One Step Closer
Disclaimer: Anything you don't recognize, I own, but the rest goes to C.S. Lewis.
Chapter Twenty-Eight: One Step Closer
"We don't have to worry about that," Stephen said with a smirk. " The tavern owner trusts me. In fact, Rosalie should be coming up that very hill any moment now."
Emily was absolutely flabbergasted. She had decided that had this boy said that he could make mountains move, then it would happen one way or another. He…he was exactly what they needed to run into. Someone had been watching over them this entire time, making sure that nothing would go wrong. Of course, it wouldn't take much thought for one to figure out who that was…
"When did you plan this out with him?" Emily asked, preparing herself for another long story.
"Well, after I decided to break away from Jacob, the tavern owner joined with me. I don't think that Jacob ever informed General of this for if he had, General probably would have never come back to the tavern. However, all I wanted to inform the owner of tonight was that should anyone try anything…how he was to get the queen out. While you and the queenie were sleeping, I was able to slip out in that small frame of time and speak with my old friend," He explained, still focused on his knife.
The servant girl nodded her head in agreement, but posed another question to Stephen," What if General did know of the tavern owner's betrayal? Could he not have been coming as a sort of revenge?"
Stephen pulled his head up from his whittling and paused, obviously thinking again," I suppose that could be an option as well. The thought never passed my head mostly because I figured General would be much too preoccupied with other business Jacob would be sending him out to do, but yes that is a possibility. Either way, Rosalie should be getting out safely."
Emily was still a little unsure of this. It wasn't as though Stephen was speaking with this tavern owner every day…he could have easily been working with Jacob this entire time and Stephen would have no idea what was going on. Or, General, like she had suggested, was getting his revenge on the tavern owner. Perhaps, he wasn't able to get Rosalie out in time. All the possibilities ran through her head, but Stephen didn't seem very concerned about this.
There was another awkward silence. Every time he spoke, it was so odd. So strange to listen to him ramble on, but as quickly as he started talking, he stopped almost twice as fast. She would never quite understand, but after several more moments in the dead silence passed; she asked another question.
"So, why did you throw that knife at us?" Emily asked. " Just wondering."
Another smile came to his face," There was no way I was going to let you get out of there. I knew that you needed assistance otherwise you would never find little queenie's betrothed."
"Oh, that must mean you know where Caspian is," Emily nodded, trying to follow along. " Why did you not speak at first?"
"I was trying to make sure that you were who I thought you were. There are plenty of descriptions that swim around about how the queen looks and thank Aslan she let down her hood, otherwise the both of you would probably be in giant country as the main course. Humans are quite the delicacy at this time of year. She was just lucky that I wasn't someone else; they probably would have killed her on sight. People out here are a little…bitter with her at the moment. You can thank her brother for that. And I have an idea as to where he may be, I need to make sure it is accurate. The tavern owner will probably tell Rosalie where to go; he's better with names and such."
"Right," she answered, " And, one last question, why do you whittle away at those knives all day? And why do you have such a large collection?"
He was silent again for several seconds before saying," You ask far too many questions, but if you must know…my father taught me how to make knives. It's my one last connection to him. Plus, it provides a strange sort of comfort when crazed maniacs whom you think are your friends go about with completely mental armies and burn down half your town." He seemed to whittle harder as he finished his statement.
She looked at him, watching as he bitterly tore off layer by layer at his knife.
For some reason, the fact that Stephen had so many knives wasn't near as strange anymore. He expressed all of his hate toward Jacob through the knife whittling, but not only that; he was closer with his father. No one would be able to bring Stephen's father back, but he could at least hold on to the small pieces he had of his father in this world. She thought that had Rosalie chosen to express her feelings for her brother through whittling knives, then her collection would be almost ten times the size of Jacobs. Then, Emily decided that she was rather glad Rosalie didn't choose to whittle knives as a way to express her emotions...
"I don't really know why I'm telling you this, but it can't hurt the situation any," Emily started, for she could tell that Stephen still struggled with his loss. She could at least try to relate.
She sighed and then spoke.
"One of Jacob's men killed one of my closest companions before we started this whole expedition. There aren't many people that I can say that I genuinely enjoyed being around, but Beck was definitely one of them that I enjoyed," She said to him, trying not to relive all of the memories she had with the young servant boy. " He was quirky, but we were a team. It was like I lost a part of me when he was gone, but I don't really know why I'm saying all of this…"
She nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before finishing," You're not alone in losing people you love, that's all."
Stephen could have said something that would have totally crushed her. In fact, he had opened his mouth to say that very statement, but he stopped himself. He could tell that she really was trying to be a comfort. She looked incredibly nervous and the way she stuttered slightly as she spoke…that touched him in a way that he hadn't felt in a very long time. He tried thinking of someway to reply to that, but before he could ever muster another word, they were interrupted.
Off in the distance, an explosion could be heard and there were even some small trimmers under their feet. Instantly, Stephen and Emily sprung up from their spots in front of the fire, that was really just a bunch of glowing embers now, and looked back down the ridge toward the town. Another "boom" could be heard echoing through the valleys and mountains nearby.
Stephen swore under his breath as he took a look at the tavern, in flames. He hardly even saw a building there anymore; it had been blown to pieces. It wasn't long before General's men were running around setting fire to every building in the small village. The country inn, several other homes, and businesses were set ablaze by the crazed men. Emily could hardly believe that any of it was happening.
"Rosalie," Emily whispered under her breath.
She refused to believe that the Queen of Narnia was now dead, as well.
Stephen was in just as much shock. He looked over at Emily, who was about to fall apart. Just as she was completely breaking down, Stephen grabbed her by the arm and starting pulling her in the opposite direction of the explosive town. She refused at first, but after a second pull; Stephen had control over her. As he turned to pick up his sack from the ground, he noticed that there was a dark figure standing opposite them across the fire.
Quickly, Stephen grabbed his knife from the ground and threateningly waved it at the figure.
"We don't have time for this," the figure said, throwing off its cloak and coughing violently," C'mon! I know where he is and we have to get to him before General blows up all of Narnia!"
A smile came to both Stephen and Emily's face; they looked at each other and then looked at the ever-anxious Rosalie, who was covered in ashes and soot, but was practically half-way through the dark woods by the time Stephen and Emily had allowed the shock to sit in. She was safe. She was there. She was sprinting much faster than what Emily or Stephen could ever dream to in their lives.
"You know where Caspian is?" Emily asked excited, running through the woods as the sun started to poke its head up in the far horizon.
"The tavern owner quickly explained where we are to go, but he said to ask you, Stephen for a better, more full explanation of the situation. I know this all sounds completely mad, but I want to believe him. He seems like-"
"Don't worry, he's reliable and I'm assuming that he's told you to go to the Spring of Revival?" Stephen asked, trying to catch his breath, failing to see how he would keep this pace up for much longer. " I think that was the name..."
"Yes, how did you-" Rosalie tried, but Stephen merely shook his head.
"I can explain," Stephen said, huffing vigorously," But you're going to have to make a quick stop sometime. Whenever you do that, I can explain all of this."
Rosalie nodded her head and after a few more minutes of running through thick brush and trees so wide in length that they literally had to squeeze their way through; she stopped. It was then that Stephen was able to give her a more full explanation of everything that he had given Emily just hours before. He explained how he had originally been one of Jacob's friends, his only friend, after he found him wounded from Rosalie's attack. He explained how after he healed Jacob, he did research on the origins of the White Witch's army and how there was a troop of Cruels that still dwelled underneath the village, undisturbed until they found them. He explained how Jacob was using Caspian's men against him by sending the troops that General was over down into the depths of the earth to be trapped with the Cruels for at least four days at a time. He explained that this was how Jacob was able to provide such a large army in addition to the giants he had found. In order for Caspian to believe him, he made up the portions about the ghosts destroying the town and since no one would prove him wrong; he had his case won. Everything that Stephen had said to Emily, he said to Rosalie, who was equally as shocked as Emily had been just moments before. He explained that he abandoned Jacob before things got bad.
"I can't believe it. Never would I have thought that Jacob would be using our own men against us…it's completely sick, but genius as well. He's always been a rather smart fellow if only he would use that for good and be more understanding. You were smart to get out when you did Stephen," Rosalie said, very quickly of course for they were on a time crunch, which Emily and Stephen didn't completely understand.
For a moment, Rosalie paused and then her eyes became wide once more," We have to get to Caspian and free him quickly. Four days is all we've got."
Before she could sprint off, Emily grabbed her," Hold on, explain to us."
"The owner pulled me aside into one of the beverage storage rooms and explained this all. He talked briefly about what General did the first time, but he never said that they were making armies from what lay underneath the tavern. We have to move quickly, for the owner said that General had come to lock more people away underneath the tavern and if what you say is true…then Jacob's army is going to be a lot larger if we can't get to Caspian and his men soon. We've got four days to save those people and Caspian, going off of what you've told me," The young queen said, her voice quite anxious and wanting to get a move on.
Emily and Stephen looked at each other before looking to Rosalie. They all knew what needed to be done and now that the adrenaline was flowing once more; they sprinted, full-speed to the mountains where the Spring of Revival lay. Stephen had been there before, as a scout with Jacob, and had declared that to be a worthy sight to hold Caspian and his men.
There was one detail that Stephen did not inform Rosalie of. The ones that lived in the Spring of Revival…the guarders of the spring had almost slipped the mind of Stephen.
Traveling through the forest was difficult, but they hardly understood the meaning of difficult until they reached the mountain trail. It was at this point that Rosalie allowed for Stephen to take the lead. He had been there before so it only seemed to make sense that he lead them. Luckily, Stephen assured them that they would be climbing no mountain and would stay close enough to the ground that it would not become too cold nor rocky. He explained that they were probably holding them in the caves behind the Spring of Revival.
The mountains were quite a sight for the three of them to see and Rosalie had decided that it would hardly even take them one day to reach Caspian. They were going to be early! By her predictions, they would be with Caspian by evening (they had traveled for the entire day) and by bright tomorrow morning, they would be reunited and once and for all ready to take out Jacob. She didn't want to think about much else that could stand in there way; she was much too excited for that.
Stephen continued to assure them that they were close as they climbed and the brisk mountain air seemed to nip at their necks. Emily was lacking behind slightly so Rosalie made sure to keep a close eye on her. Rosalie was quite surprised that Stephen and Emily were not constantly bickering anymore…it was a nice peace to have. She didn't think much of it for she had other things to be concerned about.
Caspian hadn't a clue about how long he had been trapped in the clutches of these creatures. He hadn't a clue what was happening outside of that damned cave that these torturous things were keeping them in. It had been so long since the last time he had seen any of his men, perhaps they had already killed them. That couldn't have been true; however, because their leader reminded him every day of how much her minions were enjoying his men. Either way, it was absolutely horrendous. If that thing touched him one more time, he promised himself that he would kill himself since there was no way he could kill it.
Getting defeated by Jacob was a tremendous downfall. It was the exact opposite of what he wanted to happen, but for some reason..deep down…he knew it would happen. Jacob had to get what he wanted. Caspian wondered how Narnia was holding up under the rule of this dictator. Most of all, he wondered if Rosalie had been able to get out of his grasp. There was hardly a second that went by that Caspian wasn't thinking of Rosalie.
When Jacob defeated the army and took them as prisoner, it was almost as if they were drugged. Caspian was beaten so badly that he hardly understood where he was or what he was doing. They pulled the entire army, or what was left of it, and dragged them off to the most isolated place imaginable, where he was at that moment. The mountains, of course. Caspian remembered seeing several small villages along the way, but they were all fuzzy images. Had anyone asked him very many details about his defeat or capture; he would not have been able to say much.
All he knew was that when his conscious thought returned to him, he was in shackles next to his advisor, Apollo. Both he and the light haired man were kept under a close eye by these "women", who could float about like a spirit, but they also took a human form. Whenever they took their human form, they were some of the most…promiscuous women he had ever seen. Not only were they that, but they were violent as well. Neither of them dared tried to make an escape for they knew that these "women" had a close eye on everything.
It was utterly and completely inappropriate…the types of dancing, the types of torture, the overall atmosphere of them was enough to make any sensible man feel uncomfortable. Apollo informed him several days into their capture that these were some of the last nymphs that lived in Narnia. A much more savage type of nymph, obviously, for they could not control any of their emotions. Caspian remembered having nymphs at he and Rosalie's wedding, but never did he remember them being this forward.
At first, he thought that since they were woman-like, then they were in fact women. However, he discovered that their hearts were not near as sympathetic as a woman's would be toward them whenever he asked the "lead" nymph to allow he and his men leave. She almost tore him to pieces, but luckily Caspian was able to conceal himself for long enough to allow her to "cool off". It was during this time that he was able to retrieve some paper from one of his men, who just so happened to have some left from when he wrote to his family. It was then that Caspian was able to at least start a letter to Rosalie, though now that he thought back on it; it probably frightened her more than anything simply because he was not able to finish it.
Caspian had to give some credit to Jacob. He would have never imagined that nymphs would be a very intelligent place to keep someone locked away, but Rosalie's older sibling couldn't have picked a better place. Jacob didn't want Caspian interfering and Caspian had to hand it to him; there was no way he would ever be able to interfere. The majority of his time was spent hiding from the vicious nymphs in any sort of hole he could fit himself into. Though it was sick and wrong, Jacob couldn't have picked a better place to lock away someone.
He felt more sympathy for Apollo, who wasn't near as quick most of the time. The poor man had to endure the awful, embarrassing torture that these women made them endure. Caspian could hardly watch for it was so vulgar and wrong. He had been at least lucky enough to not have the constant harass of many different nymphs, but, ironically enough; their "queen" nymph had her eyes set on Caspian. She wouldn't leave him be. Every time that she wanted to see him, it seemed as though she got what she wanted. It took her a matter of seconds to find him, no matter where he was. Caspian wanted to forget everything that she had done to him, but it was hard for every day; he was reminded of how much she "loved" or wanted rather, him. He wanted nothing more than to be with Rosalie, his wife, again. He wanted nothing more than to never see these "women", if that's what you wanted to call them, ever again.
As the days went by, his spirits continually dropped. The lead nymph informed him daily that the rest of his men were being treated well in the other portions of the cavern. She assured him daily that no harm would come to them.
Then the day came that the "disturbances" appeared.
"My King, you are safe here," The ghost-like image purred, he watched as she transformed quickly into her typical human form, a tall, slim woman with pale skin and blond hair," There is no harm that can come to you or your men."
Caspian shifted uncomfortably in the chair he was tied to," We can't stay here forever. I have a country that needs me, surely you can understand that?"
She pranced over to where he sat and started running her fingers along his arms with a sort of rhythm to it," Country schmoontry. You don't need to go anywhere." She growled the last part right in his ear.
"You can't keep us here!" He roared back at her, moving himself in the chair, trying to get out of her grasp.
She screeched and moved directly in front of him, putting an arm on either side of the chair, looking him straight in the eye.
"What's stopping me, your majesty?" She growled back. " I was told to never let you out and to do as I please with you. I made a deal myself and I'm not one to break out on deals."
"Please," He looked her right in the eyes, pleading with her as much as his heart would allow," Please, I've a wife. I've just been married and you're denying-"
"Wife?" The enticing fiend cackled as she moved closer to Caspian," Why, that is one lucky lady. Too bad she'll never see you again. It's the same story every time Caspian, it didn't work before and it won't work now."
"She'll come and when she does-"
"If any other woman comes here wanting to take you, then she will have to go through me. She will die. She will not take you from me," She growled, perching herself directly onto Caspian's lap.
"Get off. Now," Caspian growled, struggling more in the binds that she had tied on him.
"I'm rather comfortable," She said with a smirk on her face, adjusting herself on his lap.
Caspian prepared himself for the impact, when suddenly one of the other nymphs came flying through the walls, screeching at the top of her lungs. It caused the queen nymph to jump from Caspian and look at the dark haired nymph as she changed into spirit form.
"My lady, we've spotted some disturbances near the entrance to the cavern," The nymph said, rather nervously.
The queen nymph looked from Caspian to her sister nymph and let out a very prideful "humph", as if she were a child that was not getting a particular toy that she wanted. She crossed her arms and shot Caspian one last look before turning into her ghostly figure and disappearing into the caves.
"Apollo!" Caspian hissed into the dark cave air," Apollo!"
The man came scurrying out from his hiding spot; he was actually able to find one this time, but it wouldn't have mattered much for the queen nymph mostly had interest in Caspian alone.
"I can't handle much more of this," Apollo grumbled as he untied the King's binding.
Caspian rubbed his sore wrists while Apollo worked on the ankle straps," That's what we've been saying for how many months now?" He said with a small smirk on his face.
Apollo was still quite serious," They've never had disturbances before, Caspian."
The young king's smile disappeared as he nodded," I know, I know. I just hope that if it is help…it's not Rosalie. Or at least that she's with plenty of help."
"Why do you say that?" Apollo asked, as he finished the last knot.
"You heard her," Caspian said, referring to the queen nymph. " She said she'll kill her and by the way that thing behaves; I completely believe her. How horrendous would it be for Rosalie to show up here to save us only to be slaughtered? She needs help. She needs to be warned ahead of time."
"Caspian, there's no way that we could possibly-" Apollo said, shaking his head as Caspian rose from the chair.
"Apollo, we've been stuck in this blasted cave for how many months?" Caspian asked, his voice very stern and serious as he looked his assistant directly in the eye.
"I-I don't know, sir," The man stuttered.
"We've been mistreated by these beasts how many times?" He asked again, still stern.
"I-I don't know. Countless."
"We've longed to be with our wives how many times?" He questioned, still very intense.
"I think it's about time we tried to do something rather than just sit around and think about doing something. There's a possibility that someone from Narnia is out there trying to help us. We need to at least see who it is," Caspian said, his voice determined to get a look at whoever or whatever this "disturbance" was.
"So, where do we get started?" Apollo asked as they started walking toward one of the tunnels that they supposed lead to the front of the cave where the Spring of Revival lay.
Author's Note: So, we're finally onto something with Caspian! The nymphs are another creature that I couldn't find much information about in the land of Narnia other than a couple of details, so I weaved a little bit of what I knew about nymphs from Greek mythology into this story.
Thanks to the reviewers from last chapter! They made me smile :)