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Through Fire And Shadow

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Grief is a terrible thing.

When Susan Pevensie was naught but a girl in her teenage years, she saw her father go off to fight in the Great War. The year was 1939; what he left behind was a family of four children and his wife, and as an eleven year old, Susan didn’t quite understand why her father had to go and leave them all behind. It wasn’t until a year later, when London began to suffer the German air raids, that she understood what her father was off doing; it wasn’t until she heard the air sirens, smelt the fear, felt the explosions around as London was attacked that she understood that her father was a soldier and that they were at war.

It wasn’t until then that she realized what it meant to be a caretaker, to be responsible for the life of someone precious to yourself.

Mr. Pevensie returned a decorated soldier from World War II upon concluding a tour of duty, in 1942, but Susan was no longer the eleven year old girl that he’d left behind – instead, he returned to a family of four adults in the bodies of children, a cursed legacy left behind from the Pevensies’ adventures in the magical land of Narnia. Physically, Susan was fourteen years old when her father returned, but mentally she was a traumatized young woman who’d been given the world and had it torn away again; she’d gone through adulthood, became a child again, and then afterwards fell in love with a young man who became a King – and then, it was all ripped away from her, in an event that left her as cold as the Witch she and her siblings had defeated in her twelfth year of life. Susan Pevensie, out of the Four Kings and Queens of the Golden Age of Narnia, had been the one to draw the shortest straw, the one to suffer the short end of the stick – she’d been the one to fall in love , gotten to experience life in a way none of her siblings had been able to, and it was all torn away by a bloody fucking Lion who’d stared at her with pained and haunted eyes that knew what she was going through, as if her pain was His own.

And yet, as if He was secretly laughing at her, Lucy and Edmund, her younger siblings, returned to Narnia in 1942. She and Peter were stuck in war-torn England, but there went Lucy and Edmund, along with bloody Eustace Scrubb – Eustace Clarence Scrubb , her cousin , a boy so nasty that he deserved his name! – gallivanting back to Narnia, back to Caspian , her King, the man she’d fallen in love with.

She hadn’t known this, of course. Her father, having completed a tour of duty, had returned home on holiday, and had taken her and her mother on a trip to America – he was to receive an award of some sort, a distinction for his service. Peter wasn’t able to go – he’d enrolled himself into some early classes for college and was at Professor Kirke’s home, studying under his guidance – and her younger siblings were too young to make the trip – something that Susan found ironic – so she was the one that went with their parents to America. The trip over, she’d opened up to her father – obviously she never told him Narnia, but he’d been quick to point out how melancholy and heartbroken she was, and she confessed her feelings for Caspian, confessed that she’d fallen in love, confessed that her heart was in the hands of Caspian Telmarius (a surname she’d thought of on the spot, but wasn’t particularly proud of regardless), a young strapping soldier who’d fought his war and won it.

“And where is he now?” her father had asked.

Susan’s eyes were as broken as her heart. “Gone,” she said. “He is lost to me. He lives, but he is lost to me forever.”

Her father had hugged her, and for the first time in years, since before Susan had first set foot in Narnia, before her father had gone to war, she cried. She’d sobbed her heart out, wept her woes away, and when she was done, her father had kissed her brow and said that “Time heals all wounds, even those of Love.” She’d nodded, cleaned her face, and hugged him once more, and when she stepped away her face was set in a mask that let none of her turmoil through. It wasn’t until many years later that her father realized that that was the last time he would ever see her smile, truly smile.

Susan was healing, yes. She was hurt, yes. She knew that she’d be hurting for a long time afterwards, but Love soothed as much as it hurt, and eventually, her pain would be forgotten, her heart healed anew. Unfortunately, it wasn’t given a chance to – upon her return to England, she’d been met with the news of Lucy and Edmund’s most recent, and final trip to Narnia, where Lucy – sweet, kind, innocent, naïve, ignorant Lucy – had regaled her with tales of Caspian and an adventure, of Caspian and a trip to the Sea, of Aslan and Aslan’s land, of Caspian and a Woman born of a Star, of a Love that blossomed, and of a Love that was forgotten.

It was in that day, that Queen Susan of the Horn, the Gentle, She who was Given to the Radiant Southern Sun, died. And it was in that day, that Susan Pevensie’s heart, a fragile, still-healing thing, was shattered.

They’d all seen it happen, but they didn’t understand what had just occurred. Over the next few months, her brothers and Lucy began to experience a new Susan, a Susan that was cold and unfeeling, bitter and beautiful, until one day, nearly a year later, when her siblings had been speaking about Narnia, she’d snapped.

Because how could her pain be so real if the cause of it was nonexistent?

“Oh, please ,” she’d said. “Are you still playing those childish games? I would’ve thought that you’d all grown out of that phase by now!”

All three of her siblings had been shocked into silence, and Susan felt relief in that moment, relief that she could reason away her pain, relief because it was all a game , a silly, stupid game that had been shared by all four of them in order to cope with the War. Because really, how could a silly game hurt her? How could such nonsense be the source of her pain? If Narnia was a game, then therefore, so was Caspian; ergo, her pain was imagined, and thus didn’t exist .

Because none of it did. There was no Deep Magic, there was no Talking Lion, there was no King, and there certainly was no Queen Susan. Only a child’s dream, and a child’s heartbreak.

Grief is a terrible thing.

That had been the first of many fights between her and the rest of the Pevensie family. It had been the first blow in their relationship, the first swing at the chains holding them together, and over the years, reality had set in, and Queen Susan was no more, and Susan Pevensie, the socialite, the beauty of London, had emerged. A Susan that played no games, that wanted to be beautiful, and wanted , but didn’t want to feel the emotions that came with wanting. A Susan whose heart was as cold as ice and as unfeeling as stone. A Susan who’d become so estranged from her family in her views and ways, that in 1945, upon the termination of the war, had moved out of her family home and into a house that was shared between her many friends – friends that changed bed-warming company almost every night, and that encouraged Susan to do the same.

She never did, however. A small mercy, considering the lengths that she’d gone through in order to alienate herself from her family. Even with so-called friends insisting on her changing her way of life, the Pevensie instead threw herself into her studies, absorbing book after book and discovering a hidden desire for healing. It was with this recently discovered passion that she found herself enrolling in a local hospital to study nursing, while waiting tables in order to pay for her schooling.

Life was good for Susan Pevensie. Or, at least as good as it looked to be. Indeed, Susan had even met a strapping young man at the hospital – blonde hair, blue eyes, a charming, roguish smile that set her cheeks aflame. He was older than her by almost ten years, a doctor by trade, earning his final supervised practices under a family friend; he would return to his home in New York upon completing his examinations. He’d implied that he was willing to take her with him, and giddy in her excitement – not love , such a thing didn’t even exist! No, not love, but a fancy, one with an opportunity nonetheless – she’d accepted.

It was then, a month later, in June of 1946, Susan was visited by an old woman she’d only heard of in stories, but never actually met.

“I’m a grown woman!” Susan had snarled to her unwelcome visitor. “I can make my own decisions, and I’ll thank you for staying out of them!”

Polly Plummer had shaken her head twice. “For as much as you claim to be a grown woman, I wished you would grow up,” she’d said. “You’re wasting all your school time wanting to be a certain age, and when you get there you’ll waste the rest of your life wanting to stay at that age. Your family misses you, Susan, and they worry for you-”

“Children, the lot of them! They can mind their own business, and play their little games as long as they like, as long as they keep me out of them!”

It was then that Polly had frowned, the change in countenance and expression severe enough that Susan immediately knew she’d crossed some sort of line. “You may run from your past as much as you like, Susan Pevensie,” Polly had said, “but there will come a time that you’ll wish you’d spent more time with your family than you did with your parties and your invitations. There will come a time where you’ll wish that you hadn’t spent so long in the silliest part of your life, wasting the rest of it away.” Polly had then stood up, and the change in her person was such that Susan had stumbled away and found herself slumping into a seat. “Remember, Susan: Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia.”

The words sent a horrible chill down Susan’s spine, a chill of fear and horror so strong that the girl couldn’t repress the visible shiver through her body, and as such was unable to formulate an answer. Polly had picked up her hat, bid her good day, and taken her leave after that. Susan had spent nearly an hour stuck in her chair, her breath labored as if she’d run a marathon, until she was able to regain her control and was able to stand up without wobbling.

“Poppycosh,” said Susan. “They’ve roped her in to their little games. Ha! Narnia! As if!

Once more reassured, she’d shaken her head, and went about her business, pushing the meeting with Polly Plummer out of her mind. Little did she know, however, that it would be the last time Susan would ever see the woman alive.

In 1946, Susan Pevensie had followed through with her plans of walking away from her silly siblings and had travelled once more to America, settling in busy New York as she studied to be a nurse. She’d left with her paramour, the strapping young doctor, and had settled in quite nicely in his home in Manhattan. There, she’d lived a life of high society – parties left and right, men grasping at her hands like she was a forbidden fruit. And who could blame them, chasing after this dark-haired beauty, with skin pale as snow, blue eyes like ice, and a heart to go with it? How could they not be enchanted by her looks, her grace, her plump lips that with lipstick red drew the eye and made her own pop?

One year later, she’d secured a job as a successful nurse. A month after that, she’d moved out of her paramour’s home and into her own, and remained a socialite. It was a difficult balance, but Susan rose to the challenge, and so there she remained, living life at its most luxurious, dropping hints and drawing gazes, reveling in the attention yet succumbing to none of it.

And then, it all came crashing down.

  1. The train. The wreck. Everyone. Peter. Edmund. Lucy. Her parents. Professor Kirke and Missus Plummer. Even Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole, whose bodies were never found. All of them dead. In April of 1949, Susan Pevensie attended the funerals of her entire family, travelling from New York to London in a Boeing B.377 Stratocruiser, a sign of the luxury she could afford; not that it mattered, anyhow. Her family was dead, after all. They were calling it one of the worst accidents of the decade. Collateral damage, the report had said, from the war, from faulty equipment that had seen its years of service and only just failed.

Nine coffins lowered into the ground, two of them empty. Five bearing the name Pevensie. Those were the ones that mattered most. She’d been selfish during the funeral, ignoring her aunt Alberta and her husband Harold, Eustace’s parents. She didn’t even say a word to Jill Pole’s parents. All she cared about was those five tombstones, and the bodies that lay below the earth, rotting away and turning into dust.

Grief is a terrible thing.

She’d stayed for a month. Sleep evaded her, her waking dreams haunting her as she drifted from room to room in her childhood home, the house that her family had lived in before their untimely deaths. She’d inherited everything – the house, the accounts, all of it. Professor Kirke and Missus Plummer had had their own children, but Susan never shared her grief with any of them, and neither did they with her.

They knew who she was. She knew what they thought. She heard their whispers. She never cared. Blue eyes became lifeless, pale skin became like alabaster, the contrast made starker by the black-colored clothing she constantly wore. Healthy limbs became rail thin, black hair lost its shine. The Pevensie Ghost, they called her. Beautiful, yet as cold as an empty heart.

April turned into May, and Susan had managed to push herself into taking care of things. After shoving her grief into a deep corner of her mind, she’d put the house up for sale. Transferring the money from her parents’ accounts into her own, she donated everything from her siblings to the coffers of the local orphanage – something that she knew they would’ve appreciated. Then, after choosing some personal keepsakes for herself, she signed over the house to the new owners, and returned to New York.

She had little to no recollection of what she’d done in April, her memories a disoriented mess of flashed and tears and screams and sobs. The pain of having her family ripped away so suddenly was as fresh as it had ever been, an old familiar pain that had haunted her from her teenage years but that now had new scars to occupy resurfacing once more. And yet, once in her Manhattan apartment, life went on – she would wake, bathe, dress herself, and head to work at the nearest hospital, before returning home, falling in bed and having a good cry about her missing family, only to fall asleep and awaken the next day, not ready to repeat the same cycle but having no choice nonetheless.

Life went on. Her heart, beaten and scarred, broken and shattered, kept on going, but Susan was no longer the woman filled with life that she’d once been. She was a pale imitation, a shadow of the husky angel she’d been, and when she heard the people around comment about it behind her back all she could think of was how she couldn’t remember when had been the last time she’d spoken to one of her siblings – any of them – and that the last time she’d spoken to her parents she’d traded angry words and insults and that Missus Plummer had been right and she hated it.

She wanted to give up.

She wanted to die.

And it was so that on June 20 th of 1949, Susan Pevensie collapsed her apartment, clutching a family picture of Peter, Edmund, Lucy and herself, taken at Professor Kirke’s holiday home where they’d first had their family adventure. Susan had been holding it with both hands, staring at the picture until tears blurred her vision, sobs racked her chest, and her hands gripped the frame so tightly that the glass broke, with cracks running through her face on the picture yet leaving her siblings’ untouched. It was then that her pain was let loose, and she fell to her knees. Tears fell freely, and her lips opened, her voice passing through with a whisper intended for her own ears only.

“I’m s-so alone… so alone in this dark. I- I wish… I wish I could have… one chance…” Susan sobbed, clutching the picture to her chest. “One chance… not t-to see them, or to speak with them, b-but rather, to redeem myself. One chance… that’s all I ask for…

“One chance.”

A beat of silence.

Please .”

…ooOoo…

And then, miraculously – something answered. For in a Tower of Metal and Stone, in a World far beyond this one, a Wizard held up a staff, and in the Speech of Morgoth himself, said a single word that tore through the Barrier of Worlds:

“Molva!”

In Shadow and Fire, a tear was formed from shadows and darkness. With its creation, came the angry and enraged screech of a Servant of Mordor, its body used as a sacrifice to power such a Rift. The Wizard grinned, his eyes alight with dark power, as he raised his staff one more time and chanted:

“Mausan servanav lat ayh, mausan servanav lat ukhall nauk-main!”

My Servant you are, my Servant you shall remain.

The Demon screeched and howled in its fury, its body unrestrained but unable to touch the Wizard, unable to move forwards and show this arrogant filth what treason meant for the Servants of Sauron-!

The Wizard slammed his staff into the stonework of the Tower, and the Demon’s body was slowly sucked into the Rift as the Wizard chanted his final line:

“Venavure foravh; agh sundog avhe tok!”

Venture forth, and conquer the land.

With one last howl of rage, the Wraith was sucked completely into the Rift, and Saruman, the Wizard Of Many Colors, laughed in victory.