The Early Days
Lucy was at a ball, and she couldn't dance.
It was a surprising problem, considering that she didn't normally mind looking a little silly or making a fool of herself, though Susan was infinitely more graceful. But these were Narnians and they wereAnimals and she wasn't quite sure how she was going to even start because they were all in a natural position, it seemed, that shifted and changed as creatures came and went but ultimately kept the same formation. And she was a - a Queen, she supposed, were Queens even allowed to dance?
"Dear heart, why do you not dance?"
"Oh, Aslan!" Her face lit with delight and she spun immediately, beaming at the sight of the great Lion. "I would, but... it is all right, isn't it?" She peered anxiously up at him. "It's not going against some ancient rule that says I shouldn't? And well, most of them have four legs!" She blushed at this, realising how odd it sounded, but a soft chuckle interrupted her thoughts.
"And are not humans Animals, too, of a kind? Is not the Queen one with her people?"
"Oh... Of course!" Her eyes widened slightly. "I never thought of it that way."
"Now, on your feet, Queen Lucy. Dance!"
And dance she did, throwing herself bodily into the whirling mass at the centre of the ballroom. The chandeliers were cracked and the floor was still rather dusty and a stray rag here and there was testament to the hurried work of the cleaners, but the Narnians looked at it all and laughed true and well. What did it matter, if their castle was old and their ballroom was in need of repairs? The Witch as dead! Aslan was back! They had Kings and Queens again!
Lucy smiled, their celebration charming in its oddness - and its sincerity. They were so willing, these people, to learn and accommodate and smile. The fauns and the rabbits had somehow found a way to dance together - it involved the fauns stepping back while the rabbits stepped to the side and then some very complicated arm movements - and the centaurs, upon being asked to dance, threw back their heads and laughed, then stepped right into it, their hooves tappping an intricate rhythm and keeping a beautiful pattern. Lucy, upon realising that each Animal had its own dance and she was currently the only human dancing, took it upon herself to make one.
Her siblings descended upon her just as she was finishing up, and - this was too good an opportunity to waste! - she grabbed Edmund's arm and pulled him forward.
"Ed! I've come up with a new dance, just for us! You will dance with me, won't you?" She gave him the most sad look she could manage while nearly bursting with contained laughter, and with a loud groan Edmund took her hand.
He regretted it soon after as he twirled round Lucy a minute later at the centre of the ring of dancers, looking completely mortified.
'Lucy!" He hissed as she executed a spin and then a jump, his arm going up and down and round his head to follow.
"Aren't you having fun?" She laughed back, delight genuine, but unable to keep the mischief from sneaking in.
"No!" He groaned again as he nearly tripped over his own feet, and leveled an extremely dark glare over Lucy's head, where their older sister and brother stood arm in arm, laughing openly at him. "I am never going to fall for that look again," he grumbled again, but she saw the relief and happiness in his eyes, and beamed back. He might be a traitor but that was past, as far as she was concerned, and he was her brother.
The dance ended, though the music did not, with a resounding cheer from the other dancers, who welcomed her with eager arms as she gladly went to them, throwing a last wicked grin at Edmund as he ran off the dancing floor as if chased by savage beasts. She found she didn't know their dances, but to all of them she took with a shining face, for they touched something in her that she'd forgotten about for a long time.
It would be a long time again before she remembered just where she'd first loved like that.
But for the moment she put it aside and enjoyed the dancing, the fumbling as different Animals tried to learn dances strange to them, that were awkward on their forms. She'd never known before just how anatomically different Badgers and Otters were before, but, trying to keep back peals of laughter as she watched them attempt to dance, she learnt fast.
Her people were unique, she learnt too that night amidst the beat of tapping feet and the harmony of united voices. High and proud were the Centaurs, but they bowed to her with such quiet, calm deference in their manner. The Mice were lovely little things, proud and fiery too for all they were so small. The Badgers were stoic, steady creatures, down-to-earth and sensible even in their measured dances. The Hummingbirds were sweet creatures, many flying in intricate patterns for her pleasure, the fawns were flighty, eager, and completely charming, while the older Deer just sat back and laughed at their younglings. And the Fauns... they were all so friendly, like dear Mr. Tumnus, and- all the Animals danced to and fro and her mind named one and all and it was so bright, so colourful, and they were spinning and spinning -
"Shh, Lucy." A warm hand smoothed back a stray golden curl, and her sister's tender, amused voice soothed her. "It's past midnight - time to sleep!"
"Past midnight!" Lucy sat up in wonder, realising she was in her bed. "We can't have danced that long!"
"Oh, you did! The Animals are delighted - they would have kept you forever if Peter didn't step in!"
"Oh..." She rested her head back again, closing her eyes. "They're lovely, Su... all so friendly, and they'll dance with anyone... I do..."
A smile, and the breath of a kiss against her forehead, then Susan was gone in a swirl of colour.
She lay there for a few minutes, just breathing, and remembering those brilliant, joyful hours - just dancing. As her flushed cheeks cooled and her racing heart slowed the night deepened and the dances faded, replaced by four golden thrones and one golden Lion, and... Kings and Queens... but she was just a little girl. She frowned, and sat up, staring out the window at the stars.
A little girl.
She still liked dancing with all kinds of Animals, and twirling in the sunshine, and playing on the beach, and eating sugar though it was bad for her, and being kissed goodnight, though she was quite certain that Queens didn't do any of that. Well, maybe the dancing, but surely not the sugar!
She swallowed, suddeny feeling very lonely in the big bed with its silken pillow, but she pushed down the feeling resolutely. She could surely try to be the ruler the Narnians needed - she loved them already! - but how could she? Was the Lucy who'd crept into Peter's bed the night their father left, who'd tried to help Susan in the kitchen but ended up making a mess, who'd hidden and cried every day for a week over Edmund when he taunted her in school, one and the same with the one who'd stood in the throne room and received her crown and the blessing of a Lion? And if they were, how could it be...?
She lay there only a few more minutes, before slipping out of the room, a small shadow moving quickly across the corridor, to the large glass door that barred the balcony from her.
The night welcomed her like a child of its own, and an irresistable smile stretched across her lips. Even the night, here, was so sweet on her face and her arms as she lifted them and twirled, a dance for the stars in their slow-burning glory far above, and not for the first time she wondered if there was anything in Narnia that was not beautiful.
Not good, of course, there were bad things everywhere. But everything was so beautiful here, even... even the Witch. Even her.
But she wouldn't think of that tonight, when the echoes of her subjects' - her! - laughter still lingered pleasantly in her ears. Her people. It was wonderful, all of it, and - oh, she'd never seen something so undeniably grand than this place. It was elegant and large and full of windows to let in the light, never shutting out the sun. It was, she secretly thought, rather romantic in places, with turrets and spires with elaborate designs, and a night that embraced her.
With an sigh Lucy finally slid down, resting her head against the slender railing that separated the balcony and the rest of Narnia. Behind her the good people still danced and sang in the great hall, revelling in the downfall of Winter and the promise of Spring. She did love their smiles so! They spoke of a great reawakening, like the trees that blossomed suddenly after so long in the frost, and she rejoiced in their joy for the coming of another age...
A hundred years of winter!
She swallowed as she remembered the few days of this unending winter she had tasted, and how bitter they were. How had these brave creatures lived for a hundred years of that... coldness? There was winter in England- Spare Oom - but it had never been so very cold before. She shivered and drew her cloak tighter about her.
She started, but smiled as her brother pushed aside the curtain and slipped down beside her. Without a word Peter wrapped an arm around her, and she laid her head down trustingly, for it had never before occurred to her not to. But all the same...
The arm tightened.
"We're... we're Kings and Queens." Suddenly wonder filled her. How had this happened? They were just four brothers and sisters who stumbled into a magical wood. Everything else had just felt like consequences, coincidences, events falling into place as if planned, and then they were walking towards those thrones with wide eyes and hammering hearts.
"We are." There was a hint of wonder in Peter's voice too, and she curled into him.
"But I'm a child."
"So am I, Lu."
Her eyes widened. She honestly hadn't thought about it quite in this way yet, for -
"Oh, Peter. But you're so much older."
Peter turned a warm smile on her. "Not that much, Lu. Or at least I don't think it is when there're hundred-year-old Dryads in there."
She giggled slightly at this, and brightened. "The Dryads dance wonderfully, Peter! They're so clever, and graceful, and everyone stops to watch when they really dance. The rest of the time they just hold our hands and spin around, but when they dance their dances they're beautiful! I think I'll never look at a tree in the wind the same way ever again, and they have sweet voices too. Lower than ours, and - dryer somehow, like whispers, but different. Oh, I can't describe it! But it's wonderful, Peter."
Peter laughed outright. "Ed didn't think so."
"Oh! He danced with one of them! Oh! Oh, dear!" She thought of Edmund's at best clumsy dancing and winced for the sake of the poor Dryad, who had surely had to endure getting stepped on or tripped multiple times. "Oh, how funny! How dreadful!"
"Dreadful indeed, for the Dryad!" Peter grinned. "She was very nice about it, but she practically ran off once Edmund bowed. Not that I can blame her."
"Oh, dear." But she couldn't help it, and dissolved into helpless giggles at the image of the graceful Dryads attempting to keep time to Edmund's reluctant, two-left-feet dancing.
"Very true," Peter replied, as he stared off into the night. "Lucy?"
He looked down at her, and she was struck by the tenderness in his eyes, but the sorrow there, too. Her big brother suddenly looked terribly old, with his face in the moonlight casting strange shadows across his features... She pulled closer suddenly, unreasonably frightened. What had he seen on the fields of Beruna when he faced the witch alone?
"You do know that you're not too young to be a Queen?"
Her breath caught.
"Lucy..." He waited until she looked at him. And he smiled, so gently that she relaxed against him once more. "Lu, they love you. I can see it in their eyes. It doesn't matter, you know, how old we are or how strong we are. I think the important part of being a Queen is - to love your people, and to serve them. You do, don't you?"
"Well, then, my queen..." Peter pushed a stray curl out of her eyes. "I think you will do very well."
"Oh." There was silence for a while, as she took this in. Well, she thought, as lightness took her mood suddenly, maybe Narnia could make do with a rather short Queen for a while. And she would learn, and she would grow... "Thank you, Peter," she whispered, "you're so - wise." Wistfully she looked up. "Is that what it means to grow up?"
"I - " Peter broke off, blinking. "I don't quite know, Lu. Maybe it is. I don't think I'm very wise either, but we'll learn, won't we?"
Lucy sat back, rocking on her heels, and studied her brother. Little she might be, but stupid she was not, and - there was something about her brother now that was changed, and she was startled to find that it was nobility. In the visage of her brother Peter she could find traces of the High King of Narnia as he would soon be, great and wise and kind. But that was Peter, she realised with quick wonder. That was her brother. Sudden pride rushed through her.
"We will," she whispered. After all, they were young, and they had a good, beautiful land and a Lion who loved them. She thought on it all and with a joyful laugh she tugged Peter to his feet.