Chapter 1: The Beginning
It was one of those summers I had spent countlessly before in this old house in the woods but this one was different. Never had mom and I needed to leave the city, we always came because we wanted to. But not this time. A quick look over to the calendar on the wall revealed that we already were here for a month. A month away from home. A month spent with mom and your great-uncle Lewis. One month spent in fear of what would happen next.
Admittingly one must say that great-uncle was a rather peculiar person, but his house in the woods had always had something magical about it. Leaning my head on the window I started to remember all the adventures I had in these woods, all the magical creatures I met and all the battles I fought against invisible enemies. Never had I dreamed that this fantasy world would conquer the real world, never had I dreamed that one day a real war would tear the country, the world apart.
Since the war had started mom has grown more worried every day. Dad had fallen in the early days and she never has been the same since. The decision to move to the country, to this shack, has been a quite spontaneous one. My mom seemed more relieved here, but also troubled in another way than back home in the city. I slightly shifted because I could feel my legs slowly going numb, but… this view. I could not pull away from the view out of the window. The sun had not risen over the trees yet but it looked like a golden light came from within the forest and the dew that still hung in the covert glittered. And while my eyes got all teary from staring so hard and not blinking I swear I saw it. The trees… they moved! They. Moved. And suddenly a passage got visible. It was like the trees invited me to come and discover. And as a tear ran down my cheek and I needed to blink, suddenly it was all gone.
This moment felt strangely familiar. As I’d been little, playing in the woods and fighting with dwarfs about food was my normal summer game whenever we stayed with uncle Lewis. It suddenly all came back to me. I now remember having seen a passage like this before. How old was I back then? Maybe seven? Playing near the woods in the break of sunset, mom and dad had been sitting in garden chairs while great-uncle was in the house, fetching drinks for everyone. Yes, of course… I played with my toys, sitting in the grass as something caught my attention. The chatting of my parents, their voices, the noises the animals made in this warm summer evening, all that stepped into the background of my perception because, to be honest, I don’t remember any of it. The only thing I remember was a golden glow, coming from the trees, and I swear, I saw them shifting into a passage, just a like second ago. It also seemed like I heard voices coming from in there, a silent, soft voice, singing your name. “Joyce!”, they called me. “Joyce…” How could they know my name?
“Joyce”, suddenly I snapped back to reality and realised it was my mother’s voice I were hearing just now. “Coming”, I answered and got up, swung my blonde curls back and hurried downstairs. The house was smaller now. I remember it being bigger, but maybe it’s really small and maybe it’s just me that has grown, so since I can remember I slept in the attic.
“Is everything all right? I called for you three times…” Mom looked worried. “It’s fine, mom. I just was lost in a book.”, I lied quickly and she looked a bit less worried. “I know, it’s early, but would you mind going and get some firewood for the stove? I can’t find your uncle anywhere and I need to prepare breakfast.”, she asked and her hazel eyes scanned me. She was always good at detecting when I was lying, it has always been like that, but I did my best and held my smile, nodded, and grabbed the basket that stood next to the door.
“Of course… Maybe I’ll find uncle Lewis somewhere.”, I said jokingly, but she didn’t smile. While talking to my mother the sun had finally risen and shone softly into the forest while the birds where singing and other insects were buzzing around. Surrounded by all this beauty I should have been distracted, but I couldn’t get the memory of the passage out of my head, the golden light I saw and the whispers I heard. While being in the city this had never occurred to me. But being in the city I also have never waisted a thought on these woods. They seemed so real now, so old, big and full of wonder. How could I have forgotten about them? It seemed rude and arrogant of me and I felt ashamed. Softly I touched the bark of one of the trees, as to apologize for all these years and suddenly I could hear it again. “Joyce…” A soft whisper. Someone just whispered my name... In the middle of nowhere. In a forest. With furrowed eyebrows, I walked on, picking up some sticks on the way, convinced someone was doing mischief with me, trying to be funny.
“Joyce, we know you hear us.” Several voices whispered, softly, and at the same time and a shiver ran down my back.
“Uncle Lewis?”, I called out, starting to feel uneasy. Silent laughter was the answer. The giggles got louder and my hand clenched around the basket. Without even knowing how it happened my footsteps got faster, fists clenching, and I made my way running to where I thought the laughter was coming from.
To be honest, I never avoided a confrontation and I wouldn’t now. Whoever was doing this would have to explain themselves. Mom always said it got me more in trouble than was good for me, but father mostly smiled softly and said: “Let her be. She’ll find her way.” And that was what I’ve always done until now. But this situation got to me. Unconsciously I started to run as I suddenly heard a voice on my left. “Joyce”, it said again, but this time the voice was male and sounded like my father’s, so naturally I looked left. I missed him so much and hearing his voice again made my heart stop. It got harder to remember his voice, his smell, as time flew by I started to forget… A golden glow appeared where I was heading and my feet got caught up in something. I stumbled over a branch and closed my eyes, expecting to fall on the ground, hitting my head on a branch and get leaves in my hair but… it didn’t happen.
I fell, but landed in water. A second I thought I might have fallen into a puddle or a pond, but the water tasted salty and was rushing all over me. This must be a joke. I rolled over and sat straight up, realising I wasn’t in the forest anymore. I might not even be in England anymore.
Looking around I realised I was sitting by the sea. Or rather… in the sea. A beautiful beach stretched out in front of my green eyes, backed by heavy cliffs raising behind it, scarcely covered in trees that clung onto the rock, trying not to lose grip. On top, there was a large castle, with columns and huge glass windows. My mouth was still hanging open, the sea still washed over my body again and again and nothing made sense anymore. “What the hell?”, I mumbled to myself and looked around, still trying to figure out what happened, as suddenly a loud noise arose somewhere on my left. Around the bay two horses suddenly appeared and galloped their way directly to where I was sitting, still in the ocean. On top of the horses sat two young men, though of different age. The first one sat on a white horse, his long, blonde hair whipped up and down as he got his horse to stop. A beard grew over his cheeks and blurred his features, leaving me guessing how he looked beneath it and how old he really was, because right now he must be at least ten years older than me. At least that was my guess back then. What facial hair can do!
The other man was younger than the first and sat on a brown horse, patting its neck as the horse stopped. He had dark, messy hair and looked down on me more curious than the other one, who seemed rather cautious. “Who are you and what are you doing here? How did you get here?”, the first boy asked in English and I was astounded, but a bit overwhelmed by the amount of questions. “Why are you sitting in the sea?”, the second boy asked, a cheeky grin on his lips. That was a question I could deal with.
“I… I don’t know.”, was my answer. Very witty. “But I do know what my name is.”, I answered after a second thought. “I’m Joyce.” “Well Joyce, what are you doing here? How did you get here?”, the one with the beard asked again and finally I got up. My skirt was soaking wet, and not only that. My tights and underwear were dripping from sea water and as I looked down at my feet, I could hear my mother shouting at me for going in the water, still fully dressed. I missed the next question. “Sorry, what?”, I said and looked up to the blonde man again. “Would you consider”, he said, badly hiding his annoyance, “your way of talking to the High King of Narnia?”
I let out a curse and my hand rushed back up, covering my mouth. My mother would have killed me for swearing in front of any member of the royal family. “Oh god I’m so sorry”, I said and stumbled back a few steps, further into the sea. “I am from Bracknell, England and I have no idea how I got here. I was walking through the forest and heard voices and then I tripped and I fell into the sea and now I’m here.” The words slipped out of my mouth before I could stop them and I looked up at the two guys on horseback and added: “Your Majesty”, quickly.
A short pause arose and it made me quite nervous, but then the dark-haired boy said: “Come on, Pete. You can’t leave her here in the water.” And with that he got off the horse and approached me: “I’m Edmund. Can you ride? If yes, get on the horse, we’re going to get you to the castle and see what we can do for you.” Leaving me with no other choice than to get on that horse, of course with his gallant help, I now followed the white horse of Pete, around the bay and up through the forest that stretched out over the side away from the sea, to the castle I’d noticed earlier.
“And you do live here?”, I asked while walking through the huge hall, looking up at the ceiling. The glass windows glistened in the sun and reflected beautifully on the ground.
“Yup”, said Edmund and leaned against a column.
“This is fantastic.”, I whispered in awe as I walked into the middle of the hall and turned back to face Edmund, smiling widely. Suddenly the doors swung open and Pete came in, next to him two girls, one of them seemed my age and the other one older.
“So, you’re from England?”, the younger one asked and rushed forward, but Pete held her back.
“Your name is Joyce, is that right?“, he asked sharply while observing me.
“I think so…”, I muttered, since he was extremely intimidating.
“You already asked her that.”, Edmund said and looked at the other boy, Peter.
“I know, but Lucy and Susan weren’t there”, the High King of Narnia scoffed back.
“Boys”, said the older girl. “Please, would someone clarify this situation?”
Pete cleared his throat, while I stood in the middle of the four, my clothes silently dripping on the perfect marble floor.
“When we were out for a control along the shore, we found this girl. She couldn’t tell us who she really was and where she was from and so Ed here”, and he pointed at Edmund, “needed to bring her here. I then thought we could settle this all together.” He stemmed his hands in his hips and looked around. The look of confusion on my face must have been priceless, because as all four of them turned to examine me, the girl my age started to giggle and Edmund grinned, too.
“Uhm”, I said and shrugged, before starting to explain. “My name is Joyce. I’m from Bracknell and I stayed with my uncle Lewis, who lives in Swinley Forest. As I went into the forest to collect some wood for the stove I heard whispers, saw a golden light and then I found myself here.”
“In Narnia?”, the High King asked.
“Apparently?”, I stated, but I had no idea whether this statement was true or not, because where in Great Britain was Narnia exactly? “Narnia”, I repeated silently as the youngest, the girl who seemed my age, stepped forward. She was a bit smaller than I was, had brown locks that fell on her shoulders and curious blue eyes. Her cheeks were red and she looked as if she was enjoying this situation.
“May I kidnap you and give you some dry clothes? My brother isn’t the fastest when it comes to thinking”, and she shot Peter a look, before turning back to me, smiling, “but I would mind if you caught yourself a cold, so, please, follow me.”, she said and before I could say no she grabbed my hand and pulled me with her.
“I’m Lucy, by the way”, she said as you left the huge hall and the others behind. Lucy guided me through corridors and smaller halls. She talked and talked and talked while all I could do was being in awe. She told me that she and her family came here from England as well, fleeing from the war as well to the country and that they had stumbled through a wardrobe into this kingdom. “By prophecy we were then, after Jadis was defeated, announced royalty of Narnia, you could say.”, she ended the story as you stopped in front of a beautiful blue door. “That’s my room. I thought you might want something more appropriate for this …”, she made a vague hand gesture, “Narnia here?”, I finished her sentence, still a little star struck by her story and that she was royalty.
We both started to laugh.
“Exactly”, Lucy said and opened the door, revealing a beautiful room. The walls where white and blue curtains gave the room a nice, coloured aspect but the most beautiful thing, besides from the wonderfully carved canopied bed, was the view that stretched out in front of me. The sea glistened beneath the little balcony and stretched out as far as I could see. This must be a dream. I am sleeping and right now and I don’t want to wake up.
With my mouth still hanging open I turned around, while my clothes dripped on the expensive looking carpet. “Oh goodness, I’m so sorry.”, I said, moving aside and now dripping on a nice brown wooden floor. I looked up to Lucy, aware of the damage I had done, who was holding up a beautiful dress.
“You swear a lot”, she remarked, still smiling lightly.
“I… I am sorry.”, was all I could say, while I was rubbing my neck. “I should really consider adjusting my language, especially while I am here, besides royalty and… stuff.”, I mumbled, remembering Peter’s words, but Lucy shook her head.
“No, no, no! Please, it’s rather refreshing. It feels more normal, more like back home.”
A short pause arose while I was nervously biting my lower lip, thinking about how difficult it must have been to adjust to this new life as royalty for Lucy and the others. I still could not believe that this should be real. “Then you can count on me.”, I finally said and smiled warmly at her. But this nice moment between us was interrupted as I suddenly had to sneeze.
“And I will count on you for helping me into that gorgeous dress before I catch a cold.” Lucy giggled and nodded.
I could literally not stop spinning in that dress, watching it flowing down my body on the ground and twirling around my ankles. “It is absolutely breath-taking.”, I said for the sixth time.
Lucy smiled at me, before proposing: “I could show you around some more? In the castle? We could get the horses and go for a ride in forest or we could get you something to eat or…” Lucy’s words made clear how desperately she wanted to spend time with me – which was really surprising.
Never had I thought that royalty could be interested in me. I was nothing special. Never. And now she wanted to hang out with me? This was a lot to take in.
Before I could open my mouth, my stomach answered the question for me and growled really loud. After we both looked at my stomach, we started to laugh. “Come on, I’ll lead you to the kitchen.”, Lucy said and left the room ahead of me. I shot one last glance back at the glistening sea and while following Lucy through the castle I couldn’t help but thinking how unbelievable this all was, how absolutely fascinating. And frightening none the less.
I know this one is a bit short, but the next chapter is longer, promise!
Chapter 3: Making Friends
The kitchen turned out to be huge and run by, as Lucy said “the best chefs in Narnia.” The men working there all wore aprons and prepared a delicious smelling lunch for Narnian royalty. Plus one. “I can’t believe it… I still can’t believe it.”, I said after I pinched myself hard enough to make my eyes water.
“Oh, you will after you tasted this.”, she picked a bun from a tablet one of the many men with curly hair who were working in the kitchen. He had a nice face and a big nose, but between his curls I could see something… pointy?
“No no no, Queen Lucy, these will be needed for lunch. You know they are High King Peter’s favourites!”, the man said and a stomp could be heard, a sound a horse did when it stepped on stone.
“Ah, don’t be so hard, Immanuel. We have a guest here and she needs to try these.”, Lucy said and handed me the bun. Although it smelled delicious I could not taste it, yet. I needed to know.
“Uhm, Lucy, are… are these men…?”
“Fauns! Yes, they work here in the kitchen, some play in the orchestra of the castle and some of them take care of the horses. But the centaurs are better with the horses, I guess they somehow have a special bond, both of them having hooves.” She shrugged and looked at the bun I was now clenching in my hand. “You should taste it, not crush it!”, she exhorted me and I looked down at the bun.
“Oh, uhm, yes.” Fauns and centaurs had put my off my stride for a second, but since I was in a mystical land where you could enter through a forest and fall into an ocean, where women wore old-fashioned dresses like princesses and where men were around on horses much more than I was used to, I could accept mystical creatures as well. Wait a second…
“Did he just call you Queen Lucy?”, I asked, my eyes widened and I looked at her in disbelief. She was around my age, so she must be roughly twenty years old now? And she was a Queen? What that what she meant with royalty?
“Uhm… yes. Queen Lucy the Valiant. At your service.”, she smiled and stretched out her hand to me. “Susan’s title is quite nice, too. She’s the Gentle. And High King Peter, I bet he told you already. He likes his title a lot. Especially if you add the Magnificent to it. He’ll love you if you do, I promise. That’s what I always use when I need something from him.”
That was too much. The bun fell out of my hand, but before it could land on the floor, a mouse of the seize of a small dog had caught it, handing it back to Lucy. She looked at me and I could see that she was worried, so I straightened my back and smiled. “Oh well, that’s sure a lot to take in, but I think I’ll be just fine.”, I said and Lucy smiled now.
“When was the last time you had one of these?”, she asked, leaning against a cupboard, examining me closely.
“Before the war.”, I answered and could hear how my voice trembled. “I thought so.”, Lucy said and laid a hand on my shoulder. “There is no war in Narnia. It’s fine. But it confuses me that the war is still not over. We’re here for ten years now. And there is still war outside?” I furrowed my brows and looked at her. This confused me.
“When did you leave England?”, I asked and she told me, which made me gasp. “That’s… that was only three months ago? I… shit.”, I said but then remembered who I was with, but as I nervously looked up, Lucy smiled at me.
“I think… time simply moves faster here in Narnia. I mean…” She seemed lost for words. The thought that the war in the world she was from still wasn’t over seemed to scare her more than she was willing to admit. A quick smile, clearing her throat and then she took me by my hands. “Come on. You can eat the bun on the way to the dining hall”
I did. And I nearly died. It was so delicious I felt like buns were the only thing I would ever want to eat – until I die. But as we entered the dining hall, my feet seemed to be unable to move. The table was loaded with food and my eyes scanned everything. Turkey, ham, bread, more buns, grapes, cheese, apples, and fruits I’ve never seen before covered the golden plates. Pete, Edmund, and Lucy’s sister Susan were there already.
“Finally, there you-”, but Pete, it was amusing to call him that without him knowing, didn’t finish this sentence. He looked at me and again I felt intimidated. This man was really something and I had no idea where to put him exactly. He looked at me, then at Lucy and finally gestured towards the table. Edmund examined me closely, but he chose not to say anything. And Susan smiled. Her beauty was astonishing. I was seated opposite of her and I bet I made a hundred mistakes while having dinner with the royalty of Narnia because I was so distracted. She was graceful, her smile seemed gentle but it also showed how wise she was, that she was definitely more intelligent than I was and her whole behaviour emitted queen-ess through and through.
Edmund, who I supposed not being royalty since Lucy didn’t introduced him to me that way, was quiet. While Lucy was telling the others what I had told her previously, about the war and home, he sat there, his forehead wrinkled, silently listening, and turning to Peter, when he whispered something. Ed nodded and then both of their gazes fell on me. I shifted on my seat and took a deep breath before taking another bun from the table. Those really were delicious.
“So, Joyce, what do you suggest we do?”, a voice said and I was ripped out of my thoughts back into reality. Well. Back into Narnia. Susan, Lucy, Edmund and Peter, who was the one who addressed me, were all looking at me.
“About what, Your Majesty?”, I asked, this time remembering my manners. Peter smirked but then cleared his throat and looked stern again.
“About you being here. You’re from the real world. I suggest you wish to go back?”, he said and the sudden realisation hit me, that I was away from my mother, that she must be worried sick, that her and uncle Lewis were probably roaming the forest, looking for me. I swallowed but the lump in my throat didn’t seem to go away, so I looked up at Peter and shrugged.
“I’m sorry, Your Majesty, but I don’t know… I… want to go back, but I don’t know if this is possible.” And that was the truth. Why was I even here? Why couldn’t I still be in England, collecting wood for the fire, for breakfast?
A hand took mine and I looked up. Lucy was smiling softly at me and as she said: “I think you should get some sleep, all this must be really exiting for you.”, I could have hugged her. Even though being a Queen, she still was a really nice person and obviously had noticed how much all this had gotten to me and how much Ineeded some time to process all that happened. A few minutes later Lucy guided me through another hall in the west wing. My room was uncomfortably far away from hers and my face must have given it away, because Lucy held me back before I could enter the room. “It’ll be fine. If you need me, ask the guard.”
“Wait, what guard?”, I asked and my voice was shockingly high.
“There are guards on the doors, simply for safety. They know the Cair Paravelle very well and if you need me or something else, they know where to find it.” Although her smile was very reassuring I still wasn’t quite convinced by this approach. But what kind of person would I be if I requested another room, if I declined her nice offer to have me in the castle or if I acted rude after she and the others hand been so hospitable.
“This is really nice, thank you so much Lucy.” I actually only wanted to softly push her hand but as I reached out she pulled me in a hug. “It’s alright. I’ll be here and pick you up for breakfast tomorrow morning. Now sleep well, Joyce.”
As her dress had disappeared behind the next corner, I opened the door and entered my room. It was a lot smaller than Lucy’s room, but also featured a beautifully carved canopied bed. Candles were lit in every place imaginable, next to the bed, on the table, behind the door, everywhere. The room was held in white, the furniture was made from ash-tree and there was a large painting of the sea right above the bed. Unfortunately, the sea herself could not be seen from my window, but instead I could watch the sun set into a forest, wilder and bigger than any forest I’d seen in England. Maybe even more impressive than Swinley Forest. This thought hurt me. Shaking my head wasn’t helping, that’s why I closed the curtains and threw myself on the bed. Everything I had seen today, everything that’s happened and now I was in another country, another century maybe where time passed quicker than in my reality. I tried to avoid the word “world”, because imagining not being on planet earth anymore was even more frightening.
While thoughts like this kept on spinning in my head I overheard the silent knock on the door. My sobs were louder than this shy approach and obviously the one who knocked decided to leave again.
In the middle of the night I awoke, bathed in sweat. The blouse I had worn with my skirt when I arrived, which I was wearing as a nightgown now, was wet and so were the sheets. Obviously, I had had a vivid dream. But even scarier was the fact that the door was open. A young man in chain mail with a lance in his hand stood in the door, as if he’d pushed it open just a second ago. I pulled my sheets closer to me, hiding my breast behind it, although the red fabric covered it neatly.
“I-I am so sorry.”, the young man stammered and loosened his grip on the handle. “I heard you screaming and I thought you were being attacked, that’s why I…” He paused again and shook his head. “I am sorry.” His voice sounded pleasant and he was tall with broad shoulders. Most of my candles were out, but the candle holder behind the door threw a flickering light on his face. He had dark blonde hair and a strong chin. His hair hang in his eyes and got curly at the tips. Nervously he scratched his chin.
“No, it’s alright. You thought you needed to protect me. This is… gallant to say the least.”, I answered and nodded, as to convince not only him but myself as well. “Well…”, you said after a while in which no one said a word.
“Oh right”, he said and bowed forward a bit. “I will let you sleep now. I hope your night will be pleasant. I will take care of you.”, he said, still bowed forward before he stood up straight and turned on his heels.
“Wait!”, I called out. “What’s your name?”, I asked, because, to be honest, I needed to know. This man was standing outside my door, protecting my life with his and even though I just slept uneasy he’d decided to check on me.
He turned back to face me and from what the candle holder showed me, he looked confused. “Phileas”, he said and nodded.
“I’m Joyce, it’s nice… to meet you. Thank you. For standing outside that door.”
“It’s an honour, Lady Joyce.”, he said and a smile rushed over his face. I noticed something was off about the left corner of his mouth, but he looked pretty when he smiled.
“Technically speaking I am not a Lady. I’m just… Joyce.”, my reply sounded lame, but he nodded. “Then, just Joyce, goodnight and may your dreams be soothing.” With these words, he reached for the handle, pulled the door close and – I can only assume – put himself back in position right before my door.
Chapter 4: Finding a way around
The next morning, I awoke to the sound of knocking. Someone knocked on my door. I opened my eyes and looked around, but it took me a second to realise where I was. “Come in”, I said and thought it’d be my mother, but instead a girl looked through the door and smiled at me. Just then I realised that I wasn’t with my mother and that I wouldn’t be soon, if we didn’t figure out a way to get me back.
All these thoughts roamed through my head before Lucy could say her “Good morning”, but I managed a smile anyways. “Good morning”, I replied and sat straight up.
“Since you’re not dressed yet I think I’ll help you get ready for breakfast, mh?”, she said and I smiled. She was so kind to help me with my hair and the dress again. She herself although looked wonderful. Her hair was braided and turned into a knot in her neck. A few strands hung into her face and framed it, she looked stunning. I tried to remember the way she tied my dress but her hands flew so fast I couldn’t keep up with them.
“Had a good first night in Narnia?”, she asked while pulling the strings of my corset tighter together.
“Oh, well. I seem to have had a bad dream. I woke up in the middle of the night and obviously I screamed, because my guard checked on me. I did not only embarrass me the first night I am here but I also scare that young faun to death, so… yeah. A great first night I’d say.”
Lucy giggled but placed her hands on my shoulders. “I can only imagine, it must be hard…” Her voice hinted that she herself had had bad nights in Narnia as well, but before I could address it she said:
“Well, then let’s put this experience behind and get some breakfast.” She walked me back to the dining hall and told me about her daily routine, all the things she had to do and people she needed to meet. Being a Queen of Narnia wasn’t an easy job. She also talked about other nations around Narnia, like the Calormenes or the Archenlanders, and how there would be a banquet soon to keep peace and discuss trade and other important things, but these meetings were up to Peter, as the High King, and Lucy and the others were mainly there to represent their kingdom alongside him.
“This sounds like a lot of responsibility”, I responded and we walked around a corner. The entrance to the dining hall now was in sight and I now remembered where in the castle we were.
“Well, not as much as Peter has to carry as the High King. But we mostly enjoy the feasts and banquets, since other humans in Narnia are kind of rare.” She smiled at me before we entered and suddenly I missed my mother even more. It was not helping to know that time in her … place? Universe? passed slower than here. But before I could delve deeper in my thoughts, a voice pulled me out of my them.
“Good morning, Joyce.”, High King Peter said and I looked up at him. He wore a light-blue cape with golden embroidery and his beard was trimmed. He looked around twenty-five now, that I could make out his features better. Lucy sat down and I stood there, frozen on the ground. What about courtesies? Did I have to make a curtsy? What was expected of me?
“Oh, don’t worry.”, Susan said and patted on the seat next to her. “You’ll get used to life in the palace. There’s no need for courtesies – not now.” I took a deep breath, smiled at her, and sat down. Her hair flew free over her shoulders, a single flower was put into behind her ear and she wore a breath taking dark green dress with white embroidery.
“Thank you”, I mumbled and sat down. Lucy sat opposite to me and Edmund next to her. Peter sat at the head of the table and the breakfast looked delicious. Buns, bread, fruits. I could see beans and toast as well and felt a little more homesick. As I looked up I could see Edmund scanning me sceptical but when I raised an eyebrow he looked away.
“Well then, enjoy your first Narnian breakfast.”, Peter said and grabbed an apple. Susan reached for a bowl of beans and Edmund grabbed a toast. Lucy took a bun and some marmalade. The breakfast looked amazing but I only took some grapes, hoping not to seem rude. I could see the suspicion in the eyes of the others but I couldn’t eat. Especially not since my thoughts of home came back, as Susan ate the beans right next to me. The smell was great and I wished I could sit together with uncle Lewis and my mother.
The others began to chat and Peter explained to me who would join the banquet and tried to make me understand where the different parties all came from. But without a map I was completely lost.
“I think it’s enough to ask of her to find her way around in the castle. She doesn’t need to know all of Narnia yet.”, Edmund said and winked at me.
“I- uhm… I will… Yes.”, I stammered and looked down on my plate, where now two single plums remained lonely. Edmund confused me. He often looked at my, trying to find out whether I was a thread or not and then he did something like that, winking at me and embarrassing me, only just to frown the next time I’d look at him.
“We’ll practise”, Peter said and suddenly he even smiled. I’ve never seen him smile and he looked younger now, but Susan pulled me out of my thought through laying a hand on my shoulder.
“We’ll also see whether we can find a way… back for you. I’ll be in the library today and see whether one of the old books gives away a hint.” Her voice sounded flat.
Suddenly it came to my thoughts that if this way back was found, Susan, Lucy, Edmund, and Peter could return, too. I looked at Lucy who subtly shook her head. She must have noticed as well but remained silent. The mood at the table had grown icy.
“And if you don’t mind”, Edmund said, leaning forward, “I’d like to show you around a bit. I’m free today, without preparations and appointments.” Lucy shot him a glance before she nodded.
“I’m going to help Susan. Maybe we find something that’ll be of help.” Susan looked at her and smiled, but Peter’s look had gone back to stern.
“We can meet here again for the first exchange of information. Lunch will be served, too.”
“He sounds like a real king.”, I said to Edmund, as we left the hall together. The silence between us was disturbing, so I thought I could try my best and do some small talk. He smiled.
“Peter does his best. It’s not an easy job to be the king of such a huge world.” He sounded experienced as he said that, crossing his hands behind his back. I examined him closely and then shrugged.
“I bet you and I can only imagine, right?” As I said this he turned around and scanned me. His dark eyes seemed amused but he then nodded.
“How right you are. Susan and Lucy are good queens and I am honoured to be part of all this.”, he said and turned around again but without leaving me out of sight.
“You… you seem human. I…” His laugh interrupted me and my cheeks grew bright red. “I don’t mean to be rude. I just want to understand.”, I said hasty and he still giggled as he answered: “No, please, go ahead and ask whatever you want to ask.”
“Were you born here? Did you come here with the others? What… are you? As in, what is your occupation?” All these questions burst out of me before I could hold myself back and as I looked at Edmund, whose eyebrows were raised, a look of subtle amusement still on his face, I bit my lower lip. My mom would have been furious with me if she caught me talking to a young man like that, so I silently added a “Sorry” and hoped for the best.
But when I looked up he smiled. “I am human. I am from earth. Let’s say I know the others for a very long time and happened to be with them when they came to Narnia. I am here to help wherever possible and have the position of, mhm, a royal counsellor or advisor.” He slipped his hands into his pockets and stopped in front of a door. “Anything else?”, he asked and I shook my head, a little perplex about how easy he took all these questions.
“Then come on. We’ve got a lot to see.”, he held the door open for me and it lead to the most beautiful garden I’d ever seen. The sun was shining and the flowers were in full bloom. Bees buzzed through the air, followed by bumble bees and little birds. The air smelled like flowers, freshly mown grass, and some smells I’d never encountered before. A fountain framed by flowerbeds made the first big sight, water fell from the mouth of a lion into the basin in which some coins lay on the ground. Behind that the grass softly sloped down the hill, little rows of hedges arranged on both sides of the path that lead into a forest in the far end of the garden. I could see a little garden house on the right and behind it the hill rose until the walls of the castle made up a natural border for the garden. Ivy grew on there, covering the stone.
“Wow…”, I whispered as I walked out of the castle into the garden. I recognised some flowers from home and saw others which looked wild and unfamiliar but beautiful nevertheless. The trees, even though in the far back of the garden, were huge – bigger than any tree I’ve ever seen in England. At the foot of one big tree I could see leaves swirling through the air and – wait a second. “Did those leaves just turn into a human?”, I asked Edmund, who now stood beside me, looking over the grounds.
“They are called Dryads. They live in trees.”, he explained and I nodded, as if this was the simplest thing to know. Now I knew who called me in the forest. I shot one look back at the slender figure and smiled, as they waved.
“Come on, I want to show you the practice grounds.”, Edmund said after a short pause and took my arm to softly guide me down a path. Although I didn’t want to leave the garden already, him touching me startled me so much, I simply followed.
The practice grounds were a field outside the castle, closer to the cliffs, with targets and mannequins of straw to practise swords fighting on them. A different choice of swords was displayed on a wooden shelf and also a variety of bows and arrows was to choose from.
“Oh, this looks exciting. Do you know how to use all this?”, I asked and gestured towards the weapons. Edmund simply nodded and took a bow, choose an arrow, and hit bullseye on the furthest away target. Impressed I looked at the target and then back at him.
“Can you teach me?”, was my next, not so well thought through, question.
Edmund raised his eyebrows, but seemed happy with my request. “Sure. If you’re here for long enough to become good at it, I don’t see why not.”
There it was again, that big thing, the going home situation. I sighed. “You’re right. Let’s… keep moving, okay?”
Edmund looked as if he wanted to say something but then didn’t. He nodded quietly and lead the way up to the cliff, with me trailing behind him, wondering if I’d ever get back home again.
The sight from the cliffs was breath-taking. The sea was wild and dark blue, high waves crashing into each other before they could break at the shore. I stood there, my mouth hanging open, as Edmund stepped next to me. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Astounding”, I answered and forced my gaze away from the water and looked at him. His hair got dishevelled by the wind and his eyes were fixed on the horizon. He sighed deeply before he smiled again.
“I wish I knew why you came.”, he then suddenly said and I tilted my head at him.
“Aslan never sent anyone else before. And it’s been ten years now.”, he said and shrugged. “I fear this might mean something will happen. Something rather unpleasant.” His brows were furrowed and he looked deeply in thought, as if he hadn’t talked to me, but rather to himself. He suddenly pulled himself out of this and shook his head lightly. When he looked at me, I took a deep breath:
Chapter 5: New Perspective
Later, when everyone was gathered again around the table and lunch was being served, a hot stew that smelled like home, which made the lump in my throat grow even bigger, the atmosphere was dense, to say the least.
Lucy and Susan didn’t say a word until lunch was over and Peter seemed incredibly impatient. Only Edmund was a source of calmness. Whenever I shot him a look, he smiled at me, which didn’t help cause his smiles also made my stomach do weird things. It felt like it would move around in my body, leaving me feeling excited and a bit sick. A weird sensation.
“All right”, Peter said as some fauns finally carried away the bowls and plates. “Let’s talk. Susan, Lucy, did you find anything?”, he asked but Lucy only stared at her hands. Susan’s look was apologetic.
“I’m sorry Peter, we didn’t. Up to what we know, there have only been few other humans brought here before us and they’re records are… rather sloppy.”
Peter sighed. “Lu?”
“Nothing. But… I don’t think Aslan has sent her here without a purpose. Joyce must be here because she needs to help us with something, I’m sure of it!”
Again, that name. Edmund said that he would explain later, alongside with the others and now they were talking about him again.
“Excuse me, your highness, but, who is Aslan?”, I asked, turning directly towards Peter. He nodded, putting the tips of his fingers together.
“Aslan is a lion. The Great Lion”, he said. “He is the maker of Narnia, son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. He created this world, he called us here. He rules over everything. Above anyone.”
As if this should make sense, everyone nodded. “Excuse me, again, your majesty, but, a lion, you said?”
“Not a tame one, like you see them in the circus or in zoos. He is a wild lion and he comes and goes as he pleases. It’s been a while since we saw him, right?”, he now said and turned towards his sisters.
“You’re right”, Lucy said, seeming low-spiritedly.
“But…”, I said, still trying to figure out how a lion could create a land, how he could rule. Taking a deep breath, I nodded. “Alright. And he sent you here? Ten years ago?”, I asked, trying to change the topic. This time, it was Susan who answered.
“Yes. He sent us here to free Narnia from the White Witch and to rule over Narnia, make it great and bring it peace and prosperity.”
“And… did you do that?”, I asked, leaning forward, and watching Lucy. She’d said that I could have been sent here for a purpose and then be sent back home. But what if that didn’t happen? If the royal family and Edmund still lived in Narnia to this day, did they not finish their task? Did they not please Aslan?
I caught Edmund’s gaze, he seemed to think the same as me, watching me interested before turning towards Peter. “She is right. I thought about this too. Haven’t we done what was asked of us?”
“It’s Aslan’s decision when what we were called here for is done.”, Lucy said, and to my surprise, with a stern face and a tone, that let everybody knew she was not going to argue with that.
“Lu is right. But maybe there is something coming we need Joyce’s help for.”, Peter said, rubbing his chin, seeming lost in thought. He lingered in this position for a short time before he shook his head. “I am still unsure what to do with you, Joyce. This is a weird mixture of Narnia and… home.” He seemed to swallow hard. “It’s a bit complicated and I am already sorry, but for now it seems like we can’t do much to help you. We can accommodate you here in the castle but still need to attend to our duties. All of us.” He shot Edmund a glare and then looked back at me, his eyes softening. “I will see that you don’t get bored, but right now there is nothing we can do for you.”
I nodded but could feel the big lump in my throat grow even bigger. Nothing we can do for you. It took me a few seconds before I had really understood what this meant. I was going to be trapped here. Who knew for how long… Tears started to dwell in my green eyes and I looked at Lucy, who sighed sadly and then nodded towards Peter.
“May I be excused, your Majesty?”, I mumbled and then got up, without waiting for Peter’s approval on anything. I left the room as fast as I could but couldn’t keep in the tears that long. Making my way through one corridor to another, not knowing where I was going, I cried and finally ended up in a courtyard. Warm summer air greeted me, birds sang and a fountain blubbered in the middle. It was a swan, water flowing out of its beak that was stretched out into the air.
Four stone benches surrounded the fountain and the flower beds that had been put on every side. I let myself fall on one of them and buried my face in my hands, feeling my body shiver. The warmth from outside could not help me to get rid of the cold feeling that started to take over my entire body. I was trapped.
Trapped without my family, in a land full of talking animals, in a kingdom, ruled by people not much older than me, in a castle where I had no sense of navigation whatsoever, in a country that had been created by a speaking lion…
Letting this sink in would take a while.
“Lady Joyce?”, I heard a voice and looked up. The faun that had been protecting me over night, Phileas, stood in an archway. He must have come from inside the castle, maybe on patrol or on his way to his quarters. His dark blond curls were reflecting the sunlight, he carried his helmet under his arm. The warm smile on his face was replaced by a worried frown as he saw my tears. “Is everything all right?”, he asked and stepped closer. He still had his lance in one hand, his grip around it tightening.
“I’m… fine”, I stammered, wiping away another tear.
“You’re crying”, he stated. “You can’t be fine.”
“I just got… some pretty bad news.”, I shrugged but he stepped even closer.
“May I sit down, Lady Joyce?” I noticed he still called me Lady Joyce but I also decided that he probably was trained to be polite, so I decided not to address it. Instead I just patted on the bench next to me and he sat down, keeping a proper distance.
“What happened to you?”, he asked gently. His brown eyes were full of worry but he managed a tiny smile.
“I… just talked to the King.”, I said, trying to find a way to explain all this.
“And he made you cry?”
“No, well, yes, but, not him. Rather, what he said. Oh boy, this is confusing.”, I managed to say, taking a deep breath and sitting straight up. “Do you know that the King and his family did not come from Narnia?”
“Yes, they were brought here by Aslan and defeated the White Witch.”
“And the land they came from, that’s my home too. I, too, was brought here by Aslan, as it seems, and today we discussed this.”, I managed to say without another cry or whimper. I still felt the lump in my throat and more tears making their way up as I said the next few sentences: “It seems like I have business in Narnia, which I don’t know what it could be. And this means I can’t go home before I haven’t looked to it. And it’s fu-” I stopped myself from swearing, feeling that my emotions brought out the rude side of me again, “it’s just very hard to figure out what I’ve been brought here for.”
Phileas nodded and a gentle smile now decorated his lips. “Do not worry, Lady Joyce.”, he said and offered me a handkerchief. “Aslan has a great perspective on the world. He sees things we can’t even imagine and how they might end up. When he brought you here it means you will be needed. Don’t worry about how and where. It will be all right in the end.”
His dark voice and his smile helped me calm down. The sun and the birds, along with the somewhat sweet Narnian air made me feel stronger. Of course Phileas’ words were true. Still, I was missing home. But I bet the Kings and Queens and Edmund, too, missed their home tremendously. And still they were here, putting the fate of Narnia and all its inhabitants above their personal needs.
“Thank you, Phileas. You made me see things in a new perspective.”
The faun stood up and nodded at me. “Always at service, Lady Joyce.” He then picked up the lance, that he had laid down next to the bench, saluted, and continued his way through the little courtyard before disappearing again in the castle.
Taking a deep breath, I wiped away my tears and calmed down. I would be fine. A talking Lion had brought me here, yes, but apparently a lot of people chose to put their trust in him. The only way to survive here now, not in terms of actual surviving but rather in fitting in, would be to… well, fit in.
If everyone believed that the talking Lion was able to fix everything, then why shouldn’t I believe in him, too? If the Royal Family was accepted and appreciated by the Narnians, why shouldn’t I be, too? With new courage I rose to my feet and carefully tucked the handkerchief up my sleeve, the way Lucy had shown me.
I would fit in. I would make the best of this experience.
And first of all, I would find the way back to my own room.