Author's note: 5 chapters and the epilogue left! I'm happy, but I'm sad too. But don't worry; I have another story coming after this. Check my profile for my list of Narnian stories coming!
The army moved far more quickly the next two days than King Peter expected. They were pitching the war camp by the end of the third day on the march, a whole day sooner than scheduled. And Peter was relieved, because it meant Evelyn had to survive with the Witch for one less day.
He explored the camp ground after he and Edmund helped get their tent pitched, and he realized Evelyn had been right. This was the perfect place. It was well sheltered and easily defensible, but it wasn't too far from the border. As he made his way through the camp, he watched centaurs and satyrs and fauns alike working together with the Cats, various kinds of Deer, Dogs, Horses, and Bears. He watched the dwarves and gryphons helping side-by-side with the Foxes, Birds of prey, small woodland Animals, and dryads. He watched, and he saw that there was no separation or discrimination between the races in Narnia.
No, the separation was between the soldiers under the red and gold banner and the soldiers under the black and gray banner. It was between the Lion's believers and the Witch's believers. It was between the High King of Narnia and the Queen of the Wild Lands.
He found himself back at his tent, where he unpacked his armor and chain mail and strung up his hammock. Edmund was standing outside, laying out the map and Evelyn's markers on a table they'd brought. Most of the Council had come, except the Dryad, who had chosen to stay with Queen Susan. The Fox, too, had stayed behind.
"Brother?" Edmund called through the door of the tent.
"Yes, brother?" he called back, looking up from his signet ring.
"Could you come out here for a moment?" Ed asked. Peter stepped out of the tent and found that torches had already been lit around the camp. Edmund and Orieus stood with their backs to him, facing a group of creatures and Animals. He quickly counted nineteen in the group, and he saw that it was a good mix of races. A female centaur, two gryphons, two fauns, a Red Dwarf, two Dogs, a Coyote, an Elk, a Lynx, a Cougar, a Fox, a Raccoon, a Possum, a Muskrat, a Marten, a Rabbit, and a Marsh Wiggle all bowed to him when he emerged.
"Your Majesty," the centaur spoke.
"Welcome to our camp, cousins," he replied, bowing in reply to them.
"Your Majesties, we were the Witch's prisoners," she told them, and the others agreed softly.
"You were?" the High King asked.
"Evelyn devised a plan and got us out, Your Majesty," the male gryphon spoke up.
"Is she with you?" King Peter asked, though he thought the question wistful.
"No, Your Majesty. Allow me to start at the beginning," the centaur replied.
"Of course," High King Peter said, gesturing for her to go on.
"The Witch forced collars on each of us when she threw us in the ravine she was using as a cage. The collars were made of an iron only found in the Wild Lands, and she'd enchanted them so that she could use her magic through them. She kept us from breaking free by freezing the collars, and we would be knocked out. If one escaped, she stopped us by knocking us out. Evelyn was thrown into the ravine with us, and apparently they did not search her, for she still had her dagger on her. She picked our collars, and then she explored. When she came back, she climbed one of the cliffs. Then she came down and asked us how they got us in the ravine. We showed her the slope they'd pushed us down, and she seemed to get an idea. The slope was steep, and icy, and I believe it to be part of the frozen river.
She climbed it, using the rocks in the riverbed as foot holds and the side of the cliff to pull herself up. Then she slid back down and disappeared. When she came back, she had the collars, most of them unscrewed into halves. She worked them into the ice to make a full stair case up the slope. Then she looped two collars together and closed one around her wrist. She guided everyone of us up that staircase, letting us hold the loop. She was trying to avoid discovery by having the gryphons climb out instead of flying, and they were the last. They were almost out when someone spotted them and we think the Witch froze Evelyn's collar, because she fell from the staircase. She screamed for us to go, and then the gryphons were flying. We sent back scouts to see if she ever came out, and Bican saw her dragged into the Witch's pavilion. Then we came to you, as she'd planned on doing," the centaur told him, and the others were silent.
"Was she alive when she was dragged into the pavilion?" The High King asked quietly.
"Yes, Your Majesty. She was fighting the minotaur that held her," the Dwarf spoke up, and the High King guessed this was Bican.
"Thank you for telling me," he replied, bowing to them once more.
"Your Majesty, she gave me this in case she was caught. She instructed me to give it to you," the centaur stopped him. He looked to see something in her hands. It was a piece of parchment, written on with a stick of charcoal.
"My Golden King,
If you are reading this, I did not make it to you. Believe Emmis, what she tells you is the truth. The Witch has me, and she will not kill me. No, I am the bait. Do not come to me if you are close to losing control. That is what She wants. She intends to fight you on the battlefield herself. But do not think me unguarded. Whatever she does, she will leave some kind of surprise for you. Also, take note of the monkey things. The Hawk can tell you more, and I bet Captain can too if he survived the ambush. They could pose a problem. I am alive, my King, so breathe. Sleep, and be ready for the morning. You will not have to wait long," she had written. It seemed she'd also covered her signet in charcoal and pressed it into the note, because there was the mark at the bottom.
"Thank you, Emmis," High King Peter sighed, folding the note and tucking into his leather vest. The centaur bowed, and then followed the rest of the group into the camp. The two Kings bid the General a good night, and then they settled in for the night. But only one of them slept.
Evelyn woke to harsh sunlight in her eyes. She was tied to a pole in the center of the Witch's pavilion, and her dagger and cloak were gone. Moon, however, was curled in her boot, hidden from the Witch and her cronies. The kitten was tiny enough that she was easily overlooked and she didn't even make the boot bulge. The kitten was also asleep.
Evelyn looked up from the ground when the Witch strode into the pavilion. She saw behind the Witch that the sun was nearly gone, and she knew she'd only been out for roughly two hours. Emmis would be reaching the High King any moment now.
The Witch picked up her sword, and checked the blade before she set it back down. Then she knelt in front of Evelyn. "It is not too late. You could still join me. You would be welcomed with open arms," she told the girl.
"It is too late. I've learned a new lesson, and you were not the teacher," Evelyn replied, meeting the Witch's frozen gaze.
"No, but I did teach you one lesson you won't be quick to forget. But I think you could use a refresher course," the Witch purred sadistically.
Then pain laced through Evelyn's back, and she screamed. It hadn't hurt this much when he'd done it.
The pain stopped suddenly, and Evelyn choked off her scream. "It hurts, does it?" the Witch asked in her maliciously smooth voice. Evelyn saw a flicker in those gold-green eyes, and then she was screaming again.
To Evelyn, it felt like the game of start the pain, stop the pain went on for hours. In the end, tears had frozen on her cheeks and she had bitten her lip hard enough to make it bleed. Her back too, had bled, and Evelyn remembered that it had never bled last time. It had just frozen instantly.
Her mind however, was safe from the torture. Moon's warmth and Aslan's touch protected her from the voice that had whispered in her head.
She was left with blood frozen to her back and a line of ice from both corners of each eye. When the Witch finally grew bored, Evelyn was left tied to the pole. She stayed there all night as the Witch slept, and she never once closed her eyes. She was too afraid.
She knew she was going to have even worse scars now, but she did not mind. If she lived long enough for the wounds to scar, she'd be eternally grateful.
'Aslan, please help me. If you love me, please help Peter defeat the Witch and her army. I do not know how long I can last this time. If you love me, let him save me. I need a hero,' she prayed, looking into Moon's blue eyes as the kitten sat on her knee.