There Was No Going Back
A/N: Those of you who are waiting for the Buffy/Aslan smack down might just hate me after this. On the other hand, I'm giving you a big clue as to why Buffy isn't ripping off heads left and right. Either way, don't let that stop you from telling me your opinion, mkay?
There Was No Going Back
Aslan sat up slowly, bringing the girl clinging to it – him – with him until the two of them were cuddled together like they had never been anywhere else. Buffy looked at the small girl next to the enormous lion and she shuddered, steeling herself for what was to come and drawing together all the rage she could muster.
“Grand entrance,” she hissed, “Check. At the last minute, check. After a lot of people died uselessly, check. You gotta be a god because no-one else would dare pull shit like that.”
Instead of responding in any way, the lion kept mustering her with his big, dark eyes, finally saying, “Sister Sineya. Welcome to Narnia.”
Buffy snorted, completely disregarding Lucy’s glare. “Ten years too late but hey, I guess you couldn’t be bothered any earlier.”
The lion, if possible – and it seemed very possible – frowned. “You are angry.”
Keeping her daggers in hand very ostensibly, the blonde snorted. “Angry? I’m not angry. I passed angry several thousand miles and about fifty years ago. I’m… I don’t even know what I am.”
“Buffy!” Lucy finally interrupted, scandalized. “Don’t be so mean. It’s not Aslan’s fault what happened to you.”
“Isn’t it?” she asked, turning dead eyes on the girl. All she got in return were Lucy’s own big, blue eyes, swimming with tears. Buffy shook her head. She wanted to rage, yell, and preferably break something. But not with those sad eyes watching her every move. She would have, once upon a time, not too long ago, but now she simply lacked the fire to do more than snipe at the lion.
“I’m getting back to the battle. You know,” she added, looking at the great cat, “The one where people are dying. The one you could stop.”
With that she jogged back to her horse, mounted, and took off without a single glance backwards. Lucy snuggled her head into Aslan’s mane and asked, tears in her voice, “Aslan, why is she so angry?”
The lion turned his head, gently bumping her in the chest. “Your friend has been hurt very badly, dear one. But remember, everything changes.”
Edmund almost died when Caspian came riding out of the forest with Susan behind him and no trace of Lucy. Peter, looking like he’d just gone three rounds against a brick wall, jerked upright, fear naked in his eyes.
Susan smiled at him and shook her head. “She got through. With a little help.”
She nudged Caspian, making clear just where that help had come from. Peter turned to the prince, relief painted on every line of his face. “Thank you.”
“Well, you were busy.”
That got a weak smile out of everyone.
“She went with Lucy.”
“To find Aslan?” Peter asked with some alarm. The others all stiffened. Buffy’s opinion of Aslan was very, very clear and no-one believed that letting her close to the lion would in any way end well. For anyone.
Edmund cursed quietly. Then he shook his head and pushed the thought aside. There was nothing they could do about it now but hope that Lucy would find a way to keep Buffy peaceable.
Peter jerked his head toward the How and requested from his sister, “Better get up there now. We know they won’t keep their word.”
They did. General Glozelle had confirmed what Buffy and Caspian had already feared. Miraz would try to win fairly and when that didn’t work, he would turn to any dirty trick he could come up with. And then
he would let loose his army on them.
Susan nodded and hugged the king, wincing alongside him as she touched his left shoulder. She jogged away while Peter hefted his sword and smiled for the masses before basically collapsing onto the nearest fallen pillar, letting his brother doctor his shoulder.
“I think it’s dislocated,” Peter said, stating the obvious as Ed pulled on the elbow, getting the arm in position to pop the joint back into place. “What do you think happens back home if you die here?”
Ed grunted but otherwise left his brother to his philosophy. There were things best not touched upon in a situation like this.
“You know, you’ve always been there. I’ve never really…”
As much as Edmund had longed to hear those words, he already knew what Peter felt and Peter knew that he knew. This wasn’t his brother apologizing, this was his brother giving up. So he jerked on Peter’s arm, fixing his shoulder, earning himself a choked scream and stepping away.
“Save it for later.”
The order was clear: Make sure there is
The duel went on.
Buffy angrily dashed away her tears as she rode almost blindly, trusting her horse to find the way back to the How without her directions. She hated crying, hadn’t cried since forever.
Crying was for the weak and it was useless. Nothing ever came from crying, except headaches and the feeling that the entire world was about to crash down around your ears. Buffy didn’t cry.
Buffy got angry.
She was angry with Aslan. Angry with all the gods in all the worlds for the games they played, regardless of human lives and hopes and dreams. For the better part of half a century, she’d held on to that anger, had distilled it and refined it until it was hard and cold as glass, barbed and wicked, undefeatable. A monster in her chest.
A month ago it had still roared inside of her, screaming for justice, for blood, for freedom.
And then she’d crossed the river and set foot into Narnia and she’d known, known
exactly what this place, this country was. What Aslan was. Who
And her anger had drained away, day by day, drop by drop. There was no place for hate in Narnia, not air for rage to breathe. No space for anger. In Narnia there was love and forgiveness and friendship and hope, no matter how dark it got, or how gruesome. In Narnia the good always won and the bad always lost.
In Narnia, a bitter old woman could not cling to her desperate anger, could not use it to hold herself together. In Narnia, the good and the soft and the wonderful and the wild came crawling in through the cracks like light into a dark room. They came in the shape of little girls with big eyes and silly, burning teenage boys, with too much knowledge in the way they looked at her, too much understanding.
They made her feel. They made her see. And they washed away the anger, leaving her empty, so very empty.
She’d lost everything and filled the spaces with rage and now that was gone, too, and she was about to cave in.
To break again, this time for good and damn them all, damn Aslan and Narnia and Lucy and Susan and Edmund and Peter and Caspian, she wanted her old numbness back, wanted to sink to the bottom of her ocean of fire again and never come back up.
But she couldn’t.
For that, she hated them almost as much as she loved them.
Chasing after Lucy and meeting Aslan meant she arrived back at the How just in time for the grand finale with Caspian standing over his uncle, sword raised, shaking with the need to kill.
She jumped of her horse, landing next to a pretty beat up Peter and kissed him, simply because she could. Because she wanted to. Because the sky was crashing down around her and nothing mattered anymore, did it?
“Lucy?” Peter asked as he pulled her into his side without taking his eyes off the scene before them.
“She’s fine.” Something in her voice, too flat, too hollow, the anger obviously strained and fake, must have alarmed him because he looked away from Caspian and his uncle to her, taking in her blood shot eyes and tired look for the first time.
He would have asked what was wrong, if Miraz had not chosen that very moment to speak. “Perhaps,” he stuttered between laboured, wet gasps, “I was wrong. It seems you have the makings of a good Telmarine king after all.”
He smirked at his nephew and bowed his head, waiting. Winning, even in death. But Caspian only quivered with rage. A Telmarine king? His path to the throne covered in bodies, the blood of his family? A king who killed for power and greed, who had no morals and no conscience?
He screamed and drove the sword into the ground.
Not like Miraz.
“Not one like you,” he gasped, catching his breath, body steadying. “Keep our life,” he told his wide-eyed, uncomprehending uncle. “But I am giving the Narnians back their kingdom.”
He walked away.
He turned his back on his wounded, kneeling uncle and walked away. Peter and Edmund grinned at him, The Narnians cheered and Susan gave him a far away nod and a brilliant smile from her post atop the How.
A king, yes but not a Telmarine one.
A Narnian one.
Then the screaming started.
Within moments the few soldiers in the vicinity had either fled or been killed, the body of Miraz left behind, Susan’s stolen arrow buried deeply in his side. Buffy and Edmund exchanged significant looks. They both knew who had stabbed Miraz: Sopespian, the lord who had cornered the king when they had presented the challenge. They’d known he would cause trouble but neither of them had expected said trouble to be quite so big.
The man was starting a war in order to cover up his regicide!
Then Glozelle ordered the Telmarines to arms, sending the cavalry to charge, followed immediately by two regiments of foot soldiers, as they had agreed. Every soldier that went into their first trap would be one less soldier to fight later.
Caspian had already jumped on a horse and was charging into the How like a man possessed.
“One,” Peter said, hefting his sword.
“Two,” Edmund added, picking up a discarded Telmarine sword in his free hand and testing its balance.
“Three,” Buffy counted, keeping her hands free. For now.
“Four,” Susan said on top of the How, arrow loose in her hand.
“Five,” Caspian yelled underneath the battle field, leading the invisible charge.
“Six,” Glenstorm whispered, a sword in each hand.
“Seven,” Trumpkin yelled, heard only by the archers around him.
“Eight,” Reepicheep squeaked.
“Nine,” Edmund called, drawing out the number as adrenaline began to rise.
“Get ready!” Peter yelled as Susan echoed the order above-head and the last of ten inaudible drumbeats rolled through their heads.
The ground gave way, the Telmarine cavalry charged head first into a pit, arrows flew and the Narnians from above and below ground attacked from three sides, storming into battle with their Kings at the very tip of the charge.
For a moment, the world held its breath.
Then the first swords clashed and there was no going back.
Peter spun under an oncoming sword, cutting a man across the middle, bringing him down and kicking the next right into Buffy’s waiting daggers. He dropped and the two of them spun, back to back, slashing and ducking. Edmund joined them moments later, his two swords held high, centaur style, surveying the field.
The cave-in caused by Caspian’s party had bought them a few minutes, but already the rest of the Telmarines were advancing. Slower than they could have been, thanks for Glozelle drawing every order out for as long as he could, but they were still coming and facts were overwhelming them. They were too few, their chosen fighting ground had a big hole in it that made it impossible to regroup properly after the first charge and the aid they were waiting for still had not arrived.
There was no sign of Aslan.
Buffy blocked a sword aimed at her head, kicked her attacker into another soldier and threw one of her daggers, saving a centaur’s life. Edmund crossed his blades, slitting the throat of another Telmarine before kicking the body out of range and ducking, trusting Peter to parry the blow meant for his head. His brother did, fighting for a brief moment above Ed’s head before slamming his fist into the face of an oncoming soldier and spinning back into position, stabbing a second man in the stomach.
“We’re losing,” Buffy called, only slightly out of breath as she grunted and kicked a man in the stomach hard enough to send him crashing into one of his companions, twenty feet away. Since she was running low on daggers already, she shrugged and adopted the method, using Telmarine soldiers as missiles to knock out their own comrades.
“Your Glozelle isn’t much use,” Edmund observed, hacking at two men coming from either side, felling both of them.
“He’s doing his best,” Peter argued, kicking a man in the face before slitting his neck.
“We’re still losing
,” his brother sing-songed between two sword strokes.
“His only alternative is grabbing a sword and killing his own people,” Buffy defended but added with a sigh, “But you’re right. We’re fucked.”
Before anyone had the chance to comment on her crude observation, she broke away and sprinted some twenty feet to save Caspian’s neck as three Telmarines converged on him at the same time.
Peter, catching sight of the tail end of her somersault into a gaggle to enemy soldiers, grunted as he took a hit on his injured arm and shook his head. “She’s right,” he told his brother before drawing a deep breath and yelling, “Back to the How! Back!”
Where in the lion’s name was Lucy?
As the ground caved in, Glozelle stopped and stared, along with most of the rest of the army. Whatever he had expected the Narnians to do, bringing down the entire battle field hadn’t been it. And for a few minutes, it looked like they were winning.
But the hole helped them as much as it hindered them and there were three Telmarines for every Narnian, no matter how much he drew out giving orders and sent people toward the Narnians’ strongest instead of weakest points, it wasn’t enough.
The lords had taken up counteracting his orders and were looking at him sideways. It was only a matter of minutes before they found a way to conveniently displace an arrow or a dagger in him and be done with it. When the call to fall back came from the other side and Sopespian yelled for their route of escape to be cut off, Glozelle cursed.
He cursed violently and loudly and then he jumped back on his horse, turned it around and galloped toward the catapults just as the first rocks went flying. Without slowing down he hacked into the complicated array of ropes that made the big machines function and cut them clean through.
The soldiers stationed there stared at him, aghast and silent. But not for long. Within seconds the first cries of foul play went up and Glozelle knew that his days as a general were over.
Hell, all his days were probably over.
But he could do one last thing. He could make this count.
Of the five catapults they had, one was broken, two were behind him and two in front. There was no way he could reach all four of them. But he could take out the two in front and hope it was enough. So he kept riding, sweeping any resistance out of the way and hitting the second war machine at a full gallop. Ropes vibrated and broke under his sword, rendering this one useless, too.
One to go.
Behind him, he heard the order to shoot, shoot, just shoot him down.
Deep inside the woods a lion smiled at a little girl, threw back his head, and roared
When the cry of outrage came from behind, Buffy couldn’t help but turn around and see what was going on. Immediately she picked out the one man racing against the stream, sideways instead of toward them. Glozelle.
As they made their retreat, he brought down the catapults, one by one. Three were still firing but as she watched, he brought down another one and kept going. Running backwards, she blindly groped for and caught Caspian’s sleeve and jerked him sideways, pointing.
He followed her line of sight and his eyes widened as he caught on. Without a word both of them took off running, chopping their way to the right where Glozelle would come in if he managed to get out of the thick of the army and round the flank. There were no archers that could cover them since they were all busy not getting hit by flying rocks, but they had to try.
Buffy knew that Glozelle didn’t expect them to, wouldn’t mind dying for this. For something he believed in, finally. But friend or not, you didn’t leave your own behind. Especially not if they were incoming from a suicide mission behind enemy lines.
The three were within fifty yards of each other when Buffy yelled, “Get off that horse!”
Glozelle heard and obeyed, more or less flinging himself off his mount and immediately disappearing into the chaos of battle, making himself a harder target to shoot. He kept running toward them, not having to do much fighting since news of his betrayal had not yet reached the very front of the troops. Which, Buffy discovered, was a good thing because there was an arrow sticking out of his left shoulder, dangerously close to his heart.
Then her sight of him was blocked by a gaggle of Telmarines hell bent on taking down the ‘little girl’ and she was otherwise engaged. By the time she was rid of them, Caspian had already reached his countryman and was pulling him to his feet after an unfortunate last minute tumble to safety.
She watched as Glozelle stared at the offered hand for a long, long second before taking it with his good one and letting himself be put on his feet. The symbolism was so heavy in the air, you could have cut it.
“My Lord,” he said, as soon as he was upright, bowing as far as he could with an arrow in his shoulder, pinning his heavy armour in place.
Caspian grinned wide enough to split his face in two and brought up his sword, slitting a Telmarine’s throat almost negligently.
“Hold that,” Buffy commanded, thrusting her daggers at the prince who took them, looking confused until she reached up and hugged Glozelle tightly. “Sorry,” she muttered into his shoulder.
“This,” she said and broke off the arrow as close to the wound as possible, causing him to scream and stumble. “You don’t get to die,” she informed him as she steadied his swaying form and took back her weapons from a wide-eyed Caspian.
As great as he was with a sword, the prince still had a lot to learn about battles and the gruesome reality of them. As a unit the three turned back toward the How, intent on reaching safety and froze.
The entrance was down.
They were trapped.
When the battle began, Caspian thought they would win. The Telmarines fell so fast, their plan worked so perfectly, everything seemed alright.
And then the first Narnian within his sights fell to a sword through the belly and nothing was alright anymore.
After the skirmishes in the forest over the past few weeks, after the raid on the castle, Caspian thought he understood battle. He’d been studying tactics all his life, he knew all the plans and all the tricks they had up their sleeves for this fight and that was supposed to be enough.
The raid had been a failure. Things had gone wrong. People had died and he had been devastated.
But this, this was on a whole different scale. This was not two hundred chosen men fighting against a regiment of sleepy guards. This was everyone who could carry a weapon fighting not only for their lives but for their very right to exist.
And all the plans, all the tactics, were washed away with blood and sweat and terror until all that was left was killing as many of the enemy as possible and trying to stay alive.
And it just wouldn’t end. The raid had, all in all, taken less than an hour. By the time Peter’s order to fall back came, they had already been fighting for longer than that.
Battles, Caspian understood now, were not quick and clean. They were messy and they were horrible and long. Like a nightmare that just wouldn’t end.
He tried to stay close to the others, found them again and again in the chaos, fighting back to back with them until he was ripped away again. Edmund hacked tirelessly with his two swords, Buffy never seemed to slow or stop or even breathe and Peter, despite his injured shoulder, was a glowing terror in the centre of the battle field. Susan, far above, never seemed to run out of arrows and never lost track of them, saving their lives more than once with a well aimed arrow.
These people, even Edmund, who was much younger than Caspian, had seen battle before. They knew it. Understood it. And they still faced it, managing to crack the occasional joke whenever they ran across each other in the chaos.
And Caspian understood why the others had followed Peter to the castle. It had been foolish and it had been risky and it had turned out badly. But Peter knew battle, knew this, the icy terror that clawed up the prince’s spine, higher with every comrade he watched die, with every man he killed.
Peter knew all that and he was not afraid, did not shy back, did not give up. He had seen something worth the risk in raiding the castle and the others had followed because that was what you did. You planned and you did your best and when it went to hell, you kept fighting.Every
battle, Caspian knew now, was a risk. Every battle was a failure. In war, there were no winners. Only survivors.
And with that understanding, with that cold certainty, Caspian hefted a dagger and saved Trumpkin’s life.
There was nothing else to do.
There was a minute or so during which Peter lost track of Buffy and Caspian. Then the entrance came down and Susan almost fell to her death and it seemed that everything was over.
Trumpkin managed to grab her in the last second and help her land safely. She climbed through the rubble and hit his – Peter’s - side at a run, just as Edmund arrived from the other side.
Where were Caspian and Buffy? Better yet, where were Aslan and Lucy?
The answer to the first question came as the two suddenly appeared close to the How, obviously coming from somewhere behind the left Telmarine flank. They had a third with them that Peter recognized as the Telmarine General.
The man was wounded but walking under his own steam and the three soon hit the spot where the duel had taken place. Miraz’s glassy eyes still stared at them, accusing and confused, forever open.
Looking away from the fallen king, Peter turned to the newcomers and glared at Buffy, “Warn a chap when you’re going to run off, would you?”
She shrugged, falling in next to him, scanning the oncoming soldiers. Behind them, Ed asked, “You’re the one that brought down that catapults?”
“Yes,” Glozelle answered, breathing hard, sounding tense.
“Good job,” the Just King offered. “Although it wasn’t much use.”
Peter didn’t need to look to know his brother was grimacing fiercely. Fact was, they were as good as dead. Outnumbered, surrounded and with nowhere to fall back to.
Trapped, and they knew it.
They had lost. Nothing short of a miracle was going to save them now and as Narnians died all around them, Peter found it hard to believe in one.
There was a lull in the battle as the Telmarines hurried to fill the void left behind by the retreating Narnians and Peter used it.
“One more time?” he asked, turning to Ed, his ever faithful brother, his second in command, his best friend
Ed, knowing exactly what Peter was asking of him, grinned madly. “One more time, Pete.”
Always one more time.
Peter grinned back and turned to Susan, who only nodded grimly, collecting whatever arrows she could find in the vicinity. Behind her, Glenstorm regally inclined his head as well.
Buffy, when he met her gaze, just snorted. “I’m not stopping.”
Caspian nodded and pulled a dagger from a dead soldier’s chest, gripping it tightly.
Then the trees came.