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Follow the Story (One Queen, Bearing Gifts)

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Once the matter of the crew had been settled, there was little to do but wait for the Table to magically replenish its feast at sundown. Lucy passed some time exploring the island with Edmund and Eustace, but while the turf was beautifully soft to walk on and the heather-like plants continued to give off that attractive purple scent, each new hill was much the same as the last and there was no sign of life larger than the dozy bees that hummed about the flowers.

It was a waiting sort of country, Lucy decided: not a place where stories happened but a place where they began. That was well and good for Ramandu while he rested after his years crossing the sky every night, and exactly what poor Lord Rhoop needed, but it seemed somewhat unfair to anyone else.

She wondered how long Ramandu's daughter had been waiting for her own tale to start.

As the sun passed its zenith, Lucy left her brother and cousin arguing over scientific or magical explanations for the new constellations that had lately appeared in the east and ambled down to a narrow strip of rocks on the island's southern shore, spread along the base of a low cliff perhaps three times her own height. She crouched by the edge of a tidal pool and watched its tiny inhabitants sway with the gentle pulse of waves, reaching out of their shells and crevices to taste the incoming tide.

"One of the sailors who accompanied the three sleeping lords passed many hours that way, my Queen, before his ship's repairs were complete and he returned west with his fellows," a clear voice said from atop the cliff.

Lucy glanced up to see the Star's daughter standing there, her blue dress and yellow hair swaying lightly with the gentle wind.

"The shellfish and some of the crabs look different from the ones along Narnia's coast and the islands west of here, my Lady," Lucy said. "I expect he was curious."

"And had little else to do," Ramandu's daughter said. "Bide a moment and I will join you." She bent down to place one hand on the soil and flung herself lightly to the rocks below, as if she weighed no more than air.

"Oh!" said Lucy, fearing the other girl had turned her ankle, for the rocks were damp and slick with water and weed, but the Star's daughter laughed and crossed the few steps to crouch down by Lucy's side, quite obviously unharmed.

"What makes these creatures different from the ones you know?" the Star's daughter asked. She trailed her fingers through the pool, swirling the saltwater into new patterns.

"Mostly they're larger. And they seem somehow brighter, if that makes any sense. Their colors have more color to them," Lucy said. "It's like the sunrise -- the sun here is more than it is further west. Oh, and that little purple flower thing, the one that looks like a pineapple glued sideways to the rocks. I've never seen one of those before at all."

The Star's daughter reached deeper into the pool and stroked the purple petals of the undersea flower. They unfurled at her touch as if they recognized and loved her. "The edges of the world are where our lands touch Aslan's Country," she said. "Some of the light bleeds through."

"The new stars, are they in Aslan's Country?" Lucy asked. "Is that why they don't seem to rise or set?"

"Yes," Ramandu's daughter said. She looked up and eastward, a faint smile on her beautiful face. "They were the third thing I saw when I was born. First my father's light. Then the sea, as I rose from the waves to catch him. Then the stars that never grow old. And last, these gentle hills rising to meet us as we descended."

"If you were born in the sea, does that mean you're not a star?" Lucy said, and then realized that was a very forward question. "I mean, you don't need to say if you don't want to. We can talk about something else."

But the other girl merely turned her smile to Lucy, as if they were already great friends and had been for years. "Your heart does you credit, but I have no reason to hide or be shamed. I am a reflection of my father's light, given true flesh by Aslan's grace through the magic of this island. He waits to grow young and rejoin his brothers and sisters above the air. I have been waiting for a different purpose."

Lucy looked down at the tide pool, whose waters were slowly rising and encroaching on the toes of her shoes. "That sounds awfully lonely. Do you know how much longer you'll have to wait?"

"Not long. Only until your ship returns from the end of the world," the Star's daughter said. "Then I will wake the sleeping lords and join the voyage west to Narnia."

Lucy bit her lip, then said, carefully, "Because of Caspian?" He was her friend and she wanted only good things for him, but she remembered how Rabadash had looked at Susan and seen only her face instead of her self, and she feared that Caspian's regard for this Lady might be cousin to that ill-founded and ill-fated desire. She would not wish that unhappiness on anyone.

But the Star's daughter shook her head and laughed, a clear and joyous sound. "Fear not! I go because that is where my story leads. None of us choose our own beginnings, but once I arrive in Narnia my tale will be my own to weave as I see fit. Whether Caspian will join his thread to mine lies beyond anyone's power to know until the moment is seized or passes by unchosen." She lifted her hand from the sea and let the drops of water fall, flashing in the brilliant midday sun. "Remember, also, that he will spend the winter on this island. That is time enough and more to learn whether we might suit as friends or something else."

Lucy thought about this for a minute. Then she said, slowly, "I'm glad you get to choose your own story now. I wish I could choose more of mine. I didn't pick the beginning of this adventure and I won't get to pick how it ends, either. When we reach the edge of the world, I think we'll be in Aslan's paws, and I think he'll take Edmund, Eustace, and me back to our own world. I only got to decide little pieces in the middle."

"That is called life, my Queen," said the other girl. "And when you are in your own world once again, why then you will still get to choose, for many years to come. You will surely have adventures equal to this."

"I doubt it," Lucy said with a sigh. "I'm not a Queen there. I'm only an ordinary girl stuck at an ordinary school. I can't even do much to help with the war."

"Perhaps," the Star's daughter said. "Yet you and I both know what Aslan would say, and in this I agree with him."

"'Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen,'" Lucy quoted, and sighed again. "I suppose you're right and there are things I can do even without a crown or Aslan beside me in body. I won't meet any other Stars, though. Or their reflections. The stars in my world aren't like the ones here. They're cold and far away, and there isn't any magic to bring their reflections to life."

"Not in body," Ramandu's daughter agreed. "But there are other ways to bring light." She reached forward and clasped Lucy's hands between her own. "I said before that your heart does you credit, and now I say that you yourself are a light, one that shines as brilliantly as my father ever did. Perhaps even as bright as the stars in Aslan's Country. If you lead, your people will follow."

Lucy looked down at their joined hands: hers small and grubby, the other girl's elegant and clean, and yet both damp with the same water and lit by the same sun.

"Thank you," she said. "I suppose I'll try to live up to my name."

"Oh?"

Lucy shrugged. "Lucy comes from lux, which means light. Or that's what Peter says. I haven't learned any Latin yet." She tugged her hands free, suddenly embarrassed, and asked, "What is your name, my Lady?"

"Here in this land, I have no need of one," said the other girl. "I am merely my father's reflection. But that is about to change, and I think... I think for my first choice, in my new tale, I shall ask you to give me a name."

"Me! But surely that's too important a choice to give to someone else."

The Star's daughter stood in a graceful flutter of hair and fabric, and smiled. "But it is my choice," she said, "and I choose to trust in your heart and your light. You needn't rush. Think as long as you like, and tell me tomorrow before you board your ship and sail to the East and the end of this adventure."

She began to walk westward along the rocks, toward the place where the cliff sank down into a sandy beach and the grassy hill rose low and gentle toward the island's spine.

Lucy stood and splashed after her. "Wait!"

Ramandu's daughter turned. "Yes?"

"Dunamar," Lucy said. "It's like a reflection of your father's name, since you were born from a reflection of his light. But I switched the first two letters around so it's not a perfect match, because nobody should build her life on somebody else's story and you should have something all your own." She paused, conscious again of how young and small and unmagical she felt in the other girl's presence, here at the beginning of the world's end. But then she remembered she was a Queen, and that the Lady had asked her to do this thing. Lucy straightened and felt for a moment that the sun on her head and shoulders was the golden warmth of Aslan's mane. "That is my choice," she said.

"Dunamar," the Star's daughter repeated, rolling the syllables over her tongue as if to taste their flavor. "Dunamar, daughter of Ramandu."

Then she smiled once more, and Lucy thought all her previous smiles had been only half-meant and half-felt, for this one lit her face as if she had gathered the midday sun and was reflecting it all back toward Lucy, in a steady fountain of joy.

"No matter the time, the distance, or the worlds that come between us, you shall always be my Queen, Lucy of Narnia, for you were here at my tale's beginning and I will remember you long past its end. Thank you, my friend, for my name."