I lie on the grass by the fire and stare up at the stars above me. Narnian stars. How can this be the Narnian sky? Lucy and I should be meeting our new mates at boarding school or sleeping on mattresses, wearing plain British nightdresses. Instead, we're lying in red and purple Narnian gowns by a campfire with our brothers and a bearded dwarf. Rather than mattresses, we sleep on thick green grass under tall pine trees and the deep blue Narnian night sky. The stars remind me of snowflakes scattered across a blue velvet winter dress.
I listen to the crackle of the fire before I speak, hoping my sister replies. It's too quiet and lonely at night. "Lucy, are you awake?" She murmurs a response, so I push myself off the ground and onto my elbow.
"Why do you think I didn't see Aslan?" The thought won't leave my mind. All four of us came to Narnia before. All four of us fought alongside Aslan and defeated the White Witch. All four of us were Kings and Queens. Why is it that Lucy alone saw Aslan?
She sits up as well, a puzzled expression on her face. "You believe me?"
"Well, we got across the gorge."
"I don't know." She pauses. "Maybe you didn't really want to."
The thought surprises me, not in a pleasant way. Do I lack faith? I don't doubt that we're back in Narnia. After all, I can smell the smoky campfire, hear the crickets, see the stars, feel the cool grass below me. Perhaps the issue is not my lack of faith, but rather that Lucy's belief is simply stronger.
"You always knew we'd be coming back, didn't you?"
"I hoped so."
I lay back down, frustrated. Even the childish, simple Lucy never really knew. How was I expected to keep the faith for a whole year of uncertainty? Why does Aslan play these games with us? I can't help but sympathize with Peter's frustration earlier today in the train station. We waited an entire year with no idea of when or even if Aslan would call us back. Now he finally has, with no warning and no welcome. We're strangers in our own land - both of our lands, quite frankly - and he won't even come to us to help. "I'd finally just got used to the idea of being back in England."
"But you're happy to be here, aren't you?" I can hear in her tone that she's concerned for me. Lucy always was the simple one, the one of us who found joy most easily.
I hate to cast a shadow over that childish happiness, but one of us must be logical. "While it lasts." I can tell that my answer worries Lucy. Still, it's true. I won't have my life and hopes destroyed when I return to England... not like last time.
Lucy lies down and I close my eyes, surrendering to sleep.
"Susan, wake up!"
It takes me a moment to wake enough to realize that Lucy's speaking to me. It's too early to get up. "Certainly, Lu. Whatever you want." I fold my arms to make a more comfortable pillow for my head than the hard ground under the grass is providing.
A few quiet minutes pass before Lucy grabs my arm and shakes, snatching me out of my sleep. "Susan, Edmund, hurry! Come quick!" She runs off without explanation. I blink away my grogginess and Ed stands and gives me a hand up. I grab my bow and quiver with the other hand. Trumpkin, the dwarf, stamps out the fire. With him and Edmund close behind me, I run in the direction Lucy disappeared just as I hear her cry out, "No! Stop!"
A few seconds more and I'm standing beside her. "Peter!" He's standing, rock in hand, by a human young man with thick, shoulder-length black hair. The strongly built man is wearing dark blue and white Telmarine attire and is holding Peter's sword in a fighting stance. Behind them, I can see Narnians all around - minotaurs, centaurs, fauns, bears, cheetahs. This cannot be good.
The man glances at Edmund, Lucy, and I before looking down at Peter's sword. He looks vaguely familiar, and I wonder if I knew him before in Narnia. Then I remember. Maybe we knew his ancestors...
"High King Peter." His accent - Spanish? Mediterranean? - is thick. His tone is more of disbelief than awe. I hope that isn't becoming a trend. It seems the thirteen hundred years we've spent away have not done our reputation in Narnia well. Why did Aslan wait so long?
"I believe you called." I recognize Peter's tone. It's one he often uses with me when he thinks I'm being stubborn.
"Well, yes... but... I thought you'd be older." This is the man who blew my horn?
"If you like, we could come back in a few years..." Peter glances at us. I can tell he's still frustrated with the Telmarine, but it can't be that bad if he's teasing.
"No! No, that's all right. You're just... You're not exactly what I expected." The man looks at Lucy, Edmund, Trumpkin, and I. This time I get a better look at him. Tan skin, dimpled chin, a hint of a smile. His dark eyes, so brown they're almost black, linger on me a bit longer than on my siblings. I'm acutely aware of his admiring me and glance down at the ground, at Peter, back at him. His attention is flattering and uncomfortable at once.
"Neither are you." Edmund sounds wary. I suppose he knows better than the rest of us that things in Narnia aren't always what they seem.
The Narnians, including a large talking rat, pledge their service to Peter and the rest of us. I begin to think perhaps being back in Narnia won't be so bad after all. So long as we keep in mind that it's temporary, I'm sure all my siblings and I will fit back into our places here. Still, the tension between Peter and this man is clear to me - to everyone else, as well, I'm sure - and I'm afraid it might cause problems in the future.
Peter turns and follows the now leaving Narnians to their campsite. The man falls in step behind Peter. I lead Lucy, Edmund, and Trumpkin behind the Telmarine. He slows a bit to walk beside me, and to busy my hands, I slide my quiver over one shoulder and my bow over the other.
"High Queen Susan?" His voice is rich and his accent is thrilling. I shake the feeling off immediately and nod curtly. My family and I won't be in Narnia long enough for me to afford encouraging his attentions.
"Prince Caspian the Tenth." Of course! Caspian, the Telmarine prince in ally with the Narnians. This doesn't explain why he seems familiar, but Trumpkin has been leading us to meet him and his army. I was right; he's the reason we're here, the man who blew my magic horn. He holds out his hand and I take it reluctantly, pulling mine away almost instantly. I can't help but notice how strong and warm his hand feels against mine.
"Welcome back to Narnia."