Chapter 1: They Meet
Grace Marie Howard hugged her mother and father almost as hard as she did during the last bomb raid. Her arms shook as she swallowed the lump in her throat as she let go and stepped back, giving her sister and brothers their turns. All around them other families were going through similar teary goodbyes, as the child train waited to go.
"Please mama, daddy, come with us," Ruthie begged, her black curls bobbing as she looked between her parents, who just smiled down sadly at their nine year old.
"Yeah, we could sneak you in with us on the train,"
"We're really good at sneaking,"
"And once the train starts no one can kick you off and we,"
"Can all be safe in the country,"
"Together." The twins, George and Fred, pleaded in their own way, which brought chuckles to the older family and pouts to the younger.
"I'm afraid your ma and I are a bit too tall to hide in a train, kiddios. And besides, we'll only be separated until we earn enough money to move home." Their papa tried to comfort the kids. Their ma laughed quietly, the kind of laugh that wasn't from humor, it was more doubtful.
"Or when this foul war ends, whichever is first."
The pessimism made the small family chuckle together sadly. The Howard's were talking about World War 2, which had started after the family moved clear over the ocean to live in London for better work. But only a year afterwards, WWII started. As things got worse and London continued to be hit by night time bombs, the people of London decided to send their kids to 'safer pastures'. The Howard's kids included. They would have just went back to America, if the adults didn't think it was still safer for them in London, which is quite depressing, for several reasons. But with each bomb raid, the Howard parents had started saving more and hoping and praying for the best if they did go back.
The last train whistle sounded and after one last goodbye from all, including Grace, who liked to go by Marie, Gracie, or Lin, the 11 year old twins, 9 year old Ruthie, and 15 year old Grace climbed onto the train. They found spots at the windows and waved to their parents until they were too far away as the train set off down the tracks.
"Alright, we need to find a carriage to sit in, come on." Gracie said with a sigh, walking with the younger kids following behind her. Once they found an empty carriage, the four took it and sat, the twins taking one seat and the sisters the other. At once the boys started 'whispering' to each other and Ruthie laid her head on Gracie's lap, holding her Barbie tightly.
The four sat mostly quiet for about thirty minutes before Gracie got tired of it.
"Ok, that's it." She said suddenly, her chipper tone surprising the others as much as her suddenly talking. "It's too quiet in here and I've never thought I'd see the day you three stayed quiet so long awake."
"Huh?" Ruthie asked as Gracie grabbed the bag she had kept with herself and pulled out a deck of cards, which brought happy (and competitive) smiles all around. The four spent the rest of the train ride together playing Go Fish and Slap Jack. Sometime later they heard the call for the younger Howard's stop and the whole group walked out to the flowery train stop. When the kids were signed up, a mistake on the adults part (not their parents) had the three younger Howard's staying with a nice young Scottish-British couple and Gracie would be staying at a manor house two stops down. When the four siblings stepped out, they met the couple, who were standing there waiting and visibly excited.
After Gracie explained that she was the oldest but was staying at a manor two stops down, the couple quickly offered to talk with her host and set up meetings with each other; if her host family allowed it. That had Gracie feeling a bit better though still nervous; she hasn't met her host and for all she knew, the host or hosts might not like having lots of kids around. But she greatly appreciated the gesture and after hugging goodbye to everyone she climbed back onto the train and waved goodbye from the nearest window. The last she heard was the husband offering to tell the younger Howard's stories about a character in a book he was writing. A Roman Centurion who guards his wife when she is put into a coma; and the last thing she sees was the Scottish wife's red hair blowing in the wind.
Now alone, Gracie went back to the carriage and once there sighed and slumped her shoulders, rubbing her forehead with her fingers.
"Guess I should read now, pass the time." She sat down on the red seat and slipped off the hip bag then opened it. After looking though a few books, she decided on the Wizard of Oz. Gracie settled down, gathered her shirt and put her feet up on the rest of her seat, quickly losing herself in the book.
In no time at all, it was Gracie's stop and after grabbing her two bags she swallowed, stealing herself.
"Here we go. Please let them be nice, the manor clean, books everywhere, and at least SOME excitement." She prayed then put on a small but confident smile and walked out onto the empty platform. Looking around at the trees and taking in the quiet, Gracie was almost startled when four others quickly stepped out of the train to stand next to her. They all stared at each other, sizing each other up, and before things got really awkward, Gracie tilted her head, her curls catching the light.
"You're going the same place I am?" She asked, lifting the tag a little with her fingers. All relocated children were labeled to avoid confusion and easy to see names. Hers, like the four others were tied to their jackets and such. Starting to feel hot though, Gracie unbuttoned her jacket and took it off, positioning the tag up. Other than the jacket, which was a normal black, she was wearing a light blue blouse and a red skirt.
"I guess so," the oldest boy said, sounding a tad bit wary which was what Gracie expected by now. Would have been shocked otherwise, since she was African American. Since moving to England in general she had been stared at with surprise and curiosity by lots of people. It was a step up from the looks she used to get. Gracie didn't outwardly react to the other fours' stares or their whispering. There are worse reactions to my skin.
Before much else happened other than the youngest girl waving to Gracie who nodded back, the group looked up the road at the sound of a car. The four other children run down the stairs, Gracie staying where she was, to greet the car but it only drove on by, kicking up dust and dirt.
"That was rude." Gracie quipped hand on her hip.
"The professor knew we were coming," the oldest other girl said sounding confused like the rest of them.
"Perhaps we've been incorrectly labeled," assumes the other boy, inspecting his tag with a critical eye.
"Better not be," Gracie muttered joining the four and looking up the road. This should be her stop at least, she counted the stops the train made. Maybe the other four were mislabeled, but either the pickup was late or she was purposely left to fend for herself. Having sense Gracie kept her thoughts to herself. Suddenly they heard a noise and all five looked left.
"Hya!" a woman's voice is heard. The group watched as a elderly woman drove up to them in a horse-drawn carriage. "Oh there, whoa, whoa."
"Mrs. Macready?" asks the older boy, proving to Gracie they WERE all together. Great, maybe?
"I'm afraid so," the lady states. "Is this it then? Haven't you brought anything else?"
"No, ma'am," answers the oldest girl while Gracie shook her head.
"Small favors," comments Mrs. Macready with a sniff. "Well get on. We mustn't dally now."
Once all five kids were on the back of the cart they set off. Quietly they took in the quiet area, passing only one other cart and one other house. Mostly they saw trees and butterflies and pass the smell of the horse they could pick up the smell of flowers. Imagination let loose, Gracie imagined the butterflies as fairies and the trees were whispering to each other with the wind.
The professor's mansion was bigger the Grace expected, and browner. The group was led inside as Mrs. Macready briskly told them the rules. Afterwards they each found their rooms and unpacked their bags. Gracie, as the odd girl here, actually got her own room which was quite nice, no bookshelves though, which is a shame. There was a window seat at least. By the time Gracie was done the others had joined up in the dining room to have dinner. That too was quiet but mostly thanks to Mrs. Macready watching them all. After the meal and a polite goodbye to the housekeeper, the kids all went to their rooms. It was after Gracie had moved her now empty bags to the door handle that she heard what sounded like a radio.
"Should I?" She wondered out loud, battling with staying by herself or trying to make friends with the four most likely siblings. Soon the quiet of the mansion got to her and Gracie left her room, crossing her fingers.
Gracie followed her ears and stepped into the room the radio was in right as the oldest girl turned the radio off. Gracie felt a bit insulted for a split second until she saw the other girl gesture to the youngest girl crying.
"These sheets feel scratchy," the girl whines.
"Wars don't last forever Lucy," the oldest girl says, giving Gracie at least one name, attempting to comfort the youngest. "We'll be home soon."
"Yeah, if there's still a home," the boy with a bratty face and voice if you asked Gracie comments, causing Lucy's face to fall even more.
"Isn't it time you were in bed?" remarks the oldest-OK this is ridiculous, I need to get their names Gracie thought. The glaring at the boy the other girl was doing was very sisterly if Gracie thought about it.
"Yes mum," the boy retorts with a attitude.
"Ed!" scolds the older boy.
"Look to the bright side, Lu," adds the boy turning to Lucy. "The place we're staying in is huge! And you saw the outside, we can do whatever we want here. Tomorrow's going to be great."
Famous last words those, Gracie thought. She cleared her throat here and smirked as the the four others jumped in surprise.
"Just thought I would come and say hello. And to maybe introduce myself," Gracie said, placing a hand over her heart and smiling. "My name is Grace Howard, but you all can call me Gracie."
"Oh how rude of us!" The oldest girl said standing up from her chair and walking over to Gracie, taking her hand to shake it. "Pardon our manners, my name is Susan Pevensie and these are my siblings, Peter, Edmund and Lucy." Susan introduced with a nod to each.
"It's very nice to meet you all." Gracie returned with a nod, though Edmund looked like he couldn't be bothered. I love the Brits and their thing for manners. "I would love to get to know you all, but it's getting late, so I will see you all at breakfast?"
"We will be there," Peter said standing and walking over. He bowed down to Gracie making his sisters giggle and Edmund to roll his eyes. "Would you like me to escort you to your room?"
Gracie chuckled and shook her head, amused. "No thank you, I can find it myself. Good night to you all,"
Gracie went back to her room, still chuckling over Peter's antics. He's nice, when his brother is quiet anyway, she thought and she changed into her evening gown and laid down to bed. Maybe this will be ok; they do seem like some of the nicer kids and teens... Before she went to sleep though she brought her hands together to pray.
"Dear God, thank you for my and my siblings safe train trip today and that we were placed with nice and, er, decent people. I pray that everything goes well and that mama and papa stay safe. And...I pray I make friends with the Pevensies, I don't want to be lonely here. And please please please, make me right about them. Amen," +
In a few minutes Gracie was fast asleep.
Like Gracie guessed, Peter had jinxed the group the night before. From the second everyone woke up, it had done nothing but rain cats and dogs outside. Gracie loved it to be honest and was almost late to breakfast because she sat on her window seat and watched the rain fall. She was even thinking of opening the window until Susan had knocked on her door. At the meal the five kids finally met the Professor face to face. First impression for Gracie was the thought that the Professor must love Einstein; for his hair must have been personally styled that way, or he stuck a finger in an electrical socket at some point and there his hair went. Now Gracie was raised with manners so she of course didn’t say any of that. She just enjoyed watching Edmund trying to hide his laughter, unconvincingly, with fake sneezes.
After the meal and the Professor left to get to work, whatever that was, they all looked at each other.
“Well maybe we should go back to our rooms,” Susan offered. Peter shook his head.
“I think this is the perfect time to go and tour this old manor. Both the adults are busy and we have all this free time,”
“You're sure Mrs. Macready would want us to wander around?” Gracie asked quietly, steeling herself to be ignored or rebuffed, even though so far the Pevensies’ hadn’t treated her badly yet. If anything, Edmund seemed to pretend she didn’t exist but Lucy and she had talked a bit at breakfast.
“If we see her while we’re exploring we can ask but otherwise what’s the harm? As long as we don’t break anything,” Peter said with a shrug. With nothing else coming to mind the group went off to explore. They spent about an hour and a half doing that. The manor was one that seemed to never end, there were hallways and rooms galore and not once did they come across the adults. About 30 minutes into their exploring they found a library and that’s when Gracie split from the rest.
“Just come and get me if I’m late for lunch,” she said from the moment she saw all the books. She had walked in and was just holding back a squeal at the large number of books. Peter and Susan shared a look of amusement.
“Alright, enjoy yourself,” Susan said as Peter went to get Lucy from eyeing a large globe of the world with curious eyes. Once the four left Gracie was left alone for the rest of the hour, then she put the travel and fantasy books back in their spots and met up with the rest for lunch. Even after all that time it didn’t stop raining and it was dark enough to be late evening.
The others explored out for the moment, Gracie and they went to sit in one of the sitting rooms. Bored the lot agreed to playing a word game Susan apparently liked. Gracie thought the game might be interesting but was quickly proven wrong. She had bared herself in one of the books about the manor by the third word.
"Gastrovascular," Susan read from the dictionary, looking to Peter as it was his turn.. When he didn't answer, she continued, "Come on, Peter. 'Gastrovascular'."
"Is it Latin?" Peter guessed, staring up at the ceiling and sounding as bored as he looked.
"Is it Latin for 'worst game ever invented'?" Edmund joked from his spot by the radio. He had found some loose paper and was making airplanes with them.
Gracie just held back a snort for that bad joke, glancing up from reading about the kinds of wild life lived in the area to watch the rest. Guessing the origin of random words sounded more fun when Susan said it, too bad it really wasn’t.
"We could play hide-and-seek," Lucy offered, probably cutting off a fight with how Susan was looking at her brothers. Peter hadn’t bothered to hide his amusement.
"But we're already having so much fun," Peter said sarcastically, making Gracie snort laugh then.
"Come on, Peter, please! Pretty please?" Lucy jumped up and got into Peter’s space and gave him puppy dog eyes.
“It would be fun,” Gracie shrugged.
Peter paused for a minute, looked like he was thinking it over then smiled at his little sister. "One…” Gracie shared a smile with Lucy as she closed her book with a snap. “…two…three…four…"
Peter continued counting as everyone jumped and ran to find a place to hide. After looking around Gracie found a hall with about five suits of armor. She slipped behind one and moved behind the large flag behind it. It was long and dark red and Gracie was completely hidden and she giggled. I wonder how long it’ll take for Peter to find me. Oh no my nose, dust, I should have thought about dust! Darn it’s probably in my hair…
Gracie didn’t have long to worry about her hair and nose though. She was covering her nose with her hands when she heard a voice shouting, the words echoing "It's alright! I'm back! I'm alright!"
“Huh?” Gracie decided to go and figure out why Lucy was yelling and carefully moved out from behind the suit of armor and followed the voices.
"That's the point!" Edmund had just said as Gracie and then Susan appeared. "That was why he was seeking you!"
"Does this mean Gracie and I win?" Susan asked confused.
"I don't think Lucy wants to play anymore," said Peter.
Lucy looked at everyone clearly confused. "I've been…gone for hours," she said slowly.
“Huh?” Gracie let out.
Lucy led them back to the wardrobe she had hid in. As she did Lucy explained that the wardrobe was apparently a doorway to a snowed over wood and met a faun named Mr. Tumnus. Gracie stayed back as Susan pulled back the coats and knocked on the wood while Peter knocked on the other side of it. Edmund looked underneath even. Unfortunately they just found a normal wardrobe and wall.
"Lucy, the only ‘wood’ in here is the back of the wardrobe," said Susan.
"One game at a time, Lu," Peter added with a sigh. "We don't all have your imagination."
They all, minus Gracie who was quietly watching by the window, started to leave, but Lucy pleaded, "But I wasn't imagining!"
"That's enough, Lucy," Susan gently scolded, looking over her shoulder.
"I wouldn't lie about this!" Lucy said sounding distressed and near to tears. She suddenly turned to Gracie. “You believe me, don’t you Gracie?”
"Well, I believe you," Edmund cut in before she could respond.
Oh please don’t-
"Of course! Didn't I tell you about the football field in the bathroom cupboard?"
-And he did, of course. Gracie face-palmed in her head as she watched Lucy struggling to hold back tears. Her own big sister instincts kicked in then and Gracie hazard to hug Lucy over the shoulders. She could feel the shakes and lightly patted Lucy’s arm as her brothers faught.
"It was just a joke!"
"When are you going to learn to grow up?"
"Shut up! You think you're dad, but you're not!"
With that Edmund angrily stormed out of the room and slammed the door shut behind himself. Susan turned to her Peter. "Well, that was nicely handled." Then she left the room after her little brother.
"But…it was really there…" Lucy quietly insisted.
"Susan's right, Lucy," Peter said. "That's enough."
Peter left for the door but stopped when he heard Lucy speak softly. “You don’t believe me either, do you Gracie,”
“Well...to be honest, I don’t know.” Lucy moved out of the hug and turned to stare up at Gracie in hopeful surprise. Peter was staring too, though the hope was replaced with confusion. “I don’t know.”
"You believe her story?" A incredulous Peter cut in here. Gracie wasn’t enjoying the feeling of being cornered but she also didn’t want to lie. Lucy seemed to believe her story and was so crushed no one else did...it just didn’t feel right.
“I don’t not believe her. I think I want to hear more about the wood first before I say for certain."
“Great!” Lucy grabbed Gracie’s hands in her own and pulled her towards the door. Used to this sort of thing from her own siblings Gracie let Lucy drag her back to the room they had all met the night before, shrugging to Peter as they went past him. Once Lucy and Gracie had sat down on the couch she jumped into her story. Gracie listened as Lucy spun a tale of a wood in winter though here it was Summer, of a lamppost sitting out of the ground by itself, and of a faun only a little taller than Peter was. Said brother didn’t show up at the door until Lucy had told most of her story, so he missed the part about Tumnus apparently planning on selling his littlest sister out to a witch. Gracie had to bite her tongue to not interrupt at least three times, one to point out to Lucy she had went off with a complete stranger, two that she went to the strangers house and just ate and drank what was given to her, and third to say something unkind about anyone wanting to sell her out, to a Witch or otherwise.
“So, do you believe me?” Lucy, a bit breathless from all the talking, asked gazing up at Gracie with her big doe eyes. Now here Gracie bit her lip; she knew Peter was lurking at the doorway and knew she had to chose her words carefully.
Speaking slowly, as she was weighing her words, she focused on Lucy and took her hands. “Lucy, a large part of me wants to believe you. As a matter of fact if I gave it a number I’d say I’m split 90/10. That 10, is the part that is saying that you couldn’t have been gone until nightfall, inside a wardrobe, and come back that fast. At least without some sort of sign. If anything the only discernible proof you have, is the fact you are waaaay too cold right now for how warm it is in this place.” Gracie felt a little smug when she spotted Peter straighten up off the door at that, now looking Lucy up and down. Gracie focused back to Lucy, who was looking confused.
“But it happened, I wouldn’t lie about something like this!”
“Wait Lu, I’m not finished!” Gracie said calmly holding up a hand. “Remember that 90% that's left. That part of my says that you are too invested into this story for it to be a joke. And that you fully expected to be believed so...I will go on record saying, yes, I believe you.”
There are no words in the english language Gracie could think of at the time to describe how bright Lucy’s grin was. Squealing Lucy glomped Gracie and hugged her really tight. As she did and Gracie chuckled, she looked over Lucy’s head at the door to see Peter was gone.
It was later on, after Lucy had left for a snack leaving Gracie alone in the room, when Peter walked in and closed the door. Gracie looked up with a calm, stoic look on her face and nodded him to a chair. “Come in, there’s a chair waiting,” As Peter silently sat down Gracie closed the book she was skimming through and sat up, moving her legs down off the couch. “Well, have at it. To be frank, I’m a little surprise you didn’t flip your lid at me from the door,”
“I don’t know what to say to you right now,” Peter said then shook his head and folded his arms. “No, yes I do. How could you say you believe Lucy? Her story can’t have been true and there you were encouraging her!”
“Do you think I am a fat-head?” Gracie asked with a raised eyebrow and was amused, and a little surprised to see Peter's’ cheeks redden a little. “Balled up, a sap, off my nuts?”
“No! No, I don’t-I mean,”
“Look Peter,” Gracie sighed and crossed her arms as well. Her hair slid into her eye a bit but she ignored it to look Peter in the eye. “I am not a rube or screwy. I told Lucy the truth. A large part of myself believes in Lucy, a small part does not. The key is in my feelings and my open mind. Lucy looked devastated when none of her own blood believed in her. Worse, you all dismissed her hurt without problem and were set to leave her alone. Now look, I have siblings myself, the oldest is the same age as Lucy. I’ve gotten pretty good at sniffing out lies from kids that age and under. If Lucy is anything like Ruthie, then there must be at least a bit of truth in her tale. Or at best she believes it and that alone means she should be listened too.”
Peter ran a hand through his hair looking like he wasn’t sure to be mad or just frustrated or ashamed at Gracie’s reasoning.
“She has an overactive imagination, but it's never gone this far." he sighed out.
Well at least he sounds like he’s thinking about it, or at least how Lucy felt from his voice. Gracie thought and sighed.
She stood up, placing the book on the nearby table. “Believe what you want to, Peter. Believe the story is all stuff and ‘tosh’ as you Brits say. But for myself, I will decide for myself what I believe and my heart says there's something to this magical wood story. And for Lucy, that is enough.” Gracie walked to the door, then paused with her hand on the handle and turned to look back at Peter. “Though, whether you believe the story or not, Peter, you might want to talk to Lucy a bit about Stranger Danger. If you missed it, Lucy apparently went with the male faun and ate his food and nearly paid for it. Peace,”
Gracie left the room, closed the door, and walked down and to the left of the hallway. Once out of eyesight of the door, she slumped onto the wall and pulled her glasses off her eyes to pinch her bridge. She breathed out and chuckled. “Well, at least he didn’t forget his British manners. Nice to be proven wrong about how he will treat me...at least for now.” From then Gracie relaxed around the Pevensies in the sense of race and stopped expecting them to bust out The Words.
It’s probably a good thing i didn’t add I believe in fairies and the idea of a magical wardrobe is the bee’s knees, she thought with a silent chuckle.
Thank you for the HITS and the KUDOS Claireisclaire!
Chapter 3: Ain't Got the Sense They Were Born With...
It was a long and awkward evening for Gracie. Peter was ignoring her; when he wasn't using his side-eyes. It was kind of funny, given Gracie kept catching him and he'd look away flustered. Susan and Edmund, who didn't know what was going on with Peter and her were confused and Susan kept starting to ask but never got the words out. And Lucy, well, Lucy was quiet the whole night. Even with Gracie willing to believe in her, the fact her own siblings didn't even try hurt. Lucy was quiet the next day and evening. By then Gracie had struck up a tentative friendship with Susan over their shared love of reading and being the oldest sister; Peter had decided to leave the wardrobe story for now and wasn't ignoring Gracie anymore (it was mostly thanks to her humor, he almost hurt himself trying to hold in his laughter when she told the others a story from back home); and Edmund...well Gracie wasn't going to say it to his face, but Edmund was a Brat.
It's probably just from the war and our indefinite stay here, Gracie told herself as she was stuck watching another spat between the brothers. ...though I could be wrong. I bet all this fighting with Peter isn't helping things...sibling rivalry is so loud...
That night Gracie left for bed after a fun night of dancing to Jazz music on the radio. She had managed to get both sisters to join her and even got some giggles from Lucy. Peter just watched, but did tap his feet to the beat and singing of Ella Fitzgerald and clapped for the girls when they were done. Edmund just sat in the corner, half reading a book from the study. He looked like he wanted to join in, but didn't.
She was just putting her Nancy Drew book down to go to sleep when Gracie heard Lucy shouting, "Peter, Peter wake up! Gracie, Susan, Peter, wake up! It's there! It's really there!"
"What is?" Gracie jumped out of bed and slipped on her slippers and robe over her bed gown and followed the noise to Peter's room. Lucy was jumping up and down on Peter's bed excitedly to wake him up.
"Narnia! It's all in the wardrobe, like I told you!" she continued talking as Gracie got to the door.
"Oh, you've just been dreaming, Lucy," Susan said as she came into the room past Gracie who stayed where she was.
"But I haven't! I saw Mr. Tumnus again! And this time, Edmund went too!"
That's when Gracie noticed that Edmund was standing behind the door so she moved into the room to watch. Everyone was looking at Edmund, who had an almost panicked look on his face like a rabbit.
"You...You saw the faun?" Peter asked from his bed.
Edmund slowly shook his head.
"Well, he didn't actually go there with me," Lucy corrected herself thoughtfully. "He...what were you doing, Edmund?"
"I...was just playing along," Edmund said, getting a smug and superior smile on his face that made Gracie frown and fold her arms. "I'm sorry, Peter. I shouldn't have encouraged her; but you know what little children are like these days. They just don't know when to stop pretending."
"Oh applesauce," Gracie breathed out as Lucy's face crumbled, she began crying then scrambled off Peter's bed and ran out of the room, nearly bumping into Gracie as she did. "Lu! Wait, be careful!" Gracie rushed after Lucy and heard footsteps following behind. Glancing back she saw it was Peter and Susan. When they all finally caught up with Lucy, they found her hugging the Professor as he stood there awkwardly, seemingly not knowing what to do with the child latched onto him like her life depended on it.
"You children are one shenanigan shy of sleepin' in the stables!" a irate and disheveled Mrs. Macready said as she ran up from nowhere, making Gracie yelp in surprise. She froze at the sight of the Professor and a still crying Lucy. "Professor. I'm sorry. I told them you were not to be disturbed."
"It's alright, Mrs. Macready," the Professor said gently, patting Lucy on the shoulder awkwardly. "I'm sure there's an explanation. But first of all, I think this one is in need of a little hot chocolate."
The Professor gently pushed Lucy over to the woman, who said "Come along, dear." more calmly than she had yet to speak to any of the kids.
Seeing this Susan and Peter started to head back to their rooms, but the Professor cleared his throat, and they stopped. Gracie hadn't even moved, other then to keep herself from chewing her lip. If Mrs. Macready was so worried about waking up the host of the manor...oh boy, are we in trouble?
With a finger the Professor led the three teens to his office, where they stood in front of his desk. As he began to stuff his pipe the man eyed the teens through his glasses.
"You seem to have upset the delicate internal balance of my housekeeper," he said to them, candidly.
"We're very sorry sir," Peter said quickly. "It won't happen again."
He tried to pull Susan and Gracie away, but Susan wasn't having it, apparently at her limit with Lucy. "It's our sister, sir. Lucy," she said to the Professor, stopping Peter in his tracks.
"The weeping girl,"
"Yes, sir. She's upset."
"Hence the weeping." Gracie held back a snort, suddenly not as nervous for some reason. Maybe it was the sarcasm.
"It's nothing," Peter insisted, his neck turning a bit red. "We can handle it!"
"Oh, I can see that." That was dripping in sarcasm Gracie thought with a smirk she lost before Susan saw it. Yeah it was definitely the sarcasm.
"She thinks she's found a magical land. In the upstairs wardrobe," Susan explained the problem.
The Professor froze and looked up at the teens curiously now. "What did you say?"
"Um, the wardrobe upstairs," Peter said pointing a finger up. "Lucy thinks she's found a forest inside."
The Professor got up and led the teens over to his sofa and they sat down on it while he sat in the chair across from him. "Tell me more,"
"She won't stop going on about it," Susan added.
"What was it like?" the Professor asked.
"Like talking to a lunatic!"
"No, no, no, not her. The forest!"
All three of the teens eyes widened at his words.
"You're not saying you believe her?" Peter asked in disbelief.
"But of course not," Susan said. "I mean, logically, it's impossible."
"What do they teach in schools these days?" the Professor muttered and Gracie held back a snort just barely. Being quiet and just letting things go was paying off. "How do you know," the man asked, "that your sister's story is not true?"
"Edmund said they were only pretending," Susan told him.
"And he's usually the more truthful one, is he? He is the more truthful one between the two?"
"No...this would be the first time." Peter admitted sharing a look with Susan. He and Susan were sitting next to each other with Gracie on Susan's other side. "Up until now, it would have been Lucy."
"And you, my dear?" The Professor asked Susan who was chewing her lip.
"Well, in general, I'd say the same as Peter. But-this couldn't be true- all this about magic woods and the Faun."
"That is more than I know," the Professor said, though something in his tone made Gracie give him a second look. "And saying someone of whom you have always found truthful is lying; that is a serious thing, very serious."
"We were afraid it mightn't been lying," admitted Susan. "We thought there might be something...well wrong with Lucy. From the stress of it all."
"Madness, you mean?" the Professor guessed coolly. "Oh you can make your minds about that. One only has to look her in the eyes and talk to her to see Lucy is not mad."
"But then," Susan started then stopped, lost for words.
"Logic!" The Professor said then muttered again, "What do they teach at these schools nowadays? There are only three possibilities here. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know yourself she doesn't tell lies and it's obvious that she is not mad. Then for the moment and unless any further evidence turns up, then logically...we must assume she's telling the truth."
"You're saying that we should just believe her?" Peter said glancing over at Gracie who had sat quietly the whole time.
"She's your sister, isn't she? You're her family. You might just try acting like one." the Professor said as a finishing note, that Gracie nodded too. With that they left, saying goodbye to the strange Professor, his words running through their heads.
"Well, I don't know about you two, but I am bushed." Gracie said and stretched her arms up over her head. She tried to beat it but was stopped by Susan.
"It just doesn't make sense. It can't," she said twirling a piece of her hair.
"No one said it did." Gracie said gently. "Think of it this way. It is better to listen to the Professor's' logic then thinking Lucy has gone off the bend. Though maybe everyone should lay off the topic for now,"
"Maybe you're right, Gracie," Peter said, looking from Susan to the hallway Lucy and Mrs. Macready had gone. "We should go and gather Lucy. We'll see you in the morning?" he asked Gracie who nodded.
"My schedule is clear for the day," she said with a smirk and the three separated. Soon Gracie was back in bed and after a quick prayer was fast asleep. The Professor's words bounced around inside her dreams and her imagination conjured up visions of snow covered trees and a faun in a scarf but no sweater. Even the irritating of being completely out of the conversation couldn't stop them and she slept the whole night through.
Chapter 4: Down the Rabbit Hole
It is way harder and more annoying using period slang than I thought so I'm going to lighten up a bit
The next day was sunny and the air smelled fresh from the rain. After the five guests were done with eating and after being told quite clearly that they were to stay out of the manor until after lunchtime, they went outside to play. After a while of everyone chasing after the rabbits in the yard, swimming in the pool out back-bar Gracie who rather not get wet hair- and a game of tag, the boys decided to play a game of cricket. Susan joined them though Lucy and Gracie opted out to relax. Plus, cricket wasn't a game Gracie had picked up yet and had much rather read her books. So she just relaxed on a tree stump, enjoying Nancy Drew, while Lucy made a daisy chain.
"Peter winds up, poised to take yet another wicket!" Peter threw the ball that ended up hitting Edmund's leg, bringing him out of his head.
"Ow!" Edmund exclaimed, a bit whiny to be honest.
"Whoops!" Peter laughed. "Wake up, Dolly Daydream!"
"Why can't we play hide-and-seek again?"
"I thought you said it was a kid's game."
"Besides, we could all use the fresh air," Susan put in.
"It's not like there isn't air inside," Edmund snapped with a eye roll. "Besides, we've been out here for hours,"
"Whining is quite unbecoming," Gracie said with a smirk behind her book. Edmund stuck his tongue out at Gracie and Gracie replied with pulling her left eye and sticking out her tongue. Susan glared at Edmund and Lucy giggled.
By then Peter had retrieved the ball and was ready to pitch. "Are you ready?" he called to Edmund, getting his attention.
Peter pitched the ball, and Edmund hit it this time but too hard, sending it flying through one of the mansion's many windows, creating a nice hole in the stained glass with a loud CRASH.
"Uh oh," Gracie closed her book with her special bookmark in place and the five went up to see what the damage was, managing not to be seen. Once there they found the ball had knocked over a knight's armor into a pile.
"Well done, Ed!" Peter scolded.
"You bowled it!"
"Technically it's kind of both of your faults," slipped out of Gracie's mouth and she covered it with her book at the twin glares. The lady like snort from Susan and the giggle from Lucy was worth it though.
"What on earth is goin' on up there?" Mrs. Macready's shrill voice rang out.
"The Macready!" Susan exclaimed, humor gone as they all realized how much trouble they were all in if they were caught there.
They all started running across the mansion in an attempt to avoid another lecture from the Macready about 'respecting the Professor's property'. And the punishment for the window, whatever it would be. Gracie almost suggested they just hide in the library and pretend to have been there the whole time, but the chance of that lie not working stopped her. Plus when they had headed down that hallway, they could hear Mrs. Macready talking.
"H-how?" Susan breathed out flabbergasted. "She was behind us!"
"Worry about that later!" Peter barked as they all turned back and went down a different flight of stairs.
Actually we probably should worry about it now! Gracie thought as they tried the doors to their rooms only to find them locked. How is she keeping up with us? While dragging her tour group with her?!
Every door and way out of the manor was locked or Mrs. Macready seemed to be in front or behind them. Finally the five found an unlocked door and Edmund pulled it open frantically.
"Come on!" Edmund near tripped rushing into the what everyone realized was the wardrobe room.
"Oh, you've got to be joking," Susan scoffed. The only thing to hide in was the said wardrobe and there was no way three teens and two kids could fit. And even if they did, Mrs. Macready was sure to find them and then what? But they were out of options and with the sound of Mrs. Macready answering a question just outside the five rushed for the wardrobe. Once there Peter held open the door and everyone smushed in like sardines. Peter went in last, making sure not the close the door all the way. Since it would be quite foolish to lock them all inside.
"I'm not on your toe! Move back!"
"Ouch, that hurt!"
"Will you stop shoving?"
"Is it cold to you guys?"
Everyone had pushed as far back as they could in the wardrobe, pushing each other and the coats. But to everyone's surprise there wasn't a backside to the wardrobe. In the dark Peter had somehow gotten behind Lucy so together he and Susan slipped on something. They fell backwards and landed on top...of fresh snow.
"Wha...?" Susan breathed out and together with Peter turned around. Right there, in front of their eyes, was the wood within the wardrobe. Standing slowly she and Peter walked out, giving the rest the room to follow.
Susan couldn't stop staring. "Impossible!"
"Daaaaaaannnnng...!" Gracie carefully walked past the other two and wrapped her hands around her arms at the cold, her book pressed to her chest. Her eyes were wide with awe and excitement. If the snow wasn't, well, snow, Gracie would have been jumping up and down then and there.
Magic, magic is real! She giggled like a schoolgirl and didn't even care.
"Don't worry," Lucy smiled serenely, walking out of the wardrobe with her hands behind her back. "I'm sure it's just your imagination." she finished pointedly to her siblings.
Peter let out an awkward chuckle. "I don't suppose saying 'we're sorry' would quite cover it?"
"No, it wouldn't."
The older siblings looked at Lucy sadly, looking and feeling rightfully guilty. Then Peter got hit right in the face with a large snowball.
"But that might!"
They all laughed and everyone quickly started making snowballs and throwing them at each other. Gracie though personally disliked being cold and cold hands, so instead she just grabbed a tree branch and shook it, getting both Peter and Lucy with the snow. "Ha!" she laughed hard, and had to duck behind the tree trunk when Peter started after her with a snowy smirk. "Watch the book!" she yelped with a laugh, bending over a bit to keep the pages safe.
But just then Susan hit Edmund and he yelled "Ow! Stop it!" stopping everyone and getting everyone's attention. "Instead of playing around, shouldn't we be exploring? Maybe that way, to the lamppost Lucy was always going on about?" Edmund grumped, waving a hand into the woods and Lucy's eyes went wide.
"...That's the right way to the lamppost."
Silence; Edmund's face twisted as he realized he just busted himself, then Peter realized what Edmund did and was livid. "You little liar!"
"You didn't believe her either!"
What kind of defense is that?
"Of all the poisonous little beasts! Apologize to Lucy." When Edmund said nothing but glared, Peter started for his brother and growled like a mad dog. "Say you're sorry! Now!"
"All right! I'm sorry!"
"That's alright," Lucy said, this time with the tone all siblings use when the other gets what's coming to them. "Some little children just don't know when to stop pretending."
"Oh, very funny."
"Oh I thought so," Gracie high fived Lucy and the two giggled. Then Gracie started sniffing and quickly went back to rubbing her arms. Not one of the Pevensies or Gracie were dressed for snow; it was the beginning of summer for crying out loud! The sisters were both wearing skirts and all were in short sleeves. Even Gracie, who was wearing pants, was only slightly warmer.*
"Maybe we should go back," Susan suggested, noticing and realizing this.
"Shouldn't we at least take a look around?" Edmund waved a hand at the trees.
While Gracie wanted to agree, she couldn't help but think Edmund either had no sense or had some ulterior motive to this. Maybe it was just her, maybe it was her instincts, or maybe it was her Reader Mind...but something about Edmund had seemed off since that night. And now, he seemed to be fixated on some point to the left. Unsure if she should speak though, Gracie kept her thoughts to herself.
"I think Lucy should decide," Peter said with a lighter voice, growl gone, turning to said sister with a smile.
Lucy smiled from ear to ear. "I'd like you all to meet Mr. Tumnus, the nice faun from before!"
"Well, then Mr. Tumnus it is!"
Susan scoffed. "But we can't go hiking in the snow dressed like this!" she gestured to her skirt and shoes, that were buried in the snow. "What about putting on some of these coats?"
"They're not ours," said Peter doubtfully.
"I'm sure nobody would mind, " said Susan sensibly. "It isn't as if we wanted to take them out of the house: we're not even taking them out of the wardrobe."
"That's some logic," Gracie smirked and grabbed a black coat for herself. She slipped it on and buttoned it up, finding a pair of long gloves even in the pockets. "Plus, the wardrobe seems to have a mind of it's own and if we went back to the manor to change we'd probably come face-to-face to Mrs. McCready."
"Capital point, Gracie, let's avoid that scenario as long as we can," Peter said with a light chuckle.
Peter walked over to the wardrobe and grabbed some other coats and handed them out. All of the coats were
waaay to big and seemed to belong to giants. Is the Professor friends to some or what? Without them knowing, everyone had a flash of royal robes in their heads, but was mostly dismissed. Only Edmund dwelled on the image of himself in royal robes and was startled out of the thought when Peter held out a coat in his face.
"But that's a girl's coat!" Edmund exclaimed.
Growling Edmund snatched the coat and put it on. Then for some reason he glared at Gracie like she did something. She just rolled her eyes, ignoring the unease she felt again. He's probably just mad I saw him get his chops busted.
Once they were ready the group set off deeper into the magical land Lucy had discovered and only Gracie was willing to believe in. it was after though when Gracie realized she accidentally still had her book. Shrugging to herself she slipped it inside a pocket of the coat. The group stopped in confusion when they saw a lamppost in the middle of the woods but after looking they moved on. Gracie looked back once in thought, and quickly caught up to the rest.
Lucy led them through the land, somehow not losing her way even though she had been here only twice. While curious Gracie decided to ask about that later. It could be a fluke of the world they were in. Anyway everyone had to admit that Narnia was absolutely beautiful, and even with the snow and ice it was (somewhat for Gracie) pleasant. The excitement of the trip kept the five warm, like carolers singing in winter or people taking a horse ride during a snowfall.
Feeling encouraged to have a little fun, Gracie sneakily made a snowball and aimed at Peter's' back. "Oh Petey, look out behind you!" she laughed and when Peter turned she let loose. The snowball hit him right in the shoulder and he sputtered.
Everyone, minus Edmund, began laughing as Peter chased after a laughing Gracie, who somehow kept spinning out of his reach. Right as she was about to tease Peter again he squawked as he stepped on a slick patch and ended up rolling down a hill. Lucy, laughing merrily, rolled right after him. Susan shook her head and sighed. "They are both liable to get sick now," she muttered under her breath and Gracie just giggled. She kindly bumped Susan's shoulder.
"Look on the bright side, it hasn't happened either times Lucy has been here, and in both times she went without a coat I might add, or at least the first one, hmm" Gracie tilted her head when she realized Lucy never talked about the second time she made it to Narnia, so she might have grabbed a coat. "Anyway, my point is if it hasn't happened yet, it probably won't now."
"That's easy for you to say," Susan said though without heat. She sighed and rolled her eyes. "You never seen those two
sick. It is insufferable. One fights until he is forced into bed, the other is so miserable it makes everyone miserable."
"Ouch," Gracie conceded the point and the two caught up with the rest, Susan making sure to brush the snow off of Lucy's hair. Throughout it all, Edmund was as silent as a mouse, often looking off somewhere. Gracie didn't know what it was that made her uneasy when she looked at him but once again she kept her thoughts to herself.
A little while later Lucy started describing the cave Mr. Tumnus lived it and Gracie made a point to catch both Peter and Susan's' eyes and give them a pointed raised eyebrow. Peter whispered into Susan's ear and Gracie went back to listening to Lucy.
"We'll have lots and lots of lovely food, and we'll have lots and lots of..." Lucy trailed off when she looked ahead of her. The door to the cave of Mr. Tumnus was gone.
"Lu?" Peter asked at his sister's silence. At that Lucy took off towards the door. "Lucy!"
The rest ran after Lucy and inside the house.
"Oh boy," Gracie muttered as she carefully stepped over some glass and looked around. The whole place was a hot mess and it was clear that a huge struggle had taken place. Everything they saw was either ripped, torn or covered in mud and snow sludge. And something reddish that had Gracie tense and quickly cover up with some mud. Whoever it was had even gone so far as to slash at a portrait of a faun over the fireplace with a knife. The ashes were spread out and when Susan waved a hand over them they were long cold. Whoever was in the cave last, was long gone.
"Who would do something like this?" Lucy asked softly.
Peter looked around and noticed a yellowed piece of parchment attached low to a pillar. He pulled it off the nail and squinted in the low light from outside. "'The former occupant of these premises, the Faun Tumnus, is hereby charged with High Treason against Her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands, etc, and awaiting trial for this and of comforting her Majesty's enemies, harboring spies, and fraternizing with humans. Signed Maugrim, Captain of the Secret Police. Long Live the Queen'."
That's a mouthful. "Maybe this place isn't such a gas after all," Gracie said gazing up at the books still in their bookcases.
Is that a book on...humans? Gracie placed a finger on a book titled Is Man a Myth and held back a amused smirk at the reverse here.
Susan took the paper from Peter and looked over it. "All right. Now we really should go back," she insisted.
"But what about Mr. Tumnus?" Lucy pleaded.
"If he was arrested just for being with a human, I don't think there's much we can do. Beside that, it's getting darker outside, and colder by the minute, and we haven't brought food."
"You don't understand, do you? I'm the human! She must have found out he helped me. We have to try and rescue him,"
"A lot good that'd do," Edmund said in a grouchy tone. "When we don't even have food."
"Shut up, you!" Peter snapped sternly, still mad at Edmund from before. Gracie frowned again at Peter's temper and felt uncomfortably on the outside. Sure, he had lied before, but did Peter need to hold onto his anger for so long? Glancing at Edmund Gracie noticed he looked guilty as well as stubborn and annoyed. Guilty for the lie? Or for something else? She mused.
"Maybe we could call the police," Peter offered getting back on topic, ignoring Edmund again with a sniff.
"These are the police," Susan blandly pointed out.
Peter looked over at Lucy. "Don't worry, Lu. We'll think of something."
"Why?" Edmund interjected. "I mean, he's a criminal."
"Because when he had the chance to sell Lucy, he didn't; knowing something like this could happen." Gracie spoke up here, her voice calm and sure, and giving Edmund a hinting Look. He really needed to stop digging his hole before he went too deep.
Gracie's words seemed to make Susan change her mind, as the girl twirled a piece of her long hair in troubled thought. "I wish we'd never come here. But...I think Lucy's right. I don't want to go a step further but we must try to do something for Mr Whatever-his-name-is,- I mean the Faun."
"Mr Tumnus," Lucy supplied sadly.
"And I agree," said Peter. "While I am worried about us without food, we can't go back or we run the risk of not being able to get back into this country again. What we need is a plan, or a good idea,"
"The problem here though isn't food, though it is a problem," spoke up Gracie, eyeing the red stuff on the ground she didn't quite cover up from the different angle. "The problem is: if the Queen wanted Lucy, just one human, so badly to condone all this," Gracie waved a hand around. "Then what would happen if word gets back that now there's five humans mucking about? Forget about rescuing Mr. Faun; we'd more likely end right next to him in a cell. Even if we tried hard not to get caught, we 'ave no clue where he was taken or where he could go if we did get him out. A rescue like that is going to need more than a idea or plan; we need a miracle."
The others were about to say something, probably not anything nice given the sad look of betrayal from Lucy (and wasn't that hypocritical), when they all heard a small "Psst!" As one everyone looked at the doorway to find a bird perched on the table next to the opening.
"Did that bird just 'psst' us?" Susan asked incredulous.
It's a magical land with fauns and witches. Gracie thought amused, moving on from being irritated. If the birds weren't at least somewhat smarter then back home I'd be amazed. Huh I guess that'd mean people here can eat birds if they are dumb. Note to self, if we stay here for a while, find out what can and can't be eaten for meat.
"I wonder if birds can speak in Narnia?" Lucy wondered, confirming that at least Tumnus hadn't told Lucy everything of Narnia. Then her eyes went bright. "I wonder-Please, can you tell us where Tumnus the Faun has been taken to?"
The bird tilted its head then flew out the doorway.
Taking that as a 'yes' the four siblings started out of the cave but Gracie first grabbed a poker from the floor. Gripping it tightly in her right hand she then followed the others out, hiding the poker behind her back. Immediately she and the others started to feel like they were being watched. Suddenly the woods and snow wasn't as innocent as before. The bird, a robin with bright red feathers, psst'd again at the group from a tree.
"I think it wants us to follow him." Lucy said then took off into the trees.
"Lucy!" Susan rushed after her sister, the boys and Gracie quicking following. The bird flew from tree to tree and would stare at the group with a hard stare until they caught up. They followed the bird for about a half an hour. The coats were really doing their jobs as the five were feeling pretty warm, but their feet went numb after a while. At some point the girls ended up in front with Peter and Edmund behind. Gracie was in the middle, idly swinging the poker and humming to herself, as the boys spoke to each other in low tones.
Well at least Peter is willing to talk to his brother now. I guess as long as he isn't being a brat to Lucy Ed's tolerable.
"Great Scott!" Gracie jumped at Peter's sudden volume change behind her back and glanced back to see him looking both shocked and worried. Edmund nodded and said "And no chance of dinner either,"
Were these four given better rations or something? Yeash it's all about food with them. Gracie wondered with a eyeroll. What they should be worried about is the fact that we're following a bird deeper into a magical wood and are probably lost now. Unless we're lucky I doubt we can backtrack to the cave let alone the wardrobe. She rubbed her nose absent mind and hummed as she realized her nose was behaving so far. It was feeling dry and her fingers were hidden into the sleeves. Here's hoping the bird hurries up and we end up somewhere with a fire. Hmm, I wonder how late it is back home...
Suddenly the sisters ahead gasped and everyone looked up and watched as the robin disappeared into the sky.
"Now what do we do?" Edmund said, giving Peter a look of 'I told you so' no one missed. Then a noise lower to the ground made everyone stiffen. Lucy clutched onto Susan, and Susan clutched onto Peter. Edmund stood by himself but also looked scared, even if he was trying to look more high-and-mighty. Gracie fixed her glasses with her left fingers and got ready to swing the poker when the thing moved into view.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
"It's...it's a beaver," Lucy remarked.
Peter slowly moved towards the beaver with his hand outstretched. "Here boy," he said as he clicked his tongue. "Here boy."
Gracie looked at Peter like he had lost his mind. The beaver looked at Peter's hand and then to their amazement and shock, (well more like amazement and amused-excitement for Gracie) the beaver opened its mouth and said, "I ain't gonna smell it if that's what you want!"
Chapter 5: Kind Souls and Tales to Tell
Peter slowly moved towards the beaver with his hand outstretched. "Here boy," he said as he clicked his tongue. "Here boy."
Gracie looked at Peter like he had lost his mind. The beaver looked at Peter's hand and then to their amazement and shock, (well more like amazement and amused-excitement for Gracie) the beaver opened its mouth and said, "I ain't gonna smell it if that's what you want!"
"Oh. Sorry," Peter said, taking a step back. Gracie snorted and covered her mouth when Peter gave her a look. She smirked and stuck a tongue out at him.
"Lucy Pevensie?" the beaver said here.
Lucy's eyes widened even more and she stepped towards the talking beaver. "Yes?" The beaver handed her a small piece of cloth from...somewhere. "Hey, that's my handkerchief- the one I gave to poor Mr.—"
"Tumnus," the beaver finished with a nod. "Poor fellow, he got it to me just before they took him."
"Is he alright?"
The beaver looked around him nervously. "Further in." he said in a whisper.
Peter and Lucy started to follow the beaver, but Susan quickly pulled Peter back. "What are you doing?" she demanded.
"She's right," Edmund added. "How do we know we can trust him?"
Peter shrugged his shoulders. "He said he knows the faun."
Susan looked at him pointedly. "He's a beaver. He shouldn't be saying anything!"
"A hanky is kind of loose proof, even in my book." Gracie added, her suspicion back as the novelty faded.
The beaver had ducked back into the bushes but after noticing no one was following him he poked his head over a bush. "Everything alright?"
"Yes," Peter answered promptly, like a kid trying to pull a fast one. "We were just talking."
"That's better left for safer quarters." the beaver glanced around and ducked back under the brush.
"He means the trees," Lucy clarified her voice almost serene as it was matter of fact.
They all looked up at the trees, trying to see any sign of life. Gracie bit her lip as some branches seemed to sway as they looked...though it could be the wind.
"Look, I'm about as happy to follow a stranger into the woods as the rest of you," Gracie said quietly. "But standing around isn't amounting to much. Besides, Lucy seems to be a grand judge of character. Maybe we should give the beaver a chance." she paused then added "Besides, it's' usually the meat eating violent talking creatures one has to keep an eye on."
With that the five followed after the talking beaver deeper into the woods as the light started to fade.
"Come on," the beaver said as he led the way. "We don't want to be caught out here after nightfall. And mind your tracks,"
After about an hour they stood on top of a hill and looked down upon a snow-covered dam.
"Ah, blimey! Looks like the old girl has got the kettle on. Nice cup o' Rosy Lee!"
"It's lovely!" Susan complemented, though she might have said it to be polite. It really was though, in a one-with-nature kind of way. Gracie had seen pictures of dams in books before and it seemed Talking beavers made their homes the same way. Though the addition of a smoke stack was a bit of a surprise.
"It's merely a trifle, you know. Still plenty to do. Ain't quite finished it yet. It'll look the business when it is though."
"How have you managed all this with the water frozen?" Gracie asked as the group walked on top of a huge river. It was frozen in mid movement so while the ice leading up to the dam was mostly smooth, probably thanks to the beavers themselves, the rest was ridged with waves paused in motion. The forms were a mix of foamy and wavy shapes and there was water that was going over a part of the dam and was frozen into a waterfall of icicles.
"The river isn't frozen all the time," the beaver explained though he couldn't get farther than that. The group paused as another beaver, a lady one, came out of the dam through a door.
"Beaver, is that you? I've been worried sick! If I find you've been out with Badger again, I..." Mrs. Beaver stopped short when she saw the five humans behind the male beaver. "Oh! Well, those aren't badgers. Oh, I never thought I'd live to see this day!" she said as she walked up to them.
Gracie tilted her head a bit at that. What is it about humans that has everyone in a snitch? Tumnus gets arrested for meeting one, a bird and beaver-guess I should call them Mr and Mrs- had to be sneaky, 'never thought i'd see the day'?
"Look at my fur," Mrs. Beaver hissed. "You couldn't give me ten minutes warning?"
"I'd have given you a week if I thought it would've helped!" Mr. Beaver teased.
Mrs. Beaver glared at her husband then she turned to the humans again. "Oh, come inside, and we'll see if we can't get you some food. And some civilized company."
They all stepped inside, having to stoop down low to get through the doorway and not slip.
"Excuse the mess. Can't get Mr. Beaver to get out of his chair."
The inside of the dam was warm and charming, with rugs on the ground and little three legged stools to sit and a table to eat off and a table with a old sewing machine. The smell of fresh food filled the small space and the humans could pick out potatoes amune the hams and strings of onions hanging from the roof. There were boots and oilskins and tools for fishing and building on propped up on the walls and in the back were bunk beds built into the wall there.
"Now that you're all here, I daresay Mr. Beaver, you'll get us some fish?"
"That I will," said Mr. Beaver and he ducked back out of the dam, Peter following to help. The rest helped Mrs. Beaver fill a kettle and lay the table with bread and plates for dinner. Mrs. Beaver drew a large jug and filled it with beer from a barrel that Gracie guessed was for Mr. Beaver. After the two returned from the outside everyone sat down to eat. Now the five humans had gotten used to eating rations thanks to the war so the sight and smells of the food made all of their mouths water. Even moreso when the fried fish, a trout, was finished cooking. The long walk from before plus the fact none of them had eaten since that morning had everyone digging right in.
Lucy, Peter, Susan, and Gracie all sat around the small table with the beavers while Edmund sat on the stairs under the door. His mind was elsewhere as he ate and soon everyone forgot about him, he was so quiet. After eating their fill of food, everyone leaned back as much they dared on stools and sighed in contentment. Then it was time to be serious.
"Isn't there anything we can do to help Tumnus?" Peter asked first.
"They'll have taken him to the Witch's house," Mr. Beaver answered, fixing his pipe (and what a sight that was, a beaver using a pipe). "And you know what they say. There's few that go through them gates that come out again. Statues. All full of statues they say it is, Her house. In and up the stairs and the halls and the yard. People she's turned" here he shuddered and raised his mug to his mouth. "Into stone."
"Fish n' chips?" Mrs. Beaver said quickly as she brought over another tray of food. When she noticed everyone's faces, especially Lucy's, she added, "But there is hope, dears. Lots of hope."
Mr. Beaver spit his drink back into his cup at those words, which caused Mrs. Beaver to get a look of surprise and embarrassment. "Oh yeah, there's a right bit more than hope!" He leaned in closer to them and said quietly, "Aslan is on the move."
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the humans had ever heard of Aslan, even Lucy in the two times she has been to Narnia. But at the moment the name rolled out of Mr. Beaver's mouth everyone felt something; something different. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror and ice shooting down his spine. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous as though he could do anything. Susan felt as if some delicious smell, or of some delightful strain of music had just floated by. And Lucy got the feel you have when you wake up one morning and realize it's the beginning of the holidays or summer. Gracie felt comfort like a warm hug from her parents and the feeling of excitement from a good book. Out of the five though, she alone also noted something was oddly familiar about this sudden feeling inside, but she didn't get a chance to think on it.
"Who's Aslan?" for Edmund shattered the moment from his spot, the feeling of horror jumping at the name and he just kept back a grimace.
Mr. Beaver just started laughing. "'Who's Aslan?' You cheeky little blighter!" Mrs. Beaver tapped her husband's ' shoulder. "What?" He looked at the humans and saw their cluelessness. "You don't know, do you?"
"Well, we haven't exactly been here very long," Peter said.
"Well, he's only the king of the whole wood. The top geezer-". (Gracie just held in a snort) "The real King of Narnia! That human masquerading Witch has been running and ruining things for years in His absence."
"He's been away for a long while," Mrs. Beaver added. "Since before my fathers' time,"
"But he's just got back! And he's waiting for you near the Stone Table!"
"He's waiting for us?" Lucy asked.
"You're blooming joking!" Mr. Beaver turned to his wife in frustration. "They don't even know about the prophecy!"
There's a prophecy too? I should have figured! Magical land, witches, talking animals that eat pigs apparently; a prophecy is par the course! Gracie mused thrilled as she took a sip from her mug of warm cider. This is getting really interesting, some of Gracie's favorite books had prophecies and she found herself leaning forward a bit eager to hear the words. Wonder what this one has for us, ooo what if it's cryptic and vague?!
"Well, then..." Mrs. Beaver urged her husband. Should I call them husband and wife or mates? Note to self, look up if beavers are 'mates'. Does it count if they talk?
Mr. Beaver turned back to them. "Look. Aslan's return, Tumnus' arrest, the Secret Police, it's all happening because of you!"
"You're blaming us?" Susan asked sharply drawing up.
"No!" Mrs. Beaver told her. "Not blaming. Thanking you."
"There's a prophecy. 'When Adam's flesh and Adam's bone sits at Cair Paravel in throne, the evil time will be over and done'," Mr. Beaver explained.
"You know that doesn't really rhyme," Susan pointed out and Gracie held in a snort again.
"Yeah, I know it doesn't, but you're kind of missing the point!"
Mrs. Beaver put her paw on Mr Beavers' shoulder to steady his temper. "It has long been foretold that two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve will, with Aslan striking the fatal blow, defeat the White Witch and restore peace to Narnia."
...I should have known. Gracie's expected face settled on it's 'neutral' setting and she made a point to look down in her mug as she took a sip of her drink. Deep inside the disappointment burned and she chastised herself for getting so excited. Even the Beavers seemed to realize the odd number in the prophecy compared to reality and everyone was either looking at Gracie or each other. Gracie felt her face warm though no one could tell and her eyes had started to sting. Her thoughts were rushing around in her mind too fast to type, but the jest was Are you kidding me/of course only two girls/three guesses who they get to be/why am I even here then/well it could be any of us three/not likely/like it'd be me over them/dang it and I was liking this place/oh I better say something/stupid stupid stupid-
"It's fine, please continue." Gracie said looking up with a small smile, her voice polite and kind of dead, hiding the hurt and disappointment she felt for getting her hopes up. For believing that everything has a reason and that hers was anything equal to the others. It was actually creepy in a way to the Pevensies and they shared worried looks.
"And you think we're the ones?" Peter asked in disbelief, moving on like Gracie asked, though he didn't look happy about it.
"Well you'd better be because Aslan's already fitted out your army!" Mr. Beaver told him with a nod.
"Our army?" Lucy exclaimed.
Susan looked at Peter pointedly. "Our mum's sent us away so we wouldn't get caught up in a war."
Peter looked at the Beavers. "I think you've made a mistake. We're not heroes!"
"We're from Finchley!"
Technically I'm from Ohio
"Thank you for your hospitality. But we really have to go."
"No, you can't just leave!" Mr. Beaver said as Peter and Susan stood up.
"He's right," Lucy said to her siblings. "We have to help Mr. Tumnus."
"It's out of our hands," Peter said firmly. He turned to the Beavers. "I'm sorry, but it's time the five of us were getting home. Ed?" They all looked around them for the youngest brother, Gracie suddenly noticing it was about two degrees colder inside. "Ed?" Silence was his only answer. Peter turned back around. "I'm going to kill him." he breathed.
"You may not have to," Mr. Beaver said gravely. "Has Edmund ever been to Narnia before?"
Chapter 6: Aren't Unattended Lit Lamps a Fire Hazard? (Part 1)
"Hurry!" Peter called to the others.
The three siblings and Gracie had rushed out after Edmund, slipping and sliding on the ice as they followed his tracks. After nearly injuring themselves three times each, they finally all made it to a ridge where they could see a huge ice castle afar off in-between two mountains.
"EDMUND!" Lucy's cry could be heard echoing over the ice, she and the rest having stopped on the high curve of where the Beaver's part of the river met the rest.
"Shh!" Mr. Beaver shushed frantically. "They'll hear you!" Peter started after his brother again, but Mr. Beaver grabbed his coat, his sudden weight nearly sending both over the edge. "NO!"
"Get off me!" Peter yelled.
"You're playing into her hands!"
"Ho' on Earth did he get down there?" Gracie said incredulously to herself, her glasses fogging up from the cold, having been last to the ridge. The moon was high in the sky and with it's light everyone could just make out a small dot moving towards mountains. And in between, if you squint, you could make out the tops of a castle.
"We can't just let him go!" Susan yelled, apparently not hearing Gracie or just more concerned with her little brother being a moron to care.
"He's our brother!" Lucy added.
"He's the bait!" Mr. Beaver said in the loud whisper, moving his paws in emphasis. "The Witch wants all of you!"
"Why?" Peter demanded.
"To stop the prophecy from coming true! To kill you! ALL of you!"
Gracie felt her heart skip a beat and her eyes went wide as the truth hit.
Oh, my goodness. This is real.
The five, some were teenagers but all were kids really, all were inside a Magic wardrobe in a Magical land with a dictator that wanted to kill the lot of them. This wasn't just a good book she was reading inside a safe study or out in the yard of the Professor's' mansion. This was a real, Honest To Goodness world-and Edmund had just given his sorry (or soon to be sorry, if she ever got her hands on him) behind over to the Witch. She couldn't just close the book and come back to the adventure when she was more prepared for the twist. This was happening, here and now, and she was apart of the whole thing.
Even if I'm not apart of the prophecy here. A mean little voice whispered and Gracie frowned at herself then mentally shook her head. This was not the time to be thinking of myself-the Pevensies have lost a brother. Gracie scolded herself and looked over to the siblings, with sympathy as they started fighting with each other. She wanted to say something, but what can you say? 'Sorry your brother gave everyone the slip and is now now either sipping tea with the Witch Queen or in a nice cushy cell?'
"This is all your fault!" Susan yell accusingly to Peter, her face twisted with frustration and worry. She looked as if she'd have pushed Peter if they weren't balancing precariously on ice.
"My fault?" Peter crowded eyes wide incredulously.
"None of this would have happened if you had just listened to me in the first place!"
"Oh, so you knew this would happen?" Peter's snear was quite dark and impressive. Though the angry piercing eyes Susan sent back was just as.
"I didn't know what would happen. Which is why we should've left while we still could!"
"Stop it!" Lucy interjected, moving in between her siblings her eye's looking wet but her face still dry for now. "This isn't going to help Edmund,"
"An' neither is all this yelling," Gracie added laying a hand on Lucy's shoulder in support, her voice quiet as if in church or a library.
"Their right," Mr. Beaver sighed with a shake of his head. "Even if he hadn't run now, The Witch has had her claws in him. He must have 'ave some of her curse' food. Only Aslan can help your brother now." Gracie wanted to ask about this sudden mention of cursed food but didn't get her words out before a stormy faced Peter cut her off.
"Then take us to him,"
The five looked back at the castle, wondering what was going to happen to Edmund now, then turned and headed back to the dam to tell Mrs. Beaver and to plan out something to do now. The silence was almost deafening after all the yelling, the only sounds were mutters from slips and their footsteps in the snow.
"Peter," Gracie chanced after a few minutes. So far Susan and she were closer as friends but Susan was moving at a pace that was clear she wanted to be alone. Or at least left alone, seeing as she had a now mute Lucy's hand in her own and Gracie wasn't going to interrupt them. If she didn't feel as bad for the three as she did, Gracie probably would have just kept her mouth shut the whole trip back to the dam. But...she did, she did feel bad and so she hazarded reaching out to at least one. Besides, she knew at least some of what Peter was feeling. She is a big sister after all, even if that fact was starting to hurt a tad. "I'm sorry, about Edmund."
Peter just kept on walking for a few minutes and Gracie was feeling her cheeks warm a bit when he sighed, his breath fogging in the cold. "I don't, I just don't get it. I mean I know that Edmund's been having a hard time with the war, us nearly being killed in the raids, dad leaving us to fight in the war, and us having to leave our mum back there alone; but I never imagined that he would do...something like this."
"Well...an' this is just my observation...but you guys did seem to have some issues between you all from the moment we met. Edmund never seemed happy or relaxed like the rest of us, unless he was making Lucy mad or sad or when he was swimming this morning. Maybe he was lashing out, being a bully, to cope with it all. The fighting probably made it worse. Maybe...when he came here the Witch offered him something so good he couldn't refuse. Or maybe he doesn't know what he is really doing. Mr. Beaver did say he must 'ave had some cursed food so maybe that stuff is to blame."
"I suppose so. I just can't understand what would make him think that a Witch is to be trusted, cursed food or otherwise. Didn't he hear all the Beavers and even Lucy herself said about the woman?"
Gracie shrugged, deciding against mentioning the food again since they didn't know if it was really a factor. "Maybe he didn't or thinks the Beavers are having us on. Does he trust easily?"
Peter shook his head. "No,"
"Then that Witch of a lady must have spun quite the web." Gracie muttered as they almost made it back to the dam. Suddenly the sound of a wolf's howl filled the air. Everyone snapped their heads around at the sound. Gracie gulped as the howl was joined with others.
"The Witch wouldn't happen to employ wolves would she?" she asked rhetorically, gathering her coat up as everyone started backstepping.
"Run!" Mr. Beaver cried in answer.
Chapter 7: Aren't Unattended Lit Lamps a Fire Hazard? (Part 2)
Suddenly the sound of a wolf's howl filled the air. Everyone snapped their heads around at the sound. Gracie gulped as the howl was joined with others.
"The Witch wouldn't happen to employ wolves would she?" she asked rhetorically, gathering her coat up as everyone started back stepping.
"Run!" Mr. Beaver cried in answer.
None of them hesitated. At his yell everyone ran like crazy as if the devil himself was on their heels. Which was probably more true than they realized. No longer caring if they'd slip, they mainly ran and just put faith and hope they wouldn't step wrong and hit the ice with their faces. The relief of reaching the dam was short lived. For even inside the dam the howls could be heard echoing in the dark night air.
"Hurry, Mother!" Mr. Beaver exclaimed as the burst inside. "They're after us!"
"Oh, right then!" Mrs. Beaver said then immediately began running around the dam packing up things.
"What's she doing?" Peter asked frantically.
Mr. Beaver shook his head in frustration.
"Oh, you'll be thanking me later," Mrs. Beaver told them. "It's a long journey and Beaver gets pretty cranky when he's hungry."
"I'm cranky now!" Mr. Beaver yelled.
"And sound travels faster than paws, we have at least twenty minutes before they reach us, and I intend us be prepared."
Susan and Gracie shared a look then rushed to help Mrs. Beaver, Lucy also when she could. "Do you think we'll need jam?" Susan asked out of the blue, holding up a jam jar.
"Only if the Witch serves toast!" Peter snapped from the door.
"Tha' is not helpin'!" Gracie snapped back as Susan looked at her brother pointedly, her American slipping out. "If you hav' time to be snippy, be helpful!"
Blimey Peter looked surprised to be yelled at but didn't have time to dwell on it. Instead he turned and helped Mr. Beaver push barrels over the doorway and to block the windows. It wasn't lost that they were barricading themselves inside but no one commented, too busy tying bags and slipping them on their backs. Loud growls and yelps were heard suddenly just as they finished and everyone watched in horror as the wolves attacked the dam from the outside, ripping the wood that made up the dam waaay too quickly for wolves. Or normal Earth wolves anyway.
Mr. Beaver waddle-ran to a barrel and pushed it off to reveal a trap door. "Badger and me dug this," he told everyone as he led the way down the ladder into the tunnel. "Comes out right near his place."
"You told me it lead to your mum's!" Mrs. Beaver exclaimed, making Gracie giggle-snort even under the circumstances. They all made it down and started down the tunnel, lamps lit already. Fire hazard aside, Mr. Beaver must have been planning on using the tunnel tonight before we showed up, Gracie mused as she ran. Whatever his reasons, the light was very appreciated, though the fumes less so. They were running as carefully as they could, since the ground wasn't flat and there were roots and rocks sticking out of it and the walls.
Suddenly, Lucy fell to the ground as she tripped on a weed. They all stopped and listened for a second. In the quiet they heard the howls and barks of the wolves seem to get louder as a crash was heard.
"They're in the tunnel," Lucy whispered eyes wide like a rabbits'.
"Lord have mercy," Gracie breathed out, hand nearly forming a cross in the air.
"Quick! This way!" Mr. Beaver urged from in front.
"Run!" Peter called out, turning back to help Lucy to her feet and nearly pushed her down again in his haste to get her in front of him. The order was now Susan in the front with the Beavers with Lucy, Peter and Gracie bringing up the rear. If the Beavers' home wasn't at risk I'd throw one of these lamps, Gracie thought, ducking a root from the wall. When the howls started to echo Gracie was near about to just throw caution to the wind when-
"Agrh!" she yelped as she was stopped short. She looked behind herself and saw the bag she was carrying on her back had gotten caught on a low root. She grit her teeth as she yanked on the root but when it didn't budge she moved backwards and yanked the bag free that way. By then the rest had run on ahead and were out of Gracie's' sight. She started running again, mindful of the root this time. "Wait for-!" Gracie's vision blurred as she suddenly was moving downwards and her scream was both appropriate and cut short by the hard landing. Her breath was knocked clean out of her lungs and all Gracie could let out was
"Stay still, Human," a deep, accented voice came from above, from more specifically the weight pressing down on Grace's back, in her ear. Her heart stopped.
Peter sat in silence as Mrs. Beaver tended to the foxes' wounds. The Fox, a bright orange one that could also Speak, had helped keep the Beavers and Pevensie siblings from being caught by the wolf police. Unfortunately he got bit for his efforts and was now being soundly mothered. It'd be funny if he wasn't so depressed right then.
"They were helping Tumnus, and the Witch got here before I did," the Fox explained then winced. "Ow! Oh!"
"Are you alright?" Lucy asked.
"Well, I wish I could say their bark was worse than their bite. OW!"
"Stop squirming!" Mrs. Beaver scolded him. "You're worse than Beaver on bath day."
"Worst day of the year," Mr. Beaver remarked, winking to Lucy as he tried to lighten the mood. But there was little amusement to be found when just Edmund was missing. Now they had lost Gracie too. And it's my fault, Peter thought ashamed. Not once after he picked up Lucy in the tunnel did he think of the kind girl that had talked to him not even a hour before. All he could think of was to run and to make sure his sisters at least made it out. Somehow, that meant his mind completely blanked and he was up a tree before it hit him Gracie wasn't there with them. When he saw her led out of the tunnel by a wolf that was up to her stomach in height (and that doesn't even mention his size) his mouth had went dry and his blood went cold.
I left her behind and now she's being taken to the Witch. And I can't do anything to stop it! How can I lead a army, as these creatures seem to want me to, if I'm so useless at protecting?
"Thank you for your kindness," the Fox said as he stood up from Mrs. Beaver lap, bringing Peter out of his thoughts. "But I'm afraid that's all the cure I have time for."
"You're leaving?" asked Lucy.
"It has been a pleasure, my Queen, and an honor."
'Queen'. Now that was also something to think about. If that prophecy was right then when this adventure was over, Peter and his siblings would be actual royalty. It was nuts! They didn't have a drop of royal blood in them and weren't from this world. Why would they, these Narnians, want them as their rulers? Was the White Witch so bad that Narnia was better off with four inexperienced English kids from Finchley, England?
"But time is short and Aslan himself has asked me to gather more troops." the Fox finished. At the Name Peter felt again that strange feeling of bravery and strength, though it was heavily tempered by what was going on.
"You've seen Aslan?" Mr. Beaver gasped.
"What's he like?" Mrs. Beaver chimed in.
The Fox smiled. "Like everything we've ever heard. You'll be glad to have him by your side in the battle against the Witch."
"But we're not planning on fighting any witch," Susan insisted, speaking up for the first time since they went into the tunnel. She had been staring into the small fire Mr. Beaver had started, lost in her own thoughts and her face clearly showed her worry. Peter wasn't sure if he was happy she hadn't started on him yet again or not. Now though it was frustration on her face as she tried to make their stance clear again.
"But, surely, King Peter, the prophecy!" the Fox said to Peter, shocking him to attention at A, being addressed as King, and B, that the Fox completely turned from Susan to him as though his word was Law over all. It wasn't a nice feeling (even as the oldest sibling) and Peter swallowed the rising bile down.
Mr. Beaver turned to him. "We can't go to war without you."
Peter looked at all of them in defeat, truly not feeling like a King of any kind. He didn't deserve to either, a small voice whispered in his mind. War. They want to follow me to war. "We just want our brother back." And Gracie.
W/N Well there it is, Part 2. This marks the first of my in book change chapters. Some will have big ripples in the plot-lines, and others only a little bit. You'll just have to wait and see what happens next as the story unfolds. I hope you all like it, please let me know what you think, and thank you to everyone that has sent me kudos and comments and fav's so far.
They walked in silence; Gracie not wanting to anger Isoba and Isoba not wishing to speak at all. Isoba is the name of the 'lucky' Police Wolf that had captured Gracie in the tunnel. As he alone managed to capture a Human, Maulgrin himself gave Isoba the privilege to take their prisoner to the White Queen. Gracie had only time to look around at the stone badger for a hot second before being told to walk if she valued her limbs. The small comfort in all this was Gracie didn't see the others, so they must have run far or-and this was more likely so Gracie had to keep herself from looking-up the trees. Lucky them, a dark part of her heart grumbled. Should have been first...
Isoba led Gracie back around the Beavers den and then made the journey to the White Witch's palace worse then it would have. Mainly by not stopping, even when Gracie started to slip and almost fell as they went past the now sad looking dam and onto the frozen river. It was Ok for a wolf to walk on but a human not even wearing the right shoes?
After hitting her leg on a sharp rock covered in ice Gracie hissed quietly and pulled the coat tighter around herself, needing to see her feet and hoping the black fur would protect her. She doubted Isoda would care if she cut herself at all; doubted it very much.
The journey would have been near impossible if not for the full moon. Time and again Gracie would save herself only by putting her feet where Isoda had placed his paws and just missed sharp frozen waves of water by catching the ice glittering in the light.
Now one might think that Gracie was taking everything that happened abnormally well. If you didn't look closely you would think that anyway. Her face was blank, her steps sure as could be on miles of uneven ice, her hands nonchalantly in her pockets when not out for balance. But it you looked deeper, you'd notice that her eyes were wide and darting around like rabbits,her hands numb shaking fists, and her thoughts were racing in her head so fast it was like a hive of bees were inside her skull.
The adrenaline rush was running out by then and so was her chances. Normally having several things going through her mind wasn't a big deal for Gracie. But now with all the silence and internal fear bubbling inside; her imagination started up and got worse and worse as she watched the castle of ice get closer. It didn't help that the trip wasn't taking long, the castle was only two miles or so from the dam and with the brisk walk she and Isoba would be at the castle in under a hour by then. So strong Imagination+Fear+Silence equaled a rising Panic Attack. Her hands felt clammy, her heart was beating faster and felt like it skipped a few beats. And when her vision started to blur Gracie stopped in her tracks to get a hold of herself.
Girl, you are too old to be panicking right now! She scolded herself,and forced herself to take some deep breaths to calm her heart. You are in a bad situation and it's not getting any better if I freak out on this stupid ice or tee off my escort. I need, I need to calm down and watch out for my escape and/or rescue. Probably my escape actually given story plots. Yeah, think of plot lines. The captives hardly ever die...unless she wants something from me I can't give...
Isoda stopped and turned back his head, looking impassive, his golden eyes glowing faintly in the moonlight. "You need to move, or do I-?"
Gracie put a hand up to her hair and played with a piece as she nodded to Isoba, not confident in her mouth to work or to not snap, as he'd words rubbed her wrong. I just can't escape threats, can I? she thought humorlessly. At least that thought train was derailed. Gracie shivered all over at the thought but figured it was the cold.
Gracie breathed in the frigid air that was giving her frostbite and she bottled up her panic and anxiety. Once it was all contained she breathed out hard and stepped over a dip in the ice. Isoba watched the human recover silently with a unreadable face then turned back to the castle and started walking at the same pace as before. Then just as fast he stopped, Gracie froze in place, as Isoba sniffed the air. Then he turned around and started back towards the dam.
"The Queen has left in her sledge. We will follow the trail."
"Wait, what? We have to turn around?" Gracie actually squawked a bit and gave herself a mental face-palm.
Isoba just gave Gracie a side-eye. "You would rather wait for the Queen inside her ice dungeons? I have seen the affect it has on her prisoners. If the natural fear and cold does not wear you down, the magic in the very walls will. Now, we will follow the trail of the Queen and she will deal with you in person. Now, come."
With that Isoba started to run, moving as gracefully as a ballet dancer. Gracie growled under her breath at that, cheeks warm, then hiked up her coat and ran as fast as she could after him; knowing better than to disobey a three-foot something wolf. As she did she couldn't get over how just seconds ago she was dreading going into that castle and now that she wasn't she was mad that she had walked so far. And, as a nice little cherry, she noticed that running from the castle was of course even harder than towards. Her saving grace was her shoes holding up and natural dancing skill for she would have fallen and hurt herself 6 times by the time Isoba and she hit ground.
Not stopping or looking back Isoba moved into the rapidly thickening trees. Gracie nearly called out but her brain pulled the breaks and she didn't want to make things worse. The snow had long lost it's appeal by now and Gracie was back to near hating the stuff. She did hate the cold and with the sun long to bed, getting warm was a long way away for her.
At least I'm warming up now, she grumped, trying to see the good side as snow fell onto her neck from a branch. Yiiii! Edmund, when I see you, I will end you for this.
For miles Isoba led Gracie deeper into the wood, walking-and slipping-farther and farther inland. Through soft and hard snow, over sudden slick patches, and even down some slopes they tread. Gracie was a night owl by nature but she never had to walk for hours on end, never mind in snow, day or night. She was exhausted and freezing, her breath constantly fogging up her glasses. Her feet had long since lost feeling and if she didn't keep breathing into her hands they would have gone numb too. Her mind had even gone numb or at least it felt that way.
Finally, she had enough. There was only so much she could take. "Isoba," she shivered. In the back of her mind she realized she forgot the instinctive 'Mr' but he didn't seem to care when he stopped and looked at her so she went on. "I'm exhausted and numb from the cold. Please, can we stop for the night? And can I start a fire? If I don't get some heat on my feet and hands I might-! Please. My papa is a healer, I know what happens to humans who freeze. It's not pretty,"
Isoba thought on it and Gracie stood there shivering. She was miserable and getting a headache from the cold created snot. She didn't even have tissue or a handkerchief. Thankfully Isoba nodded and Gracie exhaled with relief. Isoba walked on until they found a open space for a fire pit and then started digging into the ground. Gracie watched for a minute then bent over and started picking up dead wood. Once she had enough she went back to the pit Isoba dug and started making the fire. Muttering to herself she ran through all the steps to start a fire in her mind. It took a while and as she rubbed a stick into a plank like piece of wood wind started up. Gracie growled under her breath, a sound that made one of Isoba's ears twitch.
Maybe I should look for some flint rocks, she thought as she bent over the wood, not wanting the wind to ruin any sparks she got out. As time seemed to drag on she wiped her glasses for the umpteenth time and suddenly felt like crying. She could barely get a spark and it died too fast to be helpful. It was useless. So she gave up, too tired and strained to care or try anymore.
"The wood is too wet. Or-or I'm doing this wrong I don't know and I don't care anymore I just want to sleep," she said sounding quite tired, hungry and sorry for herself. She let go of the stick and got up. She absentmindedly brushed off the snow from her coat as she turned. She walked under a nearby tree and knelt down under it. A random phrase from earlier that day played in her mind and she looked at the trunk.
"If any Dryads are living in this tree or other sprites or anything, please let me sleep here." She paused and when nothing happened she smiled weakly and gave the tree a thumbs up. "Thank you, you're a peach."
Quite frankly if anyone else had seen that they'd think she had lost her mind. Honestly, so did she. Gracie swung the bag off her shoulders and hung it on a low branch. Then she pulled her arms out of the coat sleeves and laid down on the lighter bed of snow. Isoba watched as Gracie wiggled around and managed to hide her whole body in the coat, like a sleeping bag. Arms wrapped tightly around herself and legs tucked, she closed her eyes, her glasses still on but she was beyond caring-plus it wasn't safe messing with her eyesight in this world-and after letting out a deep breath-
She started to silently cry slow rolling tears. Gracie held herself as still as possible and cried for everything that has happened that day and what was coming. She cried for wanting to stay in a foreign land with magic just to end up in danger. She cried for herself too, which is perfectly fine and not selfish, she told herself. She even cried for the Pevensies, who she didn't know if they were safe or even still alive. (A tiny part of her hoped they were as cold and miserable as she was but she pushed that feeling down into the abyss.) Gracie felt terrified and alone, stressed and hungry and most of all-sleepy. As her tears started to stop, she pulled herself together. Inside her mind she imagined being somewhere else, somewhere warm, which helped her calm down enough to pray.
The prayer wasn't one of the greats but it had feeling behind it, and afterwards Gracie felt some peace. Gracie then fell to a cold, uncomfortable sleep, her tears drying on her face.
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Some time later, Isoba got up from his spot and shook the snow off his fur. Standing he looked towards the human Daughter of Eve. Going easily under the tree branches he gazed silently down at the girl. He looked for a moment, then carefully lifted up a corner of the coat. He looked down at the sleeping humans' face. He saw she was really asleep-and deep too-and not faking to escape. He also saw the dry tear tracks on her face.
Isoba was a member of the Queen's police and an important asset as the spy, a scout, and sometimes assassin when the Queen-rarely-let her forces do the killings for her. That doesn't mean he was heartless. He knew the human girl was scared stiff at her future and for good reason. If she wasn't he'd call her a fool. For only Fools would go to the White Queen without fear; even the handful of rebels over her century long reign had some sense of terror when the Queen found them.
Right as he was putting the coat corner down again a strong wind blew under the tree, sending shivers up his body. The thought that if the sudden wind was freezing to him that the Daughter of Eve was probably freezing herself had him lift the corner again. He was right, the Daughter was shaking even with the thick coat around her body. Dropping down the coat again he moved back and turned to his chosen spot to sleep--but paused.
It was at least two hours later that Gracie, very sleepy still and only awake long enough to fix the coat over her face-which had fallen off-saw Isoba was sleeping next to her, his body blocking the bulk of the wind and keeping her warm. Later on she would theorize that she was also keeping him warm, from how close he was. But for the moment she just turned over and went back to a dreamless sleep.
TBH, this was one of the chapters of this story I was never quite happy with. I was constantly rereading it trying to make sure the feeling I wanted to convey was coming through my writing. After a while I realized this was just going to be one of those kinds of chapters and I needed to just upload this sucker or I'd never get back on track.
Sorry about that everyone! I'll try to do better from now on (no promises though because that is a Trap and a Jinx upon writing lol)
Thank you everyone for your Reads, Kudos and Comments! I treasure every one, even if I don't reply right away (sheepish sweatdrop)
Before daybreak Isoba woke first then woke up Gracie, whose brief awakening memory was now a bit fuzzy. The cry from the night before seemed to have helped as Gracie felt more in control and oddly it had her relaxing slightly at the sight of a full grown wolf telling her they had to move on. A little. Wolves are really dang huge. If anything she didn't scream when she saw his eyes when she opened hers so...take that as you will.
Gracie and Isoba started to hike again, the sun rising about 10 minutes after they started. They traveled over small ice streams, snow covered hills, and pass a small dinner party of animals made of stone. Gracie didn't think of why the animals were posed oddly-other than some artists odd aesthetic- until they had walked on and her brain caught up to her eyes. She swallowed hard and from then made a point not to look back. Isoba watched from the corner of his eye as he kept on.
This time Isoba took breaks, at one point letting Gracie rest on a tree trunk to find food. He didn't find any then; all the small animals seemed to be hiding, most likely thanks to the Queen having gone by, but he had gone longer without food. Gracie though found some berries to eat as they walked, along with the food that was in her bag from the beavers, but before she ate them she remembered where she was and just remembered what they looked like for later if she escaped and/or was rescued.
A misplaced foot later and Gracie slipped on a patch of ice and landed on her butt.
The word that slipped out from the shock made her cheeks warm and she giggled in spite of the pain. When Gracie looked up at Isoba he was just standing waiting there patiently for her. And, he even seemed amused, though that could just be in Gracie’s head. Still, from that moment, Gracie felt that her brief chance sighting of Isoba sleeping with her last night wasn't a dream and decided to relax a little around him. At least until they actually got to the White Witch.
It’s not like he's gonna hurt me now; he would have already, plus he can’t risk it...She thinks hopefully. Gracie thought sarcastically to herself with a mental smirk as she walked over a dip in the ground. Gracie pulled a roll from the bag and bit into it thoughtfully. Maybe I’m being stupid; too trusting, too willing to ‘see the good’. Meh, maybe crazy is a better word, I’m relaxing while being frog-marched to my date with destiny. But at least he hasn't bit me yet!
The two trekked onward, pausing for breaks and food. At one point they came up to a small melted stream with fish and watercress. Shocked, Gracie asked how the water was thawed and Isoba (surprisingly) explained that this was Spring so the smaller streams and rivers melted enough for fish. Intrigued Gracie thought about what that meant for Narnia as she spotted and poked at the bright green plant from the stream. Is this how the beavers had meat and fish? Speaking of; Gracie left the fish to Isoba, who had started to hunt farther downstream. While Gracie knew-some-safe plants to eat in the wild thanks to her books; she didn't know how to properly clean a fish, and didn't have a fishing rod or the courage to ask Isoba. Plus they didn't stay anywhere long enough to even try to make a fire again so once Isoba had enough to eat, off they went again. Before they left the stream behind them, Gracie had stared at the water in thought.
It was about midday Gracie guessed when she noticed she was feeling hot. "I must be out of my mind..." she muttered confused to no one as she stopped and unbuttoned the coat. Gracies eyes popped when she slipped the coat all the way off and realized the heat wasn't just her. She spread her arms out wide and breathed in the warming air and a big smile stuck on her face. “Ahhhh, warmth,”
"This-this is-impossible," Isoba blurted out, eyes wide with shock as he looked around him. Gracie looked at the wolf in surprise; he had frozen in place and looked almost frantic or something. Everywhere around the two the snow was rapidly melting and icicles were disappearing from the trees. As the snow fell off the trees small buds were revealed and flowers started to grow from the green covered ground. "The Queen's magic-!"
"The beavers said something about the White Queen's magic ending with the appearance of the others. Though he made it sound like they had to all be sitting in thrones for it to happen." Gracie shook mud off her shoe and checked the ends of her pants, pleased to see they were somehow clean after all that walking. "My ma is going to kill me when she sees this," she muttered absentmindedly as she noted the brown shoes were stained dark and she almost swore to feel a hole starting in the sole.
"If the Queen doesn't first." Isoba interrupted Gracie's thoughts, his words like cold water down her back. Gracie snapped her head to Isoba, who was looking towards the the river they were headed to. His back was stiff and his voice dark, the frantic look replaced with steeled eyes. "She is not far from here, I can smell her, her head dwarf, and the little prince." He sneered that last part and started walking before Gracie could absorb that her death was nearly here. Slipping the coat back on but leaving it open she followed behind, purposely slowing down and looking innocent when the wolf side-eyed her over his shoulder.
"I. Will. Drag. You." he deadpanned.
Gracie sighed and moved a little faster. If nothing else but to get this mess over with. She didn't like suspenseful tension.
The two went on as the spring thaw kept up. After a while Gracie rolled up her sleeves a bit, a bit for the heat but mostly she was nervous. The whole trip she had tried to figure out a escape that’d work. Climbing a tree was useless given she’s never climbed one before and Isoda would probably just snatch her like a mother cat. Point blank running as also out, as Isoba is a wolf. Nuff said there. If anything the idea of distracting Isoba by pushing him into water could work but one look at the large form and Gracie knew she wouldn’t be able to push him a inch.
Gracie breathed out hard, pleased she couldn't see the air anymore, and played with a free piece of hair.
And if I could escape, what would happen to Ed? Nothing good I'll wager. Probably throw him over a cliff or just turn him to stone and be done with it all. Although...she doesn't know I'm here, right? Right, the other wolves went the other way so of they didn't go back, they probably haven't seen the Witch. I could sneak and try a rescue. But am I willing to take the risk…?
“This is a load of horse feathers, that's what this is.” she muttered to herself and kicked a rock. Tired of playing with her hair Gracie put her hands in her pockets for a minute. Then she pulled the hands out again and she rewrapped her hair, cleaned her glasses, and bit her lip.
She mused over the idea that maybe she won't die. Edmund was with the White Witch for a reason, then maybe she wouldn't kill her outright. Maybe the Witch planned on a trade or bargaining with them to Aslan.
Even if that was true, that doesn't mean she will trade anything for me. I'm the oddball, the extra, black. One look at me and she might get so infuriated that Isoba caught the wrong girl out of the three that she turns him before me. Which would be messed up, actually; it's technically not his fault I was the last one in the tunnel.
With that negativity and bit of skin shaming, Gracie missed when the last of the snow left and the mud dried. She noticed the blossoms though and smiled weakly at the sight, taking her glasses off to wipe the pollen off.
Finally they heard the sound of rushing water. Loud and fast, and proving to both hikers that the thaw had reached the waterfall. Having guessed that would happen Gracie had a vivid picture of pushing Isoba into the water and booking it. Gracie glanced at Isoba and really started to think about it again-
But then she realized that the idea still had a very small chance for success. First Isoba had to be dumb enough to stand close enough to the waterfall to get pushed in. Then she had to catch him off guard which would be a miracle. And had to have the strength and momentum to push the wolf over, all whatever pound/stones of muscle he was. Then wouldn't he snap around his head as he went over and probably catch onto her coat or leg or arm and pull her down with him too? Gracie frowned and groaned inside as more and more flaws came to mind. So she chucked the idea, stomping a little for a ways in mental frustration. Then a switch flipped in her head and she blinked, a dark smirk playing on her face for a moment.
Wow, that was dark. I just got mad I can't easily commit murder at 15. Either this world is getting to me, the war messed with my head, or I've actually read too many action books. -Nah. Just self preservation, that’s all and I'm sticking with that justification. Gracie stepped over a large root. Besides-the trees have ears, heh, apparently now that I think about it.
A little bit later they could hear voices and Gracie swallowed hard. Great, even if I could get away with sending Isoba up the river, we didn't even get to the waterfall before meeting my executioner.
Wait. Wait a minute.
Gracie’s eyes went out of focus as started chewing her lips in a fury, her mind going a mile a minute.
That’s it-the waterfall! Yes- yeah this solves everything! I just have to time it right and-and Edmund was swimming in the pool before, he’ll be fine, and it's so warm he probably has-oh wait he left his coat behind so that’s good-wonder if he's caught a cold. Focus Grace, focus. For this to work I need a wing and a prayer. Oh boy this is bonkers...but if it works...
Gracie looked around, as though she could run and live, though she was really praying inside. She was going to need all the help she can get if her plan, her crazy last minute insane plan was going to work. The waterfall was at it's loudest and the smell of fresh water filled Gracie’s nose. Before Isoba and Gracie went around the trees separating the Witch from them she did a cross and crossed her fingers as she slipped the coat off and onto her arms, leaving the bag on her back.
Lord help me, I really wish I stayed home...
Man I planned on updating this last weekend my bad. Thanks for the Kudos and Reads!
Any comments are welcome (so long as they are sfw)