Cair Paravel was a beacon of light and hope upon the Narnian shores, glistening in the spring sunlight. After so many years of vacancy, it’s new tenants breathed fresh life into the palace and with them came the promise of a beautiful, prosperous future. Every creature in the land smiled with relief and hope that their new monarchs, the four Pevensie siblings, would return their dear country to it’s original splendor or even, perhaps, surpass it. For children of such an age, however, the expectations bestowed upon them were nonetheless exhausting.
Lucy broke from the bustle of the reception to gaze out upon the Narnian shores. The sun was just dipping behind the horizon, bathing everything it touched in a warm glow. The great lion himself glittered gold as he scaled the beach, engulfed in deep thought.
“Don’t worry, your Highness. We shall see him again” a familiar voice reassured her. Lucy whipped around to find Tumnus approaching, a sad smile gracing her lips. It seemed as though their adventure had only just begun, that just yesterday she had creeped into the back of the wardrobe in the spare room to find a wondrous land of snow and ice awaiting her. Now everything was changing in the blink of an eye.
“How do you know?” Lucy replied. Tumnus sidled up to her, resting his hands on the marble railing.
“He always does. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not even next year. But in time, he shall come back to us, just as he always has” the faun replied. While Lucy wasn’t entirely pleased with his explanation, she furrowed her brows in hopes that the lion would return sooner rather than later. Aslan had become so special to her, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on how. He was like a brother and a lover and a friend all wrapped into one, their intimate bond the kind very rarely experienced by humankind. Watching him walk away left her heart yearning for him to return, aching for his presence and his comfort and his care.
“I’ll miss him” she murmured, eyes locked on the ground. Tumnus shook his head.
“We all will, Lucy Pevensie. But we must have faith that he shall return all in due time. You mustn’t nag him. After all, he’s not a tame lion” he replied. Lucy chuckled sadly, raising her gaze up to the faun before turning back to the shoreline. In the blink of an eye, the lion was gone. Tears welled up in Lucy’s eyes, her chest feeling as if a piece of it had been ripped straight out. While she knew he would return someday, her body couldn’t help but feel weighed down by grief as if he had died all over again.
As the first of many teardrops slipped down Lucy’s cheeks, Tumnus rested a hand upon her back and then with his other, fished a small square of white fabric from beneath his scarf. The corner of his lips turned upward into a small smile as he handed her the token, replying, “I believe you need this more than I do.” As Lucy unfolded the gift, she realized very quickly that it was none other than the handkerchief she had given him so long ago, with the lace trim along the edges and her name embroidered in periwinkle thread. The same handkerchief Tumnus had left behind at Beaversdam, the token that incited Eilonwy’s rage. To think, it all started with a handkerchief.
Lucy dabbed her eyes, sniffling, in an attempt to compose herself before whispering “I guess we better go tell the others.” Tumnus simply nodded and ushered her toward her siblings.
Peter’s face was bright red as Eilonwy broke free of their kiss, smiling up at him. All their tension and adventure had led to this singular moment, the true confession of her feelings and confirmation of his. Before they could utter another word to each other, however, Susan whisked past, tugging her elder brother’s hand in hers. “Peter, come here for a moment. Lucy has something important to tell us.” Peter couldn’t help but obey. Curious about the commotion, Eilonwy followed close behind.
“Well, what is it, Lu? Come on, out with it!” Edmund pressed.
Lucy sucked in a deep breath and straightened her back, hands clasped together before her. Tumnus stood beside her as her support, encouraging her to proceed with the announcement. Finally, the young girl spoke. “Aslan is gone. He’s left” she said.
Susan’s face contorted in confusion. “He’s left? What do you mean?”
“Well, when the great lion has done his job” Tumnus began, “he returns to…wherever it is that he goes when he’s not here. But don’t you worry, your majesties, he will return in due time.”
“So when is he coming back?” Edmund asked, shoving a handful of almonds into his mouth. Even during the most important of announcements, he couldn’t keep away from snacks.
“He’ll return when he’s ready, I suppose” Lucy replied. “As Tumnus has said, he’s not a tame lion.”
“So what are we supposed to do now?” Susan questioned. An obvious tone of panic rang through her voice, regardless of how much she tried to hide it.
Peter had remained quiet during the entire discussion, mulling over Lucy’s words and contemplating how to handle such a circumstance. After all, he was a king now, and not only that but the High King. It was his responsibility to make the big decisions. After a moment of unanimous silence, finally the eldest Pevensie spoke. “I suppose there’s only one thing we can do now: make do without him and take this country into our own hands. Narnia is our responsibility now.”
As terrifying as a thought that was, deep down the three younger siblings knew Peter was right. Aslan had assigned them to rule and protect his country but he never guaranteed to hold their hands the entire way. He was gone and there was nothing anyone could do about it. And so with that, they all stood a little taller, spoke a little louder, and journeyed together into this dark pit called monarchy.