Chapter 1: The Return
“Maria!” a young girl called from the glistening waters of Lake Kibo. “Won’t you join us?”
Maria looked up from her scrolls, smiling at the group of children waving at her, a little way of from her seat at the edge of the water. “You know I don’t like swimming,” she said.
This was, of course, a lie. During the blazing heat of the summer, to swim in the lake was all anyone would have wanted. But Maria hadn’t touched the waters in five years. In truth, she was afraid, not of the water, but that when she was immersed, she would never want to come out.
“You’re no fun anymore, not since you started reading all those stories.” The little boy gazed at her with wide, sad eyes. “Would you rather be there than here, with us?”
Maria rolled up the scroll she had been reading and set it down beside her. “Don’t say things like that; of course I like being here with all of you.” She stood and walked to the water’s edge, careful not to get so close as to let the small waves touch her toes.
“Come on, Maria. Please!” The children began to yell demands for her to go further. She shook her head and turned to go back to her scrolls when the tide surged a little further onto the pebbled bay, washing over her heels. Maria felt a tingle of delight flow from her feet to her head. How she’d missed the lake’s waters. It wouldn’t hurt to bathe her feet for a little while longer, would it?
Maria turned back to the children, who were still calling for her to join them, and stepped further into Lake Kibo. The water covered both of her feet fully, providing long-awaited relief from the blistering heat of the midday sun. All previous thoughts of heartbreak and loss seemed to be washed clean out of her mind and up onto the shore. She took another step, and another. The light silks she was dressed in soon became heavy with water, but she didn’t stop, not even when the gold ring around her neck that held up the front of her dress began to pressure the top of her spine. The smiles of the children became closer and closer, and Maria couldn’t stand up anymore. She lifted herself to the surface of the lake and floated on her back to where the children tread the water, waiting for her.
“Am I still boring?” she asked the little boy with the wide eyes.
“No,” he smiled. “Not anymore.”
“You look like an angel!” squealed one of the girls. She reached under the water, pulling at the end of Maria’s braid, untying the end and letting her hair flow free, spreading like a halo around her head. Maria smiled; perhaps she had been spending too much time in her imagination, instead of appreciating the beauty that was all around her.
“What kind of story were you reading?” asked another one of the girls.
“It was a love story.”
“I’d much rather hear one of your stories than read about that sort of stuff,” the girl grimaced.
“Yeah, tell us one of your stories, Maria.”
“But you’ve heard them all so many times; you could probably tell them better than I can.”
“Please, Maria,” the children wined. “Tell us about the magical land. Tell us about Narnia.”
Maria’s smile began to fade. She suddenly wanted to get out of the water. It seemed to be getting colder, the sunlight seemed dimmer. She tried to bring herself upright, her now loose hair clinging to her neck as her head came out of the water, seeming to strangle her. She had pushed the land of magic so deep into the back of her mind that she wasn’t even sure if her stories were accurate anymore. She was even beginning to doubt that Narnia had ever existed in the first place, that it was just a fantasy she used to help her sorrow lessen. Perhaps it would have been best if it hadn’t existed at all.
She tried to move out of the group, towards the shore, but something was anchoring her. The children’s protests became muffled and impossible to understand. There was a tugging at her dress, pulling her downwards. Maria plunged her head beneath the water’s surface. In the clear blue water, she could see that nothing was pulling at her, yet she seemed to sink deeper and deeper into the lake. Soon she could not reach up and out of the water. She fought hard against the grip of the nothing, desperate for breath.
Her energy began to wane. The water became darker and colder every second. The pressure made her head ache furiously. It seemed there was nothing else to do but close her eyes and wait for her flailing body to lose all feeling. In the blackness of her mind, she felt regret; being near the lake was a mistake and she had pushed aside her better judgement to satisfy her own desires. Where she should have felt relief, she was surrounded by sadness; she knew exactly what was coming.
Her body should have frozen, coming up to a surface of thin ice. Maria opened her eyes to see an off-white sky hanging thick over the vast expanse of water she found herself in. Looking over her shoulder, she saw a cliff in the distance, mounted with a grand, snow-covered castle. She grappled at the ice, trying to steady herself against the choppy waves, only to have it break under her hands. Maria knew she had to move quickly if she was to survive the freezing waters.
Kicking her legs wildly, she started in the direction of the cliff. The ice became thicker the closer she got to the shore. Once it was solid enough to take her weight, she used what remained of her strength to pull herself out of the water and into the winter air. A bracing wind swept over her bare shoulders and she tried to wrap any excess material of her soaked dress over the skin that was exposed to the elements.
Maria lay still. She wasn’t sure for how long; it could have been minutes, it could have been hours. She was back, when she had long since accepted that this part of her life was over, when she thought she has learnt enough to take care of herself. Yet the land she was seeing from her icy bed was not the Narnia that she knew. It was pale and grim; even from this distance, the country looked sick. Maria didn’t want to believe that it was Narnia, the land she had loved for so long. She had never seen such a castle, not on those cliffs by the great sea, looking majestically out to where the sky met the horizon.
Her fingers twitch, numb from the cold. But it was still movement and it spurred her on. Pushing her bare toes into the ice, Maria shifted her body forwards. It was going to be a long journey, but she knew that if she could just keep going, forcing her eyes to stay open, she could get herself to shore.
It wasn’t long before most of her body had gone numb. Parts of her dress had frozen stiff, ice laced through the threads. Gazing up to see how much further she had to crawl until she reached the cliffs, she spotted two figures on the beach. Maria didn’t care if there were friends or foes; she lifted her head and reached out an arm to them. They were already getting closer and closer. Pushing herself onto her back, she lay in wait.
“Stay with us now,” a deep, male voice said as both figures, dressed head to toe in dark red. “It’s okay, we’ve got you.” Maria’s eyelids began to droop. “No, stay with us.” A hand found its way around the back of her neck. The man lifted her, cradling her by the shoulders and knees.
“Do you recognize this?” The second figure was also male, but Maria could only see his beady eyes. He was holding something in front of her face. It was an emblem, hanging from a necklace string, depicting a firebird within a circle. Maria managed to nod her head. “Can you tell us you name?” She could see that the male was smiling.
“Nimueh…Firesong,” she croaked. Nimueh; the name that had been given to her the first time she had come to Narnia. She had, since, always preferred that to Maria.
“Elijah was right,” one said to the other as they began move towards the shore. “She came back.” Maria wanted to ask who Elijah was, but knew that she would have save her strength. With Narnia in the sick state that it was, and since she had been dragged back, Maria was determined to find a cure.
Chapter 2: Home
“Quiet now, Yvaine. Our guest is still asleep,” a female voice cooed. “Though I do hope she wakes up soon.”
If there was one thing Maria loved about Narnia, it was that she could be someone else. Or rather, she could be her true self. She didn’t have to pretend that she was still broken. She didn’t have to be so careful about what she said. And most of all, she could stand up for her beliefs – to be listened to and respected – instead of being shut down whenever she opened her mouth. In Narnia, she had always had a family, people who would look out for her, take care of her, and teach her to take care of herself. Maria was always ready to go back to her family; it was just the knowledge that she would, one day, have to leave them behind once again that had kept her away.
“Why is she so cold?” said another voice, presumably that of Yvaine. Something brushed Maria’s cheek.
“She has come a long way, from over the sea.”
“Is she from Aslan’s country?”
“No, dear. She comes from another world.”
Maria tried to move under the masses of blankets. The weight of them trapped her in a bed of felt and silks. “Hello?” she mumbled groggily.
“Look now, you’ve woken her up,” sighed the older female.
“No, it’s okay.” Maria struggled into a sitting position. The room was very simple, the only light coming from the fireplace, flickering over the dark walls. There was an armchair on the opposite side of the fire, upon which sat a Dryad, fiddling with a bundle of pale silk. She looked odd; Maria was used to Dryad laced from head to toe in vines, leaves and beautiful flowers. But this dainty female figure was clocked in a felt-like tunic that drowned her frail frame. A smaller, child-like Dryad sat at her feet, dressed the same and was staring up at their strange guest. Despite the lack of ‘things’ in the room, it was small enough to feel cosy. “Where am I?”
“Underground, safe, for now,” said the taller Dryad.
“Safe from what?”
“Who is ‘Her’?”
“The one who calls herself Queen of Narnia.”
Maria huffed. It didn’t seem like she was going to get too much out of this creature any time soon. “Who is Elijah?”
“How do you-”
“I heard someone say that Elijah knew I was coming. Is Elijah a Firesong?”
“Yes; you knew her mother, Asher.”
“Can I see her?”
In response, the taller Dryad stood and ushered the smaller away, promising Maria she would do her best with the dress (the silk she had been picking at). Maria told her to keep it, that it no longer had any value to her.
Soon after the two had disappeared through a dark hole in the wall, another Dryad stepped in, wearing a longer felt tunic than the first, with a thin veil wrapped around her head. She looked frail and old, not like any Dryad Maria had come across before. The Dryad sat in the armchair opposite her, warming her hands by the fire before looking up with a kind smile.
“Yes. I’m glad I was able to meet you, Nimueh.”
“Is Asher…” Maria trailed off into a moment’s silence.
“I’m afraid so. She disappeared about a hundred years ago.”
“I’m sorry,” was all she could think to say. “You’re having a bad winter this year.”
Elijah smiled sadly. “We have a bad winter every year.”
“I heard you knew I was coming.”
“Oh yes, I saw you in a vision, you came to defend Narnia; we’re certainly in need of you now.”
“How long has it been?”
“Over three hundred years now.”
“That long?” Maria turned away from Elijah, almost too ashamed to look into her eyes, instead staring at the fire as if it would make her feel better. “I must formally apologise. I…didn’t mean to leave last time, but I have been trying to avoid coming back.”
“Perhaps it was for the best.”
“But you said you needed me,” Maria said, looking up again. “Is this to do with the Queen of Narnia?”
“Don’t call her that,” Elijah scolded, though softly. “She’s known as the White Witch.”
“Jadis?! She’s the ruler of Narnia? How could this have happened?”
“If you know her name, you probably know that she has been building up her power for centuries. She cast a spell upon this country so that it remains winter all year round. She terrorizes the creatures of Narnia, and has done for a hundred years.”
“Hasn’t anyone tried to stop her?”
“There have been a few, but most live in fear. No one who went after the Witch has ever been seen again. We Nymphs have had to move underground; I haven’t seen a Naiad in years! It’s far too cold to live above ground now because all of the trees are still or sleeping.” Elijah leant forward, as if there were someone else who could hear them. “They say that even some of the trees have turned to the side of the Witch.”
“Why didn’t I come sooner?” Maria threw her head against her bed of pillows.
“Don’t worry, my dear, you couldn’t have done anything about it. The Witch is very powerful.”
“But you said that you saw me defending Narnia.”
“Yes, and that was around the same time that Asher made her final prophecy before she disappeared. I think hers might have triggered my vision. You see, many Narnians believe that you were killed in the Western Mountains on borders of Telmar on the day you travelled back to your home-world.” Maria felt a little sting in her heart at these words. “The Witch doesn’t think you are alive, which gives us an advantage.” Elijah’s smile grew wider and more mischievous. She looked younger, more like the Nymphs that Maria had previously known in Narnia.
“An advantage? Why? I thought you said that everyone had stopped trying to get to the Queen.”
“Ah, you see,” she wagged a finger, “all of that has changed now, hasn’t it? Now that Aslan is on the move.”
Maria jumped forward in her blankets. “Aslan? In Narnia? Right now?”
“Yes; they say he is building an army.”
“But why didn’t he come sooner?”
“For the same reason you didn’t, my dear. That’s why it’s good that you’re here now; the Witch has been on the hunt for any humans who might venture, however unintentionally, into Narnia. There was nothing you or Aslan could have done to stop this. All because of Asher’s final prophecy.” Elijah paused, seemingly to gather her thoughts, so Maria didn’t push her, only sat with eager ears. “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death. And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again. That’s what Asher kept saying.”
“Forgive me if I’m wrong,” Maria interjected. “But it seems like there is a considerable amount that he could have done about this winter issue. And that doesn’t explain the killing of humans.”
Elijah chuckled. “Asher talked of you often, and she always mentioned that you were never one to be patient.” Maria apologised, rather sheepishly, and gestured for her to go on. “She also said something else; When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone, sits at Cair Paravel in throne, the evil time will be over and done.”
“So that’s why the Witch is killing humans; she wants to make sure no one takes her throne.”
“Exactly. It was foretold that two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve would claim the thrones at the castle of Cair Paravel.”
“I haven’t heard of that castle before.”
“I don’t think you’ll have seen it before. You’ve never been so far as the Great Eastern Sea, have you?” Maria shook her head. “Do you remember seeing a castle as you arrived out at sea?”
“That was Cair Paravel? It’s very beautiful.”
“It is indeed. And here is the best part.” Elijah leant towards Maria again. “I ventured above ground yesterday and I heard a whispering amongst the trees; they say that a Daughter of Eve has been seen in Narnia. A faun took her home, but instead of following the White Witch’s instructions to capture and turn all humans over to her, he let her go.”
“Is she still in Narnia? Will she return?”
“Only time will tell, my dear. And that’s why you and Aslan have been able to return, because the Witch’s power has begun to weaken.”
“This is good news,” Maria smiled. “I suppose Aslan will be wanting me for his army.”
“What would they do without you?” the Dryad laughed. “As soon as you are well enough, we’ll set you off for where he has made his camp. I’m sorry we weren’t able to recover any of your old clothes, but the seamstresses of our people have been at work since you arrived.”
“That’s very kind of them. Thank you, Elijah, for your hospitality.”
“You’re a Firesong, part of our family. It’s the least we can do.”
“Is there anything else I should know?”
“Only that we have some of your old weapons, which are current being cleaned up for you.”
“What of the Dwarves? Were they unable to make more?”
“I’m afraid the Dwarves have also joined the Witch’s side.”
“What? Them too? It’s a wonder the rest of you still have hope. Well, thank you anyway. I’m feeling better now so I won’t bother you any longer.” Maria tried getting up but Elijah stopped her.
“Absolutely not,” she said, firmly. “You’re not going anywhere until I say you’re well again, do you understand? You should have seen the state you were in when those two Satyrs brought you in; anyone else would have been dead! No, you must rest still. I will bring you some food soon.”
“I know it’s boring having to sleep when you feel fine. And I know you’ll be restless because you’d rather be out there helping Aslan, but you must be fully recovered before you can fight anyone.”
Maria smirked. “Exactly how much did Asher tell you about me?”
“Enough for me know how you’d react to all of this chaos. Or maybe that’s just the prophet talking…” Elijah got up, smiling. “I’ll be back soon. I don’t want to see you standing up for at least another day, mind.” Maria nodded as the Dryad disappeared through the hole in the wall.
She settled back down beneath her blankets, with plenty of things the think about. Of course, she was happy to be back in Narnia, but not in such terrible times. Being trapped underground, she felt helpless to the tyranny of the White Witch. The only thing that could possibly lull her to sleep was that there was now hope that Narnia could be restored to its former glory.
Chapter 3: Aslan
A few days passed and Maria, having taken on her former name Nimueh, was able to walk around the maze of tunnels and rooms created by the Dryads. She spent a little bit of time each day practicing with her weapons, getting a feel for them again. Her new clothes suited her; they were flexible and well-made. She felt just like she used to, and that was something that the sickness of Narnia couldn’t change.
Eventually, Elijah let Nimueh go above ground to collect wood for the fires. She hadn’t seen much of the snow-cursed Narnia, except for the beach, and if she hadn’t known that the winter had lasted a hundred years, she would have thought the forest was incredibly beautiful. If she hadn’t experienced the wild dancing of the Naiads, Dryads and Fauns, she would have thought the stillness of everything to be wonderfully peaceful. But in the knowledge of spies whispering and secrets closely kept, the trees felt awfully sinister.
Nimueh swept through the forest, gathering fallen branches and twigs, always glancing around for movement, her hand never far from her blade. When she had gathered enough wood, she walked swiftly back to where the Dryad’s had made an entrance out of a tree. But before the tree was in sight, Nimueh heard something move a few feet away. A flash of colour burnt against the white of the snow. Dropping the firewood, she drew her curved blades and prepared to attack.
“It’s alright,” came a voice from behind a tree. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
“Who are you? Show yourself.”
A fox stepped out into view. He was small, very red, and had eyes filled with more hope than any Nimueh has seen for a good while. “I’m recruiting for Aslan’s army.”
Nimueh lower her weapons slightly. “Are you sure it’s safe to talk about such things in the open?” she asked, quietly.
“What does it matter when He is here. She can’t do anything to stop that now. I see you have returned, Nimueh Firesong, to fight alongside Aslan, I hope.”
“I would already be at his side if I had been allowed to leave sooner.”
“It is certainly an honour to have you defending Narnia with us.”
“So, you’ve seen Aslan?” The fox nodded. “What is he like?”
“Everything we could have ever have hoped for, and more.”
“Well, if you need to recruit for His army, then I will let you go. I will join you soon, and my friends will follow, no doubt.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Be safe,” Nimueh called after the fox, who disappeared into the trees. Picking up the wood, she continued back to the tree entrance, but with new life and new hope in her heart.
A Satyr arrived in the forest the next day, with a horse for Nimueh to take to Aslan’s camp. Elijah was still reluctant to let her go, but knew that Nimueh wouldn’t be much use cooped up underground. She threw a cloak over Nimueh’s shoulders and fastened it firmly.
“The camp isn’t too far. Keep going through the woods, south-west. Cross the river and travel south until you reach the valley.” Elijah was looking paler by the second.
“You should go back inside, keep warm until you’re better.”
“No, Nimueh, you must listen to me.” Elijah began to shake frantically as she held Nimueh’s head between her hands.
“You’re scaring me now. What’s the matter?”
“You must listen to me very carefully. I have seen you defend Narnia.”
“I know, you told me.”
“Yes, but that isn’t all. Do you remember once you stood by the Son of Adam who was High King over this land?”
“Yes, yes, I do remember that.”
“Well, you must do it again. Okay? You must stand by the High King.”
“What about Aslan?”
“Aslan knows. Aslan knows.” Elijah began to sway, her knees buckling and the two of them fell onto the snow.
“You really should get inside. It’s too cold out here; you’ll freeze.”
“Do you remember?” Elijah ignored her pleas. “Do you remember what I said?”
“Yes, of course.”
“What did I say?”
“You said that I must always stand by the High King.”
“Yes, yes, you must! Your future, it lies with the choices you make. And you must stand by him. Do you promise?”
“Yes, Elijah, I promise to stand by the High King. But you must get inside before you get ill.”
“Is everything alright?” A few heads peered out of the entrance in the tree.
“Yes, but you need to get her inside.” Nimueh pried the Dryad’s hands from her head and hauled herself up onto the horse.
“Remember, Nimueh. Remember what I said.”
“I will, Elijah.” She kicked the horse forward and rode off through the trees.
The horse was huge, black and sturdy. Each heavy breath shot billows into the cold air. Nimueh’s light body jostled around on the saddle; she held tightly to the reins trying to get used to being on a horse again. They couldn’t travel very fast because the trees were still dense. To make matters worse, snow had begun to fall. A fresh sheet of powder layered onto the snow wasn’t exactly ideal for a black horse and rider to go unseen by the eyes of the Witch’s spies.
The drift became deeper and more treacherous as they came to the edge of the forest, and the flurries of snow had become fierce and unyielding. Nimueh pulled up her hood and held it to cover the part of her face that was attacked by the wind. She drove her horse forward, but now they moved at a pace slower than a walk.
As expected, the river was frozen solid, covered with fresh snow which the wind whipped up in icy waves. Nimueh encouraged her horse out onto the ice, it not being too slippery. They made it halfway across the river before there came a dangerous rumble from deep within the ice. It was beginning to crack. The cracks never reached the surface, but where the snow had been whisked away she could see white lines emerging. If her horse could sense fear, she needed to hold her nerve before much more damage was done. After all, she wasn’t the only one who needed to cross this river safely.
Unfortunately, from that point onwards there was very little shelter from the wind and snow. Kicking her horse into a gallop, they rode swiftly against the wind. Small hills provided some protection, though the storm seemed to be growing stronger. Was the Witch angry? Did she know about the humans in Narnia?
After a while, Nimueh and her horse reached a valley filled with tents, rocking violently in the winds. There wasn’t a soul in sight. She dismounted and led the horse through the valley until she spotted a narrow gap between two tents. Settling her horse there, she pulled at her hood to shield her face. Something gold flashed in the corner of her eyes as she squatted next to her horse. Nimueh peered around the tent to see a huge creature looking at her from the entrance to the largest tent in the valley. The creature beat its paw on the ground. She got up, moved against the wind, and over to the tent in which the creature stood.
He was exactly as she remembered him, but seemed far bigger. The glorious lion smiled at her, beckoning her into his tent. Stumbling through the storm, Nimueh climbed onto the platform upon which the tent stood and pushed through the tent flaps. Inside, it was warm and cosy. And, of course, the overpowering presence of the lion brought her down on one knee.
“My lord, Aslan. I have come to offer my services to your army.”
“And your presence is much appreciated, Nimueh Firesong. It is good to see you again after so many years. You have grown into a great warrior and a fine young woman.”
“Thank you very much, Aslan. That means a lot. But, if I may, will my horse be alright out in the snow?”
“The storm is passing; your horse will be fine. In the meantime, what news from the Owlwood?”
“The Dryads are still in hiding and we haven’t seen any of the Naiads. But with the humans coming into Narnia, the winter will be ending, won’t it?”
“We cannot say for certain what these Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve will do when they all come to Narnia, but we can hope that they will come to fulfil the prophecy.”
“Of course. The creatures of Owlwood should be joining us soon, if winter begins to fade.”
“Good. Now you must rest, my child, and we will have some food brought to you once the storm passes.”
Over the next few days, more creatures arrived to join Aslan’s army. Nimueh was eagerly accepted by those who had heard of her greatness in the past, and trained with the Centaurs and Satyrs where a shooting range had been set up.
She had never been exceptionally gifting in archery, but her close-range arrows were so deadly, they’d leave a nice clean exit wound in their victims. Her true speciality was with two curved blades, dwarf-made, from a light-weight metal, with leather-bound hilts. Swords were too clumsy and heavy for her thin arms, and her agility would be impaired if she was having to swing a huge weapon around.
It was one week after she had arrived at Aslan’s camp that she woke up and there was a different feeling in the air. It felt fresher, warmer, like there was a new hope spreading across the land. The Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve must be here, she thought. And all she could do was hope that they were all Narnia needed them to be.
Chapter 4: First Encounters
After crossing the river and leaving their coats behind, the three Pevensies and the Beavers continued through the trees and out into the open. The snow had begun to rapidly melt and the clouds cleared to reveal a bright blue sky. The sun beat down, and Peter’s head began to ache. He kept smiling, for Lucy and for Susan. Their mother had told him to protect his brother and sisters, and if Aslan was the only hope they had of seeing Edmund again, no matter how terrifying the lion might seem, he had to try.
What was more terrifying was the prophecy; the expectation of becoming a King of a country he barely knew, to have the hopes of the Narnians on his shoulders when all he wanted was to find his brother, that was what got to him. To disappoint those who had been waiting a hundred years for some sort of saviour was not something Peter wanted to take lightly.
They had been walking for hours, when Mr Beaver finally turned his head back to them. “Here we are,” he said, as the group circled a small hill that hid where Aslan had set up his camp from view.
The group were greeted with a valley of tents of reds and golds, flags flying in the warm breeze. An array of creatures, Fauns, Satyrs, Centaurs, and even animals the Peter recognised from his own world, bustled about amongst themselves, polishing armour and sharpening weapons. The green fields that spread up to meet the clear skies on the horizon seemed to give an air of hope to the campsite in front of them. There was so much colour and light in the valley, as all of the snow had melted away.
“Who are you?” Peter looked up to see a figure to their right, standing on one of the boulders embedded into the hill. Their face was difficult to make out because of the position of the sun, but they clearly held a bow, strung with a single arrow, their aim resting on Peter.
“We have come to see Aslan, and to ask for his help.”
The figure jumped from the boulder and stalked down the hill until they stood a couple of metres from the group. It was a girl, likely in her mid-teens, dressed in some black leather armour of sorts over a loose, white undershirt, tight black trousers and large boots, her bow now slung over her shoulder. She was the closest thing to human that Peter had seen in their short time in Narnia, though her face was notably thin, her cheeks hollower than might have been deemed healthy. Her fair-skinned face was framed by a halo of stray copper hairs that had come free of her ponytail. Peter thought that she would have been incredibly beautiful had she not been wearing such a terrible scowl, eying the Pevensies and their companions suspiciously.
“Where did you get that?” The girl took a step closer, nodding at Peter’s sword. He drew it, holding it up so that the girl could get a better look at it.
“Father Christmas gave us presents,” Lucy smiled excitedly, clearly still buzzing from the adrenaline of recent events. The girl furrowed her eyebrows at the youngest of the children, almost smiling in disbelief.
“Would you please take us to Aslan?” Peter pleaded, not wanting to waste any time when his brother was in danger.
“Somebody told you that you are the rightful king, didn’t they?”
Her eyes were too soft a colour to be piercing, but hardened enough to make Peter draw back under her stern gaze. “Well…yes, I suppose. We know the prophecy-”
“Brilliant.” She cut him off, sighing exasperatedly. “That’s all we need; a child with a sword and sense of entitlement.” Then she paused, looking confused for a moment before a kind of realization reached her. She settled an almost alarmed gaze upon the three Pevensies. “Wait…are you the humans that the prophecy speaks of? But you’re children.”
“You’re a child too!” Peter snapped, irritated at such condescension.
“If I may,” Mrs Beaver spoke up, “but don’t I recognize you?”
“You recognise me?” The girl’s confusion never wavering.
“You resemble a drawing that I’ve seen in one of my books. It was of a woman, a great knight of older Narnia, rumoured to have died about three hundred years ago on the borders of Telmar.” The girl smiled, but only very slightly. “I knew I recognised you. It’s Firesong, isn’t it? It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Mrs Beaver then turned to her husband and muttered frantically about getting to meet such greatness twice in two days.
“You don’t look three hundred years old.” Peter didn’t want to waste any more time with such trivia, but couldn’t understand the mysterious girl that stood in their way.
The girl’s face dropped, suddenly looking uncomfortable; she looked back to the three Pevensie siblings. “I’ve been away for a while, and haven’t been able to return because of the Witch’s spell.” She let out a shallow sigh. “If you are indeed the humans of the prophecy, then where is the second Son of Adam?”
“That’s why we came. You see, Edmund has been taken by the White Witch. Well, actually, it was more that he went to see her willingly,” Susan said sheepishly.
“He went to her castle?” No one replied. “You do know that people who go in there don’t come back out?” At this, Peter noticed Lucy’s eyes fill with tears. Shooting a quick glare at the girl, he touched his sister’s shoulder, hoping to provide at least a little comfort. “If you are who you say you are…you had better follow me.” She looked at Peter, gesturing to the sword. “Oh, and you best put that away before you hurt yourself.”
The girl turned on her heel and walked into where the rows of tents opened up into a pathway. Heads of all shapes and sizes rose, their gazes locked on the three Pevensie children.
“Everyone is staring at us,” Susan said, through gritted teeth.
“They’ve been waiting a long time for your arrival.” They came to the top end of the campsite. “Wait here.” The girl glanced back at them before walking toward the largest of all the tents, standing on a little platform.
As she disappeared into the tent, Lucy turned to the Beavers. “Is she a human as well?”
“I don’t know,” said Mrs Beaver. “But I thought she might have only been a legend. She’s supposed to have been taken in by a family of Dryad prophets and trained by Narnia’s greatest warriors, though it seems odd that she would be here now, and still so young. I’ve only read about it in my books, but I’m certain it’s her.”
“She sounds like a good person to have on our side,” Lucy smiled.
As the girl emerged from the tent, the inhabitants of the camp, which had followed the Pevensies up to the great tent, bowed low. The children looked on at the tent, waiting for Aslan to reveal himself. Peter shook, bending down onto one knee, the others following.
The curtains of the tent were swept aside, and a great head emerged, wreathed in a halo of golden mane. The lion was so great and so terrifying that Peter dare not take his eyes away. Giant paws pounded on the ground towards them. He opened up his mouth, Peter assumed to roar, but instead came a surprisingly comforting voice.
“Rise, Peter, Son of Adam, and Susan and Lucy, Daughters of Eve. Thank you Beavers from bringing them safely this far. But where is the second Son of Adam.”
“That’s why we came to you, sir,” Peter said. “We need your help.”
“Edmund was taken by the White Witch, sir,” said Lucy.
“He was taken by her? How could this have happened?”
“He betrayed them, you Highness, and went willingly into the Witch’s castle. We think she was using him to draw all four of them in.”
“It would seem so, Beaver.”
“If I hadn’t been so hard on him, none of this would have happened.” Peter sighed, dropping his head in shame. He felt Susan’s hand come up on his shoulder.
“We were all hard on him.”
“Sir, please can you help him?” Lucy pleaded. “He’s our brother.”
“That is what makes the betrayal worse, Daughter of Eve. We will do what we can, but first we must have a feast prepared for you. You have travelled far, and your arrival is certainly a cause to celebrate. Ladies?” Aslan turned to the Dryads. “Tonight, we shall have a great banquet to honour the Son of Adam and Daughters of Eve.” The beautiful woman cheered and hurried back into the campsite to gather food for the feast.
Aslan then turned to the girl who had met them at the entrance to the camp, and said something that Peter couldn’t hear. She nodded and looked straight at him. She wasn’t scowling anymore, but bore a look of curiosity and perhaps still a little apprehension. The girl descended from the platform and walked towards them. Peter smiled at her, hoping Mrs Beaver had been right about this strange creature.
Chapter 5: New Hopes and Old Fears
“You seem close to Aslan,” the youngest of the Pevensie siblings said when the crowd had dispersed.
“This is actually only my second time meeting him.”
“What did you say your name was?” The handsome blonde boy stepped forwards.
“Nimueh of the family Firesong, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Lion,” she bowed slightly.
“My name is Peter, Pevensie that is.” He held out his hand, but Nimueh could only look from the Peter’s face to his hand, then back to his face.
Lucy giggled. “You’re supposed to shake it. It’s how people greet each other where we come from.”
Nimueh was hesitant to touch the boy, reaching out slowly, refusing to step any closer to him, and placing her palm against his. His fingers closed a little, and she retracted slightly but didn’t let go entirely. Peter began to shake her hand up and down, wearing a grin that one might have expected to be smug, but wasn’t.
“These are my sisters, Susan,” Peter gestured to the elder Daughter of Eve, who was probably around Nimueh’s age, maybe a little younger. She attempted to shake Susan’s hand, with more success this time. “And Lucy.” The little girl smiled a toothy smile up at her, shaking her hand firmly.
“You’re a fast learner. How do people greet each other where you come from?”
“Well, considering we just met, you would be obliged to kiss the back of both of my hands, as are you are guests of my superior. If we were friends, we would kiss each other’s cheeks, and older members of the group would kiss the younger members’ foreheads. At least that is how the Elites do it. But amongst the People, we just kiss each other’s cheeks.”
“That sounds awfully patronizing,” Susan quipped.
Nimueh didn’t reply to her comment, nor did she say that she thought this handshaking business was quite ridiculous. “Elijah,” she called. The Dryad bounded over. “Could you please find our guests some more appropriate clothes to wear?”
“Of course; right this way, please.” The three Pevensies followed the Dryad.
Nimueh’s eyes trailed after the eldest sibling, Peter. It was their younger brother who had lost his way, making Peter the High King. Thinking back to what Elijah had made her remember, she looked down at the hand that he had shaken, then looked back up at the disappearing forms of the children. She had vowed to stand by him, but he was still a child, hardly older than she was. Nimueh turned around to see Aslan standing just outside of his tent, also watching the Pevensies before his eyes fell on her.
“Come here, my child.” Nimueh obeyed, walking up to the small platform upon which the Lion’s tent stood. “You look troubled, young one. Come inside and tell me what bothers you so.”
She followed Aslan into the tent, suddenly at a loss for words when he turned to look at her. “Do you worry about the prophecy, child?”
“No, I…” she trailed off. Falling to her knees, she bowed her head. “I am so sorry, Aslan.”
“What for, dear one?”
“I am afraid.”
“Fear is nothing to be sorry for, nor is it something to be ashamed of.” The Great Lion paused for a time. “Do you fear the prophecy?”
Nimueh lifted her head. “What is there to be afraid of in that? It has nothing to do with me and could only do good for Narnia.”
“That is not the prophecy about which I speak. I speak of Elijah’s prophecy.”
“That was only a vision, wasn’t it?”
“She is a prophet, is she not?”
“Oh Aslan, I don’t know. I want to defend Narnia, I do. But I am afraid and selfish. I fear that I will lose the things I love again. I can’t do that. I can’t take that. Narnia has always been the place I felt most at home, and if I were to lose Narnia again like I did however many years ago, I fear I would also lose my mind.”
“You are a Knight of Narnia, my child. You have a duty to fulfil.”
“Rise, Lady of Fire and Water.” He breathed on her face. “Forget your fears and trust yourself.”
“Elijah told me that I must always stand by the High King,” Nimueh said, rising to her feet. “I must keep my promise, no matter what the cost.”
“Very good, child. Now, I have a small task to get you started.”
“When Peter returns, bring him to the top of the hill. I wish to speak with him.”
“Yes, Aslan.” Before leaving the tent, Nimueh turned back to him. “And Aslan, thank you,” she smiled, and let the flaps close behind her.
Nimueh made her way down to where the horses stood. Brushing her own gently on the nose, she fetched an apple and let the horse happily munch it out of her hand. Rubbing down the horse’s back where the saddle had been, she noticed Peter standing over by the white unicorn, who seemed to have taken a liking to him. She also couldn’t help but stare; the Son of Adam had the most peculiar hair colour she had ever seen. It wasn’t entirely blonde, but didn’t have enough brown to be called brown. There were strands of gold glistening in the sunlight, the rest looking rather dirty if she was honest. Nimueh couldn’t help but love it.
“He’s yours if you want him,” she called over, before he caught her staring.
“Oh, no. I was just looking.” He backed away from the unicorn as she walked over to him. “You know, where I come from, people don’t believe in unicorns.”
“Aslan wants to speak with you.”
“Yes, follow me.” Nimueh led Peter up the rocky path to the top of the hill which overlooked the camp. Cair Paravel soon came into view, standing majestically on the cliffs over the glistening Eastern Sea.
“So,” Peter started, making her look at him. “You’re a three-hundred-year-old warrior, but you’re also a kid?”
“Time passes differently in my world, as I’m sure it does in yours. And actually, my first time in Narnia was over nine-hundred years ago.”
“Well, you certainly look good for your age, if it’s okay for me to say so.”
“If you like, though I don’t think it’s something I’ll get used to.” Nimueh turned her gaze to the sea. “But the Elites of my world are far more radiant than I, so even if I wasn’t an offence to the eyes, I’m rather dull in comparison.”
“Earlier, you seemed a little tense about this prophecy. Do you not believe it?”
“Of course I believe it. It came from one of my closest family members, and she is never wrong. No, it’s not that. But pray, don’t be offended in me saying that I wasn’t exactly expecting…well…humans so young.”
“I understand. I don’t feel I’m up to it, if I’m honest.”
At this, Nimueh struck Peter hard on the shoulder so that he stumbled back a little and faced her. “You mustn’t say things like that! Your return had brought hope to the despairing creatures of Narnia. If you will not fight, then who will? Not up to it…” she began muttering.
“I’m sorry, but we aren’t here to fight in a war. We just want to get Edmund back.”
“And you will. Aslan will make sure of it. But you mustn’t lose faith, least not in yourself.”
“Why do you care so much about us fulfilling the prophecy?” Peter’s words weren’t accusing or spiteful. They weren’t selfish, nor did they imply that Nimueh should mind her own business. They made Nimueh sad; to think that her answer was so grim that it would dampen the Son of Adam’s spirits prevented her from saying anything for a while. Peter opened his mouth, perhaps to apologise, when she felt a presence behind them.
“Thank you, Nimueh.” Aslan smiled, and she bowed, leaving the two of them alone. “It’s good to see the two of you talking. Lady Firesong is a great warrior and will be fiercely loyal to you, I am sure.” Nimueh didn’t linger for Peter’s reply, a little fear inside of her not knowing what she wanted to hear. But either way, she had made a promise to Elijah, and she intended to keep it.
Chapter 6: Edmund
She hadn’t reached the bottom of the hill before she heard it; a sound rich as the morning sunrise, deep, but sweeping with the light breeze. Nimueh broke into a run, down to her tent. She dropped her bow and quiver, picked up her blades, and hurried towards the sound.
At the edge of the campsite was a patch of woodland, and a little way through the trees was a stream. Nimueh could hear the screams of the girls before she reached were Aslan stood.
“Wait,” the lion commanded, holding out a paw in front of Nimueh and the small group of creatures who had followed her. “This is Peter’s fight. He must do this alone.”
Nimueh stood firm, blades still raised slightly, watching Peter and wolf circle each other. The eldest Pevensie’s face twitched; he wasn’t a killer. But the way his brows furrowed, the way he stopped between the wolf and the tree in which his sisters clung, it made her think maybe the boy holding a sword, that had seemed so large a little while ago, had it in him to become a king.
The wolf launched itself at Peter, claws out and dangerous. Nimueh flinched as the pair of them toppled to the ground. Both bodies lay still for a moment, until the wolf rolled to the side, the sword plunged deep into its chest. Nimueh allowed herself to breathe as Peter pushed himself up, looking quite bewildered. Lucy and Susan jumped down from the tree and embraced their brother.
A second wolf, who had been cowering behind a couple of trees, bolted further into the woods as soon as its leader had been killed. “Go,” said Aslan. “He’ll be returning to his mistress. He will lead you to Edmund.”
Nimueh leapt past the Pevensies and over the stream. She, Oreius, and the other warriors followed the wolf through the woods until the sky had darkened. It became difficult to see the sky, but soon they could see smoke rising above the trees from the fires at the Witch’s camp.
“Spread out,” she called over her shoulder. “If you find the Son of Adam, get him and leave. The rest of you, take care of anyone who stands in our way.”
There were a few ugly creatures straggling at the edge of the camp. They got up from where they sat, raising axes at the charging squadron. Nimueh caught one of the axes under the blade with one of her swords and pulled it from the creature’s grip, using the other the slash a deep wound in its chest.
Cutting down every dwarf, hag and fury that came at her, even if it wasn’t in an attempt to kill them, Nimueh stopped in front of a small huddle of creatures. They seemed unaware of the chaos behind them as their eyes never trailed away from a very tall, and very pale woman holding a knife. She was standing next to a thick tree, tied to which was a small creature that Nimueh presumed to be the second Son of Adam.
Using her lack of body mass, she sprung onto the heads of the creatures blocking her path. She launched herself feet first at the Witch, knocking the knife from her hand. Nimueh expected her to fight back, but as the stampede of Centaurs, Satyrs and Fauns charged through the huddle of the Witch’s followers, she disappeared.
Turning to the tree trunk, she stared into the Son of Adam’s dark, fearful eyes. “Edmund Pevensie?” He nodded. Cutting the rope that bound his wrists, she cried out, “Oreius!” Nimueh untied Edmund from the tree as the Centaur galloped over. “Take him back to the camp. We’ll deal with the rest.” Oreius nodded, hoisting Edmund onto his back and turned in the direction they had come.
“Did anyone see where the Witch disappeared to?” No one answered.
Plunging blade into the chest of a red dwarf, she struck another in the head with the heel of her boot. With every blow, every splatter of blood, she thought, their mission was complete, Edmund was safe. This was not a good time to start an all-out battle in the camp of the enemy. Nimueh called a retreat, and the company made for Aslan’s camp.
After about ten minutes, they caught up with Oreius and Edmund. The boy was out cold, held together firmly in the arms of the Centaur.
It was almost dawn when he awoke. He was able to walk, but trailed behind the rest of them. Nimueh, although frustrated that he had betrayed his family, took pity on him. He had been seduced by the White Witch, probably promise comfort and affection, only to have her keep him prisoner as bait.
She fell back to walk next to him. “Are you hurt?” He shook his head briefly. “My name is Nimueh.”
Edmund didn’t speak for what felt like a long time, and when he did, he continued looking at the ground. “Are you a...what do they call it? A Daughter of Eve?”
“No. At least, I’m not like you and your family.”
“My family? Oh, whatever am I going to say to them?”
“Aslan will probably want to speak to you first, and I’m sure he will be able to answer all of your questions.”
Edmund didn’t speak again after that. Nimueh got the feeling that he was deep in thought, and continued beside him in a comfortable silence. The sky was blazing orange and yellow when they got back to the stream where Peter had killed the wolf. Helping Edmund over the water, Nimueh wanted to say something to encourage the boy, but couldn’t find the words.
Aslan was waiting outside his tent when they broke through the trees into the valley. Edmund stopped suddenly, staring at the great lion who had started towards them. Nimueh placed a hand on his back and gave him a little push forwards.
“Thank you for returning him safely,” Aslan said. Nimueh hung behind as the rest of the warriors went back to their tents. “You can let Edmund’s brother and sisters sleep for now. I’d like to speak with him alone.”
“Yes Aslan.” She bowed and left the two of them.
Although she hadn’t slept in just under twenty-four hours, Nimueh didn’t feel in tired when she returned to her tent. Lying back on her blankets, she wondered how the Pevensies were going to react when they saw that their brother had come back. Would they forgive him? Would they still be angry? She didn’t know the Pevensies well enough to have an answer, so she got up and took her weapons over to the where the blacksmiths had set up their equipment.
No one was awake yet, but the camp didn’t have that eerie emptiness of the forest she had been staying under only days ago. Like before, she knew that there were creatures all around her, but this time they were all on her side. Nimueh sat down on a stool and began to wash the blood from her blades. It was tough, having hardened on the journey back to camp, but the metal of the blade looked good as new when she got it off.
Unaware of how long she had been sitting there, it surprised her when the huge shadow of Aslan blocked the sun. He stood with Edmund, who looked slightly less frightened, but more solemn. “You can wake the Pevensies now. I doubt they’ll have gotten much sleep last night, but they can rest easy knowing that their brother is safe.”
Nimueh nodded, drying off her weapons and returning them to her tent. She wandered over to what she hoped was Peter’s tent. Not hearing any movement, she called out softly. “Peter Pevensie.” Nothing. “Peter Pevensie, are you in there?”
“You can come in.” His voice wasn’t groggy; he mustn’t have been sleeping.
Nimueh hesitated before entering, unsure as to why he didn’t come out to her. “Erm…Aslan sent me to tell you that your brother go back safely. You can go and see him if you like.”
“You just got back?”
“No, we got back earlier this morning, but Aslan wanted to talk to your brother so told me not to wake you.”
Peter snorted softly. “I barely slept anyway.”
“I’ll leave you now.”
“Thank you,” Peter said quickly, before she turned away. “Thank you for making sure my brother returned safely. And for yesterday; I could tell you wanted to help with the wolves.”
“Yes, well, it’s alright. I was just doing my job.”
“Aslan have me a knighthood.”
There was something strange about the way he said this. She was used to the Elites boasting about new graces and titles they had been granted. But the Son of Adam simply seemed to be trying to make conversation with her. She realized just how cold she must have seemed to the Pevensies. First, she when they had arrived at the camp, and second, when she had been properly introduced to them, and third, when she had scolded him. “Congratulations.” It wasn’t hard for Nimueh to find a smile. “I’m sorry, I realize I haven’t exactly been very welcoming.”
“Oh no, don’t worry about that. It must be sort of annoying having a kid who just arrived get a knighthood after killing a wolf.”
The thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. “I’m not surprised actually. You’ve had no training and don’t seem like the kind of person who often gets into fights. That was a very brave thing to do, to save your sisters.” Peter dropped his head to the ground and smile, probably a little embarrassed by her comments. “Do you want to see your brother.”
“Oh yes, of course!” Peter look up quickly.
Nimueh stepped aside, letting him leave the tent before her. His sisters were already out of their tent on the grass, looking up to where Edmund and Aslan stood in the side of a hill. She watched the reunion from Peter’s tent, unable to hear what they were saying, but their smiles told her that they were pleased to be together again.
For the first time, she felt happy, excited even, by Elijah’s prophecy. Perhaps it would give her the opportunity to have something she didn’t have back in her own world; a purpose, somewhere she belonged.
Chapter 7: Different Worlds
After a few hours’ sleep, Nimueh collected a plate of toast from the food tent, trudged over to where three of the Pevensies sat eating and placed the plate on the small table.
“Have you had lunch yet?” Lucy asked.
“I just woke up. I’ll eat something in a little while.”
“Won’t you sit with us?” Nimueh cocked her head at the little girl. “Mrs Beaver said you’re a great warrior. I want to get to know you.”
Nimueh gave her a small smile, the innocence of the youngest of the Pevensies softening her a little. “Alright.” She sat down at the empty space at the table. “What do you want to know?”
“You are human, aren’t you?”
“No, I don’t think so. I’m not a Daughter of Eve, if that’s what you mean. My bone structure is slightly different; my bones are smaller and less dense, which make me lighter. I likely have more muscle than you do too. And I’m not from your world.” She pulled a piece of fabric from her pocket. “See, do you recognize this?”
“It’s a patch of material.” Susan seemed confused.
“No, I mean the colour.”
“It’s orange, of course.”
“You recognize it? Well, we don’t have this colour where I could from.”
“Not even if you mix yellow and red?” Edmund raised an eyebrow.
“No, it’s so strange. That’s why I always like to keep something orange with me when I come here, like a lucky charm of sorts.”
“That’s so cute,” Lucy smiled. “So, you’re not from our world and you’re not from Narnia. Where are you from then?
“I’m from an island right in the middle of a huge ocean. It’s much hotter there than it is here, and the colours are so much brighter. It’s actually a relief to the eyes to have a duller landscape.”
“How did you get from the island to here?” Lucy stopped eating and turned her full attention to Nimueh.
“I came from the water. You remember seeing the sea? That’s how I got in this time. But I usually come up from the lakes or rivers.”
“So that’s why your name is Nimueh,” Susan mused. Nimueh frowned. “From Arthurian legend, the Lady of the Lake was called Nimueh.”
“Oh, I’ve never heard of her.”
“It suits you,” Susan smiled. “She was thought of as very beautiful too.”
“You think that I’m beautiful?” Nimueh was taken aback, almost offended by such a notion.
“You don’t see it?”
“Well, because of my hair and my eyes, I’m a beastly-looking thing who should be kept well hidden from the eyes of the People, and the Elites.”
“You’re joking, right?” Peter wandered over from where he had been standing, to join the conversation. “You can’t possibly think that you could ever be considered ugly.”
Nimueh frown at Peter as he sat down across from her. “Where I come from, brown is considered a very ugly, and sometimes offensive, colour. Those whose skin was scorched by the suns were methodically hunted and slaughtered in the early days of my race, which wasn’t so long ago as we are fairly young, and those with brown hair or eyes are made to cover their faces or hair. Most act as servants to the Elites, but amongst the People the discrimination isn’t as bad. They don’t think we’re stupid or incapable, just ugly. I have been cursed with the unfortunate fate of having brown hair, and eyes that are not quite green enough. That would explain why I’m not yet married, and at my age, I might as well give up!”
Lucy began to giggle, whilst the other Pevensies looked bewildered. “What’s wrong with not being married?”
“Well, most of the Elites have had marriages arranged from birth, but commoners’ parents have them engaged from around ten, and are wed at thirteen. I’m fifteen and have no suitors. I’d blame my parents for giving me such unfortunate genes but…I can’t bring myself to.”
“Come to our world; you’ll have people throwing themselves at your feet,” Edmund said.
She laughed lightly. “You really think so?”
“Of course, I mean Peter’s already halfway there.” Peter smacked Edmund on the back of the head, looking furiously flustered. Of course, Nimueh was new to such humour and didn’t quite understand his meaning. But the look on the eldest Pevensie’s face was enough to make her laugh, hiding away the little pinkness that rose to her cheeks.
“Well, it’s very kind of you say so. And I can only hope you’ll never find yourself in my world; you’d all be commoners like me.”
“What about Peter?” Lucy pointed at her brother’s fairer hair.
“His eyes are fine, but I’m not even sure what colour your hair is?”
“It’s blonde,” Peter looked confused, fluffing his locks.
Nimueh shook her head. “Blonde is a white-silvery colour, as least where I come from. If your hair isn’t blonde or black, and your eyes are brown, you’re doomed to be a servant of the Elites – that’s where most of the work is – or to live in the People’s villages. I’m actually quite lucky, when I…when I think about it.” She trailed off a little towards the end. She shouldn’t be thinking about her life back there, not when she was in the place she loved most.
“Are you alright?” Susan touched her arms.
Shaking her head a little, Nimueh forced a smile. “Yes. Yes, of course. I was just thinking.”
“Is it really awful?” Peter asked.
“No, I mean, like I said, I’m actually quite lucky considering. But enough about that; what is it like where you come from?”
“It’s not so great either. There’s a war going on, and we were sent away from home so that we could be safe.” Peter blinked a couple of times, looking away from Nimueh, as though he had just been hit with a realization. “Which reminds me, you’ll need to pack up some food for the journey back.”
“What?” Lucy frowned.
“Back where?” Nimueh mimicked the little girl’s confusion.
“To the wardrobe, back to the Professor’s house.”
“You’re not seriously still considering leaving us, not now.” Nimueh tried not to raise her voice. “You know that’s not fair, after staying so long.”
“I’ll be staying behind to do what I can, but the rest of you need to go back. I promised our mother that I’d keep you safe.” Peter stood up and walked to where he had been leaning before.
“Do you not understand? We need all four of you to fulfil the prophecy.” Nimueh followed Peter over the rocks. “You don’t have to do this by yourself, you can’t.” Peter turned back to her, looking solemn. She knew he didn’t like it, but there was nothing he could do.
Susan got to her feet. “Well, I suppose if we are staying, I might as well get in some practice.”
“Do you want me to give you hand?” Nimueh asked.
“Something tells me that I’ll be alright.”
“It’s just as well, I suppose. I’ve seen Peter waving that sword of his around.” She smirked at Peter, who blushed and dropped his eyes to the ground. “He needs all the help he can get.”
Chapter 8: Demands For Blood
“Tighten your grip on the reins, Edmund. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to hurt him.” Nimueh circled the two brothers on her horse. “Peter, heels! Straighten your back. Do you expect to be able to wield a sword and stay on the horse with a posture like that?”
“You know, you’re a lot nicer when you aren’t teaching us.”
Nimueh huffed, rolling her eyes at Peter. “Alright, fine. We’ll have a little fun, shall we? Do you see those boulders over there? Let’s see if you can make it to them without falling off.”
“Sounds easy enough,” Edmund snorted.
“Oh, and the first wins. Go!” Kicking her horse forwards, she bolted across the field.
“Hey, wait!” she heard Peter cry. But she could only laugh, throwing back her head to feel the wind on her face. It wasn’t long before she heard the sound of hooves coming up behind her. “You didn’t say you were racing too!” came a voice beside her. The horn of Peter’s unicorn edged very slightly into the lead.
“Well, I wasn’t exactly going to sit around and watch, was I?” Nimueh leant down to whisper in the horse’s ear. “Come on, Levi, we can’t let them win.” Knowing Levi was nowhere near the fastest horse in the army, she could only hope that sheer will-power would pull her through.
“You two better hurry up!” Before she knew it, Edmund was flying past them.
Pushing Levi forward, Nimueh fought to catch up with the younger Pevensie, Peter close behind. But before they could reach the boulders, Edmund was trotting around with a smug smile on his face.
“Does this mean I win?” laughed Edmund.
“Don’t get too confident just yet; you’ve got training with Oreius soon. Get yourselves back to camp, and rest a little before you get back out here.”
“Will you be joining up?” Peter asked.
“No, I don’t fight with broadswords. They’re too heavy.” Nimueh slipped off her horse, and patted his nose. “Go, or else Oreius will have me train with you, and I’m not sure I can take much more of the pair of you.”
Peter laughed, not knowing that she was telling a half-truth. Nimueh knew she shouldn’t become attached to anyone, especially not someone so high as the future King, but he was the only boy close to her age that she had ever spoken to. She wasn’t used to such attention and feared that, after this war was over, she the pleasure of his company would end.
It was on patrol that she spotted the White Witch. She was parading into the camp with a mob of her hideous followers. Stirring Levi along the path down the hill, she pushed him down to the paddock where she tied him up with the other horse.
The Witch and Aslan were already talking by the time she reached the edge of the crowd. Nimueh didn’t like the way she glared at the Sons of Adam. Slipping in between the creatures of Aslan’s army, she reached out a hand to touch Susan’s shoulder.
“What does she want?” she whispered.
“She wants to take Edmund to the Stone Table.” Susan’s voice shook.
Nimueh glanced past Susan at Peter’s raised sword. He was no match for the Witch, anyone could see that. Only when the Lion gave a shout did she look up. Aslan turned tail and retreated into his tent, the Witch following. Lucy collapsed onto the grass, sighing deeply.
Nimueh sat down next to her. “Aslan is wise, and he is good. He will not let your brother die, I am sure of it.”
“Do you really think I am a traitor?” Edmund mumbled. His siblings immediately jumped to comfort him, but Nimueh stayed silent. Although she wanted to believe that Edmund was repentant, and as much as she hated to admit it, Edmund had betrayed his brother and sisters in favour of the Witch’s power.
“Is there anything he can do?” Peter looked at Nimueh, desperation in his eyes.
“Like I said, he is wise and good. We need to have faith in him.”
No one spoke for a long time, just pulled at the grass, and kept eye contact to a minimum. It wasn’t until the two emerged from the tent that anything seemed to move at all.
“The Queen has renounced her claim on the Son of Adam’s blood.” There was a cheer from the army, cries of happiness, and some tears. Even Edmund managed to smile.
“I suppose you’re going to say, ‘I told you so’?” Peter smiled at Nimueh, sheepishly.
“I’m not the one you need to have faith in. But I suppose, yes, I did tell you so.”
“How do I know that you will keep you promise, Aslan?” the Witch bellowed. But it only took a roar from the Great Lion to push her a step back, and she fell onto her makeshift throne. There was another cheer from the army as the Witch and her mob paraded back through the camp.
Nimueh stepped back a little from the family celebration. It didn’t seem right. What could Aslan have said to change the Witch’s mind? Looking over the heads of the celebrating Narnian, she saw Aslan slink into this tent, his tail drooping. This was the Witch, and she would not give in until her price was duly paid.
Chapter 9: Promise
A/N: This is probably the worst chapter I will ever write for this series, just a heads up. But I'm actually here to ask a favour of the (like two) people who are reading this story. I am trying to scrape together a soundtrack and I'm having an absolute nightmare! If you have any suggestions of songs you think will fit, I am all ears. Thank you!
When Nimueh opened her eyes the next morning, there was an uncomfortable chill in the air. The spring had brought with it a pleasant warmth, but something felt different, as though the season had weakened. Pulling on her trousers, Nimueh laced up her shirt and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders.
“Lady Firesong, his Majesty wishes to see you.” Oreius spoke from outside her tent.
“Alright. Tell him I will be there shortly,” Nimueh confirmed and started to re-tie up her mass of tangled locks. There was little doubt in her mind that the battle against the Witch would be soon, if not that day. She had been expecting Aslan to summon her before it all began.
When she came out into the air, the atmosphere of the camp was far colder than she had feared. Tension was riddled in the bodies of the few she saw as she made her was to the top of the campsite. The two Pevensie boys stood with Oreius over a table outside Aslan’s tent, but the lion was nowhere in sight. She walked over, though carefully, as if any wrong move could cause a riot. She stopped opposite Edmund, not looking at Peter but instead the map spread out on the table.
“Is Aslan still in the tent? He asked to see me.”
“Aslan’s gone,” Peter mumbled.
“What do you mean? Aslan’s gone where?” Only then did it occur to her that the ‘Majesty’ Oreius had been referring to was Peter.
“He’s...dead.” Nimueh looked up, wide-eyed, at Edmund. “We got word from Susan and Lucy early this morning. They’re at the Stone Table.”
Nimueh bowed her head. “I understand.” She couldn’t bring herself cry; Aslan knew what he was doing, he always did. “What are your orders?”
“I don’t know.” Peter gave her an expression of despair.
“Well you have to know. With Aslan gone, you have to lead the army into battle. They’re ready to follow you. No doubt the Witch’s army is already on their way; we don’t have time for this.”
“And what if I can’t do it? I’m just a kid.”
“Aslan wouldn’t have gone if he thought you couldn’t handle this. He believed in you.” Edmund said. “And so do I.”
“And what about you?” Peter turned back to Nimueh.
“Aslan trusted you, and I trust Aslan.” She wanted to reach over and touch his shoulder, but thought better of it. “You aren’t alone in this. You have your brother, you have Oreius, and you have me. And we’re all going to be right beside you." Peter nodded, smiling only slightly. “What are your orders, Your Majesty?” It was the first time she had verbally acknowledged his status. Peter dropped his shoulders and breathed deeply. The air seemed to change; there was hope as of yet.
“Your Majesty?” Nimueh stood outside the Kings’ tent. “I have your unicorn ready.” There came not reply. “Your Majesty, is everything alright?”
“Yes, I think so. Could you come in for a second?”
Nimueh was hesitant to sweep the curtain aside. Peter stood in the middle of the tent, reaching over his shoulder to adjust this armour. Trying not to roll her eyes, she approached him. “Here, let me do that.” Smoothing out the chain mail on his shoulders, she tightened the straps on his upper arms.
“Thanks. Are you not wearing any mail?” Peter asked, eyeing her leather armour.
Nimueh shook her head. “It weighs me down.” Stepping back, she inspected the blonde boy, not missing the worry in his eyes. Despite his grand attire and talent with a sword, he still looked little more than the teenager that he was. “Come with me.” She exited the tent, expecting Peter to follow.
Leading him over to where the white unicorn stood with Levi, placed out of sight of the rest of the army, Nimueh turned and stared Peter in the eyes. “Ever since I first came to Narnia, I have always fought beside the High King.” Pulling out a pendant from inside her shirt, she showed him the firebird within a circle. “This is the emblem of the Firesong family; they are the most important people in my life, no matter what world I am in. Do you remember Elijah? Her mother was my closest friend, so when Elijah made me promise to do everything I can to protect the High King, I intended to keep that promise. Just because Aslan is gone, that does not mean that you are going into battle alone. I have been in enough battles to know that you are ready, and that you will make a great leader. I am going to be there, and I will not abandon you if it kills me.”
Something about Peter changed as she spoke. He straightened up and there was a strengthening in his eyes. He held out a hand to her. Nimueh thought perhaps it was for a handshake. Maybe this was something that humans did before they went into battle. But this was Narnia. She clasped his forearm, and patted his shoulder with her free hand. “Let’s go.”
Chapter 10: The Battle of Beruna
Levi stamped his hooves; Nimueh ran her fingers through his mane, in a attempt to calm him or herself, she wasn’t sure. But she didn’t speak a word.
Peter had been silent for a long time. He stared out at the vast field, eyes fixed on the horizon. He knew what was coming, but Nimueh knew that when it did, he would be scared out of his mind. Her first battle had been brutal and bloody, but thankfully, short. She had been younger than Peter, and she had been more afraid than she had ever thought possible.
Then, on the horizon, a dark shape emerged. The minotaur was carrying a battle axe, easily longer than Nimueh was tall. She glanced at the young man on the unicorn next to her. He gulped, his eyes never leaving the horizon as it became polluted with the shapes of the Witch’s army.
The army stopped, their leader staring across the battlefield. Nimueh could almost feel the icy hatred against her skin. She looked over at Peter, waiting for his word. His eyes were still transfixed by the enemy.
They began to move. From where Peter’s army was, they looked like ants scuttling across the grass. But as they grew closer, their figures became clear. Ugly creatures spanning the horizon were barrelling towards them, looking to destroy everything in their path. Peter raised his sword above his head and pointed it forwards. Lifting her head to the skies, Nimueh saw dozens of griffins flying overhead carrying rocks. As they soared above the Witch’s army, they let the rocks drop.
“Are you with me?” Peter asked, finally turning to look at Nimueh. She gave him a short nod. He turned to Oreius.
“To the death,” the centaur said, loyalty radiating from his majestic form.
Nimueh brought her hand to the emblem tucked under her shirt. Closing her eyes, she prayed to every God she could name that she could live to see Narnia as she once had, the country she had loved.
“For Narnia! And for Aslan!” At Peter’s cry, she opened her eyes, drew the swords from their sheaths on her back, and kicked Levi forwards. This was her element, what she had been called for.
Hooves and paws pounded on the grass. It was as if she had cotton wool in her ears; the battle cries were muffled, her focus ahead. Peter’s sword glinted in the sunlight, reflecting into her eyes. Her ponytail whipped in the wind, her glare piercing the cyclops charging towards her.
And before he knew what was happening, Nimueh had sliced his head clean from his shoulders. The cyclops fell with a thud, but she was already gone. Swords clashed, creatures on both sides were knocked to the ground. Nimueh cut through everything she could reach, careful to avoid taking down anyone on her own side. After driving one of her swords into the belly of a fury, and throwing it to the ground, she noticed a small woman stumbling towards the edge of the battlefield. Pulling on Levi’s reins, she turned the horse and weaved through the soldiers and corpses.
“Elijah! What the hell are you doing?” she yelled at the feeble Dryad.
“I wanted to fight!” But Nimueh could see the blood soaking through her clothes.
“I understand that. But you have to get out of here; you don’t have any training!” Sliding off her horse, she grabbed hold of Elijah’s arm. “Come on. Take my horse. You’ve got to leave now.” She helped the Dryad onto Levi’s saddle, slapping his rear and hoping that Elijah could get away alive.
Being a little away from the fighting gave her the temporary advantage of going unnoticed by many of the enemy soldiers. Unslinging her bow from her shoulder, she loaded it with two arrows. She turned the bow on its side and fired into the backs of two ogres who were bludgeoning a group of fauns. But before they could turn their attention to her, she caught a streak of fire soaring across the sky, tearing a rift between the two armies. For a moment, it looked at though they might have the upper hand.
But the White Witch was on the move, slicing through the flames with her wand. There came a shout from the King, and his army begin to draw back to where there were rock embedded in the hillsides. It was their back up plan; it was their territory. From that point onwards, they should have had the high ground.
Nimueh bolted, looping around the charging enemy to re-join her own side. There were few of them left than she’d hoped for, and the Witch’s army seemed to have taken very little damage. Leaping up to the top of one of the hills, she took a few more shots from above. One of the furies flew towards her, talons stretched out, ready to claw at her flesh. Slinging the bow back over her shoulder, she draw one of her swords and hacked at its legs before it had the chance to touch her. The fury’s body slammed into the rock at her feet, and she buried the sword in its chest for good measure.
Then, something jolted through the air, a shock wave of some sort, and Nimueh fell onto her back. Breath knocked from her lungs, she pushed herself up onto her elbows, gasping. Laying on the ground, a few metres away, was her sword. Rolling onto her front, she crawled on her elbows and grabbed it. When she finally had the strength to get to her feet, she scanned the battlefield for an opening. She spotted Edmund laying on his back, clutching his waist where fresh blood was seeping through his armour. A minotaur was ripping through the valley, and he was on track to trample the boy.
Nimueh, with one sword in hand, leapt down, reach with the other hand for one of the minotaur’s horns. Swinging her body around the horn, she planted her feet firmly on the creatures head. It barely registered her, until she plunged both of her swords into its skull. It flailed wildly, raising its battle axe and knocking her clean off its head. She landed on her feet and watched the minotaur fall, dead.
Knowing that she couldn’t do a thing to help Edmund, she whipped round, almost running into a stone centaur. That’s when she saw them.
The White Witch was prowling towards Peter. She had a scarf made from what Nimueh could only assume to be the fur of Aslan’s mane. Fuelled by a new-found rage, she began stalking over to where Peter and the White Witch were circling each other. The moment the Witch so much as raised her arm to take a swing at Peter, Nimueh lunged.
Sheathing her swords, she curled her arms around the Witch’s waist, throwing what little weight she had to the ground, she pulled the her away from Peter. The blonde boy looked bewildered, as if surprised he wasn’t already dead.
“Stupid girl!” the Witch screamed.
Nimueh got to her feet before the Witch managed to, and tried to tackle one of the swords out of her hand. But the Witch threw up her leg and kicked Nimueh clear of the scene. She tumbled down and smacked her head on the edge of a rock. Her vision blurred and went black, her head throbbing, and the world slipped away.
Chapter 11: A Reason To Stay
Groaning at the pain in her head, Nimueh rolled over. When she opened her eyes, her vision was momentarily a blank white, the sky so bright that she had to close them again. Reaching up to rub her head, she felt a warm breeze wash over her.
“Are you alright, my child?”
She looked up to see the great lion standing over her. “Yes, Aslan.” Sitting up, Nimueh swept her eyes over the body ridden landscape. “Is it over?”
“Yes, dear one. Now, let us get your head seen to. Can you stand?”
Nimueh, though shakily, got to her feet, her head spinning. Following Aslan, she breathed in the faint metallic scent of blood and armour on the quiet air. To her right, she spotted the lifeless body of the White Witch. The sick feeling in her stomach settled ever so slightly in the knowledge that she was gone forever. A small figure was scurrying about the battlefield, kneeling down next to the bodies of their fallen soldiers. When the figure looked up at Aslan, she immediately hurried over.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, Lucy. Though I did hit my head pretty hard.” Sitting down on a nearby rock, Nimueh let Lucy gently pull her hair back and drip a drop of the fire flower liquid onto the cut on her head. “When did you arrive?”
“Just before the Battle ended. Aslan saved Mr Tumnus and all of the other creatures who had been turned to stone. Then Aslan killed the White Witch and her army gave up.”
Slowly, the pain slipped from her head. Her sickness faded and she felt the strength return to her limbs. “Thank you.”
Lucy curtsied to her and Aslan before hurrying back to healing the remains of their army. Nimueh stood from the rock and bowed to the lion. “I shall return to the campsite and begin the preparation for a feast tonight.”
“An excellent suggestion, child. You have done well today.”
“Thank you, my Lord.” Sweeping back through the bouldered hills towards the campsite, her mind wandered to Elijah. Though she hadn’t known the Dryad for very long, she was family, and Nimueh desperately hoped that she had returned to the camp safely.
Levi stood outside a tent at the edge of the campsite. Poking her head inside the tent, she saw about seven Dryads huddled in the blankets and cushions. “It’s over. You can come out now.” The beautiful women rose to their feet, cheering airily. “There is to be celebratory feast. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“You must rest, Nimueh,” Elijah gave her a hug. “Jonah has fixed up your dress. Go and lie down for a little while.”
The Dryads hurried past her, muttering amongst themselves excitedly. Nimueh took Levi’s reigns and led him over to the horse pen. Removing his bridle and saddle, she brushed him down and fed him a couple of apples. The clinking of armour reached her ears as the army began arriving from the battlefield. Glancing up, Nimueh squinted at the sunlight bouncing of armour, shields, swords, and sweat-glazed skins. She wrinkled her nose at the vague scent of battle in the air, she decided to return to her tent and get cleaned up.
Though she had only gained a few bruises, and the head wound that Lucy had cured, Nimueh still winced slightly as she unlaced her leather armour. Stripping off the rest of her clothes, she gently touched the patches of skin on her left side and right shoulder that were fading into a blackish-purple. She took a piece of cloth, dipped it into a jar of clean water and wiped herself down from head to toe. Then, laying down on her bedspread, she closed her eyes and tried to rest.
“Lady Firesong? Lady Firesong?” The faint calling brought Nimueh out of a dreamless sleep. Unsure as to how long she had slept, she pulled the blankets around herself, just in case the voice’s owner peeped into her tent.
“What’s the matter?”
“The feast is ready.” It was Oreius. “You should come and have something to eat, my Lady.”
“Yes, of course. Thank you. Give me a few minutes.”
“Of course, my Lady.”
The dress in which Nimueh had arrived in Narnia had been fixed and folded neatly on a pile of cushions on the other side of her tent. She couldn’t deny that the familiar softness of the silks felt so much better than her Narnian clothes. Clasping the metal closed around her neck and upper arms, she freed her hair of the plait and let her curls fall wildly over her shoulders.
The sky was dark when she exited her tent, the grass cold and dewy against her bare feet. A great fire had been stacked in the largest grassy area in front of Aslan’s tent. The heat of the flames and the scent of roasted meats brushed over her face as she approached the party, but before she could get anything to eat, her wrists were claimed in the grasp of two Dryads, who dragged her through the crowd of laughing creatures and into a ring around the fire that was filled with dancing Fauns and Dryads.
At first, Nimueh blushed with embarrassment, but her feet soon remembered the steps that she had so many times danced, however many years ago. She was passed form Faun to Dryad to Faun, closing her eyes and letting her body run with the music that rose in the air like the smoke from the fire. Someone took hold of her waist and threw her into the air; she opened her eyes and laughed loudly when they caught her.
Soon the song came to an end, and Nimueh once more remembered how hungry she had been. Exhausted from her wild dance, she collapsed on a patch of grass in the ring of creatures sitting around the campfire, laughing whole-heartedly as the Dryads and Fauns continued their folly around the flames.
“That was quite something.” Peter sat down next to her.
Nimueh’s face was already flushed from the dancing and the heat of the fire. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.”
“When you were previously in Narnia, I assume it was under better circumstances.”
Nimueh shrugged. “It had its ups and downs, though I am pleased that say that there were more happier experiences on my part. Never have I been here in such dark times.” But she allowed herself to smile. “Well, it seems now that the darkness has passed.”
“Here.” Peter held out a place with some meat cuttings and an array of sides.
“Thanks.” She took a piece of meat and bit into it. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you during the battle.”
Peter smiled broadly, and she had to look away. “Are you kidding? You were amazing! When you went down, I don’t think I’ve ever been so afraid in my life. Well, maybe once.”
“When?” Nimueh didn’t mean to pry, but she wondered what could possibly be more terrifying than almost certain death.
“Well, I thought being sent away from home during a war was the worst thing that could happen, but then I lost my brother in a world I knew nothing of.” Peter dropped his head, fiddling with the grass. “And you got him back,” he said, smiling, though still not looking up.
“You can thank Aslan for that.”
“Yes, but I want to thank you.”
“Well, if you insist, you’re welcome.” She plucked a piece of bread from Peter’s plate and tore it in two. “Do you dance?”
Peter raised his head, laughing to himself. “No, I certainly don’t.”
“Well, you’re going to have to learn, with all the balls you’ll be attending once you’re the King. Or are you still ‘not up for it’?”
“Are you going to stay? Or will you be off for another 300 years?”
“I was brought here to serve Aslan, and the High King. So as long as the King needs me, I will stay.”
“Then you’ll be here as long as I’m King.”
Nimueh could have sworn that her heart leapt. As much as she valued her pride, she shifted her body so that it was facing Peter. “You mean it? You want me to stay?”
“You vowed to stand by the High King, didn’t you? I’m not going into battle without you.”
She hoped he couldn’t see the glistening threat of tears in her eyes at the sight of his boyish grin. To be needed, to be wanted, that was everything she had ever wished for in all her years, both in Narnia and on her lonely Island. Of course, she had her family of Firesongs, and though they had taken her in and she would forever be grateful that they had done so, she had begun to get the feeling that she had relied on them for long enough. She was ready to move forward. And the hear that she could have a new home, a place where she belonged, that was far greater than anything she could ask of anyone.
Chapter 12: Crowned
Because I have finished writing this fiction, I will be uploading the last couple of chapters once a week. The sequel has been in progress for a while, but I will be taking a bit of a break because I have exams coming up after Easter. I hope that you have enjoyed this story so far, and look forward to the rest of the series.
My love, always ~ Slightly X
Nimueh leaned against the door frame of the girls’ dressing chambers. “You two look beautiful.”
The Queens-to-be turned towards her. The Dryads had dressed them in graceful velvet gowns, embroidered and perfect for the coronation ceremony. Elijah, Jonah, and a couple of their friends bowed and walked towards the door.
“We’ll leave you three to finish getting ready,” Elijah smiled. She stopped beside Nimueh, reaching up to brush her cheek, then rested her hands on her bare shoulders. “You’re radiant, my dear. I’m so proud of you, and I know Asher would be too if she were here.” Nimueh nodded, smiling sadly. Elijah and the other Dryads left, closing the doors softly behind them.
“I never thought you would be one for dresses,” Lucy cocked her head to one side, gazing at Nimueh.
“On the contrary,” Nimueh swept over to a mannequin stand and slipped a red clock off it. “Where I come from, everyone wears dresses all of the time. I wore one the other night after the battle. And I’m quite fond of them actually, but they aren’t practical when it comes to fighting.”
“Everyone?” asked Susan. “Even the men?”
“Oh yes. Everyone strives to look more beautiful every day. Of course, we have different styles for different occasions, but all the Elites always looks absolutely royal, and even the People can end up looking pretty spectacular.” Nimueh placed the cloak over Lucy’s shoulders and carefully fastened the broach at the front. “It may not be obvious, but getting all dressed up is a huge part of the culture there, so I’ve actually missed that lifestyle a lot.”
“I don’t think you’ll ever cease to surprise me, Nimueh,” Susan laughed.
She shrugged. “I suppose I’ve just had different priorities since we met. Here, let me help you with that.” She fastened Susan’s broach and pulled some of her hair over her shoulder, straightening her cloak over her arms.
“Do you…miss your friends?” Lucy’s words seemed hesitant. “Do you miss getting dressed up and going out with them?”
Nimueh shook her head. “I didn’t have any friends, not really. I dressed up to make myself feel good, but it would have been nice to have some friends.” She looked up and broke into an embarrassed smile. “That sounds really sad, doesn’t it? I’m sure that when I do, that’ll more than make up for the little things that I miss.”
“What do you mean you haven’t any friends? You have us! Right,” Susan dragged her in front of one of the long mirrors. “It’s your turn.”
“Oh no! It’s fine.” But Susan wasn’t having any of her bashful protests. Nimueh found it difficult to look at her reflection; having been raised in a land that had taught her to hate the ugliness of her hair and eyes, it was never easy to see her face as anything other than hideous. But this was a different girl to the one who had arrived in Narnia just a few weeks before, a different girl to the one who lived on the island. Her cheeks were less hollow, her body less painfully thin and willowy. Narnia had changed her once again. The dress she wore was a midnight-blue velvet, long and heavy. A thick, black ribbon of velvet, embroidered with silver curls, looped around her neck, holding up the front of the dress, and coming down and round a little way down her upper arms, leaving her shoulders bare. The same ribbon trimmed the long, flowing sleeves and the hem of the dress. Susan had begun fiddling with her hair, which had been left down in its natural wave. She pinned back the front parts, giving the copper curls a little more control and revealing more of her face.
“See? Now do you see how beautiful you are?” Lucy grinned.
“Oh, I don’t know. You think?”
“Yes. Peter’s going to love it.”
“Nothing.” The two Pevensie girls laughed. Nimueh only rolled her eyes and frowned.
“Come on, we’d best not keep Aslan waiting.” Nimueh led them out into the entrance hall, the doors to the Great Hall were still closed. Aslan stood with the two boys, Mr Tumnus and the Beavers a little way behind them.
“There you are!” Edmund exclaimed. “Trust girls to take forever to get ready.”
Nimueh took her place next to Mr Tumnus, who had donned a new scarf, just as to large wooden doors to the Great Hall slowly opened. Creatures of every shape and size, from Mice to Centaurs, filled the Great Hall. The entire room seemed a shining marble paradise, pillars reaching up into the sky, piercing the glass roof. The sun blazed through the stained-glass windows, splashing rainbow halos onto the walls and floor. A refreshing sea breeze fluttered in from the open balcony that overlooked the Eastern Sea.
The Great Lion walked up the aisle towards the dais upon which stood the four thrones, the Pevensies followed in a line. When Aslan stopped, they stepped up onto the dais and each took their place in front of one of the four thrones. Nimueh had never seen anything so grand in her life, both in Narnia and in her own world. Aslan turned to the spectators, raising his golden head, he lifted his voice to the roof.
“To the glistening eastern sea, I give you Queen Lucy, the Valiant.” Mr Tumnus took a silver crown from one of the cushions that the Beavers were carrying and, careful not to let his hooves slip on the marble floor, he placed the crown ever so gently onto her head.
“To the great western wood, King Edmund, the Just.” Nimueh picked up a second silver crown and stepped up onto the dais to approach a grinning Edmund. He tilted his head forward slightly so that she could more easily reach. Standing back, she smiled and bowed to him.
“To the radiant southern sun, Queen Susan, the Gentle.” Mr Tumnus came forward again, and Nimueh caught Susan’s eye very briefly. They shared a quiet smile.
“And to the clear northern sky, I give you King Peter, the Magnificent.” Aslan’s words sent goose bumps up her arms. Taking the golden crown from its cushion, Nimueh came to stand in front of the High King. Placing to crown on his head, she wasn’t sure whether to feel daunted or proud. As his head rose once more, she thought he looked so much older than he had done only a few days ago.
He was a little flushed, beaming out across the hall. Nimueh couldn’t help but smile. She had been afraid before, that she would have to live in the service of a King that she could never follow, that she would lose more than she had lost already. But he had given her all the proof that she needed; she could follow him the ends of the earth if he asked her to.
Aslan spoke again as the Kings and Queens sat down on their thrones. “Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen. May your wisdom grace us until the stars rain down from the heavens.”
A cheer arose from the spectators. “Long live King Peter! Long live Queen Susan! Long live King Edmund! Long live Queen Lucy!”
Nimueh swept out onto the balcony. The daylight had begun to wane, but there was no sign of the party dying down. She had never had so many people who wanted to speak to her, acknowledge her, before. And though she thought she wouldn’t be able to get enough of the attention, it had quickly become extremely overwhelming.
Breathing in the scent of the sea breeze, she felt at peace for the first time in many years. Her curls brushed over her shoulders, and she had to tuck them behind her ears to keep them from covering her face. The sun gently warmed her skin. No matter what happened from this point onwards, Nimueh thought, nothing could take this moment away from her.
“You left,” came a familiar voice.
“Forgive me, Your Majesty. It was not on your account, but that I needed some air that I left.”
“You don’t have to talk to me like that.” Peter came to lean on the balcony balustrade next to her. “I’m still the same person. I just have a crown and a fancy title now. That doesn’t mean I want you to treat me any different to how you did before.”
Nimueh smiled. “But you see, Your Majesty, that is exactly what it means.”
“But you are still, in so many ways, my superior.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that, Your Majesty.”
“Please, just call me Peter. And if you don’t like it, then you’ll just have to stick around and work to make me just as good as you are.”
“You really want me to stay?”
“Do you have somewhere else you’re rather be?”
Nimueh shook her head, looking over the ocean. “Thank you, for asking me to stay. That means more to me than you’ll ever know.” Suddenly afraid that she had made their conversation far too heavy, she turned to face to King. “You should be getting back to the party, Your Majesty. You will be missed.”
“I suppose I should.” Nimeuh bowed ever so slightly and gestured from him to proceed her, and as she did so, Peter caught her hand. “I meant to say this before, but with everything that was going on and my siblings being around, I couldn’t. And you’ll have to help me become better at speaking, because I’m not very good with words yet.” He paused, and Nimueh tried to look as calm as possible as she stare at their hands, not daring look into the King’s eyes as he found his next words.
“You once made me a promise that you would stand by me for as long as I needed you. Now, I don’t know a great deal about you or the world that you come from, but let me return your gift to me by making you a promise. As long as you live in our kingdom, you will never be made to feel ugly or lesser than anyone else.”
Nimueh, once again, felt as though she could cry. This kind of promise, she felt she would never be able to repay. Taking a deep breath to bury her true gratitude, she only offered him another smile. “Thank you very much, Your Majesty.”
Peter shook his head as if it was nothing. “Well, Lady Firesong, would you do me the honour of the next dance?”
“Ooh, I don’t know.” Nimueh tried her best to shake off her feelings with a joke. “You’re still not very good.”
Peter laughed. “You taught me to ride; how much harder could this be?”
“You’d be surprised.” But, of course, she obliged, taking the offer of his arm and walking with him back into the Great Hall.
The sun sank lower and lower in the sky, and if one had looked out from the balcony, one would have seen Aslan pacing up the beach, casting a great shadow onto the sand. Soon the sun would set on one era, and the dawn would bring with it a Golden Age, one that would grant Nimueh everything she could ever wish for.
Chapter 13: Missing
The sun began its slow decent below the horizon. Nimueh stood on the highest balcony in Cair Paravel, staring out over the ocean. Sighing, she stepped back inside. The Kings and Queens had not returned from their hunting trip. She had not heard from them since early that morning when she’d brought out extra food for them just before they had ridden off to find the white stag. Legend said that if you caught it, you would be granted one wish.
Hitching up the skirt of her gown, she hurried out of the room and down the marble steps. Reaching the entrance hall, Nimueh met Tumnus, the now older, stouter fawn.
“Have they returned, Mr Tumnus?”
“I’m afraid not, my Lady. We have heard nothing from them.”
“They had enough food and water to last them a day or so. They could be staying out in the woods overnight.”
“I doubt it, my Lady. They will need rest, and they won’t be able to hunt in the dark. The stag will likely not stay in this area long, especially not when it is being hunted.”
“That doesn’t put my mind to rest, Mr Tumnus.”
“I’m sorry, my Lady.”
“Should we send out a hunting party?”
“I think it best for us to wait a little longer. The Kings and Queens can take care of themselves.”
Nimueh nodded, but said nothing else as she walked back through the castle, to the doors that opened up into a grand courtyard. A Dryad woman dressed in green sat at a small table, a table King Edmund often used to study or play chess outside on hot summer days. “Helena?”
The Dryad turned. Her face was sallow and sickly. Helena, a usually beautiful attendant of the court, had haunted, fearful eyes. “Nimueh, are their Majesties back?”
Nimueh could only shake her head, finding no words of comfort for her friend. She approached her, placing a hand on her shoulder and tried to smile. “It has only been a day.”
“I have the most terrible feeling.”
“I know you are worried, but I’m sure everything is fine.” Nimueh felt as if she was lying to her friend. “They won’t be far away.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just…I feel an emptiness, like they’re not…” Helena’s voice cracked, “with us anymore.”
Nimueh frowned. She wanted to believe that all was well, that her concern was unjustified. But Helena’s intuition was the best she had encountered in anyone who wasn’t a prophet. She drew the young Dryad close, stroking her hair. She said nothing, because there was nothing else to be said.
Peter bundled into the something hard. “Will you stop shoving!” he yelled, his head spinning. Something soft brushed against his face and before he knew it, he was falling onto a wooden floor. Looking around, everything came back to him; finding Narnia, the eternal winter, the first time he met her. He looked at his siblings, and they were all young again, wearing expressions of shock.
“Peter…” Lucy started, but seemed unable to continue.
A sick feeling was already settling inside of him. Without saying a word, he got to his feet and walked back over to the wardrobe. The door stood ajar. He reached past the first row of coat, his eyes closed, not allowing himself to raise his hopes. And before he could think to step inside again, his fingers touched something that made his heart sink; the back of the wardrobe.
“Maybe…” Lucy had appeared beside him. “Maybe we can find a way to get back.”
Peter tried to smile, but what he felt was something entirely unfamiliar to him. He didn’t know what to do. Had it all be real? Or had he just been playing a very elaborate game with his siblings to take his mind off everything else that was happening in the world?
The door to the little room opened, and entered Professor Kirk, holding a cricket ball. Peter was bewildered; the professor hadn’t aged a day in all the years that they had been away. Professor Kirk said something but Peter didn’t pick it up. Only when Lucy took hold of his hand did he move again.
“Peter, I’m sure everything is going to be okay,” said Susan, though half-heartedly. “Perhaps this is for the best.”
He couldn’t understand how this could be better than what he had had in Narnia. Was it really all gone? Was it really all over? Peter didn’t want to think. Following his siblings as they left the spare room, he did everything he could to keep her from his mind.
Chapter 14: Gone
A/N: As the last two chapters were originally just one whole chapter, I decided to publish them both at the same time.
I hope that you have enjoyed Lionheart. Please feel free to leave a comment, with any positive or constructive feedback. I'd love to know what you think.
Thank you to everyone who left kudos and comments throughout the publishing process. You're the ones making my day!
My love, always ~ Slightly X
Weeks passed. Many parties were sent out, only to return without success. Hope began to fade throughout the kingdom. Nimueh tried her best to hold together the court, but a deep sorrow had begun to settle inside of her. She searched the castle until she found Helena, sitting exactly where she had been on the day that the Kings and Queens had gone missing. She sat down opposite her.
“How have you been?” Helena asked without looking up.
“Fine. How about you?” Nimueh tried to keep her voice steady.
“You’re not fine. And neither am I. Let’s not kid ourselves anymore; these glorious years are over. We have to accept that they have abandoned us. They aren’t coming back.” Helena was fiddling with a gold chess knight, its ruby eyes glittering in the sunlight. “It must have been too much for them. There was too much pressure on them. We should have noticed sooner.” With a cry of anguish, Helena hurled the chess piece out onto the lawn.
“Hey,” Nimueh said, taking Helena’s shaking hands in hers. “You know they would have told us anything.”
“Would they?” Helena didn’t meet her eyes.
“I…” Nimueh hesitated in fear of further upsetting her. “I know how much you cared for King Edmund.” Her friend looked up in alarm. Nimueh smiled sadly. “It’s okay. No one would have loved you any less if they had found out. It might have been a relief for him to have someone like you in his life.”
Helena’s eyes filled with tears. “I miss him so much.”
“As do I.” Nimueh stood and brought Helena into an embrace. When they pulled away, Helena took her hand and led her back into the castle. “Where are you taking me?”
“You’ll see.” The two of them hurried down corridors and up staircases, until Nimueh’s heart sunk into the pit of her stomach. She knew where they were going; it was somewhere she hadn’t dared even go near since…that day. They came to a stop outside a great wooden door. “I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you before.”
“What are you taking about?”
Without answering, Helena pushed open the door to the High King’s chambers. Everything was as it had been, untouched since they da the Kings and Queens had disappeared. The bed was left unmade, draws were left open, as were the windows. Breezes had strewn loose papers onto the floor. Nimueh knelt and gather a few pieces, clutching them tightly in her hands. A couple of tear drops splayed the signature on the top page. She stood and placed them on a chest of draws, closing those that had been left open.
Biting her the inside of her bottom lip, Nimueh tried to blink back tears. She knew that he was gone, and that she would never see him again. “I don’t want to be here,” she said. For the first time, Narnia felt alien to her; there was no land to save, no people to protect, no cause to fight for. She closed her eyes and made her way out of the room.
“I’m sorry I brought you here. I just needed to get this.” Helena joined her in the corridor, closing the door behind her. “Here.” She held out a small, red velvet box. Nimueh took it and opened the lid.
Inside was a platinum ring, small and delicate, placed carefully in the centre of a cushion. Nimueh picked it up, inspecting the three orange jewels embedded next to each other in the ring, and on the inside was engraved the words Forever and Always. “It’s beautiful.”
“Peter wanted you to have it.” The sound of his name hurt after so long. With the name came the face that she wanted to forget. “Please, take it.”
“How do you know he wanted me to have it?”
“Edmund told me. You see, Nimueh, Peter…he was going to ask you to marry him, the evening after he had gone out after the white stag.”
Nimueh looked at her, alarmed, her breath catching in her throat. “But we hadn’t even been courting. And I’m far from royalty. It would have been completely improper. How could he possibly have wanted to marry me, of all people?”
“You’re the only one who seems to think that way. You two being how you were, it was so obvious to everyone else. We had a party planned if you agreed. That’s why he was so eager to catch that stag; he wanted to use his wish to make sure you said yes.”
The tears were free-flowing now, Nimueh no longer attempting to hide her pain. “He’s gone, he’s gone because of me!” she sobbed. “He went out because he thought I’d refuse him.”
“What would you have said?”
“Yes, of course! It would have always been ‘yes.’ It would have been ‘yes’ five…ten years ago.” Dropping her head to the floor, she sighed deeply. “I shouldn’t have been so stubborn, so brutish. I should have been more feminine and delicate. I shouldn’t have acted like we were just friends, and that’s all we could have been.”
“No! Not at all. He loved you for exactly who you are.”
“I love him. I love him so much…and now he’s gone. They’re all gone, and it’s all my fault. It’s my fault that Narnia is without its Kings and Queens.”
“Don’t say things like that. It isn’t your fault, don’t blame yourself.” But nothing Helena could say would change Nimueh’s mind.
“I want to be alone for a while. I’m sorry, Helena, for everything.” She tried to hand the box back but her friend refused.
“Peter wanted you to have it. You must keep it, to honour him as you have always done.”
Nimueh nodded, turning away and making for her own chambers. Changing into her hunting gear, she decided to leave all weapons in the armoury. She wouldn’t need them. She took a plain silver chain hanging from the jewellery stand by her bed. Threading the ring onto it, she fastened it around her neck and tucked it into her shirt.
Nimueh didn’t bother taking her horse from the stables, instead stumbling down to the wood on foot. Leaves and branches pulled at her loose hair as she wandered aimlessly through the thicket. Her boots crushed flowers into the ground. She felt unaware of her surroundings, only just missing rocks under her feet and trees that bumped her shoulders.
After what could have been hours of wandering, Nimueh came across a clear, slow-moving brook. She frowned at the sight of the water. It didn’t distress her the way it used to, but she still tended to avoid going swimming. It wasn’t until a white object was carried into view that she was drawn from her trance-like state. Wading into the shallow water, she caught it.
It was Susan’s horn.
Nimueh’s knees buckled. She fell into the water, shaking with fresh sobs. The current seemed to flow stronger against her back. She crawled up the bank and placed the horn on the grass before a white rapid wave pulled her legs away and the rest of her soon followed. Nimueh flailed in fear, unable to understand how such a change in current had occurred on such a calm day. In her frenzy, her head hit a large rock as she was pulled down the brook, whose waters seemed to be growing deeper and deeper.
As she felt her consciousness slipping away, her hand reached for the ring. Pulling the chain out of her shirt, she clutched it in her fist; this was the one thing she wouldn’t, couldn’t, let Narnia take away from her. It was all she had left of a short, yet glorious life. Her eyelids drooped and she let her head fall beneath the water, knowing exactly where she was headed towards.
“Maria?!” was the next thing she heard. A heavy pressure lay on her chest, lifting away and dropping again at a rapid rate. “Maria, can you hear me? Please don’t be dead!” a female voice cried. For a moment, Nimueh thought it might have been Helena, and that she would have to bear the misery a little longer. But as she forced open her eyes, she was met with the face of the middle-aged woman, Mrs Lyknovic, who had looked after her since before she could remember. Jerking and rolling over, she heaved and spluttered up water onto the pebbles upon which she had been laid. “She’s okay, kids!” the woman cried.
Nimueh curled up, trying to stand to her feet. She was still shaking as five children surrounded her. All were in tears, blurting apologies for making her swim, vows never to make her go near the water again. The bright sunlight blazed down on her exposed shoulders, wet hair and clothes weighing her down. She didn’t look at the children, only half took in their cries.
“Maria, are you okay?” asked Mrs Lyknovic. “Does your chest hurt?”
Nimueh looked down to see her, now small, child’s hand clenched into a fist against her chest. Praying to all of the Gods she could name, she opened up her hand, and burst into sobs when she saw the ring, still looped around the broken chain, pressed into her palm. A smile broke out onto her sullen face. She couldn’t understand it. How could she bring herself to be happy, when she had lost so much? She couldn’t tell the children, nor her caretaker, for who could possibly comprehend how over fifteen years could fit into the space of just a couple of minutes?
She walked over to where her scrolls still lay. Packing them into her bag, she started back up the pebble shore to the orphanage house.
“Are you sure you don’t need a doctor?” came a call from behind her. “Where are you going?”
Maria once more, she reached up to wipe away her still falling tears from her cheeks. “I’m almost sixteen. I’m going to find a house, a job, get away from here.”
This was the second time she had come back from Narnia and halved in age. Maria was getting old, twice an adult, trapped in the body of a child. There was little room for heartbreak, even less for a love that she was foolish enough to think would last. She needed to get as far away from Lake Kibo as possible; she couldn’t go back there, she couldn’t risk being dragged back to a place that had once taken away her feelings of loss, and had now added more.
Yet she clung to the ring. It was the only reminder she had of what it was to have a real family, and to be truly loved by the people around her. Even if she had made her choice, she wouldn’t give up knowing what that felt like, not for all the treasure in Narnia.
Chapter 15: Soundtrack
Wind ~ Brian Crain
Coming Home – Part II ~ Skylar Grey
Somewhere Only We Know ~ Lily Allen
Main Theme ~ Ramin Djiwadi
Unicorne ~ Faun
Victory ~ Two Steps From Hell, Thomas Bergerson
Rise of a Kingdom ~ BrunuhVille
Two Is Better Than One ~ Boys Like Girls, Taylor Swift
Gravity ~ Sara Bareilles
My Immortal ~ Evanescence
Gasoline ~ Halsey
This playlist is available to listen to on Spotify and YouTube.