With mirth upon the silver horn
And gleam upon the spear;
They galloped through the meadow-grass,
They sought the forest's gloom,
And loudest rang Sir Moven's laugh,
And lightest tost his plume,
There 's no delight by day or night
Like hunting in the morn;
So busk ye, gallant gentlemen,
And sound the silver horn!
-The Last Hunt,
William Roscoe Thayer
She was up to her elbows in rubbishy things when she found it again.
After The Accident--she always thought of it with capital letters--money became a trouble. Her mother and father had no riches to leave to her, though she had been a Queen, and when the soldiers came home work was scarcer than diamonds. And though once she had worn a circlet of radiant gems, she had no spare change now for pretty things. Lipstick was a memory as distant as dancing with fauns, but she did her best to cover her ragged, ill-shapen cast-offs with the grace and poise that she had learned in another world long ago.
Sorting through the grubby things, she touched it, and caught her breath. It was chipped and tarnished, so covered with ash and grime and what looked like old blood that it was impossible for anyone who did not already know it to see that it was formed of curling horn as black as ebony, with runes of protection writ upon it with inlaid gold and the tiniest of sapphires. She turned it over in her hands, counting them, and they were all there, just as they had been before. The baldric that had held it was gone, but there was no mistaking it. For all those years it had hung at her side: as she rode through the western forest, as she listened to the flutes on the Splendour Hyaline, as she sat in her throne in the great hall of Cair Paravel on the shores of the eastern sea, with the sound of the waves in her ears and the light of the dawn streaming in through the windows. The air had been sweet with the scent of Aslan's breath, and there had been dancing every night.
How had it come there? Caspian had it last, the only one beside her to ever use it, and he'd never been to this world. With a twist of her mouth she remembered his fear that if he used it once it would be used up. It had never been his if he'd so misunderstood it. No, the horn was hers, only hers, but she had thought it lost forever. She had forgotten it in the rush of freeing Narnia from the Telmarines, not remembering until they were back in England and it was too late. And of course she had never gone back to Narnia after that, and so could not look for it. Lucy had gone, and Edmund, but she had felt too ashamed to ask them about her horn. By that time she had already decided to try to forget about Narnia, and they were both far too angry with her for that to ask them any Narnia-related favors. And then it had been too late to ask them anything at all, and she thought that it was gone for good.
She ran her hands along its length, feeling the familiar contours, the irregularities and rough places and the carvings about the mouthpiece. She remembered it so clearly. "Wherever you are, help will come to you." Father Christmas had said it, but in her memory his voice has become mixed with Aslan's, or perhaps was always so. Help will come to you. The scent of fir trees in winter, of the first flowers of spring, of the sea by her window. Help will come.
It was all that she could do not to break down in the charity shop. She shoved the horn away from her, hiding it too forcefully in her bundle of threadbare, ugly dresses. The whole thing tumbled out of her arms to clatter on the floor, but she didn't touch it as she gathered everything up to escape from the eyes of old women watching her with pity.
Sitting up in her tiny apartment--the last of her mother's jewelry had gone to paying the rent, but at least she could pay it--she unraveled the heap and took it up again. Turning it over and over in her hands, help will come to you. Wherever you are, help will come. Her hands trembled as she raised it to her lips, felt the smoothness of it against her mouth, no different from how it had ever been though it tasted of filth and dead things and sorrow. Her breath echoed against it for a moment, and then resonated. She had never blown the horn before in this world, but she had known, had always known, that it would sound like this. The deep tone tugged at her, reverberating against her breastbone and ribs and pelvis until she felt that it was her body that was being played upon. The sound poured out, swelling and rising, a great tide of music. It broke over the dim room in waves of joy and sorrow and triumph and loss that lingered long after her breath had run out and her lips had fallen away from the mouthpiece.
She sat there in stillness as the echoes died away, and then as nothing happened she started to cry.
Oh, she was such a fool. She had hoped…at least Lucy or Peter or her mother, if Aslan no longer loved her. She would understand if he didn't. She had left him first, after all, turned her back on him. She hadn't wanted to. But it had hurt, longing and pining for Narnia, beating against England like a caged bird. Lucy must have found some way to bear the pain, but Lucy had always been the strong one, the valiant one. Susan had never been more than gentle, and it had hurt so much.
She hadn't understood then that it can always hurt more. If losing Narnia had been pain, losing her family was anguish, and the last loss of Aslan was shattering. She knelt on the dusty floor, bent over like an old woman, rocking back and forth. The resonance of the horn still filled the room like a warm golden exhalation, twining with the racking arpeggios of her sobs. And at last she was quiet, drained and weary but somehow clean again.
The golden smell still wound around the little room, and she breathed it in, feeling it warm and strengthen her. She saw in memory the great hall and the apple orchard and the sprawling expanses of lantern waste, clearer in her mind than they had been for a long time. She saw Lucy dancing with the fauns at the Dancing Lawn, her long fair hair flying out like starlight into the darkness. Peter playing chess and teasing her and snuggling into her bed when she got homesick for mother, and long before that, leading her by the hand when she was just a baby and it had only been the two of them. Edmund, bright and passionate as a falcon in the hunt, talking seriously with the Centaurs as he tried to understand astrology.
She had almost forgotten. But now Narnia was jewel-bright, red and blue and gold, warm and saturated. And she felt strong and wild and powerful, a Queen of Narnia, more than just the gentle one. Fingers trailing along her lips, she remembered something else: "Now you are a lioness." For the first time in ages, Susan Pevensie smiled.
The next morning, the horn hidden in her pocket, she went out. Touching it like a talisman, she walked back into the world. She was alive, though they were all dead, and it was high time that she started using the life left to her. It wasn't suitable for queens to mope, and she was a Queen of Narnia, once and always.