A/N I'm sorry for the tardiness of this chapter. Apparently my muse is taking an extended vacation elsewhere and, like a cat, is only showing up when it suits her. As always, I have no claim on either the works of CS Lewis or on BTVS. I do have a claim on a cranky old basset hound, but that's not going for much these days.
Dawn was ecstatic, to the point she was practically skipping down the road she was on. The fact that she was wearing what amounted to a burlap robe that was rubbing her in areas that she’d rather not have rubbed barely registered to her. That she was in a land completely removed from anything she was familiar with and didn’t know a soul was less than a nuisance. That she was going to meet a complete stranger, who was a king no less, and ask him to put her up didn’t bother her in the slightest. Dawn did not even bother to think about the fact that she had no way to get back to what she called home. No, the only thing that registered for Dawn Summers was the fact that she was healthy. For the first time in longer than she cared to admit, her body felt rested and whole; and she was tripping on that feeling. Everything seemed more vibrant and alive now because she wasn’t having to fight through the pain or lethargy in order to merely function.
In all honesty, Dawn was shocked at the realization of how much fighting the disease took out of her on a daily basis. If the price of being cancer free was spending the rest of her life in this dimension, then it was a price she was willing to consider just to feel this way all the time. Eventually Dawn slowed her pace, because despite her feeling so good, her body still didn’t have the stamina that it used to. Now she was able to appreciate that countryside that she was walking through and it reminded her of a warm version of the Scottish Highlands. The people that she saw looked prosperous and happy and while they did take notice of her, it was never in a scared or suspicious way. As she walked along, Dawn tried to identify the animals and plants that she was seeing, to determine if they were found in her reality. In fact, Dawn was so taken with the scenery that the castle startled the heck out of her when she finally noticed it. It was just as Xander had described, red and warm. A structure that gave off the air of permanence, as though it had been there since time began, while still feeling as comfortable as well worn slippers.
Without hesitation, she walked up to one of the gate guards and said, “I would like an audience with King Lune please.” One part of Dawn’s mind was appalled at the sheer chutzpah she was demonstrating; after all approaching an armed stranger and making requests was far outside her comfort zone. Another part of her, though; figured that after dealing with the First Evil, Glory and PMSing slayers; nothing was really that scary any more. The guard, whom Dawn thought was kind of cute, just gaped at her for a moment and then asked what her business was with the King.
“My name is Dawn and I have come from the Hermit of the Southern March with news for the king.” Now technically all of this was true, however it did leave a great many important facts out.
The cute guard went to see if King Lune was available while the other guard, who looked like he had a bad case of gas, stood silent watch over her. Dawn said nothing and tried to appear calm and serene. When this didn’t work, she turned to study the environs around the castle. She was lost in pleasant reverie when the first guard returned, the clanking of his armor echoing in the passageway, and informed Dawn that the King would hear her news.
As the cute guard escorted her through the castle, Dawn was pleased to find that its exterior impression was maintained inside. The place just exuded warmth; she had no other way to describe it. If she had suddenly found herself back at 1630 Revello drive, the feeling would have been the same. This Dawn rather found surprising since she’d certainly never been to Castle Anvard before and Xander had never been elaborate in his descriptions. But for some reason, Dawn felt at home here. Sooner than she would have expected, the hallway opened up into a large room. There was an enormous fireplace in one wall and a raised dais opposite from it. The dais held a long table with people seated along one long side and at the ends. There were also other tables scattered around the room, but Dawn paid little attention to them. Her attention was focused on the person that was obviously King Lune. He had the warm, friendly face of everyone’s favorite uncle; and though he was clearly getting on in years, he still radiated vigor and health. Seated with him were several younger men, Dawn easily picked out the prince from Xander’s description, but she was surprised that his twin brother was not at the table with the King. There was also one young woman whose café au laite skin reminded her of Kendra, despite the fact that Dawn had never truly met Kendra. It was obvious that this was Arravis. Dawn stood silently, facing the King. For his part, King Lune looked her over with an eye that seemed to miss little; Dawn felt sure that the man knew there was something different about her before a word was spoken.
“They said that you had news?”
“Yes Majesty,” Dawn replied with a small bow. “As you no doubt can tell, I am not from this world. Despite that, I recognized where I was immediately because I had heard about it in tales. I come from the same world as King Peter and Edmund, Queen Lucy and Susan, and Sir Alex. It was his tales that I heard and I know that he trained some of you and cared deeply for many of you. As thanks for the many kindnesses you showed him, I would tell you of his final battle.”
“Final,” the king said, gripping the arms of his chair tightly. “He is dead then; and in battle?”
“Yes Majesty,” Dawn replied solemnly.
“Then tell your tale,” King Lune commanded. “Even though the little you have said has cut us deeply.”
Dawn bowed her head in acknowledgment then turned her gaze about the room. “Know that in the world that I am from, there are monstrous creatures that prey on human kind. They strike in the night and from shadows and seek to end all that is good and wholesome in the world. It was these creatures that Sir Alex was pledged to fight. He made this pledge when he was only sixteen years of age, and in it he never faltered. He trained, studied and worked so that he might better fulfill his pledge. For many years there had been a group of scholars and warriors who had banded together to combat these evils and in time, Sir Alex joined them.” Dawn knew that she was glossing a lot of stuff over, but the history of the council and all of the attendant politics weren’t really relevant to her tale. “He rose in their ranks and was soon a leader of many and responsible for the safety of an area larger than Calormen, but wild and untamed with many wandering tribes.”
“One day, just over a year after he returned from his adventures here, it was learned that a group of particularly wicked monsters would be gathered in one place. Not for destruction, but rather to take mates and replenish their numbers; much like fish who return to the very river from which they were spawned to reproduce. The leaders of the group thought of it as a great opportunity, a chance to eliminate the threat that these monsters posed once and for all time. Sir Alex did not agree. He knew that eliminating this threat was a good thing and to do so efficiently with minimal loss was the wisest course. But he also knew that to destroy a people without warning given or defiance sent was just not proper. He raised his voice in objection, but ultimately his views were not agreed with and a plan was created to completely destroy all of these creatures.”
“Sir Alex agreed with what the outcome of the battle would be, but he did not care for how it would be brought about. His conscience demanded that he withhold from the conflict, but he could not allow those that he had trained and led to go into battle without being there; so he struck a compromise. For himself, he chose to guard the healers and the place that the wounded would be taken. In this way he would support those whom he cared for without betraying his beliefs.”
“The day of the battle came and much as was expected, the monsters were slaughtered in great numbers. Few warriors were injured and even fewer slain. Sir Alex was pleased with this outcome though he still felt that there was something wrong with the way it had been brought about. Sir Alex spent his time bringing comfort those wounded as he stood guard and helped the healers in any way he could. Suddenly there was a cry from his protégé, who had been standing watch at the outskirts of the healer’s area as she refused to leave Sir Alex’s side. A group of monsters were approaching and there were only the two of them to stop the creatures from slaying the healers and the wounded.”
“It was soon clear to Sir Alex that the only course of action that they had was to delay the monsters until more help could arrive. Therefore; after sending a runner for aid, the two of them pulled out their bows and released flight after flight of arrows. But the creatures were desperate and made of stern stuff so that only half of them were slain, this left about twenty. Knowing his course was clear, Sir Alex attempted to have his protégé stay back and only fight after he had fallen, but she would not leave his side and maintained that she would be needed to watch his back. Knowing that she would follow him anyway, Sir Alex sighed and pulled his axe as his protégé drew swords and together the two charged the twenty. Together they slew ten of the monsters before Sir Alex’s protégé was slain. Despite his sorrow at her death, he did not falter; rather he became enraged and hewed the creatures with powerful strokes, dealing death to all those around him despite taking grievous wounds. Only after the final monster fell did he surrender to the effects of the wounds that he had taken and fell to his knees, dropping his axe. Then, in his last moments, he said a prayer for the soul of his brave protégé, then collapsed to the earth and breathed his last.”
There was a profound silence in the hall as Dawn finished her tale. The King, and many others, were clearly saddened, but it was a sorrow tempered with the knowledge that the man had fallen doing the right thing. Arravis wept quietly, but her expression was almost fierce as she contemplated the manner of his death. The silence was abruptly shattered as an obviously drunken voice spoke out loudly. “Why do you all look so solemn? The fool deserved his death if he did not have the wit to avoid a fight he could not win.”
Dawn spun around, incandescent with rage, seeking out who had spoken. She saw a young man who looked almost exactly like the young man next to the king and realized that it was probably Prince Corrin, the son of King Lune. At the moment she really didn’t care. Dawn stalked up to the young man and smacked him on the right cheek; knocking him reeling. He stood up with a snarl and reached for his dagger, only to feel a small but surprisingly strong hand grab his wrist so he couldn’t draw. He looked up only to find two blue eyes that were practically sparking with rage. Stunned by the cold fury of the woman’s gaze, Corrin’s spirit quailed and his body froze. Into the silence, Dawn’s voice began; the words were formal and precise but the tone was one of absolute anger.
“Your words, sir, do neither you nor my father nor your father any honor. It is a lesson that you should have learned before now, one that I am sure he taught you; but I see that it falls to me to make some things clear to you. My father paid the price that all who claim the title of Knight must be willing to pay. To guard and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, to protect the weak from the strong, the powerless from the powerful. This he did and in so doing, he fell. I say he fell, but he did not die. You see sir; death is not when you breathe your last. It is when all the good that you have done with your life is washed away by sloth and misdeeds. There are many walking this earth now who are already dead. But the true knight, one who lived as my father did; has no fear of death because their deeds and their lives have rendered them immortal.” She then released Corrin’s hand but still held him pinned with the fire of her gaze. Without turning her head Dawn said, “Please pardon my ire King Lune. To hear my father’s memory besmirched at that time was . . . . unacceptable.” Then with a final glare of contempt, she turned to face the king. The look on his face was a clear mix of emotions, but even as skilled as she was, Dawn was not certain about the King’s mood.
“I understand Lady Dawn, but I would ask that you restrain your passions in the future.” He looked stern but inside he was glad that someone had taken the starch out of Corrin. In the last two or three years, something had changed with the Prince. Neither the King nor Cor knew what it was and any questions on the subject were only met with silence. Maybe the arrival of this young woman would right whatever was out of balance in the young man. “If it is agreeable to you, I would ask that you stay here for a while as our guest. At your leisure, we could speak of your father. Sir Alex was a true friend and a great warrior but he was reticent when speaking of his own deeds. I am curious to hear what stories you would tell.”
“Thank you for your kindness Majesty,” Dawn replied. “It would be an honor to share tales of my father with those who knew him.”
The King smiled then turned to Arravis, “daughter, would you show the Lady Dawn to our guest quarters.” As Arravis nodded and rose, others began moving again in the great hall. Behind Dawn, Corrin glared at the young woman. He felt confused and uncertain as he glowered and stared. He believed that either hated the young woman with all his heart or that he might just be falling in love.