Death Loomed Like a Giant Shadow
Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy nor the Chronicles of Narnia. They belong to their respective creators and I make no money off this. At all. Like, totally. The script comes from narniaweb.com, an awesome fansite with a few very, very dedicated people.
A/N: The bulk of this fic wrote itself in under two weeks. I say 'wrote itself' because that's what it did. My fingers were only tools. Go figure.
I meshed the books and movieverses together and changed a few things just because. One, ages. I stuck with how old they seemed in the movies because seriously? The book ages freak me out. Too young by far. So, Peter to Lucy they're seventeen, sixteen, fourteen and twelve. Two, Caspian is blood related to Miraz's wife, not Miraz. Three, the script I used is fanmade and thus not 100 percent accurate.
Beyond that, thanks to Anneliese for approval and Emberlights for a partial beta job. I hope you enjoy the story, leave me many, many reviews :P and... I forgot what I wanted to say. Updates whenever I feel like it.
+To the Ground
+ I am the one winged bird for flying,
Sinking quickly to the ground.
See your faith in me subsiding,
See you prime for giving in.
I give you all that I am.
- Rob Thomas, All That I Am
Death Loomed Like a Giant Shadow
The queen was, as could be expected of a woman in her state, radiant in her opulent golden ball gown, cut to emphasize the nine month swell of her stomach. The women of the court, usually so collected and calculating, fawned and fussed about the pregnant woman as if they did not see her every day. As if they liked her.
Court games. They left her sick, made her turn away.
At the other end of the room, as far from the women as they could get, men in the black and silver of the Telmarines discussed business as usual, lying and cheating to get their way. Their mouths said one thing and their hands on their daggers another as they traded land and women, riches and people, for power. Always power. It had been bad enough when Caspian IX had still reigned but since his accidental
death, they had degenerated at amazing speeds. Miraz, the Lord Protector who had never once in his life protected anything, encouraged the games, allowing the lords to weed each other out. As long as they fought amongst each other, he and his little game of chess were safe.
She would have wondered how the man could stand to look in the mirror if she hadn’t known that he could stand it just fine. Miraz’s conscience had probably died a lonely death in a lonelier ditch on the wayside to glory a long time ago.
Somewhere in-between the men and women she stood, refusing to play dumb with the women and not welcomed among the men. She hated this place and not only because nothing but the colour on the walls was ever what it seemed to be. For almost ten years she had haunted the castle and she had yet to find something worth saving. Except the prince, maybe.
But the boy was too weak, too young to withstand the court for long. At his age her innocence had already been long gone, her dreams and hopes fallen to dust like a vampire’s ashes. Nothing left but the fight. But Caspian… his uncle taught him nothing of worth and the Professor only filled his head with wild stories of a country and a people gasping its last breath. Oh, she knew the Narnians were not as extinct as they pretended to be, would have known even if her head had not been filled with the information necessary to fulfil her so called duty. She had seen them when she had gone wandering at night, watching from the edges of the woods with dark things in their eyes. But Caspian new nothing of that and stories would be no use when Miraz finally pulled a sword on his beloved
In a den of wolves, one did not survive with their head in the clouds. The boy should have been spending his hours in the training grounds, not walled up behind books and artefacts. Scholars had their uses, even Giles and his books, his wisdom and words, had once had their uses before it all turned to blood, but they could still die by a sword and their books couldn’t save them.
It was her job, her task
, to protect the young prince, yes, but she refused to do his work for him. And yet, what else was there to do? Her position in the court as Miraz’s oldest daughter’s teacher was shaky at best and no-one would ever listen to a woman trying not only to interfere with a man’s education, but also going against Miraz’s wishes by doing so. The man wanted his nephew cowed and weak and by the time the child growing in his wife’s womb was born, Caspian would be superfluous. The only reason he had lived until now was that Miraz had, so far, only managed to produce daughters, not sons. But this child, this third one, would be a boy. She could feel it in her bones.
And then everything would change. May you live in interesting times, the old curse said but she would welcome any change, even slaughter, if it meant escape from this place.
“Dance with me.” The order was disguised as a question, delivered with a bow and an outstretched hand that did nothing to diffuse the fact that she was a servant and the man before her a noble who demanded her obedience. She took his hand, heavy with rings, and let it lead her where it wanted to go, her mind on other things, her expression blank.
Here, now, things were finally coming to a head. After ten years of playing the meek servant, things were moving. Miraz would make his move and Caspian would meet his fate. It fell to her to make sure that fate was not death.
Why her? Why always her?
They said it was her duty. They said so when they took her from her world and gave her a task. They promised freedom after the deed was done, the world was saved. They lied. And they gave her another task. And another. Always promising freedom. Always giving her more blood, more death, more pain. Gods were fickle beings, no better than the man holding on to her right now, intending to take what he wanted without caring what he did to her in the process.
She had tried dying once, had tried jumping in front of an arrow meant for the one she was supposed to save. It had pierced her chest, bit through flesh and muscle, and ripped a hole into what was left of her heart. It did not kill her.
Almost forty years had passed since that day, the day she realized that even that one last route of escape had been blocked from her. Her face, when she glared at it in the dull mirrors of this medieval world, still looked like it had when she’d still had a name. When she had been Buffy
Nowadays, she was everything you wanted her to be.
The noble swung her around, his arms around her waist, possessive, strong, eager. Greedy. His left hand dipped to places where it had no business being and in her head she broke his jaw, shattered his nose and left him lying on the ground, choking on his own blood. In the real world, she painted a pleasant smile on her mask of ice. At least he was good looking.
Out of the corner of her eye she could make out the arrival of the prince, largely unnoticed at the Professor’s side. He looked around wide-eyed and eager, greeted his uncle with a smile, unaware that behind the older man, his death loomed like a giant shadow, waiting to fall on him and tear out his heart.
The hand around her wrist turned to steel suddenly, as her dance partner turned the direction of their little whirl and swirl toward the exit. She clenched her jaw and followed without protest. Such was her duty. Such was her task. Just one more thing to hate. One more sacrifice.
She had thought once that she had nothing more to give. She had been wrong.
As she trailed after the man smiling at his friends in victory, she looked back to catch a final glimpse of Caspian. She would save him because it is her duty. And then she would either get her reward or kill him with her own hands just to spite the Powers. To spit in their face for dangling freedom in front of her and always, always keeping it just out of reach. One more task, Warrior. One more part of what’s left of your soul. For us. For the greater good.
In the beginning, she’d believed them. She’d hoped.
She’d had faith in better things to come. Now-
A broad chest suddenly pushed into her field of vision, followed by a work-roughened hand devoid of the fancy rings the upper class usually used to denote status. But then, everybody knew who the man in front of her was.
“May I have this dance?” a smooth and little used voice asked. Offering her an excuse to get away from the man that had claimed her as his prize for the night. She was almost as grateful for the help as she was resentful.
But she didn’t turn him down. Pulling her hand free from the other man’s grasp she curtsied – a movement she had still not mastered perfectly – and accepted General Glozelle’s hand, ignoring the growl behind her. A growl, she knew, that nothing would ever come of. One did not cross the man in charge of the entire Telmarine army and get away unscathed. Nor did one take the girl he had his eyes on.
And Glozelle had had his eyes on her for a long time.
“Smooth,” she offered lowly as she let him lead her into something vaguely resembling a waltz.
His face betrayed no emotion as he agreed, “I thought so.”
“Arrogance, my dear General, gets people killed.”
He looked down at her, amusement glinting in his eyes. She fascinated him, she knew. She talked about war despite being a woman, she lived in the castle but took no part in its games, she spoke out of turn and far bolder than befitted a lowly teacher and she did it with a self assurance that most women in this archaic world never gained, even with crowns upon their heads.
“Putting Mosslin in his place has nothing to do with arrogance. He spends too much time with wine and women.” He grimaced mildly as soon as his words registered. She had almost become one of those women tonight.
She raised an eyebrow at the stoic man, challenging him wordlessly.
“You could avoid such manoeuvres entirely if you would agree to be my wife,” he stated. It wasn’t a question anymore. He had asked more than once, surprised that she turned him down only the first five or six times. After that, it became a game. He was fascinated by her and she liked him well enough as the only honest man in a castle full of crooks. But she felt no love for him and had long since stopped getting entangled in the worlds she was sent to. Her anger was enough to keep her warm at night.
“Or I could shave my head, gain fifty pounds and stop washing,” she suggested, deadpan. That was supposed to be the end of it but tonight it wasn’t.
“Why are you so adamant to refuse me, Asmira? I am not a bad catch.” He twirled her around once, pulled her close and then released her again, keeping perfect step with the rhythm without concentrating on it.
“It’s not about you, I’ve told you that.”
“But you have not told me what it is about.”
Past him, at the far end of the room she caught a glimpse of Caspian, weighed down by his uncle’s arm on his shoulders and slimy grin on his face. Not far from them, Caspian’s aunt stood, stroking her stomach absentmindedly as she watched the tableau her husband and nephew presented. Wishing perhaps, for the same for her unborn son.
“One day I just might,” she said absentmindedly, staring at the prince. “And I don’t think you’ll like it.”
“You are a good woman,” Glozelle argued, seriously. He meant what he said. So few people within these walls did.
Despite herself, she smiled. “I might have been once,” she confided in the only person she would call friend after a full decade in this world. “But that time is long past.”
With that she disengaged from him, stepping backward off the dance floor and into the crowd of guests before he could make a move to follow. Quickly, she slipped through the throngs of people and toward the nearest exit.
Away, just away. In the doorway she looked back, just once, to see the General still standing where she’d left him, his gaze tracking her through the room, face blank and eyes pained.
Hope, she mused as she determinedly turned away from him, was like a virus that set up shop in your body and mutated and changed until it was a whole new disease.
So much bitterness, wherever she went.
Helen Pevensie knew that eavesdropping on one’s own children might be considered in bad taste but at this stage, she really knew no other way to get any sort of useful information out of them. Even Lucy, her sweet little chatterbox, had mastered the trick of speaking without saying a word during her time in the country.
Helen had tried asking them outright what was going on when simply listening had failed to produce the desired facts. But Peter just smiled and hugged her – when had her standoffish, oldest son grown comfortable enough in his teenaged skin to hug his mother? – Susan smiled her gentlest smile and assured her mother that she was looking after her siblings, Edmund chirped an easy ‘fine’ – he had never chirped before, had never even made an effort to put her mind at ease, always content to rebel and glare and make the people around him as miserable as he was after his father went to war - and all Lucy did was nod and start running her mouth off about anything and everything.
At first she had thought it natural, had thought it would merely take them a while to get used to being home in Finchley, but as days became weeks and weeks months, it had become increasingly clear that the four people wearing her children’s faces were, in fact, strangers.
They cleaned without being told to. They straightened each other’s clothes. They covered for each other. They communicated without a single word. They laughed at odd moments and comments. No more yelling matches over who had to do the dishes, no more ratting Edmund out for his latest misdeed – although that might have had to do with the fact that there had not been any new misdeeds. No more treating Lucy like an infant.
Her children had, somehow, somewhere, when she hadn’t been around and hadn’t had a chance to stop it, become adults.
Adults with the sharp tinge of loss in their eyes.
And thus, after almost a year of watching her babies suffer, Helen stood, hidden behind the living room door after sneaking back in five minutes after leaving, listening hard and watching through the cracked open doorway.
Peter was sitting on the sofa, arms spread along its backrest with Susan curled into his side and Lucy sitting on his lap. Edmund entered from the kitchen, tea tray in hand and wordlessly pouring four cups. Susan scooted forward in her seat and reached for sugar and lemon – no milk, not for months now - fixing all of the cups without ever asking for preferences. She handed Peter his with a small smile and put Lucy’s back after she politely declined before sinking back into her older brother’s side, her own tea in hand. Edmund grabbed the last unclaimed cup and sunk to the floor in a heap of teenaged bonelessness – but his back strangely straight and he never really slouched at all anymore, did he – leaning against Peter’s knee. A moment later Susan started carding her fingers through his hair.
How was it that four sibling, two boys, two girl, ages twelve to seventeen, could sit so huddled up and not die of mortification? Why did a fourteen-year-old let his older sister play with his hair like a doll? Why? Helen wanted to cry for the fact that she did not know her children at all anymore. It hurt. It hurt so badly that the fact that Susan and Peter curling up together like that was less than proper and that Lucy was getting to old for such things, too, didn’t even register. What did she care about propriety when her dear babies moved a bit further from her every day?
“I dreamed of Aslan,” Lucy suddenly said into the silence. Susan slumped, Edmund straightened and Peter’s arm tightened around his sister’s waist.
“Lu,” he started, sounding weary and impossibly old, “We’ve talked about this.”
“You’ve got to move on,” Susan added, clutching her cup too close to her chest.
Edmund rolled his eyes unseen and blindly reached behind himself to take Lucy’s hand in silent support. She squeezed it and said, “I do not. You can pretend all you want but I won’t. Stop treating me like I’m crazy.”
“Lu,” the oldest started again, only to be cut off by his younger brother.
“Leave her alone, Pete. She’s right. We were there. We’ll go back.”
“It’s not that simple, Ed.”
Ed let his head fall back until he could look at his siblings upside down, “It would be, if you’d stop trying so hard.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not trying anything.”
“Oh, so you get into all those fights because it’s fun?”
Fights? This was the first Helen ever heard of any fights. Sure, Peter and Edmund came home a bit roughed up occasionally, but from the cold looks they usually gave each other then, she had assumed they’d been fighting with each other and the girls had always been quick to assure her that it was ‘nothing serious’.
“I’m tired of being treated like we are.”
Lucy snorted and smacked his hand until he released her before leaving one brother’s lap in favour of another’s. Edmund put his cup down and welcomed his little sister with open arms. Only when she was settled safely did she look up at Peter and say, “I don’t understand why you get so angry, Peter. We’re not getting treated any differently than we did before.”
“Exactly.” His voice was sharp and filled with the anger the youngest had just accused him of.
It was Edmund’s turn to snort. “So what? I’m getting tired of bailing you out of trouble and the girls are getting tired of patching both of us back up afterwards.”
“No-one asked you to help me.” Defensive, sullen, this was her golden boy knowing others were right and refusing to admit it. But unlike before, this time his siblings seemed to know it, too.
Susan put a gentle hand on his arm and dared to say, “That’s what we used to do, remember? Help each other out? Work as a team. What happened, Pete?”
Refusing to meet anyone’s eyes he whispered, “You know what happened.”
And just like that, the fight drained out of the room. Helen had never seen her children like this. Angry but not yelling, comforting each other even as they argued and then the feeling of bitter loss in the silence afterward. They held each other close even as it was obvious they wanted to push away, like magnets dancing around each other and something big and invisible that sat in their midst, unmoving and horrible.
For long minutes no-one inside the living room moved and Helen dared not, for fear of being heard. Finally Susan asked, “When did Mother say she would be back?”
“Soon,” Lucy decided after a quick glance at the clock above the mantle. “We should clean this up.” She pointed at the tea set with one hand, even as she reached to quickly drain her own cup.
Wordlessly, Susan rose and picked up the tray. Lucy stood to follow her into the kitchen before stopping and informing her brothers, “You should straighten up here and we promised to clean out the fireplace.”
Both brothers nodded and obeyed their little sister without any trace of complaint. Peter moved toward the fireplace even as Edmund straightened the throw pillows on the sofa and put the small vase back on the coffee table from where it had been moved to make room for the tea.
Helen was about to pull back from the door and quickly sneak back out of her own house, when Peter spoke, his back to the room, his hands busy with the soot and ash from yesterday’s fire. “Ed?”
In the kitchen, the clanking sounds of washing up stopped suddenly.
“Do you think we’ll ever be happy again here?”
Edmund turned back to the sofa, straightening perfectly aligned pillows, the weight of his older brother’s pain visibly weighing on his gangly shoulders.
“I don’t know, Pete. Do you?”
Sticking his head deeply into the fireplace, Peter refused to answer and Helen wept silent tears, her hand pressed over her mouth to keep from making a single sound.
Her babies. What in the world had happened to her babies?
“Hand me that, will you, girl,” Cook called, pointing toward the rolling pin that sat just outside the big woman’s reach. The blond sitting opposite her gave the thing a push, causing it to roll across the table, where her companion picked it up.
“Thanks, dearie,” the older woman said, smacking a handful of pastry dough on the floured table and starting to flatten it. The other grunted in reply but didn’t look up from her dinner.
“How was your day then? The girl learning good? She’s a nice one. Not too proud.”
A mumbled agreement was the only answer she received as she slapped a spoon full of filling on the dough and starting rolling it up. She sighed.
“Why are you here, Asmira, dear?”
This time the blonde did look up, her green eyes sparking with something akin to interest. That had to be a first. “What do you mean, Cook?”
“Why are you here? In this castle? You hate it here.”
The woman called Asmira dropped her spoon into the bowl set before her and shook her head, her motions suddenly tense, “Here’s as good as any place.”
“You have nowhere you’d rather be?”
Another head shake. “Nowhere to go and nothing else to do. Thanks for dinner,” she said, standing and carrying her dirty dishes over to the large wash basin. With jerky, brutal movements she cleaned her bowl and spoon and then put them to the side to dry on their own, her posture still too rigid.
“I’ll see you.” Her voice was strained suddenly where it was usually only weary and quiet. For the first time in all the years Cook had known her, the blonde sounded angry. Oh, she’d heard about the woman’s glacial temper from the servants, heard how she sent all suitors running with their tails between their legs and how her glares kept away even most of the court. But she’d never seen it. Here, in the solitude of the kitchens late at night, the small woman had always been quiet and pale, a shadow of whoever she was outside these walls.
She turned to leave without a word goodbye and Cook couldn’t let that happen. Never go to bed angry. She’d preached that to her children for twenty years and she wasn’t going to stop living by it now. “I’m sorry, dear. I didn’t mean to offend.”
“People rarely do,” Asmira threw back over her shoulder, not relaxing, not stopping. She had drawn a cold sort of arrogance about her like a shield at the first sign of attack and she refused to drop it again. Cook’s heart ached.
“Then why are you angry with me?” Cook asked, pushing dough and filling to the side and wiping her hands on her apron, giving the other her undivided attention.
Stopping in the doorway the younger of the two smiled an unhappy smile and offered, “I’ve forgotten how to be anything else.”
“And why’s that?”
A vague hand gesture at shoulder height and a dismissive, “Who cares.”
Cook wanted to say that she did, because somehow this cold and lonely girl touched something inside of her, stirred her maternal instincts, but at that very moment one of the maids came rushing in, almost tripping over herself as she gasped, “The Lord Protector’s wife is giving birth.”
Asmira straightened suddenly, giving the maid a narrow eyed glare before muttering quietly, “So it begins.”
She took off at a jog down the hallway, leaving the girl to take her spot against the doorjamb, panting hard, while Cook just stood there, sure that she had, somehow, just lost a friend.