“She'll be all right, Susan,” Edmund says, crouched next to her in front of the remains of the Stone Table. “After all, here we are leading a war when we're hardly any older than she is.”
“Aren't we?” she asks. “I feel ancient.”
Edmund just shrugs, and Susan looks up into the face of Aslan, carved into the wall of this ancient chamber of the How. The fire below flickers and sends shadows dancing across His great face. Despite the warmth of the chamber, Aslan's gaze seems cold and stern to Susan, and she shivers.
Edmund glances at her, a question in his gaze.
"Aslan keep watch on her," she says, and her voice is as cold as she feels. She's not sure if the words are a prayer, or a curse.
Later that night, she slips away from the council in the Stone Table Chamber. Peter will have his way with the raid, and everyone knows it, and Susan will follow him, despite any misgivings she has.
She finds herself in the tunnel, tilting her torch to get a better look at the paintings on the wall, and she thinks she is right in feeling ancient when she realizes how old these are. She walks along, seeing the story of their reign depicted in crude figures and faded colors. Peter and Lucy, chasing a white stag. She and Edmund alone on their thrones.
She trails her fingers along the wall, as if touching the images will bring her back where she belongs. But she's learned her lesson about wishing and wanting and not getting anything in return, and in this she's not surprised. She walks slowly, taking in these pictures of her life, memories flooding back with each new drawing. But then she comes to one that makes her stop dead and draw her hand back, covering her mouth to stifle a cry.
Elen. And Elen as a baby, in Susan's arms. And another - Elen as a small child, with one hand in Susan's, and one hand in Edmund's. And she looks further down the tunnel, seeing more images of her daughter, and she is afraid to go on, to learn what happened after she and Edmund disappeared, days ago, 1300 years ago.
She hears a soft noise from the other end of the tunnel, and she stiffens, immediately reaching for a weapon that is no longer there. Her favorite dagger wasn't in the chest in the ruins of Cair Paravel, but her sharpened hairpins were, and she quickly lifts her hand to her hair.
But it's just a faun, one she met earlier in the day when Caspian was making introductions. Arturus, she thinks his name is, and her hand drops to her side again.
Arturus approaches her warily. "Queen Susan?"
"Yes?" It's a struggle to keep the weariness and despair from her voice, but her training conquers her emotions. "Can I help you with something, Arturus?"
He shakes his head, wearing the awed expression so many of these Narnians regard her and her siblings with. "No, your majesty. I just... well, I wanted to..." and his voice trails off and he reaches behind his back, pulls out a leather-wrapped bundle, and offers it to her. "I thought you might want to see these."
Susan does not take it from him. "What is it?" she asks cautiously, although her eyes are drawn to it, and she is curious because she can see it is very old (as ancient as I feel).
Arturus clears his throat and attempts to explain. "Er, hundreds of years ago, during the Battle of Cair Paravel, some of the Narnians were able to rescue things before the castle fell. Like your horn. And old maps and documents from the libraries. And these..."
Susan interrupts him, repeating her question. "And what are those?"
"Journals, your majesty. The journals of Queen Elen."
Susan finds Edmund after the council is over, and thrusts the journals at him without saying a word.
Edmund thumbs through them, color draining from his face and his eyes going wide. "Elen..." is the only thing he says.
She and Edmund make their way to the chamber they're sharing with Peter and Lucy. They sit together on the rough sleeping pallet, and Edmund begins to read out loud.
28 May 1030
The news came today. The ship went down in a storm, and Mother and Uncle are lost. I am to be Queen of Narnia.
I am all alone.
I am so frightened.
I am not ready.
Susan does not think her heart could break yet again. But it does, as hard and painful as all the times before, and silent tears roll down her cheeks at her daughter's words. But she listens as Edmund continues reading.
5 June 1030
Today is my coronation day.
News continues to come from the survivors of the shipwreck, who were picked up by a Terebinthian merchant ship, as they clung to the wreckage of the (ship's name) in the water. The only ones lost to the sea were Mother and Uncle. They say the storm came up suddenly, and was so powerful that the ship was torn apart, and everyone tossed into the sea. But the storm ended as suddenly as it began, and Mother and Uncle were the only ones not accounted for.
The Terebinthians are returning the survivors to the Lone Islands, where they will take another ship back to Narnia. Meanwhile, Dolphins and sea-Birds carry their messages back to us here.
The old Gull who came last evening told of how some victims sink like stones into the depths and that is probably what happened to Mother and Uncle. But I wonder if that is true. How could they have disappeared so completely, with no trace at all, no one even seeing them once, or hearing them cry for help? It just doesn't seem possible - wouldn't there have been some trace of them?
Edmund nods. "Our girl's a clever one, Su," he says, then clears his throat and continues.
5 August 1030
I have been Queen of Narnia for two months. Already there have been two attempts on my life.
I am under constant guard, day and night. I am never alone. But I am so lonely. It seems unfair to be Queen when I am twelve years old, and to be by myself. At least Mother and Uncle had each other, and Uncle Peter and Aunt Lucy. I know there are lots of people to help me, but it's so hard.
I wish Mother and Uncle were here.
10 September 1030
I am so busy now - it feels like I am never to have a moment to myself ever again.
Between council meetings and court and the visiting ambassadors and planning a trip to Western Narnia and training with the weapons-master, so I will be ready to lead the army if war comes to us, I feel like I am constantly running and never have time to catch up.
But Mister Tumnus came to the Cair today, and he and I had a private dinner, in Mother's sitting room. And it was wonderful - we talked about all kinds of thing, and it was so good to have him there. And after dinner we talked about Mother and Uncle.
"Do you think they died?" I asked him, and I was afraid of the answer. Everyone else had told me of course they were dead, but I still can't believe it. I don't know why.
"No," he said immediately, and he took my hand in his. "No, I don't think they're dead. I think they're with King Peter and Queen Lucy, in the world they came from."
"But why?" I asked, and I was trying not to cry, but still tears were in my eyes. "Why did they leave now? If they stayed for so long after Uncle Peter and Aunt Lucy disappeared?"
"I don't know, your Majesty," he said and he looked as sad as I felt. "But Aslan called them into Narnia when they were needed here. They must have been needed elsewhere. And you know your mother and uncle - if they were needed, they would have been the first to go."
That made me feel better, although I am not sure it's true. Even if Mother and Uncle were needed, I don't know that they would have left me alone, if they could help it. Perhaps they didn't have a choice.
Susan can't hold back a sob when Edmund reads the last line aloud, and he wraps an arm around her shoulder and pulls her close.
"We didn't have a choice," she says, taking a deep breath, reaching for control, afraid of letting the grief overwhelm her.
"She knows," he murmurs, pressing a kiss to her temple. "She knew."
Peter and Lucy find them later, pressed together on the sleeping pallet, reading the story of her daughter's life. Lucy rests her chin on Susan's shoulder, Peter's arms are around them all, and they listen as Edmund reads the words of the niece they never met.
Lucy cheers when Elen writes about her refusal of an arranged marriage on her 13th birthday, and Peter murmurs about excellent strategy when Elen describes skirmishes with Giant rebels along the northern marches. Edmund's voice breaks when he reads of a plague that swept through Narnia, and how close she came to dying from the fever.
Susan is so proud when Edmund reads about Elen's marriage to Prince Layn of Archenland, the second son of King Cor and Queen Aravis. Her daughter's promise to have "so many babies, so no one will ever be left all alone" brings bittersweet tears to Susan's eyes.
She listens intently, trying to commit all of Elen's life to memory, trying to imagine herself there by her daughter's side, seeing her on her wedding day, meeting her grandchildren. She wants to hear more, but Edmund is rifling through the last pages.
"The journals end here, with Elen writing about the birth of her third child." He glances at their brother. "Prince Peter."
No one speaks for a long moment. Susan thinks that the rest of the journals were just lost to time, that nothing happened to Elen. Surely Aslan would not deprive Elen’s children of their mother as Elen herself had been left. She tells herself all this, but she is not sure she believes it.
Finally Lucy says, "You could ask Trufflehunter. If anyone knows what happened after, it would be a Badger."
Susan will never be complete again without her daughter, she thinks. And she will never be able to reconcile being torn from one life and thrown into another, losing and regaining her family to fate or chance or idle whims, without her will or consent.
But being with Peter and Lucy again, after so long, and for them to share the loss of Elen with her and Edmund, helps to make it just a little more bearable.
But she will not seek out the Badger. She doesn't think she can stand to know when — how — her daughter died.
She shakes her head. "No," is all she says, but Edmund takes her hand, and holds tight. And when Susan meets his gaze, she knows he understands.