If you are reading this story, that means that you have probably already read a book called The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which tells the story of four children, named Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, and how they fell through a wardrobe in a country house into a magical land, where it was always winter and never Christmas. And you know how they defeated the evil Witch who had enchanted the land of Narnia (for that was its name), and how Aslan, the magical Lion who was the Son of the Emperor-Over-Sea, crowned them kings and queens of Narnia, saying "Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen."
But the book doesn't tell the story of what happened after they were crowned, and how they came to rule Narnia during a Golden Age of peace and happiness, before they fell back through the wardrobe and became English schoolchildren again. The book skips over all that, and goes straight from the coronation to the time when they were all grown up, which I think is a pity. Because they must certainly have had many adventures as they grew up, while trying to rule a land full of magical creatures and talking animals.
So this is the story about some of the adventures the Pevensies had, on the way to becoming strong and successful kings and queens of Narnia.
The day after Aslan left, taking the magic with him, just about everyone else left, too.
Lucy woke first, rolling out from under Susan's arm and onto the stone floor. Her brothers and sister were all bundled together like puppies on and under the dusty old rugs that were among the few furnishings still left in the castle of Cair Paravel. The sun was just peeking in the eastern window overlooking the beach, and even this high, Lucy could hear the gulls crying.
She shook out the skirts of her gown, brushing at the spot where Edmund had spilled some faun wine last night, and went out into the corridor. The floor was cold under her bare feet, and she wasn't sure where her shoes were. Or if she even had any shoes; she frowned. She couldn't remember whether she had been barefoot during the dancing last night.
Her stomach growled, so instead of going out into the courtyard, she turned and went down another flight of stairs: she was pretty sure the kitchens were this way.
During the party--well, coronation festival, but it was really a three-day party--there had always been someone bringing around more food, more drinks, always musicians playing and Fauns and Dryads dancing in the great hall. There were people everywhere. Well, Narnian people, anyway, which included Talking Dogs, and Beavers, and Centaurs and Dryads and even a Talking Moose, who was almost too large to fit through the door into the Great Hall.
This morning, though, she saw no one, and heard no voices in the vast and lofty rooms. When she stepped through the open doorway into the kitchens, nobody was there, not even the great Cave Bear who had organized all the cooking for the past few days. There were clay pots and wooden platters piled around the counters, and copper pots stacked on shelves: most of them were dirty. Morning sunlight streamed through a few small windows high on the wall. In the fireplace, a few bits of wood smoked, and Lucy, looking closer, recognized them as table legs. The room smelled of cold ash and spilled ale.
"Where is everyone?" she asked the empty kitchen.
There was a loaf of bread on the table, and a small pot of what turned out to be honey; Lucy grabbed them up, half-afraid they would disappear just like all the Narnians had, and ran back upstairs to her siblings.
"All of them?" asked Susan, astonished. She scowled as she tugged her fingers through her damp hair, separating it for plaiting. They had no combs and no mirrors, so Lucy pushed her hands aside and began to do it for her.
"Most of them, anyway," admitted Peter. "I saw Tumnus in the courtyard, getting ready to leave."
Lucy bit her lip but said nothing. Not Mr. Tumnus, too!
Edmund raised his dripping head from the bucket he'd dunked it in. He'd had more faun wine last night than any of them, and still looked horribly green, Lucy thought. "Where was he going?" he asked, and wiped his face on Peter's red cloak. A bit of fluff caught in his hair, and Susan leaned forward to pluck it out.
Peter shrugged. "Had to get back home, he said. He did promise he'd be back, but wouldn't say when." His voice was casual, but there was a frown caught between his eyebrows.
"I don't understand," said Lucy. She had tangled up Susan's hair and had to unwind before starting again. "We are their kings and queens--Aslan said so! Why are they all leaving?"
There were a great many dirty dishes in the kitchens, after all. Who was going to wash them? At home, she was too small to reach the cabinets, but Susan always made her dry, anyway. She had thought that, as a queen, she wouldn't have to wash up any more.
Susan's face was hidden, her head dropped forward as Lucy wove her hair together. The dark wet strands dampened the green cloth of her gown. But her voice was clear as she said, "Because they were just freed from one hundred years of winter, Lucy. They have lives and families to look after."
"Oh." Lucy got to the end of the braid and realized that she had nothing to tie it off with. After she looked around helplessly, Edmund pressed a faded pink ribbon into her hand. "There, all done," she said, hoping Susan wouldn't mind that the bow was rather lopsided.
They might have sat there all morning, except Lucy remembered the bread, so at least they had something to eat. She had forgotten to bring a knife, however, and Peter had to tear it apart, and then they took turns dipping it in the honey. It was sticky and sweet: soon they were laughing about Edmund and the faun wine, and Susan dancing with Aurelius the Centaur.
By the time breakfast was over there were crumbs all over the faded crimson of the carpets, and Edmund had honey in his hair. But the worried look had eased from Peter's face, and Lucy decided that having an entire palace to themselves was just another adventure. Aslan had brought them this far, after all.
Edmund could not determine how Susan kept finding things in the castle, which seemed empty and echoing to him; it was less friendly now than it had been when it was full of Narnians drinking and dancing. But in a chest in one of the upper rooms (Edmund wondered why the chest wasn't burned for fuel during the Winter, the way the rest of the furniture probably had been, and finally decided it was too difficult to break apart without tools) Susan found some worn clothing, a moldering book that Edmund seized upon, sundry household implements, and some lengths of twine.
Edmund eagerly exchanged his wine-spotted velvet doublet for a short-sleeved green tunic that reached midway down his thighs. Susan raised an eyebrow, but Edmund expected that she'd follow suit by noontime: Aslan's summer, even here on the breezy shore, was as hot as any July he remembered in England.
Ignoring the clothing, Peter picked up the ball of twine, and started untangling the mess. "Ed," he said, nodding at the window and the beach beyond. "You think there's any fish out there?"
Which is how they found themselves spending the first afternoon of their rule as kings and queens of Narnia fishing on the beach under the sparkling windows of Cair Paravel. It took some time for the two boys to carve fishhooks, and Susan insisted there had to be something other than the last of the bread to use for bait. In the end, Lucy went into the overgrown garden behind the kitchens and brought back a handful of worms, but she could not bear to watch Peter bait the hooks.
"Lucky we've got this breakwater," said Edmund as he threw his lightly-weighted line back into the water. They didn't have a bucket and his two fish and Peter's four were left in the water, strung on a line looped around Peter's ankle. "Be too hard to fish from the beach without poles."
Peter gave his line a small tug and nodded. "More than luck; I think this might have been a quay once. Can you picture it, the big ships tied up there and there?" He jerked his head sideways, and Edmund realized that the wooden stubs poking up out of the jumbled rocks must once have been stanchions.
"It's all fallen apart--but the castle's fine. Shouldn't the castle be falling down as well?" Edmund looked over his shoulder just to be sure, but the walls of the castle, clean and shining golden in the afternoon light, were as solid as they had been that morning.
The light reflecting off the water flickered across Peter's face, which was growing pink in the sun. Lucy shouted something to Susan a hundred yards down the beach, her voice full of easy cheer.
"I think it has something to do with Aslan, and with the prophecy," Peter said after a long moment. "Magic." He smiled, and then let it drop away again, his brows drawing down the way they had when Mother had put them on the train to Professor Kirke's house. "Ed, I think--I think we might be in trouble, here."
Edmund's fishing line jerked, and this time he didn't yank back, but let it play through his fingers before gradually slowing it down. "You mean, we are crowned kings and queens but we have no food, second-hand clothes, and no apparent subjects?"
Peter chuckled and leaned sideways, nudging Edmund's shoulder before straightening. It wasn't something he would have done before Narnia. (It wasn't something Edmund would have wanted him to do, before Narnia.) "Yes, that's what I mean. I think the hard part might just be starting."
"Susan's worked that out," said Edmund, bringing his fish in carefully, hand over hand on the wet line. The salt water stung some scratches on his fingers that he must have collected that morning--all his other wounds had been healed by Lucy's cordial. "Why do you think she went digging through the castle like that? She's even started an inventory in the back of that book."
"An inventory? That's clever--Ed, what is that?" His voice suddenly sharp, Peter pointed out into the bay, where the turquoise water was stained by a darker shade, an indigo shadow moving quickly shoreward.
A great dark shape, moving faster than any fish, and heading straight towards the girls, who had their skirts above their knees as they waded in the shallows.
"Susan!" Peter shouted, and dropped his line, fish forgotten. He tried to jump up to the next rock in the breakwater, but tripped on the string of fish tied to his ankle, and fell heavily. "Blast! Ed, go, go!"
Edmund ran, casting glances over his shoulder into the bay. It was moving faster than he was. He tripped, nearly fell, caught himself on one of the great jumbled rocks, and forced himself onwards. "Lucy!" he yelled, but he couldn't tell if she heard him.
He'd left his sword in the castle. Why had they assumed that Narnia was safe, just because the Witch was dead?
Stumbling again, and again recovering just in time, Edmund leaped from the base of the jetty onto the wet sand. "Susan!" He waved his arms, and he saw Susan turn towards him--just as something enormous breached the water behind her.
Once, when he was even younger than Lucy, the family had taken a trip to the Isle of Wight, and on the ferry, Edmund had scanned the waves, eager for a glimpse of a whale or a shark. In the end, he'd seen nothing but the seabirds skimming the water in the harbor, but later that summer he had seen a killer whale, stuffed and mounted in a museum. It had made a serious enough impression on him that he dreamt of it for months.
This was far more terrifying than any killer whale.
It was too long for Edmund to see all of it: all he could see was the enormous head, twice the size of a man's, with tendrils springing out around its mouth, and water streaming through the great white teeth. And a great long neck, rising up and up out of the water, as if it would never end.
Lucy shrieked, yanking at Susan's hand, and the two girls fell forward into the sand, just out of the monster's first snapping lunge. Edmund was still too far away, and he had no weapons, nothing but--he leaned down, still running, and snatched up a stone from the beach, and then another.
The monster--serpent, really, it had to be a sea serpent, it was so long--drew its head back, clearly preparing to strike again. Edmund forced one last effort out of his aching legs (only four days ago he had nearly died, he thought) and staggered to a halt in front of his sisters.
"Back!" he gasped, not sure whether he was warning Susan and Lucy, or the sea serpent, and wound up, throwing the first stone as hard as he could at the serpent's face.
The stone struck true, hitting it in the right eye. It reared back, hissing, the green and purple tendrils about its mouth whipping about, the color vivid against the paler grey-green of its scales. From a distance, if it weren't trying to eat them, Edmund thought it might actually be rather pretty.
He gripped the other stone in his hand, waiting for the right time to throw, not looking at his sisters. Only later did he realize how foolish he was, thinking he was their only defense. Because instead of hiding behind him, they flanked him, Lucy to his right and Susan to his left. And Susan, like Peter, had brought her weapon to the beach with her.
Lucy and Edmund flung stones, and Susan shot at it. The first arrow missed as the serpent's head swerved: the arrow whooshed past and disappeared into the water.
Edmund threw another stone, and Lucy threw two more, making the serpent jerk, opening its great mouth even wider. The teeth were as long as knives. It looked angry, now, and it lunged forward, coming further up onto the beach.
But Susan had settled herself now: when she shot again, she hit it--one, two, three arrows, striking hard and deep into the creature's neck and body. It thrashed, hissing, great coils of its body churning in the shallows. But it did not retreat; indeed, it continued to strike at them, but more weakly, bleeding heavily. As if it were mindless in its rage and hunger, Edmund thought. The three of them backed away to a safe distance.
"And here I thought you needed my help!" Peter's voice was full of humor, but he was flushed and gasping from his race down the beach. Rhindon was unsheathed in his hand, the blade shining silver.
Susan lowered her bow: the serpent's head had dropped, and though it continued to hiss, it rolled in the light surf, body washing back and forth with the waves. "What shall we do?" she asked. "It seems unfair to kill it now."
"Whatever we decide," said Peter, "it should be soon."
"Why?" asked Lucy, still fingering one of the stones she had picked up.
Edmund looked at the breakwater, and then squinted, shading his eyes against the sun. "Because there are mer-people watching us," he said. "There, and there--see them, on the rocks?"
Peter nodded. "They're waiting to see what we will do."
"But why didn't they help? They were here for the coronation!" Lucy protested. "They sang for us!"
Susan looked out at the mer-people, her face thoughtful. "I don't think they set the sea serpent on us, but they don't know us. We're going to have to prove to them we can be the kings and queens Aslan named us."
"Oh." Lucy scowled. "So what shall we do?"
Edmund looked at the serpent gasping in the shallows, but before he spoke, Peter was striding forward, sword in hand.
It was over quickly; Peter kicked the head up onto the dry sand with a grunt, and stepped away from the pink-tinged water washing the beach. There was a shout from the mer-people on the breakwater, and a flash as of a spear thrust into the air. And then they were gone.
Nobody wanted to fish after that, and not even Edmund could bring himself to suggest eating the sea serpent. They ate stale ends of bread that night, with dandelions gathered from the weedy garden next to the keep.
But in the morning Edmund found a glistening spear thrust into the sand at the high-tide line, tied to a rope running into the water; and at the end of the rope was a string of fish, twice as many as they had caught and lost the day before.
Susan was a list-maker. Long before she came to Narnia, she had made lists: of her school-work, of her friends, of clothing to be packed for trips. Her mother relied on Susan's help to organize the household for Christmas and the summer holidays.
So it seemed perfectly reasonable for Susan to find herself on top of the tallest tower in Cair Paravel, making lists. Although the list-making would be easier if she had something other than a bit of charcoal to write with.
The wind was light, the sky clear, and from her perch on the wall, Susan could see for, oh, hundreds of miles, she thought. In the east the ocean ran out to the end of the world, glittery and golden in the morning sun--although now she knew it was perilous, too.
Just south of the castle the coastline curved sharply to the west, to meet up with the Great River flowing into the sea. From what Peter had said, that bay would likely make a good harbor, if there were any people here who had ships. So far, they had seen no sails on the water, but if there had been a quay here once, someone must know how to sail somewhere. Perhaps there were nations out there who had traded with Narnia, and filled the strand with bustling activity. What would they do if they discovered the Winter was over?
South beyond the bay, she saw open plains sweeping yellow for what looked like mile after mile, and past that, a line of snow-capped peaks marching clear to the ocean. It looked unlikely that one could get past those mountains by staying on the coast: Susan imagined sheer cliffs dropping a thousand feet into churning waves, and wondered what they would find beyond those mountains.
To the west Susan followed the sparkle of the Great River until it disappeared behind a tree-covered rise. In that direction lay the fords of Beruna, and the hillside where Aslan had killed the Witch, and beyond that, the Stone Table, the Beavers' lodge, and Lantern Waste where Tumnus lived. In the far distance, where the horizon blurred into a blue haze, she thought she saw even greater mountains, taller and sharper than any she had ever seen. Hundreds of miles away, they had to be. There was so much more country to the west than they had seen: there could be entire towns and counties out there.
And to the north it was more of the same: a coastline of little forested bays and steep hillsides, fading away into blurred blue-grey hills piled upon hills. Narnia was locked in, barricaded by the earth itself, but there was so much of it; it was hard to believe Aslan had set the four of them in authority over it all. How could four children from Finchley possibly be responsible for all this?
Peter caught her there, chin on hand as she stared over the battlements, lists forgotten on the stone beside her. He made enough noise coming up the stair that she wasn't startled, but she didn't turn her head when he came to stand beside her. In the corner of her eye she saw the hilt of his sword, the lion's head on the pommel facing forward over the countryside.
"It's too big, Peter," she said with a sigh.
He leaned against the wall next to her, looking out at the endless forests and hills. "I don't think so," he replied, and she looked up at him, surprised at the certainty in his voice. "I think helping Aslan beat the Witch was just the first part of what we were sent here to do."
"Sent by whom?" she asked.
"Aslan, God, the Emperor-Over-Sea," he said, shrugging. "Does it matter? There must be a reason it's us here now, and not, oh, Jerry Berwicke and his brothers."
Susan giggled. "I can just imagine." But then she sobered again. "I just... I worry. I know Edmund is better now, but he's not said what she did to him. And I don't think he understands completely what Aslan did for him, either. We're not safe here, Peter."
Edmund had been such a pill for so long that it was a joy to see him now, enthusiastic and creative, talking with his sisters and brother without snapping or lying. Susan couldn't regret that change, but he had nearly died, and he had looked so terrible when he was rescued from the Witch. And Aslan was gone: who would protect them now? Lucy was still such a little child, after all.
"No, we're not." Peter put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "But we did all right yesterday, with the serpent, didn't we? I think we can do this--I know we can do this--if we stick together and do our best."
Susan relaxed against him, wrapping one arm around his waist. Edmund wasn't the only one who had changed in Narnia, she realized. Peter was all surety now, the worry and uncertainty burned away; he even looked bigger, in his red tunic and boots, with a king's sword at his side.
She wondered how Narnia had changed her, and then put the thought away. "All right," she said, and picked up the book she had been using for her notes. "Then let's talk about what we need, and what Narnia needs, and start making plans."
Three meals of fish in a row were two meals too many, as far as Peter was concerned. He appreciated the mer-people's gesture, probably more than any of his siblings. But fish got fishy after a while, and it didn't travel at all.
Not that any of them, even Susan, yet understood the need for food that traveled well. Peter would dearly love to find a secret cache of hardtack and dried meats in one of those secret stores Susan kept finding.
He knocked Rhindon's hilt against the north wall of the Great Hall, shrugged, and moved down the wall ten feet before trying again.
"You know, that might work better if you used a stick," said Edmund from behind them. "Besides, I don't think Father Christmas would approve if you scratched up your sword after only using it once."
Peter snorted, but hooked the scabbard back to his belt. "Twice," he corrected, idly, as he scanned the room for a piece of wood large enough to sound the walls. "No, wait, three times. I forgot about the Wolf."
Edmund was still, standing in the doorway to what Susan had identified as an audience room. "Wolf?"
There was a stool sitting next to Peter's throne: he hefted it in one hand. It would do for the purpose, he decided. "One of the Witch's Wolves went after Lu and Susan after we met up with Aslan." That was, he counted on his fingers, seven days ago, he thought. Maybe eight. Seemed like months, so much had happened since.
For one, he was now a king, and if he didn't come up with some resources soon, he was going to be a hungry and country-less king. With some very unhappy siblings.
Clonk, clonk, clonk, went the stool against the stone walls. "There has got to be a secret passage in here somewhere!" Peter muttered. "Ed, isn't there always a secret passage?"
His brother didn't answer. Peter turned around; Edmund was still in the doorway, but his jaw was clenched. After a moment, he shrugged, muttered something under his breath, and came fully into the room.
Peter's eyes narrowed, but he let the moment pass. Edmund needed a light hand; it was something Peter had only recently learned, to his shame. He was learning many things in Narnia, more than he'd thought possible: not all of them were lessons he wanted to learn.
"Think maybe you can help me find this secret passage? One of the Dwarfs at the coronation mentioned the possibility, and if it's true there might be supplies we can use. What do you say?"
Edmund laughed, and if one hand clenched too hard on the leather of his sword belt, and his voice sounded hollow, at least it was a laugh. "I think you're out of your mind if you think you can trust anything the Dwarfs said that night. Do you remember how much they were drinking?"
"I'm surprised you can remember how much they were drinking," Peter replied, and then wished it unsaid for a moment, but Edmund just snorted at him, and went to pick up the stool by his own throne.
Clonk, clonk, clonk, clonk.
An hour later, even with Susan and Lucy's help, they still had not figured out how to open the hidden door behind the dais. Peter was on his hands and knees, crawling along the intricately-tiled throne room floor, and pressing the lion-head tiles in complicated combinations, when Susan tapped him on the shoulder.
"Peter? I think you need to get up. We have a visitor." Her voice was controlled, which meant she was worried.
He scrambled to his feet, thinking this was an awkward way to find the High King of Narnia, and turned around.
There was a Wolf at the door.
It was large: as large as the Wolf Peter had killed only a week ago, but much shabbier-looking. She had a ragged grey-black coat, with a bare patch on her left flank where it looked like she had been wounded. One of her ears was notched, but both of them were straight upright, focused precisely on Peter.
Peter put his left hand on the hilt of his sword, and then hesitated: the Wolf was sitting down in the doorway, and had not moved. A breeze ruffled the fur on her shoulders, which was, if patchy, lying smooth; Peter was pretty sure that Wolves were enough like dogs that her hackles would be raised if she were about to attack him.
So he said, "Welcome to Cair Paravel. I am King Peter, and these are my sisters Queen Susan and Queen Lucy, and my brother King Edmund." Keeping his left hand on Rhindon to steady the blade, he gave a shallow bow.
The Wolf bowed back, dropping her nose almost to the floor, before raising it again and saying in a rough voice, "I am Rhea. I heard that there was a king again in Cair Paravel, and I came to see if this was true."
"Great, tourists," muttered Edmund, but Susan coughed, and might have kicked him, Peter couldn't tell.
"As you see us," he said, and raised a hand to indicate the tall, splendid, and rather empty throne room. He decided not to explain why he was crawling along the floor and muttering about secret passages.
Rhea blinked at him, and her ears relaxed a little, swiveling outwards. She turned that dark gaze on Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, before looking back at Peter. "You appear somewhat short of courtiers, good king."
There was a muffled snort from behind him, but Edmund kept his mouth shut otherwise. Peter suddenly wished Susan would take over, as she was much better at talking to strangers, but the Wolf appeared primarily interested in him. Lead Dog, he thought suddenly, recalling all those Jack London stories he'd read when he was younger.
"Narnia has only just been restored after a hundred years of oppression and winter," he said carefully. "It is more important to rebuild our nation than it is to put on a royal display."
There was another snort, but to Peter's astonishment it came from Rhea. "You mean they don't know what to do with you," she corrected him, in that growly voice. "Narnians have always been more interested in their own business than politics; of course that's how the Witch got into power in the first place."
Edmund stepped forward at this, and approached the Wolf closer than Peter would have liked. "You sound like you disapprove. Do you come to offer counsel?" He kept his left hand on his sword, as well--Peter was relieved to see that Edmund had learned his lesson, and went nowhere now unarmed.
Rhea's ears flickered back and sideways, then relaxed again. "Counsel I have none, good kings. But service I can offer, to redeem my littermate's shame."
"Shame? How so?" Susan asked. Peter took the opportunity to look at the girls, and was reassured to see that Susan looked far calmer than he knew her to be, while Lucy had her hand clasped around the knife at her belt. Her face was white, but she stood stoutly next to Susan, by no other measure showing any fear. The last time they had been so close to a wolf of any sort, it had nearly killed all three of them.
But not Edmund, who had not been there; except it was Edmund who put the pieces together. "I recognize you," he said, and dropped to one knee, putting his face on the same level as Rhea's. "You were Maugrim's littermate, weren't you?"
Horror ran through Peter, and if it weren't for Susan grabbing his arm, he would have drawn Rhindon.
Rhea nodded, unmoving, and stared closely at Edmund. "In Aslan's name, I bid you, kings and queens, tell me his fate."
Edmund shook his head. "I don't know--I suppose he might have survived the battle--" but Peter cut him off.
"I killed him." No point in explaining where, why, how. The Wolf was dead, and Lucy and Susan were alive, and Peter would not apologize for that.
Rhea stood slowly, and paced forward, passing by Edmund so closely that he could have touched her coat. Drying mud clotted the hair on her tail and the backs of her legs: she looked like she had traveled far and fast cross-country. When she came before Peter, she bowed again, and then lay down on her side, exposing the pale fur of her belly. "Take my thanks, Peter of Narnia, and my service. You have freed my pack from the taint of the Witch, and we can now hunt without fear or shame in the western forests."
Lucy gasped, but Peter swallowed, and following Edmund's example, squatted down, his sheathed sword scraping against the tiled floor. He put his right hand, his sword hand, on Rhea's chest, and felt her breast-bone under the soft hair. She was dreadfully thin. He searched for words, and, surprisingly, found them.
"I accept both your thanks and your service, good Wolf. Rise, in Aslan's name, a servant of Narnia."