then she would have known then when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would turn backwards."
Lucy listened carefully and took these words into her heart. "I think I understand Aslan," she said softly. "And I will always remember," she promised.
"Good," Aslan said. "Now Lucy, will you climb on my back? We have a war to fight after all, and I can think of a place where we can find more to aid our fight."
Lucy obeyed without word, and soon they were racing with the wind itself across Narnia.
They were only a little late to the battle when they reached it, and Lucy had climbed down from Aslan's back at once to begin administering her cordial to all she found. The great lion himself immediately went to fight the Witch, and she did not see what happened exactly, though she knew that he won, even though she was tending to Edmund at that moment.
"Ed, where are Peter and Susan?" she asked as she waited a moment to make sure that the hole in his stomach – made by Jadis herself – was healed.
"I don't know Lu," he answered. "We got separated in the fighting."
"I'll find them," she promised. "You take care of yourself, alright?"
Edmund nodded and smiled weakly. "Go on Lu, my part of this war is done, yours is beginning."
Lucy nodded firmly and rose from his side to tend to the next Narnian.
It was easily an hour later when she found Susan, her horn at her hip and her bow in her hand, but she lay dead upon the grass. Her head was a foot away from her shoulders. Her cordial could not heal that. Lucy wept a while for her sister, but gathered the horn, the bow and the quiver, and bid one of the Narnians take Susan's head and body to the camp where the dead were being collected so that they could be buried together.
Lucy wasn't sure how many Narnians she had shared her cordial with that day, but it was all those who she reached too late that would remain with her – particularly as two of her siblings were among them. Peter had been cleaved completely in two through his waist.
Edmund, her only remaining sibling, held her tightly as the Narnians buried the dead. She cried freely and for both of them. Edmund felt too guilty to cry, and his throat would not work for long when he was called to give farewell to the dead.
"We shall miss them all, terribly," he said, choking around the lump in his throat. "And so we must all work together to make sure that we lose no more Narnians in such a way ever again."
The tears he had felt too guilty to cry before then had loosed themselves as he spoke, and he held Lucy all the tighter as they both wept.
"Edmund, Lucy," Aslan called softly to them after the dead had been buried.
"Aslan," the children answered, releasing each other to take the greater comfort offered by the lion.
"You need not weep children," he comforted. "For your brother and sister wait for you in my country. No, you may not yet journey there to see them, but know that they will wait for you."
Edmund and Lucy nodded silently into Aslan's warm, golden mane and were comforted. Both of them knew, though they knew nothing of Aslan's country, that any place that belonged to Aslan would have to be wonderful.
Soon after, Edmund and Lucy were crowned High King and High Queen of Narnia, which pleased the Narnians greatly, though to Edmund and Lucy, the four thrones of Cair Paravel were a sadness, because they had lost their brother and sister. Still, as it had been believed by their subjects for so long:
When Adam's flesh, and Adam's bone
Sits at Cair Paravel in throne,
The evil time will be over and done.
There were less of them than had been expected to take the throne, but such were the fortunes of war. Lucy took Edmund aside the day after they were crowned – after the celebrations had ended and Aslan had slipped away – and explained to him what Aslan had done that night at the Stone Table. She felt that it was his right to know how he had been saved, and though Edmund had cried again to hear it, he had also thanked her.
"Wrong will be made right, when Aslan comes in sight," he said softly, recalling one of the sayings that Mr Beaver had told them when their adventure had just been beginning.
"With the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more," Lucy added, sniffling a little and forcing a smile onto her face. "Come on Ed, we've a country to take care of."
Edmund chuckled and rose as well. "As you say it Lu," he agreed, but like her, he swore to never forget what Aslan had done for him, even though he took up his brother's sword, learning under the instruction of Oreius until he was dubbed by his soldiers 'Edmund the Magnificent'. He much preferred his other title though: the Just. This was a title he felt far more worth having, and he lived up to it every day of his reign, remembering how he had been wrong once, and the price that had been paid for his mistake.
Lucy also took up the weapon of a lost older sibling – Susan's bow and quiver hung from her back as often as her own dagger rested at her hip, and she carried Susan's horn beside her bottle of cordial. People called Lucy gentle, and valiant, and she loved everybody she met and they loved her.
It was a golden age for Narnia, and Edmund grew to become a fine and handsome man, though his gravity often prevented offers of princesses for him to marry. Lucy's gaiety and beauty, however, drew princes to her like bees to honey, but she would have none of them – for none of them were like her brother Edmund, who would let her dance barefoot on the lawns in the moonlight.
"Queen Lucy! King Edmund!"
"Mr Tumnus!" Lucy greeted happily. "Prithee, what news brings my good friend from his home this day?"
Edmund just smiled at the old faun – and he was becoming old now – who was such a dear friend to Lucy and himself. It was always a pleasure to see the faun.
"The White Stag, Majesties!" the faun exclaimed. "I saw the White Stag pass by my house this day. Of course I could not catch it, but I thought not to grant any wish of my own, for I have my happiness. Still, I thought to myself that a good king and queen always have some thought to make our homes better, and I know no other king or queen so good as ours, so I hastened to the Cair to tell you. Will you go to hunt it?"
Lucy turned bright eyes to Edmund, a smile on her face.
Edmund laughed. "Oh very well," he said. "At this moment I say my wish is to make merry and enjoy the fresh air of the Western Wood, and simply to chase the White Stag will do that."
Later that evening, when the horses ridden by Edmund and Lucy found their way to Tumnus' house, their riders nowhere to be seen, the faun regretted telling them of seeing the Stag. Still, he gathered up what had been left on their saddles and returned these things and the horses to Cair Paravel, where he instructed for a vault to be made to store the belongings of High King Edmund and High Queen Lucy, so that all would be safe for them still on the day they returned – and they would return. He had no doubt of this.
He only regretted that the Lucy's horn was lost somewhere between the lamp post and his house. He had searched diligently, but found it not.
"Worry not good faun," Aslan said softly one night, when Tumnus was again out searching for the horn. "When the time comes that there is great need, the horn will be found, and it shall sound out, bringing help to Narnia once more. Rest easy good faun."
Tumnus bowed low to Aslan, smiled gratefully, and returned to his home once more.
Edmund and Lucy Pevensie were precious to their parents, for their older brother and sister had died of pneumonia while they lived in the Professor's house, away from the war. Of course, this was only the story that they told their parents, and the Professor was good enough to give their lost siblings gravestones on his property. In the time between re-emerging from the wardrobe in the spare room and being sent back on the train to their parents, the two monarchs spent much time with the Professor, learning how to adjust once more to their own world and a great many other things.
However, seeing their children also served to remind Mr and Mrs Pevensie of the two that they had lost, and so it was that the next year Edmund and Lucy were waiting at the train station to be taken away to separate boarding schools. They'd just sat down at the station where they were to finally be separated, when they felt it.
"Ow!" Lucy yelped, standing again.
Edmund, being a boy, did most definitely not yelp, though he did exclaim "ow!" himself as well before fixing his eyes on Lucy.
They both reached at the same time to grab the other's hand, for they recognised the feeling of magic, and had no desire to be separated because of the pulling that they could feel. Then the station was gone, and it was just the two of them in a cave, the large mouth of which showed a fine beach with crystal clear, perfectly blue water.
"Looks like we won't have to worry about algebra for a while," Lucy said with a smile as she ran for the beach and the breakers.
Edmund laughed in joyful agreement as he chased after her. "Yes," he said, "but where in Narnia do you suppose we are?"
"The coast," Lucy said simply. "More important to ask when I think really," she pointed out. "After all, we've been gone a year, and when we were in Narnia for decades not nearly that much time passed back in England."
Edmund nodded in agreement and looked up to the cliffs above them, searching for signs of Narnians. "There are ruins up there," he said, pointing.
"The Cair was the only place on the coast large enough to leave ruins," Lucy said weakly when she saw them.
"I agree," Edmund answered her. "But best confirm that."
It was a task that didn't take them long, but more comforting than the sight of Cair Paravel in ruins was the sight of a door in an upright pillar, the inscription upon which read:
High King Edmund and High Queen Lucy
Aslan Keep You Safe
Until You Are Returned to Us
Edmund smiled to see it. "I do believe this is the work of Mr Tumnus," he said.
Lucy choked on a sobbing laugh at the comment, tears of mingled sadness and joy at the corners of her eyes. "He's in Aslan's country now," she said softly.
Edmund agreed with a gentle hum and wrapped his arms around Lucy's shoulders. They had missed all of their Narnian friends when they had stumbled back through the wardrobe. Now they stood a moment in silence, wishing their passed friends happiness in Aslan's country, and that they will wait for them.
"Shall we see what he saved for us?" Lucy asked, putting on a brave smile.
"Yeah," Edmund agreed, smiling back and pushing the door open.
It was a safe-room, with two large chests before two statues of them as they had been, grown and regal. One chest before the statue of Edmund held the regalia of the High King, his clothes, his armour, and his sword. Peter's sword. Even his solid gold chess set was in there, which pleased Edmund no end, but he knew that now was not the time to claim it. The other chest which sat in front of the statue of Lucy held her clothes, as well as her bottle of special cordial, her dagger, and Susan's bow and quiver. Mr Tumnus had set his old flute in there as well, since he'd been teaching Lucy how to play it, but there was something missing.
"I'm guessing the horn got lost," Lucy said sadly.
Edmund chuckled. "I'm guessing the horn got found and that's how we're here," he countered. "Come on Lu, I'm sure if we dig deep enough we'll find some clothes that will fit us, and then we can ask the trees what's been going on since we left."
Lucy nodded her agreement, and soon brother and sister were outside once more, dressed as the monarchs that they were – and headed for the apple grove.
"Please," Lucy said to the tree. "Please, what happened?"
No answer came. The trees were silent. She asked again, and Edmund supplied his entreaty, but the trees were like the trees of England. They had no answer for the children.
The splash of oars could be heard then, in the echoing silence of the trees, and the two moved quickly to see who it could be, hoping that it would be Narnians that they could question on what had happened in the time since they had left.
"This'll do," said one of the men in the boat.
"Should we tie a rock to its feet?" asked the other.
"We haven't got one," the first pointed out, even as he and his companion lifted the bundle. "It will drown anyway."
"Not looking good Ed," Lucy said softly.
"Agreed. Those two definitely aren't Narnians, but we're deep into Narnia. You deal with them, I'll swim out and fetch whoever their captive is," Edmund answered, already taking off his sword belt and unstrapping his shield from his back. Next he pulled off his mail shirt and kicked off his shoes, then he was in the water just as Lucy let fly the first arrow – into the chest of the man who had suggested tying a rock to the feet of whoever they were trying to drown.
Thankfully, the bundle landed in the boat, rather than the water, and by the time Lucy and dispatched the second solder with a second arrow, Edmund had reached the boat and was climbing in.
"You alright there?" he asked pulling at ropes.
"Ed?" Lucy called.
"A red dwarf!" he answered, getting the last of the ropes off the Narnian.
"Bring the boat in Ed!"
"Aye-aye Lu," he called back, grinning as he grabbed the oars. "Are you alright?" he asked again, even as he put his back into rowing for shore.
"Yes, thank you," the dwarf answered.
Rather than letting Ed and the dwarf out of the boat when they reached the shore though, Lucy passed Edmund his things and climbed in.
"Hello there," Lucy said. "What's your name?"
"Trumpkin," the red dwarf answered, but his eyes were fixed on the sword that Lucy had handed to Edmund before she climbed in, a look of despondent disbelief on his face.
"Why were those men going to throw you into the river?" Edmund asked.
"Long story," Trumpkin answered gruffly.
Lucy smiled. "All the better for travelling to," she said firmly. "Which way do we row?"
Trumpkin sighed heavily but pointed upstream, and Edmund put his back into working the oars once more, and then the dwarf began his tale – a tale which was not so much his, as that of Narnia itself and of a young man called Caspian.
"But unless I'm mistaken there's no crossing in these parts," Trumpkin said as they walked through the forest towards the River Rush.
Edmund smiled. "I believe you," he said. "But I want to see if I can still remember the way to places. We'll find the crossing I remember, and should we find it impassible, we'll go your way."
Trumpkin sighed, but followed.
"Don't be offended please Trumpkin," Lucy said. "But we've missed Narnia, and even though we know time is of the essence, we want to see how much has changed."
Trumpkin nodded in allowance, and soon they reached the sheer cliff face that was one side of the gorge that the River Rush ran through in that part of Narnia.
"See? No way across," Trumpkin said. "And no way down apart from falling."
Edmund smiled and shook his head at their new friend.
"Aslan?" Lucy asked. "Aslan!" she exclaimed happily, and turned to Edmund and Trumpkin. "Did you see him?"
"Wasn't looking Lu," Edmund answered. "Where was he?"
Lucy blinked and turned quickly. "Oh," she said. "He's gone already."
Edmund chuckled. "Lu, where was he? If he's letting you catch a glimpse and then vanishing, then I'd say it's our place to chase."
Lucy grinned at her brother and headed over to the part of the cliff face she'd seen him. She screamed as she fell through some weak branches that had covered a hole in the ground, but it was a short drop and she grinned up at Edmund and Trumpkin who had rushed to see if they could catch her, hoping she was uninjured.
"I'd say we've got a path down," she said, smiling up at them.
Edmund grinned back. "I'd say so," he agreed.
"How'd you -?" Trumpkin asked, confused.
Edmund chuckled, though it was not an amused sound. "There was a time when I didn't listen to Lucy," he said, recalling an unfortunate time. "I ended up looking pretty foolish."
Trumpkin nodded slowly in understanding. "You really are the High King and the High Queen of Old, aren't you?" he said.
"Yes," Lucy said, just a little sadly as she was reminded that so many of her friends were gone now. "We are."
When they made camp in the woods that night, Lucy dreamed of Aslan, and in the morning she woke Edmund – he would not fast forgive her if she followed the path she had been shown to Aslan and did not take him with her – and Trumpkin, and dragged them along the path that she had been shown. Whether Aslan would be at the end of it again or not, she didn't know, he'd said himself that things did not happen the same way twice, but she would hope that he was.
He wasn't, but it turned out that Caspian was – and a number of his allies.
"You're the King and Queen of Old?" Caspian asked, staring at Edmund and Lucy, noticing the sword by Edmund's side.
"I believe you called," Edmund answered with a smile.
"Yes but," Caspian hesitated. "I thought you'd be older," he admitted.
"We used to be," Lucy answered whistfully. "I miss being tall."
"We could come back in a few years if you'd like?" Edmund joked.
"No!" Caspian hastened to assure. "No, it's just, you're not exactly what I expected."
"Neither are you," Edmund admitted, glancing at a minotaur who stood behind Caspian. Though he knew that a number of these creatures had turned over a new leaf during his and Lucy's reign, it certainly hadn't been all of them.
"A common enemy can unite even the oldest of foes," announced a badger from nearby.
"We have anxiously awaited your return, My Liege," a mouse said as he scurried out from the undergrowth. "Our hearts and swords are at your service," he added, drawing his sword and brandishing it expertly for Edmund's view.
"Oh what a handsome warrior," Lucy said, practically cooing over a mouse – she wanted so much to confide in Susan that she thought the armed mouse cute, but Susan was long dead, and she knew how warriors, indeed boys in general, disliked the phrase being applied to them. Edmund was about the only one of either she knew who suffered to be called such, and even then only by her. It was her sister's prerogative.
"And one who appears truly capable with a blade," Edmund added, careful to sound pleased rather than fond of the small fighter.
"Yes indeed," the mouse answered, bowing to the monarch as he put it away. "And I have recently put it to good use, securing weapons for your army Sire."
Edmund raised an eyebrow. "My army?" he asked, and turned to Caspian, who was beginning to look seriously out of his depth – and like he was losing all control of the situation as Narnians left him for their old king. "And here I thought you were the one up for being made King this time around," he said as he turned from the mouse to Caspian, as much of a friendly smile on his face as he could manage. Friendly smiles had never really been his thing, but he did a fair go of it.
Caspian relaxed then, and smiled back. "Thank you," he said, and led them to a place he called Aslan's How – a place that Edmund and Lucy had a strange feeling they knew, but that had changed in the time since they had been gone, just as the rest of Narnia had changed – where the Narnians had made their base and encampment.
"It may not be what you are used to," Caspian said once they were inside, "but it is defensible."
Edmund and Lucy nodded. "You've done well," Edmund told the older prince firmly. "When it was us taking back Narnia from the Witch, Aslan was the one who raised the army, not us."
"Does it have a back way out?" Lucy asked.
"Why?" Caspian questioned, confused by the query.
"A way to make sure your fortress doesn't become a tomb, as well as a way to get a messenger out if you need it, or simply a way to come and go where no one will see so that, should we be laid siege to, we can still get fresh food and water," Edmund explained, used to Lucy's ways of thinking. When they'd been Narnia's rulers, they made it a tradition to consider battles and landscapes where battles could take place, once a year on the anniversary of the day they buried Peter and Susan. Often, these turned into mock-battles for their army, keeping skills sharp even in the peaceful times, and all of Narnia had been the better for it.
"It's also a good idea to not have all of your army in here," Lucy added. "If there's a cave-in, or Miraz finds another way to trap us here, then there will be others who can continue the fight."
Lucy and Edmund chuckled at Caspian's naivety.
"Don't worry Caspian," Lucy said, laying a hand on his arm. "We've just had a few more decades worth of practice at such things. You'll learn, I promise."
Caspian's smile was completely grateful.
Lucy stood before the Stone Table that rested in the middle of Aslan's How.
"He knew what he was doing then," she said firmly, though tears threatened with the memory of what it had been like to watch that horrible night. "He knows what he's doing now."
Edmund smiled just a little and wrapped his little sister up in a hug. "I know Lu," he said. "When you told me what he'd done, I swore to never forget. Not what he'd done, and not how closely you follow him everywhere. That's why I always follow you, when you decide to lead."
Lucy nodded. "Thank you Edmund."
"You truly believe that?" Caspian asked softly from the entrance to the Table Room. "We have seen little evidence of Aslan here."
"Then you're not looking hard enough," Lucy said firmly, even though her face was half-buried in her brother's chest. "Still, I wish the trees would wake."
Edmund kissed Lucy's hair. "I know Lu. I miss them too," he said softly. "Prince Caspian, how many men in your uncle's army? How are they trained?"
"Hold off on answering that," Lucy said, sniffling once before straightening her back and squaring her shoulders. "You'll want all of your war-council present for this discussion. Ed's moving into tactician mode."
Edmund gave his sister a crooked smile and tweaked her nose. "Should I complain you know me too well?" he asked her.
"Between us Ed, there's no such thing," Lucy answered firmly.
"I'll summon them here," Caspian said, feeling a little awkward around the siblings who were younger than him, yet knew more of leadership and ruling than he did, and who – on top of everything else – acted like normal, happy people, even as they prepared for war.
"Before I go," the prince said, reaching for his side, "I believe this is yours?" he said, holding out Susan's horn to Lucy.
"Thank you Caspian," she said, accepting the carved ivory horn.
The lesson on Telmarine war tactics was long, and Edmund wanted to make sure that all those gathered at the war meeting would pass on this knowledge to those under them. Even back in the first battle for Narnia, he'd seen how Narnians would break formation or disobey orders if they saw an opportunity or a need. Not always a bad thing, but likewise, it was how a large number of them had been killed.
As such, Edmund, Lucy and Caspian and all of his generals discussed tactics that the enemy would likely employ and how to counter them most effectively with the least injury and loss of life. Mice would attack when the Telmarines brought their shields around them like a turtle's shell – they could get beneath and attack from within. Archers would be stationed high on the How to see the enemy and pick them off. Many of the same tactics that had been employed in the battle against the Witch would be employed once more, as well as the improvements that the siblings had come up with in the years they reigned since, though sadly their numbers were less than they had once been.
"We should send raiders to Cair Paravel," Lucy said, her chin on her hand and her elbow on her knee. "I'm sure there must be some armour there, weapons too. What's being made is all very good, but it's not too long a journey."
Edmund smiled, but shook his head. "Oh Lu," he said fondly. "Much as I'd love to see some of the old armour being worn again, it is old, and even though it's such a short distance we don't have the time or resources to fetch it."
Lucy stood high on the How with the archers when the first battalion of Telmarines came, yelling commands to them as she had once upon a time yelled commands to others, as Susan had once yelled her commands to a group of archers she had not believed herself ready to lead when she stood against the Witch. The first press was pushed back, fended off, defeated. It would not last. She knew this, and Edmund knew this. Caspian, new to war as he was, believed that they could go on in the same way that they had begun.
When the battle was over and the wounded – and there were lots of wounded, though thankfully no casualties – had been treated, then Lucy and Edmund held a conference with Caspian.
"I'm going to seek Aslan," Lucy told them both.
Caspian was surprised. "Why?" he asked.
"You ask that a lot," Edmund said quietly. "In the case of seeking Aslan, the real question should be why it was not done sooner."
Caspian ducked his head, looking only at his feet, and then haltingly told them of an incident, not long before they had arrived, when a black dwarf called Nickabrick had decided to stop waiting for the King and Queen of Old and had brought two fell creatures and tried to resurrect the White Witch to fight for them, claiming she would be a far more powerful ally to have. They were prevented, but it had been a fight that ended three lives to prevent the act from taking place. Everyone had been a bit hesitant about calling on ancient powers after that, even if that power were Aslan.
"Well, that explains more than it doesn't," Lucy said with a frown.
"Have the Narnians really forgotten so much about Aslan?" Edmund asked, despondent. "Lu, you know I'd love to go with you, but I think the Narnians still need a babysitter."
Lucy giggled, but quickly brought up a hand to smother it so that Caspian would not be more offended than he already was. "May I take your horse Caspian?" she asked.
Caspian nodded. "I do not need to ride anywhere," he admitted.
"Off you go then Lu," Edmund said with a smile. "Go and find Aslan, and say that I have missed him when you catch up with him."
Lucy hugged Edmund tightly to her. "I shall ask him to come back with me, and you may tell him so yourself, though I'm sure he knows."
Edmund smiled and held Lucy a moment. "And do be careful," he whispered to her. "I should break if I should lose you." She had been the first to forgive him and welcome him back after all, so unreservedly and warmly, and despite Aslan saying that there was no need to speak of what he had done, Lucy had dragged out of him every last detail, after they were King and Queen, because she had known that he needed to tell her, even though he hadn't known it himself, and she had forgiven him all over again.
"When we go in need, searching for Aslan, then shall he come in love, finding us," Lucy said, and kissed Edmund's hair before thanking Caspian for his horse once more, and leaving them to discuss the next battle.
The battle was over, the Narnians had won, and Aslan walked among them once more – for a time at least. The trees had been wakened and the Telmarines were awed to finally meet the creatures of the old stories that were only told softly to children as they went to sleep.
The Pevensies went back and forth all day between Caspian and Aslan, wanting to help the young king as he began to rule, but knowing that there was nothing better than to be at Aslan's side. The time came though, too soon to their minds, to return to England once more.
"You're not staying?" Caspian asked, shocked as Edmund and Lucy stepped up, volunteering to show the other Telmarines – for one small group had already gone ahead in faith, and their sudden vanishing had frightened the other Telmarines – that it was not a bad thing to trust in Aslan.
Edmund and Lucy smiled, just a little sadly.
"You might see us again," Lucy said.
"But we didn't come to take the throne of Narnia again," Edmund added. "We came to put you in it. Come on Lu."