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Too Much To Ask For
The ambassadors seemed to think that High King Peter and Queen Susan wouldn’t know how to handle guests. They seemed to think that the year old Kings and Queens would lack the experience of throwing parties.
Oh how they were wrong. Queen Susan had reveled in hosting parties at her mother’s side at home, and now that she was in charge, she had nothing holding her back from throwing gala after gala. King Peter, being the oldest, had often stood by his father’s side to greet and entertain their military guests, and he showed every bit of it here. King Edmund, too, though less receptive of the girls due to his rather famous temper and lack of patience, knew how to handle himself here. Even young Queen Lucy, with her charm and open arms, knew how to throw a party.
But underneath the smiles and laughter, the politeness and coolness, the dancing and sometimes even flirting, Lucy could see the impatience and tiredness in Peter’s eyes and stature. The seventeen year old king was the constant center of female attention, and Susan could easily see his annoyance and disgust.
After one such gala, the High King found himself standing on the beach, staring out over the water. “Why don’t they see that I do not care for dismal and so obvious attempts? Why do they not understand?” he asked the waves.
Of course, they did not answer. But a Nereid did. “They are not from your world, Your Majesty. They do not understand you. All they understand is that you are a King, an unmarried King, who they want for themselves. They cannot see you as just a young man. Give it time. Perhaps, someday, you’ll find a woman who can see you for the man you are, not just the King you’ve become,” she told him.
“Thank you. Might I ask your name?” he replied, sighing.
“Narre, milord,” she smiled gently at him, and then disappeared into the waves once more.
“How is it that she understands but none of the girls that are praised for their intelligence do?” Peter asked the moon that was rising over the castle. He just wanted a girl who he could go for a gallop with, show around the armory and have her understand, talk about hunting with, and basically just really be able to talk to her. He wanted a girl that would understand his challenges, a girl with whom he could just be himself. He wanted a girl who was independent, who didn’t need to throw herself at him to get his attention. He wanted a girl who could be tough and a warrior, but then dance and sing and be a lady. Was that so hard to find? Was that too much to ask for? Peter didn’t think so. Now he just had to find her.
She blinked and lifted her head. Pain shot through her neck and back and her eyes watered. Looking around, she realized she was in the back of some kind of wooden cart. Where was she? She thought she could hear men arguing and horses neighing. A clank of metal by her ear made her realize she could see between the planks. Medieval looking soldiers were unpacking in what looked like the courtyard of a castle. She had the sudden feeling she wasn’t in her world anymore.
At home, she’d always been teased about her belief in fantasy. But suddenly, she believed even more. She didn’t know why, but she knew she was in danger. She knew by the way the men were acting that they were suspicious of her. She knew she wasn’t going to be treated well here. How could she escape? She’d always been good at getting out of sticky situations. And this was a really sticky situation.
How’d she even get here? What had happened to her? Why didn’t she remember anything? She couldn’t even remember her name. And that really scared her. Over the years, as she lost more and more, her name she’d always had with her. Now it was gone. Please, please, someone help me!
The doors at the back of the cart creaked and opened and she was nearly blinded as sunlight spilled into the cart. It almost seemed like dark sunlight, as if this place itself was dark. Someone stood silhouetted in the opening and reached in. They grabbed her ankle and dragged her towards them and she found herself too weak to fight back.
“Not much fight left now huh?” he snarled at her as he heaved her from the cart. She fell to the ground in a heap and someone cut the ropes tied around her ankles and shins. Then she was hauled to her feet and shoved forward, making her stumble. Glancing around, she saw that this courtyard was surrounded by a low stone hall, maybe only ten feet high. Another wall, much taller, surrounded the castle, and I knew that once inside, I’d never leave. Looking around more carefully, I saw very few archers on the wall and way too many ground tied horses.
Oh if only these people knew what she could do, they would have lined archers shoulder to shoulder on those walls. They would have assigned her a dozen guards, not just two. They would have locked the horses in their stable and chained the doors shut. They never would have untied her ankles.
A new motivation stirred inside her. She was a fighter, a survivor. She wouldn’t let them keep her here, because she knew they’d kill her. Oh, no, she would not stay. She would break free and run.
That was what she did. She ran. She got away. She started over.
It was time to start this over.
Author’s note: I made this one short so that her escape didn’t happen immediately. I didn’t want it to be too fast. Reviews are much appreciated!
She kept her face turned down and neutral as her mind raced. An elbow here, a kick here, grab that horse, and ride. Yes, that’s what she needed to do. And she needed to do it now. Pulling out her best acting mentality, she groaned and stumbled. She fell as she was shoved and felt annoyance radiating from the two guards. They moved to pick her up and she swept her leg around, taking them out effectively. She pulled a knife from the sheath of one, sliced through her wrist bonds, and then ran.
These people had made another mistake. They had left the courtyard empty of guards and full of horses. It was easy for her to find one with a bow strapped to the saddle of one of the ones who was ground tied. It was easy for her to grab the reins and leap into the saddle of said horse. It was easy for her to spur the mare towards the gate with her legs as she dropped the reins and grabbed the still strung bow. It was too easy for her to knock an arrow and shoot the guard standing beside the gate. It was even easier for her to shoot the two on the wall above the gate.
Overall, she was laughing as she shot out the gate. The mare seemed to know exactly where to go as she galloped across a huge stone bridge, through a forlorn city, and into the dark woods on the other side. “That was far too easy, wasn’t it, girl?” she asked the black mare as they slowed to a canter to weave between trees. The mare soon came to a stop beside a stream, where she slid out of the saddle to go through the packs. In one, she found flint, a first aid kit, and basic cooking gear, along with a fletching kit. In the other she found a change of clothes and a cloak, along with a small sewing kit and a journal. She grinned and looked down at herself.
Her blue blouse was ripped and torn, mud stained and possibly blood stained. The bottom of her long black skirt was shredded and mud stained, and her laced up leather boots were caked in the stuff. Pulling off the blouse, she slid the dark green shirt on and put the tan leather jerkin over it. Thinking quickly, she realized that if the soldiers were dressed in medieval clothing, the women would be too. That meant she had to wear a skirt to blend in or risk drawing attention to herself. So she yanked the pants on under the skirt and clasped the cloak around her shoulders. Glancing at her reflection in the stream, she nearly laughed. She actually looked comfortable for once. Like she belonged in these clothes that were slightly too big.
Taking the quiver from where it was strapped to the saddle, she fitted it over her shoulder and felt it fall into the familiar place. At home, wherever that was now, she’d been really into archery. She’d been really good, a natural competitor. Soon, competing was joined by hunting, and later, fencing. Her grandmother swore she belonged in another time, like she was a lost soul born into a new body. Maybe this was where her soul belonged. Maybe this was where she belonged.
Now she just had to make her way to safety. She had to figure out where she was and where she needed to go. Glancing at the water, she saw that it flowed in the general direction away from the castle. She’d just follow it to the river and maybe she could find a port. She could get directions there. Nodding to herself, she remounted the mare, slinging the bow over her shoulder before she did. She still had the knife from the guard, and it was now stabbed through the redone ponytail that was her hair.
Looking over her shoulder, she urged the mare forward, into the water, so they couldn’t track her scent with dogs. She found herself looking over her shoulder often as she rode through the silent forest.
It took her four days to reach the port-city. Four days of glancing over her shoulder along the road she found the second full day away from the castle. Four days of hunting small game and cooking it over small fires. Four days of talking to the horse, the wind, the trees, and the water, none of whom answered her. Four days of restless dream filled sleep during midday and midnight. And while she didn’t mind roughing it in the woods, she was more than relieved to see friendly faces.
She made her way slowly through the city, looking for a decent inn where she could get directions. When she found one, she tied the mare, which she’d nicknamed Satin, to a hitching post and ducked inside the taproom that greeted her. She looked around until she spotted a woman with a set of keys on her apron. The woman was more than ready to lap up the story of being kidnapped and now lost, and offered a look at a map.
“Oh, yes please, mistress,” she replied, and eagerly followed the woman into an office. A map hung on the wall, and it was easy to see the distinction between countries. Mostly three lands dominated the map, and the innkeeper put her finger close to the southern border of a country called the Wildlands and another called Narnia. The Wildlands were shaded a light brown color, Narnia red. “Why is it called the Wildlands?” she asked.
“We’re known for having strange wild creatures in our mountains. Now, where are you looking to go?” the woman replied.
“I’m not really sure. I think I got hit over the head, because I don’t remember anything before four days ago, when I escaped. I don’t even know how I got there in the first place,” she admitted.
“You could sail south, to Narnia. I would, if I could,” the woman suggested.
“Word is that the Kings and Queens are leading them into a Golden Age.”
For this, she had no answer but to agree to sail to Narnia. She asked the woman if there was a place she could sell Satin and her tack. The woman introduced herself as Verona, and took her to a livestock dealer. Verona haggled for a price until they were both satisfied, and then she paid for a room for the night. Verona then took her to the harbor, where she was able to buy passage on a ship sailing to Narnia the very next midday. Even after paying both expenses, she had the money to buy a new shirt, a sheath for her knife, and a real pack. Yet, she still had some to stash away in her gear.
That night, lying in the bed, she found she couldn’t sleep. Something was calling to her. Something that had to do with Narnia. Something that knew what she didn’t about herself. Something that knew where her destiny would take her.
Standing at the prow of the ship a few days later, her eyes easily found the storm that was bearing down on them. She was afraid for the first time since waking up in the wagon. The captain had said it would only take a few more days to reach a port near somewhere called Cair Paravel. The calling was getting stronger the closer she got to Narnia, and she had been having strange glimpses of a great golden lion with sad, wise eyes in her dreams.
“Tie yourself to the mast now, lass!” the captain yelled over the wind. One of the crew threw her a bundle of rope, which she used to secure herself with her back to the storm. A second crew member tossed over her pack, which she instantly tied around one arm.
When it hit, the storm was like nothing she’d ever known. It tossed the ship around like it was a child’s toy and dumped hundreds of liters of water on them with each wave. She didn’t scream after the first wave, at least not with her mouth open. She clung to the mast as the ship tilted this way and that and found she couldn’t close her eyes. She was just too terrified.
She didn’t remember facing anything like this, but she couldn’t remember any kind of event. She remembered how to do things, like shoot a bow. She didn’t remember why she knew how to shoot a bow, just that she did. She just knew things really, not remembered them. She couldn’t remember her name, where she came from, how old she was, or even why she’d been in that wagon. She didn’t remember that her favorite color was blue, she just knew. She didn’t remember that she could skin a rabbit or squirrel or pluck a bird, she just could.
She wouldn’t remember later that she passed out against her best intentions during the storm, but when she came to, she was being pelted with rain and wind, but she wasn’t on a ship anymore. She couldn’t find the strength to stand, so she settled for sitting up, and realized through the storm that she was on some kind of beach. She did a quick check for broken bones, but only found what looked liked gashes and rope burns covering her body. Her head hurt again, and when she moved to stand, she found herself incredibly nauseous. So much so that she had to roll onto her knees and heave.
When she was done, she scooped sand over it and moved away. A splash in the water caught her attention, and she turned. Seeing nothing, she looked around the beach and found her pack nearby. What looked like the mast lay nearby, still partly in the water. “I must have gone overboard when it broke. How did I survive that? I was tied to that thing,” she said into the wind.
“We had to cut you free and then we brought you here,” a female voice said from the water.
Following the sound of the voice, she saw what looked like two women lying on their stomachs in the shallows. Something flicked up where one’s legs would be and she swallowed. “Mermaids. You’re mermaids,” she said.
“Very good. You’re from the Wildlands, yet you know,” the same voice said. It was coming from the one with her tail up.
“I don’t think I’m from the Wildlands. I don’t actually know where I’m from. I can’t remember anything,” she admitted, moving slowly to her knees. She looked down at herself and saw that her clothes had been shredded. The green shirt was only being held on by the leather jerkin, which was soaked and covered in sand. The black skirt had been torn nearly length wise down one side, and it fell open over a pair of tan pants that had been ripped to knee length.
“We had to cut you free of your cloak and your shoes. The laces were tangled around something that was dragging you under,” the other mermaid said. She sounded older, and tired.
“Thank you. Did anyone else survive?” she asked.
“The ship didn’t sink, is that’s what you mean. Several went overboard, but you were the only one we could save,” the older one replied.
“You mean she was the only one we wanted to save,” the younger corrected.
“Why?” she yelped, surprised.
“You’re a young woman. Mermaids are protectors of women, while the Nereid’s and naiads are protectors of girls. You also have a mark of The Lion on you, and any creatures of Narnia must help a marked one in a time of need,” the older one sighed.
“I’m marked? Where?” she asked, looking over herself.
“You cannot see it, young one. It is a sort of draw that catches our attention. That’s how we found you,” the older one replied. With that, they slipped beneath the waves again, and the girl lay back on the sand, far too weak of energy to move. Instead, she curled in on herself, putting her back to the wind. And she slept.
The next time she woke, she found a bog furry body wound around her from behind. When she pushed herself up onto her elbows, the head of the creature lifted and she turned to see that it was a huge white tigress. “Oh, my, god,” she breathed, carefully running her fingers over on thick black stripe.
“You finally wake,” a deep, rumbling female voice said. She wasn’t as shocked as someone else would have been to discover that it was the tiger speaking.
“Um, yes, but is it bad if I don’t remember when I got here? Or how I got here?” she asked.
“By the looks of things, you were shipwrecked. I bet the mermaids brought you here, since they’d never let a marked one die in their own territory. Do you remember why you were on that ship?” the tiger replied.
“No. I don’t even remember being on the ship. Then again, I don’t remember anything, not even my name,” she admitted, looking out over the water to where the sun was rising.
“Well, mine is Spirit. Now, come on, let’s get you up. It’s too open here, and you need to eat,” the tiger said, rising to her paws. She nodded and got to one knee. Pushing herself up, she found her legs wobbling and was forced to accept Spirit’s help to stand. Spirit was far bigger than she expected her to be, just over four and half feet at the shoulder. She hobbled to where a pack lay in the sand, and Spirit lifted it in her jaws to her.
She slung it over her shoulder and let Spirit guide her up the beach to the forest, where a stream cut through the trees. The tiger guided her to the edge of the water and gently nudged her. “You smell like salt. Get in and wash,” Spirit said.
“You’ll warn me if someone’s coming?” she asked.
“Yes, now get in,” the tiger nudged her again, and she carefully pulled off the clothes she wore. Looking down at her body, she saw numerous gashes and rope burns all over her body. Slowly submerging herself in the water, she watched in amazement as grayish clouds were drawn from each wound. She scrubbed herself with a pine branch that Spirit dragged to her and watched salt wash off her body. Eventually, she got to her hair, which hung down her back in a salty braid. Undoing the braid, she combed through the mess with her fingers as she rinsed it out. She redid her hair in a neat, though wet, braid and reached for her clothes.
Examining the green shirt, she ripped it into strips and rinsed each one carefully. She scrubbed them with moss, which proved a good way to get rid of the salt. The she laid them out on a branch and reached for the pack that lay at the edge of the water. Digging through it, she laid out a white shirt with loose sleeves that had ties around the wrists, a knife in a brown leather sheath, an empty flask, a small sewing kit, flint stones, a small first aid kit that had bandages and alcohol in it, a soaked sleeping roll, a bow in an oilskin slip cover, and a quiver of arrows in another oilskin cover. From the bank of the water, she made a fire and started to wash her clothes and sleeping roll. Then she laid them out by the fire and took the first aid kit in her hands. Setting the needle from the sewing kit on a rock in the coals of the fire, she took the alcohol and carefully cleaned out each gash. Taking the needle from the rock, she stitched the worst ones closed, fighting herself the whole time she did. She bandaged each and wrapped them in green strips.
When she was done with self first aid, she pulled on her now dry undergarments and lay back in the grass, waiting for her clothes to dry. She listened to the wind sigh in the trees and the stream babble over rocks and looked up when Spirit returned, dragging a young buck in her jaws.
She reached for her clothes and slipped on the shirt and pants, then watched Spirit. “Come on, come take some so you can eat,” the tiger ordered, padding over to the stream to lap from the water. Obediently, she picked up her knife and skinned part of a haunch. Then she cut away a few strips of meat and set them on rocks to cook.
After she ate, she pulled on her skirt and jerkin, and looked once more at her supplies. She carefully moved the bedroll a little ways away from the fire so she could sleep, tucked her sewing kit inside her first aid kit, and placed the flat box inside the pack. Flint stones went in a small pocket on the side, and that’s when she noticed that the second strap was broken. She pulled it out and grinned. She looped it around her waist and tied it like a belt. Untying it, she slid the sheath onto the makeshift belt and retied it around her waist. When she finally banked the fire and lay down in the bedroll, Spirit was curled behind her back just like that morning.
It seemed she was destined to be in a situation every time she woke up. This time, it was that she had the blade of a broadsword kissing her collarbone. Blinking her eyes open, she stared up the blade to its owner, a calm faced, black bodied centaur. She had been tied up once again, and Spirit had not only been tied up but muzzled as well. “Get up, Wildlander,” he ordered, pulling his sword back to give her room. She gulped and rose to one knee. Then the sword was whipping around to slam into the side of her head and she knew nothing more.
The next time she woke, her head was throbbing and her eyes were blurred. She lay, still tied, in the back of a wagon, Spirit beside her. The wagon wasn’t moving, and a centaur came around the back and scrutinized her. He reached in and pulled her out gently, then dumped her on the ground. She pushed herself to her knees, so that she knelt with her back to him.
“Your Majesty, we found them just south of the Wildlands,” the deep voice came from above and behind her, no doubt the centaur.
“Them?” a second voice asked. This one was deep with authority, but younger in age.
“The tiger is in the wagon, Your Majesty,” the centaur replied.
“Well, milady, aren’t you going to greet your king?” the younger voice asked.
She felt a knee in the back and looked up. At first, she was shocked. This deep voiced man looked no older than her! He looked perhaps seventeen, and she guessed she was the same. He could only be described as golden. His hair was golden blonde, his skin a tanned gold. His face looked like one that smiled often but was a serious ruler. He looked commanding, like a King, standing over her in his light blue version of the shirt she wore, a tan short sleeved over shirt, and darker brown pants tucked into knee length tan boots. A dark red belt held a matching sheath on his left hip, and the golden lion’s head that topped the pommel of the great sword was nearly hidden under his strong fingered hand.
“If I am a lady, then why are your guards treating me so, Your Majesty?” she asked.
The golden king chuckled and motioned with his hand. She felt hands yank at the ties on her wrists, then felt the ropes fall away from her. She pulled her arms forward and folded her hands into her lap. She refused to rub the red marks, instead she settled for tucking a strand of hair back into the braid. "I'm not a lady, Your Majesty. If I fit a rank here in this kingdom it is peasant," she said.
"You do not dress like a peasant, milady, and you certainly do not act like one," he told her.
"And what might I act like, Your Majesty?" she asked.
"A commander, milady, or perhaps even a queen," he replied. Suddenly, his eyes noticed something and they narrowed fractionally. "What happened to your head, milady?" he asked, touching her temple.
She was shocked. His touch was so gentle, as if he actually cared. She'd never been touched that way. She didn't know why, but she shrank away from his hand, ducking her head as she did. Had she still been looking, she would have seen something akin to confusion in those blue eyes. “Free her companion, if you would, Captain, I dare say milady will need her,” he ordered over her. She looked up through her eyelashes and he noticed the barely concealed fear in her eyes. Throwing protocol into the wind, he knelt before her and met her eyes.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” she murmured, dropping her eyes. She’d been so challenging, so confident before, like the harshness was familiar and almost relief.
Then he’d shown her kindness and she’d come undone. It was clear to him that something was amiss, and something had happened to her long before now to make her this way. “Milady, are you alright?” he asked softly.
“No, Your Majesty, I don’t think I am. I can’t remember anything prior to when I woke on the beach with Spirit. She guessed I’d been shipwrecked because the mast was lying on the beach, and I was covered in rope burns, like I’d been tied to it. My clothes were torn, as you can see from my skirt and what is left of my pants,” she replied, keeping her eyes downcast.
“Nothing, milady?” he checked.
“Nothing, Your Majesty. I know things, such as I like the color of your shirt, or that I can shoot a bow rather well. I know that I can skin a buck, and I know how to stitch myself up. I know that while I don’t really belong in this world, this is the only place I belong. But I don’t remember who taught me to shoot or skin a buck or stitch myself up. I don’t remember learning any of those things. I don’t remember what world it is that I come from, but I know it’s not the Wildlands. I don’t even remember my name, Your Majesty,” she said.
“Well, milady, my name is High King Peter, but you can call me Peter,” he told her, folding her hands inside his own.
“Your Majesty? The delegation from Calormen is arriving tonight, and there is much to do,” Captain told him, looking down on the kneeling humans with something almost akin to concern.
“Yes, yes, Captain, I know. Her companion, the tiger, has she been released yet?” the young man looked up, though still holding the girl’s hands in his own.
“I have, Your Majesty,” a deep rumbling female voice said from behind Captain. A white tiger stalked passed Captain and nudged the girl with her nose. “Come on, girl, up. If you ever want to walk, you better wake those legs up,” she ordered the girl, nudging and pushing with her head.
“Come, milady, it’s alright. You’re safe here, I promise,” he told the girl, standing. She looked up and he gently pulled on her hands. Between him and the tiger, they got her to her feet, and she took a shaky step forward. “Carefully, now, milady,” he said, guiding her as she walked. She took a few more steps, gaining balance, strength, and grace with each one. He released her, and she walked a few more steps, and then turned to him.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” she said softly, sweeping her ripped skirt out in a curtsey.
“You are quite graceful, milady. Like I said, you certainly do not seem like a peasant,” he told her, bowing. “I’ll have my Quartermaster settle you in a room, milady. If you need anything, do not hesitate to ask. I’d be most happy if you’d join my siblings and I for the midday meal. Just ask one of the fauns to show you the way,” he added. He didn’t know what made him ask her to join them, but he was glad he did.
“Oh, Your Majesty, I could never. I’m hardly fit for Royal Company,” she replied, aghast.
“Milady, perhaps once you’ve seen the palace healer, had a nice steaming bath, and gotten clean clothes, you’d feel different,” he suggested.
She sighed, and looked into his eyes. He was taken aback by the strength of the emotion in her eyes. She clearly believed she was truly unworthy, and he realized she had no idea she was a queen with no crown. HE saw that somewhere in her past, she’d been forced into the belief and now it was stuck, but she didn’t remember. He cursed the person who had destroyed her spirit, because he was realizing now that her tough and challenging attitude came from having been forced to deal with pain and suffering. Deep in the smoky sapphire color of her eyes, he saw the soul of a sacrifice, someone who’d suffered in the place of another willingly. He saw it, but he knew she couldn’t feel it.
Briefly, he wondered if she remembered the color of her eyes, and then she was curtsying again, saying, “Very well, Your Majesty, if you insist.”
“Insist I do, milady,” he replied, nodding. She looked over his shoulder at Captain, and he felt the centaur move. He stepped aside as Captain handed a pack, a bow, a quiver, and a knife on a makeshift belt to her. First, she tucked the knife and belt into the pack, and then she carefully unstrung the bow and slipped it into the quiver, just as he had seen Susan do on many occasions. Then she slung both the pack and quiver over one shoulder and curtsied again. He watched her turn and walk towards the steps into the palace, the tiger at her side. He watched a faun greet her and laugh. The he watched as she disappeared from view into his castle.
“You said you found her just south of the Wildlands?” he asked, turning to Captain.
“Yes, sire. When we found her, she was sleeping, but she woke as soon as one of my men touched a sword to her neck. She doesn’t seem to rest peacefully, either, and even after she was knocked out, she fussed and writhed if someone touched her,” Captain told him.
“So that’s what happened to her head. Remind your men that they need to be more careful with humans. Our bodies are far more fragile than a Narnian creature’s. What else, Captain?” he replied.
“Sire, she was tied up before we got to her. She may have been tied to the mast on that ship during the storm, but those rope burns were new. She had older ones on her wrists and ankles, and whoever tied those ropes tied her much tighter than we did,” Captain admitted.
“You think she’s a prisoner that escaped?” he asked, looking over his shoulder towards the castle.
“Possibly, Sire. She seemed honest enough when she said she couldn’t remember, and I have a feeling she won’t remember whatever happened to her. She may remember her past, but there’s a reason she’s forgotten it all,” Captain sighed.
“You think Aslan took her memory, don’t you?” the king asked, realizing it was completely possible.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Captain replied. The King nodded and sighed. “When should I send the men to you to give their reports, sire?” the centaur asked.
“Two hours before midday if you would, Captain,” Peter sighed, running a hand through his golden hair. Captain was right, the Calormen party would be arriving that night, which meant he had only a few hours to enjoy his freedom before he had to spend the next two weeks entertaining a group of stuck up adults who were going to do their best to undermine him and his siblings. “Very well, Captain, I’m off,” he straightened and nodded to the Captain’s bow.
Striding towards the castle, he found himself greeted by Tahki, his blue eyed snow leopard personal guard. She whisked her tail across his thigh affectionately and padded beside him as he made his way to one of the ballrooms, where he found Susan and Edmund dancing. Susan’s brown hair was pinned up in an elegant swirl and her dark purple dress made the coloring in her cheeks darker than it was. Edmund was concentrating on the music a faun was playing, and Peter watched as he spun and twirled their sister around the dance floor. Edmund’s dark hair was freshly cut and neat for once in his life, which made Peter smile. The dark green shirt he wore had loose sleeves until the elbows, where they became tight and fitted, and it matched his gray pants and black knee high boots well.
He felt a tug on his sleeve and turned to find his youngest sister Lucy standing beside him, grinning up at him. She wore a pale pink dress and her dark hair spilled around her face and shoulders. He took her hands and led her onto the floor, where he bowed and smiled at her. “Could I have the honor of a dance, Your Highness?” he asked.
His chest swelled with pride as she curtsied and placed her hand in his. “You may, Your Majesty,” she replied. He grabbed her by her small waist and twirled her around and around the room, going the opposite direction of his siblings.
“Your Majesties!” a faun’s frantic voice cut through their music, and they stopped to see their Quartermaster standing in one of the doorways, between Tahki and Lucy’s lion Glimmer.
“Yes, Hinry?” Peter asked, letting go of his sister.
“The girl, sire, I don’t know where to put her! She refuses every ladies’ room I offer!” he burst out, his tail flicking back and forth anxiously.
“What girl?” Susan demanded.
“A moment, Hinry?” Peter asked.
“Of course, Sire,” the faun replied, backing out of the door.
“The girl my Northern Patrol brought in this morning. She was alone, besides her tiger, and she had been shipwrecked,” Peter told his siblings. Susan murmured in sympathy, Lucy gasped, and Edmund sighed.
“She’s human?” he asked his elder brother.
“Yes. I think she’s a Daughter of Eve, like you girls,” Peter replied.
“How many rooms has she refused?” Peter asked Hinry softly.
“Over a dozen, Your Majesty, each grander than the last,” the faun replied.
“That’s the problem, Hinry. Give her my first room. It should suit her,” he suggested.
“Your first room, sire? The blue and gold one?” the faun sputtered, shocked.
“Yes. The room I had before my dear sister decided we needed grander and larger rooms,” he assured him. The faun trotted off as a familiar white tiger came skidding down the marble hallway.
“Your Majesty! Come quickly, please! She’s having some kind of panic attack in the healer’s,” the great cat said, nodding to the white leopard.
Peter felt a wave of worry and guilt wash over him. He’d been then one to suggest all this. He broke into a run, ignoring the stares that followed him. The two cats ran at his side as he made his way to the healer’s. He threw open the door and the healer, a brisk female centaur, looked up from where she and several dryads were trying to restrain the girl. He strode over and the dryads moved out of his way as he sat behind the girl on the examining bed. He hardly noticed that all she wore were her undergarments as he wrapped one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulders.
“You’re alright, milady, I promised you that you are safe here,” he murmured repeatedly into her ear, holding her against his chest. She slowly stopped fighting and collapsed against him. He felt drops of water fall onto his arm and realized she was crying. “Milady, it’s okay, I promise you, everything is okay,” he assured her. She let out a kind of squeak and buried her face in the crook of his elbow. “Did this happen when they were stitched the first time?” he asked her.
“I did it myself the first time, Your Majesty,” her muffled reply was soft and shaken.
“How?” he exclaimed quietly in her ear, watching the healer remove the last of the stitches from a gash on her leg.
“I do a lot by myself, Your Majesty. I have no control over what your healer does, and I’m not a particular fan of needles,” she explained. She flinched when the healer began to restitch the wound, and he released her waist to smooth her hair the way he would with Lucy. He held her against him as the healer continued to unstitch and restitch the various gashes and wounds on her body.
When the stitching was done, the healer bandaged them, and bandaged the worst of the rope burns, which were mostly on her wrists and ankles. Finally, the High King was forced to release her from his hold.
He watched in silent amusement as the dryads attempted to coax her into a dress that Peter recognized as one of Susan’s old ones. She refused stubbornly, glancing at the High King once or twice. “Can’t I just wear the clothes I had on? If the Golden King has his way, I’m off to take a steaming bath,” she protested.
“Golden King, milady?” he asked, shaking his head at the dress. Another dryad brought the shirt, jerkin, pants, and skirt back to the girl, which she gratefully slipped on.
“Well, Your Majesty, you are the only being in this whole castle with golden hair, besides the great cats,” she replied, coming to stand before him.
“True, I am. You know, I think I like the Golden King,” he teased, standing. She backed away a step, and the tiger came to stand beside her. “I hear none of the rooms you were offered were appealing to you,” he smiled, taking her pack and quiver from a dryad. He nodded to them as they curtsied and opened the door for her.
“Those rooms were fit for queens, Your Majesty. They were far more elegant and grand than I need,” she replied, a faint spot of color appearing on her cheeks.
“Well then, it’s a good thing I know just the room for you,” he told her, leading her through the palace. They went through corridors, archways, doors, even gardens and courtyards, up and down stairs, and over small bridges, and then he was holding open a beautifully carved door of golden wood. She stepped passed him and let out a breath of wonder. She ran to the window, where she could see the sun above a glistening ocean. She realized though, that the room raced north, and she had the most amazing view of a clear sky.
“Are we in a tower?” she asked, turning to where he stood leaning against the doorframe. He nodded, and she looked about the room. It was a simple study, with an ornate desk in the same golden wood as the door, a heavy wooden chair that reminded her of a throne in the same color with a plush dark blue pillow on the seat, and a bookshelf in the same golden wood. Heavy books and novels, even scrolls, filled the shelves, and maps framed with the golden wood hung on the walls. A large table stood in the south western corner of the room. The floor was carpeted in dark blue over a golden wood floor and the walls were painted the same dark blue as the pillow.
He gestured to another door in one wall, and she opened it carefully. “Oh,” she breathed, stepping through. The walls were painted with the same dark blue as the study, but this was a bedchamber. A huge bed stood against the western wall, and a side table stood on either side. The bed was made up in dark blue sheets with a dark gold comforter on top. Pillows in various shapes and sizes in gold and dark blue covered the top section of the bed, and the dark gold carpet was soft and warm under her feet. A window seat looked out over parts of the castle and the ocean, depending on which way she sat. She didn’t touch the closet or wardrobe, both which were made of the same golden oak as everything else.
“Your Majesty, was this your room?” she asked, rejoining him in the study.
“How did you know?” he asked, looking up from examining the knife in her pack.
“You are the Golden King, remember? This is a golden room,” she teased, taking the knife. Her fingers brushed his, and when she pulled back, both of them felt a strange tingling in their fingers. Neither said anything, but instead, went on as though nothing had happened.
Peter turned and walked out, leaving his new guest waiting for a bath attendant. He had her knife in his mind, and Tahki padded along beside him as he made his way to the armory. Inside, he searched until he found exactly what he was looking for. He took a dagger from his personal collection of weapons and drew it from its sheath.
The dagger was one of his favorites; a coronation gift from one of the red dwarf clans, it was much like Lucy's dagger; only this one was thicker and longer. The lion's mouth on the pommel was open, bearing vicious silver fangs. He tucked it into his belt and nodded to the Weaponsmaster. The centaur gave a half bow as he walked out, and the High King found himself in the Spymaster's office.
Each king and queen had an office off the Spymaster's, and they used them as headquarters for their separate groups of informants and spies. The Northern Patrol was his own group, and the office walls were covered in maps of northern Narnia. He laid the dagger on the desk and sat in the chair behind said desk. He folded his arms on the desk and laid his head on them. He found himself drifting off until a knock on the door roused him.
"Come in!" he called, quickly combing his hair with his fingers. He stood up and quickly stuck the dagger back into his belt.
The door opened to admit the patrol that had found the girl, and the centaurs filled the room quickly. "Sire, did we wake you?" one asked.
"Yes, it's okay, though, Bardel," he assured him.
The centaurs were quick to go through the reports, and Peter suddenly found himself alone again. He had pages of notes in front of him, and he slid them into a folder to store away. Glancing at the time, he bolted from the office, and hurried to the balcony where Susan had set up the meal.
When he got there, he found that she was absent. "Is she coming?" he asked his siblings.
"Did you invite her?" Susan asked.
"Yes, but," he started, but Susan cut him off with a gesture. She was looking beyond him, and when he turned, he saw her. She was partly hidden by a column, and she kept to the shadows. The balcony was a few steps above the main floor it was off, and he stepped down a step, hoping to coax her forward. "Milady, I'd like you to meet my siblings," he told her encouragingly.
She stepped forward, hesitantly, out of her hiding place, and the High King was rendered speechless. She was absolutely beautiful in a dark green dress and cream shawl around her shoulders. Her hair was twirled and braided with cream ribbon and she wore soft green slippers. "Your Majesties, Your Highnesses," she curtsied carefully, looking incredibly uncomfortable.
"My sister, Queen Susan the Gentle," Peter started, having to swallow several times before he could speak. She was stunning, really, and she carried herself like a queen, alibit a nervous queen.
"Welcome to Cair Paravel," Susan said, instantly adopting a kind of motherly attitude, as if she can feel the girl's need.
"My brother, King Edmund the Just," Peter continued.
"I hope my brother's not given you too much trouble," Edmund joked gently.
"And my youngest sister, Queen Lucy the Valiant," Peter finished, offering his hand to help her up the stairs.
"How do you like Narnia?" Lucy asked, turning from the edge of the balcony.
"I don't know, Your Highness. Most of my time in your kingdom has been spent unconscious, or abiding your brother's wishes," she replied, carefully moving up the stairs.
"What exactly did he have you do?" Susan asked, looking at her older brother, who was pulling out one of the five chairs for her.
"Nothing bad, dear sister. I simply suggested she go to the healer, speak to the Quartermaster for a room, and take a nice steam bath. Unfortunately, Milady here seems to refuse to let things go smoothly," Peter assured his sister, pulling out Lucy's chair for her.
"What happened, Milady?" The Gentle Queen asked.
"Well, Your Majesty, every room your Quartermaster offered was far too grand and ornate for the likes of me. I also had a bit of a panic attack at the healer's. It seems I have a fear of needles and need to be in control of things such as that," she explained sheepishly.
"They had to remove the stitches she put in herself, restitch the wounds, and bandage them," Peter elaborated as he sat.
"You stitched yourself?" Lucy exclaimed, slightly horrified.
"Well yes, Your Highness. I didn't want the wounds to get infected and I didn't want to bleed out, so I stitched myself up. I didn't feel quite as much of it as I should have, because most of my body was either numb or asleep from the wreck and being unconscious for so long," she told my little sister quietly.
"Yes, Peter mentioned that you were shipwrecked," Edmund told her.
"I think I was shipwrecked, Your Highness. You see, I don't remember ever being on a ship. I also don't remember anything of before the wreck. I don't remember anything that's happened to me. I don't remember where I come from, when my birthday is, how I got here, or where I supposed to be going on that ship. I don't even remember my name, Your Highness, which is why your golden brother hasn't introduced me," she replied, turning slightly to smile at Peter.
The High King laughed and smiled back, and the other three understood that the golden brother part was a joke between them. "But you haven't seem to forget everything you've learned, clearly someone taught you to speak properly," Susan said, unfolding her napkin to place it in her lap. The others did the same as the Gentle Queen began to serve them.
"No, Your Majesty, I've just forgotten learning them. I haven't forgotten what it is I learned, but I don't remember who taught me, when I learned, where I learned, the actually learning itself. I do not remember events, names, dates, things like that. But I do know things. I know that even though King Peter's patrol found me just south of the Wildlands, I am not from the Wildlands. I do not know how I know that, but I do. It's like I'm playing elimination in my head. I know what I'm not," she explained, covering the top of her goblet when Susan went to serve wine. "See, Your Majesty? How did I know to do that? I don't remember learning to do that, but I know to do it," she said.
"Why? Why have you lost your memory?" Edmund asked, taking a bite of his salad. She noticed that their meals were simple, and she guessed there would be some kind of welcoming feast for the Calormen party. They probably didn't want to each a lot now so they could actually eat at the feast.
"Aslan took it," Lucy said with absolute certainty. The others turned to look at her, questions clear in their eyes. "Can't you feel her mark? She's been Aslan-marked, and I'm betting it's because he took her memory," she explained.
"Is Aslan a great lion?" she asked softly, making Peter turn to see her head down and her hands fiddling with the tablecloth.
"Yes, he is. Why?" Lucy replied gently, and they all heard a note of fondness in her voice.
"Because the night after the wreck, the day I woke on the beach, I dreamed of a great lion," she told the young queen.
"Did he say anything?" the queen asked.
"Yes. He told me to find the silver cat on its banner of red. He told me the banner needed to be raised and needed to learn to believe in its self," she told them softly.
"You need to raise a red banner with a silver cat? Isn't that your personal standard, brother?" Edmund asked.
"Yes, brother, it is," Peter replied, never looking from the girl he had brought into this situation. A faint color tinged her cheeks and her knuckles were white as she held the tablecloth that hung in her lap. He reached over, discretely, since she was sitting right next to him, and placed his hand on top of hers. He slowly unclenched her fingers and smoothed her hand on her lap. She gently squeezed his hand and he withdrew his to his own lunch.
He didn't see Susan and Edmund exchange a swift glance, but if he had, he probably wouldn't have minded. The Aslan-mark explained the draw he had felt to her, but it didn't explain why he was so comfortable around her, or why he felt such a strong desire to help her and hurt those who had hurt her. He had yet to realize it, but she was quickly becoming his in his mind.
"So Aslan sent you to help Peter become the king He believes he can be," Lucy summarized.
She looked up to meet the Valiant Queen's eyes and nodded. And suddenly each one of the Kings and Queens had a quick vision of a queen with no crown.
After the meal, Peter found himself going over plans for the next fortnight. The feast was tonight, and the Calormen party was arriving in just over an hour, according to one Susan's doves. He also found himself playing with the dagger he had stuck into his belt. He'd wanted to give it to her, but she'd left with Susan and Lucy, who wanted her to help them pick out dresses for tonight.
He had noticed when she walked away that the back of the dress was under her shoulder blades, which would explain the shawl. But he also noticed lines of discoloring in several places going vertically done her back. He wondered if she knew they were there, but for some reason, he felt like she wouldn't want to talk about them.
He played with the dagger absentmindedly just over an over later as he stood on the main steps into the palace, waiting for the company to arrive. He hadn't bothered to replace his clothes, since he'd only change for the feast in few hours. But he was wearing his golden crown, and his siblings beside him wore theirs as well. They stood in the same line as their thrones, and when he looked to each of them, he saw that it was only Edmund who also wore a weapon, who was resting his hand on the hilt of his sword.
Peter became the High King the instant he saw the first of Susan's Southern Fox Watch come running into the courtyard. The squad was escorting their guests, and soon, the courtyard was filled with organized chaos as grooms led horses to the stables, staff guided nobles to their quarters, and servants took traveling gear and luggage. The High King was so busy greeting guests that he jumped at the gentle touch on his arm.
He turned to find her standing there, in the same dark green dress as earlier. Now, however she wore a black shawl, and small emerald earrings. She held a goblet of what smelled like sugar-berry juice, and he noticed that fauns had brought similar goblets to his siblings. "Thank you, milady," he murmured, sipping from the goblet. He never took his eyes off her as he did, and when he lowered the drink, she reached over and fixed the collar of his shirt.
"Aslan sent me to make you believe, so I'll make you believe," she murmured in response.
"How do you intend to do that?" he asked softly.
"By standing at your side when you need me, and by making others that would challenge your authority see a High King," she replied as she took the goblet back so he could shake hands with a visiting lord.
When the man walked away with his faun guide, Peter turned back to her and said, "How exactly will you make them see me as a High King, milady?"
"By treating you like one, Your Majesty," she replied.
"Milady, you don't have to deal with these feasts and galas and whatnot if you so choose not to. You do not need to put yourself through this," he told her, taking another sip from the goblet.
"Yes, I do, Your Majesty," she replied gently, meeting his eyes. "You need me to do so," she added.
"Milady," he protested softly, offering her a sip.
"Hush, Your Majesty. I want to help you. You are helping me by allowing me to stay here with you. Allow me at least to return the favor. Besides, this is a quest from Aslan. Even I will not disobey the Great Aslan," she told him, taking a small sip.
"Then allow me to ask you to accompany me to the feast tonight," he requested.
"Your Majesty, allow me to at least remember my name before I put myself in this," she implored him.
"Very well. I suppose I can't get away with introducing you as Milady now, can I?" he replied.
"No, Your Majesty, you can't," she murmured, smiling gently.
"Here, Milady. I want you to take this, if only for my own reassurance," he said suddenly, pulling the dagger from his belt. He held out in the flat of his palm, and she looked up at him quickly. He supposed this need for reassurance and his sense of worry was coming from a strong desire to protect this girl from anymore harm.
"Your Majesty, I have a knife. You saw it," she protested looking away as she did.
"Milady, this one you can hide in those sleeves, or even in the fold of your skirt. I know both of my sisters do," he told her, placing it in her hand. He closed her fingers around the sheath and took back the goblet.
"You do not trust these people, do you, Your Majesty?" she asked in a whisper.
"Not particularly much, no, Milady. I do not trust any of our neighbors yet. Too many are focused on undermining our authority, since not one of us is even of age yet," he admitted.
"Even more reason for me to stand by your side," she replied, tucking the dagger inside her sleeve discretely.
"If you insist, Milady," he smiled in resignation.
"Insist I do, Your Golden Majesty," she smiled and disappeared back inside the castle with the goblet, leaving him in a much better mood as he greeted guests. He still didn't understand how she intended to make him believe in himself, but if she was willing to try, who was he to argue.
When the High King found himself greeting the ladies of the company, he couldn't help but compare them to her. They were just two different breeds of women, and he had to admit he preferred her to their simpering giggles and obvious attempts at catching his attention. He would swear to anyone that Narnian women were that entirely different breed of women than any others.
That's when he began to think of her as Narnian. And he wouldn't stop.
There was something extremely aggravating about relentless attempts to catch his attention. And Peter seemed plagued by them. He was forced, as King, to welcome and host their guests, which meant putting up with the constant annoyance with a smile and a laugh.
Of course, these girls were too focused on catching his attention to noticed how stiff his smiles became after a few hours or how forced his laughs were. But his siblings noticed, and he found sympathy coming from only the girls. Edmund, being Edmund, just hid his amusement. Eventually, Peter managed to slip away and join his sisters on the dais, where none of the girls were brave enough to leave the throng of guests to approach him.
He dimly thought that she'd be brave enough, but she wasn't here to see his need for distraction. At least that's what he thought.
He didn't look at the small doorway behind the line of sight from the thrones, so he never saw her talking to the guard stationed there. He never saw her watching the crowd for signs of a threat or trouble. He never saw her eyes narrow at the forced smiles or laughs. He never saw her assessing his every move, trying to find where he needed her.
She knew instantly the first time she heard the High King laugh during the ball that he was becoming strained. She could see it in the line of his broad shoulders. This was one of the places where he needed her. He didn't believe he was a good enough host, or that he handled the attention properly. Feeling his need, actually feeling it like a tug on her arm, she slipped back into the hall and made her way to another doorway, where she slipped into the crowd.
Spirit's presence beside her kept away anyone who would have stopped her normally, but one girl did have the audacity to stop her as she moved through the crowd. The other girl, who she guessed to be a lady, smiled with faked cheerfulness as she said, "And you are?"
"I'm Lady Evelyn. Might I have the honor of knowing who's asking?" she replied, and her smile was so real that the lady was rather guilty. She'd known! She knew her name! So she didn't need to remember; she already knew! The name just flowed from her lips and she knew it to be right.
"Lady Kathryn, daughter of Lord Loren. What is your business here, Lady Evelyn? I know you are not of Calormen," the lady replied. There was a hint of malice under her voice and her dark hazel eyes were cold.
"I am not a visitor here, Lady Kathryn. Right now, my business is delivering a message to the High King. What is your business with the Kings and Queens?" Evelyn asked, running her eyes over Kathryn's trying dark pink gown with its plunging neckline and layered skirts.
"I am here, like the other ladies in my company, to gain the blonde's favor," Kathryn replied, smoothing the dark coil that was her hair.
"He is High King Peter to you," Evelyn replied coolly, the smile dropping off her face. She would not stand by and listen to her king be insulted. Not while she was supposed to be lifting his already low self esteem. "I wish you luck with your quest," she added, starting to move passed the other girl.
But she would not have that. Kathryn's hand closed around Evelyn's wrist in what was supposed to be vice like grip. But to Evelyn, it was weak and pathetic. "Do not interfere with us," Kathryn snapped in a low voice that was also supposed to be threatening.
"Do not touch me, foolish girl. Petty threats and empty promises do nothing to intimidate me. I intend to be civil to you, while you are their Majesties' guests. Do not make me break that intention," Evelyn said in an equally low voice. However, her's carried the power Kathryn's did not. Instantly, Kathryn let go and backed away, and Spirit stepped between the two girls, reminding the Calormen woman of her presence.
Evelyn raised her chin as she moved away from Kathryn, and she moved through the crowd without trouble. She got within sight of the dais steps and she moved towards the wall so she approached her king from the side. When she set foot on the bottom step, she caught Peter's attention and he rose from his throne to offer her his hand up the stairs. She refused to notice the looks they were getting as she curtsied. "Your Majesty," she murmured, keeping her voice low and for his ears only.
"Milady, I thought you were not going to join me tonight," he replied, keeping his voice just as low as he raised her hand to brush his lips over the back of her knuckles. A faint color appeared in her cheeks and a smile so beautiful it took away his breath lit up her face.
"I know! Your Majesty, I know my name!" she told him delightedly.
"Well, tell me," he teased gently, smiling.
"Evelyn. My name is Evelyn," she replied, using her free hand to straighten a lock of golden hair.
"Evelyn. I guess that means you're not milady anymore. Now you're my Lady Evelyn," he smiled, and caught her hand as she took it away from his hair. "Do you know your full name?" he inquired.
"I think it's Evelyn Louise. And please don't laugh, Your Majesty, but I'm fairly certain my last name is Gold," she told him, ducking her head sheepishly.
He began to laugh, drawing smiling looks from his sisters, a fond eye roll from his brother, and jealous looks from the Calormen women. To Evelyn, he glowed with an inner golden light, and his eyes shone with merriment. She blushed furiously and smiled self consciously. "Come, Lady Evelyn, I want to ask my adviser a question about you," he told her, releasing one hand to pull her down the dais and into the crowd. The white leopard sitting beside his throne followed as Spirit moved ahead of them.
The High King's adviser turned out to be an old Talking Badger. "Dumas, I'd like you to meet Evelyn," the King told the badger, pulling her forward. She curtsied quickly to the badger and he bowed back to her. She was surprised to find that he walked on his hind legs. "Is it possible to make her the first noble of Narnia?" the King asked.
"Of course, Sire. What rank noble are you thinking? Are you thinking a duchess? Or perhaps you’re thinking an Earl? But maybe you’re thinking a Lord? Of course, we'd make her the female equivalent," Dumas replied.
"I’m thinking a Lady. The equivalent to a lord is what I’m thinking. Narnia has never had an earl, and I think perhaps, she'd prefer lady over duchess. Besides that, I do not know of any territory we could make her the duchess of, but we can make her the Lady of Cair Paravel," Peter informed him.
He felt slight pressure on his hand, and he turned to see them being approached by several young knights from the Calormen delegation. To both the shock of Evelyn and Peter, they ignored the High King after bowing respectfully, and instead focused their attention on the girl. “Milady, won’t you do us the honor of a dance?” one asked.
“I’m afraid, sir knight, that I am recovering from an injury, and cannot dance,” she replied evenly, being extremely careful to be polite.
“Just one dance, milady,” another protested, moving closer as the denied one moved to the back of the small group.
“I’d rather not, sir,” she took a step back as they moved closer, and instantly they moved in around her. She squeezed the hand that still held hers and Peter turned from Dumas instantly. He moved between Evelyn and the knights, and it wasn’t his rank but his aura of power that drove them away.
While most of the knights got the hint that Evelyn was the High King’s, and therefore not to be played with, there was one who refused to let such a prize get away. He saw her only as a pretty face to keep on his arm, since most women in Calormen were happy with that, but he had no idea what Narnian women could be like.
Because he wasn’t truly from Calormen. But that was a secret buried beneath lies and deceit and if he had anything to say about it, it would stay a secret.
That night, after the ball was over and everyone had returned to their rooms, Evelyn found herself unable to sleep. The bed was perfect, at least to her, but she tossed and turned and eventually lay staring at the ceiling.
She suddenly felt it, the pull on her arm, and she sprang out of the bed, flinging the covers away. The pull was a yank, a desperate, last resort yank. Spirit got to her paws as she rummaged in the drawers for a pair of leggings and an over shirt. She stuffed her feet into a pair of boots then yanked the door open. She ran down the hall and straight to a guard. "Where's the High King's room?"She asked, not bothering to keep the urgency out of her voice.
"Milady, you should return to your own quarters," the guard protested.
"Listen, I do not know what it is you have been told about me, but you are a creature of Narnia, therefore you can feel that I have an Aslan mark. The great lion brought me here to help the High King, and helping seems to include freeing him from nightmares. So I suggest you take me to him immediately," she snapped. Her eyes flashed and the guard felt her mark compelling him to help her.
"Follow this hallway down to a courtyard. You'll find the cats or some of the dogs there. They can take you," he told her, gesturing to her right.
"Thank you," she whispered as she and Spirit ran down the hall, down two flights of stairs, and out into the courtyard. She found a leopard and a tiger there, already on their paws and waiting.
"How do you know the King's having a nightmare?" the leopard asked.
"It is part of whatever abilities Aslan has given me. I can feel the King's need," she replied, following the cats as they raced through the palace. They slowed their pace to hers, but she was sprinting faster than she knew she could. They stopped at a door laces with shadow and Evelyn realized it was carved and very ornate. The guards stationed in the hallway didn't stop her, and she knew they felt her mark.
Just then, the door was flung open and there stood Edmund, looking worried and slightly fearful. "Oh good, you're here," he grabbed her wrist and pulled her into the room, closing the door behind the cats. He dragged her into the bedchamber, where Peter lay thrashing in the sheets."I can't help him. Usually he doesn't have nightmares once I come to him, but this..." the younger king told her. At her glance, he explained quietly. "I keep away his nightmares and he keeps away my cold," he murmured.
She nodded, knowing this was nothing strange for two siblings who shared so much. She instead moved to the side of the bed and her hand seemed to move on its own as it rested on the High King's chest, just over his heart. She felt his thrashing slow and still as her hand grew cold. She could feel the chill seeping up her arm as she drew more of it out of the High King, and when it reached her shoulder, his eyes opened.
"Pete? Are you okay?" Edmund asked, moving to help his brother sit up. She drew away, feeling the cold begin to burn its way to her heart and her head, and she knew no way to stop it. She retreated to the King's sitting room, where she fell to her knees as memories began to return.
"I am now," Peter replied, swinging himself out of the bed. "What happened?" he asked.
"You were thrashing and fighting and I couldn't help you. I was going to get Lucy and Evelyn, but Evelyn was there when I opened the door," the dark haired king told the golden haired one.
"That would be part of Aslan's gift to her. She can sense when I need her," the elder king explained quietly. "Speaking of Evelyn, where is she?" he asked, looking around his bedchamber.
They found her on her knees in the sitting room, cradling her arm and crying. "Evelyn, what happened? What is wrong?" Peter asked her, kneeling before her.
"I remember some of my old life. I have four elder brothers. The cold I drew out of you, it was causing your nightmare and now it's giving me my memory," she told him.
"But the cold works against Aslan's gifts. That's why it gives Peter nightmares and makes me frozen. Why would it help you and give your memory back?" Edmund asked from where he stood over them.
"It isn't helping. Aslan's main gift to me was to take my memory. There are things I don't want to remember, things I don't want to know or have on my shoulders. He doesn't want me to remember," she told him, looking up.
"The cold knows how to get to you. You have to draw it out of me, which you're probably going to have to do when it gets to me. How do we keep it away from you? Edmund can usually keep it away from me by just being there, and vice versa, but what could be your key?"Peter asked her.
"Dreams. Somehow, I need to dream to counter your nightmares. That way I don't have to draw it out of you, because it can't get in in the first place," she realized after a moment.
"How do we make you dream?" Edmund asked her, helping them up from the floor. They all moved to the couch, sitting as close as they could. Peter sat between Evelyn and Edmund, an arm around each of their shoulders, drawing them into him as he shielded them from cold.
"This," she told him, pulling a blanket over the three of them.
Evelyn woke to the sound of the door opening. Her eyes shot open to see Queens Susan and Lucy looking down on the three of them. She fell off the couch in shock and embarrassment when she realized she was curled on the couch, her head on the High King’s knee. His hand fell away from her shoulder, but he didn’t stir. King Edmund lay nestled into his elder brother’s side, his head on the High King’s shoulder. Both of them were rather cute when they slept, and they looked peaceful.
“I truly dislike waking my Kings when they sleep so, but I really must. They are in need of preparing for the ride and picnic,” Queen Susan told her softly as Queen Lucy helped her to her feet. “Your Majesties,” she bowed, and then looked back at the Kings.
“I am surprised they did not wake when I fell off the couch,” she told the two Queens.
“The cold must have really gotten to them to drive Edmund in here. What brought you here, Evelyn?” the Gentle Queen replied, tenderly shaking Edmund’s shoulder as Lucy perched gracefully on her eldest brother’s lap.
“His Majesty was having a nightmare, and it seems Aslan gave me the ability to sense such things. Well, concerning His Majesty anyway. His Majesty’s need was strong enough that I was unable to sleep and it actually yanked me here. I was able to draw the cold from His Majesty, but it seems that the cold knows Aslan’s gift to me was to remove my memory. The instant I felt the cold, I remembered some of the things I know Aslan did not want me to remember,” Evelyn explained.
“You can sense Peter’s need?” Queen Lucy asked, surprised by the idea.
“I can, Your Majesty. It is a physical feeling. When His Majesty needs me, I feel a pull, or in last night’s case, a yank, on my arm in the direction of His Majesty. It depends on the strength of His Majesty’s need,” Evelyn responded, watching in amusement as the Kings woke slowly.
“Do you know your guard? Have you found your shield against the Dark Magic?” Queen Susan asked, wisely standing out of range of the pillow King Edmund threw in half-hearted attempt.
“I must dream. My dreams counter King Peter’s nightmares, and then this magic cannot enter me. I must willingly draw it into me. I think in time the magic will weaken as it continues its assault on the Kings, but I am not sure,” Evelyn said, laughing softly at Edmund’s annoyed face. "Your Majesties," she added, bowed and moved back away towards the door.
"Wait, Evelyn, you'll attend the picnic with us?" Queen Susan asked. Evelyn glanced at the High King, who nodded encouraging. Lucy nodded too, smiling in her charming way.
"What time should I join you, Your Majesties?" She asked, and was rewarded with a smile from the High King.
"Be ready for two hours before midday. I'll send an attendant to bring you to the stable," the Gentle Queen replied.
"Very well, Your Majesties," Evelyn bowed and moved out the door, her footsteps silent on the marble floor.
Back in her golden room, Evelyn found herself joined by not only Spirit but the Bengal tiger as well. He circled her rooms, sniffing and poking his head into places. He seemed satisfied when he laid down in the study in front of the desk. Spirit followed Evelyn into her bedchamber, where the girl ducked into the bathing room that was off one corner.
The bathing room had surprised the girl. She'd expected a simple basin that would be filled from the pipes that ran throughout the castle. She did not expect the actual basin to be cut out of the marble flooring or that it would always be filled with steaming scented water. She was pretty sure it was vanilla cherry blossom, but she wasn't certain, because it smelled richer than vanilla. Everything in Narnia was richer and deeper and clearer than she knew things to be. But that was okay to her, since she didn't remember what things were like in her birth world.
Smiling slightly at the sight of the pool, she pulled off her clothes and draped them over what she'd deemed the dirty clothes rack, since she hadn't found clothes there after her previous bath. Instead she had found fresh towels and the dress and whatnot on a separate rack. Undoing her hair, she slipped into the pool and swam into the middle. The depth here was great enough that she couldn't touch the bottom without going a good three feet under water.
After her bath, using one of the fluffy towels, she dried off before turning to the clothes. She examined the dress laid out for her as she pulled on undergarments and wrapped her hair in a towel. She could tell by the split skirts that it was a riding dress, and when she pulled it on, she found that it fit perfectly. She let the naiad attendant have at her hair, and when she used the small looking glass, she found a braided coil of golden hair. “I’m blonde!” she gasped. Then she looked at her eyes in the glass and saw the sapphire blue gaze looking back.
“Just like the High King, milady,” the naiad teased.
“Are any of the others blue eyed?” Evelyn asked.
“Queen Lucy is. Queen Susan has light green eyes, and King Edmund has dark brown eyes,” she replied, taking the mirror and pushing her out into the bedchamber, where Evelyn found herself being done up in silvery blue eye powder, darker blue eye pencil, and chap stick to heal her salt damaged lips. She slipped on stockings and a pair of leather lace up riding boots, and then tucked the knife into her left boot and the dagger into the right one.
Queen Susan’s attendant turned out to be a young gray and white cat. The little thing pawed at the bottom of her blue and white skirt before she picked it up and set it on her shoulder. Spirit and Flame, the Bengal tiger, padded on either side of her as the cat gave her directions down to the stable yard. It was here that she found part of the Calormen party already mounted on their horses. The cat guided her to where Queen Susan sat in the side saddle of her bay mare, who Evelyn would later learn was a Talking Horse. A moment later, two horses were lead over, one with tack, one without it. The tack-less mare was nearly identical to Queen Susan’s, and Queen Lucy was helped onto her back by a centaur female.
“I do hope you are alright to ride, Lady Evelyn,” Queen Susan said, allowing the gray cat to climb onto her saddle from Evelyn’s shoulder.
“I am, but if it does not displease Your Majesty, I would rather ride without tack,” Evelyn replied, curtsying to the two Queens.
“Ducal, would you remove Snowfire’s tack for Lady Evelyn?” the Gentle Queen requested the faun nearby.
“Of course, Madam,” he replied, bowing before he unsaddled the white stallion.
Evelyn offered her hand to Snowfire, and he sniffed it, and her, over. “May I?” she asked, moving so he could see her.
“Of course, milady. I offered to carry you,” Snowfire replied, bobbing his head. He held still as Evelyn placed her hands on his back, and then she leaped.
High King Peter watched from across the courtyard as Evelyn placed her hands on Snowfire’s back. She had her back turned, so she did not see the looks she was getting from the Calormen Company. The ladies were rather offended that she did not ride with a saddle, and that she did not take help from a man to mount. The knights were scoffing at her independence, and the noblemen smirked in that kind of I-know-better-than-you amusement. But the High King of Narnia felt himself swell with pride when he watched her vault onto the stallion in a move so graceful it was obvious it was well practiced.
A squad of the Palace Guard was detached to escort the party to the cliff top clearing that served as the picnic area. The Guards’ red tabards, shields, and various pieces of armor were emblazed with the golden cat, and they were composed mostly of centaurs, satyrs and fauns, but there was the odd dwarf in their midst. The High King rode alongside the Lieutenant of the squad as his brother rode a little ways behind him, talking with one of the younger knights in the party.
When they reached the clearing, the men dismounted and began to help the women down from their side saddles, and the High King was quick to help his sister the Gentle Queen from her saddle. He’d always be the elder brother, and he was fiercely protective of his siblings, even though the Queen was not of age. But, as he knew, that didn’t stop suitors from trying. He pushed the thoughts from his mind as he set his sister on the grass, and smiled as Lucy swung from her mare’s back into Edmund’s waiting arms.
Of course, Evelyn needed no help, and when the party spread their blankets in the grass, she was right beside the Valiant Queen to help. Queen Susan made small talk about clothing, their accommodations, the weather, and even the next gala with the ladies in the party as the Kings entertained the knights and lords with talk of weapons and sailing and horses. Lucy and Evelyn sat with the eight great cats that had accompanied the Narnian royalty and noblewoman. Evelyn was introduced to each of them, and discovered that the High King’s personal guard snow leopard was named Tahki. Queen Susan’s guards, an ocelot and a margay, were named Nafisa and Halima. King Edmund’s guard, a black panther, was called Wacia. Evelyn was not surprised to learn that the two lions, one a lioness, were Queen Lucy’s personal guards. Their names were Barak and Glimmer. Both Spirit and Flame had come, and Evelyn found Spirit’s presence especially comforting as she watched the ladies flirt with the High King.
He, as he had at the ball, was doing a poor job of pleasing them. Queen Susan met Evelyn’s eyes and nodded to the lady, shifting her eyes quickly to her brother. Evelyn nodded in understanding and carefully excused herself from a silently giggling Queen Lucy. She slipped her way between picnic-goers until she could sweep her skirts out and settle herself beside King Edmund.
“He’s doing horribly, isn’t he?” she murmured.
“Yes. He seems to only make them unsatisfied, then they return to pester him more,” the King replied in a low tone that only she heard.
“Allow me a moment, Your Majesty,” she whispered, taking a cup of the weak white wine they drank with the midday meal. He nodded and rose, then resettled on her other side, placing her between himself and his brother. She took a sip of the wine and found it to be more like juice than actual wine. She lowered the cup, and then reached for some kind of berry tart. She felt the High King take her cup from her hand and when she looked at him, he had raised it to his own lips. He flashed her a smile half hidden behind the cup, and she knew it was meant for her only. “You’re not even trying,” she scolded him quietly.
“I do not want to try. I much rather prefer your company to theirs,” he told her frankly. She realized with a strange sense of joy that he was flirting with her as he sipped from her cup.
“You have to at least attempt to keep good relations with them,” she reminded him, taking the cup back.
“I know. But the women are so trying of my patience. I have no interest in whatever it is they talk about,” he admitted.
“You don’t need to be interested. You don’t have to strike up conversations with the women. Offer a compliment here and there, make simple inquiries of perhaps food or drink, use their names once in a while, and you’ll be as golden as you look,” she murmured, resting her weight back on one hand at her side.
“How is it that you know this?” he teased so softly that King Edmund couldn’t hear him. He moved to take food of his own, and his hand brushed over her knees. When he drew back, he shifted slightly closer to her and covered her hand with his where no one else could see it. She offered him the cup and he took it, smiling at her understanding.
Of course, there was one person who wasn’t so focused on the scenery or food or another conversation that they noticed what the Calormen women did not. High King Peter was smitten with this girl. And that was all he needed to know to set their plan in motion.
Evelyn couldn't wrap her head around why Peter was flirting with her at the picnic. She couldn't understand why he would prefer her presence to the noblewomen. All she knew was that she was happy that he was flirting with her. She suddenly understood what forever felt like because it felt like she and the High King had known each other forever, not only two days.
It didn't really make sense that after two days she could be comfortable with him, but it felt right. She knew something would get in the way, probably many things, but she didn't mind. She'd stand beside the High King. That was why she was here.
She had felt the jealous looks when she had ridden beside the High King on the way back to the palace. She'd felt the seething glares of Kathryn and some of the others. And she knew trouble was coming.
And trouble came a little while after the picnic. The High King had taken her around the armory, where she got to meet General Orieus. She was making her way back to her room to change out of her dress when she found herself cornered by Kathryn and two other ladies.
"I told you not to interfere," Kathryn snapped.
"Don't make me laugh, Kathryn," Evelyn replied. "I told you not to make empty threats," she reminded the foreign woman, keeping her voice low and calm.
Kathryn however was not so calm. "You stole the High King from us!" she snarled. Her voice grew louder and the other two women looked around nervously.
"The High King was never yours," Evelyn replied. This was why she preferred to be independent. She hated this kind of behavior, and it usually made her furious.
"He would have been if you didn't get in the way!" Kathryn shrieked. Then she seemed to muster all her anger and slapped Evelyn.
At the feel of it, Evelyn burst out laughing. It felt like a pat on the cheek, nothing like a slap. Kathryn became enraged and slapped Evelyn again, only succeeding in making the blonde girl laugh harder. "Stop laughing!" the Calormen woman snarled.
When Evelyn didn't, the Calormen women flounced away, huffing in offense. Evelyn made to continue on to her room when she had an idea. She hurried up the tower steps until she flung open her door and raced to the desk. Taking a piece of parchment, she picked up a quill and found it to feel comfortable and familiar. Uncapping a bottle of ink, she wrote a quick warning to Queen Susan and the High King.
"To the High King and the Gentle Queen,
A few moments passed I was confronted by three Calormen women. One of them, Lady Kathryn, reminded me that she had previously warned me to stay away from His Majesty. That however, I could not do as His Majesty needed my presence. After a few words were exchanged, her lady ship delivered what she believed to be a slap. It was incredibly weak, and I fear I laughed in her face. She attempted to quiet me by slapping me again, which only made me laugh all the harder. She flounced away in her petty rage, and I fear I caused great offense. I hope this does not bring any trouble on Your Majesties, but if it should, I implore you to tell me. They can accuse me all they want, but I will not ask Your Majesties to take it for me.
With that, she called to a hawk flying around her tower. "Could you take this to the Gentle Queen?" she asked, holding up the rolled up note.
"Of course," he replied, landing on her windowsill. He lifted one taloned foot and took it, then flapped his wings and soared away.
She was tying the wrist ties on a light blue shirt when the hawk returned. "The Queen says you are very foolish for thinking they will not stand by you. She also said that you are not at fault. High King Peter seems rather disgusted by this, though I know not why. I suggest you find him before he finds the Calormen woman," he told her.
"Have you any idea where he is?" she asked, suddenly feeling the High King's rage.
"Try the practice courts," he suggested, hoping onto her desk. She grabbed her dagger and knife, shoved one into each boot, and ran out the door. Spirit followed as the hawk spread his wings and soared back out into the sky.
She ran through the palace, letting her sense guide her. She eventually found him, and she was stunned. He was standing in the middle of the courtyard in a pair of pants only. He wore no shirt or shoes, and she realized she felt his rage because it was making him reckless. Calormen knights and noblemen were taking their turn at single combat with the High King, and they wore armor. Looking around, she found Orieus, and saw what was in his hands.
Slipping around the edge of the yard, she moved up beside Orieus. "Milady," he greeted her.
"He's not listening, is he, General?" she asked, taking the High King's shirt and leather armor of a jerkin and bracers from the centaur.
"He refuses to be reasonable. King Edmund was ordered from the courts a few moments ago when he tried to reason with his brother the High King," the General replied.
"I am afraid I must take the blame for this. Perhaps what he needs is a challenge," she told him, looking up at him.
"What do you propose for such a challenge?" he asked, looking down at her.
"Me," she said, grinning as she studied Peter's fighting style. The lord he was fighting was driven back by a flurry of blows until he called out in surrender. Thinking quickly, she pulled on the King's bracers, and then called out, "Your Majesty!"
Instantly, he turned and found her with his eyes. Sheathing his sword, he strode over and gripped her shoulders in his hands. “How could you think I’d not stand beside you if something were to happen? Did I not just tell you in the armory that you are one of very few people I can really talk to? Did I not tell you I preferred you to the noblewomen who make their lives about dresses and parties and jewelry and material things? I thought you understood that,” he growled in her ear.
“I do understand. But I’ll not let you take the blame for this,” she replied, keeping her head down so she didn’t have to look at him.
“Damn it, Evelyn, that’s my job as the High King. I stand behind every one of my family and friends when something like this happens. And you, Evelyn, are one of my friends,” he hissed. She could feel and feel his rage, but she knew it wasn’t aimed at her. No, it was aimed at the Calormen party. The men were trying to undermine him, the women were trying to ensnare him, and he had to put up with it with a smile.
“You need a real fight,” she whispered, lifting her head so that she was looking straight ahead, which happened to be his collarbone.
“Why do you think I’ve been out here? I ordered Edmund away for a reason. I don’t want him to see me like this and think he needs to step in and take it,” he muttered, his breath tickling her ear.
“Well, I can take it, and there’s nothing you can say to stop me,” she whispered calmly.
“Is that why you’re wearing my bracers?” he asked, lifting her chin in one hand so he could look into her eyes.
“Yes. And that’s why you’re going to put on your shirt, your shoes, and your practice armor. Then you’re going to go stand on the other side of the court,” she told him matter-of-factly. “And you are not going to hold back,” she added.
He laughed and nodded and then he brushed his lips across her cheek. Her only response was to hand him his shirt, but he noticed the color spring up in her face. He did as he was told, and when the Calormen men saw him draw his sword, one moved forward. “I’m sorry, Sir Alcoa, but I’ve already got a challenger,” he told him, nodding to where Evelyn was being forced to stretch out by Orieus.
“You’re going to fight a lady?” the knight asked, his voice growing louder with his surprise.
“She is quite capable of handling herself,” the High King replied, and the knight stepped back, looking both offended and abashed. When Evelyn stepped onto the clay court, she felt all the men and even the creatures in the yard watching.
“To surrender?” she asked, bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet.
“To surrender,” he confirmed, looking to Orieus. The General glanced at Evelyn, who nodded and focused on Peter.
“You may…start!” Orieus cried, and his voice rang around the courtyard. Instead of either of them instantly going on attack, they began to circle one another, edging forward until Peter swung at her in a deadly arc. She would have been sliced in half if she hadn’t dived forward under the blade and rolled to her feet behind the King. He whirled, slashing as he did, and she dropped into a crouch to avoid the blade. As the blade was passing over her head, she swept one leg out and knocked the King down. She rolled away as he came down, effectively evading the sword. The King rolled on his side and to his feet as she did the same.
They returned to circling each other, each having seen the speed and skill the other possessed. They carried on trading short attacks that always returned them to the circle. Orieus watched as Evelyn landed several kicks and punches over the course of the fight, and he knew the High King would have at least two good sized bruises. But Evelyn wouldn’t come away unscathed. The High King had drawn a line of blood along her upper arm, and her blue shirt displayed the lengthening blood stain well.
At one point, the High King caught Evelyn’s foot in a sweep, sending her sprawling. She did not however, actually sprawl on the ground. She tucked in her head and flipped as she fell so she rolled to a crouch, though she balanced herself with one leg extended sideways. The High King paused to catch his breath, and they watched as Evelyn reached into her boots and drew a knife from each. She grinned in a feral way, and tensed to leap forward.
But she was stopped by a shout of “High King Peter!” They both turned to see the eldest of the Calormen nobles, a duke by the name of Jonas. He strode out onto the court with several of the noblewomen behind him. One bore a light rapier, and Evelyn realized it was Kathryn. The duke bowed to the High King, and then turned to Evelyn, who had straightened from her crouch and returned her knives to their sheaths.
“Your Majesty, Lady Kathryn has issued a challenge on the bias of an offense committed against her,” Jonas announced. Then he added, “A challenge against Lady Evelyn.”
"A challenge?" Evelyn asked incredulously, staring at the noblewoman.
"A challenge, Lady Evelyn," Kathryn replied. She looked very different dressed in simple tan pants tucked into brown boots and a white shirt similar to Evelyn's, only her's had a kind of collar that left the front of her neck exposed. A dark orange sash was tied around her waist, and a dagger rested on her right hip. Her hair was tied back in a tight braid and she wore no jewelry. Perhaps it was too much for Evelyn to ask for her not to wear it, but she still wore her makeup.
"A moment, Duke Jonas? Allow me to bandage Lady Evelyn's wound before she duels," the High King requested.
"Of course, Your Majesty," the duke nodded and the High King pulled Evelyn towards Orieus, who had been joined by the other King and Queens.
"Here," Queen Lucy held bandages, and the High King very quickly cleaned and bandaged the wound he'd given Evelyn. Queen Susan held a goblet, which she handed to Evelyn. The girl took a long sip of crystal water, then handed the goblet back.
"Duke Jonas, does Lady Kathryn wish for the use of practice armor?" The High King called.
"Yes, Your Majesty," the duke replied. The High King instantly pulled his camp armor over his head and helped Evelyn into it. Then King Edmund brought his gift forward. He handed a sword to her and she found it to be perfectly balanced for her. It wasn't too heavy that she'd grow tired quickly, but it wasn't as light as the rapier Kathryn had chosen. The dark haired King also handed her a sword belt with a place for both a dagger and a sword sheath. He slid the sword sheath into place on her left hip and she placed the sword inside. Then she drew her gift dagger from her boot and slid it into the dagger spot, handing her other knife to the High King as she did.
"Good luck," The Queens murmured, and both kissed her brow. The Just King too blessed her and didn't even seem fazed by it. The High King followed suit, and then he took her by the shoulders and turned her to the court.
"The terms of this challenge?" Evelyn asked, squaring her shoulders under the High King's hands. On the other side of the court, Lord Jonas and Kathryn stood in similar fashion.
"The duel is to be with weapons only. There is no hand to hand combat," General Orieus announced. "Also, the duel shall be to surrender. The loser must withdraw their claim on the property," he continued, and Evelyn growled in her throat. She had not made a claim on the High King, and now Kathryn was referring to him as property. As if he knew her thoughts, the High King tightened his hands on her shoulders and she relaxed.
Kathryn had a smug smirk on her face, and Evelyn realized the other girl had not seen any of the duels with the High King. Evelyn forced her face to stay blank, knowing it would infuriate Kathryn that she couldn’t get the reaction she wanted. And Kathryn had already proved that she didn’t make the best choices when she was angry.
“Would the challenger step to the court?” the High King called, and Evelyn knew it had begun. Kathryn stepped over the line painted on the ground and waited.
“Would the challenged step to the court?” the duke called in response, and Evelyn stepped over the line.
“Bow, miladies,” Orieus instructed, moving to the edge. When they bowed to each other he nodded. “Draw your weapons,” he ordered, and both pulled their longer blade out. “Begin,” he finished, stepping back.
Evelyn was completely prepared for when Kathryn lunged forward, going for a traditional thrust. Evelyn side stepped, bringing her blade up under Kathryn’s and arcing it up over their heads before she disengaged and moved behind Kathryn.
Kathryn swung around, slashing as Evelyn’s ribs in a wide swing. Evelyn blocked it with ease, catching the other blade against hers and forcing Kathryn back. Kathryn disengaged and struck at Evelyn’s head. Evelyn ducked and moved into Kathryn’s reach. Instantly, Kathryn couldn’t use her rapier, but she knew to reach for her dagger. Before Kathryn’s was even clear of the sheath Evelyn’s was stabbing at Kathryn’s ribs.
Kathryn leaped back with a cry, and Evelyn went on attack. She knocked the dagger from a poor grip with quick efficiency. Then it was all Kathryn could do to parry and block Evelyn’s strikes. She held Evelyn off for a few minutes before she stumbled and Evelyn slashed her across the forearm, above the bracer. Kathryn leaped away, but refused to give in and surrender. Then Kathryn lunged forward and stabbed at Evelyn’s feet. Evelyn simply launched herself in a neat flip over the blade and behind the girl and Kathryn was too slow to spin all the way around before there was a clang. Kathryn fell back onto one knee and as her rapier went skidding across the court.
Evelyn lowered the tip of her sword to Kathryn’s collarbone and settled cold, furious eyes on the other girl. Kathryn glared up at Evelyn, then huffed and snapped, “Surrender.”
“And?” Evelyn asked.
“And I renounce my claim,” Kathryn snarled. In one fluid movement Evelyn sheathed her sword and dagger and offered her hand to help Kathryn up. The noblewoman raised her nose and stood on her own, brushing Evelyn’s hand away as she did. Evelyn just nodded, then spun on her heel and strode back to her Kings and Queens.
The Queens embraced her quickly, and then passed her to King Edmund, who clapped her on the shoulder. Then the High King was there and he pulled her to him gently. “That was risky,” he scolded her, helping her from the practice armor.
“It worked,” she murmured, taking a sip from the goblet he took back from Queen Lucy. They started to walk away to one of the gardens with the Queens chatting quietly behind them when she had an instantaneous feeling and threw herself sideways, tackling the High King to the ground. A dagger embedded itself in a tree exactly where the King’s heart would have been, and Evelyn looked up to see the crowd of Calormen visitors streaming in every which way as they fled. Members of the Palace Guard and personal guards closed around the Kings and Queens as Evelyn helped the High King back to his feet.
“That was close. Thank you, Evelyn,” he whispered into her ear, and his lips brushed her cheek again.
She turned her head so that her own lips skimmed over his cheek as she breathed, "I told you I can always feel your need."
“This looks like the weaponry Her army used,” King Edmund told them, pulling the dagger from the tree.
The High King took it and nodded gravely. “It is. It’s exactly like those,” he agreed, passing it to Queen Susan.
“That looks like the knife I had when I came,” Evelyn spoke up quietly."I think, I'm don't know, but I think I stole the knife I have. I remember riding a horse, looking over my shoulder, and feeling like I had to get away or I'd die," she added, taking the knife and examining it.
"Like you were running from something," the High King murmured. "Like you'd escaped from someone," he realized, looking at Orieus. He knew the General had the Captain's report on the rope burns and whatnot. The centaur nodded and ushered them inside, where they hurried away to get ready for the feast. The afternoon had flown by much faster than Evelyn realized, but she had rather enjoyed it, especially the time with the High King.
'How is this possible? I've known her for what, two days, and I'm flirting with her and kissing her. How am I falling this fast?' the High King's thoughts were racing and confused as he watched Evelyn run up the stairs to his old room, sword on her hip. Just before she vanished from sight, she turned and looked back down at him. He bowed to her and she did a graceful combination of a bow and curtsy at the top of the staircase.
Then, feeling rather daring, she blew him a kiss and fled. 'Oh, Aslan was this part of your plan?' he thought, catching the kiss and placing it over his heart. 'Love wasn't part of mine.'
The man cursed to himself as he paced his rooms. The High King would be dead if not for that idiot girl. She had to go. Then they could go through with the plan. And Narnia would fall. To them. To Her.
The feast passed with no incident, but that didn't stop everyone from being unusually watchful and tense. Evelyn was especially watchful, and she had forgone her dress and its tangling skirts for a shirt, pants, and boots so she could wear her dagger in her hip. She sat with the High King and all night he and the noblemen told stories of battles and challenges they'd fought. She didn't think he noticed when she replaced his wine with water. But then again he didn't notice that she tried all of his food before he ate it to test it for poison.
The next morning, the palace slept in. It was Sun's Day, and the whole palace woke later and stayed in bed longer. They all had breakfast with someone else, and the Kings and Queens ended up having Evelyn with them as well. Not of course, that any of them minded. The day was spent in relaxation, but that didn't mean the Kings were excused from their training. After all, the enemy doesn't wait for one to learn.
Evelyn sat on the side to watch until Orieus handed her a practice sword and shoved her into the drills. "Everyone for themselves!" he called. Instantly, Edmund and Evelyn attacked the High King, forcing him to defend himself against both of them. Orieus watched in amusement as Edmund switched to attacking Evelyn a few moments later, and then the High King and Evelyn were attacking King Edmund.
It finally ended with Evelyn's sword touching the High King's chest, the High King's blade aimed at King Edmund's collarbone, and King Edmund's weapon held against Evelyn's throat. They burst out laughing as the guards and spectators clapped, and Orieus handed the High King a practice shield. Evelyn had a practice dagger thrown at her, and Edmund was tossed a second sword. The three grinned and attacked each other with no real warning.
They continued like this for a while until they were ending with Evelyn struggling to use a shield. "You have no problem acting as the shield, but you cannot use one?" the High King teased her, and she threw it side arm at him. He caught it and spun it into position just in time to deflect the two practice daggers she'd thrown at him as well.
Evelyn woke the next morning to sunlight streaming down onto her face. She was curled on the floor between Spirit and Flame beside the bed. Unfurling herself, she got to her feet and went into the study, where she found a thin scroll on the desk. When she unrolled it, she found an official invitation to the ball that night. She sighed and went to bathe, where she took her time and relaxed.
Evelyn didn’t see the Kings and Queens all day until the Queens came knocking on her door. Queen Susan came right in and made her way to the wardrobe, which Evelyn hadn’t even opened. The Gentle Queen was already ready and Evelyn realized with a start that she only had an hour to get ready. She’d spent most of the day out riding in the gardens with Snowfire.
Queen Susan wore a violet and gold ball gown that surprised Evelyn. It didn’t have the big hoop skirts like most ball gowns did, but then, neither did Queen Lucy’s. The younger Queen wore a much more girly dress of light blue and dark pink that had a flowery design embroidered along the skirt and neckline. Both wore their hair in braided updos, and both wore soft slippers.
Queen Susan suddenly changed her mind instead of opening the wardrobe and ordered, “Sit on the window seat. I need to do your hair.” Evelyn obeyed with a raised eyebrow and sat with her back to the Queen.
After a little while, Evelyn felt the Queen’s hand draw away from her head. Then she felt something settle below her collarbone and then a light weight dropped onto her neck and she realized they’d put a necklace on her. Earrings were put in, and then she was ordered, “Turn around and do not let your head touch the window.” She smirked as she complied, and kept her eyes closed as her Queens applied makeup to her.
“Alright, now for the undergarments,” Queen Susan said, throwing a breast band and under breeches at Evelyn. Queen Lucy stepped out as Queen Susan busied herself in the wardrobe so Evelyn could strip and switch her undergarments. “Now these,” the elder Queen added, handing over a pair of long socks. Evelyn pulled them on and looked down at herself. They were saving the dress for the absolute last, probably so she wouldn’t have time to change out of it.
“Should she put her shoes on before the dress?” Queen Lucy asked, holding a pair of black mid-calf height boots.
“Yes. Give them to her,” her sister replied, spraying Evelyn with vanilla scented perfume. Evelyn then pulled on the boots and looked up at Queen Susan. “Close your eyes,” the Gentle Queen instructed from behind her. Evelyn did as she was told, standing as well. She was guided into stepping into the dress and felt someone pull it up over her hips until she could slip her arms into what felt like quarter sleeves. She felt someone that she guessed to be Queen Susan lace up the back of the bodice. “Alright, you can open your eyes now,” Queen Susan told her. Evelyn took a deep breath, making the elder Queen sigh and the younger giggle, and opened her eyes.
She looked down curiously. And she gasped.
The bodice of the dress had a square neckline that connected to the sleeves, which were indeed only covering a quarter of her arms. The dress hugged her abdomen and hips, and then flared into a kind of layered and slightly flaring skirt that only reached about the bottom of her thighs.
But that was only the front. The back of the skirt reached the floor. It seemed to be connected over the top of the short skirt and when she examined it, she found that the actual joining of the layers was on the front side of her hips. Had it been a full floor length skirt, she would have thought it had a train, and it seemed it did indeed have a little extra length. She was relieved to find with her hand that her whole back was covered by the dress, but her knees and part of her lower leg were exposed.
The whole thing was solid black.
Her makeup, when she saw it in the looking glass Queen Lucy held, was silver based with black eye liner. Her sapphire eyes looked brighter than normal, and she was surprised to see that her skin looked tanner because of the coloring. Her lips had been glossed with a sparkly silver sheen, but it was her hair that caught her attention. The blonde looked golder than she expected, but that wasn’t it. A black tiara like band rested on her brow, on top of the golden locks tumbling down around her shoulders.
“Your Majesty…” Evelyn murmured.
“You’re wearing it, whether you like it or not,” Queen Susan told her.
“I can’t, Your Majesty, not in front of the Calormen Court,” she protested.
“You mean you can’t wear it in front my brother the High King,” the Queen laughed.
“Both,” Evelyn sighed.
“Too bad. It makes you a girl and a warrior. Plus, with your sword and your dagger, you’ll look every inch the High King’s protector,” the elder Queen replied.
“Not his protector. His sixth sense,” Evelyn corrected her.
“You still have to wear it,” the Queen said, grinning.
“This kind of dress isn’t in style,” Evelyn tired again.
“In Calormen maybe. But neither are our dresses. Narnia makes its own style,” Queen Lucy piped up proudly.
“I’m wearing this dress, aren’t I?” Evelyn finally conceded, though she wasn’t happy about it.
“Yes. Now strap on your weapons,” the Gentle Queen ordered, moving towards the study. Queen Lucy followed, offering Evelyn a reassuring smile over her shoulder. Evelyn took her sword and dagger, both still on the belt, from where she’d placed it in the wardrobe, strapped it on, and followed the Queens out into the hall.
She could feel the guards watching her the whole time as the three women and their six cats made their way through the halls to the ball room. A herald took one look, and sounded his horn. “Their Majesties, Queen Susan and Queen Lucy, and Lady Evelyn,” he announced, drawing everyone’s attention. The Queens each took one of Evelyn’s arms and glided into the ballroom, forcing her with them. The cats moved through the crowd both ahead and behind them until they reached the dais, where Evelyn was pulled up the dais. The Queens took their places in their seats and Evelyn stood between the two thrones.
“Keep your head up,” Queen Susan hissed to Evelyn as the women in the crowd stared in horror, the men stared in shock, and the High King stared in speechless astonishment. Then they all had to stand and Evelyn stepped back and moved to the side of the dais.
"In honor of the arrival of our guests, the Calormen Court, the Kings and Queens of Narnia hosted a feast and court ball," Queen Lucy started.
"Also in honor of our guests, in a hope to make them feel more welcome, the Kings and Queens of Narnia hosted a gala and picnic as well," King Edmund continued.
"An informal tournament and a formal challenge were held, though unintentional, by the High King, also in honor of the noblemen and knights of the Court," Queen Susan went on.
"And now, in honor of the end of the Court's visit and in hope that the Court will return next year to Narnia, the Kings, the Queens, and the Lady give you the Sunset Royal Ball," High King Peter finished. The Court clapped, and the younger three royals moved down from the dais.
The High King did not go down. Instead he sat on his throne as Evelyn moved up to stand beside him. "Please do not think too harshly of me for wearing this," she begged him quietly.
"How could I think harshly of you? Evelyn, you look amazing. And stop worrying about the mark on your leg. No one can see it," he told her.
"How do you know about that?" she asked, completely unprepared.
"My sword ripped your pants yesterday, during the time we spent sparring, and you hid it with your hand. Remember?" he replied, "and you keep reaching for the hem of the skirt like you're afraid it will shorten."
She sighed and then he was taking her hand. "Dance with me, once I dance with my sisters," he requested, acknowledging the tradition for Narnian sovernties to dance first.
"If you must insist, Your Majesty," she replied.
"Insist I do, Milady," he smiled, remembering five days previously.
Close to ten minutes later, the High King was returning to the dais. He bowed and held out his hand to her. She did her combined bow and curtsy, which looked even better in the outfit, and placed her hand in his. He led her down the steps and onto the dance floor, where both of them realized they were wearing swords. They started to dance, one of the High King's hands on her waist, hers on his shoulder and the other two clasped together. Then they shocked the Court.
They drew their swords. And they turned their dance into a dueling dance. The floor cleared and each strike of sword on sword produced a ringing note. Evelyn's long skirt and golden locks swirled around her as they moved, and the High King's heart was beating faster than a showy duel should have made it.
Evelyn's heart beat in time with the High King's, and her eyes glowed beneath the painted lids and lashes.
And they danced their duel.
The High King stood in the Great Courtyard, where Cair Paravel received and sent off travelers and guests. He stood by the stairs, dressed in some of his finest clothes, his siblings on either side. When the four of them stood together, they tended to stand in this order, the order of their thrones. And now Evelyn stood on King Edmund’s other side, dressed in a tunic and leggings with a long sleeved undershirt and her sword on her hip.
Knights with their ladies, bachelor knights, lords and their ladies, the duke and duchess, and the unmarried ladies all came to say good bye. Some came alone, some came as couples, and others came in pairs. They all spoke to the Kings and Queens, and some spoke to Evelyn. She didn’t mind that she was overlooked. The Kings and Queens were glorious in the finery and crowns, and they were the Kings and Queens. She wasn’t even a noble.
She really didn’t mind. She didn’t want to be a noble. She didn’t want to be tied to territory and titles. She wanted to be able to guide and serve the High King on her own choice. She really did want to serve him, and as she had told the Queens yestereve, she was his sixth sense, his guide. She could tell King Edmund was the protector of the family. The High King didn’t need her to protect him when he had his brother.
Evelyn could see the roles the four siblings played. The signs were there, and she realized her feeling from earlier had been right. She did feel like she’d known them forever, but she knew it wasn’t possible. She hoped she could stay, that something from her past wouldn’t pop up and throw her back to wherever she’d come from.
High King Peter was the leader. He was the one who took it all on his shoulders. He looked out for his family, which now included all of Narnia. He was a warrior, not a fighter, and he would force anyone who hurt his family to regret it. He knew the difference between right and wrong, even if his judgment would get a little clouded at times.
That was where King Edmund came in. He was called the Just for a reason. He was his brother’s judgment, his always clear sense of right and wrong. He was the protector, the one who tried to take it for King Peter.
Queen Susan was the nurturer. She was the Gentle, the one who tried to listen and understand. She was the logic and the beauty, the one who brought grace into the family. She was warm and welcoming, and she truly was the Lady of Cair Paravel. Her doors were always open.
Queen Lucy was the charmer. She was the joy and innocence, the smiles and hugs. She was always happy, except when one of her family was in trouble. Then she would take up the fight in her own way, with her persuasion and sometimes her dagger and a bow.
Evelyn was becoming the guide. She was the shadow in the background, the watchful eyes, and the one ready to act at all times. She knew what the High King needed through her feeling and she knew how to read him. She was the new outlook, the one who could fight or talk her way into something. But she did it all for the High King, not for herself. There was nothing she really could do for herself besides take care of herself. She was missing her history, so she would learn his. She was missing a cause, so she’d take up his. She was missing a story, so she’d make a new one at his side. She was missing a home, so she’d live in his.
She was his. Without a doubt, she was the Kings and Queens’, but she was the High King’s personally. That was the way she was starting to want it.
And the Calormen Court only saw glimpses of this the whole time they were at Cair Paravel. Now they were leaving, with only a few of them having succeeded in what they were sent to do. They’d made a kind of welcome-your-enemies-into-your-home kind of treaty, but the women hadn’t even come close to really gaining favor. There would never be a marriage between one of the Kings and a Calormen noblewoman. They didn’t know it yet, but nor would there ever be a marriage between a Queen and prince either.
Lady Kathryn was the last to speak to Evelyn. “You are lucky, you know, to have the High King’s favor,” Kathryn told her, curtsying.
“I would not call it favor. I am his friend,” she replied, bow-curtsying back.
“Either way. He is quite clearly smitten with you,” Kathryn said, handing her a small folded piece of parchment. “Write to me, perhaps? I want to know when you are engaged,” the dark skinned woman added.
“Then there is peace between us?” Evelyn asked, taking the small piece of paper.
“If you wish. I have realized how foolish I truly was. You are a good woman, Lady Evelyn, and I hope there can be companionship,” was the reply.
Evelyn nodded and smiled, and then the two women parted ways. The Narnians watched the Court leave, and a sense of emptiness in the Palace could be felt for a moment. That was, until Queen Lucy squealed; “Now I can go to the beach!”
The guards and other Animals in the courtyard laughed at their youngest Queen’s excitement and Evelyn remembered Peter instructing her not to go to the beach while the Court was here. The other Pevensies laughed and agreed to go with her. When Lucy bounced up to Evelyn, it only took one look to get the warrior girl to give in. The High King laughed as she did, and then they all ran off to their rooms, various cats following.
Evelyn had noticed that the great wildcats included Queen Susan’s ocelot and margay, and that those cats had appointed themselves personal guards. Other Animals were pages, soldiers, guards, teachers, staff, and the Sentinel Groups.
Flame had appointed himself to Evelyn along with Spirit, and had often led the girl around the palace. Now he guided her back to her tower, where she changed into the white shirt and ripped pants she’d worn on her arrival. She let her hair down out of its simple twist and ignored the collection of shoes and boots Queen Susan had sent her.
She made her way back down, and Flame guided her to the zigzagging staircase in the side of the cliffs. She loved the way the wind caught her hair and her shirt as she descended, and when she reached the bottom, she turned to look back up at the Palace. It sat perched on the cliffs straight above her head, and she could really only see it as she moved away from the stairs.
Then she saw that she was the first one down. So she walked into the surf and let it wash over her ankles.
Peter was at the top of the stairs when he saw someone moving into the waves. "Pete? What is it?" Edmund asked when he nearly ran into his older brother.
"I'm in trouble, aren't I?" the elder replied.
Edmund followed his brother's line of sight and saw that he was watching the girl in the waves. It was Evelyn. "Oh yeah, you're in trouble," he replied.
"Five days. Five days I've known this girl and I feel like I've known her forever. Only five days and I think I might be falling for her," the blonde said.
"You think? Pete, you've already fallen pretty hard," Edmund laughed, nudging his brother down the stairs.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"You hardly let any other men talk to her," Edmund teased. "And I had to convince you to let me cut in for a dance with her," he added.
Peter looked over his shoulder at his brother, and Edmund saw how dark his eyes were. "Actually you had to convince her. She wouldn't let me leave her alone on the floor. She's afraid of strangers. Men more than women, but she is definitely afraid. It has something to do with what she can't remember. She doesn't trust," the High King explained.
"So you were protecting her," Edmund realized.
"Yes. But now...Ed, I have no idea what to do. Last night, she was so...Aslan, she was amazing. I didn't know what to say," the elder king suddenly looked like the teenage boy he was; confused and unsure.
"Pete, just try not to move too fast," Ed warned, glancing down over the railing to the beach. Evelyn has waded in up to her knees and rolled up both the pants and her sleeves. Her hair hung all the way passed her elbows, and the wind pulled it out behind her like a banner.
"She's something special, huh, Pete?" he asked.
"She's my something special," his brother replied simply, grinning. Then they were stepping onto the sand, spreading towels and dropping two more on top. They rolled their pants up and pushed up their sleeves, and then Edmund followed his brother towards the water.
"Evelyn?" Peter called, moving into the waves.
"Listen, my Kings," she said in a dreamy, trance like voice. She moved further into the water and the waves lapped up to her thighs.
"Evelyn," Peter called again, but now his voice was a warning.
"Can you not hear them, Your Majesty?" she asked, looking back over her shoulder at him. He gulped; her eyes were shining ruby, and shook his head. She began to sing, and he heard the enchanting in her voice. He surged through the waves and clapped his hands down over her ears.
Instantly, she shrieked in protest and Edmund cringed from the sound. It was not human. The ruby color of her irises flared darker, to a blood color, and she struggled. When she couldn't break Peter's grip, she dove forward, dragging him under the waves. The music was immediately louder and more influencing, and Peter nearly let go because of it.
Edmund's natural reaction wasn't to dive after them. Instead he kept his head above the water and waded after them. He hooked an arm around Peter's waist and yanked him back above the surface. Evelyn slipped free and was about to plunge back in when both Kings grabbed her and covered her ears. The ruby eyes flashed and then they were blue again.
Neither King was expecting the sudden release of enchanting and when Evelyn went limp, she fell into the water. She came up coughing and shaking her sopping hair out of her eyes. "What was that?" she gasped, and Peter realized she was crying.
"The Sirens. At least, that's what we think they are," The High King replied.
"Like from the Odyssey?" Evelyn asked, looking back over the water. King Peter nodded and placed his hand on her arm. She turned to him and he realized she was wearing a white shirt that was now soaked and clinging to her.
"Evelyn, what's on your back?" King Edmund asked, moving closer. She looked at him and twisted to see down her back.
High King Peter moved around behind her to freeze in shock. The discoloring he'd seen under her shawl that day was clear and visible now. A dark N, S, and W were written on her back. "Are those tattoos?" he asked, horrified.
"No," she replied flatly. "They're scars," she added. Both Kings heard the notes of bitterness, tears, and shame in her voice.
"It looks like a brand," King Edmund realized, and he saw his brother's eyes widen and then darken in fury.
"It is," Evelyn whispered over the crash of the waves. She refused to face them, and she let her hair swing down in a dripping curtain.
"Ev, who branded you?" Peter asked, moving around to stand in front of her. He lifted her chin in one hand and cupped her cheek in the other. Her eyes were filled with tears and he used his thumb to wipe them away when they spilled over.
"I don't know. I can't remember," she sobbed, and he realized this was a weakness. They'd done something to her that left her afraid of them. They'd done something that had forced Aslan to take her memory to restore her. To save her.
"It's okay, Ev, it's okay. You are safe here, remember? I promised you that," Peter murmured to her.
"I remember, Your Golden Majesty," she replied, and he smiled at the nickname.
"You cannot be afraid, Evelyn," he told her, dashing away another tear.
"How can I not be? Someone branded me!" she asked, and her voice broke.
The Kings were hiding a great deal of shock at this point. Evelyn, strong, warrior Evelyn, had broken down so fast. They'd hit her weak point and she'd come undone. Peter pulled her into his arms and held her, the waves lapping at their waists. This wasn't a hug between lovers but friends, because Evelyn just needed the shoulder to cry on.
Once again, Peter found himself furious with whoever had done this to her. He wished she'd remember if only so he could make them regret it. "Pete? You should probably take her back to the beach," Edmund spoke up quietly. Flame and Spirit were moving into the water, and when Spirit reached them, she swatted Evelyn with a heavy paw.
Both Evelyn and Peter stumbled from the weight behind the swat, and nearly fell into the water. Evelyn laughed and Peter was so relieved that he laughed with her. He let her go, but held onto her hand, and pulled her back towards the beach. They were at knee depth when Peter started to turn to talk to Edmund and said King bumped Evelyn hard enough to knock her into the High King. As the High King was turning, he was off balance and when Evelyn fell into him, they both toppled into the water.
Neither really paid attention to Edmund doubled over laughing, as they were a bit too stuck to do so. The water was shallow enough that neither was actually submerged, but that wasn't the problem. Evelyn had fallen on top of the High King, and when she went to push herself up, she looked straight into the High King's eyes. They burst out laughing and climbed back to their feet, Evelyn ringing out her hair as she did.
Peter turned back to Edmund and tackled his brother into the water, where they wrestled and just goofed off. Eventually Susan and Lucy joined them, and Lucy jumped up onto Peter's back. They played silly games like Red Rover and threw a Frisbee back and forth on the beach. The girls flew kites as Peter buried Edmund in the sand.
Eventually, Evelyn flopped down on a towel on her stomach, and Lucy saw the dark outlines of the scars. The younger girl pointed them out to her sister, who quietly asked her elder brother. “Pete? What are those lines on Evelyn’s back?” she asked, kneeling beside the blonde teen.
“Do not ask her,” he ordered instantly. “They are scars, brands actually, that somebody inflicted on her. She doesn’t remember and I believe Aslan took her memory to save her from them. They broke her, and He had to erase her past to restore her,” the King said quietly, including Lucy in his explanation.
“That is horrid,” Susan gasped, looking back at the girl lying face down in the sun.
“It’s her weakness. Our warrior lady has a weak point and we found it. It’s the fact that she cannot remember, that something could leave such a mark and just be gone. She wants to know, I think, but she’d afraid. I think she might have started to remember. The Sirens got her earlier, and you know how their enchanting works, sisters,” Peter replied, his hands stilling in the sand as he spoke.
“Yes, unfortunately, we do,” Lucy sighed, and went to join Evelyn in a nap on the sun-soaked sand.
Evelyn had drifted off when she felt the sand shift near her head and she lifted her face up. Peter sat in the sand, and he had moved his towel so that he more or less sat perpendicular to her. She rolled onto her back so she could look at him and not have to keep her head up, and rested her head on his knee. She felt him playing with her hair and was glad she hadn’t just chopped it all off that first day on the beach. A smile flinted across her lips and she could hear the younger royals playing in the waves once more.
“Evelyn?” Peter said, his hand coming to her shoulder.
“Yes?” she asked, opening her eyes. He was leaning over her, and he was upside down.
“Do you remember anything?” he asked.
“Small things. I remember my siblings. My four elder brothers, I remember their names. William was the oldest, then Richard, then John, then Charles,” she replied. “I remember that they were my big brothers, always trying to look out for me,” she added, tilting her head back to see him better.
“That’s good. Everyone needs somebody to look after them,” he mused.
“Take your own advice, Peter. I’m your somebody now,” she teased, grinning. He grinned down at her and let her return to her nap. The five of them spent nearly all afternoon on the beach, just relaxing and having fun, and being teenagers and children. After all, only Peter was eighteen, and just barely.
Evelyn sat in the window seat in her room, watching the stars. She didn’t actually see them however, because she was reliving her life in her mind. Tears streamed down her face, and she saw. She was there, in the memory, seeing, smelling, feeling, tasting, hearing. Everything. It was like it was happening all over again. Just faster.
Being the youngest of five and the only girl, her brothers were very protective of their little princess. She remembered every time she’d fallen off her bike or skinned her knee or gotten picked on in school, every time she’d drawn a child’s picture or played dress up or gone trick-or-treating. She remembered every Christmas, every snowball fight, every day spent ice-skating. At least one of her brothers was in the memory, but usually it was all four of them. Her father wasn’t around much even before the war, as he was working all the time. Her mother wasn’t there at all…and she didn’t have any really painful memories either. She saw only until she was about nine, and then she left the dream like world.
It was dawn when she finally returned. She hadn’t slept at all, and when she found the looking glass, she saw that her eyes were bloodshot and puffy. Tear tracks stained her face and she was exhausted. She stumbled into the study and let Flame and Spirit out, leaving the door unlatched enough that they could easily push it back open to let themselves in. “Tell the High King I am not feeling well and that I would rather he not disturb me,” she told the tigers, faltering in her steps back to her bedroom.
When she reached the bed, she collapsed onto it and curled in on herself. She was back in the memories immediately. She lay on the bed, never moving, never even twitching, and never even blinking. She heard only the memories, not her door opening. She felt only her past, not her bed shifting as someone sat. She saw only the dream like scenes, not Spirit and Flame curling around her.
The sun was at its peak when she was released again. The first thing she saw was the wooden tray on the side table. Fruit, eggs, toast, jam, and juice greeted her eyes, and she smiled. There was a note under the cup, and she read it as she ate. "Ev, I hope you are not too sick. I had one of the dryads bring this, because I am otherwise tied up in reports and what not from the north. Please try to eat some of it so you recover sooner. If you are feeling better tomorrow, could you join me in my office for the second afternoon hour? I've something I wish to discuss with you. Love, golden Peter."
She laughed as she finished it, and then moved back to the window seat. It was raining today, and Evelyn had an urge to dance in the drizzle. She knew Lucy would have, and smiled at the thought. Instead of doing the same, she leaned her head against the cold glass and sank back into memory.
It seemed like Aslan had saved the worst memories for last, except for when she had come to this world from hers. She finally saw her mother, and wished she hadn't. The woman was no mother to her. Maybe to her brothers, as the woman had only wanted sons so they could serve in the military, but not to her. Her eldest brothers, William and Richard, took care of her. They took their mother's hate of their sister on themselves, something she hadn't learned until later in life.
She remembered the deaths over her life, both of her grandmothers, her only aunt, and one of her grandfathers. She remembered the declaration of the war, and watching her father and eventually William go off to fight. She remembered being evacuated to the big farmhouse in the country with Charles as she left Richard and John standing in the station in their military uniforms. She remembered unpacking her meager suitcase in her new room with one of the kittens perched on her shoulder. She remembered every pain in her life, every sorrow, every frustration, and every loss.
But the last thing she remembered was finding the tire swing on the hill above the pond. She still didn’t remember how she got to the world of Narnia. She could feel the tears building in her eyes as she was released from the memories, and she got up and began to pace the room as she cried. She finally just sank to her knees and succumbed to the sobs until she felt as dry as a desert. Then she was pulled back in to the memories.
She saw herself as she climbed high into the branches of the rope swing tree. She saw the caves in the hills from the branches and made her way there on foot. She saw herself exploring the cave in the poor light and lipping into the river that ran through the rock. She felt the chill of the water as she went under, and then water suddenly got colder, and then she was gasping for air as she resurfaced. She blinked against the glare thrown off the snow she was looking at and gasped. She had gone from a pool in a cave to an icy river in the middle of a winter forest.
She was so cold as she dragged herself free of the water and tried to build a fire. She succeeded only enough to dry her hands and feet before she had to restart it. She was lucky; beneath the layer of ice of the riverbanks were shards of flint stone and other rocks that she could strike together to make sparks. She made a torch out of a piece of bark and a shred of the bottom of her under shirt, lit it in the fire, and made her way through the snow, eventually finding something like a road. They were sleigh tracks.
She began to walk along them, hoping anyone would find her. And someone found her. Someone who drove a sleigh pulled by white reindeer and had a patrol of wolves running along beside the sleigh. Someone who took her in under her arm and brought her to a magnificent castle of stone and ice. Someone who fed her whatever she wanted and dressed her in rich dresses of velvet and fur. The dresses were always white or light blue or silver or gray or even a pale cream. They always matched the snow and ice around them.
She was found by someone who gave her lessons in the history of the land, of the creatures, of the royalty, and of the enemies. Someone who taught her to host various creatures in their castle of stone and ice. Someone who taught her how to wield a sword and something called the Old Magic. Someone who taught her about the winter and how to command an army through it. Someone who taught her to survive in that winter.
Someone who taught her that Aslan was the enemy. Someone that taught her the prophecy of the Four Thrones and taught her that it would never come true, because the White Witch controlled Narnia. Someone who taught her to love the White Witch and what she stood for by never saying it.
She was taken in by someone who'd been planning on betraying her all along. Someone who had every intent on making her Queen and leaving her to face the wrath of the High King and Aslan when they discovered her winter and her army. She knew now that the army of that someone was made up not only of Wild Land Giants but of the Animals of Narnia that had turned from Aslan to the White Witch. She knew now that the influx of Animals from Narnia only a week after her arrival was the remnants of the White Witch's army, fleeing from Aslan and the High King.
She knew now that the someone had known that she was the one in the third part of the prophecy. She knew now that taking her in and making her Queen had been the plan to foil the prophecy. And foiling the prophecy would weaken the High King until the Witch's supporters could rise from hiding and destroy him.
Taking her memory had saved both Evelyn and the High King. Aslan had known where she was and what was happening to her. He'd acted as only he could, and she'd found her way to the High King. It had been Aslan that had called her to Narnia from England and to Narnia from the Wild Lands. It had been Aslan that had caused the storm to wash her onto the northern Narnia shore. It had been Aslan that had taken her memory.
The words of the prophecy rang through her mind in a terrible, but great, song.
"Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, at the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again." That was the first part, and most of Narnia knew it.
"When Adam's flesh and Adam's blood sit at Cair Paravel in throne, the evil time will be over and done, and Peace will be restored to all of Narnia." That was the part every being in Narnia knew.
But the part Evelyn knew by heart was hidden and dangerous. "When Eve's name and Eve's spirit stand at Cair Paravel beside throne, evil's daughter will be over and done." She was Eve's name; it was right there in her own. She was Eve's spirit; she had acted against the wishes of the Highest King and now she had to make it right. She stood beside High King Peter's throne, and now evil's daughter, the Queen of the Wild Lands, had to be defeated.
She began to shut down, as she couldn't get the memories of the Wild Lands out of her head. She managed to stand and make it into the bathing room before she went into shock and sank to the floor, sitting with her ankles tucked under her. She never noticed Spirit sit at the edge of the pool to keep her away from the water. She never noticed Flame leave to find someone. She never noticed when he returned, the High King in tow.
But Peter noticed her and her glassy eyes. He noticed the tear stains and the pale skin. Fear rolled over him and he knelt before her, taking her freezing hands in his ever warm ones. "Evelyn? Can you hear me? Answer me, please, Evelyn," he said, watching her face for some kind of reaction.
"Evelyn, whatever you've remembered, you must remember that you are a good person. You must remember that you are safe here. You must remember that you are mine now, not theirs," he told her, moving both her hands into one of his so he could touch her face. Her skin was freezing, just as her hands were, and her lips were blue.
"You are a warrior, Evelyn, my warrior. You must fight this. Defy it, as you have defied tradition and stereotypes. Defy whatever holds you and know that you have done only good here," he implored her, and he realized that her hands were warming in his own. It was like holding ice, it just melted away. But it didn't leave Peter feeling cold. He was as warm as ever, and he was determined to warm her as well.
"Oh, Aslan, whatever it is, please, free her," he asked, looking to the lion carved in the wall.
"He did," a faint whisper reached his ears, and he instantly looked back to Evelyn. "He freed me when he took my memory and let me escape. He freed me by sending the storm to wash me up on your shore. He freed me by calling me to Narnia. He freed me by sending me to you," she murmured, and he saw that though her eyes were still blue glass, her lips were returning to their normal color. He watched the coldness melt out of her as color returned to her skin.
"What did you remember?" he asked her gently.
"Everything. I remember where I'm from, my whole life before this world. I remember coming to this world, being taken in by the Queen of the Wild Lands. I remember being groomed and trained and never realizing it. I remember being a pet to take the throne so that when you discovered the endless winter in the Wild Lands, you would destroy me. I remember being part of the plan to weaken you so Her followers could destroy you," she told him, looking straight at him with her glass eyes.
"What plan?" he prompted her. Anything she knew could help them now.
"You would see me as the source of the winter, because I would be, just not the original. You would see the remnants of the White Witch's army among mine, and you would think I in alliance with her, because I was groomed to be. You would destroy my army and me, and by destroying me, you'd weaken yourself, because you need me. You'd be weak enough that the Queen would be able to rise from hiding with those she still had loyal to her and destroy you. She'd rule Narnia," Evelyn whispered.
"Again," he breathed. He was horrified, but knew just clever that plan was.
"No. The White Witch, Jadis, is gone. The Queen of the Wild Lands is her daughter, the Silver Witch," she said, and a fire lit behind the glass in her eyes, fueled by hate and fury.
"No," he breathed, rocking back on his heels. His hand dropped from her cheek and instantly the color drained from her skin. She was sure he hated her now, because she'd been groomed by his enemy in a plan to destroy him. He didn't see the fire get snuffed out in her eyes. He didn't see the glass fog up as tears welled back up in her eyes. He didn't see the glass crack as her heart threatened to break.
"I'll go back, Your Majesty. I'll end this. I'll leave, just please do not hate me," she begged him quietly, pulling her hands free of his. He looked back and she saw just what kind of King he was in his eyes. His eyes were hard and furious like stone, but burned with the fire of hate and memory.
"No," he replied, his voice cold and unforgiving. "You are not leaving. You and I are going to make a plan, and then we are going to ride to the Wild Lands. We will take the war to them," he continued. "If this Silver Witch thinks she can use you then she's wrong. You are mine, and you were always intended to be," he added, taking her hands once more. “Tell me the prophecy,” he ordered her softly.
She blinked in surprise and sighed. The coldness still held her, and his warmth was not melting it away this time. “You know the first part, Aslan’s part, and you know your part, the second part. You just don’t know my part, the third part,” she told him quietly.
“Teach me,” he suggested.
"When Eve's name and Eve's spirit stand at Cair Paravel beside throne, evil's daughter will be over and done,” she breathed and as she spoke, her voice took on a tone Peter recognized well. Power and Old Magic rang through the words and the High King had the feeling it came from deep within her. He realized she belonged in Narnia as much as he did, and he realized that perhaps, besides Lucy, she was Aslan’s dearest treasure.
She was his treasure now though. She was his guiding light, his star that shone above him. She didn’t need to be a queen or noble or even truly anything other than exactly who she was. Exactly who she was, that was enough for him. That was all he needed. And as he thought this, he pulled her in and pressed his lips to hers. She was still ice as he kissed her, but he felt her melting as he held her. She kissed him back, had he kept his eyes open, he would have seen the golden color return to her skin.
When they broke apart, he pulled her to her feet, and then leaned his forehead against hers. “I could never hate you, Evelyn. You are my treasure,” he murmured, then kissed her again.
The Kings and Queens stood in the Council Room, gathered around the table with the rest of the council. The Council was made up of a representative from every race in Narnia, and today Evelyn joined them. "You're sure of this, Your Majesty?" General Orieus asked, glancing at the remarkably different Evelyn sitting beside the standing King.
"What exactly is this?" High King Peter clarified.
"The existence of this Silver Witch," the centaur explained, not at all ashamed to ask the question others wouldn't.
"Very sure, Orieus. Evelyn, could you?" he replied, touching her shoulder as he spoke. She jerked, then looked up at him through her glass eyes. She nodded and stood, turning her back to the council. Her shirt buttoned in the back, and Peter carefully undid the buttons. Various shocked and almost dismayed sounds came from the assembled members when they realized what their High King was doing. Until he stepped to the side and revealed the brands on her back. Then the sounds were horrified and disbelieving.
Evelyn kept her head down as the various council members came forward to examine the marks, and she played with the end of her braid in her hand. Even after he’d buttoned her shirt back up, the High King kept his hand on her shoulder, and everyone was quick to notice this. They all noticed that the High King was always touching her, whether it be on her shoulder, her knee, her hand, or her back. But only King Edmund noticed the one time his brother removed his hand, and the results shocked him.
He'd thought he had the worst effect from the cold. He would never think that again after watching Evelyn. The second Peter's hand left hers, she lost any color in her skin, her veins stood out a vibrant blue, and her eyes froze in memory behind the glass. Instantly the younger King was moving to her and taking the older girl's hands in his. Color seeped back into her hands and up her arms until Peter's hand returned to her shoulder. The High King kissed her temple and her eyes melted as he freed her from a memory.
'Oh, Aslan, help her. Tell us how to break this curse,' King Edmund thought, unaware that all three of his siblings were sending similar prayers.
"My liege, how do you intend to go about this attack?" General Orieus asked, unrolling a map of northern Narnia and the Wild Lands on the table. The Red Dwarf member laid a box of little flags and markers beside it, and Evelyn reached for one shaped like a ship.
"There's a port-city here," she told them, placing the ship on a piece of the Wild Land coast. The council members picked up on the High King's idea as the girl rummaged in the box for a castle piece. She seemed to search the map, and then a memory struck her as she placed the piece. She went stone still and the High King moved closer, using their joined hands to pull her against his chest.
Queen Lucy rested her hand on Evelyn's arm as the High King whispered in her ear. King Edmund saw the golden color from his brother and the pinker color his sister was giving the shattered girl. 'How did she survive like this?' he asked himself, and then he knew. 'Aslan, be with her as you were there,' he thought, and he knew why Evelyn had hair the color of the Great Lion's coat. He'd kept his touch on her for so long that his color had permanently stayed with her.
Evelyn moved around the table, leaving King Peter's hand, and each council member held out their hand to help her. Her skin changed colors as she changed hands, and Peter watched in fascination. She set piece after piece on the map with Orieus’s help until they had two armies and then she tucked herself back into Peter's shadow. Unable to stop himself, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his side as the Council examined the map.
"What is this, Milady?" the dryad asked, touching a piece like a goblet.
"I'm trying to remember. I know there's something significant about that area, but it's gone," she replied, lifting her hand to her temple. Suddenly a dark gold flared behind the glass in her eyes and she groaned, holding both temples now. She bent forward and the council watched as colors bloomed and spread across her skin. Then they all drained from her and she reached a colorless hand across the table to a house shaped piece. She placed it where the goblet had been and then her hands were moving fast, marking out a far more detailed army in the Wild Lands.
"This is what we need to prepare for. I know how the army works, and I know how her mind works. I can tell you the weaknesses and I can tell you how to anticipate their every move. But you must know that she will guess for this. She will try to change the system, but again, I know how her mind works. I know how she'll change it," she started, and now that she'd begun, she wasn't stopping.
"We need to choose the battle ground. Force them to come to us, because if we fight too far over the border, we will be in the heart of the winter, and we will lose. I know the land along the border, and I suggest using the hills. If we station archers and whatnot on the hills, we have the range advantage. General, My Kings, I suggest moving troops quickly into this area, as discretely as you can. Here, here, and here, are open enough to camp and still be protected," she continued, touching a blue veined hand to various places. She went on like this until they had an entire battle plan, with escapes, retreats, and a few tricks. They had precise locations for troops and camps and Evelyn marked out the Witch's army and camps. She used black and white markers to show the set system and the possible changes the Witch would make.
For the High King, it was hard to watch. He couldn't get the previous night out of mind. The feel of her lips on his, her body pressed against his; it was making it hard to focus. The memory of one hand in her hair, the other on her back to pull her closer; it was making it hard to breath.
And after that, when he couldn't leave her, he'd pulled her against his side and laid on the bed. He had sung to her, a lullaby Lucy loved, and he eventually calmed her into sleep. He'd fallen asleep there, holding her and praying. He was praying to Aslan to help her as he'd helped her before.
"Sire?" Orieus asked, and the High King tore his mind from Evelyn. "Are you declaring war?" the centaur asked.
The High King was relieved. He'd already discussed this with his siblings, and he had an answer. "Yes, General. The Kings and Queens of Narnia are declaring war on Nixis, Queen of the Wild Lands," he replied, and King Edmund nodded in approval. Queen Susan did too, but it was Queen Lucy who surprised the council. She nodded decisively, and her hatred of the evil the Witches posed was clear in her eyes.
"Prepare for war," Orieus ordered the rest of the council, and with that, they disbanded until it was only the five humans left.
"Edmund, are you riding with me?" High King Peter asked.
"I am, brother," King Edmund replied.
"Sisters?" the High King asked.
"I will," Queen Lucy replied. "I will ride with my cordial," the young Queen added, and Queen Susan relaxed slightly. The others understood that their youngest sister would not lead the army, but ride with them to heal those who needed it.
"I will remain," Queen Susan said, though none of them had doubted she would do just that. She was called the Gentle for a reason.
"Your Majesty, have you thought about what I suggested?” Evelyn asked, looking up from where she was staring at the map. Their eyes locked and the younger King and Queens saw a battle of wills unfold. Evelyn was determined to do something, and Peter was refusing with equal stubbornness.
“Believe me, Evelyn, I have. I do not want you to go,” he replied. “If you were to be caught, or caught by a memory, Evelyn, I’d have a horrible time not just ripping through the Wild Lands looking for you,” he added.
“See, I do not know if you noticed, but our High brother here has a bit of what we call a blind rage,” Edmund told her, almost jokingly, as she had seen a glimpse of it on the practice courts.
“I know. And I know that you alone, King Edmund, are able to get through to him when he is caught in it. But you should know that I alone am able to prevent it or break him free,” she spoke with a certainty that made Lucy realize Aslan had truly made this girl her eldest brother’s guardian.
“What is it that you suggested, Evelyn?” Queen Susan asked, curious.
“That the High King allow me to ride with the Patrol when they warn the Northern creatures and Animals,” Evelyn replied.
“Why couldn’t she, my King?” Queen Susan asked, and suddenly Evelyn really saw the Kings and Queens as just that.
“She’s hardly in any shape to do so,” the High King protested, touching Evelyn’s pale cheek as he stood beside her.
“She would not have offered if she did not think she could handle it,” Evelyn reminded the blonde King, who sighed and realized he’d lost.
“Very well. But I am picking the squad to go with you, and Flame and Spirit are to both accompany you. I am getting you chain mail, and armor, and proper traveling and camping gear as well. Deal?” he decided.
“Deal, Your Majesty,” she replied, and he laced his fingers through hers. He wished he could go with her on the Patrol, but he was needed here, to lead the army out into the North. Into his North. The High King knew why he had been named to the North, and he would always be proud of the reason. He was the leader of the family, the warrior, and it was his duty to stand between the enemy and his people. But now, he didn’t have to stand alone.
“I have something else for you to take with you,” Peter’s voice came from behind her and she turned to see him in her door. “You do not have to take it, and it is not part of our deal, but I want you to take it. It should help you,” he told her, leaning against the doorframe.
“Are you going to tell me what it is?” she asked, turning back to her packing. She had gotten her chain mail and armor and tabard into a pair of saddlebags, along with a winter cloak and a thicker change of boots. She wore a dark green shirt with a high cut V-neck that had laces holding the cut together. She also wore a pair of brown pants tucked into a pair of black boots with a red, almost maroon, vest of leather armor over the shirt. Her sword belt had been strapped on, and her sword and dagger both rested in their sheaths.
A pair of riding gloves had been tucked into her belt, and he saw that her hair had been braided back along her head in a style Susan called a French Braid. “Who’s keeping you out?” he asked her, seeing neither of her tigers with her.
“This little one,” she replied, and she turned so he could see the tiny kitten tucking itself into her neck. It was partially hidden by the braid, fractionally covered by her vest collar, and majorly concealed by its tiny size. “Her name is Moon,” she added, and the gray kitten stared at the High King with bright blue eyes.
“Hello, Moon,” Peter said, smiling.
“Hello, Your Majesty,” the kitten squeaked boldly.
His smile widened, and then he turned his eyes back to his golden haired guardian. “Would you like to see it?” he asked her.
“Do you have it with you?” she asked over her shoulder as she stared down at the things remaining on her bed.
“Yes,” he told her, and she turned back to him, smiling in curiosity. “But you cannot have it until you promise me something,” he added.
“Oh?” she replied, arching an eyebrow.
He straightened and strode over to her, cupping her face in both hands. He kissed her gently on the lips, then pulled back and said, “Promise me you’ll be safe.”
She closed the space between them quickly, kissing him before she replied, “I promise.”
He kissed her gain, and this time, his lips trailed across her jaw to her ear before he whispered, “Turn around.” When she did, he pulled something from his pocket and raised his hands over her head as he placed the necklace on her. When he took his hands away, she looked down to see a golden chain and a ring hanging from the chain. When she lifted the ring to examine it, she sucked in a sharp breath.
“No, Peter, I cannot wear this,” she protested.
“Yes, you can. You are my guardian. Bear the signet of your King with pride, milady,” he told her. She looked back down at the ring and then looked at his hand. He lifted it so she could examine the two rings side by side, and watched her eyes widen. His was thicker, bigger; more masculine. Hers was thinner, smaller; more delicate. His had a shield with a lion on it and oak leaves around it. Hers just had the shield with the lion. “It gives you authority in my name,” he told her.
“This is crazy, Peter. Does the Council know of this? Does King Edmund? Do the Queens?” she asked.
“It really isn’t, yes, yes, and yes,” he replied, making her smile. “Now just wear it,” he told her.
“But,” she protested before he cut her off with a kiss.
“Just wear it, Evelyn,” he laughed.
“Humph,” she sighed and then pulled him down to capture his lips.
Later, when the High King and Evelyn emerged from the palace into the courtyard, Orieus noticed the way the lady’s hand often went to the gold chain hanging around her neck. He didn’t have to guess to know what hung from the chain. But he didn’t say anything other than, “Sire, milady,” when he took Evelyn’s saddle bags and tied them on her saddle for her. She was wearing bracers and he noticed the little gray furball tucked into her collar. He was about to voice his question when the kitten raised her head and eyed him.
He was taken aback by the color of the kitten’s eyes. They matched Evelyn’s precisely. He shook his head and called the squad to order. Immediately, the two dozen centaurs fell into their ranks, and Snowfire walked forward to the front. He wore a simple saddle and a bit-less bridle.
Evelyn turned to the Kings and Queens behind her, and curtsied. Queen Susan hugged her and kissed her brow. “Luck, Lady Warrior,” she whispered, stepping back.
Queen Lucy came next. “Keep her safe, Moon,” she said, smiling.
“I will, Your Majesty!” the kitten mewed, and they all laughed. The Valiant Queen kissed Evelyn’s brow, then made room for her brother.
King Edmund kissed her brow as well, and then rested his hand on her shoulder. “Go with Vigilance, Lady Guardian,” he murmured. Then he was moving away.
High King Peter took her hands and kissed her brow gently. “Four days, Evelyn. We’ll follow in four days. Until then, go with courage, my Lady,” he told her. She nodded and he leaned in and kissed her in front of the entire group gathered in the courtyard. Then she was vaulting into the saddle and cantering out of Cair Paravel. Spirit and Flame ran on either side of her Horse, and Peter remembered another difference between Animals and beasts. Animals had far more stamina and strength and speed than beasts.
Two days later, Evelyn was beginning to search for signs of familiar markings of the border. They’d spent the last two days warning anyone they’d met that the army was about to come through for the war, and Evelyn had realized it was a very good thing she wore Peter’s signet. All Narnians knew the signets of their Kings and Queens, and they warmed up a bit more to Evelyn after she showed it to a few of them. Most, however, were welcoming of the girl, if only out of curiosity.
She didn’t mind. She was just as curious about them as they were of her. Her training had really only covered Her allies, so she didn’t know much about the Narnian Animals. And the Hawks were more than willing to carry her daily reports back to Cair Paravel for her. She learned more about the centaurs, too, since they were the majority of her group. One let her attempt to lift his broadsword, and they all, including her, laughed at her inability to raise it above her waist for more than a few seconds. It was heavy. Very heavy.
On the third day, she found the place she was looking for. “Captain!” she called, stopping Snowfire gently. “Here!” she told him, gesturing to the clearings and hills.
“This is a good place for camp,” he told her approvingly.
“I know. I thought the same thing when I was on that side of the border,” she replied, motioning over the hills.
“Well, come then. We still have a ways of the border to go,” he told her. She nodded and rode after him, and when something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye, she turned to scan the hill tops. She thought she saw a dark smudge on one, but when it didn’t move, she rode on. She kept it in the corner of her mind that night and the next day, and she was constantly scanning the area around her.
She was the guardian, right? She had to be vigilant, just like the King had said. But that didn’t stop the cold from trapping her in a memory the fourth night. So she prayed. ‘Aslan, if you are truly the one who brought me here, protect me from this evil that longs to kill my King, if only so I can help and guide him,’ she pleaded once she was free. She was rewarded with warmth that slighted even the High King’s, and let her find her way to sleep.
She dreamed of spring, a spring beside Peter and Lucy and Edmund and Susan, watching stars and leading armies, and dancing and dueling (or sometimes both). She dreamed of colors, colors she felt emotions and stories behind. She dreamed of music and a lullaby sang in a deep, golden voice. She dreamed. And she knew the High King was safe for tonight at least.
Later, she would think that He knew it was the last sleep she’d get for a while. She’d think He was trying to save her once more. She just thought it a bit too late. But there wasn’t anything she could do to stop herself from waking up in situations.
And she woke just in time as the trees around them erupted in dark forms and shadows. Evelyn was on her feet instantly, Moon clinging to her collar as she drew her sword. Spirit and Flame were there, defending her from what looked like two werebeasts. She whirled as a sound alerted her, ducking under a minotaur’s battleaxe as she did. The Captain was there, taking on the beast that was determined to crush Evelyn. The other centaurs and Snowfire were occupied by other minotaurs, ogres, a hag or two, and something that flew over Evelyn’s head, raking her with talons. At least, it tried to. Evelyn slashed at it, driving it back up above her, where she could see it against the lightening sky.
It looked like a winged monkey. ‘A winged monkey?’ she asked herself. ‘I’ve never seen these before’ she realized. She ducked as it dove at her, slashing at its wing. She heard bone crunch and it fell awkwardly to the ground, where she promptly sliced its head off. She shuddered and suddenly found herself being swarmed by Black Dwarves. She hacked and slashed and stabbed and dodged, but eventually they over whelmed her, and she fell.
They grabbed her, and dragged her into the woods, where she was tied up and thrown onto a rough sled being pulled by a quartet of white elk. The Dwarves jumped onto the sled, several sitting on her, and it jerked forward, sliding across the grass with difficulty. Eventually, Evelyn felt the change from Narnia to the Wild Lands, as they were going much faster across snow than they had on grass.
Moon was tucked inside the top of her shirt, right at her collarbone, and the kitten was completely still. Evelyn was tempted to see if she could roll off the side of the sled, but there was a good chance she’d get hurt. Plus, her legs were bound again. ‘I’m sorry, Peter. I should have known they’d ambush us. But unless they were watching us the whole time, how did they know we were there? How did I not know they were watching us?’ she thought as the sled continued on.
They went on for only an hour, and then they were stopping. She was grabbed from the sled by a minotaur, and thrown onto her knees. Her head was yanked back and she felt Moon flatten herself against her neck. She knelt before a black tent with a pitched roof that she recognized instantly as the Queen’s pavilion. The Queen’s army was gathered around her, and she watched the pavilion carefully.
When the Queen flung the heavy curtains open with her sword in one hand, Evelyn didn’t flinch. When the Queen laid green-gold eyes on her, Evelyn didn’t flinch. When the Queen moved in front of her in her gray dress, Evelyn didn’t flinch. When the Queen cupped her face in both freezing white hands, Evelyn didn’t flinch.
No, Evelyn didn’t flinch until the Queen spoke. “Hello, my dear one. You’ve been gone for a while. Aren’t you tired? You can come and rest,” she purred, and Evelyn glared back.
“No,” the girl snarled. She could hear the menace and evil in the Witch’s voice now, but she was already at war within herself. She’d shattered because she’d fought the voice whispering inside her head to go back, back to where she belonged, back to the Queen’s side. But she knew in her heart that she loved Aslan, that she loved the warmth in Narnia, and that she needed Peter now. She fought the freezing touch and tried to focus on the warmth Moon was sending her, but she knew she didn’t have long.
“Come, dear one, you must be tired. I can get you food, whatever you wish to eat, and proper clothing. The Princess of the Wild Lands must be dressed properly,” the Queen crooned.
“I’m not the Princess,” Evelyn growled, swallowing. ‘Defy it, Evelyn. Defy it,’ she heard Peter’s voice in her head, and suddenly, the whisper wasn’t so loud.
“You say that out of tiredness and hunger. Come with me. I can give you whatever you want. I can get you your proper weapons and restore you to your beauty. I can get you your softest dress and your finest armor. I can get you your proper companions and I can get you your nicest bed. Just come with me,” the Queen promised her.
But Evelyn knew. She knew the Witch’s intent. And she wasn’t about to be drawn back into the icy clutches. Not when He was with her. She had Aslan now. And she had His love now. She knew His love now. “No,” she hissed at the Witch, and the whisper began to scream.
“Very well. Give her what she deserves,” the Queen’s entire demeanor changed, and Evelyn saw the Witch. “Throw her with the others,” she ordered, and Evelyn was snatched up. She was hauled away from the pavilion and then dumped into a ravine. She fell, and landed with a cry on frozen snow. Then she lay still.
Moon crawled from Evelyn’s shirt when the girl didn’t move. “Evelyn?” she squeaked, nosing the girl’s cheek.
“She’d been knocked out, small one,” a feline voice told her from behind. Moon spun around, her claws digging into Evelyn’s shirt, and her hackles rising. She hissed at the gryphon that stood nearby, half hidden in shadow.
“Small one is fierce,” another voice added. Moon looked to see a female centaur come forward, limping on one leg.
“She is the girl’s protector,” a new voice observed.
“Yes I am! So stay away from her!” Moon hissed, lashing her tail.
“We can help her, small one,” a fourth, and deeper, voice replied soothingly.
“Show yourselves,” Moon ordered, trying to imitate the High King’s commanding tone. A white elk, just like the ones from the sled, and a faun came forward from the shadows. A second faun, a dog, a Red Dwarf, a raccoon, and a cougar came from the shadows too, but Moon had a feeling it was the elk and the first faun she’d heard talking. “Is that all of you?” she asked, lashing her tail again.
“It is in this section. This ravine is long, and deep, and makes a very good cage. Others are scattered throughout, but we heard what was happening,” the faun answered, and Moon matched him with the deeper voice.
“Can you really help her?” she asked, letting her fur flatten out.
“I do not need it,” Evelyn’s voice startled Moon, making the kitten whirl back around.
“You’re okay?” the tiny cat asked.
“Yes. Could someone help me up?” the girl replied. The two fauns lifted her to her feet, and she found her sword gone. But her dagger, hidden two nights before on her upper arm, was still there. “Who are you?” she asked, and was relieved to find her gold chain still about her neck.
“I am Zephyr, and my sister, Zephyra, is down the ravine,” the gryphon told her.
“I am Emmis,” the centaur added.
Introductions continued until Evelyn had all their names. The elk was Snowwatcher, the fauns Owet and Kivin. The dog went by Dizzy, the raccoon by Shadow. The cougar gave his name as Ferro, and the Dwarf called himself Bican.
She was guided down the ravine to where the prisoners kept a fire going, and she curled up with the Animals to be introduced to the rest and hear their stories. A plan began to form in her head, but she fell asleep before she could think about it more carefully.
Evelyn woke when Moon walked across her forehead. It had snowed during the night, and she had to shake the powder from her clothes. It was one of those bitter, biting cold days, and she unbraided her hair to let it act as a curtain for Moon. The kitten was curled around her neck, and Evelyn shivered.
She was furious. Evelyn guessed it had to do with her and her defiance, but she glad she’d done it. So she wasn’t expecting to find the cloak in a heap at the base of the cliff. ‘Someone’s helping me’ she realized. And whoever it was had serious courage if they were defying the Witch to help a prisoner. She pulled the cloak around her shoulders and sighed. It was so warm. Moon let out a purr that made Evelyn laugh, and soon she was sitting with the gryphons. Dizzy, Shadow, and Moon were curled around her, snuggling into the warmth, and she began to think of a plan.
“How do they keep you here?” she asked Zephyr.
“These collars. She can freeze them from any distance and we just drop like stones,” he replied, and Zephyra nodded.
“I found a key hole,” Evelyn told them quietly, searching the collars. She noticed that all the other prisoners had one somewhere, whether on their neck, ankle, or wrist. Only she didn’t have one. And she had a dagger. Grinning, she pulled it out and picked Zephyr’s collar. It fell into the snow, and Evelyn had an idea. “Pile them all there,” she ordered quietly, picking Zephyra’s collar.
Evelyn was glad the Witch thought her prison ingenious. It meant that she didn’t post guards along the rim, and that made Evelyn’s job easier. She spent hours picking collars and made her fingers bleed. Then she explored the ravine, even though she was pretty sure she knew it by heart. She found two bodies, and she let a tear fall. Those tears froze before they hit the snow, and shattered into a thousand fragments when they did hit.
One body was older, a male centaur, and she picked his collar too. He didn’t deserve to be a prisoner even in death. Neither did the wolf she found at the end of the ravine. His body was brand new, and she realized it was Dargrim, her wolf companion. He’d been loyal to her from the beginning. “Thank you, my friend,” she whispered as she closed his eyes. It had been him to help her.
As she walked along the base of the cliffs that made their cage, she slipped and fell onto the frozen river that made up this part of the ground. She looked up the rock face, and made her way back to the pile of collars. She took one, holding it open over her shoulder, and looked up at the wall here. Then she climbed. The other prisoners watched in shock and fear, but she paid little attention.
She slipped and fought for holds multiple times, and managed to make her fingers bleed again. Then she was able to peek over the rim. She understood another reason for no guards now. The ravine was at the back of the camp, and to try and get back to Narnia, one would have to go straight through the camp.
Unless one knew her way around the Wild Lands. And that one was her. The ravine was separated from the camp by a wall of trees, and Evelyn's idea became far more concrete as she listened. The ravine also happened to be uphill of the camp, and all the sounds from the camp reached her. She heard them making weapons, sharpening weapons, and arguing. She heard them not paying attention to their prisoners.
And she grinned. Now she just had to find a way to get everyone out. She climbed back down the cliff and went to the fire. All the prisoners had gathered here, and she sat with Dizzy and Ferro. "How did you get in here?" she asked Emmis.
"At that end of the ravine is a slope. It is steep, and slick with ice, and they slid me down it," the centaur replied.
"Have any of you tried to climb up it?" Evelyn asked.
"I cannot climb up such a hill as that," Emmis replied.
"Nor can we," Kivin added.
The rest of the Animals made such agreements, and Evelyn decided to try. Most of them accompanied her there, but the fauns stayed to tend the fire. With Moon still in her collar, she moved to side of the slope, where she could grasp the sides of the cliff. The slope was like stairs in some places, and in other places, she would have just slid right down. She made it roughly eighty percent of the way to the top, and then she knew what to do. She slid back down and ran to the pile of collars.
Pulling out her dagger, she picked the hinges off a few collars until she had what she thought was the right amount. She carried them back to the slope and studied it silently. She closed her eyes and pictured the stair case she needed, then stabbed a half into the ice on the slope. She worked her way up the side with the most step-like spurts and protrusions, forcing the pieces into the ice continuously. Eventually, she had a stair case of ice and iron. She used some of the smaller ones to make hand holds in the rock, jamming them into the ice on the rock.
When she came back down, Bican handed her the collar she'd been intending to put on her wrist. She had looped another through it, and it seemed he understood. She snapped the collar onto her arm, and then he took the other in his own hand. She climbed up, the Dwarf climbing behind her, and when they got to the top, he let go and scrambled into the trees away from the camp.
"You remember the way?" she asked softly. He nodded and his behind a tree to wait for the others. She'd told them all the way to go, just in case they got separated or something happened to her.
She slid back down and took Ferro up. He didn't really need her, but she went anyway, carrying Shadow on her other shoulder. Dizzy went after them, holding the loop in his mouth. A Fox, a marsh wiggle, and a Possum followed. A second Dog, a Rabbit, a Marten and a Muskrat came next. A Lynx and a Coyote were the last of the smaller Animals.
Only Snowwatcher, Zephyr, Zephyra, Emmis, and the two fauns were left now. The fauns went willingly now that the sun was after its peak. Emmis was easier to lead up than Evelyn had expected. The collar steps helped the most with her, and it helped that she could grab the hand holds too. Finally it was Snowwatcher's turn. This trip took the longest by far, and resulted in three near slips. Finally, the elk was able to leap over the rim and run into the forest.
Zephyr and Zephyra made their way up with her guiding from the middle. Zephyr was already over the rim when there was a shout and then Evelyn's collar froze. "Go!" she screamed as she fell back down the slope to the ground. The gryphons took to the air, since they no longer needed to worry about discovery.
And then she was blacking out.
High King Peter looked up when the hawk flew over their camp, shrieking his cry. "Your Majesty! Lady Evelyn's patrol was ambushed. They took her!" the hawk cried when it landed on the King's arm.
"Tell me everything. From the beginning," he ordered, fighting down rage and fear.
"Yes, Sire. Yesterday, Lady Evelyn had found the camp sites she'd told you about. We continued up the border, warning everyone, like you'd ordered. Yestereve, we turned back and started to come back to the camp sites. Captain ordered a camp put up for the night, and in the false dawn we were ambushed. We were pushed back from the border when they attacked, and they had an enemy to occupy everyone us so they could take Lady Evelyn," the bird started.
"Did Evelyn not fight? She would not have been so overwhelmed so easily," the High King asked.
"No, Your Majesty, she fought. They distracted her with a flying monkey thing, and after she killed it, the Dwarves in the company swarmed her. They went after her from every direction and eventually she fell to them. They dragged her away and I lost sight of her. Captain ordered me to come to you, and they were going to follow after her. Captain ordered the centaurs to continue back to join the army, but the two Tigers and the Horse were going after Lady Evelyn," the Hawk went on.
"They won't get near her," the High King sighed. "The Witch either has her as a prisoner, or Evelyn defied her and she killed her," he explained to the Hawk, who had titled his head.
"Have faith, my King, Aslan is with her. I know King Edmund knows this but her hair is not yellow or white or sandy. It is gold, like the Great Lion's fur. Her eyes, too, are not just blue. I saw the gold in them, and my King, you have too. She is the Great Lion's. He will not leave her," the Hawk encouraged the High King.
"Even Aslan cannot be everywhere at once," the High King replied, but he nodded. He had to believe. Right now, Aslan was the only one who could be with Evelyn. But that wasn't going to stop the High King. No, he was going to defeat the Witch's army and he was going to get his guardian back. He was going to get his Evelyn back.
'Defy it. Evelyn, defy it. I'm coming,’ he thought, and the Hawk launched himself up into the branches of a nearby tree. The High King spread the news to King Edmund, Queen Lucy, and General Orieus, who in turn spread the news among the army.
He fought down feelings of dread, fear, anger, worry, and hopelessness. He had to fight them back if he wanted a clear head in battle. He couldn’t afford a blind rage. Even with Edmund there, he didn’t trust himself to be able to control it, and he had to be able to lead this attack. He couldn’t give in. Not if he wanted to get Evelyn back.
‘You picked the wrong world to invade, Jadis. And you picked the wrong girl to trap, Nixis,’ he thought, ‘I will not let you keep her or the Wild Lands in your clutches. And you cannot be the Queen of Narnia. We already have two Queens and two Kings. And we will stay the Kings and Queens until the end of time.’
The army moved far more quickly the next two days than King Peter expected. They were pitching the war camp by the end of the third day on the march, a whole day sooner than scheduled. And Peter was relieved, because it meant Evelyn had to survive with the Witch for one less day.
He explored the camp ground after he and Edmund helped get their tent pitched, and he realized Evelyn had been right. This was the perfect place. It was well sheltered and easily defensible, but it wasn’t too far from the border. As he made his way through the camp, he watched centaurs and satyrs and fauns alike working together with the Cats, various kinds of Deer, Dogs, Horses, and Bears. He watched the dwarves and gryphons helping side-by-side with the Foxes, Birds of prey, small woodland Animals, and dryads. He watched, and he saw that there was no separation or discrimination between the races in Narnia.
No, the separation was between the soldiers under the red and gold banner and the soldiers under the black and gray banner. It was between the Lion’s believers and the Witch’s believers. It was between the High King of Narnia and the Queen of the Wild Lands.
He found himself back at his tent, where he unpacked his armor and chain mail and strung up his hammock. Edmund was standing outside, laying out the map and Evelyn’s markers on a table they’d brought. Most of the Council had come, except the Dryad, who had chosen to stay with Queen Susan. The Fox, too, had stayed behind.
“Brother?” Edmund called through the door of the tent.
“Yes, brother?” he called back, looking up from his signet ring.
“Could you come out here for a moment?” Ed asked. Peter stepped out of the tent and found that torches had already been lit around the camp. Edmund and Orieus stood with their backs to him, facing a group of creatures and Animals. He quickly counted nineteen in the group, and he saw that it was a good mix of races. A female centaur, two gryphons, two fauns, a Red Dwarf, two Dogs, a Coyote, an Elk, a Lynx, a Cougar, a Fox, a Raccoon, a Possum, a Muskrat, a Marten, a Rabbit, and a Marsh Wiggle all bowed to him when he emerged.
“Your Majesty,” the centaur spoke.
“Welcome to our camp, cousins,” he replied, bowing in reply to them.
“Your Majesties, we were the Witch’s prisoners,” she told them, and the others agreed softly.
“You were?” the High King asked.
“Evelyn devised a plan and got us out, Your Majesty,” the male gryphon spoke up.
“Is she with you?” King Peter asked, though he thought the question wistful.
“No, Your Majesty. Allow me to start at the beginning,” the centaur replied.
“Of course,” High King Peter said, gesturing for her to go on.
“The Witch forced collars on each of us when she threw us in the ravine she was using as a cage. The collars were made of an iron only found in the Wild Lands, and she’d enchanted them so that she could use her magic through them. She kept us from breaking free by freezing the collars, and we would be knocked out. If one escaped, she stopped us by knocking us out. Evelyn was thrown into the ravine with us, and apparently they did not search her, for she still had her dagger on her. She picked our collars, and then she explored. When she came back, she climbed one of the cliffs. Then she came down and asked us how they got us in the ravine. We showed her the slope they’d pushed us down, and she seemed to get an idea. The slope was steep, and icy, and I believe it to be part of the frozen river.
She climbed it, using the rocks in the riverbed as foot holds and the side of the cliff to pull herself up. Then she slid back down and disappeared. When she came back, she had the collars, most of them unscrewed into halves. She worked them into the ice to make a full stair case up the slope. Then she looped two collars together and closed one around her wrist. She guided everyone of us up that staircase, letting us hold the loop. She was trying to avoid discovery by having the gryphons climb out instead of flying, and they were the last. They were almost out when someone spotted them and we think the Witch froze Evelyn’s collar, because she fell from the staircase. She screamed for us to go, and then the gryphons were flying. We sent back scouts to see if she ever came out, and Bican saw her dragged into the Witch’s pavilion. Then we came to you, as she’d planned on doing,” the centaur told him, and the others were silent.
“Was she alive when she was dragged into the pavilion?” The High King asked quietly.
“Yes, Your Majesty. She was fighting the minotaur that held her,” the Dwarf spoke up, and the High King guessed this was Bican.
“Thank you for telling me,” he replied, bowing to them once more.
“Your Majesty, she gave me this in case she was caught. She instructed me to give it to you,” the centaur stopped him. He looked to see something in her hands. It was a piece of parchment, written on with a stick of charcoal.
“My Golden King,
If you are reading this, I did not make it to you. Believe Emmis, what she tells you is the truth. The Witch has me, and she will not kill me. No, I am the bait. Do not come to me if you are close to losing control. That is what She wants. She intends to fight you on the battlefield herself. But do not think me unguarded. Whatever she does, she will leave some kind of surprise for you. Also, take note of the monkey things. The Hawk can tell you more, and I bet Captain can too if he survived the ambush. They could pose a problem. I am alive, my King, so breathe. Sleep, and be ready for the morning. You will not have to wait long,” she had written. It seemed she’d also covered her signet in charcoal and pressed it into the note, because there was the mark at the bottom.
“Thank you, Emmis,” High King Peter sighed, folding the note and tucking into his leather vest. The centaur bowed, and then followed the rest of the group into the camp. The two Kings bid the General a good night, and then they settled in for the night. But only one of them slept.
Evelyn woke to harsh sunlight in her eyes. She was tied to a pole in the center of the Witch’s pavilion, and her dagger and cloak were gone. Moon, however, was curled in her boot, hidden from the Witch and her cronies. The kitten was tiny enough that she was easily overlooked and she didn’t even make the boot bulge. The kitten was also asleep.
Evelyn looked up from the ground when the Witch strode into the pavilion. She saw behind the Witch that the sun was nearly gone, and she knew she’d only been out for roughly two hours. Emmis would be reaching the High King any moment now.
The Witch picked up her sword, and checked the blade before she set it back down. Then she knelt in front of Evelyn. “It is not too late. You could still join me. You would be welcomed with open arms,” she told the girl.
“It is too late. I’ve learned a new lesson, and you were not the teacher,” Evelyn replied, meeting the Witch’s frozen gaze.
“No, but I did teach you one lesson you won’t be quick to forget. But I think you could use a refresher course,” the Witch purred sadistically.
Then pain laced through Evelyn’s back, and she screamed. It hadn’t hurt this much when he’d done it.
The pain stopped suddenly, and Evelyn choked off her scream. “It hurts, does it?” the Witch asked in her maliciously smooth voice. Evelyn saw a flicker in those gold-green eyes, and then she was screaming again.
To Evelyn, it felt like the game of start the pain, stop the pain went on for hours. In the end, tears had frozen on her cheeks and she had bitten her lip hard enough to make it bleed. Her back too, had bled, and Evelyn remembered that it had never bled last time. It had just frozen instantly.
Her mind however, was safe from the torture. Moon’s warmth and Aslan’s touch protected her from the voice that had whispered in her head.
She was left with blood frozen to her back and a line of ice from both corners of each eye. When the Witch finally grew bored, Evelyn was left tied to the pole. She stayed there all night as the Witch slept, and she never once closed her eyes. She was too afraid.
She knew she was going to have even worse scars now, but she did not mind. If she lived long enough for the wounds to scar, she’d be eternally grateful.
‘Aslan, please help me. If you love me, please help Peter defeat the Witch and her army. I do not know how long I can last this time. If you love me, let him save me. I need a hero,’ she prayed, looking into Moon’s blue eyes as the kitten sat on her knee.
Evelyn stared at the Witch in fury. This plan, it was cruel. It was merciless. It was ruthless. It was malicious. It was sadistic. It was the Witch.
The Witch had made her back bleed again and dressed her in a snow white gown with no sleeves. Over that went an icy blue cloak instead of the fur wraps the Queen had always worn. On her hair, which had been washed and brushed out and pulled into a ponytail that spilled down her back went a tiara of iron. The tiara narrowed out at the back, and actually went under her ponytail, giving her hair a kind of lift so it looked like a frozen golden waterfall. Some of her hair had still been wet, and it was now frozen. On her feet went white fur boots.
Then she was tied to the pole, standing up. A savage looking knife was placed in her hand, and then the Witch stepped back. “Oh, yes. This will break the little King if I do not destroy him,” she laughed. Then she dressed in a dress of white fur and gray chain mail. She swept her long white hair back and placed her silver war helm on her head. Evelyn thought it looked a little like antlers if they could be windswept. Either way, the helm was vicious looking. Add the twin swords the Witch carried, and she just looked vindictive.
The curtains of the pavilion were pulled back and Evelyn watched as the Witch stepped onto her elk drawn sled. She stood in it instead of sat like she would in the sleigh, and Evelyn was reminded of a chariot.
The army moved out, and Evelyn glared at the black snowflakes that flew on the gray banners. She listened to them leave, and she prayed to Aslan for her Kings and Queen.
This plan was cruel, Evelyn knew, and it was underhanded. If it didn’t break the High King, it would break Evelyn.
High King Peter couldn't help but think how just how similar this was to Beruna. While it wasn't quite spring yet, the winter was weak here, leaving only a frozen dirt and grass battlefield and frigid air. Edmund was also with him, but today he rode Philip at Peter's side. Lucy was on the hill, leading the archers.
Narnia's army was also larger. They had four divisions with the army itself; cavalry, infantry, archers, and air. Cavalry was centaurs mostly, with the Horses, Donkeys, Zebras, Antelope, Gazelles, Deer, Elk, Moose, and anything like that. The front line of centaurs bore long spears, and the rest had their swords. The infantry was fauns and satyrs and some dwarves, along with other Animals like the great Cats, Dogs, Wolves, Coyotes, Foxes, and any others. The Archers were the majority of the dwarves, a few fauns, female centaurs, and a handful of Animals like Mr. Beaver. The Air division was made up of the gryphons, Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, and any kind of bird really. Some of the gryphons carried dwarf archers, and the birds carried stones to drop.
The Hawk from Evelyn’s Patrol came soaring back, and dove to the High King’s sword arm when he raised it. “They come, Your Majesty. She leads the army herself. They have several Giants, as well,” the Hawk told him.
“Then it is a good thing we have our own,” King Edmund. High King Peter nodded and then they heard the horns. They could only be described as cold sounding.
“Join your brothers,” the High King ordered the Hawk, and flung his arm up. The Hawk pumped his wings and flew to the back of the hill. Then they turned their attention to the horns.
“Great Lion,” Edmund swore softly as the Witch’s army flooded the battlefield. Her forces nearly doubled the Kings’ and both Kings realized that the Silver Witch was intentionally making this battle just like Beruna.
“Are you with me?” High King Peter asked, still watching the enemy.
“To the Death,” Orieus replied, drawing his twin swords.
“Always, Brother,” King Edmund assured him, drawing his own sword as well. Both Kings turned on their mounts to look to Queen Lucy, who raised her bow in her reply.
“How was my mother unable to beat them?” the Witch scoffed at the sight of her opposition.
“They had Aslan then,” her Minotaur General Sinton reminded her.
“They do not have Aslan now. And as my mother said, I have no interest in prisoners. Kill them all,” she declared.
And just as his brother Otmin had at Beruna, Sinton let loose with a bellowing cry and raised his axe over his head. The first half of the army surged forward, and the Witch watched with malevolent satisfaction.
The Kings watched as the Witch’s army surged forward with terrible battle cries. King Edmund in particular was watching how far along the field they came, and Queen Lucy shouted, “Take your target!”
Suddenly, the front line went sprawling into the frozen grass. Instantly, it created a domino effect as the charging force piled in on top of each other. “Fire!” Queen Lucy ordered, loosing her own arrow. A volley soared over the red and gold army and came down in a devastating wave on the black and gray forces. Sinton himself took Queen Lucy’s arrow in the shoulder, but he pushed himself up out of the mess and continued on. A second volley hit the army behind him, and Queen Lucy’s arrow hit him in the other shoulder.
“Evelyn’s trip wires worked,” King Edmund said, shocked. He hadn’t really expected such results. They had just wiped out a quarter of the Witch’s force and seriously evened the odds.
“Look, my Kings,” Orieus pointed to the black Minotaur General. They saw Queen Lucy’s four arrows in his chest and shoulders, and watched him fall to his knees. A last arrow finally pierced his heart, and he went face down in the grass.
The Witch watched in astonishment as half of her first wave was destroyed. But she held back the second wave as the survivors regrouped and charged forward like the well trained brainless demons and brutes they were. She watched as the werebeasts in the wave surged forward to the front, and then a horn went up from the red and gold army.
She saw the foolish blonde king lower his visor and draw his sword. She saw him raise it to the air and let loose with a battle cry of “For Aslan!” His unicorn reared, and then the cavalry was charging forward. A few great cats came with them and met the werebeasts in the middle.
She watched the ridiculous white unicorn gallop straight into her force, the king cutting down beasts and demons on either side.
She watched in disgust as her force fell, and then she snapped the reins of her chariot. They’d been forced to change out the runners for wheels when the snow ran out. The elk let out their bellowing cries and heaved forward, and the second half of the army followed.
King Edmund watched his brother cut down enemies one after another, and then he heard one of the horns from the other side. He looked up to see the Witch start forward, and he raised his left fist, the free one. There was a shrieking cry, and then the gryphons and the birds were soaring over their heads. The archers held off, keeping the air clear, and the dwarves in the air peppered the oncoming charge.
Then a group of things rose from the Witch’s force. Some looked like huge bats, others like winged monkeys. The King realized they were Unspeakables, a group of demons and beasts that were almost hybrids, and they were not natural. They were never loyal to Aslan, in fact, most couldn’t speak. They came from the northern mountains of the Wild Lands, and had names no Narnian being could speak, hence their nickname.
The big Birds, like the Hawks and Eagles, went after the monkeys, while the gryphons without archers attacked the bat things. Some Birds came with the Unspeakables, ravens and crows and vultures, and the other Birds in the Narnian force went after them. King Edmund saw one of his falcons dive bomb a vulture, and he was proud.
He watched the cavalry meet the rest of the Witch’s force, and then he raised his sword into the air. “For Narnia!” he finished the High King’s battle cry, and Philip let out a fierce some neigh. The infantry surged forward as he charged forward at their head, and then the battle was on them.
At one point, he and Peter fought side-by-side on their mounts, and then it was Orieus beside him. He cut down enemies like he’d been training to do, and he fought back the cold that was rising in his chest.
Queen Lucy held back her archers with shouted orders as the two armies clashed together. She did not want to risk hitting her own soldiers.
But then she had to watch as Peter came face to face with the Witch. They stared at each other, and then the Witch threw a knife at Peter. She had to watch as her brother ducked and fell from the back of his unicorn, who reared and trumpeted furiously. The Witch stepped from her chariot and Queen Lucy swallowed her fear with difficulty.
This was what Evelyn had warned them to watch for. The Witch had challenged the High King.
When the Witch stepped from her chariot and challenged him, High King Peter braced his feet and moved into his fighting stance.
Then the Witch was on him. She slashed and stabbed at him with twin swords in a manner that suggested she had never relied on magic to do her fighting. Very unlike her mother, who had relied on her wand and used her sword as a secondary weapon.
But he was far more trained now than he had been eighteen months ago. He blocked and parried and dodged, getting in his own strikes between hers. Her eyes gave away her surprise, and he resisted the urge to grin. If he grinned, he’d give into the blind rage.
She managed to get the tip of one sword under his shield and rip it from his arm, and he drew his dagger before she could strike at his exposed side. He scored a hit when he sliced across one of her bare upper arms and drew line of blood. She reeled back and for a moment, their duel was paused. “You are going to die, Son of Adam,” she hissed.
“Not before you, Daughter of Lithe,” he told her calmly.
She snarled wordlessly and attacked again, trying to drive him back. But thinking of what this Witch had done to Evelyn gave High King Peter the strength and endurance to keep the upper hand.
That was, until the Witch realized it. “You fight for her,” she laughed, and the duel became one of words.
“Of course. You broke her. To break me,” he replied, narrowing his eyes. He had to be careful here. One slip up and she’d have the advantage.
“Do you love her, Son of Adam? Do you know what she has done in my name?” she asked, her eyes turning greener. When the High King gave no reply, she hissed a laugh. “She has learned for me. She has danced for me. She has sung for me. She has trained for me. She has fought for me. She has led for me. She has condemned for me. She has killed for me,” the Witch told him.
“You groomed her to do those things. You forced her to think that you were right. And when she defied you, you branded her,” he growled back.
“Did she tell you why she got them? Did she tell you that they never bled? Did she tell you that she was stronger because of them? Did she tell you that she was more beautiful because of them?” the Witch asked, “Did she tell you that she is mine? That she is my heir? That she will be the Queen of the Wild Lands? Did she tell you that you’ll have to destroy her?”
“Did she tell you that her hair is gold because of Aslan’s touch? Did she tell you that the gold ring in her eyes is because of Him?” he asked, and she faltered.
“That’s impossible,” she hissed.
“Actually, it is possible,” he told her, and now it was his turn to attack and drive her back. He pushed her passed her chariot, and eventually she stumbled.
He stabbed at her chest, and time seemed to slow. The blade pierced her heart, and they both stared at it. Silvery red blood spilled from the wound, and he pulled it free. She fell, and the army turned to watch as she did.
The Kings and Queen had to cover their ears as horrid screams and wails rose from the scraps of the Witch’s army. Then they turned and fled towards the north. The Narnians however, were having none of that. The archers shot down as many as they could, and when they were out of range, the cavalry and infantry gave chase. King Edmund galloped passed, and the High King waved him on.
He looked for his mount, the same white unicorn stallion he’d rode at Beruna, and was relieved to see him trotting through the warming field. He vaulted up, and then he searched for any of the nineteen prisoners. As if she had read his mind, Emmis galloped towards him, a quiver on her back and a bow in her hand. “Come, Your Majesty. I will take you to her,” the centaur said, heading after the two armies. He rode at her side, only once looking back to see Queen Lucy descending on the field, her cordial clutched in her hand.
Then he looked forward and set his mind on his task. Find Evelyn. That was all he was going to do now. And Aslan have mercy on anyone who stood in his way.
The High King followed Emmys through the dark coniferous forest, his mount standing out like a beacon in the shadows. They crested a hill, and looked down on the Witch's camp. The gray tents were being treated like stones in a stream, the Witch's army parted around them as they encircled a black pavilion.
When he galloped into the Witch’s camp, High King Peter found the two armies facing off once more. At least, the Witch’s army was gathering around the black pavilion and his army was gathering around them, cutting off escape. He rode through his army, King Edmund on one side, Emmys on the other, and they parted like water to let him through. Finally, he stopped at the front of his ranks, facing the ragged remains of opposition.
“We saw her dragged into there,” Emmys told him in a low voice.
“You have one chance to surrender,” the High King announced over the gray and black army. “Your leader is dead. You have nowhere to go,” he reminded them, and he was every inch the High King.
Some of the creatures had begun to shift uneasily when a clear, sharp voice rang out from the pavilion. “Hold the lines!” the voice ordered, and High King realized it was male. It was not Evelyn.
The terrible forces shifted as one, and then a pathway opened from the pavilion to the front, where the Kings waited. A man strode through the pathway, and it was left open behind him. He stopped before the Kings, at the edges of his lines. He faced them, his white skin stark against his black shirt, black pants, black boots, and black armor. His white hair was windswept sideways in a style that would have driven any English girl crazy. And his eyes; they were a green-gray with the darkness of evil in them. He wore a sword on his hip, in a black leather sheath, and it had black metal making the hilt.
“And you are?” King Edmund asked, eyeing the man with cool interest.
“My name is Jado, and I am the Prince of the Wild Lands. Ah, that is, the King, now that the Queen is dead,” he replied, and High King Peter instantly hated his voice. It was a snake’s voice, sly and hinting at deceit. “I can see that this name means nothing to you. Well, let me tell you. I am the son of Nixis, named in honor of her mother the White Witch. I am the soon to be husband of the new Queen,” he added, meeting the High King’s eyes evenly.
“Nixis had a son. Why does this not surprise me?” King Edmund asked.
“I am more curious as to how you are going to marry the Queen when there isn’t one,” High King Peter told the so called Prince.
“Oh, but you are wrong. Your Majesty, the High King of Narnia would like to speak with you,” he called, and the flaps of the pavilion stirred once more. A woman stepped from the pavilion, and made her silent way through the army until she stood beside the Prince. She wore a long white gown with an ice blue cloak over it. A gray and onyx tiara sat on her washed out (1) blonde hair, which was pulled into a ponytail. Her skin was pale and colorless, and her lips were tinged blue. She kept her head down, and for a moment, the High King didn't recognize her.
Then he did. "Evelyn?" he asked, shocked. She looked up, and he felt pain shoot through his heart. It was her. She was their Queen. He would have to destroy her after all.
She held his gaze, and he saw the gold flare in the blue. He flinched, and then he understood. She was being coerced into this. The understanding must have been clear to her, because she dropped her eyes to the ground beneath her.
Then the Prince grabbed her chin and forced her to look up. "I called you. You answer me," he growled at her. She didn't reply, instead, she let her shoulders sag in resignation.
"Unhand her," the High King ordered. His voice was low and calm and steady, and overall it was dangerous sounding. The Prince looked up at him, and then he actually had the audacity to burst out laughing. Then he choked on his laugh. He found the High King's sword touching his nose, and he realized he had never seen the blonde move.
"I said Unhand her," the same blonde said.
"She is my Queen. I can do what I like with her," the Prince snarled, stepping back from the blade. Then he found he couldn't. Not without slicing his own neck on a knife.
"You are only the prince. I am the Queen," Evelyn reminded him, her knife pressed against the back of his throat.
"Your Majesty, you are making a mistake," the prince tried to work his way out, but Evelyn would not have it.
"No, Jado, you are by thinking that I will stand by and let you do this to me. You are by thinking that I would choose you over him. You are by thinking I want to be the Queen of the Wild Lands," she hissed, and the black and gray troops shifted again. Things were not going in their favor.
Jado was suddenly free from both blades, and he drew his own sword. No one was surprised to see the jet black steel. He attacked Evelyn, who was instantly shielded by the High King, who caught the black sword on his own. Jado drew back, and Evelyn placed one hand on the High King's shoulder from behind.
The red and gold army drew back, but kept around the black and gray one. They knew their High King needed room, and they didn't want any of the enemy to escape. King Edmund and Emmys, too, drew back, the High King's unicorn going with them.
"What can he offer you that I cannot? You could rule your own kingdom, instead of just being a lady. You could be the most beautiful in the world, instead of average. You could be the center of attention, instead of a shadow. You could have your own coat of arms and pennant and signet, instead of having someone else's. You could buy anything you wanted, instead of having to ask for things. You could be powerful, instead of just an adviser. What can he offer you?" Jado asked.
Evelyn met the Prince's eyes over the High King's shoulder, and stared evenly at him. Warmth was spreading back into her body from her hand, and she nearly cried for it. She couldn't believe Jado would think these things would convince her. She wasn't tempted by any of these things. Especially when she could feel the blood still oozing down her back. "Love," she said, and she flung her knife.
It embedded itself in Jado's throat, and he fell with a choked off snarl.
Then the army was fleeing again, and Edmund was leading the force after them to pin them against the edge of the ravine. But the High King hardly noticed, as he was too focused on Evelyn.
The girl was sinking to her knees, and he went with her. His sword fell into the grass beside him, and he held her shaking body. "Evelyn. Evelyn, look at me. I'm here, Evelyn, I'm here," he told her, and she looked up.
"Peter," she said, trying to focus on his eyes.
"It's me, Evelyn," he assured her.
"I'm so tired," she replied, and he realized this weakness was a combination of exhaustion and relief. And judging by the look in her eyes, hunger and pain played parts as well. He pulled his helmet off and kissed her forehead, and she leaned into him.
Then a howl could be heard from the ravine, and her head went up. "My wolves," she gasped, staggering to her feet. "They weren't supposed to get caught in the ravine," she explained, and the High King vaulted back onto his mount after he picked up his sword and helm. Emmys pulled Evelyn onto her back, and they raced through the trees.
"Edmund! Wait!" the High King ordered. The dark haired King turned in his saddle and gestured to the ravine before him. The two rode straight to the edge and looked down. The pack of wolves was gathered at one end, around a body on the muddy snow.
"Get the Animals out. Aslan may forgive them, but the others were never his," the High King ordered his troops. "Make it quick! The river is melting!" he shouted, noticing it instantly. The Animals understood that, and they moved closer to the cliffs and further from the ice.
"Perhaps I should save you the trouble of who I will forgive," a deep, rumbling, wild voice came from behind them. The Kings and Evelyn turned, and all around them, their troops were bowing. The Kings threw themselves from their mounts and knelt with their sword tips in the grass.
Evelyn moved slower, but she, too, knelt before the Great Lion himself. Aslan merely blinked, and then he said, "Rise, Kings of Narnia. You did well today." The Kings stood, sheathing their swords. Then Aslan turned loving eyes on his treasured Evelyn. "Rise, Princess of Narnia," he commanded, and she looked up. He nodded and she stood with the High King's help. Aslan stepped forward and breathed on her, and the pain in her back was gone.
"Thank you, my liege," she sighed gratefully, and she stood with more ease and less tension.
"Do think any of this was your fault, my gold one. There are laws, some that you know of, that govern all our destinies. Yours was changed when you ended up in the wrong place after I called you to Narnia. When I called you, it was to be Peter's champion. Then you were destined to be destroyed once the Witch got her hands on you. If my High King did not destroy you, the Witch's hold would have from the inside. But now, the Witch is dead, and her hold on you is gone," the Great Lion said.
'Oh, Aslan, I wish I could hug you,' she thought.
And the Lion rumbled a chuckle. "It is alright, my gold one. You may," he told her, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his mane. He gave off warmth like no other, and she sighed happily. When she stepped back, he nudged her with his Great head and she rested her hand in his mane.
"Those whose loyalty lay with you are the ones I shall forgive," he told her. Immediately, the Wolves were back on the cliff top. They all bowed to the Great Lion, thanking him for his forgiveness, and then gathered beside Evelyn. A few Minotaurs and most of the Ravens were forgiven, as well as some of the random Animals. A pair of Hyenas, a mangy Bobcat, and a Polar Bear joined the Wolves.
Then Aslan strode to the edge of the cliff and the Kings followed. Evelyn stood beside the Great Lion as he looked down into the ravine. Then he said, "You might want to cover your ears." When they did, he drew a breath and roared. Instantly, the river unfroze, and crashed down on the Witch's followers. They were swept away by the sudden raging water, and Evelyn saw Dargrim's body in the water. She closed her eyes for a second, and then she turned away. Exhaustion was over taking her, and she realized she had not eaten in three days.
Even Aslan could not give her the strength to keep going, and she sank into the grass. The Great Lion turned to her as she went down, and he nosed her back gently. She felt him hook his claws into the cloak and drag it from her body, and then all she felt was Peter's rage. She knew he was looking at the blood that had seeped through the gown, and she reached a hand out to him.
He took it, and knelt behind her. She felt his fingers trace the scars, pain shot through them. "Do not touch them," she hissed through clenched teeth. Then she felt Aslan's breath on her back, and the stickiness on her back was gone.
The High King saw the blood disappear and he wondered if the Great Lion had removed the blood or the scars themselves. "Even I cannot remove scars given by the Deep Magic," the Lion murmured for the High King and Evelyn's ears alone. Evelyn nodded and the High King squeezed her hand.
"Come on. Let us return to Queen Lucy," Aslan suggested, and Evelyn found herself being lifted into Orieus's arms. The General held her as the High King vaulted onto his unicorn, and then she was passed to him. He held her to him, and they rode back to their camp.
Some of the fauns and centaurs searched the pavilion, and brought their findings back so the Kings could look at them. Among the findings were Evelyn's weapons and clothes. Moon had remained hidden in Evelyn's dress the whole time.
Evelyn woke when she hit the ground after she fell out of her hammock. It was the third time in three days. Queen Lucy sat up and looked down at her, and Evelyn felt horribly guilty. She wished the Queen would just take back her offer of sharing a tent so that she wouldn't have to wake up every time Evelyn did. "Was I screaming?" she asked the Queen.
"Yes. What was it this time?" Queen Lucy replied.
"The Witch tricked the High King and killed him in front of me. Then she put his crown on me," Evelyn sighed, getting to her feet.
"He'll be on the hill. He cannot sleep either, but you know that," the Queen told her. She nodded, pulled a pair of boots on, slid her dagger into one of them, and placed a sleeping Moon in her shirt. Then she pushed her way out of the tent and looked to the hill. True to her word, she could see the High King standing atop it, outlined against the stars.
She felt Spirit and one of the Wolves following as she ascended the hill. She knew they would stay out of normal hearing range, so it didn't bother her too much. Then she felt the warmth from the High King and then his hands were cupping her face and he was kissing her. It was a chaste kiss that didn't need to be longer.
Then he pulled her down into the grass and they lay on their backs, gazing at the stars as they had both of the previous nights. She lay with her head on his chest, his arm around her shoulders. They lay in silence and then she spoke. "It was the worst so far," she admitted.
"I could hear you screaming," he sighed unhappily, and she tilted her head back to brush her lips over his jaw.
"Jado fought in the battle, not Her. You killed Jado, but he put you in your rage. You came charging into the camp, and saw me. She'd tied me to the pole in the pavilion, and tied back the curtains, which she actually did do. She hid behind one of the pieces that was still down and when you came charging in, she cut you down. Right in front me. You thought I was screaming through the gag to be let go, but I was screaming for you to run. She took the crown from your head, and I have no idea why you were wearing it instead of you helm, and then she put it on me. And it burned. That's probably when I fell out of my hammock and woke up," she told him quietly.
"I really must not have been listening, because you were screaming really loudly," he replied after a minute.
"What did I say?" she asked.
'"Run! Peter, run! She'll kill you, my love, run!"' he told her softly. She sighed and nodded against his chest. That was exactly what she'd been screaming. "We have to find a way to stop this," he added, gently pressing his lips to the top of her head.
"Aslan said Her hold on me was gone," she murmured, turning on her side so she could face him.
"We can ask in the morning," he assured her. She nodded against his chest once more, and then he pushed himself up onto his elbow. He looked down at her, and saw the stars reflected in her eyes. He traced her face with his fingers, and she reached up to cup his cheek in her palm. He leaned into her touch and a smile flickered across her lips.
Then he leaned down and caught that smile with his own. Her hand slid to the back of his neck and she pulled him down to her. His hand wove into her hair, and he lifted her up to him. She felt his lips open on hers, and then his tongue swept over her bottom lip. She let him in and then she was lost in the kiss.
When they parted, they were panting. Peter untangled his hand from her hair to trace her face with his fingers again, and then he kissed her again. It was another chaste kiss, and then he was lying on his back, pretending to watch the stars as he watched her. If someone had told him two weeks ago that he was going to fall in love, he probably would have laughed. 'Who falls in love at eighteen?' he asked himself. 'You do,' he added, and he smiled.
"Peter, do you hear that?" she asked suddenly, sitting up. He listened, and then they were leaping to their feet as light exploded around them. It engulfed Evelyn, and she went still.
Peter heard the sound of a crowd approaching, and he saw Aslan at the head of the group. When the Great Lion reached the High King, he shook his mane and circled Evelyn. "It is the Deep Magic," he told the crowd.
The High King looked for Evelyn's face through the light, and he saw that her eyes were open. They glowed with blue and gold light, and he watched as the blue seemed to be extinguished until her eyes shown only gold. "Peter, come see this," Edmund spoke up from behind Evelyn.
When the High King moved to his brother's side, what he saw shocked him. The scars were clear black lines in the white light, and as they watched, the light wore the black out. Then the black lifted away and hovered at edge of the light above Evelyn in a shadowy mass. Aslan roared, and while everyone but Evelyn flinched, the dark mass exploded.
Then the light was fading and Evelyn was standing on the suddenly dark hill top. Her eyes were closed and when she would open them the next morning, the High King would be in for a surprise. But now she stumbled into the High King's arms, and he felt the absence of the chill on her skin. She was warm.
Without even thinking about it, he tucked her into his side, his arms around her. Queen Lucy slipped a small arm around Evelyn's waist and held her from the other side as Aslan looked out over the Northern Wild Lands from the hill. "Tomorrow we explore the Witch's castle," he declared, lashing his tail. "Now that Evelyn is free from the hold, she can lead us," he added, meeting the eyes he knew would be fully gold come morning.
She nodded and raised one hand out, palm up. "Try my gold one. I can keep you safe," he told her, and she stepped free of the King and Queen. She closed her eyes and a blue glow emanated from her hand, growing stronger until it was steady. It began to snow, and everyone looked up at the sky. Then they turned to Evelyn. She closed her fingers into a fist and the snow stopped.
"This is the price she must pay for being the Queen of the Wild Lands. She can wield the magic," Aslan explained. "It is her destiny to make this choice," he added, and no one argued. They could sense that he knew her thoughts.
"What choice?" the High King asked.
"To make the southern half of the Wild Lands part of Narnia," Evelyn spoke up, and her voice was richer and clearer. It was Narnian now. "The Northern Mountains do not recognize the Queen as theirs, and it is there that the Unspeakables reside. But the Southern Plains and Forest have always been like Narnia. The Animals just cannot speak," she explained.
"And the Giants? Where do they reside?" King Edmund asked.
"In the Mountains," she replied, and she turned to kneel before Aslan.
"I, Evelyn, Queen of the Wild Lands, cede the Southern Plains and Forests to the Kings and Queens of Narnia as a new territory," she announced. "I renounce my crown of the South and deem the Northern Mountains the Wild Lands. It is here that enemies of the Narnian crown reside, and I renounce my claim as their Queen," she finished.
Then Aslan got to his Great paws and stood over the prone figure of the kneeling girl. "I, Aslan, Creator of Narnia, declare the Southern Plains and Forests of the Wild Lands as a new territory,” he said, and the wind swirled around the hill top.
Without knowing how they knew to do so, the Kings and Queen knelt before the Great Lion as well, and the High King spoke first. “I, Peter, High King of Narnia, accept the Southern Plains and Forests of the Wild Lands as a new territory,” he announced, and everyone felt the change start.
“I, Edmund, King of Narnia, see the Southern Plains and Forests of the Wild Lands as a new territory,” the dark haired King added.
“And I, Lucy, Queen of Narnia, recognize the Southern Plains and Forests of the Wild Lands as a new territory,” the young girl finished.
Then they all felt the change take place. The air was cleaner and almost sweet. The sounds were both louder and quieter. The stars were brighter, and the sky was darker. The forests were thicker, the rivers clearer. Most of the animals changed as well, and they grew larger until they were Animals. Then they could talk.
Evelyn looked up and Aslan saw the determination in her eyes. ‘I will not fail you, Aslan. I am not the Queen of the Wild Lands, but the Princess of the Northern Narnia Territory,’ she thought, and he nodded.
That was how she recovered. She confronted the place that housed so many of her scars and she tore them apart. She took maps and anything she could think of that would help them, and then they burned some things. Still others were left in the palace to fade away, out of existence and out of memory.
Evelyn stepped from her tent and out into the light of the false dawn. They were going to reach home by midday today, and the whole camp was filled with a sense of relief. Even the High King was relieved.
They'd spent a whole day exploring the palace, and an uneasiness had spread from Evelyn through the company. She'd had every right to be uneasy, and everyone knew it. She was alert and on edge and seemed almost afraid sometimes. The feelings eased though, when she found her room in the castle.
Queen Lucy and Aslan, and Moon of course, accompanied her inside as Spirit and Flame stood guard outside. The Queen helped her to gather things she wanted to bring back to Cair Paravel into a trunk, and then the rest went into a second trunk to be stored away. "You're the lady and probably the duchess of the territory, you might want to dress in clothes your people will recognize," the Queen told her, and that was the end of Evelyn's argument. She did have to admit that some things she was fond of.
But she was not fond of the hags and ogres that had stayed to guard the castle. She had known they would only accept her, so she had dressed in the white gown and blue cloak and placed the iron tiara on her head. Then she had called the Minotaurs and the Wolves and those Aslan had forgiven; the Bobcat, Hyenas, and the Polar Bear, to her. Snowwatcher had served as her mount as she had approached the castle, and then she had gained entrance back inside. She had granted everyone else entrance, and then they explored.
Evelyn stared at the hill, and then she climbed to see the sunrise. It was easier to think when one was watching something as beautiful yet simple as the sun rising. Sitting on the hilltop, she thought of the exploration.
She'd found the Witch's rooms; expansive, luxurious, and cold rooms that she had let Aslan explore alone.
She had come to a decision with the Kings and Queen at midday, when they had gathered for a meal. They'd leave any creatures and Animals who wished to stay in the territory to garrison the castle. They had decided that Evelyn would indeed be crowned the Narnia Princess of the territory, since the inhabitants knew her as the royalty and she knew the land. They had worked out that since Evelyn had ceded her claim to the crown that they had to make her the Princess of the Narnian territory, not the Wild Lands.
They had also worked out what would be left in the castle for Evelyn, since they decided that every two months, she'd return to the castle to check in with the inhabitants and soldiers in the territory. But she had two conditions; they changed the standard to one of a Narnia theme, and they established some form of a system of government and laws.
She hated the way the Witch had ruled; what I say goes. She HATED that. A kingdom was made of people, and the people had a voice. So she had decided that once she was crowned, she would travel through the territory as she done with the Witch, and she would establish a government with the people and Animals. The Kings agreed to travel with her after she had pointed out that Peter was the King to the North, and Edmund was the Just King. She had wanted them to accompany her to advise her, because she wanted to make the right decisions for all her people.
Moon crawled from her collar and padded across her shoulders, her tiny paws drawing Evelyn from her thoughts. She giggled and Moon purred hard enough to make Evelyn's shoulders vibrate. Evelyn couldn't help but laugh, and then she couldn't stop. She hadn't really laughed in a long time, and it felt good. For the moment, she didn't care about the looks the soldiers were casting her way. Normally, she would have been too self conscious, and she would have smothered her laughter with her hand to not draw attention to herself. But right now, that fear was thrown into the wind and she laughed.
She never noticed that the looks were fond and happy. The Animals and creatures of Narnia already thought her one of their royal family, and they loved that family. It made them happy to see her happy. And nor did she realize that the cheerful mood in the camp was because of her.
But Aslan did. He watched affectionately from the tent he had used as his gold one laughed and giggled. It was her joy that made the flowers bloom in the field, but she never knew. He did, and he watched as her innocent joy turned to a free lightheartedness. She needed this, he knew. Without a doubt was it that she needed this.
She danced across the hill, her white shirt standing out in the blue wildflowers. Birds sang their music for her, and she danced, spinning and twirling and singing a song that had no words. It did not need words. Anyone could see the message behind the song.
High King Peter especially saw it. He joined her in her dance, and he realized when he took her hands that her eyes were closed. He let her guide him through her dance, and he discovered that if he let her joy spread to him, the dance was easy. And she never seemed to trip on anything.
Eventually though, the dance had to end, and she settled back into the grass to revel in the sunlight. Peter would remark for years that she was like a cat, always trying to find the sunlight. And she would argue that she was a Tiger; she's get wet and dirty if she needed, and sometimes she enjoyed that. And she would come to like the snow.
But she would never come to terms with being cold. Chilled she could handle. Numb she could handle. Cold, even after years, would she never be able to like or even handle.
When Peter played with her long hair that was splayed around her head in a golden fan, she traced little designs on his hand. Her eyes stayed closed until the sun was touching her face, and then she opened them. And Peter was shocked.
Her irises were caramel gold with dark blue kind of splattered through them. Then he understood. This was the natural color of her eyes. The bright blue was from the Witch's hold. Now that it was gone, everything returned to the way it should be with her. And he found her preferred these golden eyes. He could see her through them, and the glass was gone.
They were beautiful, in their dangerous, commanding, and untamed way. That was her spirit. You could cage it, but it could never be tamed. Her spirit could never be broken. Years would pass before their enemies understood that fact, and many would never live to see the day their kinsmen did come to understand.
That was his Evelyn. His Princess of the Northern Territory. His Lady of Cair Paravel. His guardian in the shadows. His warrior standing beside him. She was all of that and more. She was his guiding light, his beacon in the night. She was his sixth sense, his contradiction and contrast. She was his comparison at the same time too. She was his heart, his love. She was his golden dawn. She was his.
And yet she would never be tamed. Because just like the Great Lion, the wind could never be tamed.
She could hear the trumpets and horns an hour before she had to go down to the throne room. It did nothing to help her churning stomach. Nor did it do anything to soothe the tense muscles in her wrists and arms and shoulders.
She couldn't help but be nervous. Besides snakes, being the center of attention was her irrational fear. She had other fears, though none as instantaneous or handicapping as this one. Needles, pitch blackness, murky water; they all made her nervous. She knew everyone had a fear, and these were hers. She supposed the fear of the dark came from her childhood belief in monsters in the dark, and she refused even now to sleep without some kind of light, whether it was a night light or moonlight.
She thought being afraid of needles was far more reasonable. She didn't like things in her skin. It was simple as that. It didn't belong; it wasn't supposed to be there. That was her thought on needles. She touched the scar on her lower lip where she'd bitten it hard enough to make it bleed when she'd stitched herself up.
Then she shook herself free of her thoughts and looked once more at her reflection in the mirror. Her gold hair was pulled back in an elaborate braided coil, and she wore only the makeup needed to make her skin evenly colored. She had these areas of skins around her eyes that refused to return to a healthy golden tan. Some of it was pale, some darker. So the dryads and Queen Susan had taken over her makeup. Then they'd put her in a shirt of cream under a tunic of dark gold with a forest green embroidery of long and narrow maple leaves(1). They'd added matching green leggings and dark gold boots. The cloak over it was dark green and clasped at her throat.
Evelyn thought the color scheme was a little extreme, but she liked it. She wasn’t allowed to wear any jewelry, since the High King would present the new royal standard for the new territory at the feast. He would also give her the signet that had been made for her as the princess, not his guardian. She wanted her guardian signet with her, so she had found Moon a cute, simple collar and strung the ring on it. The kitten was currently preening in front of the base of the mirror, admiring the ornament. Evelyn grinned down at the little gray furball, who tilted her head back and gave her the feline equivalent of a cheeky grin.
She laughed and scooped the little thing up. She did not have to worry about her clothes getting covered in cat fur, since the Narnians knew how to make clothes beautiful and durable and comfortable. Fur and hair didn’t stick to the material, so she didn’t hesitate to place the kitten on her shoulder.
Then there was a knock on the door, and she opened it to find Queen Susan. The Queen wore a beautiful purple dress that instantly made Evelyn feel bad for not wearing a dress of her own. “No, you had better not be feeling like that. You look like you in that, and you are what everyone needs to see,” the Queen told her, and she nodded.
Sometimes, it was hard to remember that besides the High King, she was the oldest of the humans in the palace. All three of the younger sovereigns constantly acted older than they really were. But Evelyn supposed that came from becoming the Kings and Queens so young. Then the Queen took her arm and led her through the palace to the Throne Room, and left her outside the huge doorway.
Aslan appeared at her side, the lightest gold colors in his mane matching her tunic exactly. She rested her hand in his mane, and then the horns and trumpets changed to a new song. But it wasn’t a song. It was a cue. It was her cue to come into the Throne Room. She straightened and Moon purred at her from the marble floor. Then the little kitten wove into the crowd, and Evelyn sighed. The little furball was going to get stepped on doing that. Then she walked forward, into the isle of centaurs with their swords and fauns with banners.
But she hardly noticed the isle. She noticed the dais and its four thrones at the end. All four thrones were occupied, each of the sovereigns making her feel inferior. Their beautiful clothes, glinting crowns, and their overall brilliant splendor made her feel as though she had no place in the Throne Room. She swallowed and set her shoulders back, raising her head to take on any challenge. To those watching, they saw her accept what she was doing and become proud of it.
She stopped just before the steps of the dais, just as she’d been told. Aslan walked up the steps, and she stood looking at him. Then the Kings and Queens rose from their thrones, and she knelt.
From behind her, Evelyn heard hooves approaching and identified it as a centaur. She watched the centaur as they moved around in front of her, and she saw a pair of the boots she associated with a Red Dwarf following. The centaur moved in front of her, and then she felt something placed on her head. Aslan spoke as it was placed, and he announced, “To the Far Northern Wind, I give you Princess Evelyn, the Honorable.”
Then she straightened and saw that the centaur was Emmys and the Dwarf was Bican. Bican held a dark blue pillow with a circle embroidered on it where her tiara had sat. She smiled at the two, and then she faced the Kings and Queens. And Aslan. He lowered his voice, and he said to her, “You gave up much to become a Narnian. Once of Narnian, always of Narnian. May your wisdom embrace us until the stars rain down from the heavens.”
Then she turned to the assembled Animals and creatures and a cry rang out from all of them, lead by Aslan himself. “Long live Princess Evelyn!” they called, and she smiled in surprised joy.
Later, at the feast, she stepped out onto the balcony and looked towards the North. Then she turned her eyes to the East, and thanked Aslan, who had disappeared already. Not even Queen Lucy had seen Him leave. ‘Thank you, Aslan, for never leaving me. Thank you for saving me from myself,’ she thought, and then she felt a pair of arms slide around her.
She leaned back against the High King’s chest, and his lips brushed her ear as he whispered, “Come on. I want to present your banner and signet and everything.” She nodded, then turned in his arms to kiss him quickly. Then they were moving back into the feast, fingers interlaced and hearts forever joined.
She looked over at her companion on his black Horse, and she smiled. His golden hair was still as neat as it was before they’d ridden out, which did not surprise her in the least. Her eyes fell to the gold band around the ring finger of his left hand, and her smile grew wider.
He looked over when he felt her eyes on him. Her gold braid was swept over one shoulder, leaving the other free for the gray Cat with the old signet ring on her collar. He followed her golden gaze with his blue one, and when he saw what she was looking at, he looked to her left hand. The matching gold band was paired with a gold bridal ring. His fond smile spread, and he reached out to her.
She interlaced her fingers through his, and their mounts moved closer. This had happened enough times that the Horses did not fuss or even pay attention anymore. He leaned over and kissed her, and when he drew back, both of them were reminded of that first kiss over four years ago.
Even after two years though, seeing the other wearing the ring hadn’t ceased to send them into a glorious smile. To anyone who saw them together, their love was clear.
That didn’t mean it was perfectly happy and peaceful, because they’d had their share of fights and disagreements, and they knew they’d have more. That was part of marriage. And sometimes, having your wife as your adviser was both a great thing and a bad thing. But they always worked it out.
Because their hearts were forever joined.
Because Evelyn had found the one who accepted her.
Because they had found the one to love and to be loved by.
Because Peter had found the one that was too much to ask for.