A/n: The following story was the first piece of Narnia fanfiction I wrote (back in 2005) and has been re-worked, re-edited and re-posted a number of times. The story was initially well-received, and I hope that by reposting it can find a new audience to enjoy it. It is undergoing editing, revision etc. with particular advice from my friends Colleen and Hilary.
This story is an explicitly pro-Christian piece, contains many original characters, is set during the Golden Age, has no romance as a central element of the tale, and uses metafictional elements. It is also fairly action-intensive and some elements might be considered violent.
Reviews are greatly appreciated. Usual disclaimers apply – I do not own Narnia or canon characters.
Part One : Experience
Chapter One : Stranded In The Snow
"I don't normally do this," lied Elizabeth, shifting her weight in the chair and rearranging the cutlery before her for the seventh time.
"Don't do what?" Michael, immaculate and immobile in black cotton and linen, had stationed his silverware with imperceptible movements minutes before. He gazed at her through the flickering candle flame with unreadable eyes, his gaze not straying to the open neck of her blouse and the hint of cleavage artfully revealed. "Eat in the evening, or dip your sleeve in the soup while you are doing it?"
She jerked her hand clear just in time to save her Versace as the waiter deposited an olive-wood platter of flat bread between them. She nodded her thanks and then – as he walked away – answered somewhat stiffly. "No, just go on dates with strange men I've only just met." Michael's eyes hooded deeper and his gaze fell to the tablecloth as the first two fingers of his right hand touched his brow, breast and shoulders. With a hurried, almost guilty air, Elizabeth swatted an imaginary fly away from her.
Michael reached out and took a piece of bread and broke it in half. He held one out to her, which she took. "Is this a date, then?" he asked. "I'm so unfamiliar with them I didn't recognize it." He paused and dipped the bread in his soup. "And I'm not sure I recognize myself as a strange man, either." Elizabeth colored
"Well, I didn't mean . . . that is, I . . ." she began. Michael didn't smile, but it might have been nice to think he could have done.
"Do not be afraid," he said, "this is all nothing more than it is. You're stranded in an undisclosed European city at the gates of Christmas by snow at your destination airport. You claimed not to know the city well, but I seemed to, and – feeling I could be trusted and warming to me – you asked me if we might have dinner together." He paused, and watched her eat for a moment. "You wanted a Guardian Angel, or perhaps a simple guide in a foreign land." He spread his hands – elegant in their Fibonacci proportions and with the Golden Ratio creating illumination that outshone the candle. She laughed, a trifle nervously.
"Well, yes, you're right," she stammered, "I just didn't want you to get the wrong idea." A pause. "But you seem to have quite the . . . right idea," she continued a touch bitterly. "I'm sorry. Although why you chose to tell me it in such detail is beyond me."
Michael made a throw-away gesture. "It's a device to advance the plot without using a flashback, pay it no more mind." She laughed again, and turned just enough of her attention to her food to allow her to size up the man seated opposite her under some sort of cover. He was tall with the build of a Greek temple-statue underneath plain, smart, nondescript black clothes – she felt overdressed in the heels aching her feet and underdressed in the skirt that hitched at her thighs. His hands that rested on the white tablecloth were lifted from anatomical textbooks, covered in gloves of perfect skin. Under one of those hands a leather-bound book rested, gleaming in black and gold. She strained to read the title on the spine, expecting the words "HOLY BIBLE". Instead, she saw the legend "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".
She looked up to find Michael's deep eyes looking into hers. "Narnia," she said, embarrassed and recollecting at the same time.
"You read the stories when you were younger," said Michael – it was not a question. She nodded.
"I was read the first by my aunt when I was ill with measles," she said, smiling at the memory, "I read the others myself a few years later – most of the others. I think I stopped somewhere after 'The Voyage of the . . .'" She trailed off.
"Dawn Treader", said Michael. "They get to Aslan's country."
"Yes!" A look of childlike joy spread on her face. "I remember that – Aslan said they could never go back to Narnia, and I wanted so . . ." She stopped, embarrassed again, as the waiter came and took the soup bowls away. She colored, but Michael's eyes brooked no refusal. She plowed on, more restrained, more aware of her age now. "I wanted so badly to get to Narnia, now that Lucy couldn't. I thought maybe Aslan would let me." She paused, the expression on Michael's face unreadable. "I was very young," she said lamely.
"Are you still?" asked Michael as the waiter placed the main course in front of them and withdrew. She seemed to ignore him, perhaps more lost in her reminisces than she was willing to admit.
"And at the end of the story, Aslan said he was in our world too, and he was just known by a different name. He told Lucy she would have to learn to call him by that name."
Michael's voice was the deep purr that could be mistaken for a lion's. "And you searched?" She thought she knew where this was heading.
"The Narnia stories were a Christian allegory – I know that now." Her voice was hard and flat and deep and final. "I was too young to understand when I read them." She sawed a piece of meat off with unnecessary force. "I searched for Aslan – and tapped on the back of a fair few wardrobes – and I found nothing. And then I heard Lewis had written them to proselytize, and I felt . . ."
"Cheated," said Michael. Again, it was not a question.
"Yes," she said firmly, the year-on-year drips of resentment spilling from her. "Yes, I felt cheated. It's a crummy trick – telling a tale like that. I was educated by Jesuits, raised by Sisters." She tossed her knife down and raised her right hand, spreading the fingers and revealing the class ring on the third. "Notre Dame, Indiana," she snapped shortly, "I got it for years." She stopped, perhaps waiting for the inevitable question why a woman with a British accent attended an American university, looking for the opening that would allow her to drop names and places and influence. It never came, and so she said – finally – "There comes a time when you have to put fairy tales behind you." Michael's eyes were still unreadable. "You have to accept the truth."
"And the truth is?" he asked. Elizabeth remembered the prayer before the meal. She blushed again.
"I didn't mean to offend, I just . . . I'm sorry." She turned her attention to her dinner.
"You didn't," assured Michael. "I'm sorry you never found Aslan. I'm sorrier you gave up looking." He seemed to come to a decision. "No matter. You enjoyed the stories when you read them." She lifted her eyes to his and nodded. "And you loved Aslan while he was there."
He wasn't surprised to see tears in her eyes, but she was surprised to feel them there. "Yes," she said. "Yes, I did. And, you know what? I miss him." Michael could have smiled, but he didn't.
"I think we are built for it."
It was snowing outside; the fluffy, white, loving snow of a Victorian Christmas card in a wedding-cake city winking in crystal and glass, opera-goers muffled in furs and playbills tripping through the synthetic gaslight towards caffee und kuchen. Elizabeth – flushed with one or two glasses of wine and jetlag and with stiletto heels slipping on the icy cobbles – linked her hand through Michael's arm in the artificial-intimacy of the professional escort. He gestured towards a glowing doorway – a coffee-house, dripping sticky gingerbread and choux pastry. She smiled her assent and the two of them moved towards the glowing portal.
Michael pushed it open with easy grace and allowed Elizabeth to walk through before him. She did so, shivering a little as a sprinkling of snow fell down her neck from the doorway. She pushed away a heavy sprig of pine-dark greenery someone had hung near the door and squinted into the light – now she was inside, the warm golden light of candles appeared to be replaced with something far colder, silvery-blue and above her. She stepped forward to let Michael enter behind her and looked up, gasping and stopping short in amazement.
The two of them looked around the dark pine forest they found themselves in – horizontal bands of stalled racing green topped with crisp white snow marked where the spoke-like branches sprang from the rimed trunks, rising like pyramidal ladders into the silver-blue moonlight that penetrated fadingly into the gap between the hills. Underneath the boughs, glutinous darkness dwelt like sediment, shadows of scudding clouds over the moon moving over the actinic snowbed and giving the impression of queasy water.
In front of them, driving away the corroded mint of the green and white with the pool of flickering golden light it stood in, a black iron gaslight reared its comforting imperfection above the scene. The panes of glass glittered in the moonlight, the sable iron wore icicles like a necklace and - in the heavy silence of the valley - the hiss of the gas was just audible.
Elizabeth – after spinning around and seeing nothing but more trees - broke that silence. "Impossible . . ." she began.
Michael reached into his pocket and drew out a knife; a matte-black device that straddled tool and weapon and hung in the hand like a good dueling pistol. Twisting a four-inch saw out of the carbon-fiber body, he walked to the nearest pine tree and bashed the hilt of the blade against one of the boughs. Snow and the odd needle scattered to his feet as he sawed through it near the trunk, angling towards the body of the tree. With a wrench, the bough separated from its parent and he set to work at it with a long, heavy blade.
"You've got a knife," murmured Elizabeth, pulling the collar of her coat around her neck, unable to do much more than gaze at the encroaching night and wonder.
"Of course I have a knife, I always have a knife. It's not that long after 1183 and I'm still not Greek," Michael said flatly, handing a trimmed length of tree to Elizabeth. "How much clearer can I make it?" She took it with a questioning hand as his reached up to her braided hair and, with a fluid grace that warmed her despite the chill, untwisted her ponytail out, pulling the length of ribbon clear with teasing ease. He bound a bundle of twigs to the end of her length of pine with a neat surgical knot.
"'The Lion in Winter'," she muttered automatically, as Michael reached up with a long branch and pushed open the glass door of the lantern, taking the improvised torch from Elizabeth. With infinite care, he pushed its wispy ends torch into the little flame, it guttering as - with a protesting splutter - the pine caught with a whiff of resinous smoke. He pulled the torch out and waved it gingerly to and fro, trailing a halo of dark smoke, as he pushed the tiny door shut.
"I wish we had one," he remarked dryly, offering her his hand. She took it, stepping to his side and snuggling into the crook of his arm. She looked up at him.
"Had a what?" she asked. He cast his eyes around, as if debating whether to leave the little clearing with its comforting lamp post, or strike out somewhere else.
"A Lion in this Winter," he said shortly, appearing to make his choice. "Come on, let's get under the trees. It's going to get colder as night falls - you won't want to be out in the open when it happens." He took two strides, but she didn't move, checking him as she held his hand.
"Michael," she said seriously, "Where are we?" He turned to look at her, his face expressing gentle amazement she hadn't realized.
"The western Lantern Waste of the land of Narnia," he said slowly, "Where else?" She planted her feet, wrenched her hand out of his and braced her arms akimbo.
"Don't make fun of me," she snapped, her face flushing. "Be serious." She looked up at him, catching his eyes. "Well?" He turned his gaze full upon her.
"Where else?" he asked. "A dense pine forest in the middle of a valley with a Victorian iron lamp post whose light is burning. A place we arrived at via a method you – if you had to put a name on it – would call 'magic'." She was not about to be swayed.
"Narnia is make-believe."
"Of course it is." Michael's statement was as flat and final as a slap in the face. "That doesn't make it any less real." As she prepared a rebuke, Michael handed her the torch and quietly folded a stiletto blade out of his knife. "However, there is one question which is more important than all these."
"Which is?" she asked.
"How fast can you run in those shoes?"
"What?" she began, but got no further as Michael's hand sped over the nape of her neck and grabbed her shoulder furthest from him, pulling her back and off her feet. The jerk and the flash of leaping, snarling, lupine gray were simultaneous, and as she spun into the snow she saw - through the spray of scattered crystals - Michael rolling backwards with what looked like a great gray dog in his arms.
The thing's teeth were clamped around Michael's forearm, him having jammed it in there to save his face. His right hand was buried in the matted fur of its belly, his muscles twisting with the effort. Convulsively, he kicked the beast off him, wrenching his hurled knife out of its guts as he did so. It hit the snow two yards away, whining and whimpering piteously amid the spilled loops of its intestines, giving off its life in little coiling wraiths of steam as the snow around it turned salty red.
And then Michael was up and his hand was under her arm, his ravaged sleeve snapping in the wind and lupine saliva and blood congealing on her coat, and the two of them were running as fast as they could and not looking back.
And then behind her came the sound that killed all doubt in her mind. Despite the fact she had never heard one before, she recognized a wolf's voice;
"Kill the Son of Adam, bring me the Daughter of Eve."