Author’s Note/Disclaimer: I respect C.S. Lewis greatly. This means I will try not to misrepresent the character or probable actions of any of the beings created by him. Also, I own none of the characters or items specifically designed by him. They should include, although they are not necessarily limited to, Jadis, the Tree of Protection, Jadis’ sister, Charn, the Witch’s Castle, Cair Paravel, and the two prophesies… although technically, Now that we have that out of the way, I hope you can just sit back and enjoy!
White. White was everywhere. It was a fearsome, unnatural white—tainted by the dark magic that held it in place. Narnians loved snow, in its place…but this was not its place. A spare month before, Spring had been shaking off Winter’s still cloak and laughing at the blue sky as the clouds scuttled away to let it come clean. Then She came.
To most of the animals in Narnia, She was a rumor—a thing more mythical than Sons of Adam. Oh, yes… they had heard of a time long, long ago, at the dawn of the world, when Aslan spoke of a Neevil, and Someone Not Right tempted the Humans with Fledge to give of the Apple of Life to It—but the kings and the Tree had lulled their fears. The kings and queens since that semi-mythical pair at the beginning came and went, lived and died—and as It was said to look like them, why shouldn’t It do the same? And then, the Tree was their protection against It… and there stood the Tree, safe and sound. But now all the old race of kings was gone—dead, or moved across the mountains, or vanished while off a-questing in the northern moorland area… and just last year, in the of winter, a storm had come through—an unnaturally strong storm, some said—and the Tree fell.
There was mourning, then. There were rumors and fears—rumors of beasts who spoke, and yet did not revere Aslan, discontent among the Black Dwarves, and mysterious dark shapes who were neither beasts nor Dryads among the trees by the Western Waste… fears for some great blow to strike, an acopolyptic upheaval, a ravaging monster or similarly obvious problem—perhaps a dragon, as in Gale’s time—while the Winter still held the earth fast. When Spring came, then came hope. With new hope, came hope’s d.eath. She was an Enchantress, a thing of greater power than anyone had imagined could exist outside of Aslan Himself. With neither a Tree of protection nor a king to guide them, ter.ror of her set in, and few resisted the rise of Her and Her Winter. She called herself The Queen of all that lay within the bounds of the known world. So did her wolves, her sprites and Efreets, her spirits of the toadstools and foul, half-rotten Dryads. They—those who not only feared but ha.ted her—called her the White Witch.
A great pale structure of stone and metal rose out of the snowy expanse, deceptively beautiful. It had been built part by magic chants, part by Dwarvish volunteers anxious to cringe and whine and grovel in the new Queen’s favor to earn immunity from wrath for their race, and partly by Her Majesty’s slaves. It was amazing—rank on rank of rising towers, battlements, sorcerer’s-cap roofs, walls within walls and gates within gates—with roofs piled high with snow, icicles glittering from every overhang, and iron bars at gates and windows cold enough to instantly bond to the flesh of a creature who touched them bare-handed.
Within Her throne room, she sat in state on a great stone chair adorned with twisting serpentine bodies, hideous grimaces of monsters long extinct, blue gems commandeered from the Dwarves, and even a pair of canopied stone dragon’s wings—chiseled off of a war trophy she had made of one of that species who rejected Her gracious royal offer of an alliance. The creatures carved into the throne were complements of her Dwarvish masons’ clumsy replications of what She described to them—in truth, the relics of her days in Charn.
In the midst of this room, in this castle, there was a creature gliding towards its. It was inky black against the pale light of enchanted lanterns—a woman, her hair twisting and clotting into masses of twig and vine, and clumps of skeletal leaves hanging from her arms, like the rags on a corpse. Her back was hollow—and if one had had the ill-luck to stand behind her in this foul place, one could have seen in its stark emptiness a resemblance to rotten wood. She was, in fact, a corrupted tree—and she carried a message for her that boded nothing good for the remnant of the Narnian rebels.
Her Majesty had known of the Dryad’s presence almost as soon as she entered the building. She had that affinity for sensing a second evil presence which things of evil magic typically have… possibly inherited from her Jinn relations, or from Lillith. But she was a queen, and did not feel it proper that she should deign to know a supplicant was in Her House until it announced itself. Now, if the thing had been hostile, it would have been another matter altogether… at the thought, a harsh, frozen flame came to life for a moment within Her wintry heart. Now that the Dryad was in the room, other senses could catch her besides the sixth one. Her Majesty continued to intentionally study the curling tongue of a Charnish monster near her foot until the Dryad swept itself low to the ground in front of her, and sang out her title to her in its once-musical, hollow voice.
“Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Empress of the Lone Islands, and lawful power in all the lands about and between; I bring news.”
“Rise. Continue.” She commanded tersely. Eyes framed by hair dark like Lillith’s stared into the connivingly dutiful face of the Dryad, and a hand as white as snow and strong as a giant’s should be gripped the edge of Her throne, glittering with stolen rings.
“Your most magnificent ladyship should be informed that now, even now, in the day of your power and might, a centaur—Starflank, by name—dares prophesy against you: and in the name (I hesitate to say it, Majesty), in the name of the one called Aslan.”
Her majesty drew a sharp breath. The name cut at her soul, like the memory of the Song at the Dawn of Time, and the sickening after her eating of the life-fruit. She waited until her voice could be composed to respond, meanwhile fixing a silent and venomous glare at the Dryad.
“What exactly does the centaur say? What threat does such a one pose to me!” The very element in her voice demanded an answer.
The Dryad held up a little scroll in answer, and tentatively placed it at Her Majesty’s feet.
“One of your Dwarves left this at the foot of my tree. It will tell all.”
Jadis levitated the scroll up to reaching level, and grasped it in her hand.
She scanned quickly over the words. Hah! Rebels… they were all the same. Foolish little creatures without strategy; sparks to light the forest afire when left alone but easily rung out or eliminated upon capture. But there was one passage which She had to read a second time—a few brief lines, separate from the rest.
“Wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight.
At the sound of His roar, sorrows will be no more.
When He bares His teeth, Winter meets its
And when he shakes His mane, we shall have Spring again.”
Despise it as she might, that was true enough, certainly. He was stronger than her. If they ever met again, His magic would almost undoubtedly demolish Hers. But at the moment, this was not her primary concern—she was sure that this time, if ever, was far, far away. What worried Her was that the very reminder of His powerful existence was likely to stir up a few of her new subjects to action—not enough that she would not conquer, but enough to cause her some temporary and perhaps a little long-term difficulty. That fact the letter effectively proved—the Dwarf who delivered it confessed to having heard rumors of a marshalling at Paravel Point. Well, then; to Paravel She would go. Those animals and distorted little men would be abject fools to believe that the strength of superstition and long-dead kings could hold her away from them for long.
She rose in a tower of self—seven feet tall, at last count, and grown from magic and the effects of the eternal fruit since that time. She let the scroll drop itself into her seat, and motioned the Dryad away.
“We are pleased with your promptness in reporting this to us,” She told her in a bored royal voice. “Now, go gather your fellow-trees—we may have need of them in the coming days.” Then Her voice took on a soft, dangerous edge. “But do it quickly and well, as you have done this—I know your Ash. Winter does not negate the power of Fire.”
The Dryad nodded, and hurried away.
They stood across the porch and courtyard of The Cair, waiting. At their head was a centaur; powerful and rigid with anticipation, with a touch of anxiety in his eyes. He was jet black, with splashes of white across the far side of his back; unusual coloring for his race. His name was Starflank. An eagle swooped in from above them, and touched down on the white-laden stones.
“What did you see? What did you see, Cloudspan?” The eager voices of the Narnians rose up like a slow wave. They were pitifully few, in the big scheme of things—but they were enough to sound like a crowd alone. Those nearer the bird, and more familiar with the eagle-clan, were able to see a kind of hard, desperate look in his face. His reply was quiet.
“They come, friends.”
“And Fleethooves?” Starflank asked, with a sharp, searching glance.
Cloudspan needed to give no answer. Just then a brown smudge was bounding across the snow—rapidly becoming a stag. It stumbled and almost fell once, but advanced again. Some of the keenest ears—among them dogs and foxes—could hear a distant chorus of howls. Wolves! And there—was that the wind among them, or a shriek of female laughter—magnified by magic? The cold seemed to bite deeper. A great, shaggy brown bear growled softly, and bared his teeth in a snarl born of pained indignation. The smell, invading his nostrils more strongly with every valiant stride of the stag, needed only one word to describe it.
It wasn’t long before all of them could smell it—and then see it, in little patches of trail and oozing out of Flethooves’ rump and leg. The stag collapsed in front of Starflank, and left a patch of pink as he pulled himself to again.
“This is all of us… Starflank.” He gasped. “Your reinforcements… south… gone…. Wolves. Wolves! Blo.od everywhere… torn Narnian bodies. They almost had me… they’re coming… so is She….”
Fleethooves was almost crying, in spite of the fact that he was a deer. In a land where animals could laugh, tears were the price to pay. So, in fact, was Starflank—though it showed less. In his mind’s eye, he could see his brother Nightrain. Nightrain was committed to lead the southern muster… surely, the wolves had taken him, also. Now Starflank was torn between tears and cold, hard, justified rage. Rage won out. Later there would be time for mourning—if a later time ever came. Now was time to fight the demoness responsible for massacre, for slavery, for this unnatural Winter—every abomination against Aslan that had been performed in this pitiful war was her fault!—or to die trying.
By this time, even the hard of hearing grew able to hear the howling of Her wolves. There, also were the snarls and shrieks and growls of those of the great cats who had turned to Her side, the wails of Efreets and trees
A talking Hedgehog, his spikes sprinkled with yet more white as a new layer of snow began to fall, huddled as close as he dared to Starflank.
“Sir,” he asked in a low, small voice—“when will it all be over?”
Starflank looked out into the distance. His reply was like a chant, just barely heard by his following over the chaos of the enemy.
“When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone
Sits at Cair Paravel in throne
The evil time will be over and done.
The Hedgehog gave a grimace, half of hope and half of fear and disappointment.
“Adam’s flesh come soon, sir.” It said.
“Yes… Adam’s flesh, come soon. Aslan come soon…”
Their words were cut short. There was a sucking of wind or vortex, and a great outcry behind them—creatures gazed about startled, and then horrified. Every Dryad present at the muster was writhing on the ground… then wind and sound were gone, and they had vanished. Complete silence stuck at what everyone had seen, and no one had wanted to see. The shapes of the Dryads had been eaten away even as they cried out, as if by fire. The Witch came over the crest of the hill shrieking with laughter. The battle had begun.<br>
The moon was high above Her castle when she and Hers returned—but not alone. Her sledge had dragged an extra burden that evening: a gargantuan shape, half man and half horse, with a black coat and flanks scored by splashes of starry white. Streaks of ugly red rampaged across his body—wolves’ teeth, tigers’ and leopards’ claws… more than had been necessary to bring him down. They had wanted to k.ill him, hungering after horseflesh. But no, that wasn’t enough, she said—the creature was a fool who longed to d.ie in the service of its outdated ideas, and memories of a land where no pure Winter reigned. To grant its wish, even for the noble sake of feeding an army—now, that would be more than it deserved. So here lay a prophet, in the courtyard of dea.th; chains wrapped around his torso and hobbled his legs like a great iron constrictor-snake. His eyes were shut, and he mouthed silent words between loud, labored sucks at the ice-ridden night air. He felt he had stopped, but he didn’t know where or why—and didn’t want to know. He was a Centaur, and willing to go through whatever came… but oh, why did it have to come?
Her voice rang out derisively.
“Unchain it, and make it stand. Don’t waste good metal by leaving it on. The thing is as good as a co.rpse anyway, now.”
Starflank felt the chains falling away, and his eyes snapped open with a cry of surprised pain as something goaded him with a spear from behind. He found himself looking at the self-titled Queen of Narnia, dripping with fur and chains of jewels. Even the glitter of Her golden crown seemed calculated to intimidate—and as for Her eyes, fire and ice lived in them equally. It was the look that, long ago, in a world realities away, She used to save to accompany thoughts of Her meddling and incompetent sister. Her lip carried that slightest of slurs in the droop across its straight line—the line that wanted to look firm and just, and had just too much scorn behind it to let it make an entirely efficient try. As she spoke those lips seemed to snarl, but the voice that came out of them was flippant, and almost condescending.
“I am Queen of this land. I am Queen of this world. You deserve nothing from me… nothing, Centaur. By all measures of law and order, I had the right to kill you on the spot. What do you have to say?”
A well-placed tackle from a Cat on his unsteady legs landed him on his knees. For once, he was shorter in stature than Her Majesty. But his face, after the initial flash of pain, was still strong and stern—he knew who ruled in Narnia, and His name was not Jadis. His eyes fixed on the stars between the towers above Her, and words began to roll away from his tongue.
“You are wrong. You are not Queen, and you will find one day that you are not invincible. I have seen four children of men entering this world through a door, heralding your doom. I have seen the roar that will destroy you, the roar that brings your fall. You have sealed your fate as surely you sealed the fate of your people, when you ki.lled Charn—”
“Enough!” She screamed. “Insolent, misinformed abject fool. This is my world now, and I still live!” Then the steel hand and self-control took over once again.
“Again, you labor to seal your fate. But I, the Queen, am merciful… renounce all you have just spoken, and I may yet spare your pathetic life. Perhaps… perhaps you would make a good carriage-horse. Well, Centaur?”
His face contorted as he lurched onto his own four hooves, and lunged towards Her—his bare hands spread wide and grasping. As he lunged, he became aware for a fraction of time that Her face was suddenly completely composed… almost smug, in fact. Then there was a flash of a thin rod of metal slicing through the air towards his chest. Something cold hit him, and his body seemed to freeze. Like a the blink shading the eye, there was nothing…
There had been a battle… wolves, tigers! Words… were those his words? A terrible face…
Where was he now? Everything was coming back to him, but he felt so stiff, so helpless! It was like he was encased in cold, hard earth, with blinded eyes ad a mute tongue… But there, the feeling was coming back into his lower limbs. Was She still here? Was She waking him up again only to to.rture him? now he was beginning to breath again. He could feel the wind brushing through his ail and across his bare chest… the wind, it was warm! Warm, oh, praise Aslan! and all the burning in his flesh was gone… was he de.ad? Was this Aslan’s country he was waking into?
But then his eyes fluttered open. He sucked in great, Centaur-sized gulps of the precious warm, Spring air. Yes, this was the Witch’s castle—but oh, so different! Even though it had been barren and covered in ice just a moment ago, it was covered in the sharpest, brightest greens. And where had they come from—all those figures rushing around him? Was that a female child’s laughter he heard… a little faunlet, perhaps? All of this, though, took up his mind only briefly. Someone large and golden stood in front of him… Someone no creature of Narnia needed to be introduced to to know His name. Starflank fell to his knees.
“Thank you, my lord Aslan. Thank you!” He said.
He saw two small females of a kind he had never seen before standing near the Lion… with a familiar Centaur.
© 2006 Lily_of_Archenland