but we are also boats, our secrets flares,
pyrotechnic devices by which we signal
Catch A Body by Ilse Bendorf
The view from the west balcony of Cair Paravel at sunset is stunning. Somehow this surprises her, takes her breath away. She thinks, Lucy should be here. The tears that sting her eyes are unexpected too.
“How do you like Cair Paravel, my lady?” Caspian asks behind her. She grips the bannister tighter and blinks, forcing the tears away.
“It is very beautiful,” she says. “You may call me Lily, you know. I did give you permission.”
“Yes,” he says. “I’m afraid I tend towards the formal.” There is that anxiety in his eyes again, this constant fear that she will not think him good enough. She says nothing, and he steps closer, hesitant. “You’ve been crying.”
She brushes at her face, succeeding in doing nothing but getting her hair stuck in her face.
“Have I?” she says. “I didn’t realize.”
“You’ve left everything you knew,” Caspian says, and gently tucks her flyaway hair behind her ears. “You’ll take time to adjust.”
“Is this what it is? Adjusting?” Liliandil says. “I thought it would be - harder.” She considers. “Sadder,” she adds.
“Sometimes it is,” Caspian says. There’s a bitter note of knowledge in his voice, and the tightness of his shoulders betrays the look of levity he tries to give her.
“I see,” Liliandil says. “Would you show me some more of the castle, perhaps?”
“You don’t find my tour boring?” Caspian says, surprised. Her sudden indignation over the idea that anyone would think Caspian boring takes her by surprise.
“I rather like the stories,” Liliandil says with a smile, and takes the arm he offers.
He proposes to her very seriously and carefully about a week after they arrive in Narnia.
“I won’t deny that this offer of marriage has political reasons as well as my own personal admiration and love for you,” he says, “because we have been nothing but honest with each other so far. I see no reason to change that.”
“Could you be happy, do you think?” Liliandil said quietly. “Married to someone for politics?”
“If it was you, I imagine I could,” Caspian says.
There is a long silence.
“I would like some time to think it over,” she says. “This is a matter of some importance. I feel I must be very sure about my answer.”
“Of course,” he says.
The next morning at breakfast Caspian is mostly silent. She catches his glances at her out of the corner of her eye. This will not do, she thinks. She cannot make an unbiased and fair decision when he keeps looking at her like he’s drowning and she’s land.
“I think I would like to visit more of Narnia,” she says. “Perhaps Miraz’s old castle, and of course I would like to see the old forest and Aslan’s How, to pay my respects.” Caspian stills and looks at her, quizzical.
“Of course,” he says. “It can be arranged. Who would you like to accompany you?”
“I know you have your duties, Your Majesty,” Liliandil says. “I shall have to be my own company. If you feel an escort is necessary, it is of course your choice.”
“Just a few people,” Caspian says. “I would not have any harm come to you.” Across the table Trumpkin coughs and gulps down some water.
Dwarfs, Liliandil thinks, could use a few lessons in subtlety.
She goes to the forest first, to seek peace. The Narnians are welcoming and exuberant, pleased for any return of magic to the land. The third night she stays among them, they spread a feast in the field before Aslan’s How. Their children clamber over the rocks as they drink and laugh with her, telling stories about the old days. It is late at night when grape vines begin to spread over the ground.
“What, a party without me?” Bacchus says as he smiles down at her.
“My lord Bacchus,” she says with a smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you after all these years. My father told me some interesting stories about you.”
“Probably all true, I’m afraid. I’ve never been one for sea journeys, or I would have come to visit you and elaborate,” he says, and offers her a hand. “Dance with me?”
“It would be an honor,” she says.
The dance is a fast one, and by the end she is dizzy with whirling and the wine cups being passed from hand to hand. She sits against a tree and watches the dancers go by.
“If I may give some free advice,” Bacchus says from behind her, and she starts.
“You weren’t there a moment ago,” she says.
“What does your heart say?” He smiles and winks before pressing another wine cup into her hand and disappearing into the night.
“That’s just it,” Lily says to herself, forlornly. “I’ve no idea.” She’s never had to listen to her heart before. Not really. It’s turning out to be something that isn’t terribly easy to pick up.
She wakes up to the morning light through the leaves of the trees, dappling the world a shadowy gold.
She thinks, I could live forever like this. It’s a tempting thought. No court ceremonies and intricacies to bother with. She feels loose and free and wild as she has never felt before. The leaves overhead are the brightest green she’s ever seen. When she sits up, the sunlight shifts around her, gold dust floating in the air. Somewhere there is water running through rocks, a constant sound of laughter. There’s a bunch of grapes from last night tossed nearby, and she picks it up and eats one.
She could live here, alone and happy and at peace, but the image of Caspian at the head of his council table springs to her mind unbidden, his shoulders stooping, somehow made small by the size of the room and the table and the weight of his country.
She goes to Aslan’s Table before she leaves. People drift in and out of the chamber, touching the table gently. Some pray. She looks at it and wonders how much rain it took to wash the blood away.
“Coriakin wished to be remembered to you,” she says.
To say that Miraz’s castle is grim would be a terrible understatement. It has fallen into disrepair rather quickly since Caspian and most of the Telmarines abandoned it for Cair Paravel. A few Telmarines remain, but it is more through strength of pride than anything. Still, Lily dismounts and talks to them before she and her two retainers make their way to the castle.
“You may stay here,” she says, and though they put up a token protest they let her go into the castle by herself.
Walking into the main hall makes her feel very small. It is almost like being a star again, just a pinprick of light in the far distance, but much less comfortable. She walks to the throne and frowns at it.
In a moment of rare reminiscence, Caspian had told her that he remembers being very young, so young his father was still alive, and being allowed to play on the throne. Looking at it now, she thinks she understands more about him now than he has let her understand in all the months they spent together on the journey back. It’s tall and imposing and a little bit terrifying, all black hard rock and silver. A child should have warmth and softness around him.
“You should have done better by him,” she tells the ghosts of the chamber. “He deserved better.”The words echo in the silence, hurling her words back at her like so many rocks. It is not our concern, the silence whispers at her.
She leaves the throne room. It is a dark and dreary place, and one that does not deserve the light she brings.
She came here in search of knowledge of Caspian, to discover what she felt about a man she could call husband if she chose. Sorrow is not a basis for a relationship, though, and Caspian has never asked for her pity, nor indeed anyone’s, no matter how freely given.
She goes to the highest tower. It is almost dusk, the span of the sky a dark lovely blue, her favorite color. She finds the space of sky where she should be, then Coriakin’s place, empty. Her father’s, soon to be filled again. Should she accept Caspian’s offer, she will not return to the sky for a long time. A human lifespan, to be lived out here in its entirety.
She sits on the top tower for a long time, imagining a young Caspian watching the stars - watching her - alone even then, always so very alone. The soldiers with her have set up camp below. She thinks she can smell coffee and roast lamb as they begin cooking. Soon they will come looking for her, starting to worry that they haven’t done their job well enough.
She rises to her feet and goes down to meet them.
The second day after her return, she goes to the quietest corner of the gardens and waits. He comes to her, as he always has.
“Is there an answer?” he asks, standing anxiously above her, hands folded behind his back. She stands and tugs his hands free, taking them in hers, and clears her throat. Her heart is beating very fast indeed, and where she can feel the pulse at the corner of his wrist his is as well.
She had planned a speech of sorts, something that would try to explain everything, something to help him understand what she was feeling. She finds that here, with him looking at her and his hands in hers, she cannot say it.
“Yes,” she says quietly. “The answer is yes.” Caspian’s hug is swift and warm and filled with all the feelings he doesn’t have the words for either, and she wraps her arms around him and holds on.