Disclaimer: All the characters and situations in the Chronicles of Narnia belong to C. S. Lewis and not to me.
They don't show her the bodies of her mother and father. The carriage they were in had been engulfed in flames, blasting everything to bone and ash. She identifies what's left of his shattered wire-frame glasses, her pearl brooch, their wedding rings. Pitiful remnants of their lives, but she is glad not to see more. She knows the others will have faces.
In the warehouse they've commandeered, the bodies are laid out in rows, draped in borrowed sheets stained crimson from the contact. She can't remember how many they said there were or if they have even found all of them yet. People who had been on the train. People who had been waiting at the station. People who had merely been passing by. Others have the task of sorting those out. There are only three that are her responsibility.
They stop in the middle somewhere, sheeted bodies stretching from horizon to horizon on either side. She doesn't know how they know where to stop, how they know this is one of the ones she's meant to see. They just know.
Before they can pull back the sheet, she knows, too. One little hand, soft and slim, womanly but still girlish, isn't quite covered. So often she had seen that hand fly to catch her own, turning her attention to some wonder that no one else had noticed, swift to comfort, to confide, to support. And though she has denied it with bitter fierceness, she remembers that hand strong in battle, whether with dagger or bow, and tender in ministering to those who fell.
"Where is your healing cordial now, Valiant Queen?"
They stare blankly at her whispered words, saying nothing, pulling back the sheet. Against her command, her heart writhes, and she sees. There, under a cloud of sunlit hair, is a fair face, a face so familiar and yet so foreign without the light and laughter that had always animated it. Though it is undamaged, sweetly at peace, she is glad when they cover that face again. She is glad she doesn't have to see whatever else is under the stained sheet. There seems to be not enough left there to make up even one slender young girl.
"Yes," she tells them. "Yes, that is my sister."
They take her farther on, to one corner where more bodies are laid, those who hadn't been on the train but who had merely been waiting for it. These seem packed together more closely than the others, as if those in charge had realized too late how much space they would need and just how many dead there were.
Two of these, the two very last, are laid close to each other. These two had always had so much to do, sorties and rescues and adventures, sacred quests and judgments and pranks, always together, sword and shield, always hurrying to fulfill their many obligations, to defend the weak, to right wrongs. Could they not have been late just this once?
She tilts her head to one side, trying to figure out what seems strange about the two, and then she knows. Both of the sheets have near-identical stains spreading from where she imagines their chests must be. Those who have brought her here tell her that, as the two had tried to shield each other from the train's impact, a flying shard of metal, as sharp and deadly as a broadsword, had pierced them both through, pinning them together at the heart.
She shakes her head. As if they hadn't been already.
Her own heart, though she commands it to keep still, wrenches cruelly inside her when they lift the nearer of the two sheets. There is the familiar mop of black hair, even now untamed, dark brows and lashes on fair skin that rivals her own, a young face wavering still between boy and man and yet, even in death, marked with an air of quiet gravity. There is a cut near one eye, a scraped bruise on one pale cheek and the lower lip is split, and she thinks he must have been thrown to the ground with the force of that cursed metal blade. And though she has denied this, too, she cannot now drive away the memory of a weary, remorseful little boy, his dark eyes shamed and pleading to be loved again, a boy rescued from a witch's spell, forgiven and healed and molded into a monarch who, through his trials, had understood both justice and mercy.
"Where is your mercy now, Just King?"
Again those who have brought her here seem not to notice the whispered words. They merely replace the sheet and wait expectantly for her verdict.
"Yes," she tells them. "Yes, that is my younger brother."
That leaves only one, and she doesn't want to see. And yet, because she knows she will never again be able to, she does want to see. She has to see. She already sees. Those legs are too long and the sheet doesn't cover them all the way. In spite of herself, she sees them not in commonplace English trousers and work shoes, but in armor, dwarf wrought, sleek and gleaming. And when the sheet is turned back and, still heedless of her command, her heart finally cracks, hot tears slip down her painted cheeks.
Crowned with hair as golden as the rich circlet that had once graced it, as golden as a Lion's mane, the face she sees is fine and flawless, still bearing the look of a king and a warrior. It is the look of a man who, though even now not quite without some lingering traces of boyhood, has long done all that love and honor have asked of him and that with a willing heart and no thought of what it might cost him, only desiring to please that One to whom he had pledged himself.
She has especially denied this, for in denying the High King, she has denied the enchanted kingdom he had ruled and the One who had set him on his throne. In that, she has denied that she and the younger two had been rulers under him, supporting him as he supported them, and all of them under the paws of the Lion.
"Where are your kingdom and your Lion now, Magnificent King?"
There is nothing magnificent about this place, nothing magnificent about pain and grief and wasted life, wasted and cruel in its brevity. And, yet, in the king . . . ?
Those who have brought her here search her eyes, again waiting for confirmation.
"Yes," she tells them. "Yes, that is my older brother."
They move to pull the sheet back into place, but with a sudden cry she holds it back.
Her tears fall faster now. Where is the Lion? Are they somehow with Him now? He had told them all they could never go back, but is there still a deeper magic? Her brothers and sister had tried to tell her about finding Him here in this world, but she had always been too busy to listen.
And yet that peace she had seen in her sister's face, that peace that defies death, it is in her brothers' faces, too. She reaches to touch that last still face, but then she falters.
No longer a friend, she had heard him say of her with that grave, grieving calm he had always displayed when, even as High King, he had to bear some hard thing he could not himself make right. No longer a friend . . . to his kingdom? To his Lion? To him?
But that kingdom is gone now, for the three of them have carried the last of it away with them. Their Lion is silent. And the High King– She touches his cold cheek, and a fresh torrent of tears washes away the last traces of her makeup.
She stumbles to her knees, twisting her fingers into the burned and shredded remains of his shirt, sobbing out a Name that those around her cannot understand.
And almost before she realizes it, she is aware of a tender, golden voice, at once foreign and familiar, one she both fears and desperately longs for, one she knows is longing to be found.
"Where is your disbelief now, Gentle Queen?"
Her lips tremble into a wondering hint of a smile, and for the last time in this world, she caresses the High King's face. Soon, she is suddenly sure, they will all be together again. And she almost laughs to remember that He calls all times soon.
Finally, she stands, tall and gracious, somehow feeling again the cascade of black hair that had once fallen almost to her feet. She doesn't deny anything anymore.
Those who have brought her here step back a little, puzzled or perhaps awed.
"Yes," she tells them. "Yes, I am their sister."