Dead in His Head
A/N: I'm too tired to read this through. Keep the mistakes you find, please. Thank you for your reviews on the last chapter. Enjoy.
Dead in His Head
When Asmira was still there the next morning, it seemed the siblings and dwarf accepted her as a part of the scenery, neither paying much attention to her, nor ever completely forgetting she was there. Which was just the way she liked it.
Lucy still looked at her wearily from time to time, opening her mouth, obviously to pick their argument from the day before back up. But every time she tried, she would close her mouth again after a moment, shake her head and look despondently around, as if searching for something.
All four siblings did. They kept jerking around at odd moments every time a yellow batch of flowers or a pile of leaves caught the sunlight and shone brightly through the dark green wood.
Trumpkin eventually joined her at the end of the group when he got tired of fighting with Peter over which was the right way and they walked silently side by side, watching the Kings and Queens carefully.
It wasn’t hard to figure out the group dynamics between them. Peter was the undisputed leader of the four. He decided where they went, when they stopped, what they did next. The others obeyed, silently, but with looks of hidden pain and sorrow in their eyes. Apparently, the Golden King had not always been the harsh, hot headed man – child - he was now. From Lucy’s and Edmund’s mumblings she gleaned that he had always had a temper, but never had it been directed against his own siblings.
She could guess where the new heat came from. Coming back to find your home in ruins could do that to you. Especially if you felt responsible and were already torn up about other things. And the way Peter looked at his siblings when he thought they didn’t notice said that he was very torn up. In short: The boy was running himself into the ground and his siblings were suffering more from his refusal to accept help than from his sharp tongue.
Susan, the second oldest, was trying to temper her older brother and keep everyone else calm. She was peace loving and deeply logical, but sweet and gentle in a way few people could maintain past their early childhood. But there was also a shadow of desperation in her as she clutched her bow tightly, as if afraid it would be taken from her. Afraid all of Narnia would be taken from her again. Pain made Susan quiet instead of loud, and distant in a way that was completely different from her brother but still the same.
The younger two were more accessible. Edmund was obviously his brother’s shadow and every look in the other boy’s direction spoke of acute loss. He looked at his brother like his puppy had died. He was also quiet and strong, something for his littlest sister to cling to. He had protested her joining the group least, but watched her most. She got the impression that he was withholding judgment until he had facts to base it on.
Lucy, the youngest of them was also the brightest. She was smart and insightful at times, but most of all she loved, she cared and she believed so absolutely in the things she could not see that it hurt. She undoubtedly had a temper on her, but the impression was that even yelling and screaming in a rage she would still be much the same, sweet and exploding with love and life. Just being in Narnia seemed to fill her with enough joy to light up a major city. Looking at her, Buffy drowned in memories.
But above and below all that, the four siblings carried a weight and an age that was well beyond their bodies. Even little Lucy looked at the world with the eyes of someone much older. It made Asmira gnash her teeth and curse this Aslan in the privacy of her head. Damn him for making children soldiers, damn him for taking their childhood away, for giving and then taking away whatever had left the obvious, dark space in the middle of them. They clung to each other far tighter than siblings their age should, looked around for each other far more often and never could go long without having some sort of contact, verbal or physical. As if they had to reassure each other that they were still there, still okay.
Even Peter, pissed off Peter, joined in those little games of word and touch. Even when his glares were fit to melt rock, he couldn’t seem to resist running a hand down someone’s arm or ruffling someone’s hair.
And she didn’t understand it. Didn’t understand the contradiction of four needy children who were war-worn adults, who were thousands of years old and not yet grown. So in the end she gave in and slipped past the dwarf to Lucy’s side, hoping to learn more as she asked, “Tell me about that Aslan of yours then.”
And Lucy did.
Not far from his lord’s place in the council chambers, General Glozelle stood, doing what he did best. Watching and worrying. He recognized the spark in Miraz’s eyes well enough and he knew that before the month was over, blood would stain his hands yet again in the name of a false lord and his pursuit for power. The Narnian prisoner her had brought back had been the last piece in a puzzle the man had been trying to put together ever since he had killed his brother nigh on ten years ago.
Glozelle was well aware that letting Asmira escape could eventually mean his death. If not now, then later. Miraz had a long memory and little mercy. But he could not convince himself to regret his actions. Not if she was protecting Caspian from his mad uncle.
Not if… he had once believed himself in love with her. Over time the feeling had faded and become grudging admiration and honest friendship. He cherished her simple and direct ways, her sober and dry witted observations and her shrewdness. He admired her for not falling into the power games the court seemed to have utterly succumbed to.
And he had wanted her as a partner, as the mother of his children. Someone to rely on. Someone to talk to. A promise of a future. A promise of somewhere to come home to after the latest senseless and purposeless campaign.
After watching her in the forest he knew he would never have that, knew that she was well beyond his understanding.
What remained of their relationship was his memory of the good times she had given him and the silent grace in everything she did.
With her by his side, maybe Caspian would become the man needed to put Miraz in his place and save this country.
Even if he might not live to see it, Glozelle could not regret that.
Lucy told of a wardrobe in England and a faun in a land of eternal winter, of a White Witch and a lost Edmund, who blushed and ducked his head in shame as his part in the story was explained. Traitor.
Susan hugged him wordlessly and Lucy went on.
Beavers. Wolves. Centaurs. An army and a lion. Aslan. Who died for Edmund and came back to life, who helped them fight the White Witch and save Narnia. Who made them Kings and Queens over a land full of joy and warfare and watched them for fifteen years as they grew and made Narnia into a golden land in a Golden Age. Fifteen years of campaigns and balls, of war and battles and games on the beach and hide and seek in the forests.
She told of hunting the White Stag that fulfilled wishes if caught and of a lamppost and the vague memory of the country of Spar Oom, of falling through a wardrobe and being eleven years old again. Of living in England, hoping and waiting for Aslan. She looked sad as she told of Susan’s parties and make-up to hide behind, of Peter’s fights and Edmund’s attempts to help, told of her own dreams of Aslan and the long, long wait.
A whole year they’d waited to be allowed back, even after fifteen years had been stolen from them. Even after everything else that had happened to them. All they wanted was Narnia. And Aslan.
And inside Asmira a girl called Buffy ached for those children who were adults who were warriors who were children who were Kings and Queens who were children
who were lost.
How could Lucy call her Aslan a benevolent god after he’d made them work so hard for their peace and happiness only to take it all away from them and dump them back where they had come from, exactly
where they had come from. How they must have feared and wondered if Narnia had ever been real, if they had ever been there with no physical proof and not a shred of evidence beside their memories.
At least Buffy had always known that her life was real, what she was fighting for. She had known there would be an ending, brutal and bitter, but an ending. No to and fro, no back and back again. No games. Just a life from beginning to quick end and then peace. Only it hadn’t happened like that, had it?
How old was she? How old were the Pevensies? And where had all the years gone, all the memories? Peter’s anger seemed so much easier to understand suddenly, his quiet rage that was in truth hurt and grief over what was lost and guilt over failing to protect his siblings.
In that instant, when Lucy finished her story with tears in her eyes and a brave smile as she stumbled forward to slip in between her sister and brother to be hugged and cherished, Asmira did something she had not done in many, many years.
She got attached. Blame it on those children, blame it on the land under her feet and the air all around her. Blame it on Narnia. And she swore, on her own grave marked with a stone that bore her name, her lost, forgotten, real name and self, that she would see these four happy, even if she had to kill another god to achieve her goal.
The badgers remembered because that was their way. Those were Trufflehunter’s words but he doubted anyone, even the star gazing centaurs understood just what that meant.
From father to son, from father to son, from father to son, the stories were handed down, word by word, phrase by phrase, learned by heart and never forgotten. The good ones. The bad ones. The ones with a lesson to learn and the ones without.
Any story. Every story. The badgers knew them all.
Narnians talked about the Golden Age still, with a kind of mythical reverence, with wonder and hope in their eyes and, as far as he knew, the Telmarines didn’t talk about the Golden Age at all.
But there was more to it, so much more. The Narnians remembered dancing fauns with red scarves, laughing Queens in the apple orchards of Cair Paravel, the duels and mock battles of the Kings. They remembered the White Witch falling and her vile followers fleeing before the glory of the four.
They remembered this:
High King Peter, the Magnificent, King of Summer, burning gold far beyond the borders of his land.
King Edmund, the Just, King of Winter, shining cool and calculating silver, temperance and wisdom.
Queen Susan, the Gentle, Queen of Autumn, dark hair and blue eyes, the fairest of Narnians, the mother of all.
Queen Lucy, the Valiant, Queen of Spring, youngest, brightest, loudest, filled with laughter and joy as pink as fresh apples.
But they forgot how the Golden King scorched the land and swept over his enemies like a summer storm, hot like fire. Forgot the ice cold rage of the Silver One, his unforgiving sense of justice that knew no mercy once a certain line was crossed. He never stopped, never forgave, not even himself. They forgot that the Gentle Queen rode to war with bow and arrow, killing her enemy without regret or hesitation. Matron of her country, she punished all misdeeds with a mother’s ruthless love. They even forgot the smallest one with the biggest temper who flew into battle with her brothers at her side, hot like the Summer King, quick and deadly and slow to calm.
In short, they forgot that Narnia of the Golden Age had been a war zone and the four monarchs, soldiers.
But the badgers remembered. Trufflehunter remembered. And as he walked beside the prince and listened to him questioning Glenstorm on the old tales and stories, he wondered if young Caspian had any notion of what he had called with that horn.
For when they came, the Kings and Queens would not wave their magic wands and make peace. No.
They would make war.
The kind of war this country had not seen since the White Witch’s fall and the banning of evil.
Trumpkin and Peter were at it again. At this point, the dwarf jumping the High King and trying to bash his head in seemed certain. The only question was when. If Peter kept going like he was the answer would be: soon.
Susan and Lucy had wisely fallen a few paces behind when the fight had gone into the next round and Edmund had followed half an hour later, after multiple scathing looks from his brother every time he tried instil something like peace between the combatants.
Asmira was left to walk by herself between the two groups, listening to conversations both in front and behind her until Peter’s snarling drew her attention yet again.
“You said you last saw Caspian at the Shuddering Wood and the quickest way there is to cross at the River Rush.”
Turmpkin was about to reply, no doubt with a hefty dose of insults and sarcasm, when the blonde quickly stepped between them and asked, “We’re looking for Caspian?”
Five pairs of eyes turned to her as if she’d just realized that sky was blue. “What else would we be looking for?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know? Weapons? An Army? A place to turn into a base? You know, useful things? It’s not like you people tell me anything?”
Peter muttered under his breath about ‘wondering why that is’, but she ignored him. “If we’re trying to find Caspian, we’re going the wrong way. He’s not that way,” she pointed at the stone wall Peter had come up against.
Closing her eyes she turned once in a complete circle, head cocked to one side, as if listening to something. She stopped and held out one arm, pointing in a direction about forty five degrees to the right of Peter’s chosen path. “He’s this way.”
“How do you know?”
She dropped her arm, opened her eyes. “Did you listen to me? Caspian is my mission. Knowing where he is and when he’s in danger is part of the package. I can feel him. And he’s that way.”
“Are we supposed to believe that you can feel
him?” Peter shook his head, answering his own question.
Susan fidgeted in place for a moment before agreeing, “It seems a bit strange, you’ve got to admit.”
That seemed to be enough for the oldest brother because he turned back to the stone wall blocking the path and said, “We’re going that way.”
Trumpkin, who didn’t as much believe the Telmarine woman as he was simply glad to have someone on his side of the fight, snapped, “But unless I’m mistaken, there’s no crossing of the Rush in these parts.”
Peter’s expression got smug as he shot back, “That explains it then. You’re mistaken.”
Then he took off to find a way around the rock formation and the others were left to either follow or rot where they stood. The siblings exchanged looks and then did as they always had done, following each other to hell or salvation. Asmira and Trumpkin exchanged looks, too, but they both rolled their eyes and resigned themselves to a long detour. Eventually, Peter would have to admit defeat. All they could do was hope it would be soon because they didn’t fancy retracing their steps completely.
Caspian’s first question to any he talked to was if they had seen any trace of a blonde woman, short and fierce, wearing green, somewhere, anywhere within these woods.
The answer remained the same, verbally or not, a head shake or a quick apology. They did not know. And Caspian looked at them, at the weapons at their sides, the determination in their eyes as they spoke of beating back Telmar and taking what was theirs and he feared, feared deeply, that Asmira had only been the first of many to die in his name.
He couldn’t accept that.
And so he asked, hoped and waited, knowing her dead in his head and refusing to give up with his heart because while he had, during that long, terrible night, believed not to know her, almost a week of contemplation had taught him differently.
He had gone riding with his uncle and a regiment of soldiers and there had been an accident. Some wild beast and his horse had reared, turned, broken away from the others. His uncle’s pursuit of him, he now realized, had been much slower than it could have been.
She had been there, suddenly, cloaked and covered, but recognizable by her golden hair. She had stopped his horse and probably saved his life. His uncle had found him later, leaning calmly against a tree, watching squirrels fight above. That had been the first attempt on his life. He had only been seven.
She had been there again the night his father died in his sleep, when little Caspian had been forgotten among the panicked servants, the arguing lords and the stirring people and army. She had taken him to the kitchens, fed him cake and warm milk and told him a story of a man called Charlie the Brown and his noble friend, Snoopy. He had fallen asleep with his head on her shoulder and found her gone the next morning.
Even later, after the Professor had taken him under his wing, she had been there. Barely noticeable, slipping in and out of his life like water, she had distracted various greedy lords from coming too close to him, had simply been there
when Miraz had tried to get his nephew alone and out of anyone’s earshot. To his shame, Caspian had never noticed her. The ways she had interfered in his life had been so small, so brief. But he was sure now, thinking back, that almost every time some servant had come to his timely rescue or he had been given some small kindness, he had seen a flash of golden hair somewhere close by.
Asmira, whoever she was, had spent most of his life looking out for him for some reason he might never understand.
It made him angry, angrier than he had ever been in his short, sheltered life, that he might never get the chance to thank for all she had done. She might never know, that after his father’s death, warm milk and cake had always been his best defence against night terrors.
Peter ran out of steam – and path – about three hours later at the top of a steep gorge. He had
been right, the River Rush was there. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which side of the argument you stood on, Trumpkin had been equally right. There was no crossing. There might have been one, thirteen hundred years ago but there most certainly wasn’t now.
Asmira could hear the High King grind his teeth from where she stood, four feet away. If something didn’t give soon, the boy king would explode. He abruptly cut off Susan’s monologue about eroding soil and turned to go back from where they’d come from, still not asking Trumpkin, or even her, for directions.
They had all turned away from the gorge when Lucy suddenly yelled, “Aslan! It’s Aslan over there!” Everyone shot around, looking wildly in the direction she indicated and seeing nothing. “Well, can’t you see?” She turned back around herself and found, “He’s right – “
There was nothing.
“-there.” Lucy finished her sentence belatedly, all elation gone from her voice. Asmira bit her lip and turned away from the girl’s dejected face. This is what you do, Aslan,
she thought. This is what you all do
Trumpkin tried to be gentle as he asked if she could still see the lion, but Lucy caught on. She wasn’t crazy. She’d seen him. The worst part was that she probably had. She’d seen him and he’d disappeared again without a word. No advice, no warning. Nothing.
It was all gods were good for after all.
Edmund stood by Lucy, saying he believed her. It was a sweet gesture but in the face of Peter’s stubborn denial it meant nothing. Shaking his head, the oldest brother gave his back to the gorge and the invisible Aslan, walking away.
“I’m sorry, Lu,” was all he had to offer his heart broken sister. “Let’s find that ford at Beruna.”
Asmira, who had been silent until then, keeping her thoughts to herself, spoke up. “You can’t cross there. It’s swarming with Telmarines.”
She’d rustled up a scout the day before finding the siblings and beaten the information out of him. Now she was grateful for it. Running right into the enemy’s arms didn’t seem like a good plan.
Peter rounded on her, eyes blazing. “Why should I believe you?”
“Better question: Why shouldn’t you believe your sister?”
The silence following her words was deafening. Even Trumpkin, who had no reverie for potent moments, held still and waited for the inevitable explosion. When it didn’t come after a few moments, Susan reached out and gently touched her older brother’s shoulder. “Maybe she’s right, Peter. Lucy’s always known when and where Aslan would show up. Just because we didn’t see him…”
She broke off mid sentence when he jerked away from her touch, rounding on her with fury. “You’re ganging up on me now? Fantastic, why don’t you – “
Lucy’s scream rent the air in two as she broke through the ground at the very edge of the gorge and fell. Trumpkin, the only one who had noticed her move and followed his new friend, threw himself on his stomach, reaching down without any real hope of catching the youngest Queen. The others were a split second behind him, all racing forward to the edge, fear plain on their faces.
Only Lucy wasn’t down there, broken on the rocks. Instead she was grinning up at the dwarf from where she sat at the very beginning of a path leading downward, only a few feet below the top.
She was safe and sound. And right. And Peter was wrong. Had been wrong for a long time. After running his eyes over his little sister to make sure she really was alright, he abruptly turned and broke into a dead run, fleeing.
Edmund made to follow his brother – as he always, always did – but Asmira stopped him with a firm hand on his arm, doing something she never, never did.
“I’ll go after his High Idiocy. You four get across that thing,” she jerked a thumb at the gorge and Lucy’s newly discovered path. “Set up camp on the other side?” She made it a question only so it wouldn’t seem like she was trying to take control. She was support cast only. She’d stopped playing centre stage hero a few dozen worlds ago. “It’s late enough to settle down for the night.”
Edmund, who wasn’t the oldest after Peter but still the one who commanded in the absence of his brother, nodded. “You have an hour before I come looking for you two,” he allowed and she was reminded that he had once been – still was – the Just. A chance for everyone, even strangers with stories that didn’t quite add up.
“Give me two, and we’ll be there.”
“Alright. See you there.”
“On the flip side,” she agreed and took off after the wayward King before anyone could ask her to explain.