Susan Pevensie stared out of her window, watching nonchalantly the small, soft droplets of rain crushing with a gentle tapping on her window's glass, the small tapping the only sound breaking through the serene silence of her quite large bedroom. Sitting comfortably on her bed, her knees drawn to her chest, the elbow supported on the window's marble ledge supporting her chin.
She didn't know what to feel.
Years had come and passed, she was now a young, beautiful as ever young woman of 21 with soft, wavy, chestnut hair reaching her waist, full, luscious lips and big, enchanting sapphire eyes, the dream of almost every man meeting her. And still the hole in her chest created by the once unbearable pain of never returning to Narnia again remained still open. She had tried a lot to forget said pain but every little thing seemed to remind her of the magical land she had once thought and called her true home.
But now, given the opportunity of seeing her home again, she wasn't sure what to feel. After all, everyone she and her siblings knew were all dead and gone for quite a long time, cousin Eustace had informed her.
Susan envied her younger cousin for he had the privilege to enter Narnia while she and her brothers and sister as well had been forbidden to ever return again. But what fanned the flame of envy and pain in her was that he had met her Narnian friends and their King, Caspian X the Seafarer. Her Caspian. Her Prince. He had even witnessed his death. Caspian's death. The one's face she would always picture when listening to someone Spanish or when seeing a tall, dark-featured young man with long, ebony locks.
The once Queen of Narnia was certain she could move on with her life with somebody else, she was confident the pain of letting Caspian go was merely caused by him being her first, true love, her first, sweet kiss. She was quite over him. But she still missed him, she missed him a lot. And she would give anything to see him again. His marriage to Ramandu's daughter, the beautiful stargirl Lilliandil brought her joy and relief to know that he had moved on and by marrying someone who her youngest siblings called as the perfect Queen he had provided Narnia with an heir and himself with a great friend and supporter and hopefully lover.
But the feelings of an adolescent girl in love still remained somewhere deep in her heart. That was the reason of her mixed, confused feelings. She certainly wanted to be back in Narnia again but would it feel the same without the man Edmund had always been referring to as the Fifth Pevensie? She wasn't sure, she just wanted to see her old home again, despite the missing feeling Caspian's absence would cause.
Giving a soft, whispering sigh, last night's events came rushing back to her. They were all sitting around the dinner table, enjoying themselves, all the friends of Narnia, chattering and laughing until, out of the blue, a ghost-like figure appeared. His pride stature, medieval clothing, a very familiar, long sword suitable only for a King strapped on his waist and his slightly long, golden locks gave them instantly the impression he was a Narnian, and a royalty as well. His dirt face and hair, and his slightly ragged clothes weren't a good sign and got them all worried and suspicious.
"Narnia is in danger. Otherwise, why would Aslan allow him –whoever he was- appear just for a brief moment before us?"
Edmund had a good point they all knew but could the four siblings attempt going back, opposing to Aslan's will? But why send a Narnia to all of them and not just to Eustace and his friend, Jill Pole? He had a reason. The Great Lion always had a reason. That's why they would make an effort to return through the Wood between the worlds with Professor Kirke's rings. After all, no one could stand knowing Narnia was probably in grave danger while they were in England, unable to defend it. So they had booked train tickets immediately and the following morning, at ten o'clock, they would all travel to London and claim the rings back from where they were hidden in his old house.
A soft knock on her door made her raise her head and look at it with a calm expression before granting permission to whoever was requesting it. The door opened maddeningly slowly, making a creaking noise that had she been a nervous girl she would have been very annoyed by it, and a sandy-haired head popped in. It was her brother, Peter.
"Hey!" he whispered smiling. It was past midnight and the great mansion's lights were all out, everybody sound asleep but them. The young man had known his sister wouldn't be sleeping, she thought with a small smile. He knew her so well. His face looked brighter and merrier than usual when he smiled, just the thought of returning to the land he used to rule as High King making him grin idiotically. "I knew you'd be up too!"
"Yes, well… sleep's not my friend the last two days." She whispered in a joking manner as she watched him shutting gently the door behind him and was glad he respected her wish to remain in the dark and he didn't turn on the lights but simply sat before her and took her hand resting on the mattress in his two big ones, surprising her. "My, aren't you in a fine mood!"
"Aren't you?" he practically exclaimed in a louder, joyful voice, his sea-blue eyes gleaming in thrill and excitement and nostalgia. "We're going home, Su. In a couple of days we'll be home again!"
Susan's broke in a gentle, loving smile, reminding him of the Gentle Queen of Narnia she once was, of the Queen that still lived in her, the one she had been forced by the pain to shut out, to bury deep down inside her. "Do you think He'll be angry?"
"Su, we've discussed this over and over again. Stop doubting what we're about to do!" he said smiling encouragingly, squeezing lightly her soft, milky hand.
"I'm sorry I'm like this. It's just so hard to believe we'll go back again. I can't help thinking of these what-if scenarios. I'm the logical one after all, remember?" she said chuckling, trying to make her words sound like a joke but the compassionate, caring purse of his lips told her he could see past through the mask of hers.
"You're also the Gentle Queen of Narnia, remember?" he reminded her softly, making her lower her gaze and look out of the window once more as she remembered the Queen he was speaking of so fondly, the Queen she had chosen to forget she was. "This is for real, sister." He spoke again ever so kindly, placing a finger under her chin and lifting it up making her gaze in his eyes. "Have faith. And I hope you have not forgotten that once a Queen of Narnia-"
"Always a Queen of Narnia." She finished the phrase for him, memories of their coronation invading her mind once more after quite a long time, putting a wistful, nostalgic smile on her full lips. Susan smiled a little and caressed lightly his cheek. Sweet Peter. Always standing by her side, supporting her, protecting her, giving her strength, guiding her, understanding her. What would she ever do without her older brother, guiding her when everything would seem dark and threatening? "I have not forgotten, Peter. It's being a Queen what I have forgotten."
"But you are, sister." He squeezed once more with more strength her palm. "In this world or the other, you've always been a Queen. And you'll always be one."
"You've got to be joking!" Edmund's aggravated voice echoed in the walls of Professor Kirke's mansion, almost deafening the rest of the party who were practically bumping on one another or on walls and furniture blinded by their sleepiness.
"Shut it, Ed!" Eustace's scolding voice was as painful to hear as his cousin's. But much to everyone's and his satisfaction, he was too bored and sleepy to bother annoying Edmund with a joking remark.
"But didn't you hear what he said?" he exclaimed even louder, pointing at his brother sitting on the red, velvet sofa. "Taking a shower! Lucy felt dirty and is now taking a shower! Holding us up! The train won't be waiting for ever!"
"If you're anxious of missing the train then you should know it will be leaving in at least two hours. So do us a favour and shut your mouth and sit down or I'll make you!" Peter even with his blue, piercing eyes gently closed could look menacing and his dark, hoarse voice made the nineteen-year-old boy obey while mumbling curses.
"But she had a whole evening to feel like a clean Queen!" the boy insisted on complaining and hadn't everyone known his anxiety and thrill of returning to Narnia was making him so grumpy, someone would have definitely silenced him with a smack on his head. "This is Narnia we're talking about! Every bloody minute is precious!"
"What is going on down here?" a flustered Lucy entered the living room dragging her two quite large suitcases behind her.
"Oh, I see Her Majesty Cleopatra is finally done showering and is doing us the honour of showing up!" Edmund's sarcastic voice made everyone in the room roll their eyes and snicker, even his youngest sister. However, the seventeen-year-old girl dismissed her brother.
"Peter, shall I be loading these on your car?" she said lifting slightly and with effort her suitcases, the hope of receiving some help mirroring in her gray eyes.
"What on earth did you pack all these for? We're going to Narnia, for heaven's sake!" Peter voiced what Edmund was about to, making him curse again which earned him a death glare from Susan and put him in his place. "No matter, yes."
At his reply, Edmund's dark head shot up in question and alert. "His car? Why his car?"
"Because he'll be driving you four to the train station. Professor Kirke will take me, Eustace and Aunt Polly. Jill explained exasperated, pinching the bridge of her small nose, making everyone see once more she and Eustace had been friends before he even became a better boy.
Edmund took a petrified expression, which looked more than ridiculous and funny to everyone else and addressed his youngest sister again. "Are you suicidal or something?"
Peter's brows shot up insulted but he looked quite calm and undisturbed. "Was that some moronic implication or joke concerning my driving?"
"Uhh…yeah?" Edmund exclaimed as if stating the obvious. "Don't you dare deny your driving skills are as good as your archery ones!"
It was Peter's turn to shoot up his golden-haired head and even stand on his feet. "Are not!"
In a fraction of seconds, a witty, wicked sparkle flushed in the Just King's dark eyes, going completely unnoticed by everyone, before he suddenly yelled "Are not!"
Peter looking a little confused did not hesitate to retort again without realizing his mistake. "Are so!"
"Fine, you win!" Edmund raised his hand in surrender. "Are so… if you say so…!"
Peter brushed with dignity his collar before sitting very kinglike back on the sofa, a smile of victory playing on his lips before realization hitting him hard like a rock and changing in his face colours. "Edmund, you little devil!"
Edmund laughing breathlessly, immediately got up and started running around the living room's small table with Peter on his tail, shooting curses at him. Several yells of nuisance and yelps of pain were distinguished among the roaring laughter of the remaining six friends of Narnia as they were accidentally stepping on their feet so they had to draw their knees close to their chest.
Susan, after glancing at the watch pinned on the wall, stood up and between them and somehow managed to push Peter away and stop him from chasing the youngest Pevensie boy once more. "Hate to interrupt such a brotherly and loving moment for you two but it's time for us to go."
Pride and Prejudice.
Susan's favourite of all books of romance. Edmund made a sarcastic joke when she opened her black bag just when they train started moving and took it out, placing it gently on her lap and started reading over again. But she just rolled her cerulean eyes and ignored him, this strategic of preventing Edmund to make another joke always working.
"Should have stayed in the other's cabin." Edmund muttered folding stubbornly his arms, looking at his three siblings. "They're more fun than you. Not reading books or solving crossword puzzles like you lot."
"You should have stayed with them indeed." Peter sent his brother daggers with his eyes. "Then we wouldn't have to listen and bear your complains."
The nineteen-year-old put out his tongue in a quite childish manner, making Peter squint his nose at him. Susan and Lucy holding unsuccessfully their giggles only made the boys take a stuck-up look and continue their previous occupations; Edmund staring out the window and Peter solving his puzzles.
"Do you hear something?" Lucy spoke for the first time, a very curious and puzzled smile on her sweet features.
Curious silence fell in the cabin as all of the Pevensie children focused their ears on any possible sounds that may be unnatural.
"I can hear it too." Edmund broke the silence, more perplexed and intrigued than Lucy. "What could it be?"
"It's coming from outside. From…the tracks?" Peter's face showed he clearly disliked the possibility of his guess but as a piercing, scratching sound grew louder and louder, all four had very helpless and scared expressions on their faces as they exchanged glances.
"You can't possibly mean that-"A thunderous vibration followed by a threatening groan from the train's tracks cut Susan off and had all of their hearts racing and quicken their pulse. "What is happening!"
Susan's mortified, almost crying voice was like a punch in the gut for Peter. It was quite obvious what was happening, a fact that none of them would ever accept even if they had to. People running urgently and desperately in the hallway only made them look at each other before the boys took their places, even though they hardly fit all together in the seat, next to the girls, placing them between them and throwing their protective brotherly arm around their shoulders. The two brothers regarded each other when the girls clung on to one another crying, understanding what was about to happen and embracing themselves, preparing to accept their fate.
"Peter!" Lucy's cry broke his heart and made him pull Susan tighter against him. "This cannot be happening!"
"No, it can't! Not now!" Susan agreed among her sobs, her voice almost accusing. "We were going home, Peter, we were going home, that's what you said to me!"
"And we are, Su! We still are! Have faith, remember?" he shouted so that his voice would be heard above the now deafening groan of the tracks.
He never got a reply, however. The violent shock of the train threw them on the floor and on their knees. The siblings taking advantage of their position embraced one another the way they had after they defeated Jadis and they felt each other's hot tears.
"No matter what happens, we are together! We always have been and we always will!" Peter shouted encouragingly at them. "And now tell me, once a King or a Queen of Narnia…!"
"Always a King or a Queen!" they all shouted in unison, holding tighter onto one another as the train's wheels disengaged from the tracks, rocking violently, forcing them apart. It was five agonizing minutes later that the train finally coursed to a stop but the damage was already done.
A young woman no more or less than 20 years was lying numb and motionless on the earthen ground. Slowly slipping into consciousness, she felt a throbbing pain torturing her head, making it impossible to even hear her own breathing. Her whole body felt sore and dry, like she had not moved at all for ages. With effort and licking her rosy lips, which made her taste the blood shedding from a tiny cut, she raised a hand and rubbed with as much force as she could her temple, feeling relieved when the pain was actually fading but not entirely.
Needing to know where she was, to remember what had happened to her and what the reason of her being in such torturously painful state was, she snapped a pair of crystal blue eyes open and looked in puzzlement and numbness the clear, blue sky above her and the vivid green leaves of the brunches of the great, tall trees surrounding her. She couldn't recognize the place, not yet at least. Nor the smell of fresh, damp grass and of almonds and lavender wafting in the air and tingling in her nostrils was any familiar to her. It just felt comforting to find herself in a peaceful, quiet place, she felt as if she had need of it, a vital need but she could not understand the reason.
Cursing under her breath when a tingling pain ran down her spine as she tried feebly to sit up, she placed a slightly trembling hand on the back of her neck and tried to massage the pain away. But when she realized it was not helpful but actually making the pain worse, she rubbed her temple and eyes once more before gaining the will and strength to stand on her feet. Her black, quite simple heels made her already weak legs even more unsteady so she took them off, without caring to pick them up and rushed to the nearest trunk and supported herself on it.
Through tired eyes, she scanned the area. She was in a forest, a quite beautiful one, actually the most beautiful one she had ever been. The problem was, she didn't remember being in any other forest. But that was crazy, everyone has been at least once in the woods or at least has seen pictures of forests. So why couldn't she remember any other? Maybe the shock of whatever had happened to her –which she couldn't recall as well- still remained and combined with her dreadful headache, it had caused her a temporary loss of memory. She knew she'd soon remember everything. She just knew it.
Supporting herself on tree trunks, she started walking shakily but without stopping among the woods, exploring and admiring the environment. For some reason she didn't feel threatened or in danger, to the contrary, that place was overwhelming her heart with a friendly, warm feeling as if she had been there before but just couldn't remember it yet, she felt as if it were the right place to be. She only hoped to not be alone for she certainly needed a hand of help. She could feel the dirt and bruises and wounds all over her body and looking down at her filthy, torn lilac dress the urge to find someone only grew bigger.
She carefully walked down a small slope that led her to a not so large lake, the soft crunching of the dry, dead leaves under her feet for some reason relaxing her. Putting all of her effort to stand on her trembling feet without a supportive tree beside her, she stood tall before the peaceful, clean waters of the pool and stared at her reflection. She felt peculiar not recalling her own form and it was a relief when she saw her figure mirrored in the water. Despite the cuts and bruises and dirt, she could see that she was a quite agreeable young woman around her twenties. She had crystal clear blue eyes and long, chocolate hair. She instinctively drove a hand and touched a puffy, rosy cheeks and full, soft lips with her dirty fingers and as a question popped in her mind, a look of despair suddenly clouded her dirty, attractive features.
Who was she?
Deciding it was no use tiring her already exhausted mind with that question, she dropped to her knees and dipped her hands in the cold, clear water and splashed her face and hair, the coolness of it on her burning skin relaxing and refreshing her, somehow every droplet dripping off her chin carrying a small part of her exhaustion and worries with it away, relieving her. She then bent over and took a great sip, the water cooling her inside and giving her strength to carry on with her search of somebody who could help her.
She kept on walking without a real destination for she could recall none, her hands seeking for support and aid on the trees each time she thought her feet would give away. But they never did. Probably her willing and courageous heart was what had helped her so far. She just knew she would give up her search only if her body had absolute need of it or if she realized she was going nowhere. Which was not yet. She regretted at some point abandoning her heels, the rocks too hard against her sensitive skin but she still wasn't discouraged.
After what seemed like hours to her, her sharp eyes spotted a clearing and the blue cerulean waters of a quite wide river. With a small smile of hope gracing her lips and her mind set to praying to find somebody there, she tried speeding up. She even tried jogging but she was weak and she gave in to gravity once her knees started buckling uncontrollably. She was but a few yards away from the river's shore, she had to try. And she did especially when she heard whining and galloping of horses.
But then an imperious, dictatorial figure of a man appeared on his pitch black horse. She would have called out to him unless she hadn't felt fright by his wild, dark looks. He didn't look to be a tall man but a very conceited and proud one. He had menacing, dark eyes and his tanned skin and black short hair and beard made him look like a man the young woman would never have the courage to ask for help for he didn't seem willing to offer any. So she just hid behind a fallen, large trunk and watched as two other horsed, armoured men stood before him.
"Are you sure such a threat still exists, my Lord?" one of them said without actually showing much of respect to his Lord but fear and uncertainty. The young woman was surprised to hear his thickly accented voice, like a Spaniard. Even though he shared his Lord's dark, menacing looks, the soldier had a more friendly and kind aura about. However, the girl would still hesitate calling out to him too."Are you questioning me, General Glozelle?" the menacing looking man spoke calmly in the same accented voice but she could listen clearly to the threat hidden in his words. "Or you too are a superstitious old lady, like the rest of your incompetent troops?"
The General lowered his head, avoiding his Lord's dark, vicious eyes for a moment before gaining courage once more and looking up at him again. "Forgive me, my Lord. I never meant to question you."
"Then you should better know when to hold your tongue." The Lord's voice could have sounded like a snake's hiss as his dark eyes shined threateningly like one.
"Lord Miraz!" the General called him again as his Lord was about to urge his horse to leave with a jerk of his reins. Lord Miraz gazed at him calmly and imperiously. "Your child's birth day is drawing nearer, my Lord. Are your orders still valid?"
"Of course, General. And I shall expect sufficient results in case the heavens bless me and Lady Prunaprismia with a son?" the threat still lingering in his questioning voice, implying something the girl couldn't get and wasn't sure if she wanted to. She just wished they would go away so that she would leave. She would follow the river along through the woods expecting to find someone.
"I shall not fail you, my Lord." General Glozelle promised inclining his head at his Lord.
"I dearly hope so. I'm sure you do not wish to fail me either." A wicked smile played on the corner of his bearded lips before he violently jerked his horse's reins, leaving the two men speechless and regarding impassively one another.
The young, injured woman took advantage of the situation and crouched deeper in the forest as silently as possible. When she finally reached a place far away from those men, she supported her sore back against a tree and started crying silently, uncontrollably. She didn't bother brushing her hot tears away, she only drew her legs closer to her chest, hugging them and burying her face in the crook she had created with her arms. She felt so alone and helpless and only after seeing that dreadful man did she realize that. She didn't know who or where she was, she didn't know what had happened to her and how she had ended up injured and weak and now with that devil man and his troops lurking about she felt unprotected and in danger. The warm, cosy feeling had now vanished and was replaced with despair and fright.
"Why won't you help me?" she whispered among her breathless sobs gazing at the blue, clear sky, any trace of hope or courage gone from her silvery, blue eyes. "Please help me…"
"Courage, Daughter of Eve. Courage, dear heart."
The majestic, mighty voice resounding in the silent forest warmed her heart, and the soft, cool breeze brushing upon her face felt as though restoring her faith and hope, healing her scared heart. With puzzlement written all over her watery eyes, she scanned the area for the owner of the soft but magnificent voice but saw no one.
"Who are you? Please, show yourself." She begged in a louder voice, her tears drying slowly. "Please help me."
"I am always watching over you, Susan. Never feel abandoned. Never give up." The voice said more gently now, filling her heart with valiance and a reassuring feeling. "Now, go, continue your path. Listen to your heart, my daughter, and help you shall find. Go." And his voice was carried away with the wind but the words he spoke were enough to put a determined look in her blue eyes and stand at her still shaky feet. She would follow the voice's advice and keep on going until she found help. She had nothing, no clue of where she was or who she was. But at least now she knew one thing.