Cair Paravel was decorated this fine summer evening with thousands of little glowing fireflies and colourful flyers that mystified the whole castle. The ballroom was extraordinary and had been changed drastically to fit the theme of the event.
The faun, that had undoubtedly drank too much of the beverages they offered there, couldn’t stay on his feet and leaned against the marble pillar. The female dryads, the spirits of the wood, were giggling constantly and swung their sticklike hands around to point at handsome guests.
Countless Narnian creatures and humans were dancing on the centre of the floor wearing masks that hid their identities for the night. It had been unanimously decided that to spike the interest of even more people and beings, this time, the end of the festival would be celebrated with a different kind of dance. No one had complained once, all too excited to be in mystical surroundings and meet the guests with sincerity and without prejudice.
Edmund Pevensie, the Just King of the Golden Age, was swirling the goblet that contained rich plum liquid in his hand and watched over the Narnians. He was enjoying himself very much as nobody had come to his side and addressed him as the King of Narnia. On the contrary, even his siblings, who to be fair, he still hadn’t recognised from the crowd, were not aware of his presence.
He had met wonderful ladies during the first few hours, but none had grasped his interest for more than minutes. It wasn’t to say that they didn’t approach him; it was about him and his unwillingness to converse in topics they seemed to be awfully interested in. Truly, he wasn’t that knowledgeable about the jewellery that talented dwarfs had once again crafted. Sometimes, he wished back the time he first ruled in Narnia, when weapons were necessary–nowadays they only had swordfights for entertainment.
“I couldn’t help but noticing you standing here alone, sir. Are you enjoying the party?”
Edmund turned to his right where the person, a young woman, was smiling easily at him. She was a head shorter than him with a burgundy mask concealing her face and her hair was curled around her shoulders. She looked absolutely breathtaking in a dark purple dress. He could feel his face heating up underneath his mask.
“I am. I must admit the planners have clearly outdone themselves. What about you?” Smalltalk, so far it was going smooth, there was no need to rush and scare her away. He had never met her before nor did he recognise her voice.
“I completely agree with you. The event was arranged perfectly, I don’t think anyone is leaving unsatisfied tonight.” Edmund took a sip of his drink as his mouth had suddenly gone dry.
The girl, a young maiden, turned her eyes downward and smiled coyly while brushing a lock of her hair behind her ear. She didn’t have a drink in her hand and he was wondering if he should offer to get her something. She seemed in a joyful mood.
He was completely at ease with her.
“Would you care to dance, my lady?”
Her eyes lit up and her smile grew even brighter than before. He extended his hand–he, of course, had put his goblet down on the table–and she wrapped it in hers. Leading her closer to the centre of the floor, the tones of music created a wistful atmosphere. Edmund rested his palm on the curve of her back while her smaller hand had moved to his shoulder. And there they danced, not following any specific routine.
“I don’t think we’ve met, in which time period did you live?” It didn’t hurt to ask, she might as well could have been from the thousand year gap he and his siblings missed and during which the Calormen invaded. She could have been one of them herself, but if it was so, she was one who didn’t fear the wildness of Narnia.
She looked down at their feet that were moving in rhythm and then she locked eyes with him again. He almost thought she was hesitating to give a proper answer.
“I was lucky enough to live in mostly peaceful times, but there were few battles I had to take part in.” He was surprised, she didn’t seem to be a warrior, but he himself had to do things in his life he didn’t believe he was fit for.
“You must be brave.”
Her laugh was intoxicating.
“I’ve been told,” her eyes were sparkling with laughter and her cheerful spirit brought his head up high, “And you… Am I not wrong to say that you come from an aristocratic family?”
Edmund raised his eyebrows at how easily she was able to guess his background. The years he ruled the country weighed over his mundane life back in England, so he wasn’t even able to pretend to be someone else than a noble.
“You’re not wrong.”
The woman smiled knowingly again, proud of her intuition.
He twirled her in his arms and she followed gracefully until the song ended. The band decided to take a short break, so he led the girl off the centre of the floor back to the refreshments table. Fearing his hand was sweaty and uncomfortable in hers, he reluctantly tried to let go, but she held on and pulled him towards the entrance of the ballroom.
“I’d like to show you the castle, if you don’t mind.” He wasn’t going to mention that he practically lived in the castle and this had been his home for decades, which meant he was completely familiar with all of the rooms. She didn’t suspect his identity, or else, she wouldn’t have offered. A bit questionable was how often she had been in the castle to know the layout and how had he never met her before, but he didn’t ponder over it.
They held hands and walked at a moderate pace through the corridor, the deep engraved alcoves on one side and the vaults surrounding the garden on the other side. He had an inkling of what she wanted to show him, but he didn’t comment.
In the end, they reached the narrow hallway which led to the Aslan garden; at least, that was what it was named during his rule. He didn’t visit it often, almost never, but he knew his sisters were partial to it, especially Lucy. It was hidden to most visitors, so not many people found their way in.
The garden itself was beautiful of course –containing a fountain situated in the centre, different types of plants and flowers that bloomed even in winter months, and the pavement stones which were lightly coated in platinum.
“It’s one of my favourite places. Did you know, in the Golden Age, the ambassador of Galma leaned too close to the fountain and his pocketwatch fell into the water? He therefore blamed the royal family for inhospitality and left in hurry without signing the contract. Actually, he was just embarrassed of his clumsiness and that he needed to pay an enormous amount to get his watch repaired.”
He hadn’t known that and he had lived there at the same time. Although, if the incident happened during ambassador’s second visit, his sisters would had stayed in the castle, while Edmund himself had been in Archenland with Peter. He did remember a story of one nobleman accusing them of inhospitality when nobody else had done so, which meant nobody believed the man. The contract was thankfully signed few months later without any trouble. He wondered how this girl had come to hear the story in detailed form when even he wasn’t aware of it.
“This place is wonderful.” She was gleaming and leaned close to him. His body seemed to be frozen as he was unable to move. The girl laid one of her hands on his chest and stood on the tiptoes to lightly press her lips on his.
Edmund raised his hand and wrapped it gently around hers on his chest and with another he pulled her face closer to him, so he could, in response, kiss her more deeply. Her hair was adequately done, so he was careful not to mess it up a lot. She sighed softly and embraced him, intensifying the kiss and drawing him in.
They stayed in the same position for minutes or hours, he wasn’t sure. Only thing he was certain of was that he didn’t want it to end. He wished he could see her without a mask, but it seemed that neither of them was willing to unveil themselves yet.
“Lucy! Thank Aslan, you asked me to do your hair before the ball, or else I wouldn’t have ever found you. Have you by any chance seen Edmund? He was supposed to meet with Caspian around midnight to help him identify few constellations that had changed over the years.”
Edmund’s body froze at the name. He had forgotten about the meeting, because he had been otherwise engaged. Engaged in activity which involved kissing his younger sister. And he hadn’t wanted to stop. Before Susan could reflect deeper into the identity of the man behind the mask that had been caught in a compromising position with Lucy, he hurried away.
But he wouldn’t be able to escape from the uncomfortable truth, since it was now a part of eternity.