Spring, Year I of the Golden Age
It was a beautiful mild day, a precious and rare occasion now that summer - the first in a hundred years, and sometimes it seemed that everything in this first year would be greeted with unbridled excitement - was approaching. But the hold of spring had not faded yet, as evidenced by the sweet, cool breezes that greeted Lucy as she stepped out onto the balcony.
It had become a morning routine for her, the first thing she did once she rose. Greeting her land seemed only appropriate for a queen, and she found great pleasure in the morning sun on her face, and the visage of Narnia's rolling fields and hills, and far to the East, the telltale glisten of the sea.
The first plan drawn out by the new master housekeeper had put the four royals in their respective towers - North, South, East, West, facing the lands that Aslan had given into their keeping when He crowned them, but one night in the painfully isolated rooms had found all four congregated in Peter's room, sprawled ungracefully upon the High King's bed. Rather ironically, Lucy reflected with a soft laugh, Peter himself had been the last to come - for he, protector's heart that he had, had gone round the other three rooms late at night, and come back almost in a panic at finding them all empty - only to be greeted by the sight of his three younger siblings lounging on his bed, watching the door with amusement.
All the same, nobody laughed when Edmund woke, shaking and white-faced, with Peter's name gasping on his lips. Lucy had hung on to Susan's hand with all she had, her breath loud in her ears, as Peter clasped their brother to him, mouthing a word into his hair. Aslan. And, even later, as Ed and Susan slept on, dark hair mingling, Lucy alone had watched Peter wake, eyes over-bright with a terrible, fierce sorrow in them, and she hid her face against him, throat aching. Her brother, she realised that night, had already learned to bear a nightmare silently.
After that night, they'd all taken up residence in Lucy's tower, two rooms side by side. General Harcus, a stone-faced, mechanically efficient soldier faun, had initially objected, arguing the ease with which any enemy invader would gain all four of them, but Stormcall, a tall, dark Centaur, had taken one look at their faces and waved them on. The next morning, Lucy found herself sequestered in a corner of the training grounds, learning Stormcall's five foolproof ways to slit someone's throat if they entered your room unauthorised.
Even now, though, she doubted her ability to do that - not the technicalities of it, which she had had drummed into her brain, but the will to do it. The clash of swords, far below, startled her, but she hurried to the edge to look, smiling to see the dark and golden figures wielding their weapons. Both her brothers had taken to swordplay with ridiculous devotion, swinging their swords every which way, but growing in strength and grace every day.
She half-turned as Susan appeared on the balcony as well. The sisters often stood together to watch their brothers, and often Lucy caught a flash of almost desperate pain in Susan's face before she hid it. Fear, Lucy knew, for their brother's lives and souls, but somehow such things could not trouble her. They fought for the Lion and for their country, she knew, and being so led, never could stray.
Susan's fists were clenched, the slender fingers spasming, and Lucy suddenly wished with all her heart that her sister might see what she saw, and rest in that peace.
But that gift could not come from her, not now, for...
She sighed, not knowing why exactly she hesitated to speak. Susan had grown quieter since the day she'd saved those Animals, at least when they were alone. She did not discuss the myriad issues of castle settlement with Lucy, seeming to leave all troubles at the table, but her sleep was not deep, and her heart not at peace. She was endlessly and relentlessly capable, handling all disputes and problems with aplomb and a sweet smile, but... Lucy could not define what worried her, but it did.
"Come on, Su, I'm starving!" She danced away, into the room, tugging open the wardrobe, and was relieved to see Susan follow her, a smile slipping onto her lips. She never would tire of Narnian dresses, she thought every morning, for they were marvelously made, light and strong, marrying convenience and comfort in the most wonderful way. The dresses were perfectly beautiful, enough to satisfy the tastes of any young girl, but they did not restrict movement as pretty dresses did back in the Other Place; in a Narnian summer dress, Lucy could run and jump and dance, and return hardly the worse for wear.
"The pink or the blue?" Susan's voice was troubled, more so than a simple choice of dress ought to warrant, and Lucy longed to reach for her, but she kept her hand by her side, mindful of the decorum her sister seemed so enamoured of. She studied Susan out of the corner of her eye as her hand ruffled across the two gowns, her thoughts swirling uncertainly.
It was, she knew, most unbecoming and the furthest thing from queenly, but as the days progressed she found herself often thinking their brothers with a touch of envy. They were growing closer and closer, as they studied and trained and fought and learned together, and often now Peter would just tilt his head Edmund's way, a quicksilver look, and they would both laugh at some communication their sisters could not penetrate. She tried not to, but she wished-
"Lu, are you alright?"
"Oh- yes!" She flushed slightly, feeling off-balance and awkward as her thoughts stuttered to a halt. "The... blue, I think. You look so nice in blue, Su, your hair is lovelier every day." She smiled wistfully. She would have been lying to have said that she had not ever envied her sister's poise and beauty; Susan seemed to have slipped into castle ways and royal airs as if she'd been born to it. Lucy, on the other hand, was a child still and a child first, and although she did not particularly want to grow up, she did want to win some respect, some worth.
But mostly, she realised as she ducked into their outchamber to change, she just wanted... She didn't even know what she wanted, exactly. She wanted the comfort of a hand in hers. She wanted to be strong and small at the same time, to grow enough to be able to contribute meaningfully and yet not too much, that she would forget the wonder of it all. She wanted- she wanted Susan to look at her the way Peter looked at Ed now, like an equal, a fellow ruler, a strong right arm. She wanted her sister, not the Queen.
A sleeve tumbled down her arm as she lost her grip on it, shamed by her own thoughts. She felt small and ugly and selfish, caught in Susan's sapphire gaze. She shook her head in answer to the silent question, and turned away, struggling to button.
Suddenly a cool hand was on her fumbling fingers, and with a gentle movement, Susan did up the last hook. She closed her eyes, feeling clumsier than ever. Susan's hand lingered on her shoulder, hovering beside her cheek. She stared at her toes.
Suddenly the hand was gone, and a thud sounded in the room. Startled, Lucy finally looked to her side, to see her elegant sister queen slumped on the floor, back against the wall. She gaped.
Susan seemed to have caught her fascination with toes, for she, too, was looking blankly at them. Timidly, feeling as if she was in a dream, Lucy slid down beside her.
"I'm sorry." Lucy almost jumped when Susan finally spoke, her voice quieter than she'd ever heard.
"What- whatever for?"
Susan made a half-aborted gesture, opened her mouth, and closed it. Lucy had never seen her sister so inarticulate. The silence stretched on, and suddenly she couldn't bear it.
"How about for not ever talking?"
Susan started. "I- what?"
"I don't know what else you think you have to be sorry for, Su, but it probably isn't your fault. Look, I don't- I mean I don't mean- Oh, dear, I'm all jumbled." She dared a glance at Susan. "I just want us to talk when we're by ourselves, too," she ended softly. "Not just... for business. And even then you don't talk to me, you talk to Peter and all the other heads. Su, I'm a child, but I can help, and I want to."
"Oh, Lu, I know, I just..." Susan stretched our her hands, staring at them. "I suppose I'm just trying to be too grown up again," she admitted, shoulders falling. "It's just easier, you know- acting all poised and high-and-mighty, so people will listen, and respect me. When I don't really know what's going on at all."
Lucy stared at her sister in shock. Of all things, she hadn't expected to hear this.
"But you do know what you're doing! You're so elegant and sure and..." she trailed off when Susan shook her head. "And it's not that, Su, I'm not upset that you're grown-up, I know you're better than me at being royal, but-"
"Lucy Pevensie, don't you ever think that!" Lucy broke off, and gaped. Susan turned to face her fully, clasping her hands in hers. "It's not true, Lu. I'm so sorry. I thought you wouldn't want to worry over all this, it's such a burden to place on you, I just wanted to let you be a child, have space and time and, and that day you looked so scared I would have done anything, Lu, to keep you from ever looking like that again."
Lucy blinked, mind reeling.
"...And Aslan brought us here to be kings and queens, some prophecy-fulfillers, heroes, and I don't know how to be that, Lu, I've been trying- and Aslan said I could start with you-"
"Start with me?" Lucy asked, quite unable to think of anything more intelligent to say.
Susan seemed a little calmer, now, and she nodded, easing back down. "I'm no warrior, I know that now. The rest of you are made for this sort of thing, battle and adventure and all that, but I could never fight a war. So He said I could- well, I could just look after you three, and let you protect Narnia, with sword and shield, and I would look after you. I suppose I was trying to do that- protect you- from this business, but I shouldn't have, I see that now."
Lucy felt her entire being suddenly brightening, her spirits rising. Susan was protecting her. Protecting her- not ignoring her because she thought her incapable, or weak, or didn't want anything to do with her.
Unable to control her desire to hug Susan, she flung herself on her older sister, barely stopping herself from laughing out loud. She felt Susan tense, then suddenly her body relaxed, and answering arms folded her into an embrace. She leaned against her sister's shoulder, suddenly perfectly content.
"Aslan didn't bring us here to pretend to be other people, I think," she mumbled into Susan's dress. "Or even to be our future selves. He brought us, Su, children, and not particularly good ones either. But it'll all work out in the end. You'll see."
Susan's arm tightened around her.
"I'll hold you to that, Queen Lucy," she said softly. But Lucy heard the promise in her words, and smiled.
My deepest apologies for my long absence, but I am back now, and I fully intend to write more! I've just recently rediscovered many beautiful pieces of fanfiction, and I have to pay tribute to them here - without such giants before me, I would never have started writing in the first place.
If I did not manage to reply your review in the past, I am very, very sorry, it's important to me that every reviewer is thanked, but for the life of me I don't know if I replied or not, so just take this as a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to drop a word for me!