Actions

Work Header

To the Victor Belongs the Spoils

Work Text:

History is written by the victors. - Winston Churchill


.one.

—x—

The wind is so cold. It bites her skin, tears at her knuckles. The flakes catch on her hair and lashes and she blinks them away like frozen tears.

“Milady?” asks the dwarf, “You are sure you wish to go out today?”

It is not a question of preference that she weighs but the hope that one day her country might be free. In the distance, a lone wolf howls and she flinches; while she must deal with the dirty turncoats it does not lessen the disgust she holds for all of their kind.

The alpha of the pack is on the steps, his ears perked. “No sign, milady,” he growls. It is the same message every time.

She gathers her furs and takes a seat in the sleigh. With a nod to the driver they are off, gliding from her ice-adorned castle into the wilds of her kingdom.

Oh, how she hates this winter.

—x—

“My queen.”

His voice was gruffer now than she remembered, as if it had been worn by the months of travel through the wildest corners of the country. His clothes were torn, his hands shaking as they fumbled with his cap. His hair was shaggier, too, a mess of curls that spilled over his ears and hung about his eyes.

It was so hard, so very hard, to hide her concern. “Your report, soldier?”

“No sign, your majesty. We’ve searched everywhere. The best we could do was… this scroll.”

She noted his hesitation and accepted the parchment with apprehension. It crinkled as she unrolled it, the long-faded ink confessing its age. The entire time she scanned the passage, she was aware of his eyes on her, to the point that she missed the end and had to reread it once more.

By the time she had finished, her fingers had gone cold in horror.

“There is nothing else, Tumnus?” Her voice cracked.

But he shook his head with an apologetic, “Nothing, your majesty.” His eyes dipped back down out of respect as she read the instructions for the ritual a third time. Humans, it called for, and a knife. She lowered the page again and held a hand to her mouth.

“Watch for them,” she commanded at last, after she had composed herself enough to get the words out. “Keep watch by the door to the world of men. Alert me if - when they arrive.”

“So it shall be,” he accepted, and with his words, he bowed deep. His curls shifted and fell forward; for the first time she caught sight of the foreign goat horns where there was nothing before.

—x—

The boy is warm against her as he sits in her sleigh. He accepts the offer of a hot drink without question, asks for a treat without hesitation. He is young - so young, much younger than she had thought or prepared for.

And he is one of four.

“The Lion tempts me,” she whispers as he stumbles away, back through the wood to the world from which he came. Four children, the boy had promised, four human children. How it hurts to watch him slip from her grasp but stronger is the fear that if she keeps him, the others might never come.

Besides, it does not hurt so much as Tumnus’s betrayal. The cold may have frozen her for near on a century now, but this pain is strong enough to break through the chill.

—x—

She was living in an endless, sleepless nightmare. The notifications of attack never ceased, the cries for help never abated.

The coast is lost, milady.

The wood has been overwhelmed with a host of spirits.

The riverside lodge has been attacked. They say it was a pair of demons in beaver form.

And then, most horrifying of all:

Your majesty - dark magic has closed the borders - we can’t get through - we’re trapped!

And so she dressed in her finest: a robe of white linen and a veil of lace. She wore her crown of the clearest crystal and sandals of white doeskin. Swanwhite the Pure, they had called her once. Blessed queen. And now she was their only hope against this overwhelming threat and she did not know what to do.

“Listen to me,” she commanded, “Listen, Narnians. We are strong. We are fierce. We shall fight back against this threat and drive the intruders out. We shall not rest until our home is free and pure once more. I am your queen and I will not allow this to go on.”

—x—

She knew so little, then.


.two.

—x—

The beavers’ den is dark, cramped, and smells of raw fish. Susan gags when she first steps inside. She covers her nose and gestures discreetly for the others to do the same. Even Edmund obeys without complaint; he has already caught the first whiff and his face is scrunched up in distaste.

“Come in, dearies, come in,” the she-beaver urges. Susan wonders if the others notice the dull, black glint of her eyes before she moves back into shadow. “Sit yourselves down, there you are, that’s right.”

By the time the children have been seated on old, wobbling stools about the table, Susan is not the only one who feels uncertain. Peter is frowning, his brow pulled tight. Lucy has pulled her stool close to lean against her sister’s side. And Edmund, already in a mood, has pulled into himself entirely. She wonders how any of them had thought it might be a good idea to follow the robin, to listen to the he-beaver - no matter that he had Lucy’s handkerchief!

Wooden plates are already set before them as though the she-beaver had known of the guests ahead of time. The animal serves out raw fish draped in strands of green weed. Lucy hesitates and glances between her two eldest siblings for help.

“Just like the explorers,” Peter says weakly at last. To be courteous to one’s host is a lesson they have all been taught. In such a foreign place, it is this message that drums at the back of their minds. So Peter leans forward, takes a piece of the fish meat in his fingers, and brings it to his mouth. He manages to suppress the grimace from Lucy, but Susan still notices. Nonetheless, as he had, she takes a first bite, and Lucy follows suit.

The air is heavy and thick and silent. Susan swallows and blinks away a tear that comes unbidden to her eye from the unsavoury taste. She swallows again to clear her mouth, licks at her lips, reaches for a second bite.

“It isn’t so bad after the first taste, Ed,” Lucy says after a moment of ponderous chewing.

“No, thank you,” he snarls. If Mum were here, he would be told not to be so rude, to eat his food and be gracious to his host. But Mum is still in London and that means the role falls to Susan.

She opens her mouth but can’t quite find the effort to reprimand him. If the little prick wishes to starve then she won’t deter him; she’ll wait and tell him he should have bloody well known better.

Susan rolls another piece of the cod flesh around in her mouth. The flavour seeps into her tongue and down her throat.

—x—

“Aslan,” whispers the he-beaver, “Aslan is on the move.”

“Yes! Aslan,” three Pevensies repeat. Their eyes are fogged, their minds even more so. No one notices as Edmund stands from his stool, steps back from his untouched meal. No one sees him slip along the back wall, wincing as the rough wood scrapes his bare arm. No one knows when he escapes out the door to stumble through the snow to the only sanctuary he knows.


.three.

—x—

He has goat eyes now. Goat eyes and horns and hooves and disgusting furry legs that bend all wrong. She can hardly bear to look at him - only looks at him because she can’t look away, because despite all the disgusting features she still sees him. His face is the same; when he closes his eyes he could be that soldier she once knew kneeling before her throne for the first time. (His hair had been shorter then but his face - his face is the same.)

“Tumnus,” she chokes.

When he looks up, he is fearful and apprehensive. It wounds her again, adds to the mound of scars she has suffered for the sake of her country. It was for the sake of her country that she sent him away - for the sake of her country that he lived unprotected in a forest that poisoned his soul. It sickens her. She cannot look away.

—x—

The first mutation reported was a man originally stationed at the Silver Tree watch tower. He was captain of the guard and the only survivor of an attack that no one could explain. They came with the shadows, he had said, babbling about squirrels and hogs and glinting black eyes. No one could make heads nor tails of his report and it was dismissed as the ravings of a hallucinating survivor of a deadly disease.

By the time the mutation was discovered, it was too late.

—x—

“Please,” he begs at last, “Please, don’t hurt me. Please.”

As if she would ever think of harming a hair on his head! She would cry were her tears not frozen by the dull, cold ache in her bones. She pushes the emotion down, circles him again, raises her hand in an empty threat.

“You swore to me,” she says, “You swore to me to bring any human here at once.”

“Please,” he cries. The skin around his horrid goat-eyes is red and puffed from the tears. “Please.”

“Any human, I said. Any human.”

He snivels, “Please.”

“You swore to me. You swore to Narnia.”

“Please!”

She lifts her hand again to see him flinch, feels the boil of her anger and disgust and hurt. “You betrayed Narnia,” she says - pauses, softens her voice, “You betrayed me.”

He ducks low and trembles, and she looks at the horns on his head and realizes again that this isn’t him at all - not really, not with those horns and hooves and goat eyes - and this will never be him. Not until the mutations are gone and he is wholly human once more.

She rips her gaze away and turns to the minotaur guard. “Bring me a knife,” she says, and then reconsiders, “And a file. A strong one.”

—x—

Some of the mutations were painless changes that occurred slowly and unnoticeably over time. Men began to lose their height, women developed thick facial hair, children spent more and more time in the waters until they appeared to be made of water themselves. Others were painful: Orieus, the guard from Silver Tree, screamed for a solid day straight as his legs split in two and his torso elongated. Swanwhite did not sleep that night. She did not sleep for many nights after.

—x—

The metal file drags against the bone of the goat horns. She adjusts her grip around the handle and slides the file’s blade into the groove again. Back and forth and back and forth. The grating of metal on bone mixes with his screams and she snaps again for him to shut up, she’s making him better, shut up already.

The horn-tip snaps off and without the resistance, the file blade slams into the finger of her other hand. She barely notices; the blood on her skin is metallic when she brings it to her mouth.

—x—

It was her advisor, Ginarrbrik, who was the first to suggest the cause of the mutations. He was a short and stumpy man already; the disease had shortened his stature until he barely reached her waist, and his hair grew in a coarse, thick beard that hung down his front.

“Demons,” he told her in secret council, “There are demons in the form of forest animals that walk unhindered through our land. And the closer the proximity to them, the stronger the mutation.”

She wondered if the demons had already infiltrated the castle, with so many of the occupants changing. She had tried to hide the evidence of her own mutation but none could ignore the height she had gained nor the paling of her skin.

—x—

Blood has soaked into the front of her shift, a splatter all the way up the white fabric. Tumnus’s hooves lay crushed at her feet; her effort has been nearly spent in hacking them off. She throws them into the corner out of her sight and turns her attention to the trembling man on the floor before her.

She ignores his bleeding stumps where feet should be and draws her gaze up to his face. His eyes are closed and his skin is pale. Tears stain his cheeks and sweat stands out on his brow.

“Tumnus,” she cries, “Tumnus, wake up. I’ve saved you.”

He does open his eyes - but they are goat eyes still. She springs back in horror, hand scrambling for her knife, mind not yet comprehending what she instinctively knows she must do to be rid of the infection.

The eyes. She must cut out the eyes.

—x—

Tumnus is unconscious in a pool of his own blood when Ginarrbrik comes to the door. “You have a visitor, milady,” he says gruffly.

She barely glances up from her work. The tongue must be next, she has decided, for the tongue is where the lies come from. “Let them wait,” she commands.

“But it’s the boy,” he says.

 When she raises her head she sees that his eyes are wide with hope. “The human boy,” she repeats.

She is caught, torn between two options. Save the country as she has been working towards all these long years or save the man she loves. She trembles with indecision and stares down at the knife in her hands that is coated in her lover’s blood.

“Your majesty?”

She wipes the blade on her skirt and makes her choice. “We will go see this boy,” she says. Ginarrbrik bows low and starts out the door. “But first,” she continues, “Bring me the mage who has the power to turn living flesh to stone.”

It is only this way, she reasons, that she can save both country and lover. Only this way can she hold a man in stasis while breaking the spell that coats their entire country. Only this way will her victory be attained.


.four.

—x—

The runners of the sled cut through fresh snow with barely a sound. The hooves of the reindeer are silent, the harnesses have no bells to jingle. The boy sits at her feet, wrapped in the furs she has provided to keep him warm. His cheeks are still red, though, and his lips shake.

“Not far now,” she murmurs, and the wind tosses her words away before they can provide comfort.

All around her, the country is frozen and white, locked in one eternally rotating day. The spell had been cast on the eve of Edinscur - known as Christmas in the world of men - and it has remained the eve of Edinscur for the equivalent of one hundred years.

She would have liked to have a holiday to celebrate in that time, she thinks as the sleigh follows the road into the forest. She would have liked to have any reason to celebrate.

The boy shifts and glances over his shoulder at her. He is uneasy, as though he can already guess that something is amiss. Something more than the spell cast over his siblings, that is - the entire account of the beaver-demons’ trap had been spilled out with many tears as soon as he had first seen her. She had offered him what comforts she could, all the while inwardly cursing the ingenuity of the demons to have gotten their hands on the prize first. Four human children in Narnia - and she only has access to one.

One will be enough for now; it will have to be enough. She fingers the hilt of her dagger where it lies hidden amid the folds of her robe. The boy does not know the fate that is rushing up to meet him but she can see in his eyes that he suspects. How she wishes she could explain and beg his forgiveness - but would he give his life willingly to save a country that is not his?

The wolves meet the sleigh at the crest of the hill, surrounding it and yelping as they fall on either side at the same pace. “They’ve gone,” the alpha reports, his voice betraying no sign of exertion, “The beavers must have known you’d come as soon as they realized the boy had escaped. They’ll have a good head start by now.”

“And where are they headed?”

The answer only confirms her deepest fear. “They travel east to Aslan’s Camp, your majesty.”

“Catch them,” she orders, “Cut them off. Do everything in your power to keep them from reaching their destination.”

The wolves yip and howl at their instructions and as one, they peel away from the sleigh and begin racing into the trees. She watches them go and knows that it is already too late.

—x—

 The moon is out when she calls for the sleigh to halt. The boy is half-asleep; he jerks when she stands and flinches when she climbs down from the sleigh with nary a word. So timid, she thinks but she is too tired for pity now.

She waits until Ginarrbrik - faithful servant - has joined her at the rear of the sleigh and then begins a hasty, whispered conference. “The ritual calls for four,” she says, “But does it need all four at once?”

“You mean to -”

“Yes, but will it work?”

He has always had a keen knowledge of the Arts but even the shelter of her castle has not protected  his memory from eroding. “If you perform the ritual correctly each time,” he says hesitantly, and his eyes flicker to the left.

The boy has climbed down from the sleigh and walks towards them slowly. He is still too far to have overheard the conversation. Ginarrbrik doesn’t say another word, brushing past her to check on the reindeer. The boy hesitates and rubs at his arms. He’s left the furs in the sleigh.

“You’ll catch your cold,” she says and he blinks up at her.

“They’re going to die, aren’t they?”

His question surprises her and she wonders at how one so small can be so acutely observant. “I do not know what the demons have planned,” she answers at last, “But I would not have your siblings die at their hands.”

He nods at her answer and rubs at his arm again. The movement is odd, different than just warming the skin, and she moves closer. The skin on his upper left arm is red and irritated around a thin, white scratch.

“It’s nothing,” he says when she puts out a hand and then, almost sullenly, explains, “I scratched it on some wood.”

But she recognizes the rash. It is the same as appeared on those who experienced the worst mutations.

“Ginarrbrik,” she calls, and the panic makes her voice rise, “Quick! We need the items!”


.five.

—x—

He stands at the top of the hill, so dark in his brilliance that it is blinding. He is surrounded by His servants, all gathered in the shape of forest animals. Their black eyes glint like a sea of stars. They are staring - staring as the Chosen Ones approach.

Three human children - one son of Adam and two daughters of Eve - make their way up the winding path of the hill. Where once they might have complained at the rough terrain, now they are captured by the beauty of their master. Faster they climb, and faster, until at last they throw themselves down on the ground before Him.

He growls in a low rumble that shakes the very earth. His followers squeal and yelp. And the Chosen Ones lift their heads to gaze upon His terrible glory in adoration.

He speaks: “Son of Adam and daughters of Eve. You are mine.”

And they rejoice.

—x—

Far away in a time out of mind in a world no longer remembered, Peter had stood in a railway station and said goodbye to his mother. All around were the signs of a country battered by war: the walls were grey and grimy with dust, the clothing patched and faded. It felt to him as though there were tears hanging behind every eye.

“You’ll look after the others, won’t you?” his mother asked. To Peter, it was more than a question - it was a reminder of the charge his father had given before leaving for war.

“I will, Mum,” he promised, “You know I always will.”

He would never admit it but he was scared then. Scared of the train that would bear him and his siblings away into the unknown, scared of the bombs that might fall upon his mother as she slept alone in their little house. The apprehension curled around in his stomach.

Lucy was clutching his hand so tight that he was beginning to lose circulation. He rubbed his thumb over her fingers in a silent message that he wasn’t going to let her go. She squeezed tighter. When he looked to his right, Susan was brushing her hand over her eyes. And Edmund - small, sullen, angry Edmund - was kicking at the ground as though it were to blame.

“I’ll look after them,” Peter said again.

—x—

Aslan has taken the form of a Lion, one as large as a motorcar and as silent as the wind. He towers over Peter and claims his king.

“Once, you were unhappy. With me, you will never want.”

“Never,” Peter repeats. Glazed eyes look up into the Lion’s and the boy shivers. He does not remember being unhappy. He does not remember anything from before the Lion.

“I will make you happy, son of Adam.”

“Yes,” Peter agrees, “You make me happy.”


.six.

—x—

She has never slit a throat before. Never - in all the long years of fighting to save her country from the demons’ grip - has she slit a throat. Once - once, she sliced a goat’s head clean off when it had leapt at her with bared teeth. But she has never slit a throat in cold blood.

Cold blood. The ritual calls for warm blood - hot, even, and fresh. Human. Four times the hot, human blood. She has never slit a throat before.

“Ginarrbrik,” she summons, “Help me prepare.”

They leave the boy tied in the sleigh where he watches with brooding eyes as she and the dwarf lay out the ingredients. Ginarrbrik recites the list and she sets each piece upon their makeshift alter, committing the order to memory.

“Tell me again how it must go,” she demands, and he goes through the ritual one last time.

“Yes,” she says when he is finished, “Yes, I remember. Come here.”

Faithful Ginarrbrik - he does not question why she summons him forward. He stands at attention before her, bows once when she raises an eyebrow. It is then that she bends over him, wraps an arm around his chest, holds the stone knife to his throat.

“My queen,” he gasps, and then she has drawn the blade across his skin.

The red blood shines as it pours into the snow. He struggles and chokes on his own blood. When she flips him onto his back, he coughs out the question, “Why?”

“Practise,” she says simply, and then, “Thank you, Ginarrbrik. You have been a good and faithful servant.”

He dies there in the snow with his own blood freezing around him. She is pleased; she has slit a throat and done it well and will not fail with the boy.

—x—

She goes over the ritual once more to be sure nothing has been forgotten.

One alter, stone. She has made do with a boulder, long and flat, the snow brushed from its crevices.

One bowl, copper. It clangs when she sets it upon the stone, its metallic song filling the silent forest.

A handful of soil from the borders of the land. It has been kept safe in a sack for many long years. She unwraps the fabric and scoops out only what she needs, dropping it into the copper bowl with a whispered, enchanted word. The rest of the dirt she wraps up again, to be saved for the next three sacrifices.

A pinch of ash from an undying fire. Since the scroll had been found, there has been a fire lit in a secret room of her castle. A team of servants tend it to ensure the flame never dies. The ash she takes from a stoppered vial comes directly from this fire. She sprinkles it in the bowl over the soil.

A fresh-cut hair from the enchanter. She loosens her braid and uses the knife to slice one strand free. It floats down into the bowl.

The blood of a human child, fresh and warm, cut from the throat with a stone blade. She pulls the struggling boy from the sleigh and forces him to his knees at the alter. She makes him bow over the copper bowl and strikes him when he tries to pull away. He is snivelling; when the tears start, she fears they may contaminate the ritual bowl.

“None of that!” she hisses and strikes him again. She wraps an arm across his chest to steady him, brings the knife to rest against the side of his throat.

“Spirits of the otherworld,” she recites, and the child bucks in protest, “Grant my request and free my country.”

And then something jumps upon her back and sinks its teeth into her shoulder. The boy twists free and the knife falls from her hand. Something has jumped upon the table and knocked over the copper bowl; she sees it tip from the alter, its contents scattered over the pristine snow. She falls back and the thing on her shoulder is thrown off. Desperately, she draws her spare dagger from her skirt and lashes out -

But the attackers are already gone, and with them, the boy.


.seven.

—x—

He enters the camp at dawn, clinging to the back of the centaur because he is too scared of falling. Animals cluster around and he pulls his legs away from their reach. The centaur follows the path that leads through rows of black, tattered tents. There is a saying that comes to mind now: out of the frying pan, into the fire. Edmund feels as though he’s been pulled back out of the fire, into the frying pan once more.

The Lion is waiting for him at the crest of the hill. Edmund holds tight to the centaur’s neck, but hands pull him away and throw him to the ground. He rolls over, scrambles upright, takes two running steps before the animals catch at him and drag him down once more. A sob catches in his throat and he curls up tight, ignoring the cold of the snow that seeps through his thin clothes.

“Welcome, son of Adam,” the Lion says and at his words, the animals fall silent, “The young prodigal has returned.”

Edmund refuses to look up. He covers his ears with his arms but the Lion’s voice is deep enough that he can hear it rumbling in his head.

“Join your siblings, son of Adam. Join me. I will take away your fear and sorrow and pain. I will give you peace of heart.”

“I just want to go home,” Edmund whimpers into the snow.

The Lion’s voice hardens. “Join us, son of Adam.”

A soft hand touches Edmund’s arm and he flinches. “Edmund,” says a gentle voice at his side, “Edmund, join us.”

He lifts his head then to see Susan kneeling at his side. Her position is motherly – but her eyes are dead and emotionless. Peter stands behind her, his arm outstretched in a wordless, wooden offer. And then Lucy drops down beside Susan and reaches out to touch Edmund’s face.

“Edmund. Edmund, you will be so happy,” Lucy says. She speaks in monotone.

He scrambles back and finds the way blocked by the two beavers. The Lion approaches to stand over his siblings; they lean back to stare up at Him in adoration.

“I am Aslan,” the Lion says. His voice resonates in Edmund’s bones and the last of his resistance falls away. He looks up in terror and falls into eyes of deep black.

“I am Aslan and I make you mine.”

Edmund starts to cry again. “I am yours.”


.eight.

—x—

She summons all who are still loyal to her and a free Narnia. They are twisted abominations, mockeries of their true selves. Few remember their former appearances and ways of life; she spares but a minute to mourn all that is forgotten.

“At all costs,” she declares, “We must take back the human children and free this country forever.”

“For Narnia!” her followers chant, “For Jadis, true queen!”

Much is lost but her name is still remembered. She stands tall and lifts her sceptre and silently swears that she will not rest until all of Narnia - and her dear Tumnus - is free of the dark enchantment.

—x—

The animals swarm when she enters the camp and her five guards form the only barrier between her and the demons. “Aslan!” shouts the head guard, “We have come to parlay with Aslan!”

Her heart jumps in her throat when the Lion appears. Behind him stand the four children, clad in shapeless and tattered robes with bare feet and bare heads. They are shells and look on her without interest.

“The boy is mine,” she calls to the Lion. She dare not move closer, lest his demon magic capture her soul. “Return him to me.”

“I return nothing,” he growls.

“Return him,” she tries again. Her plea is weak and the Lion knows it; his followers laugh in a horrid cacophony.

Very well, then. She gathers her courage and takes a breath and proposes the one thing she had not ever allowed herself to consider an option. “Return the boy or I shall work the Deep Magic and overturn the country in a blaze of fire and ice.”

The demons fall silent. “You are bluffing,” Aslan rumbles.

“You know I am not.”

—x—

The secret had been passed down over the generations, king to king, from the first days of this world. Only the ruler of the country was told of the enchantment - only the ruler knew that it existed. It was but a word - a single, solitary, deplorable word that could wipe out all life when spoken with the proper ceremony.

It was the day of her coronation that Jadis, the Swanwhite Queen, had learned of the terrible secret. It lay in a box of mahogany that she found on her desk, its dark wood carved with ancient glyphs of the Deep Magic. It had been spelled to open at her touch; when she lifted the lid, there was nothing but a scroll inside.

She had sworn an oath never to use it and had hidden the box in the deepest corner of the vault. And it waited, untouched.

—x—

“I will take the boy’s place,” the Lion proposes.

Four human children are required by the spell to release the country from its slavery. But why shouldn’t she kill the demons’ leader first?


.nine.

—x—

A knife to the heart.

The last breath of the demon king.

The world lets out a heavy sigh.

—x—

I am still here, says the whisper in her ear, I am all around. This country is mine and I will never let go.


.ten.

—x—

The Lion’s followers have lost their leader but still they prepare for war.

“Amass the troops!” she commands, “Every able bodied soldier is called to arms. Today we shall fight, and today we shall win!”

They cheer loud and strong. The slush of melted snow turns to mud beneath their feet. The enchantment’s hold on the country is weakening; soon, she will have victory.

“Kill them all,” she tells them, “Do not rest until every demon is slain. But keep the human children alive. I have need of them.”

—x—

She dresses in a skirt of chain mail and wears the demon’s fur in a mane about her head as a victory trophy. Her sword is sharpened. Her chariot is polished.

You can never win, sneers the whisper, I will never leave.

“But I have already defeated you!” she hisses. The dwarf who tends her chariot is startled. She ignores him.

You will never win, the whisper repeats, You will never win.

She takes her sword and slices at empty air.

—x—

The armies meet on the plains of Beruna. The demons stand beside Narnians who are so lost in their minds that they no longer remember their true queen. At the front ride the bewitched human boys. She had hoped the spell on them might have been broken with the death of the Lion.

But I am not dead, laughs the whisper, I can never die.

She ignores it and shouts a rallying cry to her soldiers. A ragged battle-cry fills the air. She lifts her sword and points to the enemy.

“Charge!”

—x—

Sword meets sword, sword meets skin, sword meets death. The sounds of battle fill her ears. She drowns in the anger of a century.

—x—

Jadis.

The voice catches her ear amid the cacophony of battle and she turns. Behind her stands a man, wholly human and the most beautiful sight she has ever seen.

“Tumnus.”

Jadis, I have come for you.

She lowers her sword and reaches out her left hand. Around her rise the walls of her throne room; the air is full of her people’s cheers. There is a ring in her hand that she holds out to him.

“Tumnus, would you do me the honour?”

Jadis, I come for you.

And then he leaps at her and his hands are on her throat. She is choking, her lungs crying for air. She kicks and bucks and rolls over - lifts her sword and swings wildly. There are horns on his head - his eyes are those of a goat.

“Tumnus!” she screams and then time skitters, jumps. She finds herself on her knees, sword at her side, hands covered in blood. There is a mangled body before her, sliced into pieces so that she cannot at first make out who it is. Then she finds the head with its curly hair and filed horns.

She retches into the grass and lifts her sword.

—x—

When she turns around, the Lion is right there.

“You are not real,” she tells him, “I killed you.”

“You killed me,” he replies, “But I do not die.”

She raises her sword and avoids his eyes. He leaps for her throat.


.eleven.

—x—

In years to come, few will remember the defeat and death of the White Witch (once Jadis, once Swanwhite). The tale of the free Narnians’ last stand will be corrupted and remembered as a great victory against the forces of evil.

No ballads will be sung for the last free Narnians; songs will be only of the victories of Aslan’s humans.

—x—

Hail Peter, Magnificent King! He rides into battle on the back of a great demon horse and kills his enemies with a single slash of his enchanted sword. Behold and tremble, all ye who dare to cross him, for none survive in the face of his anger. And on the battlefield at end of day, he mounts the heads on pikes and proclaims Narnia’s triumph.

Hail Susan, Gentle Queen! She lures men in with a smile and ensnares them with her seduction, poisoning their cups and slitting their throats. She speaks in quiet tones and a chilling wrath spills from her lips.

Hail Edmund, Just King! Lives balance on the whims of his judgement. He hides amongst shadows like a deadly spider entrapping its prey. Beware his spying eyes, for he knows mens’ deepest secrets with a single glance and uses the knowledge to his will.

Hail Lucy, Valiant Queen! She dances wild amongst her demon subjects. She is a queen of choice - the dagger or the cordial - death or a life of enslavement. Her laugh echoes hollow in the forest of spirits and she drinks the blood of the men she has killed.

—x—

“Aslan,” Lucy asks one day in the forest, “Tell me, Father, why did you call us from that other place?”

The Lion rumbles in approval as she carves a line with her dagger. “I had great need of you here,” he responds, “For none could break the power of the witch but you.”

She draws another line parallel to the first. “I am so happy here,” she says.

Her dagger strikes down a third time and again she pulls it towards her. When she lifts the knife, it is to stare ponderously at the glistening blade. She brings it to her mouth and licks one side clean; holds it out for the Lion to taste the other. The blood from the blade glistens on their lips and Lucy laughs.